Obama Fights Fire with Technology

October 03 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: 2008   Rating: 6 Hot

If there’s one thing that separates the two presidential candidates distinctly, it’s their use of technology. We’ve all heard about how John McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer, and it’s no secret that Obama does. So it’s not surprising that the Obama camp has come out with a nifty new iPhone application to help their supporters help out even more.

The application, free from the iPhone App store, promises to change the face of activism through making difficult tasks easy.

The reason?

For starters, the application gives you stats on yours calls to friends in support of Obama (heck, it even tells you what friends are in battleground states). It tells you how many calls you’ve made and how you rank compared to other application users. You can get updates from the campaign, latest news on the candidates, and even local event information such as volunteer opportunities or visits from the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign has raised the standard in political activism. You can bet that within the next few months (if they’re smart) you can expect to see applications from all types of organizations. The McCain Campaign, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the ACLU are probably not far behind. Heck, you may even see an app from the Sea Shepherd before next whaling season is on.

With online involvement increasingly becoming more mobile, the era of TV ads and the stereotypical inactive voter could be gone within the next decade or two. In 2020 you could run your entire campaign, everything from fundraising to polling constituents, from your home. Today you need the bankroll of a small country to run a campaign — in 2020 you may only need a programmer

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Would Techno-Utopia be Hell on Earth?

August 12 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 5

An editorial on the human condition.

“I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.” -The Joker, The Dark Knight

Imagine a world where you are free from death, danger, and poverty. You are able to download your entire mind into any computerized device on the planet (or planets) and live forever. You can talk with the greatest minds of the last million years about everything from baseball to lunar cycles. An android body allows you to visit Yosemite where it’s been painstakingly put back into near-perfect shape with the help of nano-bots and archived photos. You cannot die and the universe is your oyster. Wouldn’t you get bored after a few million years?

One day I was imagining what Heaven, if it existed, would really be like (in the view that Heaven is a place where people hang out, surrounded by Greek and Roman architecture). You could do anything you choose, even explore the ocean depths or visit other planets. But how many times could you talk with Einstein before even he got boring? The same can be said for Utopia. Without fear of death, things like skydiving, river rafting or sailing the open ocean don’t hold the same fear. You could skydive without a parachute and it wouldn’t matter, you’ll still be fine.

Now imagine living forever. You’ve seen millions of solar eclipses. Heck, you’ve even seen eclipses in other galaxies with binary suns. You’ve visited so many different worlds that they all start to look the same. In fact, the only interesting thing to do is to meet lifeforms that have a short life-span. There are constantly new creatures, they feel the thrill of jumping off a high dive, and for some reason find their existence just fine and want nothing to do with immortality.

There’s a reason books, TV shows and movies depict immortal beings as uninterested, bored and frequently suicidal. Living forever would be Hell. The great thing about being human is the fear of dying and of course actually dying. We live every day like it’s our last whether we know it or not. What would happen to us if you took away the very thing that makes us human?

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Today's Luxury Interfaces Will Soon Be the Norm

August 19 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 5

Is the computer of today, the traditional screen and keyboard, as far as we’re going to go in experiencing the Internet? Or is our involvement in actually “surfing” the web going to take on a more literal tone. Movies like The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell offer us a brief glimpse into a future where human interaction with the Internet is so complex that bodies must be modified in order to be a part of it. Simply put, the Internet gets so advanced that a monitor and keyboard just won’t be enough. In fact, it’s increasingly looking as if our future browsing experience will be one where entire walls of our homes are covered by screens, holographic images immerse us into the global web, and our slightest thought sends us soaring through a social network composed of billions of people, trillions of photos and unknown hours of video.

While the plug-in future of the Matrix is still decades off, what new products are transforming personalized workstations today?

First on the list is the Zero-Gee Ergonomic Workstation. While it’s a pretty simple design, it’s still a piece of furniture specifically designed for working on the computer. It’s ergonomic design allows the user to maintain good posture as well as giving them the ability to lie flat and work at the same time. Its single-seat design means it’s not going to replace the family desk, but more than likely be an addition to the home office environment. The slung-down feel of it, coupled with another screen, would make a gaming experience so intense you might have to shell out for some custom sweat-absorbing seat covers for those late-night gaming sessions.

Then there’s Digital Edge’s Gaming Table. This setup is specifically for the intense gamer — a person who lives and breathes flight simulators and the like. The controls are all placed in the most comfortable and ergonomic positions for easy access and ultimate handling. Throttle, joystick, steering wheel and an all-encompassing display is tempting for just about anyone craving the experience of mid-air dogfights and gut-wrenching car races. (Now if only they could cram this into an actual cockpit for a truly surreal experience.)

Looking like a Star Wars battle-droid is the Gravitonus. Designed partially with the disabled in mind, this ergonomic workstation has everything from a seat which adjusts to the Earth Gravitational Field vector for greater comfort, overhead LEDs for less glare on the four possible LCD screens, a ventilated seat with airflow fans, surround sound, an exoskeleton to take strain off of the users body, and a kitchen sink. Okay, not a kitchen sink, but you get the idea. If you’re looking for an amazing workstation (sans printer, drawers, etc) then this is your best bet. Now you just have to fork over the $7,000+ to get it made and shipped it from Moscow.

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Combating Big Brother — How Far Will You Go?

September 11 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

We’ve seen it in all the best science fiction movies — people going to extreme lengths to avoid being seen by big brother. There’s Quaid removing a tracking device in his head through his nose, there’s Anderton having his eyes replaced with someone else in order to escape iris scans, and let’s not forget Vincent in GATTACA having to go through extreme morning rituals to make sure none of his own DNA is picked up by the Hoovers.

Already today there are some interesting products that claim to protect your privacy from “Big Brother.” There’s the software you can load onto a USB storage device making your Internet activities not only encrypted, but portable to any computer you happen to use (you can put it together yourself or buy one through Paypal). There’s Hide My Ass!, one of a group of websites that allow you to keep your IP address anonymous as well as visit sites your work or school may have blocked. And for people looking over your shoulder? You may want to check out Ghostzilla which quickly makes any webpage you look at appear as part of a regular computer application.

So if these are the lengths we’re already going to in order to ensure you keep your privacy, what might we see in the future?

DNA Altering — Fingerprint removal is so 90’s (Se7en, Men in Black), and with DNA evidence able to be pulled from just about anything, getting rid of your fingerprints just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be anymore. In fact, even if you manage to burn off your fingerprints, chances are the scars that are left will be unique in themselves which means you’re still out of luck. Already we’re seeing DNA evidence going through such scrutiny that even the slightest difference in DNA down to just a few different nucleotides might be enough to convince a jury of a person’s innocence. That’s where DNA altering comes in. With about 95% of what makes up DNA classified as Junk DNA, chances are messing around with a few nucleotides isn’t going to kill you or make you grow an extra leg. But if it does, at least you won’t be found guilty.

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The Future of Energy is Personal

October 01 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

There are many that see huge potential in windmill farms, solar fields and huge geothermal operations. And there is huge potential. Energy is a resource we seemingly cannot live without and can never get enough of. In fact, electricity may as well rank up there with water in level of importance.

But the problem facing the average consumer is that even if these huge projects are undertaken, they are still dependent on a large company for their energy needs. They are subject to rate hikes, unfair charges, and development costs the company undertakes. How can the average person release themselves from the shackles of energy addiction?

Solar panels are a good start, but for many the idea of keeping track of battery fluid levels, the cost of the panels themselves, as well as winter months without Sun keeps floating in the back of their heads. Installing a windmill in their backyard is also out of the question, unless of course you have acres to spare and don’t mind the occasional malfunction.

One genre of products that have the potential to take the consumer market by storm is the micro wind turbine.

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Beta’s Eyes

November 23 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

At some point in the not-so-distant future, somewhere on planet Earth…

Beta Bogdanovsky’s Italian Cācio-model translator spoke with a decidedly male monotone, and had the vocabulary, albeit in 13 languages, of a 3rd grader. Her dog’s translator was nearly as well spoken. Then again, Tóse was a smart dog, an Illyrian sheepdog whose eyes expressed more care than those of most people, and he almost certainly had the capacity to communicate on levels beyond the short sentences programmed into his collar.

“Iz vee NEH tuh,” she said in Bulgarian to a rotund bearded man blocking access to the window seat next to him. A roundish silver and gold box hung from a beaded chain around her neck, and a small bas-relief profile of the Roman god Mercury spoke the Greek, “Syghnomi.”

Excuse me.

The man’s posture shifted to make way even before he looked up, and when he did lift his head he was eye to eye with Tóse. Expressionlessly he made a symbolic attempt to scoot his plastic bags out of the aisle, and Beta sided into the seat, setting her gear on the floor between her feet. Tóse sat on his haunches in front of them both. Beta wondered why it was that people could not seem to rein it in in crowded public places and on trains.

As the ARMA Speed Tram pulled away from the passenger bay, the lights in the tramcar faded slightly as they always did between stations, and Beta closed her eyes and relaxed her neck, as she always did when she was commuting. Bitoli was five stops from the sea, as the tram tunneled through the Korab and Pindus Mountains, and then there were six more on the other side of the water before reaching Monopoli. This trip would be an opportunity to shut her eyes for approximately 2 hours, which was a very good thing, because Beta’s eyes were very tired.

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Rocket Racing League

July 31 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Entertainment   Year: General   Rating: 4

Red Bull Air Racing is going to look like shopping cart races in a few years. Unveiled in Oshkosh, WI yesterday, the Rocket Racing League is a brand new sport guaranteed to change the face of aviation. Pilots navigate their rocket powered plane through a series of checkpoints appearing on their heads-up display while GPS monitors keep track of their position, speed and altitude. On top of this, the league plans to incorporate first-person gameplay (Xbox, Nintendo, etc) into the real-time races, letting people compete against actual participants at home in real-time. Obviously, this isn’t your mothers NASCAR.

Is this the next step in the evolution of sports?

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Personal Data: The New Gold Rush

August 07 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 4

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about this case involving stolen credit and debit card information. Identity theft usually doesn’t call for much attention, but the sheer scope of the theft has left the world reeling. Only eleven men have been indicted in the theft of over 40 million credit card numbers from US stores.

“The indictments, which alleged that at least nine major U.S. retailers were hacked, were unsealed Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California, prosecutors said.”

The information was stolen with “sniffer” programs in the retail software, designed to record credit card numbers, passwords and account information.

The size of this theft is amazing, but it makes one think about technology and where it’s headed. Just how much damage could a hacker accomplish in the near future? With the internet consistently taking the place of personal hard drives (Google Documents, Flickr, Facebook), we’re relying more and more on the Internet for our personal data. In the future we’ll see fingerprints, facial recognition software and retinal scans added into the mix for added security – but how safe will this all be?

The thing about data is that it can always be hacked. Even the most encrypted software on Earth can be disassembled, rewritten and pirated. In order to recognize your voice, your eyes or your fingerprints a computer has to store this information somewhere. So what happens if a hacker gets a hold of this information?

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The Computer of the Near Future?

August 22 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 4

Here’s an interesting demo video depicting a vision of what the computer might look like in 2020. The reason for posting this is that it’s truly different than most of the other “computers of the future” videos I’ve seen on the web. Check it out:

The obvious problem with this theoretical computer is that it is in fact just a computer. Many people expect that in the future computers will be more than just computers. To appease the consumer, computers will need to play music, take photos, write papers, make phone calls, interface with your home, or even give back massages. This is just a small projector crammed into a small yet powerful computer. Not so exciting when you think about it, eh?

But there is something we can take out of a demo like this. If we view this as a possible guide for future development instead of an actual product then it immediately seems less ridiculous. There are indeed advancements being made in laser keyboards. Even storage space is becoming so cheap that we find ourselves asking if we really need a 500 Gigabyte hard drive, much less a two Terabyte hard drive. If we keep throwing out ideas, no matter how crazy, some of the good ones will stick and hopefully find their way into future products. Keep thinking, keep producing, you’re helping.

How Lazy Are We Going to Get?

August 22 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 4

We’ve all enjoyed the level of comfort certain gadgets have brought us. From the incredibly useful back-scratcher to the universal remote, technology and design has made our lives easier. But the real question is this: How lazy are we going to let technology get us?

In the extreme scenario, even our jobs are taken over by machines. Instead of working eight hours a day, we’d get a weekly allowance from the government for purchases such as hotel stays at exotic resorts or a faster electric car. House repairs, food issues, and even the lawn is taken care of by nanobots (it’d only be a one-time purchase since they can repair each other in case of breakage). You find yourself waking when you want, going wherever you want, and eating whatever you want. But you feel your life has no purpose.

Would our life have a purpose? In having everything taken care of, wouldn’t it feel like we were living in a hamster cage? Having our every need taken care of, we’d mill about looking at random things, bathing every so often, while some other entity takes care of everything. We’d be pets. And like most pets, we’d get fat and unhealthy (unless the nanobots also take care of that or course).

Even if we had a job, knowing that the only reason you have it is because you asked for it would seem demoralizing. “Yes sir, please turn off the computer so I can answer the phones myself. Yes, I know it’s silly, but I just have to do work you see.” It’d be like spending days putting together a model ship when a robot could build an exact working replica in less than an hour. What’s the point?

Coupled with your own personal work station that takes care of your every need (food, bathroom, washing) while keeping you connected to the global web like a prison you never want to leave. A perfect example would be the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury where the main characters wife lives only to watch television, yet still keeps trying to kill herself. She’s been dumbed down to the point where she has no reason to live, no purpose, no feeling or history. Many think the book is about censorship, but he’s stated himself that the book is about how television destroys interest in actual information, the dumbing of society.

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Europeans Make Big Dent in the Auto Industry

October 24 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2011   Rating: 4

Chicago Tribune, 2012

According to a June 15 analysis published in the French bi-monthly magazine L’Auto-Journal, a long-standing car magazine, the European Union will soon no longer be on the short list of the top 3 contributors of greenhouse gases. The French-originated NAC (Nouvelle Affaire de Carburant) program, widely known as the New Fuel Deal by the English-speaking world, was initially criticized by citizens of nearly every European nation for being an economic fiasco.

The brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who served a six month stint as EU president, has certainly paid off for the environment, despite the widespread criticism and dire predictions. The Affaire was created by the members of the EU’s French-led APRE Summit (Automobile-fabricants pour la Protection et la Régénération de l’Environment, or ACRE – Auto-makers for the Conservation and Regenration of the Environment) in 2011, which formed an impressive international think-tank consisting of automobile manufacturers, leaders in the alternative fuel industry, financial wizards and various government officials. Despite initial opposition from such countries as the Czech Republic and Ireland, the plan was consensually ratified in February, 2010.

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Earth 2100 Game Imagines "Perfect Storm" Catastrophe Scenario

December 31 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2015   Rating: 4 Hot

I wouldn't have predicted ABC News going all bleak futurist, but they did.  Earth 2100 is a massive online roleplaying game that starts out with global turmoil and devastation.  And they're going prime time with it.Earth2100

The project is pretty ambitious, but considering the recent popularity of games like Superstruct and Second Life, there should be no doubt that participation will be high.  To participate you need to record a short fictional video depicting something in 2015, then, based on those submissions, the ABC News people will design a scenario for 2050, then 2070 and finally 2100.

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