The Google Blog: Until today, Google Earth displayed only one image of a given place at a given time. With this new feature, you can now move back and forth in time to reveal imagery from years and even decades past, revealing changes over time. Try flying south of San Francisco in Google Earth and turning on the new time slider (click the "clock" icon in the toolbar) to witness the transformation of Silicon Valley from a farming community to the tech capital of the world over the past 50 years or so.
Along with a new 3d Mars feature, the additions have increased the scope and resolution of the largest publicly accessible simulation of our physical system, thus expanding the Google's information scaffolding and future monetization opportunities through an increasingly valuable Mirror World.
The new features also reinforce the notion of a rapidly growing retro-quantification industry rooted in our social desire to achieve topsight over space and time. A resource that quickly allows people to surf physical history is obviously critical to bettering our view of reality and thus improving the efficiency of our economic behavior.
We're just a month into 2009 and it already looks like Jeff Hilford's prediction that the future will become a big media topic this year is coming true.
Hilford: The present stinks and people will turn their attention elsewhere. While many will pine for a return to the past they will be forced to look ahead. The doom and gloom of the economic meltdown and global warming combined with the incredible pace of technological change provide a fertile backdrop for projection.
Watching last night's Superbowl with a group of friends, my fractured attention was thoroughly captrured by the following GE ecomagination commercial featuring non other than a "wired" version of The Wizard of Oz's scarecrow dancing atop an electric sub-station:
From the Spot: Smart Grid technology from GE will make the way we distribute energy more efficient simply by making it more intelligent.
The ad succeeds at bridging technology with familiar non-threatening themes already loaded into our cultural consciousness. Clearly it is meant to sychronize with the Obama administration's recent and mounting rhetoric about smarter national infrastructure and influence how the latest $900 billion economic stimulus dollars will be spent.
It's also indicative of an impending shift to new industry that players like Google, IBM, Cisco and Johnson Controls (add GE = The Futuristic 5?) have been chomping at the bit for.
The future you hear about on the news is not what it appears.
Yes, the 'electric car' is coming, but do not be fooled by first generation ideas being fed into the mainstream media.
The short term challenges are probably being understated as the transition will take many years to unfold. But the long term disruptive changes are more profound than anything you might see on a 60 Minutes special featuring battery car owners in California.
Electric vehicles are likely to change our energy grid, roads, cities and suburbs in ways that are hard to imagine today.
Software - Drive by Wire & The Digital Driving Experience While stodgy Wall Street Journal Op-Ed pieces continue to characterize electric cars as expensive, wimpy cars- there truth is that electric drive systems offer a lower cost manufacturing platform and a flexible software based driving experience.
Establish software and location based services to vehicles, and you create a foundation for revenue streams based on mobility services in a 'wired and connected vehicle'. (Not to mention 'pay per mile' funding streams for transportation infrastructure instead of paying per gallon taxes.)
Companies like Johnson Controls, Microsoft, Intel, Bosch (et al) are developing 'drive-by-wire' software and microcontroller solutions that can make a car sound and feel like a Ferrari, a Mini-van, or Sedan with the push of a button. There is a huge upside in software-service sales that the digitize the driving experience.
Storage: Vehicle to Grid (V2G) & 'Skateboard' Vehicles on Sidewalks
There's no actual change in policy from the Obama administration on the stem cell front yet but some exciting things are happening and you can feel the pace picking up. In the past week Geron Technologies announced that they have received FDA clearance to put their GRNOPC1 into clinical human trials and researchers in Spain also announced that they had had success in treating lab rats with significant spinal injuries. While both studies have achieved impressive results in lab animals, a primary difference is that Geron uses embryonic stem cells to derive their hESC oligodendrocyte progenitor cells while the Spanish team used adult stem cells from tissue in the injured rats themselves to get their progenitor cells. Miodrag Stojkovic, who headed up the study done in Spain, said that "we need both adult and embryonic stem cells to understand our body and apply this knowledge in regenerative medicine."
It's worth noting that the success has come with injuries where the spinal cord has been traumatically compromised but not entirely severed. Also, the success in the rat recovery process has been demonstrated in injuries treated within 7-14 days of occurrence. Though there is hope that treatments will be derived for those whose injuries are older, rapid application seems to be key and has also been found effective in treating a variety of neural injuries including stroke and brain trauma.
According to Peter Kafka over at All Things D, The Obama administration has taken yet another intelligent step toward web-mediated government by hiring Googler Katie Stanton as, get this, "Director of Citizen Participation".
The move to bring in a social media expert (tempered by a finance nd foreign relations background) signals growing awareness of crowd-sourcing as an effective means of value generation. With a mind like Stanton's in the mix, we can safely assume the President is looking to 1) continue exploring the various (and exploding) social media tools available on the market, and 2) to build out a comprehensive social media apparatus that will maximize its efforts in this arena.
My respect for IBM CEO Sam Palmisano continues to rise. As myriad unimaginative lemming financial pundits continue to explain away the present economic crisis as solely a failure of consumer confidence, Palmisano is making the rounds, advocating the construction of more intelligent infrastructure. His latest audience? None other than newly elected Barack Obama.
During a rountable discussion between Obama and various corporate CEOs (including Google CEO Eric Schmidt), Palmisano presented a summary of his thoughts on the United States' economic stimulus strategy. (video here)
Palmisano: There is clearly no reason we believe to undertake projects just for the sake of activity. We need to undertake projects that actually create jobs that will make infrastructure, make our country much more competitive for the long term.
[W]e need to invest and to build a more modern and more competitive infrastructure for the future.
It may be obvious, but it's also VERY refreshing to see that such messages are piercing the static and reaching the brains that need to hear them.
Beyond the occassional post (or two), I have avoided 'Peak Oil' production issues because of its association with those who must always (and only) describe the future in apocalyptic terms.
But based on the IEA World Energy Outlook 2008 report, it has become clear that energy leaders have been using poor data of oil field decline rates (based on a lack of transparency) to support inaccurate forecasts.
Whether peak production has already happened, or will happen in 15 years is irrelevant since we are not prepared for either transition. So it is time to explore implications regarding the world's use of coal, nuclear energy, tar sands, and oil shale. (For those focused on Climate Change, the replacements for oil are not good news for carbon emissions.)
I do not believe that Peak Oil will destroy our civilization, but it certainly has the potential to make us humble, and to serve as 'the' catalyst for evolving our policies from a resource extraction to resource creation paradigm.
The following 40 minute interview is dated (January 2008) but gives a solid overview of peak oil's core issues: field decline rates, discovery rates, production time and costs and lack of real liquid fuel alternatives. [A more current hard edged interview by George Monbiot w/ Dr Fatih Birol: Link to video]
Economists and politicians are debating whether we are in a recession or a depression, and how many months or years it will take to recover from the downturn. But what is now happening to the economy is not typical or normal. I would call it a "retrenchment" rather than a recession.
In that sense, it is a permanent correction, and will result in a substantial and long-term contraction of GDP, the standard of living and the stock market. It will take many years to return to where we were. The problem is that the U.S. government and consumer have both been living on borrowed money for a generation, so that most of the gains of that period are illusory. We were never really that wealthy, and now we have to start paying for that extravagance.
A similar argument is made in an interesting article entitled "Will There Be A Recovery?" by Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He also sees the current situation as different from past recessions. Recovery in the past could be stimulated by cuts in interest rates, allowing consumers to spend more against rising real wages. This would lead the economy to rebound.
Now it is different though. For one thing, for most workers, real wages have remained stagnant for almost twenty years. Consumers have maxed out their credit and can no longer borrow so freely. And interest rates are already at rock bottom levels.
When discussing accelerating change I often remind people that technology is a double-edged sword. Reinforcing this mantra, a new bill, the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, that would ban silent picture-taking via mobile phones to combat child exploitation has been presented to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The problem is legitimate and therefore requires what futurist John Smart would call an "immune system response", which may come in the form of a social, technological or hybrid solution.
But the proposed bill is invasive and a bit naive (not accel-aware) considering the quickly dropping component costs fueling an explosion in small devices sporting sophisticated cameras, video cameras and audio recording devices.
In other words, the problem is actually MUCH BIGGER than Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the author of the legislation, recognizes at this time.
In just a few years we'll have micro-devices capable of always-on, persistent video streaming. Many will argue that these are critical to their health (longitudinal life logs for doctors and software to analyze, prosthetic sensing for those who need it - or even those who don't), business (reality TV x 10, regional quantification efforts, selling feeds), education (process capture for superior feedback), social life (symbionts, real-time dating services), entertainment (mixing real-time feeds with other content, critical component of augmented reality), right to document history for future purposes and so forth.
On the flipside, this will further expand the abilities of predators, criminals and other social griefers. They'll be able to remotely operate arrays of micro-cams (a world of bugs), stalk people in new ways, hack massive amounts of personal data, etc.
Should we create back-ups of websites due to be deleted for historical purposes?
Lynne Brindley, head of the British Library makes the case for preserving the web for future generations:
If websites continue to disappear in the same way as those on President Bush and the Sydney Olympics - perhaps exacerbated by the current economic climate that is killing companies - the memory of the nation disappears too. Historians and citizens of the future will find a black hole in the knowledge base of the 21st century.
But isn't that a moot point? Aren't companies like Google and other info aggregators backing up all of this data on their servers? Brindley says that's not the case:
People often assume that commercial organisations such as Google are collecting and archiving this kind of material - they are not. The task of capturing our online intellectual heritage and preserving it for the long term falls, quite rightly, to the same libraries and archives that have over centuries systematically collected books, periodicals, newspapers and recordings and which remain available in perpetuity, thanks to these institutions.
According to CNet reporter Stephen Shankland it's rather likely that Google will announce the new monster app next week at a star-studded Google Earth event:
Gore is set to join Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, at the on February 2 event at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco's newly rebuilt aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum. But it's another speaker's name that gives the tip-off about what the event might be about.