Ubiquitous Digitalisation

Ubiquitous Digitalisation

A transcript of the above talk

Hi! I'm Tim Tyler - and this is a video about the progressive digitalisation of the world.

That digital systems are betten than analog ones is a familiar fact to most people today. Digital music media replaced analog ones. Digital video has largely replaced analog media. Digital cameras have replaced analog ones. Digital TV, radio and telephony are making progress as well.

Digital signals make an attempt to distinguish signal from noise. Based on the observation that noise often consists of low-level signal fluctuations, digital systems ensure their main signal consists of large-scale fluctuations - and then regularly filter out low-level noise before it grows to a level where it swamps the signal.

This strategy increases fidelity - at the expense of bandwidth.

In practice, the bandwidth requirements are often actually lower for digital systems - because digital compression technology is so much more advanced.

Here is Richard Dawkins explaining some of the advantages of digital systems:

[Richard Dawkins footage]

As a result of this advantage of digital systems, they have displaced analogue ones in many domains - and are busy displacing them in many other ones.

It is not just processing which digitisation affects - input/output channels are affected as well. If you look closely at a monitor, or a sheet of lazer-printed paper, you will see large numbers of discrete dots. A similar effect can be seen in digital cameras.

Digital signals look set to invade many new domains in the future.

Today we are familiar with 2D printers. In the future, we will have 3D printers. The field exists today - and is most-commonly known as rapid prototyping - and it produces small objects made of a range of different materials. In the future we will have automated assembly of space frames, and reusable building blocks as well.

Looking further out, here is Eric Drexler describing some of the possibilities of nanotechnology.

[Eric Drexler footage]

...and here is Ray Kurzweil discussing the potential future reach of information technology.

[Ray Kurzweil footage]

Not everything is better if it is digital. Digital speakers, for example, are currently expensive and of poor quality.

However, overall, the trend towards digitisation is compelling.

The human brain uses thresholding ubiquitously - otherwise it wouldn't work at all - but is not yet entirely digital - which means, among other things - that it can't easily be copied or backed up. This looks likely to be a fatal flaw - and brains seem likely to be replaced completely by functionally superior digital devices.

Already many humans spend many of their waking hours peering into the digital realm - looking in through rectangular windows at the virtual world of the internet.

Once brains go digital, then agents will effectively be living out their lives inside a digital virtual reality simulation.

Probably much of their time will be spent in shared virtual spaces that do not correspond closely to their immediate physical surroundings.



  1. The first chapter, "The Digital River," of Richard Dawkins' "River Out of Eden"

Tim Tyler | Contact | http://alife.co.uk/