Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years -- by Bruce Sterling

It has some good quotes:

  1. "Sterility is what people do need when they don't know what's happening on a microbial level." (page 9)
  2. "Children are in training for stable roles in large paternalistic bureaucracies. These enterprises no longer exist..." (page 41)
  3. "...all these waste gases in the atmosphere are adding about two and a half watts of captured energy for every square metere on the planet's surface... Two and a half watts is the energy in a burning birthday candle. A square meter is about the size of a tabletop. So just imagine our whole world paved in tabletops, from pole to pole, and every single one of those tabletops has a little birthday candle on it, burning constantly. That's what we've done to ourselves with the greenhouse effect." (page 278, but a brief look around the 'Net shows ~50W for a birthday candle and 1-2 W/m^2 for greenhouse additional trapped power)

Apparently the quote "Information wants to be free" comes from Stewart Brand. The intelligence of the full quote leaves the soundbit version nitpicking the details like a high school salutatorian:

"Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, 'intellectual property', the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better."
-- Stewart Brand at the first Hacker's Conference ca. 1985

Perhaps most shockingly, Sterling pronounces artificial intelligence dead. Given his status as a sci-fi author, it's like having a friend calling you to persuade you that this phone technology just isn't working out (page 58-59). Maybe we can rationalize that he meant the titular 50 years to be his Berlin Wall of definite demarcation.

We can squeeze meaning from Sterling's words bit for bit, but I much enjoyed chasing down the ideas that came to mind as one reads a book like this. Do you remember The Revolution will Not be Televised? Never mentioned, but demonstrably false given that a revolution like Khattab's will be dugg, wikipedia'd and the video saved forever.


"Perhaps most shockingly, Sterling pronounces artificial intelligence dead." - Actually, I pretty much agree. It's dead because it will never produce anything intelligent ("On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins convinced me on that one). However, it's still extremely useful.
That's going to get Clarke'd: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." -- Patrick.
Btw that was me, David W. I keep forgetting to sign my comments. Anyway, to clarify Hawkins says that the classical AI is broken not that we can't build intelligent machines. He thinks we can, and I agree with that too (yeah, I liked his book ;)). Classic AI uses human behavior as it's ultimate metric. The Turing test for example is focussed exclusively on externalities (is the output consistent with what a human would generate?). Hawkins, and before him Searle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Room), argue that intelligence cannot be measured by behavior alone. Sure, an intelligent machine might exhibit intelligent behavior, but it could just as well sit there contemplating something and never let us know about it. It would still be intelligent imo. So yeah, intelligent machines will happen, but I don't think the stuff we read in the AI text books will get us there. -- David W
Just noticed that externalities has a much more specific definition that I realized. Oh well, you get the idea I hope. -- David W