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Volume 5, Number 3   
January 31, 2002   
Edited by John L. Petersen (

In This Issue:
-- Punctuations - by John L. Petersen
-- TAI Event Annoucement - Dr. Thomas Barnett on February 25, 2002
-- FUTUREdition Online Dialogue
-- Think Links - The Future in the News...Today


At The Arlington Institute, we believe that to understand the future, you need to have an open mind and cast a very wide net. To that end, FUTUREdition explores a cross- disciplinary palette of issues, from the frontiers of science and technology to major developments in mass media, geopolitics, the environment, and social perspectives.


Punctuations by John L. Petersen (

Well, first of all, a general rationale for our work: "The person who does not worry about the future will shortly have worries about the present" (Chinese proverb; Confucian Analects). Got that from the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies. I thought it was a great quote. You'll probably see it around The Arlington Institute again.

This quote really is timely. There's so much of significance in play in this world right now -- much of which will necessarily have great downstream implications -- that if we don't think about our future in new, more creative and effective ways, we will live with the product of our lack of engagement. That's why we have initiated our Arlington Forum project that I wrote about earlier in this space. We're going to make a sophisticated attempt to involve upwards of 150,000 people in a process of building a Strategy for the Future of Humanity.

The need for this kind of an initiative seems rather obvious to us, sitting here monitoring the early indicators of global change. For example here are some prognostications by our friend Ian Pearson at BT Labs in England, as reported by the BBC. Ian produces an annual update to his BT Technology Timeline, which is a very useful piece of work. He has a very flexible mind and is relatively fearless in trying to guess at what might be on the horizon. If you'd like to see the full spectrum of Ian's horizon-scanning (which is very complete and interesting, I might say), try this place on the BT Labs site: (be sure you go to the second page)

As we accelerate into unknown territory of extraordinary complexity and interdependence, relatively small events and small numbers of people can have a big effect... that's increasingly the character of the context in which we live. September 11th was a small number of people with a big impact. Here's another early indicator with the same dimensions -- missing bioweapon materials from our own labs.

On a more positive note, have you ever considered that it might be possible to directly convert pollution into electricity? That's what new "bacterial batteries" may well do. We're working on an energy project here at The Arlington Institute, trying to identify some new technologies that could really make a difference. This could be very interesting.

I'm coming to believe that we all should spend much more time thinking about microbiology as a model for understanding complex social behavior (such as humans), as an area with extraordinary potential for solving big problems (eg. these batteries), and as a potential threat to our future existence (read Laurie Garret's, Betrayal of Trust, or Howard Bloom's Global Brain, if you want to have a new perspective on this angle). Maybe some of the biggest answers are all around (and in) us.

The ubiquity and increasing penetration of the computer and microprocessor into our lives are obviously going to make a big difference in who we, as humans, are. That's why we track "augmented intelligence", the trends of humans becoming more computer-like and computers becoming more human-like. There are clearly some present effects of this technology that we still don't understand. Mark Pesce, virtual reality pioneer and author of The Playful World: How Technology Is Transforming Our Imagination (Ballantine Books, 2000), believes our children will grow up in a world where everyday objects will be imbued with computer intelligence. "Objects will have this persistent ongoing relationship with you because they remember, they have learned from prior experience, and they are always engaging you," Pesce says (imagine the Furby-ization of toothbrushes, toasters, pickup trucks). Children who grow up surrounded by such charmed objects will become "technoanimists," he says. They will "have a very dynamic relationship to the material world that to our eyes is going to look almost sacrilegious or profane." More...

Here's another angle on the same thing. Tom Regan, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, says computers are dissapearing as an artifact, becoming ephemeral. (Thanks to Michel Bauwens and his great newsletter, Digital Revolution Alert, for these.)

Making sense out of all this change is something we think a lot about around here. We're constantly looking for new applications that make complexity simpler to understand. Here are some intriguing new options. I was particularly taken with WebMap. Check out their demo of TradeMap.


You are Invited - Systems Perturbation by Dr. Thomas Barnett

On Monday, February 25th at 4:00pm, Dr. Thomas Barnett will present another of his interesting and always entertaining briefs at The Arlington Institute.

Drawing upon earlier Naval War College projects (Y2K ; globalization's impact on international security @, Dr. Barnett makes the case in this brief that the events of 9/11 suggest that it may be time to rethink the Department of Defense's "ordering principle" of the last half-century--meaning Great Power War. Instead, he posits that a new category of international crisis which he dubs the "systems perturbation," should represent the Department's ordering principle during a period of transformation and thereafter, with the Great Power War (as we have known it) demoted to the ranks of a "lesser included" (meaning it becomes something we prepare for within the larger context of Systems Perturbation).

Dr. Barnett is the Assistant for Strategic Futures/Office of Force Transformation/Office of the Secretary of Defense Senior Strategic Researcher & Professor/Decision Strategies Department/Center for Naval Warfare Studies/U.S. Naval War College.

The Arlington Institute is located at 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 204 in Arlington, VA and is about a 7 minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro station. Free parking under the building is also available. Directions to TAI. Please RSVP to (703) 812-7900 x 14 if you would like to attend.


FUTUREdition Online Dialogue

You are invited to participate in a new online conversation space for FUTUREdition subscribers. Our goals are to:

1 - integrate FUTUREdition ideas, insights and references into our everyday thinking
2 - share thoughts, experiences and learning resources
3 - cultivate new knowledge together
4 - cut through complexity and raise awareness of what matters
5 - seed new ventures and working relationships
6 - monitor the emergence of new ideas and developments
7 - observe and learn from wild card scenarios as they happen

To join the FUTUREdition online dialogue, you need to register (free) with Yahoo Groups by clicking on the "click here to register" towards the middle-left of the screen. You will need to provide a log-on name and password and you will be asked for your birth date for security reasons. Then you go to the FUTUREdition group at: and sign up as a member. Your confirmation of request to join is usually sent within 24 hours (maximum is three days).

When active you will receive postings from "" and you will be able to respond to the same address. The beauty of an emailing list like this is that you will be able to observe all online conversations as well as your own, thus encouraging insights and connections across a diverse areas of interest.



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Think Links
The Future in the News . . . Today

Something New: FUTUREdition features as many news links as it feels have merit. But perhaps the number of links is more than you quite have time for right now. Starting with this issue, we will highlight the handful or so links that we find are most significant by using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS for the titles of those articles.

(How the basic human institutions that support modern society are being fundamentally changed by advances in technology)

Rise of Net 'Borders' Prompts Fears for Web's Future - (Newsbytes - January 4, 2002)
For much of its life, the Internet has been seen as a great democratizing force, a place where nobody needs know who or where you are. But that notion has begun to shift in recent months, as governments and private businesses increasingly try to draw boundaries around what used to be a borderless Internet to deal with legal, commercial and terrorism concerns.

Virtual World Grows Real Economy - (New Scientist - January 28, 2002)
A computer game played by thousands of enthusiasts over the Internet has spawned an economy with a per-capita income comparable to that of a small country, according to new research by a US economist, Edward Castronova. The online fantasy game EverQuest lets players create and control characters within a fantasy world called Norrath. Castronova discovered that Norrath's gross national product per-capita is $2,266. If Norrath was a country, it would be the 77th most wealthy in the world, just behind Russia.

Every Curriculum Tells a Story - (New Scientist - January 28, 2002)
The traditional classroom lecture and course will be replaced by Internet-based curricula that tell stories, if Dr. Roger C. Schank, one of the world's leading AI researchers, has his way. The "story-centered curriculum" (SCC) tells a story in which the student "plays one or more roles that he or she might actually do in real life or need to know about, based on the student's career goals," he says.

The government is taking its first steps with the states to develop driver's licenses that can electronically store information - such as fingerprints - for the 184 million Americans who carry the cards. Privacy experts fear the effort may lead to de facto national identification cards that would allow authorities to track citizens electronically, circumventing the intense debate over federal ID cards.

Digital Lifestyle on Display - (BBC News - January 29, 2002)
Hewlett-Packard has created a center in the UK designed to showcase a digital lifestyle, with appliances that fulfil our wants and needs. "CoolTown" is divided into zones such as home, office and shopping, designed to simulate a day in the life of the wired urban professional. CoolTown technology uses standard barcodes, radio receivers, infrared and Bluetooth wireless technology to transmit information to handhelds and mobile phones.


Observatory Could Detect Hidden Dimensions - (Nature - January 8, 2002)
Cosmic rays could find proof of extra dimensions by detecting tiny black holes. The Pierre Auger Observatory, currently being constructed in Argentina to study cosmic rays, could examine the structure of spacetime itself, say physicists in the United States. If, as some suspect, the Universe contains invisible, extra dimensions, then cosmic rays that hit the atmosphere will produce tiny black holes.

Event Horizon Dawns on Desktop - (Nature Science Update - January 28, 2002)
Using frozen light, physicists hope to mimic a black hole on a desktop. The miniature physics phenomena could show hidden shades of space. At the event horizon - the rim of a voracious black hole - dimensions as we know them disappear. To an observer on a spaceship, light and time appear to stand still. A floating spaceman would seem to slow and stop.


TEST TUBE KIDNEYS CREATED -(BBC News - January 29, 2002)
Scientists have used cloning technology to create fully functioning kidneys in the laboratory. They hope the breakthrough could one day help to solve the problem of a severe shortage of donor organs for transplant. The organs were created from cells taken from a cow's ear.

Virtual Reality Treatment for Stroke Patients Announced - (KurzweilAI - January 28, 2002)
Rutgers researchers have filed a patent application for a PC-based virtual-reality system that provides stroke patients hand-impairment therapy. In use, the patient's gloved hands are linked to virtual hands on the PC monitor, so the patient's actual hand movements are mimicked on-screen.

'Nanocircles' Act as Trojan Horse to Shut Down Disease-causing Genes - (KurzweilAI - January 28, 2002)
Stanford scientists have synthesized a molecule of DNA that is capable of shutting off specific genes in living bacteria. Dubbed the "nanocircle," the new nanometer-size molecule might one day give researchers the ability to target harmful genes that cause cancer and other diseases in humans. The technique, known as "rolling circle amplification," offers the potential to produce and detect more copies of a specific DNA sequence faster and cheaper than other methods.

Microchip Gives Blind Chance of Sight - (KurzweilAI - January 28, 2002)
A computer chip implanted near the eye’s retina may offer some restored vision to people blinded by eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related degeneration of the eye. To capture images, an external camera mounted in an eyeglass frame captures the image and converts it into an electrical signal that is then electronically transmitted to a flexible silicon biochip surgically attached near the retina. The chip electronically stimulates the healthy cells of the retina, which sends the signals conveying the image to the brain.

Tiny Sensors to be Implanted in Hearts - (UPI Science News - January 23, 2002)
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will begin implanting tiny, experimental microchip sensors into the hearts of patients, hoping the wireless, battery-less devices will provide early warnings of danger.

Japan Scientists 'Grow Artificial Eyeball - ( - January 5, 2002)
Japanese scientists have succeeded in growing artificial eyeballs in tadpoles using cells taken from frog embryos. "Since the basics of body-making is common to that of human beings, I think this might help enable people to regain vision in the future," said research team leader Makoto Asashima, biology professor at Tokyo University.

Vivid Insight Provided into Workings of the Brain - (The Guardian - January 18, 2002)
A revolutionary development, called Vivid, allows researchers to see with extraordinary clarity the networks of nerve fibres - "white matter" - which link the different, thinking units of the brain, or "grey matter." Vivid is already being used to voyage into the brains of 30 British sufferers of schizophrenia, in a bid to solve one of the greatest of medicine's mental mysteries: are schizophrenics wired up differently to the rest of the population, and if so, how?

Scientists have successfully frozen whole organs without destroying their function. The breakthrough raises the possibility that doctors will eventually be able to keep donor organs in deep freeze until they are needed for transplant operations.

Goat Milk Carries Spider Silk in Canada Experiment - (Reuters - January 17, 2002)
Genetically engineered goats may soon be producing milk loaded with spider silk tough enough to make a new generation of body armor or the finest surgical thread, researchers said on Thursday. They said they had produced spider silk in laboratory dishes of mammal cells, and said they were waiting for the their genetically altered goats to mature enough to produce the stuff in milk.

Science Panel Advises U.S. to Ban Human Cloning - (Reuters - January 18, 2002)
Human reproductive cloning is much too dangerous to try now and should be legally banned, scientists who advise the government said on Friday. But they said the ban should be reviewed in five years, and reconsidered if it looks like scientists have improved the safety record and if the country looks ready for a debate on the contentious issue.

The Test Tube Forest - (Business 2.0 - February, 2002)
Scientists are rapidly developing technology for genetically engineering fast-growing supertrees. The economic advantages for timber companies seem clear. The environmental repercussions are less certain.

Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered - (New Scientist - January 23, 2002)
A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. Until now, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to have such properties. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from your own body could one day be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs. If so, there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning - cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos.


Exoskeletons - essentially a powered suit of armor - are being developed under DARPA funding to give soldiers a huge advantage in battle, especially in urban environments. There are civlian spinoffs too. The exoskeleton will allow a soldier to lift 400 pounds, including bigger weapons, bulletproof armor, better communications devices, and more food, and remain continuously active for at least four hours.

If We Are Lucky, Our Pets May Keep Us as Pets - ( - January 18, 2002)
Many have debated just how the first superior or "post-human" intelligences might come to be. While some don't think we'll ever spawn something smarter than humans, many people in the AI, uploading, nanotechnology and related communities think it's only a question of how and when.

Robotrading 101 - (Money & Business - January 28, 2002)
Neural networks function more like the human brain. They can compare existing stock-trading patterns with previous situations and eventually "learn" what works and what doesn't as the program digests more data. Unlike traditional financial models, neural nets capture interconnections among financial variables.

Software Can Spot Digital Deceivers - (BBC News - January 22, 2002)
A US company has developed a program is said to be able to sift through text to spot when people are lying or confused about facts. The software works by spotting the changes in writing style that emerge when someone is concealing the truth. The program is likely to be used by companies that receive lots of e-mails or documents and want to speed up their handling of them.


Iceland Places Trust in Face-Scanning - (BBC News - January 24, 2002)
The Keflavik terminal is among the first airport in the world to introduce face recognition technology. Officials at Keflavik say the system will identify any hijackers on wanted lists, preventing them from ever getting on board a flight.

PCs Recruited in Anthrax Fight - (BBC News - January 22, 2002)
New treatments are needed to treat anthrax, as it is becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotics. A coalition of scientists and technology companies hopes to speed up the search by recruiting the spare capacity of thousands of home PCs. A technique known as peer-to-peer technology makes it possible for the spare capacity of millions of computers to be combined in a massive joint effort.


Fuel Cells That Fit in a Laptop - (Wired News - January 23, 2002)
A startup from Munich, Smart Fuel Cell GmbH, has developed a micro fuel cell that runs on methanol and provides much longer life than any other portable battery.

US in Fusion Rethink - (BBC News - January 24, 2002)
The United States may rejoin ITER, the international consortium to build an experimental fusion reactor. ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, will be built in the next few years. The reactor aims to produce energy in the same way as the Sun, by forcing together atoms at very high temperatures (about 100 million degrees Celsius).

NUCLEAR POWER HOLDS PROMISE FOR TINY BATTERIES - (International Herald Tribune - January 17, 2002)
Researchers are steadily miniaturizing machines and their parts to create systems the size of a grain of sand or a red blood cell. But so far the batteries needed to power these sensors have not duplicated the amazing shrinking act of the silicon machines. Millions of these miniature machines, known as microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, may surround us one day, embedded in the concrete foundations of roads and bridges to monitor their conditions, in the atmosphere to check for biological warfare agents or attached to automobile tires to gauge pressure. To address the problem of powering them, a handful of researchers have turned from traditional fossil fuels or electrochemical cells to a new source to create microbatteries: nuclear power.


A Glove That Speaks Volumes - (Lycos - January 28, 2002)
Instant messaging has improved communications for the deaf so significantly it's been called a "godsend" by one. Now, a glove that can translate American Sign Language into text may improve communications even further. Eighteen-year-old Ryan Patterson designed a sign language translator glove that works by sensing the hand movements of the sign language alphabet, then wirelessly transmitting the data to a portable device that displays the text on-screen.

Flexible Displays Gain Momentum - (Technology Review - January 22, 2002)
Researchers have completed the first working prototype of an electronic ink display attached to a flexible, silicon-based thin-film transistor backplane, the sheet of electronics that controls display pixels. The prototype is a functional display that you can twist, bend or throw against the wall without disturbing a single electron.

Solid Stops Light - (Nature - January 8, 2002)
A crystal that holds light could facilitate quantum computing. Researchers in the United States and Korea have brought light to a complete standstill in a crystal. The pulse is effectively held within the solid, ready to be released at a later stage. This trick could be used to store information in a quantum computer.

ZeoSync: Data Discovery Can Shake Up Tech Sector - (Reuters - January 8, 2002)
ZeoSync Corp, working with a team of mathematicians, said it has achieved a breakthrough that overcomes the previously known limits of compression used to store and transmit data. The company's claims, yet to be demonstrated publicly, could vastly boost the ability to store text, music and video and make high-speed Internet access cheaper and widely available across the globe, posing a threat to huge investments in telecommunications network capacity.

Virtual Stunt Artists Take First Tumbles - (New Scientist - January, 2002)
Computer-based stunt artists should eventually replace nearly all real-life ones, says the system's developer Petros Faloutsos, now based at UCLA. They can perform a vast array of acrobatic stunts that allow directors to create complex yet realistic feats, without anyone risking their lives. Unlike previous computer-generated characters, which have to be laboriously generated frame by frame, these virtual actors respond to the physics of the real world thanks to the use of a novel array of virtual "sensors".

Smart Homes on Trial - (BBC News - January 24, 2002)
The Internet Home Alliance group has developed a system that allows a family to interact with their home by phone, web or wireless. The homeowners will also have cars equipped with voice recognition technology, allowing them to connect to their houses on the move. Each homeowner will have a private and secure webpage, through which they could program their lights, thermostat and security system.

Future in Your Hand - (BBC News - January 22, 2002)
The P5 glove, developed by Essential Reality, can replace the keyboard and mouse, letting you control your computer by just moving your hand and fingers in space.

Scientists Blending Paper and Video - (MSNBC - December 5, 2001)
The picture is small, and it’s far from crisp, but researchers claim they’ve taken an important step in the race to create a video screen with the thinness and flexibility of paper. The device is fired by plastic transistors that are flexible, potentially inexpensive to make and work well enough to constantly refresh a screen to create moving images.


'Alien' Message Tests Human Decoders - ( - January 8, 2002)
A message that will be broadcast into space later in 2002 has been released to scientists worldwide, to test that it can be decoded easily. The researchers who devised the message eventually hope to design a system that could automatically decode an alien reply.


Patent for Molecular Computing Awarded - ( - January 23, 2002)
Hewlett-Packard and UCLA today announced they have received a U.S. patent for technology that could make it possible to build very complex logic chips - simply and inexpensively - at the molecular scale. "All of this work demonstrates that, in the future, programming could replace today's complex, high-precision method of fabricating computer chips," said Kuekes, a senior scientist and computer architect at HP Labs.

Tiny Silicon Grains for lasers on a Chip - (UPI - January 14, 2002)
Nanoscale silicon grains that emit laser light may in the future serve as the backbone of an optical computer network light years faster than today's Internet.

Nanotubes Could Lengthen Battery Life - ( - January 10, 2002)
Experiments suggest carbon nanotubes could store more than twice as much energy as conventional graphite electrodes. Researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found carbon nanotubes may allow for longer-lasting batteries.

Carbon Nanotubes to Improve Solar Cells - (EE Times - January 16, 2002)
Researchers from Cambridge University's engineering department have developed photovoltaic devices that, when doped with single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), perform better than undoped devices. As far as an industrial scale process goes, Kymakis said: "The fabrication of such composites is easy and cheap. A practical advantage of these composites is that it makes the preparation of products with complex shapes and patterns easy and so reduces the manufacturing cost."

Voyage of the Nano-Surgeons - (NASA - January 15, 2002)
A tiny vessel - far smaller than a human cell - tumbles through a patient's bloodstream, hunting down diseased cells and penetrating their membranes to deliver precise doses of medicines. Researchers funded by a grant from NASA recently began a project to make this futuristic scenario a reality. If successful, the "vessels" developed by these scientists - called nanoparticles or nanocapsules - could help make another science fiction story come true: human exploration of Mars and other long-term habitation of space.


A special thanks to Don BEck, Sarah Black, Bernard Calil, Eric Davis, Digital Revolution Alert (,, Diane Petersen, Joel Snell, and Jin Zhu, our contributors and to Daniel Connolly, who assembled the newsletter. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks. (



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