John Heylin's Blog Posts

Spivack theorizes on Humans becoming more Specialized, like Ants

October 25 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Social Issues   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

Nova Spivack gave an interesting presentation on differing levels of intelligence and the Singularity. But what caught my attention was his scenario where humans evolve into specialized groups in order to make the whole work better.

If you look at nature, you see groups like bees or ants having specialized tasks that they’re designed for. Ring any bells?

And no, I’m not that clever, Spivack himself made the Borg reference.

The idea of specialized humans is sometimes hard for people to talk about. In order to be “PC” people constantly say all people have the same ability, contrary to evidence otherwise in both intelligence and physical ability. Are we going to face this fact and have specialized groups?

Most people see the Singularity as an event in the future where life will be a lot better, interesting to think that your future perfect life may include doing one task very well over and over again.

Vernor Vinge says Singularity by 2030 Still Believable

October 25 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Other   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

In the first talk of the day, Hugo Award-winning Science Fiction Author Vernor Vinge opens up by stating that achieving the Singularity by 2030 is still going to happen.

His conviction is very impressive. He states that the Singularity is still on track because Moore’s Law is still working. If technology continues to exponentially increase, 2030 is his best date.

What’s very interesting is that he made the statement that humans don’t create tools, we outsource our intellect into our environment. He goes on to explain that biometric modifications in a person will get to the point where our own intellect will barely be visible, only a “hand on a tiller” in the vast sea of humanity.

A running start to a long day.

World's Soon-To-Be Fastest Car Unveiled in London

October 23 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: 2011   Rating: 2

You may have thought that beating the land speed record was old news — with people focusing on the race to space these days land can go fairly unnoticed — but a British team is looking to break their former record of 760mph (made 11 years ago) by hoping to reach speeds over 1,000mph.

Dubbed the Bloodhound SSC, it measures about 41 feet long and weighs in a little over seven short tons (14,109lbs). “To achieve its aim of adding more than 200 mph to the existing record, the car will need to be as tough as a submarine, withstanding 12 tonnes of force per square metre.” And with a bill of about $16 million dollars, the team is hoping sponsors will pick up the tab.

Construction on the vehicle is expected to be finished by next year with the record being broken in 2011. Check out the Bloodhound SSC site here.

When TV Switches to Digital, it May Alienate Rural Communities

October 22 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Communication   Year: 2009   Rating: 3 Hot

It has been estimated that about three million TV viewers will let their sets go black when the digital conversion takes place next February. “Approximately three million viewers could stop watching their local channels, which would have a serious impact on local TV ratings and their advertising rates.” About nine million people today have yet to make the conversion to digital broadcasting.

So what about rural areas of America?

Internet is already hard to get in places “out in the boonies.” Some use the words Digital Divide to describe third world countries and their lack of technology. What people fail to realize is that there are places in America that are likewise impoverished.

In an article about the town of Grove, New York, reporter Stephen Watson explains how small towns like these are lacking high-speed internet, cable, and even cellphone service. “They are part of a growing digital divide between those with access to cutting-edge technology and those without, a gap that cuts along demographic, economic and geographic lines.” When you consider how much work is done on the internet these days, it really has become a lifeline for many people in remote locations.

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Virtual Strip Search Deployed at Airports, U.S. Border Checkpoints and in Iraq

October 22 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Social Issues   Year: 2008   Rating: 1

The future is now for see-through technology. Airports around the world are slowly switching to a new type of x-ray machine which allows them to see underneath your clothes. Yes, underneath.

EU and American civil liberty groups are already fighting the implementation at airports in the US and EU for fear that use of the x-ray scanner will become commonplace instead of just for special situations. We wouldn’t strip search everyone that went through the airport, so why do it through technology?

While we all thought the x-ray in Total Recall was pretty awesome, none of us want to experience that level of radiation on a daily basis (plus, I’d rather let people see my skeleton instead of me naked).

Infrared Sensors to make your Touchscreen Obsolete

October 21 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: 2010   Rating: 9 Hot

Tired of mucking about with your touchscreen? Constantly having to worry about scratching the screen in your pocket? Wiping the face of it with your t-shirt to get your greasy finger marks off it? Microsoft may have an answer.

SideSight, a prototype by Microsoft, uses Infrared proximity sensors to determine which way you want to spin or expand the screen of your smartphone. “The sensors can read inputs up to 10 centimeters away, just through reflected infrared light.” This way you can browse through your phone without having to worry about mucking up your screen.

While this technology is limited (for instance, you need a flat surface for the sensors to work), it shows some amazing potential for future phone interactions. By placing sensors all around the phone, you will be able to use your hands directly in front of the screen in order to shuffle through images or browse sites. Being able to tell exactly where your hands are gives you the added bonus of being able to control the interface with individual fingers or your hand position itself, something the touchscreen can only do through physical contact.

For the Upcoming Robot Apocalypse, the First Robot Defense Company

October 20 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

If you’re worried about the upcoming robot apocalypse featured prominently in movies like iRobot or Terminator, check out this concept of a defense company that deals specifically with the growing robotic threat.

Weapons Against Robots (WAR) is a defense company that specializes in combating our titanium oppressors. They feature products such as advanced weapon systems, detection systems (that way you won’t have to train dogs to sniff them out) and “robo virus” protection that promises “real time infiltration, adaption and reporting.”

Although the site is probably just an artistic mock-up or a futurist marketing ploy, it’s still a kick. Check it out.

How seriously should we take the growing robotic threat?

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US Military wants to play "Starship Troopers"

October 17 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: Beyond   Rating: 3 Hot

Shane McGlaun over at DailyTech reports that US government officials are looking into a space-based method of transporting small groups of troops anywhere in the globe within two hours. “The goal of the program is to be able to insert a team of 13 soldiers anywhere on the globe in two hours.” Although many have described this as plain fantasy, the surprising thing is that officials are looking to start a program such as this as early as 2019, giving actual implementation a start date of 2030. (Check out the original doc here)

Is this a viable option?

It would be pretty handy to have ground forces anywhere you need them in just a few hours. The second an Embassy came under attack or an invasion of a friendly country started, a unit of special forces would be there to help keep a lid on things in the knick of time. And if you think a force of only thirteen wouldn’t be able to do much, you might want to check out some of the latest stuff the military is working on for the future.

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When Nanobots Can Accomplish Anything, What Will Happen to the Global Economy?

October 15 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a successful nanobot design goes into production. These little guys can build just about anything you want, including more of themselves. But, barring an end-of-the-world scenario where the world gets covered with self-replicating nanobots (Grey Goo), what can we expect in the world around us?

The one thing that popped into my head last night was the idea that if nanobots could remove elements from their surroundings to build themselves, than means they could potentially mine areas for precious metals too tiny for us to mine ourselves. Nanobots could scour the dust, deserts, forests and hills for single-atom particles, a million of them being able to amass enough for a fifty-pound ball of plutonium.

So what about other precious metals?

The worlds oceans contain an estimated 20 million tons of gold. Washed down from land over billions of years and sitting in a suspended solution (salt water), it could be ripe for the taking. In fact, if people were able to mine all the gold out of the Oceans and it were equally dispersed to the global population, we’d all be stinking rich. “If all the gold suspended in the world’s seawater were mined, each person on Earth could have about 9 pounds of gold.” It would change the face of the world.

There are a few different things that could happen from this. Firstly, the worlds banks could finally base all of their currency on a gold standard. The US Dollar, for instance, only has value because we believe it to have value. Gold backing is an incredibly small part of America’s economy. Would this mean an economic boom? Pumping nine pounds of gold per person into an economy would be very good.

But it could take another turn.

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7 Sci-Fi Stories in which Biomass Saves Humanity's Ass

October 14 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Biotechnology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

There’s an interesting post over at the Energy Roadmap titled Investors betting on biological future for biofuels – We can ‘grow’ energy!.

It got me thinking — is our salvation really in the hands of these small microbials? Do science fiction writers have it right?

War of the Worlds
An invasion of Martians threaten to obliterate humanity. Humans are forced to run, unable to combat the technologically advanced tripods the Martians are manning. All seems lost until tripods start falling down for unknown reasons. Eventually, all the Martians have died due to a lack of immunities against Earth’s bacteria.

Red Planet
Earth, due to overpopulation and pollution, has seeded Mars with oxygen-producing algae in the hope of being able to eventually move to the planet. Astronauts are sent to the planet to find out why oxygen production has stalled and discover a native bug which feeds on the algae and produces oxygen. Running out of air, the astronauts remove their helmets expecting to die but find oxygen.

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