Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Technium is getting more interesting

Way back here I was critical of Kevin Kelly's Technium concept.

Okay, so I am not going to retract those comments but it is time to amend them.
Kelly continues to work on the idea and it is getting more interesting as he add addition concepts.
You can listen to the talk with the link below or if you go to the Long Now you can watch it on the web.

So these are the big new addition to the Technium concept.

1) Big math of “zillionics” ---beyond yotta (10 to the 24th) to, some say, “lotta” and “hella.”
Basically Kelly's point is that we do not have words in the language for the numbers that digital technology is generating - global digital memory capacity, web scale etc.

2) New economics of the massive one-big-market, capable of surprise flash crashes and imperceptible tectonic shifts. 
The more autonomous, the more that either the machines will make unexpected choices or individuals will work out ways of gaming the system. Kelly claims in the talk that nobody knows the cause of the flash crash. However, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of the U.S. claims that a single individual was significantly responsible. Link.

3) New biology of our superorganism with its own large phobias, compulsions, and oscillations. 
With new organisms come new illnesses. Look at the problems viruses can cause or cyber attacks. Perhaps Kelly goes to far, but he could be right. It is certainly an interesting thought experiment to seethe global economy from this perspective - new strengths and new vulnerabilities. We think we know what the economy is but perhaps alongside the World Bank, we need a World Economic Health Organisation.

4) New minds, which will emerge from a proliferation of auto-enhancing AI’s that augment rather than replace human intelligence. 
Kelly nicely makes a case for weak AI and against strong AI. But even weak AI will drive change  which we can't imagine.

5) New governance. One world government is inevitable. Some of it will be non-democratic—”I don’t get to vote who’s on the World Bank.“ To deal with planet-scale issues like geoengineering and climate change, “we will have to work through the recursive dilemma of who decides who decides?” We have no rules for cyberwar yet. We have no backup to the Internet yet, and it needs an immune system.
Big thinking, and we are falling further and further behind where the technology is.

What I like about this talk is not the details, its the the big thinking, it is a few sketches on a napkin but industry, government and academics are limited by their institutional histories. Only someone of Kelly's statute can get a conversation like this going. 

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