Learning About the Future in 50 Minutes


Why 50 Minutes?

I heard the following quote last year: A professor can talk about a topic for 50 minutes.

I am a Possibilist

"I'm not an optimist, neither am I a pessimist. I'm a very serious 'possibilist.'" -- Hans Rosling (01948-) {Professor Global Health & Director of Gapminder Foundation talking about global population growth}

Hmm... I have learned that I cannot learn about the future without being a possibilitist.

Minimize the Use of Future Dates & Think in Units of Millenniums

The Long Now Foundation and 5-digit year usage. The Long Now Foundation The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996 to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

Hmm... It is possible that the year is the new decade and the decade is the new century.

Technologies Advancing At Exponential Rates

"It's impracticable to halt the exponential advancement of technology." -- Ben Goertzel (01966-) {Director of Research for the Singularity Institute for AI}

It is possible that technologies are advancing exponentially.

Hmm... Goertzel said "impracticable" not impossible.

It is possible that the power of socio-political (ethics) forces will deem Goertzel's "impracticable" as practical. Talking about the future, while fun, is difficult given we're a planet of seven billion human-beings.

It is possible that this morph of Goertzel's quote is false: "It's impossible to halt the exponential advancement of technology."

Learning About the Future is About Continuous Learning

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -- Alvin Toffler (01928-) {futurist/global forecaster}

"What class do I take to learn how to learn?" -- Thomas Friedman {author of "The World is Flat"}

Hmm... What class do I take to learn about the future? And is there a class to learn how to unlearn?

"Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?" -- Gary Hamel (01954-) {American management expert}

Computing: HPC/21st Century Informatics

Gottried Wilhelm Liebniz (01646-01716): "Once the characteristic numbers are established for most concepts, mankind will then possess a new instructment that will enhanced the capabilities of the mind to a far greater extent than optical instruments strengthen the eyes."

Charles Babbage (01791-01871): "In fact, there is no reason why mental as well as bodily labor should not be economized by the aid of machinery."

Thomas J. Watson (IBM) in 01943: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

HPC (Supercomputing)

Don't ask me about the 'P' in HPC. Let 'P' equal Performance such that HPC stands for High Performance Computing. [supercomputing]

Gordon Moore (born 01929) is the co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation. He is also the author of Moore's Law (circa 01965).

   Moore's Law: Number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years.

   Moore's Law: Processors get twice as fast every 18 months.

   Moore's Law: The cost of building a chip fabrication plant doubles with 
                every other chip generation, or roughly every 36 months.

   I had no idea this was going to be an accurate prediction.
   [Gordon Moore in 02005]

Sergey Brin at the "We Solve For X" project compares a one bit flip-flop vacuum tube with his phone's 16 gigabyte micro-SD card. We all live Moore's Law. [Brin mentioned that the vacuum tube came from an ENIAC-like computer, which was announced in 01946.]

The computing roadmap predicts exaflops by 02018-02020.

Late last year (02011) Japan's K Computer was #1 on the TOP500.org list rated at 10.51 petaflops.

   peta-: metric prefix for 10^15
   FlOPS: Floating-point Operations Per Second
          (floating-point implies real numbers)

   10.51 petaflops = 10,510,000,000,000,000 flops
   (ten quadrillion five hundred ten trillion flops)

   10.51 petaflops Nov 02011    (10.2x in 3.5 years; 942% increase)
    1.026 petaflops Jun 02008   ( 7.5x in 3 years; 650% increase)
    0.1368 petaflops Jun 02005  (i.e. 136.8 teraflops)
    teraflops 01996; gigaflops 01985; megaflops 01964

My own calculations...

   petaflops     when
     10        2011.00 <-- 10 petaflops (right now)
     20        2012.25
     40        2013.50
     80        2014.75
    160        2016.00
    320        2017.25
    640        2018.50
   1280        2019.75  <-- 1.28 exaflops

Moore's Law growth factors range from 18 to 36 months; however, my calculations show petaflops doubling every 15 months and getting us to exaflops during 4th-quarter of 02019.

21st Century Informatics

Data processing, information technology, Informatics... 21st century Informatics is HPC-based Informatics.

Huge quantity (think infinite) of bits are collected by sensors/devices (cameras, scanners, medical hardware, RFIDs, nanosensors, et. al.) and are piped into supercomputers having 99.999% up-time, high-speed Internet connects (bandwidth) and huge amounts of storage (think infinite).

"We're all aware of the approximately 2 billion people now on the Internet - in every part of the plant, thanks to the explosion of mobile technology," IBM's chairman, Samuel Palmisano, said in a speech last September (02011). "But there are also upward of a trillion interconnected and intelligent objects and organisms - what some call the Internet of Things. All of this is generating vast stores of information. It is estimated that there will be 44 times much data and content coming over the next decade... reaching 35 zettabytes in 02020. And thanks to advanced computation and analytics, we can now make sense of that data in something like real time."

It is possible that a computing cloud is a cluster of supercomputers and that the Internet morphs into a network of networked clouds.

When "stuff" can be converted into 0s and 1s, then that enables that "stuff" to be processed by HPC systems. Example: DNA converted into letters (ACAAGATGCCATTGTCC...), letters get converted into numbers (A=65, C=67, etc.) and numbers are converted into bits (binary digits).

Again, assume the 'P' in HPC is for "Performance".

   input  function  output
   data -> HPC -> nothing
   data -> HPC -> No or Yes 
   data -> HPC -> a number
   data -> HPC -> set of numbers
   data -> HPC -> paragraph of information
   data -> HPC -> 1 page report, 2 page report, ..., 100 page report, ...
   data -> HPC -> high-performance visualization system

   data -> noise filter -> 99.999% signal 

Quoting self... What does a scientist say when you give them a petaflops supercomputer? More flops, please.

   STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
   STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)
   SCREAM (Science, Computing, Robotics, Engineering, Arts, Mathematicss)
   + more data (inputs)
   + more variables & the variables have larger domains
   + many space vs. time tradeoffs become moot
   + simpler algorithms because brute force becomes an option
   + processing can produce larger ranges (outputs)
   + "see" what happens when systems approach zero and infinity
     the future observed on the number line
     0   1   2   3   4   5  ...  INF
      <---               -->
   + no limit on the number "what if" scenarios
   + data sets (inputs/outputs) are archivable because of infinite storage

Accelerating technologies... What does it mean? A number of exponentially growing technologies will massively increase human capability and fundamentally reshape our future. -- Singularity University


Human Genome Project began in 01990 and was "completed" in 02003.

   + Age of Genomics 
     (genotyping, gene expression, gene sequencing: 
      the three cornerstones of modern genetic analysis)
   + IBM's Watson: From playing Jeopardy! to medical collaboration
   + personalized medicine and smart drugs (targeted drug delivery)
     (16 Feb 02012: "A thumbnail-sized microchip containing multiple drug 
                     reservoirs has now passed clinical trials in which a 
                     wireless signal was used to release precise daily doses, 
                     instead of requiring patients to inject themselves with 
                     the drug.")
   + stem cells
     (Self renewal: Stem cells are capable of dividing and renewing 
                    themselves over long periods of time.
     (Differentiation: Stem cells are unspecialized. When stem cells 
                       divide, each new cell has the potential to either 
                       remain a stem cell or to differentiate into a 
                       specialized cell.)
   + molecular diagnostics (genomics + proteomics)
   + genetic engineering (manipulation of an organism's genome)


Wade Adams was a keynote speaker at the 02007 Second Annual Arizona Nanotechnology Symposium. Dr. Adams is the Director of the Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in Texas. Adams talk was titled "Nanotechnology and Energy... Be a Scientist and Save the World" and he started it by listing Humanity's Top Ten Problems for next 50 years and the number one problem was Energy. [The other nine were (2) Water, (3) Food, (4) Environment, (5) Poverty, (6) Terrorism and War, (7) Disease, (8) Education, (9) Democracy and (10) Population.] Adams believes it's possible future scientists will use nanotechnology and nanoscience to solve the energy issue and when they do the other nine problems be minimized if not eliminated.

29 Dec 01959: "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" was a lecture given by Richard Feynman to the American Physical Society. Feynman considered the possibility of "direct manipulation of individual atoms as a more powerful form of synthetic chemistry."

Late 01970s: K. Eric Drexler got into molecular nanotechnology and in 01986 he wrote Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. Marvin Minsky stated the following about the book: "Engines of Creation begins with the insight that what we can do depends on what we can build. This leads to a careful analysis of possible ways to stack atoms."

4 Sep 01985: Richard Smalley co-discovered the "buckyball" molecule (buckminsterfullerene C60; a molecule composed entirely of carbon).

   + magnification and control (harnessing of electrons)
     (Matt Kim of the Arizona Nanotechnology Cluster)
   + graphene (exceptional strength and conductivity)
     (The Nobel Prize in Physics for 02010 was awarded to Andre Geim 
      and Konstantin Novoselov "for groundbreaking experiments regarding 
      the two-dimensional material graphene".)
   + molecular nanotechnology
   + new materials
   + quantum dots (nanoparticles)
   + quantum computing (12:1 atoms-to-bit ratio)
     ("Scientists at IBM and the German Center for Free-Electron Laser 
       Science have built the world's smallest unit of magnetic storage, 
       using just 96 atoms to create one byte of data. Conventional drives 
       require a half a billion atoms for each byte." 
       [Discovery.com; 12 Jan 02012]
     ("Physicists at Yale University have taken another significant step 
       in the development of quantum computing, a new frontier in computing 
       that promises exponentially faster information processing than the 
       most sophisticated computers of today." 
       [PhysOrg.com; 15 Feb 02012]
     ("Australian and American physicists have built a working transistor 
       from a single phosphorus atom embedded in a silicon crystal."
       [NYTimes.com; 19 Feb 02012]

Robotics/AI (Artificial Intelligence)

01812: Luddite riot.

01920: "For myself, I confess that as the author I was much more interested in men than in Robots." -- Karel Capek discussing his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). The following was on printed placards found in R.U.R.


The following is a line from the play: "They'd make fine university professors."

   + Japan needs robots (workforce & senior care)
   + open-sourced robotic surgery [near term]
   + consumer, industrial & military
   + drones (teleoperated or autonomous vehicles)
   + self-driving cars
     My Videos From the DARPA Urban Challenge in 02007
   + AIs
     (Augumenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework by Doug 
      Engelbart in 01962... Man's population and gross product are 
      increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems 
      grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found 
      becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity 
      and the increasingly global nature of that activity. Augmenting man's 
      intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by 
      an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach 
      and some plausible benefits.")
     (Peter H. Diamandis to Sebastian Thrun: "Do you see a time where the 
      best educators are AI systems?" Duh! Of course he does. Where would 
      Thrun invest? Personalized medicine, home automation, and "replacing" 
      himself. Question from the audience: Should AI be used to make political 
      decisions? Thrun: "We as a society should pay more attention to data." 
      Diamandis: "I stay away from politics." Thrun with respect to the 
      self-driving car: "It will be ready when it's ready." Diamandis with 
      respect to education: "An AI, if your wearing sensors, will be able 
      to tell whether you've learned a subject or not." Diamandis: "AI is 
      a moral imperative.")

Technological Singularity, Transhumanism, Living Forever

The initial outline for this talk had this section titled Ignoring the Technological Singularity, Transhumanism, Living Forever, but I changed my mind. A few days later Kevin Kelly had a Google+ posting titled "The Next Transitions in Technology" in which he stated the following.

   "As commonly defined, a singularity means an infinite pace of change. 
    We don't know what that looks like because, as commonly defined, it 
    is inherently unknowable." -- Kevin Kelly

Rewind to December 02004 and quoting Aubrey de Grey: "I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already."

"Live long enough to live forever" is the motto of numerous futurists. These days life spans are increasing by three months for every year of life lived. It is possible that eventually the 0.25:1 ratio becomes n:1 where n > 1.


When it comes to a decade of learning about the future I have learned the following three nanoiotas: (0) It is possible that all scenarios of our future are possible. (1) It is possible that we should never say anything is impossible. (2) It is possible for 1% of a large number to be a large number.

Miscellaneous Quotes

Via Dan Reed... Quoting Søren Kierkegaard, "Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards."

In 02012, Alex Lvovsky said, Quantum technology will change our lives as much or more in next 50 years as semiconductor technology in the last 50. It is possible that Lvovsky will be proven correct.

On 1 Jan 02012, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow was interviewed by AzFamily.com and said, "The future will be what we help create it to be."

But, in 01971, computer scientist Alan Kay was quoted saying, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Crow said Kay's quote is one of ASU's motto.

And, in 01963, physicist (Nobel prize) Dennis Gabor said, "The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented."

In 02012 (this year right now)... From 96 Bits to 96 Atoms

March 1st is Future Day. From March 1-3 Arizona State University is hosting Emerge 2012.

   "What it means to be human is changing. Emerging technologies are 
    transforming our minds, our relationships, everything we own and 
    the very landscapes in which we live. What kinds of humans will 
    we become? What kinds of humans should we become? -- Emerge.ASU.edu

WeSolveForX.com::Solve for X: Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin open the event [7 Feb 02012; 6:55 mark]

CBSNews.com::Could babies born today live to 150? [9 Feb 02012; it's possible]

Plus.Google.com::The Next Transitions in Technology by Kevin Kelly [3 Feb 02012]

YouTube.com::25 Things You Need to Know About the Future [15 Jan 02012]
[by Christopher Barnatt, Associate Professor of Computing & Future Studies at Nottingham University Business School]

BrainPickings.org::The Future Belong to the Curious: A Manifesto for Curiosity [11 Jan 02012]

   "We are all lifelong learners, from day one to twenty-thousand-and-one, 
    and that's why we keep exploring, wondering and discovering, yearning 
    and learning, reaching with more than just our hands ... The future 
    belongs to the curious." -- SkillShare.com 

PhysOrg.com::Uncanny Valley [29 Dec 02011]

   There have been multiple times when learning about robotics has given me
   that uneasy feeling. Mike Treder (managing director of the Institute 
   for Ethics and Emerging Technologies) told me I was experiencing what 
   is called the "Uncanny Valley." Wired.com...
   How Robotics Master Masahiro Mori Dreamed Up the 'Uncanny Valley' [29 Nov 02011]

IBM.com::Watson: From DeepQA Machine To Jeopardy! Contestant [14-16 Feb 02011]

TED.com::Hans Rosling on global population growth [Jun 2010; projects to 02050]

LongBets.org::"By 2029 no computer - or 'machine intelligence' - will have passed the Turing Test [02002]

   Mitch Kapor ("predictor") versus Ray Kurzweil ("challenger")
   The $20,000 bet was made in 02002. "In a 01950 paper, Alan Turing 
   describes his concept of the Turing Test, in which one or more 
   human judges interview computers and human foils using terminals 
   (so that the judges won't be prejudiced against the computers for 
   lacking a human appearance).  The nature of the dialogue between 
   the human judges and the candidates (i.e., the computers and the 
   human foils) is similar to an online chat using instant messaging. 
   The computers as well as the human foils try to convince the human 
   judges of their humanness. If the human judges are unable to reliably 
   unmask the computers (as imposter humans) then the computer is 
   considered to have demonstrated human-level intelligence."
   -- LongBets.org brief description of the Turing test

Wired.com::Why the future doesn't need us.[Bill Joy; April 02000]

   "Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic 
    engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an 
    endangered species." -- Bill Joy in 02000

DougEngelbart.org::Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework [01962]

   Last paragraph in the "Conclusions" section... "This is an open plea 
   to researchers and to those who ultimately motivate, finance, or direct 
   them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving a 
   dynamic discipline that can-treat the problem of improving intellectual 
   effectiveness in a total sense. This discipline should aim at producing 
   a continuous cycle of improvements--increased understanding of the problem, 
   improved means for developing new aug mentation systems, and improved 
   augmentation systems that can serve the world's problem solvers in 
   general and this discipline's workers in particular. After all, we 
   spend great sums for disciplines aimed at understanding and harnessing 
   nuclear power. Why not consider developing a discipline aimed at 
   understanding and harnessing "neural power?" In the long run, the 
   power of the human intellect is really much the more important 
   of the two." -- Doug Engelbart in 01962
The 'P' in HPC

The following is something I wrote on 8 September 02008.

HPC environments provide researchers with the ability to ponder every "what if" scenario they can image (and then some).

These days the 'P' in HPC stands for many things. High Performance Computing is a highly pervasive computing environment that enables highly productive computing via a highly persistent cyber-infrastructure that exploits highly parallel computing to provide highly powerful computation.

Autonomous Transport

John Markoff via NYTimes.com... "The autonomous vehicles developed by Google pose enormous challenges for the world of law and insurance, speakers at a symposium said."

NYTimes.com::Collision in the Making Between Self-Driving Cars and How the World Works

16 Feb 02012: "Nevada has become the first state in the United States to approve self-driving cars," reported PCmag.com. "Nevada is the first state to embrace what is surely the future of automobiles," Department of Motor Vehicles director Bruce Breslow said in a statement.

Nanotechnology For Nanonewbies at SCC

Presentation on 29 Apr 02009 | "Right Now, Near Future, Coming Decades" on 4 Dec 02008

We don't need to know anything about nanotechnology in order to learn stuff from Wade Adam's 83-slide nanotechnology presentation.


Who To Follow On Twitter

@nanofoo (me) | @PhysOrg_Com | @KurzweilAINews

Creator: Gerald Thurman [gthurman@gmail.com]
Created: 15 February 2012
Last Modified: Saturday, 05-Jan-2013 11:15:48 MST