Head Buzz - Is Facebook like Crack?

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The current issue of Tech Review arrived… and the plaintive plea of Buzz Aldrin is so arresting. Why have we invested in one and not the other?

To be it seems like a surreal disconnect. Innovation is in florid bloom out there, with compounding technologies that warp the very fabric of reality. Big, bold projects to change the world… and beyond. Transportation is becoming electric and fully autonomous. New constellations of low-cost satellites will provide free imagery of every part of the Earth every day. A new wave of industrial and agriculture biotech is upon us as we move beyond cut & paste and freely write the code of life like we program a computer… and the software creates its own hardware. From a few artificial microbes, we can now create billions of novel life forms per day, with all of their DNA spooling from a gene printer. Various breakthroughs in digital non-volatile memory will take us to the post-CMOS era in computing. Humanoid robots will flow into the workforce in 2013 with more powerful AI to follow. Femtosecond lasers can machine materials with zero heat. Quantum computers can now outperform a classical computer by orders of magnitude, and may soon outperform all computers every built for certain optimization calculations and machine learning tasks.

The future is quite bright if you talk to entrepreneurs. The pace of innovation is breathtaking if you talk to scientists, continualy forging the future along the frontiers of the unknown. I hope more investors can look beyond the arbitrage plays rippling throughout the information economy, so easily farmed for their short-term pops, and fleeting sense of bounty. The daily din of opportunism can create a head buzz that crowds out healthier fare.

The pattern of progress comes into focus with a longer-term perspective. We are investing in SpaceX’s trajectory to colonize Mars, to take us where no person has gone before, to venture forth to make humanity a multi-planetary species. And, as I flipped the pages, I was delighted to see that we are investing in almost every “big opportunity” highlighted in the magazine.

Steve Jurveston

Here's the ensuing conversation:

  • gsikich1 (3 weeks ago)
    Great subtitle on the cover. We have stopped solving big problems and that is because we are distracted by immediate gratification and the quick fix for things that are not fitted for a quick fix. Read Nassim Taleb's new book "Antifragile" and Shiff on the next bubble - no quick fix! Great shots.

  • TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ (3 weeks ago)
    Oh sure, in historical terms what's going on now with facebook, etc, in terms of years, or even decades, is like going to pee, or having a nap in the middle of an important activity.
    I think the statement as is (didn't read the whole article) shows not only lot of prejudice but mental myopia. And a quite frightening fundamentalism of thought, on how things should be.
    Things are as they are. Period.
    I would expect from someone who went to the moon to have a really broad and integrating, systemic view on life on Earth, not the other way around. But, that is actually another prejudice. The only difference between mine and Aldrin's is that I realize I am expecting something based on my preconceptions and worldview, whereas Mr. Aldrin seems to think he view is THE view.
    Didn't it happen to occur to Aldrin that Facebook - as the epitome of all this overload of connectivity and seemingly distraction- is necessary to the whole evolutionary progress of humans and science and technology?
    Elon uses the money he made with PayPal to invest in Tesla and Space X...

  • seatonsnet (3 weeks ago)
    Facebook has caused dictators to fall and people to be free. What is there so wonderful about colonies on Mars? Social change is easily as important as technological change and probably at our stage of development, where our technology has far outstripped our talent for living with one another, probably social change and communication are more important right now.

  • vennettaj (3 weeks ago)
    i'm sometimes getting very confused..is it the bright future or it's always the bright past : )
    i read the other day the article..what you posted on fb..not sure if the same...about political reaons behind the distribution..the ways hunger comes about...the technological solutions being somewhat superficial on that.. and that "we often plain don't know what the problem is.. yeah..interesting
    somebody actually can see the whole picture? really?..
    Gi, agree..but that's the pioneer's spirit i think..the down side of it :-)

  • ukweli (3 weeks ago)
    I think the disconnect is excitement about "how" versus understanding about "why" basically. Does colonizing mars on any real scale satisfy any reasonable "why?"
    I really don't have a lot of respect for the opinions of an astronaut about general progress. These are the men and women who rode on the tip of hundreds of billions of non-competing dollars. Public will had nearly nothing to do with the moon landing, and I predict the same will be true with the Mars landing.
    Eh, Alieness said it better.

  • scleroplex (3 weeks ago)
    the whole point of facebook now is delivering individual tracking data.....
    marketing is the world's ultimate goal now.

  • BillS49 (3 weeks ago)
    Thank you for being willing to back dreams of where mankind can go.

    subarcticmike (3 weeks ago)
    today's robot-led exploration / prelude may be the calm before the next storming of the solar system

  • sion1231 (3 weeks ago)
    It is true, the present is incredibly exciting. Thanks to people like Elon Musk and others the possibilities of the present are starting to be realized. I don't know about Facebook but Google at any rate revolutionized the revolution that is the internet. Here I am inspired by people like Elon Musk and commenting on the photo stream of someone significant who I would never have even heard of if it weren't for the internet. I am just one of thousands if not millions who may be able to make a small difference influenced by truly exceptional role models. In aggregate the effect is very likely to be phenomenal. We can choose our Hero's now. Before they were chosen for us.

  • -fCh- (3 weeks ago)
    "Facebook has caused dictators to fall and people to be free."
    On Mars, perhaps.

  • RRNeal (3 weeks ago)
    "The daily din of opportunism can create a head buzz that crowds out healthier fare." Indeed. Well stated.

  • Jim Rees (3 weeks ago)
    Where's my jetpack? Flying car? Moving sidewalks? Pushbutton kitchen? Dog-walking robot? Those are the things I was promised.

  • TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ (3 weeks ago)
    Speaking of which... I was promised the Playmobile's Pirateship and never got it. I know it's not the same kind of promise, but still feels frustrating. And I am not in the cover of a magazine complaining.
    I came to terms with it.

  • andyi (3 weeks ago)
    Well, also a palm-sized device that can correctly navigate you from wherever you are to the doorstep of the nearest emergency room, wherever that is, showing you aerial color imagery of every meter of the route.
    I mean, it hasn't been a complete wash, Buzz. Also, have you played "Orbital"? It's cool beans, seriously.

  • jgury (3 days ago)
  • So I guess you are not swayed by more Mars colonies less crime arguments. If the film versions are correct we get more crime, dictators and social injustice along with more Mars colonies. But we do not have any historical basis for that as a social science observation unlike my discovery of the more Mosques less crime effect. That was in fact key to saving civilization from that difficult era of Mongol and barbarian lawlessness and social disruption. Of course they did not have the relatively low technology of firearms so any opposing militias were easily dealt with, one more thing which our founding fathers had the wisdom to make sure would not be an issue for us.

    -fCh- (3 days ago)

  • Palm-size this and that are the equivalent of pocket watches as consolation prize for not discovering/colonizing the Americas...

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