Age of information
Greek & Latin
Mind & Brain
Science & Art
☞ A Box Of Stories
“The amount of data available to us is increasingly vast. In 2010 we played, swam, wallowed, and drowned in 1.2 zettabytes of the stuff, and in 2011 the volume is predicted to continue along its exponential growth curve to 1.8 zettabytes. (A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes; that’s a 1 with 21 zeros trailing behind it.) (…)
Big Data is about to get much, much bigger, as we enter an era in which digital data merges with biology. This synthesis of codes takes the abstract world of digits and brings it back into the physical world. We of course know quite a bit about how life is expressed—in the four letters of DNA, in more than 20 amino acids, in thousands of proteins. (…)
In this new era—the transition from digital code to digital-plus-life code—the capacity to generate data exceeds our capacity to store and process it. In fact, life code is accumulating at a rate 50 percent faster than Moore’s Law, it at least doubles every 12 months. Without extraordinary advances in data storage, transmission and analysis, within the next five years we may simply be unable to keep up. (…)
Programmable cell platforms are like computer chips. They could eventually be designed to help create or do anything, if you figure out the right code for what you wish to make. (…)
Life programming may also solve the problem of how to store gargantuan data sets. All digital data can be coded into life-forms, and all life-forms can be coded as digital data. In theory, this means you could eventually store, and copy, all the words and images from every issue of the New York Times in the gene code of a few bacteria.”
Technology is the real skin of our species. Humanity, correctly seen in the context of the last five hundred years, is an extruder of technological material. We take in matter that has a low degree of organization; we put it through mental filters, and we extrude jewelry, gospels, space shuttles. This is what we do. We are like coral animals embedded in a technological reef of extruded psychic objects."
“Computer scientist Danny Hillis once remarked, “Global consciousness is that thing responsible for deciding that pots containing decaffeinated coffee should be orange.” (…)
The web is a perfect example of what engineer and early computer scientist Vannevar Bush called “intelligence augmentation” by computers, in his 1945 article “As We May Think” in The Atlantic. He described a future in which human ability to follow an associative knowledge trail would be enabled by a device he called “the memex”. This would improve on human memory in the precision of its recall. Google is today’s ultimate memex. (…)
This is man-computer symbiosis at its best, where the computer program learns from the activity of human teachers, and its sensors notice and remember things the humans themselves would not. This is the future: massive amounts of data created by people, stored in cloud applications that use smart algorithms to extract meaning from it, feeding back results to those people on mobile devices, gradually giving way to applications that emulate what they have learned from the feedback loops between those people and their devices.” ”
“After a couple years at Facebook, Jeff Hammerbacher grew restless. He figured that much of the groundbreaking computer science had been done. Something else gnawed at him. Hammerbacher looked around Silicon Valley at companies like his own, Google (GOOG), and Twitter, and saw his peers wasting their talents. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he says. “That sucks.” (…)
"Any generation of smart people will be drawn to where the money is, and right now it’s the ad generation," says Steve Perlman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once sold WebTV to Microsoft for $425 million and is now running OnLive, an online video game service. ” (…)
Hammerbacher: “If instead of pointing their incredible infrastructure at making people click on ads,” he likes to ask, “they pointed it at great unsolved problems in science, how would the world be different today?”
Steven Pinker: “Probably not much. (…) In terms of strict biological evolution, it’s impossible to know where, if anywhere, our species is going. Natural selection generally takes hundreds of thousands of years to do anything interesting, and we don’t know what our situation will be like in ten thousand or even one thousand years. Also, selection adapts organism to a niche, usually a local environment, and the human species moves all over the place and lurches from life style to life style with dizzying speed on the evolutionary timetable. Revolutions in human life like the agricultural, industrial, and information revolutions occur so quickly that no one can predict whether the change they will have on our makeup, or even whether there will be a change.
The Internet does create a kind of supra-human intelligence, in which everyone on the planet can exchange information rapidly, a bit like the way different parts of a single brain can exchange information. This is not a new process; it’s been happening since we evolved language. Even non-industrial hunter-gatherer tribes pool information by the use of language. (…)
That has given them remarkable local technologies—ways of trapping animals, using poisons, chemically treating plant foods to remove the bitter toxins, and so on. That is also a collective intelligence that comes from accumulating discoveries over generations, and pooling them amongst a group of people living at one time. Everything that’s happened since, such as writing, the printing press, and now the Internet, are ways of magnifying something that our species already knew how to do, which is to pool expertise by communication. Language was the real innovation in our biological evolution; everything since has just made our words travel farther or last longer.”
"As fast as we remake our tools, we remake ourselves. We are co-evolving with our technology, and so we have become deeply dependent on it. (…)
Our human nature itself is a malleable crop that we planted 50,000 years ago and continue to garden even today. (…)
Homo sapiens is a tendency, not an entity. Humanity is a process. Always was, always will be. Every living organism is on its way to becoming. (…) The technium and its constituent technologies are more like a grand process than a grand artifact. Nothing is complete, all is in flux, and the only thing that counts is the direction of movement. (…)
Technologies are like organisms that require a sequence of developments to reach a particular stage. Inventions follow this uniform developmental sequence in every civilization and society, independent of human genius. You can’t effectively jump ahead when you want to. But when the web of supporting technological species are in place, an invention will erupt with such urgency that it will occur to many people at once. The progression of inventions is in many ways the march toward forms dictated by physics and chemistry in a sequence determined by the rules of complexity. We might call this technology’s imperative.”
“The fashionable ideology that “artificial” lacks the inherent goodness of “natural” is an appealing, but hopelessly simplistic notion of the intellectually chic. Artifice is the result of a deliberate intent to make. Nature also “makes” things, using a set of basic building blocks common throughout the universe. Exchanging infinite time for deliberate design, nature has ingeniously built plants, planets, galaxies and unimaginable constructs which seem to structure the univers itself.
What we call “natural” is simply the result of whatever set of rules nature has followed in fashioning our observable reality. On planet Earth, nature has manipulated the common elements to fashion everything from bacteria to the molten core of the planet.
Discoveries in the “nano” technologies of bio, molecural and micro engineering will re-edit the nomenclature of “natural” versus “unnatural”, blurring if not erasing the line of distinction between “machine” and “organism”, “natural” and “unnatural”, “God-given” and “man made”.”