Joichi Ito @ AC2005

Joi was supposed to be presenting on the Future of Blogging, but immediately said that he wasn’t going to only talk about blogging.  🙂

He had some good stuff to say about a wide range of subjects …
Wikipedia, Firefox, File Sharing … and more on Wikipedia.  He
brought up fansubs
– which I hadn’t heard of, but makes perfect sense.  People take
various video content, and then add their own subtitles in their own
language.  Joi also showed a very cool remix of The Matrix
Reloaded done by someone who put together a bunch of anime clips to the
same sound track.

I had not heard of ccMixter … it’s a Creative Commons music site.  Of course he promoted the concepts of tags and
and how quickly tagging has taken off … a new free-form way for
organizing/categorizing information, and more importantly information

Too much good stuff to blog … what a great spew of information!

Jerry Paffendorf @ AC2005

The evening sessions tonight started off with some interesting “open
mic” Q&A … some of the highschool students from the audience
spoke about their perspectives … it was interesting to hear.

Jerry got up to start talking about Brave New Virtual Worlds … and
jumped right into some of the interesting things going on in Second Life
He talked about how there are now all sorts of real-world to
virtual-world interactions.  One example was a Cancer Society fund
raiser where Second Life characters walked in Second Life to raise
money in the real world.  In addition, Jerry even holds regular
Future Salon meetings within Second Life where other Second Life
avatars come to participate and listen to virtual presenters.

He briefly talked about the Croquet Project … something that will be
in a talk tomorrow.  Another virtual world project.  I
downloaded the Second Life client software and will sign up for a free
account … I want to see what this is about.  Hmmmm … my first
virtual identity in a 3D virtual world.

Ray Kurzweil Interviewed by Moira Gunn @ AC2005

This interview was really a chance for Ray to answer questions that
were submitted by people here at the conference.  The interview
started off with a question about sex in the future.  It was great
to get things rolling, and there were numerous laughs on some of the

Of course Ray quickly progressed into commenting on uploading, brain
scanning, alternate substrates, etc.  Overall … a usual great
Q&A by Ray.

Esther Dyson @ AC2005

To start things off, when I walked into the session Esther was pointing people to Vizu
… very cool polling site. I’m now signed up and playing around
with it. I pretty much missed a lot of the rest … it was
basically an open Q&A session … there were a lot of good questions about ICANN, privacy, and the accountable Internet.

John Udell @ AC2005

I have always liked reading John Udell … I think this might be the first time to see him present. His talk is on Annotating the Planet
and started with a very cool mash-up demo using Google Maps. He
reviewed the various Google maps mash-ups, and then went into some
details on his various bike rides that he is mapping with the Gmaps Pedometer.

He touched on the areas of privacy and geotagging of all sorts of information. Referring to David Brins book The Transparent Society
he had some commentary on how to potentially protect ourselves from the
abuse of this information, and how to control who can get at this

He pointed to David Rumsey’s web site,
and quoted from his talk at a recent conference. David has an
amazing collection of maps … and is doing some very cool synthesizing
of old and new maps.

Robert Hecht-Nielsen @ AC2005 (via DVD)

The next breakout was supposed to be a video conference with Robert
Hecht-Nielsen, but something didn’t work out … so they chose to play
a DVD of his presentation. Still interesting. The best part
was the term “Confabulation Theory”! Yeah … confabulation is a word that is in the dictionary.

His presentation explained how four key concepts form the foundation of cognition.

He started by proposing that cortical modules exist in the brain, and each of these is responsible for describing one attribute of Objects in the Mental Universe. These cortical modules are made up of groupings of neurons in the form of symbols that we learn at an early age. Each symbol is made up of ~60 neurons. Symbols could be names, colors,
or any other attribute of an object. As numerous cortical modules
are receiving sensory input, confabulation occurs … triggering

Again, he emphasized that it is the quantity of knowledge that allows
for confabulation to occur. Billions of knowledge links.
One third of our life or more is spent learning the foundations.
Language is the essential core
of cognition.  As we grow up we develop a rich set of symbols, and
interconnections between symbols – between cortical modules – by
hearing words combined with other sensory experiences.

There is more information about his theories in this article about his new theory of cognition.

Shrinking the Planet @ AC2005

After lunch at Accelerating Change 2005
we progressed into a series of breakout
sessions. The first of of my choices was tough, but I went to a
session titled Shrinking the Planet given by:

Peter Barrett, Microsoft IPTV
Scott Rafer,

Peter started off commenting on the growth of bandwidth to the home,
and also the improvements in codec technologies. Both of these
are combining to create an environment for on-demand IP delivered video
content. This environment is quickly becoming the foundation for
supporting the long tail
concepts for video. He showed some demos of IPTV, and talked
about the metadata that will be exposed in the TV guide – like how many
people are watching a particular show, or even specific people you know
like your family and friends. He said that the project is based
on the DVR concepts, and that one of the initial partners is SBC with
their Project Lightspeed.

Scott began his talk with some thoughts that are similar to mine …
that AI might just come from millions of interconnected humans.
He referenced Dodgeball, and expanded on this theme with various potential mash-ups of various datasources. His slide titled Humans Will Be My AI
gave a number of examples where large amounts of data – aggregated by
humans – become the valuable source of metaperspectives. It was
almost funny how many people were uncomfortable during the Q&A with
his perspective of AI not necessarily being something that is
created on a computer from some lab. Maybe one day … but sooner
then that I believe that humans are quickly becoming the “sensors and
actuators” at the edges of a growing AI …

Prospects for AI @ AC2005

The first panel discussion here at Accelerating Change 2005
was on the Prospects of AI. The panel includes an impressive line-up of people:

Neil Jacobstein, Chair, Innovative Applications of AI 2005;
CEO, Teknowledge
Patrick Lincoln, Director, Computer Science
Lab, SRI International
Peter Norvig, Director of Search
Quality, Google; Author, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
(the world’s leading texbook in AI)
Bruno Olshausen,
Director, Redwood Ctr for Theoretical Neuroscience

The introduction by Neil gave an overview of the many Task Areas being explored in the development of Artificial Intelligence.
The key aspects of development are in Knowledge Engineering, Systems
Engineering, and Business & Cultural. In his bullets about
Ontologies and the Semantic Web, he referenced examples of early work –
Cyc (OpenCyc), SUMO, and OWL.

The second speaker, Patrick, talked to the value of AI – Intelligence
Amplification – and why this is necessary. The increasing gap
between the complexities of technology, and human capabilities is
causing more and more failures. AI can augment our ability to
design complex systems, debug complex systems, and even operate complex
systems. He talked about AI providing powerful abstracations – at
the right levels – for both designers and operators. His examples included the progress and predictions in the uses of UAVs.

Third was Peter, from Google, who started with a slide titled AI in the Middle. His comments were about AI existing between authors and readers. His first point was about Machine Learning
… and joked about the fact that we don’t know how to do it. His
comments on AI in the Middle included how authors can write trillions
of words, systems can detect certain patterns, and intelligent readers
can then actually sort through this and find information. He went
on to give examples of where apparent intelligence can emerge from
larger amounts of data . .. giving examples of the accuracy of Arabic
translation based on larger and larger data sets of example translation.

Bruno was the final panel speaker, and his area of research –
Theoretical Neuroscience – is looking to the brain to gain insights
into AI. The
view of his team is to understand intelligence by understanding the
brain. Not only the human brain … but also other animal
brains. One example is Jumping Spiders. He reviewed the knowledge that they have gained, and some interesting
points that they are exploring. One area they have
learned about involves vision, and where for each neural connection of retinal data (vision) coming in
from the outside world, there are 10 times as many feedback connections
coming from the cortex of the brain. So there is more information coming from the model in our own brain of what we are seeing, then the actual
information being sensed! The model that we have in our mind
contributes more feedback that what we are actually seeing! He
explained that this is only one rich feedback loop that they are
working to better understand.

It seems that all of the speakers look at advanced AI arising out of
the shear number of patterns and complexities of their foundation
work. I have to agree with them … what we
perceive as AI just might end up being an emergent property of
the systems that we are creating … not the explicit result of the
planning and construction of the system.

Ray Kurzweil @ AC2005

I always enjoy listening to Ray Kurzweil speak on his vision of the
future. He is spectacular thinker who notices and tracks many of
the subtle trends in sciences that are the precursors to future events.

It is interesting to hear Ray start off by talking about the possible
“bad” scenarios that could emerge in the future. He ventured into
the conversation about how it will take new advanced techologies to
protect us from current advanced technologies. This led to a good
thread fof conversation on foresight and prediction … how to analyze
trends to see if the timing was right for the delivery of a new

He always has a lot of supporting measures for his predictions … and
he immediately jumped into these. He used a new graphic that
reviewed his 6 Epochs of Evolution
that map to a set of substrate transitions that we are in the midst
of. What is impressive about his research is that he is open to
include different sources of detailed information and add it to his
analysis … and still demonstrate that his theories are on
track. He is very good at showing that Moore’s Law applies to far
more than just computing power … but to almost anything around us.

He talked about some of the great new genetic and biological research
where we are becoming more and more capable of controlling our
genes. He commented on some interesting work where gene interference
research is allowing us to more easily turn on and turn off individual
genes by attaching to the RNA within a cell. Some of the first
outcomes will be drugs that will stop cells from hanging on to extra
calories … something that is not as important (obviously!) in a world
where food is more plentiful.

Miniaturization is another exponential trend that Ray explored … talking about Respirocytes – nanomechanical replacements for red blood cells – and Microbivores
II – nanomechanical replacements for white blood cells. Both of
these are being simulated, and many of the underlying technologies are
in research today.

He jumped to some examples of economic growth by a wide variety of
measurements … again demonstrating Moore’s Law all around us.

He wrapped up with a couple of great slides … his thoughts of the future:

2010:  Computers Disappear

  • Images written directly to our retinas
  • Ubiquitous high bandwidth connection to the Internet at all times
  • Electronics so tiny it’s embedded in the environment, our clothing, our eyeglasses
  • Full immersion visual-auditory virtual reality
  • Augmented real reality
  • Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface
  • Effective language technologies

2029:  An intimate merger

  • $1,000 of computation = 1,000 times the human brain
  • Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
  • Computers pass the Turing test
  • Nonbiological intelligence combines
    • the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with
    • the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
  • Nonbiological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed

Imagine if only half of these things occur … or if even more occurs!  The accelerating future!

Vernor Vinge @ AC2005

John Smart
founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation
kicked things off by talking about
the future, and future studies. This entire conference is
presenting a multidisciplinary view of the future, and the effects of
acceleration caused by the technological revolution. John primed
the pump with some interesting comments, and a quick review of the

He then introduced the first speaker … someone who I have wanted to
hear speak for quite some time … Vernor Vinge. Vernor is given
credit for first using the term the “technological singularity”.
He immediately jumped into his presentation … the slides are here: Vernor Vinge @ AC2005

It was fun to hear his line of thinking about the Singularity, and
various types of growth curves. His slides contain a good set of
quotes and thoughts about possibility. What is so great is to
hear a speaker like this talking about the future, and some of the
inevitable future events … the development of creativity and intellect that surpasses present-day humans,
this *is* the Singularity … and the future of being human will evolve
into whole new dimensions. He talks about direct neural hook ups
of computers as inevitable in a way that makes you realize this is not
a question of if … but when.

He spent some time talking about the soft takeoff vs. hard takeoff scenarios. As he discussed soft takeoffs he highly recommended Accelerando as a great book exploring “soft takeoffs” as one possible scenario.   Amazing stuff.  He is a big thinker.