Tim Moenk to format these, add pictures, look for
The skeptics, led by the insightful Michael Shermer,
who I recently met for the first time, and their colleagues, the
Center for Inquiry,
are commendable promoters of scientific literacy. Groups like the
Skeptics and CFI are critical voices in the modern media-saturated
Economy (Pine and Gilmore, 1999), a world full of many
unfullfilling dreams and diversions as well as wonderful new opportunities.
I hope you'll join one or both of them and do your small part to
turn the tide against scientific ignorance, magical thinking, and
membership starts at $60 ($20 for students).A three year Skeptics
Society membership, including their quarterly Skeptic
magazine, is only $70 and is the best value. For more on the problems
of improving scientific literacy, see my brief essay, the Challenge
of Science Education in an Accelerating World.
Both groups are very good at helping the public understand
what I call the "left hand" of the scientific paradigm:
contingent and unpredictable evolutionary processes. Their ongoing
challenge, and the challenge for science education as a whole, is
to better understand convergent and predictable developmental processes
in coming years.
The main problem with science education, and with
much of science today is that it still doesn't speak significantly
to purpose, or values. At the same time it is patently obvious to
humans, 80-90% of whom ascribe to some type of religion, that we
live in a universe infused with purpose. I contend that the reason
we ascribe to religion in such large numbers, the reason all cultures
find it a pragmatic set of ideas, is because religion embodies a
core truth that science presently lacks, a truth that will keep
science alien to the general populace until it is recognized and
brought into general adoption.
That truth is what we may call the Biofelicity of
nature. Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson proposed
Hypothesis, the idea that humans have a deep affinity with the
living world that has become engrained in our genotype and our mental
models. Physicist Paul Davies a great explicator
of anthropic physics, an unpopular topic in the traditional scientific
community, has proposed a Biofelicity Hypothesis, the idea that
the universe as a whole is friendly to life forms and the emergence
of intelligence within it, and that understanding and internalizing
this expectation of friendliness is a fundamentally valuable adaptive
strategy for interacting with the society and the natural world.
It is my contention that religion has long allowed
humans to adopt a biofelicity paradigm by way of a relatively simple
set of ritual beliefs and actions. The specifics of the belief set
are less important than the requirement that they be ble to be interpreted
broadly and differently by subgroups, and that they are can be periodically
edited ("redacted" is the official term) to remove the
more offensive sets of beliefs and practices, as has occurred multiple
times in every major faith.
As historian J.D. Bury observed in
the Idea of Progress,
1920, the Western monotheistic religions that emerged roughly 3000
to 1500 years ago, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, allowed faith
in both the material improvability of the human condition in the
afterlife, and in the moral improvability of the human soul in the
present life, at a time long before the average human could credibly
hold any faith in the idea of progress in social, economic, or technological
terms, in either their own or their children's lifetime.
On other words, the fundamental brilliance of religion
is that it is a set of memes was that has allowed societies to build
a collective intelligence vastly greater than the sum of its parts
because it conditioned individual humans to look fearlessly and
selflessly into the future, and to expect that the universe would
permit a better future for them as individual beings. Any culture
that didn't have this biofelicity meme was memetically bereft by
comparision. Consider China as an example of a culture that did
not have the biofelicity meme. A compelling case can be made that
one of the major blocks in China's development, and a reason it
did not advance as fast as the West after early production of advanced
technology, was that it did not have this religious influence. China
did strive to develop a monoculture of belief, but this monoculture
emerged around zero sum secular rather than biofelicitous, nonzero
sum religious lines. Its major spiritual beliefs, Buddhism, Confucianism,
and Daoism, are, as Jack Wheeler notes, "rationalistic
quasi-religions lacking any personal relationship with a transcendent
deity or deities." Read Wheeler's interesting observations
about the way Christianity is advancing in China today, even leading
to the improbable development of Chinese
Christian missionary work in Muslim countries.
Consider again the fundamental value of a belief that
the universe ("God," in our primitive conception) is good
to humanity, if only the individual human will follow a relatively
easy set of practices and beliefs. Far from being a mental "parasite"
like the common cold, as some philosophers have argued, religion
seems to be a fundamentally valuable meme set. Science will only
be able to supplant religion as a dominant way of thinking about
the world for the average person when it grows up to include the
key meme of biofelicity, the meme science discovered many years
before there was a servicable science.
Unfortunately we are very likely still decades away
from having a science of development, and a science of values related
to healthy developmental emergence. Many leading 20th century scientists
(Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins)
and philosophers (Daniel Dennett) have publicly
and persistently sought to refute the idea that human progress is
anything other than evolutionary accident. This closed-mindedness
greatly restricts the influence of the scientific perspective within
larger human culture. Even a child knows that our universe is heading
somewhere, that their lives have some larger meaning. When science
rejects this it shows its inability to capture the mindset of the
masses in its present state of development. As a result scientists
are called upon to study natural processes or create technologies,
but not to run countries, or to speak with weight on moral issues.
There is a way out of this, and I believe recognition,
theorizing, and testing of the biofelicity hypothesis is one of
the critical steps that will be necessary for the maturing of science
during the 21st century. I would argue strongly that almost every
athiest, naturalist, or deist who has grown out of organized religion
has only done so by accepting, consciously or unconsciously, the
biofelicity hypothesis. They believe in their core, that our universe
is friendly to the application of intelligence (this idea is in
fact implicit in the application of the scientific method), friendly
to the flourishing of life, and friendly to the growth of human
civilization as a whole, if not in particular instances. Implicit
in this assumption of friendliness is a trajectory of developmental
At the same time, scientific pioneers can see developmental
purpose on every scale they choose to look. Acceleration is one
obvious purpose, which we see in Carl Sagan's Cosmic
Calendar, in the increasingly rapid evolutionary development
of the most complex forms of local life at any point in time, and
in the acceleration of all human cultural and now technological
history. Increasing computational capacity of the most complex physical
systems is another obvious purpose. Increasing interdependence is
a less obvious, yet easily measurable purpose. Increasing immunity
and resilience of the most complex surviving forms is perhaps even
less obvious, but again something that can be measured and charted
When science gains the ability to speak about developmental
trajectories, it can speak about purpose, and finally have an equal
say to religion in areas of human values, even as it uses an entirely
different set of methodologies from religion in order to construct
I am confident that a purpose-informed developmentalist
science will emerge in coming decades as those investigators who
see self-organized purpose in macroscopic change, like Robert
Wright (Nonzero, 2000), learn how to make better
defined and more easily testable claims. Aiding this process will
be the incredibly rich online datasets that we are now constructing,
which will allow us to see and chart developmental trends as never
Wouldn't it be nice, for example, to see research
charting the developmentally inevitable (in a statistical, network
sense) emergence and diffusion of the wheel in Old World civilization,
as a function of a few key enabling factors, like population density
and diversity? Soon any graduate student with a developmental bent
will be able to get access to data that would help her make a provisional
theory in this regard.
In their membership literature, the Skeptics Society
notes that a 1991 Gallup Poll showed that 67% of American adults
express personal experience with psychic power, 59% believe in clairvoyance,
52% in astrology, and 46% in ESP. And with regard to science history,
41% of American adults believed that dinosaurs and humans once lived
on the earth simultaneously. Hopefully the last 15 years have improved
these figures, but perhaps not by much. Long range studies like
TIMMS have shown that America's
elementary school understanding of science and mathematics has been
on a slow 40 year slide downward in real abilitities, a trend documented
in other developed countries as well. The only countries presently
bucking this trend, like China, Taiwan, and Japan, have monocultures
that are an anachonism in our increasingly global society.
Why is it that most developed countries are either
stalled or sliding slowly backward in their general science abilities?
In a nutshell, I suspect it is driven by to two main factors: 1)
tremendous technological acceleration, and the luxury this provides
to developed nations, and 2) the slow loss of understanding, as
we develop liesure societies, of our greater purpose as human beings:
to make the world a better place than we left it. The former seems
an inevitable developmental trend, but the latter entirely within
our free choice.
It seems a bare fact that the more intelligent and
automated our environments become, the less need there is for broad
industriousness in the general populace beyond a small subset of
scientifically-aware humans at the helm of the great machine. As
a result, creating broadly intelligent, self-empowered children,
children with a better ability to understand the world's problems
and to create positive change than their parents, has increasingly
become a social choice rather than a survival imperative. The new
automated environment creates a filter for those who are so self-directed
they are willing to do the hard work of continuing to improving
themselves and the world in spite of technological plenty.
It's hard for a nation to rise to the challenge in
that pleasant environment, and easy to fall prey to addictions,
to turn inward and ignore global disparities, to overregulate those
creating change, to lower educational standards to less challenging
levels, to offer disempowering forms of social welfare, and do a
range of other comfort-enabling changes that each act to reduce
a citizen's desire to aim high, do hard work, and improve the world.
Given this climate we may have a long way to go before
Americans get the kind of education that would make them immune
to pseudoscientific beliefs, while still keeping them curious and
open minded to the science, technology, business, and social processes
that make the world a better place from year to year.
years of trade sanctions, and rampant counterfeiting, the Iraqi
Dinar has plummeted from its pre-Gulf War value of over USD$3, to
mere fractions of one US cent. Let's say you decide to err on the
side of Iraqi prosperity. You take advantage of the 100 year low
value and buy 2 million Iraqi dinars. A few years from now... You
discover that things are going well enough in Iraq to have raised
the value of the the dinar to one US cent. Your $2100 purchase would
now be valued at $20,000."
might want to buy $45 worth (25,000 dinars), the minimum order at
their site. It is most likely that this money will be worthless
in five years, in which case, you've done your little part betting
on Iraq's development. Then again, there is a low probability it
will be worth more than $45, and you will have helped out the Iraqi
economy as well as yourself. This is a lottery worth playing, in
The Start of Online Physician Rating Systems
Please support this by using it the next time you have
to pick a physician. If you have a PPO you can pick any physician
you want in your area. By going to HealthGrades.com you can search
for General Practitioners within 5 miles of your house, and automatically
eliminate any that have disciplinary actions on file with the medical
boards. I recommend searching for Internal Medicine general practioners,
they are the best trained, significantly more than Family Medicine.
I also recommend filtering for doctors who are 10 years out of medical
school. 5 years isn't enough experience and 20 or 30 is too long
to be up to date. You can take the list that you generate and check
their proximity to great outpatient care centers, as well as the
local hospitals according to HealthGrades. The better general practitioners
will usually be near the best hospitals. Their office will confirm
that they regularly go to see inpatients at the local hospital,
and they may have other hospital privileges as well.
to the Future Mashup
the 13 minute video of AC2005 attendees.
out the podcasts! I did a 21 minute interview on Accelerating Change
and the role of the ASF. George Gilder, Alex Lightman, Bruno Haid,
Stephen Aguilar Millan, _______.
Adaptive Furniture: IKEA's Galant Adjustable Height Sit/Stand Table
and ___________ Drafting Chair.
Galant Designer: Olle Lundberg.
For those of us who spend many hours a day at our
Allows you to break up the day between shorter periods
of standing and longer periods of sitting.
Also allows you to use a drafting chair that can go
high or low depending on the table height.
When I've been sitting too long, I take a break, come
back and raise the table to standing position. When I get tired
of standing after an hour or so, I'll sit on the drafting chair,
with the table still raised. One advantage of being high like that
is that it's a lot easier to do other things around the room. You
are already at standing height, so no effort is involved in sitting
down or getting up. But being human, even this position gets tiring
after a while, and you will want to bring the table and chair back
down to earth. Adaptive furniture feels to me like a future we want:
increasing our "comfort, competence, and consciousness"
in the work environment. [I've borrowed this phrase from Dominguez
and Robin's excellent book, Your Money Or Your Life, to
be reviewed in the next ATimes]
In addition of course, it helps to take our computers
with us to work in interesting "third spaces" (not home,
not work) on a regular basis. There's nothing like novelty and a
new environment to keep us working without stress, and the breaks
are always interesting too. If you use your laptop as your primary
computer, as I do, and keep your backpack close at hand, you can
go anywhere on a moment's notice. I use and recommend the Sony VAIO
TX series laptop with the new white OLED screen, twice as bright
and twice the battery life, and a true 3G EV-DO cellular modem,
like Verizon's National Access/Broadband Access ($80/month) which
will give you cable-speed internet and email everywhere you can
get a cell signal (don't use the Cingular modem, it's much slower
than your home setup). I also recommend a dependable wired optical
notebook mouse like Microsoft's. I've used wireless optical and
laser mice and they just stop working sometimes, which is unacceptable.
Sometimes the simpler technology is the best way to go, until they
work the bugs out.
O'Reilly's Emerging Technology 2006, San Diego, CA
(Do a blurb).
ASF at ETech and GDC for MVR Project.
the Dates! Accelerating Change 2006, Sept 8-10 at SRI International
Cultures of Innovation, Communities of Foresight
Ask Marlon for a Logo!
Biologically Inspired Technologies, Ed., Yoseph Bar-Cohen, 2006
this book nature is viewed as the biggest laboratory that ever existed
and ever will and in its evolution it tested every field of science
and engineering leading to inventions that work well and last. This
enormously large pool of inventions has always been a great model
for imitation and inspiration to human innovation." Understanding
and using the innovations of biological evolutionary development
in the technology space should be a top priority for any designer.
Dr. Bar-Cohen, who we are very fortunate to have as an ASF Advisor,
is a leading thinker in this space. Designers, engineers, and systems
analysts might benefit greatly from this book.
Bar-Cohen is a leader in electro-active polymer (EAP) research,
and his group sponsors an annual arm
wrestling contest between human and biomimetic EAP arms. In
the first 2005 competition the human arm (Panna
Felsen's, right) won hands down, but that could change
in coming years. This year's contest takes place at SPIE
2006 in San Diego this Feb 27th. If you want your stereotypes
busted read the bio of Felsen, the high school senior (now Caltech
freshman) who beat the three EAP arms entered in 2005. Note that
her progress in academics began in middle school, when she was exposed
to Botball robotics. I'm hopeful that a lot more such academic/engineering
opportunities (field trips, competitions, workshops, research projects,
student leadership) will come available in coming years. Exposing
our children to academic and engineering as well as athletic and
artistic growth and recognition opportunities in middle school and
earlier can have profound effects on their development. In addition
to academic excellence let's get Make
magazine and fun Make Salons into the high schools! Youth are
the natural leaders of maker culture.
Foresight Development Course at UAT: Importing the Tamkang Model
good futures course will be tailored to the students career interests,
and cover the practical foresight tools that professionals use when
they make strategic decisions. It will help students learn to do
excellent environmental scanning, to extrapolate current trends,
to consider scenarios for possible shifts in the technology landscape,
and to develop good intuition for the most likely near and longer
term future. As many companies with formal and informal futuring
groups in the U.S. have discovered (Shell, Dow, Intel, Electronic
Arts, American Cancer Society, etc.), such intuition can greatly
improve the return on the bets they make in their companies, projects,
skillsets, and personal careers. In addition to a few required general
courses, Tamkang ensures that foresight methods and concepts are
embedded in all classes in the university curriculum. It may be
this commitment to building strategic foresight in its students
that has kept Tamkang ranked #1 in private universities by Taiwan's
employers for eight consecutive years, by two surveys. They began
their futures requirements ten years ago, in 1995.
you know of any universities besides UAT that would be interested
in having ASF help in developing general or integrated futures curricula
for their students, please let us know at email@example.com.
I am confident that every university that follows Tamkang's example
would be highly regarded by both students and employers, and gain
a competitive benefit distinguishing their institution
about Sara Robinson and my efforts. Give link to public wiki. Ask
times to come... when people know more, the word 'destiny' will
probably have acquired a statistical meaning.” — Robert
Man Without Qualities, 1922-42
is hard to avoid the conclusion that life on Earth, arising as early
as it did [3.85 billion years ago, after Earth's crust solidified
3.9 billion years ago] was chemically destined to be." —
Stephen Jay Gould
rates are down a third, divorce rates are down, crime rates are
down some 70%, school violence is down, suicide rates, drug addiction—all
of the social indicators that were going in the wrong way in the
‘70’s and ‘80’s turned around in the early
‘90’s or so and are still going in the right direction.”
– David Brooks, “The
Road Ahead,” Time, 24 Oct 2005; Author, Bobos
in Paradise, 2001
quotation.” — Firstname Lastname (Title,
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06)
quotation.” — Firstname Lastname (Title,
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06)
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06
Allen's Getting Things Done Outlook Add-In,
David Allen's Workflow Processing Using Microsoft Outlook,
If you've read Allen's
very helpful 2003 book on stress-free productivity, you know
how important it is to have and use a system for delegating, deferring,
creating, and managing tasks, one that has a place for everything,
including tasks waiting for responses from others. Allen's "Mind
like Water" metaphor (the ripples respond not too much, not
too little, but just enough to each new impact, then quickly get
back to equilibrium) has been very helpful for me.
you're ready to bring his system to Outlook, here's the best way
to start. At Allen's personal
productivity website you'll find a 37
page e-book ($10) a "step-by-step manual for optimizing
Outlook as a personal productivity tool" using his system.
If you've ever tried to use Outlook's Tasks before (less than 1%
of use them) and found them too cumbersome (as I have), this e-book
will give you new confidence to integrate them into your life, and
improve your use of the Calendar, Notes, Contacts, and other features
you may use only rarely at present. Also see Jeff Sandquist's one
year old blog
article on using GTD, it links to lots of good implementation
can use the eBook to manually configure Outlook for Allen's system,
but if you want a shortcut (which may not be advisable for those
of us who need to really think about systems in order to implement
them) you can buy a $70 plug in allows you bring Allen's workflow
system to Outlook. The site has good web demos and a reasonably
forum. Unfortunately, the software still looks a bit buggy at
Version 2.1, some folks have experienced problems with the task
management tools and cryptic errors. Uninstalling the plug-in is
easy enough, but you can't revert all the changes you've done once
you've begun using it. So if you want to be safe, I would recommend
making a copy of the download before you install it and then trying
it on your second computer, with a backup Outlook pst file, using
a back up online email address. If it behaves reasonably well for
a month you can then install it on your primary computer. Otherwise,
just do it all manually with the $10 ebook.
tipping point has been reached in community based filtering. Desktop
is even better than Mail Frontier, our previously most recommended
filter, according to PC World's latest reviews.With 1.5
million users/spam raters, Desktop (formerly called SpamNet) has
reached an eBay/Amazon/delicious level of leverage. $40/year covers
up to two computers at a time. Outlook and OE users only. Has separate
spam and fraud identification buttons. If you only get your email
a few times a day (vs. constantly) you'll find less than 2% of your
emails will be spam, even if you have a public email address, as
I do. This elegant system ensures no false positives (legitimate
emails in your spam folder) as someone else had to mark a message
spam in order for it to go into your spam folder. With this many
users, spam exists for as little as 20 seconds before it is tagged
and the system starts filtering it out. If you mark something as
safe when others mark it as spam your reputation and ability to
influence the system rapidly goes to zero, so spammers, who are
always in the minority, can't trash the system. Immune systems always
win! Harnessing the power of the community!
Germs & Steel
($49 DVD). Watered down and slow paced, but good for newbies
to Diamond's ideas. Is it just me or has all our science video become
progressively dumbed down since the 1970's?
Use it! 30% of the time you'll get a 12 second ad. Can't
wait for the first cell phone companies to recognize the social
value of this kind of service, the way Washington Mutual has become
known for customer service with their free ATMs and other features.
411 use, like ATM use, has a number of positive sum benefits to
the society and economy.
Cool Satellite Screen Saver
Get the link from Greg Mogel or Google it.
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06
[Accelerating] Science Will Change Careers," Jim Carroll,
Futurist, Trendwatcher, and Innovation Expert. (Ontario, Canada)
Fantastic observations on "career extinction"
as a result of accelerating science and technology developments.
If anyone thinks thing are slowing down, read this article. As Jason
Schissel notes, this suggests that tremendous new opportuninties
for searching and metatagging data are going to open up in coming
years. Professionals whose job it is to assist electronic systems
in sorting knowledge. There are going to be huge strategic advantages
to this in coming years. Those who have the best databases, in many
ways, can be the first movers in an increasingly rapidly innovative
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06
Germany Precedent. Who's Winning in Iraq, National Geographic,
up Iraq into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. Splitting Tikrit and Baghdad.
They might reunify
later (e.g., East and West Germany, North and South Korea, China
and Taiwan, etc. Kosovo: ______) but only if both sides want it.
There must be consequences for continued civil unrest. The world
owes it to the civilians in these countries. Democracy is hard enough
without trying to create a government of strangers.
SAS Difference: The Long Term Future of the Workplace
Discuss their culture. How they had to have a top down
benevolent autocracy to do it. Flat hierarchy, but one key is they
use their own IT systems to make sure people stay accountable.
no one has done a book on them yet (list the two ebooks). This is
where first world nations workplaces will go over the 21st century.
An obvious developmental attractor. You can get there now if you're
willing to move to _____.
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06
Excellent article on a new nuclear power technology in
the December issue of Scientific American:
which you can
read if you have the digital subscription (or pay per article).
If not, you can search on the authors: William H. Hannum, Gerald
E. Marsh and George S. Stanford, and find some (slightly less readable)
papers online with similar info.
New reactor technology employs a method of generating nuclear power
that can take advantage of fast neutrons (as opposed to slow neutrons,
which current tech uses) to get FAR more energy from nuclear materials.
Current methods use only about 5-6% of the available energy and
leave behind a good deal of radioactive waste. These new methods
(referred to as "pyro" as opposed to "PUREX")
can extract up to 99% of the available energy, and consequently
leave behind waste that is both less dangerous and much smaller
in quantity. Thanks to Jason Schissel for the link.
Source, Person, 00 Mon 06
or Homo technians: Metaman,
Greg Stock, 1993
I am rereading Stock's excellent 1993 book, subtitled The
Merging of Machines into a Global Superorganism, a concise
and well-referenced update of William Wheeler's (1928) superorganism
hypothesis, the idea that animals and their technology (termites,
in Wheeler's observation) form a single living system. Stock calls
the human-technology superorganism 'Metaman', I would call it 'Metahumanity',
term as Meta- stands for above, and has the excellent connotation
of metamorphosis, which
precisely, we are talking about, Homo technians, a new
species of human being that is fundamentally dependent on its technology
for survival. The species label makes sense here because for all
practical purposes technology-dependent humans don't "interbreed"
non-tool using human beings, because of the huge time separation
between these two cultures.
that the human-technology symbiosis must be considered as a total
system when we make technological, economic, policy, and social
choices. To make decisions by considering any part in isolation
will often miss the developmental trajectory of the system as a
whole, and lead to poor results.
about Metaman! The piece Greg Stock missed.
Kevin Kelly's Technium.
is Near Review (by John Smart)
Publish to web. Link to it here.
Finally finished it. I agree with his tech capacity curves (Accel
and Dev Studies).
I think he is mistaken on his biospace predictions.
I think he is missing some of the fundamental limitations of the
new TF&SC Article on Kurzweil. Reference
William Sims Bainbridge on Cyberimmortality (latest Futurist).
the World Became Complex, Milestones,
Clayton and Simon Conway Morris on universal purpose and rising
complexity. They don't yet get that there's an acceleration metric
here that they could be measuring. But someone will propose that
kind of research soon. The biogenesis research seems particularly
promising. Carl Sagan, for all his brilliance, often remarked that
he imagined there were millions of ways of making the building blocks
of cells, and thus likely to be millions of different types of life
forms. I think in this point he was wrong, and I expect we'll get
increasing clues that the laws of physics and chemistry are such
that there really only are a few special optima. We may increasingly
find evidence for this way of thinking long before we have solved
the protein folding problem in our simulations, which may be several
Sid Meier's Civilization IV.
Addictive! (Wikipedia entry, official site)
Apolyton (Civ IV university)
How to Survive a Robot Uprising,
Hilarious collection of nanohype. Skewers some of the worst futurist
hype in this field. At the same time, it misses that something very
different is going on in the nanospace than anywhere else. Particularly,
the stunning new efficiencies that are always being discovered.
But of course most of the nano hucksters miss this too, in the promotion
of their often highly implausible scenarios, so the site has a valid
axe to grind. You will laugh long and hard at some of the entries
and their accompanying Nano Mystery Science Theatre-style commentary...
or you should! :)
Zero G Dogs, Crazy Cats.
Quick download if you have broadband. http://www.unoriginal.co.uk/footage4_4.html
Thanks to Mattea Manning
These rare beauties are formed when air is saturated with rain droplets
and begins to sink. The worst of a storm is usually over when this
type of cloud is seen. Thanks to Ken Williams, Jr.