Final Extension: "Early Bird"
Ends October 20th.
to friends and associates asking for discounts, we've made one final
extension to our Early Bird deadline. Until tomorrow at midnight,
conference registration is $350 regular ($150
for students). Join us tomorrow if you can!
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,
future-aware, practical and passionate speakers and participants.
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.
Interface Debate Spotlight:
Jaron Lanier vs. Will Wright (Mark Finnern Moderating)
Finding Humanity in the Interface: Capacity Atrophy or Augmentation?
our interfaces get smarter, how do we keep them from dehumanizing
us? Can we avoid the world of MT Anderson's masterful
(2002), where the internet-jacked, childlike teens of 2030 speak
pidgin English and function 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 steadily 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? Will
GPS systems replace our ability to read maps?
the Millennial generation reaches maturity earlier, communicates
in new and very 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
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 about 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 other games have explored other facets of the natural 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 the latest extensions of the Sims tradition in an increasingly
open-ended, online world where you choose your role, attitude and
destiny. He is now working a "third generation" simulation
project at Maxis.
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",
a listing of "the most important people shaping technology
today." As one of his hobbies, each year Wright (along with
his daughter) takes part in the annual Battlebot competition broadcast
nationally on Comedy Central.
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 using technology to improve personal insight and strengthen civic
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 any 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 combination of the two? Will the most productive digital
personas ("avatars") in 2023 record our life histories
and mirror our personalities and if so, will they start to feel
like extensions of ourselves?
Before 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
Eliminating Malaria: On Vaccines and Vacuums
[Commentary by John Smart] Lancet
reports today (Malaria
Vaccine Advance, Pedro Alonso et.al, Lancet,
16 October 2004, free registration required) that 2,000 infants
in Mozambique, aged 1-4 years, 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 progress
continues, our first effective malaria vaccine might be available
by 2010. Bravo.
work 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%. So far so good. 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 will be hard for malarial strains
that become resistant to them, the way they have against antimalarial
the same time, I think mosquito eradication should also get accelerating
development efforts. Let's halve that 27% by 2015. DDT, the only
chemical control that works quite well against mosquitos, is returning
in a number of African countries, but the environmental issues keep
it problematic. Unfortunately, DDT-treated mosquito nets have to
be frequently refreshed, and that's a problem: malaria hits worst
in the areas where there is least social infrastructure.
is sorely needed is the deployment of sustainable, renewable killing
systems in areas where there are no 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 permanently trapping the bugs
in a fan-driven vacuum. These first generation models (sold by propane
supplier companies) cost about 80 cents a day to operate, run very
quietly, 24/7, and will wipe an acre clear of mosquitos in days.
The propane can be refilled very occasionally by a network of NGO
personnel. How much additional operating efficiency can be engineered
into these systems? Could we get them down another order of magnitude,
down to less than 10 cents a day with a significantly slower propane
burn but an equally efficient end result? I've got a lot more confidence
in that kind of breakthrough than I do in seeing an effective malaria
vaccine before 2015, given the social and biological complexities
bet we could get second or third generation SkeeterVacs into all
the most populous underdeveloped areas for a surprisingly low cost.
I'll bet they could also be made cheap enough to be distributed
to individuals for their homes at night (and to the worst breeding
grounds in the area), with tanks large that only need to be refilled
a few times a year. Best of all, they are a permanent solution.
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 participate!
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 lost $7 per share
on Friday (40% of its value in one day) after Blockbuster announced
it was cutting its monthly online subscription fee to $17.49. This
is fifty cents cheaper than the $17.99 Netflix announced on Thursday
(down from their previous increase to $21.99). Analysts see the
beginning of a price war, and rumors build that Amazon will also
soon enter the space (as has Wal-Mart, now overpriced at $18.76).
Some have forecast that Netflix et. al. are transitional businesses,
and that personal video recorders (TiVo and competitors), better
cable and satellite, and eventually, video on demand will keep eating
away at this market. Going by the trend line below (January ($27.42/share,
down to $10.30 on Friday), things are looking pretty grim.
P/E ratio on this company (515) is still absurd, but I think there
will be room for significantly more profitable growth in the next
few years in a lower cost Netflix service, good word of mouth promotion,
and continued customer defection from what some see as an overly
commercial and expensive Blockbuster. 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've got 2.2 million subscribers, and are targeting 5M subscribers
and $1B in revenues by 2006-7. They are currently the Google/eBay
of this business, with the vast majority of market share. They've
also shown a real aggressiveness in defending their turf. With the
new low pricing, they have made a significant barrier to entry that
may protect their leadership position a good while longer, as they
push toward their next goal of 5% share of U.S. homes.
online service like Netflix, just like internet vs. physical banks,
can ideally offer a cheaper service than Blockbuster. They can keep
their brand of "simpler, faster, better," even as they
move into video on demand in coming years. Perhaps most importantly,
a company like this is developing competencies 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 video on
demand 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 comprising more than 20% of their business
for several years to come. 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 seen in return for a lower rental rate?
Imagine a voice interfaced personal video recorder in 2010 that
(humorously, crisply, pick your personality) asks your feedback
right after the movie, and shows snips of the next movies you might
be interested in watching, in response. That kind of platform will
get Netflix customers watching a lot more than the six per month
they currently do. Once the studios start selling masking licences,
so that downloaded movies can be edited for content, you'll get
some seriously entertaining and educational video options. With
the lifetime of the typical business 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 director of Linden Lab's 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
Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free
and priceless" 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,
in future issues of Accelerating Times.