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Inertia Expts
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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 submissions.

     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" or "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.

Tucson II

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".

ACM '97

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 me.

People have suggested other names for the VID.  But to me this is the name that feels right.  I tell people, "This is what it's called."


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,

Jan Hoh
Conference Co-chair

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 public.  

You can watch the talk here.

The title is:  

The VID is the computer:   Discovering the Virtual Information Domain, transcending Moore’s Law, and vidic technologies beyond imagination


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