SDSUSome Consequences of Ubiquity

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This page last updated Fri Oct 23 21:36:29 US/Pacific 2009


Here are the notes for my talk at ToorCon2009 on 24 October 2009. At the moment, this file is also at

How ubiquitous can ubiquitous computing get?

I don't know how far computational ubiquity can be extended, but here is a fairly conservative trajectory, starting in the 1980s:

Wearables are to the embedded networks as PCs are to the Internet

Cyberspace leaks into the real world

Physical reality becomes as volatile as financial markets

Civilization faces orders of magnitude more threat vectors than in the past. The people in the this room may be among the few who have an idea of how great the variety may be.

Coping with this new environment will require some serious attitude adjustments:

Advice to governments in this new era

Advice to everybody in this new era

But even in the best case ...

It seems likely that (absent physical disaster) the trend toward computational ubiquity is unstoppable, and is leading to complexity comparable to the complexity of the biological world. Biological mechanisms had a very long time to develop robustness. The trend toward ubiquity may have to make similar improvements in just ten or fifteen years -- if it is to avoid ending itself (and the civilization that supports it).

Even with our best efforts, it seems that safety will eventually depend upon oversight that proceeds faster than committee (or even programmer) review -- and this fact may seem to violate the spirit of the advice given above.

In the long run, the tools we create will have to be very reliable and very smart:

The Technological Singularity

The Technological Singularity is the notion that in the fairly near future, we will create or become creatures of superhuman intelligence. There are various ways this might happen:

[So my talk here at ToorCon has mainly been about the run-up to the last two scenarios on this list.]