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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

25 March, 2005
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Mark Your Calendars and Ready Your Avatars: First ASF Second Life Future Salon on Thursday, April 28th.
Currently in four US cities, ASF’s Future Salons are monthly mini-conferences for foresight, networking, and fun with a local futures community. This April 28th will see the launching of our newest salon inside the 3D digital world Second Life (SL). Like its real world counter-parts, the SL Future Salon will provide an open opportunity to explore social, business, and technological futures with two or three specially invited speakers and a great group of guests, this time within the virtual frontier of the early 3D metaverse.

ASF Community Director Jerry Paffendorf is organizing the SL Salon as well as a preliminary meeting in Second Life on Thursday, April 21st (one week in advance).

If you’ve never used Second Life before, the preliminary meeting may be helpful for familiarizing yourself with its controls and working out any technical issues with your hardware so you’ll be all set for the April 28th event. We also encourage you to get into SL and do some exploring of its remarkable user-created world on your own.

Click on picture for larger image

Second Life has a free seven day trial period (with credit card; 18+ only), and a payment of $9.99 will get you in for life. Once you’re in SL, there’s no recurring cost to attend the Future Salons (though you might end up wanting to purchase a virtual creation or two with virtual or real cash from one of SL’s many, many talented builders). And since real world geography doesn’t matter one lick in cyberspace, we hope to meet a lot of you there who don’t live near enough to attend any of our regional salons.

More news about the SL Future Salon in the next ATimes as well as regular updates on Jerry’s blog, Setpoint Originator . If you plan to attend the first SL Salon, please RSVP to Jerry. Volunteers, questions and suggestions for the event are very welcome. We hope to see a lot of you “in-world” for the first chapter of this innovative salon series!

Leader's Retreat for ASF Future Salons
On March 5th Andrew Breese, Iveta Brigis, Gilda Cabral, Mark Finnern, Star Fitzgerald, Marie Kacmarek, Kevin Keck, Mike Korns, John Smart, and Rob Sperry attended a one day Salon Leaders Retreat to discuss the "Future of the Future Salons." Would you like to join us? Contact us about starting a salon in your own community! At the retreat we discussed a number of ways to improve our Bay Area, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego Future Salons.

ASF "Elevator Pitch"
As part of our meeting we came up with a new "elevator pitch" for the ASF. A pitch isn't necessarily a tagline, but a short sentence that explains the core benefits of the foundation, the conference, and the future salons. Here's our first draft:

"Making a rapidly changing world fascinating, manageable, and profitable for you."

We would really appreciate your feedback. Do you like the pitch? If not, what could make it better? Is it concise enough? Too long? How does it make you feel about the organization? If you have edits or alternatives to suggest, let us know at mail(at) Feel free to use a free service like: if you want to send your comments anonymously. Thanks in advance for your input.

New AC2004 Audio
Dan Gillmor's talk "We, the Media" and John Smart's talk "Simulation, Agents, and Accelerating Change" are now available as a podcast (streaming or download) at our media partner, IT Conversations.
Click and listen at your computer or download to your iPod Mini and get mobile enlightenment! You can regularly check the free AC2004 audio archive at IT Conversations, or register for email notification of new postings.

Save the Date: AC2005
Accelerating Change 2005: Intelligence Amplification and Artificial Intelligence, will be September 16-18. We will also have tutorials all day on Friday, Sept 16, on the Stanford campus. More later.

Affiliate Conference
The Arlington Institute's 3rd Annual Conference, Tools for the Development of Humanity, will be this April 25-26, 2005 in Washington, DC

This year's conference asks "What can we do and what is available to facilitate rapid, large-scale, global social value change?" TAICON2005 provides a venue for a spectrum of provocative and insightful speakers covering everything from social technology and new human institutions to large-scale personal enlightenment. The more than 300 participants will have the unique opportunity to personally engage and interact with provocative speakers and thought leaders throughout the varied program format. For more info and registration, visit

"Until man can duplicate a blade of grass, nature will laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge." – Thomas Alva Edison

"Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe." – Alan Watts

Resources and Tools

Plaxo 2.0 (free download).
[Commentary by John Smart] Good news: your PC's Outlook and OE contacts are now accessible online through Plaxo 2.0 (I'm not sure if this includes your contacts who aren't in the Plaxo network). Calendar, Tasks, and Notes can be remotely accessed too, if you want them. Plaxo 2.0 will try to get you to update your Outlook contacts, but that might not be wise if you've got hundreds or thousands. At this early stage of internet intelligence it seems to me like mass spamming. Maybe in another year or so I'll try their update feature, we'll see. Plaxo 1.0 blew up on me but so far 2.0 has been well behaved. You can turn off all the email alerts when you configure it so it is minimally intrusive. If you can cut and paste HTML they show you how to put a Plaxo link on your homepage (see bottom of my bio page for an example) so netizens can add your contact info to their Outlook with one click. Overall, a nice improvement.

Treo 650 Smartphone, PalmOne
GPRS ("2.5G") finally comes to a smartphone (integrated camera, QWERTY thumb keyboard for email, and organizer). Take a picture of something cool, annotate it, and email it to your friends: symbiotic life! This one's also Bluetooth-equipped for a wireless earpiece. Cost: $400 for the phone, voice access costs $40/month for 1,000 anytime minutes (and unused minutes accumulate), and data cost is $20/month (unlimited? probably not). Thus a $70 monthly bill, after taxes. Get access to Google from anywhere, to answer any question on the run. Still some software compatibility issues, but this is a very usable little device. See the BlackBerry 7520 for its competition. Thanks to Paul Grasshoff for the update.

The Podcast Network
Launched in February 2005 by Aussies Mick Stanic and Cameron Reilly, this is the first of what will be a legion of portal sites aggregating free downloadable audio blogs and radio programs for myriad unique interests. Thousands of folks are now downloading podcasts (homemade music or spoken word audio programs) for their portable audio players. Wired's March issue is devoted to the revolution in radio (satellite radio and podcasts). Think of it like, but at a price everyone, even emerging nations can afford ... free!

The Week Magazine
Acclaimed concise weekly briefing of world's top stories, pitched at U.S. movers and shakers. Just 30% ads allowed, unlike 48% average ads for most magazines. Interesting fact: they lift and edit stories directly from other publications, attributing sources and citing "fair use". Publications generally don't mind this free advertising and now even call to get their stories placed.

The Acceleration Story in Five Spaces

ATimes covers world news and insight in five "spaces," giving one to three briefs in each space. The story of accelerating change, the most fascinating story of our time, appears to be one of movement from outer, to human, to inner, to cyber, and ultimately, to hyper space, the world beyond the present. Each of these deserves understanding for a multidisciplinary perspective on the future:

Outer Space (science, environment, universal systems theory)
Human Space (bodies, behavior, minds, human systems theory)
Inner Space (energy, small tech, computer "bodies", inner systems theory)
Cyber Space (computer "behavior", computer "minds", cyber systems theory)
Hyper Space (hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse), hyper systems theory)

If you have important stories to share with our 3,100 acceleration-aware readers, we'd love to hear from you.

Outer Space
science (biology, chemistry, geology, physics, research), environment, universal systems theory (developmental physics, evolutionary development, hierarchical substrates)

Environment, Transparency
U.S.-Mexico Tunnel Opening Found at Residence, Richard Marosi, L.A. Times (free registration), 3.1.2005
[JS] Law enforcement is always finding tunnels, but this story mentions two interesting technological developments that change the game: 1) "The tunnel was discovered last week by U.S. federal agents using high-tech earth-probing equipment that detects subterranean anomalies." and 2) "Agents used a robot to pinpoint the location of the tunnel exit on the U.S. side." Robotic reconnaisance further limits risk to the police.

Now we just need a campaign to use these underground imaging systems nationally in every developed country, combined with well-publicized felony charges for creating underground structures without a license, and well-publicized busts for those structures we discover. We might even offer an amnesty period for anyone declaring unknown unlicensed underground structures that currently exist, as long as these locations haven't been associated with foul play. I think making a big public show of these transparency technologies would put a big damper on the number of underground meth labs, and on all the unfortunate people vanishing every year who never turn up again. I sometimes lose sleep over that thought, in fact, knowing that we can now do something about it, in terms of a widely publicized transparency campaign. Would any law enforcement or political leaders on this list like to take up that challenge?

Human Space
bodies (biology, health, neuroscience), behavior (business, education, foresight, governance, innovation, pre-digital technology, society), minds (psychology, spirituality), human systems theory (ecological psychology, memetics)

Education, Society
"The Age of Egocasting," Christine Rosen, The New Atlantis, Fall/Winter 2005.
[JS] The smarter our media gets, the more we use it to isolate ourselves from what we think we can safely ignore and to connect ourselves more closely to what we want to experience and to be. But what we think we want to know and to be isn't always our best social choice. As Christine Rosen notes in this piece for the Judeo-Christian-oriented magazine The New Atlantis, today's mass media cater largely to our desire for passive escapism, consumerist fetishes, and isolation from the real world, and can thereby easily erode the quality of our social life.

Furthermore, as first-generation customization comes to the media scene, things could get worse before they get better. Various commentators have noted that today's early versions of customizable media may be fueling the increasing polarization we've seen in our political dialogs, e.g. the "Foxification" or "Moorization" of various news channels, a two-sided oversimplification of our much more complex policy landscape. I think we should be concerned that this process doesn't get out of hand in the near term, but in our networked and blogcasting age the proliferation of special interest NGOs and community groups seems to be a strong counter to this process. I may be mistaken, but haven't we seen a mild trend empowering additional political parties and independents on the local level in recent years?

After decades of minor change, media customization technology now moves rapidly every year. TVs with remote controls have morphed into TiVos, and TiVos will be accompanied by affordable IPTV and HDTV before this decade is out. The Sony Walkman has been trumped by the Apple iPod, and we can envision voice-commandable portable audio systems that will eventually entertain or educate us in a thousand different ways, as we choose. Games and mini-movies are coming to cellphone, and 2.5G GPRS-equipped phones now browse the web at useable speeds. Some of these new systems will be misused, particularly in that subset of individuals who are easily addicted. As Australian neuropsychologist Murat Yucel's recent research suggests (story here, registration required), some of us may have brains whose frontal cortex is chronically underactivated, making it hard to quit compulsive behaviors once we begin them, regardless of consequences.

Yes, in the age of IPTV and smart tablet remotes there will still be cocooning and overuse, particularly among the older generations, but we'll also see the beginning of a whole new era of intelligence and customization in our news media for those who want it. Personal growth may be painful and unpopular for those who haven't had much self-determined education in their youth, but it seems clear we'll have a lot more of that in the next generation's intelligent digital platforms. In the long run, I believe we will grow through the early adopter and abuse issues and learn to use these tools to develop a whole new level of social complexity. Thanks to Wayne Radinsky for the links.

Biotechnology, Medicine
Gene Therapy Is Facing a Crucial Hearing, Gardiner Harris, New York Times, 3.3.2005
[JS] A valuable update on the continuing difficulties faced by gene therapy research over the last fifteen years. Thousands of government grants have been awarded with little demonstrable progress as of yet. Many of the gene therapy biotech startups have since wisely moved on to other challenges, as this is truly an academic effort at present.
Dr. Donald Kohn, one of the lead researchers in the trials currently under review, makes an analogy to monoclonal antibodies, which took 30 years to move from lab to clinical therapeutics. He suggests the gene therapy timeline might be similar, with another 15 years before we can expect the first therapies for broad use. I'd like to believe that, but I think he's overoptimistic with regard to anything but the blood and immune systems. Everything I've read argues that gene therapy in differentiated adult organisms is much more complex than monoclonal antibody production in juvenile immune cells. It's also much more ethically difficult to run exploratory experiments on humans in gene therapy, which greatly limits the "empirical" side of scientific research in this space. Gene therapy in stem cells seems much more promising, and would still have potentially valuable effect in adult humans in many organ systems. Thanks to Joschka Fisher.

Inner Space
energy, small tech (nanoengineering, miniaturization), computer "bodies" (automation, computer hardware, nanotech, robotics), inner systems theory (acceleration, efficiency, miniaturization, reductionism)

We, Robot: The Future Is Here, (Registration Required), Anthony Faiola, Sydney Morning Herald, 2.14.2005
[JS] Great story about Japan's robotics exhibit for the upcoming 2005 Expo (World's Fair) in Aichi, and how advanced the Japanese consumer robotics industry has become. Japan has long dominated the global industrial robotics industry, and now they are spending billions of dollars annually on commercial assistive robotics. Take a look at NEC's PaPeRo for a cutting edge example of a childcare robot. There are so many consumer versions of these first generation systems that the Japanese Government has drawn up safe robotics guidelines. They may seem like toys at present, but they are already satisfying real human needs, like providing companionship to lonely elders, as the vignette about the robotic harp seals describes. Robosecurity will be another huge benefit. Eventually we can look forward to robolaundries, robokitchens, and robogardners for all those plants we'd like to grow but don't always have time to water.

Think London's security cameras are imposing to criminals? Roboguards will take crime deterrence to a whole new level. I can't wait to see a young woman running in Central Park at midnight accompanied by her audiovisual broadcasting, gps-, and cellular-equipped robodane. That's one way to "take back the night" in all our cities. All the benefit of a canine protector but one you can keep in a small Manhattan apartment, one who never dies, one who can monitor your workout routines, one who can already beat you at chess and one whose brain gets smarter by auto-upgrading over the net for the rest of your natural life. Eventually, your robodog will learn to speak, and will be able to scoot down the sidewalk do simple shopping errands for you at the local market when you're too busy. One day it will even do your driving for you. One day it will know you so well it can complete your sentences when you're having a senior moment. Think people will be able to stop falling in love with that? Thanks to Gaurav Gupta for the link.

Cyber Space
computer "behavior" (co-evolution, automation, symbiosis), computer "minds" (computer software, simulation), cyber systems theory (holism, information, intelligence, interdependence, immunity)

Personality Simulation
Inside the Head of an Applicant, Tara Pepper, Newsweek, 2.21.2005 [Commentary by Iveta Brigis] Anyone who's ever sat down to an SAT, GRE, Myers Briggs, NEO, or MMPI knows that achievement and personality testing is widely perceived as a useful screening process for educational institutions and corporations alike. Doubts over the validity of these inventories are not uncommon, though the doubts are often set aside for lack of a better tool for sifting out the best applicants from a large pool of candidates.

A new generation of personality testing has entered the examination room, though in this case, testees won't be squeezing themselves under tiny high school desks or sitting at testing lab computers. Dr. Turhan Canli, a Psychology Professor at SUNY Stony Brook, and his colleagues are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to read personalities. His lab examines how participants react to images and words and deduce a personality type from the observable brain activity. For example, the brains of neurotic personalities will light up more when they see ugly or averse images like rotting food or mutilated bodies, and the brains of extroverted people will light up for sunsets and smiling babies.

The implications of this are widespread. The potential for Gattaca-like discrimination immediately comes to mind but is mediated by the possibility of using brain scans to not just keep unworthy individuals out of certain jobs, but of finding an accurate tool to help individuals find their innate talents and their special way to contribute meaningfully to society. While there is definitely value in the introspection process of deciding what you want to be when you grow up, a tool that can push kids, young adults, and adults transitioning between careers in the right direction would certainly save a lot of money, time, and effort for anyone involved in human resources, college and career counseling, job training, hiring, and firing. I'm looking forward to seeing the replicated scientific studies that will show us how successful this new generation of personality testing will be. Thanks to Wayne Radinsky for this link.

Hyper Space
hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse, string theory, supersymmetry), hyper systems theory (computational limits, emergence, phase transitions, technological singularity hypothesis, developmental singularity hypothesis)

Innovation Studies, Phase Transitions
Review of "A Possible Declining Trend for Worldwide Innovation," Jonathan Huebner, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, September 2005 (forthcoming), by John Smart
Abstract: A brief review of an article proposing that global innovation has been declining in recent decades, since 1914 by an analysis of U.S. patents, which seems to be contradicted by recent data, and since 1873 by a subjective analysis of "important innovations," which may have greater merit. I disagree with the author's analysis with regard to technological innovation, which appears to be increasingly autonomous and is occurring increasingly below the threshold of human perception with each passing year, while a number of technogical capacities (Moore's law, etc.) continue to grow at objectively measurable exponential or slightly superexponential rates. But it seems at least plausible that there has been a decline in subjective or apparent innovation, specifically, environmental changes that are easily observable by human beings, in service to obvious and limited human needs. If replicable, this article has important implications for better innovation metrics in a world of continuously accelerating change. [Full Review].

We all deserve a little fun every day. Send your entries for the next ATimes!

[JS] I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid! Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt. Thanks to Clive Pearce.

Museum [IB] Visit the NetPl@net Gallery at the Tech Museum in Santa Clara, CA. Get tested on your netiquette (internet etiquette), arm wrestle someone miles away with a mechanical arm via the internet, create your own character and interact in a virtual world, check out internet trends (what do the 2 billion+ web searches conducted every day look for? hope those search results are filtered...), and take out your frustrations in the Whack-A-Spam video game. Great for kids and adults!

Call for Submissions
ASF is seeking submissions for our Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" monthly to bimonthly newsletter covering scientific, technological, business, and social dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit scan hits, article links, original papers, questions, reader feedback, and artwork to mail(at) Accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues.


Future Salon in Second Life

Salon Leaders Retreat

ASF Elevator Pitch

New AC2004 Audio

Save the Date for AC2005

TAICON 2005 Conference


Resources and Tools

Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces


U.S.-Mexico Tunnel Found

The Age of Egocasting

Gene Therapy is Facing a Crucial Hearing

We, Robot: The Future is Here

Inside the Head of an Applicant

Declining Innovation Worldwide?



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APF Spring Meeting: Futures Insurrection
March 31 - April 2
Miami, FL

FIRST Robotics Competition
March 31 - April 2
Los Angeles, CA

Von Karman Lecture Series at JPL: The Ultraviolet Universe
April 20 and 21
Pasadena , CA

TAICON2005: Tools for the Development of Humanity
April 25-26
Washington, DC

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