Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman ConditionEd Regis’s “Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition” [Amazon] is a wonderful and funny collection of science writing. The tone is set in a great prologue about ‘bezoar stones’, but the focus of the book is on the big names in late 80s ‘extropianism’. The author spends a lot of time with them, talking to them, finding them to be both calm and engaging people, who just happen to have really wild, really really wild, ideas about the future.

Fifteen years after first reading that book, and catching up with what has been going on with the extropian/transhumanist movement, I was surprised and slightly saddened (at first) to find it being tainted with a small dose of mainstream acceptance. Stanford University hosted a ‘Singularity Summit’ in 2006, and they even managed to pull in Douglas Hofstadter to give a talk. You can watch videos of speeches from last year’s Singularity Summit including Hofstadter’s diplomatic and slightly shambling appearance. Love him or hate him, his presence should be a reliable indicator that something interesting, and not 100% whacked out, is going on here.

If you want to click around on this subject, Wikipedia on Accelerating Change is a good kicking-off point exploring the ideas of Ray Kurzweil. On that and other related pages you’ll find these key illustrations of exponential changes:
paradigm shifts, moore’s law, canonical milestones, computing power/cost

Ray K’s large PPT presentation from the 2006 Summit is available but a little ditzy/full on. And you can get the gist from those linked graphs above.

See also the 2007 Richard Dimbleby Lecture by Dr Craig Venter which, while long and rambling, shares a central vision of accelerating change and technological transfomation on man and our environment.