Friday, February 8, 2008

What is the 32nd Square?

Dr. Kurzweil tells the story of the Chinese Emperor who was so pleased with the game of chess that he granted the inventor any wish. The creator of chess asked the Emperor for one humble grain of rice to be placed on the first square of a chess board, two meager grains of rice on the second square, four tiny grains on the third square, eight grains lined up neatly on the next square, and so forth until all 64 squares of the board were accounted for. The Emperor thought the inventor a humble man for asking so little, yet by the 32nd square the Emperor owed the inventor eight billion grains of rice, enough to cover a one acre field.


Dramatic things happen on the second half of the chess board, from square 33 to the 64th square (at which point the inventor controls all the rice on the planet).

According to Dr. Kurzweil, in 1995, we reached the 32nd doubling of computer power. In the first quarter of 1996 more computers were sold than televisions, and more mail was delivered electronically than through the postal service. You might have heard that this is the information age, and that a technological revolution is going on. What you might not have heard is that the revolution didn't really take off until 1995. Hold onto your hat. The real revolution is about to begin.

Dramatic changes are underfoot. Computers are getting ready to listen, understand, translate languages in real time, respond instantly with voice, video, animation, graphics, and text. Soon computers will immerse us in virtual worlds so strange and unusual we cannot yet imagine their composition. The reason these changes are no longer science fiction is because we now have (or will soon have) the computing power to make them happen. We crossed the threshold into the future. We are standing on the second half of the chess board. What does this imply for the profession of orientation and mobility, and for the students we serve?

[[, accessed November 2006]]

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