Chips, synchronicity and what is coming into being


Here is more thought about Cuddly interface from eClub advisor Steve Rosberg from Argentina. Its interesting to see how these thoughts affect everyone as we have this last week heard from advisors in New Zealand, Switzerland and now South America. We truly live in a global community.

Gary

Chips, synchronicity and what is coming into being.

In these past few months I have been working hard to develop my consultancy in offshore financial and fiduciary services and also several investment products. It is a process that requires a very precise and clear focus. This is achieved by repeated cycles of research, sifting and selecting through mountains of information, thought and discussion, which in turn means long hours, many in front of a computer screen.

It recently crossed my mind that soon we will not have computers. I beg your pardon? Exactly that, no more screens, keyboards, wires, or at least not at the level of dependence we have today. Why? Because it is not practical and we humans are much better at expressing our ideas and emotions without a keyboard, at reading from paper rather than screens that burn our eyes, and so on and on. As I believe that research in applied technology tends to follow the path pointed out by unsatisfied needs, the implication is that all the computing power we need will be in the appliances themselves.

I mentioned this "end of the computer as we know it" to some friends and family. All of them smiled politely as if I were nuts and not to be provoked. Well, some were somewhat more vocal, but that's beside the point.

Soon after that, I traveled to Copenhagen to participate in the Jyske Bank seminar (check out http://www.garyascott.com/courses/ for more info on their upcoming seminar in October in Zurich). At the seminar I heard a brilliant presentation by Ian Pierson, a "futurist" working for British Telecom. He suggested we refrain from buying computer company stocks, for "boxes" (i.e. computers as we know them today) are on the way out. Wonderful! A "brain" had validated my intuition!

But then came the other insights. Technological innovation would go to an extreme to render homo economicus quite uneconomicus. Tech would run everything automatically everywhere, even tech design, thus bringing about its own evolution! What woud humans be for?

At this point in the conference I was reminded of a science fiction book I had read recently Robert Sawyer's "Factoring Humanity", which among many other interesting concepts suggested the dangers of a silicon based intelligence suffocating a carbon based biology.

Or would this life become some virtual reality nightmare as depicted in the movie "Matrix"?

In any case, "progress" to the extent described by Ian would render man quite useless except (perhaps . . .) as a particle of creation dedicated to contemplating creation more and more passively. The continuity of mankind, in this scenario, is ultimately vulnerable to a computer virus or any other disruption that shuts down the machines (not to speak of the atrophy on unused functions). This seems to be a substantially more probable short term occurrence than collision with another celestial body, or burnout of the Sun, which are at present the only two major threats (other than ourselves) to our species.

But not all is so terrifying. On the way to Copenhagen I stopped in London. I found an excellent magazine, Prospect, with many intelligent, provocative and well written articles, no mean feat in this day and age. The article that comes to mind is called "Familiar Future", by Stephen Pinker. You can read it in full – and I strongly suggest you do – at http://www.techreview.com/articles/may00/viewpoint.htm of the MIT Technology review.

The last paragraph states that "Third-millennium futurologists should realize that their fantasies are scaring people to death. The preposterous world in which we interact only in cyberspace, choose the endings of our novels, merge with our computers and design our children from a catalogue gives people the creeps and turns them off to the genuine promise of technological progress. The constancy of human nature is our reassurance that the world we leave to our descendants will be one in which scientific progress leads to delight rather than boredom, in which our best art and literature continues to be appreciated, and in which technology will enrich rather than dominate human lives."

In any case, my own little futurology prediction is that in the coming months we will see an abundance of publications on this topic, promoting the discussion on the practicality and the ethics of the growing intimacy of integration between computers and our daily lives. Prepare to see bookshelves filled with provocative or repetitive material focusing on this. I am of the opinion that all those books will be taking positions along any of the lines mentioned in this article.

Seize the day and rejoice!

Steve Rosberg


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