The communicator badge, the enhanced vision visor that Geordie LaForge wears, and the attached and embedded technology of the Borg are all examples of wearable computing, in a sense, but they also represent a continuum of connection. The badge is strictly wearable. The visor comes on and off, but it has a neural connection as well. And the Borg implants redefine the humanity of the beings they connect to, making them half man, half machine, but also connecting them together in a networked hive. That continuum of connection moves from external devices to a brain-computer interface. These techno-neuro connections exist today, in cochlear implants for example. The real brain-computer connection still seems like the stuff of science fiction, like William Gibson’s biosofts. That sort of invasive connection poses a medical ethics problem. But what about a non-invasive interface? When I first heard about InteraXon’s technology a few years ago, I thought it was so far out that I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t a hoax. Their Muse headband, like Emotiv’s EPOC, pick up brain waves through EEG sensors. DARPA is sponsoring research into using this technology for telepathy. If we take Moore’s Law into consideration, how far away is a Borg and biosoft future?
A chatbot from Europe named “Eugene Goostman” has managed to to trick a human being into thinking it is a 13 year old boy from the Ukraine. The bot was able to pass the Turing Test, which is basically whether a machine can convincingly imitate human intelligence to a degree that it fools someone who looks at the conversation into thinking both participants are humans without knowing which participant was human. The chatbot was only able to fool one of the three judges but that is a big step. To me the fact that a chatbot was able to imitate a human is huge. For years robots have been robotic, now they are able to become more and more human like, which to a degree is scary. I am, however, happy that the bot was able to imitate a human (sometimes it is not hard XD), it allows for many possibilities, one such is an improved artificial intelligence for video games (Big Gamer!). I have almost always been disappointed in games AI’s. I can remember playing games as a young child and thinking to myself “Woah, these enemies are just too dumb”. Now with a bot passing the Turing Test it gives me hope that one day video games can be a simulation at all times that allows for a challenging and engaging in-game environment. The future is unusually bright for robots and humans, I am almost positive that there are hours upon hours of fun to be had.
The Internet Society has a page of possible futures for the internet, not all positive. Something I find interesting about them is that they put these scenarios together in 2009, projecting ten years ahead. So we’re halfway between their vantage point and what they were expecting to see. They’re all mostly off track of course, since predicting the future even five years in advance is a fool’s errand. Overall they give the sense that the internet is in danger. But the animations are pretty cool.
One of the threats is the trend towards consolidation and monopolization. That may offer the benefit of economies of scale, but that benefit doesn’t always reach society at large. What gets lost are market-driven competition and innovation. Watch the big get bigger in real time:
Click the animation to open the full version (via pennystocks.la).
All that activity is happening because we’re feeding into the machine. We make it happen. But does the future have to be negative? I once heard a futurist say that it is important to imagine the future that you want to see – sort of a long-winded way of saying “think positive.” And as Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Elon University and Pew Research have been surveying people on their predictions for the future of the internet for ten years. Their most recent report, looking ahead to 2025, is a mix of hopeful and less-hopeful visions. The first two seem nice.
In class we talked about using movie clips to illustrate where the internet is going. This is right up my alley, of course. I went and watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which is possibly the first science fiction film, looking for things that might fit. There’s this scene of a shift change, right near the beginning, showing armies of people going to work, “feeding the machine” as it were, which could be made into a metaphor for the internet (remember Wesch’s video?), or Amazon’s warehouses, or for Foxconn for that matter. But that’s the dystopian view. It’s too easy to go that way, and a lot of sci-fi does, but is that the future we want to see? In that Elon/Pew report, Bryan Alexander says, “We will see more planetary friendships.” Paul Jones said, “Television let us see the Global Village, but the Internet let us be actual Villagers.” It may be easy to be pessimistic, but it’s better not to.
I mentioned the movie Goku: Midnight Eye before in my list of cyberpunk influenced anime, but I think it would also be great for our upcoming project. The movie centers around around a detective who loses his eye and wakes up with a prosthetic replacement that’s connected to every computer terminal in the world. The comic it’s based on came out in 1987, so it’s an interesting early look at wearable (if you’d consider a prosthetic eye wearable) technology.
Here’s the clip that I’d like to dub over. Luckily, its no stranger to bad dubbing.
In Week 5, we’ll be focusing on the future of the internet. A few key topics that we could discuss are:
Google Glass and wearable technology
I’m sure there are more, but those four topics should help us start off. As for the project side of things, there are several things we could do. If we had more time, it might have been neat to visit the ThinkLab on campus to witness 3D printing first hand, and maybe try it out for ourselves. I’m not sure how the logistics of that would work out. Infographics have also been mentioned. That would be one way to handle the project.
I’m open to suggestions.
Our discussions about the future of the internet and smart appliances reminded me of a movie a watched a few months ago called Roujin Z. The film was written by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is best known as the director and original creator of Akira, one of the most highly regarded cyberpunk films in Japanese animation.
Set in the early 21st century, Roujin Z’s plot centers around Japan’s aging population. In order to care for the elderly, the Japanese government created the Medical Crisis Network, giving the elderly special pendants that alert medical personnel in the event of an emergency. After only ten years of using this system, however, it’s already overloaded. To try and solve this issue, a team of scientists working under the Japanese Ministry of Public Welfare invent a special hospital bed called the Z-001. Once placed in the bed, all the patient’s needs are met. It can feed, medicate, wash, and even provide the patient with exercise and entertainment. The bed is even hooked up to the web, so patients can interact with their loved ones without ever having to leave its confines.
Onboard the bed is special “sixth-generation computer” that learn and update its own hardware, not software. The bed ends up taking on the personality of the guinea pig’s dead wife and runs amok, ultimately leading to military intervention.
The film was released in 1991, and as such, gives an interesting look into what people imagined technology would be like 20 years into the future. If my brief summary seemed interesting to you, be sure to check the film out, it’s only 80 minutes long.
This reading reviews accounts of the beginnings of the internet, its growth, and ideas for the future. Guice suggest that the Internet has multiple origins and numerous particular reasons for its spread. The future of the Internet is difficult to predict according to Guice. He thinks it involve a wide variety of people in a variety of relationships, including conflict. Basically, Guice believes that in order for the internet to develop further people have to take calculated risk. He thinks meanings associated with the technologies will continue to be various and in flux at all times. Overall, the further development of the Internet is a highly ramified, complex historical process, which will define the future in its entirety. Jon is a firm believer that innovation requires many individuals in order to live up to its potential greatness. Mr. Guice believes all technology has a meaning, a notion that allows for the internet to be an open ended area for research and development. Jon refers to the difference between the development of technology and its practical use as complimentary entities that exist solely due to the symbiosis of technology and man.