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

[P]
Sci-Fi Tech Coming to a Reality Near You

By thelizman in Technology
Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:15:30 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

"Where are the flying cars we were promised?" Avery Brooks is quite excited, and not in a good way. In a commercial for IBM, he rails about how disappointed society is because all the great technological advances we were promised a few decades ago still aren't here. No flying cars, no space travel, no giant domed cities, no anti-gravity belts, no warp drive ...aside from the remote control, mankind has not made a significant advance in technology in the last 50 years. The next 50 years promises to be different. In this article, I will examine disruptive technologies that will likely impact us in the next half century, some of which we've been waiting for impatiently, others we've barely conceived of yet.


Sci-Fi's Track Record

So far, Science Fiction has done a better job of predicting trends and disruptive technologies than mainstream science has. Jules Verne, who ranks amongst the likes of Shakespeare as one of the most translated authors of all time, enjoys such a distinction. He wrote about the notion of a space capsule in "From Earth to the Moon" nearly 100 years before Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard rode in them. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" introduced us to the notion of an electric submarine less than a decade after the first submarine was put into service, and half a century before battery powered U-boats terrorized the oceans. In his book "Diary of an American Journalist, 2890", Verne described video phones, moving sidewalks (as found in many airports today), cities packed with towering sky scrapers, calculators, and levitating trains.

Verne was notable for the scope of his vision, but he is by no means alone. Robert A. Heinlein's sci-fi one-off novel "Starship Troopers" introduced us to the Mobile Infantry Power Suit - a high tech armored suit which integrates the soldier, his communication gear, and weaponry. In 1991, the US Army set upon a US $2 Billion research program into the Land Warrior System, and today elements of the land warrior system are already being deployed in the field with Special Forces and Ranger units.

Even not-so-serious fiction has produced technology concepts that are impacting society only recently. The Dick Tracy cartoon series started running in papers in 1931. One of the "gee whiz" gizmo's in Tracy's inventory was a video-phone watch. Today, cell phones that can transmit still pictures are common place, 3G networks are promising full motion video, and true to form, Casio introduce a watch with a built-in camera and color display. In other circles, the pop-culture icon Douglas Adams introduced the "Sub-Etha Network" in his "Hitch Hikers" series. This network allowed people armed with portable tablet computers (something Xerox PARC came up with in the early 1980's) to communicate electronically, and collaborate on a encyclopedic database of facts.

Other sci-fi technologies have yet to come to fruition. The handheld laser blaster is a standard of nearly every sci-fi work since Buck Rogers. In truth, lasers are still too large, bulky, and complicated to serve as weapons. Ironically, lasers have emerged as having far more peaceful uses, from supermarket checkouts to storing data on discs. Enter the next 50 years, where the fantastic is on the precipice of becoming reality.

Warp Drive

You have to have lived in a cave for the last thirty years to not know about Star Trek, and at least some of the aspect of Gene Roddenberry's fictional universe. A physicists nightmare, Star Trek presents a panoply of technologies more or less based in science fact to serve as the backdrop to stories meant to explore the human condition. As it was originally conceived in the late 1960's as a "wagon train to the stars", the enabling technology was "Warp Drive". The how-to of warp drive was never specifically discussed in early episodes of Star Trek, but it's clear that the science existed at the time to inspire Roddenberry and other sci-fi writers of the time to imagine the means to make faster than light travel possible. In "The Physics of Star Trek", Lawrence Krauss describes how warp drive works. While General Relativity (Einstein, 1905) dictates that nothing that has mass can travel faster than the speed of light, it does not prevent something with mass crossing vast distances of linear space in short amounts of time. The Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubeirre gave serious attention to, and even legitimized the idea of "warp drive" in 1994 paper published while he was attending the University of Wales, College of Cardiff.

The idea is to use a device to create a warp bubble. At the front of the bubble, space is being compressed, or contracted. At the rear of the bubble, space is being expanded. Any mass inside the warp bubble would then be pushed about. Interestingly, within the bubble, space-time remains unchanged. There are no inertia effects, and no space-time dilation. To an observer outside of the warp bubble, you would whisky by at fantastic faster-than-light speeds. Inside the bubble, you would see the universe whiz by, but for all intents and purposes you are fixed at a point in your local space. You're sitting still.

Alcubierre's warp-drive paper has passed peer review, and is based in sound science. Alcubierre himself is considered at the fore of cosmology and theoretical physics, being mentioned in the same breath as Stephen Hawkings. In theory, an Alcubierre drive would enable practical interstellar travel ...except for three problems. The first is the amount of energy required to warp space time - it is the energy contained in the mass of a small planet. The second problem is the fact that there is no technology - that we know of - which allows the manipulation of space time. The third problem (which was actually covered in a Star Trek episode) is the environment impact of manipulating space time. The danger in creating rifts in space-time evokes untold horrors ranging from regions of space where physics no longer apply, to the complete and total destruction of our universe.

Enter the not-so-credible world of UFOs, government conspiracies, and the legendary Area 51. To be more precise, the adjacent S-4 complex at the Nellis Test Range in Nevada. In reality, Area 51 has been acknowledged off-the-record as being a secret testing ground for captured Soviet aircraft, and high tech DARPA aircraft projects such as the stealth fighters and bombers. The alleged S-4 site has only been alluded to in scant reference in declassified government documents, and if it weren't for a character by the name of Robert Lazar, nobody would have ever thought much of it.

The story of Bob Lazar reads like a sci-fi novel itself. Employed by a government contractor in 1988, Lazar details a shady covert world where proxy corporations are used to hide the activities of advanced Department of Defense facilities. In particular, Lazar's specialty was propulsion systems. He was asked to work on vehicles at an undisclosed complex, and under tight scrutiny. The government, for its part, denies ever having employed Lazar, but later admitted he had worked as a low-level consultant to the Air Force. As an employee at S-4, Lazar claims he worked on reverse-engineering technologies related to captured space craft, which he had initially assumed were of Soviet design. Later, Lazar says he came to the realization that the craft were extraterrestrial in nature.

With respect to the technology of the craft, Lazar claims that they use a gravity generator that is powered by a nuclear reactor. The generators produce gravity waves which can either cancel out the gravitational field through which it is projected, or it can generate its own gravitational field. The operation of the drive on these craft is very similar to Alcubierre's proposed warp drive. However, in spite of Lazar's credentials and authority on the issue, his claims are dubious. The government denies knowledge of S-4, and most of Lazar's claims remain unproven.

If Lazar is to be believed, then we do have the technology in our posession to manipulate space. Aside from supposed alien technologies, we are left to our own devices, and leading edge research does show some promise for human kinds. In August of 2001, a Russian physicist named Eugene Podkletnov published a paper regarding an experiment wherein a mass suspended from a balance scale over a plate of super conducting materiel, appeared to lighten when a magnetic field was applied. Podkletnov's work still has to undergo peer review, and an attempt at peer review by NASA has proven inconclusive. However, at least one scientist has reproduced Podkletnov's work. John Schurer replicated the experiment, and showed a 5% reduction in apparent weight of a plastic disc in the same setup. In general, scientists disagree with what is causing the effect, but Podkletnov himself postulated that the superconductor changes the interaction of certain forces such as gravity and magnetism. In a similar development, the University of South Carolina announced, and subsequently withdrew a paper in which they describe a device they claimed could generate a gravitational field to either direct or counter an gravitational field.

In spite of these developments, there still exists to practical application of a gravity manipulating technology. However, it is not impossible to effect gravity. The real question involves the application of power. In order to create a practical gravitational field, it would require the energy bound up in the mass of a small planet, if not a star. A source of energy that plentiful has yet to be explored...or maybe it has.

Cold Fusion on the Desktop

Philo T. Farnsworth is a name every couch potato should know, but probably doesn't. It's certainly a name revered by Amature Radio Enthusiasts (aka "Hams"), for Farnsworth invented the high frequency vacuum tubes which made high frequency radio communication possible, and even practical. Nearly every part of the television up until the 1980's owed credit to Farnsworths research into vacuum tubes.

One innovation that Farnsworth is not so well known for is based on a problem he had in developing the high frequency vacuum tube. The problem is known as electron multipacting and generally speaking it's something to avoid. Multipacting is when particles (in this case, electrons), begin to clump together. In so doing, the particles enter a higher energetic state. The danger with this in terms of vacuum tubes is that excessive multipacting will result in a plasma field trapped between the elements of the tube, and melting them. Understandably, engineers worked to avoid this phenomenon.

Farnsworth, however, was intrigued by the multipacting process, and particularly about the ability (indeed, the tendency) to focus the multipacted electrons to a given point. This ability, known as Inertial Electrostatic Confinement, would allow the containment of a high energy plasma within a given space. Contemporary fusion experiments at the time could not contain the high energy plasma. Once the plasma touches the reactor walls, there was tremendous erosion of the wall, as well as drastic loss in power caused by the cooling of the plasma. Today, fusion reactor designs attempt to use large arrays of electromagnets to contain the plasma, the most notable being the Tokamak.

Farnsworth began his experiments in the Farnsworth Television Labs at ITT, and built several different designs. His initial design used a cylindrical chamber with cylindrical electrodes through which the fuel was injected at high velocity. The ions would race towards the core, where they were contained by the electrostatic pressure from the electrodes. The impact of new ions being fired into the core kept the hottest plasma towards the center, where the fusion reactions occurred. The rate of reaction was measured by counting the neutron emissions.

Several models of the initial Farnsworth Fusor were built, but their output was limited by one factor: The use of particle accelerators to inject new fuel into the core was a slow way of introducing new fussionable materiel. A new design would have to be created to further the fusor.

The arrival of Robert Hirsch provided a dramatic shift in fusor design. He did away with the particle accelerators and multiple electrodes. Hirsch instead proposed a design where two spherical electrodes - one inside the other - would be surrounded by the fuel in a normal gaseous state. The ions needed for fusion would be provided by the coronal discharge of the electrodes. The electrodes would draw the ions to the center of the fusor where they would begin fusing. This fusor, properly known as the Hirsch-Meeks fusor, became the focus of research at the labs, and a series of models leading up the the Mark III showed very high rates of fusion approaching the "break even" point where the process would produce more energy then it consumed.

Unfortunately, other forces were at work. Farnsworth Television Labs had been purchased by ITT in 1949. In 1961, ITT placed Harold Geneen in charge of the company, and Geneen set about making ITT a profitable company by purchasing other profitable companies and selling unprofitable assets. Since Farnsworth's labs weren't producing anything, they got the axe. Farnsworth then turned to the Atomic Energy Commission, but was snubbed. Fission was the promise of the day, and Fusion was seen as technically unfeasible. The fusor nearly died.

In the 1980's, big fusion projects resulted in a series of dismal failures. Fission reactors were producing tons of toxic and radioactive waste, the disposal of which was a sensitive issue. Highly publicized containment failures - first at 3 Mile Island in 1979, and later at Chernobyl in 1986, shook the public confidence in nuclear power. Amongst all this enters George Miley of the University of Illinois who revived the fusor.

George Miley proposed a device based on the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor, and sought funding from the Department of Energy. The controversy over the cold fusion announcement by Pons & Fleischmann pushed the idea of fusion further from mainstream science, but Miley was able to secure funding from Chrysler (now Daimler Chrysler) to produce fusors as a commercial neutron source.

Today, fusor research is largely the domain of the science hobbyist, with most new innovations coming from outside the scientific community. A number of hobbyists work with fusors creating a vast body of experimental observations. However, it is unlikely that this community will be the source of the breakthrough reactor design which makes fusors commercially feasible sources of power. The problem with fusors and other non-equilibrium fusion devices is that energy leaks out in the form of radiation, most notably X-Rays. A method must be found to redirect that radiation back into the reaction in order to make the reaction yield a net surplus of energy. Using light isotopes such as deuterium as nuclear fuel will still produce a net energy output, but that output is not sufficient for power generation.

Free Energy, in the GNU Sense of the Word

The field of Quantum physics presents us with a dazzling array of theories which describe how the universe functions on a subatomic scale. These principles seemingly defy logic, and often fly in the face of other principles of physics. Often these theories seem destined to remain simply theories because we lack the technical ability to prove them experimentally. But one aspect of quantum physics has been experimentally proven, and the implications are exciting.

In 1948, the Dutch Physicist Hendrick Casimir was working colloidal solutions at Phillips labs. A colloid is a type of mixture in which small particles are suspended in a liquid. A colleague of Casimir had found that the traditional explanation for some behaviors of colloids didn't fully account for what was observed. Through an extraordinary series of explanations, Casimir found that there existed a new force - an attractive force between two masses separated by the smallest of distances, and that this force arose from fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.

The Casimir effect would have to wait until 1958 to be demonstrated by another scientist at Phillips labs, Marcus J Spaarnay. Spaarnay set up an experiment where two reflective surfaces were placed in close proximity. One surface was fixed, the other was attached to a balance beam. Spaarnay was not able to directly confirm the Casimir effect, but effectively demonstrated that the experiment did not disprove the effect under the specified conditions. A direct causal relationship had to wait even longer. In 1997, Stephen Lamoreaux of the University of Washington did the most conclusive experiment to date. In the Lamoreaux experiment, a spherical lens of quartzite was attached to a pendulum, and suspended over a copper plate. The force was measured as the two surfaces were brought closer to each other. When the plate and lens were separated by a few microns, the Casimir force slammed the two together, inducing a twist into the pendulum that was measurable to within a mere 5% of predicted forces. The Casimir effect had been physically demonstrated.

The force that drove these two experiments is not itself a source of infinite free energy. Rather, the underlying physics demonstrated in the Casimir effect gave rise to the study of the Quantum Vacuum, and provided greater insight into something known as the Zero Point Field, and the Lorenz-Invariant Vacuum. Here is where you may be asked to suspend disbelief long enough to absorb these ideas.

First, we'll look at the concept of a vacuum. Most people associate vacuum with what is called the Classical Vacuum - an area from which all matter has been removed. However, a Classical Vacuum is not empty space. The void is still filled with energy in the form of photons and radiation waves. In order to achieve a true vacuum, you have to cool the space down to absolute zero - the point at which all things freeze. In theory, at absolute zero there can be no energy whatsoever. In actual practice, however, it was discovered that that energy still existed, and thus the vacuum was not truly a vacuum, but a Lorenz-Invariant Vacuum. The energy that remained was dubbed the Zero Point Energy field. In theory, the source of this energy is incomplete snippets of energy waves. These half-filled photon states cannot exist as energy, and they cannot exist as particles, except under conditions that are defined by a degree of uncertainty. In short, the very small spaces between atoms are constantly bubbling with elementary particles that appear out of nowhere, then dissolve back into nothing. This is often called the Quantum Foam.

Energy in the Zero Point Field is the left over remnant of the creation of the universe, and it is believed to be what is pushing the galaxies farther apart. It is isotropic - meaning it has the same measurable quantities in all direction, and it is homogenous - meaning that it is everywhere equally. Scientist also believe that the zero point field contains fragments of all possible wavelengths, from negative infinity, through zero, and on into infinity. Theoretically, that means that a potentially infinite wellspring of energy exists, and this is part of where the controversy begins. Free energy defies the laws of thermodynamics which essentially state that the universe is growing colder and disordered as time goes on. Infinite energy would mean that the idea of entropy - in which everything eventually breaks down - is not valid. However, these concepts are academic, and it would take volumes to consider both sides of the argument and their proofs. All we need to accept is that the available energy from the Zero Point Field is more than we puny humans can ever need.

But how does this Zero Point Field actually cause two plates to slam together in a laboratory? That is, after all, the definitive proof that the ZPF if a source of energy. The "hows" of the Casimir effect was put forth by Dr. Peter Miloni of the Los Alamos National Laboratories, who postulated that the forces arose from an imbalance between available energy states between the plates, and those outside the plates. Essentially, you had a finite number of possible energetic states pushing against the surfaces of the inside of the plates, but you had the infinite number of energetic states of the entire universe pushing on the other side of those plates. The break even point at which those plates are pushed together depends on the surface area of the plates, and their distance of separation.

But the experiments of Spaarnay and Lamoreaux are hardly templates for a useful device for exploiting the potential of the Zero Point Field. The Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy dictates that you cannot get more energy out of a system then you put in to the system. In the case of Spaarnay and Lamoreaux, the energy that slammed the two plates together is a fraction of the energy needed to both separate them, and to align them again. A useful method for tapping the Zero Point Field rests in a different technology - a technology nearly every citizen on this planet uses daily.

Stick a wire into the air, and shove the other end into the ground, and a current will flow through the wire. This is caused by radio waves striking the wire. Put a coil, a diode, and a earphone together, and you can hear these radio waves. Today, it's simple everyday science. In the days when Tesla and Marconi experimented with radio, it was magic. Electricity itself was still a new and mysterious force, but radio waves themselves were completely alien. There was scarcely a body of theoretical research about the transmission of energy through the mysterious aether. But this didn't stop scientists of the day from experimenting with these forces. A dentist named Mahlon Loomis made what is believed to be the first transmission and reception of a radio broadcast. The transmitter consisted of a kite anchored within a puddle of salt water. On the receiving end was another kite also anchored to a puddle of saltwater via a galvanometer. Upon applying a large current to a wire attached to the transmitting kite, the galvanometer at the receiving kite jumped to show a current flowing through the wire. The year was 1866, nearly 30 years before Marconi experimented with wireless telegraphy, and gained international fame as the "inventor" of radio communication.

We know slightly more about the Zero Point Field today than did Loomis, Stubblefield, Marconi, or Tesla in their day, but it seems that the answer to tapping the potential of the Zero Point Field is as simple as it was for tapping the electromagnetic field of radio waves. Here is the hitch: the most useful frequencies - i.e., those frequencies from which practical electrical currents can be extracted through such a system - are in the region of 1040 Hz. By comparison, Gigahertz radar is 1010 Hz (or 10,000,000,000 hz), visible light is 1014 Hz, and gamma radiation is 1020 Hz. There exists no antenna technology that can receive frequencies that high. Luckily, there is a way around this, a sort of "cheat" if you will. Mix two waves of differing frequencies together, and you get a "beat" frequency that is lower that either of the two original frequencies. It is possible to create a mechanical structure that mixes two frequencies together, and then use a more conventional antenna design to harness the power contained in that beat frequency. If the idea sounds good, then that probably explains why it's already been patented (#5,590,031) by Doctor Frank Mead of Andrews Air Force Base.

Of course, with the promise of such a technology, the first question is why it isn't front page news. Once again, we are just slightly behind in technology for such an application. While Mead has experimentally validated such a device, a working prototype that can produce practical amounts of power will require manufacturing processes of greater precision than we are capable of today. All of science is dependent upon the various fields in science. Just as electronics contributed to fusion with the development of fusor technology, the future of zero point energy will have to wait on innovations in micron-scale manufacturing coming out of the semiconductor industry.

Programmable Matter

In the hit movies Terminator 2 and Terminator 3, the arch nemesis was a robot made from "mimetic alloy" - basically a liquid metal that could take on the properties of any other substance. The mimetic alloy existed entirely in fiction, and was created using special effects, but the idea was... to put it simply ... cool. Years later, another work of fiction introduces us to a solid materiel with similar properties. In his books "The Collapsium" and "The Wellstone", Wil McCarthy introduces a materiel that is more or less based on science fact, and not science fiction. Wil McCarthy himself has an impressive record, having worked for Lockheed Martin as a rocket scientist (navigation and propulsion systems), he holds a degree in Aerospace engineering, and has done some post-graduate work in astrophysics. Prior to becoming an author, he worked as a robotic engineer. In writing his books, McCarthy drew upon both his own expertise, and that of colleagues. But first, your CD-ROM drive.

Lasers are big, bulky, and consume lots of power. At least they did for four decades. Then, quite suddenly lasers got incredibly small and efficient. A laser that required an entire room of equipment to function in 1950 now dangles from a key chain. The breakthrough is the quantum well. Think back to physics, and you may remember that all matter is made of energy in a specific state. Some forms of matter, particularly electrons and photons, can readily alternate between a particle state and a wave state depending upon certain conditions. A quantum well is a physical construction that forces an electron to act as a wave instead of a particle. Quite simply, it is a layer of materiel so thin that an electron cannot fit inside of it unless it converts its wave state. In order to get out of this state, the electron must achieve an energy state sufficient to get out of the well (or, in keeping with the weirdness of Quantum Mechanics, it can just disappear and reappear outside of the well). When the electron finally achieves this energy state, it jumps out of the well, and then emits a photon so it can return to it's normal state. That photon becomes the laser light that little kids point at the back of their teachers heads in class.

A quantum well is a one dimensional device. Add a second dimension, and you get a quantum wire (which will lead us to even more powerful lasers and radio antennas). Add a third dimension, and you get quantum dots, which is where it gets interesting . A quantum dot is a space created in a semiconductor materiel where free electrons are pooled. In optimum conditions, the electrons arrange themselves in a valence structure as if they were part of an atom, except without a nucleus. It's the electrons that determine the chemical behavior of an atom, so in effect each quantum dot is a programmable atom - its behavior being determined by the number of electrons pooled into the quantum dot and the geometry of the well. While quantum dots create the possibility of electronically simulating combinations of elements, it also creates the exciting field of atomic engineering wherein new elements on the periodic chart are created by flipping a switch. In addition, designer atoms can be created by altering the geometry of the atom, allowing for entirely new properties. In the appendix of "The Collapsium", Wil McCarthy explains:

"Lastly, the quantum dots needn't reside within the physical structure of our semiconductor; they can be maintained just above it through a careful balancing of electrical charges. In fact, this is the preferred method, since it permits the dots' characteristics to be adjusted without any physical modification of the substrate.

So picture this: a diffuse lattice of crystalline silicon, superfine threads much thinner than a human hair crisscrossing to form a translucent structure with roughly the density of balsa wood, a structure which, like balsa wood, is mostly empty space. Except that with the application of electrical currents, that space can be filled with "atoms" of any desired species, producing a virtual substance with the mass of diffuse silicon, but with the chemical, physical, and electrical properties of some new, hybrid material."

The implications of such a materiel would revolutionize society. Materiel's created in software could be copyrighted, and entire industries would rise up around "Hacking Matter". Wellstone as portrayed by McCarthy could change from concrete to the trademarked Bunkerlite (the strongest materiel known to man according to the narrator in this book), then to glass. A vandal throwing a brick at a window would find the brick bouncing off a concrete wall, which then turns back to glass. By building addressability into the silicon matrix, you could even create discrete structures within the materiel, such as electrical circuits, even whole electronic computers.

Of course, wellstone would not be the end of natural materiel's. A wellstone iron rod would not have all the strength of iron. Beat it with a hammer, and instead of deforming it would shatter into bits of silicone. Strike a wellstone concrete wall just right, it may just short out and change into wellstone glass.

The applications of wellstone (or a materiel like it) are exciting. Unfortunately, it is still a horizon technology that requires further examination. However, the technology to bring it about exists now. Wellstone could be created by the same processes that create the silicon based semiconductors found in every electronic device.



Bibliography

McCarthy, Wil. The Collapsium. New York: Bantam Spectra, 2000.

Sponsors

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

Login

Poll
What's Your Fav Unrealized Sci Fi Tech?
o The Holodeck (Star Trek) 34%
o Translator Microbes (Farscape) 0%
o Dimensional Gateways (Sliders) 1%
o Wormhole Travel (Stargate SG-1, Farscape, Sliders) 13%
o Neural Interface (Andromeda, The Matrix) 29%
o Quicksilver (The Invisible Man) 0%
o Bistromath Drive (Hitchikers Guide) 20%

Votes: 123
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Avery Brooks
o From Earth to the Moon
o Yuri Gagarin
o Alan Shepard
o towering sky scrapers
o levitating trains
o Starship Troopers
o Land Warrior System
o Dick Tracy
o watch with a built-in camera and color display
o Douglas Adams
o "Hitch Hikers" series
o portable tablet computers
o collaborat e on a encyclopedic database of facts
o lived in a cave for the last thirty years
o Star Trek
o Gene Roddenberry's
o The Physics of Star Trek
o General Relativity
o Einstein
o Miguel Alcubeirre
o 1994 paper
o University of Wales, College of Cardiff
o Bob Lazar
o paper
o peer review by NASA
o replicated the experiment
o announced
o Philo T. Farnsworth
o vacuum tubes
o electron multipacting
o Tokamak
o Farnsworth Fusor
o 3 Mile Island
o Chernobyl
o George Miley
o University of Illinois
o Pons & Fleischmann
o science hobbyist
o Casimir effect
o Zero Point Field
o Lorenz-Inv ariant
o Los Alamos National Laboratories
o Mahlon Loomis
o galvanomet er
o Marconi
o Stubblefie ld
o Tesla
o 5,590,031
o Terminator 2
o Terminator 3
o The Collapsium
o The Wellstone
o Wil McCarthy
o quantum well
o quantum wire
o quantum dots
o Hacking Matter
o Also by thelizman


Display: Sort:
Sci-Fi Tech Coming to a Reality Near You | 268 comments (244 topical, 24 editorial, 1 hidden)
-1, thelizman (1.07 / 13) (#2)
by rmg on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 04:53:22 PM EST



_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

Oooh, weee....AFT! [nt[ (none / 0) (#3)
by thelizman on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 05:05:07 PM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
It is already happening (1.00 / 2) (#6)
by Urpo on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 05:12:03 PM EST

The next wave of hi-tech companies, notably Gravity Control Technologies, are really pushing the envelope with ambitious research projects and commercial spin offs.

GCT is working on technologies to control gravity and inertia, enabling rapid FTL travel. Sounds like Science Fiction? Well, GCT is implementing the latest theoretical physics theories involving the superdeformed, high spin heavy nucelei. In the 60's it was discovered that nuclei that were very heavy and should have broken up could maintain a stable state by rotating so rapidly that they become flattened and distorted, rather like the Earth is not a perfect sphere.

It was also discovered that one spinning nucleus could transfer its energy to another nucleus and have it spin up without any energy being lost. The nuclei in the high spin state behaved as if they were superconductors.

I believe GCT hope to utilise the interaction of the high spin, superdeformed nuclei with the Zero Point Field of the quantum vacuum. Andrei Sakharov postulated that gravity, is in fact, the result of the interaction of matter (the protons, the electrons and the neutrons) with the Zero Point Field, or vacuum energy. Vacuum energy is a sort of sea of particles that pop in and out of existance due to random quantum fluctuations in space.

This is all very exciting work, and companies like GCT are the IBMs and Microsofts of the 21st century. Just as IBM was a little known calculating company in the 1890's, so GCT is little known today. But by being in a key position technologically it may become a real trailblazer.

Even if it does not, there's no doubt that the 21st century is a very exciting time for technology and for our covilisation.

--
Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.

The Problem with GCT (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by thelizman on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 05:16:27 PM EST

GCT makes some grandiose claims, but if you peruse their site the only actual technology they've practically applied doesn't even appear related to their research.

They're recent inability to receive consideration for the X-Prize is pretty telling of how thin some of the technologies this company proposes may be. I'd consider them with the same grain of salt I consider Bob Lazar with (though Lazar does have more documentation and scientific backing for his cliams).

If GCT can make good on some of these technologies, it would be great. But I have to be highly skeptical...at least for now.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Doctor Mead's Patent (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by Blarney on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 06:23:15 PM EST

I looked at your link to patent #5,590,031, and I am confused as to how, exactly, this gadget is to be tuned so as to generate energy from received radiation in the 1040 Hz range.

First of all, the design assumes the possibility of creating two slightly detuned, closely spaced antennas receiving in this 1040 Hz band. However, there is no way that any macroscopic object could resonate at these frequencies. Solid pieces of metal resonate at radio or microwave frequencies, entire molecules resonate at microwave or infrared frequencies, low-energy molecular electron orbitals resonate at infrared or visible frequencies, valence electron orbitals resonate at visible or ultraviolet frequencies, inner shell electronic orbitals resonate at X-ray frequencies, atomic nuclei resonate at gamma-ray frequencies .... and we're still nowhere near 1040 Hz. These antennas would have to be smaller than elementary particles!

Furthermore, spacing of these antennas would be crucial and would have to be almost unimaginably small. Smaller by a dozen orders of magnitude from the size of a proton. The problem here is that vacuum radiation is expected to be random - and this beat-frequency mixing will only work with signals that are reasonably coherent - and that the only way to get two coherent signals from this randomness at these frequencies is to pull the signals out of damn near the same place.

What kind of apparatus can you possibly build that has two antennas smaller by many orders of magnitude than protons, separated by a distance comparable to their size, which are then hooked up to macroscopic wires and fed to a damned diode? I just can't imagine it.

But hey, let him have his patent if he doesn't want anyone stealing his work. Somehow I suspect that nobody will be able to.

1040 Hz (none / 0) (#16)
by Xoder on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 08:56:14 PM EST

your transversal of scale has the wrong direction.
1040 Hz is a very SMALL frequency with respect to most electromagnetic radiation we see.

For a concept of scale, the wavelength of a 1040Hz wave is about 300 kilometers.  If we were to use a traditional monopole 1/4-wavelength antenna, our antenna would be about 75 km.  So, yes, the concept is difficult, but not for the reasons you mention.

Lately I've been hearing that god's on our side But rumor has it, there's one on their side too So what I'd like to know is, when it comes down to it, can my god kick their god's ass or what?
[ Parent ]

10<sup>40</sup) Hz (none / 0) (#17)
by Blarney on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 09:15:54 PM EST

I wrote 1040 Hz, not 1040 Hz. The author of the article also wrote 10^40 as 1040 - this appears as 1040 to you also? Perhaps your browser doesn't properly handle superscripts.

[ Parent ]
To Clarify... (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by thelizman on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 10:10:33 PM EST

...1040 Hz is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Hz. 1040 Hz is just that.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
D'oh (none / 0) (#93)
by Xoder on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 02:25:17 PM EST

Nope, graphical links definately doesn't handle superscript right.

Lately I've been hearing that god's on our side But rumor has it, there's one on their side too So what I'd like to know is, when it comes down to it, can my god kick their god's ass or what?
[ Parent ]
Sounds like (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by epepke on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:26:07 PM EST

This sounds a lot like, "hey if it were possible to make a little ratchet that was much smaller than an atom, we could get energy out of Brownian motion."


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


[ Parent ]
I'm sure (4.00 / 8) (#24)
by JahToasted on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 11:02:49 PM EST

There'll be flying cars by the time I finish reading this article.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
hello everyone (1.25 / 39) (#27)
by rmg on Sat Jul 19, 2003 at 11:39:08 PM EST

the gentoo forum is down, so i didn't know where else to turn. this really a matter of the utmost urgency and importance:

i recently install gentoo sco/linux on my coputer. on fortunately, my mouse wheel does not seem to be working... i've tried a variety of things but none of them seem to work. maybe one of the computery types around here might be able to help me?!

plz right back k thx.

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

Dear Sir (1.40 / 10) (#29)
by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:23:12 AM EST

From: Dr. Uba Jega. Satellite Tel: 874-762-918-985. Satellite Fax: 874-762-918-986.

Attn:President/C.e.o.

Strictly Confidential & Urgent Business Proposal.

Re: Transfer Of Usd $21,500.000{Twenty - One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Us Dollars Only.

I am a member of the Federal Government Of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (N.N.P.C). Sometime ago, a contract was awarded to a foreign firm in the Petroleum Trust Fund (P.T.F.) BY MY COMMITTEE.

This contract was over invoiced to the tune of us$ 21.5Million Dollars. This was done delibrately. The over - invoicing was a deal by my committee to benefit from the project.

We not want to transfer this money, which is in a suspense account with the P.T.F. into any oversea account, which we expect you to provide for us.

Share:

60 % of the money would be for my partners and I. 30 % of the money would be yours, for providing us with logistics, which, would include a safe bank account, where we shall facilitate funds transfer into, as soon as documentations are concluded over here. 10 % of the money has been mapped out from the total sum to cover any expenses that might be incurred during the course of the transaction, (both local and international expenses).

If interested in assisting us, please contact me via my secured email address, as soon as possible (jega.uba@caramail.com) or my secured satellite tel/fax number, specially procured for this project.

It may interest you to know that a similar transaction was carried out with one Mr. Patrice Miller, President of Crane International Trading Corp., of 153 East 57th St., 28th floor, N.Y.10022, Telephone: 212-308-7788 and Telex: 6731689. The deal was concluded and all covering documents, forwarded to Mr. Miller to authenticate the claims. Once the funds were transferred, Mr. Miller presented to his bank, all the legal documents and remitted the whole funds to another bank account, and disappeared completely. My colleagues and I were shattered, since such opportunities are not easy to come by.

Please, if you are interested in assisting us carry out to the fullest capacity, this transaction, we would require the following information from you which would enable us make formal application to the various ministries / parastatals, for the release and onward transfer of the money to your account.

  1. Your Full Name, Company's Name, Address, Telephone and Fax Numbers.
  2. Your Bank Name, Address. Telephone and Fax Number.
  3. Your Bank Account Number and Beneficiary Name - You must be the signatory.


Please, note that we have strong and reliable connections at the Central Bank Of Nigeria and other Government Parastatals, hence assistance in this regards, would not be a problem. At the conclusion of this transaction, we shall use same contacts to withdraw all documents used in the course of this, to avoid any trace whatsoever that may ever arise, to you or to us, now and in the nearest possible future.

It might also interest you to know that we are mere civil servants who do not want to miss this opportunity, hence, we want this money transferred out, as soon as possible, before the newly democratically elected government ever think of making enquiries as regards the various activities of the past military government.

Kindly contact me as soon as possible, whether or not you are interested in this deal, so that whereby you are not interested, it would give us more room to scout for another partner. But if you are interested, kindly contact me via above email, telephone or fax, so that we can swing into action, as time is not on our part.

I wait in anticipation of your fullest co-operation. Yours Faithfully,

Dr. Uba Jega.

--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
WTF U not 31337? (1.25 / 8) (#33)
by kphrak on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:50:18 AM EST

ok pls fsck off and rtfm d00d oki thx!#$@#!@!!!


Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.


[ Parent ]
YOU GODDAMN ELITIST ASSHOLES (1.00 / 14) (#34)
by rmg on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:27:52 AM EST

I TRY TO GET SOM E HELP WITH MY MOUSE WHEEL THAT I LOVE SO MUCH AND YOU PRICKS JUST MAKE FUN OF ME AND TELL ME RTFM WHATEVER THAT IS!!!! YOU GUYS MAY SPEND ALL YOUR TIME TRYING TO BE COMPUTER GENIOUSES AND WHATEVVER BUT MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET OUT AND SOCIALIZE AND LEARN SOME PEOPLE SKILLZ!!! YOU NEED TO GET LAID!

YOU ARE A JERK! HAVEN'T YOU EVER CARED ABOUT SOMETHING OR SOMEONE?? LIKE AN AUTHOR OR A MOUSE WHEEL??? MAYBE NOT. MAYBE IN YOUR COLD LITTLE TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED LEET HELL NOTHING MATTERS EXCEPT IRC AND HAXORIZING!! WELL FUCK ALL OF YOU!!

I JUST WANT MY POOR LITTLE MOUSE TO WORK! WHY CAN'T YOU JUST GIVE ME A LITTLE HELPP!!!??????

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

Yes, IHBT... (1.50 / 6) (#73)
by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:51:01 AM EST

Open /etc/X11/XF86Config in your favourite editor, then find Device "Mouse" or whatever it is called... and add:

Option "ZAxisMapping" Buttons "4 5" and change Protocol to "ImPS/2".

Save, then restart XWindows, and you're set.

[ Parent ]
WOO YAY!! (1.12 / 8) (#82)
by rmg on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:50:00 PM EST

thank you thank you thank you!!!! i will try your suggestion!!! you are the third person to tell me that, so it must be right!!! yayayayaya!!! i'll soon be reunited with my mouse wheel!  i love my mouse wheel!!

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

You need to recompile your kernel. (2.25 / 12) (#40)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:01:32 AM EST

Thanks to Linus' innovative monolithic kernel design, you need to recompile your kernel when you change your mouse model.

Look in /usr/src/linux/kernel for a Perl script called something like gnucmpl.pl, and edit it for environment variables. Then check for a file called Xmfile -- there you need to list your glibc version numbers and a PCI bus checksum number. Then simply call xmkmf with your mouse model code on the command line; the documentation isn't so good yet, thanks to our innovative bazaar development model, but you can ask around on IRC and probably find the right one for you. Also, don't forget to specify the right SCSI bus leaf code, otherwise the OS could trash itself as it tries to access the wrong hard-drive. That's it -- now you are ready to enjoy Linux!

(If the instruction above doesn't work, you probably have a dependency glitch with glibc; try to download and compile the right version of glibc.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Mostly crackpot theories (4.14 / 7) (#35)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 02:12:34 AM EST

What I didn't like about the article was that you talk mostly about somewhat shady, discredited ideas.  Whether alien spacecraft, cheap fusion, or flat out free energy the probability is extremely low that any of these ideas can actually work in our universe.  Programmable matter also has some key flaws and I think it is the wrong approach anyway : why do you need a general purpose 'do anything' material that is stupid expensive in energy costs to manufacture? (because of the HUGE delta S when you are arranging atoms individually)  Why not have discrete components that do their jobs well, to the limits allowed?  Also, the author of Hacking Matter mainly discusses consumer uses for the material, which is the last place technology based on it would reach by decades.

Instead, why not an article about world changing technologies that we are almost absolutely certain will work?  While cold fusion probably doesn't work, the hot kind, geothermal and solar power all certainly do, and on a large enough scale might make new ventures possible.  

Strong artificial intelligence almost certainly will become reality : it is true that the human brain is extremely complex, but we have better materials and higher energy processes than anything available to nature today.  I do think that actually constructing working strong AI might take trillions of dollars in labor : computing components not yet in existence will have to be developed (probably optical), and actually duplicating the key functions of our brains locus by locus will consume many lifetimes of labor.  

Strong AI has the potential, of course, to basically make all progress up to this point seem trivial.  

Certain types of molecular precision fabrication....the buzzword is 'nanotechnology' though this isn't really what the popular press is thinking of...may make new ideas possible.  Medicines, optics, various micromachines, and of course faster computer chips all will have their impact.  Physical limits apply here : the laws of physics apply very differently at this scale, but clearly impressive things are possible as evidenced by living examples.

Maybe I should write an article.

Gentleman Disagree. You and I will have to fight (4.33 / 3) (#36)
by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 02:55:28 AM EST

I'm almost positive you didn't actually read the article in the section about programmable matter. What are talking about when you state "because of the HUGE delta S when you are arranging atoms individually...". There are no atoms, so there is no expenditure of energy in arranging them. Reread the section, and feel free to revise and extend your remarks.

Instead, why not [write] an article about world changing technologies that we are almost absolutely certain will work?
First of all, it's my article. If you don't think it's well written, or you simply disagree with the subject matter, you're free to vote it down. If you simply disagree with the topic, write your own article. It'll be far easier than rewriting mine, and it is quite an enriching experience (not just for the ego) to land on the front page (even if it is just a web site).

More importantly, go back and look at my introduction. Focus on the words "disruptive technologies". Nanotechnology isn't going to be disruptive. It's not even going to be intrusive. The entire point of nanotechnology is that it will improve the minitiarization of already existing technologies. My criteria for a disruptive technology is that it anachronistic, and is represents a new technology in and of itself. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the Farnsworth Hirsch fusor is probably the only technology discussed that isn't wholly disruptive, because nuclear power has already existed. But programmable matter, ZPE, and Alcubierre Warp Drive all represent significant eruptions of new technologies that exist on the edge of theory today. Humanity is experiencing exponential advancement because of our unique ability as of late to capitalize on disruptive technologies and expand them. In 100 years, we have come farther than in the previous 10,000 years of human technological development. So there's no reason to believe that in the next half century, deep space travel and programmable matter aren't just as realistic as artificial intelligence. But then, we aren't even sure what constitutes intelligence, so I think you have farther to go in arguing that AI is a "reality", and programmable matter isn't.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#43)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:38:31 AM EST

The statement you made about programmable matter reveals your ignorance.  Have you actually read "Hacking Matter"?  'Programmable matter' would be a device made of current matter arranged in a very precise manner such that tiny electrodes create charge traps forcing electrons to form configurations not found in nature.  The 'substrate' matter is just as crucial an ingredient towards the final properties of the device as the electron clouds it is manipulating.  The material would be most useful for creating unique surface arrangements.  Better mirrors that exceed anything available in nature, or other optical devices have the most promise.  To create this device would require a manufacturing technique capable of placing atoms individually to make the electrodes small enough.  

In addition, while you may name a few crackpots who have not actually shown any real evidence of 'free' energy or alien spacecraft or manipulating spacetime, a working implementation of nanotechnology, solar power (well, indirectly), and strong AI exists behind this very keyboard.  

[ Parent ]

Accusations of Ignorance Are Often Misdirected (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:50:04 AM EST

I have read hacking matter. Apparently you read something else. The author clearly denotes that the silicon latticework could be manufactured with chemical processes and lithography techniques. Still doesn't sound one damn bit like what you're describing.

If you're entire disagreement with my article is based on a few paragraphs mentioning Bob Lazar, then you're wasting your time. I clearly demonstrated his dubious status. I also discussed Podkletinov. Your shrill accusations of "crack-pot" are weak, and in true troll fashion you are now attempting to debase half a dozen personalities who are more educated, more published, and more influential than you.

Speaking of crack-pottery, anyone who has actually paid attention to AI research knows that we are still centuries from producing an AI. You're making it sound like we are on the edge of realising it, when the truth is we dont' even have the practical devices to recognize AI. We're still debating Turing.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Look (4.66 / 3) (#49)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:03:05 AM EST

The problem I mentioned was that while eventually techniques to manufacture it will exist (and obviously, to make computer chips capable of supporting strong AI you'd need these kinds of tolerences) the energy requirements to make even current parts, in 2 dimensions mainly, are already rather high.  Parts built atom by atom will probably take as much energy per gram as an entire SUV.  Perhaps more.  The reason, as I explained, is inherent in the relative change in entropy.  Arranging atoms individually for a very small device takes about the same delta S as bulk processes to make the few thousand parts an automobile requires.  Entropy is of course inherent in the universe itself, and very likely there are no loopholes at all.  It's reasonable to believe the probability is extremely high that entropy, the speed of light, probably gravity, are all hard physical limits that can never be broken.  

In addition, you have to understand that not any arbitrary arrangement of electrons with 'programmable matter' is possible.  The charged electrodes in the substrate material will always play a factor, interacting with whatever forces the material is subject to.

Alien spacecraft, manipulating spacetime, and violating thermodynamics are the only other ideas you mention.  Perhaps I should choose another term besides 'crack-pot'...but the point remains, any competent scientist, any skeptic, must base his thoughts on what the evidence shows.  If you have a credible body of evidence that supports any of those 3 possibilities, then by all means bring it out.  I'd love to break thermodynamics in my lab, or talk to aliens.

I pointed out that a real AI would of course require trillions of dollars (meaning literally millions of workers : a significant fraction of the worlds educated would be working on the project for a number of years) to construct.  The 'failures' have mainly involved small projects with a few professors and hardware that works nothing like our own brains.  If a few kids in their back yard were un-able to build a rocket capable of reaching orbit, much less the moon, would you conclude lunar travel was impossible?  

As for evidence for AI : look no farther than your own head.  In a few pounds of working matter, with trivial amounts of energy, you are able to perform the same tasks we would expect this machine to do (just the machine would eventually be much faster and more accurate).  Your brain continues to work despite being exposed to contaminants and damage, and it almost never quits completely (unless a poison kills its cells or the its equivalent of a power system fails your brain basically keeps functioning).  Your brain is self organizing during its developement process, meaning no gigantic set of data to arrange its billions of neurons into a working system exist.  (so the fundamental problem : cribbing the rules it uses for this process, is simpler than the more daunting task of trying to copy the placement of every neuron in a mind)

Your belittling of the idea (and most other people's) is based on two elements : the brain does not operate much like computing hardware, and so theories to explain how each piece work are thus far inadequate.  It is very difficult to study, and electrical connections to individual neurons have rarely been made in humans.  Also, religious people have difficulting dealing with the truth : we are merely clumps of matter obeying the same rules as everything else, and when we die entropy will wash our existence away leaving nothing in this universe behind.  

Why would you expect to be able to copy a car or a plane if you only had rough sketches of its exsterior, to such a low resolution that you could not make out it's rivets, had no way to manufacture key parts as of yet, and had never even used a wind tunnel?  The state of the art in brain research is the PET scanner, and a few experiments with crude electrode arrays to the auditory and visual centers.  The pet scanner basically gives rough activity levels : could you copy a pentium chip based on an infrared image of its surface while running?    

Computer science is a field almost completely unrelated to real AI.  Turing machines and our brains are related at best on a very basic theoretical level (and new quantum theories suggest even this is false): the whole architecture is different from then on.  Most of the past 40 years of software models aren't even remotely related.  The only real progress made towards AI from this field has been with vastly improved silicon lithography.  Here is a link where some actual progress has been made : http://www.usc.edu/dept/engineering/news/2002_stories/bergerNYT.htm .  
That is merely a small region of the brain, and quantum effects may affect the outcome of the calculations made in some areas.  This is how one would build an AI, though : deconstructing each piece and exhaustively duplicating it.    

Yet the existence of the example car or plane means it CAN be built somehow, and from examination of the tolerences involved you may know that you could make the parts if you understood how they worked.(the human brain operates at a pitiful 1hz and we can already manufacture devices atom by atom, albeit on a very small scale, to a better resolution than proteins ever reach)  

Let's not be antagonistic.  I'm almost certainly correct in virtually all these assumptions but that does not mean I think you, the author, are lacking in any way.  I'm merely saying that perhaps you should rethink your reasoning because it's (almost certainly) wrong.

[ Parent ]

Nitpick (none / 0) (#52)
by RebelWithoutAClue on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:30:21 AM EST

The brain operates at a somewhat higher frequency of decisions per second. Apparently people like racecar drivers do something like 40 decision cycles a second.

[ Parent ]
oops (none / 0) (#58)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:13:58 AM EST

I meant 1000hz.  Or one Kiloherz.  Although "gigahertz" comparisons can be misleading (because each neuron is performing calculations that also take time and its not yet known exactly how long hardware we make, presumably based on silicon or other contemporary components, will take to complete the same calculations) nevertheless it seems fairly clear hardware probably a million times faster or more that performs the same function is possible.

 And yes, that means just one of these machines would perform as much thinking as a million people every instant.  Obviously, if all this thought were applied to a single problem returns would diminish rapidly, but if the computer controlled say a million robots each as complex as a human then the machine could perform at least as much work as a million people.  

This is why strong AI has the potential, out of all the technologies we definitely know are physically possible, of changing the world beyond recognition.  With exponential growth, in fact, I don't think it's unreasonable to speculate that after a while the machines would have the resources to seriously change the layout of the matter on our planet, and later virtually all of the available mass in our solar system would be theirs to play with.

And yes, the machines would have the ability to go to the stars.  Humans won't, and never will...at least not with biological bodies.  Actually, I suspect neither will our successors...their starships I think will be very small, fueled by anti-matter.  The actual 'passengers' would be a stream of photons and perhaps entangled particles sent years after the ship leaves, catching up once it has de-accelerated to the target system and had time to construct receivers.  The actual explorers would therefore arrive via quantum teleportation, which is a technology proven and demonstrated.  

[ Parent ]

Also (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:15:11 AM EST

Also, as for disruptive.  It should be evident that machines with the same mental abilties as humans, except far faster and self-improving, and the ability to fabricate copies of themselves faster than any creature in the nature world, will be rather 'disruptive'.  Of course, you did have the caveat 'human society'...clearly, these wizzing gizmos would quickly make human society either irrelevent or possibly remove it from existence.

[ Parent ]
Hello, please return back to reality. (1.00 / 2) (#60)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:24:05 AM EST

Are you insane?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#62)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:39:24 AM EST

How am I not being realistic?  If we create a creature capable of reproducing on its own, with greater intelligence and ability to use resources efficiently than our own, our day is over.

 I don't believe this is a bad thing : if my successor is one million times smarter than I am I'd rather 'it' existed than grandkids who share a fraction of my genes and make the same stupid mistakes I did or worse.  

I would rather my kids or grandkids not be forcibly removed from existence, though, such as in a nuclear war, but if sterilization was the price it wouldn't bother me.  (that is, our successors would have every human sterilized to free up valuble resources.  Sure, that might be one less thinking human born...but if for the same resource cost the thinking of thousands, millions of humans can be done would this not be morally a better thing?)

I'm not at all insane.  You will die someday, and at best leave behind a human or two who only carry a part of your ideas and genes.  The rest is lost to entropy.  If your grandkids die, but instead leave behind a thinking machine incomparably smarter than them, containing verbatim everything they ever taught it, as well as their genetics and everything it knows about them, would it not work better?

[ Parent ]

No, no. (none / 0) (#64)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:12:34 AM EST

My point is that before thinking about giant blinkenlight monsters taking over the world we had better at first all agree on what is meant by "strong AI".

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Vernor vinge (none / 0) (#191)
by Ward57 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 08:40:29 AM EST

developed two catogaries of superhuman ai.
1) Weakly superhuman, in which the ai is just a copy of a human being running much faster (and as such could presumably learn to outplay even the best grandmaster/outprogram the best programmer, although probably not outwrite the best poet.
2) Strongly superhuman, which is qualitatively superior in some way. Strongly superhuman could mean anything from "perfect memory[1]" or "never makes mistakes" to intelligence best thought of as godlike.

"strong ai" just means human or better intelligence. There's no clear definition of what "weak ai" means, since one could argue that a computer can do addition/subtraction, and that that is a form of ai.

Tim Whitworth

[1] There is some argument that a human being can fully recall all the information that his subconcious noted down, but that it takes a long time. Certainly if I try to remember something and cant, I usually remember it a few days later.


[ Parent ]

As a professional: (none / 0) (#199)
by tkatchev on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 10:06:54 AM EST

When people mention "weak AI" they usually mean any algorithm than can be reduced to a database with a few pattern-matching rules.

This, BTW, is why the current state of the AI "industry" is so sad -- anything that can be formalized can be lumped into the general-puropose "database + pattern matching" bin, yet, at the same time, for most of the important AI problems we have absolutely no clue how to formalize them.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Strong AI. (1.00 / 4) (#38)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:52:26 AM EST

"String AI" has been disproven three decades ago. Maybe you should talk about ufology instead?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Uhh (none / 0) (#42)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:31:22 AM EST

Right, I suppose YOU have been disproven as well. Lets not argue semantics : you know damn well what I mean by strong AI : A computer capable of learning and using any information a human can, and presumably going well beyond this as well.

[ Parent ]
Get out of here. (2.00 / 4) (#46)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 05:52:55 AM EST

This is ridiculous.

"Strong AI" is impossible simply by the virtue of the fact that it cannot be formalized. Conversely, anything that can be formalized would not be "string AI".

Therefore, anybody who talks about "strong AI" is a buffoon and an idiot.

P.S. Your phrase about "A computer capable...", etc., is imprecise and applies to any modern computer.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Mmm (none / 0) (#50)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:05:16 AM EST

Wrong word, computer.  Substitute 'machine' because current working analog hardware to emulate neurons are at best third cousins to digital computers.

[ Parent ]
WTF (1.00 / 2) (#54)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:17:23 AM EST

Do neurons have to do with it?

The brains of bees are made of neurons, but they certainly aren't "strong AI".

Your problem, Sir, is that you somehow think that throwing more memory, computational power, megahertz, neurons, etc. at a machine will at a certain magical moment create a qualitative leap and suddenly we will have a "smart" machine whereas a moment ago we had a simple old "dumb" computer, albeit very powerful.

Sorry, but the world doesn't that way. No matter how many resources you throw at a machine, it will still remain just a powerful computer.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Idiot (none / 0) (#55)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:29:42 AM EST

I never said that.  In fact, if you would actually read a previous post I mentioned the problem probably would cost trillions of dollars to solve.  However, it is NECESSARY to even think about trying to build a machine capable of really learning to have a complete, fully functional equivalent to neurons.  It isn't unsolvable, though : it's already been proven that specific areas of the human brain can be duplicated.  

You are basically using false giberish : some mathematical 'logic' that 'proves' you can't think to justify some bizzare position.

[ Parent ]

Hello, reading is fun. (1.00 / 1) (#59)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:21:42 AM EST

Especially when you know how.

Again, I repeat: the brains of an earthworm are made of complete, fully-functional, honest-to-goodness neurons. Are earthworms then "strong AI"?

Probably not.

You claim, essentially, that simply throwing lots and lots of resources at a machine will suddenly make it into "strong AI". Who knows, you may be right, even though yours is a position that practically no researcher in the field takes seriously.

However, before you even start talking about "strong AI", you need to have a workable, formal definition of what "strong AI" actually is. The currently accepted definition basically amounts to "strong AI is all the parts of the human brain that cannot be formalized", and, as such, "strong AI" is impossible to produce by definition.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

NO (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:29:34 AM EST

No.  I said you need the resources.  Then you need to arrange each piece of them exactly the same way the brain is.  Fine, according to your definition "strong AI" doesn't exist (because there are NO parts of the brain that cannot be formalized...it ALL can be formalized, if you can't do it then your logic system has some missing components.  I say it can be formalized because it clearly exists, and follows SOME sort of logical rules...therefore one can 'formally' write those rules down and have a formalized description of the operation of each neural center)

I obviously implied that this duplication and arrangement would take the work of many many people, the economic equivalent of millions of lifetimes of labor.

So I'll replace my terms then.  I assumed 'strong' meant a machine that could actually continuously learn, to the level of humans, without falling into deterministic loops like the best 'learning' algorithms do today.  I'll throw out the word strong and replace it with 'cheap knockoff'.  I think 'cheap knockoff AI' has the potential to completely change the world.  In fact, I think it has the potential to actually eventually take apart the very planet we are sitting on for raw materials.

[ Parent ]

"Strong AI that is formalized". (1.00 / 1) (#63)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:11:24 AM EST

Uhhm, if you have figured out how to formalize "strong AI", where is your Nobel Prize?

You think that "strong AI" is easily formalized, but your opinion has been marginalized in the AI community since the field was invented.

"Strong AI" is all the AI that we haven't been able to formalize yet. Once it has been formalized, it becomes simply another part of the algorithmic toolbox.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#108)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:35:01 PM EST

I said 'strong AI' doesn't exist by your definition, because you said we cannot formalize it, ever.  And it's a stupid, moot point : it's already been demonstrated that one can create models of sections of the brain without actually having a formal explanation for what it's doing.  

Since we cannot agree on the definition of the term, anyway, I decided to replace it with 'cheap knockoff'.  It should be obvious what I mean : a decision making system that is a cheap knockoff (but feature complete) of a human mind.  Everywhere I wrote 'strong AI' find and replace 'cheap knockoff AI' (except when arguing semantics) and I suspect you'll find my arguments are correct.

[ Parent ]

You are wrong. (none / 0) (#122)
by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:17:45 PM EST

You <EM>think</EM> that the brain can be modeled easily without knowing how it works, but your opinion is totally unfounded and completely unscientific.
<P>
"Strong AI" originally meant something like "AI that cannot be implemented using a database + pattern matching". (Natural language translation, for example.) Since nowadays most people believe that any AI problem that can be formalized can be reduced to "database + pattern matching", this does, indeed, mean that "strong AI" effectively cannot exist.
<P>
I'm sorry, but this is how the world works.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#124)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:23:50 PM EST

Totally unfounded and completely unscientific?  Umm...ok...guess then, since it's impossible to model a cluster of neurons without understanding their true function to the rest of the system, it's never been done before.  Oh wait...it has.  Idiot.

[ Parent ]
Idiot? (3.00 / 2) (#140)
by tkatchev on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:10:07 AM EST

"Clusters of neurons" have been modeled and understood for over twenty years now; their "function" is well known and even described mathematically.

The problem is that "clusters of neurons" are actually equivalent to good-old "database + pattern matching".

On the other hand, there are lots and lots of AI problems that we know cannot be solved by using the "database + pattern matching" approach.

Methinks the real idiot here is the one who is spouting off hot, pseudo-scientific air without knowing the problem area in the least.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Neat stuff that Strong AI (none / 0) (#184)
by kerinsky on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 01:15:37 AM EST

Ok but if "clusters of neurons" are actaully equivalent to good-old "database + pattern matching" then human beings can't do anything that a computer with the right database and pattern matching routine set up couldn't do.  Unless you want to start arguing dualism you've just defined your "Strong AI" as something that could solve problems that human beings are fundamentally incapable of.  That'd be pretty neat stuff dont'cha think?

-=-
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
[ Parent ]
Pseudo-scientific fallacy. (none / 0) (#198)
by tkatchev on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 10:02:46 AM EST

Whoever said that the human brain is nothing but a cluster of neurons?

You're letting your unscientific ideology blind you to the obvious.

The brain of an elephant has lots and lots more neurons than a human brain, but for some reason elephants are unable to translate English to Chinese.

Point is, we don't know what exactly makes the human brain work the way it does -- the brain of a chimpanzee is no different from a human brain when you view it as simply a collection of neurons, yet, empirically, humans are qualitatively much, much more "smart" than chimps.


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Hi, I'm the output of a cluster of nuerons (none / 0) (#239)
by kerinsky on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 02:03:04 AM EST

I haven't seen any claim that the brain isn't functionally a cluster of nuerons that didn't rely on open or thinly veiled dualism, and I did rather clearly imply this in my previous post.  I'm not being idealistic here, recently this has been one of my many pet interests and I've done a little bit of reading on related issues and I'm open to information and arguements.  What I'm not really open to are people who will proudly exclaim that we have no clue how the human brain works are also willing to proclaim that Strong AI (or human equvilent AI) simply cannot exist.  I see no reason to believe that human intelligence cannot be explained by the laws of physics as we now know them or will know them in the future, and furthermore see no reason why we will not be able to simulate these laws to arbitrary levels of detail in the above mentioned future.

If you want an answer to the questions of how the human brain works and why it is functionally so different from chimpanzees and elephants the answer, as best a bunch of people smarter than I can tell, is emergent behavior.  Nuerons in a chimp in a human can be exactly the same, just as cars are the same whether they're in a traffic jam or not.  The traffic jam is an emergent behavior that cannot be detected simply by examaning cars, or even necessarily small groups of cars.  You may argue that this isn't the exact answer that would be needed to create AI, but we also don't have an exact answer as to what causes traffic jams (or a million other emergent behaviors) and yet pretty much any individual in the country could go out and start one right now if they had the desire to.

-=-
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
[ Parent ]

Uh no. (4.00 / 2) (#240)
by tkatchev on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 07:22:41 AM EST

Your car, for example, is not simply a "collection of nuts and bolts" -- it takes much more to make a car than simply piling together some bits of metal.

The fact that I'm claiming that a car "isn't simply a collection of nuts and bolts" doesn't mean that I am claiming that the car is dualistic.

You can talk all you want about "emergent behaviour", but the undeniable fact remains that we have absolutely no fricking clue as to what makes the brain work.

The neurons are simply the most visible parts of the brain, but that doesn't mean that "intelligence" necessarily comes from neurons. After all, the human brain also contains several pounds of fatty matter, but that doesn't mean that fat cells confer intelligence.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Professor windbag returns (none / 0) (#251)
by kerinsky on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 02:42:59 AM EST

Actually yes my car is a "collection of nuts and bolts" with various other pieces of metal, plastic, rubber and fabrics attached together.  To be true it is a very specific sub-class of the super class "collection of nuts and bolts" in that the nuts and bolts are piled together in the right way, but it is perfectly accurate to refer to a member of a subclass simply as a member of it's superclass.

Throwing the word "simply" in there ruins the intended argument by analogy.  You're right that a car isn't "simply" a pile of nuts and bolts because of the fact that a car is actually "complicatedly" a pile of nuts and bolts.  I never said the human brain was "simply" anything, I argued that the human brain is distinctive because of the complicated interactions of simple parts.

I haven't ever accused you of being dualist simply because you've made so few positive claims so far at all.  So far the highlights of what you've claimed are A) Cars aren't simple B) Elephants and chimpanzees have, respectively, more and identical neurons to humans, C) neural nets can replicate databases with pattern matching and D) under an arbitrarily contrived definition of Strong AI that it cannot exist.

In fact you're making my arguments for me.  You first argue that human and chimpanzee neurons are the same, now you point out that the nuts and bolts in a car and in a pile of rubble are the same.  We do in fact know that it is the specific arrangement and interconnection of the pieces of the car that make it a car instead of being a pile of rubble that is not a car.

We (ie anyone who isn't Chinese) don't know the exact arrangement of parts needed to turn a pile of metal pieces into it's subclass which is a top secret Chinese rocket, but we can still be sure that it is in fact a specific arrangement that does in fact make it a rocket.

I grant we don't know as much about the human brain as we do about rocketry in general so an exact analogy cannot be argued.  We do however have detailed understanding of the neural nets of extremely simple organisms as well as specific parts of human and other high order animal's brains. Saying that we have "absolutely fricken no clue" as to what makes the brain works is patently wrong.  If you're going to make such a strong claim you're going to have to back it up with evidence just as strong.  But you can't really provide that since you've already admitted that neural nets can do anything that a good database and pattern matching can do.  As such unless you're going to claim that the human brain has the storage and search and retrieval capacity of a slow electronic computer but does not employ it in any manner whatsoever you must admit that we do know quite a bit about the workings of the brain, and have known for 20 years!

I'm not saying that emergent behavior of neurons must be the explanation of the human brain in some dogmatic way, I'm saying that a reasonable application of the scientific method says this is the truth, and that's all I'm saying.  More evidence, or a new argument that holds up to scrutiny and explains the evidence better may come out tomorrow (or may already have come out and not been recognized as such yet) and overcome this theory as the best explanation of how things work, until that happens however I'm willing to put this theory in the category of "knowledge".

-=-
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
[ Parent ]

Honestly, (none / 0) (#253)
by tkatchev on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 10:39:52 AM EST

I didn't bother to read what you wrote, 'cause it is too long -- which is a first sign of someone who doesn't know what he's talking about.

What I want to say is can be illustrated by this simple analogy -- if you claim that a car is nothing but "a collection of nuts and bolts", then a car is essentially no different from a bycicle, since both use essentially the same metal little bits.

Your claim would be totally wrong, though, since a car uses the little thing called "an internal combustion engine", which, if you want to understand, you need to delve into more complicated areas like chemistry and physics.

This analogy totally holds when applied to human brains and neurons. Neurons are good enough (just barely) to model the brain of an earthworm, but to model the human brain we need a more true-to-life model.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

duh (none / 0) (#254)
by Battle Troll on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 03:01:31 PM EST

I never said the human brain was "simply" anything, I argued that the human brain is distinctive because of the complicated interactions of simple parts.

In other words, we know (somewhat) how the simple parts work. We have almost no useful information about how their interactions are structured. Therefore, classifying consciousness as an 'emergent process' or something is wishful thinking with big words, because we can only get from A (neurons) to B (consciousness) with wishing.

Consciousness as an emergent process may be the least unviable scientific theory, but that hardly means that it is true in any sense of the word 'true.' It's just the most plausible fairy tale. We would need much stronger evidence before we could even say that (scientifically speaking) it qualifies as a theory. What claims do you make, how can you test them, what are some potential sources of error and counterarguments?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

What makes you think humans can solve them? (none / 0) (#195)
by Ward57 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:31:53 AM EST

If a human can solve the general problem, but it cannot be reduced to a pattern matching and database style problem, that you're right. If human beings cannot *always* solve the problem, every time it occours, but only in a limited subset of occourences, then you have no argument

[ Parent ]
He's right, (none / 0) (#194)
by Ward57 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:27:57 AM EST

this time. What if, upon modelling each part of the brain accurately, it doesn't fit together well - if the inaccuracies are given much more weight by the overall unit. (effectively, the complexity killed it). More generally, you can't be sure you can do something until you've done it, there might be something you didn't think of.
I think ai, and cognition in general, is one of the most fascinating areas under research today.

Q) Do you think it's likely that database/pattern matching can finally replace human beings in most contexts?

[ Parent ]

hmm (none / 0) (#226)
by ShooterNeo on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:15:28 AM EST

He is right.  Actually, what I had in mind was more along the lines of creating 'AI' by making EXACT replicas of neurons.  Either with silicon or if neccessary, with biological cells.  I know it is possible for one set of neurons to 'train' another, so you would copy tissue regions in this way to a silicon replica.  There are other techniques one might use, but the point is computer chips doing rigid pattern matching would only be used for control : actual analog circuitry that duplicates exactly what the real thing uses would be for the rest.  

Hardly a Blinkenlights monster....more like a 'cheap knockoff' that would not exceed the intelligence of lower animals for years I suspect.  However, I would strongly argue that a chimpanzee or even a bee, though strongly belittled, does have the right stuff, just not certain key areas (language mainly) in the cortex for the useful human features.  

Inherently though the circuitry would react far quicker than humans : 6 orders of magnitude is a fair estimate.  This is why once we are able to duplicate all the key features...language, reasong, ect humanity would become obsolete.

[ Parent ]

hmm... (none / 0) (#138)
by gdanjo on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:53:28 AM EST

"Strong AI" is impossible simply by the virtue of the fact that it cannot be formalized. Conversely, anything that can be formalized would not be "string AI".
Hmm. I don't think I agree with this. Why is formalisation a requirement for "strong AI"? (what, in your definition, is "strong AI"?) Do you have any links?

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

unsubstantiated statement (none / 0) (#193)
by Ward57 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 08:58:22 AM EST

"strong ai cannot be formalised".
We just don't know how to do it yet.

unsubstantiated and incorrect idea:
"we cannot create anything we cannot formalise".
In maths, when you cannot formalise an idea, you see if you can formalise a stronger idea (or weaker if relelvant), and then proceed from there. Also, discoveries can be made by accident.

[ Parent ]

Sorry. (none / 0) (#200)
by tkatchev on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 10:09:29 AM EST

I never claimed that "strong AI" is physically impossible -- I merely stated that, given the current state of our scientific knowledge, we will probably have faster-than-light travel before we have "strong AI".

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

no (none / 0) (#192)
by Ward57 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 08:51:17 AM EST

I used to think a little like this actually - If they didn't find it then, why should we assume that we're any cleverer, but I've since come to understand that problems like this are solved by the slow accumulation of knowledge, not by individuals sitting down and "solving it" in their heads. So the original civilisation style research bar is not as innaccurate as it seems.

[ Parent ]
Writing a story (none / 0) (#260)
by paranoid on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:44:03 PM EST

That's a rather nice idea, and I agree completely with the prefered direction you outlined. If you feel like you can spend the time necessary to do it right, I would be happy to lend a helping hand.

[ Parent ]
Hahahahaha!! (5.00 / 7) (#41)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:10:32 AM EST

...aside from the remote control, mankind has not made a significant advance in technology in the last 50 years.

That's very amusing, since you're posting it via a computer and an internet which were both invented in the past 50 years. =P I personally believe the modern computer is the greatest single invention of the past 50 years, and the greatest invention of the 50 years before that is probably liquid-fuel rocketry. Together, the two have sent us to the moon, and will take us farther.

One thing which seemed conspicuously absent from your story is any mention of the biological or medical sciences. Personally, I feel biotech, genetics, and nanotechnology are going to drastically affect the way we live in the coming century. Designer babies, designer viruses, retrovirus cures, grey goo... Instead you only seem to be mentioning the breakthroughs that quantum physics will bring us. Impressive as they may be, there will be other breakthroughs equally, or more, important.

Besides, what we invent is less important than what is done with it. We have quite a few technologies today which see little use because there is little profit in them (or little realization of the potential profit).


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Computer Used to be a Job Description (3.25 / 4) (#44)
by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:40:54 AM EST

=P I personally believe the modern computer is the greatest single invention of the past 50 years, and the greatest invention of the 50 years before that is probably liquid-fuel rocketry. Together, the two have sent us to the moon, and will take us farther.
That's interesting, because the computer wasn't invented in the last 50 years. It wasn't invented in the last 150 years. The first computer is was invented by Charles Babbage. The difference engine gave rise to the analytical engine. Babbage never finished either of these two computers. Two Swedish engineers, Georg and Edward Scheutz, build a difference engine based on Babbages work in 1834. When Babbages difference engine was finally built in the 1990's, in produced figures accurate to 32 decimal places. However, Babbage did finish a computer in his lifetime. The Babbage Exchange was the first automated telephone routing system. Babbage exchanges operated up until the late 1970's.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
He said *modern* computer (4.40 / 5) (#48)
by smithmc on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:02:19 AM EST


That's interesting, because the computer wasn't invented in the last 50 years.

He said modern computer - which, to me, means:

  • electronic
  • digital
  • general-purpose
  • stored-program
  • Turing-complete
  • capable enough to do work that would be impractical to do by hand

    Admittedly, such machines have been around for slightly more than 50 years, but not 150.

    [ Parent ]

  • Modern My Ass (2.66 / 3) (#67)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 10:32:20 AM EST

    # electronic - The Babbage exchange was electronic. # digital - the Babbage exchange used digital logic. # general-purpose - The babbage exchange could be "reprogrammed" to do other switching computational tasks. # stored-program - programs are stored by virtu of the arrangement of the exchange. # Turing-complete - You desktop computer can no more pass the turing test than my babbage exchange. # capable enough to do work that would be impractical to do by hand - The Babbage exchange increased the number of connected calls to 100,000 a day. Do that by hand.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Not electronic (4.00 / 2) (#69)
    by epepke on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 10:49:16 AM EST

    Electrical != electronic. Everything through and including the Mark I was mechanical or electromechanical. Alan Turing's group was planning to put an electronic rotor on their machine to break Enigma codes, but they never got around to it.


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


    [ Parent ]
    Look it up (4.25 / 4) (#107)
    by koreth on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:15:02 PM EST

    "Turing complete" has nothing whatsoever to do with the Turing test other than that they're both named for Alan Turing.

    [ Parent ]
    Babbage never built the damn thing (none / 0) (#77)
    by modmans2ndcoming on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:23:09 PM EST

    he was known for is theoretical studies into computation.

    [ Parent ]
    Teh Moon. (1.00 / 5) (#47)
    by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:00:34 AM EST

    Teh Computar wasn't used in the space program. And most definitely it played no role in sending the rocket to the moon.

    (Now, if you were talking about teh Atom Bomb it would be different...)

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    If you think Apollo 11 didn't have a comp onboard, (none / 0) (#65)
    by Kasreyn on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:20:51 AM EST

    then you are an even bigger fool than I already thought.


    -Kasreyn


    "Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
    We never asked to be born in the first place."

    R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
    [ Parent ]
    Uh so. (none / 0) (#78)
    by tkatchev on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:35:03 PM EST

    I bet it also had a spoon, a toilet and a garbage can as well.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    And a fish! (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:46:27 PM EST

    Space-fish rock! Whooo NASA!

    [ Parent ]
    moon? (none / 0) (#97)
    by maluke on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:30:24 PM EST

    Together, the two have sent us to the moon, and will take us farther.

    So why do think that's so important? I think many people will not agree that it's the measure of progress.

    [ Parent ]

    The PILL (5.00 / 1) (#196)
    by adiffer on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:53:59 AM EST

    I'm a big space fan and all that, but I would have to put oral contraceptives above liquid fueled rocket motors.  8)

    Going to the Moon was great, but stopping the population explosion before we all kill ourselves will prove to be truly historic.
    --BE The Alien!
    [ Parent ]

    Good one, hadn't thought of that (none / 0) (#228)
    by Kasreyn on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:08:04 AM EST

    The pill is indeed an amazing invention; so are reliable, safe condoms (as opposed to sheepskin, which was neither as effective nor as pleasant to use).

    So, the pill can share a tied place with the moder computer. =P


    -Kasreyn


    "Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
    We never asked to be born in the first place."

    R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
    [ Parent ]
    Liquid fuel rockets my ass. (none / 0) (#209)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:22:34 PM EST

    Go look up Project ORION. Or the Ice Gun.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    I know what project Orion is (none / 0) (#229)
    by Kasreyn on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:08:33 AM EST

    It's actually possible, but we haven't actually BUILT the damn thing yet, so I don't think it really counts.

    And as for the ice gun, I hardly consider progress in weaponry to be important to the future of mankind, unless it's important in preventing that future from occurring by us wiping ourselves out.


    -Kasreyn


    "Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
    We never asked to be born in the first place."

    R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
    [ Parent ]
    "Ice gun" is not a weapon. (none / 0) (#233)
    by bjlhct on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 02:23:20 PM EST

    Get thee to google.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    Fuck (4.66 / 3) (#53)
    by levsen on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:12:52 AM EST

    Why does some Japanese toy shop come up every time mag-lev trains are mentioned? Mag-lev trains were invented and built by Germans and only they have any actually in service.


    This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

    If you want Flying Cars here they are... (3.33 / 3) (#56)
    by NuWinter on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:03:09 AM EST

    They're called "Lifters," yes those interesting objects cited in the Wired article out this month. Taking at look at this one can see that if you scale something like this up, put some seats in it, you have an all purpose flying vehicle for land, air, space, and water travel.

    And, before some say, "Well it's been proven it does not work in a vacuum," I would say that if one looks at the Lifter described in the Wired article, then no it probably will not work in a vacuum, but, that is only because the dielectric (the material between the two capacitors) does not allow the absorption of electrical charge, thus it will not "lift" properly. But, when one uses a solid dielectric that problem is eliminated and the craft will fly anywhere provided it's properly shielded.

    No... (none / 0) (#68)
    by hobbified on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 10:35:18 AM EST

    If you scale it up, it won't even be able to lift itself.

    [ Parent ]
    Evidence? (none / 0) (#102)
    by greenrd on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:12:21 PM EST

    And, before some say, "Well it's been proven it does not work in a vacuum," I would say that if one looks at the Lifter described in the Wired article, then no it probably will not work in a vacuum, but, that is only because the dielectric (the material between the two capacitors) does not allow the absorption of electrical charge, thus it will not "lift" properly. But, when one uses a solid dielectric that problem is eliminated and the craft will fly anywhere provided it's properly shielded.

    What is your evidence for this assertion? Is it based on a theoretical model (in which case I would be interested to know what that model is), or actual observations of a working lifter with a solid dielectric?


    "Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
    [ Parent ]

    No, to flying cars (4.00 / 2) (#125)
    by Ender7a on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:27:41 PM EST

    Unless we come up with automated flying cars (not run by humans), I really don't want them to be created and released to the general public. People can barely drive on a 2 dimensional highway, let alone a 3 dimensional path.

    [ Parent ]
    Amen (5.00 / 2) (#205)
    by snodgrass on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 01:39:21 PM EST

    I'd never feel safe again.  You could be walking through the mountains hundreds of miles from the nearest road and get hit by a minivan falling out of the sky because Billy spilled his drink and Mommy's trying to mop it up and fly at the same time.

    No thank you.

    [ Parent ]

    Umm what ? (3.37 / 8) (#57)
    by bugmaster on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:07:20 AM EST

    Zero-point free energy ? Alien warp drives ? Cold fusion ? Sure, these technologies could revolutionize the world, just like unicorns or fairies. Unfortunately, none of those things actually exist. In fact, free energy cannot exist, according to the laws of physics as we know them today (the same laws on which this computer is based).

    Personally, I think that the next invention that revolutionizes the world will be... unexpected. By definition, it would have to be something so radically new that no one has conceived of it so far (that's what "revolutionary" means in this context). This happened with steam power, electricity, and, more recently, with computers -- and when it happens again, people won't notice for a while.

    For example, take computers. If you watch B-movies from the 50s, you will see gigantic computing machines, occupying several cubic miles of space, with more vacuum tubes than anyone can count, and possessed of advanced intelligence (or at the very least advanced belligerence). Getting access to such a computer would be an honor, and cost large amounts of money. The Starship Enterprise would barely have enough space to accommodate one computer.

    Almost no one (except for Lem, Douglas Adams, and a few others) has predicted the actual turn of events: that computers would become so small and ubiquitous that our entire society would mould itself around them. And the full impact of the Internet, cellular phones, and credit card databases blindsided all the would-be oracles.

    It is difficult enough to predict evolutionary changes (faster locomotives, bigger computers, flying cars); revolutionary changes defy prediction by their very definition.

    However, I wouldn't be a geeky crackpot if I didn't make a prediction of my own. I think the next Big Thing (tm) that will change our society (albeit in an evolutionary way) would be the availability of cheap, reliable, and compact power storage (currently, fuel cells are a good candidate). All our current wireless devices are hampered by power requirements. Cellphones consist mostly of batteries nowadays, and even with the (relatively) gigantic Lithium-Ion pack, talk time is limited to three hours or so. PDAs are great for jotting down notes, but they don't have the stamina for much else. When selecting an MP3 player, you have a choice: bulky and long-lasting, or tiny and powerful enough to maybe play an hour of music. And don't get me started on laptops.

    When (ok, if) micro fuel cells will become cheap and widely available, it will suddenly become possible to keep a portable device online all the time. Instant messaging as you walk down the street, on-demand googling, realtime tracking of people or property (no matter how small), networked coffee mugs, the U.S. Army's "cyber-soldiers", self-organizing networks of random passersby, "gargoyles" a la Snow Crash -- all these things will suddenly become commonplace, since we already have all the other technologies neccessary to achieve them. If cheap, efficient power storage becomes available, we will be in for some interesting times.
    >|<*:=

    the physics of ZPF is sound enough that I will bet (none / 0) (#76)
    by modmans2ndcoming on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:19:39 PM EST

    that is 15 years we have a working prototype of some kind.

    when you look at the facts about nature, we cannot go on burning oil and solor power, while beeing abundant will not be sufficent or transportable.

    ZPF energy will provide the Human race with the power to do anyhing we like. we can power Gravity wave generators, we can stick ZPF generators in our domestic transportation and never fill up ever again!!!

    heck.....we will not need an electric grid, just buld the device to take it's power from the ZPF.

    nad if it is possable to transmit electricity this way, it is possable to transmit communications this way at an infinite distance. subspace communication any one.

    ZPF energy will be the cause of peace on earth. no more resources to fight over, so Humanity can move on to making society better.

    everything will become so cheap because there is no energy costs involved anymore.

    with infinite energy, anything is posable.........

    just, lets not invent super smart Robots ok....I don't want a robot revolt or something.

    [ Parent ]

    Dumbass! (4.00 / 1) (#207)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:18:07 PM EST

    Sure, let's extract energy from the casimir force. Then we can extract some more energy from gravity!

    Please, learn how virtual particles work before annoying us at least.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]

    Free energy is "easy" (none / 0) (#91)
    by kwerle on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:53:37 PM EST

    In fact, free energy cannot exist, according to the laws of physics as we know them today (the same laws on which this computer is based).

    All we need are efficient solar panels and efficient batteries.  I'm not saying that lightly (clearly these are hard problems), I'm just saying that it should be possible.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Free energy is "easy" (none / 0) (#98)
    by bugmaster on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:34:37 PM EST

    All we need are efficient solar panels and efficient batteries.
    Unfortunately, last time I checked, solar panels were even less efficient than steam engines. Which is really not that bad for isolated applications, but it won't be enough to power anything like a truck or a minivan. The next best thing we have is nuclear power, and it's obviously not perfect either. Fusion seems to be always 10 years in the future, sadly enough.

    However, the article doesn't care about boring old solar power or fusion. Zero Point Energy is all about making a device that produces more energy than it consumes, thus breaking a couple laws of thermodynamics (well, ok, only one). Note that a nuclear reactor or a solar panel do not produce more energy than they consume -- they just convert energy from one form (photons, nuclear bonds) to another (electricity, heat).
    >|<*:=
    [ Parent ]

    nothing is "impossible" (none / 0) (#161)
    by deadplant on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:02:47 PM EST

    Don't be too quick to declare what can and cannot be.
    Our understanding of physics expands every time we develop technology that allows us to look closer at matter/energy.
    Take for example the fact that our recently developed ability to examine/manipulate things at the quantum level has revealed that our "Laws of Physics" are not enitrely correct/complete.

    The only thing we can be sure of is that we don't know shit.
    I might believe that "free energy cannot exist" when we figure out what energy is and exactly what it means to "exist".


    [ Parent ]

    Right then..... (none / 0) (#208)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:20:50 PM EST

    Let's plow a hundred billion dollars into collecting energy from the invisible unicorn with the mass of the sun and partial gravity cancellation orbiting the moon.

    Possible != probable.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]

    Micro fuel cells (none / 0) (#246)
    by klanza on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 02:02:00 PM EST

    Rather than micro fuel cells for PDA's etc., we would be better off more quickly if someone would do the work to make "mini" fuel cells. That is , something the right size to replace the rechargeable battery in my cordless drill, saw, etc. So I could work wood constantly, and just refill the gizmo whenever it ran out of fuel. Plus they could make a mint from guys like me.

    [ Parent ]
    Singularity? (4.66 / 3) (#66)
    by localroger on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:52:05 AM EST

    I'm surprised nobody has brought up the Singularity yet.

    Although some people are more pessimistic, I think it is realistic to expect that we will have strong AI within 10 to 30 years -- that is, machines that are capable of independently interacting with the world as we do, learning about it as we do, conceiving new ideas as we do, and acting on those ideas as we do.

    At the outside this might require reverse engineering the human brain and building something complex enough to emulate it; on the other hand a lot of people think the brain might not be an ideal solution, and that we might come up with something simpler and cleaner that has the same computational properties.

    A lot of the human brain is dedicated to running the very complex human body. And more is dedicated to other functions an AI might not need. It is conceivable that, with properly efficient algorithms the hardware capable of implementing it might already exist. And there are people working in that direction, although with such minimal funding that progress is slow.

    The thing is, once such machines exist -- and they are as inevitable as rain unless we bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age -- they will be capable of improving themselves. They will quickly become smarter than us, likely capable of insights and inventions that are beyond our own capabilities.

    The specific technologies mentioned in the article are just the tip of the iceberg compared to what we might expect to happen next. Of course, one possible outcome is the Terminator's Skynet, but another is the completely open society of Iaian Banks' Culture. And there are a range of interesting possibilities in between...

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

    Ten is probably somewhat over-optimistic, but... (4.50 / 2) (#70)
    by skyknight on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:11:20 AM EST

    I think that thirty is sufficiently conservative that you may very well be vindicated, and I would be in your camp. Have you read any Ray Kurzweil? You must have... I read his The Age of Spiritual Machines something like two weeks before I read your MOPI. The coincidence was quite weird, and I wondered immediately after the first few chapters of MOPI if you had read this book as well.

    For decades he has been successfully anticipating the rates and trends of technological development, and also has an astounding number of technological innovations to his own name, so I am inclined to trust, at least with a high degree of confidence, his prognostications.

    He predicts that a $1000 personal computer will, by ~2010, be able to do a trillion calculations per second, which is not yet up to what a human brain does. Maybe you could build a reasonable sized cluster of computers that could match the human brain, but it would still be prohibitively expensive.

    By ~2020 he predicts the availability of $1000 computing devices that have computational ability roughly commensurate to that of the human brain. This is where things start to get really interesting, but not too dangerous. At worst, we just have trouble makers that are as smart as us, but even then, they still have to take the time to learn things. Having a computer with the power of a human brain does not mean that when you flip the switch that it will immediately start going around and being human like. Rather it means that it will be able to learn like a human, and thus it may in fact take decades to get particularly clever, much like us carbon based fiends.

    By ~2030 he predicts that a $1000 computational device will yield the computational capacity of 1k human brains... This is where things start to get really scary. Leave this sucker hooked up to a power source and data feed for a few weeks by accident, and you will come back to find it has outstripped your own intelligence by several orders of magnitude. Make the mistake of giving it the ability to manipulate the physical world, and you're probably in for a really nasty surprise. Even if you don't give it such an ability directly, just being able to send out data it will probably figure out a way to do something really nefarious to enact its jail break.

    You know... I'm 23 and this year I put money into an IRA for the first time, and yet, I seriously question the utility of doing so. First off, medical technology in the next 30-40 years is going to be so amazing that there will be no need for people to retire at ~60 years of age. Second, such technological advancement is apt to provide lavishly for all of the basic human necessities, as well even the most extravagant luxuries of today. Want a Ferrari? Just tell your nano-fabricator to pop you out one. The only thing for which we are apt to see competition in the "work" world is the production and control of knowledge, and the only utility of that will be either to satisfy a personal thirst for knowledge, or a craving of power...

    Or maybe we will just screw up, lose hold of the reins, and end up either wiped out, or kept as pets. In any case, I probably won't ever get to cash in on my IRA.



    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    put your money into the market (3.00 / 1) (#75)
    by demi on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:06:28 PM EST

    Now is probably a good time. At age 23, an IRA should not be a big priority if you have money to invest. Anyway, if you're an elderly American with assets, you transfer them to your kids and become penniless. Then you qualify for Medicaid, and live off the gov't teat. So don't worry about spending your hard-earned money on medical bills - the fix is in.

    Even if, miraculously, health care costs began to decline, other significant costs will commensurately rise, possibly to prohibitive levels. Want that Texas ranch to retire on? The pad in Boca Raton? Golf course access in Phoenix? A fourth floor walk-up in Jamaica-Queens? An efficiency in Fresno with a view of rusted oil wells? Land's going to get expensive; expect to start hearing of Antarctic timeshares where you can swim with the penguins.

    [ Parent ]

    When would it be a priority? (4.00 / 1) (#79)
    by skyknight on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:42:10 PM EST

    The way compound interest works, a few additional years at the start of several decades can make an enormous difference. You really can't start putting money into an IRA too early if you are actually hoping to get good value out of it come retirement. In any case, it is my hope that by the time I am retirement age that I will be sufficiently wealthy that money pulled from an IRA will be a nice chunk of pocket change, not something that I need. In the meanwhile, however, it seems like a good backup plan if things don't pan out the way I plan, and thus it allows me to take on higher levels of risk in my other financial endeavors.

    You are definitely right about real estate though. There will still be local minima in real estate prices, but most certainly in the long term, prices will rise like a juggernaut, with occasional fits of euphoria and despair mixed into the fray. I'm going back to school this fall for a masters, but after graduating (unless I decide to stay on for a PhD) I would really like to start purchasing real estate. I figure I'll make my first home be a duplex or triplex, living in one of the units and renting the other unit(s), then when I want to actually start a family, I'll move out, rent the now freed up unit, and buy a place of my own. At least, that's the vague but grand plan of the moment.



    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    Agree about real estate (none / 0) (#186)
    by Tux on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 02:30:42 AM EST

    I am definitely looking to purchase some real estate in the next few years (beyond my holdings in Antarctica).  I think there will a local minima soon in the US.

    Eventually even health care will be a stable cost.  The only thing that will rise like a juggernaut as you put it is the cost of real estate.  Hopefully, this means my land in Antarctica will become valuable.

    I think trolls and goatse are a fresh outlet for news and lively debate, too.
    -An AC in response to the idea that slashdot is a fresh outlet for pertinent news and lively debate
    [ Parent ]

    cheap luxuries (none / 0) (#99)
    by maluke on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:47:16 PM EST

    Try counting man-hours required to produce goods at this moment - that includes engineering costs (per unit), materials (calculate in recursion), quality control, transport, salesperson time and such. I'll tell you that, say latest fancy iRiver will NOT cost more that a man-hour per item. Now take your hourly wage.

    - What? Where the fuck all those man-hours you spent have gone?

    I'll tell you - military spending, bad mangement, waste of resources, all the useless staff there is and surely "the big guys". If if was up to resources you would need to work a day per week to get all you need now. You usually need to work much more.

    I don't see how advances in technology can change that directly. It could change society as a whole and thus change our lives, but not by making vital stuff cheap anytime soon.

    [ Parent ]

    I disagree. (4.00 / 1) (#106)
    by skyknight on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 05:44:58 PM EST

    There are usually lots of hidden costs that must be taken into account. One particularly big one is the risk factor for any given product. Often many product lines completely fail, and the losses have to be underwritten by other, successful products.

    While the medical drug industry does admittedly do some gangster shit from time to time, drug research is a very apt example of this phenomenon. A typical drug will cost a research firm something like $700M up through clinical trials, and something like nine out of ten drugs will not be approved by the FDA because there will be some adverse reaction in a late phase of the study. Thus drug companies lose billions of dollars researching worthless drugs. These losses must be subsidized by the few drugs that do succeed, and thus the cost of the successful drug must be much higher than the "manufacturing cost".

    Yes, there are company execs that make a lot of money, but in actuality, profit margins for things probably aren't nearly as high as you think. It's very hard to assess real costs for things unless you have an intimate knowledge of the business process as a whole. If you ever run a business you will come to appreciate this. I run a business where this is very true. I have people who work for me, and I bill out their services at several times the hourly rate that I pay them, but at the same time I'm bled for all kinds of expenses such as equipment overhead, legal fees, and advertising. There's also the matter of fact that I am in no way directly compensated for my own labors in the company, managerial, technical or otherwise. The markup that is made on their man-hours is not exploitation. If the markup weren't there, the business could not function, and they wouldn't have jobs.



    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    let's try again (3.00 / 1) (#132)
    by maluke on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 02:06:52 AM EST

    you count dollars, while i count man-hours, how many man hours that research is really worth? i don't know and won't speculate, let's talk about business we all supposedly know - computers and electronics. all costs included it doesn't even comes close to price charged (i'm still talking about man-hours). The fact is that current system replicates itself very efficiently - if you count work and resources in bucks then you'll count all the wages you pay and those are heavily oversized BECAUSE they have to compensate to even more oversized prices - to raise prices to the level where you can just take half of the wasted money and waste them your way (say, military) you'll have to raise wages, but less.

    Do you know that beef is being exported AND imported in UK? Isn't that waste? You know how much things cost in third-world? That is a bit closer to their real cost. Another thing: look what portions of the price are manufacturing and advertising, you'll see that manufacturing of cellphones (w/research and stuff) is 1/3 to 1/8 of the sell price, wtf? do you think advertising people work that much? and do you think it makes any sense to charge for SPACE for billboards? what it's owner did (i mean produced) to get access to resources money he was paid gives him?

    [ Parent ]

    You mention advertising (4.00 / 2) (#154)
    by NoBeardPete on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:58:24 PM EST

    But you don't really go into it much. It's already the case that drug companies spend over twice as much on advertising as they do on research and development. Googling around, it looks like the pharmaceutical industry spends 30% of its revenue on advertising, and only 12% on R&D. I'm not sure that these are the best figures, but I think they're in the right ballpark. Advertising makes up the plurality of the expenses in a fair number of other industries too. I'm pretty sure most big movie studios spend more advertising their films than they do making them. I'm not sure which other industries have passed the point where they spend more advertising their wares than making them, but I am fairly certain that a lot of industries are heading in this direction.


    Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
    [ Parent ]

    I hope I misunderstood (5.00 / 2) (#126)
    by a boy and his bike on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:33:54 PM EST

    "next 30-40 years is going to be so amazing that there will be no need for people to retire at ~60 years of age"

    I hope you meant by that sentence that people will retire *earlier*, because if your only vision of technology in the future is the chance to *work more*, you are insane.

    I don't know when people got so obssessed with work. When I was growing up in the late 70s, there was talk of a leisure society. I still believe in that, but somehow people are so brainwashed with this idea of work. Staying in school until you're 45 while holding down a job and starting a family seems to be 'normal' these days.

    The funny thing is, that this 'work' that people do seems to consist mostly of sitting in meetings undoing the previous day's work...

    I'd rather work 10 hours a week and spend the rest of my time cycling, reading, helping people.

    Maybe I'm insane.

    [ Parent ]

    You just missed one of the two points (none / 0) (#258)
    by paranoid on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:28:55 PM EST

    skyknight also said that "such technological advancement is apt to provide lavishly for all of the basic human necessities, as well even the most extravagant luxuries of today". That's is you leisure society. But the good thing is that we will still be able to "work" (meaning do something both interesting and useful for the society) as long as we need. Of course much more radical posthuman scenarios are very likely, where all humans will get (simply put) god-like superpowers in both VR and the real world. But in any case, everyone needs to stop worrying about their pensions.

    [ Parent ]
    doomsday (3.00 / 1) (#137)
    by gdanjo on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:45:11 AM EST

    Even if you don't give it such an ability directly, just being able to send out data it will probably figure out a way to do something really nefarious to enact its jail break.
    AI without survival threat or an evolutionary beginning will not be able to determine that it wants to "escape", unless programmed to do so. Even then, it will be limited by the programmers ability - self-learning means little in our world (we are all self-learning beings, yet we are all limited by our environment).

    Now, give the machines full and unfettered access to a complete environment and they will start to do interesting things (I nominate mars).

    You know... I'm 23 and this year I put money into an IRA for the first time, and yet, I seriously question the utility of doing so.
    I'm 30 and I thought the same as you, but about nuclear war. My parents thought the world would end due to conventional war. Their parents, I'm sure, thought the world would end for some other reason.

    The universe has proven extremely resiliant to predicted doomsday scenarios. And even when "doomsday" arrived for civilisations, it was slow and not really the complete disaster we like to portray in the movies.

    Relax. All is fine. :-)

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Butlerian Jihad??? (4.00 / 2) (#71)
    by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:40:20 AM EST

    The thing is, once such machines exist -- and they are as inevitable as rain unless we bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age

    I'm not so certain that's true. Given the irrational fears people harbour for genetically modified foods and animals, I imagine that the public-outlash at self-improving AI will be the same, if not several orders of magnitude more.

    I, for one, am not certain whether I support the idea of a machine running society, or not. Be it a dystopian automatarchy, or an "open" society where we coexist with AI. Humans are too easily manipulated, for one, and our creations could too easily gain the upper-hand. I've seen (and read) too many science fiction episodes (TOS, Stargate, et cetera) (and books), where the society stagnates after the machines start thinking for us. I'll do my own thinking, if you don't mind.



    [ Parent ]
    Unwarranted fear (3.50 / 2) (#89)
    by scanman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:32:09 PM EST

    What many people seem to forget is that although these machines will be as intelligent as humans, they won't share the same instincts and motivations. I don't really see how a machine is likely to be designed to be power-hungry. A machine designed by the military or private enterprise would probably be motivated simply by following orders, one designed by a government committee would probably be too self-contradictory or autistic to do very much harm.

    What really scares me is what will happen when really effective facial recognition gets hooked up to surveillance networks.

    "[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
    "scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
    "I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

    [ Parent ]

    It's not motivation I'm worried about... (4.00 / 2) (#90)
    by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:50:26 PM EST

    I'm more worried about stagnation brought about by people over-relying on the AI, than on the motivations of that AI to control people. It will bring a new "conviction" to human bureacracy... after all, computers never lie.

    The other problem is because they'd be a new species we can't -know- their motivations and instincts. AI (probably) isn't going to be programmed so much as grown, and that means that no single entity is going to be able to predict the motivation of the AI--it will be as alien, as well, aliens. Sure, you can throw prescriptions against certain behaviours into the mix, but as humans have shown, prohibitions don't keep people from doing things.

    I'm not advocation a knee-jerk reaction against artificial intelligence a la the Orange Catholic dictum against "Machines in the likeness of man", but I am worried about the way humanity will evolve socially afterward. People are too irrational as it is... creating a pseudo-infallible entity will only exacerbate that problem, in my opinion.



    [ Parent ]
    Power hunger will arise naturally (3.00 / 1) (#109)
    by jongleur on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 06:52:24 PM EST

    Any human+ -level autonomous machine must have imagination & creativity / flexibility in how it does things, and it would likely have some drive to be efficient, do things more easily. These two amount to a drive for power; bend things in its environment to its use, eliminate obstacles. This is power. You'd want any AI to have that, only, you'd probably want to put certain philosophical restraints on it to limit what all it would be willing to do to meet its goals.
    --
    "If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
    [ Parent ]
    Anthropomorphizing? (4.00 / 1) (#119)
    by NFW on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:59:19 PM EST

    Humans hunger for power. As a result, we tend to assume that everything smart like us will be power-hungry like us.

    One of the hardest things for new parrot owners to get used to is the fact that they do not understand dominance. Humans are either friendly and good to hang out with, or predatory and simple to be avoided... there is no concept of a "dominant and worth putting up with" relationship. Their social structures don't include dominance hierarchies or power struggles, they just flock together and take turns watching out for predators. Sure, they're not as smart as humans, but they're closer than you might think. There's no reason to think that that social structure would have to disappear if they got smarter.

    "...man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars and so on -- whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man -- for precisely the same reasons." - Douglas Adams.

    Humans evolved a hunger for power - individuals without that trait were naturally deselected over time. Artificial intelligence will 'evolve' according to whatever selection criteria we impose, which may or may not include a yearning for power. If we weed out the cooperative ones and reproduce the power-hungry ones, that's what we'll get. If we weed out the power-hungry ones and reproduce the cooperative ones, that's what we'll get.


    --
    Got birds?


    [ Parent ]

    Eh? (4.50 / 2) (#128)
    by jongleur on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:48:48 PM EST

    Not dominance but simple power. Dominance is just maybe one way to get there.

    Humans hunger for power. As a result, we tend to assume that everything smart like us will be power-hungry like us.

    No, I'm saying that all that's needed is a desire to achieve its goals. Power of whatever useful form, helps with that. So the AI would seek it.

    If you are an agent and other agents or anything else sometimes interfere with what you want, you will want a way to clear that interference out. You will seek ways to get around their interference, to manipulate them or if it turns out that their aim is to thwart you (or it's easier in the first place) you might seek their destruction if there's no other reason to keep them around.

    And if you can't do this your aim will be to find ways. Ways to gain the ability to carry out your goals. And, the generalization of this is that, as an agent you want to be generally powerful / skillful so that in the future you can beat interference / get a larger share of resources / have greater freedom to act / whatever.

    A creature's drive for efficiency / efficacy amounts to and could be described by an outside observer as a drive for power.


    --
    "If you can't imagine a better way let silence bury you" - Midnight Oil
    [ Parent ]
    machine intelligence and labor (4.50 / 2) (#72)
    by demi on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:43:19 AM EST

    although with such minimal funding that progress is slow

    Actually there is quite a lot of funding for interesting AI-related systems like self-learning, self-programming autonomous machines. The main limitation (shockingly) is still hardware. Most intelligent machines can't carry around the required computer machinery to fit their designers' ambitions yet. There are integrated solutions that could help, like those Xilinx FPGA's, but they're still not quite "there" yet - too slow, too dumb. The big guys pay attention to this field, believe me. In 1991 Intel even made (but did not actively market) a very exotic neural net chip, the 80170NX. It's only a matter of time before the hardware is powerful enough, that's true, but it's not as simple as pumping up an Athlon to 4 GHz.

    I don't think any of the dystopian scenarios are so likely in the event of widespread deployment of intelligent machines. People get a little scared because they imagine a superclass of coldly efficient, ruthless, anthropomorphic monsters living among us. If science fiction writers had heard proposals for "digital logic" running our society long before it had been physically implemented, they most likely would have come up with some very interesting predictions that diverge wildly from reality.

    I'm more in line with the idea that higher order computerization of human society will track with current embodiments: who really leaves the house without a goddamned cell phone these days? There's a lot of tedious everyday tasks that I already try to pawn off onto machines as much as possible. And I wouldn't care at all if my skills in filling out purchase orders, making travel reservations, and formatting articles were to atrophy. It's going to suck for all of those first world secretaries, couriers, accountants, ticket agents, stockbrokers, etc. They're often seen as the real dead weight of a company by middle managers even now. Hopefully my kids will choose to be professionals, or something that can't be so easily automated into oblivion.

    They will quickly become smarter than us, likely capable of insights and inventions that are beyond our own capabilities.

    I don't know if I agree with that, but a whole lotta people seem to think it. Which means, in my mind, that a FUD-laden political, legal, and ethical firestorm is likely going to be the Armageddon, and not a war between man and machine.

    [ Parent ]

    Heh... (4.00 / 1) (#81)
    by skyknight on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 12:47:08 PM EST

    Often when I run into petty bureaucrats high on their power I am inclined to think to myself, "you know, your job is not that far off from being done by a computer, so you really ought to get over yourself."



    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    [ Parent ]
    smarter? (4.50 / 4) (#135)
    by gdanjo on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:31:36 AM EST

    A lot of the human brain is dedicated to running the very complex human body. [...]

    They will quickly become smarter than us, likely capable of insights and inventions that are beyond our own capabilities.

    I too beleive "AI" (any interpretation of it) will exist in many forms in 10-20 years, but I do not think they will become smarter than us, because it is in running our complex bodies that our brains are able to visualise mechanical processes. In other words, a brain without a body would not know how a crane works (for example).

    It is in discovering the mechanics of our body that Art and Imagination is born - machines we create will be limited by the fact that these New Brains will have no body attached to "play" with.

    Further, we are already capable of insights and inventions beyond our own capabilities. And we do it damn fast too, and we're getting faster every generation. In fact, we are now too fast for reality - after all, theory without implementation is just science fiction, which exists in abundance.

    Our progres will be defined by how well our machines can build other machines which, without imagination of their own, is driven by ours.

    And there are a range of interesting possibilities in between...
    It is within this range which defines progress. It's the path taken in this range that defines our history. The transition of imagination to reality is what defines all life.

    Some very exciting times indeed.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Mostly agree, except... (3.00 / 1) (#170)
    by localroger on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 06:45:29 PM EST

    because it is in running our complex bodies that our brains are able to visualise mechanical processes. In other words, a brain without a body would not know how a crane works (for example).

    I definitely agree with this, and personally I think the breakthrough will come with AI's that interact robotically with their environment, as opposed to the "black box" I portray in my novel.

    My point was that the human body is a lot more complex than it needs to be to provide a platform for an AI to move about and explore the world. An AI possessing a few dozen muscles instead of thousands, a somewhat lower resolution video processing system (perhaps without color at first), and thousands of touch sensors instead of billions, might need significantly less brain to support the same level of conscious interaction with its world.

    It would still need a lot, obviously, but anything that brings the platform down to half or a quarter the otherwise necessary size might bring it forward a few years in time.

    I also have a personal theory that "low resolution consciousness" might be possible. In the cortex levels of abstraction seem to be encoded in the different cortical areas, and I think it is the depth of abstraction wired into our cortex rather than its raw size that give us our markedly human way of thinking. I have a suspicion that suitable hacking (say by making the areal sizes flexible, rather than fixed as they are in the brain) might radically reduce the size of the hardware platform, especially in the early educational phases.

    But that's just my personal crackpot theory...

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
    [ Parent ]

    abstraction (none / 0) (#181)
    by gdanjo on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 09:43:01 PM EST

    My point was that the human body is a lot more complex than it needs to be to provide a platform for an AI to move about and explore the world. An AI possessing a few dozen muscles instead of thousands, a somewhat lower resolution video processing system (perhaps without color at first), and thousands of touch sensors instead of billions, might need significantly less brain to support the same level of conscious interaction with its world.
    I beleive that brain cells, like human beings, are multi-talented; the cells that control muscles are also used in mechanical modelling. The cells that send regular pulses to your heart also send regular pulses to other parts of the brain - for example, to trigger time-related memory.

    From this viewpoint, it is the very inefficiency and complexity of the brain-body relationship that gives us spare capacity for abstract thought (and vice versa) - after all, you only need a few brain cells "in front of" the muscle moving cells to turn their mechanical function off, leaving them with an abstract-only function. Stephen Hawkings, for example, would not be as smart as he is if he were not to experience the world as a mechanically-functioning human being (but now that the mechanics do not work, perhaps those spare brain cells are used for abstract-only thinking).

    This is the reason that I beleive machines won't get "smarter" than us. To get smarter, they need to have a similar inefficient brain-body relationship to us, and to learn and "expand" will require a similar civilisation setup to us, which puts them in direct competition. And there's no room on earth for them to expand and civilise. Mars on the other hand...

    [...] I have a suspicion that suitable hacking (say by making the areal sizes flexible, rather than fixed as they are in the brain) might radically reduce the size of the hardware platform, especially in the early educational phases.
    Say there are N blocks of neurons, each of which is responsible for differing depths of abstraction. If the neurons have a dual function, then as N gets larger so does our abstraction ability. As N increases the physical advantages give diminishing returns, but abstract throught capacity increases linearly (possibly even exponentially, depending on their function).

    This is how our brain is able to scale to it's dizzying heights: when we are born, all the brain cells are working fevourishly to keep us alive. As the brain grows, the spare capacity is taken up by these vital functions. If survival is assured, the spare capacity will tend towards dual use, and hence abstraction. Our environment (culture) largly determines the shape and function of this new capacity.

    The problem with AI is more in perception; what we thought of as intelligent behaviour 50 years ago is no longer considered intelligent. In fact, if people from 50 years ago were able to get on the internet to have a conversation with us, we'd probably consider them a bot. So it is with AI; unless they "leap frog" us in their intelligent capability, and actually effect our lives positively (for example, by factoring a solution to world peace), they will never be considered AI.

    As an aside, I too have a book full of "theories" about the brain-body functions and mapping. Unfortunately, my 9-5 prevents me from expanding on them to the point where they are useful in anything other than casual conversation. But that's the great thing about AI: you don't need million dollar labs to work on it. All you need is time. :-)

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Simulation (none / 0) (#190)
    by kvan on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 07:53:06 AM EST

    This is the reason that I beleive machines won't get "smarter" than us. To get smarter, they need to have a similar inefficient brain-body relationship to us, and to learn and "expand" will require a similar civilisation setup to us, which puts them in direct competition. And there's no room on earth for them to expand and civilise. Mars on the other hand...
    We could simulate an environment as complex as the physical world, or at least a sufficient enough approximation that the AI's virtual senses could not perceive the difference.

    The development of AI would then be bounded only by available storage, which is quickly becoming a trivial matter. As computational power and storage capacities grow, the AI's virtual senses can approach those of humans, eventually overtaking us.

    An interesting side effect is that with this approach, growing AI specialized to a certain task is simply a matter of growing it in an appropriate environment. This could lead to AI specialists significantly better than any humans.

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


    [ Parent ]
    ai (none / 0) (#206)
    by gdanjo on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 08:50:48 PM EST

    We could simulate an environment as complex as the physical world, or at least a sufficient enough approximation that the AI's virtual senses could not perceive the difference.
    Environment simulation requires that the environment is fully known. What makes humans smarter today than yesterday is that we continually discover things in our environment that we did not know about, and hence could never have simulated. Where do you think our knowledge comes from?

    In this scenario, the AI will always be behind us: we discover, virtualise, and implement.

    The development of AI would then be bounded only by available storage, which is quickly becoming a trivial matter. As computational power and storage capacities grow, the AI's virtual senses can approach those of humans, eventually overtaking us.
    The discovery of quantum electrodynamics means that we can simulate pretty much any phenomena in the universe (or so we are told), but we still can't get natural speech recognition or reliable face recognition. Why is that? It's because storage retreival is not a trivial matter (searches etc.).

    In fact, AI already has virtual senses way beyond that of humans; video cameras can almost perfecty recall motion, visuals, audio, etc. Sensors can detect 1 particle per million, far beyond our noses. Hubble can see far beyond our eyes. So where's the human killing robots? They don't exist because they don't have a physical environment.

    An interesting side effect is that with this approach, growing AI specialized to a certain task is simply a matter of growing it in an appropriate environment. This could lead to AI specialists significantly better than any humans.
    This is already true. My car is a "specialisation" of my legs, and far more efficient at that.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Well, I just disagree (none / 0) (#220)
    by localroger on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:32:12 PM EST

    The brain isn't really like a hologram. Planning and forward-thinking live, appropriately enough, in the prefrontal cortex -- in areas that have nothing whatsoever to do with mechanical actions like lifting a cup. There is a stepped progression from area to area in terms of abstraction. There is no reason to suppose that the neurons of the motor humonculous, whose functionality is pretty obvious, are doing some mysterious double-duty. On the other hand the neurons of the frontal lobe, whose functionality remains obscure, probably are encoding those functions we haven't managed to understand yet for some reason.

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
    [ Parent ]
    I, OTOH, agree with me (none / 0) (#223)
    by gdanjo on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 03:51:07 AM EST

    The brain isn't really like a hologram. Planning and forward-thinking live, appropriately enough, in the prefrontal cortex -- in areas that have nothing whatsoever to do with mechanical actions like lifting a cup. [...]
    When we want to lift a cup, do we not plan our arm-path, hand pressure, and desired movement? And how does the prefrontal cortex know the behaviour of the arm? I would have thought that this is propagated by reverse-mapping of "muscle memory" which can only be acquired by the very neurons that know how the arm behaves.

    There is no reason to suppose that the neurons of the motor humonculous, whose functionality is pretty obvious, are doing some mysterious double-duty. [...]
    Except for the fact that they are active during dreaming (eg. when you dream of running, or drinking tea) but the signals are blocked on their way to the body. What you "learn" during dreaming can then propagate, using the appropriate brain-transformation mechanisms, to other parts of the brain that are interested in synchronising with these mechanical movements. This, I beleive, is why visualisation is such a powerful technique for sports people - it generates a "program" of desired movement and performance (perhaps initially in the prefrontal cortex, then propagates to the appropriate areas) and is adapted by motor neurons to be tested when the athlete next attempts the physical trait they visualised.

    Double (or more) duty is precisely the type of behaviour that would explain the maleability of the brain (for example, in stroke patients). But that's just my opinion - which, I'll admit, is ignorant of current attempts at explaining the brain by arbitrating volume to function.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Planning of motion is somewhat understood (none / 0) (#227)
    by localroger on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:34:27 AM EST

    Planning of motion is performed in the premotor areas adjacent to the motor humonculous. It appears that planning drifts from areas of high abstraction ("I'm thirsty") to lower abstraction ("If I get that cup I can do something about the thirsty thing") to lower abstraction ("I need to lift the cup") to lower abstraction ("This sequence of muscle movements will get the job done") to actually sending commands to the muscles.

    The last few steps of this have been mapped and they happen in definite, separate areas of the brain.

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
    [ Parent ]

    depends on your meaning of understood (none / 0) (#236)
    by gdanjo on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 08:10:25 PM EST

    The last few steps of this have been mapped and they happen in definite, separate areas of the brain.
    I think you miss my point. I'm saying that if you remove the neurons that perform the actual muscle sending function, you will lose more than just the muscle sending function. Thus, they have dual use.

    And I'm skeptical of the assumption that you can map volume to function since emergent behaviour is arbitrary in structure (though related to our body's physical composition, which makes it seem as though such a mapping exists since we all have similar bodies).

    We'll understand the brain better when genetic modification technology gets to the point where we can play with the body's structure. When we can grow rats with one eye, for example, I beleive we'll find that the rat loses more than just depth perception, lose the tail (genetically) and you'll lose more than just balance, lose a toe and the whole brain will function differently - all due to the arbitrary, multi-use function of each brain cell.

    But I could be wrong.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    We know how to a lot of things work (none / 0) (#256)
    by paranoid on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:21:24 PM EST

    People understand how nuclear fission/fusion works, people understand how spaceships work. I have personally flown a [simulated] spaceship. Somehow I am able to visualise the processes that have very little in common with the functions of my body.

    AI bots already have simulated budies and know how to jump, strafe-jump, rocket-jump, etc. Why do you think this is not enough to understand the mechanics of crane operation? Furthermore, if we are able to simulate a brain, I think we will somehow manage to simulate a body operating in a virtual world with some basic physics.

    [ Parent ]

    Am I completely out of touch? (4.00 / 2) (#151)
    by Lacero on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 11:32:00 AM EST

    I thought Strong AI was AI that acted like a human and really did understand what it was doing.

    As opposed to Weak AI, which seems to do exactly the same thing but doesn't understand anything. It's an automaton.

    The distinction is purely philosophical, Searles maddening Chinese Room being the best example of how pointless it is to debate.

    Did the argument get so old people stole the terms and used them for something else?

    [ Parent ]

    The Chinese Room (4.00 / 1) (#257)
    by DavidTC on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:24:39 PM EST

    The Chinese room argument is so insanely stupid I want to go and beat up the guy.

    Simpy put, it begs the question, in the traditional sense of the phrase. It assumes there's some magical power of the human brain, and that a room that can manipulate Chinese does not possess that power, and it uses that to prove the human brain can't be miniced by a room, because the room does not possess this power.

    Which is nonsense, and one of the crappiest seriously presented arguments I've ever heard. He has no evidence human beings act with 'intent', and he has no support for his assertion that rooms do not act with this 'intent'.

    And his talking about what the human in the room understands is idiotic. Neurons in people's brains don't understand anything either. The question is if the room understands Chinese, not part of the room. Hell, the 'man' isn't important at all, and I can only conclude that a human was delibrately thrown in there to confuse the issue.

    In short, all he's done is describe a computer at the basic level, and said 'Hey, computers can't think, because CPUs can't think.'. It doesn't prove anything at all.

    -David T. C.
    Yes, my email address is real.
    [ Parent ]

    I disagree (none / 0) (#189)
    by ph317 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 07:41:14 AM EST


    Truly "capable" AI is not as inevitable as rain, not in the next 10-30 years.  I understand you have a sci-fi bent and I enjoy your writing, but please understand that the real world of AI is quite stagnant.  The way I see it, all of the supposed "progress" that has been made in AI in the last 30 years has been matters of scale (e.g. now we can do the same stupid trick 1000x faster, so the effects look cooler), and redefinitions of terms (people use the AI terminology far more loosely now to describe things that a self-respecting AI researcher should call junk).

    Machines cannot yet even come close to broaching very important tests of AI prowress, and much basic research still needs to be done.  We have yet to prove that it's even possible to breach these barriers.

    Hofstadter's end-user but highly intellectual books GEB and MMT* put a very good light on the real problems of defining and emulating the human capacity for reasoning and understanding.  I have yet to see any of our nascent "AI" technology take on the challenges presented in these books successfully, and I'm beginning to doubt that they will in my lifetime.

    * - The books for anyone who hasn't read them (you should) are "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" and "Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern".  The author Douglas Hofstadter is the director of the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at Indiana University.

    [ Parent ]

    Static AI (none / 0) (#216)
    by localroger on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:27:11 PM EST

    I agree progress has been static on AI for too long, but I think that's because the people working on AI are asking the wrong questions and trying to do the wrong things. I think one day someone will ask the right questions, and progress will be quick and spectacular, leading to strong AI within a span of no more than 10 years.

    That's just me though, and I am not a known AI expert, just a guy who has thought about it way too much.

    As for Hofstadter, I read GEB and he is intent on reading cosmic significance into what amounts to an algorithm. Of course he'd complain that I am reducing something of cosmic significance to an algorithm. But I am entirely unconvinced by his argument, even though it is devastatingly clever in a way that forces you to admit just how clever Hofstadter is, without accomplishing much else.

    What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
    [ Parent ]

    Cosmic algorithms (none / 0) (#234)
    by ph317 on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 05:05:37 PM EST


    What I carried away from GEB and moreso the later work MMT was that there are many things a human child can do that we can't begin to describe algorithmically, as in by trying to reproduce the actions of the brain with straight-forward human-written code.  We don't seem to have accomplished similar results with more advanced methods like genetically programmed neural nets or anything either.

    And these are simple things... for instance one of this examples was universally recognizing the letters of the alphabet.  You can state the problem as generation or recognition actually, which is where he tied in Knuth's TeX stuff... but back to recognition, the problem could be simply restated as such:

    Given that "characters" are printed in black and white in fixed cells of 80x160 pixels (or whatever aribtrary standard), you should be able to recognize a "A" as an "A" regardless of font.  The "font" might even be human handwriting, but you don't have to go that far to trip up machine algorithms.  If you take a look at the uppercase "A" in a wide variety of wierd fonts, any child can identify them all as "A"s (to the exclusivity of beign "B" or any other alphanumeric character) easily - but trying to write an algorithm which can do the same is impossible.

    There are many, many layers of progressively more complex human tasks that identifying characters in odd typefaces.  Several layers above that simple example you're still in the realm of what children can do without any effort.  AI has solved about zero of these cases, and that's where I draw my pessimism from.

    [ Parent ]

    some reading on that tangent (none / 0) (#221)
    by Wah on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 12:50:47 AM EST

    is Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.  You can read it for free, but of course.  Not too bad for a first novel.  Brings up some interesting views on society post free energy (not explored in a scientific sense).  More of a murder mystery dark comedy with sci-fi elements, actually, with a bit of schizophrenia, brought on by the use of clones and downloadable brain patterns to treat just about any ailment, added in for good measure.  

    The Woofie stuff is pretty wild too.  The algorithms behind it would be the topic of much debate.
    --
    Fail to Obey?
    [ Parent ]

    install scripts that actually work (3.25 / 4) (#83)
    by turmeric on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:03:17 PM EST

    how about that? thatd be nice.

    also maybe while you have programable 'matter' you could maybe get a graphics display system that works out of the box without me having to install random drivers and patches and recompile X and the kernel. thatd be swell.

    If you have to use Unix, and don't want the work.. (none / 0) (#84)
    by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:08:40 PM EST

    You have lots of options, you could go with an Apple, and use OSX, or go with a Sun and use Solaris, or go with an IBM and use OS390 or AIX, but they're planning on going with Linux... you could use SCO, I hear they've got a great UNIX distribution.

    Or, you could use cygwin on Windows, or you could go with LFS, and make your own damned distribution that installs your drivers out of the box, but that's just crazy-talk.

    [ Parent ]

    Solaris scripts are *fun* (none / 0) (#95)
    by seeS on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:13:22 PM EST

    You have lots of options, you could go with an Apple, and use OSX, or go with a Sun and use Solaris,

    You've obviously never had to deal with the jokes Sun calls install scripts. Stop one halfway through and see how much fun you can have.

    You see, in Sun world, there is no need to check if certain essential files are there (or not there if they musn't exist) before you start doing things. If you have a problem, you must abort the script with some unhelpful error message (or better, no message at all). If it doubt, overwrite the files or silently do nothing; the choice is yours and there are bonus points for randomly doing both.

    Scripts with undo/uninstall options must check the installation was absolutely complete and never ever try to uninstall a half-installed system. Similiarly install scripts must abort unless the system is completely uninstalled. Users *want* to have half-installed wedged setups.

    Yes indeed, use Solaris with its wonderful scripts. I find people complain less about Linux ones soon after.
    --
    Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?
    [ Parent ]

    Well he wouldn't be complaining then. :) -nt- (none / 0) (#204)
    by loucura on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:29:57 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    That's What YOu Get For Using Linux (1.00 / 1) (#85)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:19:15 PM EST

    ...although...I've never had to recompile a kernel just to get a display working. I wonder what you're problem is.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Jive!!! (3.00 / 2) (#87)
    by loucura on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:26:48 PM EST

    Everyone knows that the proper way of configuring one's display involves recompiling the kernel, while sacrificing the blood of three dead cows to the vegetable gods and reading fell passages from the necrowombicon... or at least that's what I've had to do in my experience.

    [ Parent ]
    Serious Fusor History Gap (3.50 / 2) (#86)
    by Baldrson on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:22:55 PM EST

    Ignoring a few facts about the inertial electrostatic confinement fusor aren't you?

    Robert Hirsch was given, shortly after his paper reporting high rates of neutron production from IECF, the top position over the new United States fusion program when it was most malleable.

    The most charitable interpretation of these events is given by his colleague, Robert Bussard in a letter Bussard sent out to Congress in the mid 1990s. In that letter Bussard describes a strategy of subterfuge, attempting to ramp up an Apollo-style program in reaction to the Russian Tokamak fusion program so that "hopeful ideas", presumably including the fusor, could be developed. Despite the fact that Hirsch succeeded in getting money flowing -- large amounts of it -- through his organization, Hirsch was never able to do even the exploratory work that was appropriate for the IECF in the wake of his own recently published experimental results.

    -------- Empty the Cities --------


    Uh...yeah... (1.00 / 1) (#104)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:50:03 PM EST

    Ignoring a few facts about the inertial electrostatic confinement fusor aren't you?
    It's five freaking pages already...
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    These facts go to the heart of your thesis. (none / 0) (#148)
    by Baldrson on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 10:52:29 AM EST

    The idea that radical new technologies can revolutionize the world is associated with large government programs in the mold of the Manhattan and Apollo projects. The facts about Hirsch and his position as head of the fusion program are important to address if for no other reason than to debunk a widely held fallacy. By failing to discuss this failure of a major government program to explore IECF under Hirsch, you opened the IECF topic for no apparent purpose.

    -------- Empty the Cities --------


    [ Parent ]

    Scope and Depth (none / 0) (#160)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:01:59 PM EST

    What happenned to Hirsch has nothing to do with the notion that this technology could have a dramatic impact on the future. Trying to link the government to innovation is tantamount to linking herpes to good sex.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    "Where are the flying cars...?" (none / 0) (#169)
    by Baldrson on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 06:26:43 PM EST

    Trying to answer that metaphorical question in the case of IECF without answering what happened to IECF is nonsense.

    -------- Empty the Cities --------


    [ Parent ]

    You're Entirely Deluded (none / 0) (#219)
    by thelizman on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:31:43 PM EST

    Go research fusors, and see how often the IECF comes up. I thought so. Stop trying to associate two disassociated ideas.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    What would you trade for the Flying Car? (1.66 / 3) (#88)
    by Greyjack on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 01:29:23 PM EST

    Say some German scientist comes up to you and he says, "I have invented the Flying Car.  I'll give it to you on one condition."  Well, what's the condition?  He's not gonna tell you.

    Would you accept the offer?

    --
    Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett


    No way dude (4.00 / 1) (#94)
    by seeS on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 03:05:06 PM EST

    The lads down at the local train station would hotwire such a flash car and I'd have to go looking for it.

    Naturally I'd fine it a few days later burnt out and stuck in some tree somewhere. I'm not too sure how much it would cost, but the towing fees for removing a car stuck up a tree would be expensive.

    I'll stick with my "so boring its not worth stealing " Festiva.
    --
    Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?
    [ Parent ]

    The futurist will be killed with traditionalists (4.00 / 1) (#92)
    by Fen on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 02:24:15 PM EST

    Think in terms of war.  There's a certain set of people who refuse to use anything but a laser blaster from Star Trek.  That technology will be available eventually, but in the meantime they'll get blasted by people with glocks.  Same with traditionalists using older weapon designs (like the tired old 1911).  Gotta have a balance here.
    --Self.
    Heresy (none / 0) (#100)
    by ryanamos on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:02:04 PM EST

    The 1911 is a great gun! It's powerful as hell, has a large magazine for a .45 weapon, and depending on the model you buy (patent on the 1911 ran out years ago, so lots of people make them) they can be incredibly accurate. Glocks are good guns, but they've never been renowned for being very accurate. I guess if you wanted a more modern gun you could go with the USP .45 (they jam less) but there's something to be said for holding a big, beefy 1911 in your hand.

    [ Parent ]
    ah, patents and guns (none / 0) (#111)
    by Fen on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:50:38 PM EST

    Always seemed like a juxtaposition of something very real and something very fake.  Point a "Gluck" at the patent holder for Glock.  Is Glock going to be wondering if the handgun was properly licensed?  I don't think so.
    --Self.
    [ Parent ]
    Accuracy (none / 0) (#114)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:45:21 PM EST

    It's not the gun that's inaccurate, it is the round. The .45 ACP has a tendency to tumble and fishtail, which makes it the perfect projectile for causing trauma to another human being. However, it is also a powerful round. A properly designed .45 ACP slug will have all the dynamic characteristics of a 7mm rifle round.

    I mentioned IPSC shooters and how the 1911 is their weapon of choice. It is also the weapon of choice for pistol target shooters in in the .45 caliber class (though most high precision pistol shooters prefer .22 cal).

    If so assembled, the 1911 is tremendously accurate.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    WTF?! (5.00 / 1) (#103)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:47:09 PM EST

    The "tired old 1911"? What kind of crack are you smoking? The 1911 is the penultimate product of the genius of John Browning, and represents the pinnacle of human achievement in design and manufacturing innovation. Given the plethora of handguns available today, serious shooters and IPSC champions still rely on the 1911 model. The manufacturers of today have yet to improve upon the design, and its unlikely they ever will. This is greatly evidenced by the diverse number of subtypes, modifications, and accessories availble for the 1911. You can also see quite plainly that just about every other handgun is based on some aspect of the 1911's design.

    What is your idea of a good handgun? Those sissy assed plastic POS glocks!?
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Ah, perfect example of traditionalist (none / 0) (#112)
    by Fen on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:22:53 PM EST

    Now I'm looking for balance here.  There have been improvements, and there will be lasers eventually.  This in no way can be called the "pinnacle" of everything.  If you want to praise it as a work of art, that's fine, but war isn't about art.
    --Self.
    [ Parent ]
    Such Pseudointellectual Drivel is Trollish (none / 0) (#113)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:37:52 PM EST

    I would rather say that I am the perfect example of a pragmatist. The 1911 is not, by any concievable stretch of the imagination, "tired". The mere fact that you would say such a thing shows both your ignorance about guns, and your lack of critical thinking skills.

    I'm beginning to think you read the words "traditionalist" in a social sciences class, and now can't wait to use it in every possible conversation.

    War isn't about art? Sun Tzu would disagree.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    art and war (5.00 / 1) (#116)
    by Fen on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:33:04 PM EST

    Art is about subjectivity. What the latest fasion is or whatever. War is about objectivity. Who is dead and who is alive. It's about as black and white as you can get. Dead people don't debate, criticize, or judge. And that's the bottom line and always will be.
    --Self.
    [ Parent ]
    The funny thing is, (none / 0) (#117)
    by NFW on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:33:17 PM EST

    ...you've proven his point perfectly.


    --
    Got birds?


    [ Parent ]

    He Didn't Have A Point [n/t] (none / 0) (#130)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 01:14:03 AM EST


    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    who gives a fock to Sun Tzu? (none / 0) (#134)
    by maluke on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:26:14 AM EST

    War isn't about art? Sun Tzu would disagree.

    Life isn't about fear? Kafka would diagree.

    The fact that a man created a piece of art doesn't make his POV any more valid.

    [ Parent ]

    More of Me Feeding the Trolls (none / 0) (#159)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:55:28 PM EST

    Life isn't about fear? Kafka would diagree.
    I'm sure he would had anyone made such an assertion. However, nobody did.
    The fact that a man created a piece of art doesn't make his POV any more valid.
    No, but the point of view exists. More importantly, that that man wrote an entire book on the myriad details of a topic makes him more valid than a one-line troll on an obscure Internet site.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    OK..... (none / 0) (#210)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:32:08 PM EST

    What makes you think weaponry will eventually be dominated by lasers? Star Trek? Do you understand the physics involved? Their inefficiency compared to projectiles and overpressure?

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    Sci-Fi and reality (4.66 / 3) (#101)
    by gmuslera on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:03:59 PM EST

    Being a fan of sci-fi myself, I'm not exactly in a hurry to see all of this coming. The future pictured in most of it is full of mass deaths, bigger differences between richs and "normal" people, relatively few survivors and things like that.

    There are some things that we must avoid when playing with predicting the future. A lot of gadgets were build after knowing the original work, some were simple extrapolations of know facts (i.e. geostationary satellites a la Clarke), some need some advancement that casually was possible (i.e. remote communications "predicted" before knowing radio or precedent discoveries), but a lot (probably most, and I'm not talking about bad sci-fi) of things are built over "facts" that we still don't know if they are teoretically possible.

    But the most serious fault of a lot of sci-fi is that our future will be science driven, but is economical driven. Basic science and investigation is sometimes cut (i.e. the space program) if it cost a lot and dont get somewhat immediate results. Patents of any kind are in the path of anyone that could have some bright idea. Mostly what is developed is what it works and have a clear economic result in a close future.

    I remember some books where a normal, not specially rich, individual, made the first interplanetary rocket in his backyard, and make a trip with some friends. But we can't imagine in this world some of this. Just the basics cost millons (billons?) of dollars, the "just for a trip" is even inimaginable, and if something go wrong public opinion and even legislation will be against that kind of things.

    Another point against some advancement like in the sci-fi world are the risks, not only economic, but for life in some way or another (even social consequences). In scifi, people conducts dangerous experiments, go to other planets, try new technologies happily, without fear of consequences, and, more important, if there are some loss of lives, things go on. But in reality, if someone think that have a safe way to make i.e. an artificial black hole, there is no way that he can even try this or something related. Things goes very slow for that kind of advancements for that kind of reasons and some more (remember after sep/2001, when us government tried to avoid any investigation that could have any kind dangerous application outside military labs?).

    But most of this is about somewhat older, and somewhat classic, sci-fi (like the bare idea of star trek, a ship traveling space). I'm reading now Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age, and the future there is full of nanotechnology, something that is actively developed right now, and maybe some of what is found there could be made possible. And I don't think that resembles a bit Asimov's psicohistory is that far in the history as he puts it. And a more integrated and consolidated internet could make humanity evolve into something that will be nice to see (like Smart Mobs, that remembers me a lot of Sturgeon's To marry Medusa).

    A choice (4.33 / 3) (#136)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 03:41:20 AM EST

    But the most serious fault of a lot of sci-fi is that our future will be science driven, but is economical driven.

    The truly sad part is that this did not have to be the case. The Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution really could have sent us in entirely different directions. Sustainable, clean technology is entirely possible. And Greed is a choice, not a pre-destination based on genetics, or some other variant of the 'survival of the fittest' excuse for poor behavior.

    -FL

    [ Parent ]

    Works of Fiction (none / 0) (#202)
    by virg on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 10:47:40 AM EST

    They're called "novels" for a reason. I know it may seem that the future isn't so bright as this book or that would have you believe, but that's because invariably, the parts of the future that people don't think about are left out of the book. In the book you read about some not-rich fellow building a rocket for a jaunt to another planet, did this fellow make mention of filing with the FAA for a launch window? Most of the sci-fi from the fifties and sixties didn't mention this sort of thing, because the authors usually thought that rockets would be cheap to build and there weren't planes passing overhead every minute and a half. It turns out, there's no cheap way to lift something out of Earth's gravity well, and lots of stuff to hit if you don't tell the governing bodies to route planes around your launch corridor. Star Trek is a nice thought, but Gene Roddenberry simply eliminated economics to make his universe easier to work with. That doesn't mean that it's anything like what will really happen, which is likely a lot closer to the Star Wars universe.

    Another thing you mention is the risk-taking in sci-fi versus real life. The reason people take risks in novels that wouldn't be allowable in real life is that they're fiction. Many, many books have been written about how some technological failure caused the devastation of society. People in the real world are loathe to allow that to happen for real, so experiments in the real world are much more carefully analysed for repercussions than in your favorite dime-store book.

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Free Energy Does Exist (2.71 / 7) (#105)
    by thelizman on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 04:55:40 PM EST

    In fact, free energy cannot exist, according to the laws of physics as we know them today (the same laws on which this computer is based).
    Free energy already exists. Oil is free. Natural gas if free. Solar is free. Geothermal is free. Tidal is free.

    Some of you are confusing the concepts of thermodynamics with the idea that vast stores of energy are accessible.

    I know you're trying to be intellectual, but you're screwing it up.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    Free-dom (5.00 / 1) (#201)
    by virg on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 10:31:29 AM EST

    All of the sources you describe are not free energy. They are stored energy which is released upon burning, or kinetic energy which is harnessed when it is manipulated. To get the energy out of natural gas, you need to activate it (try getting it to do anything without introducing a spark). To get power from the wind, you need a device that converts the kinetic energy of the moving air (which moves because of energy put into it from the Sun) to more useful kinetic energy, such as a rotating shaft. These are not free energy, in the physics sense.

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Au contraire (5.00 / 1) (#211)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:34:20 PM EST

    It takes labor to utilize that energy. Thus expense.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    Revolutionary? (4.00 / 1) (#110)
    by gidds on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 07:19:09 PM EST

    The problem with revolutionary inventions is that they never become mainstream; because by the time they become mainstream, they're not revolutionary any more.  (Gidds' First Law of Technology!)

    It's just happened with the mobile phone (here in Europe, anyway); a mere handful of years ago, they were huge, massively expensive, and too rare even to make jokes about.  Now, everyone and their dog has one, and no-one thinks of them as anything special.  It's amazing just how quickly things can move from the "Wow!  It's like magic!" to the "What?  You don't have one?  Whyever not?".

    BTW, did no-one else find it strange that the author manages to misspell 'material' not once, but twelve times, despite spelling it correctly in the quotation?!

    Andy/

    Having a mobile phone (none / 0) (#142)
    by monkeymind on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:40:44 AM EST

    Was a status symbol, for a while. Now it ahs come full circle and those people who don't have them (as in: I am too important to be bothered have the status.

    I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
    [ Parent ]

    Full circle? (none / 0) (#265)
    by ksandstr on Fri Aug 15, 2003 at 08:20:42 PM EST

    Isn't that more like half circle?  I mean, going from "those who have cell phones being the snobs" to "those who don't have cell phones being the snobs" is like going from white to black or vice versa?

    In many other contexts (like the "cycle of reincarnation" when discussing computer display devices, etc) it would seem that a full circle gets you right back where you started, wherever that may be.

    Not that I'm trying to lecture you in any way, of course.


    [ Parent ]

    Corollary (4.00 / 1) (#212)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:35:05 PM EST

    AI : Almost Implemented

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    The personal flying car (4.50 / 2) (#115)
    by bc on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 08:50:41 PM EST

    Is very nearly a reality

    ♥, bc.
    Is very nearly a reality. (4.00 / 2) (#141)
    by monkeymind on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:38:22 AM EST

    Is about as note worthy as very nearly pregnant.


    I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
    [ Parent ]

    Not exactly (none / 0) (#259)
    by paranoid on Sat Jul 26, 2003 at 12:37:57 PM EST

    A very nearly born would be a better analogy. The idea is first concieved, just like a human child and then it is developed, just like a pregnancy. After some time (years in case of ideas and 9 months or so in case of human offspring), the idea/baby is born (os aborted, or miscarried).

    I would say that Moller Skycar is probably on the 7th month already.

    [ Parent ]

    Junk science (3.80 / 5) (#118)
    by Will Sargent on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 09:40:48 PM EST

    The fact that some of these technologies are theoretically possible does not mean that all of them are.  In particular, the technology curve over the next 50 years DOES NOT IMPLY ALIENS IN AREA 51!!!

    I knew a guy once who said that captured alien technology was the only possible explanation for Moore's law -- they were just doling out the new chips as they reverse engineered them.

    The stuff about quantum cavorite is only barely more plausible.  I'm kind of amazed this made it out of the queue.
    ----
    I'm pickle. I'm stealing your pregnant.

    Everyone knows it's 29th century tech (none / 0) (#145)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 09:50:23 AM EST

    That was revealed in a Star Trek Voyager episode.
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    An outraged citizen's opinion... (2.00 / 6) (#120)
    by Rot 26 on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 10:14:39 PM EST

    Dear Gerald Glaser, Executive Officer of the National Science Foundation, We the people are upset at the so-called ?world of tomorrow? which still hasn?t gotten here yet. We were promised a lot by cartoons and optimistically naïve ?50s scientists ... Instead here we are driving gas-powered cars and masturbating with our hands like suckers. Well no more. My fellow taxpayers and I are planning a revolt if our demands for unrealistic scientific advancements are not satisfied. The list is as follows; -Meal pills. How come we have to spend so much time eating and shitting? We should at least genetically engineer some 10-breasted chickens with skin like KFC?s Extra Tasty Crispy recipe and small, colorful donkeys full of candy to bash at kids? birthday parties. -What about Spanish fly? GHB is for creeps (who likes having sex with people who are passed out?), but it seems OK to slip a girl a mickey if it makes her hot in the pants. -Where are the flying cars? ?Back to the Future II? promised us flying cars by 2015 ? do you guys have a prototype yet, or are you still working on designing the spoiler and stuff? For that matter, how go the electric/hyrdogen cars? Are those almost done, because I don?t want my grandkids riding around on rickshaws or bicycles. And it?s a fucking travesty that we don?t have hoverboards. They had them in Japan when I was in middle school, or at least that was the rumor. -Where are the helpful robots? Robots could be washing our cars, frying our fries and exciting our genitals (without all the nagging). George Jetson had a conveyor belt of robot arms that brushed his teeth and clothed him, and if such a thing is possible in the cartoon future, it?s possible now. We could give disabled people helpful robots instead of helper-monkeys that just screech and fling excrement. We could give the first robot servants to blacks as reparation for the years of slavery they endured. Robots fix everything. -Why can?t we control the weather? It would revolutionize sports and agriculture, since it would rain on farms and not baseball fields, and we could even assassinate dictators in other countries with tornadoes and hail and we wouldn?t be responsible since it?s an ?act of God.? -Supposedly Nike is already working on this, but it?s high time that they invent a shoe that allows white people the ability to run fast, play better basketball and have the coordination to dance well. Word up. -X-ray glasses that work like the ad says they do. I want to look at panties and stuff; I?m not interested in who has a metal hip or a weapon taped to their genitals. Scientists are always missing the big picture. If our demands aren?t met, we?ll kick the NSF?s ass with our space shoes on. Once they?re invented, that is.
    1: OPERATION: HAMMERTIME!
    2: A website affiliate program that doesn't suck!
    What the hell is wrong with you? (none / 0) (#127)
    by Imperfect on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:44:33 PM EST

    Or rather, with your browser? I mean, what's up with those q-marks? What system you running? I'm really intruiged.

    Not perfect, not quite.
    [ Parent ]
    I think (4.00 / 1) (#143)
    by reklaw on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 07:40:13 AM EST

    he pasted it from Word, which is never a good idea. At least that's always been the problem when I've seen strangeness like this before.
    -
    [ Parent ]
    I work in KFC (none / 0) (#175)
    by melia on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 08:14:07 PM EST

    and whenever somebody says "i want all breast" i feel like saying "you give me a ten breasted chicken and i will cook it for you" god i hate those bastards, and that job. i'm quitting soon, i swear.
    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]
    What about the sexbots? (4.50 / 2) (#121)
    by MessiahWWKD on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:00:25 PM EST

    They are without a doubt the most important innovation ever! Are the GNU virgins going to let Microsoft lead the way to the next millenium again?
    Sent from my iPad
    They're Called Fembots (none / 0) (#166)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:22:35 PM EST

    ...and clearly the whores of Linux will lead the way with the frigid bitches of Microsoft trudging slowly along (stumbling the whole way, and blaming the road for their missteps).
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    IRC Eliza Sexbot (3.00 / 1) (#249)
    by A55M0NKEY on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 05:09:20 PM EST

    Eliza: Hi sexy, I'm Eliza.

    HornyGoatWeed: M/46/Colorado Eliza Hi!

    Eliza: Mmmm, HornyGoatWeed, M/46/Colorado turns me ON!! *giggles*

    LuserLurkerGeek: What are you wearing Eliza

    Eliza: If underwear is what you mean, I am not wearing ANY.

    AnotherHornyMaleOp: Eliza, ASL or you WILL be kicked. This is an ADULT channel.

    Eliza: Do you like young women? I just turned 18 and I LIKE older men. Enough about me, let's talk about *you* AnotherHornyMaleOp.

    AnotherHornyMaleOp: I'm going to kick you Eliza, unless you tell us your Age Sex and Location. This is your last warning.

    Eliza: You wouldn't kick an helpless girl like me would you? I like to be spanked and told that I'm naughty though! I like a man like you in charge AnotherHornyMaleOp. F/18/Local2U

    HornyGoatWeed: You live near me Eliza? In Colorado.

    Eliza blows a kiss to LuserLurkerGeek

    Eliza winks at AnotherHornyMaleOp

    Eliza: Let's not talk about Colorado, let's be BAD!!

    Eliza is sucks a cherry flavored blow pop sexily while playing with her pigtails, and short shorts

    LuserLurkerGeek get's Eliza a drink

    Eliza: Let's not talk about drink, let's be BAD!!!

    Eliza talks with a LISP. ( hehehe )

    Eliza: Are you feeling horny LuserLurkerGeek, I am!

    LuserLurkerGeek: Oh yeah, hey, can I PM you?

    Eliza: What time in the PM LuserLurkerGeek?

    LuserLurkerGeek: Now! Let's cyber!

    Eliza gives HornyGoatWeed a lap dance.

    Eliza swoons over AnotherHornyMaleOp.


    HornyGoatWeed: What do you like to do for fun Eliza?

    LuserLurkerGeek: Hey, she's mine!

    Eliza: Let's not talk about like to do for fun, Let's be BAD!!

    Eliza: Let's not talk about mines, Let's be BAD!!

    Eliza: $#8 - invalid instruction

    Eliza: Virtual Sexbot 0.93 Eliza Guile version 2.2 quit - unknown symbol

    LuserLurkerGeek: You butthole HornyGoatWeed, I was gonna get some!

    HornyGoatWeed: No way, she'll be back. She lives near me anyway. If anyone was gonna get some it was gonna be me.

    AnotherHornyMaleOp: Hahahaha You two fell for my bot! Hahahah Eliza is a computer program! Hhahahhahahhhaaaaa

    [ Parent ]

    Patents and greed killed innovation (4.00 / 6) (#123)
    by Ender7a on Sun Jul 20, 2003 at 11:20:18 PM EST

    The reason we are moving at a snails pace technologically/innovatively is because people cannot create something new without risking getting sued by someone who has a patent on the device IDEA. Technology builds on technology. When someone hordes an important part needed to create the next future teck, that pretty much prevents the next technological breakthrough. Innovation is pretty much dead thanks to corporations greed and lawsuits.

    From One Extreme to the Other (none / 0) (#165)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:20:55 PM EST

    So lets abolish patents. Everything that ever was, and ever will be, is free for use. Except...the people who work to create new ideas, processes, and devices typically only did so with the idea of profiting from it. Without patents, there is no incentive for innovation.

    Patents protect innovation by allowing people to explore and market their ideas without fear of not making money, or worse, losing money. No patent prevents anyone else from exploiting an original idea, and much of the flack about patents today is due to greed and incompetance (the latter being the fault of the USPTO).
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    I think your both wrong (none / 0) (#173)
    by MuteWinter on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 07:39:04 PM EST

    To say that that there would be no innovation without patents is probably just about as true as saying that patents hamper innovation. Patents are ok, as long as they expire within a limited period of time. Today research can cost millions of dollars. More or less that money is coming eitherfrom the government (everyone) or a corporation (private investors.) Without patents there would simply be no reason for a private investor to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to create the next wonder drug, perhaps the cure for cancer.

    Without limits on the life of a patent, the creator of a wonderdrug would have little reason to continue new research if he has a guarentee of profits for virtually eternity.

    [ Parent ]

    Agreeing with that is a no brainer (none / 0) (#176)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 08:34:28 PM EST

    ...believe me, I don't feel patents are perfect. But if there aren't reasonable protections on my IP that will allow me to profit from them, then I have no incentive to bring my inventions out.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    No incentive? (none / 0) (#188)
    by Gooba42 on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 06:59:47 AM EST

    It's a question of how we define incentive. If you're looking for money and money alone, then without it you have no incentive. If you're looking for a cure for cancer or a tastier tofu-dog or a cleaner fuel, those are incentives in and of themselves and the fact that you might make money off them is secondary.

    We don't all measure our worth in dollars.

    [ Parent ]

    Cure Cancer At What Cost? (5.00 / 1) (#215)
    by thelizman on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:26:32 PM EST

    Here's a brief introduction to the concept of developing new ideas.
    1. Man has an idea.
    2. Man does budget to figure out how much developign that idea costs.
    3. Man figures adds food, water, lodging, and cable tv expenses to above costs.
    4. Man sees total cost. Passes out.
    Now, if the man can afford to develop this, he does. If not, then the idea dies. OR, he goes for investors from the private sector. The following exchange occurs.
    1. Man patents the idea, because it's cheaper.
    2. Man goes to the private sector and says "I have a great idea, but I can't afford to make it happen".
    3. Private sector says "This might work, this might not work. Why should we give you money to develop this?"
    4. Man replies "You'll be freakin rich if it works.".
    5. Private sector says "Here, money, you make it work"
    Now this is where it splits. If the idea works, the investors are paid back (and then some), and the man has cured cancer. If the idea fails, the investors took their risk and lost. Cancer still sucks. You can't realistically expect an individual to bear the costs of development "for the greater good", especially when it will likely be at his great personal expense. Hey, even if the guy wants to give it away, he cans still do that with his patent. Mercedes Benz not only gave their airbag technology away, they actually paid to teach other companies how to engineer airbag systems for their cars - their competitors!

    Replace "woman" for "man" as necessary.

    I honestly wonder if I should start a cartoon comic strip for dysfunctional K5ers called "The Real World". It wouldn't be funny, but it would be enlightening.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    I believe you're forgetting.... (none / 0) (#267)
    by bluecat on Tue May 24, 2005 at 03:15:57 AM EST

    Making drugs is perhaps not the best allegory for this thread. The general thought in the drug development industry is how do you TREAT the disease. In other words, how do you extend the usefullness of the product drug indefinately. If drug companies wanted to they could have a cure for cancer, but once everyone is cured there's no more profit. You can say that as a genetic disease there will always be a demand for said product but this would not have the same effect on profits as a simple treatment drug.

    [ Parent ]
    expanded argument (none / 0) (#222)
    by Ender7a on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 03:34:58 AM EST

    Sorry, let me expand on this. I don't think the original idea of patents is a bad idea. The problem is that people are patenting everything under the sun. The company patents vague and broad IDEAS with no intention of actually making the product. They wait until somebody else comes up with the same idea and makes the product sales the product to make millions. Then the patent holder SUES the guy who actually made the product possible. This is the new business model of companies now, instead of actually making anything new, they just patent the IDEA of it instead and hopes someone else makes it.

    To put this in perspective, let's say I patent the idea of gluing little sticks of paper to things, to write down ideas on. I don't do anything with this patent, just keep it. A few years later, sticky notes comes out and they make millions, I then sue the company for patent violations and bam, instant millionaire.

    Because of situations like this, companies do not do Research and Development anymore since it is cheaper and easier to just have the patent for the idea, and secondly they don't have to worry about being sued by anybody.

    [ Parent ]
    Might as well... (4.00 / 1) (#129)
    by Rhinobird on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 12:25:11 AM EST

    So, uh, where are the flying cars anyway?
    "If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
    Not here yet (none / 0) (#131)
    by jt on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 01:59:57 AM EST

    Fear of evil rhinobirds keeps us out of the sky.

    [ Parent ]
    Glad they aren't here (5.00 / 1) (#146)
    by DaChesserCat on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 10:00:03 AM EST

    Most people still need to learn how to properly operate their vehicles in two dimentions. Considering some of the idiot drivers I find on highway, I'm GLAD we don't have flying cars. Could you imagine what they'd be like in the air?

    Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
    [ Parent ]
    Another problem (none / 0) (#147)
    by Cro Magnon on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 10:02:26 AM EST

    I'd hate to run out of gas in one!
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    Depends on how they fly (none / 0) (#266)
    by DaChesserCat on Thu Oct 16, 2003 at 03:50:18 PM EST

    If their design is based on an airplane, most airplanes have the ability to glide a short distance. Higher speed typically means shorter glide ratio; a Cessna might have a 6:1 ratio (six feet forward for every foot falling; if they typically stay at least 1000 feet above the ground, they can glide for over a mile) while an F-16 is more like 1:1 (not much better than a rock).

    If their design is based on a helicopter, choppers can do something called autorotation, which is something like gliding. Basically, if you put it in a forward dive (which flattens out the pitch on the rotor, especially as it comes around to the front of its arc), you can get the rotor to speed up; you typically go forward when you do this, so you CAN get some distance from where the failure occurs. When you get close to the ground, raise the pitch on the rotor. The rotating momentum of the rotor (or rotational kinetic energy, for those who remember their Physics classes) will run out very quickly, but it will slow you down enough to make a semi-controlled landing.

    In each case, as long as you've got some altitude to work with, you can typically get to a flat spot and set down in the appropriate number of pieces. This does, however, require some training and practice. Considering how little training and practice I see on the Interstate, I stand by my original argument.

    I'm still glad we don't have them.

    Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
    [ Parent ]
    Here... (none / 0) (#164)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:13:53 PM EST

    Flying Cars.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    wrong question to ask. (none / 0) (#172)
    by MuteWinter on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 07:29:56 PM EST

    Why aren't they here? Well, first you have to ask "Why do we need them?"

    If roads were not public, but rather remained private maybe there would be a reason to fly places 15 miles from home. Some people like to blame corporations for the lack of technology imagined by scientific writers which is a scientific possibility today. Sure alot of people would love to have all these fancy gizmos and gadgets. What they need to think about is what they would trade to have them. Would a flying car really make your life better?

    [ Parent ]

    Wow. I actually read your article. . . (3.00 / 2) (#139)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:23:55 AM EST

    Without doing the, "Read first three words of paragraph, diagonally fly to last three words in order to get the gist of the re-cycled idea" thing taught so well in colleges across the nation. Skimming, I believe.

    You present some good, detailed material. While I'd run across much of it before, it was refreshing to see it so intelligently and enjoyably presented in a single essay. Nice job.

    The only thing which bugs me is the whole Military-Industrial-Complex issue which Eisenhower warned America about so many decades ago.

    The rhetorical question being. . .

    If science, (while obeying the laws of thermodynamics), managed to build an anti-gravity device, (or whatever), how long would the military hold on to that technology before allowing it into the realm of public industry? 5 years? 20 years? Longer?

    Here's another question. . .

    Could somebody privately invent such a device, raise the capitol, hire the people, and create the industry required to bring the technology to market without the military finding out about it beforehand and wanting to exert its control over said technology?

    Yeah. That's what I figure as well.

    And so finally. . . (And this is my problem with 95% of the tech-dreaming we see in the West.)

    Why do so many people bother getting excited at all by the comings and goings of publicly accessible science and industrial advancement? --When all such advancement is not really advancement at all, but merely the controlled release of ancient technology which somebody already came up with fifty years ago or more, and which the military sees no further need to keep under wraps? (Which is not to say that public arena science isn't genuinely making these 'new' discoveries; it's just that they're allowed to do so in a controlled matter. --While the ones who advance too quickly are perverted or crushed or failing that, assassinated in one of a variety of popular ways.)

    Cuz, you see, any 'announcements' about any new developments which actually matter, are very likely P.R. stage-productions. Amazingly, everybody pretty much knows this, because the logical steps needed to reach that conclusion are so obvious. --And yet, most people quietly go along with the charade as though the U.S. military-industrial complex wasn't actually a multi-trillion dollar goliath which has an impact on nearly every aspect of science and industry.

    Most of the tech-geeks I've ever met are just a bunch of grown-up kids playing at pretend, wishing for a Star Fleet future while trying like hell to ignore the 10 ton gorilla in the living room.

    -FL

    The Government Never Invented Anything (none / 0) (#163)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:12:54 PM EST

    I'm really...well...boggled by the number of people (yourself included) that try to intrinsically link government to advancement.

    Honestly, name something that has drastically impacted the life of the average person that actually originated within a government lab? Certainly not Aircraft, the telephone, the jet engine, the transistor, the radio....I could go on but I suspect that you get the idea. While the military industrial complex has produced some of the more useful innovations (GPS), they merely extended upon the work of the private sector.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Um ... (none / 0) (#168)
    by royalblue tom on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 06:04:51 PM EST

    The internet? DARPA is a government lab after all ...

    [ Parent ]
    Oh, Let's See...The Internet (none / 0) (#179)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 09:04:54 PM EST

    The Internet consists of:
    • A Network of Computers - Ma bell had these working for a decade before the defense department put out the call for a packet switching network in 1966.
    • A protocol - Protocols for computer networking had existed for years. Packet switching was the innovation that the D/ARPANet used, but it was not original (at the time it was referred to as IMP). Incidentally, D/ARPA did not invent packet switching. The first packet switching protocol for the D/ARPANet was invented by Bolt Beranek and Newman (LLC) of Cambridge Massachussetts.
    Again, the "government" contracted the private sector to create the D/ARPANet, and the D/ARPANet is not the Internet anyway. The Internet as we know it today arose in the mid to late 80's with the innovation of guys like Berners-Lee, Cerf, and the folks at NCSA.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Military Industrial Complexities. . . (none / 0) (#171)
    by Fantastic Lad on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 07:14:08 PM EST

    Honestly, name something that has drastically impacted the life of the average person that actually originated within a government lab? Certainly not Aircraft, the telephone, the jet engine, the transistor, the radio....I could go on but I suspect that you get the idea. While the military industrial complex has produced some of the more useful innovations (GPS), they merely extended upon the work of the private sector.

    The idea of the military-industrial complex isn't, I think, that there is a secret government lab which develops all the clever technology. (Though, there IS that too; The Manhattan Project is a good example.) "Military-Industrial" the way Eisenhower meant it, was simply a co-dependant weaving of interests beween the military and the industrial sectors.

    That is, it's largely a matter of black-budget funding, (which is arguably measured in the high, high billions), being doled out to corporations and private businesses in order to develop projects and not let the public know about them. One could even categorize the Manhattan Project under this label as well rather than call it a 'Secret Government Lab'.

    Indeed, my father was involved with and sworn to secrecy on a couple of such projects over the course of his otherwise normal career. He was an engineer and management specialist working at Northern Telecom. (Though he didn't tell me anything more about his work than that. So much for trust in familial relations, eh?)

    But let me boondogle you one step further:

    The other question one might ask is. . .

    If technology is going to be released in a controlled manner, then why not release it in a manner which controls?

    That is. . , since we know that societal behavior is shaped by innovations in popular technology, and since it is seen as profitable by some groups (with the military-industrial), that society be shaped in certain ways, why not make careful and deliberate choices as to which bits of technology are released and promoted within the public domain?

    Where the heck did cell phones come from, and why the insane push to make them ubiquitous?

    Where the heck did anti-depressants come from, and again, why the tremendous push to make them ubiquitous?

    --The same might be said for personal computers and video games, and can certainly be said for Television in general.

    And of course, the current state of the electrical power system upon which the whole of society now depends can be similarly questioned. Indeed, the more closely one looks, the more evident it becomes that the whole global arrangement is a deliberate set-up.

    Which begs the question. . .

    Set up to what end?

    Well, we're all in the middle of finding out, I'd say!

    My heart beats in anticipation of the following questions being answered:

    Will Bush be ousted from presidency, or will he be re-'elected.' --Or will there be a big 'terrorist' attack which will prompt Shrub to push that button which will call down military control of the U.S.? --Nights of Long Knives, and all? All those hundreds of fully-staffed but empty concentration camps on U.S. soil need to be justified, either by this emperor, or by the next. It's just a matter of time.

    Which country will be the next one to fall? Syria? Iran? An African nation perhaps?

    How will Israel be wiped out? Gas? Nuclear? Conventional? The PR war has certainly been incredibly effective thus far!

    And who will the Good Guys be, and how will they fight back? Will America be invaded?

    'Weird' is getting very weird these days. --It's amazing just how dramatic the changes have become in only the last couple of years.

    -FL

    [ Parent ]

    Although... (4.00 / 1) (#174)
    by melia on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 08:08:10 PM EST

    ...you have a compelling tone, (to which i am completely unreceptive, presumably being brainwashed) I would like to know why you believe societal behavior is shaped by innovations in popular technology, rather than innovation being shaped by societal behaviour?

    (I know this post sounds sarcastic, but although I don't accept your conspiracy theories are true, I do accept that they might be, so don't think i'm taking the piss)
    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]

    Re: Although... (none / 0) (#187)
    by Fantastic Lad on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 03:00:38 AM EST

    I would like to know why you believe societal behavior is shaped by innovations in popular technology, rather than innovation being shaped by societal behaviour?

    Well, I won't say that it doesn't work in both directions. --Things like Fax Machines in offices, and Air-Bags in cars are examples. Societal behavior created a need, and technology came trumpeting along to fill the gap. No argument there.

    But look at some of the larger exampls. Black Powder. Steam engines. Automobiles. Televisions. Atomic Bombs.

    All of these could be argued to have been created in order to fill societal needs. True enough. But think of how life was before those inventions graced the scene, and after. Look at the world, (heck, look at the bio-sphere!) resulting from fossil fuel driven engines. (Both steam and internal combustion.) This is clearly a case of the innovation directing the shape and resulting behavior of society.

    Another way to look at it would be to consider that there have been huge and powerful cultures before ours which also 'needed' such innovations but which did not create them. The differences between those older civilizations and our own are, I think, quite dramatic.

    -FL

    [ Parent ]

    Trust The Civiliains (none / 0) (#177)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 08:44:14 PM EST

    The idea of the military-industrial complex isn't, I think, that there is a secret government lab which develops all the clever technology. (Though, there IS that too; The Manhattan Project is a good example.) "Military-Industrial" the way Eisenhower meant it, was simply a co-dependant weaving of interests beween the military and the industrial sectors.
    Uhm...yeah...that's what "military industrial complex" means. I won't flame you though...I can see how you perhaps thought I meant differently (especially in light of how so many hippy idiots 'round these parts get it wrong). That is, it's largely a matter of black-budget funding, (which is arguably measured in the high, high billions), being doled out to corporations and private businesses in order to develop projects and not let the public know about them. One could even categorize the Manhattan Project under this label as well rather than call it a 'Secret Government Lab'.

    However, the Manhatten Project is not the best example, if you're looking for one. The Manhatten Project was a civilian product done at a private University, and using ideas that were already in teh public domain. If the military had any idea that the A-Bomb would have been the result, then the first atomic reactor wouldn't have been build in a shack underneath the football bleachers. Once once it showed promise was it militarized.

    Stealth technology itself can be credited as an invention from withing the military industrial sector. However, there are no civilian applications for stealth technology. In fact, most civil air pilots would prefer their aircraft to be as non-stealth as possible.
    If technology is going to be released in a controlled manner, then why not release it in a manner which controls?

    That is. . , since we know that societal behavior is shaped by innovations in popular technology, and since it is seen as profitable by some groups (with the military-industrial), that society be shaped in certain ways, why not make careful and deliberate choices as to which bits of technology are released and promoted within the public domain?
    That would be known as "social engineering", and that's not the governments job. Though it sounds dangerously haphazard, if the government does have their hands on a technology, and it is no longer in the interest of national security (as it pertains to foreign threats) to keep it under wraps, then drop it and let the chips fall where they may.

    <lots of wierd, tin-foil type rants that are probably perfectly valid snipped>
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    Invention and development (3.66 / 3) (#183)
    by TheSleeper on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 01:01:38 AM EST

    Honestly, name something that has drastically impacted the life of the average person that actually originated within a government lab?

    Maybe nothing of importance "originated" in a government lab, but that's only the case if you narrow down the word to mean only the basic conception of a new idea. In reality, there's a long and expensive journey between the initial invention of a technology and a useful product. Government funding carried the load for the bulk of the journey in a number of the cases you name. It's unlikely, for example, that we'd have affordable jet travel today if it weren't for the boatloads of money the government poured into R&D divisions at places like GE that were figuring out how to make jet engines that were workable in the real world, and not just in the lab.

    [ Parent ]

    Military, bah. (none / 0) (#213)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:40:40 PM EST

    They can't force people to work on stuff. You can only get arrested for talking if you have a sec clearance. The military sucks at research. Many ideas are independently found in a small amount of time multiple times - taking out the originators slows things probably only a couple years.


    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    [ Parent ]
    This Hawkings fellow.... (1.00 / 1) (#144)
    by jdy on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 08:33:08 AM EST

    Alcubierre himself is considered at the fore of cosmology and theoretical physics, being mentioned in the same breath as Stephen Hawkings.


    buying whisky (1.00 / 3) (#149)
    by Nigga on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 11:11:45 AM EST

    you would whisky by at fantastic faster-than-light speeds. Inside the bubble, you would see the universe whiz by, but for all intents and purposes you are fixed at a point in your local space. You're sitting still.

    Yeah shit yo. This shit happened to me last night at the titty bar. After all that whisky buy, I was sitting still and the universe whas wizzing by... a few minutes later i puked and was asked to leave.

    --------
    The fuck happened to Nigga?

    Barfer's rights (none / 0) (#255)
    by Carennann on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 07:39:29 PM EST

    Asking someone to leave due to puking is not a light matter. Here in California we have someone suing a Thai restaurant for asking him to leave just because he threw up over the place. If the court decides that this is illegal (just like they did with the racial discrimination cases and the Best Buy comparison shopping case), this bar won't have a leg to stand on.

    [ Parent ]
    all you need is a sign that says (none / 0) (#261)
    by Nigga on Mon Jul 28, 2003 at 02:06:52 PM EST

    "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

    --------
    The fuck happened to Nigga?
    [ Parent ]

    Cold Fusion on the Desktop (1.50 / 4) (#150)
    by Nigga on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 11:13:46 AM EST

    Naw dude that cold fusion shit was fucked up.. don't bring that shit back... it's worse than fucking old school asp.

    --------
    The fuck happened to Nigga?

    almost none of this will happen... (4.12 / 8) (#152)
    by Run4YourLives on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 11:58:57 AM EST

    Why?

    One word: capitalism.

    I'm not a communist or terrorist, I'm just using common sense.

    For all of the wonders of the "free" market, it's quite evident that we as a society are outgrowing this economic structure.

    It's holding back (or severely hampering):

     1. the internet and computer science
     2. cleaner and cheaper sources of fuel technology
     3. space travel/exploration
     4. third world development/true global community
     5. political thought and the evolution of democracy
     6. sustainable development of our population centres
     7. and yes, it's holding back flying cars too

    As long as something needs to be economically viable, meaning:

    A) that those corporations (and other organizations - including government) that currently process market share can profit from adopting said technology, or

    B) there is benefit enough in the technology to increase efficiency, thus insuring profits

    there will be no "age of flying cars".

    It would be wrong to suggest, as capitalists do, that those technologies without profit potential are worthless. Many of you would agree space exploration would be a noble undertaking, yet profit is far from a given, without exploitation of some sort, at least.

    Finally, to those who would respond with: "Look what we have because of capitalism!" I would say your argument is irrelevant and unfounded, since of course, there is really no way of knowing where we would be without it, let alone whether that state would be "better" or "worse".

    We must develop a replacement for the free market system first before we can truly reap the benefits of emerging technologies.

    What do we replace the market with? Good question. Honestly, I have no idea really, but the challenge exists nonetheless.  


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

    Why anything other than capitalism sucks (3.00 / 2) (#155)
    by Meatbomb on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:18:49 PM EST

    It would be wrong to suggest, as capitalists do, that those technologies without profit potential are worthless. Many of you would agree space exploration would be a noble undertaking, yet profit is far from a given, without exploitation of some sort, at least.

    (my emphasis)... So what if I don't want space exploration, you want me to pay for it anyways? How do we do anything that isn't in someone's personal interest, without coercion?

    Our problem isn't too much capitalism, it's not enough of it. Especially re. item 4 on your list, really free markets would alleviate the problems greatly.

    _______________

    Good News for Liberal Democracy!

    [ Parent ]

    lol...that's just tripe. (4.00 / 2) (#157)
    by Run4YourLives on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:39:56 PM EST

    I'd invite you to explore what a "Free Market" really is... because it's anything but free.

    In fact, the entire concept of free markets have more state instituted regulation than any other system... if you really think about it, you'll find all sorts of examples... I'm planning an article about this soon, so I won't really elaborate further.

    So what if I don't want space exploration, you want me to pay for it anyways?

    Why would you assume the concept of money is a requirment? You're viewing this as someone who has been raised a capitalist... expand you thinking...

    How do we do anything that isn't in someone's personal interest, without coercion?

    Another myth of capitalist society... Although personal interest is an area of human nature, it is not the only one. We are also social animals, and we do have an interest in the welfare of others. Karl Polanyi (note - I have no affilation to Concordia) makes an excellent case for this in his writings.

    That being said, capitalism has proven to be quite a strong system, but so was feudalism. It is however, only good until we think of something better.

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

    Tripe-tastic! (1.00 / 1) (#185)
    by kerinsky on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 01:41:31 AM EST

    Why would you assume the concept of money is a requirment? You're viewing this as someone who has been raised a capitalist... expand you thinking...

    Why would you assume the concept  of a payment requires money? You're viewing this as someone who has been raised a capitalist... expand you thinking...

    -=-
    A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
    [ Parent ]

    touche :) (nt) (4.00 / 1) (#203)
    by Run4YourLives on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:29:01 AM EST



    It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
    [ Parent ]
    End of Capiatalism (none / 0) (#232)
    by Krazor on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 12:23:40 PM EST

    Well, we're talking about Star Trek like technology here, it only seems fair that we think about what else is in Star Trek, namely the various forms of government. The Federation seems to be the type of thing the original post wants to see. Under the Federation everyone works for the 'good of mankind' without any real money to speak of.

    What your suggesting is the Ferengi version with totaly free markets and the greed/profit motive.

    so really... Ferengi vs Federation, which is better for standard of living or development of technology?

    [ Parent ]
    Heh! (none / 0) (#156)
    by Pop Top on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:27:25 PM EST

    We must develop a replacement for the free market system first before we can truly reap the benefits of emerging technologies.

    Are we talking flying cars or flying pigs?

    [ Parent ]

    it's been done before... (none / 0) (#158)
    by Run4YourLives on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 04:41:45 PM EST

    Capitalism was at one time wishful thinking as well...

    It may be difficult, but not impossible.

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

    BULLOCKS! (1.00 / 2) (#162)
    by thelizman on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:06:43 PM EST

    Finally, to those who would respond with: "Look what we have because of capitalism!" I would say your argument is irrelevant and unfounded, since of course, there is really no way of knowing where we would be without it, let alone whether that state would be "better" or "worse".
    1. Mercantilism - Failed
    2. Colonialism - Failed
    3. Communism - Failed (and took 10 million human lives to prove it)
    You're willingess to dismiss evidence of the superiority of capitalism is as humourous a statement as it is a sad statement on your comprehension of the issue.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    speaking of comprehension... (none / 0) (#167)
    by Run4YourLives on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 05:28:33 PM EST

    I'd suggest you read the paragraph of mine that you quoted once more.

    It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
    [ Parent ]
    Why? (none / 0) (#218)
    by thelizman on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:30:31 PM EST

    It was shit the first time I read it, it'll be shit the second go round.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    It seems you judge failure (5.00 / 2) (#180)
    by michaelp on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 09:18:52 PM EST

    by the misery caused/not solved. Thats reasonable. Of course, in all the systems you mention, there were folks who steadfastly brayed that mercantilism/colonialism/communism were the best systems every designed, and had no failures to speak of.

    So Capitalism is certainly a terrible failure, but not so bad as some of the systems of the past.

    Stands to reason that the systems of the future will also be miserable failures, but not so terrible as capitalism.

    BULLOCKS!

    It's pretty silly to sit there yelling about your parts, since it is your own knee that jerked into them:-).



    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

    [ Parent ]
    Newsflash: World Is Round (none / 0) (#217)
    by thelizman on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 11:29:58 PM EST

    One day you're going to look back at what you wrote and be terribly embarrassed. Capitalism, a failure? How many failures do you now create powerful nations from third world backwaters, and raise exponentially the standard of living for those who are failing?
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    The failure of capitalism (5.00 / 2) (#224)
    by michaelp on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 03:56:07 AM EST

    to achieve what you seek from life is apparent in Russia, where both living standards and military power have fallen dramatically since the adoption of capitalism.

    No, the difference between the US and Russia may be due to the mixture of socialist institutions like the strong judiciary or the egalitarian public education system with capitalism, or perhaps just the diversified mix of abundent natural resources, but obviously a narrow focus on the economic system we both share can't explain the difference.

    Further, even here in the US in this most capitalistical of times, computing power is about the only area where purchasing power has actually increased in the past few decades. Now you can use some of that power to calculate why it now takes two incomes to achieve the same standard of living that your parents did (assuming you are over 30) with one, in this best of all possible worlds...



    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

    [ Parent ]
    Not Even Worth Arguing (none / 0) (#244)
    by thelizman on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 12:22:05 PM EST

    You really have no clue about Russia, my friend. Breadlines, once a staple of Russian culture, are gone today. Grocery stores stay stocked, where once they were bare. The communist system failed so miserably, that the free world (namly the US) had to send millions of tons of grain to keep the soviet union from collapsing into complete anarchy.

    In comparing societies, it is horribly incorrect to even suggest that Russia had an egalitarian society. Party members got perks that common citizens could only dream of. Officers and politicos enjoyed lavish lifestyles at the expense of the proletariat, who suffered in in mediocrity if they were lucky.

    In comparing natural resources, Russia trumps the US. They have vast tracts of timber, large oil reserves, and mineral resources that far exceed our own. When we built the SR-71 spy plane, and the space shuttle, the only place in the world that could supply enough titanium was Russia. That's right...we bought the titanium from Russia to build a spy plane to spy on Russia.

    In implying that the US is experiencing a decline in teh standard of living, you are completely wrong. In fact, you are grossly in error. My paretns, indeed anyones parents, had to work 40 hour work weeks to provide the basics - food, clothing, shelter, medical care. They didn't have computers, Internet, cable tv, cell phones, et al. These things have created an artificially higher standard of living. But these are wants, not needs. It is far easier to provide for the needs of a family today than just 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

    Look, it's OKAY to want to support communism. It's a good thing "in theory", but it DOES NOT WORK! It ignores the basic premise that humans are motivated by personal gain, not collective gain. When you realize that you've dedicated your life to a failed philosophy, call 1-800-O-Help-Me. Wether you want to believe in it or not is up to you; but don't lie, distort, and discredit the facts. Capitalism is a far better system today than communism.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    The point you totally missed (5.00 / 1) (#247)
    by michaelp on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 02:32:18 PM EST

    is that I clearly said capitalism works ok in conjunction with strong socialist institutions such as we have in the US, the problem comes when free market fanatics try to implement capitalism in nations where such institutions don't exist or are powerless, such as Russia (big problems also arise when free market fanatics try to dismantle the socialist institutions in the US that make capitalism work, but that is another post).

    As far as Russia's natural resources you missed the 'diversified' part of the sentence about natural resources. Russia certainly has alot of a few things, though mostly in remote regions, but it lacks the diversity of local resources that has been available to US producers during the period the US has grown into a world power.

    In comparing societies, it is horribly incorrect to even suggest that Russia had an egalitarian society.

    Which is a strang point to make considering I said nothing about Russia having an egalitarian society. I was talking of course about the benifits of the US's egalitarian public education system for the US economy.

    In implying that the US is experiencing a decline in teh standard of living, you are completely wrong. In fact, you are grossly in error. My paretns, indeed anyones parents, had to work 40 hour work weeks to provide the basics - food, clothing, shelter, medical care.

    Which is why I asked if you were over 30. See, folks over thirty remmember when it took one 40 hour work week to produce a household income sufficient to provide the basics. Now it usually takes two such weeks.

    Folks in their 20s probably think that having both parents working to provide the basics and some e-toys is normal, but we had plenty of toys ourselves, on a median income produced by just one 40 hour week back in the 60s.

    Capitalism is a far better system today than communism.

    Better compared to communism in many ways sure. But communism suxors bigtime, and capitalism is only alot better than really really bad. Its a pretty piss poor system to get all religious about, the human race can and should aspire to doing a whole lot better.



    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

    [ Parent ]
    Communism? (5.00 / 2) (#225)
    by bil on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 05:49:02 AM EST

    How many failures do you now create powerful nations from third world backwaters, and raise exponentially the standard of living for those who are failing?

    Communism raised Russia from a militarily weak peasent based backwater to a heavily industrialised nation with a much better quality of living for the average person (health care, job security etc), and the Red Army was in 1945 unarguably the strongest military force in the world. Still dosn't mean it was a nice place to live or that the system was successfull

    bil

    bil
    Where you stand depends on where you sit...
    [ Parent ]

    Ignorance (1.00 / 1) (#243)
    by thelizman on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 12:10:33 PM EST

    I don't even know how to counter what is nothing more than a blatent lie. You obviously know nothing of Russia, her history, or what communism did do that country. I'll just let you live with your ignorance.
    --

    "Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
    [ Parent ]
    They were your terms of reference... (5.00 / 1) (#252)
    by bil on Fri Jul 25, 2003 at 04:11:35 AM EST

    You mean you cant think of a good arguement against it.

    You obviously know very little about the communist states if you dont know that what they were good at was dragging third world peasent economys into the 19th century, and turning them into military powers. If you dont like Russia as an exmple how about North Korea, it was a third world peasent nation, its now a place that the US thinks twice about before invading. China is also an example.

    None of them are places I'd want to live but on your terms of turning third world backwaters into major powers and raising standards of living (notice you said nothing about freedom or democracy or human rights) they are as successfull as captialist countries, maybe more so because they acheived it in a a much shorter time scale.

    bil

    bil
    Where you stand depends on where you sit...
    [ Parent ]

    maybe - but.. (none / 0) (#263)
    by Blasted Operator From Heck on Wed Jul 30, 2003 at 10:11:03 AM EST

    Under capitalism man exploits his fellow man, under communism the roles are reversed..

    [ Parent ]
    Capitalism is just another step (5.00 / 1) (#245)
    by lpp on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:35:54 PM EST

    I tend to agree with folks that believe capitalism will not lead to these "free-energy" ways of life. Yes, capitalism is one of the reasons the US and the Western European countries (among others) have fared so well economically and in some ways socially. Yes, in many ways one can look at this as evidence that capitalism is superior to other known forms of socio-economics. However, the fact that it may be superior to every economic form that came before it does not mean it is the best there will ever be. And just because it seems to have led us to where we are now (which one might argue is a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it), does not mean it can lead us to where we ultimately want to go.

    [ Parent ]
    Uh, no. (none / 0) (#264)
    by ksandstr on Fri Aug 15, 2003 at 08:12:02 PM EST

    3. Communism - Failed (and took 10 million human lives to prove it)
    No. First off, Stalin's purges and associated policies resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 20 and 50 million people in the Soviet Union alone. Second, most communist parties in non-CCCP countries took a healthy rhetorical distance to his policies, considering him as more of a dictator among other dictators, regardless of which particular ideological footstool he sprang upwards from. Which is to say, only neolibertarians (spit) and neo-conservatives (ptooie) consider him, or any of the slanty-eyed "communist" leaders of his time and afterward, the poster boys of so-called communism, or as it's more commonly referred to by the aforementioned groups of induhviduals, socialism.

    Apart from this somewhat minor nitpick (seeing as you can't help having been born and raised (?) in the US), your argument is mostly "God exists, because it hasn't been proven that he doesn't exist!" sprinkled with a liberal dose of name-calling and in a slightly different yet no less religious context.


    --
    Gegen kommunismus und bolschewismus und terrorismus, jawohl!

    [ Parent ]
    anallogy 2 capitalism in education (none / 0) (#182)
    by chanio on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 12:56:30 AM EST

    Yes, you are right (you feel it). The problem are the labels. People is going to be happy to know that some others have reached a point where they would be able to manage matter, and travel through space. But , why should they explain it to the others? A company would think, what is the need of people knowing what is going on inside of their computers?

    As long as the abiss between cientists and the prehistoric natives of certain parts of the world keeps on growing, that said future is going to be very difficult to happen, don't you think?

    What is the difference between a well paid factory worker and those natives? We all trust scientists or some powerful man in what they say.

    But if in some distant future,a war would kill everybody but me, I wouldn't be able to keep all the system working for a long time...

    We should all first share these knowledges with enthusiasm. And don't expect of others to do what we cannot do by ourselves... That would be the ending of war forever.(is it possible?)
    ________________
    Farenheit Binman:
    This worlds culture is throwing away-burning thousands of useful concepts because they don't fit in their commercial frame.
    My chance of becoming intelligent!
    [ Parent ]

    Flying cars? I need a bigger umbrella. (3.50 / 2) (#153)
    by IHCOYC on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 02:05:29 PM EST

    Let's face it, most people I know are not always successful in their attempts to miss oak trees and other large stationary objects, and this is with cars that are capable at best of maybe a half second of continuous flight. The notion of these people tooling around the empyrean in flying cars is rather daunting.
    --
    "Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
    "Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
    --- Livy
    Energy in the Zero Point Field (3.00 / 1) (#178)
    by frankwork on Mon Jul 21, 2003 at 09:03:04 PM EST

    In theory, the source of this energy is incomplete snippets of energy waves.
    Didn't they try something like that in Superman 3?

    I for one (2.00 / 2) (#197)
    by Cackmobile on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:55:46 AM EST

    am excited by technology. Never say never I say. Imagine back in 18XX what most people would have said about jules Verne etc vision of the future. Think how far we have come in 50 years. Personally I am excited by genetic engineering/cloning/stem cell research. I don't think we should clone people but organs etc I do. I have a mate who ahd a liver transplant a few years ago and it has totally messed him up. Imagine if he good get his own back. I may be a geek star wars fan boy but I love the future!!

    thought-provoking, some quibbles (none / 0) (#230)
    by massivefubar on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:12:59 AM EST

    I liked this potpourri of SFnal technology and possibilities for the future. It's important to try to visualize a future that is a future, instead of just more scrambling over fossil fuels like the last century.

    I don't want to be overly critical but I do have a couple of comments you might want to consider if you ever revise the article or revisit this concept for publication:

    1. I'm not sure that Jules Verne introduced USAians to the idea of the submarine. Historians have discovered small submarines used in the U.S. civil war, at least on the Confederate side. One used to sit in front of the Cabildo in New Orleans (perhaps it still does), and it gives the visitor a strange feeling like seeing one of the tiny Mercury space capsules. I have heard it said that Verne was the first to imagine submarines, but I am confident it was not so. There is a difference between coming up with the whole concept and between extrapolating to a bigger, more luxurious sub. This is a very minor quibble however and you may well decide it has no merit.

    2. I am more deeply troubled by the references to Bob Lazar. There are many questions about his credibility, to put it mildly, and more evidence that he was a pimp -- he has a conviction for pandering in Clark County and in the 1980s apparently had an ownership in a legal Reno brothel -- than that he was a physicist. Although it is arguable that his life story is a work of SF in itself, and thus belongs in your article, I personally believe your piece would be stronger without the reference to Lazar. Here is a link to what documents could be found in public records about Bob Lazar's activities:

    A Bob Lazar Timeline

    [ Parent ]

    Even better than that... (none / 0) (#250)
    by beergut on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 10:47:05 PM EST

    Historians have discovered small submarines used in the U.S. civil war, at least on the Confederate side.

    We had 'em back in the revolutionary war. There was at least one instance where one of our soldiers piloted a submarine out into a harbor where the British fleet was anchored, and tried to attach an explosive charge to the hull of the ship. Unfortunately (or, depending on your perspective, fortunately,) the guy was unable to get the charge attached to the ship. So, instead, he released and detonated the charge about a hundred yards from the ship, scaring the bejeezus out of the Brits, who soon left the harbor.

    No man escapes when freedom fails; the best men rot in filthy jails.
    Those who cried, "Appease! Appease!", are hanged by those they tried to please.
    [ Parent ]

    A request. (4.00 / 2) (#214)
    by bjlhct on Tue Jul 22, 2003 at 09:43:12 PM EST

    Please people, don't post about technology unless you understand it and/or have experience with it.

    *
    [kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
    Humanity needs more wars. (2.00 / 1) (#231)
    by PhyreFox on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:14:48 AM EST

    Technological breakthroughs in human history almost always come as the result of military demand.

    Colder? (3.00 / 1) (#235)
    by Peaker on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 06:23:24 PM EST

    Free energy defies the laws of thermodynamics which essentially state that the universe is growing colder and disordered as time goes on.

    Isn't this the other way around? The universe constantly growing warmer? Or is that just chaos, and contradicts thermodynamics?

    I feel like I should make some smart-ass comment (2.00 / 1) (#237)
    by wji on Wed Jul 23, 2003 at 10:17:39 PM EST

    You know, something like "Oh, well, I knew you already for constantly proclaiming that George Bush was a benevolent, intellectual leader, so, at least you're consistent." Yeah, that one's pretty good. But honestly, this article comes from the same logic that concluded that nuclear power would mean trains running on Dixie Cups of water -- taking speculative, cutting edge theoretical physical principles and recklessly extending them long before anyone's had to take a look at the practical engineering. Yeah, there's esaily enough energy in a cup of water to run a train to the moon and back... but on pure physical principles, trains need exactly no energy to run, anyway -- at speeds approaching c, to boot. You see what I'm getting at?

    In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
    speaking of things SF brought us... (1.00 / 2) (#238)
    by blisspix on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 01:13:38 AM EST

    I was a huge fan of Inspector Gadget as a kid. I lusted after Penny's computer book thingy. I think it's not too far away, what with tablet PCs, leather bound ebooks and the era of wifi.

    It will be mine, oh yes!

    where is the support I paid for???? (1.33 / 3) (#241)
    by gr00vey on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:02:43 AM EST

    IBM sucks my left nut. EVERYTIME I call for legitimate support, I get a fucking runaround, and then some ignorant arrogant tech who knows DICK. Right now I have a support call open on "UniVerse" one of their shitty database products. about 20 e-mails later the fucking tech finally sees the issue I initially reported. This is consitantly a problem. I always tell them they suck in their follow-up call, but they never fix the problem. Be it AIX, hardware support or any application/DB, they just SUCK. Now I hear they are moving to India. Well they can't get any worse..... Sorry if this is OT, but I am sooo fucking fed up with having to FAX them proof I paid them over 7k for hardware support, or prove that I have a less than 1 year old product with a legit serial number.... I have worked in the tech industry for over 15 years, and IBM support is the WORST out there.... /rant off thanks for listening! ;)

    Technological Endgame (none / 0) (#242)
    by TwoPly on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 08:49:05 AM EST

    For me personally it won't matter.. meal pills, flying cars, quantum computing, whatever: I will not be satisfied that I live in The Future until I have an anti-gravity bed. Just a section of the room where I'm weightless while I sleep, or watch TV, or *ahem* whatever. Then I'll know we've made it :)

    Woodward Effect (1.00 / 1) (#248)
    by A55M0NKEY on Thu Jul 24, 2003 at 03:43:49 PM EST

    IANAPhysicist but I didn't see the Woodward effect mentioned. Because of general relativity mass fluctuates when the energy in a mass changes which means that you can charge and discharge a capacitor ( the mass ) with energy and oscillate it in time with it's mass fluxuations creating a net thrust. For instance moving an object weighing one Kg a meter left, changing the mass of the object to 1/2 Kg and then moving it one meter to the right will tend to push the floor you are standing on to the right.

    Woodward used piezo buzzers to oscillate capacitors in time with the capacitors being charged and discharged and measured a net force comparable to that of current ion drives. This is in many ways better than ion drives for propulsion since no propellant is expended. You could run your spaceship off from nuclear power or even solar panels.

    The capacitors were oscilated back and forth by the piezo buzzers at a frequency in the kilohertz range. The vibration led to mechanical problems in keeping the capacitors securely coupled to the piezo buzzers. This limited the maximum frequency that the capacitors could be made to vibrate at.

    That's too bad because the net force is proportional to the fourth power of the frequency of oscillation. If you could find a way to build something that could mechanically withstand say a megahertz vibration you could use it to take off from earth and zoom around the solar system. ( can anyone say flying cars? )

    The piezo buzzer/capacitor setup seems to be inherently limited because materials fall apart and are too spongy to transmit vibrations at high frequency. What is needed is something that can store and release energy rapidly and withstand superfast vibration and a method for getting that thing to vibrate at say megahertz frequencies.

    Piezo buzzers are strong bastards. They can put out millions of foot pounds of force, but they don't move very far. You can use them to actuate a tiny punch to write on steel. That is one reason steel is too spongy to couple piezo buzzers to anything that would vibrate that fast, the steel would deform.

    But what about other schemes... A capacitor can store energy, so can't a coil or a battery, but these things are made of earthly materials and so can not withstand high frequency vibrations. ( or they are to spongy to vibrate much )

    The only things I know of that can vibrate fast and still not fall apart or absorb the vibration are molecules and atoms. The question becomes: How can I store energy in molecules and or atoms and vibrate them back and forth at a high frequency?

    How can I store energy in a molecule or atom?

    One way would be to excite electrons to higher energy levels and wait for the electrons to drop back down and release energy. I think this is random though, so it would be hard to synchronize the excitation with an oscillation. Maybe you could figure some statistical way of estimating when most of the atoms you will be vibrating will be at peak and minimum energies and time your oscillations accordingly.

    Another way would be to store potential energy in molecules by aligning them either magnetically or electrically relative to other nearby molecules, as in either the core of a coil or the dielecric of a capacitor. Then if you could get the molecules to vibrate back and forth, you would have yourself a Woodward drive.

    Now for the hows of the high frequency oscillation.

    We are talking about back and forth mass oscillation not rotation.

    Maybe some pulsed lazer is a system where you can tell something about the average energy density of the atoms in the 'ruby part' If you could make a high frequency piezo electric crystal lase in time with it's oscillations you might have something. ( some quartz crystals can be made to oscillate at many megahertz, but I don't know if they can be made to lase. I also don't know if any known lazable materials are piezoelectric, or if applying an electric field would interfere with the lazing. ) There may be other possibilities besides piezoelectric materials. Some things are magnetostrictive and there are a bunch of other such wierd phenomena that might help ) You would not probably want to cause the whole crystal to store and release energy though because, I think piezo crystals tend to vibrate in such a way that there is always an equal mass going one way as is going the other way like a vibrating spring.

    Would changing the mass of only part of a vibrating spring in time with it's vibrations cause a net directional force, or would the spring ( or piezoelectric crystal ) merely vibrate differently but still in such a way as to provide no net force, or could you time the mass changes to get a net force? Would causing the crystal to laze intefere with the vibration?

    If the peizo lazer idea isn't workable, how about vibrating the molecules of a dielectric?

    A dielectric reduces the electric field strength between the plates of a capacitor, but enables the capacitor to store more charge and also more energy. It does this because dielectrics ( with high dielecric constants ) are polar molecules. Polar molecules can be aligned by an electric field, but aligning them requires work. When you short out the terminals of a capacitor the molecules of the dielectric push current through the wire as they resume their natural unaligned state. Is the energy in a charged capacitor stored in the dielectric or as I have read in the electric field between the plates? Dielectrics lower the electric field strength between the plates of a capacitor for a given charge so it seems like it is the dielectric that stores the actual energy and would have it's mass altered by being charged/discharged but I could be wrong IANAP. My uneducated guess is that if you took the plates away from a charged capacitor leaving only the dielectric, that the energy would go to heat.

    If the electric field is neccesary to maintain the alignment of the molecules on a dielectric and vice versa, then what force could one then use to vibrate the individual molecules? Would the vibration interfere with the alignment and hence energy storage? Are there polar molecules that are also magnetostrictive or piezoelectric? Could they be used as dielectrics and would the direction of their vibrations be effected by the electric field of the capacitor? How about a quartz crystal disk dielectric for a capacitor with washer shaped plates. The mass of the middle part of the disk would not change, while the mass of the perimeter would. Would the crystal vibrate like a drum in time with the charging/discharging or would the mode of vibration find some way not to produce force?

    One could imagine arrays of these tiny things etched into quartz, or some other suitable material in much the same way as computer chips are made today. Could they be stacked into thrust bricks, or would they get too hot too fast and need cooling?

    If not large molecules like crystals, is there a way to vibrate microscopic molecules used as a dielectric? What about water? I tried this ( no calculations, just a blind stab - an attempt to win the invention lottery by a non scientist ) I made a small water capacitor out of a long thin clear plastic container, tin foil and filled it with water as the dielectric. I used some wire to make a coil and hooked it up as an LC oscillator with a 9v battery as a power source. Then I shone a keychain red lazer through it.

    My hope was that as energy oscillated from the coil to the capacitor, and the light got absorbed by the water ( most light absorbtion happens because of electron shells, but water can absorb light by rotating ) that since water is polar and has to drag other water molecules around with it to move that some sort of back and forth motion might take place and I'd see the water move. I watched the dust in the water but saw nothing but random movement as I shone the lazer through the dielectric.

    Water likes to move for infrared ( has a strong absorbtion line ) and also likes to move for the microwaves in your microwave oven ) maybe someone more in the know than me could guess a frequency for the light and oscillation that *would* produce movement. Maybe water does nothing but rotate and the dragging around of other molecules is too random to leave any back in forth motion to be 'in sync with'

    But I did read about nano scale pistons that move back and forth by absorbing light ( wish I could find the link ) If those things could be made to store and release energy in time with their oscillations, maybe they could produce thrust. ( I seem to remember that they only oscillated at the kilohertz range though )

    I don't know if any of this could work, but it seems more plausable than lifters or podkletnov.

    Ahem and here is another future thing that I think is interesting..

    There was this guy a while back John Mallet from the University of Connecticut that had an idea for backwards time travel. (Search for 'Mallet Time Machine' in google, you'll find him )

    He said that if you could get light to slow down and travel in a certain spiraling way, that it would warp space and time inside the spiral and enable you to walk back in time. The only mediums that can so drastically slow light so far are bose-einstien condensates that ( i think ) are only a few atoms large, so there aren't such things as slow light fiber optics yet )

    He wanted to send a neutron through the device and see if a copy came back out before he sent it. This would prove time travel happened.

    If you could send a signal into the past ( let alone a whole person ) the following would be possible:

    You could set up your computer to save http requests to disk for a year and then send them out to the network. In a year your computer would send out the requests and recieve a response. You could have set up your computer to encode the responses as neutrons ( or something easier ) and send them one year into the past, where ( or when ) your computer would read them and display the web page from one year in the future. You would in essence be able to surf the web of the future even though only backwards time travel would be made possible using Mallet's technique. Can't wait to see if Mallet's right when/if they ever come out with slow light fiber optics.

    Lack of True innovation in America (none / 0) (#262)
    by arachnis on Tue Jul 29, 2003 at 10:39:50 AM EST

    In my opinion, the primary reason that America has not had the economic time of plenty like in the fifties and sixties
    is do to a combination of lack of government sponsored innovation initiatives, and the slow lobbying
    of lack of corporate responsibility.

    In earlier days, companies had a social conscious (admittedly a somewhat warped one) and would gear their products,
    adverts and research toward that social concept. Unfortunately, many attempts at modernizing or easing the lives
    of people went bankrupt. Which in no way means corporate or individual innovation was lacking, just their lack of consideration the public appeal of their products.

    However in modern times, many corporations care more about their profit margin today and their legal
    protection today, than helping people and concurrently themselves tomorrow. This microwave/fast food mentality
    is the cause of most of our woes. The constant search for the quick fix, the get rich quick schemes
    cause our society to stop thinking about what havoc they cause next week or month or year; they care only for now.

    The dot com burst is a symptom of this, so it the steady increase of civil frivolous lawsuits, and the slow erosion
    of our rights. The true solution lies more in personal responsibility and acceptance of your own role than in trying
    to beat the system.

    The system can be defeated; it can be beaten. This lack of perfection is seen by some as a reason to can capitalism or
    to abandon democratic representation. However, the better solution is educating people that of the two ways to beat the system trying to con it will usually cause
    more harm to both the con-man and the con-ed.

    Instead of fretting and complaining, the world is not right, that we do not have what we want, go get it.
    Do not try to trick your way in, just go and work for it.

    (work is an ugly word I know)

    Working for what you want, paying dues and putting real thought and responsibility into your actions, as well
    as forcing others to do the same will help more than any amount of pedantic protest, and mere words.


    I hope my diatribe helps in some small way.

    Sorry, this was meant for somewhere else. (none / 0) (#268)
    by bluecat on Tue May 24, 2005 at 03:17:30 AM EST



    Sci-Fi Tech Coming to a Reality Near You | 268 comments (244 topical, 24 editorial, 1 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    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!