The Future of Reading is Near

June 19 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2015   Rating: 14 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

Reading. Most of us do it every day and it is so ingrained from such an early age that it is difficult to imagine that there is another way of doing it. Yet, there is.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Adam Gordon, the vice-president of marketing for Live Ink, to discuss his company’s revolutionary new technology—Live Ink.

Before explaining the technology, however, have you ever wondered why we read the way we do? That is, why do we read words in block text – such as you are doing at this very moment.

I am no historical scholar but I suspect the answer goes back thousands of years and it is partly dependent on writers need to make efficient use of limited resources. First, stone tablets; then papyrus and, ultimately, pulp-based paper.

In much the same way that the QWERTY keyboard has become the de facto way we write on computers – even though it has been demonstrated that there are more efficient and faster methods of typing – the same can be said for how we read. But instead of dealing with one hundred years of established tradition – as in the case of QWERTY keyboard – printed text in block form has been around since Johannes Gutenberg printed off his first bible.

In the near future, however, the resistance to this long-held paradigm will begin to fade. I am not suggesting that printed block text will fade away overnight, but a convergence of technologies has now created an environment in which a different method of how we access the written word has been created. (cont.)

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The Future is Cheap

March 27 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2020   Rating: 12 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

With oil over a $100 a barrel and some analysts predicting it’ll go as high as $300, it is easy to think that the future will be more expensive than today. I, however, have a decidedly different take on the future, I believe it is going to be cheap—very cheap.

For example, today’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that there is already a price war breaking out in the nascent space-tourism business. You might recall that Charles Simonyi and Iranian-billionaire, Anousheh Ansari, both flew into space in 2007 for an estimated $23 million. Now XCOR Areospace is hoping to fly passengers into space for a mere $100,000. As space flight technology continues to improve and the industry achieves some economies of scale that figure should drop even more.

On another front, Applied Bioscience recently reported that it sequenced the genome of a Nigerian man for $60,000. It was only a few years ago that Craig Venter sequenced his genome at a cost of $70 million and, last year, James Watson spent $2 million sequencing his genome. In the not-so-distant future, there is an excellent chance we will all have our genomes sequenced for less than $1000.

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Think 10X, Not 10%

April 21 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

One of my favorite quotes comes from Kurt Yeager who once said: “In periods of profound change the most dangerous thing is to incrementalize yourself into the future.” I was reminded of this quote because although I often speak to businesses about the future of technology, I frequently encounter push back from executives who are mostly interested in identifying ways to incrementally improve their businesses or products. In short, they are looking for improvements in the range of 10%.

I constantly remind them, however, that we are no longer living in an era of linear growth – a 10% improvement might have been sufficient to keep them competitive in the past, but it is no strategy if they desire to be in business in 10 years. To achieve that goal, they must be on the lookout for how 10X improvements will transform their business. (Ray Kurzweil, in this excellent editorial , also emphasizes this point.)

To this end, I recently came across a couple of articles that highlight this point. The first addresses how a number of researchers are looking to increase data storage by “a factor of a hundred.” It is difficult to contemplate how a 100X improvement in data storage might transform education, media, advertising and even health care, but it is imperative that professionals in these fields start thinking along these lines immediately. (cont.)

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Is Evolution Exponential?

May 09 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2020   Rating: 10 Hot

Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

When Charles Darwin first proposed writing his landmark book on evolution, The Origins of Species, his editor suggested writing a book on pigeons because, in his words, “Everyone is interested in pigeons.” Fortunately, Darwin chose to ignore the advice. I am reminded of the story because even though Darwin’s theory was proposing only that species make modest, incremental changes over long periods of time, it was – and in many circles still is – a revolutionary idea.

What then happens if evolution is not just incremental in nature but rather exponential? That, too, is a revolutionary idea – especially since it could impact us within our lifetimes.

Well, we are now approaching a time when this exponential theory of evolution will be put to the test.

If you accept the notion of evolution, you will agree that the earliest life appeared on earth approximately 4 billion years ago. Complex cellular organisms showed up 2 billion years ago, and the first multicellular organism about 1 billion years ago. The first reptiles and dinosaurs made their appearance 300 million years ago; the first primates 40 million years ago; homo sapiens appeared 160,000 years ago; Cro-Magnon man 40,000 years ago; and modern civilization as we know it began about 10,000 years ago.

Thinking about this much progress over such an extended period of time is difficult. Years ago, Carl Sagan, the famed astronomer, offered up a “cosmic calendar” to make such progress more comprehensible to the layperson. He asked that they imagine the entire history of the universe as being compressed into a single year. (cont.)

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The Future of Health Care: Part 1

April 12 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

Last fall, I had the opportunity to give the keynote presentation at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual meeting. The title of my talk was “The Future of Health Care.” At the behest of the conference organizer, I provided an advance copy of my presentation so that they could make copies for the participants. The only problem was that the organizers asked for my presentation a few weeks in advance and the pace of technological change – especially as it relates to the health care industry – is so rapid that I was compelled to update a number of slides prior to my talk.

As proof of the accelerating pace of technological change, I’d like to just walk you through a few weeks of technological and scientific advancement in the health care industry. In October, researchers at Chonnam National University in Korea announced that they had created a microscopic robot small enough to travel through blood vessels. The robot is so capable that once it is inside a blocked artery it is able to release drugs to dissolve blood clots. According to this 2007 study, deaths from severe heart attacks after hospital admission have already been halved in the past six years. As a result of advances such as this microscopic robot, it is reasonable to believe that we will continue to make even more progress.

In early November, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Bioscience in Tusuroka, Japan successfully demonstrated that they had used inkjet printers to “print” human stem cells. The significance of this advance is that society is now one step closer to creating implantable organs. (cont.)

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The Future is Converging All Around Us

October 15 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2015   Rating: 9 Hot

One of the biggest and most exciting trends in technology is that of “convergence” – or how different technologies will combined with one another to create entirely new devices. These devices, in turn, will go on to change human behavior in unique and unexpected ways.

Convergence, as a trend, is nothing new. The printing press did not materialize out of thin air. First, paper, and then ink, and ultimately moveable type had to be created before Gutenberg could create his historic device. The radio, television, computer and Internet are also the result of a convergence of various technologies.

To this end, I recently came across three articles on three different technologies which, when they converge, could change everything from how we educate and entertain ourselves to how key aspects of our economy operate.

The first is virtual reality technology. This insightful article from TechCrunch discusses the new “RealityV experience” developed by Intelligence Gaming. It is part virtual reality and part video and it is now being used by the Army to help soldiers train for real-world situations – such as dealing with a hostile crowd in a foreign country.

The video below provides an excellent overview of the technology:

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The Next Great Political Debate of the Future?

February 12 2009 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Culture   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

In one of those wonderful historical anomalies, February 12, 2009 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

Lincoln is recognized as one of the greatest American presidents for helping end slavery. Darwin, of course, is the father of evolutionary biology.


It might appear these two historical giants have little else in common except the same birthday, but Darwin’s theory of evolution will soon call forth a new political debate which could, if not peacefully resolved, rip this country apart as surely as slavery did.

In today’s Wall Street Journal there is an article describing how advances in genetic technology are ushering in a new era of “designer babies” and some parents are pre-selecting embryos based on cosmetic characteristics such as eye and hair color.

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MemeBox Interviews Best-Seller and U.S. Senate Candidate Jack Uldrich

July 21 2008 / by victoria15 / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 6 Hot

In the not too distant future cancer will be eradicated, clean and powerful new forms of energy will be the norm and people all across the globe will have access to clean drinking water. While to some such predictions may sound like narrative straight out of a utopian sci-fi novel, according to best-selling author and futurist Jack Uldrich those are realistic possibilities in a world driven by accelerating change.

A global futurist, speaker and proprietor of well respected consulting firm Nanoveritas, Uldrich advises a variety of businesses on nanotechnology developments and, more broadly, how to keep ahead of the curve of a variety of rapidly advancing technologies. On July 10, 2008, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Uldrich and discuss a host of interesting issues including robots in hospitals, solar panels mixed into wallpaper and paint, and the potential for low-cost solar cells to uplift underdeveloped regions around the world. In the days that followed, Mr. Uldrich announced his bid for the U.S. Senate which, if successful, would make him the first professional futurist to hold national office.

Here’s the full text of the audio interview with the man who could become the next U.S. Senator from the great State of Minnesota, chock full of wisdom and also some great advice for both students and lay persons looking to get a leg up on the future:

M: What do you do and how is that related to the future?

JU: I am a writer and a public speaker and all of my books focus on the future. Really since my first book on nanotech 5 years ago, I have broadened out to looking at all emerging technologies and all of my speaking engagements are around trying to prepare business and trade organizations to prepare for the future.

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Future Flash: "100 Years"

November 03 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: Beyond   Rating: 6 Hot

FutureBlogger contributor and futurist, Jack Uldrich, uses history to outline three traits people will need to embrace in order to prosper in an era of accelerating change.

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Jack on the launch of his new video enterprise! Jack, we eagerly await all of the forward-looking goodness you’ve got to offer in the new format.

The Future of Computing

April 18 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

The future of computing has many different aspects and it is not my intention with this post to provide a detailed explanation of each. Rather, I merely want to share with readers who are interested in the future of computing some interesting and provocative resources.

For those looking for a broad-based overview of how computers will change our lives, I highly recommend this detailed report by Microsoft Research entitled “Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020.” The second chapter, in particular, is very insightful and documents five major transformations: 1) The End of Interface Stability; 2) The Growth of Techno-Dependancy; 3) The Growth of Hyper-Connectivity; 4) The End of Ephemeral; and 5) the Growth of Creative Engagement.

For readers seeking a slightly more technical understanding of where computers are headed, I’d recommend this press release by Gartner, Inc. It covers a number of “grand challenges” which will dramatically alter how future computers operate and are used.

Succinctly, the major changes are:

1. Never having to manually recharge devices.
2. Parallel Programming.
3. Non-tactile, Natural Computing Interfaces. (This corresponds with the Microsoft report.)
4. Automated Speech Translation
5. Persistent and Reliable Long-Term Storage; and
6. Increasing Programmer Productivity 100-fold.


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A Video for Your Mama: Futurist Jack Uldrich Breaks Down Exponential Growth

May 21 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

It is notoriously difficult to comprehend the compound growth potential of exponential forces driving innovations in computing, nanotech, and solar power, but pro futurist and regular future blogger Jack Uldrich does a great job explaining this counter-intuitive phenomenon in his latest book Jump the Curve . Therefore I was thrilled to come across this short & sweet video synopsis of exponential potential by the man himself:

By employing comprehensible metaphors and gradually relating accelerating change to our lives, Jack succinctly and effectively gets the idea that “the really big change is still ahead of us” across (no small feat). So if you’re looking for a link to send to your non Accel-aware buddies, co-workers or relatives, this is it.

Get There Early: A Book Review

May 28 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from

Recently, I had some time to kill in an airport and as I am wont to do in such situations I strolled into the bookstore. It was my good fortune to stumble across the book, Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present by Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future.

I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the future. Among some of the key points I took away from the book were:

1. Uncouple the art of forecasting from prediction. As I stated in this piece a few days ago the future is unknowable, but this doesn’t diminish the importance of forecasting. It does, however, suggest that all of us should take everyone’s predictions with a healthy dose of salt. As Voltaire said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” It is good advice to heed when contemplating the future. Far too many variables are at work to predict the future with much accuracy.

2. Don’t adopt a fixed mind-set. Related to this point was the author’s warning against adopting a fixed mind-set with regard to the future. Too often, people with a particular mind-set see only things that fit their pre-conceived worldview. For example, I tend to be very optimistic about the future. (A case-in-point is this piece I wrote on human longeveity.) Therefore, it is all that much more important for me to guard against fitting all future technological advances into this optimistic mind-set. (cont.)

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