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Wired's Wonders of the World

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NOTE: Wired's queries for Wired Wonders were met with more responses than we could possibly print. Following the Seven Wired Wonders listed in the print version of Wired are a number of additional Wonders. Enjoy!


Wired 1.6: Seven Wired Wonders


by Jeff Greenwald

Long before the birth of Christ, historians of the ancient world attempted to catalog humanity's most spectacular triumphs. The "Seven Wonders of the World" included such crowd pleasers as the Egyptian pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Colossus of Rhodes. Over the centuries the list was continually revised; until, by the late 1950s, we started hearing about the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World." The all-new lineup focused mainly on elegant engineering feats like the Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, and Eiffel Tower: monuments which, despite their relative antiquity, are still pretty impressive today.

These lists have one thing in common: They catalog beautiful and impressive things. But things as wonders are becoming obsolete. One of the most telling facts about our present age -- call it the Neosilicate -- is that many of our best and brightest achievements are conceptual. When future generations weigh our accomplishments, they're more likely to cite gene mapping and the Internet than the Sears Tower.

The seminal achievement of the Neolithic, or "new stone," age (8,000- 1,500 BC) was the development of permanent communities and agriculture. The overarching achievement of the Neosilicate (from 1971, when the first "microprocessor" was minted, to the present) is the Digital Revolution.

The notion that all of our input about the physical universe -- from the X ray signature of a supernova to the visual textures of a Van Gogh -- can be broken down into binary code is one of the most useful, thrilling, and arrogant ideas our species has fashioned. Originating with the Taoists (whose yin/yang philosophy is over 50 centuries old), the binary model now informs every field of science and is redefining contemporary culture as well. Everything about the computer-driven 1990s -- the shape of our car seats, the way we record music, even what we call community -- owes a debt to the digital boom.

In light of this fresh perspective, Wired thought it would be fun to revive an old tradition. Last June, we sent letters off to 100 individuals who have been, in our estimation, conspicuous beacons on the broad frontier of high technology. Each of these persons -- scientists, artists, theorists, and social gadflies -- was invited to send in nominations for a new list: The Seven Wired Wonders of the World.

The results were dizzying. There was some overlap, of course (for example, the telecommunications net and various vestiges of our once-great space program) but not much. Some people named projects, some people named people. Some of the lists were corny and cerebral, while others sailed in from some ontological outfield.

On the following pages, then, just in time for the fin de millennium, appear the Seven Techno-Wonders of the World. The final list was compiled by our editors, based (for the most part) on the nominations we received. As you read, it might be interesting to bear this in mind: of the original Seven Wonders, only one -- the Great Pyramid -- remains. We can only imagine the glorious Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, or the vast Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. One has to wonder what future Wired readers -- 3,000 years hence -- will recall of our own generation's noblest works.

Only time (lots of it) will tell. In the meantime, have fun -- and let us know if we left anything out.

-- Jeff Greenwald

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by James Gleick

After a century of fading into our bedside tables and kitchen walls, the telephone -- both the instrument and its network -- is on the march again. As a device shrinking to pocket size, the telephone is subsuming the rest of our technological baggage -- the fax machine, the pager, the clock, the compass, the stock ticker, and the television. A sign of the telephone's power: It is pressing the computer into service as its accessory, not the other way round.

We know now that the telephone is not just a device. It is a network -- it is the network, copper or fiber or wireless -- sprouting terminals that may just as well be workstations as headsets or Princesses. As the network spreads, it is fostering both the universality and the individuality of human discourse. The Net itself, the world's fastest-spreading communications medium, is the telephone network in its most liberating, unruly, and fertile new guise.

Thus Bell's child is freeing our understanding of the possibilities that lie in ancient words: neighborhood and meeting and information and news. It is global; it is democratic; it is the central agent of change in our sense of community. It is how, and why, we are wired.

-- James Gleick

(James Gleick (, the author of Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, is working on a cultural history of the telephone. He is also the founder of New York's new Internet gateway, the Pipeline.)

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by K. Eric Drexler

The wonders of the ancient world were monumental, but the wonders of the modern world are increasingly microscopic. Modern technology rides an exponential explosion of computer capability driven by an exponential implosion in the size of computer devices.

The computer revolution began in the 1940s with million-dollar machines processing hundreds of instructions per second. Since then, the cost of computing and the performance of the machines have improved by a factor of a thousand, dropping the cost of computing by a million-fold. We now have thousand-dollar machines that process millions of instructions per second. Computer cost and device size have fallen together on a steep exponential curve.

The engine that powers this computer revolution is micromanufacturing. Micromanufacturing packs more and more devices into each chip - devices that switch faster and consume less energy. In 1945, computers used vacuum tubes the size of your thumb. Today they use transistors so small that a hundred could sit on the tiny round stump of a severed hair.

Where is this leading? All signs point to a revolution that advances to the limits set by natural law and the molecular graininess of matter. Trends in miniaturization point to remarkable results around 2015: Device sizes will shrink to molecular dimensions; switching energies will diminish to the scale of molecular vibrations. With devices like these, a million modern supercomputers could fit in your pocket. Detailed studies already show how such devices can work and how they can be made, using molecules as building blocks.

The necessary methods, though, are no longer those of traditional micromanufacturing. Molecular control will require the methods of molecular manufacturing: nanotechnology. A new approach and a vigorous effort might even jump the schedule: Japan launched a $200 million program last January.

-- K. Eric Drexler

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Digital Astronomy

by Timothy Ferris

The newly inaugurated Keck Telescope, the world's largest gatherer of starlight from ancient galaxies, embodies the grand traditions of classical astronomy while vaulting into the next millennium.

Housed in a gleaming white dome amid the lunar landscape of Hawaii's Mauna Kea at a dizzying 13,600-foot altitude, Keck is a ground-based optical telescope, built with private funds ($75 million worth) under the guidance of a single individual (the telescope's chief designer and scientific director, the University of California at Berkeley astronomer Jerry Nelson). That much it has in common with its legendary precursors at Palomar, Lick, and Mount Wilson.

To focus in more closely, though, is to witness the technology of the future. Keck's light-gathering mirror, 10 meters across, is comprised of thirty-six hexagonal segments. Computer-controlled actuators tune the mirror segments twice per second, keeping each aligned to within one millionth of an inch. In 1996 a second identical telescope is to go into operation in a dome of its own, 85 meters away. Together they will comprise the largest pair of binoculars in the solar system, a tool capable of scrutinizing the depths of space and time with unprecedented clarity.

Working in concert with a flotilla of scientific satellites like COBE (which mapped radiation emitted in the big bang when the universe was only one million years old), Einstein and ROSAT (which study the skies in the high-energy wavelengths of X rays and ultraviolet light, respectively), and, hopefully, an astronaut-repaired Hubble, Keck takes a prominent place in a new digital astronomy.

Like most major telescopes today, Keck records images using CCD (charge-coupled device) chips that are forty to a hundred times more sensitive to light than photographic emulsions. (Similar technology, used in today's video cameras, makes it possible to shoot scenes lit only by candlelight.) Since the CCDs produce digital images that can be transmitted across the world in moments, Keck eventually may join a global network of remote-controlled telescopes that can be utilized by scientists -- or even amateur astronomers -- from their desktop workstations. Lost will be the romantic specter of solitary astronomers toiling nights on frigid mountain tops, but much will be gained as well. Innumerable treasures of the universe, from the starfields of nearby galaxies to extinct quasars patrolling the outer limits of space-time, will have been brought within the reach of more human eyes than was possible ever before.

-- Timothy Ferris

(Timothy Ferris has written seven books, including The Mind's Sky and Coming of Age in the Milky Way. In addition to authoring more than 100 articles on science and astronomy, Ferris produced the Voyager phonograph record: a musical artifact of human civilization launched aboard the Voyager interstellar spacecraft.)

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Senior Citizens

by Douglas Coupland

Among the greatest feats of biosocial engineering ever executed and yet one that remains strangely overlooked is our abundance of senior citizens.

Prior to WWII, an old person was an oddity in Western culture, comprising only an insignificant proportion of the general populace. Now -- and particularly into the next century -- old people and their needs that will dominate political and social debate almost exclusively.

There is no historical precedent for this, in any place or any time.

Because of their relative scarcity until recently, our culture as a whole has tended to sentimentalize and over-revere old people. As events have played out, an abundance of "elders" has in no way shepherded in a golden age of wisdom and knowledge. Any notions of a wisdom-filled, Grandpa-Waltonian utopia were shelved years ago. Life extension has become a monolithic, unstoppable end in itself.

Question: Has it been worth it? Where, exactly, is the "wisdom dividend"?

The wisdom dividend has turned out to be neither spiritual, nor cosmic or slight, but (as with the benefits of space travel or war in this century) played out in a vast technological trickle-down.

The dream of an immortal society is the dominant engine powering the bulk of most 20th-century research in countless areas including medicine, pharmaceuticals, surgery, and life extension techniques as well as developments in politics and finance -- entitlements, pension funds, mutual funds.

The major question society must ask itself right now is, "When does the dream stop outweighing the benefits?" (And what's the deal with all these Bob Hope specials?)

-- Douglas Coupland

(Douglas Coupland is the author of Generation X and Shampoo Planet. His next book, Life After God, will be published in February, 1994. He grew up, and still resides, in Vancouver, Canada.)

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The Human Genome Project

by John Schwartz

The comparison is too arresting to pass up. On the one hand, there's binary code: the orderly, controlled strand of ones and zeros that gives us our spreadsheets and our Vivaldi CDs and eventually our television. On the other hand, there's the genetic code: orderly but cryptic, double-helical strands runged with nucleotides that govern our fetal development, our eye color, and our likelihood of dying of Alzheimer's. The first is understood, the second is not. That's what the massive $1 billion Human Genome Project is all about: reading our own source code and making sense of the three billion base pairs along our 24 chromosomes by finding the location and function of each of our 100,000 genes.

The project, overseen by the National Institutes of Health, is expected to take more than a decade -- Big Science, to be sure, but apparently pork-free. Employing hundreds of scientists, it's too big a project for any one lab. The 1992 announcement that scientists had achieved the intermediate step of creating a physical map (essentially, a rough sketch) of chromosome 21, believed to contain an Alzheimer's gene, was a global effort run mainly by researchers in France, with help from scientists in Spain, Japan, and the United States.

There's plenty of risk ahead. In the wrong hands, a little chromosomal knowledge could lead to experiments that would make Dr. Frankenstein blush - or to disastrous invasions of privacy. (What happens to your life insurance rates if the company knows you're more likely to have a heart attack than your neighbor?) But there's promise, too. Doctors using genome data will be able to spot the roughly 3,000 genetic defects that lead to disease. Some will be correctable with new medical therapies being pioneered today, others will just be warning flags. Genetics is not always destiny. If your gene map shows that you have a predisposition toward high cholesterol, your doctor will be able to steer you away from enchiladas suisas.

-- John Schwartz

(John Schwartz covers science for the Washington Post)

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Neuromantic Drugs

by Jeff Greenwald

"There's nothing wrong with you that a little Prozac and a polo mallet won't cure." -- Woody Allen, Manhattan Murder Mystery

From the early 20th century (when marijuana was declared a narcotic and cocaine was jettisoned from Coca-Cola) until the mid- 1980s, the general (and official) reaction to any substance that stirred the sacred scrim of "reality" was swift condemnation . . .or equally blind enthusiasm.

No more. Heralded by modern antidepressants, seratonin inhibitors, "smart drugs" like Hydergine, and a new generation of experimental nootropics (molecules that act exclusively on the higher brain centers), the era of designer consciousness-raising chemicals -- neuromantics -- is dawning. Modern psychobiology has provided us with a marvelous paradox: the human mind, while still viewed as luminous and ineffable, is also recognized as a stewpot of swirling chemicals, synapses, and neural transmitter juices that can be tweaked as easily as the pH level in your swimming pool.

The result will be an ever-widening acceptance of (and reliance upon) pharmaceuticals that allow individuals to reformulate their own cerebral mix. Pure LSD is currently available, by prescription, in Switzerland; a book lionizing Prozac -- a wildly popular antidepressant -- is on the best-seller lists nationwide (ten years ago few even thought of depression as a disease). The use of alleged cognition and memory enhancers like Piracetam, choline, phenylalanine, and Hydergine, which already have huge cult followings, will skyrocket as the drugs are improved and their utility confirmed.

Anyone who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s is well aware of the impact that the "acid culture" ultimately had on the 1990s. Many of our finest artists, writers, technicians, and sages drew pivotal inspirations from enhanced states. A similar renaissance may well take place when neuromantics hit the mainstream. And one thing's certain: It won't be a fringe culture.

-- Jeff Greenwald

(Jeff Greenwald, author of Shopping for Buddhas (HarperCollins), conceived and edited the "Seven Wired Wonders". He is a frequent contributor to Wired.)

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Immersive Technology

by Brenda Laurel

Surround the human sensorium with imagery that is partially or entirely other than that provided by the actual world, arranged in ways that invite and support holistic human participation. The result goes by many names: virtual reality, virtual environments, artificial reality, multisensory interactive systems. All are immersive prostheses for the imagination.

Immersive technology represents, on the one hand, the unattainable grail at the end of the history of cinema, and on the other hand, the beacon that draws creative energies toward the culmination of computing. It replaces the traditional ethos of computing -- bodiless minds communicating via keyboard and screen -- with the notion that the senses are primary causes of how and what we know, think, and imagine. This technology is situated in a historical vector: the exteriorization of human imagination. As Terence McKenna says, the human journey boils down to the quest to turn ourselves inside out.

>From punched cards to interactive computing, from Zork to the Holodeck, from Alfred Hitchcock's experiments with point of view to Star Tours and its kin, we have inched along the incremental path on this quest. Along the way, we have been forced to give up relinquish notions about authorship and control. In the world of immersion, authorship is no longer the transmission of experience, but rather the construction of utterly personal experiences.

Just as 2001: A Space Odyssey was an index to the then-impossible - in terms of its representation (simulation) and its object (artificial intelligence) - so the Luxor complex in Las Vegas is a contemporary index to the next wave of what Aristotle called plausible impossibility: a dynamic first-person point of view on a synthetic, imagination-hacked world. It is no accident that effects wizard Douglas Trumbull has been intimately involved with the articulation of both visions.

Convergence is in the air. One cannot help but sense that the trajectory is an exponential curve. What next? Whatever, it's out of here. Out of today's media constructs, saturated as they are with a bogus third-person view. Out of here, and into here with new eyes, ears, noses, fingers. . . on our own again, after the long mediation of top-down authored experience, of broadcast culture and mass- produced objects of desire.

-- Brenda Laurel

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Other Wired Wonders


by John Sanborn

The techno-philosophic revolution of the 20th century is "DIGITAL." Digital images, digital files, digital as a way of life.

Life is, and has always been, an analog flow of experience and situations. We feel in an analog mode...any emotion is undefined and continuous. Our ability to communicate and describe used to be analog also. Images were brought into memory with photography, musical performances were passed into wax -- processes which approach the way we innately think and remember.

I used to make films, which required me to handle the frozen image. That physicality was both powerful and frustrating. Video, on the other hand, was a flow of images which I could never capture and hold, but which I could mix into stories. They came from somewhere, but the trail ended with the mix. Digital video images return the power of the physical and extend it into the metaphysical.

The power of "Digital" extends into endless facets of everyday life, far too numerous to count or comprehend. But for me, the change from analog to digital has meant everything: a deeper understanding of what makes an image, and why I create images. To appreciate digital is not to remove it from the flow; it means seeing an image clearly within the flux of a shot, a sequence, a story, a movie, anything, anywhere.

-- John Sanborn

(Sanborn is an internationally known video artist and director who has created works for museums as well as for broadcast television.)

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Holographic Video

by Nicholas Negroponte

I'm self-conscious about appearing to use Wired to toot the Media Lab's horn. However, it would be hard not to include Holographic Video as one of the techno-wonders.

It exists (the size of a tea cup, as of next Monday)

It will be how you watch football games in the year 2010.

Anything that needs 250,000 to 2,500,000 pixels PER SCAN LINE has got to be a techno-something.

-- Nicholas Negroponte

(Negroponte is founder and Director of the MIT Media Lab, and the Senior Columnist for Wired.)

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by Anita Roddick

I'm afraid I'm a techno-virgin. I wouldn't know a pentium chip from a potato chip! So my techno-wonder is the common garden telephone. The telephone is the root of many modern marvels, but for me it rests in its ability to shrink time and space, to drop me down in places I couldn't otherwise be, and to provide an umbilical cord for globe-trotting Roddicks.

The telephone has also been the most powerful factor for the meeting of minds since the invention of the printing press. Love is no longer tracked by poems or letter -- it's now tracked on telephone wires.

-- Anita Roddick

(Anita Roddick is an author, lecturer and the Creative Director of the Body Shop International.)

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Deep Space Network NASA/JPL

by Timothy Ferris

The Deep Space Network NASA/JPL Guides interplanetary spacecraft. Landed two craft on Mars within five miles of their intended destination, inserted probes into near-Jupiter and near-Saturn space within meters and fractions of a second of optimal parameters. Has been used to test general theory of relativity, measure distances on Earth to within fractions of an inch. System consists of three radio dishes (US, Spain, Australia) linked to NASA computers at Pasadena and elsewhere.

-- Timothy Ferris

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Star Trek

by Mike Okuda

My nomination is Star Trek, an icon of 20th century culture. Although the technology seen on the show is largely fictional, the show itself has had a profound impact on a generation of scientists, engineers, computer programmers and other present-day visionaries. It is difficult to find an area of significant American technological or scientific achievement that does not have one or more major players who were inspired as children by the wonders of Gene Roddenberry's vision.

-- Mike Okuda

(Michael Okuda is a senior graphics artist and technical consultant for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.)

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by Philip Morrison

The Techno-Wonder of my choice is COBE, the Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite, in orbit since late 1990.

Its audacious, flawless measurements, whose all but incredible consistency and precision have slain seven aspirant cosmologies at one blow, throw more light on the inflationary origin of our present cosmos since the discovery of the microwave background nearly thirty years ago. What a device, and what a team of investigators and engineers!

-- Philip Morrison

(A Professor of Physics and Astrophysics at MIT, he is also known for his brilliant book reviews in Scientific American.)

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Super-Conducting Super Collider

by James Trefil

Congress has been playing Perils of Pauline with the funding for the SSC for the last few years. If the 53 mile ring under the Texas prairie is ever built, though, it will not only be the biggest high-tech construction project ever completed, but will take us one step closer to understanding the most fundamental question science can ask: 'why is there a universe, and how does it work?'

-- James Trefil

(James Trefil is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University in Virginia. His upcoming book, A Scientist in the City, will be published by Doubleday in January.)

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by Charlie Rose

Ben Franklin, Founding Father Ben Franklin is a Founding Father not just of the Nation, but also of the nation's computer industry. In 1749, Ben published his "Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." This resulted in the formation of the College of Pennsylvania, which became the University of Pennsylvania, which organized (in 1923) the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

In June of 1943, a "Fixed Price Development and Research Contract" between the United States of America and the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania was signed. The work was assigned to the Moore School, and by June of 1944 it was accomplished.

The job was to build the computer which was named "Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer". We know it as ENIAC.

-- Charlie Rose

(A senior congressman from North Carolina, Charlie Rose is Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.)

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by Candice Pacheco

I nominate nanotechnology and K. Eric Drexler of the Foresight Institute for expanding the boundaries of collective restraints on "reality" through the development of Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology will profoundly alter life as we know it by direct manipulation of the structure of matter at the atomical level. Drexler proposes achieving this by using self-replicating molecular machines or nanomachines that will be small enough to arrange individual atoms.

-- Candice Pacheco

(Pacheco is a founding member of D'Cuckoo, the Neo-classical, post- industrial, cyber-tribal world funk music ensemble.)

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Apple's Macintosh

by Gary Ames

My candidate would be Apple Computer's user friendly computer. It seems to me that the use of personal computers made a giant leap when Apple came forward with their first computers. In our business, we have seen people who you would guess would never touch a computer, fall in love with the Apple architecture.

If Stephen Job hadn't come up with the idea of making the computer easily fun to use, I think we would be five to ten years behind where we are today.

-- Gary Ames

(Ames is President and CEO of US West Communications, Inc., the Baby Bell operating in Colorado.)

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Self-Cleaning Garlic Press

by Molly Ivins

I believe the self-cleaning garlic press to be one of the major advances in civilization. What do you think -- will it make the list?

-- Molly Ivins

(The author of Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)

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In the Eyes of Other Wired Thinkers

Arthur C. Clarke

Here are my quick 7 wonders: microchips, Mandelbrot Set, Concorde, Saturn U., camcorder, laser, Scanning Electron Microscope.

-- Arthur C. Clarke

(In 1945, 28-year-old Arthur C. Clarke proposed the geosynchronous (now Clarke) orbit, and anticipated the era of communication satellites. His books include Childhood's End, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Hammer of God.)

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Vint Cerf

-- Vint Cerf

(Dr. Cerf became President of the Internet Society in 1992. He received the EFF Pioneer Award earlier this year.)

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Richard Saul Wurman

In the last hundred years, the dreams of the previous 7,000 years have begun to be fulfilled. Perhaps this is what the poet Robert Graves meant when he talked of "the waking dream." For me, "the waking dream" is the extension of my abilities and senses as an enriching part of my life. My mouth and my ears, my voice and what I hear, the extension of conversation that the telephone has given us, this is the first wonder that comes to mind.

Wonder Number Two, a much more recent wonder, is an attachment to the telephone -- the fax.

Our ears and our eyes are filled by the waking dream-like inventions of radio, cinema and television for wonders 3, 4 and 5.

The first two wonders concern location and the second three relate to interest, understanding and entertainment. The third group has to do with dissemination of information in real time with real copies. These are the Xerox machine, USA Today and CNN, which give you the world, th enews, and have created a world network of events.

The last wonder is the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). It will include television, tape recorders, Camcorders, the newspaper, a message system, a memory and a walking library of information. With the eventual advent of a forty-hour battery it will allow us knowledgeable ability and communication that truly is the waking dream and the wonder of this century.

None of the above ideas are particularly esoteric. They're not a particular chip or parallel computer system. Rather, they're the things that take the parts of our bodies and give them the better size, speed and acuity than we ever though possible.

-- Richard Saul Wurman

(Richard Saul Wurman is an 'information architect' whose credits include the Access Guidebook series and the creation of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences.)

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Marvin Minsky

The most astonishing techno-wonder is not a thing at all, but an idea. It is Alan Turing's incredible discovery, in the 1930s, that all computers are equivalent -- that they all have the same inconceivably wide range of capabilities, provided that they can read and write into memory and do a few simple operations that depend on what they have just read.

Turing foresaw that this was no mere mathematical curiosity. It is the reason why we can have so many different "programming languages" for the same personal computer -- and for why we can use one and the same programming language for so many different computers.

Today there are only a few billion computers on our planet (all but the most expensive wrist-watches contain one), but I'm sure that at some point in the next century, the average person will wear an inconspicuous appliance containing some trillions of them. What services will they provide us with? Probably, things that no one living today has even started to imagine.


-- Marvin Minsky

(A pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, Minsky is a professor at MIT and author of Society of Mind.)

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Francis Ford Coppola

Assuming they are of all time, my list would include, in no special order: Alternating current -- Tesla Interchangeable parts -- Remington, Ford, Telephone, Radio, Television -- Bell, Meucci, Marconi, Zworkin, Farnsworth. Random-access disc Personal computers -- Brabbage and hundreds of others. The Aeroplane -- many contributors Optics: The telescope -- microscope (Galileo, Leew? -- can't spell it) the Cyclotron (Lawrence) The Motion picture (Edison, Lumiere). The Nuclear Reactor -- Fermi Rocketry -- Goddard.

I've left out the old chestnut such as the wheel, printing press, etc. These come to mind, I can't think now what I've omitted in agriculture and medicine. Pick you favorite seven.

Very often in our history of art we find that a form already does something in the mind of the audience and then technology comes along and enables it to actually be done. I think silent films always had sound. Then technology came and actually gave us sound and suddenly it was a burden and a blessing. It's always a blessing in terms of a new thing that earns a lot of money. Sometimes it was a burden in that it didn't evoke sound as well as when you didn't have the sound.

The novel and the drama always had the cinema. You could read a novel; you read Madame Bovary and it was sort of like a movie but it was mixed in your mind. And then technology came along and enabled it to really happen.

The same with color during the black and white era; where these new technologies come along and gave something that was always there by suggestion, by art. Now, with the advent of personal computers and the random access disc, technology once again is going to give us something that art has always aspired to and has always done.

-- Francis Ford Coppola

(Producer/Director Coppola's films include Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He will soon produce Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein.)

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Michael Kleeman

The Internet -- the global democratic electronic communication network.

Making available a "real-time" library without walls, with electronic messaging, to millions, and in the future billions.While the global transport network provides the backbone for communicationa, the Internet has created the electronic community among 15MM people (today) and in the future possibly billions. What separates the Internet from a basic transport network are its resources and wide scale public action to information sources. Additionally its cooperative nature (controlled by a democratic committee of multinational origin) and critical support for the academic and government infrastructure of many nations (from the United States to Russia), make it a technological wonder of major social proportions.

Satellites -- Remote sensing and positioning: Changing how we see ourselves on spaceship earth.

While communications satellites have been supplemented and will be largely replaced by fiber optic communications (for most applications in all but the most remote areas), satellites for remote land (and water) sensing and global positioning have changed forever how we look at our world. Like an airplane with an unobstructed view satellites permit us to see ourselves and the impacts of our actions in real time on a global scale. With luck, they will give us the knowledge to save our planet, and ourselves.

Digitization of information -- changing information content from "natural" analog formats to one which can be manipulated more easily by machine

Virtually all information in nature is analog in form (even quantum particles like light have analog wave attributes). Yet we have developed the means to transform (to convert) these analog data to a digital format which allows manipulation of the data by digital computers. This has changed the entire way we deal with information, from voice phone calls to CD based music and even newer forms of entertainment, enabling almost all of what we now think of as electronic.

What is perhaps more critical is that having done this once, it is reasonable to expect that we will again effect yet enother transformation creating another non-native representation of information.

Stored program control machines -- computers, phone switches, embedded controllers in cars, planes, etc.

The Von Neumann machine capable of being changed by the programming logic provided to it, and changed again by new programs.

-- Michael Kleeman

(Michael Kleeman is a Bay Area computer and communications consultant specializing in future telecommunications trends.)

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Tod Machover

When I thought of your challenge, people rather than specific inventions came to mind. I guess that this says something of my own view of men and machines.

Marvin Minsky:

Minsky can be considered the father of artificial intelligence and also what might be thought of as computational psychology. His book, Society of Mind, has already led to a new generation of massively parallel computers and of autonomous agent software. His decentralized view of the mind -- coming, paradoxically, from machine architecture -- will be as influential to our general view of psychology as Freud's theories were at the beginning of the century.

John Cage:

Cage, who died this past year, considered himself to be as much an inventor as composer. His fundamental goal in life was to expand the boundaries of what we consider to be music. His accomplishments and innovations include the first electronic concert music, first "prepared" piano, first "chance" music, first opera composed by computer, etc. Cage made it possible to imagine art forms that would be truly different, and not just rehashes of old ideas and forms. He truly believed that art could transform society, and in proving it he became one of the greatest, if gentlest, revolutionaries of our time.

Max Mathew:

Mathews can be considered the Father of Computer Music. He was the first person to use a digital computer to produce sound, and established the principal of software "unit generators" on which all subsequent electronic music has been based (including all current MIDI synthesizers and samplers). His GROOVE system from the 1960s was probably the first gesture-controlled musical instrument; his signal processing work work with Hal Alles in the 1970s produced the world's first real-time digital synthesizer; his electronic violin from the 1970s was the first non-acoustic string instruments; his Radio Drum from the 1980s is probably the most sophisticated three dimensional gesture-oriented musical interface to have yet been invented.

-- Tod Machover

(Machover is head of the Music and Physics group at the MIT Media Lab.)

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Wes "Scoop" Nisker

-- Wes "Scoop" Nisker

(Nisker is a radio commentator, meditation teacher and the author of Crazy Wisdom (Ten Speed Press). His next book, The Millenium and Me, will be published in 1994.)

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Jeff Greenwald

-- Jeff Greenwald

(Jeff Greenwald, author of Shopping for Buddhas (Harper Collins), conceived and edited Techno-Wonders. He is a frequent contributor to WIRED.)

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Douglas Coupland

-- Douglas Coupland

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Timothy Leary

I enclose a brief, businesslike, nerdy, superficial list of High-Tech Wonders. They all have to do with information -- media-brain- operation.

Question: Do Nuclear Fission and the Printing Press and Marconi's Radio, the light bulb, films and the Interpersonal Telephone belong to the "Modern Mechanical World"?

Question: What and when are the Post-Modern Ages? I don't think that we can fabricate a linear list of wonders for the Information Age.

The Ancient wonders were Monuments produced by a Totalitarian Theocracy and manual slave labor. The Philosophy (the meme system) was Feudal. Glorify the Patron, the Pharos, Popes, Kings. There were no practical benefits for the people. The philosophy and literature were theological. St Thomas, G Dante, St. Augustine. The Ancient Artists are remembered and honored. Titian, Michelangelo, Raphael, The Greeks.

The Modern Wonders were produced in the Industrial Age Engineering and involved a complex "class-caste" system. The Philosophy was Mechanical. Newton-Darwin. Some of the products glorified the owners. But they also served passive users and equipped individual operators. Should we humanize by listing the Modern Mechanical Wizards. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Edison (in spite of his cocaine addiction), the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford (in spite of his political nuttiness), Graham Bell, Marconi, Tesla? This humanizes modern technology and offers eccentric role models.

The High-Tech Wonders provide a chaotic paradox. The technologies change so quickly. The Ancient Wonders were constructed over a period of 3000 years. The Industrial Age lasted around 300 years. The Roaring 20th Century has produced at least three Ages defined, following McLuhan, by the media: Wonders of the Electronic Age (1900-1950) -- home lighting, radio, electric home appliances by the score; Wonders of the Electronic Age (1950-1980) -- Main Frames, minis, TV, cable, FAX, satellites, Remote Control; Wonders of the Digital Age (1980-2000) -- PC's, modems, video games, multi-media, Digital Home Appliances, CD-ROM, CD-RAM, etc. To humanize this chaos we should praise the wizards: Gates, Jobs, etc. And the philosophers: Marshall McLuhan, William Gibson, Brenda Laurel, Mondo 2000, Wired.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to poke lovingly around this delightful chaos.

-- Timothy Leary

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Mae Jemison

-- Mae Jemison

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Netscape HTML Checked! April 2, 1993 - Robert Lentz (

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