Late last week, it was announced that NASA had, pardon the pun, pissed away $154 million by creating a urinal/water fountain system that didn’t work. To witness how a more simple technology can have huge implications down here on this planet, watch this amazing video (Note: it is a little graphic, but it helps to remember that these are the real life conditions under which billions of people must actually get their water):
We are now in the transition from the Information Age to the Shift Age. In recent columns I have positioned the recent financial melt down and global economic collapse as the beginning of a painful transitional restructuring between ages. Just as the 1970s with all its stagflation and unprecedented turmoil was the transitional period between the Industrial Age and the Information Age, so is this time a transitional period between the Information Age and the Shift Age.
The video you see here is of a robot made by MobileRobots.com using the MobileRanger Stereo Vision System. “MobileRanger stereovision systems are top-of-the-line instruments for measuring depth for demanding applications such as mobile robot navigation, people tracking, gesture recognition, targeting, 3D surface visualization and advanced human computer interaction.” You can see how objects at different ranges are represented by different colors (see my hand?). Very cool.
Above you see a photo from the display Boston Engineering had. What you see is a robotic fish they hope to build in the near future (sorry, no prototypes yet). I’m going to stay in contact with these guys on the project since it’s a pretty cool concept that could be built fairly quickly with the latest technology (the fact that they’re basing it off a Tuna fish is proof alone that this thing will be fast and powerful).
Although camera pills have been around since 2001, Philips recently unveiled the next generation of swallowable gadgets. Called the iPill, it is able to deliver medicine to specific areas of the intestinal tract as well as measure the acidity levels of its environment. “In the form of an 11×26 mm capsule, the iPill incorporates a microprocessor, battery, pH sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless transceiver, fluid pump and drug reservoir.” It’s also small enough to pass through your intestinal tract without causing any issues.
Although it determines its location by measuring PH levels (which is accurate enough already), Philips expects iPills to get more accurate when combined with medical imaging devices such as MRIs or CT scans. The iPill could come in especially handy when Crohn’s disease or colitis is involved — typical medicine for sufferers involve lots of steroids and has many adverse side-effects. The direct delivery of medicine with the iPill means medicine levels can be lower, reducing unpleasant side-effects.
Not content to be outdone by the pesky likes of Google, Yahoo and Facebook, Microsoft finally walked the plank last night, cannon-balling into the tumultuous social media sea with the conversion of its live.com property.
In a single brazen move that augmented my long defunct Hotmail account with a smart new MySpace-ish application, Live, the 4th most trafficked website on the planet (trailing Yahoo, Google, and YouTube – just ahead of Facebook, MSN, MySpace and Wikipedia), upgraded itself to a full-fledged social network chock full of the usual friending, photo sharing, blogging and events coordination features, as well as a very interesting Cloud storage play called Sky Drive.
It’s a necessary and nearly inevitable reaction as the major players jockey for web users that can fuel advertising revenue and, more importantly, core application usage.
Most significantly it reinforces the trend of web companies providing ever more user value through applications that help them manage their online world. Even the Big Bad Wolf has now succumbed to the new market reality by launching a cuddly (sky blue theme) social network that cleverly integrates email-to-blog publishing, RSS import from all of the biggest platforms, 5 GBs of free file storage and super-easy sharing of photos and other data.
Seafood harvesters pay no heed to fish populations and their massive catches cause damage to oceanic ecosystems. Inland fisheries can have a harsh environmental impact and can also impact the health of the fish that are raised. The state of the world’s fisheries is uncertain and if current practices continue, the future could be grim.
Hawaii Ocean Technology will attempt to answer these issues with its deep water, offshore Oceanasphere, where “twelve Oceanspheres in less than half of a square mile can yield as much as 24,000 tons of seafood” (Source). Floating free in the deep sea, the Oceanasphere is a sphere of aluminum and Kevlar, 162 feet in diameter. This fish farm is powered by an ocean thermal energy conversion system so it lacks the need for fossil fuel burning or any other source of energy, making it self sufficient with little negative impact on its surrounding environment. The Oceanasphere also is large enough and has a controlled food supply, which will result in healthier fish populations. This innovative design will hopefully lead to a new step in ocean fish farming technology.
A competing approach to the problems posed by inland fisheries is being developed by scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole who are testing a system that conditions particular fish to “catch themselves” by swimming into a net when they hear a tone that signals feeding time.
“The web is going to wake up. It is already awake because we are awake and we are a part of it.” – Nova Spivack, Singularity Summit 2008
With their recent blogologue concerning the evolution of consciousness, Kevin Kelly of Wired fame and Nova Spivack, creator of Twine, are spearheading a shift away from the commonly held view of a future in which Strong AI grows in a box, to one in which the Cloud or the Planet is the box. Both are striving to broaden the context in which terms like technology, information, intelligence, communication and consciousness are defined. This is a very necessary step as most of the recent theory and development has been dominated by reductionist AI and technology thinkers who seem to view such phenomena in a vacuum.
Clearly, technology, information, intelligence and consciousness (TIICC) do not exist in a vacuum. In his latest post, Kelly expands his definition of the emerging Technium to include the concept of meta-system transition (advanced by Turchin and Heylighen) that Spivack advocates. Thus, both are now in agreement that TIICC are dependent on the system, which is a very positive development, but also brings them out onto a slippery memeslope.
Because there is no such thing as a closed system (as Godel taught us), it is near-impossible, or perhaps fundamentally impossible, to create functional, highly-useful definitions of TIICC. Kelly and Spivack both concur with this reality:
Some great science fiction movies have depicted the protagonist sitting in front of a beautiful landscape with chirping birds and incredible gardens (Aliens, Total Recall, etc). Spooky Science Fiction has yet again struck close to reality.
Called the SkyCeiling, it uses high resolution imagery on embedded image tiles to give the looker a true 3D experience. Some of the technology they use in developing the SkyCeiling is used currently to treat seasonal depression. It provides “daylight-balanced light (the same light used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder) for rich color rendition and recognition as ‘natural’ daylight.” The hope is that the product would help sooth and calm people in hospitals who are unnerved by the white and sterile environment.
Jason Dorie, self-proclaimed geek, managed to build himself a quad-rotor flying contraption. Each propeller has three blades allowing for the “motors to respond a little faster” than his previous 2-bladed Spyder. When this thing takes off it sounds like an angry swarm of bees looking to ruin your day. He hopes to be able to make it fly itself as well.
It seems like more and more, regular people sitting in their workshops at home are able to build things some think only the military should be able to do. I guess that’s why contests like the X-Prize have such fierce competition. Makes you wonder what a person in their garage could build in ten years.
Fareed Zakaria is everywhere these days, articulating a message similar to those in my own book The End of the American Century. But I think he underestimates the seriousness of the situation facing the United States.
His was the lead article last summer (May/June) in Foreign Affairs issue on “Is America in Decline?” His book The Post-American World appeared shortly thereafter, and soon became a best seller. As an editor of Newsweek, his columns appear there regularly, and the October 20th issue of the magazine featured him on the front cover, with the title “The Bright Side” against a cheery yellow background. He even has his own television show, “Fareed Zakaria’s GPS,” where last week he endorsed Barack Obama as the best hope for America’s future.
Zakaria argues that it is not so much that the U.S. is in decline, but that other powers have risen, requiring the U.S. to deal with them with more consultation and compromise. He believes that the U.S. “has the strength and dynamism to continue shaping the world” (Foreign Affairs) and that “the world is moving our way” (The Post-American World). He sees a “silver lining” in the current economic crisis, in that the country will be forced “to confront the bad habits it has developed over the last few decades” (Newsweek).
These bad habits include spending and consuming more than we produce, leading to record levels of household debt, which has grown from $680 billion in 1974 to $14 trillion today. Spiraling consumer debt has been matched by the government. “The whole country has been complicit in a great fraud,” he writes in Newsweek. He quotes the economist Jeffrey Sachs: “We’ve wanted lots of government, but we haven’t wanted to pay for it.”
“UC San Diego computer scientists have built a software program that can perform key duplication without having the key. Instead, the computer scientists only need a photograph of the key.”
Next time you leave your keys on the counter, or even take them out of your pocket, they are in danger of being copied. The program uses digital images of keys to map out the exact shape of the key for later copying. While before people could do this with high-resolution photos, now it can be completely automated.
How many photos have you taken with your keys? Any on the Internet? It might be a good idea to blot those out. You could also switch to an entirely keyless entry system where all you’d need was an RFID chip (much like cars today). In the meantime? Keep them away from prying eyes.