Emerging Technological Black Swans

The Black Swan theory (in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s version) refers to a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. Taleb regards many scientific discoveries as “black swans” — undirected and unpredicted. He gives the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, and the September 11, 2001 attacks as examples of Black Swan events.

The personal computer and Internet could have been predicted and were predicted by some. A 1968 video predicting a global communication system like the Internet and predictions of the information highway and the 1986 prediction of a global hypertext system.

Super-terrorism was predicted.

People who were deeply involved in an area were usually well aware of the potential of what they and others in the field were working towards.

As an Internet-empowered futurist it is possible to see the long gestation of “Black Swans”. It is also very do-able to develop a deeper understanding of specifics in a technology or science to more fully assess how impacts will enfold and what the limits or the potential are.

Emerging Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, Blacklight Power, Jovion Power

Cold Fusion is close to generating kilowatts of consistent power for hours.

Blacklight Power is signing commercial deals and is planning to release commercial energy generation product this year.

Jovion Corporation received a patent for an energy generation system based on zero point energy.

Newsweek reports that, more level-headed participants [naysayers] have acknowledged that LENR might reveal some unusual new physics, but is unlikely to be a source of energy.

So all the ridicule and attempts at quashing were at least responsible in suppressing and delaying the discovery and examination of “unusual new physics”. That alone seems to be a wrong for the scientists involved in the ridicule and quashing. They previously have written and claimed that there was absolutely nothing to it but fraud and error.

These power sources are all related to solid state physics at a near nano scale. The theories are different but if they have stumbled onto related effects that are effective then the impact would classify as a Black Swan event. If anyone of these do develop as an energy source then those that held back this research would be to blame for delaying this beneficial result. If cold fusion is finally triumphant, then those who were unscientific in shunning the research and researchers turned what could have been viewed as interesting anomalous but not reliable extra unexplained heat worthy of research into an uphill battle.

Quantum Computers

Dwave Systems seems to be on track to release 128 qubit quantum computers commercially in the summer of 2009. They seem ready to scale to thousands of qubits by the end of 2009 or early in 2010.

Quantum computers have been predicted in general for a while by many technologists, but a successful emergence over this year and following years will be very surprising to many.

DNA and other forms of Nanotechnology

DNA Nanotechnology appears ready to burst to a whole new level of capability (with structural DNA costing dollars per kilogram) and self assembly enabling 1-2 nanometer computer chip features and artificial ribosomes.

Room temperature single atom quantum dots

Carbon nanotubes and other super-strength materials and materials for electronics and antennas.

Superstrong materials make all kinds of cars, planes and spaceships vastly better and things that were impossible to build become possible (like the space elevator.


Metamaterials for nanocups, spectrum control (terahertz imagers) and invisibility and optic control (possibly optical computers).

Nuclear Fusion and Factory Mass Produced Deep Burn Fission

Several nuclear fusion projects IEC Fusion, Dense Plasma Focus fusion, general fusion, laser fusion could develop relatively quickly.

Stem cells
Massive life extension [SENS life extension project, Nutrigenomics and Genescient’s work
Tissue Engineering
Gene therapy
Biomarkers and cheap and effective tests
Performance enhancement
Cognitive enhancement
Wearable computers, exoskeletons and cybernetics

Robotics, UAVs, Robotic vehicles, Automation and Sensors/super cameras Everywhere

Robots are getting cheaper and more capable. They will go from about 6 million now to 18 million in 2011.


Femtosecond and attosecond lasers reveal new science and are powerful research tools. Solid state lasers are over 100 kilowatts in power. Efficiency, power and other improvements are consistently made.

Brain science and technology, intelligence and artificial intelligence

Synapse artificial brain project and other brain ai work.

Recent brain emulation work and a roadmap to full human brain emulation.

Convergence of Multiple Black Swans and Creative Mixing

Better materials and better nanoscale control and manufacturing help with understanding and developing the new energy sources (like nuclear fusion, Blacklight power and the others).

Better computers and sensors help with better robots and with all scientific research.