Re: Rate of change (was Re: 'a process of non-thinking called faith')

From: micah glasser (
Date: Thu Feb 16 2006 - 12:56:57 MST

Phil, I think it is important to look at the actual cause of technological
change and try to determine if those causes are themselves accelerating in
growth. Now of course this is controversial but I think that the cause of
technological acceleration is the growth of the number and dissemination of
ideas. The growth and dissemination of ideas corresponds directly to the
number of human minds and how well those human minds are interconnected via
communication. Science is a community effort and no one can deny that that
community has grown exponentially since its inception. The Internet is not
just an invention - it is an example of the dramatic evolution of
communication that has been taking place since the advent of language and it
continues to evolve at an exponential rate. This list is just one example of
what I am talking about. It is a simple enough technology but it is very
powerful in that it allows a large group of highly intelligent and educated
people to remain in continuous real time dialogue with an aim toward solving
a very complex and important problem. During the time period before the
advent of the Internet this would not be at all possible. The closest thing
would be snail mail but the list of people receiving mail would be far
smaller and the discussion would move far more slowly. Do you understand
what I'm saying? It's all about communication and IT - and the technologies
of communication and information tech are undoubtedly growing at an
exponential rate as is the sociological enterprise that we call Science.

On 2/16/06, Jeff Medina <> wrote:
> On 2/16/06, Philip Goetz <> wrote:
> > Here's a list for 1970-present:
> This list looks incredibly whittled down away from reality, Phil.
> You've left out so many great developments, and yet included nonsense
> like "McCarthyism" (you really can't think of equally significant
> instances of blacklisting BS pre-1934 and post-1970?) and "affordable
> air travel" (you really can't think of loads of great technologies
> that became affordable post-1970?) and postmodernism and
> psychoanalysis (both steps *backwards*, not progress) as significant
> in the pre-1970 list.
> Some examples that lead me to the view that your take on this is
> skewed follow, mostly inline with your list, but more in the areas I
> tend to know more about (list-creator bias, as elaborated on a bit
> later in this paragraph). Note that I have *not* done exhaustive
> research on overall technology acceleration/deceleration trends, and
> don't go touting my opinion in either direction. Really, my underlying
> point in responding is not that you're wrong, Phil (though I think you
> probably are); it's that technological, scientific, & cultural
> development has far too many data points for any list created by a
> single person to be useful for showing anything other than that
> person's background knowledge and biases, with some relatively
> negligible randomness injected for the genuine attempt at searching
> through history texts in attempts to create an unbiased list.
> And, further, why all the emphasis on whether or not technology *is*
> accelerating? If a person is enthusiastic about possible future
> technological developments, he or she should *work on or donate to or
> otherwise support* accelerating those developments whether or not the
> trend-without-your-contribution is accelerating or decelerating,
> instead of sitting around debating how fast the
> great-technology-they're-not-helping-advance is or isn't advancing,
> no?
> > Transportation: airline deregulation, Space Shuttle
> SpaceShipOne; automated ground vehicle transport (cf., DARPA Grand
> Challenge success); GPS and interactive, real-time map systems in cars
> for the public; commercially viable electric and hybrid cars
> > Theory: QED, nanotechnology, global warming
> Quantum computation theory; inflationary cosmology; quantum cosmology;
> Fermat's Last Theorem; the Standard Model of Physics (how'd you miss
> this? did you try at ALL to do anything other than validate your
> intuition? wtf?); high-temperature superconductivity; vulnerability of
> the ozone layer discovered; chaos & fractals; de Gennes' polymer &
> liquid crystal theory; SENS; WMAP & COBE; punctuated equilibrium;
> fluid mosaic model of the cell; RNA evolution; prions; proof of the
> Four Color Theorem; non-commutative geometry; polynomial time
> primality testing; Bierbach conjecture; classification of finite
> simple groups
> Also, you attribute string theory to pre-1970, but only the original
> notion was pre-1970 (1968, to be exact). The VAST majority of
> development & discovery in the field is post-1970. Supersymmetry,
> M-theory, D-branes, loop quantum gravity, superstring theory,
> gravitons, etc., are all post-1970.
> > Invented: high-temperature superconductors, smart materials, quantum
> wells
> Scanning tunnelling microscope; genetic algorithms; field-programmable
> gate arrays; object-oriented design patterns; silicon chips available
> for computer memory; Apple II & IBM PC; Compact Discs; viable
> human-interface silicon chip transponders (Warwick); first use of the
> laser in surgery; videophones; limited sight returned to the blind
> (and in general many brain-computer interface advancements); and
> saying "the Internet" is BS, like saying "physics" and thinking you've
> gone into enough detail -- there are many significant advances in
> internet technology worth enumerating based on the
> level-of-significance you've set down in your list by example; quantum
> computation implementations; DNA computing tech; Bose-Einstein
> condensate synthesized; Jeffreys' genetic fingerprinting.
> Discoveries of interstellar carbon monoxide and molecular hydrogen in
> space. Reverse transcriptase. Synthetic vitamin B-12. Non-aqueous
> enzyme function. First virus produced "from scratch". Dubnium,
> Seaborgium, Bohrium, Meitnerium, Hassium, Darmstadtium, Roentgenium,
> Ununbium, Ununquadium, Ununhexium.
> Microcomputers; RSA encryption; Boyer-Moore string search; Lempel-Ziv
> algorithms
> Simulated annealing; C and C++; Dynamic RAM; UNIX; e-mail; first
> portable electronic calculator; first computer with a parallel
> architecture;
> Vaccines for rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis B,
> flu (HiB), hepatitis A, lyme disease, rotavirus.
> First successful separation of occipital craniopagus twins; IVF
> pregnancy; artificial heart
> Ethernet; Heimlich maneuver; Scramjet; Gore-Tex; laserdisc; polymerase
> chain reaction; DVDs; iPod; digital satellite radio
> > Society: Iraq wars, Watergate, gay rights, end of cold war,
> globalization, AIDS
> The animal rights movement; fall of the Berlin wall / German
> re-unification; fall of the USSR; Hubble becomes operational; Milgram
> experiment; Godel Escher Bach; cyborg feminism; transhumanist movement
> (we remember that one, don't we?); Anarchy State and Utopia; and so
> very much else, but I'm off to do something more useful now.
> Best,
> --
> Jeff Medina
> Community Director
> Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
> Relationships & Community Fellow
> Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
> School of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

I swear upon the alter of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny
over the mind of man. - Thomas Jefferson

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