The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore Virtual Age: Next Wave of Change in Society a Ali A.
Jalali a and Hamid Mahmoodi b Department of Electrical Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran b School of Engineering, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California, USA [email protected] com, [email protected] edu ABSTRACT The Virtual Age is the ultimate progress of information technology and knowledgebased environments into a three-dimensional virtual world.We firmly believe that the enormous expansion of the information age by leaps and bounds along with the availability of the required tools and technologies, will bring about a fourth wave of change in the near future. There have been three waves of change in the history of human progress, namely, the Agricultural Age, the Industrial Age, and the Information Age. The fourth wave of change or the Virtual Age will create a new era in which most aspects of every day life and world affairs will become virtual.Virtual Age is an umbrella which empowers anywhere, anytime, anyone interactions defying the existing time and space limitations we encounter today. The possibilities are endless, for instance; virtual commerce, virtual banking, virtual learning, virtual government, virtual work office, virtual corporations, and so on.
Much higher speed CPU’s, high speed transmission media (larger bandwidths), huge capacities of memory and sophisticated real-time virtual reality software are needed to power us into the Virtual Age.At the present rate of progress, it is projected that hardware and software limitations will be overcome within about two decades allowing the coming of the Virtual Age. Keyword: Virtual Age, Information Technology, Internet, Fourth Wave, Virtual World 1. Introduction Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Significant developments in the world would not have been possible without the imagination and forward thinking of great scientists, engineers, inventors and writers of science fiction. For instance, two centuries ago no ne could have imagined a human society in which cars, trains and airplanes would be normal modes of transportation, or information would be disseminated instantly throughout the world via radio, television, satellites and the internet.
These inventions have brought about a significantly enhanced standard of living and had made enormous changes in social, economic, cultural, and political fabric of various societies. By the same token, many people, including some scientists cannot imagine how drastically advanced the future world will be as compared to today’s society. 1593 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore Figure 1: Waves of change in human history According to the well known futurist Alvin Toffler , the first wave of transformation was the Age of Agriculture, see Figure 1. Tim Jordan et. al, describes this transition and the impact on human society as follows : “Its significance was that people moved away from nomadic wandering and hunting and began to cluster into villages and develop cultures.The second wave was an expression of machine muscle, the Industrial Revolution that noticeably began in the 18th century. People began to leave the peasant culture of farming to come to work in city factories.
Just as the machine seemed at its most invincible, however, we began to receive intimations of a gathering third wave, based not on muscle but on mind. It is what we variously call the information or the knowledge age, and it is powerfully driven by information technology”.It is projected that, expansion of the information age by leaps and bounds along with the availability of the required tools and technologies, will bring about a fourth wave of change, creating a new age in which the concept of “virtual living” will be realized. In this age most aspects of every-day life and world affairs will become virtual. The possibilities are endless, however a few conceivable ones include; virtual commerce, virtual banking, virtual learning, virtual government, virtual work office, virtual corporations, and so on. Figure 2: Virtual-learning, prevalent in the Virtual Age. 1594 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore 2. Background About two decades ago, Toffler, in his book “The Third Wave” , had predicted the information age or the knowledge age as the next wave of change after the industrial age.
At that time, no one, including Toffler, could have imagined that information technology (IT) would result in the invention of the Internet which would ultimately create millions of jobs through e-commerce, e-banking, e-learning, e-government, and so on.While the Internet is rapidly expanding throughout the world, its full potential is not yet exploited. When all societies gain equal access to the vast amounts of information and data contained in the Internet and all aspects of every-day life, science, technology, law, government, etc. are web-enabled and relevant information is embedded in the medium of the Internet, a harmonious world could be created, where global justice, peace and equality would be a dominant factor.Speaking on the subject of the upcoming fourth wave of change, in several scientific conferences in 1994 and1995 [3-4], I have presented my thoughts on the topic along with evidence supporting the coming of an era, which I have coined the “Virtual Age”. Since then, I have presented more than 600 speeches and articles related to this topic. 3. Progress of the Waves of Change in History The history of scientific and social progress has gone through three waves of change, figure 1.
The reason behind these waves of change has always been the fulfillment of the human needs in each era.For example, in the first wave, i. e. , the Agricultural Age, providing food for the human society was the greatest challenge of the time. The Agricultural Age lasted for about thirty thousand years.
As the world population was increasing, the simple tools and methods of the Agricultural Age were not sufficient to provide for the added population. Furthermore, new demands for goods and materials were surfacing. Thus, a breakthrough was needed to meet these demands. This much-needed breakthrough manifested itself in the form of the industrial revolution.Industrial revolution signaled the end of the Agricultural Age and moved the human society forward towards the Industrial Age which lasted for about 500 years. In this age, great inventions, such as, the steam engine, railroad, airplane, telephone, electric power, radio, television, plastics, transistor, microprocessor, and many others, came about. Moreover, civil institutions, such as those of higher education, health, welfare and so on were created with the goal of the betterment of the human condition.
The Industrial Age successfully provided the needed materials and goods and created a multitude of new jobs which replaced most of the agricultural jobs of the previous era. The advancement of science and technology, along with, availability of food and goods, as well as, health care and welfare resulted in a population explosion in the last 100 years. Finally, the rapid progress in engineering, health and human sciences, economics, and education, as well as, the complexity of multinational and global industries created a new demand, namely, the free flow of information.Massive amounts of information and data were needed to be managed and transferred via high- – 1595 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore speed communication media throughout the world. This was only possible through the invention of computers and networking facilities. Computers developed quite rapidly with increasing capacity, decreasing size, and reduced cost, whereby it could be purchased by individuals and placed in their homes and offices.
Upon the availability of personal computers for the public, the value of information increased tremendously. Vast amounts of information and data, however, could not be provided by the available technologies in the industrial age. Therefore, a new wave of change was needed, thus, the third wave or the Information Age began about 50 years ago. With the invention of the Internet in 1968, the Information Age entered a rapidly expanding mode. In 1974, TCP protocol was introduced; in 1989 the World Wide Wed (WWW) was created which signaled the beginning of an explosive expansion in the information technology.
For instance, the number of internet hosts increased from 1000 to 10,000 between 1984 and 1987 and reached 200 million in September 2002 . Table 1: Internet growth trends . YEAR QUANTITY 1977 111 hosts 1981 213 hosts 1983 562 hosts 1984 1,000 hosts 1986 5,000 hosts 1987 10,000 hosts 1989 100,000 hosts 1992 1,000,000 hosts 2001 150-175 Million hosts 2002 Over 200 Million hosts Figure 3: Internet users in million . – 1596 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, SingaporeIt has been predicted that the number of users of the Internet will reach two billion by the year 2005, and 80 percent of the world population will have access to the Internet by the year 2020. The quality of the human experience has also been affected by going through different waves of change. In 2001 the worldwide number of PCs-in-use topped 600 million units.
In the next six years this number will nearly double, assuming compound annual growth of 11. 4%. The U. S. as the largest number of PCs in-use with 175 million at year-end 2001, with a PC replacement rate of 70 percent. Asia-Pacific region will reach 367 million units of PCs in-use by 2007. Western Europe will surpass the U.
S. in the number of installed bases of PCs by 2004. Table 2: Worldwide number of PCs in use . PCs-In-Use (Millions) 1995 2000 2001 2007 Worldwide Share In Homes (%) USA Share In Homes (%) Western Europe Share In Homes (%) Asia-Pacific Share In Homes (%) 229 35. 2 93. 5 36. 9 62.
4 39. 2 43. 6 29. 530 43. 5 162 49. 0 139 48. 5 139 35. 8 603 45.
1 175 50. 4 158 49. 9 166 38. 3 1,150 52. 3 251 54. 6 285 52. 9 367 53.
9 PCs in-use will approach saturation in the U. S. soon after 2010, exceeding 300 million units.
Despite approaching saturation, annual PC sales in the USA will be in the 60 million range after 2010 due to PC replacement sales every five years for most PC users. The worldwide PC market will not approach saturation until 2015 or later when PCs in-use will reach the 1. 7 billion units range .These statistics show a growing demand for PC’s for the next 20 years. Looking back at history, it can be shown that proceeding from one age to the next has never been straight forward or without complications.
One of the most important barriers to change is the human nature of tending towards preservation of the status quo and the fear of an unknown future. For example, at the beginning of the Industrial Age, farmers had the notion that creation of factories would eliminate many farm jobs, thus they resisted the change.A similar attitude was expressed towards the invention of computers by industrial workers who thought it would replace them; not realizing that many more jobs of higher quality would thus be created. By the same token, when I talk about the coming of the Virtual Age, I am frequently confronted by questions such as: “Wouldn’t a virtual teacher in one corner of the world replace all teachers, rendering them unemployed? ” – 1597 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore .
Fundamental Components of the Virtual Age Beside the human resistance towards change, the existence of a wide digital gap between developed and underdeveloped countries, hardware and software limitations, and lack of appropriate infrastructure are some of the problems to be overcome before the Virtual Age can be realized. For instance, much higher-speed CPU’s, higherspeed transmission media (larger bandwidths), huge capacities of memory, and a significant number of sophisticated software are needed to power us into the Virtual Age.The present state-of-the-art and the required advancements of these components are discussed below: Figure 4: Fundamental components of the Virtual Age. 4-1 High Speed CPU CPU’s are computational parts of the computer, the speeds of which need to be increased to be able to perform hundreds of billions of calculations per second. At the present time, the fastest supercomputer in the world, which is built by a Japanese laboratory and has the computing power of 20 of the fastest U. S.
computers combined, has 5,104 processors and can reach a speed of 35,600 gigaflops, or billions of mathematical operations per second .Table 3: Number of transistors on CPU by year Year 1980 1990 1993 1995 1997 1999 2002 2003 2006 2010 Version 8086 80486 Pentium Pentium-Pro Pentium II Pentium III Pentium 4 (3. 06) Prescott Dual Core Xeon Unknown yet # of transistors 29,000 1,2 Million 3. 1 Million 5. 5 Million 7. 5 Million 9. 5 Million 200 Million 1 Billion 1.
328 Billion Several Billions! CPU’s are built using the Integrated Circuits (IC) technology. Since the invention of IC in 1960’s, performance of CPU has been exponentially improving due to the improvements in the IC technology.The speed of a CPU chip depends on many factors, among which are the number of transistors on the chip (integration density) – 1598 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore and transistor switching speed. For example, in 1980 the maximum number of transistors on a chip was 29 thousand (model 8086); in 1990 it was 1. 2 million (Model 486); in 1999 it was 9. 5 million (Pentium III). The number of transistors on a chip has already reached one billion (Pentium 4 and Prescott, 1.
GHZ chip), and is expected to reach several billions by the 2010. Higher number of transistors on CPUs is primarily used for integrating more cache memory on CPU chips which enhances the system performance. The number of transistors per chip for CPUs has been following an exponential growth (Fig. 5), owing to a trend in IC technology called Moore’s law . The transistor integration density and transistor switching speed are enhanced by scaling transistor dimensions from one generation of the technology to the next (technology scaling).Each scaling of the IC technology, which happens in 18 months, doubles the integration density by providing 50% reduction in transistor area (Fig.
5), and enhances CPU’s clock frequency (Fig. 6) by 40%. Number of Transistors (Millions) 10000 1000 100 10 1 0. 1 0. 01 0.
001 8085 8086 8080 8008 4004 1980 1990 Year 2000 2010 386 286 486 2B 1B 500M Pentium 4 P6 Pentium ® proc 1970 Fig. 5: Number of transistor on lead microprocessors doubles every 18 months, following Moore’s law [courtesy of Intel] 100000 Frequency (Mhz) 10000 1000 100 10 1 0. 1970 486 8085 386 8086 286 8080 8008 4004 1980 1990 Year 2000 2010 30GHz 14GHz 6. 5GHz 3 Ghz Pentium 4 P6 Pentium ® proc Fig. 6: Increasing clock speed of lead microprocessors [courtesy of Intel] The PC today has grown into more than a productivity tool; it has become a source of enjoyment and entertainment. While people continue to use the PC to track home finances, write letters and look up information on the Web, it is also used for advanced media and entertainment applications. More people are starting to produce their own home movies, edit their own digital pictures and mix their own music.Therefore, CPU performance is an important factor.
For example in Table 4 the performance comparison between a 500 MHz CPU and a latest version of CPU i. e. , Pentium 4 HT 3.
06 GHz for different applications is shown. In the Virtual Age much – 1599 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore higher performances are required. We believe that the endless application of the virtual reality and its high performance demand will create a drive for the IC technology scaling and the CPU performance enhancement.
Table 4: Performance comparison of two CPUs Applications 500 3. 06 Improvemen MHz GHz t Digital Music 0. 29 12. 5 14 times Digital Video 12.
5 1. 27 8 times Digital Photography 1. 27 12. 5 6 times Gaming 45 1.
27 8 times Multitasking–Digital Media 0. 34 12. 5 13 times Multitasking–Gaming and Music 1. 47 1. 27 7 times Multitasking – Digital Video Creation 1. 36 12. 5 7 times At the present rate of progress, it is projected that the desirable CPU speed and performance which can support the Virtual Age is attainable within about two decades.
-2 Large Capacity Memory The second necessary component leading to the Virtual Age is large capacity memory. Virtual reality is a three- or higher-dimensional environment, requiring storage and retrieval of huge amounts of information and data. Currently available memories are 700 MB for CD-ROM, 5 GB DVD (red laser technology), 27 GB DVD (blue spectrum), 300GB for hard-drive, and 400 GB for NANO-CD. Solid-sate memory (SRAM and DRAM) capacity has been exponentially growing following Moore’s law, meaning that the storage capacity doubles every 18 months (Fig. 7).This is precisely the reason why early PCs had Kilo byte of main memory whereas modern PCs offer Giga bytes of main memory.
– 1600 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore Fig. 7: Evolution of solid-state memory capacity Material exploration in the nanotechnology area is aggressively pursued for dramatic improvement in memory capacity. Examples include carbon nano-tube based memory (NRAM ), phase-change memory (PRAM ), ferroelectric memory (FRAM ), magneto-resistive memory (MRAM ), and organic molecular RAM .Research is being conducted on 3D laser memory with 1 Tera (1000 G) Byte, and molecular memory with 1000 Tera Byte.
The latter capacity is able to store more than the present sum total of the human knowledge data. Storage Attached Networks (SAN), optical and biological memories are also under investigation. If the above claims of research are indeed made practical, it appears that components with ample memory capacity will be available in the Virtual Age. 4-3 High-Speed Media The third component required for reaching the Virtual Age is super high-speed media (wired and wireless).Computer networks use a variety of transmission media like copper wire, glass fiber, radio wave, microwave, and infrared laser. These media are limited in their transmission capabilities. It should however be noted that optical fibers have inherently infinite band width, but switches and devices connected to the fibers limit their transfer rate.
For example, in order to understand the need for broadband connectivity, a real-time multimedia collaboration may need over 100 mbps transfer rate per user. Viewing a high quality broadcast movie requires 90 mbps.In the network backbones speeds are reaching to terra bits and optical switches are reaching to the production and implementation stage.
Some data links such as cellular network are fully mobile and accessible form anywhere, some are accessible in a wireless fashion but in limited areas such as wireless internet hubs, and finally some data links are wired lines accessed only from specific locations such as Ethernet lines. There three types of data links are called wireless, nomadic, and wireline data links. As expected wired links deliver higher bandwidth than wireless links.The bandwidths of all the three types of digital communication links have been following – 1601 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore exponential growth (Fig. 8) .
This growth mimics the growth trend observed in computer performance, referred to as Moore’s law . In order to be able to support the three- or higher-dimensional environment of the Virtual Age much higher transfer rates are needed. Therefore, new inventions in this area are required to produce the appropriate transfer rates. Fig. : Exponential bandwidth growth in communication links  4-4 Software Infrastructure The forth component required to enable the virtual age is the availability and sufficiency of complex, real-time virtual-reality software.
Recently, vast improvements have come about in the video game industry based on 3-D and virtualreality concepts. Sims and Second Life are preliminary examples of the implementation of virtual-reality in video games. “Second Life is a startlingly lifelike 3-D virtual world now evolving on the Internet. Unlike other shared online adventures, Second Life isn’t about slaying monsters or zapping aliens.It’s about building things, meeting people and expressing yourself. Even if you already have a life, you may want to get a second one” .
The main attraction of these games is having the possibility to select different aspect of our lives which we would normally not have control over. These softwares are still very basic. Advanced type of this software can be used for education, business and other aspects of life in the Virtual Age. – 1602 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, SingaporeFigure 9: Real-time virtual reality 3D-software. 5. Attributes of the Virtual Age Traditional aspects of the human life, such as, social, economic, cultural, and political facets are rapidly changing. Information technology which has led to the invention of the Internet has created a tremendous number of new jobs through e-commerce, ebanking, e-learning, e-government, and so on.
The exponential increase in the number of users of the Internet and the ever-increasing creation of and demand for information, will eventually outgrow the capacities and speeds of the presently available software and hardware.However, in response to such increasing demands, the hardware and software technology also keep improving at the same pace. By the same token, many people, including some scientists cannot imagine how drastically advanced the future world will be as compared to today’s society. As mentioned above, every wave of change in history has had specific goals and was expected to meet certain changing demands of the human society. Furthermore, the duration of each age depended on its ability to satisfy the new demands needs of the human societies.
Upon reaching its goals, the previous age would be replaced by a new one.The Agricultural Age which had the goal of providing food for the simple human society lasted for about thirty thousand years, while the Industrial Age, with its rapidly developing materials and goods, lasted only about 500 years. Around many years ago, an even faster changing age, namely the Information Age, started to emerge and is running its course. Within the third wave, the rapid development of new technologies, such as information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and the absolute command of scientists over atom has led to the expectation of a new wave of change, i.
e. , the Virtual Age, or the fourth wave.The Virtual Age is the ultimate progress of information technology and knowledgebased societies. It is an umbrella which empowers anywhere, anytime, anyone interactions defying the existing time and space limitations we encounter today. The possibilities are endless, for instance; virtual-commerce, virtual-banking, virtuallearning, virtual-government, virtual work-office, virtual corporations, and so on, will become commonplace in the Virtual Age.
– 1603 – The 2009 International Joint Conferences on e-CASE and e-Technology, January 8-10, 2009 Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore . Conclusions The information age as the most recent wave of change in human society will eventually lead to the next wave of change: virtual age. Hence, we believe the fourth wave of change will be the Virtual Age. Barriers between the third and the fourth waves include the human nature of preserving the status quo, as well as hardware limitations and software.
Much higher speed CPU’s, high speed transmission media (larger bandwidths), ultra-high capacity memory components, and sophisticated realtime virtual-reality software are needed to power us into the Virtual Age.At the present rate of progress, it is projected that hardware and software limitations will be overcome within about two decades allowing the emergence of the Virtual Age. The fourth wave or the Virtual Age will be all encompassing and will drastically change most facts of human life, such as social, economic, cultural, and political aspects. It will change the world in a much more drastic way than any of the waves before it, including the Information Age. To achieve the forth wave; emphasis should be shifted from hard infrastructure to soft infrastructure.
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