Found via TechCrunch, Ericsson has put together an incredible presentation of thinkers on the future, and how the networked society is truly starting to transform our world. Like a lot of futurist material, many of its predictions will end up looking foolish in later years; but like all attempts at peering into the future, the exercise of the mind offers us glimpses of probability. On this episode, we take a look at those possibilities and the thoughts that Ericsson put together for a view of the next several decades. Recorded on 11/15/2011.



You can download the episode here.


Mike & Matt's Recommended Reading:

On The Brink by Ericsson Multimedia (video is now private, but link originally looked like this)

Networked Society on Ericsson home site

Ericsson's Networked Society Playlist (YouTube)



Mike Johnston: Okay so welcome to Robert Overlordz, our new podcast, I'm Mike Johnston and joining me tonight is Mike Bolton. 

Matt Bolton: Hello. 

MJ: So tonight we're going to be looking at a link I picked out and so for tonight I actually picked a video that's on You Tube, called on the brink of a network society and it was produced by Ericsson it looks like and I found it originally on TechCrunch. TechCrunch is basically a blog that covers technology news and they have a lot of good writers on there so... but the video just basically goes over some of the ways that network technology is changing society and so some of the things that I pulled out of there, I mean a lot of those changes, I think they are talking about exponential changes and some of those sometimes get lumped under the idea of Singularity. So this video is sort of a more end user of the Singularity... it's  more just like what technology is doing to society and things that are changing. 

MB: I really like this video. You know it touches on, well it touches on a lot of points you know 21 minute video but you know I think they're correct in the... is it over... it's 10 years, yeah technology is going to basically double over the next 10 years. 

MJ: Yeah well, they've talked about just it's been 10 years since the dot com bust really and how you know everyone thought that was it and really a lot of the investment went away. But then the actual technologies started moving even faster. You know one of the ones I liked a lot they talked about the medical sensors moving out onto the internet and being interconnected you know.

MB: Yes.

MJ: Tracking data about your life. That one's kind of an area that I'm already interested in. 

MB: Yeah I mean if you know you think about this stuff even in your own life just the amount of data at anyone's finger tips you know, 20 years ago, 25 years ago... if you wanted any of this information you know you're looking at an afternoon at the library; if it's even available at that point. 

MJ: Well and it's so much more work. You take something like medical sensors. I mean you know my... that scale that I got, that Withings scale that you step on it in the morning and it automatically takes care of uploading you know the data to the Withings' app  you know then it graphs it, tracks it all that you know. I mean yeah you could do that before.

MB: Yes.

MJ: But it's so much more work. I mean I'm not doing any more work than I would have done just standing on the scale. And yet I'm getting all the benefit as if I had been religious about tracking it, plotting it, putting it in a spreadsheet. You know, and I don't have to do anything. 

MB: Yes, no absolutely and the... you know having basically... you almost have the knowledge of one... of the seven billion people on the planet. You have all of that knowledge combined at your fingertips almost. You know there's almost nothing you can't look up on the internet. In a fraction, you can have that information. You know it's there was a study, it wasn't a study I think it was a couple of months ago, I don't know if you saw it  where they... for a couple of years they've been trying to map out some kind of a gene thing and they couldn't figure it out and they asked PlayStation 3 users if they could

MJ: Yeah and they fixed it.

MB: They fixed it.

MJ: Or they solved it.

MB: In like a couple of days they solved it. 

MJ: Yeah wasn't it... was that protein folding or something like that?

MB: I believe it was.

MJ: Yeah, I only remember the highlights of it but I do remember the fact that they basically applied gaming... gamers to the problem to a distributed computing's problem where you know because of the way the gamers played they actually worked out an actual problem in you know the real world.

MB: Right. You know you go back 15-20 years ago before the internet if you had a problem you're basically limited to the people that you're doing your research with that you're working with

MJ: Or to publish books.

MB: Right.

MJ: Those books you actually have access to. 

MB: Right you know and you may or may not be able to contact the author of that book. But with the internet and everything being so interconnected right now you know you can communicate with these people instantly, you can get the smartest minds in the world together without anyone actually having to leave their office. 

MJ: And you don't really even need to ask permission. And they mentioned in the video some of the education things on University or TED and I know we you and I first watched this video we also watched some of the TED videos. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know it's not like you have to contact those presenters to get their permission to see those, those are just available to you.

MB: Right. Well and I mean you know if you had one of these one of the TED videos we watched 20 years ago, either you were there live or you didn't get to see it. 

MJ: Yeah and the quality of the TED videos is easily I would say some at least masters level courses that like lectures.

MB: Yes. 

MJ: In a lot of ways, maybe it's not the in depth presentation necessarily but it's enough to get you thinking in so many different ways and they draw on so many different fields. All that stuff.

MB: Yeah, anytime you can have the smartest people in their particular fields presenting something and then make it available to everyone on the planet. 

MJ: Well I think you can even tie that back to the trend we were talking about you know last episode about peace you know.... I think that's a big part of why you know the world might be getting less violent is that people in general are getting smarter, they're starting to think you know 'why would you want to cut off this incredible resource', you know.

MB: Yeah, absolutely that and also I think it's making power less attainable just because the internet gives people back their power you can organize people quickly. I mean you know you look at all these you know in Egypt, they were able to use the internet to organize protests across the country. 

MJ: Even Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party both have used the internet successfully.  

MB: Yeah.

MJ: You know and I think they're probably just the beginning, of us beginning to leverage the internet for those kinds of uses. 

MB: Yeah it's... and you know I think it's as more and more of the world becomes connected to the web which is obviously happening and is going to happen quicker and quicker, you're gonna... I mean just all you're doing is adding to that data resource, more or less is what it is.

MJ: Yeah.

MB: I mean.

MJ: And that's really kinda what the video was trying to show is the consequences of that world and get people thinking about that. You know I think too much still most people are thinking of the world in terms of 'yeah, we have some neat technologies and that's great and all but really it's not going to be that much different from the world our parents found as adults or our grandparents found as adults even'.

MB: Yes.

MJ: And I just don't think that's gong to be true at all, it's going to be as different as you know if you took a medieval agricultural peasant, plopped him down in a factory like you know the middle of industrial heart of China right now he, you know, would just be freaked out by where he was. 

MB: Yeah you know I think as the baby boomers get older it's going to be much more difficult for them to keep up with you know where this is all going. I think it's going to be difficult for the people living in it to keep up with exactly where it's all going but you know I think it's one of those things that's going to be extremely exciting when it happens or as it's happening. Which I think it's kinda already started. 

MJ: Yeah, well I think once the change gets.... I mean really in our life times the change, changes have happened rapidly enough that I think you're starting to become conscious of them. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: You know whereas I think in the generations before ours changes were still relatively gradual. And it's really and that's where you know that kinda exponential Singularity concept, as much as it sounds more out there and pseudo-mystical sometimes, that concept is actually kind of useful because the amount of change that's happening now you know we're making exponential jumps from you... like it's just doubling so fast. I mean when you start doubling and you're talking about numbers in the billions that... just that's crazy how fast it moves. 

MB: It... and why I think you know, maybe this was my own but when I first started using the internet I really wasn't that awed by it I guess. It was just, 'you know this is pretty cool' but you know I kinda used, that was how I got on and you know you listen to the screeching modem and you know you could chat with your friends on there and that was about the extent. It was never, you could kinda see technology coming and you knew where it was going at least so you know 10 years ago I kinda knew where technology was going. Now it's moving so fast that I'm even surprised by like the iPhone you know. Say what what you want but it's a pretty miraculous little device that so much.

MJ: Yeah.

MB: Even now you know the first time I saw one I was like, you know 'holy shit, look at all the stuff this thing will do. And it's something you carry in your pocket.'

MJ: Yeah.

MB: So

MJ: And it's so easy to change it's functions too. I mean that's really... I think that advance in computerized technology is just beginning to put those reprogrammable tools in our hands where, you know if you're walking around with your iPhone and you want to use it identify a song you get an app that does that and now know what you can use it to identify songs. You know say you want an app to do back ground checks on people or take credit card transactions. You know I have apps for all those things that you know basically turn my phone into you know like the ultimate Swiss Army Knife. 

MB: Yes, yeah it's gotten to the point where it's almost, unless I'm in gonna you know move into the mountains and grow a long beard, you know I can't live without it at this point.

MJ: Yeah.

MB: It's... I mean, it's become basically... you know it's a camera, it's a video game device, it's the internet, it's you know a phone and...

MJ: In a lot of ways it becomes your memory too. 

MB: Yes.

MJ: Because I use it to remember appointments, to remember what I'm doing in a day. To remember tasks I have to do. You know I don't remember people's phone numbers or email addresses.

MB: No. When I was in high school I knew every single one of my friends' phone numbers from memory. Now I couldn't tell you one of their phone numbers. 

MJ: Yeah, I'd be screwed if I had to come up with it from memory.

MB: Yes. Yeah, no there's no way.

MJ: You know. Yeah sometimes on my headset.... I have one of the blue tooth headsets... it announces the number but it doesn't like it doesn't pull from my contacts, my address book. 

MB: Oh.

MJ: So it announces the number but it doesn't say who it is. I have to look at the screen to see who it is. 

MB: Yeah I...

MJ: Which is kinda annoying.

MB: Yeah, no that would be absolutely useless for me.

MJ: Yeah. Well the headset, it's more so that I can talk on the phone without having to have the screen up to my ear.

MB: Well yeah, no I understand... the announcing of the phone number would do me no good. 

MJ: Right well, it does me no good either.

MB: Yeah.

MJ: It might as well just say you're getting a call.

MB: Yeah.

MJ: You know 'cause I can tell that from the ringing thanks. 

MB: Ha ha ha.

MJ: So but yeah I thought it was a good video

MB: Definitely

MJ: You know I think it gets you thinking in some good ways they had a lot of neat thinkers kinda you know quoted briefly. In the video as well so...

MB: Yeah I think it's gonna be an amazing probably 10 years or so or even longer but where we're headed I don't even think after watching this video I almost got the impression that the people who made the video they knew... they know, I think everybody kinda knows things are going to accelerate and change a lot in the next 10 years. But I don't even think they know where, like how... like where it's going. It's almost hard to predict exactly where it's going to go.

MJ: Right and that's the whole reason for the name Singularity and the concept. You know at a certain point it just... the model breaks down because you can't... when change is happening that fast you can't predict what's going to happen anymore.

MB: Right.

MJ: You know the only thing is I don't know that I believe that it'll be an exponential curve that just keeps going. Cause I think at a certain point you run up against humanity's limits to just accept change. You know that a certain point we'll try to slow things down to just say 'you know what, enough's enough, lets just, lets all take like a 2 week vacation and not have any change for the next 2 weeks basically'.

MB: Ha ha ha. Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean well

MJ: Well, at least slow down at a certain point that it won't be quite as exponential. But who knows... I mean you know I've read some sci-fi that posits some really out there stuff. 

MB: Well you know... within a couple years I think pretty much anything is going to be possible. At least it seems that way. Or a... you know I think it's gonna be one of those, 'well I saw it on a sci-fi movie and now here it is'.

MJ: Yeah and that's kinda the a little bit the thinking behind the Robot Overlordz name actually, is that we're all gonna in a way become the Robot Overlords that take over the world with you know these technologies.

MB: Yeah. 

MJ: Cool. Well... that's pretty much all I had on that video.

MB: Okay, yeah it was a very good video. I would definitely recommend checking it watching it and it's definitely worth the 20 minutes. 

MJ: Yeah. It's just under 21 minutes so you know... I mean even if you only watch the first half of the video... just to get a refresher I'd watched it a little bit ago and I only got halfway through it and I still got something out of it.

MB: Yeah, no... it's a very good video. 

MJ: Cool, well thanks everybody for joining us tonight on Robot Overlordz.

MB: Thank you.


Image Credit: By NASA's Earth Observatory (Midwestern USA at Night with Aurora Borealis) [CC-BY-2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.