Ask not for whom the bell tolls, because the bell is
tolling for textbooks. Amazon has announced that it is releasing
Kindle devices and in doing so, may have killed the college
Ah, the college textbook. So valuable, so hated, and yet, so
loved. I remember my favorite textbook – a complete history of the
making of the atomic bomb. It was red, had bent edges (from a
previous owner, but I wasn’t jealous) and weighed enough to serve
as a bludgeoning device. The idea that future generations might be
missing out on such a wonderful experience, sniff, just
breaks my heart.
But, despite our love of our hefty friends, time might be
running out. What will the new Kindle mean for students?
Higher Prices, Not Lower - Contrary to popular
sentiment, the annihilation of printed textbooks could actually
mean increased expenses for students. After all, the actual
textbook data will have to be encrypted better than most credit
card transactions. What stops someone from getting the latest
edition of Philosophy 101 off of uTorrent? Nothing.
It Must be Cheap - If there’s one thing to be
learned from the music industry, it’s that the price of the data
has to be low… or at least low enough so students won’t result to
illegal means to get their materials. Even the most secure textbook
will likely be pirated and made freely downloadable – an
irresistible temptation for students staring at a $500 per-quarter
Bucky Fuller (1895-1983) is widely recognized as one of the
world’s great modern visionaries of the 20th century. He was a
natural Futurist, not because of his intellect, but his wisdom to
challenge widely held assumptions from the world around him.
He blended his skills as a writer, thinker, and engineer into a
concept he called “Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science.”
Bucky believed that the essence of human life on the planet is to
solve problems and continue expanding our awareness and views of
what is possible.
Our best strategy for addressing problems of the 21st century
might be to revisit the core principles of his philosophy related
to design, shape and energy. If the Whitney curators, are correct,
Bucky Fuller might turn out to be one of the most influential
thinkers of not one, but two centuries.
In an interview with
the BBC, Gartner analyst Steve
Prentice predicts the demise of the mouse (the thing in your hand
right now, not actual mice – we need those for testing drugs on) in
the next three to five years. He remarks that although the mouse
works fine for desktops, for mobile devices like laptops, “it’s
over.” But how accurate is this belief? Is the mouse genuinely
on the edge of extinction?
It could be true. A laptop touchpad is hard to use, and carrying
around mice with all the other usual laptop baggage (power cords,
wireless internet cards, headphones) is impractical, and on top of
that, you need a flat surface. If there’s one thing the Nintendo
Wii has shown us, it’s that tracking technology is not only
available, but it’s cheap.
While there’s no denying that vocal and facial recognition
software has the potential to do away with the mouse, a majority of
users still believe that our little friend is a long way from
retirement. The reasoning? Well, for one thing, the mouse is
incredibly useful and quick. And, in the words of Adrian
Kingsly-Hughes at ZDNet, “Anything that replaces the mouse not
only has to be better than it, it’ll have to be a LOT better.” In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t
The mouse may well be discarded at some point in our near
future, but the odds of that happening in the next five years seem
like a pipe dream to me.
Because they are investing in the future design of catalysts!
And their strategy is to innovate at the nanoscale.
The Beginning of Nano
Physicist Richard Feynman is often credited with launching the
‘nanoscale’ era of engineering with his famous lecture ‘Plenty of
Room at the Bottom’ at Caltech in 1959. Feynman
described our future ability to manipulate individual atoms and
eventually create complex mechanical structures made of the
Fifty years after Feynman’s lecture, researchers and startups
are making significant progress in designing nanoscale structured
materials that will have an enormous impact on all aspects of the
energy industry from production, to storage to end use
What is disruptive about catalysts?
Simply put, catalysts help us get more output with less energy
input. Catalysts speed up the reaction of photo-, chemical and
electrochemical changes in everything from batteries, fuel cells,
and solar cells, to the refining of coal, gasoline, diesel, and
natural gas, and the production of hydrogen and biofuels. Catalysts
also help to reduce the energy required to create plastics,
biomaterials, pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer.
The rules of the energy industry game are being re-written by
companies designing synthetic metal and carbon-based catalysts that
change our notions of what is possible in the years ahead. Other
companies are attempting to harness, or mimic, naturally occurring
bio-catalysts that gracefully manipulate energy in all living
things from algae/bacteria to plants to human beings.
Catalysts are the silent work horses of our modern world but you
seldom, if ever, hear or see the word mentioned in mainstream
conversations about energy. Yet they hold the key to unlocking
human potential without draining the planet’s resources. Catalysts
can help realize the vision of a world powered by cheap, abundant,
clean energy. (Continued)
Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced
technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter
mankind’s newest plunge into the future – nanotechnology.
One day soon, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a
“nanofactory” will sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up
any product you want – plasma TV, clothes, an appliance, or whatever your
dreams desire – at little or no cost.
This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not.
According to AI entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil and nanotech author Eric
Drexler, this nanofactory will arrive by the 3rd decade of this
century – 2020-2030.
Here’s how nanotech replicators would work: microscopic-size
machines collect raw atoms from supplied chemicals, or from
something as inexpensive as seawater, and enable those atoms to
grow or “morph” into the final product: a sweater, refrigerator,
health medicine, or even a duplicate nanofactory.
Key technologies of the past half-century – transistors,
semiconductors, and genetic engineering – all focused on reducing
size, materials and costs, while increasing power and efficiency.
We now stand poised to continue this trend into a revolution that
offers the potential to rebuild the entire physical world – our
bodies and brains included – one atom at a time.
The National Institutes of Health states that someday implanted
nanotech materials will actually become part of the body – able to
search out and destroy cancer cells before they develop into a
tumor, or precisely direct drugs to heal damaged tissues – and when
no longer needed, dissolve and be absorbed or excreted. (cont.)
In his bold speech calling to transform the energy industry, Al Gore forgot to say one of the most important words of the 21st century – biology. He forgot to mention that if we wanted to ‘grow’ energy, carbon could become a profitable feedstock rather than an economic and environmental liability.
Gore is now calling on America to launch a major Apollo-style program to ‘decarbonize’ the electricity sector by 2018 using renewables, geothermal and carbon sequestration efforts. He imagines a world beyond ‘fossil fuels’, but might be overlooking our greatest potential investment in the energy sector – tapping biological systems that ‘eat’ carbon and ‘grow’ energy resources such as biofuels (for transportation) and hydrogen (for electricity generation).
What is possible by 2018? Within a decade we could transform the role of carbon into a profitable feedstock for clean, abundant energy by tapping the power of biology.
The phrase ‘fossil fuels’ is misleading. Coal and oil are not ancient bones or animal matter, rather they are ancient plant life and microorganisms that locked up hydrogen and carbon molecules using the power of the sun. Coal and oil are bioenergy resources. And rather than extract ancient bioenergy from the ground, we can grow the same hydrocarbon chains ourselves without adding new carbon to the atmosphere. (cont.)
Jack served as Deputy Director of Strategic and Long Range
Planning in Governor Jesse Ventura’s
administration and was previously a Strategic Planner for the
In a conversation I had with Jack today he emphasized that he
elevate the level of discourse as only an independent can and
raise awareness of issues that our society will be facing in the
years ahead as a result of rapid technological advancements. These
include the impact of
increased life expectancy, not only as it relates to the threat
of social security bankruptcy and healthcare, but other socio-political
ramifications as well.
As a bestselling author on
nanotechnology he is sure to take on this and other hotbed
issues too and will
incorporate his study of new technologies into government.
With all the technology growth in fields like space travel and
gene mapping, isn’t it about time photography took a real step
forward? HDR or High Dynamic Range
Imaging promises to do exactly that quite literally democratizing
the production of digital images.
High Dynamic Range Imaging, the practice of ‘bracketing’, or
combining in Photoshop, a properly exposed image with both
underexposed and overexposed versions of the same image, creates
stunning, surreal photographs.
The above landscape shot of NYC’s
skyline at night is perhaps the most well known example of
HDR Imaging. Yes, it is NYC. No it is not a CG promotional image of Gotham
City for The Dark Knight (though it certainly could be). It is
merely 3 photographs, taken on a tripod at different exposures, and
last year it won 2nd place in Wikimedia Commons’ Picture of the
I know that FutureBlogger isn’t exactly a photography site, but
this imaging technique shows real promise in putting professional
quality photography into the hands of the masses.
While this practice may seem daunting to all but a few highly
experienced photogs, it is not as complicated as it looks. Many
entry level Digital SLR’s already come
equipped with automatic HDR modes (just
look in your menus), and as shooting time lag (time between shots)
continues to decrease, and on-board camera processors continue to
speed up, HDR imaging could eventually
become something your camera does for you automatically.
In-Camera HDR would eliminate
underexposed shots by automatically taking the bracketing shots for
you, and this could happen within a few micro-seconds of your
initial shot, eliminating the need for a tripod. An on-board
bracketing algorithm would eliminate the need for time-consuming
manual bracketing in Photoshop. (cont.)
Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced
technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter
humanity’s newest plunge into magic – molecular nanotechnology.
Whether you fear it, welcome it, don’t understand it, or think
it’s too crazy to be true, this most hyped science of all time
promises a utopian future with no food shortages or disease, and a
world of leisure and indefinite lifespan for everyone on Earth.
To achieve this remarkable future, researchers must first create
a tiny microscopic-size robot assembler that can grab individual
atoms and organize them into items. Futurists at the Center for
Responsible Nanotechnology predict that the first assembler will be
developed between 2010 and 2020.
The next step, experts say, is to build a small countertop
machine called a nano-replicator with billions of assemblers
inside, which can be instructed to extract atoms from waste
materials or something as plentiful as dirt or seawater, and
reassemble those atoms into food, appliances, clothing, or other
desired products. Positive futurists believe that nano-replicators
could be working in U.S. homes by 2025.
In their book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin and Heidi Toffler
argue that we are on the verge of a post-scarcity time that will
slash poverty around the world. Futurist Steve Burgess agrees. In
an on-line essay, he predicts that nano-replicators will launch an
era of abundance for everyone. (cont.)
Empowered by computational fluid dynamics Adam
Grosser of Foundation
Capital has spearheaded an effort to build a refrigeration
device for the billion+ people who currently have no access to
electricity. The break-through approach combines water, ammonia,
heat and a little bit of know-how to create a low-pressure,
non-toxic refrigerator capable of cooling a 3 gallon container an
entire day in temperatures up to 30C.
Here’s the video of his short and sweet TED presentation:
Grosser expects that such units can be manufactured “at high
volumes for about $25”, a feat that would enable the better
transport of sensitive medicines, foods and materials through
developing regions to the people that desperately need them. Such a
device could play an important role in the betterment of countless
lives as it gives people some more low-cost control over their
immediate environment… not to mention keeping beer cold on extended
camping trips (a win-win proposition that will hopefully help foot
the development bill)...
Email was introduced to the public in the mid 90’s, marking a
big shift in communication efficiency and relegating snail mail to
the handling of American Express ads, magazine subscriptions, and
utility bills. Since then the corporate world has since embraced
it, just as Hallmark cards have been replaced by e-birthday cards.
But with times and the web changing so rapidly in the last decade
email is now increasingly considered an ‘internet app classic’.
A recent article by Alex Iskold at ReadWriteWeb
looks to challengers like Twitter and Facebook to dethrone email sooner
than later. Iskold points out that over the last five years the
shift away from email appears to have be in favor of simplicity.
People who once used emails to keep up with family and friends now
have moved on to IM. Similarly, bloggers use bridge apps like
Twitter that combines the shortness of an IM, with the
get-to-know-you personality of blogs. Even the face of email has
transformed with gmail taking the lead in a jack-of-all-trades
interface combining chat and a word processor. (I’m typing this
post right into Google Docs.)
Looking at the trends of the past, I don’t think email will go
in the way of the Dodo. I think of email’s relationship to its
‘successors’ as radio to television. TV didn’t kill radio, and the
Internet definitely didn’t kill TV. They just did all of their
respective jobs the best. Email is still the perferred way for
corporate communication, and a good number of us still tune into
our favorite radio stations on the freeway. Is email in danger
then? Will savvy web users and bloggers one day ditch email in
favor of Twitter and Gchat?
Only two things are certain. Apps will become more modular and
specialized and there will be cross-platform competition.
Imagine a machine that sets the table, creates and serves
dinner, cleans house, and never complains. This may sound like
something out of The Jetsons, but in labs everywhere, scientists
believe that one day, we will share our homes with loyal robot
servants that enthusiastically tackle mundane chores, freeing us
for more fulfilling activities.
Carnegie Mellon’s Hans Moravec believes that by 2020, we will
create robots in humanoid form, able to express reasoning and
emotion, and eager to perform household tasks. These “smart”
machines will walk the dog, put groceries away, find and fetch
things, mimic human feelings of compassion and love, and become
friends with family members.
2020s robots will appear amazingly human-like. Moravec suggests
they could be powered by fuel cells that are cooled by a squeeze
pump which beats like a heart while circulating alcohol as a
coolant. They would “drink wine” for fuel, and breathe air like
Design tricks like these, along with soft “nanoskin” will make
tomorrow’s ‘bots seem uncannily human, encouraging us to perceive
them as friends. Author Ray Kurzweil says tomorrow’s ‘droids could
quickly learn to flesh out positive feelings, which would provide
an allure difficult for humans to resist.
How about robo-love? Jason Nemeth, in his essay,
Should Robots Feel, believes love-companion robots will be
practical in the future and could easily fill the role of a
partner, satisfying our intimacy needs. Nemeth is not sure whether
human/robot love would experience higher success rate than love
between two humans; but he says technologies will unlock the
possibilities, and human curiosity will make it happen. (cont.)