NEWS: Technological Acceleration - A Hidden Law of Nature?

From: Tyler Emerson (
Date: Thu Aug 21 2003 - 13:10:24 MDT


CONTACT: Tom Bresnahan, Public Relations
Institute for Accelerating Change
310-398-1934, tombrez(at)


Technologist and Singularity Researcher Kurzweil to Debate Vitalist Denton
and Techno-Philosopher Tuomi at "Accelerating Change Conference"

STANFORD UNIVERSITY (August 15, 2003) - 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, nanotech, 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."

More information about the conference, including conference speakers, is
available at

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IAC is an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Los Angeles,
California. IAC's mission is to help individuals, business, and society
examine the potential risks and benefits of the accelerating pace of change
through conferences, reading groups, publications, websites, and sense of
community. For more information about IAC and ACC2003, contact Tom
Bresnahan, Public Relations, (310) 398-1934, or tombrez(at)

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