In one of those wonderful historical anomalies, February 12, 2009 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
Lincoln is recognized as one of the greatest American presidents for helping end slavery. Darwin, of course, is the father of evolutionary biology.
It might appear these two historical giants have little else in common except the same birthday, but Darwin’s theory of evolution will soon call forth a new political debate which could, if not peacefully resolved, rip this country apart as surely as slavery did.
The latest intriguing mini-projector to hit store shelves (in Japan) is a small cubic, 25 ANSI Lumen LED called the Miseal. Manufactured by little-know Japanese comapny Sanko, the device is just 2.7in. x 2.7in. x 2.8in. and weighs just over half a pound.
Sporting a 100:1 contrast ratio, 800x600 SVGA resolution and ability to cast an image up to 16ft. away at a diagonal width of 70in, the Miseal packs a serious punch for something of such wee size.
Here are two cool examples of augmented reality apps/prototypes that are already out. The first is a really fun one from GE's futuristic Ecoimagination campaign. By making a print-out from their site and holding it in front of your monitor it brings the animation out of the box and into your room. Here's the Future is Awesome's Duncan Rawlinson demonstrating it with the print out attached to his mobile.
Here are some other DIY examples that illustrate it further 1. 2. 3.
Another very cool, though early incarnation technology that gives us a hint of how we'll be interacting with information in our physical environments comes to us from the MIT Media Lab - demoed at the recent TED conference (via Wired).
It's "a wearable computer system that turns any surface into an interactive display screen." Definitely has some of that early stage Minority Report feel to it and I think when looking at these two examples it's pretty obvious that this world will be here sooner than most people think.
Since the recent appearance by Jeff, Garry and Alvis on The Speculist Blog Talk Radio program (click on Speculist meets MemeBox), I thought they and other Future Bloggers might find the below discussion stemming from a subsequent program of interest.
Phil Bowermaster has a post up at The Speculist examining the state of the progression of human society from it's present structure to one more closely tracking the various expectations stemming from the concept of The Singularity:
[The following is an expanded version of an e-mail I sent to Stephen in response to some reflections he had on our most recent FastForward Radio -- that show with guest Joseph Jackson discussing the possibility of a post-scarcity world. I think Stephen was going to post some additional thoughts, too -- to which I would have added comments -- but time's up!] ...
My issue is more practical. By what means could we possibly get to the kind of society he's describing? The assumption seems to be that it would be the federal government (or the Earth government or -- my fav -- the Committee of Robot Overlords) doing the distributing. But we don't have a working model of how a government can guarantee the material welfare of its population without ripping its economy to shreds and putting individual rights on the back burner. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but Joseph doesn't have a model of how we would get there, or at least he didn't articulate one Wednesday night.
I sympathise with Phil's dilemma, unfortunately Mr. Jackson's lack of specific insight isn't unique to him; nobody really knows how we get to "there" because we still haven't really articulated the starting point for the needed change(s) to progress from with any sort of degree of engineering specificity. It's all well and good to simply proclaim the need for a systemic advancement, but what specific mechanism achieves that to actual advantage - and to whom? It seems a bit solipsistic perhaps, but market pressures actually are the least disruptive mechanism to stimulating that process. This doesn't make for speedy adoption of course, but does assure wide-spread acceptance of the process within the production industry(s) generally once the never-ending search for competitive advantage resorts to such comparatively radical technological innovation. Until business profitability (with it's concomitant influence on tax collections) forces executives and governmental legislators to commit to some technology there will remain resistance to doing so. Despite the potential for individual developments altering the current production structure and economy, the likelihood of such a development actually forcing early change is slight for a variety of reasons - only some of them technologic in nature.
The now-publicized curriculum of Ray Kurzweil's newly launchedSingularity University (SU), a very necessary institution that aims to "assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity's grand challenges", yet again reveals what I have come to call the Transhumanist Ego Bias (TEB), which results in the Hard-Tech Attribution Error (HTAE) that Jamais Cascio so eloquently describes in his Flunking Out SU critique.
Transhumanist Ego Bias: The TEB is a tendency among transhumanists to force their objective vision of the future to fit with their subjective expectation of the future. Many of the futurists and outright transhumanists that I have come to know and respect over the years suffer from this. (I too came down with it for a spell when I first encountered the awesome power of Moore's Law and other hard-tech diffusion curves.) It's as if they 1) expect the future to create a magical utopia into which they project their unchanged present-day personalities, 2) can't or don't want to credit the dumb masses (their detractors) with the ability to perform amazing operations (social computation) critical to acceleration, and/or 3) are so focused on the post-human age / life-extending digitization that they fail to adequately consider what it will take to get there.
Hard-Tech Attribution Error: It's no accident that brainiac, hardware-focused, early-adopter types who formulated their core outlook prior to the explosion of social media structures like Facebook, Wikipedia and Digg tend to focus on the "hard" sciences in lieu of recently blooming areas such as group intelligence, emotional intelligence, coordination, and communication. The social side of the equation is not as obvious to those that haven't studied it closely, lived it or worked in fields that rely on social networks to make a living. The result is that the social component of acceleration (despite a few courtesy nods to Intelligence Amplification [IA] over the years) is seriously undervalued as a driver.
Reducing the amount of water needed to grow crops and prevent massive desertification could dramatically reduce the need for energy used in producing fertilizers, irrigation and desalination.
Hydrophobic Sand Nanowerk has featured a story written by Derek Baldwin of Xpress News on the development and use of layers of hydrophobic (water resistant) sand that prevents water from evaporating to keep it closer to the root systems.
The nano-coated sand could be used as a sub-layer for farming, urban landscaping, and a wide range of eco-friendly industrial applications like oil spills.
The proprietary coating process was developed by UAE-based DIME Hydrophobic Materials working with German scientist Helmut F. Schulze. The product's performance has been verified by a German materials testing agency (without details on coating's own environmental impact or longevity) and is now in pilot projects in the United Arab Emirates. Visit: Photo Gallery/Pankaj Sharma
MIT Technology Review has a great post on the use of (bee) 'swarm' inspired algorithms to reduce energy consumption of networked appliances like air conditioners, computers and heating systems. Toronto-based startup REGEN ENERGY is building smart energy platforms using new technology standards like Zigbee and micro-controllers to 'maximize collective efficiency'. Their trick is to enable 'bottom up' self organized smart grids for appliances without having to actively manage their energy consumption with a 'single order'.
The Singularity University, which our own Alvis Brigis got an early scoop on, was made official today. The venture has the support of Google, NASA and an All-Star team of the singularity cognoscenti. The announcement received widespread coverage in the media from the likes of Businessweek, AP and Forbes, which demonstrates just how far this meme has come over the years.
I'll never forget a great night owl session at the first Accelerating Change Conference held by John Smart's Accelerating Studies Foundation in 2003 with Ray Kurzweil holding court and about 20 of his most ardent fans (many of whose works I had read) in attendance. Eliezer Yudkowsky, Ben Goertzel, John Smart et al were listening in earnest to what Ray had to say and it was pretty cool. I heard sometime later that it was also a treat for Ray to have been in such an intimate setting with such a knowledgeable and passionate crew.
Pipl.com is a new biographical search engine that actually works.
The secret? In addition to doing a good job with the search basics, Pipl also returns results from what it calls "the deep web", "a vast repository of underlying content, such as documents in online databases that general-purpose web crawlers cannot reach."
According to a study conducted by the Journal of Electronic Publishing, "public information on the deep Web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web."
A quick search on Pipl does indeed return results from this new search frontier, making the new product a truly useful tool. Just see for yourself.
This successful application of course prompts a whole set of questions about the future of seach, such as:
How deep does the deep web really go? (Deep - quickly getting much deeper.)
How fast will Pipl grow? (Fast.)
Is Google working on similar projects. (Yes, and also expanding the deep web.)
Who will buy it? (Microsoft, Yahoo.)
Will Pipl change web culture by making personal data more accessible? (Yes. It's already the best free background check online and will make people nervous about their social network profiles and decade-OLD data.)