Listen to this Issue.
Give those eyes a rest.
Quote of the Week.
Big Kid on the block?
Transistors On A Chip.
The numbers are simply staggering.
"Aware" computers? Brain uploads?
Supercomputer games? Hummm.
There's MUCH More
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VERY Personal File
Into the frying "PAN."
New Knowledge: A
Think basic research is too long term for your
May "The Farm" Be
An incredibly funny Star Wars parody.
About 'The Harrow
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"The nation which dominates the world economy may be
the one which masters the nano world of atomic, and
Then quantum events...will be the source of the
Silicon Age is coming to a close. Welcome to the
Quantum Age, where even button-down bankers will
have to learn the mysteries of the multiverse."
Professor of Theoretical Physics at CUNY,
co-founder of String Field Theory
From Nanotech Insider, Nov. 19, 2004
Back to Table of Contents
In the last issue's article
"Reinventing -- Again"
pointed out that some in-research chips contained
"...near half a billion transistors."
But this number was incorrect -- it was not nearly
As pointed out by reader David
Schachter, the Feb. 7, 2005 ZDNetUK article
"Dual-core Itanium chip gets airing"
indicates that Intel's 64-bit "Montecito," its first
commercial dual-core Itanium-2 chip (two CPUs on a
single chip) already contains 1.7-billion
transistors! (Additional details from Intel
But a "mere" 1.7 billion
transistors per chip will be exceeded later this
year -- new 4 gigabit NAND flash memory chips may
contain as many as two billion transistors.
In 2002 Intel stated their goal
of reaching 10-billion transistors on a chip by
Given what we're already seeing, my guess is
that, at least internally, they must be
significantly raising their expectations.
And here we're only talking
about COMMERCIAL chips. Specialized and
laboratory chips are likely to already have far
Of course, as we know, It
Certainly Won't Stop Here...
Back to Table of Contents
Ray Kurzweil is the National
Medal of Science recipient who is well known for his
views on the future of technology's
we've explored his thoughts many times in the past.
(To read those discussions go to
and type Kurzweil into the
While I don't always agree with
his end-assumptions, I'm always impressed with the
way he supports his views with extrapolations of the
very technology trends that are so clearly happening
today, which are also often the subject of our
Now another "futurist" whose
work I also respect, Ian Pearson, who is the head of
British Telecom's "futurology" department, offers a
strikingly similar analysis of how and when "aware
computers" may come into our world.
I'm going to reprint one take
on his interview below because it is so chock-full
of insights. And then of course I'll follow
with my commentary.
'possible by 2050'
Monday, May 23, 2005
Posted: 10:06 AM EDT
London, England -- By the middle of the 21st century
it will be possible to download your brain to a
supercomputer, according to a leading thinker on the
Pearson, head of British Telecom's futurology unit,
told the UK's Observer newspaper that the rapid
advances in computing power would make
cyber-immortality a reality within 50 years.
Pearson said the launch last week of Sony's
PlayStation 3, a machine 35 times more powerful than
the model it replaced, was a sign of things to come.
new PlayStation is one percent as powerful as the
human brain," Pearson told the Observer. "It is into
supercomputer status compared to 10 years ago.
PlayStation 5 will probably be as powerful as the
Pearson said that brain-downloading technology would
initially be the preserve of the rich, but would
become more available over subsequent decades.
you're rich enough then by 2050 it's feasible. If
you're poor you'll probably have to wait until 2075
or 2080 when it's routine," he said.
are very serious about it. That's how fast this
technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long
time in IT."
Pearson also predicted that it would be possible to
build a fully conscious computer with superhuman
levels of intelligence as early as 2020.
BlueGene computer can already perform 70.72 trillion
calculations a second and Pearson said the next
computing goal was to replicate consciousness.
"We're already looking at how you might structure a
computer that could become conscious. Consciousness
is just another sense, effectively, and that's what
we're trying to design in computer."
Pearson said that computer consciousness would make
feasible a whole new sphere of emotional machines,
such as airplanes that are afraid of crashing.
2020 Pearson also predicted the creation of a
"virtual world" of immersive computer-generated
environments in which we will spend increasing
amounts of time, socializing and doing business.
said: "When technology gives you a life-size 3D
image and the links to your nervous system allow you
to shake hands, it's like being in the other
person's office. It's impossible to believe that
won't be the normal way of communicating."
Pearson admitted that the consequences of advancing
technologies needed to be considered carefully.
need a complete global debate," he said. "Whether we
should be building machines as smart as people is a
really big one."
[Another take on this interview comes from the
original article in the UK's Guardian Unlimited, at
story/0,6903,1489635,00.html . You
can also find many more of Ian's insights at
Following up on Ian's reference
to the new Playstation, it also includes a graphics
processor, the Nvidia RSX, whose
300-million transistors power
48-billion(!) "shader" operations/second while
it also calculates a half-billion triangles of video
data each second. Unsurprisingly with this
kind of power, the Playstation 3 outputs its games
in High Definition video. And all of this
performance comes from only the graphics processor!
Although we've come to expect this kind or progress,
it's still mind-blowing that this consumer computing
appliance rivals the supercomputers of only
eight years ago -- IN A $300 (or so) GAME!!
And that GAME is making
non-trivial inroads towards the processing power of
a human brain (at least as we can best measure the
computing power of a brain, given that a brain's far
different method of processing information (compared
to a computer) may not, in my opinion, provide an
'apples to apples' comparison.) It's also
quite impressive (although again not too surprising)
that this GAME represents the power of a vastly
expensive supercomputer of just one decade ago!
the way, there's growing evidence that we may,
eventually, reach a "singularity" when machine
intelligence rivals that of humans' -- check out
"The Development Spiral" from Acceleration Watch
brought to our attention by reader Kenneth
My Buddy, The Computer?
Interestingly, even our
currently unintelligent computers and computerized
devices are already being anthropomorphized.
We've all been known to "talk" to our computers
(although this is usually in unprintable phrases
when they're inimical to our work). But this
is just the beginning. A May 27 Forbes
Nanotech Insider interview with the CEO of
iRobot, the creator of the autonomous
vacuum cleaner, illustrates how
people are beginning to treat their computerized
devices as pets!
"[He] told me that more than
a few customers have become emotionally attached to
their robotic vacuum cleaners.
When he personally offered to replace customers'
broken down models with new ones --many refused,
insisting the company fix the one they already
Why not take a new one?
It seems that if technology moves like a pet, we’ve
got a tendency to anthropomorphize it and treat it
like a trusted friend. They grew emotionally
attached -- to a robot! People don’t want a new
model -- because they don’t know it as intimately."
Sony's robotic dog Aibo
similarly demonstrated this several years ago.
Robot pets are only the
beginning as today's and tomorrow's rate of
technological progress - its price-performance
improvements -- makes Pearson's and Kurzweil's
predictions ever-more feasible. As I mentioned
earlier, I'm not yet convinced that even the
unimaginable commodity computing power of decades
from now necessarily predicts an "awakening" of our
silicon (or whatever may drive them by then)
servants, but it's also something that we certainly
should not dismiss out of hand, especially
considering its myriad implications.
Because if/when computers DO
become aware, we may be quickly forced to redefine
just WHO ARE THE "SERVANTS..."
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You may have heard the term
PAN, or "Personal Area Network." Although there's
no hard and fast definition, a PAN is often thought
of as a low power network that uses the human body
to distribute data signals to devices on or very
near the skin.
Why would one want such a PAN
when Bluetooth already seems to fill that niche
quite nicely? Security could be one reason, since
Bluetooth's 30-foot range opens the very real
possibility for someone else to receive the
information traversing the Bluetooth link, or even
to add their own.
Early PAN networks typically
required that portable devices touch the skin to
join the network, which imposes some interesting
limitations. I guess we could wear devices under
our clothes, or perhaps change Fashion so that
clothes have appropriate cutouts for each device so
they could touch the skin (which could lead to some
interesting fashions indeed), but this touchy
limitation could realistically constrain the value
of a PAN.
However a new PAN technology
from NTT, brought to our attention by reader Fred
Hugand and called "RedTaction"
is different. It uses weak electrical fields
generated through the body to send and receive data
to devices as far as eight inches from the skin.
Data rates can be up to standard Ethernet speeds of
One interesting aspect of this
PAN's ability to reach a bit beyond the skin is that
many everyday objects, such as chairs, tables, and
the like can act as a PAN node as well. So, imagine
if you carried a PDA or notebook equipped with this
PAN interface, and an office's desks, chair,
conference tables, etc., were each connected to the
building's normal data network through either
hardwired or wireless (such as WiFi) connections.
Your portable devices would then have access to the
Internet without using a far more battery-intensive
WiFi connection. RedTaction PAN nodes could also be
placed into doorways, under specific floor tiles,
etc. for in-building security applications such as
location monitoring and access control.
(Speaking of 'security,' perhaps this would be a
good time to include viable encryption and other
good privacy implementations from scratch,
rather than as optional add-ons as with WiFi or
Bluetooth. We continually learn that many of
"today's" encryption schemes are soon easily broken
through ever-increasing computer power and
For example, brought to our attention by reader Dave
Atkinson, the RFID tags (Radio Frequency
Identification Tags) that are used in applications
such as "smart" car ignition keys and touchless
entry systems have already fallen prey to easy
. Given the dramatically increasing use of these
"radio" technologies that can be attacked from a
distance, we leave ourselves increasingly open to
information and economic and physical theft.)
There are also other
interesting advances being made in the area of
portable electronic devices. While we continue
to wait for battery or other power technologies,
such as tiny fuel cells, to advance as quickly as
our portable power needs, a recent
United States Patent, No.6,754,472, appears to
define a method of not only carrying data through
the body, but of also carrying POWER to
portable devices (http://www.boredguru.com/modules/
That could be a significant help for the armies of
devices that we increasingly carry around.
So -- networking continue to
morph into many new forms, each with its advantages,
disadvantages, and new security risks. Some will
"make it" only for specialized applications, while
others could surprise everyone (as WiFi did) and
mushroom into prominence in a very few years.
This again demonstrates that if
your great ideas seem stymied by a particular lack
of technology, just wait -- often a relatively short
while -- and the answer may appear out of thin air!
Back to Table of Contents
This is a slightly updated
version of an article I recently wrote for Future
Future Brief is published by New Global Initiatives
and offers brief summaries, commentaries, and other
resources to help people, especially those on The
Hill who form national policy, to keep up on
technological innovations. But Future Brief adds an
important twist -- it "takes one step back and
looks at the greater convergence of the accelerating
changes in science and technology, with the equally
rapidly accelerating changes in society and
Many businesses don't believe
in the economic value of obscure, esoteric, long-tem
research. Especially in today's business climate,
longer-term research often isn't seen as a good
investment, as was once the case.
That's one way to look at it,
as a (parochially) sound economic decision. But oh,
the potential future cash streams that those
businesses may miss!
For example, let's explore just
a few of the ways in which scientists are harnessing
new-found knowledge as the basis for new products
with extraordinary (and completely unanticipated!)
Towards The World Of Star
If you've followed some of the
early work on very real teleportation
you know that scientists can now repeatedly
"entangle" some photons, then separate them by some
distance, and then alter the state of one of the
photons. The magic is that instantly (perhaps in
zero time!) the other separated photon demonstrates
these same changes! Clearly, although this is just
the very beginning of our understanding of the
potential for this effect, as we learn more about
such teleportation it holds incredible potential for
transmitting information with no time lag. Along
with many potential terrestrial applications, this
could be a boon to interplanetary or even
"But the distances between
the entangled photons are currently pretty short,"
you might be thinking. And that's been true -- so
far -- yet it's already getting better. For
example, the Aug. 19, 2004 Scientific American
reports that scientists at Vienna's Institute for
Experimental Physics have just teleported photons
600+ meters across the Danube river with 97% success
during 28 hours of testing! Just the very beginning
of this journey...
Forgers can be very good at
their art given enough time and resources; it's a
continuing game of technological escalatio between
forgers and the new techniques that are constantly
being developed to "indisputably" verify the
authenticity of a document (paper currency, stock
certificates, bonds, and the like). But new
research into the arcane world of quantum dots may
break that cycle. As described in the Aug. 11, 2004
Technology Research News
"Researchers from the Canadian National Research
Council have devised a way to use quantum dots to
print invisible secret codes onto surfaces such as
documents. The dots measure between 3 and 6
nanometers in diameter. The method could eventually
be used to authenticate valuable documents such as
passports and certificates, the researchers say.
Quantum dots can be made to emit one wavelength of
light when hit with a second wavelength of light.
This method uses three quantum dots that emit three
different colours of light. The intensity levels of
the three lightwave peaks represent a three-digit
code. The code can be kept secret because the
intensity levels change depending on the colour of
the light source. For example, three single-colour
quantum dots can emit fluorescence corresponding to
the code of 2-7-3 when hit with 470nm light waves,
but the code changes to 3-5-3 when hit with 450nm
The correct code can be read only by a person who
knows the key, which is the correct wavelength of
light for each set of three quantum dots contained
in the cryptograph."
Fascinating, and potentially
Speaking of forgeries, the
ability to verify that signatures are authentic is a
highly trained art form rather than a definitive
science. Experts analyze the sequence of marks by
looking at the 2D signature. But original
handwriting is more than 2D, since the varying
pressures of the pen cause constant changes in the
depth of the strokes, as well as other alterations.
Now, Rome's Università degli Studi has created a 3D
hologram of handwriting that exposes the 3D hills
and valleys caused by the pressure and angle of the
This enables handwriting experts to determine the
'stroke order' 90% of the time, which better enables
them to decide if the handwriting matches an
SPAM Marries DNA?
What could seem a less likely
pair? What could the majority of Email messages on
the Internet (SPAM) have to do with the "stuff of
life" that defines US?
According to the Aug. 19, 2004
New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996292),
scientists decided to treat SPAM messages as if they
were DNA code, extracting patterns that identified
the messages as SPAM. They then did the same for
known non-SPAM messages and deleted any patterns
that occurred in both SPAM and legitimate messages.
With this knowledge of which
patterns identified what was, and what was not SPAM,
the software chugged through almost 67,000 random
messages using the Chung-Kwei algorithm (which is
used to do DNA sequencing) to identify SPAM in new
messages. Which it did with an accuracy of 97%
while only generating ten false-positives (non-SPAM
messages incorrectly labeled as SPAM) out of those
A very impressive achievement
that I suspect will get better over time. This is a
great example of a VERY unintended consequence of
software developed to decode US!
Yet these are just a few of the
fascinating, potentially useful, and potentially
profitable results of seemingly esoteric research.
I believe that we must continue to expand our
understanding of the core processes that drive our
universe, such as the most basic structures of
matter and antimatter, the "emptiness" of "outer
space," and the spaces within molecules and atoms
and even smaller particles. And also of life
itself, such as our DNA and genome and proteome
These insights will result in
enormous payoffs, and will impact everything around
and within us; this knowledge will rapidly make
everything that we've learned throughout history (as
well as the ways that most products and services are
created) passé. Just look at the results of our
increased understandings over the past 100 or 50 or
25, or even 5 years. And the RATE at which we gain
better understandings of the things around us is
increasing exponentially, just like a colony of
The Big "E."
For many people, exponential
growth is VERY difficult to understand, accept, or
plan for. Josh Wolfe, in the Aug. 20, 2004
Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Weekly Insider
offers a perspective as to what types of people can,
and can not, easily embrace the all-too-real
exponential growth of technology:
(Paraphrase) We all see the world through
different lenses. How do YOU see things? Try
It's 12:00pm and there are a few rats in a room. The
population of rats doubles every minute. After one
hour, at 1:00pm, the room is entirely filled up with
what time was the room half-full?
What is your answer? What time was the room
half-filled with rats?
Let's take an important diversion that, even though
it talks of "investors," is relevant to our
wise mutual fund manager suggested there are three
kinds of investors--and they look at the world in
either "points", "lines" or "curves". The "point
people" need well-defined starting points and don't
deal well with abstract and dynamic concepts.
They'd say that the rat question was incomplete and
they would ask for more information. As investors
they look at a fixed point in time or a fixed point
in a growth curve and make decisions based on that
point. They're also very weak with forecasts.
"Line people" are a little better. "Line people" are
most likely to guess that the room of rats was
filled at 12:30pm. They can make linear
approximations and are good at situations where the
past is a consistent predictor of the future. This
is the majority of investors.
But unfortunately, such linear progress represents
only the minority of situations. The past is very
rarely a good predictor of the future. For example,
in the case of our rats, remember that "the
population of rats doubles every minute," which is
far faster than merely linear growth.
Which brings us to the "curve people". These are the
rarities. These are the non-linear, out-of-the-box
thinkers who understand exponential curves, compound
growth rates, and why the king got suckered in the
fictional legend of how Chess was invented (you
remember: the inventor asked the king for a "simple"
reward-- a mere grain of rice on the first square,
two on the 2nd, four on the 3rd and so on, until
he'd bankrupted the king -
Back to the rats -- the correct answer to this
riddle, that began at 12:00pm, is that the room was
half full -- at 12:59pm.
minute before 1:00pm, there were half as many rats
as there would be at 1:00pm.
It took 59 minutes to fill the
FIRST half of the room, while the SECOND half of the
room filled in just that one remaining minute.
The Bottom Line.
Think about the similar growth
of technology -- rather slow for most of our history
(from the perspective of someone living through it),
yet incredibly fast (and constantly faster) from the
viewpoint of a person living during the past hundred
years. This is a demonstration of why exponential
growth is so incredibly powerful, and why it is so
hard to grasp "from the inside" as it's happening to
Consider how this applies to
each of us, and to each of our businesses: Where do
you wish to position yourself along the incredibly
important and well established exponential
Remember what happened to
businesses that didn't rapidly embrace the
telephone. Or the automobile. Or computers. Or
the Internet. As history proves time and time
again, a lack of cutting-edge research and
understanding, and the foresight this can bring, can
leave you building the perfect buggy whip as the
automobile marginalizes whips out of the market.
Similarly, an unwillingness to
rapidly embrace new technologies as a competitive
advantage -- before your competitors do -- can lead
to a downwards spiral that can pass the point of no
The choice is yours, as you
decide whether to allow at least part of your
research organization to think far beyond the next
quarter, year, or several years, and beyond the
scope of your current business. Similarly, will you
hire one of those "curve people" and give him/her
the freedom to understand and synergize and forecast
the potential results? Will you encourage him/her
to communicate these insights across your
organization so that all of your employees are
constantly updated on the opportunities, and
problems, that exponential technological growth may
bring to your business?
Your competitors will...
Again, Don't Blink!
Back to Table of Contents
Finally, if you're a Star Wars
fan, readers Nancy Rosen and Victor Panlilio have
brought our attention to a WONDERFUL short film. To
put it mildly, this is GREAT, GREAT, GREAT!! I
laughed all the way through it.
If you have Windows Media
Player installed, this link will take you directly
to the movie:
Other viewing options are
available, plus it's worth following the links to
other sections such as Meet The Puppets" on this
satire's home page at
I rarely chuckle so hard at
anything (in fact I'm still chuckling as I write
this), so "Store Wars" gets my best
recommendation on how to spend your next 3.5
minutes. (There's also a cool "movie poster" at
Back to Table of Contents
"The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and
trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less
than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in
the Knowledge Age.
"The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey
R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group.
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