December 29, 2013

google this . . .

John Naughton at The Observer has a story of interest regarding Google's expansion into robotics . . . are they ahead of the curve . . . ?
What drives the Google founders is an acute understanding of the possibilities that long-term developments in information technology have deposited in mankind's lap. Computing power has been doubling every 18 months since 1956. Bandwidth has been tripling and electronic storage capacity has been quadrupling every year. Put those trends together and the only reasonable inference is that our assumptions about what networked machines can and cannot do need urgently to be updated.

Most of us, however, have failed to do that and have, instead, clung wistfully to old certainties about the unique capabilities (and therefore superiority) of humans. Thus we assumed that the task of safely driving a car in crowded urban conditions would be, for the foreseeable future, a task that only we could do. Similarly, we imagined that real-time translation between two languages would remain the exclusive preserve of humans. And so on.

What makes the Google boys so distinctive is not the fact that they did update their assumptions about what machines can and cannot do (because many people in the field were aware of what was becoming possible) but that they possessed the limitless resources needed to explore and harness those new possibilities. Hence the self-driving car, MOOCs, the Google books project, the free gigabit connectivity project, the X labs and so on…

And these are just for starters. A few months ago, an astute technology commentator, Jason Calcanis, set out what he saw as Google's to-do list. Here's what he came up with: free gigabit internet access for everyone for life; mastering Big Data, machine learning and quantum computing; dominating wearable – and implantable – computing; becoming a huge venture capitalist and developing new kinds of currency (a la Bitcoin); becoming the world's biggest media company; revolutionising healthcare and technologies for life extension; alternative energy technologies; and transforming transportation.

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