Emerging Technologies, Fuelling New Paradigms


Emerging Technologies

      Published by Steven Novella

Most Fridays I submit a blog post to Swift, the official blog of the JREF. The article I submitted this morning is about a new study demonstrating  a brain-machine-interface (BMI) that allows a rhesus monkey to control two robotic arms at the same time. This is a technology I have been following here at NeuroLogica, blogging about it whenever I think a cool breakthrough is made.

The topic touches on several areas simultaneously that I find fascinating – neuroscience, computer technology, virtual reality, and predicting future technology. I make the point, as I often do, that predicting future technology has a terrible track record, with the only reasonable conclusion being that it is very difficult.

It’s fun to look back at past future predictions and see what people generally got right and what they got wrong, and then see if we can learn any general lessons that we can apply to predicting future technology.

Major Hurdles

For example, we are not all flying around with jetpacks or taking our flying car to work. This has become, in fact, a cliche of failed future technologies. I think the lesson here is that both of these technologies suffer from a major hurdle – fuel is heavy, and if you have to carry your fuel around with you it quickly becomes prohibitive. There just doesn’t seem to be any way to overcome this limitation with chemical fuel or batteries.

In other words, whenever the viability of a technology depends upon making a major breakthrough that changes the game with respect to some major limitation imposed by the laws of physics, you cannot count on that technology succeeding in the short to medium term. Long term – all bets are off.

The coming hydrogen economy is another example. It turns out, safely and efficiently storing for convenient release large amounts of hydrogen is a non-trivial technical problem that will not be solved as a matter of course.

Incremental Advance

By contrast, even in the 1980s, but certainly by the early 1990′s the promise of the coming internet was in the air. I remember reading fiction, popular science articles, and talking about how the world will change when information becomes digital and ubiquitous. No one predicted ebay and Twitter specifically, but certainly online commerce and communication were anticipated.

The difference here is that computer and electronic technologies had a proven track record of continuous incremental improvement, and that was all that was necessary for the dreams of the internet to become reality. You can extrapolate incremental progress much more reliably that massive breakthroughs.

Not So Fast

Smartphones, also anticipated for decades, are now a reality. The additional lesson here is that sometimes it takes longer than we predict for a technology to mature. I remember people desperately trying to make use of early portable computing devices in the 1990s (like the Newton and other PDA). I was there, using my PDA, but the functionality was just not sufficient to make it easier than a paper notebook. I’m sure some people made it work for them, but widespread adoption was just not happening.

Now, 20 years later, smartphones have finally achieved the promise of portable personal computing devices. People use smartphones not only for communication, but to quickly look up information, to update their Twitter feed, to listen to music and podcasts, as still and video cameras, and as portable GPS devices. They are still rapidly increasing in power and utility, but they have definitely passed the bar of general adoption.

As PDAs, carrying around a small computer was not that useful. It took the development of other applications to really make the technology useful, such as GPS, the internet, MP3s, and miniaturized cameras.

Yes, But What Is It Good For?

Perhaps the most difficult prediction involves how a new technology will be used. Microwaves were developed for cooking. It turns out, they are terrible tools for cooking. The technology might have completely died on the vine, except it turns out they are really convenient for heating food – defrosting, rewarming, and, of course, making popcorn. They quickly became indispensable.

Segways were supposed to change the way people move about a city. They utterly failed in this goal. However, they enjoy a niche for security guards to move around malls and airports.

This is, in my opinion, the trickiest part of predicting future technology adoption. Even when the technology itself is viable, it’s hard to predict how millions of people will react to the technology. Why are we not all using video-phones all the time? In the 1980s I would have sworn they would be in wide adoption as soon as the technology was available. Now I could, if I chose, make every phone call a video call, but I choose not to. For most calls, it’s just not worth it. I’d rather not have to look into a camera and worry about what I am doing.

Likewise, who would have thought that people would prefer texting to talking on the phone? That was a real shocker to me.

Sometimes the adoption of a specific technology depends upon someone finding a good use for it. The technology itself may be viable, but utilization really determines whether or not it will be adopted. There is no substitute for the real-world experiment of millions of people getting their hands on a technology or application and seeing if they like it.

The Future

Will all this in mind, what are the technologies that I think are likely to have a huge impact on our future? This is a huge topic, and maybe I’ll dedicate a future blog post to exploring this further, but let me name some that come to mind.

Carbon nanotubes and graphene are the plastics and the semi-conductors of the 21st century rolled into one. This material is strong and has interesting and changeable conductive properties that make them potentially usable in small, energy efficient and flexible electronics. The major limitation right now is mass producing carbon nanofibers in long lengths and large amounts efficiently and with sufficient quality. This seems to be an area of steady progress, however.

This may seem like an easy one, but stem cells clearly have tremendous potential. However, I would have to file this one under – major breakthrough still necessary in order to achieve the full potential of stem cell technology. I also think this is one that will mature 2-3 decades later than popularly anticipated. Maybe by the middle of the 21st century we will begin to see the promise of growing or regenerating organs, reversing degenerative diseases, and healing major damage and disease with stem cells.

And to bring the article back around to the original topic – brain-machine interfaces in all manifestations. The ability to affect brain function with electricity and the ability to communicate between external devices (going in both directions – sensory input and motor or other output device) mediated by a computer chip has massive implications.

On the one hand, this is a new paradigm in treating the brain by altering its function. Right now the major medical intervention for brain function is pharmacological, but this approach has inherent limits. The brain is not only a chemical organ, however, it is an electrical organ, and increasingly we are seeing electrical devices, such as deep brain stimulation, to treat neurological diseases.

Beyond that, the ability to interface a brain and a computer essentially brings neuroscience into the computer age, which further means that applications will benefit from the continued incremental advance of computer technology. It may take a few more decades than we hope or anticipate, but we can now clearly see the day when paralyzed patients can control robot legs or arms through BMI, where we can enter a virtual world and not only control but actually mentally occupy an avatar, and where people can control anything technological in their environment through thought alone.

In short, it has been demonstrated that it is possible for humans to merge with their machines. I know this sounds like hyperbole and science fiction, but the science is pretty solid if immature.

This technology is coming. What remains to be seen is what applications will develop, and how will people react

Australia | New Right Wing Government Leaps Forward into The Dark Ages


New Australian Government Cancels the Future

The following is a comment from a Facebook friend, Shane C which he left under a topic I posted on Facebook yesterday; Victoria Rollison’s “Abbott is hiding from the future“. It deserves wider readership than the Facebook page could offer and it is my pleasure to post it here. You will agree that Shane raises some thought-provoking points. Here is what Shane said:

The Cabinet of the new Australian government has just one woman, no science ministry, only one member who takes scientists’ findings on global warming to be true (but who believes a future proof broadband network is not needed), and a particularly dense education minister who thinks advanced tertiary education is a privilege that only the rich should have.

This is a cause of great concern.

A number of breakthroughs in science and technology will start to emerge over the next five to twenty years. Some of the main ones will be breakthroughs in medical science, breakthroughs in materials technology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and nanotechnology.

A number of consequences will follow which will include but not limited to; the cure for all diseases, not just cancer, resulting in very long life, the catch being that only the rich and privileged can afford it, automation of labour in all mining and heavy industry resulting in the sudden unemployment of all non-skilled labour.

Because of the exponential nature of technological development, the nations that develop the three key technologies first, AI (artificial intelligence), QC (quantum computing), and NT (nanotechnology) will rule the world. Their medical and materials technologies will be as to the rest of the world as current technological societies are to stone age ones.

Not only will the nations who get to the key twenty-first century technologies first have a gigantic economic advantage but access to advanced technologies will bootstrap their advantage even further because they will go on to develop advanced means to accessing space with AI designed, NT grown, single stage to orbit (SSTO) spacecraft that will be relatively cheap to produce and operate.

We could be looking at a twenty-first century that will be dominated by a few AI/QC/NT enhanced societies taking humanity’s first truly permanent steps out into space. Those nations that will be successful will be those who take scientific research seriously, provide the world’s best telecommunications infrastructure, and provide their populations with the best access to medical care and education.

And the new Australian government is not interested in any of this

.

(Photo credit: Toban B.)

Far Right Whackjob Allen West Turns Out to Be Antisemitic, Right Wing PJ Media “Shocked!”


Far Right Whackjob Allen West Turns Out to Be Antisemitic, Right Wing PJ Media “Shocked!”
A Far Right kook is also Anti-Semitic?
Inconceivable!
A shakeup at Right Wing PJ Media, where former Congressman Allen West has been fired, or resigned, or something.
Imagine their shock to discover that this bigoted, crazed far right nutjob is also antisemitic.

Former Congressman Allen West is leaving his job at Pajamas Media after an altercation with a female staffer in which he allegedly called her a “Jewish American princess,” BuzzFeed learned on Thursday.

[…]

Two sources familiar with what happened told BuzzFeed that West had gotten into an argument with a female employee and called her a “Jewish American princess” while telling her to “shut up.”

Reached by phone, West told BuzzFeed he was leaving his job voluntarily, though one source familiar with the situation told BuzzFeed he had been fired. He did not deny that an exchange with the employee had occurred, but said it hadn’t led to his leaving the company.

“No I didn’t get fired,” West said. “I’m leaving to pursue political aspirations. That’s it. There’ll be a statement that comes out and it’s effective in October.”

NSA Can Reportedly Track Phones Even When They’re Turned Off


NSA Can Reportedly Track Phones Even When They’re Turned Off

By   

170225348

A woman checks her mobile phone in Vienna.Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images

The NSA has a diverse range of surveillance capabilities—from monitoring Google Maps use to sifting through millions of phone call records and spying on Web searches. But it doesn’t end there. The agency can also track down the location of a cellphone even if the handset is turned off, according to a new report.

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.

It is not explained in the report exactly how this technique worked. But to spy on phones when they are turned off, agencies would usually have to infect the handset with a Trojan that would force it to continue emitting a signal if the phone is in standby mode, unless the battery is removed. In most cases, when you turn your phone off—even if you do not remove the battery—it will stop communicating with nearby cell towers and can be traced only to the location it was in when it was powered down.

In 2006, it was reported that the FBI had deployed spyware to infect suspects’ mobile phones and record data even when they were turned off. The NSA may have resorted to a similar method in Iraq, albeit on a much larger scale by infecting thousands of users at one time. Though difficult, the mass targeting of populations with Trojan spyware is possible—and not unheard of. In 2009, for instance, thousands of BlackBerry users in the United Arab Emirates were targeted with spyware that was disguised as a legitimate update. The update drained users’ batteries and was eventually exposed by researchers, who identified that it had apparently been designed by U.S. firm SS8, which sells “lawful interception” tools to help governments conduct surveillance of communications.

In recent weeks, the NSA’s surveillance programs—both domestic and international—have been the subject of intense scrutiny following a series of leaked secret documents. The NSA says that a vast database that it maintains on phone calls made by millions of Americans does not include location data. But the revelation that the agency has developed a technique that apparently enables  it to monitor thousands of cellphones—even when turned off—is likely to only inflame civil liberties groups’ concerns, prompting further questions about the full extent of the agency’s spying efforts.

Terrified Glenn Beck: Technology Leads To ‘Transhumanism’ And Nazi Atrocities (Video)


Terrified Glenn Beck:  Technology Leads To ‘Transhumanism’ And Nazi Atrocities (Video)
Glenn Beck Idiot AATTP

 Glenn Beck is the king of fear-mongering and he routinely instills irrational and paranoid delusions and fears into his listeners as well. Of course, he does this because his idiot disciples will buy gold, and seeds and other snake oil garbage from his worthless website. He’s a charlatan, a fraud. A freak.

So what is terrifying Beck now? Something called “Transhumanism” brought on by a technological singularity. The “Singularity” is the moment when the exponential growth of technology intersects and surpasses the processing of the human brain. This is an idea conceived by Ray Kurzweil and others.

Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. SOUNDS TERRIFYING!!!! We think the reason Beck is so scared is that he counts on his audience NOT using their brains.

Here are the psychotic ramblings of Glenn Beck on the subject.

 

Viral Video Recap Features Google’s Year In Review


Viral Video Recap Features Google’s Year In Review
Google compiled a Year In Review video posted on December 12. The nearly three-minute clip starts with Baumgartner’s jump from 24 miles above the earth and progresses into clips of other history-making moments this year: Oscar Pistorius’ competing in the Olympics as the first athlete to have carbon-fiber artificial legs; clips from this year’s presidential debates; images from the Arab Spring and the protests in Greece, plus some adorable animal videos that kept us entertained.

New Ipad 3, Iphone 5 and Android to Hurt Nintendo More?


New iPad 3, iPhone 5 and Android to hurt Nintendo more?
 

Smartphones and tablets hurting Nintendo? Report revealed that Japan’s popular gaming company posted its first ever operating loss this week.

Last month, Apple unveiled its first ever high-definition tablet computer with a 5-megapixel camera, a dual-core CPU and with a quad-core graphics that is reportedly capable of delivering better gaming experience. In fact, Apple’s exec said during the product’s press conference that the new iPad, or the iPad 3, is the perfect gaming device despite the lack of physical controllers, and gamers are reportedly “in love” with it.

Aside from Windows laptops and computers, Apple’s tablet computer is also targeting the lucrative gaming market, which is headed by Japan’s pride, Nintendo. But the bad news came this week from the Mario Bros. maker. According to the New York Times, Nintendo reported on Thursday its first ever operating loss amounting to $460 million for the year ending March 31.

One analyst told the newspaper that smartphones and tablet computers are hurting Nintendo, particularly involving consumer electronics market which is the actual target of Apple’s widely publicized “Post PC” revolution that brags portability, intuitive user interface, and vibrant ecosystem courtesy of the growing applications list featuring high-end games.

Nintendo’s chief, Satoru Iwata, is reportedly not satisfied with the numbers. He specifically mentioned his company’s handheld gaming device, the Nintendo 3DS, despite the continuous price drop just to convince customers to buy one.

The next coming quarters could be more challenging for Nintendo. Apple, according to reports, will introduce a new smartphone before the holiday season, the iPhone 5, while Google Android’s top phone maker, Samsung, is scheduled to unveil its new Samsung Galaxy S3 which will boast a quad-core chip, supporting more games with heavy graphics and special effects.

To protect its business, and also its brand, Nintendo is widely expected to announce  its successor to the Wii, the so-called Wii U, which features a tablet controller and according to rumors, Nintendo will launch an app-store like online store that will retail “simple games” and non-gaming apps.

Jailbreak 5.1 Untethered


For fans of Jailbreak, news just in of progress made toward a Jailbreak 5.1 unthered solution for Iphones and Ipads!

Pod2g Has Bypassed ASLR, One Step Closer to the Jailbreak

In an exciting bit of news earlier today, pod2g announced that he has overcome yet another barrier that was preventing him from finishing the jailbreak. ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) is a security measure introduced by Apple in recent versions of iOS. One result of this new method of security is difficulty in developing jailbreaks. Therefore, since Apple has begun implementing this new feature, it has been the effort of jailbreakers to bypass it.

Now, the battle has been won, and we are moving forward to another untethered jailbreak. We still don’t have an ETA, but this has been a long awaited step in the jailbreak community, and will hopefully make future jailbreaks that much easier.

Be sure to check back frequently for updates on the situation, and you can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter below to be notified of any new information.

Just how big are porn sites?


Just how big are porn sites?

Sebastian Anthony in Extreme Tech:

The-planet-data-center-messy-348x196

According to Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner, which tracks users across the web with a cookie, dozens of adult destinations populate the top 500 websites. Xvideos, the largest porn site on the web with 4.4 billion page views per month, is three times the size of CNN or ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit. LiveJasmin isn’t much smaller. YouPorn, Tube8, and Pornhub — they’re all vast, vast sites that dwarf almost everything except the Googles and Facebooks of the internet.

While page views are a fine starting point, they only tell you that X porn site is more popular than Y non-porn site. Four billion page views sure sounds like a lot, but it’s only when you factor in what those porn surfers are actually doing that the size and scale of adult websites truly comes into focus.

More here.

Are Floating Homes The Future?


Floating Homes Are The Future

Floating HomeMany people are aware of problems such as glacial melt and overpopulation, yet when it comes to how these will impact the way we live on this planet in the future, most people don’t know where to start. The fact is, issues such as these will cause many toxic problems throughout the world, the worst by far being the fact that land will likely become inhabitable. While this would’ve likely meant the end of civilization in the past, the constant advancement of technology ensures that we will one day be able to expand to the waters of the world.

Since most people live in brick and mortar, wood or aluminum homes that exist on land, the world would have to go through a massive shift in ideals, as society would be forced to move to the water. This, however, would not have to be a negative change, as new homes and communities could be built to exist solely on the oceans and seas of the world. While it would likely begin as small homes being crafted to float on the water, many people believe that entire floating cities will find their way into existence in the future; cities that would be clean, affordable, and “green” in every way possible.

While the technology for this isn’t necessarily one-hundred percent there yet, it is certainly getting there. Jacque Fresco, mastermind behind The Venus Project, is a huge proponent of what he calls “memory metal,” metal that can be bent into whatever shape or form one would like and – when contacted with a certain heat – will return to its original state. Fresco believes that memory metal will be used to create floating structures in the future, as it can be easily transported, broken down and rebuilt with the simple application of heat. Those who are proponents of movements like The Venus Project believe that floating homes and cities are inevitable because of the way mankind has treated the planet thus far. Rises in crime, population and global warming all point to a wasteful future if nothing is done, and chances are the land will one day become completely nonviable. Since the planet is mostly water, however, the Earth is ripe with opportunity to create floating, sustainable communities for people to live, work and thrive upon.

As work continues to be done to support the advancement of technology necessary to turning these ideals into a reality, people the world over are on board with the possibility of floating cities in the future. While Fresco’s work may seem entirely futuristic and possibly even far-fetched to some, it is representative of a shift in consciousness that must occur if human beings are to continue living on this planet. His view of communities built out of reusable, sustainable materials is in stark contrast to the way most of the world operates today. The future of floating homes depends on those working to advance technology.  The more that get on board, the faster it will happen.

is a source of more useful resources.

Resources:

Eco-Tech | Safe And Sustainable Farming


Safe And Sustainable Farming

What would you think of a tractor with sensor controlled motion path determination, adjustable suspension, with 24-hour usability thanks to 360-degree night vision camera? What would you say about tractor who, beside pulling heavy equipment and attachments also can assess topographic datas and use them in farming activities? You would probably say – no way! And today I can tell you – yes, closer than you think!

Designers Prithu Paul and Ankit Kumar made this futuristic tractor concept. He is designed to keep up with the ecological problems and climate change in the years to come. That’s why he would use hydrogen fuel cells for power. This multi-dimensional tractor will make farming safe, simple and sustainable in the future.

Iron Man Suit for Future Soldiers


CNNTech reports on comic book fiction becoming reality!

Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit. Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit. A lunchtime crowd is gathering beside the parking lot at Raytheon Sarcos, the defense contractor, on a recent day in Salt Lake City. White-collar workers from nearby office parks stand with their yogurt cups and sandwiches, watching with quiet awe as a man in a metal suit — sort of half-man, half-robot — performs superhuman feats of strength. This may be the closest these people will get to a real-life “Iron Man,” the character from the comic books and hit movies.

  • Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit.
    Raytheon is designing in real life what comic books and Hollywood have promised for years, a real life Iron Man-like suit.