It’s no secret that we have a problem. The American political
system is a bit secretive, quite inefficient and wastes a good
amount of our resources. Such is the nature of gigantic
Like any problem, to solve it we must first quantify or count
it. With large groups of people involved, any such quantification
must be very accurate and very easy to understand at a glance.
This notion is nearly synonymous with a concept that David
Stephenson refers to as transparent government, or “using Web 2.0 apps … to allow informed debate on policy
alternatives, to find convergences (possible synergies—and wasteful
overlaps), and to allow people with particular interests and/or
expertise to contribute to issues.”
Thanks to the evolution of the web and internet applications,
we’ll soon take a big leap in our ability to simulate super-complex
political systems (especially if they are computer-dependent). Two
fundamental, yet eminently do-able, steps remain to be taken:
1) make the majority of government information
2) put emerging semantic web applications to work crunching this
Change will swiftly follow if we can accurately and neatly
organize political relationship trees, decision patterns and
funding flows into a digestible “graph” that anyone can easily
re-sort and view a million different ways from a billion different
Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic presidential
candidate John Edwards, recently had a thoughtful opinion piece
bemoaning the media’s lack of meaningful coverage of today’s
important issues. To emphasize her point, she noted that many
American’s can now tell you Barack Obama’s bowling score but can’t
recite one major plank in his health care plan.
It is a valid criticism and I wholeheartedly agree with her
critique but Edwards, the candidates, and the media are missing
another serious issue – the accelerating pace of science and
More specifically, no candidate is approaching today’s important
issues of health care, education, the environment and war from the
perspective that the near-term future of all of these issues will
almost certainly will be different – and perhaps radically so –
because of the accelerating pace of technological change.
Let me provide just a few recent examples. Late last year, the
Pentagon reported that it had begun arming robots with guns for the
first time ever. It then announced, to little fanfare, that it
intended to triple the number of robots in battlefield situations
by 2010. And by 2015 – a date that would place it near the end of
the next president’s second term – the Defense Department has
publicly stated that it expects one-third of the U.S. fight force
to consist of robots. (cont.)
For most of the 20th Century, the U.S. was the world leader in science, technology, and innovation, with the best scientists, the best universities and the most advanced research and development programs. But all of that has begun to change as other countries and regions have become more advanced and more competitive and increasingly challenge U.S. dominance “
A recent article in the New York Times addressed the U.S. technological decline, and the ways Senators Obama and McCain have approached the issue. This story includes some eye-opening statistics about the loss of U.S. primacy in technology, innovation and R&D. At the top of the story, the Times points out the importance of this sector for America’s economy and role in the world:
For decades the United States dominated the technological revolution sweeping the globe. The nation’s science and engineering skills produced vast gains in productivity and wealth, powered its military and made it the de facto world leader. Today, the dominance is eroding.
One sees this in multiple indicators, but perhaps the most important is the country’s high-technology balance of trade. Until 2002, the U.S. always exported more high-tech products than it imported. In that year, the trend reversed, and the technology trade balance has steadily declined, with the annual gap exceeding $50 billion in 2007.
The U.S. has also fallen behind in spending on research and development, which drives high-tech innovation and development.
One of the great efficiency opportunities for the next century is based on the convergence of information and energy flows. The notion of a 'smart grid' is a more reliable and efficient energy web based on the integration of software, sensors and energy storage.
And for those homes with 'Smart Meters' or Smart Devices, solutions are coming online quickly. Google has now thrown its hat into the ring around the basic idea: 'if you can measure it, you can improve it'. The Google Power Meter is a software tool integrated into smart meters that helps consumers better understand how they use energy in order to reduce their costs and consumption. Google is a big name, in an expanding space of 'smart energy' startups, like Sentilla and REGEN, who are trying to build demand in the residential market.
Related Smart Grid posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
With crude oil hovering at an all-time high of $130/gallon
people all over the globe are feeling the pain and starting to
react in different ways.
Some are finally choosing to drive less frequently.
that “compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an
estimated 4.3 percent less—that’s 11 billion fewer miles, the
DOT’s Federal Highway Administration said
Monday, calling it ‘the sharpest yearly drop for any month in
In Europe, where environmental taxes roughly double the cost of
gas, groups of French and British workers are demanding public
staging protests .
A few particularly pinched and pro-active folks in rural regions
are shifting around their work week and travel schedule. According
Wall Street Journal “a handful of small towns and community
colleges are switching to four-day workweeks in an effort to help
employees cope with the rising gasoline prices, and could soon be
joined by some larger local governments.”
Moderator Jonas Lamis just asked the distinguished AI Panel what they would advise the new Obama administration to do if, by chance, each was appointed national CTO?
Google’s Peter Norvig: First advice, “Don’t choose me.” (Audience laughs.) Most important advice is to do what the President-Elect is already doing. #1: Believe in reality. The next thing is to invest in R&D. It’s important to re-establish the United States as a leader there. We’ve slipped over the last 8 years or so interms of funding research.
Steve Omohundro: Imprtant to use tech to make better decisions in our society. This is a huge opportunity for aggregating beliefs and desires of voters. Through semantic consensus we could better express nuances. The bailout is the perfect example – 99 to 1 against bailout, ended up passing it. Morphing as we speak… Potential pathways as we move to the future – now a smattering of diff orgs – better to have country-wide analysis of this future pathway.
One of the most exciting things about the promise of the Obama administration is their commitment to employing interactive communication technologies in an effort to better their stewardship of the country.
It was the utilization of these tools that spurred him to victory in a daunting primary process and pushed him to a convincing win in the general election. At a simple level, what he really did was engage anyone he could in conversation. That is the hallmark principle of web 2.0 and also of a good politician. I think this concept is at the center of why people (a whopping 79% approve of his handling of the transition) are so optimistic about what type of leader he may be. While it's true that we are in the midst of very difficult times and that will prod more folks into being open to and hopeful that Obama may lead us out of here, I think it is his continued commitment to conversation and engagement that offers the most potential upside.
If there’s one thing that separates the two presidential candidates distinctly, it’s their use of technology. We’ve all heard about how John McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer, and it’s no secret that Obama does. So it’s not surprising that the Obama camp has come out with a nifty new iPhone application to help their supporters help out even more.
The application, free from the iPhone App store, promises to change the face of activism through making difficult tasks easy.
For starters, the application gives you stats on yours calls to friends in support of Obama (heck, it even tells you what friends are in battleground states). It tells you how many calls you’ve made and how you rank compared to other application users. You can get updates from the campaign, latest news on the candidates, and even local event information such as volunteer opportunities or visits from the Obama campaign.
The Obama campaign has raised the standard in political activism. You can bet that within the next few months (if they’re smart) you can expect to see applications from all types of organizations. The McCain Campaign, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the ACLU are probably not far behind. Heck, you may even see an app from the Sea Shepherd before next whaling season is on.
With online involvement increasingly becoming more mobile, the era of TV ads and the stereotypical inactive voter could be gone within the next decade or two. In 2020 you could run your entire campaign, everything from fundraising to polling constituents, from your home. Today you need the bankroll of a small country to run a campaign — in 2020 you may only need a programmer
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.
Ever since buckyballs were discovered in 1986, an event that liberated nanotechnology from being an on-paper-only concept and graduated it into a hands-on (or at least electron microscope-on) practice, nanotechnology has been gaining momentum exponentially, despite aggressive anti-tech litigation.
In 2009 the EPA was sued by a collection of tech corporations for failing to enforce federal restrictions on the import and development of carbon nanotubes imposed one year earlier, and for completely failing to make any laws whatsoever regarding other similar carbon-based materials or those of other metals like titanium-dioxide and silver. Although the EPA was cleared of any wrong-doing, the following year three more laws were initiated, and several companies and research facilities were fined.
But then, in 2010, President Obama reversed the ban on stem cell research enacted by former president George W. Bush, stating, “The potential benefits greatly outweigh the moral dilemma. It is not for me to say whether God would have us utilize a dead fetus. But I do believe God would ask us to help to save the sick and dying, if there was any way we could.”
In his famous 2012 re-election speech that earned him the nickname Nanobama, he said:
Barack Obama's energy platform included goals for renewable energy, higher automoative gas mileage standards, support for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and targets for energy efficiency of homes...and that's just to start. With the recent announcement of Nobel laureate and now former head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Obama's administration can be the catalyst that makes alternative energy markets viable.
Will the Obama administration be successful in making the energy changes he promised in the election?