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John Smart on Singularity 1on1: Accelerating Change Isn’t Slowing Down

Yesterday I interviewed John Smart on Singularity 1 on 1.

Among many other things John is an advisor in Futures Studies and Forecasting for Singularity University where I met him last summer. He is also one of those rare people who are (literary) Smart since birth and totally justify the name. So it was no surprise that I learned a lot during our one-hour-long conversation and I hope you can learn from him too.

During our discussion with John we cover a wide variety of topics such as: the Foresight Education and Research Network (FERN); planning and creating your personal and professional future; the story of how John got interested in futurism and technology; his Acceleration Studies Foundation as well as the meaning of accelerating change; his totally fascinating idea of STEM compression; the Barrow scale vs the Kardashev scale; cosmology, black holes and different interpretations thereof; Moore’s Law and the limits of Physics.

(As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.)

Who is John Smart?

John M. Smart is a technology foresight educator and a scholar in global processes of evolution, development, and accelerating change. He is president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation (Mountain View, CA), and professor and program champion for the Emerging Technologies masters program at the University of Advancing Technology (Tempe, AZ), which teaches foresight in exponentially advancing technologies, and seeks innovative technology solutions to humanity’s grand challenges. He is also an advisor in futures studies and forecasting at Singularity University (Mountain View, CA). John has a B.S. in business administration from UC Berkeley, an M.S.-equivalency in physiology and medicine from U.C. San Diego School of Medicine, and an M.S. in futures studies from the University of Houston. His blog is EverSmarterWorld.com.

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  • advancedatheist

    I wish you singularitarians would get your story straight. Peter Thiel, Neal Stephenson and Tyler Cowen have separately argued that we’ve had 40 years years of relative stagnation instead. Indeed, we’ve lost technologies we had 40 years ago, like the ability to send people to the moon, treat bacterial infections with antibiotics  or build new nuclear reactors. Thiel argues that most engineering has in fact become effectively illegal since 1970, except in computing. 

  • I admit that the space program and airplane design may have been largely stagnant. Yet this is what an “S” curve is all about. We may have reached saturation on this one but there are lots of signs that we are approaching the entry into another “S” curve in those fields.

    Secondly, even if “most engineering has in fact become effectively illegal” this is absolutely not true outside of the US. Thus human progress has continued on the global scale.

    Lastly, if as you admit the above is not true in computing this is a huge thing because today everything is a computer: we don’t driver cars anymore – we have computers that drive, we don’t fly planes – we have computers that fly, we don’t have cochlear implants – we have computers that help us hear… So progress in computing is the basis for progress in most anything else from biology to astronomy to DNA decoding to medicine to Space to education and so on.

    Do you really thing we are worse or as well off as we were in the 1960s?!

  • Sally Morem

    I am nearly 60 and I can testify that things are indeed accelerating.  I’ve just seen a video of a small robot bird alighting on a human hand and then perching.  Just one tiny example of what robotics and computers are achieving right now, not in 40 years.  Acceleration in computer hardware and software, especially as it develops into full-fledged nanotechnology will utterly change every aspect of life.  When I was born, the Defense Department had just purchased ONE computer that year and was considering (just considering) getting another one that next year.  To all doubters, including those mentioned, I challenge you to contrast and compare that reality to ours in 2012.  Stagnation for 40 years?  Utter nonsense.

  • Another great interview.  Thanks Nikola!  Hopefully the rewards of your knowledge will come to bear fruit very soon! 

  • Thank you very much friend,

    I very much hope the same too though right now it doesn’t seem likely…

  • Jonathan Cooper

    Great interview. Socrates, you have a great talent for asking interesting questions and the letting the interviewee answer. Not sure if that makes sense but it seems so often that those conducting interviews are looking to hear themselves talk not their guest.

  • Jonathan Cooper

    I think Thiel is arguing from a rather narrow view of what the future is supposed to be. I will be the first to admit that I thought (and still want to) I would be popping wheelies in my moon buggy by now but there are other factors involved. Many of these “lost technologies” require huge up front costs and will not provide a pay off for decades to come. I think Thiel argues that they are illegal because he is not considering the thought that maybe they are not worth while right now. It would be very (VERY) nice to have them but up to now, (see SpaceX) no one (including Thiel, who has invested in Facebook but to my knowledge not Nuclear energy) seems to want take the time and money to get these things going.

  • Thank you Jonathan!

    Interviewing people is a skill that I have been working on and improving for some time now though I still have somewhat inconsistent results and a long way to go.

    Still, I am very happy and motivated by your comment.

    Thank you!

  • “John M. Smart is a technology foresight educator and a scholar in global processes of evolution, development, and accelerating change. He is president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation (Mountain View, CA), and professor and program champion for the Emerging Technologies masters program at the University of Advancing Technology (Tempe, AZ)”

    John Smart, no wonder why your surname is Smart co’z you are really smart. By the way, thanks for the great interview, great topic.

    Best Regards,
    Kathy Minnich

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  • Peter Rothman

    The problem is that to argue that change is accelerating you must also provide a metric of measuring change. Without that, it’s just opinion and everyone has one. How do we measure change? Do we even know what we are talking about here?

    These sorts of analyses are subject to a lot of problems, i.e. cherry picking, insufficient sample size, ignoring contradictory evidence, overfitting, etc. etc.

    See http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/35182/InTech-Measuring_technological_change_concept_methods_and_implications.pdf

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