Alvis Brigis's Blog Posts

Swype Makes Forgivable Interfacing Even More Forgivable, Ups Communication Speed Everywhere

September 10 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5

As touch-screen interfaces become more reactive and computers get smarter we’re bound to see faster, reactive, and more forgivable interfaces. Case in point is a new product called Swype that allows users to intuitively swype through various letters on a touch-screen keyboard in a single fluid motion, then statistically calculates what you intended to type.

If it sounds a lot like the next generation of T9 that’s because one of the founders, Cliff Kushler, also invented that huge time-saver. But make no mistake about it, Swype marks a big leap in next-gen productivity. Already garnering rave reviews, it works “across a variety of devices such as phones, tablets, game consoles, kiosks, televisions, and virtual screens” and lets formerly slow texters achieve input speeds of over 50 words per minute. That’s right – some/most people can’t even type that quickly on a regular keyboard.

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Retro-Quant Industry Makes a Big Leap Forward: Google News Archive Search

September 09 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: 2008   Rating: 15 Hot

Think you’re immune to Google Search? A new effort by the company promises to unearth your embarrassing Elementary School photos, achievements and other data, then incorporate those into the Google brain.

The Retro-Active Quantification Industry, which I believe will grow to a multi-billion $ valuation by 2015, made a big leap forward this week with the release of Google’s News Archive Search. Many years in the works, the new service/feature allows users to do exactly what it says – search a huge body of archived small-town newspapers that have been scanned into Google’s system, converted from visual to text data using the company’s perfected system (note: they’re also working on a similar but more robust system that will mine text data – t-shirts, street signs, house #s, etc. – from photographs), and then indexed using Google’s world-famous search.

Best of all, Google allows you to view the original scanned images and “browse through them exactly as they were printed—photographs, headlines, articles, advertisements and all”, much like a microfiche in a library basement (remember those?).

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Bob Woodward: U.S. has deployed Revolutionary Secret Tech in Iraq, and It's Working

September 08 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 8 Hot

Last night on CBS60 Minutes Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward cryptically let it be known that much of the recent U.S. success, or lack of failure, in Iraq should be attributed to a “new operational capability” that enables the identification and monitoring of enemy leaders of various ranks and affiliations. Woodward likened this breakthrough to the advent of the tank, which transformed war as it was deployed.

Check out the video for yourself, and please pardon the ad:


As one of the guys who broke Watergate, Woodward’s credibility is impeccable. He cites conversations with members of the Joint Chiefs and President George Bush himself as sources, but does not describe further what this new operational capacity might be.

So, if indeed this is not disinformation, what might this futuristic technology consist of? Super-fine satellite imaging? Microscopic aerial “bugs”? Micro-seismic audio sensing? An aerial drone sensor net? A new laser array?

Let’s hear your best guesses futurists. That is, unless you are actually in the loop, in which case please don’t spill the beans here…

Toward One Degree of Separation?

September 03 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

A new O2 media study has discovered that the conventional notion of six degrees of separation is out of date and that the average person is in fact connected by just three degrees:

All respondents were asked to make contact with an unknown person from destinations selected at random from across the globe using only personal connections. By using their shared interest networks the participants were able, on average, to make the connection in three person-to-person links.

At face value these results may seem obvious, but from a historical and evo devo perspective the steady increase in human connectivity is enormously significant for a number of reasons:

Metcalfe’s Law & Economy: Metcalfe’s Law, which states that “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system”, suggests that the total value of the global human system, or global brain, is increasing rapidly. This supports the notion that exponential economics could be very real.

Convergent Accelerating Change: The O2 study adds weight to the argument that just as technology and information are growing at exponential rates, thanks in part to one another, that human connectivity is part of the convergent equation. To my mind, this also strengthens the argument for including growing human intelligence into that formula. It’s not conclusive, but a bigger, inter-connected picture sure appears to be coming into focus.

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Accelerating Change Meme Hits the National Stage

August 27 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

If you think there’ve been dramatic changes in the world and in technology over the last ten years, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The race is on, and if you watched the Olympics, you know China’s going for the gold. – Mark Warner, last night at the DNC

The accelerating change meme finally hit the national stage last night at the Democratic National Convention when former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who earned his fortune in the cell phone industry, framed the current Presidential contest as a “race for the future” that “won’t be won with yesterday’s ideas”.

This marks the first time in recent memory that any candidate for national office, barring of course Future Blogger favorite Jack Uldrich , who incidentally has been calling for high profile politicians to start debating the future , has directly appealed to voters on a national level by articulating the fundamental concept of accelerating change that most everyone on this site takes for granted.

I had been biting my nails during and after the primaries, hoping that the future, science and punctuated change would at last become election issues. And now I am relieved that this meme has finally infected enough minds to enter the popular debate. Whether you’re a transhumanist, singularitarian, trans-systemist, neo-luddite, or anything else inbetween, it’s essential that we as a society begin to tackle the reality of runaway techno-info-social change, first by acknowledging its existence, if we are to control our collective destiny in any meaningful way.

Now, I’m not sure that Warner or Obama will be able to deliver on promises to begin building “100 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid vehicles right here – with American technology and with American workers” in two years time, but it’s certainly not impossible. Such future-forward initiatives must be spearheaded by the likes of Presidential candidates like Obama and McCain lest another 4 years of opportunities pass us by as we journey deeper into the acceleration era.

Carpe Postremo.

Photo credit Mark Warner, CC 2.0 license.

How Exactly Will Our System Get Smarter?

July 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5

A favorite debate topic for many futurists, humanists, advanced defense theorists, sci-fi authors and Future Bloggers is the nature of future terrestrial intelligence increase. As change accelerates, how how exactly will we and/or the system around us get smarter?

The most popular scenario by far is Artificial General Intelligence , aka AI that equals or surpasses that of humanity, probably because it is the most immediately relatable and due to the fact that so much money is being poured into AGI research. In fact, some researchers are predicting a breakthrough in the field in just 5-10 years.

But there are a variety of other scenarios that could either outcompete this paradigm or conspire with it to accelerate intelligence in our system. These include human-based, alien-based, deeply systemic, or even exo-systemic possibilities.

Applying your particular brand of intelligence, which of the following do you think is the most optimal path to intelligence increase in the acceleration era? (Survey at end of post)

AGI: Human-generated machine intelligence such as in the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I..

Individual Intelligence Amplification: Individual humans that grow vastly smarter due to hard, biological and/or soft cognitive upgrades, such as Bean in Ender’s Game.

Social Intelligence Amplification: A group or humanity as a whole collectively grows smarter, thus taking on the stewardship role for our Earth and species.

Biological Intelligence Amplification: One, more or all of the other species on Earth evolve or emerge, aided or automatically, the foremost intelligence on the planet. This could be viewed as a Gaiian awakening.

Alien Contact: Through efforts like SETI or those of the aliens themselves, we come into contact with some extra-terrestrial intelligence based in our universe that either stewards us or gives us a nice boost, a la the Vulcans in Star Trek, although this would likely be considerably more extreme.

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Moon Architecture, Dubai 2050 & DNA Manipulation

July 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

The Future Scanner Daily Top 5 serves to highlight 5 of the best scans submitted to the Future Scanner during the last 24 hours.

Can We Outrace the Fourth Turning?

July 03 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Are we due for a massive cyclical U.S. crisis that finally spurs institutional change? A regular revolution not tied to the accelerating curves driving so much growth and innovation?

In large nations big spurts of institutional change tend to occur every four generations (roughly every 88 years, 1 generation = 22 years) when economic resources trapped by out-dated, inefficient systems are shifted over to efficient new systems once societies reach a cyclical tipping point for change. Generational theorists Strauss and Howe call this tipping point a fourth turning, a point in time where social power shifts to the generations too young to have witnessed the previous correction. They liken this pattern to a forest growth cycle: 1) new saplings take root, 2) the forest grows tall, 3) dead branches fall and choke off new species, 4) lightning strikes, the brambles burn and new saplings are free to grow—repeat.

As seen widely in biology, this sort of change is called Punctuated Equilibrium, which contrasts with the gradual evolution that many scientists intuitively believed to be true but ultimately was not supported by research nor the fossil record. Similarly, the historical record shows that the United States has regularly experienced punctuated social crises, aka fourth turnings, stretching all the way back to its roots in England. And just like all of the scientists that deny punctuated evolution/development, there is a huge % of the population that does not intuitively believe another fourth turning will occur because they have not encountered the historical evidence and are used to a relatively stable socio-economic situation. (Ironically, this blindness seems to be built into the very fabric of our social system and may result in more efficient growth when looked at from the broader context of inter-meshed life systems on our planet.)

Like it or not, cyclical crises pegged to human generations are real and should be considered when evaluating the future, right alongside accelerating change. So the questions we need to ask are 1) “When will the next fourth turning begin?”, 2) “Are there any dynamics that might break or trump the pattern of punctuated national change every 88 years?”

A Likely Fourth Turning Scenario

79 years ago, on October 24, 1929, the Great Wall Street Crash sparked the Great Depression and the last U.S. fourth turning. What followed was the New Deal Era, WWII, the transformation of most U.S. socio-economic sectors and ultimately the birth of what we now refer to as “The American Dream”.

79 years later the U.S. economy is facing a variety of problems that could spark a down-turn and a new fourth turning. (cont.)

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Google's Vint Cerf Predicts Video Downloads Will Soon Replace Streaming

June 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Google’s Vint Cerf, the man that many refer to as the father of the internet, says that widening bandwidth and data transfer speeds will soon allow video downloading to rival, then replace, video streaming as the primary mode of online video consumption.

“What I’m foreseeing frankly is that video will be used in download mode more than it will be used in streaming mode as time goes on,” predicts Cerf, “A gigabit per second would let you download an hour’s worth of video in 16 seconds, kind of like what happens with iPod where you can download music faster than you could listen to it.”

Check out his interview on Beet.tv here:

“I anticipate that a lot of video that people will watch will have been downloaded and then played back whenever they want it, sort of Tivo style,” says Cerf.

What will this all mean for the consumer and Cerf’s behemoth employer? (cont.)

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How Smart Will Humans Be in 2020?

June 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

How smart will humans become as change accelerates through 2020?

Futurists and sci-fi authors often present scenarios in which humans interact with discrete artificial intelligence (like a robot or software program that talks to us), but far less frequently offer visions of runaway human intelligence enhancement (people made smarter by advances in communication, science & technology) and the resulting cultural and behavioral changes. The most interesting of these I’ve encountered include the rapid-time expanding-shrinking problem-solving networks in Vinge’s Rainbows End, Stephenson’s Metaverse idea, Hesse’s Glass Bead Game concept, Cascio’s participatory Panopticon, the increasingly smart mobs envisioned by Howard Rheingold, some of examples listed in the ASF’s Metaverse Roadmap, and what Richard Florida calls The Rise of the Creative Class . But though each of these are important visions in their own right, I remain a bit surprised at the overall lack of speculation re: what it might be like for humans to gradually bootstrap their intelligence over the coming years.

Given the deluge of brain-enhancing, capability-extending new technologies and ideas soon to be made widely available and affordable, it’d be great to see more thinkers, writers, and bloggers venture into the territory of plausible near-term culture and Intelligence Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent, powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on the Future Scanner), a wide range of social scenarios could be generated, many of which would be interesting, entertaining and ultimately valuable to people working to navigate the future (aka, everyone). In particular, I’d love to see/read simulations in which the most plausible near-term intelligence enhancing technologies and software are combined into believable slice-of-life vignettes.

What follows is a list of some powerful trends and technologies (some broad, some specific, many related to information and communication) that forward-thinkers might consider when developing scenarios for how human culture and social cognition will change as we approach 2020:

Drivers of Near-Term Intelligence Growth

WIDENING BANDWIDTH: Faster internet connections, pervasive WiFi – perhaps syndicated through people’s mobile devices.

GROWING GLOBAL INFORMATION: The amount of preserved digital data is growing exponentially as we capture more information about everything around us.

EVOLVING SOCIAL MEDIA: New media structures on a wider and more fluid web are evolving to better organize and process data. Portals like Wikipedia, Digg, Facebook, Medium, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Predictify are just the first in a long wave of innovation that promises to convert massive information into knowledge more efficiently.

VIDEO-to-VIDEO CHAT: Expect most cell phones to enable video-to-video chat by 2012 or so. (cont.)

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