I daydreamed about this system for years, and now I get to watch it.

World Builder from BranitVFX on Vimeo.

Anime-style mjr (original art by Noux)
Marcus Ranum is a security expert in Pennsylvania. (I found out about him in an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about Penguicon's Tech Guest of Honor, Bruce Schneier.)

In an essay on his site about "The Farewell Dossier", Marcus Ranum says:
Am I becoming a convert to the notion of Information Warfare? I don't think so. You don't need to worry about InfoWar if you're potentially facing a good old-fashioned ass-whupping. When I was a kid I remember I read a science fiction story about a race that was very technologically advanced but were extreme pacifists. They sold weapons to anyone who wanted them - cheap, good, and mighty powerful weapons. Nobody ever attacked them because they assumed that the species actually was holding back all the really good stuff for their own use. Until one day, someone discovered that, in fact, they had been selling all these weapons as a way of population-controlling the other species in the galaxy. So - the other races attacked in force. And every weapon they had promptly blew up.
It should be an established maxim that you can't go two steps from real-life 21st-century technology questions without encountering a science fiction story.


Sep. 7th, 2006 09:48 am

combines dynamic playing fields & levels found in computer gaming with the social interaction & tangible playing pieces of board games. It is a 32-inch horizontal LCD touch screen with multi-object position detection. It's currently just a concept product, not for sale or production. I have been waiting for this since... I can't remember a time when I wasn't waiting for this.
Here's a link to a website of futuristic projects of a vacation destination company. There's a city on a ship, a orbiting resort, and an undersea hotel.

I would love to host a science fiction convention aboard this flying hotel. I expect the biggest challenge of this facility to probably be the plumbing. "Its 14 million cu. ft. of helium will provide lift for two-thirds of its weight, with jet engines providing lift for the other third." It's estimated to be completed in 2010. It would have a restaurant on board, which would have to be at least as expensive as most hotel restaurants.

But needless to say, it would not have cheap restaurants within walking distance.

[Spotted at BLDGBLOG]
Goatchurch on the MundaneSF blog posted about his skepticism of molecular nanotechnology. He asked why we think a self-propelled miniature machine can exist, when we still don't have a robot that can vacuum the living room. (Given the existence of Roomba, that's another claim which, in itself, I would highly debate.) Here is the response I put there.

The failure of modern robotics is a software problem. But whether or not that is solvable is not relevant to nanotechnology, which rarely considers molecular robots. There is vast potential in nanotech products and materials that are not only dumb, but downright inert and permanently motionless. The potential of nanosystems which, while not motionless, are nevertheless dumb and sessile, is even more vast.

Look at this computer animation concept. Note that nothing in the assembly line depicted here involves individual nanorobots with independent self-propulsion, self-guidance or decision-making. Independence and intelligence are not required of molecular machinery. Don't confuse the "Universal Assembler/Disassembler" myth with the nanosystems that are actually being proposed.

Read more... )
MIT's Technology Review has a video documentary series titled "The Impact of Emerging Technologies" which is exclusively online. It's really interesting! It covers stem cells; robotic prosthetics with a mind/machine interface; artificial polymer muscle; computer interpretation of body language; nano-scale valves; and more.

The video about using lab yeast instead of lab mice for a 50,000-fold decrease in cost and slowness of new drugs showed them using robot laboratory systems. It reminded me of an article on Edge.org by Kevin Kelly, editor of WIRED Magazine, about using robots, Google, Wikis, "Zillionics" and more, to practice science in the future.

nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
I hadn't previously heard of a few of the speakers at Stanford's Singularity Summit, but I know every single one of the following eight names, and it's the most exciting lineup of Guests of Honor ever. It's interesting to finally find out from their photos what some of them look like.

- Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist, author of "The Singularity Is Near"
- Douglas Hofstadter, cognitive scientist, author of "Gödel, Escher, Bach"
- K. Eric Drexler, nanotechnology pioneer, author of "Engines of Creation"
- Nick Bostrom, director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute
- Cory Doctorow, science fiction author, blogger, technology activist
- Eliezer Yudkowski, Director and Research Fellow, Singularity Institute
- Christine Peterson, VP Public Policy, Foresight Nanotech Institute
- Tyler Emerson, Executive Director, Singularity Institute

The "What others have said" section shows Marvin Minsky, Hans Moravec, Vernor Vinge, Ben Goertzel, Jamais Cascio and Jaron Lanier. I wonder if they'll be at the summit? That section also lists Bill Gates, Bill Joy and Stephen Hawking.

But it's not a science fiction convention, it's an academic conference. These aren't really Guests of Honor, because that implies the presence of their fans at the event. This is by RSVP only. That's fine-- it's important that specialist professionals gather to do valuable work on the problems and promises of the Singularity in peace. That having been said, it would also be fantastic to get any of these to speak at Penguicon, especially since it's a Linux and Open Source software expo in addition to a science fiction convention. Many of them would probably demand an appearance fee, which all-volunteer not-for-profit SF conventions don't pay. And many of them probably would not want to be seen to be associated with a science fiction event (except for Cory Doctorow, who has already been our Guest of Honor). But Christine Peterson says in her Singularity Summit promotional blurb "If you're trying to project the long-term future, and what you get sounds like science fiction, you might be wrong. But if it doesn't sound like science fiction, it's definitely wrong."

I enjoyed reading the comment by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee, which is extremely signifigant to me as a non-specialist:

Read more... )
nemorathwald: (Matt 3)
KurzweilAI.net features an MP3 and lyrics, by Charlie Kam, to a Transhumanist rewrite of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General" from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance". It's goofy and delightful proof that we Extropians, Transhumanists and Singularitarians do not necessarily treat our ideas with a cultish seriousness.

(As if we needed any further proof of that than Charlie Stross' satirical Tough Guide To The Singularity.)
nemorathwald: (Matt 4)
Ray Kurzweil is a guest blogger on Non-Prophet, to promote the ideas in his latest book, "The Singularity Is Near."
Read more... )


Oct. 11th, 2005 10:22 pm
In the fifth installment of his serialized novel "Themepunks" Cory Doctorow uses an idea which occurred to me independently long ago: multiple small dishwashers for bachelor roommate pads. Don't use cupboards, just leave the cleaned dishes in the dishwasher and transfer them to the other dishwasher when they're dirty. It's really just an idea whose time has come.
From BoingBoing.
Jamais Cascio from www.worldchanging.com says:
"Researchers from the University of Texas, Dallas, and Australia's CSIRO have developed a way of making strong, stable and amazingly useful ribbons and sheets made of multiwall carbon nanotubes. Their system pushes the material out at seven meters/minute; a Quicktime video of the process in action is here. If you've been following the development of nanotubes, you know what kind of accomplishment this is. In my view, this is the biggest technology breakthrough of the year, quite possibly of the decade."

End quote. If the money were there, this would make a space elevator feasible! Even without the space elevator as a goal, this will make incredibly light and strong structural materials, which is exactly what NASA and private space organizations need for cheaper and safer space flight. But even without space flight goals, architecture and large-scale engineering will never be the same. That's not all. The web site goes on to say:

"...researchers from the Regenerative Neurobiology Division at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Dr. Mario Romero, Director, and Dr. Pedro Galvan-Garcia, Senior Researcher Associate, and Dr. Larry Cauller, associate professor in UTD's neuroscience program, have initial evidence suggesting that healthy cells grow on these sheets - so they might eventually be applied as scaffolds for tissue growth.

Baughman said that numerous other applications possibilities exist and are being explored at UTD, including structural composites that are strong and tough; supercapacitors, batteries, fuel cells and thermal-energy-harvesting cells exploiting giant-surface-area nanotube sheet electrodes; light sources, displays, and X-ray sources that use the nanotube sheets as high-intensity sources of field-emitted electrons; and heat pipes for electronic equipment that exploit the high thermal conductivity of nanotubes. Multifunctional applications like nanotube sheets that simultaneously store energy and provide structural reinforcement for a side panel of an electrically powered vehicle also are promising, he said."
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
I watched the first hour of Ursula K. LeGuin's Legend of Earthsea on the SciFi channel last night and was disappointed but not surprised that it was a rehashing of tired cliches. I'm sure there is innovation somewhere in this genre that doesn't just plagiarize the ancient Myth of the Hero and use Good Vs. Evil to avoid having to motivate the antagonist. Can someone point it out to me? We aren't kids sitting around the campfire listening to a static oral tradition, folks! How did that old adage go? "There are only seven stories"? Balderdash, there are only seven kinds of unimaginative authors and readers. This brought to mind [livejournal.com profile] dawnwolfe's recent question to me, "If you met someone who had never, ever read a single SF/Fantasy book in their lives, had not even heard of the genre but was open to trying it out, what is the first book you would introduce to that person." It depends on what they want. Different books are good are for different folks and they can get different purposes from the same book. Mine is just one flavor of preference and I'll offer it as nothing more. My thesis is this: I like science fiction to the degree that it's not a fantasy.Read more... )
I enjoy learning about subjects that show me how arbitrary everything is that's been handed down to us by prophets and priests and kings and Microsoft and so forth. There is a sort of future shock that one can experience in this, to realize that most of the current underpinnings of culture are groundless and may as well be something else. Something better. One such subject is timekeeping. Before the Roman emperors started re-naming months after themselves, Rome had a consistent system for naming months. The Sept in September stands for 7, and Oct, Nov, and Dec mean 8, 9, and 10 respectively. "Ember" meant winter. This made more sense before somebody decreed that the month named after him (January) be bumped up two places to be the first, which made them really the 9th through 12th months, and they didn't get renamed because no emperor wanted to be last. Imagine we can start over on Mars. Here's a hypothetical system which happens to be a conglomeration of my favorite pieces from the systems currently devised by a wide variety of science fiction authors. You can read more about the available proposals on The Martian Time Survey. (Warning, some images of Mars personified are not work-safe.)Read more... )
In my wanderings around the web I've noticed that certain kinds of conflict happen to very certain kinds of projects. Read more... )And yet all these are the very same people who have the greatest need to band together to succeed, because they serve a niche within a niche. Read more... )
This address by Christian cognitive scientist Edmund Furse is a totally straight-faced explanation of how robots, in his opinion, will be able to do things like sin, or communicate with God. An excerpt:

..."give us this day our daily bread" might have to be replaced by "give us our regular electric feed".

...It seems to me that Christ died for all persons, male, female, human and robot. A second argument might be that a robot is unlikely to be an icon of Christ at the altar, but I suppose that priestly robots could grow long hair and a beard if desired.

A noble sentiment indeed. Followed later by this:

Could a robot steadfastly set its face against the will of God. Could a robot continuously know what is the right thing to do, and yet choose to go against it. Could a robot ultimately choose to reject God and all goodness, and desire to be cut off from God and his grace for all eternity? Surely a robot being so knowledgeable would choose a path of goodness. But we have to allow for the possibility of free choice, and in allowing the robot this possibility, we also have to allow for it to ultimately to go to Hell.Read more... )
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
I rented the anime anthology Memories by the creator of Akira, Otomo Katsuhiro. The entire film is top-notch, with breathtaking visuals and uncompromising artistry. Each segment is an individual vision instead of marketing-driven by a board table full of business suits. The first episode, Magnetic Rose, set in orbit in 2192, is now my favorite work of animation ever. It's rare to see zero-gravity depicted and ships with thrusters that actually fire correctly to move in it, even in anime (Cowboy Bebop notwithstanding). For its realistic acting and plausible visualization of the future I've got to own Magnetic Rose. A couple of technologies (which I won't describe to avoid spoiling it) are on the blue-sky fringe of legitimate futurics, but are depicted so convincingly that they are more an asset than a liability to the segment. The film contrasts them against a background of solidly realistic hi-tech which is antique to the characters because it's based on our own present-day research trends. I'd like to show Magnetic Rose to my GURPS Transhuman Space group, but I doubt I'll find a copy in time for our session Saturday.

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