Thanks to Everyone for a Great Show!
Conference Director Jerry Paffendorf notes, there's
no other way to say it: Accelerating Change 2004 rocked!
We had 42 world-class speakers and 310 fascinating, future-oriented
participants. This was about 40 more attendees than last year, including
35 press representatives, several from major media.
two successful years, Accelerating Change is on
its way to becoming known as "the world's premiere
futurist conference." That's a tall claim to fill,
and we will do our best to meet it every year forward, with your
big thanks to those who supported our community by coming to Stanford,
those who helped spread the word, and those who cheered us on from
cyberspace. Click our AC2004
credits page to see all the passionate people who were involved
this year. A special thanks to Jimbob Peltaire, Tech
Night Director, for a great Friday night event.
On the AC2004 homepage,
including notes from Day
1 and Day
2 by blogger-extraordinare Evelyn
18 of 35 speaker
slide presentations are now posted, with the rest going up in
the next few weeks.
All of our speakers audio will soon be publicly posted for downloading
to your iPod, courtesy of Doug Kaye at IT
Conversations, our media partner. For
email notification of availability, sign
An edited conference set will be available by the end of this year,
courtesy of Ted St. Rain at Accelerating
Fun: One surprise we sprung on attendees was the two Segways we
provided for riding over the weekend, courtesy of our bronze sponsor,
Jason Stemmler at Segway Los Angeles.
Games of 'Segway chicken' and even 'Segway
polo' emerged in the lobby. There was even a Slashdot writeup of
vs. Roomba encounter in the demo area.
Save the Dates!
Change 2005: IA and AI — Intelligence Amplification and Artificial
Intelligence, comes to Stanford University on October
28-30, 2005. Noted mathematician and science fiction author Vernor
Vinge will be one of our keynote speakers. More on this
in coming weeks.
A Capitalist Success Story
An Incentive Success Tale, Caroline Baum, Bloomberg
T-trivia: Did you know thanksgiving in the U.S. was based
on a new world innovation, private property, brought to the Plymouth
Bay Colony in 1623 by its second governor, William Bradford? Before
then farming was communal, as in Europe, with poor results. Happy
Thanksgiving for Bradford's economic insight, and for the 381 years
of accelerating progress we have seen since!
try not to overeat, my friends. We don't need to be thankful for
the epidemic of obesity now sweeping all the first world and many
developing countries, and the diseases and short lifespans that
come with it. Thanks to Johann Gevers for the hit.
a Drag, Earth Warps Space Surrounding It, Robert Roy Britt,
[Commentary by John Smart] Frame dragging—relativistic
twists in the basic fabric of spacetime created by rotating objects,
which slow down other rotating objects in their vicinity—is
confirmed for two earth-orbiting satellites.
was possible due to precise location-measurement by lasers from
earth. It's amazing to realize just how predictive our macroscopic
models have become.
Thanks to Terrence Glassman.
Farewell to Copenhagen?, John G. Cramer, Analog Magazine.
Quantum Mechanics Not So Bohring Anymore [Commentary
by Jeff Thompson] Physicist John
Cramer describes a recent experiment which could be an
important milestone in the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The experiment, performed by the physicist Shariar
Afshar, is a modification of Thomas Young's
double-slit experiment for electrons (one of Science's
Ten Most Beautiful Experiments according to George Johnson
of the NYT), which is supposed to prove Niels
Bohr's "principle of complementarity".
is the quantum weirdness that is supposed to prevent you from observing
something behave as both a partcle and a wave at the same time.
If you measure well enough see which slit the light is coming through
(as particles) then it destroys the interference pattern (as waves).
Well, now Afshar has modified the experiment so that you can indeed
see which slit the light particles are coming through and also show
that there is still an interference pattern.
As Cramer explains,
this does not invalidate the mathematical predictions of quantum
mechanics, but only some of the interpretations we visualize to
explain what is "really" physically going on to yield
those predictions. The Afshar experiment appears to threaten the
standard Copenhagen Interpretation - you know, the one which says
that all possibilities exist simultaneously (both wave and particle)
until you observe the system and the probability function "collapses"
to only allow you to observe one of the possibilities. (Afshar appears
to be observing both.) The experiment also seems to threaten a close
cousin, the Many Worlds Interpretation, where reality splits on
each observation into a new parallel universe. (Afshar got them
both to show up in our one good ol' universe.)
that there are other interpretations (one of which is his own) which
survive the Afshar experiment. Stay tuned for more in this area
in coming years.
I welcome the opportunity to re-evaluate the mysticism around pop-science
depictions of quantum physics where pundits reassure the reader
that science has finally proven that reality is too mysterious for
humans to understand, and that you have to just take it as an article
of faith that a quantum event is both a wave and particle at the
same time - but that you can't ever see it or know which. Well,
with Afshar, we do see these events differently, and maybe 21st
century science will be about really being able to know what we
are looking at without needing leaps of faith.
Buys Satellite Map Co. Keyhole Corp., MSNBC, 27 October
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] Holy
Worlds, David Gelernter! Google has acquired
Keyhole Corp., maker of super scalable, high-resolution maps of
the whole world stitched together from satellite photos (check out
the videos here, including
weather and war coverage appearances on CNN). Google plans to use
Keyhole’s software as the foundation for its local
search platform. In their official
press release, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s
VP of Product Management, introduces the value of the service this
way: “With Keyhole, you can fly like a superhero from your
computer at home to a street corner somewhere else in the world—or
find a local hospital, map a road trip or measure the distance between
two points.” A
post on the Google blog conjures Charles and
Ray Eames' famous Powers
of 10 video.
of GPS, blogging, and mobile web-ready devices coupled with the
escalating competition between search services is poised to revolutionize
the ways we navigate and experience our surroundings (At the recent
CTIA wireless conference
in San Francisco I heard Yahoo!'s COO, Dan Rosenweig,
confirm Yahoo!’s commitment to providing the best local search
features—you've probably seen their new Yahoo! local billboard
campaign.) Way beyond programs that keep you from getting lost,
geo-search programs double as public bulletin boards and blogs,
promising to let you know and post what’s going on in a specific
geographic area. Such site-specific applications of the World Wide
Web promise to make for searchable cities and environments which
in turn promises to change the ways in which we use those spaces,
socially and economically.
hasn’t yet spoken of plans for offering “geoblogging”
services, projects such as Dodgeball,
WaveMarket, and Urban
Tapestries (in the UK) are already paving the way, demonstrating
proof of concept. As wireless bandwidth increases and Moore’s
Law has its way with the processing power of our mobile devices,
we’re in for some lovely local search surprises in the near
future, from location-aware social software (think IM buddy lists
on a map) to useful new reputation systems for finding and choosing
restaurants, event venues, stores, or whatever it is you're looking
for while you're out on the go, or before you leave the house.
Let the Mirror
World-style transparent society begin: one of the FAQs on the Keyhole
site is “Will I be able to see my house?”
Aibo is Cooler and Smarter, Lance Ulanoff, PC Magazine,
The ESR-7 Sony Aibo Robotic Dog ($1,900) responds to voice commands
in 1 second (down from seven in the last model). Remembers object
locations. Plays MP-3 and Windows Media files. Can record video,
sound, and pictures when it senses movement or sound, and send recordings
to a preset e-mail address. You still can't pilot Aibo remotely,
but I would bet there are a few hobbyists out there working on that.
It looks as though we are going to need licences and publicly transparent
immune systems for these things shortly, as a remotely piloted Aibo
could get into a lot of mischief. Thanks to Peter Voss.
Life Boosted with $8 Million in New Financing, Linden Lab
Press Release, 8 October 2004
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] Linden
Lab, overseers of the user-created online digital world of Second
Life, has announced the completion of an $8,000,000 financing
round led by Benchmark Capital
(whose Bill Gurley gave a great intro (audio,
(once there, click on the “Above the Crowd” newsletter
link) to the business of massively multi-player virtual worlds that
I pointed you to in a previous edition of Tech Tidbits).
Funders include the Omidyar Network
headed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (a Second
Life user from before his investment), and existing Second
Life investor, software pioneer Mitch Kapor
(founder of Lotus Development and Kapor Enterprises).
dollars is a pretty penny in this space and Benchmark and Omidyar
are very noteworthy investors, underscoring the belief held by many
that Linden Lab’s allowance for bottom-up development from
its users may be the magic formula for eventually building something
like the Metaverse—a 3D online social and business Mecca first
proposed by Neil Stephenson in his cyberpunk novel,
what he finds so interesting about Second Life, Omidyar
focuses on the positive feedback loop at work amongst its users:
“Second Life has a vibrant community where content creators
and consumers reinforce one another… Better experiences attract
more users, which further attracts entrepreneurial developers to
enrich the experience.”
notes, “While most multi-player gaming companies are inherently
limited by the size of their development team, Second Life is limited
only by the imagination of its users. This is clearly the most leveraged
digital entertainment environment we have ever encountered.”
Mr. Gurley will also be joining Linden Lab’s board of directors.
Rosedale, Linden Lab’s CEO (and former CTO of Real
Networks), has previously
predicted that Second Life will have one million users
within three years. He says he “[looks] forward to walking
the digital streets of a place that has until now existed only in
science fiction and dreams.”
The Problem With Some 'Smart' Toys: (Hint) Use Your Imagination,
Linda Carroll, New
York Times, 26 Oct 2004
by Iveta Brigis]. Can the right technology make
us smarter? Parents who purchase “smart”
toys for their children certainly seem to think so. But how
much of this is wishful thinking? No studies have yet shown that
these toys, games, and videos which supposedly boost kids’
cognitive abilities beat out traditional games (old-school Legos;
non-talking dolls) in spurring intellectual development. One of
the most interesting
recent psychological research studies (free registration required)
on the heritability of intelligence shows us that intelligence is
influenced by both genetics and the environment and that certain
environmental specifications must be met for our genetic potential
to be actualized. For more on this, see Matt Ridley’s
theory in Nature
via Nurture. Intelligence is a fascinating topic, and we’ll
be addressing it with next year’s conference theme, IA
and AI: Intelligence Amplification and Artificial Intelligence,
at AC2K5 (that's AC2005 for the old-schoolers out there).
US, Pakistan Launch
Cooperative Science & Technology Projects, Cheryl Pellerin,
U.S. Dept. of State, 28 Oct 2004
by Jason Kolker]. The prospect of science being
used to fight the War on Terror certainly has a high-tech, NSA connotation,
but I suspect the architects of the US-Pakistan Science and Technology
agreement had something more subtle and even more profound in mind
when they initiated 18 cooperative projects with $3 million in funding
late last month.
include staple third world urgencies such as clean water and more
available medical data and nowhere in the attending publicity have
I seen the word “terror” even mentioned. But, clearly
there is an offensive for minds as well as hearts going on. The
highest funded project is supplying scientific journal content to
a nationwide digital library system and there will also be linkages
created between the U.S. and Pakistan “scientific centers
Too often, the
progress of science is gauged in discoveries and applications; too
infrequently is it gauged by the pervasiveness of its mere existence.
What is being encouraged in Pakistan by this agreement is an alternative
to madras thinking. It is my opinion that at this stage in the Islam-West
cultural divide, the enlightenment paradigm of Francis Bacon
will be a more effective agent of change than the control-hierarchy
paradigm of Bill Joy.
I would argue
further that the fruits of science minus the thoughts of science–that
is, the critical thoughts of science–lead often to only superficial
change, to 21st century updates of medieval weapons, or a return
to communication-fighting 8th century Jihads. There are certainly
downsides—from anti-ethical weaponry to obnoxious children—to
critical minds fortified with an inspiration to investigate and
experiment, but stagnation is not one of them.
US-Paki science coordination isn’t simply an imposition of
science; with it comes the requisite of communication with others,
or should I say, with The Other; that is, the Western World. And
this is indeed a Trojan Horse. The committee that created this agreement
met at Camp David as a direct result of Sept. 11 and I can’t
help but think there was an undercurrent of the belief that science
could be used as tool for much needed cultural mixing, if not engineering.
is an issue of resonance for me, but I think there is a fight for
its interpretation. Nothing will change human kind more than a change
in motivations I believe. If you mess with people’s sex drives,
their desire to live, their resistance to share, or their impulsion
to altered states, you will get a different answer to the human
equation. By the same token, if you can enhance a population’s
desire to grow and discourage its compulsion not to, maybe we will
stop getting more of the same (socially and politically speaking).
Maybe. Regarding the Singularity, I pose this as an honest, non-rhetorical
question: what will have a more profound effect on human existence
in 30 years, the availability of $500 bionic eyes or the existence
of a broad base of scientific thinking in a populace?
is seeking submissions for our Accelerating
Times (AT) web-based publication. AT
is a "free and priceless" biweekly and biannual newsletters
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.