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TEDx Brussels - David Orban: Every Thing

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Let's see an other view on what is going to change the world. The opportunity of actually looking at the history of the world is wonderful! Except of course the problem is that Nature as we know it doesn't really care. 99% of the species that have ever lived are extinct, and it is an ugly sight. We have to understand that we are, just possibly, the first of the species who have the power of avoiding extinction, if we take that choice, if we really want to. We have started our ten thousand year-old journey in embracing technology in embracing the power of changing our destiny, and this accumulation of change has been almost invisible at the beginning. Whatever number of periods it took to double what we could do... ...whatever you would measure: population, food, territories that the human species was occupying, these doublings were almost imperceptible at the beginning, and still, when new things, new phenomena arise, these are difficult to understand because what we measure can have errors, can have mistakes, and at the beginning it will be just a big confusion. It takes a lot of belief in what is going on, in order to realize beforehand, until everybody starts to wake up and see "Hey, this is big, something is really going on". When it breaks through those initial doublings, and starts to become more explicitly, more visibly exponential. Biology is based on physics, and physics is based on how we see things around us, mostly in linear changes. So we don't realize how powerful the exponential function is. And we have to really get around understanding it better, because our civilization is being impacted by it more and more. As we accumulate knowledge, we are able to answer more questions, and these answers are nothing but building blocks, through which we build vastly more numerous questions, which extend our knowledge, extend our understanding. Interestingly enough, for those who have fun in this quest for knowledge, there is an ever widening gap between the answers that we can give, and the new questions that we are empowered to ask. The changes that our our knowledge have brought on the planet started really with agriculture, when we started actively sticking seeds in the ground. And then came the industrial revolution, when we reorganized how the physical products around us needed to be made, and tried to optimize the processes behind them. And of course, it changed again, in the middle of the last century, when the knowledge revolution arrived and we started to automate the collection, analysis, synthesis, and acting upon of knowledge. These changes have been very, very rapid, and everybody in the world has been impacted by these changes, so much so, that almost everywhere the majority of us are spending our working lives, and many of us also our personal lives, in what we call work, and it is knowledge gathering, knowledge acquisition and knowledge transformation. This is the Anthropocene! A geological era, defined by human presence on the planet. Where in an eye blink in geological, and even biological terms, in merely ten thousand years we went from occupying, in terms of terrestrial vertebrate biomass, humans, our cattle, our pets, from one percent of this, to ninety eight percent of this. However even the exponential function cannot go beyond one hundred percent, beyond one hundred percent, in a planet with limited resources, and we will soon, hopefully, necessarily expand beyond the limitations of this single planet we have, on other planets, around other stars, but until that happens, we must make sure that what we do doesn't become irreversibly unsustainable, which would bring us to join the ninety nine percent of he species in extinction. And as we know, nature wouldn't care, nature would not actually mind. The most powerful current manifestation of our changes in the knowledge gathering has obviously been, in the past thirty-forty years, for those who knew, and in the past let's say ten-fifteen years, for those who woke up more recently, the Internet! That gave us access to information, gave us access to knowledge, with such immediacy, that we could know everything! So much so that we could concentrate not on the information that we needed to gather with great effort when we went to libraries physically, to browse books and index cards, but the relationships between those bases of knowledge. Which raised the bar, and as we are frequently tempted to do, we have been empowered by this, to greatly accelerate our experiments in seeing what could be interesting, important, valuable that we could derive from this raised bar of knowledge analysis, synthesis, and acting upon... Which has been the Internet bubble of startups - many of us have participated in it - and now it's not that it's finished, it once again raised the bar, new Internet startups are being born every day. And regardless of the financial crisis they are driving entrepreneurs to transform the society around us. Entrenched interests can do nothing to make bits and bytes less copiable in the future. You can legislate as much as you want, music is going to be digital, and universally accessible. Movies are digital, and they are going to be universally accessible. And the most recent accelerated adoption of electronic book technogies are completing this circle of sucking into the digital realm our knowledge, which is of course the fundamental goal of one of the great practitioners in the enterprise part of this adventure. And it's not that we are done, of course, we will have a lot of other things to do, but I posit that an important part of our attention is going to move beyond, in understanding much more about the world that is around us. With the devices that used to be relegated to depend on humans to give them input through keyboards, to know about the world, to the new device generations, starting with the mobile phones, that all of us have in our pockets, That have plenty of sensors. That we call spimes, because they know where they are when they are, they know and learn about the world, and which constitute the next generation of networks, called the Internet of Things! That is which will allow us to know every thing... And we can start trying to understand what is going to be the nature of these networks and new devices. They are around us already: this very humble vacum cleaner knows where the power socket is and can go to find it, without you having to actually plug it in, to be recharging, contrary to your mobile phone, for example. As the sensors, and the sensations of these devices are going expand, it will be extremely important for them to actually realize not only what are the things, but what are the humans, what are the beings around them. What are not only our physical positions, but also what are our emotional states. They will have, and develop empathy, and awareness, and we will have empathy, and awareness towards them in return. They will be autonomous! Autonomous cars will be a fundamentally important transformative element of our Internet of Things networks, which are going to incredibly increase the efficiency of our societies, where cars are not going to stop and do nothing for 90% of their time, but we will be able to have a choice. Either to have ten times as many trips - for example how many mothers today are driving all the time their children everywhere. And we will be totally trusting towards these cars, to drive our sons and daughters anywhere we want, after school. They will be perfectly safe, much safer than whatever a human driver could achieve. And the other choice is going to be to have just ten times fewer cars! Electric cars are going to be enabled by this, because we won't have any more problems, with recharging the batteries. From ownership we will go almost seamlessly to access, and if we want, we can actually generalize, and go beyond... Think, if we could extend this, and understand how our energy systems can become smarter, how our health can be better managed, by devices that understand, communicate, and recommend decisions that we very likely would take on. What if even our tools of production, could take part in this, and rather than sending half a planet away a production order that takes six months to come back, to do three times as much of any gadget of widget that has to sit on the shelves doing nothing, for the advertising campaign to kick in, and hopefully people to buy, we could produce based on order, in our own houses or our blocks as we have been producing and reproducing information through our copying machines for bits, which used to be called computers, we are going to be embracing copying machines for atoms. What if your houses were the same as your cars are going to be, and you didn't need to own them anymore? You could just access houses, access food, and understand how this is going to impact everyday life in a fundamental manner. This is a very worthy exercise for all of you to start thinking about today, because these exponentials are already working, and working, and working hard! Doubling in size, below the limit of the popular press. You belong to a very privileged crowd of those, who have the power to know today, and then you will be able to start adapting to a future that is happening already! We are understanding the planet, at a level of granularity, that we need in order to survive! We cannot simply afford the inefficiencies that we have suffered for now. And as we grow the originality and the inventiveness that we are going to be able to apply through our tools in software, in hardware, in understanding, are going to transform fundamentally what is going to mean for example to work. What is going to be required, to participate actively in society. This could be very, vey positive! We will be able, we will be empowered to go to measure somebody not from what material possessions his first, or second, or third generation removed ancestors accumulated, through acts of industrial barbarism, but we will be able to measure the worth of those people by their active participation in education of themselves, and others. It is never too late to pick up a new profession, especially now that our lives are going to be intermeshed worldwide with other societies, that we have learned, hopefully to stop fearing and we start embracing. This advanced collaboration is going to be unprecedented, and unprecedentedly difficult, but we have have no choice. Once we embrace the different elements of these technologies and the changes that they will bring to our societies it is conceivable that we will return to a technomadic life. Something that we have known how to live, we have been biologically evolving for waking much, much more to exerting physically ourselves and walk or run for miles, and miles every day. Our sedentary habits of today are showing on the belly bulges of everybody including me! And returning to our nomadic roots is not only going to be a lot of fun it is not only going to be very effective but it is going to be also healthy! We do have the perception of living in a strange place and time and it is true, whether we measure it from the point of view of the ancient Greeks or we try to project ourselves almost impossibly to what is going to happen in ten, a hundred, or a thousand years from now, or billions of years from now, we understand that it is strange. Because it is strange to be living! And as we perceive this strangeness, without distancing ourselves from the world around us but embracing the strangeness that the world projects, we start to understand, how to co-evolve! And the tools, that we started to develop are the tools that must be embraced by society overall. This is what you can do! You can think, and you can talk, and you can discuss how these tools are going to impact us, because our societies are going to be under extreme strain to adapt! And it is very likely that we will need a new social contract... a new social organization, in order to take advantage of them, at their fullest extent, as we probably must. Because, once again, as we start to know every thing, as the things themselves start to know everything, after our ten thousand year long journey, we will be free to be human, again!

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 33 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 593
Posted by: davidorban on Feb 4, 2011

David Orban connects every thing.

After ten thousand years of accelerating techno-social evolution, the speed of change in machines is getting decoupled from that of humans, as we realize that we must grant them autonomy. As every thing gets connected, and the Internet Of Things builds itself, we will be free to be human, again!

David Orban is an entrepreneur and visionary, an analyst of the global high technology landscape. He is Advisor and member of the Faculty of the Singularity University, and former Chairman, and a Director of Humanity+. He frequently speaks at conferences about the social impact of accelerating technological change, and of the Internet of Things.

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