The birth of vidics: how the VID got its name
The original VID abstract.
Xerox PARC Forum --- abstract for a free public
talk I gave on February 15, 2001, at 4 pm.
The birth of vidics: how the
VID got its name
It was December 5, 1995, and I was in my old
apartment at 3506 E 4th Street, in Tucson, Arizona. I had been
thinking for months of submitting an abstract for the Tucson II
consciousness conference "Towards a New Science of
Consciousness" to be held April
8-13, 1996. I had not looked at the poster for a while. And now,
around 10 or 10:30 am, I saw that it was a month past the deadline for
Just in case, I picked up the phone and
called Stuart Hameroff, the U of A anesthesiologist who was organizing
the conference, to see if there was a chance it might not be too
late. He told me, "If you can fax it to me by noon
today, it will still get in."
So I feverishly sat down at my laptop and
started typing. I seem to do better with a deadline to inspire
me. All the half-formed ideas I'd been playing with in my mind for
years started bubbling up and taking shape. All the anomalies in
nature and psychology. The fact that information seemed to be
structured in complex ways in some sort of separate world, and yet could
interact with this physical world. Right there at my desk, I
coined the name "virtual information domain" for the
place where information exists separate from matter and
energy. And then I noticed it had a cool acronym: "VID"
If I could write like this every day, I
would be a widely published author. Ideas flowed, and fit into
place like Tetris pieces raining down. And then it was done.
I faxed the abstract to Stuart shortly
after noon, and then I relaxed.
Vidics was born.
At the conference, I set up a poster with the basic story and some
conceptual pictures. A few people checked it out, but it was lost
among a sea of other people's great ideas about consciousness. No
one really "got it".
In 1997 the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) had its 50th
anniversary conference in San Jose. The theme was "The Next
50 Years of Computing". The display area was fitted out like
an archaeological dig, with old PC parts embedded in rock strata, and an
old Cray mainframe emerging from a sandy excavation pit in the
center. Companies and research groups were demonstrating their
most advanced technologies, showing in their booths what they thought
the computing world would look like in 50 years. In the big
lecture hall, the digerati were expounding on their visions for the
future, from the materialistic perspective.
At a certain point in the conference, I started seeing everything
differently, as though from a future perspective. It was as if we
today were to walk in virtual presence around the Columbian
Exposition of 1893. I started having this certainty of a vidic
computing future. And I remember having the thought "These
guys have no idea what's really going to happen."
I started going to a lot of different meetings around Silicon
Valley: the Churchill Club, the Commonwealth Club, venture
capitalists' talks, meetings of software and computer professionals,
etc. And seminars at Stanford in computer science and at the
business school. No one got it.
Everyone was focused on Moore's Law, in which more and more is done
with less and less. But they never thought you could do everything
with nothing. They talked about increasing bandwidth in wireless
and optics. But they never thought about infinite bandwidth.
Finally, I decided to give the vidics pitch to a venture
capitalist. I put together a Powerpoint presentation, and ran it
for him in his office in San Francisco. And he didn't get
it. I started to realize that most VCs are looking for sure things
that will make money fast. I realized that I could waste a lot of
time looking for the right investor, and that I actually need to
broadcast my availability, and wait for the right investor to come to
People have suggested other names for the VID. But to me this
is the name that feels right. I tell people, "This is what
July 7, 2000 was the deadline for abstract submissions for the Eighth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology,
to be held on November 3-5, 2000. Again, the deadline effect
kicked in, and I submitted my abstract at the eleventh hour.
This time, though, there was some serious peer review. I
finally got an email on August 2:
Dear Dr. Duffield,
My apologies for the delay in notifying you about your conference submission. I am afraid that the
abstract was rejected. The abstract was reviewed by a committee, which
felt that it was just too speculative. I appreciate that a certain amount of speculation is desirable - almost necessary -
in an emerging field such as Nanotechnology. But the sense was this was too much.
With Kind Regards,
I guess it just wasn't time yet. And maybe it still isn't.
But at least I got to give one talk in 2001, the year I had a hard
time imagining I would ever actually live to see, when I saw Kubrick and
Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey".
Here is the web page for the talk.
I regularly attend the Xerox PARC Forum on Thursdays at 4 pm.
This is a wonderful forum that has been going on for many years.
PARC employees take turns hosting the Forum. Dave White became
host in October, and chose the theme "Science at the edge of
science fiction." This caught my imagination, and I asked if
he was looking for speakers. He was.
So he invited me to talk at the Xerox PARC
Forum on February 15, 2001, at 4 pm. Free and open to the
You can watch the talk
The title is:
The VID is the computer: Discovering
the Virtual Information Domain, transcending Moore’s Law, and vidic
technologies beyond imagination