Future Coming Faster

January 5th, 2004 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


I don’t know about you, but despite all the apparent slow down with the economy and technology, advances in design and technology seem to be coming faster. Below are some links to the future available today:

Pouchulu Architects – very cool future architecture.
Nokia 7600 – wireless video phone.
4GB storage on your keychain – ‘ouch’ on the price though!
SpeedTree – Finally, realistic trees and grasses for games.
100-meter ground based telescope – not yet, but its being seriously discussed!
Maestro – Explore Mars the way NASA Does.
Year of the Green Machine – Hybrid Cars come of Age.

By the end of this year I expect that we’ll see a near complete and unrestricted convergence of home media (stereo, TV, etc) with the PC despite whatever DRM restrictions they try to put in place. Secondly, I predict that by 2007, DRM will turn out to be a complete waste of time and money, and the marketplace winners will be people offering high quality digital content at reasonable prices without any restrictions.


Why I Remain Optimistic About Space

March 18th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Why I Remain Optimistic About Space)

Almost everything that has transpired with the advancement of launch technology has been done with government bureaucracy. Nothing even remotely close to competitive market forces have played a part in the advancement of  and in turn the reduction of launch costs. With this in mind projecting future progress based on past progress is probably not a good idea, as the Law of Accelerating Returns has not played any significant role yet. That is about to change.

Approximately every 18-24 months, the power of both the computer and the network doubles. Sometime in the 2010’s, we can anticipate a desktop computers operating at teraflop speeds. Wireless devices will be ubiquitous. The marketplace of ideas will be enhanced by things like smart mobs and online reputation systems, which will further accelerate the already rapid pace of “expert networking” and knowledge collaboration. The pace of technological growth will continue to accelerate and take all other fields of endeavor with it – including space enabling technologies like nanoengineered materials.

The economic payoff of mass produced nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes is so great,  that we can expect significant investments to pour into this field as much if not more as it poured into silicon. Not only can we expect more rapid increases in processors made of such materials but massive quantities of the strongest materials ever made.

Carbon nanotubes have the necessary strength to manufacture space elevators. A new company, High Life Systems, probably the first of many to come, has been established with this direct goal in mind. If they are successful, launch cost could plummet from their $20,000/lb to less than a $100/lb, and probably much less than that as the systems mature.

Reduced launch costs change everything.

It could radically democratize the space race, making it affordable for a lot more people and enterprises to take up shop. This in turn will create more economic incentives to reduce launch costs even further and advance basic space technology, including CELSS (Closed Environment Life Support Systems). As launch costs are reduced, and long-term habitation of space become easier, the drive to utilize space-based materials (near-earth approaching asteroids) will begin in earnest. Creating a permanent human presence on the moon would be easy as pie at this point. Not to mention that by this point, the state of nanotechnological development will be way past the mass-production of carbon based nanotubes.

As for timelines its hard to say. My guess is we could see this first attempts at building a space elevator as early as next decade. If so we could see dozens, then hundreds of people taking up some kind of permanent or semi-permanent residence in space shortly thereafter. By the second decade of space elevator operations it’s  the number of people permanently residing in space could be in the thousands.

Of course, all number of catastrophes could happen between now and then, but if the underling economic drivers are allowed to continue, such a timeline could even be conservative.

I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who said most predictions tend to hype and exaggerate short-term gains while completely underestimate long-term ones.

Time will tell.


The Buzz is Back

March 10th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The Buzz is Back)

Joi Ito and Kim Polese sat down for lunch yesterday and agreed that the buzz is back in the Valley, although it probably never left. Several responses were quite cynical knowing the Valley’s crash.

I agree with Kim and Joi, the buzz is back if it ever really left at all. Moore’s and Gilder’s Laws continue apace. Despite the fizzle of hype and greed, the empty promises and the insanely stupid business ideas that inflated the valley, the true fundamentals of accelerating change are moving forward. Despite any amount of greed or lack of capitalization, or political instability, this trend will continue, and the applications running on and thru it will only get more powerful, more connected, more networked and more cohesive. You can remain cynical about the power of blogging, but we ain’t seen nothing yet. The network economy will (eventually) change everything, its just going to take longer that we originally thought. And yes, I think we are seeing the beginning of the end for Nation States.


Exceeding Moore’s Law

January 6th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Exceeding Moore’s Law)

In the most recent IEEE Survey, many think Moore’s Law will be exceeded later this decade:

Among the suggested candidates were various forms of nanotechnology (carbon nanotubes, resonant tunneling diodes, molecular transistors), photonics, giant magnetoresistance-based memories, and three-dimensional IC stacking. “I think that smart developers are investing in biologically based computing, quantum computing, and other alternatives to the IC transistor,” wrote one Fellow. “This area is ripe for a disruptive technology.”

I think Ray Kurzweil was correct in predicting doubling times to decrease to 12 months from its current 18. Orginally Moore’s Law was based on a doubling every 2 years. These increases in computer power not only bring a corresponding increase in productivity, but also enable entirely new ways of doing things. I expect to see a lot of technological disruption with lots of applications we never thought possible before. The Dot-com bubble may have burst, but the true power of a networked world is only just beginning.