Technology

From Tokyo to Helsinki, Manhattan to Manila, Howard Rheingold takes us on a journey around the world for a preview of the next techno-cultural shift-a shift he predicts will be as dramatic as the widespread adoption of the PC in the 1980s and the Internet in the 1990s. The coming wave, says Rheingold, is the result of super-efficient mobile communications-cellular phones, personal digital assistants, and wireless-paging and Internet-access devices that will allow us to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime. From the amusing ("Lovegetty" devices in Japan that light up when a person with the right date-potential characteristics appears in the vicinity) to the extraordinary (the overthrow of a repressive regime in the Philippines by political activists who mobilized by forwarding text messages via cell phones), Rheingold gives examples of the fundamentally new ways in which people are already engaging in group or collective action. He also considers the dark side of this phenomenon, such as the coordination of terrorist cells, threats to privacy, and the ability to incite violent behavior. Applying insights from sociology, artificial intelligence, engineering, and anthropology, Rheingold offers a penetrating perspective on the brave new convergence of pop culture, cutting-edge technology, and social activism. At the same time, he reminds us that, as with other technological revolutions, the real impact of mobile communications will come not from the technology itself but from how people use it, resist it, adapt to it, and ultimately use it to transform themselves, their communities, and their institutions.
The rate at which technology is changing our world--not just on a global level like space travel and instant worldwide communications but on the level of what we choose to wear, where we live, and what we eat--is staggeringly fast and getting faster all the time. The rate of change has become so fast that a concept that started off sounding like science fiction has become a widely expected outcome in the near future - a singularity referred to as The Spike.

At that point of singularity, the cumulative changes on all fronts will affect the existence of humanity as a species and cause a leap of evolution into a new state of being.

On the other side of that divide, intelligence will be freed from the constraints of the flesh; machines will achieve a level of intelligence in excess of our own and boundless in its ultimate potential; engineering will take place at the level of molecular reconstruction, which will allow everything from food to building materials to be assembled as needed from microscopic components rather than grown or manufactured; we'll all become effectively immortal by either digitizing and uploading our minds into organic machines or by transforming our bodies into illness-free, undecaying exemplars of permanent health and vitality.

The results of all these changes will be unimaginable social dislocation, a complete restructuring of human society and a great leap forward into a dazzlingly transcendent future that even SF writers have been too timid to imagine.



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