Sunday, June 24, 2007

Massive info processing needed

Step function improvements in information processing and communications capabilities are needed now and in the future.

Massive amounts of data are becoming increasingly available and currently humanity only has narrowband access to these biomedical, genetic, astronomical, particle accelerator and other data sets.

Large and diverse data sets requiring storage, processing and upload/download will only continue to proliferate. For example, as the web goes 3-D, rapid video, audio and data download and upload are needed, as objects become IP tagged, sensor and RFID networks require instantaneous data collection and summarization.

Scientific philosophers such as Anders Sandberg correctly point to information processing capability as the main limit on any society's growth and development. To attain a new level and not just asymptote out on the current plateau, a re-envisioning of information processing is necessary.

As with energy, some alternatives are being explored at the fringes but there is no real replacement methodology on the horizon. Also as with energy, there may be a dearth of real progress until the present means is more substantially threatened, however this point is coming very soon in information processing as compared with energy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Radical Life Extension and Population Growth

The world population just passed 6.6 billion in mid-June and is estimated to reach 7 billion in 2012.

The Conventional Thinking

The conventional thinking is that the world population will continue to grow to a peak of about 9 billion in 2050 before starting to decline. The chart below shows the number of years it took for each billion to be added to the population.

Another Approach
In reality, many factors could change how population growth will actually occur. The basic inputs to population growth estimates are fertility rates and mortality rates.

Fertility rates have dramatically dropped since 1960 (push play at this Gapminder link to watch the global decline in fertility rates and increase in longevity 1960-2005). The accelerating informationalization of the developing world and increasing literacy and participation by women in the economy could trigger even greater drops in fertility rates than have been included in the UN and other projections.

Mortality rates could see even more change than fertility rates. Disease treatment and prevention, personal genomics and radical life extension technologies could all trigger hugely discontinuous increases in longevity.

What would the world be like with huge populations of baby boomers and others living healthily into their 100s, 120s, and beyond? Six-seven generation families could be alive simultaneously.

At some point in the next few or several years, longevity will likely start to edge up in fast spurts and plateaus until immortality is ultimately achieved, probably synergistically with digital options such as uploading mindfiles (for backup at minimum!) and downloading into any variety of human and other corporeal forms (Hack your Body!).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wikinomics Ideagoras

There are many great perspective-shifting points in Wikinomics, a 2006 book by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams.

One of the most interesting ideas is how organizations (companies, teams, groups, institutions, etc.) are opening beyond their traditional boundaries to solicit external contributions to their problems and challenges. Consumer products behemoth Proctor & Gamble, for example, currently sources 35% of new product and service ideas externally from participative global R&D communities such as InnoCentive where scientists solve R&D problems for cash rewards.

Wikinomics refers to online ideas marketplaces like InnoCentive as ideagoras. Other examples of global ideas, R&D and project communities in life sciences and technology include NineSigma, InnovationXchange Network, Eureka Medical, YourEncore, Innovation Relay Centres and TopCoder.

Ideagoras give a huge boost to efficiency in at least two primary ways:

1) Multidisciplinary approaches accelerate advance of human progress
Ideagoras expose challenges to participants from both within the field and across many other fields allowing infinite creativity to be applied. In the gold mining example in Wikinomics, a plethora of diverse solutions using applied math, advanced physics, intelligent systems, computer graphics, organic solutions to inorganic problems, etc. were received, 50% of which were completely new ideas and over 80% of which were useful.

Ideagoras allow a wildly diverse and large group of participants to apply their special tools and approaches to problems. In this saturation of approaches, a fuller solution set of possible answers is quickly obtained and the pace of the Earth's meme encephalization, the increasing interconnectedness of human minds extending and implementing knowledge and information, is quickened.

2) More effective use of human capital - mindset of abundance
Ideagoras allow human capital to be more effectively utilized both inside and outside the organization. Internally, just as companies may be using only 10% of their patented IP, they are most assuredly also underutilizing their staff in terms of project fit vs. skills and interests. Instead of being assigned to projects, staff members could self-select projects of value and interest by participating in remunerative ideagoras or open-source practice communities as in the software example.

The new abundance of external human capital resources promotes the corporate mentality that a land grab to get the best people on staff is no longer required, just the need to provide the best project incentives. An entity's workforce can extend way beyond any salaried employees, to those employed elsewhere and others. Ideagoras provide a tremendous opportunity for retired or underemployed participants, such as women, to find activities where they can make a useful contribution.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

This is a Transparent Society

As with any new technology, there is the useful application and the dark side. Google Street Views, real street-level photographs of places, is no exception.

The benefit of Google Street Views is being able to virtually experience a place without having to go there physically, such as a tour of Times Square. Most of the time, specific people are not yet identifiable, but sometimes they are in varying embarrassing or even possibly illegal situations.

Is it worth it? Too late!
Some debate whether the perceived privacy loss is worth it but it has already happened. Even the usually forward thinking Internet rights watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation exemplifies the mistaken understanding of the current world, as staff attorney Kevin Bankston remarks that "Everyone expects a certain level of anonymity as they move about their daily lives."

In reality, we have already been a surveillance society for some time. If anything, Google Street Views brings a more explicit realization of this and as David Brin importantly points out, an open availability of the information.

Privacy was already lost in many ways but especially when the cost of audio and video recording equipment dropped, the reach and quality improved and devices became ubiquitous. The technology is small and can used in unnoticed ways. One has to assume that everything one does or says in public or semi-public environments is being recorded and will be increasingly played back. There are opportunities in this as lifecammer TV is showing and also risks but most importantly inevitability. What are creative ways to provide value in a transparent society?