JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 28 : January 01, 2001
This is the first issue of JimPinto.com eNews for
the New Year, Century, decade, millennium.
Clicked-out at 01:01 on 01-01-01.
Happy New Year!
- Intelligent Robots are coming
- Sony Playstation 2
- 10 Technology Trends - MIT Review
- God, Wolfram & Everything Else
- eFeedback - Extropy etc.
Intelligent Robots are coming...
In his book
The Age of Spiritual Machines
Ray Kurzweil predicts that machine-intelligence will exceed human
capabilities within just a couple of decades - a significant new benchmark
to cross in the new century. This will not come about suddenly; except it
to emerge first through toys and computers that emulate human capabilities
and adapt (learn) as they operate.
I got the Heathkit HERO robot about 20 years ago, for about $ 2,500 (for
the kit, which I had to build). Hero guarded my office at home, patrolling
back and forth at the door. When my kids approached the forbidden zone, it
rasped: "You are not allowed to be here!" Of course, my 12-year-old son
quickly demonstrated that he could creep slowly past the IR sensor and get
behind the robot's field of vision to do as he wished. At random intervals,
when I was out traveling, my alter-ego robot would announce to my wife :
"Jimmy loves you!" - which of course scared her silly. She pulled the plug;
but, being battery operated, it still went on - till she found the reset
button..... With a tiny brain (8-bit computer, plus 8K of memory and
audio-tape storage) it didn't do too much - so, when the novelty wore off I
donated it to a local school.
Sony's AIBO robot-dog seems to be among the first of
the new toys that exhibit learned "behavior", with impressive mechanics and
electronics which give the impression of "life". Aibo responds to voice
commands such as "sit", "lie down" and he can walk, sit up, bat a ball
around and even right himself and get up if he falls over or is placed
upside-down. Aibo wants to play and be petted ("feels" with sensors in
various places) and when he is "happy" he makes soothing noises, and
colored lights on his "face" flash pleasant, warm-colored patterns. If
ignored, Aibo gets "angry" and tries to get attention. If ignored long
enough, Aibo eventually goes off to play with his toys. A big step forward
from my old Heathkit Hero.
Look at Sony's AIBO
Aibo is priced at $ 2,500, which means that only techhy types will get one.
No, I don't have one yet, though I have played with it at various shows and
was VERY tempted. If they had one for sale at the exhibit booth, I would
have bought it. But, I had to place and order and wait weeks - which kinda
put me off.
As the next step, Sony has already developed prototype human-like robot,
initially code-named SDR-3X. The robot is about 20 inches (50 cm) tall and
weighs about 11 pounds (5 kg). It has 24 joints that enable it to perform
such basic movements as walking, changing direction, getting up, balancing
on one leg, dancing, and kicking. Movement can be verbally controlled
through two microphones in its ear and the robot can recognize about 20
prerecorded words. It can also distinguish colors via a camera mounted in
its head. Responding to commands, it can pick out a specifically colored
ball and kick it toward a goal net. Sony has not decided on the price of
the human-like robot or when it will begin selling it.
See this TechWeb News story on Sony's new human-robot
As Moore's Law advances, and processing power increases exponentially,
robot "toys" like these are the breeding ground for future-generation
products that will bring us closer to the exciting, and perhaps alarming,
possibility of synthetic life.
Let me know what you think of my latest article on this subject:
Evolution of the TechnoHuman:
Look at my presentation at Dick Morley's Chaos Conference, May 98 - based
on Kurzweil's book: "The Age of Spiritual Machines “:
Regarding Sony and toys, have you have probably heard about their new
Playstation-2. It costs $299 - if you can get it; I know some people who
bought it at twice the price, rather than wait. The PS-2 has a 128-bit
processor with awesome graphics performance, 32 megabytes of memory, a USB
port and a 400 megabits/second FireWire port, with expansion for a
broadband network connection. You can connect a camcorder to allow a
character to take on the actual appearance of the player. Beyond just
games, the PS2 also plays both CDs and DVDs, and offers a fiber connection
to state of the art audio systems for Dolby Digital sound. Pretty
impressive for a "game" costing just a few hundred dollars.
Take a look at the Sony PS-2
Interesting thought: If "synthetic life" does indeed become part of the
everyday human scenario in this new century, it seems reasonable to think
that the best entry-point would be through toys and games.....
God, Stephen Wolfram & everything else
Stephen Wolfram is Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, a privately held
company with 300 employees and $50 million in estimated annual revenues.
The companies primary product is Mathematica, which has been used for
everything from designing the flow rate of shampoo to calculating the
Nielsen TV ratings to designing the cycling arena at the Atlanta Olympics.
Mathematica (latest version is 4.1) has more than 2 million users in 90
Wolfram Research continues to thrive through the success of Mathematica.
But this serves as a background for acknowledged genius Stephen Wolfram's
personal primary quest - a new level of simplicity through the science of
cellular automata: "cellular" because this deals with cells on a large
grid, "automata" because they automatically follow simple rules.
Stephen Wolfram is investigating the potential role of cellular automata as
a universal computer capable of producing patterns for everything from
quasars to bumblebees, hurricanes, stock markets, and rose petals. His book
A New Kind of Science is still in preparation and waiting to be published
(four years overdue); it is already getting enough preorders (including
mine) to make it a best-seller - a record for an unpublished book of arcane
In his book Wolfram challenges the mathematical center of each of the major
scientific disciplines in turn: biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy,
evolution, fluid dynamics, cosmology, human cognition, music theory, the
material sciences - the list grows. There is practically no corner of the
scientific world that can't be revolutionized by Wolfram's model.
This may be the catalyst that will finally bring the sciences of Chaos and
Complexity to the forefront of the new century.
You've gotta read this Stephen Wolfram story at Forbes ASAP
Stephen Wolfram's website
What Mathematica does
10 Technology trends - MIT Review
One of the primary themes of this eNews is Technology Trends. And, one of
the best sources for technology tracking is the MIT-Review.
The January/February 2001 issue of MIT Technology Review has their latest
selection of 10 emerging areas of technology that will soon have a profound
impact on the economy and on how we live and work. These advances span
information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology, the arenas we
often highlight. All of these areas merit special attention in the decade
Here are the MIT-Review 10 :
- Brain-Machine Interfaces
- Flexible Transistors
- Data Mining
- Digital Rights Management
- Natural Language Processing
- Untangling Code
- Robot Design
In future issues of eNews, JimPinto.com eNews will highlight specific
trends that we think are the most important.
Jan/Feb 2001 MIT Review Technology Trends
The subject of Extropy, the opposite of Entropy (Harmony vs Disorder)
excited a lot of people. Jeff Cawley [JCawley@nwasoft.com] e-wrote:
"Actually, the maximization of harmony - the reduction of differences - is
compatible with the concept of entropy increasing in the universe as time
proceeds. Since life can be considered a locus of negative entropy in the
biophysical arena, so strife could be a locus of negative entropy (or
perhaps extropy) in the non-physical universe."
Hmmm... I'm glad people are thinking about this.
Visit the Extropy website for some interesting insights and perspectives
On other technology discussions, Ian Hughes [firstname.lastname@example.org]
e-wrote from England:
"I'm fascinated by your comments on nanotechnology and MEMS. These are
truly technology steps that will revolutionize the way we live in the same
way as micro-electronics did.
Having a vested interest in software, I
wonder where its future lies. The devices you talk about are single
function, "fixed build" devices. That's the equivalent of analog design
technology. At this level there is no "programmability", although there is
obviously a configuration requirement to build together these
"nano-objects" into useful systems.
From a programming perspective the next
stage will be the interesting one, when the technology moves from single
function, fixed build devices to variable-function, flexible devices.
"Programming" will then presumably be "DNA programming" as the programmer
changes the molecular structure to achieve his own purposes. This is both
an exciting and frightening prospect. Imagine the consequences of millions
of DNA-programmers across the globe no longer hacking software in VB, but
all creating unique molecules (organisms?). The potential for
havoc/disaster is gross, even without considering the potential for
This came from Gerry Coates [email@example.com] in New Zealand:
"Just some positive feedback to say that your eZine is one of the few I
continue to let into my mailbox because you always have one or two items
that catch my eye.
"I have a long term interest in the direction technology is heading, having
founded a group called Engineers for Social Responsibility in New Zealand
in 1983 (still going strong with our annual conference coming up next
March) that also spawned American ESR (now moribund) and influenced
Architects and Engineers for Social Responsibility in the UK (they chose
our name and logo for an existing group Engineers for Nuclear Disarmament).
One particular interest is nanotechnology (Drexler's "Engines of
Creation") - any up to date news on that front?"
Thanks for the positive feedback, Gerry, and for the news of ESR!
Regarding Drexlers nanotechnology work, you might visit The Foresight
Institute website, founded by Drexler, with a focus on nanotech and
The Foresight Institute
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