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Editor's Blog

Valkyrie Ice
May 18, 2010


I recently read an article on a DNA prototype nanofactory, and several responses to it by various futurists such as Michael Anissimov, Jamais Cascio, Chris Phoenix and others. It was quite interesting to watch the various discussions that arose from the posts.

But it also illustrated quite well a problem I have seen for years, the tendency of many futurists to have tunnel vision, to only focus on the final stages and ignore those which lead to them.

Image Credit: Javier Gomez FernandezMost everyone is focused on Nanotechnology, and its final stages of development towards a true molecular manufacturing technology, but MM is only one part of the future. It's a very important one to be sure, but it doesn't exist in isolation. It is surrounded by hundreds, even thousands of other technologies just as profound, if more "commonplace" in comparison. My mother always used to say "The devil's in the details" and when it comes to understanding not only where we are but where we are going, one needs to look at a lot more factors than just the biggest players. Nanotech, Genetic Engineering, Robotics, even A.I. - -none of these bastions of future technological prediction exists in a vacuum. The steps which lead to them are just as important.

I happen to agree with Jamais Casico's assertion that by the time most people think a "Singularity" will occur, we're going to be underwhelmed. I just think it will happen for far different reasons than most people do. You see, it appears to me that by the time frames projected for the Singularity most of the cataclysmic changes it's supposed to create will have happened long since. In fact, they are already beginning.

I see it daily in articles all across the web, from this article about stem cell breast augmentation to this one on making a set of ovaries into testes to this one about making a replacement jawbone using a 3d printer and this one about 3d tissue printers. These are all interesting tidbits, but in isolation they are not worldshaking. Or are they?

Now toss in this laugh about building penises for rabbits and this about "tissue Legos", then add in who knows how many other recent stem cell breakthroughs have happened in the last year and a half.

Can you get the barest hint of where I am going with all this? Can you see even a fraction of the implications? Do I need to add in all the thousands of other medical stories I've read as well before you can see the big picture? Or can you see how rapidly we are approaching the day in which we can customize the human body as easily as we can customize our car?... or how quickly we are reaching an era where the genetic lottery of our inherited DNA will no longer dictate who we chose to be?

But before you really stop to consider that, let me toss in other factors that are equally important, like my recent article on Graphene and this on  DNA computers or this on Quantum Computers. And particularly this little tidbit on ATP powered transistors. The gist of all of this is that computers are about to undergo radical evolutionary changes as well, making orders of magnitude leaps in speed, processing power, even types of materials used. Not to mention becoming ever smaller, and more potentially integrated with biological systems. Then toss in the developments in VR that I discussed in my previous articles.

Starting to see a little more of the big picture yet? How advancing computer science mixed with advancing biotech combine to create a potential future in which trolls and elves could walk down the street side by side with humans? Where my succubus avatar is as commonplace as a cheerleader or a gothchick?



But even that is not all, because there are many more factors to consider as well, such as how the massive increase in internet connections and the millions of cameras on cell phones are leading to such phenomena as "flesh search mobs" and "sousveillance". Add all of that to the mix as well.

Now stir in other developments like electronic printing and the fact that it recently yielded a 50" OLED screen printed in under two minutes. How about ultracapacitance batteries as well? And just for fun, let's toss in DARPA pushing most manufacturing companies to mimic the design/manufacturer separation so prevalent in electronics manufacturing. Then add in such possibilities as manufactured meat and cheap solar panels. Or how about even more outlandish tech like Plasma Fusion which could prove to have finally fulfilled all those long awaited promises of fusion power.

Are you starting to feel that low rumble yet?  That vibration in the soles of you feet that maybe is saying it's time to pull your head out of the sand?

A single wave of change is not what we face. There are ten thousand waves of change from every direction heading towards us, and nowhere to run to escape them.

I've barely scratched the surface, given no more than tiny hints as to the totality of the developments happening world-wide, all of which may seem unimportant when viewed as a single item. But when you step back, place them all together, and see how they can connect, and grow, and evolve, it is overwhelming. The big three of Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics might be the big fish of the coming decades, but they swim in an ocean of technological innovation that is already threatening to sweep across our world in the very near future.

We're not going to be able to avoid the Tsunami of change heading our way, or even put it off. It's not comfortably decades down the road. It's right now, right here, in our faces, all we have to do is look around to see it. We've passed the event horizon, and we're accelerating down the gravity well at Warp Factor 9 while yelling at Scotty to give us more power.

The next few decades will define who we are, and who we want to be. It will be shaped by the choices we make in politics, in entertainment, and in religion as much as it is by technological innovation. The rumblings are already beginning, shaking the foundations of "the way things are done" in every aspect of the world. Soon, much of that which we took for granted will be crumbling, under relentless assault not just by changing technology, but by the failure of ideologies to adapt to change, and shortsighted refusal to accept that change is happening. The future anticipated and feared by so many is already here, it's just not evenly distributed, to paraphrase William Gibson. We've had a long childhood, but it's time to grow up. We don't have decades to decide on best courses or shape developments to our likings. It's long past the point of no return.

And like Jamais Cascio said, it's happing right under our noses. Unfortunately, the effects of all these changes will not be so easy to ignore. How well we will deal with these changes depends very much on how soon we begin to recognize these early warning signs. The problem is it seems like no one is watching, which is a pity, because it's an awesome show.

Welcome to the Tweens, and the opening decade of a new age. Here's to hoping I'll see you on the other side.
 

14 Comments

    Wonderfully inspiring article, Valkyrie Ice. Thanks!

    2- Everything connected at a mind level…

    Oh gee, I don't know if I wanna let people into my head. There's so much madness inside it...

    I guess there are some people who would be able to survive an encounter with my craziness, hell, /b/ would probably thrive in my world. But there's a reason I don't tell everyone my deep dark secrets, even my shrink.

    But I'm probably one of those curmudgeons who uses privacy as an excuse to keep secrets that are, in the end, more damaging to themselves than to anyone else. Hell, I brood and get depressed mostly because of my guilt about not being able to tell my secrets to others, namely my family.

    You know what? Maybe the whole interconnected mind thing wouldn't be such a bad thing for me. I'd have to get used to hearing all those voices all the time, though.

    Dude or chick, I love your writing style and your relentless links to other articles, your articles are really inspiring BUT seriously ,man or woman, you need to become less condescending, I mean you are really fucking condescending in this article.

    I must admit to being puzzled as to how you found it condescending, but I apologize that you found it to be so. It was not intended to be so. I tend to be a bit tongue in cheek sometimes for effect and to lighten the tone, but as my purpose is to provide food for thought, I attempt to make people look beyond the surface to the larger implications, to see not only the trees, but the forest, the ground, the sky above, and the entire mountainside as well. That was the purpose of this article.

    But I am quiet willing to concede that I have a quirky sense of humor, and that I am not always as funny as I think I am.

    I hope at least you found the information worthwhile, even if my attempts at humor failed.

    Yeah, sorry sfmd, but that wasn't remotely condescending - well, at least I didn't find it to be so. A beautiful and inspiring aggregation of the myriad technologies advancing upon us, I found this article to be a profound wake-up call, since I, and I'm sure a great number of others, have been listlessly trawling through some of these articles for months now without recognising the need to piece it all together.

    Top article on the future-present, Valkyrie. Can't wait...

    Yeah, I really like the article and the others articles that you linked to, but the whole "do you get it yet" feeling of the writing was a bit much for me. Its better to let the evidence speak for you in my opinion. But I really did like the article aside from that though.

    I liked very much the article, did not found it condescending. I liked a lot the way you write.
    But that's my point of view.

    Learned a lot, and yeah, so much inovation coming fast in a lot of diferent ways.
    Hard to know about all. Yet it's really really instructive/amazing.
    Once more, we are living a very interesting period of time.

    Since you mentionned fusion power I wanted to share this link :
    http://www.generalfusion.com/t5_general_fusion.php

    don't know if you have already haerd about it (good chances I guess), this fusion reactor is way cheaper than currents tokamaks, and some scientist say that it could be efficient... worth the reading I think.

    Yes, I am quite well aware of General Fusion. I think Dense Plasma Fusion using magnetic z-pinches is the most likely to succeed first, but there are a number of varied methods being researched which look far more promising than Tokamaks.

    There are also more exotic researches I've followed as well, from LENR to Black Light Power to Algae based fuel cells to improved catalysts for splitting hydrogen from water. The gist of all of it is that oil is rapidly being challenged as a primary source of power. Which will prove most feasible in the long run is up for grabs, but by the end of the decade, I think we will have a replacement, though it may take another decade to phase it out fully. But even that is up in the air, as the very first link proves that Molecular Manufacturing is only a matter of engineering now. It's passed out of research and proof of concept stage to being a design issue, which means we may simply begin manufacturing fuel from raw carbon.

    Glad you enjoyed it. I've never been one to simply see things as they are, but as what they could be.

    I can remember being quite young and playing in a scrap heap behind my dad's shop, and finding a shock absorber, an old bent wielding hammer, a car antenna, and a spool of bailing wire.

    To most people that would just be junk. To me, well, once you stuck the hammer through the shock to make a handle and stock, strapped the antenna under it as a "bayonet" and the spool on top as a "scope" it made a fun laser rifle for a Star Wars fanatic.

    I just seem to have kept on doing it as I got older.

    Every day I see new stories and add them to the thousands I've already read. I've been doing this for over thirty years. I don't read Kurzweil and think "nice theory" I read it and nod, because I've watched it happen. Like a vast jigsaw of thousands of pieces, I have watched as step by step things have fallen into place.

    To fully explain everything that has lead me to this point of view is impossible. There are too many connections, too many links, to many actions, reactions, and backlashes to clearly explain, because to focus on any one item enough to fully explain leaves out so many other factors that are involved as well. I tried to give a sampling of it all in this rapidfire of links, hitting you with factor after factor without giving you time to pause and reflect and absorb any particular part of it in an effort to show you how interconnected it all is, and how easy it is to forget there's a forest when you focus on trees.

    To paraphrase Death from Diskworld. "In a universe of infinite marvels, humans have managed to invent boredom."

    I used to be bored as well. I used to believe life was dull compared to the world of Luke Skywalker, or Lazarus Long. Now, I find sci-fi dull compared to the future I see in the making.

    Ah what a great ride this article is. Like any great appetizer it gives you a wonderful taste and leaves you longing for more! It is quite a nice exercise to scan all the developments occurring in multiplicitous endeavors, Now!

    oh, and please disregard the juvenile troll.

    "Can you get the barest hint of where I am going with all this?... That vibration in the soles of you feet that maybe is saying it's time to pull your head out of the sand?"
    I read those as incredibly condescending, but on reflection, they just don't work. Nobody's head is in the sand here.

    It might work better if you took the shocking conclusions you're alluding to and went way, way beyond them, like "You might think you've kept on top of progress, but it's time to wake up and greet your vat-grown masters."
    Or maybe the article just doesn't need that much seasoning.
    I don't know, I'm not a writer.

    Great links though, thanks for posting.

    Ah. I see. Thank you. I was addressing those who are guilty of the tunnel vision I referred to in the beginning of the article but failed to clarify that.

    Glad you enjoyed the info!

    I didn't find your comments to be condescending at all V.I

    I think you are spot on, this time is really about "who we want to be" and how diverse in ways of living we will allow others and ourselves to be.

    We fear change, fear difference yet that is our greatest quality besides consciousness.

    1-Being able change gender/race/age and even change to a non humanoid form.

    2- Everything connected at a mind level...

    3-Customizable Realities Trough AR and VR and later even our physical reality

    4- Things becoming more and more transparent.... No more lies or hypocrisy

    5-Ability to enhance our intelligence, our creativity... Both individual and collective...

    6- Life spans of thousands, millions, who knows when it will end years

    7-We are facing ourselves and all that we believe and know and be

    We have 2 choices

    To Control and fear others and ourselves... Or to cooperate and allow/love others and us into being ....

    That will shape how and what will exist as our future...

    Walls have to fall both inside and outside for a positive future...

    And it is happening right now...

    "How advancing computer science mixed with advancing biotech combine to create a potential future in which trolls and elves could walk down the street side by side with humans?"
    Very cool! :-)

    One of the great innovations soon to become real will be the 3D Internet. Augmented reality also will play a very important part in the picture of the near future:
    http://www.internet3d.org/augmented-reality-3d-internet/

    Thanks for your inspiring post!
    fox

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