A look at how technology enables greater transparency...but not always both ways:
Google Goggles... or Project Glass... is finally announced. See the official preview... and an amusing satire.
These futuristic Goggles would project information directly in your
field of vision, offering updates on the time, weather, map directions,
road closures, upcoming appointments, names of colleagues, buildings,
etc. You will be able to leave memos to yourself, send email to friends,
read restaurant reviews and take/share photos or video (but can you do
all this while walking?). Of course this is just scratching the surface
(so to speak). I portray this technology taken thirty years into the
future (including solutions to the "walking problem), so stay tuned in
just three months for a glimpse of where it will all lead. in Existence. Or see it presaged, back in in ‘89, in Earth.
Ah, but is two-way vision always a good thing? At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), Smart unveiled a new Smart TV
that demonstrated how the seamless integration of sensors, built-in
cameras and microphones enabled “smart” features such as gesture
control, voice commands and all kinds of interactive and connectivity.
But this Smart TV can also turn into a spy within your home, reporting
without your knowledge. There is no indication as to whether the camera
and audio mics are on. You can point the camera toward the ceiling ...
but there is no easy way to physically disconnect the mic to ensure that
it is not picking up your voice when you don’t intend it to. Will your
Smart TV soon be spying on you? Onward Orwell!
Navizon’s Indoor Triangulation System
allows anyone carrying a WiFi-equipped smartphone, iPad or notebook
computer to be tracked (inside as well as outdoors) without their
knowledge or consent -- and with no option to opt out. This Buddy Radar
enables locating shoppers in a mall, doctors in a hospital, clients in a
convention hall…or lost children in a crowd. If this bothers you ---
then disable WiFi on your devices when you’re not using it. Not a
And there’s corporate surveillance: Dunkin Donuts installed an employee monitoring system
that monitors their staff with video cameras and tracks every punch of
the cash register. The result: a drop in employee thefts by 13%.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, tells internet users they should demand their personal data
from giants such as Facebook and Google: "One of the issues of social
networking silos is that they have the data and I don't … There are no
programs that I can run on my computer which allow me to use all the
data in each of the social networking systems that I use plus all the
data in my calendar plus in my running map site, plus the data in my
little fitness gadget and so on to really provide an excellent support
I must agree. The really frustrating thing is not that
elites will know about me. That's inevitable. But what is dangerous as
hell is their reluctance to let us have full access to our own
information... or reciprocal information about them.
==Transparency in Science==
are not immune to bias, and they should be transparent about the
sources of their funding. The director of the US National Institutes of
Health called for a compulsory online registry of researchers' interests
as a condition of federal funding. "The public may not always
understand the intricacies of rigorous science, but most individuals
quickly grasp the concept of bias." Nothing came of this proposal. Each
university should have a publicly searchable database of academics'
external sources of money. And that's fine, so far... but where does
this simply become a way to bully scientists, making them look over
their shoulders with every step?
If we scientists do have to set
this example of transparent accountability, then can we at least have
back a little respect? And start seeing Wall Street follow suit?
== Dire news on the medical front==
Up to a third of what the U.S. spends on medical care
may be wasted, in large part because of over-testing and over
treatment. Now a major panel has cited nine procedures that doctors
should resort to far less often. Fascinating article.
the most highly-valued contributors to this blog’s comment community, an
emergency room physician, reports, “We stand on the brink of the post
antibiotic era.” One of the worst antibiotic-resistant staph infection
strains called cMSRA,
which can penetrate even healthy, intact skin, has just learned to defy
the last defensive drug that physicians could use without fearing major
consequences to children or the allergy-prone.
This is not a good
time to back off from science. In the 1950s, the most popular man in
the United States was Jonas Salk. Today, most Americans have never
heard of him, and nut-jobs on both the left and right rail against vaccination and the Medical Establishment. It seems we get what we deserve.
== Science & Tech Potpourri ==
Experiments are finally moving ahead with solar updraft power towers... of a kind that I mentioned long ago in Earth.
These systems use a very large surrounding “greenhouse” - many square
km of clear plastic or glass - that heats air to flow up a tall chimney
while driving generators. Efficiency is much lower than solar thermal,
but start-up simplicity and load balancing are attractive, as is mixed
use of the land below the sheeting.
==On the Lighter side==
Examples of my Uplift meme used in modern humor.
Terry Bisson’s classic, hilarious little story about why we may not have been contacted. “They’re Made of Meat” has been produced for a lovely, ironic radio show.
The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team smashed its own world record for largest Rube Goldberg machine with a 300-step behemoth that flawlessly accomplished the simple task of blowing up and popping a balloon.
== And finally... A Sober Thought on Pop Culture ==
Stooge alert! (woop, woop, woop!)
Like most American males, and all American kids (something happens to
women, I guess) I love the Three Stooges. I haven’t seen the new
movie. I hope it’s good, though even if it’s great I expect my wife to
get her year’s quota of eye-rolling exercise!
Now, let me stand up
for this in philosophical terms. The best of the old scenes weren’t
the plain hitting. That was always lame. No, it was those stunning
metaphysical contemplations of the inherent, hopeless irony of
existence. In other words... art! In that art connects the viewer
directly to life's inherent poignancy without words or persuasion.
some of the most perplexingly ironic-tragic stooge situational
dilemmas, like the boys using Curly as a battering ram to punch through a
brick wall, then trying to pry him back out with a crowbar. Oh, the
expressions on his face, as the crowbar hook moved back and forth in
front of him, preparing to strike like a cobra... or like implacable
fate. He is hypnotized, transfixed, the way all of us have been, at
various train-wreck moments of "real" life.
distilled for me the inherent unfairness of the universe... or the
absolute impossibility of human beings being able to think our way out
of this puzzling quandary called life - the game that you simply
cannot win. And yet the boys never stopped trying. Persevering. Coming
up with one "hey, let's try this!" hopeless gambit after another. And
sometimes something brilliantly stupid - or stupidly brilliant -
actually worked! And you came away thinking... maybe I should keep trying, too.
confess, that philosophical depth may just be rationalizing away what’s
really no more than Neanderthal immaturity. (See the “laughter scene”
in the amazing paleolithic film QUEST FOR FIRE.) So? Nevertheless, I
made my Tymbrimi and Tytlal characters big stooge fans, and for reasons
that they found wholly adequate!
Ever see the Stooge
flick in which they made fun of Hitler, a full year before Charlie
Chaplin started THE GREAT DICTATOR? Oh, they had guts too.
Final note. It is a tragedy that we never had a four stooges
film, with brothers Curly Howard and Moe Howard sharing the screen with
both Larry Fine and the other brother, Shemp Howard. I consider Shemp
to have been a comic genius of the first order and always enjoy him
immensely. I hate the fact that he is excluded from Stooge Festivals on
TV. History and fans are unkind to him because we compare him to Curly,
who was a force of nature - akin to gravity or electromagnetism.
never forget that the greatest city in the world -- fittingly the home
of Wall Street, where stooge-like intelligence and antics are the norm
-- was pre-named, as if precognitively, for one of Curly's most
perceptive lines. Nyuck Nyuck.
Whether the new film is a fitting tribute or (most likely) a travesty, still carry the deeper lesson with you, every day. Persevere you knuckleheads, numbskulls and dollfaces. A civilization that can produce such art should be able to achieve anything.