A while ago, Michael Anissimov wrote the following post:
In it, he pits Kurzweil against the colloidal silver crowd. In doing so, he makes a few screw ups of his very own.
I posted a comment to his post calling him out on it. But he never published it. So here it is:
A few observations:
1. Nano assemblers might still be sometime off, but the first generation of nanobots already exists. That’s way earlier than most people would have expected it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5KLTonB3Pg). Jim von Ehr has stated he expects rudimentary digital matter between 2015 – 2020 (http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/diamond-mechanosynthesis-paper-from.html). That’s straight from the horse’s mouth. You can’t ignore a near term prediction like that, especially not from a person with the necessary authority in the field.
2. Kurzweil’s rebuttal to your rebuttal was actually pretty good. The reason why people tend to get disappointed with future predictions, is because their expectations were too high. Take the 3D circuitry for example. Kurzweil correctly pointed out that 3D circuitry is already being done today, as he predicted. But 3D circuitry is typically one of those things that isn’t going to make us happy directly. Us humans only care about the benefit of more computational power. So was the 3D circuitry prediction incorrect, just because the arrival of 3D circuitry didn’t end up making us feel like we’re living in the future? Ofcourse not. Defensive pessimism might be a good ego protector. But the problem with it is that it is not rational and as such leads us to incorrect conclusions.
3. Making predictions is pretty hard, especially about the future. I thought it was an unwritten rule for anybody not named Kurzweil to not try and predict the future beyond 2030. But yet you state confidently we will not be immortal cyborgs by 2045. How can you possible know this? Just because Kurzweil is, in your opinion, overly optimistic about things in the present, that means all of his predictions are always going to be wrong? What about the ones where he was simply too pessimistic? What about the extremely early arrival of the self driving car? Kurzweil was not predicting that to happen until much later. Do Kurzweil’s overly pessimistic predictions not count? Do they not average out the ones where he was overly optimistic? If Kurzweil’s timetable is ‘one decade too early’, does that mean we can safely conclude we’ll be immortal cyborgs by 2055 then? Because that would mean predicting the future even further beyond 2030.
4. If you believe that the future is not accelerating exponentially, as you have stated sometime ago already, then I can imagine that you feel like you can confidently predict what will (or won’t) happen. However, I think your fall from the exponential bandwagon is caused by emotional reasons and therefore not rational. It still looks to me like the future is accelerating plenty exponential. The early arrival of quantum computers, first generation nanobots and the self driving car have me convinced technology is moving even faster than I had anticipated only 3 years ago. If the future is indeed accelerating exponentially, as I suspect it is doing, then it’s a typical case of ‘bend it like Beckham’. It’s extremely hard to predict the path of an exponential curve. So (some of) Kurzweil’s predictions might turn out to be wrong, but the exact same goes for your predictions about his predictions. If Kurzweil and the colloidal silver crowd can be wrong, then every crowd can be wrong. Including you and me. Predicting what won’t happen, is just as silly as predicting what will happen.
5. Don’t forget that the Maes-Garreau law turned out to be incorrect (http://lesswrong.com/lw/e36/ai_timeline_predictions_are_we_getting_better/). The article’s conclusion is as follows: “There is no evidence that predictors are predicting AI happening towards the end of their own life expectancy.”. That means Kurzweil’s predictions aren’t necessarily wrong because he conveniently predicts them to occur within his lifetime (because he isn’t).
With the economy being what it is, it is no wonder that many people are starting to question whether it will ever return to its former glory. In the history of mankind, an economic downturn has never lasted as long as it has in recent years. It all started in 2008, when the sub prime housing catastrophe started hitting the mainstream media. And the economy wasn’t even doing very well in the years prior to 2008. Why is the recent economic downturn taking so long to recover?
There are many things to factor in. But the most important one has to be, beyond the shadow of any doubt, technology. As long as there has been an economy, it was always technology that has led to bubbles, which sadly always tend to implode. The most recent technology bubble the world has experienced is the IT boom in the nineties. Back in those days, every guy that had read a “How To Build Websites For Dummies” book was able to get a job building websites.
Everything was possible. The sky was the limit. The economic upturn knew no boundaries. Surely, this would just go on and on forever. Or would it? As it turns out, people often have an inflated expectation of the limits of any given contemporary technology. In the case of the IT boom, it was assumed by many budding IT companies that it was possible to create endless supplies of cheaply created software and sell it at extremely high prices. As it turns out, the demand for cheap software had its limit after all.
Many shattered illusions later, the world economy has seen other revolutionary technological advancements. The epitome of this advancement is definitely the rise of the smartphone and the tablet. Who in the year 2000 would ever have thought that by the year 2010 we’d have mobile gadgets that seemed to come straight from an episode of Star Trek? The mobile device revolution has opened up a whole new world for both gadget manufacturers as well as software developers worldwide.
And while mobile gadgets have certainly contributed to the growth of the Internet and also the quality of life, there is one thing that they haven’t contributed to… the number of jobs available! And if there is anything that counts when it comes to getting the economy going again, it is jobs. Many media outlets are speaking of a jobless recovery. And every single time that the jobless recovery is mentioned, another thing is mentioned as well… robotics.
It was at the beginning of 2011 that Google came up with the world’s first self driving car which, at the time of writing, already has a registered 300,000 miles driven without accident. Then there is IBM’s Watson computer, also introduced at the beginning of 2011. Watson was able to beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in a competition of answering knowledge questions. These accomplishments in artificial intelligence and robotics have quite the transformative impact on the world’s economy.
Take Google’s autonomous car, for instance. It has the potential to replace many, many jobs. Taxi drivers, truck drivers, limousine drivers and more. It is estimated that a total of 10% of all jobs in the USA are related to transport. Can Google’s autonomous car wipe out 10% of all jobs in the coming few years?
What about Watson? Watson has recently been fed many decades worth of cancer diagnostics and is now able to come up with cancer treatment plans based on a patient’s diagnosis. Doctors are saying that Watson’s proposed treatment plans are better than the ones they themselves can come up with. Watson is essentially a knowledge dispensing machine. How many percent of all jobs have something to do with the dispensing of knowledge? Next to medical workers, I imagine lawyers would also be at risk of losing their jobs because of this technology.
Currently, Amazon and many other companies, have replaced their warehouse staff with robots. Robots are cheaper than human staff and work all day long without complaint. They are more efficient at their jobs. Because of these warehouse robots, big companies are making more money than ever… with fewer personnel.
Is there no hope, then, for the common people? Is technology destined to increase the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor even more?
No, not by a long shot.
Technology has always increased the quality of life for everybody. The economic crisis of the 1930s robbed many people of their homes. But that was because people in those days didn’t own a lot more than just their house and some basic furniture. These days, everybody owns a car, a computer, multiple mobile devices, a television and whatnot. A financial crisis in the 21st century means having to give up a lot of luxuries. But not necessarily the house.
Sure, people have lost their houses in the recent financial crisis. But not nearly as many lost their house in recent years as in the 1930s.
Technology is poised to keep increasing the quality of life. And just as the financial crisis of current times isn’t nearly as bad as the crisis in the 1930, so too will a financial crisis of 2030 not be nearly as bad as the current one.
And while it is true that technology keeps on replacing human jobs as automation continues, it is also true that technology makes life cheaper. When new technology is first released, it is expensive. As new technology ages and is replaced by yet newer technology, the price comes down. This is the reason why you can buy a more powerful smartphone every year for the exact same $500.
A good example of a technology that can lower the price of living, is solar power. Solar power is said to reach ‘grid parity’ (read: just as cheap as conventional energy sources) in the USA this year, 2013. Solar power has already reached grid parity in Spain in December 2012. Other countries in both Europe as well as the USA will surely follow.
There are many more advances possible when it comes to solar technology. Solar power has the potential to become extremely cheap. Battery technology is improving as well. Better battery technology makes it easier to store solar power. Solar power that is cheap and easy to store, will eventually attract the attention of power supply companies worldwide. They will switch from convential energy sources to solar power. Competition will drive prices down.
Energy prices worldwide have the potential to come plummeting down in the next decade or two. Lower energy prices translates to a lower cost of living. A lower cost of living will restore purchasing power to the people. Greater purchasing power will cause consumers to spend more money. Consumers spending more money, in turn, leads to a better economy.
While things may seem bad at the moment, rest assured that the economy is still moving from upturn to downturn to upturn, ad infinitum. There will be better times. And they might arrive here sooner than you think!
Abundance is a new book written by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, both of whom hope that humanity will be able to solve most of its major problems within two or three decades. The ambitious scale of this hope is undeniable, but the pair believe that evidence in the world around us suggest that things are getting better at a staggering rate, despite what many might assume.
Technology is the focus of Abundance and the authors are keen to point out that the book is not about creating a world in which everyone is rich, but one in which the quality of life is universally improved to a point far beyond current expectations.
The authors identify mobile technology as being one of the most important driving forces behind an abundant planet. Smartphones and other portable devices, which allow for a greater degree of interconnectedness that transcends geographic locations, will help to create new markets and drive the global economy. Meanwhile the five billion people who will be able to log onto the internet by 2020 will further allow an international audience to join the global conversation, according to the authors of the book.
The democratisation of communication tools is a central part of the argument in Abundance, which suggests that big problems do not need enormous teams and huge amounts of funding thrown at them to be solved. Instead smaller groups, or a collaborative global movement, can approach things like healthcare, food and education and look to remedy issues as a collective.
While there is plenty of doom and gloom in the media on a daily basis, Abundance aims to put a positive spin on the current state of the world. It looks at the so-called `rising billion`, otherwise known as the poorest billion people across the globe and points out that they are now forming a rising market which is helping to shrug off the sever poverty in which they were trapped in the past. Even between 2005 and 2008 the number of people living in poverty declined significantly according to the World Bank, which is evidenced by the authors as being indicative of ever-growing abundance.
The power of technology will help with what the authors call dematerialisation, which essentially refers to the lower cost of computing power and a decreasing emphasis on physical products which are required to get the job done. The power of cloud computing, which is beginning to permeate the markets for smartphones and tablets used by consumers and not just the business world, will have a significant role to play in this. If you have any interest in the future shape of the world and the way in which technology and people can influence it in a positive way, then Abundance will almost certainly have something to offer. It is uplifting, but more important is the fact that it remains interesting throughout, easily justifying the hype which has surrounded it and its position on the best-sellers list.
Do you enjoy using the Internet on a daily basis to do whatever the hell you want to do?
Then you better act now, because your precious Internet is under attack!
US Congress is trying to shove through a bill called SOPA, aka the Stop Online Piracy Act.
SOPA is a draconian bill that will give Hollywood way too much power over the Internet. You could go to jail for posting a YouTube video of yourself singing along to a copyrighted song.
Congress is rushing the bill and an important vote on it will be held this Wednesday, December 21st.
Thankfully, the Internet learns quickly and progress against SOPA is being made.
Do you want to contribute to saving the Internet from pure evil acts such as SOPA and Protect IP?
Don’t know where to start?
Please read Google’s Matt Cutts’ blog post about SOPA, where he gives you a couple of suggestions to help out!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Greedy corporate bastards want to charge you outrageous amounts of money for all the sites that you are currently taking for granted.
The FCC fights for Net Neutrality, an open Internet.
Recently, the FCC has had a court ruling detrimental to their Net Neutrality cause.
But all is not lost! Net Neutrality can be saved by reclassifying broadband Internet.
Will you sign this petition to give the FCC a helping hand in accomplishing this goal?
Save The Net, Sign This Petition To Help The FCC Fight For Net Neutrality!
We live in the age of information technology, in which everyone can live out their lives online and communicate in unprecedented ways. We also live in a time when scientific advances in many fields are changing our culture and the way we live our day to day lives. These ten technologies in the list are emerging from the labs and beginning to have practical implementations in our lives. There is, however, still much to learn and develop before they become commonplace.
The imposition of information harvested digitally from the internet and then place over the world around us is something that is beginning to trickle through to consumers. Modern smartphones can be harnessed be developers who can produce software that uses their GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G connections in unison with their built-in cameras to provide consumers with information about services and products just by pointing the viewfinder at them. Expect to see advertising and information provided in this way in the future.
Simulating thought and rationality within machines has always been a dream of science fiction, but increasingly complex programming has been able to come up with a variety of AI techniques over the years. Until recently there has been a lack of interest in AI research and as a result a lack of funding, but the stigma attached to its lofty pretentions is slowly disappearing.
Scientists have developed the ability to gain biological control over a living brain using what is described as a genetically engineered light switch. With control over neurons, it is possible to turn portions of the brain on or off and could help control mental disorders including depression.
There are several nanotechnologies in development, of which this is just one. It will allow for microscopic fibers to mesh together, closing wounds and reducing the risk of brain damage in severe injuries.
Recognizing and analyzing the virtually imperceptible differences between distinct cells within humans would allow for improved media treatments and potentially a cure for diseases such as cancer.
Solar power is expensive and inefficient, but with the nanocharging advances afforded by quantum dot technology, cheap and powerful devices that draw energy from the sun could cut carbon emissions.
The increasing strain that is put on internet connections by high quality video streaming looks like it will only get worse, but experts believe improvements in peer to peer networking will be the answer.
DVDs and even Blu Ray discs offer moderately high capacities, but new advances in laser technology could allow a single disc to hold hundreds of feature-length films in the near future.
Each year sees increasing advances in the field of robotics and scientists are constantly working on techniques to improve movement and generate intelligence that could allow for consumer grade robots to exist.
Giving medical patients the ability to monitor their own conditions and administer the correct help using individual computers which can scan brainwaves and track heartbeats will help to personalize medicine according to experts.
All of these technologies are bound to converge and we are seeing current generations smartphones available as part of O2 deals bring together technologies into a single package.
In a warehouse building in Boston, wedged between a cruise-ship drydock and Au Bon Pain’s corporate headquarters, sits Ginkgo BioWorks, a new synthetic-biology startup that aims to make biological engineering easier than baking bread. Founded by five MIT scientists, the company offers to assemble biological parts–such as strings of specific genes–for industry and academic scientists.
“Think of it as rapid prototyping in biology–we make the part, test it, and then expand on it,” says Reshma Shetty, one of the company’s cofounders. “You can spend more time thinking about the design, rather than doing the grunt work of making DNA.” A very simple project, such as assembling two pieces of DNA, might cost $100, with prices increasing from there.
Synthetic biology is the quest to systematically design and build novel organisms that perform useful functions, such as producing chemicals, using genetic-engineering tools. The field is often considered the next step beyond metabolic engineering because it aims to completely overhaul existing systems to create new functionality rather than improve an existing process with a number of genetic tweaks.
This is the stuff we need.
Why bother repairing our failing tissues for decades on end when you can just replace them with new ones?
From an engineering standpoint, this is just a plain and simple practical solution!
The US National Academies of Science has looked at the potential for renewable power in its home country, and determined that current solar and wind technologies could probably scale to supply 20 percent of our electricity. Beyond that, however, we’re going to need to fix the grid.
A number of renewable energy technologies are poised for significant growth. Wind turbine production is booked for several years, while several companies have reached the point where they’re able to produce a Gigawatt of capacity annually. Although the US has started from a small base, these power sources have grown at an annual rate of about 20 percent for most of the past decade, a period in which demand only grew about one percent annually. The US National Academies of science has now examined the prospects for continued growth, and sees no limits within the next decade and beyond, but, should growth continue, there are going to have to be significant changes to our national grid.
The report was prepared as part of the America’s Energy Future Project, which is supported by everyone from General Electric to the Kavli and Keck charitable foundations. It’s the second of several planned reports; the next one will target prospects for energy-efficient technology.
The report excludes hydropower, which is renewable, but constrained by the availability of appropriate water resources. At the moment, these other sources—geothermal, solar, biomass, and wind—account for about 2.5 percent of US electricity generating capacity, and estimates are that, under a business-as-usual scenario, they would reach eight percent by 2030. The report addresses the question of whether they’d be capable of scaling, should the US determine it wanted to increase reliance on these technologies (the total available solar and wind energy within the US, at 13.9 million TWh, dwarfs any reasonable future projections of demand). The authors limited their consideration of biomass use because they felt it was likely that the government would promote its use as a transportation fuel.
“MICROLUNGS” grown from human tissue might one day help to replace the vast numbers of rats used to check the safety of drugs, cosmetics and other chemicals. The work is part of a growing drive to develop toxicology tests based on human cells as a replacement for animal testing.
Such efforts are made partly for ethical concerns, and partly because animal testing is so time-consuming and expensive. For example, the European Union’s REACH regulations require about 30,000 chemicals to be tested for toxicity over the next decade. Yet testing the effects of inhaling a single dose of a particular chemical typically requires more than 200 rats, while testing the chronic effects of breathing it in over time can take more than 3000. Meanwhile the EU Cosmetics Directive – which covers items from deodorants and perfume to air-fresheners – seeks to ban all tests of cosmetics on animals by 2013.
The obvious alternative is to test chemicals on human cells grown in the lab. The difficulty, however, lies in enticing those cells to form complex tissue that responds as our organs do.