Final Extension: "Early Bird"
to friends and associates asking for discounts, we've made one final
extension to our Early Bird deadline. Until tonight at midnight,
conference registration is $350 regular ($150
for students). We hope you can join us!
brings you forty two world-class speakers over two and a half days,
six keynotes, three debates (very fun, very heated, very interesting),
Tech Night, and Virtual Worlds demos. See our PDF
Change is the premiere conference exploring
the opportunities and challenges of accelerating technological change.
Our conference exists to network the most broad minded,
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Each year we collectively consider the staggering changes occuring
on our increasingly intelligent planet. The connections you make
here will be among the most important and informative in your life.
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Interface Debate Spotlight:
Jaron Lanier vs. Will Wright (Mark Finnern Moderating)
Finding Humanity in the Interface: Capacity Atrophy or Augmentation?
our interfaces get continually smarter, how do we keep them from
dehumanizing us? Can we avoid the world of MT Anderson's
masterful dystopia, Feed
(2002), where the internet-jacked, childlike teens of 2030 speak
pidgin English and live primarily as vehicles for highly sophisticated
and automated corporate marketing and political programming?
we be concerned that U.S. youth have had forty
years of declining math, science, and analytical reading skills?
Do we need 1960's math skills in a world with ubiquitous calculators,
or reading skills in a world with digital cable? Or thinking skills
in a world with intelligent text analytics?
the Millennial generation reaches maturity earlier, communicates
in new nonlinear ways, and has a strong facility to adapt to new
technology. But are we in danger of losing our perspective, independence,
and global vision? What are our most important priorities as we
enter a world of increasingly sophisticated interfaces and simulations?
us as interface legends Jaron Lanier and Will
Wright discuss and debate this and related topics in a
fun, heated, and fascinating exchange.
Lanier is well known among developers as the co-inventor
of "virtual reality," a term he coined in the 1980s as
founder and former CEO of VPL Research. In the late 1980s he lead
the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person
virtual worlds using head mounted displays as well as the first
"avatars." While at VPL, he co-developed the first implementations
of virtual reality applications in surgical simulation, vehicle
interior prototyping, virtual sets for television production, and
assorted other areas. He lead the team that developed the first
widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual
As a musician,
Lanier has been active in the world of new "classical"
music since the late seventies. He is a pianist and a specialist
in unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments
of Asia. Renowned as a composer, musician, computer scientist, and
artist, he has taught at many university computer science departments
around the country, including Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia and Penn.
He recently served as the lead scientist for the National Tele-Immersion
Initiative. In 1993, he predicted that virtual reality would be
accessible to consumers by 2010. He still thinks that's true.
Wright is Chief Designer and Co-Founder of Maxis (sold
to Electronic Arts for $125M in 1997). He released his first game
SimCity: The City Simulator in 1989, an instant hit which
has won 24 domestic and international awards. Sim City
brought complex, realistic simulations to desktop PCs, a capability
previously only available to military, scientists and academicians.
Using an easy graphical interface, Sim City opened the
world of simulations to consumers. SimCity
2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 3000 Unlimited, and SimCity
4 Deluxe have continued the tradition. SimEarth, SimAnt,
and SimCopter have explored other facets of the natural
and technological world.
His social simulation
game, The Sims, was released in February of 2000. With
over 9 million copies worldwide, 7 expansion packs, and numerous
"Game of The Year" accolades, The Sims has become
the best-selling PC game of all time. The Sims Online and
The Sims 2 (released September 2004, to critical acclaim)
are moving The Sims toward an increasingly realistic
world where you choose your role, attitude and destiny. He is now
working on a "third generation" simulation project at
Wright has become
one of the most successful designers of interactive entertainment
in the world. In 1999 he was included in Entertainment Weekly’s
"It List" of "the 100 most creative people in entertainment"
as well as Time Digital’s "Digital 50",
listing of "the most important people shaping technology today."
As one of his hobbies, Wright (along with his daughter) takes part
in the annual Battlebot competition broadcast nationally on Comedy
moderator Mark Finnern manages the Collaboration
Area of the fastest growing SAP Community: The
SAP Developer Network. Mark is also the founder and host of
the Bay Area Future Salon,
co-producer of the Accelerating
Change 2004 conference, and blogger for the O'Reilly
Network. An amateur musician and community builder, he is interested
in how we may best use technology to improve personal insight and
strengthen civic life.
Us Your Participant Statements! Already enrolled for AC2004?
Send in your participant
statements (with digital photo if possible) for the AC2004 website
and Conference Handbook. We want to know what your passions,
problems/projects, and recommended resources
are. It only takes a few minutes to respond, and adds greatly to
us your Challenge Questions! On Saturday Night, AC2004
attendees will debate important questions in our three conference
themes over dinner—one question per table. Then volunteers
will discuss their table's insights in a "Futuristically Incorrect"
setting over dessert. Have questions to suggest? Send them to jerrypaffendorf
(at)accelerating.org. Here are a few examples to get you started:
current investment sectors and strategies are most likely to keep
the U.S. on a curve of accelerating productivity for the next ten
years? How can we increase tech transfer to emerging nations without
hurting U.S. jobs? How do we better sort out real news from hype
in a world of increasing "information overload"? What
will our communities look like in 2020, and will they be real, virtual,
or some new combination? Will our most productive digital personas
(personal "avatars") in 2023 record our life histories
and mirror our personalities, and will they start to feel like extensions
the conference, Tech Tidbits features thought-provoking
items in our three AC2004 themes. Find news we should know about?
Tell us at mail(at)accelerating.org
Eradicating Malaria: On Vaccines and Vacuums
[Commentary by John Smart] Lancet
reported last week (Malaria
Vaccine Advance, Pedro Alonso et.al, Lancet,
16 October 2004, free registration required) that 2,000 infants
in Mozambique, aged 1-4 years, who were enrolled in a Phase II (efficacy)
randomized controlled trial, had 37% less malaria infection after
six months. Efficacy against severe malaria was 58%. If this continues,
our first effective malaria vaccine might be available by 2010,
one potentially very effective strategy. (We'll consider another
in a moment).
research was done through the Malaria
Vaccine Initiative of PATH (Programme
for Appropriate Technology in Health), an international NGO
funded with $150M by the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation notes
"Of the more than one million people that
malaria kills annually, the vast majority are under five years old.
Effective weapons in this fight include insecticide-treated bednets,
mosquito control, prompt and effective malaria treatment for children,
and presumptive treatment for pregnant women. But the silver bullet,
if there is one, may ultimately be a vaccine."
Lancet article states that during the 20th century, economic
and social development and antimalarial campaigns have almost halved
the world's malarious surface from 50% to 27%. Yet due to third
world population growth, in 2010, half the population of the planet,
3.5 billion people, are still likely to be living in areas where
malaria is transmitted. Two to three hundred million people a year
are presently getting infected, and malaria remains one of the major
unsolved scourges of the underdeveloped world. Vaccines are one
smart bet, as it may be hard for malarial strains to become resistant
to them, the way they have against antimalarial drugs. Nevertheless,
there are other promising approaches.
of the opinion that mosquito eradication (mosquitos carry the malarial
parasite, along with a number of other infectious diseases) should
also get accelerating funding for research and development programs.
Let's halve that 27% of malarious surface area to 13% by 2015. DDT,
the only chemical control that works quite well against mosquitos,
is now returning in a number of African countries, but environmental
issues keep it problematic. Even insecticide-treated mosquito nets
have to be (yet are not) frequently refreshed, and that's the central
problem: malaria hits worst in the areas where there is least social
is sorely needed is the deployment of sustainable, renewable killing
systems in areas without electricity. My favorite so far are the
propane burning units like SkeeterVac.
Mosquitos love C02 emission, moisture, and heat, and these systems
emit all of these, attracting and trapping the bugs in a fan-driven
first generation models are sold by the propane supplier companies
(like Blue Rhino) and cost about 80 cents a day to operate. They
run very quietly, 24/7, and will wipe an acre clear of mosquitos
in just a few days. The propane can be refilled very occasionally
(in Africa, by a network of NGO personnel). Here's a question: How
much more operating efficiency and intelligence can be engineered
into these systems? Could we get them down another order of magnitude,
to less than 10 cents a day, with a significantly slower propane
burn but an equally effective end result?
both strategies should be actively pursued, I personally have a
lot more confidence in this kind of breakthrough than I do in seeing
an effective, deployed malaria vaccine before 2010, given the social
and biological complexities involved.
bet we could quickly introduce second generation SkeeterVacs into
all of the most populous mosquito-infested areas on the planet for
a surprisingly low cost. Ideally they would be made cheap enough
to be distributed to individuals for their homes, with large tanks
that only need to be refilled a few times a year. Best of all, they
are a permanent solution. No worries about new strains or new bugs
riding on mosquitos into the bloodstreams of the underprivileged.
hope some engineer takes up this worthy challenge. Groups like Engineers
for a Sustainable World (and their excellent Solutions
for a Shrinking Planet conference each September) or Engineers
Without Borders are the kinds of networks where one might find
the talent to deliver this solution. Join them and create the
Faces a Scary Plotline, Lorenza Munoz, Los
Angeles Times 16 Oct 2004 (1 page)
[Commentary by John Smart] Here's a fascinating
story from the consumer digital frontier. Netflix, the nation's
leading DVD-by-mail service, lost $7 per share last Friday (40%
of its value in one day) after Blockbuster announced it was cutting
its monthly online subscription fee to $17.49. This subscription
price is fifty cents cheaper than the $17.99 Netflix announced on
Thursday. Analysts see the beginning of a price war, and rumors
are building that Amazon will also soon enter this space (as has
Wal-Mart, presently at $18.76/month). Some have forecast that Netflix
et. al. are transitional businesses, and that personal video recorders
(TiVo and competitors), better cable and satellite, and later, video
on demand will keep eating away at this market. Going simply by
the trend line below ($27.42/share in January, down to $10.30/share
on Friday), things are looking grim. Appearances can be deceiving.
P/E ratio on this company (515) is still absurd, so you will have
to pick your own entry point, but I do think there will be room
for significantly more profitable growth at Netflix in the next
few years. A lower cost service, good word of mouth promotion, and
continued customer defection from what some see as an overly commercial
and expensive Blockbuster should all help them. This is their third
year as a public company. Their net income in 2002 was (-$21M),
in 2003 $6.5M, and YTD 2004 $16M. You don't lose that kind of velocity
overnight. They are currently the Google/eBay of this business,
with the vast majority of market share. They've got 2.2 million
subscribers, and are targeting 5M subscribers and $1B in revenues
by 2006-7. They've also shown a real aggressiveness in defending
their turf. This new low pricing is a barrier to entry that may
protect their leadership position for several more years.
online service like Netflix, just like internet vs. physical banks,
can ideally offer a cheaper service than Blockbuster. They can keep
building their brand of "simpler, faster, better," even
as they move into video on demand (VOD) in coming years (though
video on demand will involve new competencies and may require a
partner). Netflix is also developing the skill to go international
when its growth velocity slows in coming years. If they are smart,
they are subtitling all those DVDs now in multiple languages so
they can reuse them in Ecuador or Poland in 2012, when VOD to PVRs
may start outcompeting DVD mailings in the U.S. Netflix currently
plans to go to the U.K. and Canada in 2005, but they don't envision
international sales comprising more than 20% of their business for
the forseeable future. That's a lot of upside.
also room for a lot more artificial intelligence in the movie selection
and customization process. Netflix has 25,000 titles, and their
collaborative filtering system (Cinematch) is a modest start in
this direction. Would you be willing to vote what you like and don't
like about the movies you've recently seen in return for a lower
rental rate? Now imagine a voice interfaced PVR in 2010 that (humorously,
matter-of-factly, pick your personality) asks your feedback after
the movie, and shows quick snips of movies you might be interested
in watching in response to your statements (served from a massive
snipbase on your PVR hard disk).
kind of platform is coming, and I bet it will get Netflix customers
watching even more movies than the six per month they currently
do. Once the studios start selling masking licences, so that downloaded
movies can be edited for content and length, you'll get some seriously
entertaining and educational video options. With the lifetime of
the typical business being around 30 years, don't expect Netflix
to disappear anytime soon. [Invest at your own risk. Information
above is believed to be reliable but we cannot attest to its accuracy.
Check with independent counsel before making investment decisions.]
Fusion Back From the Dead? Justin Mullins,
IEEE Spectrum Online, October 2004 (2 pages)
It turns out that Pons and Fleischmann
may have been right back in 1989: for reasons still unknown, when
you run a current through palladium eletrodes placed in deuterium
(heavy water), positive net energy (250% of the input) can result
(as excess heat). No one knows if this might eventually lead to
a new method for low-level energy generation, but there are hints
that the deuterium/palladium ratio is one of the control points.
The DOE is reinvestigating. The world of the microcosm is continually
surprising. Thanks to Mark Rotenberg for the hit.
Spohrer on Service
Science, AC2004 Physical Space Change Leader
"Corporations are notorious for introducing technology
without considering the human consequences." "Humans are
intentional agents, and intentional agents can resist or accelerate
change." "How do you take social change and reduce the
time to implement it?" "Studying that problem is exactly
what we have to do."
"One of the interesting things, to me, is work evolution,"
says Jim Spohrer of IBM Almaden Research, referring
to how certain types of services jobs have changed over the years.
Call centers in the 1970s, for example, were staffed by technical
experts. Today they are staffed by less skilled people who use computer-based
knowledge systems. The trend toward outsourcing and speech-recognition
systems continues to change the call center experience. "Work
seems to follow this evolutionary pattern."
A whole new
field of study is about to emerge in universities throughout the
US, according to Spohrer, who believes that students could begin
to receive doctorate degrees in the field of "services sciences"
in 10 years time [more].
Love Bees Game a Surprise Hit, Wired
News, by Daniel Terdiman, 18 October 2004 (2 pages)
by Jerry Paffendorf] I Love Bees is currently
hot stuff in the emerging “alternate reality gaming”
(ARG) genre—a breed of massively multi-player games that bridge
both physical and virtual space across a range of geographies and
media. Participants in I Love Bees comb faux-hacker-infested
websites for clues and follow
GPS coordinates to public payphones scattered across the country.
are part of an immersive sci-fi narrative that ends where the story
of the major X-Box video game Halo
2 (November 9, from Microsoft's Bungie Studios) begins.
The first and most successful ARG to-date was Beast (also
by Microsoft), a 2001 massively multi-player marketing game designed
as a lead-in for Steven Spielberg’s film,
AI. The intersection of smartmob, geo-gaming, and marketing
tie-ins (so far every ARG has had a product attached) make this
new genre ripe for experimentation. This longer term potential coupled
with their early success suggests that the ARG format may find increasingly
A fun way to
get a handle on all of this is to pop over to the G4techTV site
and watch an entertaining
road trip segment on I Love Bees and ARGs. At the end
of the segment Steve Peters, architect of the Alternate
Reality Gaming Network, describes ARGs as “interactive
fiction on steroids.” Asked to speculate on their future,
he is surprisingly taciturn. Thoughts? That episode of The Simpons
the Skeptic,” guest-starring Stephen Jay Gould)
where the new shopping mall plants the fake angel bones comes to
Speak: Robin Harper, AC2004 Virtual Space Change Leader
A few pioneering college professors are taking advantage
of sophisticated new 3D virtual worlds like Linden Lab's Second
Life, teaching online classes in a world where students can
fly, change body types at will and build fantastical structures
for entertainment or edification.
Harper is VP of Linden Lab, and director of their university
outreach program Campus: Second Life. She sees such worlds
as ideal environments for students. "Their focus is experience,"
she said. "It's whatever their individual perspective is. They
come into Second Life trying to explore their ideas as
they relate to a digital experience." Come
hear Robin discuss how virtual worlds are empowering global education
today and the new opportunities they bring to the table. [more].
Your Desktop, by Rael Dornfest, O’Reilly Network,
14 October 2004 (1 page and reader comments)
by Jerry Paffendorf] Google has just released its
Desktop Search engine, intended to make searching your personal
files and web history as simple and effective as a regular Google
search. Key among its features is the ability to index the full
text of Outlook and Outlook Express email, Word, Excel and PowerPoint
files, AOL Instant Messenger chats, web pages viewed in Internet
Explorer, and any HTML and plain text files saved to your computer.
Google Desktop also allows basic image search function within file
names. The Gillmor Gang has a good audio discussion of the software’s
strengths and weaknesses posted over at IT
Conversations. Some of the potential privacy concerns fit well
with the David Brin vs. Brad Templeton
debate at AC2004.
From the moment
you install it, Google Desktop Search begins indexing all of the
information on your computer, and it continuously does so every
time your computer is idle for 30 seconds or longer, updating itself
so comprehensively that previous Google Desktop searches will immediately
show up in a Google Desktop search. At the moment the program is
only for Windows XP or Windows 2000, although there is a non-Google
patch to coordinate it with Firefox.
has been a jump-off for speculation about Google’s next move
and long-term strategy, from talk of an upcoming Google
IM service to an eventual move
on Microsoft through changing the very nature of the web (see
Engine Watch article from earlier this year). As a commentator
on the Gillmor Gang notes, “It’s not about beating Microsoft
at their game, it’s about creating a new game.” What
a great time for those of us looking for new innovation in the search
Norvig, Director of Search Quality at Google, will speak
at AC2004 on Sunday on the increasingly important roles of web search
to modern life, and some of the technical challenges that must be
overcome to bring search to the next level of sophistication and
usefulness as a "force for good." He is a Fellow and Councilor
of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and co-author
of Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, the world's
leading university textbook in the field of AI.
and Improve Your Memory, a mental fitness program ($29.99,
A diverse yet simple set of memory exercises to improve one's mental
flexibility. Like speed reading, educators know that these kind
of programs work best when they are built on top of the reading
that you normally do, for personal enjoyment, career development,
or academic coursework. But
until such integrated trainers become available in your Reading
Tablet PC of 2015, you might consider supporting the enterprising
folks at Scientific Brain Training (SBT) who have put this together.
Thanks to Philip VanNedervelde for the hit.
Speak: John Mauldin, AC2004 Interface Change Leader; Author, Bull's
Eye Investing, 2004.
Financial expert John Mauldin makes a
powerful case regarding the future direction of the markets. He
helps us adjust to what he demonstrates is the dramatically new
reality of investing in a post-bubble, long term "secular"
bear market. "The two most common biases [in investing, in
life] are overoptimism and overconfidence. For instance, when teachers
ask a class who will finish in the top half, on average around 80
percent of the class think they will! Not only are people overly
optimistic, but they are overconfident as well."
are surprised more often than they expect to be. For instance, when
you ask people to make a forecast of an event or a situation, and
to establish at what point they are 98 percent confident about their
predictions, we find that the correctness of their predictions ranges
between 60 and 70 percent! What happens when we are only 75 percent
sure or are playing that 50-50 hunch?"
makes us confident. And the more knowledge we have, evidently the
more confident we become, even though our accuracy may not be enhanced."
Words for the wise. [more].
is seeking submissions for its Accelerating
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priceless" monthly to bimonthly newsletter covering scientific,
technological, business, and humanist dialogs in accelerating change.
Anyone may submit reader feedback, scan hits, article links, original
papers, questions, and even cartoons (for you illustrators out there)
to mail(at)accelerating.org. Accepted work will appear, fully credited,
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