Google Earth Adds Virtual Time Travel, Moves a Step Closer to Gelernter's Mirror World Vision

February 02 2009 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Information   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

Not only did Google add an ocean to its Earth platform today, the company also enabled "Historical Imagery", a new feature that brings to life a crude version of what Yale computer scientist David Gelernter's 1992 prediction of the planet on a “time toggle”. 

The Google Blog: Until today, Google Earth displayed only one image of a given place at a given time. With this new feature, you can now move back and forth in time to reveal imagery from years and even decades past, revealing changes over time. Try flying south of San Francisco in Google Earth and turning on the new time slider (click the "clock" icon in the toolbar) to witness the transformation of Silicon Valley from a farming community to the tech capital of the world over the past 50 years or so.

Along with a new 3d Mars feature, the additions have increased the scope and resolution of the largest publicly accessible simulation of our physical system, thus expanding the Google's information scaffolding and future monetization opportunities through an increasingly valuable Mirror World.

The new features also reinforce the notion of a rapidly growing retro-quantification industry rooted in our social desire to achieve topsight over space and time.  A resource that quickly allows people to surf physical history is obviously critical to bettering our view of reality and thus improving the efficiency of our economic behavior.

Clearly, Google is prepared to devote massive resources to dominate the Great Quantification Race.  I just wonder when they'll open up 1) additional data layers that work together with historical imagery, and 2) a more-or-less open Future Imagery feature that allows planners and forecasters to deposit their future visions right on Google Earth.

Look out Nick Bostrom, here come simulated tunnels of time and 4d idea markets.


Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. Awesome post… and great bridge to an early futures concept – Mirror Worlds. (I think we’ll be revisiting this work in the years ahead!)

    I’m a big believer in the geo-browser and love to see Google Earth evolving in ways that push users to rethink how they see the world.

    Posted by: Garry Golden   February 03, 2009
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  2. Thanks for the props – this topic is close to my brain-heart (meme-sim core?). I am a big fan of Gelernter, whose work is a big influence on my thoughts on quantification as a component of knowledge and intelligence.

    Now that it’s becoming obvious that we are building increasingly hihgher-rez geo-browsers and systems-browsers it’s time to figure out the underlying motivations and economics. I think Google and others will deliver in creating what are tantamout to multi-layered abstractions that do cause us to rethink our view of the world (unlearning as Jack Uldrich calls it) and make us more intelligent.

    And I am very interested to see how Google Earth and its layers will impact the way we visualize the state of and the future of the fields that you are rocking, in particular energy and transportation.

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   February 04, 2009
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