Technological Acceleration - A Hidden Law of Nature?
by Mark Finnern
Related link: http://www.accelerating.org/acc2003/conf_home.htm
What will happen if technology is, as Ray Kurzweil claims, exponentially accelerating?
Most conferences covering the future look about 2 years ahead. What we will
do at the ACC2003
is take a step back, lift our eyes and look 5 to 30 years into the future. What
are the consequences if, as it looks like, Moore's
Law continues to be true for the next 30 years? (More details further down.)
Full disclaimer, I am one of the organizers of the conference. I don't get
any monetary benefits from it, I just strongly believe in it. If you bring bright
minds together, some of them experts in their fields, coming from different
walks of life with different viewpoints, magical things will happen.
For example, the Collective
Intelligence Dinner on Saturday evening is something I am totally looking
forward to. There will be many round tables in the room where 8 to 10 people
can sit. Every table has a sign posting a question from the 4 focus areas of
Science, Technology, Business and Humanities. For example one of the business
question will probably be: "How do we maximize the spread of individual
and corporate wealth in a sustainable and culturally appropriate manner in our
global economy?" Science: "Is modern humanity better characterized
as selective catalysts than as controllers of technological development?"
list of questions)
As a conference participant you sit down at the table with the question that
tickles your interest the most. That way more or less organically highly motivated
interest groups are formed. During the dinner there is a focused discussion
around the selected question. At the end every table presents for 5 minutes
the conclusions of the dinner talk. It's the hive mind at work; absolute magic.
That experience alone is worth the $400 conference fee. You have read this
far, therefore you now know me more or less :-) and as an acquaintance you get
a $50 discount if you sign
up. Please use the discount code: ACC2003-O'Reilly.
See you all there, Mark.
P.S. Some more interesting details from the Institute for Accelerating Change
press release about the schedule:
TECHNOLOGICAL ACCELERATION: A HIDDEN LAW OF NATURE?
Technologist and Singularity Researcher Kurzweil to debate Vitalist Denton
and Techno-Philosopher Tuomi at "Accelerating Change Conference"
STANFORD UNIVERSITY (August 18, 2003) - Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor, software
developer and futurist, will present his work on "the law of accelerating
returns" and debate its merits with biologist Michael Denton and innovation
theorist Ilkka Tuomi to kick off a weekend conference devoted to rigorous examination
of the apparent acceleration of technology's development, and the way it affects
the human world. "Accelerating Change '03," organized by the Institute
for Accelerating Change (IAC), will be held at Stanford University's Tresidder
Union, September 12-14. Twenty-four prominent thinkers will offer their insights
from across a broad spectrum of cutting edge disciplines, such as biological
computing, nanotech, interface design, cosmology, and futurism.
Is technological acceleration a hidden law of nature? Is Kurzweil on to the
ultimate "next big thing"? Is there a trend, as he believes, of increasing
technological acceleration that leads to a "singularity" - a change
so great that it can't be understood before it occurs?
His data shows that many trends in technology's development have accelerated
independent of economic conditions, marching to their own increasing efficiencies,
and periodically taking us into an "exponential economy." But can
this be extrapolated to all computational systems?
After his presentation, Kurzweil will debate Michael Denton, noted post-Darwinian
biologist and Platonist ("Protein Folds as Platonic Forms," J. Theoretical
Bio, 2002), who proposes that our living proteins have unique emergent properties
that will not easily, or perhaps ever, be modeled by technological systems.
Denton thus asks whether there is something "vital" to biological
systems that must remain inaccessible to technology.
Kurzweil will then debate Ilkka Tuomi, noted technology scholar and critic
of Moore's Law (the apparent doubling of computer power every 18-24 months).
Tuomi contends that Moore's famous "law" has been subject to both
cultural overstatements and bad data. He proposes that processor innovation
is not supply driven, but results from the paradoxical fact that the users of
information technology have been able to innovate new social uses for semiconductors
faster than engineers have been able to develop improved technology. Tuomi sees
the potential for stunning productivity increases through the intelligent use
of technology, but argues that the future of semiconductors is finally determined
by social innovation. An additional controversy of technological acceleration
is whether tomorrow's technology will be increasingly more "autonomous"?
That is, will it be more self-repairing, self-adapting, and self-governing?
John Koza (Genetic Programming IV: Human-Competitive Machine Intelligence,
2003), another distinguished speaker at the event, will present the latest evidence
for self-organizing machine intelligence, and the increasing number of areas
where it matches or outcompetes biological intelligence.
"We are organizing 'Accelerating Change '03' to create broader awareness
of the way 'offspring' of complex systems always seem to accelerate over time,"
says John Smart, President of IAC, the nonprofit organization behind the event.
"Carl Sagan noted that replicating stars give rise to life-hospitable planets,
which give rise to genetic evolution, which gives rise to cultural evolution,
which gives rise to technological evolution, in a continual quickening process
that is still unexplained by our physics textbooks. And now, systems that exceed
even our own biologically-paced computation are pulling us toward an unknown
future." Smart continues, "Kurzweil is one of a growing number of
ground-breaking theorists from a broad range of fields who have important things
to say about the next 10 to 30 years. Even with many of the dot coms gone, the
economy and culture remain permanently on a new, faster 'internet time.' To
engineer sustained economic recovery, we must learn how to guide accelerating
change. It is our organization's view that a multidisciplinary, big picture,
and long range view is necessary to really answer this question, which is the
reason for creating our new forum." More information about the conference
at the ACC2003 webpage.
Is technology accelerating exponentially?