The Future of the future; Utopia versus The End Of The World As We Know It Thursday, November 3, 2011
Registration: 18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15
Location: Volkskrantgebouw, Wibautstraat 150, 1091 GR Amsterdam [former building of the Volkskrant]
The conference language is English.
The Future of the Future is an examination of the various future vision as portrayed by futurists, academics and scenario thinkers.
The technological singularity is an interesting concept from 1993 by mathematician Venor Vinge. Vinge describes the consequences of smarter-than-human systems (computers, improved humans or symbiotic human-machine systems) as leading to an infinite acceleration of intelligence-improvement.
It goes like this: "what would a smarter-than-human artificial intelligence do? It might play the stockmarket or be the worlds greatest artist, politician or general. But it might also become the worlds smartest computer-science researcher working on improving artificial intelligence, making a better version of itself. Rinse and repeat and interesting stuff starts to happen. Computer systems have been doubling performance every 18 months under the limited guidance of static human intelligence for over a century. With self improvement they could perhaps double in a much, much shorter time-spans. Think 17 minutes. Or less.
The implications of this idea are profound. It has the potential to make most of our problems today irrelevant (material scarcity and mortality might turn out to be easily solvable problems). It may also destroy our entire solar system. But just as with nuclear fusion there is also the possibility that it just won't happen in the forseeable future. We must guard against passivity among smart people who stop solving problems while they are waiting for 'the rapture of the nerds'.
For over a million years we lived as hunter-gatherers in small family groups, for thousands of years we lived as farmers in small villages, for 200 years we lived in cities and built industry. Now we live globally in a world that is changing faster every day than ever before through new ideas and technologies.
Sickness and mortality? Scarcity of material goods? Humans as the most intelligent beings? How very 20th century!
Our history has not prepared us for these changes, Our cultures, ideologies and religions provide no answers to many of the new questions we are faced with. Trying to impose old world views or ways of doing things on a new world is a recipe for failure, whether you are a company, government or individual.
For businesses the challenge will be to provide valuable products in a world where many things that were expensive in the recent past have quickly become very cheap or essentially free. Governments will struggle to remain relevant in a world that moves much faster than they can and where geographical location is becoming less and less important for the individual citizens' identity, income and social network.
Coming soon on a bittorrent server near you; a new movie about a filmmaker getting his prosthetic eye replaced by a camera made in his living room. While the original intention of Rob Spence was to use his bionic eye to fight crime he is now focusing more on the problems with al the other camera's following us all day. Trailer below, full site here.
No? Than maybe you should have a chat with the scenarioplanners at Gendo.........
Technology is moving at an ever increasing rate of development, and just a few years from now, we'll be exponentially more informed and equipped than we were in all of human history.
Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Kelvin, Einstein, Curie and Borh laid the foundations of modern civilisation. The greater understanding of the universe around us and new technological abilities lifted us out of the middle ages and gave us unimaginable powers over our environment. Physics research yielded many practical results even in Newton's time (such as insight into orbital mechanics - very useful for aiming ships' cannons) and even when the cost went up astronomically during the 1940's the benefits were still so large (winning the war) that nation-states would hand out the required means to do experimentation.