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The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 10:06 AM   #1
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The age of smart machines?

There is an interesting debate about the future workforce going on at Cato Unbound. What I found most interesting was a respondent's assertion that we are approaching the "age of smart machines," a transformation that will dwarf the industrial revolution in terms of speed and impact. Ray Kurzweil goes even further in his recent book The Singularity is Near, predicting a coming explosion driven by nanotech, health sciences, quantum computing, et al.

Over the past decade, I was always fairly skeptical about the speed of change ushered in by "Internet Time." It struck me that things were progressing but at a more measured pace. Many technological "revolutions" predicted to be months or scant years away seemed too complicated to happen quite so fast and, in fact, took years to come to fruition. The dot com implosion is often faulted for slowing down the inevitable progress,but may actually have simply represented a realization that stuff takes time.

At any rate, to get to the point, despite my skepticism about "Internet Speed," I share the enthusiasm that we are approaching a technological tipping point that will lead to a transformative explosion. I would love to see it in my life-time but I worry that it won't really get rolling for another thirty years or so. If so, I may catch the first glimmers just before I croak, but I probably won't get to see the wild times.

What say you? Are we approaching a tipping point? Several decades away? Ain't gonna happen?
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 10:22 AM   #2
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Re: The age of smart machines?

As soon as we're all using those flying cars we were supposed to have 6 years ago, i'll have a better feel for the timing of futurists predictions.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 10:24 AM   #3
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Who says we don't have flying cars...
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 10:26 AM   #4
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HFWR
Who says we don't have flying cars...
You have to remember CFB has a few years to go before his kid becomes a teenage driver.

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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 10:27 AM   #5
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Re: The age of smart machines?

CFB's not that far away from the time when he made some cars fly...

I *was* issued company cars and a lot of business rental cars after all. Did you know that all chevy and chrysler sedans come with four wheel drive and offroad tires? Neither did I until the early 1980's.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 11:16 AM   #6
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Re: The age of smart machines?

To respond to the topic at hand:

Change is incremental. We've been seeing a technological revolution for the last few decades or more. I don't think there will be a "tipping point", but instead a gradual increase in technical sophistication over time. I'm sure in a few decades we will wonder how life was able to carry on with the technologically outdated devices of 2006.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 11:48 AM   #7
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by justin
To respond to the topic at hand:

Change is incremental. We've been seeing a technological revolution for the last few decades or more. I don't think there will be a "tipping point", but instead a gradual increase in technical sophistication over time. I'm sure in a few decades we will wonder how life was able to carry on with the technologically outdated devices of 2006.
That sounds right. While I agree there is a ton of cool stuff always under development, it takes time for it to merge into practical use and the realization that a revolution is going is less dramatic. My oldest son was being tutored in physics by a local grad student who is working as part of a team developing nanotechnology - liquids and "dry" materials. These guys are working on "Star Trek" stuff - like materials that make Kevlar look like tissue paper, or subatomic "machines" that replicate themselves, or particles that can "slip through" the cell structure of our bodies to deliver drugs directly to cancer cells (and leave everything else alone). Their website has links to all of the businesses that were created or have benefited from the practical applications this group has come up with.

We are way on the other side of a lot of practical applications of techology, and unless we stop and think about it we don't realize it. I didn't realize how well my employer used computers and other electronic productivity tools until I got assigned to one of the three letter federal agencies. They were still using typewriters and carbon paper in the late 1990's. I was looking for the database to help me manage my budget and I'm told that I have to go "upstairs and see Jane" so she can open her ledger book and give me a rough estimate of how much money I had three weeks ago.

Flying cars will be a flashy innovation - but within two weeks the news will be full of stories about the horrible aerial traffic jams, how flying car mechanics rip off consumers and the high price of flying car fuel.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 12:07 PM   #8
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Did you hear about the product being developed that will make objects nearly invisible? Light will flow around and object like water:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5016068.stm

Once they get the price per gallon down, I'll be painting my neighbors house and cars in the middle of the night!
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 12:11 PM   #9
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Re: The age of smart machines?

I love all this nerd talk. You guys are so hot!
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 12:26 PM   #10
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Don't make me whip out my slide rule...
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
Once they get the price per gallon down, I'll be painting my neighbors house and cars in the middle of the night!
Good luck finding your paintbrush after it becomes invisible.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 12:35 PM   #12
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Leonidas got it.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 03:41 PM   #13
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonidas
Flying cars will be a flashy innovation - but within two weeks the news will be full of stories about the horrible aerial traffic jams, how flying car mechanics rip off consumers and the high price of flying car fuel.
The heck with nanotech.

Nuclear technology has been around for what, 60 years now?

Before we all start playing with our Bucky balls, can someone tell me when electricity will be "too cheap to meter"?
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 03:51 PM   #14
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
The heck with nanotech.

Nuclear technology has been around for what, 60 years now?

Before we all start playing with our Bucky balls, can someone tell me when electricity will be "too cheap to meter"?
Only after we've cleaned out a lot of folks' anxiety closets. Too many folks obsessing over Three Mile Island and Jane Fonda's China Syndrome. And who can forget the Clowns that melted down Chernobyl? Too many people expect change to be peaceful, positive, stress-free and without danger. That ain't happening.

Of course, my best bud from HS went on to become an engineer whose first job was working for a company that did some design work on (one of) the last nukes built in the US. He went on site for a few months and he came back full of stories about his first construction experience. He swore he would never live within a 100 miles of one of "those damn things."

Glad to see you are up to date and knew about "buckminsterfullerines". You may find some satisfaction in the fact that there is something of a small, but raging, debate on the ethics of nanotech. Apparently the danger of "weaponization" of the technology scares the crap out of some of the nerds.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 04:27 PM   #15
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leonidas
You may find some satisfaction in the fact that there is something of a small, but raging, debate on the ethics of nanotech.* Apparently the danger of "weaponization" of the technology scares the crap out of some of the nerds.
It scares the crap outta Michael Crichton, too, but I'd love to see what Stephen King could do with it!
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 06:30 PM   #16
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Re: The age of smart machines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by donheff
There is an interesting debate about the future workforce going on at Cato Unbound. What I found most interesting was a respondent's assertion that we are approaching the "age of smart machines," a transformation that will dwarf the industrial revolution in terms of speed and impact. Ray Kurzweil goes even further in his recent book The Singularity is Near, predicting a coming explosion driven by nanotech, health sciences, quantum computing, et al.

Over the past decade, I was always fairly skeptical about the speed of change ushered in by "Internet Time." It struck me that things were progressing but at a more measured pace. Many technological "revolutions" predicted to be months or scant years away seemed too complicated to happen quite so fast and, in fact, took years to come to fruition. The dot com implosion is often faulted for slowing down the inevitable progress,but may actually have simply represented a realization that stuff takes time.

At any rate, to get to the point, despite my skepticism about "Internet Speed," I share the enthusiasm that we are approaching a technological tipping point that will lead to a transformative explosion. I would love to see it in my life-time but I worry that it won't really get rolling for another thirty years or so. If so, I may catch the first glimmers just before I croak, but I probably won't get to see the wild times.

What say you? Are we approaching a tipping point? Several decades away? Ain't gonna happen?
The key point that most posters are missing is the "intellegent machine", when AI = human intellegence how long till its 2x human intellegence? When that happens the singularity occurs. The point at which normal humans can no longer understand what is happening. When we are obsolete. Most place the singularity at about 2030 given the improvements in computing power and the assumed power of the human brain. If true most of us here will not have to worry about retiring. It will cease to have meaning.
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Re: The age of smart machines?
Old 06-07-2006, 08:22 PM   #17
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Re: The age of smart machines?

you mean we finally get to simply trade in seashells?

during high school my parents moved us to st. croix, usvi. two things from that time amazed me then and still stick in my mind. first was watching the flintstones in spanish.

the other was watching the vietnam war on television. i was 15 or 16 & i remember how i couldn't understand how it was that we had the technology to bring that war onto the tv set in our living room yet we didn't know how to stop it.

so i'm not so sure i'm all that impressed with the age of smart machines. i think i'll just sleep through that tipping point. but should we ever advance to the age of the wise humans, please, someone, send a nanobot in to wake me.
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