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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

19 July, 2004

AC2004 Commitments are Very Close.

Did you like ACC2003? Would you like ISAC to produce another Accelerating Change conference this September rather than have to wait until 2005? We need to know now if you are planning to register this year. Either registration, or a simple RSVP to mail@accelerating.org including your name and "I commit" will suffice. Tell your future-oriented, acceleration-aware friends.

Thanks to the forty wonderful folks who sent in commitments for AC2004 last week. We are very close to having our necessary numbers for the conference. We'll tell you in the next Tech Tidbits (Monday, July 26th) if we have enough commitments for this September.

 

 

Please take a minute to check out the AC2004 conference website: We will bring you 36 world-class speakers over two and a half days, six keynotes, three debates, a Virtual Worlds demo, and another DVD conference record. Rates are $350 for Early Bird, and $150 for Student registrants. Note that AC2004 is priced well below other top-quality strategic technology, business, and humanist futures conferences such as AlwaysOn ($1,795*), Business 4Site ($1,095*), MIT Emerging Tech ($995*), O'Reilly Emerging Tech ($1,145*), Telecosm ($1,495*), and Pop!Tech ($1,695*).

Your vote matters. First and foremost, we seek to best serve our constituency of acceleration-aware science, technology, business, and humanist strategic thinkers. Let us know if you'll be joining us at Stanford this September.

ACC2003 DVD's Are Done

Our 10 disc set of ACC2003 speaker DVDs are available at a very low rate of $99 to get these speakers' important ideas out to the widest possible audience.

If you'd like your own set, you can order them from ISAC by phone (major credit cards accepted) at (650) 396-8220. Electronic commerce coming next.

 


As prep for our next Accelerating Change, Tech Tidbits will feature at least three items weekly, arranged by our three conference themes. Have your own breaking news to submit? Let us know at mail-at-accelerating.org

PHYSICAL SPACE
Protein Extends Life: No Dieting Needed, William Cromie, Harvard Gazette , 14 July 2004 (3 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart]
It's a dirty secret in anti-aging research that virtually nothing reliably extends animal life. Well, almost nothing. The gold standard is an intervention that will extend life in all known species, from bacteria to buffalo, and until recently, the only thing that has ever delivered that kind of performance to date is Caloric Restriction (with Optimal Nutrition). CRON is an acronym for semi-starvation, a regimen with too many side effects to be used by more than a handful of individuals seeking to increase either their lifespan or healthspan (mentally and physically productive years).

But what if an inexpensive supplement could reliably extend our lives an additional ten to twenty percent? Sir2, or resveratrol, an extract of red grapes, is one of a very small number of candidates that have done exactly this in species as diverse as yeast, S. cerevisiae, and Drosophila. This is rare evidence that the intervention might actually work well in more complex animals, like dogs and humans. David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School scientist researching the compound, plans to start a spinoff company to explore resveratrol and other synthetic STACs. If history is any guide (all the failed efforts in rational drug design), he will be unlikely to synthetically improve on nature's evolutionary exploration. But he could come up with ways to make resveratrol cheaper, more bioavailable, and more effective.

Resveratrol is available from a number of supplement makers, such as the Life Extension Foundation. It may be one of the most important discoveries we've yet made in this long-overhyped area. Neverthless, it might easily take 20 years to provide the first convincing life extension data in humans. Also, a number of unknowns could still shoot it down: it may not provide the same marginal benefit in humans, the doses necessary for a longevity effect may be impractically high, and long-term safety is an open question.

But I suggest resveratrol is one of the first of a new class of compounds that provides good evidence that we will eventually see life extension supplements as additives in the food of most first world societies, additives taken by the vast majority of a life-desiring public. Walt Truett Anderson and other futurists have noted that one of the unmet promises of biotechnology is to deliver a world where vibrant 80-somethings are commonly seen in positions of industry and authority. A world top-heavy with tolerant individuals who have lived long enough to see the myriad exceptions to their points of view, people who retain enough mental flexibility to admit they are often wrong. A culture that views 50 year olds as still a bit "green," needing guidance and a little more life experience. I'm looking forward to that type of wiser, safer world. Let's hope it can be delivered sooner, rather than later.


VIRTUAL SPACE
Multimedia Scrapbooks to Share, Neil McManus, NY Times, 15 July 2004 (3 pages)
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] Webjay (think: Web-DJ) is a free download that makes custom play-lists out of URLs, allowing users to mix music, text, pictures and video files in a controlled sequence without having to host those files themselves. This is as much a tool for curating, managing and contextualizing online news as it is a medium for expressive mixmanship. A dynamic presentation is as simple as pasting a series of URLs. The tool is sparking a flurry of new web creativity, and efforts so far vary from straight-up song lists to elaborate audio-visual compilations—some didactic, some funny, some fascinating.

As Andrew Nachison, director of the Media Center at the American Press Institute, notes: "People aren't just remixing music, they're remixing the news." As the list of mixable digital ingredients grows, and the ease of creation increases, individual content mixers have full range to decide what to include in their own personal broadcasts, all without having to host the actual content.

While the platform is new and in need of refinement, the direction is suggestive. An emerging breed of Information Jockeydom, beyond or complimenting textual blogs? Internet "Tivos" automatically searching for and uploading URLs to play-lists for easy viewing? More copyright nightmares and endless arguments over fair use (seemingly a given)? The next must-take step for independent newscasters? Seed for a thriving art form? We'll be discussing these emerging issues and others in the Virtual Space theme at Accelerating Change 2004. I hope you can join us.


INTERFACE
Blinkx Blinkx!, Om Malik on Broadband Blog, 17 June 2004 (6 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart] Technology writer Om Malik has a nice blog exchange on
Blinkx, a new free beta software interface tool. Think of Blinkx as a lite version of the popular X1 Search (PC Magazine Review), the blisteringly fast hard disk indexer that is available for $99. Both Blinkx and X1 allow 2004 computer users, stuck here with today's laughably primitive computer search utilities, to more easily find things on their hard drives now, rather than in the long-awaited Longhorn future (the next generation Windows OS). The Blinkx client pre-searches your hard drive and indexes locally stored email messages (Outlook, Outlook Express and Eudora at present), attachments, Word documents, and several other file types. Blinkx broadband, another beta tool, shows context-related websites in a bottom-fourth screen when you are searching the internet. This program isn't nearly as useful, for several reasons. A "related sites" window just adds to information overload for typical users. But it's nice to have a click away when you want it. Google has a similar system coming out soon (code-named Puffin), as does Microsoft (MSN). As does Yahoo. Capitalism in action!

But Blinkx as a local search tool works and is available now, and the free download just a click away for acceleration-aware readers. I recommend installing it if you don't have a hard disk indexer and aren't ready to pay $99 for the excellent X1.

Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx co-founder, was previously CTO at Autonomy, a company that develops software tools for indexing and accessing "unstructured information," the 80% of data that is not already organized inside easy to understand file trees or broadly accessible databases on any enterprise network. This software is particularly useful for very large companies and institutions. Back in 2000 Autonomy launched a free download similar to Blinkx called Kenjin, a public version of their corporate search product, but it was too underpowered to actually work. Fortunately times change, technological capacity exponentiates, and perhaps today's server farms can deliver context-sensitive search at a level that is useful to the average web researcher. Besides sleeping well at night, I hope the good folks at Blinkx are able to get some economic value for the work they are doing accelerating productivity with this free tool. Without a Google-sized hardware platform I doubt Blinkx will be able to compete independently in context-sensitive search, but they may make a great partner.

Context-sensitive search is an early form of natural language processing (NLP). As some of Om's readers note, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) algorithms are where we need to go to do professional context-sensitive document comparisions. Clara Yu et. al explain that LSI "considers documents that have many words in common to be semantically close, and ones with few words in common to be semantically distant. This simple method correlates surprisingly well with how a human being, looking at content, might classify a document collection. Although the LSI algorithm doesn't understand anything about what the words mean, the patterns it notices can make it seem astonishingly intelligent." Let's hope we see LSI-based systems emerge soon. Their ability to help people network, to find partners with specific skills and knowledge, and to perform a host of other connecting and interaction-accelerating functions will be simply astonishing.

What will your personal and professional websites look like when we have an LSI-equipped internet? Thanks to Sponge Nebson for the hit.


Open Call for Submissions
ISAC is currently requesting submissions for its Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" newsletter, featuring broad coverage and incisive editorials on scientific, technological, business, and humanist dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone interested in submitting original material relevant to the broad study and analysis of accelerating change may do so via email to mail-at-accelerating.org. Submissions may take the form of articles, papers, scan hits, questions and even cartoons (for you illustrators out there). Contributers will be notified of their acceptance status in a timely fashion, and accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues of Accelerating Times. Visit http://singularitywatch.com/news.html for more details.

ISAC

AC2004 Commitments are Very Close

ACC2003 DVDs are Done

NEWS

Protein Extends Life: No Dieting Needed

Multimedia Scrapbooks to Share

Blinkx, Blinkx!

 

COMING EVENTS

WorldFuture 2004, July 31- August 2 (Washington, DC).
Annual event for lay and professional futurists.

 

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