Chapter 12. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Clear View Bias

Timing is often critical, in business and in life. It usually isn’t enough to be right, as a forecaster or entrepreneur. You also need to be right at the right time.

Clear view bias happens when the foresighter “mistakes a clear view for a short distance. The clear view doesn’t overstate what is possible (hype), it just significantly underestimates the time and preconditions that will be necessary for the future vision to finally emerge. Clear view bias may be more common among polymaths, as they can often see farther ahead than the average person. But if they don’t see all the gating factors and preconditions for their vision, they get their timing wrong. Let’s consider a few examples.

In the 1970’s, US President Carter put solar panels on the White House. President Reagan took them down in the 1980s. That was a regressive act on his part, motivated by his alliance with the fossil fuel lobby, but it was also a predictable one, given his politics. Solar energy was in need of R&D dollars in the 1970s and 80’s. It wasn’t ready for mass deployment. Consumer solar panel deployments could have emerged in the early 1990s, if we’d had good leadership and investment on them from Reagan and others in the 1980s, but we didn’t get that, due to political realities. But politics can only delay developmental trends, it can’t prevent them. We finally saw mass solar emerge in the mid 2000’s, with companies like Solar City. Ten years later, solar energy is finally beating coal for electricity production in a few countries, like the UK. But in the 1970’s, solar energy’s timing was too early.

In the 1980’s, there was significant hype in the IT industry around nonvolatile, solid-state “bubble” memory and its potential in hard disk drives. Bubble memory found use in niche products, but it had serious speed and cost of manufacture limitations. Solid-state drives (SSDs) based on flash memory only started emerging in the 1990s, and they only got inexpensive in the 2000’s. Nonvolatile memory’s timing was too early.

In the 1970s to 1990s, there were many predictions of a coming “checkless” society and paperless” office, around the corner. But the writing of paper checks and the printing of paper in offices both kept growing through these decades, with both finally peaking in the early 2000s. The reduction of paper use has been attributed mainly to a generation shift, and steadily growing sustainability values. Older folks change their behavior a lot slower than we think. This is another good example of clear view bias, of much too early timing of an obvious future ahead.

In the mid-1990s, Oracle, Sun, and IBM promoted the idea of the diskless “network computer” as the future of laptops and PCs. Network computers were manufactured between 1996 and 2000. But home internet connections were still at dialup speeds, cloud services didn’t exist, and hard-drive based laptops continued to get exponentially cheaper. Network-like computers finally became popular with Google’s Chromebooks, which began selling in 2011. These devices do have SSDs, but many users keep all their files in the cloud, as in the network computer vision. This is another example of clear view bias that was fifteen years too early.

Caglayan and Harrison (1997). A great early book on software agents.

Caglayan and Harrison (1997). A great early book on software agents.

In the late 1990s, a number of folks were talking about the great promise of software agents. Harrison and Caglayan’s Agent Sourcebook (1997) is a great example. It documents the broad range of simple agents available at the time. But agents smart enough to start anticipating our needs, conversationally, didn’t arrive broadly, even in a very limited sense until Apple’s Siri in 2011, and it wasn’t until 2015 that we began to see broad numbers of simple agents and bots. These are still a long way from being truly smart agents, able to manage complex semantic functions for us, and their personalization is still a long way from personal AIs. Amazon’s, Google’s, Microsoft’s and Samsung’s 2016 prototype conversational assistants are nice, but I’d bet we’re still at least five years away (2021) from mass use of smart agents, and broadly useful basic conversational abilities, and we are probably ten years away (2025) from the broad use of personal AIs. A lot more progress in AI is still needed before these emerge. Again, it’s easy to mistake a clear view for a short distance.

The polymath and futurist Ray Kurzweil demonstrates clear view bias in his views on the timing of the technological singularity, in my opinion. He originally predicted general artificial intelligence arriving in 2045. In his more recent thinking, he’s moved this date even sooner. In my first article on this topic in 1999 on SingularityWatch (now AccelerationWatch), I also guessed the 2040’s might be the correct timing. But the closer I looked at the brain-inspired technologies that I felt had to be central to general AI, the further out my prediction has moved. I’m now expecting general AI to arrive around 2060.

I think that time frame allows an adequate buffer for two things: all the hidden complexity we are missing in our current understanding of intelligence (for example, the use of evolutionary and developmental programming to capture the way life improves its own intelligence) and for all the social gating effects that will slow down the emergence of this potentially very disruptive new force in society. The closer it gets to human level, the more creeped out many of us will become, and the regulators will gain more influence the more powerful AI becomes, especially after minor or major AI disasters.

The polymath and futurist Eric Drexler also demonstrates clear view bias in his views on molecular nanotechnology, in my view. I am sure the molecular assemblers that he describes in his intellectually thrilling books will inevitably happen, but I’m also convinced they will arrive much later than he thinks, due to the need for a technological singularity beforehand. Only an AI, in my view, will be able to conduct the vast number of experiments in simulation space that will be necessary to rediscover, and further optimize, the molecular nanotechnology that biological systems use, and from there, learn how to apply it in even more productive, and perhaps less “wet” environments. So with the exception of the computational nanotechnology that will help create our coming natural computing paradigm, most of Drexler’s vision can arrive only late in the 21st century, in my view.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice