Project Concept Document
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What is Virtual Information Technology?

It’s a huge concept that has hundreds of components and converging technologies. It’s becoming like a living organism, every component affects every other component. We have identified over 200 components of Virtual IT and the list is growing almost daily.

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. It seems that most people are focused on just a small portion of the puzzle and are mostly unaware of what the “big picture” looks like. This is understandable because one piece of the puzzle can consume most of one’s time. So how is this problem solved? Create a “hive mind”, a group of forward thinking people who are focused on their individual specialty but collaborate on the “big picture”.

Virtual Information Technology is fragmented and many of the pieces of this puzzle will come together to produce some amazing results. As a result of studying the “big picture” view of Virtual IT, it will result in a greater awareness of the approaching mega technological tsunamis. From that knowledge we will benefit immensely.

Look back 1, 2 or 5 years ago and think of the all things we use in our daily lives that didn’t exist back then. Look at the major advances every year in cell phones, software, PCs etc. It has become increasingly difficult to just keep pace with our changing world. The rate of change is increasing at an amazing pace.

What will we have in the next 50 years? Ray Kurzweil in his book, The Singularity is Near, gives us some good insight. He predicts that we’ll see the equivalent of a century of progress—at today’s rate—in only twenty five years.

So what is Virtual Information Technologies? Everything boils down to information. Information Technology has evolved over the last 50 years or so and is entering a new exciting phase. Ray Kurzweil puts it this way, “Everything—including physical products, once nanotechnology-based manufacturing becomes a reality in about twenty years—is becoming information”. (ref. SN, p. 56)

Vision

Since everything boils down to information, The Virtual Information Technology World Project (VITWP) is a look into the future. It will be a professional organization that’s designed as a center of information and knowledge and encourages collaboration, for both private and commercial product development.

Mission

Provide a center of excellence in the knowledge of emerging Virtual Information Technology tools and future Education & Learning methods that will greatly benefit mankind.

Membership Groups

  • The Leaders Group is the key decision making group for The VITWP. The membership will be made up of forward thinking individuals that have a track record of achievement and expertise.
  • The Leaders Group will be responsible for development, operation and maintenance of VIT World, as well as the selection and appointment of new members to the council. Recommendations for membership on the council, as well as for new projects, will be received for consideration from the Project Developers and the General Membership.
  • The Project Developers are the people that make the concepts real. They are the application designers and builders. The Project Developers, either private or commercial will be assigned a section of land to convert their ideas into virtual reality.
  • The General Membership is those people who are serious about supporting the development of VIT World through their project ideas and collaboration but do not have land. They also can provide financial support through their Member Based Contributions and are free to explore the VIT World.

Skills needed

  • Builders
  • Terra Formers
  • Land Management
  • Scripter’s
  • Architects
  • Web Designer’s & Managers
  • Social Network Site Designer & Managers

Initial Objectives

  • Provide necessary land for our project developers to support their activities.
  • Objective – Acquire Land to build a project proof of concept.
  • How to fund the project.
  • Objective is to have the project self funding within one year. Startup capital will be donated buy The Leaders Group.
  • Future revenue to be received from:
  • Donations
  • Corporate Sponsors
  • Leasing space
  • Membership fees
  • Design and Architect the VITWP Region
  • Objective:
  • Develop a VITWP Social Network Site
  • Select the type of web site.
  • Ning.com
  • Elgg.net
  • Zoho.com
  • Pbwiki.com
  • Google Groups
  • Find a volunteer developer.
  • Develop a General Members Sandbox on the VITWP Region.
  • Be a hub of connectedness and networking for members.
  • Objective –
  • Develop a social meeting place on the VITWP Region.
  • Design and build a Knowledge Library for Virtual Information Technologies.

Major Areas of Interest for Future Projects

The Singularity

So what is the Singularity? The following are a few key points from Ray Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near.

  • “It’s a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” (ref. p.7)
  • “Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes one’s view of life in general and one’s own particular life.” (ref. p. 7)
  • “The key idea underlying the impending Singularity is that the pace of change of our human-created technology is accelerating and its powers are expanding at an exponential pace.” (ref. p. 8)
  • “This book will argue, however, that within several decades information-based technologies will encompass all human knowledge and proficiency, ultimately including the pattern-recognition powers, problem-solving skills, and emotional and moral intelligence of the human brain itself.” (ref. p.8)
  • “Before the middle of this century, the growth rates of our technology—which will be indistinguishable from ourselves—will be so steep as to appear essentially vertical.” (ref. p. 9)
  • “There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality. If you wonder what will remain unequivocally human in such a world, it’s simply this quality: ours is the species that inherently seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations.” (ref. p. 9)
  • “All the machines we have met to date lack the essential subtlety of human biological qualities. Although the Singularity has many faces, its most important implication is this: Our technology will match and then vastly exceed the refinement and suppleness of what we regard as the best of human traits.” (ref. p. 9)

Intelligent Virtual Assistant

The Intelligent Virtual Assistant will be the result of the convergence of three technologies: Avatars, Thinking Machines and Virtual Humans. There is a significant amount of work being done in all three areas.

  • Thinking Machines – There is really exciting work being done at Numenta. They are developing smart software that mimics the human brain which is the brain child of Jeff Hawkins. In the article, Jeff Hawkins and the Human Brain, Business 2.0, January/February 2007, he states: “What Nementa is doing is more fundamentally important to society that the personal computer and the rise of the internet.” This is technology worth keeping following. For further information, I would recommend the book by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee, On Intelligence.
  • Virtual Humans - So what is a Virtual Human? There may be two answers to that. One is what they are today and the second is what they will become. Peter Plantec wrote the excellent book Virtual Humans, which gives us good insight into what they are and what they will become. The following is a few key points from his book.
  • “In my estimation, no force today will impact the future of mankind as much as thinking machines and virtual humans.” (ref. p. 3)
  • “Virtual humans are animated characters that emulate human behavior and communication. They’re not artificially intelligent, but instead they use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to fake real intelligence better that the best Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs. Better than that, they can emulate a range of human behaviors nicely. Academically they’re known as embodied conversational agents or ECAs.” (ref. p. 3)
  • “It’s inevitable that V-people will become the universal interface.” (ref. p.3)
  • “In simplest terms a virtual human is an intelligent computer simulation of human personality.” (ref. p. 4)
  • “There’re too much about clever technology and not enough about human personality.” (ref. p. 4)
  • “After all, consciousness is the illusion we want to project.” (ref. p. 4)
  • “Virtual Humans are great communicators. They will talk among themselves at light speed. It’s likely that they could form a hive mind in which all the knowledge of a billion virtual humans forms a gestalt that no single human could achieve. We could benefit from this greatly or we could be victimized by it.” (ref. p. 12-13)
  • “Virtual humans are our best shot at a truly universal man/technology interface.” (ref. p.13)
  • “Ultimately we have to be as comfortable with them as we are with other humans. That’s when the bridge will be most functional, opening up the world of technology to nearly everyone.” (ref. p. 97)
  • “Eventually, Virtual Humans will be our gateway to everything.” (ref. p. 199)

Today’s Virtual Humans (talking heads) have their benefits and their drawbacks. The technology is fragmented and requires a good bit of technical know how and time to assemble. However, today’s Avatars may transition into tomorrows Virtual Humans, those that can act independently on our behalf.

The object is to have an Intelligent Virtual Assistant that could always be in touch with its real life companion, be it over the cell phone, the Internet or even the telephone. The market for this would be tremendous. It would be like having a friend to talk to anytime. So what would it take to accomplish that? The following is a list of some of the requirements:

  • Self-Evolving
  • Self-Redefine
  • Self-Replicating
  • Emulate Fuzzy Human Process & Consciousness Behavior
  • Natural Network Face-Recognition
  • Real-Time Flowing Hair & Smooth Movements
  • Sophisticated Head Language
  • Set of Animated Hands
  • Track Where the User is Looking to Ensure Eye Contact
  • Face Tracking Eye & Face Recognition
  • Develop Technology that will Interpret Experience and Automatically Integrate it into the V-person’s Personality
  • Hardware-Assisted Voice Interactive Technology
  • Laughter
  • Self Learning
  • Full-Body Character
  • Sense & Communicate with People

Virtual Worlds

They are exploding. New things are being implemented everyday. Virtual Worlds are becoming so big that it is now takes up volumes of books and articles to adequately cover the subject. This project will be developed in the 3D world of Second Life.

Education, Learning & Games

By making Education and Learning fun, an entire new educational environment will unfold. VITWG will support the development of virtual world gaming applications for educators and students. VITWG will promote an evolution in teaching and learning, with a goal of making learning fun.

Knowledge Base

A Knowledge Base of information, both on the Web and an in-world library will be developed, in conjunction with the social networking. Through the use and integration of Virtual IT World Technologies, educators and project developers can collaborate to explore and create new modes of learning.

Social Networking

A Social Environment, both through the web and an in-world area where people can meet to share common interests, create relationships and solve problems will be developed.
Social Networking and Social Communities such as Myspace and YouTube offer an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. It also has an internal search engine and e-mail system.

Linkedlin is business focused and mainly used for professional networking. The main purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust. Search Wikipedia for much more in-depth definition of Social Networking and Social Communities.

Social Networking Web sites targeting health care are increasing in popularity. Several new companies have recently launched sites where patients and caregivers can interact in online communities reports Health IT World, Health Care Social Networking Web Sites Taking Off, February 7, 2007. Revolution Health, OrganizedWisdom, Dailystrength and The American Cancer Society are a few such examples.

MIT’s Technology Review, January, 8, 2007, reports that P&G is launching social networking Web sites to connect more with consumers. The report goes on to say: “P&G hopes to gain insight into consumer habits and interests by starting online forums for women to tell their stories and learn from each other about issues such as breast cancer and careers and for people who want to share their entertainment views.”

Cyber Sapiens

The transformation has already begun. As Chip Walter puts it in, Cyber Sapiens, Excerpted from Thumbs, Toes, and Tears, Walker & Co. Co 2006. Published on KurzweilAI.net, October 25, 2006. “Our current situation is unlike anything nature has seen before because we are not simply a by-product of evolution, we are ourselves now an agent of evolution.” He goes on to write, “Each day the lines between biology and technology, humans and the machines we create are blurring. We are already part and parcel of our technology.”

So what is next, virtual reality, telepresence, digital implants and nanotechnology? Direct mind-to-internet communication is not that far off. Currently there are several mind-to-computer communication projects underway, such as reported in the ScienceDaily, Researchers Demonstrate Direct Brain Control of Humanoid Robot, “The humanoid robot saunters across the lab. Responding to cues from a graduate student's brain activity, the robot picks up one of the objects, and carries it to a location of the person's choice.” Neural Systems Lab, CSE University of Washington, December, 15, 2006
NewScientistTech reports, 'Mental typewriter' controlled by thought alone, “A computer controlled by the power of thought alone has been demonstrated at a major trade fair in Germany.” March 9, 2006
Don Melvin reports, We'll all be cyborgs someday, scientist says. “British professor foresees day when most people will be implanted with computer chips.” Austian American, December 23, 2006.
We will be assimilated! A scary thought today but 50 years from now it will be thought of as just another tool. Hopefully, we will have a choice. Our tools have changed the way humans go about their daily tasks, just like the invention of fire and the wheel did years ago. We just have to be aware of and protect ourselves against the “dark side.”

Summary

The rate of change is accelerating faster and faster. This presents both opportunity and challenge and both must be addressed. We are going to see as much technological change in the next 20 years as we have seen in the past 100 years.

Computing power will continue to double about every 12 to 18 months, probably faster, especially when the Quantum Computer comes online. What will your desktop look like in 50 years? I hope I am around long enough to find out. Everything will become faster, better and cheaper. Look at how fast the World Wide Web was formed. How long will it take to form the World Wide Mind?

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