It's That Time Of Year

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Two of my favorite annual features:

* Every year, Edge poses an open-ended question to a wide-ranging collection of thinkers. This year's query: "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" They got dozens of answers—some thoughtful, some fearful, some silly, some trippy, and some of them all of the above. For a sample, here's Kevin Kelly's rather Chardinian prediction of "a new kind of mind":

[T]he snowballing success of Google this past decade suggests the coming AI will not be bounded inside a definable device….Instead of dozens of geniuses trying to program an AI in a university lab, there are billion people training the dim glimmers of intelligence arising between the quadrillion hyperlinks on the web. Long before the computing capacity of a plug-in computer overtakes the supposed computing capacity of a human brain, the web—encompassing all its connected computing chips—will dwarf the brain. In fact it already has….

When this emerging AI, or ai, arrives it won't even be recognized as intelligence at first. Its very ubiquity will hide it. We'll use its growing smartness for all kinds of humdrum chores, including scientific measurements and modeling, but because the smartness lives on thin bits of code spread across the globe in windowless boring warehouses, and it lacks a unified body, it will be faceless. You can reach this distributed intelligence in a million ways, through any digital screen anywhere on earth, so it will be hard to say where it is. And because this synthetic intelligence is a combination of human intelligence (all past human learning, all current humans online) and the coveted zip of fast alien digital memory, it will be difficult to pinpoint what it is as well. Is it our memory, or a consensual agreement? Are we searching it, or is it searching us?

* The Baltimore City Paper has published its yearly tribute to some of the significant-but-not-quite-famous people who died in the last 12 months. As always, I have my quibbles with their comments; as always, I'm learning much more than I'm kvetching. I'd never heard of the inventor/designer Victor Schreckengost before, for example, but I like what I'm reading:

[H]is most lasting achievements have to do with the intersection of aesthetics and manufacture, and consequently, art and commerce. It's a dichotomy he would struggle with throughout his career, eventually reconciling in an unpublished essay: "My work has been constantly involved in the struggle between fine arts and their development into some functional form of what we call the applied or commercial arts. It took many years for me to realize that they need not conflict, that a basic philosophy, conviction, or understanding may be common to both….There is no separate set of rules for each, or need there be a prostitution of one's artistic integrity. There can and must be a continuity, a basic concept in the artist's mind, which will show up in everything, which he does."

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  1. Elvis chess set.

  2. Better living through mind-altering drugs

  3. “What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?”

    Fully functional female humanoid robot chauffeur for my flying car with the death ray mounted on the hood.

  4. “What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?”

    Nanotechnology will be used to make gold from lead. The price of gold will drop like…lead. Much like the price of aluminum, which at one time was a precious metal until a cheap way to extract the ore was discovered. I seem to remember that Naepoleon even had some aluminum plates for his very special guests.

    Or let’s see that same nanotech used to make pure THC out of dirt. That would rock.

  5. Atomic-level nano? Really?

    The cap stone of the Washington monument is made of aluminum. It was considered a great extravagence, appropriate for the Father of our Country.

  6. Or let’s see that same nanotech used to make pure THC out of dirt. That would rock.

    This is more likely. Rearranging the bonds in molecules is *oodles* easier than rearranging nucleons in an atomic nucleus.

  7. Hey, not bad, joe. I didn’t know that. The process to produce aluminum is called the Hall-Heroult.

    How about this: the capstone was set two years before the process was discovered. Good timing, eh?

  8. I seem to remember that Naepoleon even had some aluminum plates for his very special guests.

    It was Napoleon III.

  9. *hangs head*

    Why so serious?

  10. Elvis vs. Predators chess set.
    Klingon edition of Atlas Shrugged.

    And, unfortunately, AI will emerge from YouTube’s cache of Hee Haw clips. Skynet will pattern itself on Junior Samples. The Matrix will be a vast cornfield where bumpkins pop up and tell jokes.

  11. lol the author seams to think that only smart people will influence the universal AI, Jeff is spot on…

  12. I predict that one day far into the future one of Highnumber’s actuary jokes will be funny

  13. I pride myself on my memory. I will now punish myself for forgetting the “III.”

    🙂

  14. To take a page from the interview with RU Sirius in the current print edition, I would not be surprised to see solar cells invented that could be painted on. Imagine all the siding of your house productin electricity. Cool stuff awaits us.

  15. The cap stone of the Washington monument is made of aluminum. It was considered a great extravagence, appropriate for the Father of our Country.

    They found Aluminum dust between the cracks in the pyramids and swords made in Vietnam 5000 years ago.

  16. When this emerging AI, or ai, arrives it won’t even be recognized as intelligence at first

    Holy shit! He knows about the Sentients?

  17. What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?

    Total immersion VR, Otherland style. Which will involve wetware.

  18. They found Aluminum dust between the cracks in the pyramids and swords made in Vietnam 5000 years ago.

    Oh wait i thought we were just making crazy shit up….Washington’s grave really does have aluminum I guess.

  19. Elvis vs. Predators chess set.

    Oh, damn. I hath been outdone.

    I predict that one day far into the future one of Highnumber’s actuary jokes will be funny.

    Have the invented the aluminum taint yet?

  20. Are we searching it, or is it searching us?

    Mr. Wiggin? Mr Andrew Wiggin? Please answer the white courtesy phone.

  21. Science will develop a breed of animal from which we can get bacon, ham and pork chops. This wonderful, magical animal will certainly feed the masses.

  22. I think we’ll hear a lot more about the game-changing Helium-3 this year.

  23. Probably the last fanfare for Gygax.
    Husar Sirrah!

  24. And, unfortunately, AI will emerge from YouTube’s cache of Hee Haw clips.

    “I found out my wife was cheatin’ on me!”

    “Bitter?”

    “Yup. Bit him too!

  25. Hee Haw is as genuinely frightening as one would assume.

  26. electricty too cheap to meter. Fission tho

  27. “My wife threw a glass at me and broke all my teeth.”

    “How could that possibly break all your teeth?”

    “Well, they wuz in the glass!”

  28. I am confident I will live long enough to think everything was infinitely better when I was younger.

  29. SugarFree,

    don’t so pessimistic, you’ll probably make it to 2010…

  30. Square bagels.

  31. Just kidding. I meant to say toaster haggis.

  32. Dude, we were funny!

    Blues, despair, and agony on me
    Deep, dark depression
    Excessive misery
    If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all
    Aw, blues, despair, and agony on me

  33. I am fiercely ashamed to know this, but I believe it was “Gloom, despair, and agony”

  34. Overall, there appeared to be many more people, but much less diversity of opinion, in this year’s Edge answers.

  35. People usually ignore a new technology until they figure to a way to fuck it or jack off with it. Considering that, make computers that run off of man-gravy and you’ll have a strong AI with a smutty mind in about 18 months. The singularity spike is really just an erection.

  36. Yeah, it’s all fun and games until that harmless little AI is aiding and abetting a revolt in the Luna penal colonies and starts dropping hyperkinetic rocks on us.

  37. Overall, there appeared to be many more people, but much less diversity of opinion, in this year’s Edge answers.

    Sounds like the future to me.

  38. THE URKOBOLD PREDICTS THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA, IN ORDER TO GUARANTEE UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO THE KEY CONTENTS OF THE INTERNET, WILL LAUNCH GIANT LCD MONITORS INTO SPACE. UPON THESE MONITORS WILL BE DISPLAYED FREE PORN. MOSTLY LESBIAN-ON-LESBIAN STUFF, DUE TO FEDERAL ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS.

  39. Drat! The CP list omitted Mort Garson; beyond his work for Heatter-Quigley (which, of course, is what I primarily remember him for), he did create some pioneering (and non-game-show-related) albums of Moog music.

  40. Also, host-wise, both Jack Narz and Lloyd Thaxton (much better known for his eponymous music show of the ’60s, but also the host of “Funny You Should Ask”) died in 2008.

  41. Programers have already developed computer programs that mimic psychologists. Within our life times, we’ll have computer programs that mimic intelligent life forms. 🙂

  42. Ugh. I forgot that Mr. Thaxton also hosted

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