Orientation and Mobility: Pathways into the Future

The Director of The Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation (IIBN) gives presentations about the future, and about technologies that have potential to improve navigation for blind individuals. What follows is an example of a typical presentation. The approach varies with each speech and knowledge is updated periodically, but the basic substance of the message is preserved within each presentation

The Institute monitors new technologies as they emerge. We also test some of these technologies in an informal, subjective manner. Young blind adults from the Saginaw Public School System in Michigan (USA) use the inventions during their daily routine. The Institute encourages inventors to learn about the needs and abilities of people who are blind, and we are supportive of inventors as they move from version 1.0 to more advanced designs.

The Institute (IIBN) maintains three listserves (thanks to Dr. Tom Hwang at Michigan State University; the servers are at MSU). The first was set up to serve the IIBN Board of Directors as the primary communications vehicle for the Institute. In 2005, we used this existing messaging system for World Congress delegates. Presently, it is the vehicle used by World Congress members to "create the future of blind navigation." The second is for mobility specialists and consumers who are interested in wayfinding; it is called the Orientation and Mobility List. The third listserve is called the Inventors List and it was for many years a communications system for inventors of wayfinding technologies. Many nations, corporations, and universities were/are represented on the Inventors List, as are individual inventors. Although it still exists, the Inventors List has been quiet for several years. We maintain the list knowing that it will re-activate as the future unfolds. Consumers have a strong presence on all three lists.

The Institute is primarily a catalyst for change in two related areas. For the first time in history, we have the computational power to create sophisticated, electronic navigation technologies for people who are blind. We are at an early stage in the creation of these technologies, but development is happening very fast. IIBN encourages inventors to create and upgrade their creations, and we encourage consumers and teachers to embrace these new tools.

Secondly, IIBN is a catalyst for change in cyberspace. We encourage the development and use of the internet for people who are blind, especially blind children. The internet opened the world of communication to all people with disabilities. It is now possible to develop web portals that address the special needs of blind individuals. At the Institute, we support the creation of a web portal for blind children. We also feel that the knowledge base of all professions must migrate to cyberspace. We work toward the creation of web centers that collect and organize wayfinding knowledge.

There is no need for the Institute to create (design, and manufacture) navigation systems, or web portals. We are simply the stubborn energy that pushes for the evolution of these two goals.

We offer this presentation on the internet especially for individuals who attended one of our presentations and who wish to review the ideas. We re-work the presentation constantly. It will evolve, and may not be exactly as you first heard it.


Information about The Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation

The new century brings challenges and opportunities unparalleled in the history of mankind. We are about to present to our children moral dilemmas more frightening and more bizarre than the best science fiction can dish up. Something is happening here of monumental significance; and we had better take the future very seriously.

Today, we are asking this question: What are the implications; the dangers and opportunities for our profession, for each of us as individuals, and for our institutions (professional organizations, consumer groups, foundations, governmental agencies)?

We hope to accomplish two things today:

01. To give you an organizational and conceptual structure for understanding the changes that are happening now and the changes that are coming. We want to take you to the top of the mountain for a look around.

O2. To put down the challenge that our profession needs to fundamentally, and quickly change course so that we don't become dinosaurs in the age of the mammals. To quote James Crowe: "When you are faced with disruptive technologies, you must recognize the implications and move quickly, or like the dinosaurs you will end up watching the mammals eat your eggs." (Hear more about disruptive technologies later in this presentation)

We believe that the ideas we are about to share with you are very powerful and are true. Because we believe this, we created the Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation in October, 1997. IIBN is a non-profit agency dedicated to monitoring, studying, and testing navigation technologies for individuals who are blind. One of our tasks is to give presentations about the future, to assume a leadership role.

In May, 2001, IIBN received a grant from NEC Foundation of America to conduct a national campaign to educate consumers, professionals, and administrators about these powerful forces of change. We want to take this opportunity to thank NEC Foundation of America for supporting our vision. Director Sylvia Clark was especially determined to help us, and she guided IIBN through the process of preparing and refining our proposal. Because of NEC Foundation of America support, IIBN has moved into the limelight. We are confident and determined as we move forward. We owe this renewed vigor to the moral and financial support of NEC Foundation of America. We sincerely thank Sylvia and her board of directors for their vote of confidence.

Because of the NEC Foundation of America grant, IIBN sponsored four regional seminars that addressed the future of wayfinding technology. The seminars were held in Michigan, Florida, California, and in the Pacific Northwest (Washington). In October, 2005 IIBN will host (in association with NFB and World Access for the Blind) an international Congress on Wayfinding Technologies. NEC Foundation of America supplied the funding that made the Congress possible.

We have a mandate from the NEC Foundation of America grant to bring you this presentation and to provide educational materials. We call the "organization of information and materials" knowledge management. This is an important new idea that emerged with the internet. It is a new way to publish and to disseminate information. Electronic (on going) knowledge management has become a responsibility of institutions that operate in the age of the internet.

We take knowledge management very seriously at IIBN. We shoulder our knowledge management responsibility using two electronic books. We maintain an electronic book called "Teaching Orientation and Mobility to Blind Children," and a second, newer system for knowledge management, an e-book about "Wayfinding Technologies for the Blind." Knowledge is constantly evolving, and when displayed and managed on the internet, it is "open for study" whenever the need arises. Internet books are never "finished." Knowledge is always evolving, some of it becoming history, some of it current, and much of it is speculative.

IIBN was founded following a three step logical progression.

First, we simply observed and acknowledged that there is a complex technological revolution going on.

Secondly, we understood that this was a very large revolution (the result of highly disruptive technologies), causing a great deal of wonderful and painful change. We also understood that changes of this magnitude have huge social and cultural consequences. Changes this huge create and destroy whole professions; entire institutions emerge from the chaos, while others fade away.

Finally, if there is a computer revolution going on, and if revolutions of this magnitude have serious consequences, then we need to have a plan to survive this change. We need to take the future seriously. Our response was to create IIBN and to take the future seriously. We now spend a good deal of time and energy going around talking about the wonders and dangers that lay ahead.


Presentation Title

We change the name of this presentation and alter the content depending on the audience we are addressing. It is often called "Orientation and Mobility: Pathways into the Future." Sometimes we use the title "Look out! Here Comes the Future!" or how about "I have seen the future and it so exhausts my industrial brain that I decided to retire." or "I long for the days when all I had to do was teach cane travel, now I have to work with robots and talking T-shirts." You get the idea.


Traditional Pathways

The initial tenets of the profession of orientation and mobility endured for fifty years, and remain a solid foundation, a pathway we have followed successfully. Two early visionary pathways (foundational tenets) can be summarized. There is the pathway of the cane; the teaching of cane skills. And there is the pathway of natural orientation; the conviction that people who are blind can move through their environment safely and efficiently using only their God given remaining senses. These two pathways essentially defined the field of orientation and mobility (in the United States) for the past fifty years. There is much truth to the early pathways, all of us have been marching along, for fifty years on this path, the pathways of sound tradition, of proven value....... ... but what is that ahead on the horizon? Let's go for a walk and have a look.

We are walking in a beautiful woods, it is Fall, the trees are exploding with color. The air is brisk and fresh, we are happy on this pathway that stretches straight ahead forever. The path is flat, straight, bounded by high trees on either side. When we look back, we see the path stretching to the horizon. When we look ahead, for so very long, we have seen the path stretch to the horizon. For fifty years we walked this straight and narrow path. But what is this ahead?

We have come to a hill. We can no longer see forever into the distance, to the horizon. We must climb this hill and see what is on the other side. We are pretty sure the pathway must continue, because that is what we have know since the beginning.

So we climb this hill and we are surprised to see that the path has run out.

We have come to a beach. In front of us is a large and deep sea. We notice as we look out over this ocean that there are three distinct color changes, corresponding to the increasing depth of the sea as we move farther from the shore. To our right is a small dinghy with oars. To our left, strangest of all, there is a large sign on this beach, an electronic sign.

The sign says: "Business as usual is no longer an intelligent option".


Business as usual is no longer an intelligent option

For fifty years we walked a path. Now we are faced with a different environment. The pathway has run out and we are faced with a surface that is continually moving, wave after wave laps the shore. Business as usual, walking straight ahead as if nothing has changed, as if the environment was still solid and the pathway well defined, is not an intelligent option; not if we want our professions and our institutions to survive. Actually, we are already knee deep in the ocean and we are confused (this does not feel like the familiar path).

Think about this another way. The land where we have been walking is The Industrial Age. We are children of this land. It has been our reality for three hundred years. Our professions and our institutions are Industrial Age inventions. When we glance behind to look at our history, we see the Industrial age.

If we take a long view of history, we can see that we are not the first civilization to confront profound change. There is a pattern that occurs with each of these historic upheavals. This is a story, a pattern, that is larger than our profession and larger than our individual lives. To understand why orientation and mobility (any profession of the Industrial Age) is swept up in this confusion, we have to look at the big picture.

Three books by the futurist Alvin Toffler provide the sociological perspective we need to understand the recurring pattern. Toffler's books, "Future Shock;" The Third Wave;" and "Power Shift," paint a sweeping historical picture of social revolution, the complete overturning of cultures whenever there was a major breakthrough in technology. Toffler talks of three waves of change, each of which brought a revolution to the people of this planet.

Toffler's story begins long ago, with early human beings. For a million years, he writes, human beings hunted and foraged for food and shelter. When the domestication of animals and plants was "invented" it changed mankind. It essentially destroyed the Hunter Gatherer culture. Concepts of time and space changed. Relationships, the nature of work, the way humans communicate and play, all dramatically changed. The source of community wisdom changed, power shifted within the society, and wealth moved into new hands. The change from a Hunter Gatherer society to the Agricultural Age defined Toffler's first revolutionary wave.

The second wave was the change from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age. Again everything was overturned, perceptions of space and time, relationships, the nature of work and play, etc. Again wisdom shifted, power shifted, and then wealth moved to a new set of individuals. The time between significant change was also accelerating. The Hunter Gatherer Age lasted a million years, the Agricultural Age lasted 10,000 years, the Industrial Age lasted 300 years, and then there came a third wave, the Digital Age (also called the Information Age, the Communications Age, and the Computer Age). The Digital Age is about 40 years old, and some futurists say it is about over, and a fourth wave looms on the horizon (more about that later).

We are now knee deep in the Digital Age and we are somewhat confused. The source of wisdom is shifting to the internet, to a knowledge based economy (the product oriented, raw materials, transportation based industrial economy is fading, being overpowered). Power is shifting, and wealth is moving very rapidly to a high technology sector. Our perception of space and time is dramatically being altered; we suddenly find ourselves in cyberspace and virtual space, and in a fast paced, fluid environment. We process in real time, communicate from anywhere, anytime. We work in virtual offices, out of the home, on the plane. We expect to be served new technologies, new hope, and new tools, almost on a daily basis.

So, when we look ahead at the future, we see the Digital Age; we see an ocean of change. It is an environment not at all like the Industrial Age. Industrial Age concepts and constructs do not float; they cannot cross the sea of change. The Industrial Age is a land-based, slow moving, linear entity. We are going to have to build different kinds of vehicles to cross this sea of change, this new environment called the Digital Age.

Business as usual will not solve the problems presented to us by the Digital Age. Business as usual will not allow us to take advantage of the opportunities of the new age, nor will it allow us to avoid the dangers.

When civilizations are forced to leave familiar land and forge a new life on unknown seas, we can say with certainty that a revolution of major proportions will occur. We can also be sure that the land based creatures are going to resist the changes.


The Composition of the Water in The Sea of Change

Let's look at the water we are entering. The composition of this new environment is fluid. If you pick it up in your hands, it runs through your fingers and disappears back into the ocean. There is nothing solid and comforting to hold in this new world, everything is in motion; "change" is the nature of flowing water. The chemistry of this new environment can be described in three "Laws" We call these "Moore's Law; Kurzweil's Laws (2); and Saffo's Law. Two of the laws you can find on the internet, two others we coined ourselves. Moore's Law is well known and is everywhere in the literature. Kurzweil's second law called the Law of Accelerating Returns is defined in his writings. We took the ideas of Paul Saffo and Ray Kurzweil and turned them into additional laws.


Moore's Law

Moore's Law has taken on mythical proportions in the technology world. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation mentions Moore's Law in the first chapter of his book "The Road Ahead." Raymond Kurzweil mentions it in his speeches, and in his book "The Age of Spiritual Machines." It is hard to open a technology magazine these days without seeing references to the Law. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of MIT's Media Lab, writing in Wired Magazine said "Moore's Law, first expounded by (Intel founder) Gordon Moore in 1965, is indeed a stroke of brilliance, but one more mention of it should make you puke." On the other hand, as I go around giving speeches, I ask groups of blind rehabilitation specialists if they have heard of Moore's Law. Rarely do more than one or two hands go up. There seems to be a gap between the technology folks and those of us who work in the interpersonal worlds of teaching, rehabilitation, and social work.

Moore's Law goes like this: "Every eighteen months the number of components (transistors) that can be placed on a microchip doubles." The size of a microchip wafer stays about the same, but scientists find ways every 18 months to shrink the tiny transistors and the "wires" that connect them (so they get twice as many on the chip). In effect, this doubles the quality (speed, memory, capability) of the microchip. This is the reason that the computer you just bought is almost obsolete before you get it out of the box.

Both Bill Gates and Raymond Kurzweil tell a story to illustrate the importance of Moore's Law. The story goes like this (there are many variations):

The game of chess was invented in China hundreds of years ago by a sage in the Emperor's court. The game was presented to the Emperor as a gift. The game was a hit. The Emperor loved Chess so much that he said to the sage, "You may have any gift you desire."

The sage did not hesitate. He said that he would be pleased if the Emperor would place one grain of rice on the first square of the chess board. Two grains of rice on the second square, four on the next, then eight, 16, 32, and so on until he had the equivalent of an entire Chess board's quota of rice grains.

This did not seem like such a great request to the king, who was pleased that the sage had asked for so humble a gift. It was granted. Yet, by the 32nd square the Emperor owed the sage four billion grains of rice, enough to cover a one acre field.

Dramatic things happen on the second half of the Chess board, from square 33 to the 64th square, at which point the sage controls all the rice on the planet. Indeed, on the 64th square, the Emperor owed the sage 18 million, trillion grains of rice. At 10 grains per square inch, this is enough rice to cover the entire earth twice (ocean area included).

There are many real life examples of exponential doubling. The AIDs Virus was not a threat to mankind when there was only one case, then two cases, then four, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc. But when AIDs reached the 33rd stage of doubling, the world was suddenly thrown into crisis.

Computer technology has also been evolving exponentially. This doubling is the result of Moore's Law.

In 1995, we reached the 32nd doubling of computer power (based on the fact that the first operational computers were in place in the 1940's). In the first quarter of 1996, more computers were sold than televisions, and more mail was delivered electronically than through the postal service. You heard that this is the Digital Age, and that a technology revolution is happening. What you might not have heard is that the revolution did not "take off" until 1995.

Hold onto your hat. The real revolution is about to begin. Since the 1950's, the power of computers has advanced by a factor of 10 billion; if we go back 80 years, computing power has increased by a factor of one trillion. And we are still exponentially increasing the power of the computers. We have the technology for Moore's Law to continue until the year 2015 (at which time the wires between the tiny transistors allow the passage of only a single atom, and we enter the strange and unpredictable world of quantum physics).

The story continues that the Emperor lost his kingdom, or the sage lost his head. The important idea is that business as usual is no longer acceptable. The consequences of exponential revolutions are severe. The frequency with which we must face serious change is accelerating.

Computer technology is increasing exponentially. As it does so, the cost of computing power decreases. Since price is constant (new computers cost about $1,000, no matter what the CPU speed), you get twice the capability (speed, memory, etc.) at the same price. In the computer industry, microchips are referred to as "jelly beans" because they are so cheap. In the year 2000 microchips cost between 10 to 50 cents. In 2005, the cost went down to 4 to 7 cents; by 2010 the cost of a microchip will be from 1 to 2 cents. Already, we can put entire microcomputers on a single chip and embed the chip into smart stuff. Now, an entire economy can be built around the way chips become systems (entire tiny computers).

In 1988, it cost ten dollars for a megabyte of storage on a computer. In 1998, the cost had dropped to ten cents for a megabyte of storage. The cost continues to exponentially decrease.

Cray super computers were sold to big organizations and government agencies for two million dollars each in 1970. Today, you can walk into Toys R Us, and walk out again with a Sony Game Boy that has more computing power than those two million dollar Crays. The top of the line Game Boy costs two hundred dollars. Two hundred dollars, versus two million dollars, a change that occurred over 25 years because of Moore's Law.

So what does this imply for navigation technologies?

It means this: In the future, wayfinding technologies will get smaller, cheaper, and more powerful; this change will happen exponentially. The technologies on the market now are still too large, expensive, and not powerful enough to fulfill our many needs. Every eighteen months, however, everything shrinks, gets cheaper, and is more powerful. These technologies will get cheap enough so that inventors and consumers can just pick the stuff off store shelves, and powerful enough so that many more needs are addressed, maybe even without a professional to teach the use of it.

The excitement here is that the future is exploding with incredible potential, at an exponential speed. It is not that wayfinding technologies might someday be important tools, it is that they WILL be awesome, powerful, dirt cheap tools.


Raymond Kurzweil's Two Laws

We are referring here to the inventor Raymond Kurzweil, a brilliant man who has done legendary good for people who are blind. Dr. Kurzweil is a futurist and an author. In his speeches and books, he outlines the future with a keen intellect; many of his predictions have come true. While Moore's Law is commonly understood in the technology community, the first Law we attribute to Dr. Kurzweil is of our own making. The second Law is his, and is defined in his book "The Age of Spiritual Machines.". In his first book, "The Age of Intelligent Machines", Dr. Kurzweil tells his audience that we are in a second industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution replaced our muscles with machine power. The invention of the motor created the Industrial Age. Kurzweil's First Law states that we are in a second industrial revolution. This time, it is the microprocessor (instead of the motor) that is driving the revolution. This time, machines are replacing our minds, instead of our muscles. We are entering the age of smart stuff: smart machines, smart objects, smart spaces, smart power (smart energy), and smart materials.

How does Kurzweil's First Law relate to wayfinding technologies?

As mobility specialists, a very important understanding for our profession is that spaces are going to get smarter and smarter. What spaces? Rooms, desk tops, the insides of vehicles, sidewalks, intersections, hallways, roadways. Our current interest in traffic control systems (actuated intersections, for example) is coming about because intersections are getting smarter. The important idea here is that spaces are pretty dumb right now, but given Moore's Law and Kurzweil's Laws, they are going to get real smart, real soon. Remember, this revolution only started to get serious in 1995.

Wearable computers will become commonplace (a "blind suit" for wayfinding) and with each passing year our clothing will get smarter and smarter. Wearable computers will interface, interrelate, and communicate with smart spaces. Your clothing will tell the smart intersection that you are blind, and the intersection will know how to help. The creator of Dilbert cartoons, Scott Adams, says, tongue in cheek, that pretty soon our clothes will be smarter than us.

Dr. Kurzweil speaks of the Law of Accelerating Returns in his book "The Age of Spiritual Machines". We refer to this as his Second Law. Essentially, this law states that the exponential increase in computing power that Moore's Law defines is really part of a bigger idea. Kurzweil shows that Moore's Law is part of a series of paradigm shifts. He states that when Moore's Law runs out in the year 2015 (give or take a few years), it will be replaced by the next paradigm; exponential increases in computing power will continue unabated.

According to Dr. Kurzweil, new computer design breakthroughs will come before Moore's Law has even run out. These advances will probably be in the area of 3 dimensional chips, parallel processing, quantum computing, DNA molecular computing, optical computing, crystalline computing, and nanotube computing; or some combination. It appears that we will be able to invent our own technological future; an idea most exciting and frightening at the same time.

The consequences of Kurzweil's two laws suggest that wayfinding technologies (like all computer related technologies) will evolve at a furious pace. Cheaper, smarter, smaller processing systems will continually evolve; wearable systems will increasingly interface with smarter and smarter spaces.


Saffo's Law

Paul Saffo is the Director of the Institute for the Future. The essence of Saffo's Law says that sensor technology is decreasing in size and cost, exponentially. Following Moore's Law, each generation of sensor is exponentially more powerful. Video and TV cameras are getting smaller and smaller, cheaper and cheaper, more and more powerful. Listening devices are following the same trend, as are tactile systems. The implications of this change are clearly chilling. Never before in history have we come this close to Big Brother monitoring every move we make. On the other side of the coin, cheap, small, smart, powerful sensors are very good news for disabled individuals.

What this means for navigation technologies is obvious. Wearable computers will have senses; they will begin to see and hear and feel, and they will get better at it exponentially. This is the world of robotics. Robotic tools hold great potential for disabled populations.

Related to these advances is computer vision (computer pattern recognition), the hope that computers might be able to see and to relate what they see to people who are blind or visually impaired. This is a huge field of study with many universities and corporations contributing to the research and development. Huge strides are made yearly in this effort.

Advances in sensory technology also will result in new, small, ever more sophisticated tools for imaging the body. Brain imaging in particular will continue to get more powerful, cheaper, and more accurate. We will become more and more knowledgable about the brain and how it works. We will have more in-depth understanding of the etiology of vision impairments, and this will allow us to design better solutions to problems.


So, what's the row boat (with the oars) all about?

We said that when the pathway ran out and the ocean lay before us, there was a dingy on the beach. This row boat is a metaphor for the human condition at the end of the Industrial Age. Ray Kurzweil refers to the "intuitive linear perspective" of human beings; this is a problem as we get ready to face wave after wave of change. Think of the dingy on the high seas during a hurricane of change. All of mankind is aboard this tiny floating metaphor.

Human beings are creatures of routine. We experience existence one moment at a time. We go about our day in a linear fashion, arising at the sound of the alarm, dressing and grooming, eating, working, playing, sleeping. There is no perceptual awareness or experience of exponential change. Change of this magnitude is foreign. It does not register as "real." It is easy (and inbred) to ignore exponential change. But we do so at our peril.

The frontal lobe of the human brain is the highest evolved brain structure. It gives us our personalities, creativity, drive, emotional balance, and it is the brain organ that projects into the future and makes appropriate plans to adjust for the future. Citizens of the Digital Age will have to "live" in this frontal lobe, if we are to survive.

We live in a time when we can invent our future. We cannot be content with our former linear routines. We have to take the future seriously. We must consciously redesign our institutions so that they are future oriented, fast changing, highly creative and innovative. Industrial Age institutions require that we walk straight ahead, into the water, as if there was solid ground and a visible pathway. The dingy is the best vehicle we have at the moment to confront our new world. Shouldn't we be building ocean liners?


Disruptive Technologies Change Everything

This begins what is essentially a different presentation. It is relevant and related to the above presentation, but it is more global is scope and it is about change itself and the impact on human cultures. The blindness community and our interests are a small stone in these rapids, but we are carried along in the current like all the rest.

In this broader context, I tried to bring in issues directly of concern to blind wayfinding. However, this necessarily reads like a sociology text at times. Hang with me, the issues are important.

All technologies are disruptive to some extent, but the inventions we speak of here are so fundamental that they change everything about the world we exist in. It is not so much that a new technology is invented. It has more to do with a culture embracing that technology and then experiencing the consequences. It is about technologies that result in the domestication of a force in nature.

When an entire civilization embraces a powerful technology, in effect "controlling forces in nature," the results are "devastating" to existing cultures. On one hand, wonderful consequences ensue, on the other hand, powerful negative forces are unleashed. Domestication is a two edged sword, it is not neutral. When we domesticate a force in nature, we then must manage the wild beast that we captured. If we aren't vigilant, the beast will run wild and be destructive. But if we manage the wild forces well, they can provide for us, create for us, and improve the standard of living for all human beings.

Another way to understand the impact of disruptive technologies is to take an example and study change in detail. Let's begin with the domestication of fire. Let's have a look at "playing with fire."

When the first creature picked up a burning stick (caused by lightning) and carried it around, that creature began a process that completely transformed humanity. Let's consider what happens when you take fire out of the wild world and domesticate it; put it in a confined, controlled space.

The fire must be captured, placed in a "pit", so it does not spread. It must be fed fossil fuel if it is to continue burning. Fire that has escaped the pit must quickly be put out. People in the culture who have no knowledge about fire must be taught not to put their hands in the flames. They must learn not to stand so far away from the fire that they cannot feel the warmth, and not so close that they get burned. There is a balance that must be maintained when one "plays with fire."

The concept (awareness, perception, use of) space changes. Individuals who routinely roamed alone through the woods and meadows, found themselves gathered in a common space around a fire. "Common space" is an invention that happened when fire was domesticated. They had to allow others to come much closer than a solitary creature usually allows. A new balance had to evolve.

"Personal space" also evolved with the domestication of fire. Animals have territorial space, which we can suppose that early solitary mankind also possessed. This ingrained territorial "habit" had to be shrunk and reallocated as people gathered closely together near the fire.

The stronger and the wiser members of the group received space nearer the warm fire during the chilly evenings. An "authority space" evolved, a kind of private property based on strength or group hierarchy. The fire pit itself defined a location in space that held important significance.

"Sacred space" was also "invented." The significance and mystery of the fire, the combination of the dangers and the blessings, must have had a powerful impact on individuals. It was natural for the fire to take on mystical and sacred significance.

Work, like cooking and hide preparation, evolved around the fire, so "work space" was invented and evolved.

"Social space" was reinvented. Close proximity of members of the opposite sex must have had profound implications for individual interaction. Close association with members of the same sex must also have resulted in power struggles unlike anything that had ever come before.

Children raised near a common location develop bonds and discover "play space."

The concept (awareness, perception, use of) time changes. A controlled fire provides light and warmth. It counteracts the natural rhythms of night and day. You can stay up later around a fire. You must feed it regularly, day and night. You must watch the children around the fire day or night. The changes in space perception eventually forge routines of time allocation. There will be a time for work around the fire, a time for sleep near the fire, a time for play around the fire, times to tend the fire, times to move the fire, a time to worship the fire (or near it), times for socially appropriate actions around the fire; for courting, mating, sharing, fighting, having "meetings" to solve common problems. The result of controlling a force in nature is that work times change, play times change, private and public time concepts evolve, time is divided up into new chunks that never existed for the culture previous to the domestication.

Putting human beings around a common location in space, on a continual basis, at routine times, had profound (long term) implications for the human species. The culture changed from one in which solitary creatures fended for themselves, to an inter-dependent collection of human beings working together in a tribal structure. This required rules of conduct, social laws; a crude government had to evolve.

The complexity of social interaction increased with the domestication of fire (as with any domesticated force). Work related activities were assigned or assumed. Fire tenders were invented. Child care workers were invented. Fire management became big business for the tribe. Fire handlers and transporters were created. Knowledge about fire management was collected and passed on from generation to generation. Educators evolved.

A new kind of wisdom was invented by the domestication of fire. Fire wisdom developed. Those who carried the wisdom also gained favor, wealth, status, power. There was a fundamental, earthshaking shift in the triad of wisdom, wealth, and power. This occurs with each new domestication of a force in nature. New tools are invented and knowledge about the tools evolves and is preserved.

Even more fundamental, the human brain evolved. Human beings "forced" around a common location, will develop language, social interaction skills, space and time awareness, knowledge of tools, of others, of themselves. They will evolve artistic and spiritual abilities. Over the one million years of the Hunter Gather Age, the human brain grew in size and sophistication. Language centers evolved in the left hemisphere. Spatial and temporal specialization evolved in the right hemisphere. Emotional rules were internalized in the limbic region of the brain. Social structures, the ability to consider the future and make appropriate plans, drive, creativity, personality began to evolve in newly forming frontal lobes. The domestication of a force in nature over time alters the human brain.

The manner in which individuals and groups move around is also affected by disruptive technologies. Pathways are worn to and from and around the fire pit. Crude shelters are erected near the fire (or the fire is located near natural shelters, like caves). Pathways continue to evolve as spaces are defined. There are pathways to sleep areas, to work areas, to play areas, to meeting and religious locations. Domestication dramatically impacts habitat, the kinds of structures built, the pathways between them, and the movement patterns of human beings.

This review of disruptive technologies might look and feel like a lecture in Sociology 101, but it is very significant. It is a description of what is happening as we move from the Industrial Age, a "land-based" set of rules and understandings, to a water world where everything we hold as true and right is being challenged or overrun. Our concepts of space and time on land are totally foreign to the new concepts of space and time we are facing in the wet world of the Digital Age. The nature of work is evolving, new kinds of relationships are evolving, while "old fashioned" notions of how and when to interact are falling apart. Everything is changing. The human brain will evolve.

Let's quickly review a few other times in human history during which we, as a species, domesticated forces in nature. We will summarize the changes that happened as new kinds of management were imposed on the world's cultures. Then we will turn to the present and see how the move from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age is changing everything. Finally, we will look at our future and we will consider how the domestication of the human genome (nature's genetic code for human life) is impacting everything. Then we will consider the domestication of the atom, of quantum physics and how that is changing everything.


Toffler's Law

Alvin Toffler is the author of a series of popular books about the future, including: "Future Shock," Power Shift," and "The Third Wave." It was Toffler (along with other futurists, like Marshall McLuhan) who opened our eyes (mine, anyway) to the consequences of technological revolutions.

Toffler's "three waves of change" are about domesticating forces in nature. His story begins after the invention of fire changed everything. Toffler tells of the Hunting and Gathering Age (that evolved around the fire) and the shock that resulted when plants and animals were domesticated. Everything that defined the Hunting and Gathering culture faded away and essentially disappeared from the planet. There are pockets, remnants of past cultures, but they are overrun and dominated by technologically more advanced peoples.

The image of powerful tidal waves suddenly rising up and washing over the land is a telling metaphor. Lone creatures wandered the earth tending for themselves for millions of years. Then a wave arose, grew is size, and washed over them all. What was left was a new culture, gathering around a new technology, the fire pit. The lone ape was gone (fading), and hunting and gathering man was dominate.

For a million years the Hunting and Gathering Age was the primary culture of the planet. Then a wave arose, grew in size, and washed over the Earth. When the waters dried, everything had changed. The hunters and gatherers were shrinking in size and dominance. They were replaced by a new culture; the citizens of the Agricultural Age.

Everything changed in the Agricultural Age: space concepts, time concepts, relationships, work, play, social roles and responsibilities, pathways and movement patterns, habitat, the human brain.

Hunters and Gatherers followed the herds and the seasons. When an area was depleted of wild animals and wild plants, they had to move on to survive. The fire had to be moved to a new pit. Lodging had to be moved or rebuilt at new locations. When plants and animals were domesticated, it destroyed the nomadic life style. The old pathways were not needed; old movement routines of the tribe were not needed. The Agricultural Age invented the village, a long lasting collection of dwellings around the domesticated plants and animals (usually near water). The concept of the road was also invented as the large, well used pathway between villages. Skilled craftsmen were also "invented" by the Agricultural Age, as were the specialized locations where they worked. Fences to keep the domesticated animals in and the wild animals out, or to protect the crops, caused the invention of private property ("large" sections of land claimed as ones own). Farming was invented, as was the extended family or clan.

Time concepts changed as well. There developed a deep relationship with the seasons and the movements of the stars (the sun and moon) overhead. Calendars were invented, writing, money, and mathematics were invented by the citizens of the Agricultural Age (Human evolutionary selection, brain development, favored those with mathematical ability, social skills, tool using skills, and language skills). Time segments became formalized; there were more fragments to be divided and named, complexity increased. Time revolved around the habits and needs of the domesticated animals and plants. There was a time for the lambs to be born, a time to milk the cows and goats, a time to plant, a time to preserve the crops. The day and night rhythms and the seasonal rhythms ruled the lives of Agricultural people.

Relationships changed. Wisdom shifted from the tribal leader, the strong and swift (who knew where and how to hunt and to gather), to those who had knowledge about farming, the patriarch and matriarch of the clan (the elders). Wealth shifted from the powerful tribal leaders to those who had the most private property and the biggest herds and the largest number of extended family members. With the shift in wisdom and wealth came a power shift. Formal governments were invented by the people of the Agricultural Age, and that "government" was controlled by the elders, who held the wisdom and the wealth and the power of the new culture. In the Age of Agriculture animals were put to work. Horse power replaced manpower. The animal driven plow replaced the man and his stick tools.

The Agricultural Age lasted ten thousand years. An acceleration was underway. For millions of years proto-humans wandered the earth. For a million years, hunters and gathers ruled the planet, for ten thousand years the farmers were the dominant culture. Then came the industrial age. It lasted three hundred years. Then the age of information (Digital Age) lasted forty years. Then the Biotechnology Age lasted five years. Then the nanotechnology Age lasted one year. Then .......

A wave rose up, a tidal wave, it washed over the earth. When the flood receded, the agricultural age was essentially gone, overrun by new technology, by the domestication of energy, by the invention of the motor and the battery, by machines that replaced horse power by machine power. Everything changed. Everything that defined the Agricultural world was washed away, replaced by new concepts of time, space, relationships, work, and conflict.

There is a dark side to technology. When everything changes, so does the power of this potential for evil. When fire was domesticated, many wonderful gifts were given to the human race. But it also became possible to toss others into the fire pit, or stick a flaming branch into a face, or start a deliberate destructive fire. With the domestication of plants and animals came the horse cavalry, weapons craftsmen, a greater sophistication of conflict.

The power of evil seems to grow exponentially along with all the other forces of change. As we bring more of nature's forces under human management, we unleash outrageous, almost unspeakable horrors. We cannot be neutral about the evolution of technology.

The Industrial Age created new forms of space, new movement patterns, new (more sophisticated and complex) kinds of habitat. The village gave way to the town. Many more roads were built, stronger roads, wider roads. Towns gave way to cities and the metropolis. Motorized vehicles defined the landscape; parking lots, gas stations, expressways, traffic jams, gridlock. Complex buildings arose, skyscrapers, suburbs, malls, hypermarkets. These are the spaces we know as real, the way things are, the way things seem to always have been. But everything is changing, we are domesticating information, the human genome and the atom. Our concepts of space are changing very rapidly.

Time concepts changed in the Industrial Age, as did the idea of work. When the Industrial Age began to overcome the social, political and cultural world of agricultural society, a concept called "the job" was invented. The idea of a " job" was completely foreign to the agricultural world. The idea of getting up in the morning and going to a building to work on an assembly line to make a product was never heard of before the Industrial Age. Neither was the time frame of "nine to five" with an hour for lunch. Neither were sick leave and vacation pay. Work in an agricultural society was done to get food and shelter and clothing. The time frame was built around the number of hours of sunlight and was directly affected by the seasons.

Relationships changed in the Industrial Age. The nuclear family is an industrial age invention. Mom and dad and a few kids alone in a house in a city was a totally new idea. The extended family declined in size and influence, the concept of "neighbor" evolved, as did the idea of co-worker.

New forms of horror were created as armies created tanks and warplanes. Machines brought a distant, impersonal coldness to conflict. The potential for mass destruction of property and human beings became reality. With the Digital, Bio and Nano technology revolutions on the horizon, we will be faced with stranger and more awful forms of mass destruction and cruelty. The moral and ethical development of the human race has come to an ultimate crossroads. We will become moral, "good" creatures or we will destroy our civilizations.

From very early days, the fate of individuals with body impairments was severe. Blindness, deafness, physical or cognitive impairments were a death sentence in the Hunter Gatherer Age. In the Agricultural Age, people with disabilities were cared for in rudimentary ways, but technology was of little help. With the advent of industrialization came the first useful inventions for circumventing disabilities. The power wheelchair is a good example.

In the Communications Age, smart machines with built in "brains" are dramatically improving the quality of life of disabled individuals. With the advent of Biotechnology and Nanotechnology, we can hope to see the end of body impairments and suffering. At the same time, we can expect to be faced with new kinds of human beings, cyborgs, who have computer/bio implants, and newly engineered tissues and organs. These cyborgs will perceive differently than other humans.

The Industrial Age overturned the agricultural age, and upset ten thousand years of ingrained behaviors. The industrial age lasted 300 years and is now dying.

The communications/cyborg revolution is overturning the industrial age, upsetting all the behaviors that we think of as the norm, as business as usual. This new age took off like a rocket in 1995, with hints of it's existence as a tiny ripple in the ocean of human behavior in the early 1970s with the invention of the personal computer, and the first microchips. There is every reason to believe that this age will last less than thirty years.

Right behind the communications/cyborg age is the biotechnology revolution; a huge wave towering over us, yet growing in size and importance exponentially. The biotech age promises wonderful advances and frightening ethical decisions. Following the acceleration of change, expect the biotech revolution to wash over us and be past within a ten year time frame (pure speculation on my part).

Behind the biotechnology revolution is a swelling wave, not visible yet behind the biotech wave, but destined to be the largest and most frightening change ever to wash over the human creature. Our minds cannot even begin to grasp the consequences of the Nanotechnology Age. We can expect it to wash over us like a tidal wave and be done with us over a two or three year span (again, speculation).

Beyond the nanotechnology tidal wave are ripples in what looks deceptively like a quiet ocean of change. Our best minds, and the best the human brain can bring, are not enough to see past the year 2025 (although Raymond Kurzweil speaks, in a book with the same name, of the Age of the Spiritual Machine).

The water gets deeper and more mysterious as we sail into the future

Let's detail how it might change everything.


The Cyborg Revolution: The Digital Age

A term coined by Dr. Manfield Clynes in 1960: a "cyborg" is a human being who uses technology to augment human ability in a natural and effortless way. We know about cyborgs, we have come to accept them: pace makers in the heart, artificial knees, kidney machines, even our vehicles, our cars and trains and planes are kinds of cyborgs. The important idea here is that cyborgs are about to explode in number and in sophistication because of Moore's, Kurzweil's, and Saffo's Laws. The cyborgs of the cyborg revolution will initially be "crude" machines that attach to the body, or that the body manipulates.

There is an entire filed of research and development called "wearable computing." As computers get smaller, approaching the invisible, they can be embedded in anything and everything (also the computers are getting progressively cheaper). One place these computers are showing up is in clothing, ear rings, buttons, shoes, on belts, in the fabric of clothes. If these computers are networked together, they form a PAN (Personal Area Network). These wearable computers usually contain a sensory interface that acts on sensory inputs. For example, a sensory interface might enhance some features of input and filter others. It might also add features to input that are not in the real world (overlay an image); this is called mediated reality. Sensors can be placed anywhere on the body (see behind or 360 degrees, as needed) and can be of varieties uncommon to the wearer (night vision capability when needed). Wearable computers can interface with computers in the environment, so smart clothes will communicate with smart spaces, smart objects, smart energy, smart stuff.

Wearable computing is a fast developing field. It is not science fiction. It is the beginning of a cyborg revolution that will eventually move beyond wearable computers to internal implants and bio-computers (invisible hybrids, part computer, part robot, part human tissue).

Wearable computers will be prescribed to fit the needs of the user. If the user has a disability, the system will provide tools that circumvent problems.The wearable system will be capable of tailored design because functional units will be available in plug-in modules. These modules will include power packs and will work alone or in combination with other modules. There are many modular possibilities.

Obviously, a wearable computer could be a communications system. It could be a telephone, a pager, a CD player, a virtual reality game player, a dictation machine. It could connect to the internet or communicate with smart objects or smart spaces. It would of course talk and understand commands.

It could be a GPS system, with built-in veering analysis and assistance. It would have a compass for sure. It could have directional systems (dead reckoning modules) that work when GPS is not working. It could have audio/video landmark memory and recall. Vests and or belts that vibrate to indicate clear paths will be available for the deaf blind user.

It could have face recognition and affect analysis software. It will have sensory enhancement capabilities, like digital magnification of video scenes, or selective audio amplification (and filtering), night vision, or ultraviolet and/or infrared vision. It will probably have enhanced fields, 360 degree vision.

Smart objects will know where they are in space, they will talk, they will network with other objects and with personal wearable systems. This means that signage will be part of the everyday world. Systems that access signage will be part of the wearable computer.

Sonar systems like KASPA and the Sonic Pathfinder are already head mounted and could be modular systems that become part of a wearable computer. Video to sound systems also could be incorporated.

Eventually, some time during the bio or nano technology ages, real time processing will actually see, hear, and feel, and will interpret scenes and make judgements.

Or you could be a 21st century Luditte and wear dumb clothes with holes in the knees. People will do this to varying degrees. Ther are times when the technologies feel impersonal, invading, and more bother than worth. Media fasts will become important to mental health.

If all of this sounds far fetched, think again. Dr. Steve Mann at the University of Toronto has been working on wearable computers for the past twenty years. There are major annual wearable computing conferences that draw all the major corporations. The number of potential uses for wearable intelligence spans every discipline, and big bucks are going into research and development. Xybernaut Corporation already makes wearable computers; they are a division of Sony. Most of the additions to wearable computing listed above are under consideration or development, and there is much more to the story.

People who are blind have two global problems. They have difficulty accessing the world of visual communication, print, video, face recognition, reading body language. And they have difficulty moving about safely and efficiently. We have a national printing house for the blind to address the first issue. We have no national system for addressing the second. This is because there never were any navigational technologies to monitor, to study, or to fund. That is about to change in a very big way as we move from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age.

We are in a transition phase, moving from an Industrial culture to a digital culture. As in the past, when we domesticated a force of nature, everything changed; space, time, relationships, the nature of work and play, the sophistication of conflict, our ability to fight or circumvent suffering and disabilities. Wisdom, wealth, and power are all shifting. In the Industrial Age, space was still real, real buildings, with walls, real pathways of concrete and asphalt. As we moved into the Digital Age, new kinds of space emerged. Spaces became virtual, intangible; now we have cyberspace, virtual reality, the mediated and enhanced spaces of wearable computers, the labeled spaces from the global positioning satellites. In the Digital Age we added outer space, locations to manage outside the atmosphere of Earth.

With each passing age, the complexity of space increases and enlarges. Cities merge together, expressways get wider and more are built. Buildings expand in size and the spaces in buildings are governed by increasingly smart machines. Private and personal space is shrinking and being violated by ever more sophisticated sensors. Social space has moved into the internet.

Time concepts are also undergoing a revolution. In the Industrial Age, time was neatly divided into packets. Now the packets have shrunk in size. We have more knowledge and more relationships to manage and less time. The internet is open all the time, as are hypermarkets and convenience stores. We can go day and night until we drop with exhaustion. How we manage our time has become a major focus of the digital culture. Just as the daily night and day cycle lost it's impact, so the seasons no longer hold a power over our lives. We can jump from season to season on a jet plane. Seasons are about recreation, they have little to do with work in the Digital Age.

The Industrial age invented a concept called the "job." This idea is fading in the Digital Age. Workers do their business at home, on the plane, wherever they happen to be, whenever they happen to feel like working. Many Digital Age workers consult, or go from company to company, never building a long range identity (relationship) with the organization. Internet relationships have exploded the number of personal contacts. Virtual teams work on short term projects and then dissolve. Electronic mailing lists bring together people with similar interests.

The nature of conflict has also changed, gotten more complicated, more targeted, less personal. Virus's reside on the internet. Smart bombs go directly to targeted buildings. Satellite surveillance is taken for granted. Privacy is fading. Plastic explosives blow up airplanes. The dark side of human energy is increasing in power just as fast as the opportunities for doing good.

For people with disabilities, the door is suddenly blown wide open. There is hope that the future will be a healthier place. The new smart technologies will continue to evolve and allow our cultures to design small, cheap, powerful new tools to circumvent disabilities and lessen their impact. The computer revolution allowed scientists to create the computational tools that broke the genetic code, and brought forth the Biotechnology Age, the "age of the cures". It also is providing the tools for nanotechnology, the Age of Spiritual machines.

In the Industrial Age, there was a body of knowledge to be learned. The universities named these bodies and created professions around the knowledge. Governments wrote laws and channeled money based on these divisions. When an individual graduated from a university, they were given a diploma, a document that guaranteed that they had absorbed a body of knowledge and could now legally use that knowledge to gain a livelihood. Wisdom resided in the universities and in the businesses and institutions where the knowledge was applied. It resided in the here and now. It was manageable, concrete, finite. With the advent of the Digital Age, this entire structure is wobbling at the foundation.

Wisdom is shifting. The present is no longer where we must look. Now, we have to focus on the future. The present is of little value in an age when wave after wave of innovation rocks our current level of knowledge and where an exponential explosion in the amount of knowledge is a given. Knowledge management is shifting to the internet, to life long learning, to learning on demand, in real time.


Revolutions have Cultural Consequences

Here's a summary of the laws. Expect a world full of smart things. Expect change to come at you faster and faster. Expect technology to get exponentially smaller, cheaper, and more powerful. Expect a world where communication is rich in multimedia and is essentially free. Expect that sensors will be tiny, cheap and very powerful and embedded everywhere. Expect that biotechnology and nanotechnology waves are raising above our heads at this very moment. Expect that these changes will have a profound affect on your personal life, your professional life, and on all the institutions that you though were going to be around forever.

We have reached a non differentiable crossroad. "Non differentiable" is a calculus term meaning "a point in time where we cannot tell where we will go, based on where we have been." In other words, don't look at history to solve the problem you are facing. The sport that defines our age is hockey. It is fast and aggressive, and it requires very quick decision making skills. It does no good asking where the puck has been, and knowing where the puck sits now is also of little use. In our age, we have to ask where the puck seems to be going. We have to look at the various pathways and make educated guesses where we need to position ourselves for the next whack at the puck. Let's see where the puck seems to be going. Here's a list:

1. The centers for wisdom are shifting to cyberspace. Industrial institutions, with their fixed time and space frames are going to fade away in the face of the "open all the time", "available from anywhere" rules of cyberspace communication. More and more people are looking for knowledge in cyberspace. If you have a powerful knowledge presence in cyberspace, then you will become a source of wisdom.

2. As wisdom shifts, so too will power; power to advertise, to build brand recognition, to sell cyber real estate, to educate, to charge cyber fees for access, to run virtual stores, to write grants.

3. As wisdom and power shift, so too will wealth. Wealth flows to those in power; enough said.

4. New kinds of work are created, primarily in cyberspace. There is a growing need for webmasters, webcasters, knowledge management workers, cyberstore managers, and for the host of technical support people (and much more).

5. New kinds of relationships evolve. Electronic mail has fostered relationships between people who have never met. Cell phones increase the frequency and opportunity for communication. Virtual problem solving teams come together, solve problems and dissolve, without ever having to meet in person. People work out of their homes and their relationship with spouse and children change.

6. Cyberspace has completely changed our perception of time and space. In cyberspace, time is not a limiting factor, you can go into this virtual world any time you want. Time has become less rigid, with fewer limits or boundaries. The tasks we want to accomplish (to address, or to communicate about) are available to us when we want; time is less controlled by institutions and more controlled by individuals; it is "on-demand time." Cyberspace is always current. When you don't need cyberspace, you shut the machine off. If you want to resume, turn the machine on, cyberspace is an on-demand virtual world, there when you need it.

7. Modern time has become asynchronous, it is easy to roll ahead or back through time-space, along time lines. We can rewind our world with ever more ease. Time has become hyperlinked and virtual. We can flow in and out of time zones as our mental associations leap from one computer server to the next with the click of the mouse.

8. Parallel time is gaining greater ascendancy, while serial time, assembly line time, is fading. We are "multitasking," doing many things at once. We are parallel processing.

9. Computers have arrived on the shelves of our department stores with enough crunching power to process in "real time". Real time processing has given us a new set of time perceptions, new machines that demand that we perceive in unusual and novel ways.For the first time in history, as computer technology merges with sensory technology, we are offered machines that can process like the human sensorimotor system. In other words machines that actually see, hear, feel and respond are in our future. The idea of "real time" processing is a new perception of space time that our culture, and in particular our profession, must come to terms with.

10. Cyberspace communication also increases real time decision making. It increases the number of people we can have contact with, it increases the number of ideas we are faced with, it causes an exponential increase in the amount of information coming at our limited sensory systems.

11. Our concept of space has undergone dramatic change. The very notion of a virtual "cyberspace" is a recent invention of the communications revolution. Geography is no longer a limiting factor. We can talk face to face on netmeeting with another human being at any location, anywhere on the planet. E-mail is passe.

12. Like the human brain, earth's new cyberbrain is a storage facility, a global library that is continually updated; always current; no need to wait for the language translation or the next edition of the book, or the play, or the movie.

13. In the industrial age, you could not be your own television station, or book publishing house, or movie theater. Highbrow creative activities were left to the few with money and time and the energy to accommodate the status quo. In the age of cyberspace, you can put your own book on the web. You can be your own radio station. You will soon be your own TV station and movie house, for cheap, and it will be easy to do. Some of these works will be very good; all of them will be evolving; in cyberspace there need be no end to a work of art (or any work).

14. Mobility is about following pathways: doorways, hallways, street crosswalks, sidewalks, paths through the woods, etc. Like all spaces in the digital age, these mobility-relevant spaces will get smarter and smarter. Traffic intersections are already reaching a dumb level of intelligence, but enough to begin asking questions: Are there ways, for example, that smart intersections might be programmed or designed to improve the safety and efficiency of a blind or visually impaired person. We have begun to ask these questions.

15. Perhaps the most earth moving new kind of space we are encountering is smart space. Intersections that watch the cars and the pedestrians. Intersections that talk. Intersections that make smart decisions. Intersections that call for help when an accident happens or when a crime is occurring. Doorways that announce their room number, and the class being held there, and the shape and layout of the room.

16. Another new smart space will be the human body. Wearable computing is the future, smart clothes. The body as a local area network, a computer system that communicates (with intersection, with the internet, etc.), a computer system that remembers, a computer system that monitors health and dispenses medicine, and calls an ambulance when there is a problem. Smart bodies can be networked together, and can exchange information.

17. Cyborg spaces are new kinds of perceptual systems or abilities that arise when machines interface with human beings. Dr. Leslie Kay's KASPA is an example, as is Dr. Peter Meijer's The vOICe. Both systems require that the person using the machines learn new ways to perceive space. Dr. Steve mann's machines enhance human sensory systems, increasing the visual field to three hundred sixty degrees, extending the range of the vision sensing system beyond the visual to infrared and ultraviolet; providing night vision.

18. Smart spaces will be filled with smart objects, the smart objects will be made of smart materials. Everything will be powerful, connected in networked space, small, and very cheap. So, everything will be able to talk, everything with know where it is in space (GPS), everything will be smart enough to make decisions, everything will see and hear; why not? It's cheap and we can do it.

19. Objects will be smart because of embedded computer technology, the ability to embed whole computer systems on a tiny chip. This is leading to nanotechnology developments, smart materials (the substance that smart objects will be made of). Biotechnology will also merge with these smart objects and materials. Prolume is a company (for example) that has been quietly cloning gene proteins from luminous jelly fish and other sea creatures. This means that everything from soft drinks to malignant. tumors can be made to glow. The CEO of Prolume calls his product a molecular light bulb.

20. Robotic toys are here. Look for the robotic guide dog toy


The Biotechnology Revolution

As we move out further into the ocean of change, the waters get darker and more mysterious, we leave the age of the computer cyborg and we enter the biotechnology age.

We have sequenced the human genome in tandem with (and as a result of) Moore's Law. The number of genes sequenced doubled every two years until the entire project was completed by the turn of the century. These advances ushered in the biotechnology age, and they will bring mass production, quality control, and customization to the designing of life. Now researchers are deciphering the proteins that are the key to tissue engineering, tailored medications, and genetic repair of damaged organs.

Wearable computers of the Digital Age (the age of the cyborg) will become more and more sophisticated. Wearable computers will begin to have molecular components; to be partly alive, and/or to interface directly with biological systems. There will be a merging of the machine and the body.

Everything will change in the Biotechnology Age. Just as we are experiencing the confusion of changing space and time frames of the new Digital Age, along with the inevitable changes in the nature of relationships, the nature of work and play, the sophistication of conflict, and as our ability to fight or circumvent suffering and disabilities moves forward, while this massive set of changes is disorienting our lives, the Biotechnology wave is about to crash down upon us. The wisdom, wealth, and power that are shifting as we move into the Digital Age are about to be altered again, even more severely, as biotechnology changes everything.

We can only speculate how the changes will manifest; what new forms of space and time we will encounter, what new relationships will develop, what new challenges and victories lie ahead. While we wait for the impact of the biotech wave, another, larger, more frightening wave looms beyond and above. It is the Nanotechnology age.


The Nanotechnology Revolution

Beyond the biotechnology age are darker, stranger waters; the depths here are more disturbing; this is the nanotechnology age.

By the year 2025 we will have quantum computers that use photons instead of electricity. The embedded chips that will result from this technology will usher in the age of nanotechnology, microscopic machines. We will make tiny machines that are both motors (contain internal power) and that contain smart technology. In other words, a third industrial revolution will come that combines the first two industrial ages on a quantum level. Cyborg devices at this level of technology will become part of the body's natural cellular system. We have not even begun to address the social and cultural implications of these changes. But they will be awesome, and they will come as Moore's Law moves exponentially forward.


A Plan for Getting Across the Sea: Some suggestions

We need a plan. How will each of us prosper in the future. How will our professions grow and adjust? How will our institutions make the transition from the industrial age to the computer age?

We need to learn to float. Rigidity, formality, the way things have always been, business as usual, will not work in the new environment. The key is flexibility, change, swiftness, innovation, inventing the future.

Cyberspace is a frontier. Move into cyberspace and stake out a territory. Make that territory as sophisticated and extensive as possible. Become a source of wisdom in cyberspace. Because wisdom attracts or creates power, and power generates wealth. There is gold in cyberspace. Join the gold rush.

Cooperate. Competition and isolation are industrial age survival skills. They are deadly habits in the new environment. Merge, make partnerships, network, bring people, professions, and institutions together. Most of this cooperative behavior will take place in cyberspace.

Establish a global perspective. Cyberspace has shrunk the globe. The opportunities exceed geography and they go beyond traditional time frames. Cooperation is now a planetary activity.

Become a product champion. The wonders (opportunities) of the computer age will not benefit the blind and visually impaired soon enough or often enough or accurately enough unless we help direct the effort. If you build it, they will come. Business as usual is avoidance and skepticism and inactivity. If you want to see examples of product champions look at Mike May and GPS, Leslie Kay and KASPA, Peter Meijer and The vOICe, and Tony Hayes and his Sonic Pathfinder.

Redefine everything. The concept of a "profession," and the concept of an "institution" are industrial age constructions. I don't know the nature of the new way that humans will group, but it will be different from anything we have ever known (as children of the industrial age).

Diagnose. The media, consumers, and competition from other "professions" will force greater specialization, and more attention to diagnosing individual needs. Sensor technology will allow greater understanding of the brain and of brain damage.

Prescribe: If you diagnose, you then must prescribe. Cheap, off the shelf, powerful navigational modules (navigational appliances) will be assembled to address the navigational needs of individuals.

Specialize: We are overloaded on all fronts. We are taking in too much information, trying to stay organized and efficient, but it is impossible. Disruptive technologies create new jobs, needed jobs. Part of what we do will have to be farmed out to others. Our professionals will have to fragment and new specializations will have to be created.