Late in the first day of this year's TED Conference, its understated curator, Chris Anderson, took the stage and made a pronouncement. "The computing power in some of the things that we're seeing is really startling," he said. "It feels to me as if things have suddenly notched up a level in an unexpected way. We're used to Moore's Law. We're used to things getting better and better and better. And then some years, it suddenly just feels as if—kapow!—there's a step change."
Back when it was just an exclusive conference for geek geniuses and venture capitalists, TED stood for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Now that more than 1,000 TED Talks are available free online and have been watched 300 million times, those three initials are less meaningful than is the ethos expressed in the conference's motto, "Ideas Worth Spreading." Either way, TED has never been about gathering its speakers together to support some predigested "trend."
Which I guess is why Chris sounded so surprised and delighted by his own statement. We'd just heard from Mattias Astrom, whose company digitally maps the world's cities and every building in them in gloriously faithful three-dimensional renderings. After that, the digital artist Aaron Koblin explained how he visualizes massive data sets (for instance, by tracing every flight in North America and then breaking down the data by time, type of plane, altitude and so on, and presenting it all in a sequentially spoolable rendering that is both revelatory and beautiful). Koblin specializes in crowdsourced projects, such as a Johnny Cash music video drawn by thousands of strangers, frame by frame. The level of detail is breathtaking; one fan lavished 31,000 brushstrokes on a single frame. And because this is digital space and each frame's creation is recorded and cataloged online, you can watch every stroke, just as each artist drew it.
But it wasn't until the next morning that we truly understood what Chris had been getting at. That's when Deb Roy, who directs the Cognitive Machines group at the MIT Media Lab, took the stage and introduced us to the ultimate home movie, 240,000 hours of video and audio covering almost every interaction his son had with anyone throughout the Roy household from the moment the newborn arrived home from the hospital. This provides a complete 1:1 scale map of how the boy learned, especially how he learned to talk—to navigate the world of abstraction, language, data. Using a raw data set that exceeds 200 terabytes (more than 20 times the size of the complete printed collection of the Library of Congress in 2000), Roy can trace exactly how his son experienced each of the words he eventually uttered, and he has teased out some fascinating insights about language acquisition.
Roy has also shown that the methods he developed to store and analyze one child's speech lessons can be applied more broadly, and he has begun doing so. In particular, he has turned his sweeping computational eye to the social-media sphere, to watch, say, a presidential pronouncement and all of its multiplying repercussions, tweets, retweets, abbreviations, distortions and rebuttals in real time, and in doing so drawing a detailed map of large social networks and how they evolve.
The amount of data available to us is increasingly vast. In 2010 we played, swam, wallowed, and drowned in 1.2 zettabytes of the stuff, and in 2011 the volume is predicted to continue along its exponential growth curve to 1.8 zettabytes. (A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes; that's a 1 with 21 zeros trailing behind it.) The IDC Digital Universe study from which I've plucked these numbers helpfully notes that if you were inclined to store all that data on the hard drives of 32-gigabyte iPads, doing so would require 57.5 billion devices—enough to erect a 61-foot-high wall 4,005 miles long, from Miami all the way to Anchorage.
One tiny part of that vast wall would house Google's effort to create as complete a census as possible of the published word since 1500. The company has already gathered enough data—some 500 billion words from more than five million books—to plausibly claim the emergence of a new science, culturomics. Eventually the coinage, evolution and decline of every word and phrase could be traced across centuries. Using Google's handy Ngram Viewer, we can already observe the explosion of the word "sex" after 1960. Or watch Rembrandt citations gradually grow, exceeding those of Cezanne in 1940, only to witness Picasso blow past both of them less than a decade later. These are not scholarly samples and inferences drawn painstakingly from a few great books; this is the exacting examination of how a word or phrase's spelling and use actually mutated year by year.
I love the idea of creating synthetic life because it removes the silly idea of beings having souls.
For humanities ever quest to acquire more knowledge, the macro and micro acquisition of information greatly exceeds our capacity to store as a pack rat society our thirst for more knowledge. We have to decide in storing information what is most important as we also invent more ways of storing this information and processing it.
It like being at a sandy beach and deciding each grain of sand is important and unique and so each single grain of sand needs to be stored and all that is information known about it needs to be stored and understood, coupled with there being too much sand to store all that information, so then we much pick and choose what is important as well as invent new ways of storing this information.
Well in science we can count numbers for the sake of counting numbers or we humanity can choose to see each other in life. Some people may choose to count numbers. Others will decide to focus on relationships. I know not want to spend my life counting and understanding pieces of sand. I choose to focus on the people closest to me now and focus on these relationships.
this is amazing yet terrifying. gather the right genetic anomalies and merge the dna into one being that is faster stronger smarter...we could self evolve the human race
So if I'm reading this correctly, technology has the ability to become omnipotent? With our help of course.
Where is your God now?
yep. we are now witnessing a first. a species that no longer needs so called "evolution" to adapt and survive to it surroundings. we are at a stage where we choose how we "evolve". our intelligence is the final step of evolution. now we choose what we make to make at will. no longer having to wait for mother nature to takes its course. survival of the finest is irrelevant now(as if it ever was). brains can easily dominate brawn's with the push of a button.
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
@NoConsequenc3 God weeps for you and all his children who have rejected true reason and now worship yourselves through pride. It is tragic.
Which God? You realize there are like, 100's right? Or are YOU being prideful in suggesting that your beliefs are greater?
I read the bible and I have to say, looking past all the incomprehensible non-sense, your people, teachings, and "God", are all very pride centered. Take your myths somewhere else, my comment was a figure of speech anyways.
I pity you and all your fellow theists who have rejected true reason and now worship fairies through pride and ignorance. It is tragic.
@NoConsequenc3 There is only one God, he created you, he loves you, and one day you'll understand that your life has greater meaning than random chance. Religion has very little to do with this. God bless you friend, have a safe evening.
AWWWWW YEAH!! let the flame war begin..
our data capacities are no where close to full.
two or three years ago (i think it was sony, but it couldve been panasonic, i dont remember exactly who) made a blueray disc that could store over 1tb of data.
now we just have to wait for the damn market to catch up. the average consumer is being milked like a cow. especially by apple. pay double the price for double the memory? PUhhLEEEZ
if you truely need the storage it's available to you, the market is only slugging because companies (like apple) like to only make small incremental upgrades to their products while charging more, even though production costs are going down.
i mean look at ipads, they can only store 64gb in those giant things WITHOUT ANY EXPANSION available? an SD card can hold 64gb these days, they could easily fit 10 of those in the giant ipads.
my point is the statement "Without extraordinary advances in data storage, transmission and analysis, within the next five years we may simply be unable to keep up." is downright wrong.
We all die and until they remove this I am not sold on human knowledge as the ultimate value.
This summer my mother died. I was lucky enough to leave my job and spend a couple of weeks with my mother prior to her death. These moments and all the moments my mother gave me, I value forever! My father, my brother and sister, everyone possible that knew my mother kept visiting. We constantly shared love and stayed positive and laughed, remembered, told stories, gave my mother all the positive love we could find and adore her. Caring about someone and being cared for is the absolute most important thing in life.
@NoConsequenc3 & funniestCartoonCo
well all religions are alike in many ways so you can say they aren't the same but when compared the are almost identical. Each religion is ones own interpretation of another then becomes its own. And I greatly believe that living thing do have souls and that there are many scientists out there that are studding it and have actually come to find that when you die you release an energy/gas from your body that is held by micro like fibers through out your body. It doesn't matter if we make life or not the soul that inhabited it is not created by us. If you say that you don't believe I respect that but hope that when science unmistakably proves that we have souls and move on that you may think again.
Survival of the fittest has always been around and always will. It is just returning to its original environment, economics.
You're right, this has nothing to do with fairy tales from thousands of years ago, so take your dogma and leave.
If you can link me to the sites you are getting your information from regarding scientists looking and finding "evidence" of souls I'd love to read that.
Regarding religions however, the first known religion was the Mesopotamian Gods, then the Egyptian, then a whole slew of others. Judaism is just one of the MANY myths that mankind thought up to explain their origins. There is no soul, there is no God, there is no afterlife. Open your mind to logic.
jesus fucking christ u ppl are annoying.
please raise ur hand if u can PROVE there is a god.
please raise ur hand if u can PROVE there is not a god.
none of u can prove anything one way or the other. til then its what u believe.
*my belief, god is the origin of all things. origin of energy and matter. origin of the laws that govern our universe. i believe we have souls much the same as every religion on earth does. im a scientist and a spiritual person. science is the search for HOW things happen. religion is the search for WHY things happen. one will never disprove the other because they coexist to shape society as a whole. my religion is a personal choice. i am neither ignorant nor stupid. i went to a christian university that taught evolution and creationist views equally and let the students decide what to believe for themselves.
seriously this argument is old outdated and annoying.
You're a scientist and yet you discard the scientific method to believe in fairies. Cool story, bro
So life IS designable! Does it come out fully formed, or does it descent with modification? Who is doing this designing random chance?
lol, some pretty silly comments in here...
If you ask me, as long as the data is organized so that we can retrieve it in a timely manner, there is no such thing as too much data. I honestly think there isnt enough data on things average people should know about.
For example, why isn't all the information that one would learn in college available online? I honestly prefer to self-teach, with the addition of very few select individuals input which are seldom actual teachers themselves. After I learn everything I need/want to know, why cant I challenge all exams officially in person at a goverment run facility and get certified? what's the difference? anyway, thats getting a bit off topic but... yea, as long as information is accessable and not distorted, there can never be too much, and there is no subject that isnt important.
I should add, that I honestly get bored even with all the data out there, internet, libraries, access to campus databases, I honestly have read absolutely everything on subjects im interested in, and I still get bored. I actually recieve every update on those matters live on my twitter, its practivally on the bleeding edge, and still I honestly want WAY more, and I work full time too, its not like I have too much time on my hands... just saying... More info faster please lol... honestly 10x as much data per day would maybe keep me sated.