This is part of a 3 piece entry, the cover of which is: free software patents and cosmos.
Cosmology isn't the only modern hot topic. Singularity is a buzz word going around these days and people are not only getting really excited about the prospects some folks provide estimates for but they are also investing a lot of money into this. If none of this sounds familiar to you go check out Ray Karzweil's talk at Google about the Singularity, now hired at Google as Director of Engineering to help bring natural language understanding to Google. I'd recommend following this up with the Transcendent Man at least twice. Then watch the IBM's revelations of their new $1 billion investment into expanding their Watson Group, . Good 'ol Watson beat humans in Jeopardy in 2011, it ended up using used Wikipedia to learn tons of human information. Finally watch Benjamin Goertzel's interview regarding the Singularity. In short the concept of singularity is that at one point in time computers will surpass the intelligence of humans. Ray has popularized the term even more by integrating a firm prediction of when that will happen. He believes that a machine will pass the Turing test by 2029, and that around 2045, "the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won't be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating". The foundation of Ray's predictions is the concept that technology keeps evolving exponentially. If this sounds fuzzy consider Moore's law and extend that before and beyond. He mentions in the the Transcendent Man he has 10 folks who work for him specifically only for gathering data and building projections on technological growth. He uses this to help build more accurate business models. Ray clarifies:
"Business plans set out to only have an outlook for the next 3-4 years are pretty short sighted. You only need to look at the last 3 or 4 years to see that that's not correct."
The last point I will need to make to wrap up is to clarify that Ray's own appreciation of the exponential doesn't do enough justice to give us a good picture of what we should dream of, consider, and appreciate in the grand scheme of things. Carl Sagan's cosmic calendar is perhaps the best most dramatic crystal clear proof of exponential growth. Its not attached to technology, or biology, it goes way beyond that to incorporate the entire cosmos.
When you take into consideration Ray Kurzweil's exponential growth some folks are starting to believe that Singularity is near. When you take into consideration Carl Sagan's cosmic calendar singularity should seem something more easy to swallow. Abuses of big data might be unavoidable but in order to help mitigate abuses we should consider introducing ethics into Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems. Ethhical attributes should help not only shape appreciation on new evolutions of free software in light of evolution of new freedoms, but it can obviously be used to help appreciate new business models and perhaps even one day teach AIs to be ethical as we explore the cosmos.