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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

26 February, 2005
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UCLA Futurists Move Ahead
Thanks to students Brent Bushnell and Chris Folk, UCLA Futurists is now up and running, with monthly meetings on the UCLA Campus. Our website (presently a one-page affair listing our next speaker) is also up at Big thanks to Paul Grasshoff for sponsoring new business cards, as we begin promoting our new location to 36,000 UCLA students and to the wider L.A. community. Thanks to graphics whiz Marlon Rojas for the artwork. Is anyone interested in starting Stanford Futurists? Rion Snow is ready for company in that endeavor.

Save the Date: AC2005 is September 16-18, 2005
Accelerating Change 2005: Intelligence Amplification and Artificial Intelligence, will be September 16-18. We will have tutorials all day Friday, Sept 16, on the Stanford campus.

New AC2004 Audio
Gordon Bell, Keith Halper, Cory Ondrejka, and the Jaron Lanier vs Will Wright debate are all newly available as a podcast (streaming or download) at our media partner, IT Conversations. Cory's talk (picture at left) on Virtual Worlds is currently rated four stars, and was one of the favorites of all the excellent presentations last year.
Click and listen at your computer or download to your iPod Mini and get mobile enlightenment! You can regularly check the free AC2004 audio archive at IT Conversations, or register for email notification of new postings.

Affiliate Conference
The Arlington Institute's 3rd Annual Conference, Tools for the Development of Humanity, will be this April 25-26, 2005 in Washington, DC

Former Senator Gary Hart, Futurist David Brin, Theoretician Max Boisot, and authors Neale Donald Walsch and Mark Ian Barasch, and ASF President John Smart are six of 25 confirmed speakers for TAICON2005. The conference marks The Institute's annual tradition of sponsoring a forum to address humanity¹s most profound issues.

This year's conference program, Tools for the Development of Humanity, addresses the big question: What can we do and what is available to facilitate rapid, large-scale, global social value change? Building on last year's Breakthrough Technologies for the World's Biggest Problems, TAICON2005 provides a venue for an unusual spectrum of provocative and insightful speakers covering everything from social technology and new human institutions to large-scale personal enlightenment. The more than 300 participants will have the unique opportunity to personally engage and interact with provocative speakers and thought leaders throughout the varied program format. For more information and registration, visit or email

"We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth." William Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut
"Power is only important as an instrument for service to the powerless." – Lech Walesa

Resources and Tools

PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer by Steve Bass (2003), 200 pages. This short, easy-to-read book gives you tips on maximizing your computer usage and minimizing hardware and software settings annoyances that tempt you to throw your PC out the window. It earned great reviews on

Windows XP Annoyances: Tips, Secrets, and Solutions
by David A. Karp (2002), 586 pages. This to-the-point book helps you get the most out of Windows XP, even when it appears that the operating system is working against you. The author presents valuable info on troubleshooting techniques, hardware advice, Registry hacking, interface customization, and advanced networking subjects.

Desktop Tool
Picasa 2 Picture Editor from Google.
Free download. Organizes pictures on your desktop, and easily embeds them into your email. Thanks to Ann Duffy and Johann Gevers.

Email Tool
MailFrontier Desktop Edition.
PC Magazine and CNET Editors Choices for 2004 for anti-spam software. $30. Works with Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows 98 to XP. Automatically whitelists all the email addresses in your Contacts file. Requires everyone new who emails you who isn't on your whitelist to click a link in a return email once, to get allowed onto your list. Reports spam back to MailFrontier, improving the internet immune system, and even has a fraudulent email reporter when you get phished for information. Take control of your inbox! Thanks to Tim Draper for the tip.

Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces

ATimes covers world news and insight in five "spaces," with one to three briefs in each space. The story of accelerating change, the most fascinating story of our time, appears to be one of movement from outer, to human, to inner, to cyber, and perhaps ultimately, to hyper space. Each of these spaces deserves deeper understanding by those who seek a multidisciplinary perspective on the future:

Outer Space (science, environment, universal systems theory)
Human Space (bodies, behavior, minds, human systems theory)
Inner Space (energy, small tech, computer "bodies", inner systems theory)
Cyber Space (computer "behavior", computer "minds", cyber systems theory)
Hyper Space (hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse), hyper systems theory)

If you have important stories to share with our 3,100 acceleration-aware readers, we'd love to hear from you.

Outer Space
science (biology, chemistry, geology, physics, research), environment, universal systems theory (developmental physics, evolutionary development, hierarchical substrates)

Better Living Through Curiosity, Tom Clynes, Popular Science, 2004

[Commentary by John Smart] An amazing six-page story about Amar Bose and his Bose (Electromagnetic Automobile) Suspension System. His approach, like so many great inventors, is a testament to persistence. One of his PhD researchers began work on the concept in the mid 1980's. Bose realized then that computing power would be good enough by the turn of the century to make his prototype, and he's been working on the actuators, sensors, and algorithms ever since. He's now created an automobile suspension system that completely isolates the cabin from bumps, instantaneously lifting or lowering the wheels as needed. Even hitting a curb now has no chance to flip your vehicle!

The next time you are being driven somewhere and realize that you could use that time to get good work done if you had a car whose ride was so smooth you wouldn't even realize you were moving, you can thank this amazing human being for inventing the solution for you. Now if only a foresighted company or consortium of the auto industry will partner with Bose and bring this to market within the next few years we'll see a great improvement to our quality of life in the modern world. Anyone want to give him a hand?

Like Dean Kamen, Bose has an inspiring and iconoclastic approach to innovation. His MIT engineering class is legendary for the way it helps students think deeply and independently about worthwhile problems. Dr. Bose and his team, as you may recall, created the Bose sound systems and Bose noise cancellation systems. What will this genius bring us next? I'd like to bottle up and sell everyone in the world his attitude toward the future. Thanks to Miguel Aznar for this one-of-a-kind link.

"2004, Bose introduces a new automotive suspension system that uses electromagnetic motors instead of springs or hydraulics. Sensors monitor the car body as it hits bumps and potholes, sending signals to a controller. At the controller’s command, each motor expands and contracts to balance motion between the wheel and the body of the car." (Pop Sci/Bose)

Digital Environment
Digital Divide Narrowing Fast by Thomas Atkins, [Commentary by Iveta Brigis] According to the World Bank, global access to telecommunications is growing at an explosive rate. Half the world has access to fixed line phones, and a whopping 77% has access to mobile phones. The Digital Solidarity Fund Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Geneva, initiated by Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, that aims to distribute money to various African projects in order to further accelerate the narrowing of the digital divide. According to research on their website, from 1998 to 2000, ICT access accelerated most in already developed countries, and Africa intends to catch up. Thanks to Norman Gilmore.

Global Warming
Scientists Say Global Warming is Real by Reuters, [IB]. Scientists at the annual meeting of the AAAS last week presented what they see as irrefutable evidence that global warming is real and that it is caused by humans. How is their analysis different from previous research? They're looking at trends in ocean temperature, not air temperature like most other researchers. According to Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution, this new evidence is so convincing that "the debate over whether or not there is a global warming signal is now over, at least for rational people." It will be interesting to see when we can bring this issue into policy debates in the U.S.

Human Space
bodies (biology, health, neuroscience), behavior (business, education, foresight, governance, innovation, pre-digital technology, society), minds (psychology, spirituality), human systems theory (ecological psychology, memetics)

Education, Private
University of Advancing Technology: IT Education for the 21st Century
[JS] Who says educational reform is stagnant? Check out this cutting edge private educational IT institution. (You might kill the annoying flash). They even offer an online M.S. degree in the emerging field of Artificial Life. An inspiring example of innovation.

Acai Berries and the Domestication of Fruits and Vegetables
[JS] There's a new berry hitting U.S. media, the açaí ("AH-sci-EE") from Brazil. It has twice the anthocyanin antioxidants of blueberries, which are already arguably the healthiest berries in our diets. They reportedly taste like blackberries mingled with chocolate. Right now there appears to be only one major distributor, Monarch Health Sciences/MonaVie, a multi level marketing (MLM) company focused as much on getting people rich as on getting people a healthy new dietary addition. Acai grow on palm trees in the Amazon, so producing them affordably in quantity may be difficult for the time being. But if there's a way, perhaps we will see acai berries or juice at our local healthy grocers soon.

Harper's recently noted that the nutritional value of our typical fruits and vegetables has "decreased 50%" since we began breeding for increased fecundity, size, and toughness. Assuming this is true, we should also realize that increased productiveness and shippability has gotten much more fruit and vegetables to many more people at a lower price, so loss of some nutritional value may be a fair bargain. It is also true but commonly forgotten that most of the natural foods we eat today are domesticated versions of wild plants that originally had significantly more noxious chemicals in them in their undomesticated state (everything wild produces toxic chemicals internally, like tannins, to keep other animals from eating them). Domestic potatoes, for example, have a lot less arsenic in their skins than the original wild ones. So there are a number of purposes to domestication, and a balance to be found.

Nevertheless, we would probably be smart to breed back for smaller, more flavorful, and more healthful versions of our domesticated fruits and vegetables in coming years. Plant breeding is aided by genomic maps these days, so it is on an indistinguishable continuum with efforts at direct genetic engineering. We can actually do a lot more with gene-map aided breeding in plants than we can with "rationally guided" genetic engineering, which tells you how difficult and overhyped the latter field is. Furthermore, new breeds don't have the stigma of having your product being labeled as a GMO (genetically modified organism).

In sum, let's hope we see even more nutritious, healthy and affordable fruit and vegetables, both raw and prepared, at our local grocers in coming years. As we learn more about the impressive cancer-fighting properties of compounds like indole-3-carbinol, found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, and that the ideal way to ingest these is usually in high-nutrient natural foods vs. supplements, I think we'll see our future food increasingly move in this direction. Thanks to Marie Kacmarek.

Inner Space
energy, small tech (nanoengineering, miniaturization), computer "bodies" (automation, computer hardware, nanotech, robotics), inner systems theory (acceleration, efficiency, miniaturization, reductionism)

Nuclear Power
Nuclear Now!, Peter Schwartz and Spencer Reiss, Wired, February 2002
[JS] A commendable and prescient piece on the irresistable economic and ecological advantages of next generation nuclear power. Peter Schwartz, of GBN, shows again that he is one of our country's best and boldest applied futurists. It looks very likely that inner space, the unique power and computational ability available in the microcosm, will yet again be transforming human interaction with our environment. Since the early failures of Three Mile Island in the U.S., Chernobyl in Russia, and Tokaimura in Japan, we have refined nuclear power plant technology to a whole new generation of safety. Today's most advanced nuke plants, like the modular pebble bed reactors, can't melt down under situations of poor management, and they don't produce waste that could be used by terrorists for nuclear weapons. The amount of waste produced by nuclear plants is negligible by comparison to the energy they produce, and we have finally learned how to store it safely and economically. These reactors are also incredibly compact. Ten of them together will produce 1,100 megawatts for 300,000 homes, in a space no larger than three football fields. I say again: it is unreasonable to expect to live in a universe where we get so much benefit from such primitive and early forays into inner space, but such is the universe we inhabit. I'll suggest some reasons for this in my forthcoming book.

Nuclear energy is actually far less impactful on the environment than coal or oil, as it adds no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. I expect that this fact, when it is combined with our increasing desire and responsibility to live sustainably on the planet, will likely change public opinion over the next generation to increasingly favor the nuclear alternative. This of course assumes global warming continues to be validated, and that alternative energy sources, such as nanosolar, continue to represent significantly poorer alternatives. Hydrogen has great potential as a clean energy storage infrastructure, but not as a clean energy generation infrastructure, as several careful thinkers have pointed out (e.g. The Hype about Hydrogen, Joseph Romm, 2004)

France gets 77% of its energy from nuclear power today, allowing it a large measure of fossil fuel independence. I don't think that was a wise course of action back in the day when nuclear plants were dirty and unsafe, and I don't think France's record on exporting their early dirty and unsafe technology helped us advance an agenda of global nuclear weapons disarmament. I also don't think we need any kind of crash program for nuclear plant rollout until we have evaluated more of these new plants, and have much better global warming data. There also seems to be no credible worry that oil will run out or even begin to get prohibitively expensive for at least another generation, regardless of the media hype on the issue of peak oil.

Nevertheless, we can see that we are on the verge of swinging away from the fossil fuel regime. We can do it first in our global electricity generation by dumping coal, and like Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, I support diffusion of nuclear power technology for this purpose in coming years. My third law of technology says: "The first generation of any technology is often dehumanizing. The second generation is generally indifferent to humanity. The third generation, with luck, becomes net humanizing." I think nuclear energy is very close to moving into the third generation, and inner space has yet again provided us with an unreasonable return on our investment in innovation.

IBM and Stanford Collaborate on World-Class Spintronics Research, April 2004
[JS] The IBM-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center (SpinAps, logo right) is a partnership of half a dozen IBM Almaden and an equal number of Stanford researchers to investigate a fascinating area of electronic nanotechnology: electron spin. This is one of several strong contenders for extending the life of Moore's law well past 2020 by utilizing physical properties at the quantum level. Read the press release for brief history of spintronics. Expect continued unreasonably excellent new breakthroughs in this field in coming years.

"The first mass-produced spintronic device has already revolutionized the hard-disk drive industry. Introduced in 1997, the giant magnetoresistive (GMR) head developed at the IBM Almaden lab, is a super-sensitive magnetic-field sensor that enabled a 40-fold increase in data density over the past seven years [1997-2004]. Another multilayered spintronic structure is at the heart of the high-speed, nonvolatile magnetic random access memory (MRAM), currently being developed by an IBM-Infineon collaboration and several other companies."

MRAM commercialization may lead to a new generation of "Instant On" portable computers in just the next few years. "MRAM has the potential to become the universal memory technology of the future," said Dr. T. C. Chen, VP Science and Technology, IBM Research. "MRAM technology is rapidly maturing and could fundamentally alter the entire memory marketplace within the next few years." Way to go IBM.

Cyber Space
computer "behavior" (co-evolution, automation, symbiosis), computer "minds" (computer software, simulation), cyber systems theory (holism, information, intelligence, interdependence, immunity)

Point, Shoot, and Map: Augmented-Reality Machine Works in Real Time, by Will Knight,, 02.03.05, Image by Andrew Davison.
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] Researchers at Oxford University, UK, have developed a way to build real time 3D models of physical environments using a single video camera. As long as their system knows the dimensions of a single object within its view it can deduce the sizes and distances of all other objects, even while the camera is in motion.

The application could be a significant step in developing machine vision for robots. It also allows digital objects to be transposed onto real scenes in consistent and believable ways, in real time (creating a fluid mixed reality at 30 frames per second). A demo video (80 MB) on the project site shows virtual furniture added to live footage—something that until now had only been possible in post-production.

Examples of commercial applications mentioned in the article are home decoration and planning engineering projects. Some other applications that come to mind are gaming (as in an advanced Sony EyeToy—EyeToy inventor Richard Marks showed us some amazing new apps at Accelerating Change 2004 that are already barking up this tree), a tool for mass customization and personalization (BodyMetrics or Intellifit writ large?), and eventually maybe even something like David Gelernter’s vision of Mirror Worlds: high-resolution software versions of entire cities. In previous newsletters we’ve flagged Google’s purchase of Keyhole’s eye-in-the-sky geo information system and A9’s use of GPS-enabled cameras for carving out pseudo-navigable 2D maps of cities at street level (Block View). Could this new process (or something similar) eventually be the most time and cost efficient way to realistically map the real world in 3D at all scales and, significantly, to make the model navigable by human-controlled avatars?

Monetary note: The project (named Real-Time Augmented Reality and Personal Localisation using Single Camera SLAM) has been awarded £255,000 ($480,000) of funding from the UK Government's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Hat tips and dance dips to Cory Ondrejka for the link.

Artist/Scientist 'Dream Team' Creating Gigapixel-Sized Images, Sandia National Labs Press Release, Dec 9 2004
[JS] Artist Clifford Ross, Sandia Labs computer scientist Carl Diegert, and other artists, technologists, and scientists are developing a gigapixel digital camera and display system. With that level of detail you can see tiny footpaths going up a mountain with a picture taken seven miles away. Most definitely "hyperreality" by comparison to human vision!

Sandia Labs' motivation is to display so much data, in so much detail, that human intuition can be leveraged for better pattern recognition. Sounds like a great "intelligence amplification" (IA) strategy in a world where high level AI still appears many years away. Here's a NYT article on the genesis of the project at Ross's homepage. Thanks to Iveta Brigis for the link.

Hyper Space
hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse, string theory, supersymmetry), hyper systems theory (computational limits, emergence, phase transitions, technological singularity hypothesis, developmental singularity hypothesis)

Digital Emergence
Interactive TV Poised for a Rollout, Bruce Myerson, Associated Press, Feb 13, 2005
[JS] A major emergence is coming in the electronic media space. Ever since the birth of broadcast technologies our media has been very limited in the number of channels, and thus the number of specialized interests it could serve. The history of television tells this story well, though we can make a similar case in print, radio, and other media.

First we had VHF broadcast TV, with channels 2-13. Then we got cable TV without program guides, which allowed us to flip sequentially (remember that?) through 60-odd channels before our brains and thumbs would rebel. Then we got slow cable program guides on our grainy, lo-res TVs, which currently let us flip through 250-odd channels, far too slowly and poorly for most people's tastes. Note that a combination of system bandwidth and interface technology has always determined how many channels we get and can manage. As long as we have limited bandwidth and terrible interfaces, we'll have a tiny number of channels to represent the panoply of human interests, and a wasteland of mostly lowest common denominator programming.

Then in 1993 came the world wide web, and we could click over to whatever specialized interest we wanted. That was the beginning of total ethical interest representation, and information transparency. Now comes IPTV. After years of research and a number of false starts, it looks like Microsoft has delivered an open-standard, internet-based interactive television platform with enough margin in it for the content distributors. IPTV can deliver compressed regular or HD TV over the last mile internet pipe, so that your cable or DSL company only has to deliver one signal at a time to the home. This allows them to cache a literally unlimited number of channels at their end. Just as with the internet, you can simply surf over to the channel you want. IPTV will start as a conservative Video On Demand type service, but when they add a good micropayments system down the road, this will allow anyone anywhere to get into video content distribution, for any specialized interest. And once you have an HDTV, you have good internet browser, as you can use the screen to show email and other fine text just like on your computer screen.

Now combine this system bandwidth with an excellent interface, like an instant-on solid state tablet PC remote, and a great collaborative filtering AI system like Amazon's on the back end, and you could easily manage thumbnails of literally thousands of specialty channels on your tablet remote, all competing to get to the top level of your remote screen, and all one tap away from displaying on your larger TV screen.

One obvious result of all this is that television will finally develop an incredible ability to be an educational, videoconferencing, dating, exercise, and general professional development and collaboration tool. It may take us twenty years to get IPTV to that level of general service to humanity, but if we are diligent, and if we get lots of early adopter activists, we might cut that rollout time in half. Another obvious implication is that Satellite TV will be relegated to rural and developing areas or vertical market applications, as it just can't compete with the options we are going to have in television in a few more years. To the right is a $3,000 DataMonitor report on IPTV (at least the table of contents is free). Here's Microsoft's IPTV overview page. As the article above says, SBC, Verizon, and Bell South are all jumping into this now. SBC expects to have their first IPTV deployments in select markets by the end of 2005. Datamonitor believes 15 million households globally will be using IPTV by 2007. Bring it on!

We all deserve a little fun every day. Send your entries for the next ATimes!

[JP] The next time you're in Paris or Berlin, check out Blinkenlights, a cellphone download that lets you connect to a few tall buildings there and play light games like Tetris and Pac Man on their walls. Thanks to Josh Rubin for the tip.

[JP] "Sex and the Single Robot" Kim Jong-Hwan, originator of the Robot Football World Cup, and director of the ITRC-Intelligent Robot Research Centre in Taejon, South Korea, has developed a series of artificial chromosomes that, he says, will allow robots to feel lusty, and could eventually lead to them reproducing. He says the software, which will be installed in a robot within the next three months, will give the machines the ability to feel, reason and desire. Suuuure!

Call for Submissions
ASF is seeking submissions for our Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" monthly to bimonthly newsletter covering scientific, technological, business, and social dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit scan hits, article links, original papers, questions, reader feedback, and artwork to mail(at) Accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues.


UCLA Futurists Move Ahead

Save the Date for AC2005

New AC2004 Audio

TAICON 2005 Conference


Resources and Tools

Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces


Better Living Through Curiosity

Narrowing the Digital Divide

Scientists Say Global Warming is Real

University of Advancing Technology

National EdTech Plan Puts Students Front and Center

Acai Berries and the Domestication of Fruits and Vegetables

IBM and Stanford and Collaborate on Spintronics Research

Nuclear Now!

Point, Shoot, and Map

Creating Gigapixel-sized Images

Interactive TV Poised for a Rollout



Gold Sponsor

Thanks to DFJ for early sponsorship of AC2005!


TED 2005
February 23-26 (SOLD OUT)
Monterey, CA

RFID World
March 1-3
Dallas, TX

Game Developers Conference
March 7-11
San Francisco, CA

ISEPP San Jose
Lynn Margulis
Acquiring Genomes
March 10
San Jose, CA

Technology and Persons With Disabilities Conference
March 14-19
CSUN, Los Angeles, CA

TAICON2005: Tools for the Development of Humanity
April 25-26
Washington, DC

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