Content: The past 20 years has been about computing itself, the next will be about what computing makes possible

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John Heilemann: Second Coming

  • The past 20 years has been about computing itself, the next will be about what computing makes possible.

  • A new era where the intermingling of computing with next-wave technologies (genomics, biotech, nanotech, robotics) is destined to unleash advances so profound that they will amount to what the futurist Peter Schwartz calls "a second scientific revolution."

  • Venture Capitalist John Doerr: one of the revolutions afoot built on the microchip is distributed clean power, transportation, and water for the tens of millions of people globally who live on less than a dollar a day."

  • Stewart Brand, author and founder of The Well: “The last century was transformed by three technologies: television, the telephone, and jet airplanes. All three sped up society in various ways, but none had the property of speeding up itself.” Computing, and now biotech based on computing have this property of self-acceleration (Moore’s Law).

  • Verner Vigne, 1993: By 2030 humans will become obsolete, so we need “intelligence amplification”. Futurist Peter Schwartz: augmented human intelligence, regenerative medicine

  • Heilemann quotes futurist Peter Schwartz as saying "All of science is now information science."  

  • In response to being asked about the challenges posed by the radical changes science is about to thrust upon us, Schwartz's reply is "The biggest political challenge in this new century is the conflict between the secular and the sacred... cloning, life extension, genetic manipulation, super-intelligence, sentient robots - this stuff has a way of really freaking people out, because it touches on fundamental issues of human identity. What is a human? Are we God-endowed or just chemicals? If I succeed in growing a cell out of chemicals, what does that say about God? In the next few decades, I do believe people will kill each other in large numbers as a direct result of the advancement of science."

  • Stewart Brand: “One of the big changes in the past 20 years is that basically all science and tech have become commercial science and tech.”

  • Government is designed to slow things down.


  1. Do you agree with the forecasts? With the timing? Why or why not? How have past forecasts compared to reality?

  2. Do you agree with Doerr in that clean power, transportation and water will become available for those living on less than $1 a day? Why or why not?

  3. Do you agree with Vigne’s forecast that humans will become obsolete?

  4. Consider Schwartz’ comment on the conflict between the secular and the sacred. Does scientific explanation of life give meaning to life?

  5. Consider the change in attitude in our society. During the Enlightenment (~1700’s), science stood as the paradigm for any and all socially useful forms of knowledge, with the view that “we can conquer anything with technology.” We find ourselves now in post-modernism, based upon the decline of absolute truths, and the rise of relativity. (e.g. imagery of Titanic) How can post-modernism be reconciled with the increasing influence of science in our lives?

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