Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Whither Tech Future?

By tbc in Op-Ed
Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:43:33 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

I work in high-tech and have watched compelling, exciting products get introduced for over twenty years. This is the first year I've been unable to get excited about what technology was going to do for me in the future.

I have a feeling that the next ten years of technological progress are going to be disappointing -- perhaps extremely disappointing. Maybe instead of a Singularity, as some predict, society will instead wake up with a hangover from too much technology. I would like to be persuaded that there is still more exciting technology out there in the foreseeable future, but I think I have a good case for pessimism.

Do you remember what it was like ten years ago? The Internet was still a tool for academics, but that didn't matter much because the Web browser hadn't been invented, yet. Graphical computer interfaces were primitive, but that didn't matter much because personal computers were too slow and memory-starved (RAM and disks) to be of much use, anyway. Affordable cellphones were analog and clunky. Palm-size cellphones, CD burners, digital photography, and color printers were all too expensive for the mass market. There were no PDAs, no DVDs, and there was practically no CGI in movies.

Today my cellphone is smaller than Captain Kirk's communicator, my laptop can play DVD movies (and -- ho hum -- CDs and MP3 music), I can access the Internet "fast enough" (yes, 56Kbaud is fast enough), and my PDA allows me to protect my data with 128-bit IDEA encryption. Compared with progress in the last ten years, I don't see anything exciting left to do. All the gadgets I have are now "good enough" -- especially when I look back and see how little I had ten years ago. Maybe I'll spring for a DVD burner soon, but I can create my own VCDs today! My cellphone can already send and receive e-mail, and I don't see the wireless benefits outweighing the cost in my foreseeable future. I'll spring for more bandwidth before I look to get more mobility.

One good example of a technological non-advancement is high-definition television. It doesn't look like the public will generate even as much enthusiasm for it as they did when televisions added color fifty years ago. Besides, what mass audience is there? The masses think color TV is "good enough," and technophiles stopped watching broadcast television years ago -- they've got cable, satellite, and broadband Internet connections. Other advancements, promised for decades and still not delivered, encourage a pattern of skepticism: the Dick Tracy video phone, the flying car, artificial hearts (and other bionics a la the Six Million Dollar Man), artificially intelligent robots, fusion, cloning. What's taking us so long?!

Space exploration has slowed to a crawl. America put a man on the moon within a mere decade of setting that lofty goal. (For that matter, it was only four decades after the invention of the rocket!) But what has NASA done since then? Clarke expected a lunar colony and a mission to Jupiter by 2001! How long will it take us just to get humans to Mars? Experts admit we won't get there with current engine technology, yet the alternative ideas are a far cry from Zephram Cochrane's fictional achievement. And how long are xenophiles going to wait to find evidence of extraterrstrial intelligence, anyway? Didn't we all expect by now that SETI would show us proof that "they" were out there? That's why we've been helping them so eagerly, isn't it?

My first attempt to find a reason to hope failed, but maybe the forum was too small. This time, will I cast my net wide enough to snare the attention of the visionary with the answer? Wireless devices, wearable computers, more storage -- all are incremental improvements to existing technology that's already become "good enough." I won't argue against nanocomputing panning out... eventually (about 2015, according to one source). But will it make the same impact in the next ten years as the other advancements I've mentioned? Not even the most optimistic projections are promising that.

One thing almost meets my criteria: the space elevator. Progress is slowly being made (thanks in part to carbon nanotubes), but it's still a longshot. Still, that invention would reduce the cost of putting mass into orbit by an order of magnitude. That would be exciting. Compare it with what we might have said a decade ago when told about the future. The fact that futurists didn't do a very good job predicting how society would incorporate those innovations is yet another indication of the unique place the last decade has in history. (There will always be predictions, though.)

To make the challenge even harder, let's narrow the focus. Windows 95 and Pentium were brand new, the Internet was taking off exponentially, DVDs were not widely available, and cellphones were still analog. And by 1999 we had pretty much what we have today. Carrying that five-year window forward to 2004 makes my thesis even easier to defend. What's going to be ready by 2004 to make 1999-2004 look nearly as exciting as 1995-1999? I read Battelle's forecasts, and all I can say is, "Ho hum." I saved a copy of their Web site so I can see how well they do as the future unfolds.

I'm not alone in my pessimism, by the way. A couple months ago Techdirt had a piece titled "America's Innovation Engine Is Broken," although that article takes a narrower view of the cause of the problem.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o I work in high-tech
o Singularit y
o some predict
o The Internet
o the Web browser
o Graphical computer interfaces
o analog and clunky
o no PDAs
o no DVDs
o practicall y no CGI
o Captain Kirk's communicator
o protect my data
o high-defin ition television
o added color
o the Dick Tracy video phone
o the flying car
o artificial hearts
o Six Million Dollar Man
o artificial ly intelligent robots
o fusion
o cloning
o invention
o alternativ e ideas
o we've been helping them
o My first attempt
o nanocomput ing
o one source
o the most optimistic projections
o space elevator
o prediction s
o Battelle's forecasts
o Techdirt
o "America's Innovation Engine Is Broken,"
o Also by tbc

Display: Sort:
Whither Tech Future? | 162 comments (149 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
My friend, there is plenty to come up with yet.... (4.80 / 5) (#1)
by greenshift on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:59:19 AM EST

"Compared with progress in the last ten years, I don't see anything exciting left to do"

First up is perfect voice recognition.  Then translation in real time via a computer.  I could watch television from Russia on the I-Channel and hear the audio in English on headphones.

Another thing upcoming is retinal monitors (that won't ruin your eyes) and wearable computers that you can easily operate.  In conjunction with the above, this opens the door for world-wide communication.

After that is recording the mind, and the subsequent playing back to a mind.  Recording experiences.  Yes, thank you Strange Days.  

Other than those omissions, I agree with the fundamental aspects of your article.

I think that the main problem with almost all the new inventions is the ridiculous cost involved.  HDTV hasn't caught on because of a lack of (quality and quantity of) programming (1080i?  Ha, try 480p) and the fact that it costs more than some people's cars.

Really, I'm just rambling here.  I'll post a coherent response later.

Language is a very complicated thing (5.00 / 3) (#8)
by Kamui on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:41:46 AM EST

First up is perfect voice recognition. Then translation in real time via a computer. I could watch television from Russia on the I-Channel and hear the audio in English on headphones.
Yes, that would be great, but I (and many others in this field) have a rather pessimistic view when it comes to that. Language is just so involved, and while I think that eventually, statistical approaches in combination with other technologies may provide us with the means to reach that goal, I just don't think it's going to happen any time soon. Statistical approaches are the only things that are actually working today, with some minor exceptions where you have to handcode everything that you hadn't thought of before (e.g. Machine Translation), and those approaches are limited mostly by the (annotated) data available to them. While they do in fact provide a very convenient means to generalize (up to a certain extent), they are still flawed and error prone. Most of them work well inside their own domain or inside a well defined field of application (Machine Translation programs are, in fact, mainly intended as "preprocessors" for professional translators - they speed up work in areas where speed is crucial and where the quality of the output isn't of paramount importance). To extend them very far and make them use language like a human, they would have to be capable of most of what humans are capable of. I don't think that, if we had machines that could properly deal with language, we would be very far from having the perfect AI.

[ Parent ]
you're proving my point (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:25:22 PM EST

You're still talking science fiction -- things farther off than ten years. The past decade is unique. It happened.

[ Parent ]
The past decade was science fiction... (none / 0) (#145)
by acronos on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 08:55:24 PM EST

15 years ago.  If anything the rate of scientific advance is accelerating.  I'm sorry you don't find it as interesting anymore.

[ Parent ]
High Tech Is Wider (5.00 / 4) (#3)
by TON on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:20:54 AM EST

I really do see what you are saying, but I think it covers a pretty small area. As far as electronics/IT, I think you may be right, but there are other technologies out there that are "high" as well.

There has been lot of hoopla about the human genome, but given a few years, we may start to see some practical results.

Other more prosaic areas of medical science and technology will keep clicking along nicely. I have several relatives who are still with me today because of recent advances in cardiac treatments. I myself look forward to the possibilty of some nice vat grown cartilage being stuck in at least one of my creaky joints in the not too distant future. Cartilage damage was forever ten years ago.

Will fuel cell technology start to take off in five to ten years? I hope so. This would really make life nice. It might be just the kick to make a variety of electronic devices more useful, and make some potential devices just plain practical. I'm not sure what exactly, but I do look forward to seeing the developments.

Materials science? Lots going on here. Electronic paper for one would be nice to see down at Office Depot. I think about how much backpacking and camping equipment used to weigh and appreciate things like Gore-Tex.

That's all I can think of right now off the top of my head, but I just hope that if electronics/IT seem in the doldrums, other areas will still give us some good stuff. Moon launches? No, but that's been done already!

"I could say it stronger
But it's too much trouble"

it's not just electronics/IT (none / 0) (#50)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:21:47 PM EST

I mentioned other areas, too. I stand by my claim. Everything derivative -- an incremental improvement on a direction we're already taking. I see the past decade differently. Things changed so dramatically!

[ Parent ]
Everything IS derivative (5.00 / 2) (#85)
by TON on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:36:09 PM EST

As you say, innovations don't just appear; knowledge and technology accrete until, BOOM! They reach a point where there is something new under the sun which you can buy for the magic 300 USD consumer price point.

Moon launches have been done. The political rational is no longer in place for more of them. They were the low-hanging fruit, as it were. Manned Mars missions? Derivative. Space elevators? Moon colonies? These things are significantly harder. Chemical rocketry matured. Mature industries have fewer gee-whiz events.

Electronics/IT seem to be at a mature point right now, at least for the average user. At the moment, I'm using a several years old iMac which I salvaged from the trash and installed an OS based on something cobbled together by a couple geeks 30 odd years ago. The basics are well established, the devil is in the details.

Of the other areas I mentioned, fuel cells have the great potential to revolutionize consumer electronic devices. How would things change if they could be lighter in weight, run longer, be "recharged" instantly? Materials science developments will be crucial to new designs. If I knew what they were, I'd be making some tall cash right now. Think of the things that clutter up your office: screen, printer, copier, etc. What if all these boxes disappeared to be replaced by something small, efficient, and flexible? That's where developments in materials will effect electronics/IT.

"I could say it stronger
But it's too much trouble"

[ Parent ]

ROFLMAO (4.20 / 5) (#6)
by ShadowNode on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:31:31 AM EST

My brother's teaching English in Japan right now, and he's got a mobile video phone. I imagine they'll be here by 04. G3 phones have amazing potential. Imagine being able to stream mp3s from your home box to your mobile phone! Bye-bye commercial radio. And that's just the logical extension of one technology.

+1FP because this should generate a lot of comments putting you in your place.

I linked to the mobile Japanese video phone (none / 0) (#59)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:35:17 PM EST

...but I don't think it'll be cheap enough to take off by 2004.

+1FP because this should generate a lot of comments putting you in your place.

I look forward to it.

[ Parent ]

It's cheap enough now (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by ShadowNode on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:32:57 PM EST

For my brother, a student teaching English in Japan, to afford one, and he's a cheap bastard.

[ Parent ]
very nice (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by tps12 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:00:00 AM EST

I agree.

Political innovation needed (4.85 / 7) (#10)
by pjc50 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:42:57 AM EST

Someone is going to have to find a compromise position in the IP wars, or last year's innovators will take a stranglehold over possible future innovations.

At the moment, there are powerful groups using political methods to suppress innovations in the way people use multimedia technology, such as the self-programming video recorder (Tivo) and the universal jukebox (Napster). Software patents are beginning to become a problem, as companies like Microsoft try to put patented technology into internet standards.

And the political system is increasingly unresponsive to the interests of individuals anyway. This has to change before things actually start to become opressive and messy.

yes! (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by cryon on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:36:48 PM EST

Yes, indeed, time for political innovation a la the 30s, 20s etc etc.

The emptier are the bellies, teh greater the degree of political activism. Right now, agriculture and our tremendous market power and our tedchnology has given us the power to be fat so very easily.

It seems to me that the advantages given to us by technology and the market pull that our size and affluence and infrastructure has given has also meant that we have let our political system get out of control. It is time we take it back.

We can start by voting out just about every incumbent. Start by voting in political radicals who are bent on changing the constitution, which is not a particulary good document.

We can start by considering our country as a partnership of independent agents allied together in order to improve our own situation.

There are a million other things to do.

I would like to vote in an atheist president (dream on....).

AS for tech innovation, I only see it increasing as a graph of a function which has a continually increasing slope. As accumulated technical and scientific knowledge accretes, the slope of the curve increases. When it reaches a certain point, our world will likely change greatly. Where we are on that curve I do not know.

So I do think that science will eventually yield great returns, but that may be so long from now that I may die before the advances in science can benefit me enough to stave off death. So therefore I have a contract to cryopreserve my brain upon death. Theoretically, my death and subsequent cryopreservation (vitrification) will not randomize to a significant degree the information stored in structures of my brain, and so therefore, at some day in the distant future, the information in my brain may be extracted, and I may live again...all because of good old technology! So, ==I== sure do hope that we have not seen the end of tech advances...how else am I going to be able to explore the Magellanic Clouds, dude?

[ Parent ]

It is not innovation (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by krek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:03:37 AM EST

There are plenty of new inventions and discoveries being made, right now, as I type. there are hundreds and thousands of useful innovations ready to go right now. The problem lies in the market.

Because we are in a free market, the ability to bring innovation to the people is strongly coupled with the peoples desire to spend more money. People, at this time, have become tired of spending money, the innovations are comming too fast and our wallets are getting burned out.

The innovation boom is still going strong, it is the spending boom that has waned. It will take a number of years, perhaps decades, before we have managed to assimilate the gadgets and gizmos that we have purchased over the last number of years, the bugs need working out, and use and implementation needs to be refined, once this has occured, we will be ready for another glut, and, over time we will experience more and more of these 'waves' of innovation, and our ability to assimilate them will imporove and speed up.

I heard a good definition of technology once:
Technology is that which does not work properly yet.

innovation w/o application won't change the world (none / 0) (#55)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:30:49 PM EST

You make my point. What's going to make people want to spend money on new innovations? I've eaten enough tech for now. I'm full. I still spend money on cable TV and on monthly cellphone service. I'm still spending my money replacing the PDAs that I keep dropping. So there are some examples of where I place value. :-) But beyond that, I'm not excited. I don't care about the newest, fasted, biggest, PCs. I don't care about the new PDAs (until they get as cheap as my Visor Deluxe, anyway). 1995-1999 was unique.

[ Parent ]
Is this about Technology or tbc? (4.75 / 4) (#72)
by jnicholas on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:17:12 PM EST

At first I thought this was about technology but as I read further in the thread I see it is really about tbc as an individual. tbc has said he is no longer excited about any future technology developments. Any potential development listed are discounted by tbc who basically says "nope, I don't like that either" There's really no argument that can be made by anyone else to refute tbc's statement that tbc is not going to be impressed by anything anymore.

I'm sure there will be many interesting developments  in the next 10 years. Maybe tbc won't be interested but others will. As for whether it counts as "incremental" or not is not important. The web could be argued as an incremental improvement over gopher but it still had a huge effect. I definitely don't think we are very far along on PDAs or speech recognition compared to where they'll be by 2010.

[ Parent ]

tbc is depressed (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by valency on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:07:23 PM EST

Seriously. I think you're just down. When you're depressed, the future always looks bleak, and the past always looks cheerful. It's a mood thing, it will pass.

If you disagree, and somebody has already posted the exact rebuttal that you would use: moderate, don't post.
[ Parent ]
You're right. Here's what the shrink had to say... (none / 0) (#152)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 03:07:40 AM EST

> Hello, I am Eliza.
* valency says I'm depressed.
> Do you believe it is normal to be depressed?
* No.
> You are being a bit negative.
* A lot of people have said that recently.
> I'm not sure I understand you fully.
* Well, I wrote this K5 article...
> I see.
* ...and it got posted on the front page.
> That is quite interesting.
* But then the comments started rolling in...
> Say, do you have any psychological problems?
* Plenty.
> OK... "valency says you're depressed". Tell me more.
* Do YOU think I'm depressed?
> Why don't you feel depressed?
* I don't feel depressed.
> Why don't you feel depressed?
* My hope is in Christ, I have a beautiful and loving wife, and two delightful children.
> I see.
* Do you believe in Jesus?
> Oh... believe in Jesus?
* That's right.
> Tell me more...
* He was born to fulfill the Scriptures. He died for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, and is now seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
> I'm not sure I understand you fully.
* How could you? You're a computer program.
> What makes you think I am a computer program?
* I've seen your code.
> Why are you concerned about my code?
* I'm a software engineer.
> Do you believe it is normal to be a software engineer?
* No. I suffer from The Knack.

[ Parent ]
I won't take the bait (none / 0) (#151)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 02:48:51 AM EST

See on second thought, it's an economic phenomenon, pebble bed nuclear reactors, a second look at Batelle's predictions, and fuel cells.

[ Parent ]
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1.50 / 2) (#12)
by jholder on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:06:23 AM EST

Robert Pirsig addressed how we look at technology and why we may feel a "tech hangover" pretty succintly in this book, and not only that, he provides real ideas for what to do about it. Not for the weak---this is really a book on the philosophy of the Metaphysics of Quality. Read the book, it may change your life.

A link... (none / 0) (#23)
by jholder on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:23:24 PM EST

I question the legality of this, but you can find the full text here.

[ Parent ]
Pirsig is a hack (none / 0) (#62)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:45:56 PM EST

I read his book a couple decades ago. Amusing. But there are much greater philosophical minds out there. (And Ayn Rand isn't one of them. I tried her, too. Hack.)

[ Parent ]
Thats not philosophy, its mysticism (2.75 / 4) (#91)
by benzapp on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:30:33 PM EST

You will find little of value there, at lease little concrete wisdom that will provide for a lifetime of enlightenment.  

The book will temporarily free you of the emptiness modern nihilism bestows on your heart, but there will come a time when your humanity will seek to break free of that feel good universe.    

I would suggest starting with Nietzsche.  Writing only a few years after the technological revolution finally took off after nearly two thousand years of stagnation, he has many interesting observations on science, inventiveness, Darwin, and several other studies, including most religions which existed in the 1880's.  

What you seek is an escape from the nothingness of our modern society.  It is the modern sickness.  Look around.  Our people no longer LOOK like people, they look like monsters.  They are hardly even human today.   People today are sick, fat, depressed, useless...  Their lives are nothing but endless pits of "I WANT".  Food and Sex.  In the end, for most, modernity has allowed for the masses to operate as the most base of animals.  They desire to eat and fuck, nothing else.  

Part of the problem today is we have forgotten that technology historically hasn't been created simply to make life easier.  Certainly, the lazy masses used it to that end...  But technology as created by the original inventors, they wished to challenge the extent of existence itself.  

Think of it...  were the advances in sailing vessels done purely for profit?

Information Technology has no inherent value, it is a tool.  The 90's was about information. But for what?  To advance other pursuits.  Now we have the information, so what now?  That is the question people need to be asking.  

Sadly, this is the problem... Creativity really is about looking at things in a different way.  No matter how much information we have, it takes a certain kind of person to look at known information and see how things COULD be rather than how things in fact ARE.  This is the age old axis of true wisdom.  All things revolve around the continuing contrast between the <B>REAL</B> and the <B>IDEAL</B>.  

Some retreat into fantasy worlds of religion or their own imagination.  Some stop imagining all together and do what they are supposed to do, almost like a robot.  A very few use their imagination to create a better ideal in the here and now, making this world closer to the ideal.  

The writer of this article needs to think of this stuff, and realize the world is not just as he sees it.  I share his same views, I have lost interest in technology myself.  But I am confident, a greater visionary than myself will think of something fantastic. It will happen.    

[ Parent ]

The book has elements of both, but... (none / 0) (#128)
by jholder on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:33:40 PM EST

Interestingly, you first say "you will find little of value here..." and later say: "Sadly, this is the problem... Creativity really is about looking at things in a different way. No matter how much information we have, it takes a certain kind of person to look at known information and see how things COULD be rather than how things in fact ARE." How mystical! how outside the box! Creativity is the missing quality!

Which happens to be exactly what Pirsig is doing in calling what is missing "Quality", although he takes it quite a bit further than you do, and defines it quite carefully (aretê).

Anyway, I'm not considering his ideas religion or anything (I have Jesus for that, thanks), but he certainly opens the pathways of the mind to think "outside the system" our society is trying to ram down our throats. He isn't the first or the last.

I enjoy some techonlogy (my cable modem) but reject others (I don't have a T.V.), and I agreed 100% about technology as a tool, so I sense we have some similarities there. For that matter, I am against "computers for the sake of computers" in education. Unless you teach programming, (for cs, math, or science reasons), I see no place for computers in the school. Quite the waste of time when one could be learning real information, or (gasp) how to think critically.

About the only other thing I must add is that I am not seeking an escape from modern society as you so boldly assert from a mere book recommendation... And many people I know are happy, healthy and fit, actively pursuing improving the world in the ways they know how, so perhaps you should change your crowd (grin).

[ Parent ]

To paraphrase (4.14 / 7) (#13)
by wiredog on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:08:12 AM EST

Everything has been invented (so let's close the patent office.)

640k should be enough for everybody.

Five computers will be enough for the entire world


Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.

No, but what's keeping them from twiddling thumbs? (none / 0) (#53)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:26:20 PM EST

All I'm asking for are some counter-examples.

[ Parent ]
blogs (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by wiredog on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:31:57 PM EST

Maybe not a 'new' technology, but one that is taking off, and having a major effect.

Peer to peer networking is still in the 'just getting started' stage.

And the 'last mile problem' is nearing a solution, which could drive new applications.

And that's just in the personal computer networking field.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]

Paraphrasing a myth (none / 0) (#110)
by infraoctarine on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 06:51:42 AM EST

It seems like the everything has been invented quote unfortunately is nothing but a myth.

[ Parent ]
What about application of current technologies? (5.00 / 4) (#14)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:09:01 AM EST

From what I can tell, innovation has outstripped application rather impressively. The company I work at still has 3 separate old databases that haven't been migrated to one platform. Paper is still in heavy use, and there's a lot which could use "updating." I think we'll still benefit from technologies' advancements, it's just a matter of slowly adapting the innovations we've seen.

The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
well-put; you prove my point (none / 0) (#49)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:19:21 PM EST

I'm saying that there's nothing exciting on the horizon. Making better use of what we've already invented is all I've been doing all year.

[ Parent ]
You imply it's a problem (5.00 / 3) (#100)
by tpv on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:17:29 AM EST

I get the impression from your article (whether you intended it or not) that you see the lack of new gadgetry as a problem.

However, we're so overwhelmed by gadgets that (IMO) we're struggling to use them well.
The next 5 years will be about gradual refinement. People (and particularly businesses)will work out how to make better use of their toys, and the toys will evolve to better fit these new uses.

The applications on my PC aren't much different to the ones there 5-10 years ago. It would be nice if we could take advantage of the huge amount of RAM/MHz to do things better.
We have people with a desk-phone, mobile-phone, pager, laptop, PDA. And we haven't worked out how to integrate that effectively. We don't need another string of gadgets to make it harder, we need time to clean it all up.

Hopefully we'll spend the next 5 years doing better things, rather than doing new things.

'I would therefore like to posit that computing's central challenge, viz. "How not to make a mess of it", has not been met.'

[ Parent ]

I DISAGREE. (4.00 / 6) (#15)
by logiterr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:10:37 AM EST

what you are saying has been said every cycle of technological improvement. i have no clue how long a cycle goes, maybe a few months, or a few years, or a decade, but every cycle there is someone like you that says the same thing. what's next?

you took it to the next level though and added the pessimism. why did you do that? religion has existed for at the very least 2000 years. obviously more than that. but in those 2000 years and all the new religions that have come and gone, there is one thing i have noticed (and i am not 2000 years old): religions rehash each other. the same ideas keep reoccuring. they might change a little. but they are basically the same ideas. different ways of saying them.

this shouldnt come as a surprise to us. it is one of the properties/features of language/culture. that is, the ability to express an idea in many ways. it makes it hard for computers to learn english naturally (at least it isnt as intuitive as teaching a child english) and it makes it very hard for computers to understand any natural language. but it isnt hard for us. we are wired this way, we should be able to deal with the many expressions and arrive at the salient orginal core idea.

but no. it is like we are too blind to see the light. when a paradox glares us in the face we get all icky and sweaty and confused and try to find alternate solutions. but experience always prevails even in unexpected ways. the book of genesis. adam and eve eat the apple. after that they ... know. know what? they are naked? why should they even be ashamed of that? makes no sense. seems an exaggeration. which might suggest that instead they now have a new ability, to separate themselves into subject and object form. and as far as i know, this is the only way to gain useful knowledge.

now i cant remember which book, but the one where jesus is on the cross. he dies once and then comes back. what the fuck? magic? zombies? no. maybe another exaggeration? ego death. the self is dead. total and complete renunciation of materalism for a purer mind and finally transcendence to heaven.

does this not seem familiar too you? buddha? jesus? middle east, industan valley? anyways. this is just religion. when was the last major religious innovation? i do not remember. when was the last technological innovation worth getting excited over? yesterday? why do i say that? because innovation is a rehash of old ideas. i am sorry but original ideas are far and few many as extincted as the dinosaur. but this is how language and culture works, by rehashing old and reexpressing them in new and useful ways.

HDTV might not seem appealing now, but then again that is because it seems to be designed to be a souped-up TV and it might have more content restrictions than the TV i own now. that's not appealing. i do not want to be blocked from watching a home made video of my second child. that's just wrong. but then again i am also exaggerating.

Linux. not really innovating. or if it innovates it does it in subtle ways. people talk about the linux revolution. the open source movement. blah. linux isnt out to take over the world. that's just marketing. advocacy. nothing else. linux can not take over the world. but it might get into every single backroom server room in your organization without incurring painful licensing costs.

i have yet to mention any innovation. innovation as i see it is the reapplication of old technology in new and NOVEL ways. today we have "good enough" tech. but what's next? ask this question instead, what is the cell phone going to allow you to keep doing today? what will it allow you to do tomorrow?

the way i see people like you (sorry i am lumping you into generalized categories) is that  you are boring. you are unable to come up with creative uses for the tech you own. instead you wait for the fashoinable use of your tech. this is one reason my hackers seem so dangerous. they use what they got to achieve what the want. they do not wait for the pre-fab NinjaPro9000 to break into the pentagon, they use flaws in the phone system, ane exploit badly managed security. set up a prank and the problems get instant visibility.

but as i was saying i found an exciting use for my tech: i took one of my many win95 CDs and stabilized my coffee table (the ground was uneven). i was excited. and win95 still is useful to me.

so what i am saying is that you should not what for what culture deems is fashionable to be counted as innovation that is exciting. get right into the thick of things this is the only way to explore the limits of current tech as they apply to society.

I never thought I might be boring (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:43:11 PM EST

the way i see people like you ... is that you are boring... get right into the thick of things this is the only way to explore the limits of current tech...

OK, kiddo. Then give a better example than making a shim of of a CD. Actually, three years ago I thought Linux would make a big difference. But now I see that it's become so commercialized that it's just another choice. I'm rooting for it, but Microflaccid has the economics figured out.

I am cautious about where I spend my money, but I had reasons to spend a lot in the last ten years. My point is that I don't see reasons to keep doing that. I'm full of tech. Before I ask to be excused from the table, I'm asking all you whipper-snappers what else is good to eat. So far, I'm not enticed.

As for the religion examples, C.S. Lewis said that people who don't study theology will not have no ideas about theology; they'll just have wrong ideas about theology.

[ Parent ]

i do not think you understood me (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by logiterr on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 03:34:04 PM EST

it isnt a matter of choice. we always have choices unless you give them up. it isnt a contest between MS or Linux. both have their uses. i could careless about commercialization, that simply amounts to politics.

you have all the tech you need. bravo to you. basically i understand this to mean that with the tech you have you can do everything you want easily and well. now if i had that same tech i would probably not be able to do what i want easily and well. so i keep looking for alternatives. Linux works well for me. but i still turn to Windows 98 for games. i still use windows 98 to rip and burn my CDs. i use windows 98 to word process and to download my digital pictures from my camera. for everything else i use linux. this combination works well for right now. in the future? who knows. things change. needs change. the market changes.

microsoft either anticipated this or preempted this with the introduction of windows 95. i am not sure whether to say it was a logical progression of things to intergrate the web browser with the file system or whether MS was taking a chance. but it worked. it worked so well it caused problems. anti-trust. law-suits. blah. and MS is still going some where. whether they are paving the way or simply following some sort of determined philosophy of software design i am not sure. but it seems that the industry as a whole still dances to the MS tada.

what else is good to eat? first ill eat so called ethnic food. then i will eat fast-food. then i will eat a combination of ethnic food and fast-food. then i will eat artsy food prepared by experimental chefs in france. then i will go to asia and eat their own foods. and so on. i will eat when i am hungry. what i eat depends on what is available. i am not going to bother subscribing to the McDonalds delivery-at-home-for-life plan. even though many will do that if MickeyDs introduces such a plan. why should they change? a meal for under ten dollars that you did not prepare that meets a standard that you enjoy? who would want to change that?

diversity is what makes tech interesting. technique. technology. usage. its implicit in the definition. diversity of technology comes with diversity of its use. i thought that was simple. what i meant by getting into the thick of things is that you need to find new uses for the tech you have. its like lego pieces. you can build many things with lego. but there comes a time when you need to order special pieces (new and enticing tech are those special pieces) that can allow you to build at the higher more complex level. tech works like that. religion works like this.

i do not study technology. neither do i study lego. i do not study theology because it doesnt account for non-theistic religions. i say religion broadly. i play with my lego. i do not know how it was manufactured. i could care less. i play with it, and it is fun. i could go out and buy pre-fab lego models but where would the fun be in that? and lego pieces arent all that innovative in and of themselves. words are like that. we have a set of words that are boring alone. string them appropriately (unlike how i generally write) and blam you have literature francaise. or any literature in general. technology is (or is that are?) like the words in a sentence. in a jumble they(the words) make no sense. string them to make sense and they do not have to be grammatical.

what you seem to be looking for is that grammatical innovation which doesnt come very often. when it does it makes waves and all that, and its enticing. its fashionable. its great to market. i mean santa claus cant really market linux. but santa can market windows XP and all its kids. what i am suggesting is to go for the ungrammatical sentences. the unusual tech. that's where the real innovation comes in because it is from a string of this tech that we get to the grammatical innovation which we all love to talk about with our friends at soirees while eating moy-moy way over in west africa.

now. if you do not care to diversify and you are satisfied with your tech. then do not go out looking for some. if you look then you must be unsatisfied. if you are unsatisfied you must be prepared to be dissappointed. not all food is very good nor is it appealing to everyone. some people don't like beer or wine. some say it is an acquired taste. personally i think its like drinking month old milk. sometimes you just got to go out and ask grandma for a good recipe. sometimes you need to go and make the food yourself (you can't always trust others to make good food, might as well start practising). if i were dissappointed at every time things didnt function as expected i would be disappointed with myself more than the world around me. i would probably stay in my shell and never come out. this is what the pessimist seems to be. inward drawn. unable to deal with the reality that life isnt about going to the mall and buying every item that blings and blinks.

you probably see it on tv. that rapper with the huge car. the girls. the money. life really isnt like that. or didnt you know? its time for bed now. kiddoes like me need to sleep every once in a while so i can dream of crazy flying cars that entice no one.

[ Parent ]

Deja vu (4.60 / 5) (#17)
by GavinWheeler on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:13:09 AM EST

I'm reminded of the teacher who told Max Planck that "Physics is finished. All that is left is finding the last decimal place." and advised him to become a concert pianist rather than a physicist.

Of course his student ignored him and went on to help revolutionise the field. I'm sure the next great technological advance will come, and will be as unexpected as text messages or the internet.

I'm not saying to give up... (none / 0) (#48)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:18:13 PM EST

...I'm just asking to be convinced. Let the discussion commence.

[ Parent ]
Why the last wave of tech failed (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by khallow on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:35:35 AM EST

I see a couple big reasons why the last wave of high tech failed. The larger one is simply that most companies weren't there to innovate, but simply to sell for more than what their founders and venture capital put in. In other words, vaporware was the prime high tech product, because it gave better ROI. Ie, promises are cheap.

Second, for a lot of real products, the designers never figured out who was going to use their product nor why. I don't mind creating something where I don't who will use it nor how, but I don't expect to get rich off of it.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

I was just feeling the opposite way (4.50 / 4) (#19)
by bbuda on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:52:00 AM EST

It's funny that I saw this article today, for just this morning I was feeling the opposite. Over the last two weeks I've read about two innovations that have me very excited about technology:

The first is this excellent Wired article on artificial vision. This is one of the first attempts to 'hack' the human brain to forever alter an individual's perception of reality. The researchers who have successfully restored sight to the blind have, more importantly, become the first to make a direct connection between the human brain and a microprocessor.

The second thing that's excited me lately was the news that researchers at the University of Wisconsin claim that a 1 Mega-qubit quantum computer can be manufactured with today's fabrication technology. I am not an expert in the field, but it was my understanding that the only existing quantum computers were a handful of qubits running in test tubes. If this research pans out (I think fabrication of the first prototypes is underway), it would catapult computer science ahead, making all sorts of previously long calculations more manageable.

While technology in the 'gadget' world may have slowed, I think 2002 so far has been a great year for tech, and it gives me continued hope that technology can transcend business and political woes to continue to improve the quality of human life. Whether or not we are headed for Kurzweil's 'singularity' I do not know, but I think that technological progress is accelerating just as he predicted.

quantum computers (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Shren on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:42:59 PM EST

From your description, the q.c. might be cheaper than anyone expected, too.

Something I've always wondered about, though. What does a program for a quantum computer look like? My use of assembly here and there lets me know what the basic functions of a binary computer are. What are the basic instructions for a quantum computer?

[ Parent ]

artificial vision (none / 0) (#87)
by Fuzzwah on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:58:38 PM EST

Bring this on. Screw flying cars, I want a head jack. Information straight to my brain please.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

head jack (none / 0) (#98)
by mumble on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:38:09 PM EST

While a head jack to the net sounds awfully cool, I have to wonder whether it achieves anything. My experience is that the limiter is not the rate I am exposed to information, but the rate of absorbtion and retention. ie. I can only drink information at a certain rate, and once consumed, not guaranteed to keep it there. :(

So yes, basically I want to be smarter with a photographic memory. But that is not going to happen with a mere headjack. My brain is going to need a complete rewrite of its operating system. von Neumann v1.0 or Einstein v1.03 are a couple of operating systems that I wouldn't mind playing around with. :)

stats for a better tomorrow
bitcoin: 1GsfkeggHSqbcVGS3GSJnwaCu6FYwF73fR
"They must know I'm here. The half and half jug is missing" - MDC.
"I've grown weary of googling the solutions to my many problems" - MDC.
[ Parent ]

Why? (none / 0) (#119)
by JahToasted on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:47:11 AM EST

But why do you need a better memory? If you forget something just retrieve it from the net again. So in effect the entire internet becomes your memory. Resistance is futile bro...
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
Because! (none / 0) (#120)
by GavinWheeler on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:56:05 AM EST

Because every time you download the lyrics to the 'Life of Brian' soundtrack again:
  • The RIAA file another lawsuit against you
  • The popup memories from EBay annoy the hell out of you
  • Some script Kiddie uploads a viral "Chicken Song" meme into your implant, and you annoy the hell out of your colleagues by humming it all day long

[ Parent ]
Maybe you just lack imagination? ;) (4.33 / 6) (#20)
by jabber on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:03:44 PM EST

I think that the "It's all been done" mentality is a sign of old age. The jadedness you slough off onto the page tells me that reality has failed to live up to the instant gratification demands of your youthful enthusiasm. I think we're all destined to be disappointed as we age, because ignorance is bliss, and the more we learn, the more we can appreciate the difficulty of attaining the complexities of a future which, as children, we took for granted.

IMHO, technological advancement is very much like evolution. It proceeds slowly, mind-numbingly slowly at times, but is punctuated by periods of remarkably rapid development when adversity or massive environmental change require it do so to survive.

Wars are major up-swells, and serve as technological springboards. So are all crises which challenge survival, really. The old adage of "No pain, no gain" holds true. Why create, innovate and strive when needs are adequately met? Ingenuity and intelligence are useful only for solving problems, and we haven't had many problems lately.

The recent lunge in computing technology has been very decadent. It has been driven by coolness and entertainment, and convenience. We've grown fat and lazy, and the result, the streaming video on demand, the portable mp3 players, the 60 fps video cards, the wireless LAN, are genuinely ho-hum as you say.

We need crisis.

We need a really big rock to take aim at our heads, and we need it to loom large so that our survival instinct requires us to put all this technology which we've built to entertain ourselves, to some valid, critical use.

We need a major war. At least, continued technological advancement needs one.

Alternately, we will continue to be blase about our tech, we will continue to make useless, irrelevant mutations of technology, the Aibos and iDodos and ePlatypuses, if you will, simply to entertain ourselves.

However, there is a bright side even to this eventuality. While we, living here with plentiful resources, waste the potential of the technology we create, there are more challenging environments out there. There are places which will challenge our existing technology, force it to adapt and perform, or cause it to die. These places have their own agenda, in caves and deserts, in the arctic and antarctic, in the rain forest and on the road.

I think that the world is changing. Redundant as that statement is, since the world is constantly all fluxed up, I think there is a change beginning, and we're not in the lead.

I think we will see an emergence of enclave societies. Unlike in the US, were if you need milk, you get in your SUV and drive down the street, in other parts of the world, convenience takes careful planning. I think we will see the emergence of relatively self-contained societies, relatively small ones, of several thousand people.

Self sufficient in terms of immediate resources, and able to achieve this through the judicious application of technology, these societies will be smart about their interaction with their environment. Utilizing local resources such as geothermal, wind, tide, and solar power, with traditional power generation for failsafe operation only, these enclaves will need to be efficient.

We will, in some instances, see a return to an agrarian lifestyle, albeit with a technological twist. In other cases, we will see specialization in technology development, in medicine or transportation, in some other useful function. And we will see a return to a sort of barter system among these enclaves.

I think that environmental, economic and political changes will force this societal adaptation, and that technology will enable it.

So what of the technology? Well, it will cease to be the goal, and once again take it's (IMHO rightful) place as the means. It will become both ubiquitous and embedded, in essence, it will become transparent. Interpersonal communication, globally, will become commonplace. Cashless and paperless transactions will be the matter of course way of doing business. Resource management and contingency planning, as well as economical analysis of markets will become virtually deterministic.

Fiscal speculation will render the stock market effectively anachronistic since though in some areas markets will continue to flourish and drive the local economy, other areas will be able to not care less. Instead of everyone trying to attain a particular standard of living, such as that of the modern American suburbanite, this fragmented and regionally specialized society will strive to attain an optimal standard of living for their particular region, and use any and all technology available to do so.

The world of complexity in the details is immense, and would make for a lovely series of science fiction books, would it not? Fact of fiction, I think that this is the direction we are going in. Though, maybe I'm just being an optimist.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

No wars (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Waste of Time on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:23:47 PM EST

We need to research new stuff to make technology develop, and we don't need wars as an excuse to do that.

It's all about enough money and enough desire to do it.

-- Walk freely, undisturbed.
[ Parent ]

No wars? (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by jabber on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:54:21 PM EST

I think this is a very naive point of view. I don't mean that to offend, not in the least. It's just that, without conflict, there's no motivation. Without the very survival being challenged, there's no immediate need to change the status quo. Simply relying on the super-ego to better the human condition might work for a few cross-wired idealists, but most people will simply indulge in comfort and convenience. Entropy assures it.

Wars are a special case of threat, and the only one which humans can create whenever there is need to spur change in science, economy, and the political stage.

Do we want war? Well, for the most part, no. But we need some sort of adversity to struggle against if we are to make progress. War is one, and an easily created one. An imminent meteor impact is another. A global, or even regional plague, is another. A massive environmental crisis is yet another.

But if we were to precipitate any of these, they would be viewed as acts of war.

War, or conflict of the appropriate scope, is a completely natural means by which any closed social system attempts to maintain equilibrium.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

No wars, there are many adversities without wars (none / 0) (#35)
by Waste of Time on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:22:06 PM EST

Good points. But I would like to ask this: do you not think that there are people who are passionate enough to strive for things which revolutionize the status quo? People who are not satisified with what things are? People who are willing to show others the way of change, if they're only given the chance? I think there are such people capable of coming up with new technologies which can change things without wars.

And as for outside adversity forcing people to outgrow themselves... it's so true. But it need not be the outside adversities which cause growth. There are also inside adversities in people. I don't know how to quite explain this, but I'll give some examples. Some people find it bad because there is famine, and they want to help in some way. Some people find it bad because the price of oil is high, and they want to help in some way. And so on.

You don't need wars to make people focus on something. If it is about lack of concentration, there are techniques [*] to help in it. If it is lack of direction, take a day off to think about where you want to go. If it is lack of energy, take a vacation or start excercising. If it is lack of motivation, well, try all of the above... or whatever you know will suit you. Some people I know smoke a cigarette when they are lacking direction in what they're doing.

There are enough adversities in the world without wars. Some outside adversity may create a need to change it. Given proper surroundings (lab, money, ...), the "itch" could be "scratched" in a way which might benefit all.

[*] Don't be scared of the mantras, they're irrelevant. Don't worry about it. Just sit... if you get thoughts, acknowledge and discard. That's it. After some time you'll see why you've done it. It's good to do when sitting in a train, once you've learned how. Try different methods to see which one fits you.

-- Walk freely, undisturbed.
[ Parent ]

We need wars (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by jabber on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:42:19 PM EST

While we may not need to go on massive campaigns to kill large groups of people, we do need Crusades. These things polarize and unify the masses in their struggle toward a common goal. It is this sort of societal focus that is needed.

Meditation is good and fine, and it will help to bring individuals to bear on their concerns, but until enough individuals work in concert, their efforts will be unfocused. War, or any group struggle against imposing odds, is the only way we, meaning humans, have ever been able to accomplish something great.

It need not be Mongol hoards that threaten our survival, but that's what it took to build the Great Wall of China.

It could be religion, as that got the pyramids built, albeit at a huge and tragic human cost, fed by war.

It could be the need for water and electricity, since that gave us the Hoover Dam. It could be national pride and semi-gallant competition, since that put us on the Moon. Although, the latter of these, as I'm sure you know, was buttressed by the threat of war with the Soviets, while the former was a result of the wartime machinery and enthusiasm still running hot.

Until the rich and powerful are threatened, the best intentions of the brightest minds out there are limited by their funding. It is only when the rich stand to lose their wealth, that they are willing to hand the needed funds over to the bright minds to make a change.

Barring great natural disaster or disease from which money can not buy protection, crusades are the only means of generating the needed fervor to get things done. In a time like ours, where we've gone a generation without seeing massive death first hand, we, as a society, can not appreciate ideals. We've lost the ability to get so passionate that we dedicate our efforts to improving the world. We instead focus our local efforts on our local concerns, and fail to consider the big picture. We scratch our own itchy privates, so to speak, and not each other's back in the communal sense.

We need a war to (almost) scare the life out of us. It is only after a war that we will be able to run for a decade or two, high on life, and making progress with every step.

Without the war, we will fragment, and cater to our local issues, meandering about in our lives. Hopefully, we will still take more steps forward than backward, but without the dogs of war nipping at our heels, we'll certainly progress much slower.

Yes, there is idealism to drive things, but it's distributed, fragmented and unfocused. Individuals can focus themselves, but groups need immediate, frightening adversity. And the only adversity we can create for ourselves is a war.

If society cared about curing cancer, for example, we'd make it a priority. Until we or our loved ones are struck by the monster, we simply don't care enough.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

WE need wars (none / 0) (#90)
by marc987 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:26:54 PM EST

Youre theories maybe, but not we.

[ Parent ]
Stopping the world and emergence (none / 0) (#124)
by Waste of Time on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:29:18 AM EST

You make good points again!

I think the phenomena you are describing was used by C. Castaneda when he talked about "stopping the world". (Nevermind if he invented Don Juan and the rest of the book, or if the book is real, it is irrelevant) The idea was that you need something so scary, sudden, or whatever to shake you out of your "sleep". Imagine yourself bicycling. You suddenly hit a bump, fall and you break your arm and it looks horrible. It doesn't hurt the moment you see it, the feeling kicks in moments later. Upon seeing that arm everything becomes quite clear for a moment, as you forget all nonessential crap running in your mind. This is the state of mind to achieve.

Indeed, war, crusades, tragedies or things like that are the sure ways to shake everybody out of it. But such events are not really positive in nature. Much more could be achieved with a simple change of the way of thinking.

I definitely agree about the fragmentation part. But! Each group consists of individuals. I believe that a focus of the entire group towards something will emerge if the individuals in the group are focused towards that same goal. That is, divide and conquer the problem, but get the result from a bottom-up approach.

Maybe I'm too idealistic, but I do think wars should be avoided, as the bad sides outweigh the good sides. For instance, it might be yourself ending up below ground for worm food.

-- Walk freely, undisturbed.
[ Parent ]

the war is coming (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:33:16 PM EST

At least, that's my gut feeling about the U.S. vs. Iraq. God help us.

[ Parent ]
not war, competition (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by jnicholas on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:26:32 PM EST

<blockquote>We need a major war. At least, continued technological advancement needs one. </blockquote>

This would be better stated as "we need competition" or "we need conflict". A good example would be the 60s space race. Lots of competition that lead to technology advancements but no one had to kill anyone to do it.

[ Parent ]

Very true (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by jabber on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:51:31 PM EST

But "healthy" competition tends to get people to "cooperate" and stuff, and then we're all on the same side, and it's like, what's the point? ;)

No, you're very correct. "War" in the common-sense sense of the word isn't strictly it. Adversity, competition and hardship of any sort will do, but the surest way of bringing these things about is good old-fashioned WAR. It needs to be about survival, or in the very least, about something deeply important to all involved.

Pride can be subdued. Nationalism can be politicized and re-prioritized. Ego can be risen above. Nothing beats the fear of impending death for motivational capability.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

That's one for the quotes file... (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by RackMount on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:00:58 PM EST

Pride can be subdued. Nationalism can be politicized and re-prioritized. Ego can be risen above. Nothing beats the fear of impending death for motivational capability.

[ Parent ]
Well, for starters... (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Waste of Time on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:11:43 PM EST

For starters we could start funding science a little bit more.

It might seem that scientific development has stagnated, but in my opinion this is because of the prevailing idea that each invention has to have immediate commercial gains. ("E-he-he-verybody wants one!") That's just not good, as you can't really experiment with liquid nitrogen, some M&M's, spinning superconducting ceramic disks and whatnot, the risk is too high to blow all the money out the window and not return the investment.

I think that for true revolutionary science to be made, there has to be an abundance of money and bright minds just researching without thinking about what colour the package shall be for the finished product. Look at what grew out of the ARPAnet under the scary shadow of nuclear war.

Maybe the Internet didn't become an instant gold mine, and maybe the bubble going pop caused many problems, but still, I do think that the good aspects of the Internet (dissemination of information, ease of searching, ...) outweigh the bad ones.

Where to take the money for such unlimited research, now that's the question. Maybe a couple of bombers less around the world might be appropriate? Maybe tax the bourses or something? From UN budget, if it's a joint venture between countries? Something, what?

-- Walk freely, undisturbed.

Funding science? no. (3.33 / 3) (#34)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:01:27 PM EST

Funding science education? Yes.

We need to go back and start teaching people that science is an attitude and a way of examing the world, not just a collection of facts. In other words - a philosophy.

We've got too many college graduates who believe truth is relative and UFOs are real.

Remember we're talking about government forms here. They don't have to make sense, they just have to be tidy.

[ Parent ]

yay, dogma! [nt] (none / 0) (#89)
by valency on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 08:22:22 PM EST

If you disagree, and somebody has already posted the exact rebuttal that you would use: moderate, don't post.
[ Parent ]
yay, proof. Yay, rational thought. (none / 0) (#117)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:16:19 AM EST

Yay, reproducible phenomena and the free exchange of ideas.

Yay, science.

Remember we're talking about government forms here. They don't have to make sense, they just have to be tidy.

[ Parent ]

OK - how about 265 Billion ? (none / 0) (#54)
by sien on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:29:14 PM EST

Errrmmm, a quick check shows that science funding in the US alone in 2001 was 265 Billion. Science does pretty well for itself. Admittedly a lot of that is defense, but after all, we're sending comments on something created out of a DoD project so I'm not too disturbed by this.

[ Parent ]
Science and the stockholders? (none / 0) (#153)
by thogard on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 09:13:18 AM EST

The people that make decisions on most of the money flow in the US hated science class and the prefer to ignore it.

Decades ago AT&T (when it was The phone company) took 10% of all incomming money and sent that off as a "research tax" that went to Bell Labs.  The director of the department had a job for life and got to decide where almost all the money went.  When this program was going on, AT&T made more scientifc progress than any other company.

If there was some way to get the companies to invest in the long term future, things might change.

[ Parent ]

been said before... (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:20:33 PM EST

 "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents, in 1899.

He was wrong, so are you. :-)

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

been spread before. (5.00 / 3) (#30)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:51:03 PM EST

Check it out.

Don't spread crap unless you're fertilizing your garden.

Remember we're talking about government forms here. They don't have to make sense, they just have to be tidy.

[ Parent ]

point taken... (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:53:00 PM EST

I didn't know that.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

So give an example (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:08:39 PM EST

What would you like to see that has a reasonable probability of getting invented in the next 10 years? (And that is as exciting as what got done 1995-1999?)

[ Parent ]
that's impossible to answer (none / 0) (#47)
by Delirium on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:15:55 PM EST

If I knew the answer to that, it would already have been invented, because I would have just invented it (all that'd be left is engineering to get it mass-marketable). The interesting part is waiting to see what ideas people will come up with.

And personally, I don't think 1995-1999 had anything exciting. Incremental change, sure, but nothing earthshattering. I had a web browser in 1995, and I had a better one in 1999. I traded music over the internet in 1995, and I traded better-quality music over the internet in 1999. I used Windows in 1995, and I used a newer version of Windows in 1999. I can go on forever. I don't see anything truly earthshattering from that period (certainly nothing on par with say 1990-1994).

[ Parent ]

To continue... (5.00 / 4) (#70)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:47:44 PM EST

Many banks had modems in the 80s.  SGML parsers have been used since the 80s as well.  Your web browser is just the latter travelling over the former.  Obviously the real innovation took place between 1975 and 1985.  But then again, SGML is just an application of control codes in files, which have certainly been around since the 60s, and were in regular use in telegrams since the 1800's.  Of course, the modem you're using is just a subset of the telegraph machine, using an encoding method different from the old standard of Morse Code.  The real innovation took place between 1800 and 1830.

Of course, the teletype machine is just an application of electromagnetic forces, first discovered and put to use in....you get the point.

The most exciting part of new technology isn't the technology itself.  There is nothing new under the sun, and technology that "changes the world" is almost always a subset or synthesis of existing ideas.

The most exciting part of new technology is the effect it has on society, which can neither be measured or predicted.  When they were invented, cars were simply moterized carriages,  the atom bomb was simply a (much, much) better bomb.  No one could possibly have predicted the effect these inventions would eventually have on society.  It doesn't even have to be a new invention.  Old technology coming down in price -or becoming extremely popular - can have an incredible effect on society (ie computers).  What happens if someone comes up with a $500 system that can do everything major genetics labs are doing nowadays?  If a new fuel is discovered that brings costs of space travel down to 1% of what they are now?

I'm inclined to be optimistic about technology in the future, but if past trends are any indication, we'll have about 500 New Big Things that are fads at best, useless at worst.  And we won't notice the Real New Big Thing until it's been around for about 10 years.

[ Parent ]

Complete refutation. (1.00 / 1) (#24)
by jmzero on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:00:45 PM EST

Apparently you haven't seen this or this.


"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

Autoformat really ate those links... (none / 0) (#28)
by jmzero on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:23:35 PM EST

Better this way, now you can only see them if you're super extra brilliant.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
that's because they're not serious (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:07:03 PM EST

Tombstone ATM Doles Out Inheritance

breast feeder for dad

[ Parent ]

a few thing... (4.71 / 7) (#27)
by EricBoyd on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:16:22 PM EST

Some of the things I see making a big impact in the next 10 years:

Wearable computers (including super sweet micro-displays)
Speech recgonition / translation in real time
Massive wireless bandwidth

Especially the combination of these could be huge - e.g. for travellers. Digital camera's continue to advance rapidly as well; I think digital video capture is a hugely unexplored market.

3D "printers" - already quite common in industry for prototyping, I see commercial level ones becomming cheap enough for individual use pretty soon. Create any simple solid object at the push of a button! I'm not sure if this will actually take off at the consumer level (market risk), but there is no technical risk as this point.

Quantum computers - given recent news, much closer than I had thought! The consequences (other than a crypto revolution) are hard to foresee, but it will be extremely interesting in any case.

Nanotech materials - smart paints, super cosmetics, new plastics, insulators, building materials, etc. Structural use of diamond. In the longer term, competely assembly of any physical object from source atoms & plans. That's HUGE!

Robotics - the Sony Aibo and that new Sony humanoid robot both convinced me that robotics for household use is finally getting there. It'll be pretty expensive even at the end of 10 years, but that it will be possible I no longer doubt. I also expect to see little flying spy-cams become incredibly common.

And of course Moore's law on PC's promises some interesting stuff as well... graphics cards are getting close to good enough now that you can render decent (animated) movies in real time... I imagine once that's possible, animated movies will finally have a *large* amateur component... people swapping their own personal creations (source and all) back and forth like mad... not to mention what games will be like :-)

And, of course, medical. Someone else mentioned that our study of the genome is going to start paying off soon - that and some!! I expect to see most types of cancer cured over the next 10 years. Lots of genetic screening technologies for use in conceiving healthy children will also become available. And, of course: the possiblity of immortality. With the baby boomers getting older fast, I expect to see a cultural revolution around the idea that we can actually make ourselves immortal with medical technology... and it won't even be *that* difficult, according to some researchers I have talked to. Medical technology eventually reaches the point where it beings what being a human is into question... e.g. if we start replacing too much of ourselves with tech (like those electronic eyes someone else mentioned), where is the line crossed? Do the people who do it really care about such a line?

In terms of military stuff, I expect to finally see some real AI on the battle field - autonomous units, etc. Also, power-suits for elite soldiers, like in Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" (there are some big projects already funded working on exactly that!). And I already mentioned the flying spy-cams.

Overall, I'm pretty exicited about the future :-)

I'll rate the comment 5, but I'm not convinced (none / 0) (#46)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:15:52 PM EST

Thanks for your enthusiasm, though.

[ Parent ]
Rebuttals (4.00 / 4) (#71)
by hamsterboy on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:54:09 PM EST

I find it useful to separate all new technological advances into two categories: the Useful and the Just Plain Nerdy. The long-term success and affect on society as a whole of a new discovery is directly proportional to how useful it is.

I will now apply the useful/geeky test to your points.

Wearable computing: geeky. At least until Augmented Reality (tm) becomes real (a la A Deepness In The Sky), this is pure R&D geekiness, because it doesn't make things easier to do. In fact, a lot of things become harder.

Speech recognition: Geeky. The only thing I see happening here is the elimination of court transcriptionist as an occupaton for humans. I can type faster than I can talk, and I'm usually more articulate as well. A computer being able to understand what you say only becomes truly useful with advanced AI, specifically in the area of natural language processing. Then you get Star-Trek-like computer interaction, and things become easier.

Massive bandwidth: Geeky. The quality of video and media content you can download will increase, but this doesn't create any new uses for networks.

Digital video capture: Geeky. This is simply a digital version of home video. It's not insanely, radically different, or insanely, radically new. It's just different. Sure, you can apply digital effects and edit with ease, but it's not truly world-altering.

3D printers: Pure Geek. Of what actual use can this possibly be to anybody? They won't be durable enough to do any work. Architectural firms and mechanical-engineering groups use computer visualization already - why go to the expense of creating a clumsy, non-updatable physical model? Joe Sixpack at home has absolutely no use for this. I see holography as being far more useful than this.

Quantum computers: Useful. Encryption will never be the same, and true unbreakable crypto means privacy for everyone. Again, this isn't world-altering, but you'll most likely find a little quantum-dot-black-box between your TV and the cable jack in your wall within the next 15 years. Note that this won't change what we do or the way we do it, but it will most likely become widespread.

Nanotech materials: Useful. Very much so. This technology is like computers in the 50's: it'll change the way we work, live, travel, etc.

Robotics: Geeky. At least in the short term. What actual benefit does the Aibo provide that a real dog cannot? Sure, it's smart enough to plug itself in, but you can't really wrestle with it. It doesn't curl up at your feet at night, or greet you when you come home, wagging and licking. I'll take Fido any day. But robotics has a future. I'm sure most people here have read some Asimov.

Moore's Law on PCs: Geeky. Joe sixpack can do everything he needs to with his year-old PC. The only reason (really) to upgrade nowadays is if you're a gamer or you're working with lots of data. Think about it: how powerful does a linux box really need to be? For work, it only needs to run X and an office suite.

Medical: Useful. I think you've really hit on something here. Baby boomers are behind EVERYTHING in the US. When they started losing their hair, the Hair Club For Men was born. They were getting impotent, and voila! Viagra! Now they're getting cancer and other age-related diseases, so look out. My advice: invest in biotech and pharmaceuticals.

Military: Useful. Most military stuff is really useful, as it's conceived to solve a problem. Plus, government-funded research eventually trickles into consumer life; witness the popularity of GPS receivers.

[ Parent ]

the internet was considered very geeky (none / 0) (#79)
by mpalczew on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:44:03 PM EST

Just because something is geeky now doesn't mean it will stay geeky.

Wearable computing: agreed on this one.

speech recognition: very usefull, haven't you ever seen star treck.  Or back to the future, where you order stuff at McDonalds from a computer.  You will probably be able to order stuff at a restaurant through a computer, but a person will still probably make and bring it for you.

Massive bandwidth: not anymore geeky than the internet. Everyone want's to download an mp3 faster.  

Digital video capture: Remember cd's are the digital version of cassetes.  Not insanely different, radical, or new, just different.(same for dvd's vs. vhs).

3D printers: usefull.  print up a plastic toy for a kid. Great for artists.  Print up your own custom designed cups.

Robotics: Get me a beer robot bitch.  Seriously this would be awesome. An all purpose robot would change my life.  Furthermore, Aibo doesn't shit, doesn't piss, doesn't need exercise. I'll take a real pet anyday, but I can see parents getting these for children.  

Moore's Law:  I agree with you on this one.  Computers may finally stop being the thing at the forefront of tech. Hopefully, laptops will get cheaper, cooler, and quiter though.

> My advice: invest in biotech and pharmaceuticals.
I'd love to get some advice, on specific companies.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

3D Printers (none / 0) (#95)
by goonie on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:41:15 PM EST

Potentially very very useful. Need a spare part for your adaptive gonkulator? Wintering in Antarctica? Print it out.

Of course, the capabilities of 3D printers will be limited to begin with, but given time they will be useful to create more and more stuff.

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#103)
by hamsterboy on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 02:07:05 AM EST

The problem with "printed" objects is the material. I'm guessing that anything malleable enough to be shaped automagically by a machine won't be strong enough to hold under stress. Printing a cup? Hope you're not planning on using it for longer than a week. A toy? Not for a toddler. A spare gonkulator part? Better not need the spinny thing, or the pretensioner.

I'm not trying to say that this technology is useless. I'm just saying that it won't change the world in the next 10-15 years. Depending on whom you believe, we may have working nano-assemblers before we have truly useful 3D printers.

As an aside, I wonder how long it will be before "gonkulator" can be found in OED.

-- Hamster

[ Parent ]

Depends on the tech (none / 0) (#122)
by GavinWheeler on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:13:21 AM EST

Stereolithography produces notoriously fragile prototypes, but there are rapid prototyping machines these days that build up an object by squirting out molten plastic that hardens as soon as it cools.

This produces very tough and rigid objects very quickly, but the resolution is still pretty low - you end up with an object that has noticeable ridges where the nozzle has moved along laying down plastic. OK for producing toys or solid objects, but as soon as you make something with moving parts (laying down a support material that can be dissolved away to seperate individual parts) you have to accept pretty tatty bearings.

Other people are working on printable circuits or microfluidic devices, but I think it will be a long time before we have an affordable home machine that can make objects that would be useful in the home.

[ Parent ]

Materials (none / 0) (#141)
by kvan on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 10:12:51 AM EST

There are groups working on metal printers. What they do is simply to take a layer of fine metal powder and fuse the particles with lasers. Resin printing is going to come first, but metal printing is hot on its heels.

Also, don't discount medical uses. There are already 3D printers using medical plastics to whip up e.g. prosthetic skull parts. An interesting thing about medical emergencies is that you don't need durability; you need something that works as fast as possible, and worry about replacing it with something durable later. Loads of potential for various kinds of 3D printing here.

"Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, most do." - Bertrand Russell

[ Parent ]
Counter-geek (none / 0) (#104)
by hamsterboy on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 02:26:20 AM EST

Geeky things sometimes become useful things, but usually not for a while. The Internet took, what, 40 years to really become useful? Think of other geek-chic items that didn't make muster: Dick-Tracy watch-phones, propeller hats, etc. They didn't break through because they weren't solving a problem.

Also, I'd like to refocus on the author's original point: what technologies excite you? What gets you pumped? What makes you want to jump out of your computer chair, yelling and spilling your CD's all over because you're flailing your hands about? Oh, and with the caveat that it has to be within 10 or 15 years.

Wearable computing is pretty exciting, but true augmented reality is a couple of decades out.

Speech recog isn't really that exciting. You're still ordering your burger through a speaker, and the person/machine on the other side probably won't understand you. Yee haw. And on the Star Trek topic, that's an advanced AI, which WOULD be something to get excited about.

Massive bandwidth is exciting for those still stuck on a 56k modem. I've lived at college; I've had a fat T1 pipe into my room. It's really not that different from cable, except my downloads take twice as long. That's ok - I just queue them up at night.

Digital video is still handheld video, which we've had (in one form or another) for 20 years. Yawn.

3D printers make neat gadgets, but are hardly exciting or life-changing.

Robotics is advancing at a snail's pace. At this rate it'll be 50 years before a truly useful humanoid or canine-oid robot hits the market. There's potential in lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners, but hardly rip-roaring let's-get-drunk type stuff. Plus, you can't claim to truly love a hunk of aluminum and plastic.

And nowadays there's more speculation about the End of Moore's Law (tm) than there is excitement about it's reign and what it means. We're rooting for Ken Griffey Jr. to hit his 2000th home run rather than rooting for the Yankees to win - statistics aren't exciting.

As for stocks, invest in all the companies that are currently doing research on a cancer treatment. One of them is bound to get it right.

-- Hamster

[ Parent ]

Speech recognition (none / 0) (#143)
by kvan on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 10:22:58 AM EST

Speech recognition: Geeky.
Not by a long shot. On the contrary, speech recognition is a huge enabling technology for the illiterate, dyslexic and handicapped.

What's even more important is that, while most geeks are very comfortable with keyboards, most average Joes would much rather talk than type. Good recog is the one thing that could allow millions of less tech-savvy folks to use computers without feeling intimidated. If we also get some friendlier UIs, it could lead to a surge in IT uptake on par with the early nineties.

"Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, most do." - Bertrand Russell

[ Parent ]
These things are cyclical. (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:56:24 PM EST

Yeah, the boom is over. That's life.

A collection of political, technological and social forces combined to spur innovation and economic growth. The bubble grew, then it popped. So what? The first decade of the 21st century will be a decade of evolution and refinement rather than revolution. In 10 or 20 years, there will be another boom when some schmuck figures out how to make small fusion plants, or a cheap way to mass produce rocket engines, or something no one has even thought of yet. And the cycle will begin anew.

I can't wait.

Remember we're talking about government forms here. They don't have to make sense, they just have to be tidy.

we'll see... (none / 0) (#39)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:56:36 PM EST

In 10 or 20 years, there will be another boom....

But if we're accellerating, as the extropists claim, then why the lag?

[ Parent ]

Acceleration doesn't break a cycle. (none / 0) (#58)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:34:55 PM EST

The rate of change can be accelerating and we can still have a boom-bust cycle. It just means the cycles are getting shorter.

Remember we're talking about government forms here. They don't have to make sense, they just have to be tidy.

[ Parent ]

Get off your lazy... (2.00 / 1) (#36)
by SurfThug on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:34:07 PM EST

  No, seriously.  You've become a total consumer and now you just can't wait for your next gee-whiz gadget to arrive at Best Buy.  I can't fault you for this as myself and most everyone else in the developed world these days is doing exactly the same.  The only difference is you choose to bitch about it.

  If it's really an issue for you, and you can imagine all of these wonderful things that should be coming down the pipe, get off your lazy ass and do something about it.  I'm sure if, instead of just complaining that nothing happens quickly enough, you were embroiled in the day-to-day process of making it happen you might understand why these things take time.

  Make something of yourself and bring some great technology to the masses.  Or sit on your ass and bitch about it until someone else shows some initiative.  Makes no difference to me.

the point is... (none / 0) (#38)
by tbc on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:54:21 PM EST

I can't fault you for this as myself and most everyone else in the developed world these days is doing exactly the same.

Exactly. I wrote the article to see if there's something as much worth looking forward to as the period 1995-1999. So prove me wrong.

[ Parent ]

space and tech (4.33 / 3) (#56)
by xah on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:31:52 PM EST

The point is the temporary lull in technological innovation, especially here in the USA. Sure, there are still things to be done with the old technology, but nothing really new and exciting is on the horizon. We already have video phones in the form of video conferencing software. We already have airplanes that can practically fly themselves.

Some might say that we have reached limits in making strong encryption widely usable, in making AI worthwhile, and in making small, portable, personal technology products that genuinely make life easier. We've done what we could, and that's all we can do.

While that view might have legitimacy, an important cause of the lull is the stock market crash and the economic slowdown, both having translated into lower R&D spending. There is also the lack of any big science project commissioned by the US government that would lead to the indirect creation of a high number of new technologies.

The lull is a problem. We need technological innovation to keep our economy moving. Secondly, we ought to enhance the American legacy that we will bequeath upon the world. We are the richest society in history, and we should leave more to the posterity of humanity than cellular telephones and cable modems.

We should go to Mars. Whatever it takes, we should do it. Not just because it is there, and not just because we will colonize it eventually, thus better sooner than later. Going to Mars will create spinoff technologies that will make life better here and now. It would be the right jumpstart for innovation at the right time in the right country for the right reason. And so my hope is that my country will go onward--to the red planet.

Science moves forward. (4.50 / 4) (#60)
by Lai Lai Boy on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:37:02 PM EST

It's 2002, science is not done until I get my flying cars!

[Posted from Mozilla Firebird]

You get Segway instead [n/t] (none / 0) (#136)
by Josh A on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:43:51 PM EST

What in the HELL does [n/t] stand for?

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Information wants to be free biggest issue (3.50 / 2) (#64)
by Fen on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:52:39 PM EST

It's the single biggest issue holding back science and technology. IP laws will of course be looked back upon as a collosal joke (much like slavery is looked upon today) in the future. No matter how much utopian IP lawyers think things will never change, the reailty is IP is going away. Utopia is just impossible.
Would make more sense to s/utopia/dystopia <vlt (none / 0) (#106)
by jurgisb on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 03:15:21 AM EST

If you think about it, isn't overcontrolling considered bad, and vice versa ?

[ Parent ]
vicee versy (none / 0) (#108)
by Fen on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 06:10:11 AM EST

Uh, it's sarcasm, pointed at those who say anyone who thinks of change for the good is a hopeless utopian. And vice versa what? You mean undercontrolling good? That's basically libertarian (the only correct political stance).
[ Parent ]
Silly me. Didn't catch it the first time :) [nt] (none / 0) (#114)
by jurgisb on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:46:39 AM EST

[ Parent ]
In the 1890s the head of the patent office (3.75 / 4) (#65)
by mingofmongo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:53:20 PM EST

wanted to close up shop because there was nothing left to patent. That sure looks dumb when you look back on it today. This article is exactly the same thing.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion

sorry for the knee-jerk comment. I should have (none / 0) (#66)
by mingofmongo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:55:30 PM EST

guessed that someone had pointed this out earlier.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

Time to look somwhere else? (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:27:13 PM EST

It's been a good few decades for "information technology", but now that it's become pretty much all-pervasive, advances will seem more on the mundane side, even if spectacular by measures of a few decades ago. Biology and nano-technology are getting really interesting though now... and many of these are applications of Information Tech, so no need to panic. Robotic prostheses that enhance normal functioning, not just restoring it (as in the blind man being able to see) are likely not far away; if you look at somebody dependent on a personal organizer you may say they're already here... it's in the interaction between biology/medicine/nanotech/IT that we'll see a lot of cool stuff in the next few decades.

But I am also partial to your space elevator interest - personally I think the space industry is also getting ready for a real renaissance; space elevators should be part of it, but even before they get going, there are some very interesting designs from XCOR and others that seem certain to bring the costs of space travel down to the range an average person could afford. Ready for a honeymoon on the moon?

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.

And for yet more refutation.... (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by madgeo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:39:04 PM EST

here's a MLP from PCMag.com for you, that quite thoroughly does the job I think:

Tech Frontiers

I would simply point out that in the last five years I have heard it said that we are on the virge of a robotics revolution that rivals the PC revolution we have been in for a while now, and I think that they are absolutely right!

Just look at the devlopment of the Aibo and it's new kin! Or even better the Mars Pathfinder mission.

Policy holds back innovation (4.85 / 7) (#73)
by doormat on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:18:39 PM EST

I'm still thinking that there is TONS left to invent and people will keep coming up with cool stuff.

The problem is policy. A simple example is Tivo and Replay TV. Yea, the concecpt is simple, record TV and even share it with friends. Unfortunately, media companies look at it from the standpoint of wishing it would go away. They are going after Sonicblue to keep people from sending shows to each other, and wanted a massive privacy invasion (even ordered and then overturned by a court of law) of its users.

The basic problem is that when you introduce a new technology, its going to take away from something else that exists already. Its not necessarily a zero-sum problem but there is a correlation. If someone invented some star trek-type food replicator, think about all the farmers that would go out of business, all the food bio-engineers who would go belly up because this new device would decrease the amount of food they sold greatly. Would they lobby congress to keep this device out of the hands of consumers, or at least do their best to impede progress in development and manufacturing to protect their business model. Perhaps the most relavent example (for me) would be a revolution in solar power. A few small backyard cells would be enough to provide 50% or so of the power needed for the typical house. Do power distribution and generation companies go insolvent because of long term contracts and the oversupply in the market?

Policy holds innovation back. Look at the media companies who are suing to get backbones to censor the internet. Computers in general still hold a lot of untapped potential and all the big companies can think of is how to control it so that they can stay in business instead of learning how to adapt.

Quantum Computers And More (4.00 / 2) (#74)
by j harper on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:23:21 PM EST

Quantum computers will completely revolutionize computation, as will DNA computing. Nanotech is set to explode. Light based computers for completely optical computation and networking is a field starting to take off, and scientists recently discovered how to stop light for arbitrary (but still short) lengths of time.

Mapping the human genome set off a host of research as well. Scientists are mapping out all of the proteins in the human body (the human proteome) in order to fully understand their interactions. Once the human proteome is mapped, drugs can be targeted directly at problems, making them much more efficient. Side affects will be nearly eliminated, as the actions of drugs will be completely understood and new drugs can be created to work directly on a condition requiring treatment.

Really, the 1990s boom was just refinement of technology discovered in the 1980s. Cell phones, optical storage, computers following Moore's law of increased transistor density, the Internet, laptop/portable computers and so on were all technologies that were either birthed in the 1980s or found their first practical use in that decade. Things got smaller and cheaper, but there wasn't any real revolution, only rapid, incremental improvement and discoveries on a practical level. We're only now reaching the end of a generation of technology and are working towards another one; this decade will likely again see the fruition of the previous decade's dreams.

Read more on the current trends in biomedical research, nanotechnology, and quantum computers--it's eye opening.

Oh, and HDTV isn't taking off because everyone's used to faster/bigger, better, cheaper (and functional, unlike NASA ;), but HDTV--while much better and bigger--is certainly not cheaper. In addition, it doesn't offer the benefits that were promised because of the additional cost in seeing video with HDTV quality. DVDs are sometimes more than double the cost of VHS tapes and can be watched on regular TVs, and most TV stations don't send digital signals. Furthermore, many people can't even tell the difference between a 4:3 movie and a 16:9 on a regular TV. If they can't see that the sides of a movie are missing, how is anyone to expect them to notice the difference in resolution between HDTV and regular TV?

"I have to say, the virgin Mary is pretty fucking hot." - Myriad

you answer your own queations (3.66 / 3) (#75)
by mpalczew on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:25:14 PM EST

You practically keep answering your own questions.  
Dvd burners will get cheaper.
Wireless email and text will become cheaper.
We will get to mars.

The fact that you don't get excited by this shows that you are getting older.  Furthermore don't expect companies to invest tons into R&D during a recession.

New technologies, that now are being dissmised and overlooked, will emerge.  I certainly wasn't excited about cell-phones 5 years ago.  I dissmissed them as a toy for the rich.  Now, everyone has one.

In addition, you are only looking for advances in electronics.  There are other areas of technology out there.  Some say that the next hot tech is biotech.  You have a very slanted outlook, the biggest thing you mentioned on your list is the internet.  Yet some 50% of the population isn't connected to it.  

Personally(and don't moderate because you disagree) I think pda's are retarded.  Dvd's are only slightly better than VHS.  Video phones are expensive toys(I certanly would not buy one, unless I needed to.)  A space elevator is a very nerdy idea that will never work out.

You are right, most technological advancement is minor improvments.  Those we can predict.  It's the next big thing, one that we can't predict, that will excite everyone.  Who knows maybe robot slaves will become a brand new tech industry.  
-- Death to all Fanatics!

Why? (none / 0) (#102)
by Bnonn on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:58:51 AM EST

Why, pray tell, do you think PDAs are "retarded"? How do you justify saying DVDs are "only slightly better" than VHS? What reason do you have to believe a space lift will never work out? Do you even know anything about these things?

You seem to have very odd opinions.

[ Parent ]

because (2.00 / 1) (#105)
by mpalczew on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 02:41:35 AM EST

>Why, pray tell, do you think PDAs are "retarded"?

1. They don't do much more than a cell phone.
2. You have to use a stylus.  
3. Every time I see someone use one they whip it out in such a way as to show everyone they have a pda, then they spend half an hour writing in a phone number.  I have seen people buy them only to throw them away later.

perhaps if you could explain why they are so great I may change my mind.  As far as I can tell the small ones are useless, and the big ones with wince are not much smaller than the smallest laptops.

> How do you justify saying DVDs are "only slightly better" than VHS?

You rent them at the video store, and you watch them.  The dvd's have slightly better sound and slightly better video, bfd, movies are getting worse and reling on more special effects.  As far as the extra features crap, I don't personally know anyone that watches that.

> What reason do you have to believe a space lift will never work out?

The damn cable will be way to heavy/long to support it's own weight. Carbon nanotubes won't extend that far, they are too expensive and their strength may not be enough. In addition to a cable you need to support some sort of compartment for people to ride in.  Then you have to be warry of weather, blowing your cable around.  Then you have to make sure your orbit stays stable somehow.  Too slow you crash,  Too fast you crash.  Then there's the whole problem of once you get a cable, how the hell are you going to get it up there and drop it towords the earth and attach it at a precise location.  This is not to mention the numerous micro-metors that the cable will be hit by before it is even constructed.  
Call me a skeptic.

>You seem to have very odd opinions.

perhaps, odd to you, or just diffrent from the majority on this site.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
[ Parent ]

PDAs (none / 0) (#113)
by swf on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:41:24 AM EST

<blockquote>>Why, pray tell, do you think PDAs are "retarded"?
1. They don't do much more than a cell phone.
2. You have to use a stylus.  
3. Every time I see someone use one they whip it out in such a way as to show everyone they have a pda, then they spend half an hour writing in a phone number.  I have seen people buy them only to throw them away later. </blockquote>

They do lots more than a cell phone. They are basically little general purpose computers. And yes you can use a stylus, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. With practice you can write faster in Graffiti than normal handwriting.

<blockquote>perhaps if you could explain why they are so great I may change my mind.  As far as I can tell the small ones are useless, and the big ones with wince are not much smaller than the smallest laptops.</blockquote>

As an example, I am (attempting) to learn Japanese. There are thousands of japanese characters (kanji). Unless you already know the word then you have no idea how it is pronounced (there are two different readings for each kanji) or what it means. With my Palm Pilot I write in the kanji (with the stylus) and it tells me everything I need to know about that kanji.

I keep all of my programming manuals, library references and tutorials for all the programming languages I know in my Palm. I find that very useful. I keep my course notes, as well as several books and games if I'm bored. I have a password storing program with strong crypto, and a graphing scientific calculator. I find all these things very useful.

As an organiser a PDA is only slightly better than paper. You get a unified calendar, as well as a interactive to-do list and simple post-it style notes, but that is about it. PDAs really excel in storing books and interactive programs like kanji dictionaries. Don't use a PDA for just keeping phone numbers. If you need to do that then get a piece of paper.

[ Parent ]

What's on your Palm for Nihongo studies? (none / 0) (#158)
by hikaru on Sat Aug 24, 2002 at 09:44:04 AM EST

swf, I'm a long-time Palm user--I ditched my nearly useless Franklin Planner in 1996. Couldn't back it up, wouldn't carry the blasted thing since it was so bloated and heavy, and couldn't deal with the zillion Franklin Commandments like "thou shalt have only one calendar and it will be thy Franklin Planner". Anyway, I, too am attempting to learn Japanese. I've got WalkingJE (wa-ei/ei-wa jisho) and Kanji Hanabi (quiz programme) on my Palm at the moment. Just curious what you are using for your Nihongo studies and whether you might be taking the JLPT in December...

[ Parent ]
PDAs (none / 0) (#115)
by katie on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 08:17:00 AM EST

For those of us with poor memories, a PDA means we get to function in the world. Without an alarm system to get me to appointments on time, to-do lists to help me track things, a calendar and a database of phone numbers.

Yes, I could keep all this information in a regular paper notebook, but, and here's the crunch, I can't recall how to access things there either: I not only can't remember someone's phone number, I can't recall where I put it in the notebook. A PDA will go look for me. Actually I used to lose notebooks - PDAs are expensive enough I only have one and I tend to know where it is...

Paper notes also can't be backed up by throwing them into a docking cradle, they don't beep to tell you it's time to leave to go to the hospital, and they run out, so you either have to carry several or copy data into the new one.

Seriously, if you have issues with medium term memory formation/planning, a PDA is pretty much a life-saver.

[ Parent ]

Cellphone->?<-PDA (none / 0) (#123)
by GavinWheeler on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:28:17 AM EST

1. They don't do much more than a cell phone

Depends on what you try to do with your PDA. Mine (a Zaurus SL5500) can browse the web in colour at a usable resolution, show me a map of the night sky at my time and location, runs Java, python, a word processor and a spreadsheet, and can potentially do pretty much anything you can do on Linux (for the simple reason that it runs Linux). If all you want is a list of phone numbers and a calendar, then your mobile probably does do all you want, but a PDA can do so much more.

This being said, cellphones and PDAs seem to be converging. You can already buy combination devices, and if you use a hands free set anyway they are probably perfectly good solutions.

2. You have to use a stylus.

You do not. If you want one with a keyboard, get one with a keyboard. The Zaurus SL5500 has a reasonable design, for example. Or you can tap the screen with a fingernail.

3. Every time I see someone use one they whip it out in such a way as to show everyone they have a pda

As people used to do with mobile phones, or those newfangled automobiles, no doubt. That's just swish wankers showing off the 'latest gadget' and in no way a drawback to the fundamental idea.

then they spend half an hour writing in a phone number.

Not if they have a keyboard or a halfway decent handwriting system.

I have seen people buy them only to throw them away later

I've seen people do that with home PCs. So?

If you don't learn how to use the things you buy, you'll end up throwing them out or letting them gather dust. How many people learn how to set their VCR to record a show automatically?

[ Parent ]

DVDs (none / 0) (#139)
by juozasg on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 02:12:51 AM EST

DVDs are superior in several ways that go far beyond higher sound/video quality.
  1. Original Aspect Ratio, majority of movie fans seem to consider this a nonissue. They are so wrong, it's embarasing. A person responsible for converting film to "pan and scan/television friendly" version usually has no contact with director or producers, that person brings his/hers own vision into the movie changing the content of the movie. Instead of getting a movie the director intended you to see, you get a film that some shmuck cut-up to his own liking. Tragic.
  2. Special Features. May not be important when you rent a DVD, but if you decide to own it, those extras will help you learn about a film that you cared enough about to spend yor money on.
If you are a greater that average fan of cinema, you'll appreciate gaining extra insight about technical side of moving picture.

3. Quality, may not be #1 issue, but it remains very important. Unless you own a $2000 VCR, any DVD player will produce a higher quality image than even the best VCR in the same price range.
Quality you will see and enjoy on even cheap-ass TV sets, not to even mention expensive HDTVs.

[ Parent ]

DVD = More hype, less useful. (none / 0) (#156)
by Stoutlimb on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 09:55:41 AM EST

> Dvd's are only slightly better than VHS.

DVD's are utter crap compared to VHS.  There are small gains such as picture quality, animated menus, no rewind time, etc...  In exchange, DVD's have major features removed.  When was the last time you could hit the "REC" button on your DVD player when you see a cool show on TV?  It's like buying the best new Dodge Viper sportscar, only to be able to drive it only to stores that are approved by the dealer and manufacturer.  The trade-off is unacceptable.  Do you expect DVD players to soon have a "record" feature?  By looking at the agenda of the MPAA, it may never happen...  free & easy recording has gone by the wayside, and even PVR's soon will all be controlled by media giants.

I must agree with the original article.  Almost all of the really useful technologies are meeting with overwhelming cultural, corporate and government opposition.  The only innovation allowed these days is what is sanctioned by Redmond, **AA type organizations, big business, and government.  Anything really innovative and useful tends to get absorbed and controlled by the big players, effectively castrating it.  (PVR recorders as a case in point.)  It's only a matter of time before PC's will only execute code "registered and monitored" by microsoft and your local government.

You've obviously bought the hype.

[ Parent ]

Is this a test? (4.50 / 4) (#80)
by Jeff Coleman on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:51:56 PM EST

I never worked up any drool for the 90's toys you mentioned. But I'm an old guy and all that weed I've smoked may have given me permenant cotton mouth...

Seriously, the last tech thing I had to have because it was cool was a Mac Plus.

So maybe, just maybe, masses of people are only indulging in tech that actually assists them in some way, and so maybe the money isn't there to crank out a lot of gee-wiz stuff.

There is a lot of good tech gear coming out all the time- I produce music, and there is nothing like having a 16 track recorder with automated faders and virtual tracks and digital editing all for under 3 grand. Now that was something I had to have. Because I can work so much more efficiently with it, I can think about music, not tech.

These incremental advances make big differences in people's lives. I'm all for tech that really helps people, so let's try not be sad because it isn't sexy.

running and ducking...

Well, we're making a working tricorder... (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by spectecjr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:58:05 PM EST

... we're a couple of years out, but we're working on it.

Social Development (4.00 / 2) (#82)
by Kintanon on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:04:23 PM EST

Personally I think the next 10 years will see a large focus on city planning, civil engineering, family planning, and other forms of Social advance that can drasticly(sp?) improve the quality of life for everyone. We have enough technology to institute a lot of social infrastructure change, so much that our culture hasn't really caught up with it yet. We need a decade or two of slower advance and refinement to finish integrating all of this new technology into the way we live. Then there will be another round of consumer technology development. Until then I hope people will concentrate on how we can organize ourselves to live more efficiently.


Sounds to me... (3.00 / 1) (#83)
by steveftoth on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 07:18:53 PM EST

like you just need to be sold.  The marketeers are just not doing their jobs selling the tech, and the SciFi writers are not doing their jobs coming up with the next 'big thing' in their works.  Maybe they are just out of ideas right now but I think that there are many things that are just around the corner waiting to change the way that we live and work.  
Some have already been mentioned in this thread ( nanotech is one).  If you don't think that the next generation of tech is going to rock then you are probably just getting too old, let the young thinkers find uses for stuff.  

Whats the issue here? (4.00 / 2) (#92)
by sypher on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:07:52 PM EST

Are we talking about toys you can afford to improve your quality of life, or standards of technology 'ordinary' people will be utilising 5-10 years from now?

Why is it important you gain from these advancements, what advancements could you create and enjoy yourself?

Why do you say nothing is happening just because nothing has caught your eye?

It's like a friend asking, 'anything good at the movies tonight?' and you reply 'no' only because there is nothing to interest you.

Innovation hasn't ceased in my humble opinion, only peoples (and now increasingly governments) ability to pay for it, or pay to hide it.

For the last 40 years there has been a tremendous tech boom, producing the industrial and scientifically focussed advances we have in hand.

Now, those that procured those advancements are seeking to use them to stifle progress and ensure their own economic survival, and they will work the horse dead before they introduce a new one for you to befriend.

Money drives development. It hasn't always, but now it always will, theres nothing new under the sun, unless you call the sun something new everyday.

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
Well, fine, but what IS good at the movies? (none / 0) (#96)
by superontology on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:55:34 PM EST

What else am I supposed to say to my movie-going friend? "Well, it all looks like crap to me, but based on objective criteria of goodness, the following movies are good despite their total lack of appeal to me." No one would ever say such a thing. And if I answered "no", and you responded with a long rant about how I'm only interested in movies that interest me, I'd assume that there were no movies that interested you, either.

[ Parent ]
My bad (none / 0) (#133)
by sypher on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 08:59:05 PM EST

The point i was trying to get across was that nothing is good enough these days, mainly due to hype and the 'need' to have the latest shiny things.

The original topic was about technological advancements, we ceased making these IMHO once the dollar signs stopped spinning in the lawyers eyes and they find where the future money is, prosecuting P2P sharers, restricting DVD regions to make more revenue and build up expectation e.t.c.

We are lucky to have our own tastes in music, movies and books, because one day there simply will not be a choice until each and every particular market, genre or style has been bled dry or is populated with repetitive, idiotic content.

Upon that day, we will have to turn around and realise we no longer have the means to innovate further, what a fucking waste, this is only my opinion.

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
[ Parent ]
Look to research (4.66 / 6) (#93)
by epepke on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:36:02 PM EST

I think you're making the error of neglecting the time lag between research and application. What you percieve as the advances of the 1990s were really advances of the 1980s and 1970s that just happen to take off at a time when you had become old enough to notice them. Now, you're a little bit more sophisticated and, due to some academic connections, have heard about stuff that would otherwise surprise you. As a result, you dismiss everything as not exciting enough or too far in the future. You just have to get used to the fact that a lot of that is going to have to ferment in the ivory tower a while.

I'll just go over a few of your points:

  • Internet/Web Browser--There were plenty of technologies that worked very much like web browsers indeed back in the 1980's and 1970's.
  • Graphical/WIMP Interfaces--These date from the 1960's. And, despite what you say, they were quite fine and quite useful during the 1980's. If anything, they were a better fit to the low-resolution screens: "show everything" is a fine philosophy until there's room to put dozens of icons on the screen.
  • Cellphones, CD burners, digital photography, and color printers you admit just got cheaper. That's primarily a business and production advance.
  • PDAs--These existed. Some of them were big, and some didn't have much memory, but they existed.
  • DVDs--You know, the main effect on my life of DVDs is that it's hard to get the much-higher-quality LaserDiscs any more.
  • CGI in movies--Well, now you come to my area of primary expertise. CGI in movies was a cultural thing. Television was the early adopter.

There's an inherent lag between what happens in research and when it gets to the world. The so-called "advances" of the 1990s came as no shock to those of us in research in the 1980s. Well, at least no pleasant shock. The surprises were how crappily things had been implemented and how little really was done.

So, anyway. My primary field of expertise is computer graphics. When I started 20 years ago, everything was GKS and the later misbegotten PHIGS, both based on the state of the art of the 1960's. Now, we have Open GL and DirectX, based on what could reasonably done a mere 15 years ago. In the next few years, I hope to see (but have enough cynicism not to expect to see) several things happen in only this limited area:

  • Consumer-priced real-time ray tracing, radiosity, and volumetric visualization. Probably the next generation of game consoles around 2006 will have one or more of these capabilities.
  • The magic vacation cam. It is now possible, using uncalibrated, hand-held video camera technology, to build a 3-D surface representation fully automatically. The technique, which involves some very hard math, is even resistant to the effect of people walking around in front of what you're filming.
  • Non-photorealistic rendering. We have just scratched the surface on what can be done with this. Expect to see something like iMovie to make animated woodcuts, etchings, pen drawings, or paintings.
  • Distributed visualization. Why watch The Weather Channel when you can access the data and look at it however you want? Who says GTA IV couldn't accurately reflect local weather conditions? This will happen when people start to realize that the WWW is more than an all-singing, all-dancing brochure.
  • Digital puppetry--you can automatically animate an image based on speech into a microphone today.
  • Some decent user interfaces for a change. Lots of work has been done in this area, just looking for a marketable application.

Now, I've carefully picked technologies that have already been worked out and are raring to go, so that you wouldn't automatically dismiss them as not of immediate interest. There are quite a lot of technologies I could suggest for blue sky stuff, but the technologies of immediate tomorrow are the ones that work today.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

Non photorealistic rendering (4.00 / 2) (#99)
by X3nocide on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:15:14 AM EST

I'm not the first to say this, but when I saw it it rang true for me. Computer graphics is at a point which is very similar to the point in time just after the Renaissance in which technical accuracy begins to approach physical reality. Just after things like diminishing perspective and human proportion are accepted by the majority of artists. This is when the Impressionists and post impresssionists take flight from what we see when we open our eyes to what we might see when they are closed. Whether this is just dots of colored light or your vivid and unchecked imagination, this is where the art really becomes interesting to look at. Its also where it becomes difficult to look at a painting and tell the guy next to you what its about.

The same holds true for computer graphics. Now that we are approximating reality the next step is abstracting it. Cel shading techniques are just tip of the iceberg here. Think mindbending non-euclidean geometries and nonlinear algebra in motion.

[ Parent ]

You are too right... (2.50 / 6) (#94)
by faustus on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:37:50 PM EST

It is a fact that technology is slowing. Eventually it will start going backwards. Like the universe, technology will expand to a point and then collapse on itself resulting in the annihalation of all technology and most of mankind.

Chaos Theory suggests that the longer a system exists the more random and uncontrollable it becomes, and when it arrives at the magical "boiling point" it collapses.

I'm guessing (based on fact and general intelligence), that we probably have 10 years of life left before technology as a system collapses, leaving us barren and naked, in a harsh cruel world with no TV or Internet.

I for one will be voting Republican from now on, ensuring that I will be able to stock up on a small arsenal before this inevitable doomsday arrives.

Ten Years??? (none / 0) (#127)
by icastel on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:21:56 PM EST

I'm guessing (based on fact and general intelligence), that we probably have 10 years of life left before technology as a system collapses, leaving us barren and naked, in a harsh cruel world with no TV or Internet.

That's too long. I think it will happen in about 4 (4.5 tops).

I for one will be voting Republican from now on, ensuring that I will be able to stock up on a small arsenal before this inevitable doomsday arrives.

And so you should ... so you should.

-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
I have this weird idea (3.00 / 1) (#101)
by KWillets on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:20:27 AM EST

I've been unemployed for a long time, so I've more or less been forced to think about the future, or my lack of one.  It really is time to stop dicking around with web pages and move on to the next stage.

One idea I've come up with, from hard experience, is to integrate all this gee-whiz multimedia with real-world emergency response systems.  

How does this sound:  You hear more gunshots from the HUD project across the street, and, while you know the 911 dispatchers have already located the shooting with their sub-$10,000 acoustic triangulation system, you look out the window and notice the perpetrators getting into their Lexus in the neighbor's driveway.  Rather than exposing yourself, you push the "police" button on your cellphone and hold it out the window, pointing its camera at their license plate.  The location and image are relayed to the operator of the police reconnaissance drone, which locates the car from 1000 feet in the air, and follows it until it is intercepted by a roadblock a few blocks away.  You go back to watching "World's Wildest Police Chases" and wait for your reward check to be credited, along with an out-of-court settlement from the housing project.

So far, everything up to the part about the HUD project across the street has already come true!    Unfortunately the part about the cops actually having adequate information systems is pure fantasy.

Good (4.00 / 2) (#121)
by JahToasted on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:05:46 AM EST

A political dissident mutters "I wish we had free elections again so we can vote out that asshole Dubya." The acoustic triangulation system determines the position of the dissident and police reconnaissance drones are dispatched. A TIPS volunteer who overhears the "terrorist" pushes the police button on his cellphone and points its camera at the terrorist. The terrorist is added to the most wanted list and is intercepted at a roadblock a few blocks away and is never seen again. The TIPS volunteer goes back to watching the latest news from the ministry of truth (as reported by CNN) and is credited with a reward for being a good patriot.
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
Ah! (none / 0) (#126)
by icastel on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 12:17:30 PM EST

There are always two sides to a coin, aren't there? You pessimist, you. ;)

-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
I don't see a connection (3.00 / 1) (#129)
by KWillets on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 03:30:03 PM EST

People always seem to dredge this up, but is the argument that less information, delivered more slowly and with less accuracy, is better than more information from multiple, independent sources?  

Anybody can do anything they want to you now, as long as they do it in less time than it takes for someone to pick up the phone, dial 911, wait on hold, and then give a lengthy verbal description to someone who types about 20 wpm, which is relayed to someone in a squad car who then has to re-interpret it while simultaneously driving a car and doing a visual search.    

[ Parent ]

Control is the connection (4.00 / 1) (#135)
by Josh A on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:30:11 PM EST

You've spent your time and mental talents thinking up ways for centralized authority to exercise more control and better surveillance over people.


Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#140)
by KWillets on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 02:50:50 AM EST

I've spent my time trying to get greater control over centralized authority.

Information is good.  A society which freely exchanges information is better than one in which information flow is stifled.  

[ Parent ]

Needs a better example (none / 0) (#144)
by Josh A on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 06:26:37 PM EST

I've spent my time trying to get greater control over centralized authority.

Perhaps you would be better served with an example that shows this, rather than the opposite. I'm inclined to agree that information should flow better, but a less authoritarian example would be easier to analyze without getting sidetracked.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
True, some is flamebait (none / 0) (#154)
by KWillets on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 01:55:45 AM EST

I, unfortunately, didn't make up this example, except for the part about how it could have turned out.  Shoot-and-run is an institution that doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.

As to the "fictional" elements, I'm afraid a lot of techniques are already present to a lesser degree.  Things like aerial surveillance are already standard practice, though with helicopters instead of unmanned vehicles.  I think UAV's are being proposed for domestic police work already; it's just a cheaper way of doing the same thing. Likewise, gunshot location systems are already in use in some cities (try this link).  I've looked at the technology, and could probably cook one up with a few soundcards and a cheap PC.

The real infrastructure change I'm interested in is at the call-for-service end, where citizens have information that they need to get to the right people quickly.  Gunshots are a specific case where response has to be fast and accurate, and there is no expectation of privacy.  There are many other situations where a citizen turning in an image or a recording of a given situation (say of someone pissing on your doorstep) would be more accurate and less work than sitting on hold and giving a sketchy verbal description that fits half a dozen people.

[ Parent ]

Tech advance != new consumer toys (4.33 / 3) (#107)
by MrSnrub on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 05:40:42 AM EST

You seem overly focussed on consumer toys and flashy entertainment. I don't need HDTV - if anything, I need less TV. I don't particularly care about CG in movies - I'd rather have a plot. I still don't own a PDA, or a cell, or a color printer, or a laptop. Frankly, I can find better uses for my money (although I'd be happy if any of those things magically fell into my lap). How about worry about things that actually impact people a bit more? Medicine is standing on the brink of some really huge changes, changes that could save a lot of people a lot of pain.

That wireless tech you dismissed as unnecessary has huge potential in medicine. It could be used to allow EMT's to gather more information about patients, faster, while not distracting them from the task at hand. EMT's generally work in pretty tough environments, and filling out forms is generally a pretty low priority compared to keeping the patient alive - wireless and voice recognition could allow them to gather and send patient information back to the receiving hospital, which would help the hospital prepare for arrival. The same tech could allow the EMTS to be assisted by specialists while en route, which in turn be the difference between life and death in a remote region. Yet antoher application of wireless technology under development is are wireless vital signs monitors - if you're at high risk for a heart attack or other problem, just pop a PDA-like device on that measures biosignals and sends them back to a base station. More applications under development include disaster management, and remote diagnosis/aid in very remote environments, such as oceangoing ships and aircraft.

How about remote diagnosis? Imaging and communications has progressed to where this can finally be accomplished - it's been done in a remote area of Canada (northern Alberta). A population with high risk of inherited blindness was screened for the early signs remotely, through the use of a mobile imaging van. Some techs got to tool around in the sticks, and the expensive specialists got to see people that would never be able to regularly make it to a major city. This project probably kept a pretty decent group of people from losing their eyesight, and it all hinged on fast, high-quality imaging and transmission.

Computer aided diagnosis? People come to their GP with a thin lesion - should he send them to a specialist, lop it off, or is it just a mole? Computers could be used to help determine if a mole is cancerous, using nothing more than a camera and a pretty fast processor.

How about computer aided surgery? Huge amounts of research is being done in areas that require a lot of precision or that are generally hard to do, such as neurosurgery, orthopaedic alignments, laparoscopy, you name it. I actually saw one really cool bit of research that used a heads-up display (like in a fighter) and a saved MRI scan to color the cancerous regions of a brain bright green (which makes sense, since it really does all look sort of squishy and brown). Doing so required a lot of horsepower to generate the images in real-time (since the surgeon is moving around and whatnot).

I could go on (and have), but I think you get the drift. Just because you can't watch Celebrity Boxing 2 on your watch doesn't mean that technology isn't advancing in important ways.

Big medical breakthrough (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by Alan Crowe on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:12:50 AM EST

When I was growing up, in the 70's, doctors could treat bacterial infections with anti-biotics, but could do nothing about viral infections. If not exactly a law of nature, this looked like a rule that would in practise be unbreakable. Bacteria were little lifeforms in there own right, with their own distinctive metabolism, which could be poisoned, without poisoning the patient. Viruses infiltrated into cells and made slaves of them, forcing them to work to produce more virus. Any poison would harm the patient as much as it harmed the virus

When AIDS came along, the fact that it was a virus, not a bacterium, was a cause for panick. Perhaps it would do for man what myxomatosis did for rabbits. However, technology has moved on since the 70's, and there are now treatments that keep the AIDS virus under control for many years.

The ability to create anti-viral drugs is an giant step forward, and could have broad implications. One of the curious observations about schizophrenia is that some anti-psychotics have a mild anti-viral action. This hints that a viral encephalopathy is somehow involved in the aetiology of schizophrenia. In the 70's, such a hypothesis would have been of purely academic interest. Since viruses were untreatable, it would not lead to a useful therapy.

Now, with partial success against AIDS, everything is different. It now makes sense to go on difficult and expensive virus hunts, even for diseases not previously thought of as viral in origin, because discovering a virus would be progress towards a cure.

[ Parent ]
medicine, culture, technology and law (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by jefu on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:54:06 PM EST

I'm not as hopeful about increases in medicine as some are - mostly because much of what could already be done is not.

A long time ago it was found that patients would often tell a computer more about their situation/complaints than they would to a doctor or nurse.

Equally, expert systems in medicine are old technology and very good (though usually in limited fields).

So, why not put computer monitors/keyboards... into waiting rooms and have people spend that (inevitable) wait in entering data that might not only help in diagnosing their current conditions, but also in diagnosing other (perhaps hidden) conditions.

One reason is privacy (of course), but with improved patient confidentiality laws and regulations this could easily be handled (though the patients perceptions would also need to be handled). (Interestingly enough on this, I recently walked by a doctors office and there was a monitor turned on near the window with patient information clearly visible on it. I also had a blood test recently and easily read the information on the previous patient off the computer the techs were using to track things. In both cases I pointed this out to the responsible folks and in both cases was told to mind my own business (grin).)

By far the more important reasons are that physicians are reluctant to turn decision making over to machines - and do not want to accept that expert systems of this sort are primarily to be used as advice givers - not as infallible oracles. In the same vein (so to speak) nobody seems too sure about who would be legally liable in the case of error - this has in several cases resulted in possible commercialization being curtailed.

Perhaps though, with our current EULA rules - "We ain't responsible for nothing ... this product isnt warranted to do much more than install on your computer ... you open it, you've bought it..." companies will feel more open to these notions, but then will doctors?

[ Parent ]

A basic technology to watch (4.00 / 1) (#109)
by Alan Crowe on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 06:44:44 AM EST

Just like every one else, I was taught that one cannot infer a causal connection from a correlation. So I've spent the past twenty years watching out for a convincing explanation of how one does discover causal connections. At long last I discovered the book Computation, Causation, and Discovery

Clark Glymour explains in his preface

The standard solution to these difficulties has been to call for randomized, controlled experiments. Depending on their design, randomized experiments may remove many of these reasons for uncertainty about the process that generated an association...But in any case randomized controlled experiments are comparatively rare and comparatively expensive: in business, medicine, social science, biological science - in a great variety of contexts where predictions are needed about the effects of interventions or of policy changes - randomized, controlled experiments may be infeasible. The relevant experiments may be too costly, beyond our technical capacity, unethical, or illegal. Of the enormous number of databases that have been assembled in the hope that they can somehow be used to provide better causal predicition, very few contain only outcomes of randomized controlled experiments
Unitl very recently, these problems more of less neatly divided methodologist into a skeptical group who held that without randomized controlled experiments, reliable causal inference is impossible, period, end of story; and an optimistic group who held that either prior "theory"or various ad hoc search procedures can be used to discover causal relations from associations in nonexperimental data.....
Over the last ifiteen years a third viewpoint has emerged from a series of investigations in statistics and computer science. Its fundamental methodological idea is that principled causal inference from sample data is not an all or nothing affair: if the data for a system of variables are generated from an unknown causal structure, without experimental controls, it may be impossible to uncover all of that structure, but, depending on the data, on the true unknown structure, and on the assumptions the investigator is willing to make it may nonetheless be possible to uncover aspects of the structure sufficient for predicting the outcomes of specific interventions....
Clark Glymour uses these techniques for de-bunking. In Chapter five he discusses a piece of sociological research that uses sophisticated statistical techniques to show that foreign investment causes political exclusion. Trumping this research with his even more sophisticated statistical analysis, he discovers alternative causal models, just as consistent with the data, but not containing the claimed connection. Thus causal inference is harder than the authors of the original research supposed, and the data not clear enough to support their causal inference.

We are awash with claims of causal connections, video games cause youth crime, paying auditors for consultancy causes corporate fraud, etc, etc, without end. Where these are backed up by simple correlations, we may pick and choose when to be convinced and when to remain skeptical, as suits our fancy. An authentic technique of causal inference is a godsend, even, or perhaps especially, if its main effect is to debunk less well founded causal inferences

I see this technology as vastly more significant. My own experience in artificial intelligence research has convinced me that machine learning is of central importance. Don't attempt to program your computer to do stuff. Program it so that it can learn to do stuff. But how? The machine must do more than notice correlations. If it is to act in the world, it must go deeper, discovering causal connections. One could not hope to code up the ad hoc approaches Glymour alludes to. One needs a principled approach, such as he has now provided.

Artifical Intelligence was impossible while we lacked a principled approach to causal inference. This technology opens up enourmous new possibilities.

Or does it? Perhaps this will go nowhere because the mathematics is too hard.

What about useability ? (5.00 / 2) (#111)
by Shubin on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:03:02 AM EST

So, we have (nearly) all nice toys we need. Good. But are they well suited for the tasks they are intended for ? No. 386-based notebooks used Ni-Cd akk (developed 100 years ago) and worked for 3 hours. Modern P4 notebooks uses top-of-technology Li-Ion cells and works... for 2.5 hours. It is necessary to stop an look back. I need a notebook to work for at least 12 hours, or I do not need it at all. Who will make 486 note with new 486 made in modern technology that will consume less energy ? Almost all software will work there.

There are nice, cheap or expensive PDAs, but there are no useable PDAs. For an experiment, try to write down spec for any device (notebook, PDA, desktop, etc) that you really need. Not all that nice price-adding gadgets, but only necessary features. You won't find such thing in the market. It doesn't exist. Or it exists with a lot of unneeded extra things for a price of a used car.

Anyway the best PDA now is a sheet of paper and a pencil. Unlimited graphic capabilities, unlimited number of fonts, no batteries, light weight, extremely resistant to environment conditions. When PDAs will be like this ?

Modern advanced technology products are generally look like dinosaurs - they rule because they has no rivals. They are competing only in "heavy weigth", attracting user attention by more and more useless features, more and more advanced technology. The time for mammals has come, the dinosaur's time comes to an end. From the point of view of the programmer things are even worse. Almost every new PDA comes with its own (tm) development system. Where is good old MSX Basic (one size fits all) ? If I needed a simple program for Atari, Amiga, Spectrum, MSX, whatever I used Basic. Otherwise I took special SDK. Please note that every object-oriented system is nothing but a new language.

"I can create my own VCDs today" - have you ever tried to do your own movie ? Yes, we have DV camcorders, it is possible to transfer the data to PC, even make a film... and... write video CD with great loss of quality. DVD burners are still too expensive now. But key words are here : LOSS OF QUALITY MP3 is a loss of quality compared to CD, CD is a loss of quality compared to vinyl. It is time to stop in advancing and improve the quality, because we already have the lower end - MIDI and MOD music.

There are gaps in technology. We cannot move any further without filling these gaps.

Wireless? (3.00 / 1) (#116)
by richieb on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:01:12 AM EST

Ultrawideband? Grid networks?

It is a good day to code.

How about giving sight to the blind? (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by nsgnfcnt1 on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:37:56 AM EST

A guy who had this operation was interviewed on CNN recently (last few months). If you're looking for cool shizat perhaps you should be looking to biotech. If you're lucky, by the time you're ready to die, you'll be able to just scan your brain into a software program and live forever (or as long as the mainframe you're on lasts...)


3D-TV and monitors (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by miasma on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:42:29 AM EST

...is what I am waiting for. It could be a pair of sticks, projecting slightly different pictures on each of your retinas.
The industry would love it, since they could finally sell TVs per User, not per room/household.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." - G.Bush sen.
Something I've been thinking about (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by salsaman on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 05:24:25 PM EST

I am trying to write a short story at the moment. It's based some time in the future - maybe twenty or thirty years from now. The background of the story is that technology has been heavily suppressed for the masses, and is still at roughly the level we have now for most people. The suppression comes from government/corporate entities who are desperately trying to hold on to the power they have.

However for some, mainly underground, groups, technology has moved on, and one of the characters in the story has a chance meeting with one of these groups, and joins with them. The groups must keep themselves hidden or risk being locked up, or worse.

I'm still trying to develop the plot, so if anybody has any suggestions, they'd be most welcome.

Plot is a Four Letter Word (none / 0) (#146)
by Santiago de Mayo on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 10:36:11 PM EST

Concentrate on characters, relationships.  Plot is a nasty little thing that ought to be avoided at all costs.  

If you have complete characters and relationships, you'll see that the plot writes itself.

If you are looking for a good place to start with formulaic character types and compelling interaction, do a search on google for the following:


These four types in varying mixes make for interesting interactions.

[ Parent ]

Change in pace is an illusion (5.00 / 1) (#132)
by borful on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:02:16 PM EST

The apparent change in the pace of technological advance is an illusion.

While vaporware has always been with us, during the Great Tech Bubble we also had the Great Vaporware Bubble. The reason you're not impressed with stuff being prototyped now is that you heard it being hyped five years ago when some guy started a company to make the thing, then you got more hype four years ago when the venture capital kicked in, then more type three years ago when they went public, then more hype two years ago when they were trying to stave off bankruptcy, and then more hype last year when some bigger company bought the intellectual property and the prototype and is actually looking to build the thing.

More hype means less "wow" factor when the thing actually debuts.

The device that's coming that I really want is a machine with the power of a laptop that's the size of a wallet. (Mine, not Bill Gates') I want a full size keyboard that unfolds from this small package, and either a thin film screen that also unfolds, or a display built into a glasses frame - the one that laser-beams the image onto my retina.

3-D printers will be a cool new thing. Today, we make 2D art where we try to get the illusion of 3D, or we actually build layers up, or sculpt material away. A 3-D printer will let you Photoshop sculpture.

Nanotech is probably more an industrial tech than anything; all the medical stuff we'd prefer not to need.

You seem dismissive of increasing quality. For as long as digital cameras have been around, they've been described as "photo quality". They're pretty close, depending on your photos. Technology is getting better, faster, cheaper. It's not exciting, until you get to upgrade a machine that currently has 1GB drives with 120GB...

I still want my flying cars.

- borful
Money is how people with no talent keep score.

passive vs. active tech (5.00 / 2) (#137)
by teknomage on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:19:06 PM EST

You haven't bought into all the hype. Good for you! IMHO, you're asking the wrong questions though...

I don't ask what new gadgets are out there anymore. I ask myself what can't I do today that technology may enable? They're all tools, nothing more or less.

Buy a GPS unit if you're interested in a little hide'n'seek.

Pick up a DV camera with Firewire interface and go for a walk. Film people talking and construct a video-card a la ransom note - cut'n'paste the footage to create your message. Automate the process.

Pick up an R/C vehicle (electric plane, glider, car, boat, whatever), wireless camera and an affordable HUD and do a little telepresence flying. Hook up your DV to record the moment, and use the GPS to find your way back to civilization. Use the R/C vehicle to find your way home through it's eye(s). Build in some feedback mechanisms, so you can "feel" the direction you're headed.

Build yourself some robotic Familiars. Give them enough smarts to autonavigate, but use your "wearable computer" to direct their actions, depending on the context. Context can be what you're doing, where you are, what's around you, or any number of combination of criteria.

Looking around your personal site, you seem to have the right idea with regards to using tech to share your beliefs. It's extending your sense of self and interactions with the world-at-large. Ultimately, technology is what you make of it, not what it makes for you.

That's my two cents (three Canadian :-)

-- If you don't know what to do, do something.
Futurology (4.50 / 2) (#138)
by Phantros on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:22:16 PM EST

If we could tell you what the "next big thing" would be...it would already be here. Is someone about to invent a room temperature superconductor? Who knows, but it would sure change life as we know it. How about cheap, clean energy? Most likely the most successful innovations will be less obvious than that. I didn't predict today's internet in 1990. I doubt that even the Wright brothers predicted the way the world would change from flight, let alone those billions who had never considered shooting themselves through the sky at fantastic speeds.

The hardest part is finding an unfilled need, which is why we don't have that lunar colony you mentioned: no need. A lunar colony is about as extravagant, expensive, and useful as the national missile defence.

Innovation will come, foreseen or not. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

Well... (3.00 / 1) (#142)
by SPYvSPY on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 10:17:02 AM EST

...I guess it's safe to assume that *you* won't be creating any new and interesting technology.

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.

on second thought, it's an economic phenomenon (4.00 / 1) (#147)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 01:50:46 AM EST

I honestly didn't expect my first draft to pass muster and was very surprised to see it show up on the K5 front page. I do think there's a trend here that is worth pursuing, but after reading the comments to my story, I think I'd emphasize a different aspect. The significance of the past decade has to do with a shift -- an incremental increase, I'd argue -- in where consumers spend their money. Add up $20 to $50 for basic Internet access, an extra $10 or $20 for cable/satellite, and $20 to $40 for a cell phone and you have monthly fixed costs going up $50 to $100. Add to that the emergence of a new "must-have" home appliance (following the microwave oven, the video recorder, the video game system, and camcorders to name a few): a computer/monitor/printer combo ($700 - $1,200). That's what I don't see repeating itself in the next decade. We'll see companies compete for those dollars/euros/yen, e.g. dump the monthly cost of a landline and replace it with wireless, and dump the cable and use a combination of broadband video on demand and subscription music (which will probably always have a component of free acquisition thanks to the groundbreaking work of Napster, although I'm extremely happy to pay a mere $3.31 a month to get MusicMatch Radio MX).

Remember that CD players replaced LPs, so they don't count as a new appliance.  Same for digital cameras and camcorders. DVDs/TiVo are replacing VHS (laser discs are a niche and will remain so).

I hope there will be comments that flesh out the weaknesses of these top-of-my-head examples, because that's the direction I'm thinking of going with a follow-up article.

What do you care? (none / 0) (#155)
by epepke on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 03:37:47 AM EST

By this definition/viewpoint, Rural Electrification ended electronic innovation in the U.S.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
fuel cells (3.00 / 1) (#148)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 02:09:42 AM EST

OK, OK. I am not depressed. I did, in fact, forget about fuel cells. Using your existing natural gas line you could easily use your car's fuel cell to power your home while it's parked in your garage. I'm definitely looking forward to that! [Analysis: a test car generating 75 kilowatts was just test-driven this summer. According to a solar power FAQ, 3 to 4 kilowatts is sufficient to power a home. Another source says a home needs 10 to 40 kilowatts per day.]

a second look at Batelle's predictions (4.00 / 1) (#149)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 02:22:57 AM EST

Battelle names these top three by 2005: (1) human genome mapping, (2) super materials, (3) compact, long-lasting and highly portable energy sources, including fuel cells and batteries.

After reading the comments here, I took a second look. I'm willing to soften my pessimism. (See my previous follow-up for details about what I'm thinking of doing for a follow-up.) I also wrote a separate comment expanding on Battelle's third item. They don't talk about fuel cells in cars by 2005, but I think that's very possible -- especially if America goes to war with Iraq, stirs up a hornet's nest in the Middle East, and consequently decides to pursue alternative energy seriously.

pebble bed nuclear reactors (5.00 / 1) (#150)
by tbc on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 02:41:09 AM EST

After mentioning alternative energy, I remembered yet another way cool technology: pebble bed nuclear reactors.

Cheaper, faster, better (4.00 / 1) (#157)
by hans on Fri Aug 23, 2002 at 08:16:34 PM EST

My PC is already fast enough (1300 mhz 512 MB gobs of disk), and AMD CPU's are pretty damn cheap ($150 gets you the XP 2200+ or whatever).......I'd like stability & reliability.  I'd like a hard drive that won't crash (STILL disgruntled about the Deskstars), an operating system that's as easy and intuitive as Windows, but with the stability, configurability, and honesty of Linux.  (I've tried Linux off & on for the past couple years.  Its sucks up my time more than quick reboots)  

Basically, I just want things to work as they're intended, when I want them to.  

Check out this video (4.00 / 1) (#159)
by cooldev on Sat Aug 24, 2002 at 09:12:10 PM EST

Ok, I'm late to the party.. I wonder if anybody will actually read this.

Check out this video from NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese telecom company. Very optimistic and evolutionary (vs. revolutionary), but still neat.

There are three obvious enabling technologies holding back a river of innovative yet practical products:

1) Cheap long-lasting portable power sources. The key barrier to portable devices. We need 100x today's power/consumption ratio. (Either 100x longer lasting batteries or 100x lower power consumption across cpu/display/etc. or some combination.)

2) Cheap high-DPI color display technology. I want every wall in my house and office to have a painted on LCD-like display with at least 300 DPI. My desk, kitchen counter, and whatever else I want should have this surface. (Think of the screen savers! ;-)

3) Cheap, fast, always-on wireless networking, available everywhere. The suckage factor here is unbelievable given the technology we have available and the prices people are paying. Somebody needs to come in and mop up here in the US and put Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, etc. out of their collective stagnated misery.

more utopian dreams (none / 0) (#160)
by tbc on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:26:05 PM EST

I watched the whole video. I won't argue the general direction it lays out -- more bandwidth, smaller devices, "smarter" interfaces (including identity recognition). But overall, it looked to me to be just another tool of marketing hype. For one thing, their own Web site has cobwebs. Latest headlines haven't been updated since May 8th.

The video doesn't show anything different from science fiction imaginings. And it's no more creative in its predictions about how it will affect people's lives. Simplistic and utopian.

[ Parent ]

NYT raises the same question I do (none / 0) (#161)
by tbc on Tue Oct 01, 2002 at 01:05:03 PM EST

The NYT yesterday ran this story: PC Makers Hit Speed Bumps; Being Faster May Not Matter.

My favorite quote: "Even personal computer industry veterans acknowledge the paucity of new ideas that currently troubles the computer industry." [Emphasis mine.]

I like that word: paucity.

Carrying forward this discussion... (none / 0) (#162)
by tbc on Thu Feb 27, 2003 at 09:21:11 AM EST

... to Visions of computers of the future.

Whither Tech Future? | 162 comments (149 topical, 13 editorial, 1 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!