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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

28 April, 2005
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AC2005 Conference
Registration Now Open!

Sign up now with your Accelerating Times discount code (AC2005-ATIMES, entered in all capital letters) and get $50 off! This special $300 conference rate is available to AC2005 returnees and ATimes readers until May 31st.

will feature 40+ world-class speakers and 350+ distinguished attendees discussing the increasing intelligence of machines (artificial intelligence or AI), the evolving effectiveness of technology-aided humans (intelligence amplification or IA), and how these two powerful trends will shape our future. Our scintillating speakers include: mathematician and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, inventor and author Ray Kurzweil, biophysicist and complexity science author Harold Morowitz, president of DEVONtechnologies (creators of DevonThink), Eric Boehnisch-Volkmann, co-creator of Mozilla Firefox, Blake Ross, AI leaders David Fogel and Robert Hecht-Nielsen, and special host Moira Gunn of TechNation. Many more to come! See what last year's attendees had to say.

Second Life Future Salon Blog Is Live;
First SL Future Salon Meeting Tonight!

Visit our blog to get the latest on futurist community activities in Second Life, the world's leading 3D digital world. At 5:30pm PST tonight, ASF community director Jerry Paffendorf is launching SL Future Salon. Like its real world counterparts in four US cities, our SL Future Salon will provide an open opportunity to explore social, business, and technological futures with one to three specially invited speakers at each meeting.

Tonight three speakers, including Randy Moss of the American Cancer Society's Futuring and Innovation Center, will be talking by streaming audio to the assembled group. Up to 50 online avatars (your avatar is your "digital twin") can participate. If you have a computer with a newer graphics card, you can participate by downloading the program and paying a one-time-only fee of $9.95 to activate it. If not, you'll need a newer graphics card (like the ATI Radeon 9800, $160 at any computer store) before you can participate.

We have 34 RSVP'd participants for tonight, so there are still a few open spaces. Once you've downloaded the software and know that it runs on your computer, go to the blog for directions to the salon. Email jerrypaffendorf(at) if you need help. To receive reminders for the speakers and topics of future salon meetings, sign up at our Second Life Future Salon discussion and notification list. Set your preferences to "Special Notices" if you only want salon notifications only.

Come get digital with us! We hope to see a lot of you “in-world” for this innovative new salon series.

New AC2004 Audio
Will Wright's inspiring talk "Sculpting Possibility Space" and the "Real Money in Virtual Economies" panel discussion featuring Brian Green, Jamie Hale, Daniel James, and Steve Salyer and hosted by Cory Ondrejka are now available as a podcast (streaming or download) courtesy of Doug Kaye at our media partner, IT Conversations.
You can regularly check the free AC2004 audio archive at IT Conversations, or register for email notification of new postings.


"When you're finished changing, you're finished." - Benjamin Franklin

Resources and Tools

Thumboards In Your Future?
[Commentary by John Smart] What's the best way to do email and SMS (short message service) messaging on the road? It isn't using a regular cellphone, that's for sure. According to the 2004 Guiness Book of World Records, the current record holder for typing using an ordinary cell phone keypad is Kimberly Yeo (picture right). She clocked in at 36 wpm for a preassigned 26 word sentence, but real world speeds are closer to 12 wpm, three times as slow as most people can handwrite (33 wpm).

Fitaly keyboards (picture left) which have a layout optimized for screen tapping, are an increasingly popular choice. The forty participants in the 2004 Dom Perignon speed contest using Fitalys on their Palm PDAs recorded an average of 52 wpm, using another preassigned sentence. The winner was Jim Belich, with a speed of 81 wpm.

But QWERTY thumb keyboards ("thumboards") like those on the BlackBerry 7520 (picture right) or Treo 650 appear to be the fastest yet. Jim won the 2002 Dom Perignon contest at 84 wpm on a thumboard.

As further advantages over the Fitaly keyboard, thumb keyboards are quieter, there's no stylus to lose, and they even help improve people's hunt and peck speed on their other QWERTY's. It seems that thumboards presently deserve to lead the marketplace, at least until someone comes up with a better way to torture our fingers anyway. Thanks to Ted St. Rain.

The Acceleration Story in Five Spaces

ATimes covers world news and insight in five "spaces," giving 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 ultimately, to hyper space, the world beyond the present. Each of these deserves understanding for 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), the natural and built environment, universal systems theory (developmental physics, hierarchical substrates)

Energy, Environment
Understanding Global Energy Saturation: Energy Needs, Choices, and Possibilities: Scenarios to 2050, Shell International, 2001
[JS] Interested in understanding the future of world energy use? I recommend this 33 page report for some deep insights. Perhaps the most important slide is on page seven, energy use per capita, reproduced below. This IMF/BP data shows that in every economy where incomes go above $15,000/year (e.g, the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia), national growth in energy use per capita slows dramatically, then effectively stops. This saturation may be due to several factors: the increasingly service-intensive, information-intensive, and "virtual" nature of developed economies, the sharply fixed basic needs (transportation, housing, etc.) of human beings, the increasing sustainability politics of affluent nations, and finally, the incredibly rapidly advancing energy efficiencies of all our replicating machines (unlike the replicating bodies of their human users). At $25,000/year, energy growth per capita becomes so slow that it is effectively saturated. Europeans like to say that Americans are much less interested in energy conservation than they are, but the graph clearly shows that we have saturated in our energy growth as well. The only difference is that our culture saturates at 350 Gigajoules/capita, while Europeans saturate at 150. This 2X difference seems almost trivial by comparision to the exponentiating capacities of our technological infrastructure.

Combine this energy saturation graph with knowledge that our entire world's population will saturate circa 2050, at some 9-11 billion people, and then start shrinking therafter, and we can see that the total energy consumption of our species has a very finite upper bound. It's true that the development of the emerging nations will keep the energy growth curve steep for another generation or two in emerging nations, but there's plenty of evidence that later developers like India and China, using "leapfrogging technologies", require far less energy and time to reach the $25,000/year GDP at which their own energy use will saturate, just like ours has.

The first scenario in the Shell article, Dynamics as Usual, seems by far the most likely going forward. The second, Spirit of the Coming Age, was an interesting exercise but seems unlikely to happen as written, even if fuel cell technology innovation occured as projected, which is improbable given its anemic record to date. One good insight from the Dynamics scenario is that if oil prices increase further in the next two decades, which is far from certain given accelerating efficiencies in production (what Shell strategists call the "dematerialization" of the energy industry), natural gas will become the bridge strategy that we will use to allow us to reduce our oil use. Furthermore, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to climb for the next decade, it is likely that we'll accelerate both natural gas use, which lowers CO2 emission over oil, and next generation nuclear power plant construction, which has no greenhouse gas emissions at all.

After 2050, several major factors will permanently change our energy environment. First, given their slow but steady development trend, we can see that distributed renewable energy technologies like solar power will finally be cost-competitive for mass use. Second, we'll have a flat or declining world population, living in societies that have all entered the energy saturation domain to varying degrees. Third, and perhaps most importantly, we'll have several broad classes of human-surpassing technological intelligence all around us. So while energy infrastructure development is very important today and smart energy decisions will continue to be critical for at least two more generations, we can already see that our species future energy needs will be amply-supplied in a world of declining human population and energy use, abundant sustainable energy sources, and exponentiating technological intelligence. I would expect computational scarcities, not energy scarcities, to be the important political issue in that fascinating environment. If you'd like to fund or help us produce studies analyzing how to responsibly accelerate this transition to tomorrow's significantly more intelligent, efficient, and energy-rich environment, send us an email

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)

Business, Investing
Automated Trading Comes of Age: Cracking the Street's New Math, BusinessWeek, 4.18.2005
NYSE Makes First Move Toward Computerized Trading,, 4.21.2005
[JS] The AI Age has begun in earnest in the financial community. Computer models, sold by various wall street and independent software vendors, now execute more than half of all stock trades, permanently relegating biological intelligence to a secondary status for this task.

Even the staid New York Stock Exchange has just purchased Archipelago Holdings, a computerized stock trading network, that will allow it to elminate historic floor trader jobs. It is a move the Big Board has fought for decades, but one that efficiency is finally dictating as a necessity for financial survival.

Not only exchanges but all major investors are going this way as well. Algorithmic Trading, which splits up large buy and sell orders into small trades, done secretly over time, is the fastest type of automation. But there are also "Black Box" proprietary arbitraging systems, and older Program Trading systems that are also widely used today.

Human trading is being eliminated because all the leading trading firms have figured out how to do more and smaller trades with automated software, and thereby gain superior returns. The average size of an NYSE trade has dropped from 1,477 shares in 1998 to 400 today, according to BusinessWeek. Volatility in many equities is such that if you try to push through larger orders, the market can easily move against you in the short run. Algorithmic trading is a lot cheaper than humans, costing less than a penny per share vs. up to six cents for full service human trades. It's also easier to conceal from other traders who might discover your activity and seek to make money off you if, for example, you are reducing your 5% stake in a company to 2% over a matter of days or weeks. What's more, algorithmic trading of individual stocks doesn't add to market volatility, so it hasn't been banned in volatile markets the way program trading (which involves bundles of 15 or more stocks worth more than $1 million) has since the 1987 market crash.

During the past 18 months every major brokerage house has been spending millions getting into this technology. Industry analysts Aite Group project that 40% of all U.S. equity trades will be done by algorithms in 2008. The change has already come with all the large brokers, and will move to the the smaller mutual and pension fund managers next. Over the past two years Banc of America Securities has let go of almost half of their human traders so far, while at the same time increasing their equity trading volume by 160%. Today, half of their trades are made with algorithms, compared to none two years ago.

How far might the intelligence of these AI algorithms develop? Quite a bit farther, if you think about it. Algorithmic trading is just the first major step toward human-competitive trading intelligence. Doing good data mining off of public financial information, applying sophisticated models of crowd behavior to news, doing better assessment of emerging markets and companies, and achieving better arbitraging are just a few of the types of trading where AI systems might increasingly outcompete human judgment, at least in the first, most data-intensive steps.

This transition to greater automation can be disruptive in the short term, but the productivity gains are outstanding. While many jobs will be eliminated, those that remain will become increasingly interesting and informative. Let's make sure we accelerate this natural and empowering transition wherever gains are provable, and take care of those displaced in the process.

Study Links Free Radicals to the Spectrum of Autism, Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times, 4.3.2005
[JS] No one yet knows the causes of autism, or why its prevalence has increased 10-fold in the last fifteen years (better screening? new environmental factors? both?). Interestingly, pediatrician and biochemist S. Jill James at the U. of Arkansas has discovered that the antioxidant glutathione is abnormally low in the blood of 95 autistic children sampled in a recent study.

Glutathione deficiency is a reasonable candiate for one pathway to autism as it eliminates free radicals, preventing premature aging to the brain and other organs. It also neutralizes heavy metals such as mercury. If this study holds up to further sampling it might lead to a test for kids who are naturally susceptible to the disorder, and perhaps to a dietary therapy as well.

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

Moore’s Law at 40, The Economist, 4.19.2005
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] As you may have read elsewhere on the Web, April 19, 2005 marked the 40th anniversary of Moore’s Law. This, of course, is Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s famous 1965 observation that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (an approximation of raw computing power) doubles roughly every 18 months while keeping the same dollar cost.

General consensus is that the law, strictly defined as transistor-doubling on an IC, can hold for perhaps another decade (two or three new chip generations) before physical limitations are reached at the level of atoms. By that time, however, engineers will be onto something else as the long-accelerating trend in computation looks to jump substrate and fill up three-dimensions.

Originally embarrassed by his “law” (which the physicist Carver Mead, not Gordon Moore, first promoted as such), Moore has since come to view the relentlessness of this deep doubling trend, which has held up amidst frightening economic and scientific complexity, as a beautiful thing: “Moore's Law is a violation of Murphy's Law. Everything gets better and better.”

Looking back on ASF’s brief history, the first Accelerating Change conference in 2003 asked, “What will the world look like if Moore’s Law holds for another 30 years?” This remains an open and important question, and one that we are trying to help understand from historical (see Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns), current and future perspectives (see Accelerating Change 2005).

Listen to a recent interview with Gordon Moore, courtesy of ITConversations.

More Links: An interesting New York Times article about Moore's Law and inventor Doug Engelbart, and an LA Times article that ends with this great fact: "Last year more transistors were produced, and at a lower cost, than grains of rice, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. Moore estimates that the number of transistors shipped in 2003 was 10 quintillion, or 10 to the 18th power — about 100 times the number of ants estimated to be stalking the planet." Thanks to Norman Gilmore.

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

Life Blogging
Nokia Lifeblog and Yahoo 360° Mobile Blogging (moblogging) Steps Closer to Emergence...
[JS] Phones have almost reached the point where they can quickly upload to a webblog pictures, text, and brief audio and video snips as events are happening in your life. Nokia's software, for "life sharing" with your friends, and Yahoo 360° (a beta project you currently need an invitation to join) are currently pioneering this fascinating new trend.

At seven megapixels for the latest (Samsung V770, right), camera phones can already make high resolution poster prints of your life experiences. Just a few years hence, imagine getting slideshow updates on your PC of what your friends are doing and seeing out in the world, realtime, with their text commentary in caption at the bottom, both time and proximity sortable. ("So who's doing what this weekend?")

What if you could also have these latest pics, text captions, and GPS coordinates from your buddy list friends all auto-downloaded to your cell phone on 20 minute increments? That would be a whole new level of symbiosis with your digital tribe. See Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs, 2003, for more on this emerging trend.

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

Accelerating Universe
NYU's Dvali Says Change in Laws of Gravity, Not "Dark Energy," is the Source of Cosmic Acceleration, ScienceDaily, March 10 2005.
[JS] Fascinating proposal from one of today's most promising cosmologists and particle physicists, NYU's Georgi Dvali. He proposes that our observed recent era of cosmic acceleration is occuring due to a change in the strength of gravity at large scales. Specifically, he proposes that gravitons escape into the extra dimensions of spacetime that are predicted in string theory whenever they can travel certain critical distances, which increasingly becomes possible the larger the bubble of expanding spacetime. If true, this model would eliminate the need for "dark energy," a concept that still has no firm theoretical or empirical basis to date.

Dvali notes that unlike many aspects of string theory, this theory of large scale modification in the laws of gravity may already be testable by some of today's most sensitive cosmological experiments. He proposes that the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment, which precisely monitors the lunar orbit using lasers reflected off the moon by mirors left there by Apollo 11 astronauts, is one such candidate. We live in a very exciting time in astrophysics. We are beginning to develop a testable picture that our universe is increasingly entropic at cosmological scales, yet increasingly more ordered, intelligent, and accelerated in special localized domains.

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

[Commentary by Iveta Brigis] Dopamine is an engaging and relevant film. Three San Francisco twenty-somethings, working to create simple software-based AI named Koy Koy, struggle with the question: Is love more than just a series of chemical reactions in our brains and bodies? Filmed in 2002, it premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. I definitely recommend this DVD, available at Netflix or your local video store.

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.


AC2005 Registration Open!

Future Salon in Second Life

New AC2004 Audio


Resources and Tools

Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces


Understanding Global Energy Saturation

Automated Trading Comes of Age

Free Radicals Linked to Autism

Moore's Law Turns 40

Mobile Blogging & Life Blogging

Causes of Cosmic Acceleration



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April 28
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