Transition Point, From Steam to the Singularity

This is a very important book that asks and answers some of the most important questions of the century and should be widely read because it covers subjects that affect everyone, but where vested interests have been keen to avoid debate. The history of the world has seen a handful of events in many thousands of years that change the direction of human life. There will be debate as to exactly when this latest stage of human revolution began and exactly where we are in its cycle, but no one can argue that it is not a significant change in the fortunes of the human race. – Most Highly Recommended

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NAME: Transition Point, From Steam to the Singularity
FILE: R2776
AUTHOR: Sean A Culey
PUBLISHER: Matador Publishing
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 710
PRICE: £24.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Industrial Revolution, Communications Revolution, Computing, data 
networks, data aggregation, vulnerability, social issues, commercial issues, IoT, 
Internet of Things, cyber crime, jobs, revolution, autonomous machines, robots

ISBN: 978-1-789014-884

IMAGE: B2776.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/y9hpu3nm
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION:  This is a very important book that asks and answers some of 
the most important questions of the century and should be widely read because 
it covers subjects that affect everyone, but where vested interests have been 
keen to avoid debate.  The history of the world has seen a handful of events in 
many thousands of years that change the direction of human life. There will be 
debate as to exactly when this latest stage of human revolution began and exactly 
where we are in its cycle, but no one can argue that it is not a significant change in 
the fortunes of the human race. -  Most Highly Recommended

The author has approached this situation from the point of view of someone closely involved in supply 
chains, and this will undoubtedly attract the attentions of others working in this area of business, but 
the starting point is rather less important than the main subject on which everything depends. He has 
written in a style that is easy to read whatever the background of the reader and this deserves to result 
in a very wide readership.

There are those who argue that we are currently in just another stage of a revolution that began as long 
ago as the Sixteenth Century and it is therefore very helpful that the author has begun his book in the 
steam-powered Industrial Revolution, rather than just dived in at the IoT. Far too many of those who 
have already started to advocate, or question, the IoT start there and fail miserably to understand how 
we got to the current position and why that evolution and revolution is critical to the IoT and what lies 
beyond it. There will be those who may think the story had started earlier. Certainly, steam power 
exploited a series of concepts and technology that goes back further. The water mill was converted to 
steam and increased productivity. Steam looms took existing machines and made them work more 
productively but that was evolution because in a broad sense machines powered by wind, water and 
steam evolved over a very long period. Steam dramatically changed all of that, but at a sometimes 
heavy social cost. It also introduced many significant dangers that only started to be addressed late 
in the Victorian period with the publications of Standards that provided a universal system of 
measuring components to ensure steam boilers would stand their working pressures and components 
could be reliably produced in volume. This was critical to steam transport at sea and by rail that 
introduced huge benefits but was also, initially, extremely dangerous.

The Industrial Revolution saw the agricultural economy changed in a short period to an industrial 
economy that started the depopulation of agricultural lands and the dramatic growth of urbanisation. 
This was a true revolution that changed society as well as changing the economy. Like all revolutions 
it offered many potential benefits but also very many potential threats. It was under-debated at the 
time and, although it made a few people very rich, it also cast a large number into poverty and 
vulnerability, but it was largely a set of changes within human scale where much of what was 
happening was understood. It led to a debate to seize the opportunities and address the threats that 
continues to this day, suggesting that the debate has been less than efficient.

While the Industrial Revolution was about coal, water, steam, steel, and machines, the next revolution 
was already starting. The ability to generate and manage electricity produced a revolution in 
communication. Almost overnight, telegraph and telephone communication reduced the time for 
passing information over long distances, shrinking from weeks and months for a message to pass,
 and a similar period for any response, to a matter of days or minutes, depending on how close 
communicators were to access points at both ends. It transformed business but it also introduced 
threats and there was little discussion about its merits and dangers.

The development of radio started a sub-revolution in communications that introduced mobility, 
broadcasting and in turn video broadcasting. Attacks on communications developed as fast as the 
base technology as people learned how to intercept, monitor and corrupt communications. Very little 
attention was devoted to introducing protection except for some government activity and a few rich 
people and companies. The main approach was in developing encryption and decryption to protect 
information and this accidentally created the next and most revolutionary stage of human development.

Electronic, programmable computers were developed in Britain during WWII to break enemy encryption, 
providing access to the enemy's most secret information. It has only taken some 75 years to move from 
the first electronic computers to a world that runs on computers. Remarkably little debate has taken place  
during that period about whether all of the social and economic changes computing brings are desirable, 
or even achievable.

In one example of failing to understand the whole picture, the RAF decided to automate a stores 
management system by acquiring a mainframe computer. The cost was 'sold' on the basis that major 
savings would be made and the cost of the computer would be covered by these savings in eleven years. 
Unfortunately, cost of purchase and implementation was under estimated and the procurement team 
failed to appreciate that the computer had a planned life of five years. The result was that although the 
system provided several benefits and the experience to move to more effective computer systems in the 
future, the claimed key benefit failed to be achieved miserably.

The speed of development has enabled marketeers to seize control of the revolution and use it to create 
new and highly effective ways of manipulating huge numbers of people across the world, highly 
increasing some enormous risks and encouraging a consumer society that buys new technology with 
very little thought about whether the products deliver what they promise, whether they are cost effective, 
whether they are reliable, whether their risks are acceptable, whether they provide any benefits that are 
required. This highly dangerous situation has been achieved through the ability to manipulate by fear and 
desire.

The development of digital communication media has now provided marketeers with access to customers 
never before possible and each generation of new components just speeds up this process. In some 50 
years, the Internet has developed from a very valuable communications channel for a small community 
of users into a largely uncontrollable mass communications environment and is now developing into an 
artificial intelligence environment that has enormous implications for mankind.

There are two basic areas of dangers. A very casual development process, driven by marketeers rather 
than engineers and users, has ignored a mass of vulnerabilities that potentially offer incredible levels of risk 
beyond human control. The second danger area is that it has provided a highly intrusive level of access 
for faceless people with their own agenda and a level of intrusion that is largely invisible and 
unappreciated by the mass of technology users. Development has been too fast for legislators and we 
are now entering a stage where technology will start to gain the ability to develop itself, moving humans 
from the drivers to the passengers.

On the plus side there have been enormous benefits and opportunities and these have dazzled our species 
to the equally massive threats. The author has worked through this rapidly changing environment  and 
asked some important questions. This book must be read and debated. There will inevitably be many
 who disagree with some parts of the author's presentation because the area covered is vast and we each 
approach from our own perspectives and experiences. Forecasting the future in any detail is always risky 
because new unforeseen factors emerge that change what today may appear to be an assured probability. 
Some will become desperately depressed by the way things are going. At the other end of the scale, 
some will see the general direction as the salvation of mankind and the ability to voyage out across the 
universe, as man not so long ago voyaged across seas beyond the first horizons. Between those 
perceptions and expectations there lies a myriad of perceptions. What is common is that these 
perceptions are based on some very fragile knowledge because we have been experiencing a speed of 
development in an aggressive revolution that has encouraged us to take our eyes off the many balls. 
We must correct this before it is too late. The debate should be now, it should be open, it should be 
free of marketing – a major challenge for us all.

Today we see some of the signs of threat that have been visible to a few of us for decades. The collapse 
of high street shopping is one inevitable consequence of the way that intelligent communications have 
provided a seductive alternative. That alternative holds some major threats, particularly to some groups 
of people and it makes us more isolated, the older people more vulnerable, unemployment and hardship 
in some areas, but also new jobs and better wages, longer lives and now an improvement in the health 
aspects of quality of life. We also see a massive rise in cyber crime, beyond the capability of policing to
 contain and address. Artificial intelligence is already giving us 'robots' in many forms to make our lives 
easier, but again introducing many new threats. That these situations are only just beginning to receive 
some attention and debate is worrying, particularly when some of us started warning of risks to watch 
out for some fifty years ago. Many of the dangers could have been completely avoided had we all 
learned to recognize the differences between price and true cost. Much would have been better had we 
asked what the benefits were to us and at what risk.