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STANFORD UNIVERSITY - Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor,
software developer and futurist, will present his work on "the law of
accelerating returns" and debate its merits with biologist Michael Denton
and innovation theorist Ilkka Tuomi to kick off a weekend conference devoted
to rigorous examination of the apparent acceleration of technology's
development, and the way it affects the human world.
"Accelerating Change '03," organized by the Institute for Accelerating Change (IAC), will be held at Stanford University's Tresidder Union, September 12-14. Twenty-four prominent thinkers will offer their insights from across a broad spectrum of cutting edge disciplines, such as biological computing, nanotechnology, interface design, cosmology, and futurism.
Is technological acceleration a hidden law of nature? Is Kurzweil on to the ultimate "next big thing"? Is there a trend, as he believes, of increasing technological acceleration that leads to a "singularity" - a change so great that it can't be understood before it occurs?
His data shows that many trends in technology's development have accelerated independent of economic conditions, marching to their own increasing efficiencies, and periodically taking us into an "exponential economy." But can this be extrapolated to all computational systems?
After his presentation, Kurzweil will debate Michael Denton, noted post-Darwinian biologist and Platonist ("Protein Folds as Platonic Forms," J. Theoretical Bio, 2002), who proposes that our living proteins have unique emergent properties that will not easily, or perhaps ever, be modeled by technological systems. Denton thus asks whether there is something "vital" to biological systems that must remain inaccessible to technology.
Kurzweil will then debate Ilkka Tuomi, noted technology scholar and critic of Moore's Law (the apparent doubling of computer power every 18-24 months). Tuomi contends that Moore's famous "law" has been subject to both cultural overstatements and bad data. He proposes that processor innovation is not supply driven, but results from the paradoxical fact that the users of information technology have been able to innovate new social uses for semiconductors faster than engineers have been able to develop improved technology. Tuomi sees the potential for stunning productivity increases through the intelligent use of technology, but argues that the future of semiconductors is finally determined by social innovation.
An additional controversy of technological acceleration is whether tomorrow's technology will be increasingly more "autonomous"? That is, will it be more self-repairing, self-adapting, and self-governing?
John Koza (Genetic Programming IV: Human-Competitive Machine Intelligence, 2003), another distinguished speaker at the event, will present the latest evidence for self-organizing machine intelligence, and the increasing number of areas where it matches or outcompetes biological intelligence.
"We are organizing 'Accelerating Change '03' to create broader awareness of the way 'offspring' of complex systems always seem to accelerate over time," says John Smart, President of IAC, the nonprofit organization behind the event. "Carl Sagan noted that replicating stars give rise to life-hospitable planets, which give rise to genetic evolution, which gives rise to cultural evolution, which gives rise to technological evolution, in a continual quickening process that is still unexplained by our physics textbooks. And now, systems that exceed even our own biologically-paced computation are pulling us toward an unknown future."
Smart continues, "Kurzweil is one of a growing number of ground-breaking theorists from a broad range of fields who have important things to say about the next 10 to 30 years. Even with many of the dot coms gone, the economy and culture remain permanently on a new, faster 'internet time.' To engineer sustained economic recovery, we must learn how to guide accelerating change. It is our organization's view that a multidisciplinary, big picture, and long range view is necessary to really answer this question, which is the reason for creating our new forum."
Information about the conference and IAC is available at http://www.accelerating.org/.
Reprinted with premission.
Copyright The Institute for Accelerating Change (IAC).
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