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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Next Billion Years and the Significance of the Emerging Global Brain : Arthur C. Clarke Lectures

Arthur C. Clarke Lectures

Washington, DC 2000
The Next Billion Years and the Significance of the Emerging Global Brain

Prof. Joseph N. Pelton

Executive Director, The Sir Arthur Clarke Institute for Telecommunications and Information (CITI) and Deputy Director, Institute for Applied Space Research, George Washington University

Challenges to the Survival of Humanity

The so-called Third Millennium (at least as reckoned in the Western chronology) will be a time of enormous challenge and change. Simply put, how well we meet these challenges will decide how long the species homo sapiens will survive. These potential challenges to survival seem almost endless and suggest to some that even a thousand more years may be difficult for our species to sustain, let alone an eon.

The problems to overcome range widely. They span a spectrum of environmental issues that start with global warming, carbon dioxide and methane build up, and the darkening albedo of the polar ice caps. They also include global pollution, desertification, loss of the rain forests and arable land, and the depletion of petro-chemical energy sources. The problems are more than environmental. They also involve our inability to achieve a steady-state global population and sustain it economically as well as the difficulty of providing universal access to global education and health care. It also includes techno-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, abuses that stem from bio-engineering and cloning, and much more. We seem to have an endless array of new biological and computer viruses attacking humanity's health. Ironically we have made little substantial progress in overcoming known dangers even as new technologically-generated challenges are emerging at an exponentially increasing pace. We have had difficulty vanquishing rampant computer viruses (now over 500 formally recorded and growing strong). Thus is seems that the next century and most certainly the next millennium holds the key to whether humanity can survive as a species. To do this we will have to shift from a maximized economic growth mentality to a maximized human development and survival mentality. This means developing more wisdom rather than blindly developing more information or more technology or more material wealth.

Goal number one must be to sustain a livable biosphere. This is not something we can do quickly. The objective must be to improve the environment at least gradually over the few centuries-a task easier said than done. If our global population hits 12 billion within the next century the challenge will become ever so much larger.

Consider this. So far we have lived at best some a small fraction of the time that the giant dinosaurs that once ruled the earth-a fact that should put our current environmental dilemmas in clear perspective. As Sir Arthur Clarke once said: "The dinosaurs failed to survive due to the lack of a space program". The lesson to be learned from Sir Arthur's observation is not to pursue a space program (although this is certainly a good idea) but rather to plan ahead.

It is possible that we may fail to survive because we developed high technology but failed to develop from it systems designed to grow our species rather than simply to expand economic production.

The 21st century may thus spell "Do or Die" for humanity. Here are some of the issues to consider with regard to our aspirations not to survive another millennium but indeed to thrive and continue to evolve for an entire eon.

Coping with the Challenge of Future Compression

The rate of technological change is not so much accelerating but in a state of "jerk"-an increasing rate of acceleration. The future is approaching us much faster than the past is receding. Technology is a one-way gate. We cannot easily "un-invent"our technology. Human civilization cannot go back to earlier conditions without catastrophic results. We are headed toward the Age of the Global Brain at astonishing speed. The question is whether we can survive our own intelligence?

In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan forecast the development of the so-called "Global Village" based on television and satellite distribution that allowed billions of people to experience world-wide events like the Olympics. Today in the age of modern digital information systems and INTERNET, the global broadcast mode that allowed us to listen in common is giving way to a new paradigm: The Global Brain. Now we do not "listen" in common, but "think and interact" in common. This amazing new capability is growing at an amazing rate. The cumulative aggregate growth of INTERNET is 80% in Africa, 85% in North America, 90% in Europe, 110 % in Asia and 125% in Latin America. The problem is using this amazing ability to "think in tandem" to aid the progress and survival of our species rather using it to expand commerce and entertainment. It is a subtle but important distinction.

The spiral of technological advancement thus becomes an opportunity and a threat.

Using the Global Brain As A Survival Tool

Most of the great challenges to preserving a livable biosphere on our fragile planet will require not only new and enlightened social, economic, political and cultural policies, but technological innovation as well. Significantly, most of the great global challenges in terms of pollution, global warming, clean energy, improved education and health care, etc. depend not only on technology but, in particular, on space, telecommunications and information technology. Social and economic challenges, trade confrontations, loss of personal liberties, labor disputes, ethnic and religious differences-these will complicate the problems even more. Those who did not think that the mix of technology and trade was a treacherous combination before the breakdown of the trade negotiations in Seattle in December of last year, are perhaps more convinced of this today.

Can Humanity Survive Another Century or Perhaps Another Millennium? Can We Dare To Aspire To Last An Eon?

Our greatest challenges to survival will likely come in the course of the 21st century. A host of key technical, economic, regulatory, and trade issues will need to be overcome in the course of the next century. The challenges are everywhere, but as Barbara Tuchman the historian has observed: "The March of Humankind is largely the March of Folly." A yet we can hope. We can aspire to wisdom. We can start to build new institutions that can help design plans for survival rather than simple-minded economic growth. We can build new interdisciplinary research entities such as the International Space Agency, the new "Clarke Institute", or the Santa Fe Institute that can provide us key insights into the future.

We need such new educational and research institutions to help us shape better ways to cooperate between so-called advanced and developing economies. This is to realize not only increased global prosperity, but also more importantly to achieve the survival of the species. We have begun to shape not a Global Village, but a Global Brain to help us think more clearly, plan more synergistically and even employ more serendipity. Serendipity is a word many scientists seek to avoid. Yet, this is a word of some historical distinction and I invoke it in honor of Arthur C. Clarke. It is not widely known that the ancient island of Serendib is the ancient historic name of Sri Lanka. Serendib is, in fact, the root word for serendipity and the chance combination of chromozones produced the brain of Albert Einstein. And James Burke with his public television show and book Connections have shown that chance and circumstance has given our world some of its most important breakthrough discoveries and inventions.

Let's spend a few minutes to explore seriously the ambition of humanity to seek to survive another billion years. Let's start with a jerk.

JERK !!!!

The pace of modern innovation and technological change has gone from swift to super-exponential. If one were to pretend that the entirety of human civilization were only one Super Month in length where every second represents two years. In the speeded up world of the "Super Month", we would see a rather remarkable image of the development of the species known as Homo sapiens. The phase we would know as that of the hunter/gatherer would consume virtually the entire month. This stage would last 29 days and 22.5 hours. This last hour and half, the time of movie, would represent the time of agriculture, towns and cities, and the birth of technology. The last 4 minutes of our artificial "super day" would be the Renaissance. The last two minutes would be the industrial age. And what about the time of television, lasers, satellites, biotechnology, super computers, robotics, artificial intelligence and spandex? This "age of high technology" which consumes us so thoroughly in the late 20th century would occupy about 20 second of this "Super Month" that represented the entirety of human existence. Within the next few super minutes of time-if we survive as a species-we could achieve remarkable things. We could colonize and terra-form planets, convert to clean and limitless energy, create von Neumann machines to search the universe for other intelligent life and much, much more. Time in our age of technology is increasing as a forth order exponential. This transformation of the meaning of time in the age of information technology can be explained by examining these changes in terms of two buildings each 10,000 stories high. One of these represents conventional passage of time as revealed by chronological history. The second building represents the building of technological knowledge.

Human development and the evolution of technology do not represent a steady series of progressive steps with continuous and steady evolution. The review of these two "buildings" shows how different our current age is from that of the time of ancient ape-men.

No we increasingly live in a period of "future compression". In physics, an increasing rate of acceleration is called "jerk" and this is what we are experiencing in contemporary times. Just since the time of Ancient Greece, human population has increased about 57 times from 100 million to 5.7 billion, but during this same time period global information has increased some 10 to 100 million times. This is to say that information is mushrooming at least 200,000 times faster than our population growth. This is like an agile turtle trying to catch the Space Shuttle. In trying to catch up, our education and information systems have tried to speed us up faster and faster on more and more specialized conveyor belts.

The opportunity to become Renaissance People or solve complex problems in interdisciplinary teams has been increasingly lost. Ph.D. research has become so narrow and deep it has almost become invisible. The future challenge in telecommunications and information systems is not faster throughput. It is coping with information overload and creating new ways of learning and sharing information.

To date humanity has been around, at most, only about 5 million years-this is much, much less than the 35 million years that represented the Age of the Dinosaurs when they were the masters of the world.

The survival of our species on the planet Earth for the long haul is actually in question in part because of our exploding technology and a Niagara of specialized and unconnected data. The ability of Homo sapiens to create not only an effective electronic global village, but to create humanized smart cities and ultimately a viable "global brain" will require better telecommunications, information and energy systems than today's experts are now planning.

The truth is that the 21st century can be one of two things. Either it can be a vital connecting link to the future in which we use our most advanced information, telecommunications and education tools to create a viable economic, industrial, political and ecological system for human survival or we don't make it as a species. Not only do we not realize the unimaginable achievements that one billion years of continuous human culture could bring-we simply do not make it. We, in the next single century, have the potential to use our information and telecommunications technology and systems much too unwisely. We can indeed fail as a species. In the 22nd century our planet will still be here, but we humans may not make it or find ourselves a dying breed.

The challenge of the 21st century are not whether we will live better or worse than our forebears, but rather can we use our 'smart' telecommunications, information, energy, and transportation systems to create a viable econiche for homo sapiens.
How can we fail in the crucial 21st century? There are really lots of choices:

1. We can change the albedo of our polar caps through oil spills and pollution and flood our towns and cities. (Once melted the seawater will be enormously difficult to freeze again.
2. We can create enormous holes in the ozone layer and mutate our selves, like today's frogs, ultimately risking our very existence.
3. We can develop a steady state global population but not adapt our economic systems to such limited growth. (The problems of the Japanese economy may well be sending us such a warning today).
4. We can fail to use our best tele-education and tele-health systems to provide for global equity of learning health care in our increasingly seamless worldwide economy.
5. We can allow the process of desertification, destruction of our wetlands and rain forests to continue unabated. This will reduce our food supply while also raising the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to dangerous levels. (To cope, our remote sensing and information processing systems need major changes to become much "smarter" and user friendly).
6. We can continue levels of energy consumption of hydrocarbon based fuels to higher and higher levels until the cost of fuels reach disastrous levels.

The experiment with Biosphere II in the Arizona desert proved that human kind is not yet smart enough to create a livable planet of our own design-even one a few city blocks in size. We don't need huge amounts of new technology so much as we need new and better ways to apply it to society in interdisciplinary and "knowledge rich" ways. For the new millennium the challenge in developing and applying new technology is not to increase economic growth and adding material wealth, but rather to find ways to sustain our species within a recyclable bio-sphere as well as to move our species into the cosmos beyond our planet. This is a common mission for all humankind and it must involve all countries and all people.

In rising to meet this New Millennium Challenge it will increasingly be recognized that space-related technologies and applications, information and communications technologies and effective use of artificial intelligence and expert systems that are the keys to success-or failure. Only these "smart" systems can allow us to think and act synoptically on a planetary scale and create the tools to establish global cooperative behavior-that I call the Global Brain.
The primacy of space in coping effectively and comprehensively with planetary problems such as pollution, education, health care, communications, "smart" transportation and navigation.

Tele-education and Tele-Health as A Critical Step

At the opening session of the International Programme for the Development of Communications, organized by UNESCO in the 1970s, Sir Arthur C. Clarke explained that our emerging computer and communications technologies will eventually produce some he called the "electronic tutor". It would be portable, cheap in cost and contain a vast encyclopedia of information that could be electronically updated or connected via satellite. When asked was this "electronic tutor" going to replace teachers he sensibly replied. No, of course, not we will always need teachers, but come to thing about it: "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine probably ought to be."

Today this technology seems less than a decade away. Tomorrow's developments are with us today. There are already "anytime, anywhere" satellite hand-held transceivers to be bought at under a thousand dollars and soon these will be broadband and support multi-media services. There will soon be 50 "smart" virtual reality arcades from Disney strewn about our globe. We can buy Dragon software today (that lets spoken word be transferred to written text).

Info-Technology is sweeping us quickly ahead. The latest developments in Ka, Q, V, and even W band frequency satellite communications promise us the ability to provide megabit/second messages to hand-held "tele-computers" that can tell us where we are, access any library, and calculate any problem that Eniac would have taken hours to have solved. Soon when we learn to cope with "rain fade" problems that affect radio waves the size of amoebas we can have almost unlimited communications to portable electronic "tele-computer" units with memories many times the Encyclopedia Britannica. Of course, in time these might become even more portable as they shrink to the size of implanted chips and "worn" phased array antennas.

Such technology can revolutionize our global educational and health care systems, by making these universally available and much lower in cost. Experiments carried out under the INTELSAT Global Satellite System's Project SHARE in 1986 and 1987 showed the potential of space-based tele-education and tele-health in many dozens of countries. The Chinese National Television University started under the Project SHARE tests and demonstrations and it now has over 3 million students and over 90.000 operational terminals. The so-called SITE experiments that started with the ATS-6 satellite in India have likewise stimulated the operational tele-education programs now carried on the INSAT satellites.

There is phenomenal amount of new space segment capacity planned on a global basis (with a combined capability of some 5 terabits/second in the new millimeter wave bands alone). These new satellite systems contains sufficient margin to create multi-channel video, audio and INTERNET multi-media education systems and health care networks on a planetary basis. Fiber optic systems will represent at least ten to hundred times more raw transmission capability. The key is to use our extraordinary new technical capabilities to achieve "better" rather than simply faster.

Despite the increasing global available of low cost, broad-band satellite capacity, there are key challenges that remain. One challenge is the broad-based deployment of low cost, battery or solar powered terminals on

Even more challenging than new fiber and satellite hardware, therefore, is the issue of the content and the software we need to meet social needs. The concept of a single global health care or educational system for the world is fatally flawed. The demands of language, culture, local economic and agricultural needs cannot be met from a single source. We need a diverse and complex source of programming that responds to local needs. It is here that space cooperative ventures can combine strength to strength. Project SHARE showed that space based tele-education and tele-health succeed succeeded not on the basis of sophisticated technology but on the basis of local initiated programming that respond to locally-defined needs.

Mission to Planet Earth

A second potential Asian space initiative would clearly involve the practical application of Space Geomatics. If we are to begin to save the earth's biosphere we need new tools to undertake more effective urban and transportation planning, better uses of our land and resources, conserve our energy and contain pollutants. This is really not as difficult as it sounds. Already one can see how this can be done and the evidence is now viewable from outer space. The Indian province of Uttar Pradesh has, through the long-term application of space-based remote sensing, has been transformed from semi-arid desert to a "green and agriculturally productive area. Amazingly this process of replanting forests, re-channeling streams and rivers, and re-development of arable lands has also served to create new industries and jobs, empower women cooperatives and improve education and health care systems as well.

There is no reason why the lessons learned in Uttar Pradesh cannot be repeated again and again in Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and so on throughout the so-called developing world. The powerful new information tools that emerge from the use of Global Information System (GIS) are only beginning to be understood.

Today there are plans for integrated development and modernization projects that combine solar electrification, information and telecommunications systems, tele-education and tele-health, micro-banking, micro-enterprises, etc. being coordinated through the World Bank, INTELSAT, the Solar Electric Light Foundation and the new Clarke Institute for Telecommunications and Information. The point of such projects is to create a model that generates sufficient revenues to sustain the capital investment and is also environmentally sound as well.

It is likewise important to try to develop new economic and technological models for developed countries as well to sustain their longer-term steady state technological, economic and environmental development.

Satellite technology and applications will provide critical solutions in the areas of education, tele-medicine, reduced air pollution, sustainable and productive fishing, recycling of arable land, reversal of desertification, conservation of wetlands and mountainous regions, and coping with ozone depletion. In the third millennium we can use space, telecommunications and information systems to deploy "smart transportation" systems, provide interdisciplinary urban planning, promote effective use of telecommuting, and create new "clean" jobs in industry and service corporations. Extensions of these projects could seek to utilize global information systems in new and innovative ways, create effective disaster warning and recovery systems, provide effective search and rescue, connect to electronic libraries and museums, as well as provide job re-training, professional re-certification, etc. In recognizing how basic and widespread space applications can be to key planetary needs of the general public, the political leaders and the public officials of Asia thus have a wonderful opportunity. This

The examples of what could be done to create a better world environment in the 21st century abound. In China, the National TV University now operates with over 90,000 satellite terminals and over 4 million students. The Uttar Pradesh region has been economically and environmentally restored. The launch of the Triana environmental satellite into the L-5 Lagrangian point a million miles from earth next year could answer basic questions about the energy exchange budget between the earth and the sun.

The key is as simple as seeking a "win-win" approach that advances knowledge, improves the environment and creates an economic system that contributes to a "spiral of improvement" rather than to a "spiral of blind growth and expansion within our evolving Global Brain.

There are within the history of Western philosophic and political thought at least four important schools of thought. These are those of Idealism ( Plato, St. Augustine….), Realpolitick (Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx….), Democratic Liberalism (John Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham….), and Scientific and Technological Objectivism (Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Rene Descartes, Norbert Wiener, Buckminster Fuller….).

Some believe that the key to future in the 21st century and beyond involves simply
turning the crank of technological progress ever faster. This is the view of so-called
"Extropism" or "Extropists". These are those who believe that humanity is the intelligent force in the universe that will prove Isaac Newton and the Second Law of Thermodynamics wrong. They believe that with sufficient technology we can halt entropy and solve every problem that humanity faces. This is almost certainly wrong!

We must call on a balanced approach in our philosophic approach to survival as long as an eon, let alone attempt to change the course of history on a galactic scale. We must draw on the wisdom of all the above historical schools of thought to survive. Balance not speed is the answer. This philosophy of survival over growth, of wisdom and knowledge over information, and of global systems and quality over technology is some of the fundamental changes that are key to building a successful planetary culture in the 21st century.

These are not changes that can be made in a year or even a decade. As the Third Millennium begins there are some 23 active armed conflicts occurring around the world that in parallel with Internet are shaping a global economic network. We humans are a complex group of beings at once magnificent and munificent but also monstrous and malignant. Building a global village and ultimately a planetary electronic culture seems to be our destiny. In short if our descendants evolve continuously on this planet and go on to settle other planets and star systems over the next billion years, this future will hinge on the steps we take in this new century of a new millennium. The first step will be to develop a global consciousness. This might be called "The Global Brain".

Attachment No. 1

Next Billion Year-Timeline

Formula for Calculating Super Month:

1 super second = 2 years
1 super month (equivalent to history of humankind) = 5 million years
1 super year = 60 million years
100 super years equals 6 billion years

The view of the Universe in Supermonth Time is as follows:

Some 250 years ago in supermonth time (15 billion years in the past) a "Singularity" creates the Universe with the "Big Bang".

Puzzles of the Universe?

The Universe holds many puzzles such as did this singularity begin expanding in as many as 27 different dimensions? Are there more than the four known basic forces represented by electro-magnetic, gravitation, weak nuclear and strong nuclear forces? Is there enough mass in the Universe so that it will eventually contract back on itself? Is the Universe smaller than we thought? Does distortions of space allow light to be reflected back on itself. Thus, is our view of the universe equivalent to seeing a "wall of mirrors" illusion of distance?

Is there a process that is the reverse of entropy? Is Newton's Second Law of Thermodynamics correct? This law states that in any closed system, entropy (or the tendency toward "disorder" or the "arrow of time") will move systems or behavior toward chaotic behavior.

Can there be instantaneous communications across the Universe by modulating "gravitons"? Could there be intergalactic communications of advanced civilizations using neutrinos, quasars, etc.? What should the newly discovered "walls of galaxies" throughout the universe mean? What do "black holes" truly represent? Is there intelligent life throughout the Universe?

100 super years ago (6 billion years): The second generation or "Type 2" star systems and galaxies were formed from the "stardust" of first generation or "Type 1" galaxies of which the Milky Way and our Solar System was formed.

80 super years ago (5 billion years in the past) the Earth and the planets of the Solar system took shape

16 super years ago (1 billion years in the past) the Earth began to evolve the simplest types of life forms (alga, kelp, etc.)

1.5 years to 6 months ago in supermonth time (i.e. 90 million to 30 million years in the past) the Age of Dinosaurs

1 month ago (5 million years in the past) The earliest of Early Ape Men

1.5 hours ago (10,000 years in the past) the Age of Agriculture and towns and villages

4 minutes ago the Renaissance (500 years in the past)

2 minutes ago the Industrial Revolution (240 years in the past)

20 seconds ago (40 years in the past) the Age of Computers, Satellites, Lasers, Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Television and Spantex

15 seconds ago the first humans walk on the Moon (30 years)

Now-The Start of the Third Millennium and the Age of Cloning and DNA engineering

7 super seconds from now (15 yeas from now): wearable, multi-purpose antenna and computer systems for mobile communications, entertainment, navigation and information processing

15 super seconds from now (30 years in the future): Artificial islands, Colonies under the oceans, Mag Lev hypersonic tunnels between the Continents, Molecular level Quantum Communications and Digital Processing (a billion times faster than today's 1GHz processors)

20 super seconds from now (40 years in the future): Permanent colonies in space and space tourism

25 super seconds from now (50 years in the future): Eco-Economics begin to evolve from Capitalism (A New Synergy of Consumption, Production and Recyclable Products and Services)

30 super seconds from now (60 years in the future): Cybernetic Organisms and Smart Robots. Bio-to-Bio Modems via Alpha Waves.

40 super seconds from now (80 years in the future): The Von Neumann Machine (Artificial Machine Evolution) and 200-year life spans for "Homo Electronicus"

50 super seconds from now (100 years in the future) Earth Guard in place (i.e. a Space Program to divert asteroids or comets from direct impact on Earth.

1 super minute from now (120 years in the future): The space elevator in Geosynchronous Orbit and Solar Power Colonies

2 super minutes from now (250 years in the future): Terra-forming of Mars and Venus and space based mining and manufacturing on Moon and Asteroids.

5 super minutes from now (625 years in the future): Intergalactic Communications possibly via "graviton waves" or "modulated neutrinos" and discovery of other intelligent life in the universe

10 super minutes from now (1250 years from now) Realization of GUTS (i.e. Grand Unified Theory of the Space-Time Continuum)

1 to 2 super hours from now (7500 to 15,000 years in the future): Discovery of how to reverse the arrow of time (i.e Discovery of a "Reverse Entropy" Force which has been called in concept "Extropism" ) or discovery of another dimension of the universe or a "positron universe".

1 super year from now (60 million years into the future): Colonization of the Milky Way?

16 super years from now (1 billion years into the future): Sun, Earth, and Solar System Civilization at Risk from a Solar Nova?

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