A Conversation with The Institute for the Future with Michael Liebhold via VLAB

This video  to me via the VLAB mailing list: http://www.vlab.org/article.html?aid=450

Michael Liebhold talks about:
  • global supercomputing
  • combinatorial innovation
  • liquid data, augmented reality
  • ambient decisions
  • data visualizations
  • blending personal with clinical information ecosystems
  • datapalooza
  • RDF linked databases
  • predictive analytics on medical data sets
  • singularity skepticism “We don’t know what we are uploading”
  • data quality and providence
  • using retail space to window shop and then buy on eBay
    • ask me about my great start-up idea on how to capture the real value of brick and mortar
  • Keiichi Matsuda “Augmented City
  • personal ecosystems acting as contextual filters for data overload
  • Cognitive toolkit:
    • read SciFi: Sterling, Vinge, Rucker, Stross (the right Stross – hear hear!),
    • read over your head (even technical manuals),
    • social network like crazy,
  • collecting credible signals about the future (I would love to see this compiled forecast graph that he talks about around 31:20
  • AR is the web escaping from the screen into the real world,
  • by 2025 the children will never know a world not ornamented with big data
One thing that struck me is that he doesn’t talk about the risks associated with how big data will be filtered for consumption.  He says that data overload will be prevented by a filter based on you personal data ecosystem, but not who will control those filters.  Will people be fed only the information that sells more product?  Will it require hackers to break out of this matrix?

Comfort vs. Freedom

A friend recently sent me an essay attacking social media that contained the following quote:

Consumerism promises that magical transformations are easy, available on demand, and that a self understood in terms of lifestyles and personality experiments—rather than in terms of communal tradition, meaningful work, or the continuity of life experience—can be a worthy expression of individual freedom.

This run-on sentence jumped out at me because I have long struggled with the trade-offs between traditional life and modernity.   I tend to prefer the modern to the traditional.  I hate to see the sorts of constraints placed on people from traditional cultures.  Women are cattle, queers are hung, and innovators are set on fire.  On the other hand, I recognize that modern life leaves us isolated and adrift.  It’s comforting to know your place and purpose in the universe as provided by faith and tradition.

Any group (or intersubjective identity for you post-modernists) provides some amount of constraint and comfort as opposed to the freedom and isolation of  the individual.  Baseball fans watching a game together exert peer pressure to prevent any member from switching the channel to the Home Shopping Network, but they have a lot of fun.  It’s just better for self-realization to have choices about the groups that we become part of.  We have always had complex identities that changed with the context: friend, family member, hunter/gatherer.  Our very mind seems to be a shifting competition between semi-autonomous urges, interests, and styles.    Modern life gives us the opportunity to more fully explore our composite natures.  It’s just isn’t easy.

Advancing Humanity Symposium at Stanford

On March 3rd, 2012, I attended the Advancing Humanity Symposium presented by the Stanford Transhumanist Association.  It was held in the Braun Auditorium in the Mudd Chemistry building on the Stanford campus which is a chemistry lecture hall which seats around 300.  Based on how full the room was, I would estimate that about 150 people attended.  Although put on by a campus association, I would estimate that less than half of the attendees were of college age.  I recognized many familiar faces from the Futurist/Rationalist scene.

Here are my impressions of the symposium broken out by session:

Social Technology – 10 AM to 12 PM

Dan Dascalescu (Blueseed) – Social Innovation through Seasteading
Dr. Walter Greenleaf (Thrive Research) – Virtual Worlds and Avatar-Facilitated Therapy
Elizabeth Slavitt (Khan Academy) – The Online Classroom

I arrived late, so I missed Slavitt and Greenleaf, but I did catch most of Dascalescu’s talk.  Blueseed is the company trying to setup an off-shore visa-free entrepreneur community 12 miles from Silicon Valley in international waters.  This is a sea-steading type of offering where entrepreneurs can live close to the valley without needing a visa.  Dan pointed out that they will carefully screen the residents to exclude activity that would be illegal in the US like black-hat hacking or controlled substance use.  He said that they want to be squeaky clean in order to avoid being targeted by US authorities.  So presumably there will be these startups on board some sort of stationary ship within a 90 minute commute of Silicon Valley or San Francisco which will allow foreign nationals to easily meet and work in person with VC’s and engineers.  The overarching agenda is really to drive governmental and societal innovation.

I didn’t get to hear to Elizabeth Gravitt from the Khan Academy give her presentation, but I did hear her during the Q&A session.  Also, I recently worked on a pro bono project involving Khan Academy, so I learned a little more about it.  Khan Academy is an online education site with videos and exercises to help students learn at their own pace.  It was founded by Salmon Khan, who holds two degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.  Khan started out producing YouTube videos to tutor his cousins in various subjects and the videos went viral.  Khan Academy received the attention of the Gates Foundation

Lunch Break – 12 PM to 1 PM

Forecasting, AI, and Robotics – 1 PM to 3 PM

John Smart (Acceleration Studies Foundation) – Forecasting the Future
Marshall Brain (HowStuffWorks) – Effects of Robotics on the Workforce
Monica Anderson (Syntience) – Intuitive A.I.

Future of Medicine – 3 PM to 5 PM

Dr. Aubrey de Grey (SENS Foundation) – Life and Youth Extension
Dr. William Hurlbut (Stanford) – A Future for Humans, an Ethical Perspective
Dr. Babak Parviz (UWashington) – LED Contact Lenses, Biosensors, and Augmented Reality