Monday, November 28, 2016

Technology: The Great Bushwhacker

If anything is clear about the 2016 presidential election it is the failure of the establishment media to push their favored candidate into the White House.  How did this happen?  A nearly-ubiquitous force known as the Web riding on the quietly-soaring Pegasus of technology As Gary North wrote in 2013,
What is going to shape the thinking of the American electorate is access to the Web, which enables people to read in-depth stories that interest them, and which interest people of similar perspectives. The social media will determine which news stories are read, not a handful of news screeners at the four major television networks. . . .
The Left is blaming Facebook in 2016.  But where did Facebook come from?  

Moore's Law bushwhacked the election.  It is bushwhacking almost everything.

Technology is poised to redefine life-as-we-know-it, including government.   There are numerous books that advance this outlook in great detail, among which are  Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, and Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves And putting technology in an economics context, Human Action: Scholar’s Edition 

There are many high-IQ people who talk about the future as if technology were an irrelevant consideration.  Political commentators especially have been speculating on presidential candidates for 2020 and 2024, as if the world will be essentially the same then as it is now in late 2016.  Have they forgotten how technology helped an underdog get elected in 1960?  Have they not seen Wag the Dog?

If anything is certain about the future it is the continuing decentralization of political power along with the technological empowerment of the individual.  It's possible government will suffer the same fate as landlines -- still around but headed for extinction.

Technological change is coming at us in ways that resonate with science fantasy and at an increasingly rapid pace, and nothing short of a global disaster will stop it.    

In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, published a paper in which he noted that the number of components on an integrated circuit doubled every year.  Since the cost of the integrated circuit would remain roughly constant, we would get twice the speed and twice the circuitry at the same price.  Though later revised to every two years, Moore’s prediction has proven to be remarkably accurate and is known eponymously as Moore’s Law.  Ray Kurzweil, futurist, inventor, and head of engineering at Google, gives us a sense of what this means:
When I was an undergraduate [in the late 1960s] we all shared a computer at MIT that took up half a building.  The computer in your cell phone is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful.  That’s a billion-fold increase in price/performance of computing since I was an undergraduate.  
Moore's Law will bow to another

Many observers predict Moore’s Law will end within the next few years, and with it we’ll see tech development slow from a sprint to a walk.  But as Kurzweil frequently points out, Moore’s Law is not the first but the fifth paradigm to provide exponential growth of computing.  Whenever one paradigm runs out of gas another one has been developing in the wings ready to continue the exponential.  In his words:
Computing devices have been consistently multiplying in power (per unit of time) from the mechanical calculating devices used in the 1890 U.S. Census, to Turing’s relay-based “Robinson” machine that cracked the Nazi enigma code, to the CBS vacuum tube computer that predicted the election of Eisenhower, to the transistor-based machines used in the first space launches, to the integrated-circuit-based personal computer which I used to dictate (and automatically transcribe) this essay.
He thinks the sixth paradigm of computing will be modeled on the structure of the human brain:
Chips today are flat (although it does require up to 20 layers of material to produce one layer of circuitry). Our brain, in contrast, is organized in three dimensions. We live in a three dimensional world, why not use the third dimension? The human brain actually uses a very inefficient electrochemical digital controlled analog computational process. The bulk of the calculations are done in the interneuronal connections at a speed of only about 200 calculations per second (in each connection), which is about ten million times slower than contemporary electronic circuits. But the brain gains its prodigious powers from its extremely parallel organization in three dimensions.  
There are many technologies in the wings that build circuitry in three dimensions. Nanotubes, for example, which are already working in laboratories, build circuits from pentagonal arrays of carbon atoms. One cubic inch of nanotube circuitry would be a million times more powerful than the human brain. There are more than enough new computing technologies now being researched, including three-dimensional silicon chips, optical computing, crystalline computing, DNA computing, and quantum computing, to keep the law of accelerating returns as applied to computation going for a long time.
In an interview with K. Eric Drexler, the founding father of nanotechnology, Kurzweil asked what sorts of things will emerge from nanotechnological engineering in the years ahead.
Kurzweil: One thing we can build today is very powerful computers.  What kind of computers can we build with nanotechnology?
Drexler: There’s a very conservative design for computational systems that can be the basis for computers that are comparable in power to modern CPUs but occupy approximately one cubic micron.  
And putting the power of a modern-day CPU into a cubic micron lets you deliver that kind of computational power in a volume that’s about 1/1,000th that of one of the cells in your body.  
I think that says something about the kinds of tools that will be available for biomedical instrumentation and intervention in the future.
By controlling the structure of matter at an atomic level, nanotechnology will also launch a revolution in manufacturing, including factories on a desktop.
Drexler:  Nanotechnology will provide a basis for taking everyone in the world — including people who are dirt-poor today — and providing them with a standard of living that’s far beyond the developed world today, and with less ecological impact. . . .
The greatest difficulty I see in developing advanced nanotechnologies is more cultural than scientific or technological.  We need a new field of engineering . . . .  
Scientists are used to working in small teams exploring new frontiers.  Engineers, to build large systems, work in larger teams and seek their challenges in taking known components and building new systems.   
Having a culture of systems engineering developing nanoscale technology is one of the greatest challenges we have today.  
Moore’s Law will stall, but the exponential progression of technology will continue as long as civilization survives.
Incorporate technology into your thinking, and keep this chart in mind, one of many in The Singularity is Near.  

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