Accelerating Change 2005. September 16-18, Stanford University. Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Amplification. Transforming Technology, Empowering Humanity
 
 

Must-See PDFs

There has been a great expansion of high-quality online futures literature in recent years. Here are some exceptional futures PDFs related to conference themes, with commentary by ASF staff. If you have trouble downloading or viewing, upgrade to the free Adobe Reader 7.0.

 

Biotechnology | Beyond Borders, Ernst & Young Biotechnology Report, 2005. See also: 2003 Exec Summary (PDF, 12 pages). Biotechnology as a business sector continues to grow, though much more slowly than originally anticipated. Founded 29 years ago with Genentech in 1976, the sector as a whole lost $6.4 billion last year, and $5.4 billion in 2003. The industry's total accrued loss since its birth in Silicon Valley in the mid-1970s is more than $45 billion. In 2004 Mike Hildreth at E&Y predicted the sector would reach breakeven in 2008. He now predicts 2009 or 2010. The report notes rising costs of federal safety regulations and onerous new Sarbanes-Oxley accounting compliance as significant impacts. International biotech efforts in China (GM rice), and in Sweden and Singapore (stem cells) are also gaining ground. The 1,444 public firms in the U.S. still count for more than half the world's public biotech companies and 78 percent of the sector's global revenues.

Digital Worlds | Changing Realities: User Creation, Communication, and Innovation in Digital Worlds, Cory Ondrejka, 2005 (PDF, 23 pages). Great overview of the uniquely creative opportunities available in today's digital worlds. Third generation successor to the first basic open platform, Habitat (1986) and the more complex Active Worlds (1995), Second Life (2003) is the first online world where users own copyright to the content they create, the first where its user-manipulated graphical primitives follow the laws of physics, and the first to emerge in the broadband era. With many thousands of users in world at any time, the creativity and economic activity now occurring in Second Life is impressive, with some $50,000 of real commerce transpiring daily "in world" and over $800 million annually in all digital worlds. Where will they go next? An excellent overview of the promise of this rapidly emerging new economic and creative space, by an AC2004 keynote speaker.

Displays | BT "Bank of the Future" Outline (Web, 2 pages). Nice concept piece by Relisys, a European leader in flat panel plasma screens showing the value of plasma and touch screen interfaces for marketing and customer relations. Outlines a BT technology demonstration ("BT's Agile Bank"). As displays get cheaper and smarter these kinds of applications will proliferate, and new etiquette will emerge. Consider how our social life will change when we can get a touch screen LCD that doubles as a kitchen table, with slide out keyboards underneath and an integrated LCD projector for displaying images on the wall. This Family Gaming Platform will facilitate the emergence of interactive multimedia versions of everything from Scrabble to Monopoly to Role Playing Adventures, to be played both in small groups around the table, and in networked mode with friends all over the internet.

Energy | Energy Needs, Choices, and Possibilities: Scenarios to 2050, Shell, 2001 (PDF, 33 pages). Highly valuable scenario work. The first scenario, Dynamics as Usual, seems most likely going forward. Natural gas is argued as the natural bridge strategy for the planet if our worldwide atmospheric CO2 levels or oil prices continue to escalate over the long term (conditions which may or may not occur in coming decades). Note the energy saturation graph, "Climbing the Energy Ladder," on page 7 of the PDF (page 11 of the report). This multi-country data argues that total energy demand will plateau for the planet in coming decades, as it has in all industrialized countries. Such saturation has dramatic and generally unrealized consequences for our long term energy needs.

Education | 2020 Visions: Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies, Dept. of Commerce, 2002 (PDF, 85 pages). Several distinguished contributors, including Vint Cerf, Ruzena Bajcsy, Chris Dede, Diana Walczak, Will Wright, and Michael Zyda. See Chris Dede's "Vignettes About the Future of Learning Technologies," and Diana Walczak's "Encompassing Education" vison. We've been having trouble downloading the PDF lately and have contacted the site. See also the National Educational Technology Plan: How the Internet, The Law, and Today's Students are Revolutionizing Expectations, Dept. of Commerce, 2004 (PDF, 72 pages), which has excellent coverage of schools leading the e-revolution with virtual classrooms, "total information management" systems for teachers and practical, self-directed net-centric learning for students. Traditional schools are failing us, and much of their curricula seen as irrelevant by today's media-saturated student. Consider mathematics pedagogy: "By 12th grade, only 3 percent of African Americans are proficient in mathematics, only 4 percent of Hispanics, 10 percent of Native Americans, 20 percent of Whites and 34 percent of Asian Americans." The student's perspective is documented in The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Internet-Savvy Students and Their Schools, Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2002.

Global Outlook | Mapping the Global Future to 2020, National Intelligence Council, 2004 (PDF, 123 pages). The third version of a truly excellent foresight project by the National Intelligence Council/National Defense University, based on consultations with hundreds of nongovernmental experts worldwide. They do fifteen year projections in each case. See also Global Trends 2015 (2000), and Global Trends 2010 (1996) for the full scope of this great public scenario work.

Human Performance | Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science, National Science Foundation/Department of Commerce, 2002 (PDF, 482 pages). Perhaps the most interesting recent compendium of science and technology strategies to improve our abilities, social performance, education, competitiveness and cooperativeness, security, infrastructure, and environmental impact, as well as overcome disease and disability in coming years. Uneven contributions, but some real gems. Try "A Vision for Aircraft of the 21st Century," S. Venneri et. al. and "Memetics: A Potential New Science," Gary W. Strong and William Sims Bainbridge (PDF pages 327-339, book pages 313-325)

Innovation Development | National Innovation Initiative Report, Council on Competitiveness, 2004 (Executive Summary PDF, 6 pages, Full Report, 68 pages). An excellent proscriptive study of U.S. innovation published by the National Innovation Initiative (NII), co-chaired by IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, and Georgia Tech president G. Wayne Clough. A 15 month project of the Wash, DC-based Council on Competitiveness, involving 400 leaders of corporations, universities, and professional societies. Palmisano says innovation is our most important heritage, and should be among our top national priorities. Nevertheless, we are slipping badly in this area in recent years. Consider these helpful facts:

• In 2002, U.S. Corporate R&D declined by $8 billion, the largest single drop since 1950.
• China passed the U.S. in 2004 as the largest recipient of foreign direct investment, and China's market for integrated circuits will surpass the U.S. market in 2005.
• Foreign owned companies and foreign-born inventors now count for nearly half of all U.S. patents, with Japan, Korea, and Taiwan accounting for more than one fourth.
• Federal R&D funding is now only 1/2 of its 1960's peak of 2% of GDP.
• Total scientific papers by American authors peaked in 1992 and have been flat since.
• Services are the fastest growing sector of many technology companies, yet much of our services sector, now more than half the U.S. economy, traditionally does little R&D on business process design, organization, and management.
• 5 countries (Japan, Korea, Sweden, Finland, Israel) spend a greater % of GDP on R&D than us.

The NII makes about 30 recommendations in the report, and many seem excellent: immigration fast tracking for sci-tech, technology graduate fellowships, better innovation metrics, 10 designated "innovation centers" federally funded for 5 years to reward regional competitiveness, safe-harbor provisions allowing public companies to talk about intangible innovation assets, tax credits for companies that create sci-tech scholarships, and many others. As Thomas Friedman (The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1999; The World is Flat, 2005) notes, our current political administration ignored this report when it came out, and has ignored innovation development in general since its inception. That's a serious problem that needs to be rectified if we are to accelerate U.S. technology and economic development.

Intelligence Amplification | Mind Over Technology, Dick Swanson, 2004 (PDF, 273 pages).
Free e-book (email registration required). Swanson understands that ethics and social skills will become increasingly important as transparency increases and as today's lower-level knowledge worker jobs begin to get "off-peopled" (outsourced to our increasingly intelligent machines), freeing us up for ever-more-abstract service jobs. He has other speculative insights, such as his proposal (p. 141) that suicide occurs primarily in those who develop a "me-only" self consciousness, rather than a more advanced "we" self-consciousness. Suicide is 76 to 1,000% more prevalent (depending on culture) than homicide, war deaths, and terrorism combined, so using our electronic environment to improve the quality of our self- and we-consciousness seems a worthy and practical goal. Even greater positive impact may occur with tomorrow's network-aided control of diseases of addiction. Smoking, for example, claims fifteen times as many deaths as suicide annually. His discussion (p. 219-220) of our emerging "e-me" avatars, what futurists John Smart and Jan Amkreutz call our "digital twin" could go further, as this seems the most powerful of the tools he suggests for positive mental and behavioral change. Swanson's anti-business and doomsaying rhetoric rings hollow, and the book could have been edited to half its length, but it is a worthy outlook on intelligence amplification in a world of accelerating technology.

Neurotechnology | The Neurotechnology Nexus, Zack Lynch, 2005 (PDF, 35 pages; online email registration, report emailed). The market and investment strategy group NeuroInsights evaluates 20 regions worldwide with regard to the emerging neurotechnology industry (neuropharmaceuticals, neurodevices, and neurodiagnostics). According to factors such as the concentration of neurotech companies, access to risk capital and social institutions to support future innovation, the SF Bay Area currently ranks highest in NI's assessment. Excellent overview of this important new business sector.

Philanthropy
| Looking Out for the Future: An Orientation for 21st Century Philanthropists, Global Business Network, 2005 (PDF, 87 pages). Superb overview document. Philanthrophy has grown dramatically over the last century. At the same time, corporate revenues, and the wealth of the richest members of society have grown even faster. Government budgets and social nets are far larger today than in 1900, yet financial power has increasingly shifted toward business (in 2003, 76 of the 100 largest revenue producing entities were businesses, and only 24 were governments), nongonvernmental organizations, wealthy individuals, and the increasingly empowered masses. Example: In 2003, more money flowed into Latin America through remittances (money sent home by private individuals working abroad) than all foreign direct investment and political development assistance combined.

Science and Technology | International Science and Technology: Policies, Programs, and Investments, Technology Administration, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 2000 (PDF, 77 pages). Great overview of the science and technology innovation paradigms of various nations. A good way to see the superior S&T promotion policies of such countries as Taiwan, Singapore, China, India, Finland and Sweden. Emphasizes the importance of S&T to competing in today''s economy, and of getting the most out of each countries unique talents in a globalizing world. A bit dated (many new S&T policies in Asia aren't covered) but a good resource.

Technology | The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015, RAND, 2001 (PDF, 97 pages). Solid broad ranging analysis of a range of technologies, identifying key research players and with some consideration of social and policy implications.

More PDF's coming soon.

Key Questions
How does computation affect our environment?
What is accelerating technological change?
Why is accelerating change important?
What is the universal story of accelerating change?
What is the "technological singularity" hypothesis?
Where might accelerating change take us in the 21st century?
What are our main benefits and risks with regard to accelerating change?
How do we improve the study of accelerating change?

 

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