JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 25 : December 4, 2000

A new-age newsletter, published irreverently and irregularly by Jim Pinto.
Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
Stay e-tuned....

  • Machine intelligence will equal human capabilities
  • Newsweek - 2001 Tech Odyssey
  • Matchbox PC
  • E-Paper
  • Speech-enabling the Internet
  • Book : Joel Kotkin's "New Geography"
  • eFeedback - Bizarre Projects

Machine Intelligence will exceed human capabilities

In the latest issue of TIME magazine (Dec. 4 2000), Ray Kurzweil predicts that within 3 decades machines will be as intelligent as human beings.

In an excellent and succinct essay entitled The Virtual Thomas Edison, Kurzweil argues that by the end of this decade, machines will emerge as remarkably powerful amplifiers of the human creative process. By 2020, machines will be true collaborators. By 2030, available computer hardware will exceed the memory and processing capacity of the human brain by a factor of thousands. Powerful biologically inspired models will be capable of simulating human thought processes and will ultimately operate at higher speeds and with far greater overall capacity than unaided human thought.

Click Read the text of the TIME December 4, 2000 Kurzweil article

If you are interested in this subject, you might like to browse my discussion of this subject as presented at Dick Morley's Chaos in Manufacturing Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April '99.

Synthetic Intelligence Pinto on Synthetic Intelligence

Kurzweil Book Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines

Five New technologies that could change your life

The latest Newsweek (Dec. 4 2000) also had an interesting article: 2001 Tech Odyssey. With a time perspective somewhat shorter than decades, this article listed the 5 new technologies that could change your life.

The Newsweek choices:

  • Bluetooth
  • Browser-based Video Games
  • Transmeta's Crusoe Processor
  • Digital Video recorders
  • Streaming Napster with Friskit

Click Read the Newsweek 2001 TECH ODYSSEY article

Matchbok PC

Over a decade ago Action Instruments (the company I founded and where I worked for 30 years) introduced the MatchboxPC which was awarded the cover of CONTROL ENGINEERING (March '89). This was a small, ruggedized industrial PC, built to accommodate the PC half-card format, with a 80286 processor, 1meg or RAM and a 50mByte hard drive.

Just recently, another Matchbox PC was introduced, a small board that fits within your palm and weighs 3.3 ounces, taking up 5 cubic inches of space - a complete, fully-functional 66 MHz 486-SX-based PC with a 340 megabyte IBM micro drive, to run Windows 95/98 or NT, or Linux, with all the standard PC ports and built-in Ethernet and runs off of a camcorder battery for up to six hours. The price exactly matches the Action MatchboxPC 11 years ago - $1,495.

Click Look at the latest MatchboxPC


Even though I read a lotttt on the web, I still have magazines and newspapers that pile up on my desk at home and next to my bed, and in the living room next to my throne. I don't feel good about throwing them away till I at least glance at the contents, and then I tear out the key articles - and even those accumulate into an unmanageable pile. With advances in technology, maybe soon I'll just have one paper - an e-paper - on which I'll read everything.

E-paper - flexible electronic display material similar to paper will arrive soon. It is reusable and relatively cheap to produce. Xerox PARC has been working on its version for some time called Gyricon. It's a thin layer of transparent plastic full of millions of small black and white or red and white beads, sort of like toner particles. The beads are contained in an oil-filled cavity. When voltage is applied, the beads rotate to present a colored side to the viewer. Gyricon is electrically writeable and erasable, can be re-used thousands of times, doesn't require backlighting or refreshing, operates on low power and is brighter than today's reflective displays.

Recently Lucent Technologies and E-Ink came out their version - a 25-square-inch display using electronic ink and active-matrix drive circuits printed on plastic. Transistors in the circuits are made of plastic and are fabricated with a low-cost printing process that uses high-resolution rubber stamps. The e-ink enables the display's paper-like qualities which include exceptional brightness and contrast under a wide range of lighting conditions, easy viewing from all angles, low power consumption, plastic film construction.

You'll soon find e-paper in digital books, newspapers, low-power portable displays, fold-up displays and wall-sized posters. When? Xerox PARC could have something available next year. Lucent's technology will take longer, perhaps within the next five years.

Click Take a look at this interesting summary on E-Paper

Click Xerox Gyricon

Click Lucent & E-Ink

Speech-enabled Devices

Still having difficulty punching typewriter keys? As handheld devices get smaller, and even as they become more powerful, the constraint is often the tiny keyboard. Speech is the most natural interface, and soon advances in natural-language processing technology will allow us to speak to our cell-phones, PDAs, computers and appliances.

There are already several excellent computer speech-recognition tools available:

Click IBM VIAVOICE for the PC and MAC

Click Kurzweil's technology became part of Lernout & Hauspie

Both of these are excellent and relatively inexpensive products (about $ 100). But, they are still relatively difficult to "train" (not speaker independent, except for a few selected words) and are error-prone with a noisy background.

Today, in some high-end automobiles, you can turn on the radio and summon a particular station, or dial a specific number, all by voice-commands. You'll find excellent voice-response systems already being used at some of the major airlines and financial institutions, eliminating the need for a human operator - if you have trouble, you can quickly summon a human for assistance.

Speech technology is becoming ever more reliable, available, inexpensive and compact. Conversay's speech-enabling technology, which is both a speech recognizer and a text synthesizer, is speaker-independent and features a virtually unlimited vocabulary. Its very small memory footprint makes it ideal for any number of embedded client devices, including wireless phones, PDAs, set-top boxes, telematics (automobile appliances) and much more.

Click Take a look at the the Conversay speech-enabling technology

Book : Joel Kotkin - The New Geography

From my friend Joel Kotkin, one of America's most credible and visionary forecasters, the first look at how the digital revolution is changing where and how we live and work in the bricks-and-mortar world.

Historically unprecedented forces are at work buffeting cities, suburbs, and towns across the country. In this seminal book internationally renowned economic and social-trend forecaster Joel Kotkin takes their first full measure. Kotkin focuses on the digital revolution's surprising impact on cities: their traditional role as the centers of creativity and the crossroads for trade and culture is becoming ever more essential in a globalized information-age economy. But there will be big winners and big losers among them, and Kotkin explains which cities are best equipped to thrive and which are fated to decline. He also identifies new species of communities: Nerdistans-high-end, self-contained, office park-oriented suburbs, built to be attractive to a certain class of techie, and Valhallas, wealthy rural enclaves for information-age plutocrats.

The New Geography is a brilliant beachhead onto a subject that affects us all.

Click Hotlink to Kotkin's New Geography


Bradley Timm from South Africa [timmb@iafrica.com] e-suggested that we could discuss Bizarre Projects:

    "How about showcasing/including some of the more interesting projects that people are currently doing or have done? For example: I am currently programming and commissioning a system which comprises of a 200 metric ton remotely operated vehicle on bulldozer tracks. It is launched from a 150 meter ship (which has a large process plant on it) lowered a 100 meters into the sea and then driven and operated remotely from a control room onboard the ship via an umbilical cable. The purpose: Its a huge 1800 kW undersea vacuum cleaner whose sole purpose is to suck up diamonds immersed in the soil. I have found the project very interesting and others may as well. If there is an interest I could elaborate, and security permitting, include some photos."

Can anyone bring up anything to match that?

Regarding my item on Monopoly - the dotcom edition, and variants from different countries, I wrote : "Of course, Jail is still Jail in any country" and David Leske [davidl@foxboro.com.au] from Foxboro, Australia e-pointed out :

    "In Australia and UK, "Jail" is spelt "Gaol". As they say, "English is a funny language", and "British and Americans are two peoples separated by a common language". Australians have a little of each, and may get to act as interpreters between them!"

Whoops! Sorry, mate! Do we still have to pay to get out of Gaol immediately, or rot in there for three turns?

My friend, Bud Keyes, [Bud.Keyes@FRCO.com] - one of the key strategic thinkers at Emerson - wrote about wearable computers:

    "Why write information on the retina? It seems to me it would be much more effective to wire the brain directly. Surely this will be feasible sometime in the next 20 years. It would allow the direct communication of multimedia using ALL the senses rather than trying to translate these senses into visual proxies and push this bandwidth through the bottleneck of visual processing."

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