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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

24 September, 2004

AC2004 Physical Space Debate Spotlight:
David Brin vs. Brad Templeton (Steve Jurvetson Moderating).

Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the Valley's smartest information technology venture capital firm, has just joined us as a moderator for AC2004's Physical Space debate, between physicist-author David Brin (see and Brad Templeton, chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a prominent advocacy group working to protect liberty and privacy in cyberspace.

The debate will be on "The Costs and Benefits of Transparency: How Far, How Fast, How Fair?"

See David's provocative cover story ("Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society!"; registration required) in August's Salon on transparency, the rapid growth of digital recording and communication in our society, both public and private. Brad has written popular pieces about property and privacy rights (see "Ten Big Myths About Copyright" and his take on privacy issues in Google's GMail).

Steve has a thought-provoking new blog, the J curve, that I suggest browsing. I've added my two cents there, and I hope you will too. Check out Brad's ideas blog if you are a tinkerer and like redesigning things. Finally, David's home page is a very important read as well.

One of David's big issues is our culture and media's knee-jerk tendency to either 1) fear the future or 2) blindly accept the status quo, when today's complex world demands instead 3) a radical new openness and self-examination of our unsolved problems, and confidence that we can make measurable annual progress in fixing them. A quote for your file:

"There's a world to be saved and those who spread either complacency or gloom aren't helping. What we need is confidence and a sense that our efforts can matter. That will come, if we open our eyes to how much good has already been done. Are we ready, at last, to stop ridiculing those eager, can-do boys and girls who believe in progress?" — David Brin

David proposes that we can have increasing transparency without being forced to choose between freedom and security (e.g., more of one means less of the other). Brad also wants to avoid this forced tradeoff, but doesn't see increasing transparency as the answer and is much less optimistic that we are managing these issues well. Come join us and add your voice to this important debate.

New Speaker: Dewayne Hendricks, Broadband Activist

Wireless and broadband pioneer Dewayne Hendricks, President of the Dandin Group, will speak on "Wireless at Warpspeed" (placeholder title) at AC2004. Dewayne is bringing state-of-the-art networks to underdeveloped areas like the Country of Tonga and American Indian reservations. These deployments are prime examples of leapfrogging technology."

Tonga is without landlines in many places and he is taking them to VoIP wideband mesh networks, and at the same time showing US regulators what can be done with better laws and spectrum policies--very impressive and inspiring work. Check out these articles ("Broadband Cowboy," Wired; "Dewayne Hendricks," Wireless Review) on his work with the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation, and his technology topics blog for some of his recent thinking. Thanks for joining us Dewayne!

AC2004 Filling Up: Sign Up Soon!

Accelerating Change is the premiere conference broadly exploring the opportunities and challenges of accelerating technological change. Our conference exists to network the world's most broad minded, transdisciplinary, systems-oriented, future-aware, practical and passionate speakers and participants, and to collectively consider the staggering changes occuring annually on our increasingly intelligent planet. Every year the connections you make here will be among the most important, productive, and informative in your life.

In today's fast-paced technological environment, understanding and guiding accelerating change involves a new way of thinking, learning to see the most powerful and broadly applicable innovations, processes, trends, and physical efficiencies, and discovering where, when, and how to harness those to create value in the modern world.

AC2004 brings you forty world-class speakers over two and a half days, six keynotes, three debates, a Virtual Worlds and Tech demo, and a DVD conference record. Check out our PDF brochure. Rates are $350 for Early Bird, and $150 for Student registrants. We have 350 spaces at the event (300 for registrants, 50 for speakers and volunteers). Register while spaces are still available!


Before the conference, Tech Tidbits features at least three thought-provoking items in each issue, arranged in our three AC2004 themes. Find news we should know about? Tell us at mail(at)

Holey Fibers Shed New Light, Physical Review Focus, 20 September 2004 (2 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart]. Lasers today can only be made cheaply in certain areas of the electromagnetic spectrum. There are "holes" in the spectrum, such as ultraviolet laser light for cancer detection and tissue analysis, where low cost lasers haven't easily producible to date. It has recently been discovered that a hollow optical fiber filled with hydrogen gas, a device known as a "photonic crystal," can convert common, cheaply available laser light to the wavelengths previously unavailable.

Left: SEM image of a photonic crystal fiber. Note periodic array of air holes. The central defect (missing hole in the middle) acts as the fiber's core. The fiber is about 40 microns across.

Here's the kicker: this conversion system is a million times more energy efficient than all previous converters. Holey fibers batman! :) These are the kinds of jaw-dropping efficiency advances that continue to drive the ICT and networking revolutions. They are due even more to human discovery (in physical microspace) than to human creativity, which is why they have accelerated throughout the 20th century, even as humans remain uncertain exactly why they continue to occur. Carver Mead, who I talked to at Stanford last week, calls them the "unreasonable efficiency of the microcosm" (after Eugene Wigner's famous 1960 paper on the unreasonable effectiveness of simple mathematics in explaining the natural sciences).

As one of our speakers in this theme, AC2004 is very glad to have speaker Gee Rittenhouse, Director of the Wireless Technology Research Department at Lucent Technologies giving us a "Strategic Look at Wireless Technologies." Wireless networks also exhibit "unreasonable efficiencies" of the microscale. The lower the power of a wireless network, the more efficiently it operates as a system, for example. Come and hear Gee tell us what new innovations in wireless research are driving the industry, as cellular technology moves from second to third generation networks, and as new access technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth create new service and market opportunities worldwide.

Children with ADHD Benefit from Time in Nature, Jim Barlow, Medical News Today, 28 August 2004 (2 pages)
[Commentary by Alvis Brigis]. This article summarizes the findings of fascinating new research survey designed to test what effect time spent outdoors has on the symptoms of children with ADHD. Remarkably, the researchers appear to have linked increased time spent outdoors in “green” areas with a decrease in ADHD symptoms. The implications of this information are far-reaching. If the results prove accurate, it demonstrates a powerful link between human cognitive development and "natural" physical environments.

This means that, at least in part, the way that our personalities grow is affected by how much time we spend in natural settings versus city settings. Remember back in Psych 101 when our instructors left the Nature vs. Nurture argument hanging? Well, based on the fact that research of this type is being done, it looks like society is finally beginning to quantify how much of an effect Nurture has on the human brain. Enjoy!

A Lever to Move the Mind, James Au, New World Notes, 9 September 2004 (5 pages)
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf]. Last week James Au (embedded reporter in the user-created digital world, Second Life) wrote about a “Virtual Hallucinations” building in Second Life that houses visual simulations of clinically documented schizophrenic experiences. The simulation architect is Nash Baldwin, a medical doctor and computer programmer who had previously attempted a similar project on a stand-alone Silicon Graphics machine. The difference? That project took nine months and “doesn’t look anything as good” (in Baldwin’s words). He constructed the Second Life version in only three weeks.

While time, cost, and visual quality could steal the show by themselves, the Second Life version also distinguishes itself from its stand-alone counterpart through its surrounding community of users. These users (over 10,000 at last count) have easy access to Mr. Baldwin’s creation and can offer instant feedback on their experiences as well as suggestions for improvement (technical and aesthetic) that can be implemented almost immediately. This is another interesting example of Second Life’s unique abilities for rapid prototyping and accelerating innovation stemming from its open building tools, commerce-oriented economic policies, and growing community intelligence. Mr. Baldwin designed his hallucinations sim with several goals in mind. He’s seeking to build a virtual library that will archive the hallucinatory experiences of schizophrenia as accurately as possible, and through it he hopes to develop new therapeutic applications. But most immediately, he says, he’s building a model that anyone can go to for understanding. In his words it’s a “lever to multiply a small effect to many people.”

Those with a Second Life account can find Mr. Baldwin’s Virtual Hallucinations building in the Sedig region, coordinates 45, 25. Second Life accounts are free for one week (with credit card) at (Permanent tourist access can be purchased for $10; building things requires a subscription at $10/month and up). A TechTV segment featuring Second Life can be found at

Cory Ondrejka (VP of Product Development, Linden Lab, creators of Second Life) will deliver a Keynote at Accelerating Change 2004 in the Virtual Space theme, and Robin Harper (Senior VP, Linden Lab) will participate in a panel with Robert Gehorsam and Nova Barlow. Join us as we discuss the way simulations are improving our virtual and real intelligence.


Future Shock, For America?, James Pinkerton, Tech Central Station, 22 September 2004 (3 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart]. Excellent, if biting commentary on the differences in pop culture between U.S. and Japanese markets. With the recent release and commercial success of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, America demonstrates its collective desire for nostalgia about the 1930's. With the commercial success of Ghost in the Shell 2 in Japan (a movie that had 1/50th of the box office of Sky Captain in the U.S. last week) our Asian neighbor demonstrates its desire to think hard about the world of 2030. Is the United States getting ready for the future, or are we sticking our heads in the sand as just as Asia arrives as a full-fledged innovation partner on the world scene?

I don't concur with the author's assessment that the 21st century may be recalled as the Asian Century, alone. Far too many changes are coming for that simple appellation to make sense. Our best companies (from Wal-Mart to Mom-and-Pop) will continue to partner with Asia in powerful new ways, and Asia will continue to emulate us for all our social and political innovations, and our diverse and rich multiculture. We will also remain the world's security and, with luck, nonproliferation leaders as Globalization enters a new era of cooperation and transparency in coming years.

But will the U.S. be the innovation leaders of the 21st century the way we were in the 20th? Will our children be raised with a truly global and technology-aware outlook, will they learn to successfully partner with all the hungry, talented, and capital-starved youth that outnumber our youth 20 to 1 in the Emerging Nations? Will they create the most amazing new products and services for tomorrows wired, intelligent, robotic world? Or will Asia take over this role? The choice is ours. Let us choose wisely. Thanks to Wes Bertrand for the hit.

Speaking Words of Wisdom, Graeme Philipson, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 2004 (2 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart]. Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and one of the key inventors of the World Wide Web, gave the keynote at SpeechTek in New York last week, the world's leading conference at the intersection of computer technology and human speech.

Berners-Lee proposed the development of the first standard for a Speech Synthesis Mark-up Language, SSML, an extension of XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language), the format widely used for interchanging documents on the web. SSML would initially be aimed at adding internet access functionality to the world's 2 billion fixed line and mobile phones. A useable SSML would give hundreds of millions more people on the planet access to the web, and would also take us an important step closer to Berners-Lee's vision of the Semantic Web, as outlined in in his fascinating book Weaving the Web, 1999.

SSML will be an early component of tomorrow's "conversational user interface" (CUI). The CUI's emergence, and its incorporation into tomorrow's highly realistic virtual worlds, may even represent the single most important technological advance our planet sees in the next fifty years, so powerful would be the effect of these interfaces on every aspect of human life. ASF director Jerry Paffendorf and I will talk more about these topics in the Night Owl Session at AC2004. I hope you can join us.

Call for Submissions
ASF 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) Contributers will be notified of acceptance status in a timely fashion, and accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues of Accelerating Times. Visit for more details.


AC2004 Physical Space Debate Spotlight

New Speaker: Dewayne Hendricks, Broadband Activist

AC2004 Filling Up: Sign Up Soon!


Holey Fibers Shed New Light

A Lever to Move the Mind

ADHD and Nature

Future Shock, for America?

Speaking Words of Wisdom

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Washington, D.C.
Oct 18-19, 2004


World Technology Summit and Awards, October 7-8 (San Francisco, CA). Celebrating the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world.

Serious Games Summit, Oct 18-19 (Washington, D.C.). The leading conference for training, policy exploration, analytics, visualization, education, health and therapy simulations.

Pop!Tech, October 21-23 (Camden, ME). The social impact of technology and the shape of things to come.

RoboNexus, October 21-23
(Santa Clara, CA). The nation's largest business, development, education, and consumer event for emerging robotics technologies.

Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology, Oct 22-24 (Washington, DC). Analyzing and championing the emerging field of molecular manufacturing (MNT).

International Congress of Nanotechnology, Nov 7-11 (San Francisco, CA). Broad overview of the state of nano today. Includes Expo.


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