ASF Home | AC2004 | Contact Us

Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

31 August, 2004

Accelerating Change 2004: New Speaker Additions

Doug Engelbart, Helen Greiner, Will Wright, Dan Gillmor, Dana Blankenhorn, Brock Pierce, Clark Aldrich, Keith Halper, Gee Rittenhouse...

Each of these noteworthy change leaders has recently decided to speak for us at Stanford this November. Will you be there as well?

Visit the AC2004 conference website for more details. We will bring you 36 world-class speakers over two and a half days, six keynotes, three debates, a Virtual Worlds demo, and a DVD conference record. Signup by Sept. 30th to get the $350 Early Bird rate, and $150 for the first forty Student registrants. Note that AC2004 is priced well below other top-quality strategic technology, business, and humanist futures conferences such as AlwaysOn ($1,795*), Business 4Site ($1,095*), MIT Emerging Tech ($995*), O'Reilly Emerging Tech ($1,145*), Pop!Tech ($1,695*), Telecosm ($1,495*), and World Technology Summit ($2,950*). ASF is committed to remaining the low-cost, high value leader in this very important community space.

See Bruce Sterling's column, "The Evolution Will Not Be Mechanized," p. 102 in the current issue of Wired magazine for a nice promo of Accelerating Change 2004. Bruce makes the excellent point that accelerating technological capacity alone won't lead us to a world of "spiritual machines." We're going to need to guide that capacity in increasingly wiser ways as technological challenges and opportunities exponentiate. That won't necessarily be easy. He has made the point elsewhere that we already exist in a world climate with various "obesities" of capacity. Two examples are accelerating physical obesity in many nations today (even Mexico has startling obesity rates among its youth), and a glut of technological obesity ("technobesity") in the first world: more tools and choices than we can properly absorb or apply. Dealing with this rising technobesity will be a persistent social challenge until we can design more intelligent interfaces and knowledge management tools.

Looking for a few good books to keep you busy? Take a look at our Futurist's Bookshelf, a new addition to the AC2004 conference pages that lists ASF's Top 50 recommended books for thinking broadly and critically about global trends in accelerating change. Have others to recommend? Send us your feedback at mail(at) Thanks!

As prep for AC2004, Tech Tidbits features at least three items weekly, arranged in our three conference themes. Find any breaking news we should know about? Tell us at mail(at)

New Planet Detected 50 Light Years Away, Clive Cookson, Financial Times, 25 August 2004 (1 page)
[Commentary by John Smart] Here's a stunning new advance, the discovery of our first rocky-core planet in another solar system. The HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) spectrograph, newly installed at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, is so powerful that we are now detecting rocky-core planets (geological compositions like Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury) around nearby suns, not simply massive gas giants like Jupiter. Detectable planets still have to be very big to cause the sun's light to "wobble", which means the small rocky planets in Earth-like orbits are still too small to detect. Yet these may be the only planets capable of sustaining complex life. As astrobiologist David Darling notes in Life Everywhere, 2002, the narrow "stellar habitable zone" of 0.95 to 1.3 astronomical units away from the sun (Earth's orbit is 1.0 AU by definition), may be the only place in Sol-type solar systems capable of supporting liquid water and long term plate tectonics (for CO2 recycling). Planets like Mars and Venus, which don't support long term plate tectonics, apparently become either greenhouse gas hells (Venus) or arid deserts (Mars) just a few hundreds of millions of years into their life cycles, stopping short any possibility for long term life. Earth's orbit appears to be a very special place.

Astronomic visualization is a Moore's law driven technology. The CCD detectors, search, and signal processing algorithms all get better every year, on a steep exponential growth curve. Cookson reports "it will probably be a decade before astronomers can reliably detect Earth-sized planets at the right distance from their parent star to support the chemical processes that could give rise to life." This is very interesting if true, and a much faster projected advance in planet hunting technology than I'd heard before.

One major current debate in astrobiology is just how inevitable is the emergence of Earth-like conditions around Sol-type suns. If we were to discover "life signatures" (methane and oxygen lines, and other indicia) coming from a number of Earth-like planets in our galactic neighborhood, this would be a major advance and empirical confirmation that life isn't a random accident, but a developmental likelihood throughout the universe. Let me go on record predicting that, in fact, will happen, and that in turn would greatly increase scientific interest in "developmental" models of universal complexity, including those that appear tuned to support accelerating change, as Carl Sagan famously observed in his metaphor of the "Cosmic Calendar." Improving our planet hunting technologies seems to me to be a very valuable priority for our space programs in coming years. Thanks to Alvis Brigis for the scan hit.

Cyber Sleuth: Digital imaging is set to enhance crime investigation. But how will courts judge the technology?, Lydia Dotto, Toronto Star, 23 August 2004 (5 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart] The better they get, these kinds of 2D-pictures-to-3D-model tools are going to be used in a host of applications, such as real estate, tourism, architecture, city design, and a range of educational, work, and social virtual worlds based on real places. One of the most exciting things about the virtual crime scene is the ability to bring in scores of forensic subspecialists to visit the typical crime scene. Such expertise is simply unaffordable in many of today's investigations. For the future, imagine the mapping of older crime scenes to re-visit unsolved investigations as well...

As available storage space accelerates, the next level of application might be the creation of continuously updating 3D models of publicly "transparent" physical spaces. Imagine a "Transparent Space" logo and electronic notification protocol emerging, signaling the cyber-public nature of the space to anyone who enters it. New privacy laws will be needed if (when?) this occurs. Thanks to Iveta Brigis for the article.

A9, Amazon's Search Portal, Goes Live: Reverberations Felt in Valley, John Battelle's Searchblog, 14 April, 2004
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf]. For those who haven't yet seen this, Amazon made a leadership move in the search space back in April, unveiling a beta version of their new free internet search portal, A9. A9, a new Amazon subsidiary started in October 2003 (based in Palo Alto for strategic partnership with Google), uses a licenced Google search engine as its base, and adds a number of new features. These include the ability to search inside print-books from Amazon’s library, a search and site visitation history, a diary function for taking notes, the ability to rate a site and view others’ ratings through (building on Amazon's expertise in collaborative filtering AI), instant access to information such as “People Who Visit This Site Also Visit…” and stats like the number of hits a site receives (through Alexa, a subsidiary of Amazon) in addition to other novelties designed to integrate A9’s search (err...Google's search?) with Amazon’s massive inventory.

Much of the uncertainty over A9's potential draw is centered around whether it offers enough added functionality to cause users to switch over from Google. Personally I can say that for the time-being I have both the Google and A9 toolbars at the top of my screen and I use them both for different things (for example I like A9’s site info button for quickly seeing which sites are connected by traffic to which). Since the A9 search is powered by Google, it will be interesting to see how popular it becomes with Google users. Judging by the types of things I’m seeing said online about A9, even though it’s got some useful features, it might take a while to change people’s search habits—especially since we’re all so in love with that yummy old vanilla Google.

Look out for Gmail-style privacy concerns as users wonder exactly what Amazon will be doing with all that personalized search information. Other catches include having to log in through your Amazon account if you want access to all the tools, and (at least for now) always searching in safe mode. Read the user reviews of A9. Ready to scale up your search? Download the free A9 Toolbar. If you want to use a A9 with the search histories removed, they also offer That's a nice option, but Generic A9 will likely be a pretty unpopular choice in our increasingly transparent society.

Lookout 1.2 Review,, Heinz Tschabitscher (1 page)
If you use MS Outlook for your email, as most of us do, and don't yet have a hard disk indexer, try the Lookout plug-in. Lookout is a free hard disk indexer, similar to X1. The company was just acquired by Microsoft, so expect to see this excellent tool in future versions of outlook. Outlook's email search today is painfully slow, but Lookout indexes all your emails in the background, so the search table is pre-generated. What took minutes to find before now takes seconds. Unlike the $99 X1, email attachment indexing doesn't work very well in Lookout (they turn it off by default). And there si no tool to help you build complex search strings yet (you'll have to brave them yourself). But otherwise, this thing rocks. Enjoy! Thanks to Peter Voss.

Do Your Best!
ASF is seeking submissions for its Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" newsletter, with broad coverage and brief editorials on scientific, technological, business, and humanist dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit via email to Submissions may be reader feedback, scan hits, article links, original papers, questions and even cartoons (for you illustrators out there). Contributers will be notified of their acceptance status in a timely fashion, and accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues of Accelerating Times. Visit for more details.


Accelerating Change 2004:
New Speaker Additions

Wired Mention,
Futurist's Bookshelf


New Planet Detected 50 Light Years Away

Cyber Sleuth: Digital imaging is set to enhance crime investigation. But how will courts judge the technology?

A9, Amazon's Search Portal, Goes Live: Reverberations Felt in Valley

Lookout 1.2 Review



World Technology Summit and Awards, October 7-8 (San Francisco, CA). Celebrating the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world.

Pop!Tech, October 21-23 (Camden, ME). The social impact of technology and the shape of things to come.



SUBSCRIBE: Click Thank you for telling your acceleration-aware friends.
UNSUBSCRIBE: Go to with your subscribed email address.
Check your latest newsletter header if you need to find this address.