Nothing gets humans up in arms like a new technology. Will it cure our ills and save us from destruction? Or end the world in one cataclysmic Earth-shattering moment? Clearly, no invention has accomplished either, but try telling that to the fanatical, hysterical or just plain irrational among us. Now, with technology advancing at an ever quickening pace, rational thinking is in short supply. Here then, to prove this point, are eight of the biggest freak-out moments in technology history:
Writing Will Make us Forget – Socrates
The written word and the ability to understand it is considered one of the most important developments ever achieved by mankind and a defining step for any civilization. But not everyone was always a fan. Even that hero of western philosophy, Socrates, once argued that writing would make people lazy and forgetful!
“The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in
the souls of those who have learned it,” said Socrates, “They will not need to
exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written,
calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their
own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that
are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but
for reminding, that you have discovered.”
Sound familiar? It is the same argument that some people nowadays are directing at both Google and the World Wide Web.
Given that pretty much every major advancement subsequent to the birth of writing is built on writing itself (collectively we have advanced much faster through the use of writing) it certainly did anything but make people lazy. Forgetful? Perhaps, on an individual level. But I sure am glad Plato broke out his quill to write down Socrates’ teachings, lest I couldn’t “remember” to complain about him now.
Get Out of the Way, Here Comes the Train!
Reportedly, when the Lumiere Brothers showed their films for the first time at the Grand Cafe in Paris in 1895, audience members ran out of the room in a panic. Why? To avoid being hit by the image of a train pulling into a station!
Futurist Ray Kurzweil, in his book “The Singularity is near”,
offers the possibility that computers will one day become
self-aware, which will result in the melding of humans and
machines. He sees this process well underway by 2025, as nanobots
begin to surf bloodstreams to combat disease and alter our brains
to increase intelligence.
In a recent article appearing in The Futurist, “Cybercrime in
the year 2025,” criminal-justice expert Gene Stephens predicts that
computer and Internet use will become seamless, as hands-free,
voice-activated data entry and retrieval becomes commonplace
between 2010 and 2015. By 2020, nanotech will increasingly impact
cyberspace; and as we try to gain the most advantages possible from
our new “wonder-net,” dangerous security gaps will emerge that
could turn into nightmares if not handled carefully.
For example, in 2025, as databots are implanted in users’
brains, secure firewalls must be developed to keep intruders from
hacking into the ‘bots and terrorizing recipients. “Could there be
a more frightening crime than having your brain-stored knowledge
erased or scrambled,” Stephens asks, “or hearing voices threatening
to destroy your memory unless you pay blackmail? Welcome to the
world of mindstalking.”
This brings us to the long-ignored issues of who owns the
Internet, manages it, and has jurisdiction over it. The answer now
is: nobody. Can this powerful socio-politico-economic network
continue to operate at random, open to all, and thus be vulnerable
to bad guys? Attempts to restrict or police the web are met with
idealists who believe that the Internet should always be free from
“big brother’s” interference. (cont.)
To get an idea of what this might mean for us in the future, we’ve only got to look at the best example of UGC around today: YouTube.
Blogging was great, but there appears to be far more power in a video than a long winded piece of text. Home made internet radio is pretty popular, but sadly not to the extent it could be. For this I blame the lack of microphones as standard on modern PCs. YouTube has allowed people to present themselves and their opinions in a way far more effective than has ever been seen before.
Who knows how this could evolve. Anyone can create relatively high production values given the right software. As it becomes easier to edit, present, manipulate, and even research content, more and more possibilities open themselves up to amateur creators. Professionally created material that amateurs could use in their own content, such as blue screen backgrounds, soundtracks, or special effects, could become a respectable market in a few years.
Perhaps User Created interactive experiences could have even more impact. Tools could be written allowing radical and user friendly customisation of game engines. Spore has already started to embark on this fascinating path.
Scientist has posted a great vid detailing a major breakthrough
in wireless information transfer that could dramatically increase
download times and the overall speed of internet communication.
Using off the shelf components German researchers made the
first wireless video transmission in the terahertz range –
potentially 1000 times faster than existing wireless
Such a breakthrough seems totally necessary if exponential
growth in technology and information is to continue, as those are
both dependent on faster human-to-human, human-to-machine and
Tired of those boring, cramped 4-hour flights? Wish you could be
more productive or at least distracted? You’ll be glad to know that
the in-flight internet connections that have been hyped over the
past year are finally on the verge of reality.
Several companies are locked in a race to be first to offer
the service with airlines. In a matter of months, we’ll be able to
surf the web from land or sky.
Avionics is on the verge of penning a deal with a
yet-to-be-disclosed airline to offer wireless service via
satellite. Their rates are a bit steep at $5.95 per half-hour of
access, but because they connect to satellites instead of towers on
the ground, internet would be available during trips across the
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.
With Comcast slowing Internet speeds and other companies slow to bring fiber optic cable to consumers, it’s starting to seem more likely that wireless internet will by-pass all of this. Why spend the cost of installing fiber-optic cable when wireless internet will do just as well?
It reminds me of the country of Niger. The country was so late to the technology game that new, cheaper technology have allowed them to skip decades of advancement and costly infrastructure. They went from land lines (circa 1940) directly to cheap cell phones (circa 2008).
In fact, this is how much of the world by-passed the US in internet speed with fiber-optics. While we spent a decade laying out cable, other countries spent only a few years laying down the latest technology (fiber-optics).
In an article about lagging internet speeds in the US, reporter David Gardner explores some of the amazing statistics out there involving US internet speeds. “The median download speed in the U.S. is 2.35 Mbps. Densely populated Japan has an eye-popping 63.60 Mbps, according to figures from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.” In other words, not only is the US behind most of the developed world, we’re really behind.
Over the past few months Americans have been trying to grasp what each presidential nominee will bring to the table once inaugurated as our Commander-in-Chief this coming January.
With looming issues that include the economy, the war in Iraq, and gas prices, there has been little emphasis placed on how either John McCain or Barack Obama feel about the government’s role in science and technology despite a growing group of citizens who want the issue debated.. These individuals believe that the future of America’s science and technology sectors are crucial to the success of our economy, world image, and ultimately our well-being.
Elon University recently unveiled a series of future scenarios they've compiled from asking industry leaders, analysts and activists a series of questions about major tech advances they expect by 2020. You can find good snippets from the report here at Pew Internet.
One thing the report goes over is the increasing use of mobile internet as the method of connecting to the World Wide Web. "The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020." The go on to cite various examples such as the increasing computing power of mobile phones, how applications are increasingly easy to use and operate, and of course the cost of phones drop everyday (anyone heard the rumor that Wal-Mart would be selling the iPhone for $99?)
On one hand I feel bad for those '$100 Laptop' people who tried so hard to make a cheap laptop and have pretty much failed, but on the other hand we have amazing products that do even more for the same price, and they're small. While the idea of a third world student dutifully doing their homework on a cellphone may seem strange, by 2020 we'll be seeing developments of amazing heads-up displays as well as the nearly complete removal of the touchscreen as a device. Infrared beams can replace a touchscreen and rolllable OLED screens will allow for larger displays in much smaller gadgets.