The Future Starts Now

Wrap Factor Nine is a blog designed to discuss future trends in technology.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Rise of Quantum Computers


In William E. Halal’s Book  Technology’s Promise, various predictions about future technologies are examined as part of the TechCast Project.  The TechCast Project is made-up of various experts who express their views of what is likely to happen in regards to technology.  In the area of Information Technology the panel of experts predict that there is a 65% probability that Quantum Computers will be available by 2020.  


TechCast Project Information Technology Predictions

What are Quantum Computers?  These are computers that exploit the advantages of Quantum Physics. The basic unit of quantum computing is a“qubit”—an electron spinning either clockwise or counterclockwise, representing a 0 or a 1. 

Because electrons can coexist in two places simultaneously, a single electron can carry two qubits, two electrons can produce four qubits, three electron eight, and 20 electrons could perform a million computations. This exponential growth raises the hope of infinite processing power according to Halal.

This will allow scientist to complete task in seconds instead of years. Many individuals feel this will open-up the next round of major advancements in the field of computer science.  


A Short Video Explaining What Quantum Computers Are


Friday, August 17, 2012

Building A Better Brain?




OK that’s likely a stretch but what about being able to build interfaces into the human brain that will allow one to be more efficient in certain operations or maybe help individuals who may have various handicaps live more productive lives.  The human brain is a pretty remarkable machine.  The average brain packs a hundred billion or so neurons, connected by a guadrillion constantly changing synapses in to the size of a cantaloupe (Furber 2012).  With this level of complexity, is it even practical too think one could even attempt to build a better brain. 

This idea has fueled science fiction writers and brain-mind-computer researchers such as Ray Kurzwell for decades (Hiemstra 2003). Imagine that one could replace part of a damaged brain with a computer chip that perfectly replicates the brain or use instrumentation to ‘read’ brain activity and the use that information to program a computer chip.  Could this be the beginning of the downloadable brain (Hiemstra 2003).

Individuals like Steve Furber are starting to experiment with ARM chips to help facilitate this process.  Today’s implementation takes over 600 chips and is far from being able to simulate even the simplest task but if one dares to dream, you can see that today’s research is like the first mainframes of the 1970’s. 

The work of Mr. Furber may be setting the stage of what is possible within the next 30 years.  While we may not be able to replicate Mr. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation we may be able to build interfaces that will help individuals like Geordi La Forge regain his eyesight.  After all haven’t some of the most innovative solutions from our generation been influenced by popular culture and science fiction?

Below are a couple of interesting new articles and quotes about the Bionic Brain that I hope you find interesting.




                  The Future is Closer Than You Think


           
           


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tree of Meaning or the Forest of Confusion



The Tree of Meaning or the Forest of Confusion

In the New Agora: New Geometry of Language And New Technology of Democracy: The Structured Design Dialogue Process by Vigdor Schreibman and Alexander N. Christakis discuss various aspects of the Structured Design Dialogue Process (SDDP).

Let’s say you are examining a future technology like a quantum network router that would give you the ability to move data between two quantum systems without a physical connection.  To create a set of possibilities, one could use the Stages of Inquiry.   The well-defined steps and graphical representation walks one through the process from the initial problem to understanding the final impact of your choice.

The feature or method that I found most interesting is Tree of Meaning that may emerge once one goes through the Stages of Inquiry.  Dr. Alexander N. Christakis suggested using a Tree of Meaning using the 6 Dialogue Laws to aid in the resolution of the constraints and difficulties described as Spreadthink, while also promoting the pursuit of meaning and wisdom in dialogue (Schreibman and Christakis).

The 6 Laws of Dialogue are:

1. Appreciation of the diversity of perspectives of observers is essential to embrace the many dimensions of a complex situation. 
2. Disciplined dialogue is required so that observers are not subjected to information overloaded.
3. The relative importance of an observer's ideas can be understood only when they are compared with others in the group.
4. Meaning and wisdom of an observer's ideas are produced in a dialogue only when they begin to understand the relationships such as similarity, priority, influence, etc., of different people's ideas.
5. Every person matters, so it is necessary to protect the autonomy and authenticity of each observer in drawing distinctions.
6. Evolutionary learning occurs in a dialogue as the observers learn how their ideas relate to one another.

SDP for Support Planning and Innovation

Using the 6 Laws of Dialog and the Stages of Inquiry one could step through an orderly process to examine the various factors that could be impacted by going down a certain path.  Let’s assume that the conclusion is that if you believe in the notion of quantum computing then you will likely need quantum routers to connect entities together or basically have a standalone computer – which does little good in a global community. This would likely spark intense debates over the role of computing; networking and innovation.   Which in turn will likely have major political and socioeconomical ramifications.   




During this process, one will likely encounter Spreadthink and Groupthink before rational thought prevails. Questions will be asked like - is this going to be a breakthrough that benefits everyone or simply the playground of the privileged few. Hence this approach gives you another way to think about the possibilities and make a larger part of the community an active participant in the conversation to discuss the alternatives.

Lean more about Harnessing The Collective Wisdom visit http://www.harnessingcollectivewisdom.com/sdp_process.html

Schreibman, V. and A. N. Christakis. New Agora: New Geometry of Languaging And New Technology of Democracy: The Structured Design Dialogue Process. Retrieved August 12, 2012, 2012, from http://www.harnessingcollectivewisdom.com/pdf/newagora.pdf.
           


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The 2012 New Media Consortium Horizon Report


The 2012 New Media Consortium Horizon Report has been published and discusses various technologies and applications that will make learning more relevant and engaging.  This is a community of experts who focus on educational technology that can help reshape the way we learn, collaborate and interact with the world around us.   This group does a excellent  job in breaking down the time horizons that one should focus on in terms of implementing the various technologies discussed. 


In the short term (one year or less) the group suggests a greater focus on mobile applications and tablet computing.  Over the course of the next two to three years more game-based learning and analytics will be the norm.  Finally in the next four to five years, the focus will shift to gesture-based computing and the Internet of Things.  Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will focus on various items and insights provided in this report.

The first key trend that I would like to discuss is the new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning methods.  I’m amazed at how many schools are still not leveraging technology to take advantage of this trend.  Using the latest advancements in tablet technology, like the iPad, students can have a more rich immersive learning experience than ever before.  I'm fortunate enough to sit on the board of North Cross School in Roanoke Virginia and we are taking a very aggressive stance to take advantage of this trend.  This year every student in our upper school will be given an iPad.  The goal is to provide the students with a rich interactive learning experience that combines multimedia and active dialog with other initiatives like our new Global Studies program. 
Imagine using FaceTime with a student in Japan to explore world issues or having a teacher student conference session to discuss homework assignments. Maybe it is as simple as being able to watch a video rendering of a great Civil War battle, experiencing a great play or participating in a global discussion about the latest exhibit at the Louvre. So instead of lugging around 40 pounds of books, why not give the students one simple device that can serve as their gateway to the world.
None of this would be possible without the advancements in great mobile technology like the iPad.  Apple has done an incredible job building a simple to use device that literally can bring the world to your fingertips.  Add in the communication features like e-mail, chat and video conferencing and you now have a portable classroom where you can view classes on demand and interact with students worldwide.  But we shouldn’t forget that the device would be worthless without applications.  Apple did a nice job addressing this component of the market with hundreds of educational applications available today and 3 of the 4 major publishers now providing their textbooks online in the App Store.
If you are interested in this topic or learning, I suggest that you follow this group on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/newmediaconsortium or check out their wiki at http://horizon.wiki.nmc.org/.  Here you will find a wealth of information and insights into what they are thinking. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Great Reboot


When you think about the future of technology there are many interesting points of view from various futurist, scientist and dreamers. Juan Enriquez shares his views on what’s next in his TED Talk entitled “The next species of human.”  In the talk, Juan starts by summarizing the current financial situation facing America today.  He does a nice job holding your attention by discussing our current financial situation in a rather humorous manner.  This discussion is necessary to frame-up his point that we are going hit by two waves of change in the very near future.  The first wave will be the crescendo of the current financial crisis and the second will deal with the next set of advancements that will happen in technology.  The dilemma that we all face is how to address the current situation while still investing in the future.  After all it’s the innovators, dreamers and small entrepreneurs that will drive the economy moving forward. 

Enriquez discusses three trends that will have a major impact on how we think about technology and the evolution of the human species.   I find his quote from Louis L’Amour very appropriate for his thesis, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning. “ There are three trends that are driving the next wave of technology that may “refine” what it means to be human.  The three trends are the ability to 1) engineer microbes, 2) the ability to engineer tissue and 3) the ability to engineer robotics.   These items may lead to a reboot of the human race, as we know it today.

It was fascinating to discover that we already have programmable cells and that MIT has a Registry of Standard Biological Parts.  They are bringing together students to build microbes like a circuit board.  These activities have turned into a global competition where on teams are working on projects that are taking the health benefits of wine and engineering them into beer.  Just think of the possibilities.  I guess if I can hold out long enough maybe they will engineer a solution for us to reverse the aging process or eradicate cancer.  Even with these incredible feats, Enriques has other ideas on what the future will look like.  Scientist are now experimenting with growing new body parts using stem cells.  A group recently regrew a heart. 

The third trend is robotics.  We are getting to the point where you can have a conversation with a computer and not know if the output is from a machine or a human being.   There have been incredible advancements in Robotics to the point that we can combine mechanical movement with the intelligence of the computer to produce stunning results.

When you consider the three trends merging it poses a couple of interesting thoughts in terms of what is possible. Imagine hearing implants that allow you to hear better than the ears that you are born with.  At what point will the human beings we are today simply be replaced by beings that are technically superior.  Hopefully this vision is still a ways off.  Hopefully resistance will not be futile. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


James Rendell of BlackRidge Technology talks about a revolution that is occurring in the world of network security.  He calls it a quiet revolution – where the concept of identity becomes as much a part of the network fabric as the humble IP address itself – is gathering momentum. Using a simple "Magic Key" analogy James provides a glimpse of the future and explains the implications of transforming from address-based to identity-based network security.  http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/24735/comment-the-future-of-network-security

Combine this vision with advances made in biometrics and it’s easy to see how we view the world of security will be very different in the next 15 to 20 years.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBaiKsYUdvg