Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ubiquitous information technology fields

The broadest thematic point in futurist Ray Kurzweil’s opening keynote at Singularity University on November 6, 2009 was that once any area becomes an information technology, it starts conforming to the exponential curves of Moore’s Law progress that have defined the computing and communications industries since 1900 or earlier.

Health is well on its way to becoming an information science with genomic sequencing and synthesizing, bioinformatics and continuous automated biomarker capture. Energy is starting to be an information science with the smart grid, essentially an electron routing network allowing on-demand ingress and egress of diverse flows. Many other fields could behave in the networking and packet-routing metaphor, directing fungible quantized resources to where they are needed and requested like people in driverless cars, neurons in a brain, clean air and water molecules, disease management and health care delivery. Since demand varies, market principles could be used for unobtrusive resource allocation in automatic markets that meet and transact per digitally-inferred demand profiles and pre-specified permissions.

All science is in some phase of becoming or has already become an information science in the sense of using computational models, simulation and informatics.

With computation and communication becoming increasingly embedded in every manufactured object, it is obvious that many more if not all fields could become information technologies.
Intelligence, for example, is becoming an information science. With the exponential growth of computing, it is likely that at some future point, machine intelligence could surpass that of humans. One path forward is to reengineer life into technology that can keep pace with technological advances. There are already three dimensions of progress towards this goal: understanding the existing examples of the brain through neuroscience, simulating and building de novo intelligence in software and robotic forms and integrating human and machine capabilities with brain-computer interfaces, creating the biomolecular interface of integrating organic and inorganic material.

Social sciences
The question arises about how seemingly subjective and nuanced fields like politics could become information sciences. In the short term this is already happening with citizen journalism and collective organization through social networking (examples: flashmob protests and Twitter Iran election feedback). In the longer term, it is imaginable that political artificial intelligences, pleasantly absent the agency problem and special interests of human politicians, could start to perform low level political tasks and over time be used to a much larger degree in policy formation, public resource allocation and administration of nation state affairs.

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