A recent newspaper article quotes Andy Grove, founder of Intel, in a rather brutal metaphor for how to recognize revolutionary change looming over an industry:

... I have this mental silver bullet test. If you had one bullet, who would you shoot with it? If you change the direction of the gun, that is one of the signals that you may be dealing with something more than an ordinary shift in the competitive landscape. ...

Another test that Grove suggests is to start worrying when "... the people you have worked with for 20 years seem to be talking gibberish ...".

And that reminds me of a long-ago-far-away scene in Chapter 18 of Vernor Vinge's 1986 sf novel Marooned in Realtime, wherein a future castaway recounts his attendance at an incomprehensible meeting, as a hyperlinked civilization creeps closer to transcendence:

"My own company was small; there were only eight of us. We were backward, rural; the rest of humanity was hundreds of light-seconds away. The larger spacing firms were better off. Their computers were correspondingly bigger, and they had thousands of people linked. I had friends at Charon Corp and Stellation Inc. They thought we were crazy to stay so isolated. And when we visited their habitats, when the comm lag got to be less than a second, I could see what they meant. There was power and joy and knowledge in those companies. ... And they could plan circles around us. Our only advantage was mobility.

"Yet even those corporations were fragments, a few thousand people here and there. By the beginning of the twenty-third, there were three billion people in the Earth/Luna volume. Three billion people and corresponding processor power — all less than three light-seconds apart.

"I ... it was strange, talking to them. We attended a marketing conference at Luna in 2209. Even linked, we never did understand what was going on." ...

His tiny company was running a complex matter/antimatter distillery near the surface of the Sun, dimming its light as they absorbed energy to produce hundreds of thousands of tons of antimatter per second. But as Earth changed faster and faster, he recalls:

" ... In 2207 we were the hottest project at Stellation Inc. They put everything they had into renting those easements around the sun. But after 2209 the edge was gone from their excitement. At the marketing conference at Luna, it almost seemed Stellation's backers were trying to sell our project as a frivolity."

So when the words stop making sense, perhaps it's time to wake up ...

(cf. OnSingularities (7 Jun 1999), VernorVinge (17 Sep 2001), Andrew Grove speech of 9 Aug 1998, and "Microsoft and Google Grapple for Supremacy" by Steve Lohr, New York Times of 10 May 2006, ...)

TopicLanguage - TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - 2006-05-12

(correlates: SpinCycle, YoursTruly, ComplexSimplicity, ...)