Faster than a Speeding Santa

Paula LaBrot

I was thinking about Santa and how fast he has to go to deliver presents to all the people on this beautiful planet.

That’s a global population of 7.7 billion naughty and nice people and he delivers to everyone in 24 hours! Beat that, Amazon!

How fast do you think he moves? I got to thinking, who or what else could connect that fast, since the world population has increased an awful lot since Nicolas threw some coins into some Turkish slippers. Of course, I had to think of Moore’s Law. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Futurists have to know about Moore’s Law, the observation that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every year while the costs are halved.” (It’s actually faster…every 18 months) The more transistors on a chip, the faster it is and the more memory it can hold.

From this first observation in 1965 to now, despite wars, recessions, natural disasters, etc., all obstacles to growth only increased. The constant ascendance of computing capacity has never wavered, never dipped. From 2000 on, the growth has been disruptively fast, not as fast as Santa, but getting there. So fast, it has challenged the ability of humans to keep up with the changes it has brought about.

Because of the exponential growth of computer speed and memory, Futurist Peter Diamandis believes we are in the early stages of the transformation of the human race, and says, “People have no idea how fast the world is changing.”

He points out the costs of bandwidth, computation and memory have plunged, while global connectivity has exploded. Over the next few decades we will see transformations in the way we govern ourselves, raise and educate children, employ, do business, and entertain ourselves. In addition, Diamandis predicts we will become an interplanetary species. Mars, here we come.

Diamandis makes his case for our species transformation by looking at early computer chips and early life on Earth. The first life on Earth 3.5 billion years ago was a single cell of cytoplasm and a single strand of DNA called a Prokaryotic cell. A billion years later there evolved a more complex life form, the Eukaryotic cell that had technology upgrades including mitochondria and Golgi apparatus that allowed it to process energy information more efficiently. The first tech upgrades!  

Diamandis believes that is what is happening right now to humans as we incorporate  technology into our brains and bodies, from robotic limb replacements, cochlear implants, pacemakers, brain implants, and sensors in the very clothes we wear, to name a very few. Pretty big upgrades and it didn’t take a billion years, did it?

Diamandis points out that as life went from a single, isolated cell to a multi-cellular state, this transformation created a collaborative cell state. He draws the analogy of humans going from small isolated tribes totally unconnected to the vast global connections of people today. We start to see the incredible mind power becoming available through collaboration.

We are expecting five billion voices connected to the global conversation on the internet by 2020. Just think of the problem-solving brain power. One of my favorite examples of the efficiency, effectiveness, and democracy of the internet involves such collaboration.

Diamandis tells the story of a computer game called “Fold It.” Players can take a sequence of amino acids and figure out how the protein is going to fold. How it folds dictates its structure and function. It’s very important for research in medicine. It turned out human 3D pattern recognition is better at folding proteins than computers. And who was the best protein folder in the world? No one from Cal Tech or MIT. A woman from Manchester, England, with a day job as an executive assistant at a rehab facility who liked to do puzzles at night! You should read about some of the math problems posted on the net, solved in days that no one had been able to do for years. Billions of brains collaborating…that’s a lot of power.  

Futurists are predicting technologies implanted in the brain that will access the cloud by “thinking.” People can already “think” movement to robotic limbs. By the 2030s or 2040s, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil envisions micro-computers embedded non-invasively in the brain that will act as an interface to a “cloud” of storage and processing power. This gives “group think” a whole new meaning.

Diamandis sees collaborative connections among human beings on Earth creating a “meta-intelligence.” He thinks this will create a new species of humans, starting with us as the point of origin. With that comes the huge responsibility to “inspire and to guide the transformation.”

In that vein, it is my hope and wish that our beloved and quick St. Nick be a lasting part of that inspiration; that the spirit of giving and the joy the Santa Claus connection brings, stay not only global, but interplanetary.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Blessings to All! On Dasher, on Dancer…

Vamos a Ver!


Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace.

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