04 December 2010

Humanity's Future: Information Overload

Robert Tercek
At H+ at Caltech (#hplus) this morning, Robert Tercek gave us an introduction to humanity as we know it and how a sudden increase of information will transform it forever.

"The process of improving human life has always been governed by information," Tercek said. Now we're in this new information transformation age, or what he calls living in the era of B.S., or "before singularity."

Just as electricity, vaccines and plumbing once radically changed health of humans in history, we will eventually gain the knowledge to completely change the way we think about health, as well as radically increase the human lifespan in the future.

It will happen by using anti-aging therapies like those posed by Aubrey de Grey, as well as other scientists, increasing knowledge about the human genome, or in other ways never before thought.

Plus, these huge increases of info are changing life as we know it in other ways; for example, the way we use energy today. "We're going to look back at this period and see it as tremendously inefficient," Tercek said.

Tercek goes on about how information drives the advance of civilization. The first major one was speech, followed by writing, for example.

And he points out pretty amazing facts about how the Internet is wiring the world:

- we have people tweeting and blogging, communicating to the world right now
- 35 hours is being uploaded to YouTube per minute
- Facebook sees 2.5 billion uploads of photos per month
- we'll eventually upload all of humanity's knowledge from universities to the Internet.

"Every 2 days we create as much information as we did up to 2003," Tercek said, which is the most info created in all of human history, a history that has been bound by the limitations of the book for the last 500 years. 

"If you look at the advances of the last 15 years and look at the next 15," Tercek said, this gives us quite a lot of reason to be amazed about what the future will bring. 

Then, Tercek gave several more examples of how past advances in increasing information changed the world like the printing press, and how new technologies using "metadata" like mobile devices are changing the world again. 

Plus, he gives us a picture of the future with automated cars (that you can program to pick you up using your iPad), and mentions also Sixth Sense mobile interfaces (which is what I happen to want for Xmas this year). 

In short, information overload is going to make life pretty cool in the future. 


Superplex said...

Hi David,
Thanks very much for the superb summary of my talk. Very nice to read it! Let's connect tomorrow.

daviddespain.secret said...


Thanks for commenting! And for the interesting presentation.


dobermanmacleod said...

There are two types of people: those who learn from new health technology (like the new Weight Watcher's point system), and those who do not change and continue their unhealthy habits. As an example: I read about the CRdiet (www.crsociety.org) where if you dramatically cut your calorie intake, you will like decades longer and be healthier into old age. I have dutifully related this information to my circle of friends, but no takers. This is a virtual fountain of youth technology and nobody is interested! Humanity's Future: Ossification or Not. Like GIJoe says: Now you know, and knowing is (only) half the battle.

Unknown said...

This seems like unchecked techno optimism.

daviddespain.secret said...

@dobermanmacleod judging from the obesity epidemic, and the statistics of people failing every diet plan they get on including Weight Watchers, the plain fact is that people tend to just be lazy

celticfrog said...

It is hard to say from a summary, but did you take into account the quality as well as quantity of information? Just because stuff is being posted doesn't mean that it is useful. This is particularly true of health/medical information where wild and untested claims are posted as established facts, many times in direct contradiction to scientific studies.

Interesting read nonetheless.