FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Introduces "Tabletop" PC

As computing devices get smaller and smaller, Microsoft is bucking the trend with its Microsoft Surface "tabletop" PC, code-named "Milan." The device, about the size of a small desk, allows the user to draw and write on the surface with a brush or fingers. Instead of using a mouse or keyboard, the user manipulates digital elements on the surface with his or her hands.

The first of the Milan devices will be shipped to corporate customers to be used as kiosks... providing Milan with crucial exposure while allowing Microsoft to work out any kinks before offering surface computing to home and office users. At any rate, the average consumer will be forgiven for not pouncing on the first available units, which cost approximately $10,000 each.

Source: ZDNet

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Risks of Autonomous Robots

Anyone familiar with the Terminator or Matrix movies has an idea of the dangers of intelligent machines running amok. But as scientists develop ever more autonomous robots, such warnings are moving from speculation to reality very quickly.

Samsung, for example, has developed an armed robotic sentry for use in patrolling the tense border between North and South Korea. Such military applications alarm robotic ethicists, who suggest that society is not ready to confront the consequences of autonomous robots designed to kill. They are also concerned about the growing use of robots to care for the elderly, particularly in Japan. Is society, they ask, truly ready to entrust its most frail members to these machines, particularly since our experience with them is relatively limited? Or, could an automated, autonomous nursing home prove to be a "dumping ground" for those whose care is too inconvenient?

Source: BBC

Is True Global Democracy the Next Great Political Movement?

A near-universal disillusionment with traditional forms of government is driving new expressions of democracy around the world, underscored by a growing awareness of global issues and Internet-based connectivity. Paul Hawken of Orion magazine describes how many of the networking trends evident over the last decade are coalescing to create new ways for socially- and politically-minded groups to organize and make a difference:

This is the first time in history that a large social movement is not bound together by an "ism." What binds it together is ideas, not ideologies. This unnamed movement's big contribution is the absence of one big idea; in its stead it offers thousands of practical and useful ideas. In place of isms are processes, concerns, and compassion. The movement demonstrates a pliable, resonant, and generous side of humanity...

The promise of this unnamed movement is to offer solutions to what appear to be insoluble dilemmas: poverty, global climate change, terrorism, ecological degradation, polarization of income, loss of culture. It is not burdened with a syndrome of trying to save the world; it is trying to remake the world.

Source: AlterNet

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Outsourced Journalism

Add writing and reporting to the list of jobs that are now being outsourced. Although native foreign correspondents have been around for decades, news sources such as one in Pasadena, California, have begun outsourcing its local news coverage to reporters in India:

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website, hired two reporters last weekend to cover the Pasadena City Council. One lives in Mumbai and will be paid $12,000 a year. The other will work in Bangalore for $7,200. The council broadcasts its meetings on the Web. From nearly 9,000 miles away, the outsourced journalists plan to watch, then write their stories while their boss sleeps — India is 12.5 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

“A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages,” said Macpherson, 51, who used to run a clothing
business with manufacturing help from Vietnam and India.

Although this might be an isolated case, it could catch on if publishers perceive a real cost savings. Or not, if they sense a loss of a connection to the communities they are covering.

Source: unmediated

Friday, May 04, 2007

IBM's "Five in Five"

IBM has released a report outlining "five innovations that will change our lives over the next five years." The "big five" concepts -- though not completely new -- are:

  • We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world
  • Real-time speech translation-once a vision only in science fiction-will become the norm
  • There will be a 3-D Internet
  • Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance
  • Our mobile phones will come close to reading our minds

First Step Toward Organ Regeneration in Humans

Research conducted at Stanford University suggests that humans may one day be able to regenerate damaged organs and nerves, and possibly even regrow limbs. This research has focused on primitive animals such as the sea squirt, which can heal itself in ways that higher-order animals cannot. By understanding the way in which animals repair damaged body parts, scientists hope to be able to replicate such processes in humans.

Source: Biology News Net