The Next Wave | Rationality | Intelligence

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Avances y descubrimientos en las formas de organizar el conocimiento
  THE NEXT WAVE I'm in an interesting place in my career, and it's an interesting time in SiliconValley. I grew up in Silicon Valley, but it's something I've been reportingabout since 1977, which is this Moore's aw acceleration. !ver the last veyears, another layer has been added to the Moore's aw discussion, with#ur$weil and people li%e him arguing that we're on the brin% o& sel&awaremachines. (ust recently, )ates and Mus% and *aw%ing have all been sayingthat this is an e+istential threat to human%ind. I simply don't see it. I& youbegin to pic% it apart, their argument and the &undamental argument o& Silicon Valley, it's all about this e+ponential acceleration that comes out o& the semiconductor industry. I suddenly discovered it was over. ow, it may not be over &orever, but it's clearly paused. -ll the things thathave been driving everything that I do, the %inds o& technology that haveemerged out o& here that have changed the world, have ridden on the &actthat the cost o& computing doesn't ust &all, it &alls at an accelerating rate.-nd guess what/ In the last two years, the price o& each transistor hasstopped &alling. 0hat's a pro&ound moment. #ur$weil argues that you have interloc%ed curves, so even a&ter silicon topsout there's going to be something else. Maybe he's right, but right nowthat's not what's going on, so it unwinds a lot o& the arguments about the&uture o& computing and the impact o& computing on society. I& we are at aplateau, a lot o& these things that we e+pect, and what's become theideology o& Silicon Valley, doesn't happen. It doesn't happen the way wethin% it does. I see evidence o& that slowdown everywhere. 0he belie& system o& Silicon Valley doesn't ta%e that into account. 0here was a wonder&ul moment when I went down to cover the -23-robotics challenge in Southern 4ali&ornia. 0here was a preliminary event in5lorida about eighteen months ago where they had the nals. 0hey hadtwenty ve teams. It was 6uite an event. It was a spectacle. 0hey built theseby and large 0erminatorstyle machines, and the idea was that they wouldbe able to wor% in a 5u%ushimali%e environment. !nly three o& themachines, a&ter these teams wor%ed on them &or eighteen months, wereable to even complete the tas%s. 0he winning team completed the tas%s inabout &orty ve minutes. 0hey had an hour to do eight tas%s that you and Icould do in about ve minutes. 0hey had to drive the vehicle, they had to gothrough a door, they had to turn a cran%, they had to throw a switch, theyhad to wal% over a rubble pile, and then they had to climbstairs. I'd have been able to do it a lot 6uic%er than ve minutes. It too% the robotabout &orty ve minutes. Most o& the robots &ailed at the second tas%, whichwas opening the door. 2od roo%s, who's this pioneering roboticist, camedown to watch and comment on it a&terwards because he'd seen all theserobots struggling to get the door open and said, 8I& you're worried about the 0erminator, ust %eep your door closed.8 e're at that stage, where oure+pectations have outrun the reality o& the technology.I've been thin%ing a lot about the current physical location o& Silicon Valley. 0he Valley has moved. -bout a year ago, 2ichard 5lorida did a&ascinating piece o& analysis where he geolocated all the current venturecapital investments. !nce upon a time, the center o& Silicon Valley was inSanta 4lara. ow it's moved &ty miles north, and the current center o&   Silicon Valley by current investment is at the &oot o& 3otrero *ill in San5rancisco. iving in San 5rancisco, you see that. Manu&acturing, which iswhat Silicon Valley once was, has largely moved to -sia. ow it's thismar%eting and design center. It's a very di:erent beast than itwas. I've been thin%ing about Silicon Valley at a plateau, and maybe the end o& the line. I ust spent about three or &our years reporting about robotics. I'vebeen writing about it since ;<<=, even longer, when the rst autonomousvehicle grand challenge happened. I watched the rapid acceleration inrobotics. e're at this point where over the last three or &our years there'sbeen a growing debate in our society about the role o& automation, largely&orced by the &alling cost o& computing and sensors and the &act that there'sa new round o& automation in society, particularly in -merican society. e'renow not only displacing bluecollar tas%s, which has happened &orever, butwe're replacing lawyers and doctors. e're starting to nibble at the top o& the pyramid.I played a role in creating this new debate. 0he automation debate comesaround in -merica at regular intervals. 0he last time it happened in -mericawas during the 19><s and it ended prematurely because o& the Vietnam ar. 0here was this discussion and then the war swept away any discussion. owit's come bac% with a vengeance. I began writing articles about whitecollarautomation in ;<1<, ;<11.  0here's been a deluge o& boo%s such as The Rise of the Robots, The SecondMachine Age, The Lights in the Tunnel, all saying that there will be no more obs, that the automation is going to accelerate and by ;<=? machines willbe able to do everything that humans can do. I was at dinner with you acouple years ago and I was ranting about this to anny #ahneman, thepsychologist, particularly with respect to 4hina, and ma%ing the argumentthat this new wave o& manu&acturing automation is coming to 4hina.#ahneman said to me, 8@ou ust don't get it.8 -nd I said, 8hat/8 -nd hesaid, 8In 4hina, the robots are going to come ust intime.8 hat's largely le&t out o& this discussion about robots, manu&acturingautomation, and whitecollar automation is that all over the advanced worldwe're seeing a dramatically aging population. hat's called the dependencyratio is moving in a direction where he's right, the robots may show up ustin time because there may not be enough wor%ers. It's a very di:erent wayo& loo%ing at the problem than the way in which most people loo%ing atautomation see it.4hina has a onechild policy. In (apan, the aging situation is even worse.Aurope is aging dramatically. 0he Auropeans are now spending B1 billion onrobotics to try to build a generation o& machines that can ta%e care o& human beings who are elders. y ;<;<, we're going to cross over, and &orthe rst time in history there are going to be more people who are oversi+ty ve years alive in the world than there are people under ve. My sense, a&ter spending two or three years wor%ing on this, is that it's amuch more nuanced situation than the alarmists seem to believe.rynol&sson and Mc-&ee, and Martin 5ord, and (aron anier have all writtenabout the rapid pace o& automation. 0here are two things to considerC !ne,the pace is not that &ast. eploying these technologies will ta%e more timethan people thin%. 0wo, the structure o& the wor%&orce may change in waysthat means we need more robots than we thin% we do, and that the robots  will have a role to play. 0he other thing is that the development o& thetechnologies to ma%e these things wor% is uneven.2ight now, we're undergoing a rapid acceleration in pattern recognitiontechnologies. Machines, &or the rst time are learning how to recogni$eobectsD they're learning how to understand scenes, how to recogni$e thehuman voice, how to understand human language. 0hat's all happening, no6uestion that the advances have been dramatic and it's largely happeneddue to this techni6ue called deep learning, which is a modern iteration o& the arti cial neural nets, which o& course have been around since the 19?<sand even be&ore. hat hasn't happened is the other part o& the -I problem, which is calledcognition. e haven't made any brea%throughs in planning and thin%ing, soit's not clear that you'll be able to turn these machines loose in theenvironment to be waiters or Eip hamburgers or do all the things thathuman beings do as 6uic%ly as we thin%. -lso, in the Fnited States themanu&acturing economy has already le&t, by and large. !nly 9 percent o& thewor%ers in the Fnited States are involved inmanu&acturing.  0here's this wonder&ul counter situation to the popular belie& that there willbe no obs. 0he last time someone wrote about this was in 199? whena boo% titled The End of Work   predicted this. 0he decade a&ter that, the FSeconomy grew &aster than the population &or the ne+t decade. It's not clearto me at all that things are going to wor% out the way they&elt.  0he classic e+ample is that almost everybody cites this apparent u+taposition o& InstagramGthirteen programmers ta%ing out a giantcorporation, #oda%, with 1=<,<<< wor%ers. In &act, that's not what happenedat all. 5or one thing, #oda% wasn't %illed by Instagram. #oda% was acompany that put a gun to its head and pulled the trigger multiple timesuntil it was dead. It ust made all %inds o& strategic blunders. 0he simplestevidence o& that is its competitor, 5ui, which did very well across this chasmo& the Internet. 0he deeper thought is that Instagram, as a newage photosharing system, couldn't e+ist until the modern Internet was built, and thatprobably created somewhere between ;.? and ? million obs, and madethem good obs. 0he notion that Instagram %illed both #oda% and the obs is ust &undamentally wrong.  0he other thing I'm starting to thin% about is to as% what's interesting towrite about beyond robotics, computing, and arti cial intelligence, areas inwhich I've been immersed &or the last hal& decade. I began very early towrite about the Internet. I began writing about computer networ%ing in the197<s, and the broader world didn't catch on to it until '9H to '9?. 0wentyyears o& writing about computer networ%s and arguing that they wouldtrans&orm the way we live and wor%, and nally the world caught on to it. Iwas pretty early to understanding that robots and robotics, automationtechnology, and arti cial intelligence were going to have a 2enaissance.ow, all o& a sudden, it's the whitehot center and I've started to loo% around&or other things that are interesting, that are on the edge, i& youwill. hat's new and interesting is material science. 0his is eil )ershen&eld'sworld, it's athan Myhrvold's world now. Myhrvold is one o& the rst peopleto invest in a class o& materialsGmetamaterialsGthat are important and aregoing to rema%e lots o& technology and lots o& parts o& the economy. I'vedabbled in metamaterials, I've dabbled in these things called metal organic&ramewor%s. )ershen&eld, at the 4enter &or its and -toms, is building these  new %inds o& digital materials that will ma%e ordinary things not static, butvery dynamic. 0hat's intriguing, but it's hal& a decade to a decade away. 0hat's where I've been putting my time. I'm doing it against the bac%ground o& watching The New York Times gothrough a &undamental trans&ormation. It too% a long time, but you can seea digital culture emerging inside The New York Times right now. It is thecase that not only have we become digital, but our website is now not theplace where most people read The New York Times . Most people read TheNew York Times  on their smart phones. 0hat is driving a lot o& the thin%ingo& The Times . I'm rmly a part o& the old guard. I was the rst person towrite about digital technology and digital culture at The Times . I wasn't borndigital in that sense, and so I've watched two culturesGone culture goingout the door at The New York Times , and the other culture ta%ing over. Ithin% The Times  has a reasonable chance o& crossing the chasm. It's notacross the chasm yet, but o& any o& the old line media cultures, TheTimes has been wor%ing hard and seems to be on the edge o& ma%ing itacross. 0hat's what I've been doing. Stan&ord is an e+ample o& the trans&ormation o& the academy, I guess. etal%ed once upon a time about these things called ivory towers, and atStan&ord that ivory tower idea has gone away completely. -n electricalengineer is president o& the university. *e is someone who has invested inand has started many companies. I %new (ohn *ennessy, the 3resident o& Stan&ord, when he was a pro&essor and then when he was ean. e tal%edmaybe two decades ago about his challenges in %eeping his pro&essors, whowere starting to cycle in and out o& the university as they started thesecompanies. ow it's this incredibly welloiled machine, which is essentiallyserving as a &arm team &or startup culture.  @ou go to Stan&ord to get your tic%et punched, and then you go o: and youstart your company. !r maybe you leave Stan&ord a&ter a year or two i& you're an undergraduate, ust long enough to nd your startup. I don't %nowi& they'll persist, but right now the whole notion, anywhere in society, o& doing longterm research is really under assault.  0he S5 budget and the I* budget are relatively &ro$enD they're notgrowing. Venture capitalists are increasingly ma%ing shortterm bets ratherthan longterm bets. )oogle was supposed to be the latest corporate entitythat was going to try to + that. 0hey created )oogle  that was supposedto do these moon shots. Maybe there's a little bit o& it, but you don't see itvery much o& the notion o& basic research, o& doing science. @ou see appliedresearch everywhere. Aven the national labs, you see proects that areintended to nd ways to commerciali$e technology. 0he notion o& science &orscience's sa%e is under assault. 0his is against the bac%ground o& a technological culture in -merica duringthe middle o& the last century, which was based on industry monopolies thatcould a:ord to create giant research laboratoriesGplaces li%e IM, the ellabsGand &und researchers to do things that would ta%e place over years. 0hat's gone away. In Silicon Valley, ero+ 3-24 was started as an e:ort toget ero+Gthe copier companyGinto the computer industry. 0hey &ailed toma%e ero+ a computer company, but it had this wonder&ul spino: e:ect. 0hat is possible, that some o& these e:orts may still have serendipitousconse6uences, but nobody is willing to place the long bet anymore. 0hatperiod o& -merica, that type o& technological economy in -merica is ustgone. I don't %now i& it's any place else in the world either. 0here's been a dramatic shi&t in corporate -merica, and the time hori$onshave shortened. Aven -23-, which was created in the 19?<s to prevent
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