Shift Happens

It’s an oldie, but “only” 5 or 6 million people are aware of this presentation, so, who knows, it might still be news for a few of you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8

No need for further comments. Think twice before claiming that SL will end soon, or that the current crisis will crush the worldwide economy. It won’t happen. We live in exponential times.

Further resources on the Shift Happens wiki.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

  • Great, I hadn’t seen the 2008 version yet.

  • Milla Michinaga

    I had not seen this before; it certainly puts things in perspective!

  • Grande propaganda… :mrgreen:

  • Prokofy Neva

    Just a lot of silly technocommie propaganda designed to convey the message that “OMG the world will be run by Internet coders and other hive-mind tekkies who will keep the masses satisfied with inanities like MySpace while they run things with the level of human rights they have in China and India, as an enormous burgeoning rootless workforce with no traditions, ethics, or morals which come from constantly changing jobs/education/etc. — so fuck you if you are not an Extropian”.

    But, whatever, Gwyn. Chinese and Indian engineers keep trying to emigrate to America. Now, why do they do that? They could stay at home on Myspace on the Internet coding, where it’s, um, better.

    Could life perhaps be about something *more* than Chinese socially-engineered coders creating filtered MySpaces with Indian call centers to serve them?

  • Extropia DaSilva

    What is Prokofy doing in SL, or on the Web at all for that matter? I would have thought he would be more at home in Ted Kaczynski’s log cabin, isolated from all those terrible technophiles who are ruining *everything*.

    I always advise people to pay close attention to this quote from Ray Kurzweil. ‘The kinds of scenarios I’m talking about 20 or 30 years from now are not being developed because there’s one laboratory that’s sitting there creating a human-level intelligence in a machine. They’re happening because it’s the inevitable end result of thousands of little steps. Each little step is conservative, not radical, and makes perfect sense. Each one is just the next generation of some company’s products.’

    We have finite resources. It is therefore imperative for industry to continually improve its ability to handle matter; to make more efficient uses of materials and produce less waste and pollution. The endpoint of this necessary drive to improve our manufacturing capabilities is atomic precision aka molecular nanotechnology.

    Most people expect and demand that the medical sciences continually research and develop improved ways of diagnosing, curing or preventing any and all ways in which a person’s physical or mental wellbeing can fall below optimal levels. Assuming it is not physically impossible, R+D into bionanotechnology will result in the ways and means to keep us indefinitely healthy. Barring accidents, we will live as long as we want to (a subtley different proposition to immortality).

    There is a great commercial advantage for any company that can make computing systems and software that works more intuitively with people than rival products. Machines that are better at diagnosing and fixing problems, better at anticipating your needs and successfully accomodating them, better able to collaborate with people or work independently if the situation should demand it.

    Vernor Vinge once wisely advised, ‘We need to extend the capabilities of search engines and social networks to produce services that can bridge barriers created by technical jargon and forge links between unrelated specialities, bringing research groups with complimentary problems and solutions together’.

    Hitherto, progress in science has tended towards specialization. Experts in one branch of science develop highly technical language, such that experts in another field may be no better at following work than a layperson would be.

    But, now it is recognised that some challenges require a multidisciplinary approach, hence Vinge’s call to ‘extend search capabilties and networking’. Dharmendra S. Modina, a computer scientist at IBM said, ‘there is a new synthesis of four fields, including mathematics, neuroscience, computer science and psychology’. This convergence of cognitive sciences and computing has lead to an ‘AI spring’, in which some of the failures of AI have been overcome thanks to exponential increases in processing power, coupled with a wealth of data amassed about the structure and function of biological brains.

    Prokofy’s insistence that AGI is being coded by some isolated group of elitist extropians is a joke, frankly. The task requires a collaboration among several scientific and technological fields, and is beyond the capabiities of a few sillicon valley hippies.

    We are ALL involved in NBIC R+D. We vote to continue such work each time we demand yet more storage space, next-gen graphics cards, bug fixes, improved medicine, less pollution, better use of natural capital and human potential…

  • Oh, just to set the record straight, the “Shift Happens” presentation is not from a bunch of “techno-commies” but from US educators originally addressing other US educators, specially the ones teaching on K-12 schools.

    From their wiki:

    We want all children to be successful. We do not view the growing importance of India and China as negative but rather as additional opportunities for everyone in the world. We do not mean to gloss over the very real issues that countries such as India and China face, and we recognize that globalization and “flat world” factors have downsides just like other societal shifts. We prefer, however, to focus on the positive benefits and on doing what we can to help children learn and grow so that they may become successful digital, global citizens.

  • Extropia DaSilva

    Wiki? WIKI!!? You cannot trust a wiki, for they are all edited by a secretive organization, a modern day Ministry of Truth bent on distorting all facts into whatever propaganda is necessary to keep the people of the world blind to the elitists who call the shots etc etc etc etc….

  • Prokofy Neva

    Gwyn, that doesn’t salvage it, because US educators today are horribly influenced by all these “consultants” who try to drive scared librarians and schoolteachers into being “relevant” to their kids by adopting all the latest technobabble stuff. They *do* mean to gloss over the VERY REAL ISSUES that countries like India and China not only FACE but POSE to the rest of the world. The idea that you have to focus only on the positive is one of those smarmy feel-good double-plus goodthink that is so cloying in this discussion.

    Extropia belongs in some sort of…museum. Such an exemplar! Such a specimen!

    >What is Prokofy doing in SL, or on the Web at all for that matter? I would have thought he would be more at home in Ted Kaczynski’s log cabin, isolated from all those terrible technophiles who are ruining *everything*.

    Um, right. So anyone who criticizes technology in any way, and especially the coders who force it on others, is the Unabomber. Right! So, either its coders fTW or…a domestic terrorist. Great!

    >I always advise people to pay close attention to this quote from Ray Kurzweil

    Uh-oh. I hear a fascist coming down the railroad tracks! Anyone who quotes Ray Kurzweil has already given us a huge, bright market that that they are a sectarian, and a loon of the first order.

    >. ‘The kinds of scenarios I’m talking about 20 or 30 years from now are not being developed because there’s one laboratory that’s sitting there creating a human-level intelligence in a machine. They’re happening because it’s the inevitable end result of thousands of little steps. Each little step is conservative, not radical, and makes perfect sense. Each one is just the next generation of some company’s products.’

    Uh, right! “Inevitable” was what Lenin and Stalin always said, tool. It’s what totalitarian always say. It’s always “inevitable” and always “science”. What you have to do, however, is at each little step, like right here on Gwyn’s blog, is resist, resist, resist. Because it’s not good, and it is not right. It is not with consent, and it is not democratic. It is not free, and it is not fair. And that’s why it will fail — and nothing that one person claims on another’s head that is “inevitable” that is *man-made* need never be. Not even an atomic bomb.

    >We have finite resources. It is therefore imperative for industry to continually improve its ability to handle matter; to make more efficient uses of materials and produce less waste and pollution. The endpoint of this necessary drive to improve our manufacturing capabilities is atomic precision aka molecular nanotechnology.

    Hmm. Well, I’m for giving people water, food, medical salaries — things like that before I build Extropian’s nanotechnology empire, but that’s just me!

    >Most people expect and demand that the medical sciences continually research and develop improved ways of diagnosing, curing or preventing any and all ways in which a person’s physical or mental wellbeing can fall below optimal levels. Assuming it is not physically impossible, R+D into bionanotechnology will result in the ways and means to keep us indefinitely healthy. Barring accidents, we will live as long as we want to (a subtley different proposition to immortality).

    See what I mean? I’m the Unabomber because I criticize stuff like this. And here’s a person who claims that human beings will be able to “live as long as they want to”. Good luck, with that Extropian! Oops, watch out for that brick that is scheduled to fall on your head!

    >There is a great commercial advantage for any company that can make computing systems and software that works more intuitively with people than rival products. Machines that are better at diagnosing and fixing problems, better at anticipating your needs and successfully accomodating them, better able to collaborate with people or work independently if the situation should demand it.

    Um, and who gets to control them? You? no thanks!

    >Vernor Vinge once wisely advised,

    Sigh. Well, at least the marker for loonyness is now extra, extra bright and shiny!

    >‘We need to extend the capabilities of search engines and social networks to produce services that can bridge barriers created by technical jargon and forge links between unrelated specialities, bringing research groups with complimentary problems and solutions together’.

    What do you mean “We,” white man?

    >Hitherto, progress in science has tended towards specialization. Experts in one branch of science develop highly technical language, such that experts in another field may be no better at following work than a layperson would be.

    Yo! if any of you out there have a scientific specialization? Please keep it *very, very well hidden and obscure* so that Extropia can’t see it — indeed, don’t let her “network” you if you can help it. Try to stay out of her nanotechnology empire just as long as you can! You’re our only hope!

    >But, now it is recognised that some challenges require a multidisciplinary approach, hence Vinge’s call to ‘extend search capabilties and networking’. Dharmendra S. Modina, a computer scientist at IBM said, ‘there is a new synthesis of four fields, including mathematics, neuroscience, computer science and psychology’. This convergence of cognitive sciences and computing has lead to an ‘AI spring’, in which some of the failures of AI have been overcome thanks to exponential increases in processing power, coupled with a wealth of data amassed about the structure and function of biological brains.

    Do you ever talk like a normal person, Extropia, or do you just printout and feed and excerpt Wikipedia?

    We are ALL involved in NBIC R+D. We vote to continue such work each time we demand yet more storage space, next-gen graphics cards, bug fixes, improved medicine, less pollution, better use of natural capital and human potential…

    NBIC. Um. Let’s see. is that a new kind of pen? But, using isn’t voting. Using is not conscious. Voting is a conscious act.

    I’d definitely vote you off the island, dear. You’re a public menace.

  • Extropia DaSilva

    Ok, easy one first…

    ‘Hmm. Well, I’m for giving people water, food, medical salaries — things like that before I build Extropian’s nanotechnology empire, but that’s just me!’.

    I agree with you. There are people whose needs are way more urgent than mine or yours. They should get priority.

    ‘Um, right. So anyone who criticizes technology in any way, and especially the coders who force it on others, is the Unabomber. Right! So, either its coders fTW or…a domestic terrorist. Great!’.

    You criticize Gwyn for her optimism. Your blog seems to lie at the opposite end of the spectrum, seeing nothing but doom and gloom. Like any technology, SL is hardly perfect and neither are any of its residents. Therefore, sometimes your negativity is justified. But, really, if I were as angry at SL and everything in it as you portray yourself to be, I would have stopped logging in ages ago.

    ‘I hear a fascist coming down the railroad tracks! Anyone who quotes Ray Kurzweil has already given us a huge, bright market that that they are a sectarian, and a loon of the first order’.

    I could just as easily quote Bill McKibben or Francis Fukuyama, whose books and lectures argue that Ray’s version of the future should not happen. I could refer to Rodney Brooks’ argument that it will not happen as quickly as Kurzweil expects, and I could refer to John Searle, who believes it cannot happen, period.

    I could do that, because my research is based not on the opinions of one person, or even one group, but on every side of the discussion over NBIC technologies. And, no, it is not a pen. It stands for Nanotech, Biotech,Informationtech and Cognitive sciences.

    ‘Uh, right! “Inevitable” was what Lenin and Stalin always said, tool.’

    But I A) do not believe it is inevitable and B) do not believe nanosystems, artificial general intelligence and the ability to prevent aging will be available in 30 years. These things would require a great many scientific breakthroughs that are yet to be made. Whereas Kurzweil paints the future as if it were one path leading straight to his visions, I see it as a messy tangle of many paths, some of which may indeed take us to the goal in a surprisingly short time, but others that may take us to dead ends, or on long detours. I do not know if we can achieve these things in decades, centuries, or millenia, or at all. I only know that the insentives for carrying on, regardless of how many times we fail, are many.

    It was not the ‘inevitable within 30 years time!’ that struck me, but rather ‘thousands of little steps. Each little step is conservative, not radical, and makes perfect sense. Each one is just the next generation of some company’s products.’

    ‘What you have to do, however, is at each little step, like right here on Gwyn’s blog, is resist, resist, resist. Because it’s not good, and it is not right. It is not with consent, and it is not democratic. It is not free, and it is not fair.’

    Resist what? Resist the introduction of super-smart self replicating nanoscale robots that can read and control your mind? Well, yes, everybody agrees with that. But resist any and all research that potentially could lead to super-smart self replicating nanoscale robots that can read and control your mind? That would mean saying ‘no, no, no’ whenever a shampoo company improves its product, since chemistry is one of the fields related to nanotechnology, and this tiny, conservative step improving hair care products may be one of a great many in a web of cause and effect that ends up with the nanobots.

    I know it sounds silly, but so does linking sailboats with the atomic bomb. But, sailboats lead to trade routes back and forth across the oceans. This encouraged the invention of the compass. The compass’s inability to reliably point North encourged investigations into magnetism, which lead to the disovery of electromagnetism. Studies into how electromagnetism might be partly responsible for cloud formation lead to the invention of cloud chambers, and the realisation that it was possible to observe an atom being split. Thus, the cloud chamber was recognised by Rutherford to be crucial in helping scientists at Los Alomos to create the first atomic weapon.

    This web of cause-and-effect linking galleons in the age of Sir Walter Raleigh to the nuclear weapons of the 20th century is only aparrent with 20/20 hindsight. It is profoundly more difficult to forsee whether or not some sensible, conservative step in improving a harmless product today could one day lead to incredibly dangerous technologies in the future.

    ‘Try to stay out of her nanotechnology empire just as long as you can! You’re our only hope!’

    Same problem. You might expect that a dramatic effect requires a dramatic cause, but more often than not the most dramatic of technologies resulted from mundane causes. For instance, we found that certain electrical switches can turn one another on and off, and that they can be made very small. And, we discovered that, since molds and bacteria compete for foods, some molds evolved poisons that kill bacteria.

    The dramatic effect that resulted from the latter discovery was the invention of penicillin, and the saving of millions of lives. The former resulted in the invention of computers, a technology whose dramatic effects (positive and negative) are too great to list.

    So, again, which of the undramatic, mundane R+D being conducted in labs all over the world are you going to fight tooth and claw against? All of it?

    ‘Do you ever talk like a normal person, Extropia, or do you just printout and feed and excerpt Wikipedia?’.

    That quote did not come from wikipedia. It came from an article in the New York Times.

    Go get any book that is not a work of fiction. It is almost inevitable that, at the back, you will find pages and pages of references crediting the work of other people that the author used in order to write the book. No idea, no invention, was ever conjoured out of nothing. They all took various materials, various ideas that already existed, reshaping and combining them to make new ideas, new products.

    Some people might like to pretend that an idea is all their own. Do not believe it. We all see further by standing on the shoulders of giants (see, now I am referencing Newton).

  • Extropia DaSilva

    There is a metaphorical image I like to use, and I call it Technological Mount Improbable. The technologies in daily use represents base camp, and the summit is wild, futuristic stuff like mind uploading, nanosystems, smarter-than-human AI, things like that.

    It would appear to be a bit of a no-brainer to argue that we COULD NOT, or SHOULD NOT climb all the way to the summit. The argument that we could not climb up there is based on the observation that it is just way too infeasible. It is all just science fiction, and only dreamy airheads like myself think otherwise.

    On the otherhand, the naysayers may grudgingly admit that some technologies which were dismissed as impossible (such as airplanes, moon landings and global telecommunications) turned out to be quite feasible. But the technologies at the summit, why, they would mess with our notion of what it is to be human! They would tear up the very foundations upon which our assumptions of life, society and reality have stood for countless centuries!! We would be mad to unleash such profoundly transformative technologies!!! Obviously, we should not try and climb up to where the wild things are.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    It sees us making a leap straight from ‘base camp’ right up to the summit of technological mount improbable. In practical terms, that means somehow unleashing technologies like mind uploading and super-smart machines on today’s unprepared society. We rarely, if ever, make leaps as gigantic as that.

    Instead, remember Kurzweil’s little steps. Thousands of products advance a little way up the mountain. Nothing to worry about, or even notice. It is just technologies very much like those we use every day, only slightly improved, slightly more capable, able to do a bit more. Those technologies then make another conservative step, and another, and another…

    With each little step, the climb upwards gets increasingly steeper. However, it turns out that the knowledge and technology we have accumulated on our way up acts as mountaineering equipment of increasing capability. So, the next step always seems as little as the last. Think about it. Imagine trying to build Second Life using the technologies of the 1980s. It would be impossible. But with the technologies of 2009? Not much problem at all!

    Some of the paths begin to converge, as we combine technologies into one product able to do more than the sum of its parts. We might combine sat-navs, cellular phones, wireless broadband internet access, software like Google Earth and OpenSim to create a whole range of new possibilities. But we are not thrown into future shock over this. We are used to Google Earth, 3G cellular phones with web access, etc etc. These mashups are not that transformative really…

    We might ocasionally think way back to the past, when owning a brick-like mobile phone marked you down as a member of the power elite, when a 10 megabyte hard drive cost $2,0000, and when Second Life was pure science fiction. We might remember the anxieties raised over technologies that, really, were not even half as powerful as this neat gadget we all carry in our pockets. Ho hum, those people were just too pessimistic…

    And that is what society will think when we take the relatively conservative step up to the summit. What we will find there will not seem like impossibly futuristic, absurdly transformative technologies. It will be just the next-generation in companies’ products. As we climb, making tens of thousands of cummulative, convergent steps, technologies that have nothing to do with mind uploading (etc) will become technologies with some very vague connection to it which you probably would miss unless you can really join the dots, and they will become technologies slightly less indirectly linked to it, and they will become technologies directly linked to it.

    For the people at the summit, giving mind uploading a go will be about as dramatic as deciding to upload your CD collection to your ipod, and super-smart robots will be about as dramatic as getting into a car and going for a drive.

  • Anna Gulaev

    It took radio 38 years to reach a *market audience* of 50 million, not a cumulative audience. By comparison, Second Life has a market audience of a fraction of a million (people who actually use it) after six years of operation.

    Second Life would be doing a whole lot better if it had radio’s retention rate.