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

What Are Our Main Benefits and Risks With Regard to Accelerating Change?

This is an essential question, and perhaps one that only an informed and diverse community can properly entertain. ASF and Accelerating Change is such a community. We each have our own perspectives, and our personal insights and perceptions are always improved in public interchange with inquisitive minds.

As John Kao says, the strength of a network is proportional to the diversity and intellectual and emotional commitment of its members. Buckminster Fuller famously said we cannot get an unbiased education, so our real world goal should be to get a "multi-biased" one. The way to insight and forsight is to expose ourselves to a wide range of community thought on the benefits and risks of various strategies for adapting to our accelerating future. We should strive to articulate all the major views on controversial and important questions of policy, regardless of the position we currently hold.

With appropriately broad and open input, the dynamics of change can often be hedged against or predicted outright. Such foresight can be crucial in benefiting broadly from technological change. Both Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance and Michael Alexander's Stock Cycles forecast the post-2000 financial market recession, for example, using compelling independent arguments. Periodic major recorrections are fundamental to our accelerating global economy, especially after the initial overpromotion of broadly disruptive new technologies (railroads, automobiles, internet).

SFI Economist Brian Arthur (Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy) notes that the phase of greatest applied acceleration always occurs after an initial investment bubble, when more mature and less expensive infrastructure can be deployed, and when the profusion of early entrants has consolidated into a few strategic survivors. In Clockspeed, MIT management professor Charles Fine discusses the strategic advantage of continually revamping supply chain and engineering process for acceleration. Yet without obvious net benefits, the expense of continual process improvement can drive a company into unprofitability. Finding the balance is a process of continual learning, testing, and response.

The faster change goes, the stronger the selection pressure for good process becomes. Tomorrow's internet will eventually educate and interact with virtually all planetary denizens through a powerful, ubiquitous "conversational user interface." How soon might this occur, given present trends? What new economic and social prospects will this bring for world citizens? Whose jobs and markets will be disrupted? What other problems will ensue as our human-human (simultaneous language translation) and human-machine interfaces are democratized and transformed?

Some futurists predict our proliferating sensing, storage, communications, and computing technologies will increasingly be seen as improving world security, and will ultimately create a "transparent society" in several respects. What will be the major opportunities and risks in this process? How can we ensure that public transparency is fairly implemented, does not compromise individual privacy and civil liberties, is not used to increase global divides, and enables a stronger and more accountable democracy?

How will we manage, and how might we mismanage, the modern forces of accelerating change? How do we best minimize disruptive and destabilizing effects? What are the most promising technologies to accelerate? Which should we avoid or presently minimize? How can we ensure the actions we take lead to a more, not less, humanizing future?

Join us at the world's only annual gathering devoted to broad and strategic exploration of the continually accelerating changes in science and technology, and their risks and opportunities for business and society. Accelerating Change is a conference of passionate and multidisciplinary minds, all sharing a common interest in better understanding and guiding humanity into our extraordinary future.

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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