Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Web Secret 507: the best of iWebU - This is water

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #317: This is water.

Why? Sometimes, when you least expect it, social media still has the ability to deliver a treasure. Something so beautiful and transcendent that you actually feel lucky to have lived long enough for technology to make this gift possible.

Web Secret #317: This is water

I have been writing this blog since 2008 and have featured only one guest post.

Today, I will do it again.

The Internet in general, and social media in particular, generate amazing amounts of crappy content. Sometimes it seems like there is a universe of cat videos, depressing clips of people doing dangerous and stupid stuff, and news that I would just as soon not know about. If you are looking for sad, evil, despicable evidence that humans are a sorry lot, then the web will reward you in spades.

However, when you least expect it, social media still has the ability to deliver a treasure. Something so beautiful and transcendent that you actually feel lucky to have lived long enough for technology to make this gift possible.

Such is "This is water," a commencement speech delivered in 2005 by author David Foster Wallace to the graduating class of Kenyon College. The speech didn't become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death by suicide. A video of an abridged version recently made it onto my Facebook page courtesy of Upworthy. I yield the floor to Mr. Wallace:


And when you're done watching the video, read the full transcript of the speech.

"I wish you way more than luck."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Web Secret 506: the best of iWebU - Tech Proof

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #309: Tech Proof.

Why? A lot of things are changing very fast, but others - not so much. Identifying what stays the same is important.

Web Secret #309: Tech Proof - May 7, 2014

A few months ago I returned to Vegas.

I was last there 40 years ago.

A lot had changed:
  • from seedy to glitzy
  • from flashing light bulbs to state of the art projections
  • from a Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, to a flat screen TV.
But a lot hadn't changed at all:
  • in the casinos, pretty girls with very little clothing delivered drinks to thirsty gamblers
  • the slot machines were still slot machines
  • you could still play poker, blackjack and shoot craps
  • the Cirque du Soleil show was a circus show
  • I went to a comedy show and it was just like any comedy show I had ever attended - a person stood on stage, talked and made me laugh
  • the magician escaped from a water flooded tank - just like Houdini did, over 100 years ago.
In it's very essence, the Vegas experience hadn't changed at all.

The Internet, computers and cell phones hadn't touched it. It was "tech proof."

We spend a lot of time focusing on what is rapidly changing in our world. The change has been remarkable.

But equally remarkable is what remains "tech proof."

What will be "tech proof" ten years from now? 50 years from now? 100 years from now?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Web Secret 505: the best of iWebU - The Singularity

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #298: The Singularity .

Why? The singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Some years ago, experts said there was an 80% probability that it would occur between 2017 and 2112. It didn't happen last year, and it's pretty obvious that it's not going to happen this year. But it is going to happen way sooner than 2112. Everyone should understand the concept.

Note to my readers: one of the links no longer functions but does not detract.

Web Secret #298: The Singularity - February 19, 2014

Do you want to experience fear?

You don't need to ride a roller coaster, bungee jump, or parachute. Just read this post.

Remember Watson? Watson is the artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed by IBM. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, Watson competed and won Jeopardy! against former super champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

That's a little concerning. But that's just the beginning.

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

The first use of the term "singularity" in this context was by mathematician John von Neumann in the mid-1950s.

I have to digress to let you know that von Neumann was not one of your average mathematicians. As a 6-year-old, he could divide two 8-digit numbers in his head. By the age of 8, he was familiar with differential and integral calculus. By the age of 26 he had published 32 papers, at a rate of nearly one major paper per month. Von Neumann's powers of speedy, massive memorization and recall allowed him to recite volumes of information, and even entire directories, with ease.

Ray Kurzweil, our greatest contemporary futurist, predicts the singularity will occur around 2045. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial generalized intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. His own prediction on reviewing the data is that there's an 80% probability that the singularity will occur between 2017 and 2112.

So it's not if, but when...