Saturday, December 12, 2009

Topic List

Computing, Information and the Future

Course Index and Calendar

M 8/24/09
. . .General course information
. . .Introductory meeting
. . .
Homework #1, due next class
W 8/26/09
. . .Trajectories of the future
. . .Homework #2, due in one week
M 8/31/09
. . . More on prediction
. . ."Did You Know?" video and discussion
. . .To prepare for next time: think of a question about the future. We will apply a Delphi method to it.
W 9/2/09
. . . Delphi Method
. . . Homework #3, due W 9/7/09

. . . To prepare for next time: HW 3 is due before class this time, so we can apply it in class.
W 9/9/09
. . . Delphi Method II
. . . Homework #4, due W 9/14/09 (soon - next class!)

M 9/14/09
. . . Updates on term project topics (self-driving cars)
. . . Prediction markets
. . . Homework #5, due Tues. 9/22/09.
W 9/16/09
. . . TRIZ introduction
M 9/21/09
. . . TRIZ cont.: 40 principles of technological advancement
. . . Homework #6, due Mon. 9/28/09.
W 9/23/09
. . . Finish TRIZ discussion
M 9/28/09
. . . Updates: some recent news related to your projects
. . . Spoil sports of the prediction game #1: the observer effect (ser. #1)
. . .
Homework #7, due Mon. 10/5/09.
W 9/30/09
. . . Preview:
. . . More spoil sports of the prediction game
M 10/5/09
. . . Movie discussion: Minority Report (ser. # 2)
. . . Homework #8, due in two days before class! (Question 1) and next Monday (Question 2)
W 10/7/09
. . . Movie discussion: Minority Report (ser. #4)
M 10/12/09
. . . Movie discussions: Ghost in the Shell
(ser. #4)
W 10/14/09
. . . Homework #9, due Wed. 10/21/09
. . . Movie discussions: Ghost in the Shell
(ser. #4)
M 10/19/09
. . . Movie discussion: Earth 2100 (ser. #4)
W 10/21/09
. . . Movie discussion II: Earth 2100

. . . Homework #10, due Wed. 10/28/09
M 10/26/09
. . . Trend analysis I
. . . Followup from last time: cans
. . . The weather: more spoil sports of the prediction game (butterfly effect & perturbations)
. . . Weather and climate simulation: are interventions even less reliable than predictions?
. . . Trend analysis II
W 10/28/08
. . . Homework #11, due Wed. 11/2/09
. . . Next time - robots! Let's look at one now...
. . . Spoil sports of prediction: existential angst
M 11/2/09
. . . Robotics I: AIShield, safeguarding humanity and the risks of AI/robotics
. . .
. . .
iRobot and the "Create" Robot
. . .
Some robot pics and videos
. . . Metrics for progress in robotics
W 11/4/09
. . . Homework #12, due W Nov. 11
. . . Trying out a robot (ser. #5)
M 11/9/09
. . . Robotics II: music and motion (ser. #5)
W 11/11/09
. . . Homework #13, due W Nov. 18
. . . Toxoplasmosis (see also
M 11/16/09
. . . Homework #14, due W Nov. 25 (ser. #6)
. . . Backup plan for homo sapiens: space adventure
W 11/18/09
. . . Michael (data markup; software demo part later) ser. #8
. . . Backup plan for homo sapiens: space adventure (cont.)
M 11/23/09
. . . Reuben (green energy) ser. #8
. . . Hubbert peak for oil
W 11/25/09
. . . Andrew (future of gaming, etc.)
. . . Jeremy (electronic medical records) ser. #8
M 11/30/09
. . . Last HW! finish project and hand in by next Monday (12/7): hard copy or email (not blog)
. . . Kevin (internet speeds and the future)
. . . Alternative energy: photovoltaics (solar cells) ser. #7
W 12/2/09
. . . Amber (technology and zombie acopolypses)
. . . Doug (technology and zombie acopolypses) ser. #8
M 12/7/09
. . . Tania (DNA databases and the future)
. . . Chris ("Touch the Future: A New Age of Digital Interaction.") ser. #8
W 12/9/09 (1:30-3:30 p.m.), scheduled final exam session
. . . this meeting will be for catching up on any missing HWs

Some rough notes on potential other discussion topics

Rough notes on possible class topics

Rough notes on possible other class topics follow

tentative . . . The human race against eternity . . . Robotics IIa: Turing test, Loebner prize . . . Energy futures/PV, Hubbert Peak... . . . singularity, AI singularity . . . brain scanning . . . life extension . . . more hot topics: nanotech, biotech (may take two sessions...) . . . future of energy: gas up now while you still can! Pointers: energy tech futures (will solar cells swamp the alternatives? - see Kurzweil's predictions from e.g. Singularity Summit 2009; Nemet's Beyond the Learning Curve: Factors Influenceing Cost Reductions in Photovoltaics. Energy Policy 34(2006): 3218-3232. Algae, corn, cellulosic ethanol, wind, oil, coal, nuclear, fusion, space solar, .... Energy economics e.g. Maximum Power: the Ideas and Applications of H. T. Odum, by Charles A. S. Hall, editor.)
. . . Update from HW 6:,,,,,,,,,,,, . . . Other updates:,,

Topics chosen by students to present (to be scheduled for 1/2 hour each; you may switch or modify your topic if you like)

lifetime prediction from nothing but current age.extraterestrial colonization (show book ahead of time?)

energy Hubber peak,

solar a la Kurzweil

How would things change if certain resoures were essentiall free? computers, energy, communication, bandwidth, education, land, transportation, food, free time, brain scanning (would we have our politicians submit to it?), DNA sequencing, robots,...what else?

  1. Cybernetics (Doug):,
  2. How long will Homo sapiens sapiens be the dominant species on planet Earth? (Chris)
  3. When will the broadband Internet speed/download speed offering reach 1 GBPS (gigabyte per second globally (i.e 51 to 49 % being dominant), where downloading a whole movie (approx 2 Gigs) would happen in 3 seconds at max? (Kevin):
  4. When will commercial airplanes will be ten time faster? (Zaher)
  5. Will Mac take control of the software market from Microsoft? (Amber)
  6. When will cars will be fully automated? (Jay)
  7. How long before the U.S. is more energy efficient in our homes regarding lighting? (Tara)
  8. What will the average human lifespan be in the US, in the year 2050? (Andrew):;
  9. DNA database(s) of the future (Tania)
  10. "Green energy" technologies (Reuben)
  11. Future markup for data (Michael)
Unit "Out of the mists: stories and accounts"

1. Myths, motifs (e.g. good vs. evil), creation myths, and destruction myths (Religious, techno, cosmological, what else?)

2. Legends, motifs - about the future (transhumanism*; Singularity, singularitarians, and singularitarianism)

3. Folklore, folk tales, motifs, "commercial folk tales" (popular books and movies) and their motifs, "all your base are belong to us"*. Movies suggested include

SETI: what is life; life as we know it; life as we can imagine it; life as we can't imagine it (souls, "energy fields," disembodied data patterns); precautionary principle and logic, Drake eq., Drake eq. 2.0; the search; HW: each student picks an extraterrestrial place (a moon, anything at all) & investigates it - what could live there? How could we colonize it?

  • S: Harry Potter, see draft posting
    Books suggested include:
    Edge of Eternity,
    The Future,
    Brave New World (2),
    1984 (2),
    Snow Crash,
    Count Zero,
    2001:50 (?),
    Slumdog Millionaire,
    Da Vinci Code,
    The Giver,
    Chrichton (Next, Prey, Timeline),
Sociopathism as a force in society; more generally, self-interest (see e.g. Diamond), Adam Smith's invisible hand
Hot areas of change:
unit: bioinformatics & biotech futures*
unit: nanotechnology futures
unit: ecological futures (Catton's Overshoot has an interesting theme, developed by Diamond's Collapse, for example)

Connectivity: S. suggests - trends of an increasingly connected world:

Innovation in economic and political systems: what hasn't been tried yet?

Future of human population (on earth, on extraterrestrial colonies like on the moon or Mars, exponential growth, Malthusian catastrophe in theory and in practice (e.g. Diamond's account of Easter Island etc.), solutions (e.g. Tikopia), solutions (e.g. is voluntary contraception enough?), population growth as an information/computation problem (equilibrium, oscillation, chaos theory). hook - 3D face on mars, bring 3D glasses and mars 3d book.
simulate what happens to society when life expectancy goes up.nUSe excel, have everyone step therough a simulation model in class. Metrics for life span, the whole live long enough that expectancy goes above 1:1.What does that metric really mean and its disadvantages/counter-intuitive aspects
Future of human species (productivity increase extrapolated, genetic change, static humans and biological paradigm shifts in other species, etc.)
Future of biosphere (silicon-based "organisms", expansion of speciation over time, bottlenecks in water, nitrogen, etc., symbiosis
Mass extinctions
Geological change: continental drift, loss of water as earth cools, global warming and the prehistoric record, atmostpheric change, H2S catastrophe hypothesis, methane catastrophe hypothesis, solar radiation trend, snowball earth hypothesis, are we on the brink of an ice age?,
cosmological futures: life cycle of the sun, life cycle of the universe theories, red dwarf stars.
SETI: precautionary principle, Voyager (?) plaque, radio emission sphere, red dwarf stars, exotic environments (neutron stars, giant gas planets, Saturn's moons, etc.)

From survey:
  • Metrics for technological progress based on brainstorming about possibilities (3y2n)
  • Computer Memory: many facets of the problem; exponential laws for future memory, need for, technologies for, lifetime, etc. New kind of thumb drive 16y1n
  • Scenarios and alteratives: DebateGraph, software in the cloud that we can use 4y3n
  • "The Body Electric" by Gordon Bell and its contemporary aspects 6y2n
  • "Better Democracy Through Technology" by Brock Meeks and its contemporary aspects 6y1n
  • "Moore's Law: Past, Present, and Future" by Robert Schaller and its contemporary aspects 5y3n
  • Communications technology of the future 12y1n
  • "Software Engineering: Stretching the Limits of Complexity" by Nancy Leveson and its contemporary aspects 6y2n
  • The AI singularity: infinite artificial intelligence?? 11y1n
  • History and future of the Web 8y3n
  • Internet push technology 9y2n
  • "Post-WIMP User Interfaces" by Andries van Dam and its contemporary aspects 2y5n
  • "World Wide Computer," by Tim Berners-Lee and its contemporary aspects 6y1n
  • Java dispute between Sun and Microsoft and its contemporary aspects (in particular, Sun is now irrelevant, but the IBM – Microsoft – Google sequence of 600-pound gorillas is interesting 6y2n
  • Globalizing Business, Education, Culture Through the Internet 8y3n
  • Wearable Computing (cf. "Smart Clothing: the Shift to Wearable Computing," Steve Mann) 8y2n
  • Vinton G. Cerf, "When They're Everywhere." 1y6n
  • The future of telecommuting 10y1n
  • Chapter 8 in "Beyond Calculation", by Donald Norman, "Why It's Good that Computers Don't Work Like the Brain." 6y2n
  • "Sensors: the Next Wave of Innovation" by P. Saffo 4y2n
  • Gordon Bell and James N. Gray, "The Revolution Yet to Happen." 7y4n
  • Existential risks to humanity 10y1x
  • Asteroid impact 9y4n
  • The singularity 7y3n
  • Immortality 9y4n
  • Malthusian catastrophe 5y5n
  • Pestilence (Bird flu? Something new? Terrorism using new germs?) 10y2n
  • Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (and contemporary thinking) 13y1x
  • Moral Machines 7y3n
  • Discuss future of Object-Oriented Programming: reading - Excerpts from Schach's book 6y3n
  • Discuss D. Tsichritzis, "How to Surf the Technology Waves We Created" 3y3n
  • The very distant future 10y3n
  • Continental drift and the future of the world map 9y2n
  • Bob Frankston, "Beyond Limits." 3y4n
  • "How to Think About Trends,” by R. W. Hamming 4y4n
  • Chapter 6: Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, "The Coming Age of Calm Technology." 4y2n
  • Discussion of paper on VR: "....I See and I Remember...." by Peter Cochrane 2y4n
  • Discussion of paper on future of robotics: "What if AI Succeeds?" by Hugo de Garis 5y3n
  • Chapter 9: David Gelernter, "The Logic of Dreams." 6y1n
  • Chapter 10: Franz A. Alt, "End-Running Human Intelligence." 6y2n
  • Future of Network Computers (Hmm, the magazine NC World stopped publishing in June 1998...) 7y2n
  • Cloud computing (they used to call it “network computing,” hmm) 11y2n
  • William J. Mitchell and Oliver Strimpel, "There and Not There." 3y3n
  • Peter J. Denning, "How We Will Learn." 5y3n
  • Mills on Communication 1y7n
  • Romine, S. Yan on Wearable Computing 5y5n
  • F. Zhang on Whether Computers will Dominate our Future 10y2n
  • Schaefer on Nanotechnology 12y1n
  • filtering and search
  • The God particle
  • Data organization and interpretatio through visual elements and design, e.g.
  • Technology and its growing and potential impact on the world. Posible overtaking...The end? (Ok, that's often called the "technological singularity")
  • Future terrorism in the distant future
  • Logic of dreams (theories for what are dreams for, prospects for determining the answer, prospects for applying the theory for practical use, role of sleep and prospects for not sleeping, fatal familial insomnia, pharmaceuticals and dreams, dream interpretation, lucid dreaming, hypnogogy, remembering dreams, oh yeah - maybe the future and information can be worked into this too...maybe!)
  • bionics/cyborgs (3 futures for robotics: conflict, servitude, and prosthesis)
  • Biochemical creation of life, how, why (somehow the future etc. can intersect here? Do we care?)
  • autoautomobiles
  • genetic engineering (2)s
  • cybernetics
  • Medicine in the future
  • Buildings in the future
  • 3D printing - how big will it get? (rep-rap, lathe, etc.)
  • Bruce Sterling's SXSW (South by Southwest) 2006 keynote (,, regarding the concept and lifecycle of "SPIME." Also the idea of the "internet of things"
  • TED talks, such as,,
  • Augmented reality - use of phone as overlay screen for the real world (google "iphone augmented reality"), e.g.