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A Brief Introduction of the Accelerating Times
(Based on January-December 2002 Newsletter; 67 pages)


When You're Serious about the Future,
Advancing Science, Technology, Business, and Humanist Agendas, and Reporting Universal, Global, National, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives in Accelerating Change

IAC's Mission and Vision Statements:

Mission: "Advancing Scientific, Technological, Business, and Humanist Agendas, and Reporting Universal, Global, National, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives in Accelerating Change."

Vision: An Educated, Foresighted Lay and Professional Public that Makes Informed Choices Today About Our Ever-Accelerating Future.


It has been one year since our last Accelerating Times. Cultivating a longer term perspective seems best suited to an annual update. After all, today's best estimates place the technological singularity at least twenty years away, and more likely sixty, in my own opinion. Nevertheless, our SingularityWatch community has grown to over 1,200 subscribers in over two dozen countries, and our website now receives over 50,000 hits and 450 unique visitors a month. Thanks to all of you who have joined the community. Several subscribers are now asking for community features, and as we add those in 2003, we will likely move to more frequent newsletters.

Five items of general interest:

1. Our nonprofit  Institute for Accelerating Change (IAC) has been formed. There are presently four of us (John Smart, Regina Pancake, Troy Gardner, and Randy Davidson) on the executive committee, ten more on the general board, fifteen on an associates board, and a much larger group of advisors on separate Science, Technology, Business, and Humanist advisory boards. If you'd like to participate this year, just send us an email (mail@singularitywatch.com) with your background and interests and we'd love to find a place for you on the team.

We chose our name after long deliberation in 2002, to attempt to reflect the broadest constituency of those interested in understanding and better management of accelerating change within four main discourses (Science, Technology, Business, and Humanist dialogs, each given roughly equal attention), and from five main perspectives (Universal, Global, National/Tribal, Cultural/Family, and Individual) for our growing community. We'll be discussing a range of models and issues in accelerating change, including the speculative, and still quite unproven, technological and developmental singularity paradigms.

We are building a new website at Accelerating.org, to debut before June 2003, where you'll be able to take part in some useful collaborative features. We have great hopes for the future of our organization, as more and more of us begin to research, analyze, speculate about, and develop action plans around the singularity meme in coming years.

The outline of Accelerating Times has been revamped to fit more closely with our mission, as you'll see below. More will be available at the coming Accelerating.org website.

2. "Understanding the Singularity," our First Audio CD, is Now Available

Accelerating Productions, our new production house for audio, video, and textual media exploring our accelerating future, has created its first product, a 72 minute audio CD, "Understanding the Singularity: Exploring Meta-Trends in Accelerating Change." It is an adaptation of my very well received June 2002 talk at the World Future Society in Philadelphia. (For more info: john@SingularityWatch.com)

3. Our First Annual Conference in July, 2003

IAC and the Foundation for Research in Accelerating Change will be putting on our first Accelerating Change Conference (ACC), Thursday-Friday, July 17-18, 2003, Tressider Union, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

This conference will be held the two days prior to the 2003 annual conference of the World Future Society, so that you may easily attend both conferences if that is of interest. We will have between 28 and 43 speakers (final numbers and speaker platform still pending) representing a broad range of scientific, technological, business, and humanist agendas. All speakers have published incisive works on accelerating change. It should be quite informative, even transformative.

Speaker details will be posted at the site above, beginning in February. We hope to see many of you at this important community event!

4. Future Studies in Academia

This Summer, I attended the U. of Houston Future Studies M.S. program. Future Studies explores long-term change using mostly qualitative tools, such as Scenario Planning, and a few quantitative ones, such as Statistical Analysis. While there are trend-extrapolation academic programs that train professionals to think on 3-year, 5-year, and occasionally even 10-year horizons, such as Strategic Planning in Business, or Science and Technology Policy Studies (e.g., RAND graduate school), Future Studies is unique in that it also looks at a time horizon of 10 to 30 years into the future, where scenarios must necessarily include discontinuities or "wild cards" of various types.

For singularity students (e.g., those that anticipate the continuation of our history of double exponential growth in computation, not as a belief system but as a conditional and best current model of the future), time horizons much beyond twenty years must centrally include the effect of increasingly autonomous technology and eventually, emergent AI (the technological singularity) on the human environment.

Unfortunately, this developmental progression is missing from most current futurist scenarios, which are, as Kurzweil would say, using intuitive linear rather than historically exponential models in their assessment of computation.

There are four major types of future studies in the field:

1. Exploratory Future Studies ("Possible" Futures)
- Examples: Science fiction, speculative literature, utopian studies, art.

2. Consensus Future Studies ("World's Preferred" Futures)
Examples: UN projects, community visioning, democracy-promoting NGO's

3. Agenda-Driven Future Studies ("Institutionally Preferred" Futures)
Examples: Any self-interested organization's long range, strategic goals and plan.

4. Predictive Future Studies ("Probable" or "Inevitable" Futures)

Examples: Any specific, falsifiable predictions about future conditions.

Predictive Future Studies
, the smallest and least developed of the above four, involves those attempts that have been made to generate falsifiable quantitative and qualitative predictions about a special subset of evolutionarily probable or developmentally inevitable future events. Heading the list of such events, for still poorly understood reasons, are accelerating trends in computational power and autonomy.

I'll finish the M.S. in Future Studies this Summer, and subsequently plan to begin a Ph.D. program in Science and Technology Studies (STS). If you are considering gaining a formal education in this domain, check our SingularityWatch site for a comparison between the fields of Future Studies and Science and Technology Studies for singularity researchers. We also list fifteen top U.S. and International programs for PhD work in Singularity Studies.

5. New Accelerating Times Outline.

We've developed a new outline, to fit more closely with the IAC mission. We now focus on seven main sections, subdivided into thirty-one categories█a Baskin-Robbins approach to Future Studies. J We begin with Community Interest and Selected Information Feeds, then move to what we consider to be the five main futures perspectives of the pre-singularity era.

I. Universal Dialog (Science and Technology)

(Note: Sci-tech developments are primarily universal, not local issues, within the developmental singularity paradigm.)

II. Global Dialog (World Governance, Globalization, and Environment),

III. National Dialog (Politics and Economy),
IV. Cultural Dialog (Social Psychology and Culture),

            V. Individual Dialog (Vitality, Creativity, and Spirituality)

(Note: We tentatively classify spirituality as primarily an individual (and secondarily a cultural) dialog, though it periodically converges on universality and reunification with science.)

Semitechnical Aside: You may suspect, as several of us do, that sexually dimorphic humanoid life forms (e.g., us) are a convergent developmental attractor for complex multicellular-based life, and that complex multicellular life is itself as inevitable as complex organic chemistry in the universe. You may further suspect that evolutionary development would mandate some necessary, power law multiplicity, not only of universes (in the multiverse) and planets (in the universe), but also of tribes, reproductive families, and individuals on any planet.
These are still quite thinly supported speculations in astrobiology at this point. Nevertheless, if proven true, it is interesting to contemplate that these five perspectives (Universe, Planet, Tribe/Nation, Family/Culture, and Individual would each be unique hierarchical computational levels in all life-supporting environments within the universe. Such a state of affairs would make the pentad classification system we have chosen above particularly useful for a multidisciplinary dialog on accelerating change.

ATimes Editor
John Smart
Los Angeles, CA
Understanding Accelerating Change

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