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.
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?).
Last night on CBS’ 60 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…
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
although this would likely be considerably more extreme.
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
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.
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
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.)
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.”
How smart will humans become as change accelerates through
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
Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent,
powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on
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:
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.)