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Last Friday I had an internal speech within Volvo IT. I talked about the Internet’s development and that we are just in the beginning and in the middle of an exponential progress of the Internet.
I claimed that we (humanity) are not equipped with a natural way of understanding the exponential function. We can calculate but not easily imaging the results or consequences of exponential growth.
After the speech I got the tips, from one of the guys in the audience, about Professor Albert A. Bartlett.
His claim was that the biggest threat against humanity is our inability to understand exponential growth.
I must admit that I never heard of him but I got interested!
Here is a speech he had 10 years ago. Very interesting, clear, informative and also a bit scaring.
Just start with the first one and I am sure you can’t stop watching:
I read about the next “big” thing, namely 3D TV: The future 3D TV – we look at some of the best angles
Yes it is cool, really coo but is it the next “big” thing?
Sorry but it will not change anything, I mean it will not change our behavior patterns not even slightly.
It is similar to when the color TV came. Color, yes! The same TV programs, the same people producing and the same people watching. The TV shops got something new to earn money on. That’s all.
Did I say that I want black and white TV back? No not at all, I just said that color-TV didn’t introduce any changes to our society. New cool feature and some new business, nothing more.
3D TV is a new cool feature and I will be the first (almost) to buy. However, it will not make any changes to our society.
That is why I regard, ePaper and eReader as a more “big” thing than 3D TV. The introduction of good quality ePaper and eReaders will definitely change our behaviour and definitely have an impact on our society.
Look in my article Will e-Readers save the world? why I think so.
I mean the command interface. What devices are the most natural to start having a voice interface? Mobiles of course!
We talk in them already. A voice interface to the PC isn’t at all as natural. I can imaging people sitting at the office talking to the computer. Annoying, to say the least!
Yes, yes some of the mobiles have something that they call voice input but what is that really?
I have only used Sony-Ericsson and Nokia mobiles and in the my old Sony-Ericsson P900 I could say the name of someone in the contact list. It work sometimes and if I said “Donald Duck” or something that P900 didn’t understand I called someone randomly. Nokia never made any big effort to have the same voice input but my Nokia N95 and now Nokia E71 read up the callers name with a voice from an old robot-movie from the 70:s…
C’mon Nokia and Sony-Ericsson you can better than this! Can’t you?
The Nokia E71 can even read up my e-mails and other stuff. Well not that bad but I have no use for it really.
So what am I talking about here?
I would like to have a voice input for every command you can do, such as “open calender”, “book meeting”, “start music player”, “start radio” etc etc
It can be made more or less sophisticated but a basic level would be great. I wouldn’t even need to put on my reading glasses! I have done many stupid things while driving my car, that I will not tell you about ;-) but a voice interface would spare me some tricky situations.
Can this be so hard? I know that the software for voice input is out there that can do these things so why not in the mobile?
Nokia, why didn’t you go for this instead of 5800, the so called “iPhone killer”. I tested it for one day. Really, I have to say this, it is pathetic Nokia! Your 5800 is like a modern version of my old Ericsson P900 when it comes to user interface. Yes you have many nifty functions but an “iPhone killer”? You can’t be serious! I haven’t seen Sony-Ericsson’s new “iPhone-killer” but something tells me that iPhone will remain the king of user interface for a while. So, Sony-Ericsson why didn’t you go for something new? A real voice interface?
What do you say, wouldn’t a real voice interface be a useful function to have in your mobile?
Maybe it is out already, did I miss something?
When Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline coined the term “cyborg” 50 years ago they were talking about people living in the outer space. Today we can define a cyborg as a human (or other organism) that get increased capabilities with the help of technology. With a passive definition like this most of us are cyborgs already. I think that the term is not interesting until it is technology that substantially improves our abilities. We have many examples, such as pacemakers, prostheses and even wheel chairs. They make things much better for the individual in question but maybe not with much better functionality than a healthy body. Transhumanism is a term that is very related to cyborgs. Transhumanism is a philosophy (or maybe philosophies) that not only believe in a very bright posthuman future but also strive for it. The typical transhumanist have great hopes on the The Singularity.
New technology, new materials and new knowledge about how our body works will give us human spare parts with even better performance than the original. We will see this in sports where the current problems with steroids, blood doping and other kind of doping is just the beginning. In the Olympics in Beijing 2008, we had examples of contestants who ran with a prosthesis. The Olympic Committee approved it. Next time, 2012, the prosthesis are so good that they will win if they still are approved to attend.
Will disabled be the first superhumans?
This may sound strange but it is probably close to the truth. Let’s make a little test:
The man who run 100 meter in the shortest time is regarded as the fastest man on earth. Today, the fastest human ever is Usain Bolt from Jamaica. He run 100 meter in 9.69 seconds at the Olympic games in Beijing, August 2008. This is an amzing speed.
If I offered you legs that would make you run faster than Usain Bolt, would you receive them? You must of course cut off your own legs and replace them with the new legs. My guess is that you would say no! Well, maybe not. If you are one of the disabled people who have no legs, I guess that you would say yes!
So when these legs are here, we will see disabled people with supernatural powers. Jumping and running like no one ever done before.
Of course this can be true for any human organ. We will probably be reluctant to replace fully functioning organs with mechanical stuff but if the organ is missing or dysfunctional we will say yes.
The limits will then still be our bones, flesh and nerves and not the mechanical parts. The one who can get a complete mechanical set will probably have even better features.
I am not a medical expert but I think that the future for many kinds of disabilities looks rather bright!
Some ethical and hard questions
If you know that you will live x years extra if you replace your functioning liver with a mechanical one, will you do it? How about your heart? Your brain?
Before we answer we must also think about how it will be done. We are talking about a future where the surgical methods are different from today. Maybe nanorobots injected in our system, can do all or part of the job, maybe micro surgery done more or less by robots or maybe some other method not yet invented. Mistakes are very rare and repairable. Painless and shorter period of recovery compared with current methods. It is maybe easier to say yes under these conditions?
The ethical questions are numerous however. What kind of ethics and culture will be present at that time? I think that we will gradually get used to the idea. Just take a look at how the perception of plastic surgery has changed over the years.
So far we have been talking about replacing one or another organ with artificial artifacts. Let us go one step further. Imaging a situation where most or all of our organs can be replaced by artificial compononents that performs far better than the original. How much can we replace before we are more machines than humans? Maybe it is the brain that makes us human? Some day even the brain will be possible to replace but I don’t want to fantasize about its implications. Replacing the brain is so far ahead and science fiction that I will stop here.
I think that we are in a period where the combination of IT, nanotech, genetics and other technologies are improving with an exponential pace. If not ourselves so will our children certainly face these challenges and questions. The 2 TED talks in the links below show us that in some sence it is already here.
TED Video: Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs
Welcome. I am a Tech Watcher, spending my working hours with following IT trends for Volvo. That means that I get a quite broad overview within the field of IT Trends. What is going on and what is coming. During my “watching” I often come over things that I think can be of general interest. I will post here when these things come to my mind. All my opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be linked to my employer. More will come! Need to put all the pieces together first. Until then you can allways follow me:
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This article was written in springnote.