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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

03 January, 2006
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Happy New Year to our acceleration-aware friends and colleagues everywhere. Have you stopped to take a topsight perspective on your life's accomplishments so far? Reconsidered your future? Counted your blessings? One New Year's Ritual we recommend is reading's Annual Question and responses (Jan 1, 2006: "What is your dangerous idea?"). Write your own response after reading these if you can and share it with your friends! Sorry for the two month delay in publishing. We're back in the saddle and ready to ride again. Thanks for all your emails and support in 2005.

Metaverse Roadmap Project
[Jerry Paffendorf ] ASF is embarking on a major foresight project in 2006: the Metaverse Roadmap: Pathways to the 3D Web. For a brief intro to technology roadmaps, see our Roadmapping page. For an overview of the project, see our Metaverse Roadmap (MVR) page. The MVR is made possible by generous start-up support from The Electric Sheep Company. We are creating a team of partner companies and organizations interested in supporting the project. Partners to date include the Arden Institute virtual worlds research center at Indiana University and the State of Play conference on law, video games, and virtual worlds at the New York Law School. Email ASF Research Director Jerry Paffendorf to join the project, or for more information.

Project and Event Manager(s) Needed
[John Smart] ASF is seeking one or two bright, energetic managers with strong organizational skills and a passion for serving technology and futures communities. We are paying $15-20/hour ($30-40K salary for full time) for an individual or individuals to lead several of our 2006 projects and events on a full-time or part-time basis. The position(s) involve administrative and budgeting work as needed, and require a great phone presence and willingness to make contacts for network building and occasional pitches to potential sponsors. One benefit is that the manager can work from their home, managing our ASF team online and through daily conference calls. If you or someone you know is interested in the position, let us know! You can also send a resume and references to John Smart, and find more in the MVR Project Manager Job Description at our public wiki.

Charitable Donations for 2006
Start the new year off right with an act of foresight and philanthropy. Pledge $50 to a worthy cause, the Acceleration Studies Foundation, the only 501c3 educational nonprofit dedicated to improving understanding and guidance of accelerating processes of planetary change. Your contributions are tax deductible, and will greatly help us serve our community in 2006. You can donate to our Bear Sterns endowment account (where the donated principal generates interest income for the ASF in perpetuity), to our general fund, or to any of our specific projects, such as building our Future Salon Network, producing our acclaimed conference, Accelerating Change, writing our Foresight Development university coursework curricula, doing top-quality technology roadmapping research, or creating great future-oriented podcasts next year! See our Donations page for donation options.

Tamkang University's Ph.D. in Futures Studies
[JS] ASF Board Member Iveta Brigis and I were in Taiwan last month for the annual foresight conference of Tamkang University. As you may recall, Tamkang is the only university in the world that requires all its undergraduates (27,000 of them) to take at least three courses in thinking about the future in order to graduate. They offer 15 futures courses at the undergraduate level, from personal development, to careers, to a range of topics in national and global futures, and about as many at the Master's level as well. In one of the trip highlights for us, Dr. Clement Chang, president of the university, invited ASF to help Tamkang develop curriculum for their Ph.D. program in Futures Studies, which they plan to inaugurate circa 2008. If any of you have an interest in developing acceleration-aware foresight curriculum at the university level, let us know what you'd like to research. There's a world full of students out there waiting to understand the history and future of technology in a very powerful and practical new way.

(L to R) John Smart, Founder Dr. Clement Chang, Walter Kistler, and Graduate Institute of Futures Studies Director Dr. Chien-Fu Chen.

“You don’t have to dominate the food chain to get by in the Web world; you can find a productive niche and thrive, partially because you’re building on the information value created by the rest of the Web.” — Steven Johnson, “Web 2.0 Arrives”, Discover 10.05

“When you harness collective intelligence and the power of blogging, it doesn’t [at first] mean power to the individuals. It means power to the people best able to aggregate those individuals. Google is a profoundly powerful company because it has figured out algorithmically to learn from [hundreds of] millions of people at once.” — Tim O’Reilly

"The stock market will lower to 6,000 and then accelerate to the equivalent of 30,000 points by 2020." — Patricia Moody and Richard Morley, The Technology Machine: How Manufacturing Will Work in the Year 2020,1999.

Logo for the Emergent Collective Intelligence division in the Computer Science Department at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam


Resources and Tools

Software (Crap Cleaner): System Optimization Freeware
Try this great spyware-free system optimization program for deleting cookies, temporary files and other 'crap' from your cache on IE, Firefox, in the Windows Registry, Recycle Bin, etc. 12 million people have downloaded this application so far. It took me 11 secs to delete 600 MB of crap off my laptop, and 67 seconds to delete 1.6MB of crap off my desktop machine. My browsers are much snappier now. I run it on the first of every month, when I do my scheduled backups. Wish I could get it to automatically 'take out the trash', but maybe we'll see that in the next version. If you are using IE and want faster browsing, you should also set your Temporary Internet Files (TIF) Cache to 50 MB instead of 350 MB. Under XP, go to Tools>Internet Options>General>"Settings" button to find the TIF cache and change the value from the default 350 to the speedier 50.

Sony's VAIO VGN-TX and Verizon's BroadbandAccess Card: An Ultraconnected Ultraportable Laptop, Sept 2005
[JS] At 2.7 pounds and with a carbon-fiber body this laptop is ultraportable. I carry it in a small backpack when I leave the house—almost a wearable like the TummyPC. This was the hot ticket in the electronics district in Taipei when we visited there last month. It recently debuted in the U.S. as well, for the same price: $2,200. The new Vaio has several features (like a DVD burner) you wouldn't expect in anything this small, but the neatest thing is the screen. It's barely an eighth of an inch thick, lighter and thinner than any we've seen before, and incredibly bright. The reason it's so bright and crisp is because the entire backplane is white organic LED (the "light source of the future") with an LCD screen overlaid on it. That makes it far more energy efficient than other screens to date, giving the laptop 6.5 hours of real-world battery life (or 10 hrs with the extended battery), twice as long as previous models.

Don't buy the U.S. version, the VGN-TX670GP, because it comes with the Cingular 2.5G cellular modem installed, which is significantly slower than home broadband. Instead order the international version from your local Sony store, the VGN-TX17GP, and then for ultraconnectivity, go to your local Verizon store and get their BroadbandAccess 3G EVDO card ($80/month, unlimited bandwidth) on a one year contract. This is the only setup in the U.S. at present that I know of that will let you surf the internet at better than cable modem and DSL speeds, from anywhere you can get cellphone reception, including as a passenger in a car driving at 60 miles an hour. That makes it either Star Trek technology or the minimum requirement for 21st century living, depending on your attitude with regard to these things. Finally, you should know Sony has a reputation for being overly aggressive with their digital rights management tools (eg., their recent rootkit fiasco). If you believe they will ultimately play fair when challenged, as I do, you may be willing to support their innovation by buying their products.

[Iveta Brigis] It seems like everyone is trying to prevent the common cold by taking supplements like Airborne or echinacea. John E. Smart (the father of our very own JS) recommends a new Canadian product called Cold F-X. The difference between Cold F-X and something like Airborne? F-X has results from randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to prove it works. The results are particularly strong for elderly people in nursing homes and hospitals.

The Acceleration Story in Five Spaces

ATimes covers world news and insight in five "spaces," giving one to three briefs in each space. The story of accelerating change, the most fascinating story of our time, can be told as a story of movement from outer, to human, to inner, to cyber, and ultimately, to hyper space, the world beyond the present. Each of these deserves understanding for a multidisciplinary perspective on the future:

Outer Space (the world around us: science, the natural and built environment, universal systems theory)
Human Space (the human world: our bodies, behavior, minds, human systems theory)
Inner Space (the world below: energy, small tech, computer "bodies", inner systems theory)
Cyber Space (the virtual world: computer "behavior", computer "minds", cyber systems theory)
Hyper Space (the world beyond: new paradigms, phase transitions, hyperphysics, hyper systems theory)

If you have important stories to share with our 3,200 acceleration-aware readers, we'd love to hear from you

Outer Space
science (biology, chemistry, geology, physics, research), the natural and built environment, universal systems theory (developmental physics, hierarchical substrates)

Driving Toward an Electric Future: Natural Gas, Nanobatteries, and PHEV's (Next-Generation Hybrids), John Smart, Jan 2006
The purpose of this article is to try and convince you that a quiet revolution is underway in the electric grid, and that the trojan horse involves a mix of several innovative technologies, including liquified natural gas (LNG) storage and transportation, natural gas electric generation, nanobattery storage systems, and the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The new nanobatteries promise to make electric car recharging as fast as gas tank filling at home, recharge station, or destination, and tomorrow's transportation power grids will be much more decentralized than today's gasoline stations, supporting even greater city densities. Natural gas, the electric industry, battery companies, and the hybrid auto industry all look like great places to invest over the next several decades. Take a moment to skim this article and see if you agree. When you're done, take a look at, a great site about PHEV's in general, though they don't yet discuss the significance of nanobatteries to their paradigm.

Human Space
bodies (biology, health, neuroscience), behavior (business, education, foresight, governance, innovation, pre-digital technology, society), minds (psychology, spirituality), human systems theory (ecological psychology, memetics)

Collective Rights/Democracy
A Democracy of Groups, First Monday, Beth Noveck, Dec 2005
[JS] Beth Noveck gave one of the neatest presentations (on reforming the U.S. patent system) at AC2005. Here she explores an issue rarely discussed in our consumer culture of leisure individualism: the growing rights and democratic powers of groups, a process sure to be a major influence on the future. The twentieth century was defined economically (and to a lesser extent, legally) by the rise of the corporation, a major new multi-state, multinational network of groups. The twenty first century will clearly continue that trend, but add great new powers to smaller and less commercial groups within the network as well. Beyond the incremental improvements we are already seeing in online collaboration and education, I think the last critical step needed to empower all smaller groups will be an infrastructure capable of supporting better online preference-sharing, polling, and voting. Free group survey tools like are good first efforts toward making our group minds open to reflection and refinement. In the same way that it took a relatively well-developed trade and finance infrastructure before corporate law could come into its own, an infrastructure of full digital democracy (first at the local and state levels, if history is precedent) would be a force capable of reforming plutocratic power structures that are well defined at the state and individual rights levels, but presently poorly developed in the "excluded middle" of groups, as Noveck notes. After reading her fantastic piece, you might also enjoy my
also my discussion of the network-oriented concept of the "valuecosm" (section B3 of this scenario) for another example of how groups may be greatly empowered by tomorrow's IT infrastructures. Thanks to Tim Moenk for the link.

Clarifying the Language-Perception Debate, World Science, 26 Dec 2005
[JS] U.C. Berkeley researcher Aubrey Gilbert and colleagues have brought some clarity to the persistent but controversial Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (the theory that your language shapes your perceptions, thought, and even nature of consciousness). Using split-brain glasses and simple color distinction experiments, as reported in this week's PNAS, Gilbert et. al. have discovered Whorf was half right: Language does shape our perception, but only in the left half of the brain! (Remember your psychology class mnemonics? Left is for "Language and Logic", Right is for "Ridiculous" (Emotion, Art, Humor, General Silliness, etc.). Perhaps this means our right hemisphere keeps us all on a common footing emotionally, regardless of culture. What an excellent design, if any of us can only be half-misunderstood at most, as long as we always remember to pay attention to the nonverbal cues of our fellow conversants!
Thanks to Alvis Brigis for this excellent hit.

Inner Space
energy, small tech (nanoengineering, miniaturization), computer "bodies" (automation, computer hardware, nanotech, robotics), inner systems theory (acceleration, efficiency, miniaturization, reductionism)

Nanotechnology and the Poor, Meridian Institute, Jan 2005 (29p PDF)
[JS] This foresighted study by the famous conflict-resolution group Meridian considers the great potential benefit to the developing world of the $3.7B being spent annually on nanotech internationally. This level of research investment is already twice the highest annual outlay that occurred during the Human Genome Project. That seems about right to me, as the next-generation yields of biotech are likely to be much less dramatic than most futurists anticipate. Nanotech, however, can be implemented on fast technological rather than slow biological timescales, in a wide range of global platforms
. In addition to great new products like Argonide's NanoCeram electropositive filters and Seldon Lab's Nanomesh for clean water, the report mentions nanoenvironmental and health issues that are only now beginning to be assessed. None of this is nanotech in the Drexlerian self-replicating assembler vision (as described best to date in Kinematic Self Replicating Machines, Bob Freitas Jr. and Ralph Merkle, 2004) but rather the exploitation of fascinating new properties that occur in materials science and manufacturing processes when we get them very small. Want a trivial example? Try Ghirardelli's new chocolate powders. They are ground so finely they dissolve instantly in water, making the others seem positively primitive. Nanochoc for the world, hurrah!

Cyber Space
computer "behavior" (co-evolution, automation, symbiosis), computer "minds" (computer software, simulation), cyber systems theory (holism, information, intelligence, interdependence, immunity)

What is Web 2.0,, Tim O'Reilly, 30 Sep 2005
[JS] Good brief (5 page) introduction to the new technologies, standards, and infrastructure capacities of the post-bubble web, by one of the best thinkers in this space. Such advances are the infrastructure powering the next-generation collaborative economy and society. In just two short years since its coining the term Web 2.0 has come to mean quite a number of things. Tim's article begins with a history lesson and ends with a discussion of new web services protocols like AJAX, and some of the opportunities of this new, more complex interaction environment, including a few Web 2.0 Design Prescriptions. Beyond the marketing buzzword, I believe Web 2.0 portends some very valuable new business models, and by extension, a selective stock market resurgence in coming years. Keep your eyes and ears open (and don't sell your Google stock), interesting things are beginning to happen in this space. Thanks to Tim Moenk.

A Year in Second Life, Slashdot | Games, Zonk, 29 Dec 05
[JP] Two cool announcements were recently made at ASF’s Second Life Future Salon. First, future salon presenter Phillip Torrone, Associate Editor of MAKE Magazine, announced that O’Reilly Publishing, the world’s largest independent publisher of technology books, will create a book called Second Life Hacks (see this post for more). That kind of exposure should bring a lot of new creativity to this fast-growing virtual world. Second, SLFS blog contributor Glitchy Gumshoe (SL name) announced on the SL Future Salon blog that he’ll be producing an SL fashion show for MTV’s Overdrive online channel and made a call for participation (announcement here). OK all you virtual designers, here's a good opportunity to get some crossover exposure!

Changes Blur the Scenery along the Digital Divide, SEO Blog, 16 Nov 2005

[JS] Great article on how rapidly the internet search engine space is evolving, with Google Analytics, Google Base, Yahoo Publishers Network, and other recent innovations. Stunning rates of progress!

Hyper Space
new paradigms (including evolutionary development), phase transitions, hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse, string theory, supersymmetry), hyper systems theory (computational limits, emergence, phase transitions, technological singularity hypothesis, developmental singularity hypothesis)

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, Sean B. Carroll
[JS] In this well written and illustrated primer Carroll, a U. Wisconsin geneticist, helps the reader understand that "every animal form is the product of two processes—development from an egg and evolution from its ancestors." Charles Darwin understood the latter of these processes, but had little idea how constraining the former was on the trajectory of the tree of life. One of the great lessons evo devo science promises is the perspective of DNA as a developmental constraint space. Molecular biology has taught us in recent decades that the same set of master genes (homeobox genes) guides the development of body structures in all animals, from planaria to humans. More generally, all the variations we see in cell type, body type, and other yet to be clarified types (brain type, psychological type) are due to different combinations of on-off switches built on top of genes which are for all practical purposes identical from human to human. That developmental path dependency limits variation to about 200 different cell types, 35 metazoan body plans, and some equally limited number of types in the neurological space. In other words, there just aren't that many ways to work within the historical constraints to generate new functional complexity. What's more, these optimal ways are almost inevitably discovered by different evolutionary linages in similar developmental environments, as convergent evolution shows (eg., the development of the antifreeze molecule in the blood of northern vs. southern hemisphere cold water fish, which has a different structure and genetic background but identical function in both environments). Carroll understands this, as he clearly sides with Simon Conway Morris (Life's Solution, 2004) ("Yes") rather than Stephen Jay Gould ("No") on the clarifying Contingency Question ("Would evolution on Earth have produced the mostly same forms if it was run over again, or run on a similar Earth-like planet?") One major insight we will get from developmental biology, hinted at in Carroll's book, is that complex human beings are more "terminally differentiated," meaning that there is a declining amount of useful variation we can get out of changes to their regulatory genes, the more extended and ramified the DNA tree of life becomes. I believe tomorrow's evo devo science will show we are nearing the end of useful genetic variation in complex structures like human beings. Endless forms most beautiful indeed, but not in biological space, where developmental constraints rise ever higher the more complex the system being developed. Look instead to the reinstantiation of evo devo mechanisms in our technological systems for the next adaptive radiation of complexity. Carroll's book is a great introduction to evo devo to lay audiences, but if you are already well versed in biology and want more a more radical exploration of its future, try Mary Jane West-Eberhard's Developmental Plasticity and Evolution, 2003. West-Eberhard will get you beyond simplistic ideas about evolution, and help you understand that genetic mutation and other evolutionary forces are entirely subservient to developmental opportunity in response to environmental opportunity, in the big picture.

We all deserve a little fun every day. Send your entries for the next ATimes!

[IB] "It's funny, it's quirky, and you'll walk away a genius." This is the tagline for the new Mental Floss trivia game ($24.95), created by the folks who publish the magazine of the same name. Hailed as a refreshing change from the old-school trivia games you already have sitting on your shelves, Mental Floss differentiates itself through its intriguing, relevant, and funny questions. Try it the next time you have friends or family over.


[IB] Last year's Best Documentary Oscar-winner Born into Brothels is now available on DVD. If you haven't seen this eye-opening movie, I highly recommend renting or buying it now. New York photographer Zana Briski takes you into the heart of Calcutta's red light district through the eyes of sons and daughers of prostitutes. The story hits you deeply, and you can see why Zana was moved to try to help these children break free of their parents' and caste's fate. It is rare to catch such an inside look at such a different life.
Read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or order the rental on Netflix.

Music - Internet Radio Grows Up
Free customized "radio stations" built based on your tastes. You can maintain up to 100 stations at a time and access them from any computer. Plug in an artist or song you like and Pandora will serve you more in the same style, as categorized by their Music Genome Project. Click on each song as it is playing and you can thumbs up or thubs down their selections, which is supposed to adapt based on your feedback. You can save the titles of your favorite songs. The ad-based version is free. I set my first radio station on Paul Oakenfold and got a day long few-repeat no-commercials trance track in the background. Then I tried Ambient Generation as my next seed and got great ambient work music, though unfortunately here the selection was more repetitive. Another downside of this early version is that their music licenses limit the number of songs you can skip, and they don't let you back up and replay anything. Eventually we'll see this on our iPods and carPods too, of course. If you had a choice, why would you ever listen to music without being able to have it respond intelligently to your feedback? I'm really looking forward to the future evolution of these "conversational" music interfaces!

Call for Submissions
ASF is always seeking interesting submissions for our Accelerating Times (AT) web publication. AT is a "free and priceless" monthly newsletter covering scientific, technological, business, policy, and social dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit scan hits, mini-articles, pictures, artwork, quotes and questions to mail(at) Accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues. Also please submit your feedback on Accelerating Times articles to the Future Salon Weblog, beneath each article as posted. Thanks!


Metaverse Roadmapping

ASF Job Openings

Charitable Donations

Futures Studies Ph.D.


Resources & Tools


The Acceleration Story...

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Democracy of Groups

Split-Brain Language/Perception

Nanotechnology and the Poor

What is Web 2.0?

A Year in Second Life

Accelerating Changes in Internet Search

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Mental Floss Trivia Game

Born in Brothels DVD

Pandora Internet Radio




Find a Future Salon near you!

January 5-8

International Consumer Electronics Show
Las Vegas, NV

January 12-15

Effective Learning Communities
California League of High Schools Annual Conference
Monterey, CA

January 13
Quantum Dots and Programmable Matter
Guest Speaker: Wil McCarthy
Las Vegas Future Salon
Las Vegas, NV

January 20

Collective IQ

Featuring Doug Engelbart
Bay Area Future Salon
Palo Alto, CA
(also streamed live in the Second Life Future Salon)

January 20
UCLA Future Salon
Speaker TBA
Los Angeles, CA

January 21
Technology Entrepreneurship &
The Entertainment Industry

Caltech/MIT Enterprise Forum
Pasadena, CA

January 23-25
IASTED Web-Based Education Conference
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

January 24-26
O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference

San Francisco, CA

February 22-25
The Future We Will Create ...
TED 2006 Conference
Monterey, CA

Thanks for telling your acceleration-aware friends.