[EAS]Debates and Bets

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Apr 24 13:01:11 EDT 2002

Subject:   Debates and Bets

(from INNOVATION, 24 April 2002)

What's the big idea? If it's socially or scientifically important, 
well-informed skeptics are sure to challenge it. But suppose money
was  involved -- a wager. Suppose the visionary and the challenger
each had to  put up $1,000 or more, along with their big idea, with
the winnings going  to charity. Both parties would be forced to
rethink their ideas and refine  their critiques, improving the
quality of the predictions. That's the idea  behind the Long Bets
Foundation -- to track our pronouncements about the  future.
Masterminded by Well founder Stewart Brand and Wired 
editor-at-large Kevin Kelly, the foundation hopes to raise the
quality of  our collective foresight by incorporating money and
accountability into the  process of debate. And since Long Bets
wagers always involve future events,  the foundation will also keep
track to see who won. The initial round of  Long Bets include: that
commercial airline passengers will routinely fly in  pilotless
planes by 2030; that more than half of all books sold worldwide  by
2010 will be printed on demand at the point of sale; that the
universe  eventually will stop expanding; and that the US men's
soccer team will win  the World Cup before the Red Sox win the World
Series. (Or will the  universe stop expanding before the Sox win the
Series?) A number of open  bets are also at www.longbets.org. (Wired
May 2002)

[And to give you another topic to 'bet on', how about the future
ubiquity of voice activation?  --PJK]

"Voice activated software will be universally accepted and a range
of  applications such as banking will be commonplace," says Benjamin
Fisher, an  analyst at Datamonitor, which is predicting that speech
recognition  software will be worth $1 billion by 2006. Among the
applications predicted  are voice-activated call centers that use
speech technology known as  Natural Language ASR that enables
computers to respond to the meaning of  sentences rather than just
specific words. "You can say what you want,  rather than to listen
to what you might want," says Stuart Patterson, CEO  of SpeechWorks.
Other future applications include voice-activated  automobile
systems and entertainment applications. Microsoft is considering 
voice-enabling its Xbox game console and the latest Harry Potter DVD
 includes a feature that enables children to wander around Hogwarts
by  giving voice directions. (BBC News 20 Apr 2002)

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