Archived entries for future

There are two interconnected facts about data storage and data transmission.

First: data storage is always getting cheaper, smaller and growing in capacity.

Second: it will always be faster to physically move a modern high-capacity storage device than transmit that data over the same distance.

This is can affected by the geographic and developmental context of an area, of course. For example, sending a jump drive by carrier pigeon wouldn’t cut it in Western Europe, but it would in Central Africa. In Europe, you would be sending a solid-state hard drive down the Autobahn. In both cases, the physical data would arrive faster than the local data transmission frame-work, be it wireless or wired, would allow.

If you think about it, this is one of those “water is wet” sort of observations about technology. So why am I talking about it?

Because I’m going to build a short story off of it, and it is going to work like this:

It is the near, but not too near, future. Over the past half century, urban centers metastasized into blights of concrete, steel and pollution. This was unsustainable. We were unsustainable. So the cities evolved, changed by government order and corporate policy into self-sustaining hives of clean power and reclaimed waste. The environment apocalypse stalled out and a new world was born.

It is a new world where human kind is stacked on top of itself, where your every moved is monitored by the unblinking eye of the closed-circuit security camera, and where every bit and byte of your personal data is sold to the highest bidder. Privacy and personal data are a thing of the past, the new de facto contraband.

It is a world into which a pair of enterprising young twins have carved out their niche as the best data couriers money can buy.

Their rules are simple.

They’ll come to you. You’ll have two packages for them, wrapped in matching opaque static-free bags. The packages can weigh no more than 10 kilos each and must be able to fit in a small backpack. One of those packages will be the real item, the other will be a dummy. You will not tell the couriers which is which, and the couriers must not be able to tell them apart.

If any of these rules are broken, the couriers walk away, and all deposits are non-refundable. If the rules are adhered to, each courier will take a parcel and the job is on.

The woman, Zero, always goes high. The man, One, always goes low. They stay within eyeshot of each other, leapfrogging from point to point. They know how to avoid the CCTV cameras and the biometric ID scans and the random search sweeps. They move through the holes in the security net like water, tracing a fluid path through the rigid lines of the city, always moving toward their destination.

They’ve never lost a package. They’ve never opened a package. They’ve never asked about the contents a package. They know that not knowing is what makes them the best in the business.

The name of their little operation?

Binary Transport.


You want to make your millions in the near-future urban sprawls of China, India, Europe and the States? Then make what I’m about to talk about into a reality.

It starts with cheap, easily assembled parts – ideally from an open-source 3D printer template – that form a basic, quad-rotor drone. Then, you source old cameras from cellphones. Stuff in the 640×480 pixel range, that’s pretty shit for quality but can get basic shapes in high contrast. Finally, you tack in a cheap cellular GPS unit. Not even one that talks to satellites – I’m talking about one that gets all of its location information from cellular data towers. Hopefully, a decent power supply will give the thing at least a 15 mile round-trip radius, which will can cover most major cities with just a few “base-nodes” for the drones to work out of.

This is your courier. It is cheap, highly mobile, and can transport small packages. Things like left behind cellphones or jackets, legal documents, hard drives, or lunch orders. Things, that for a few bucks a pop, it would probably be more convenient for some one else to move for you.

Requesting a courier could be done through a simple web or device-based app. Give a pick up location, a drop off location and specify if it’s a rush or not. Then, you leave your package in a special pick-up grid somewhere that the drone can get to it – say in your backyard or on a balcony. The drone recognizes the patterning on the grid thanks to the camera, and it knows where to make the pick up. For drop off, it just finds the grid at the end location in the same manner. Clients can be notified of estimated arrival time by email, text message or phone call. And if a client puts out a package that’s too heavy, they can be notified in the exact same manner.

With this drone-based system, you’re cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from car-base couriers and delivery drivers while opening up a whole new market for personalized delivery and convenience. Plus, as the economy of scale kicks in, the drones will become less and less expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Expect the urban spaces of the future to have a constant thrum of drone engines.


Of course, all of this brings up a whole other set of problems.


It is the near future, in an aging urban corridor where congestion brought on by antiquated city planning and high gas prices has destroyed the 20th century notion of the car as the great liberator of the modern American.

The city has become a near impenetrable bivouac of occupied human spaces. Residential mated to commercial, with storage and food spaces hanging off them like lampreys.

Between those spaces, there is a noise: the ceaseless thrum of plastic and metal rotor blades pushing against the air.

This is the noise of the drone swarm. Of a million wirelessly controlled delivery and service machines moving products for us. All on modular frames with solar panels and high density battery packs, and nary a carbon toeprint amongst them.

For they are the servant class of the digital age; ferrying our take-out food, our Amazon purchases, our dry cleaning, all of the consumptive bits of our lives, to and fro so we don’t have to. All of it controlled and maintained by a joint commercial and government cooperative to ensure that economic stimulation is as easy as it could possibly be.

But, there is something else in the skies, too. Something newer than the drones in the swarm…something malevolent.

Drone predators.

Instead of being simple pack mules, these drones prey upon their pacifist kin, seeking the profitable treasures held within their cargo nets. iDevices, physical media, designer clothing, anything that can be sold quickly and easily over the local Internet grey market is what the hunters are after, but, in a pinch, the prey drones themselves can be torn down and sold for parts.

Their method of capture varies wildly, from nets to signal scramblers to firewall-penetrating viruses. Some drone predators are even large enough to simply scoop up their prey whole and deliver them back to their criminal handlers, the smaller drone struggling the whole way.

Local and federal security agencies have fielded drone-hunting counter measures, with mixed success. Larger attack drones are able to eliminate the drone predators, but are hard to maneuver in tight urban spaces and destroying drones doesn’t generate leads toward finding the drone’s handler. Interdiction and tracking operations can score individual successes, but tactics used by the security agencies are quickly countered by the handlers and how-tos spread like wildfire through the darknets. Evasion is the most low-tech solution, but it remains the most effective countermeasure. Drone delivery paths can be randomized, destination data encrypted, and redundant protective systems installed.

It is still a numbers game, though. And some percentage is always going to get caught.

Which is why for a small service fee, most retail outlets will gladly insure your package against drone-theft.

This is the shape of the future, and  of the new ecosystems forming in its cracks.

In the future, to cope with the impossible torrent of data cascading down upon us, each person over a certain income level will be fitted with a social media simulacra. One part digital assistant, one part overly aggressive behavioral pattern algorithm, the simulacra will ensure proper filtering of the data stream so only relevant bits reach their users. Each simulacra will have a name, set by the user, and will react only to voice commands from that user. The simulacra will make up for the biological failings that keep a normal human from comprehending the data overload. Overtime, the simulacra will become closer to the users than real humans, possibly even supplanting their need for interaction.

All of this will be ad-supported, contractually bound, and requiring an early termination fee, of course.

Pity the alchemists of old couldn’t wait around another thousand years for us to make homunculi out of ones and zeroes.

When I get hitched, you can be damn sure this will be the image on the Save the Date cards.

From Dark Roasted Blend.

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

Title: Into The Wilds

Word: Acidic

200 words about the taste of freedom:

The arcology loomed, casting a long shadow across the veldt, the edges dithering over the lush, waving vegetation. The bottom of the setting sun is obscured by that impossibly large weave of glass, steel and concrete.

Most of his group stared up at it, slack-jawed. The inside of the arcology had been all they’d known of the world, and their grandparent’s grandparents had known of the world.

Instead, he focused on the opposite horizon. Green, endless green, spreading out in all directions.

He scratched at the bandage on his wrist. The coyotes had taken out his personal wireless transmitter. It had been a part of him since birth.

The coyotes packed their gear and started to head back to the ventilation feeder tube they used to ferry people out of the arcology.

One of them stopped and tossed him a small, round thing.

He eyed it warily.

“It’s called an apple. You eat it.” said the coyote.

He bit into it. It was sweet and slightly acidic, it crunched between his teeth, and the juices ran down over his chin. It was unlike anything he’d ever tasted.

“The trees are full of them.”

He looked up, and they were.

Follow this link to offer up more suggestions.

This is the Orbitron.

Just look at it. Look at those lines. Look at that bubble top. Look at those headlights.

Those red, blue and green headlights that were focused to combine and make a single beam of white light.

This was the goddamned car of the future.

It was a one-off custom car designed by custom hot rod legend Ed Roth (creator of the Rat Fink character) and Ed Newton. Unfortunately, the car was deemed a failure when it was debuted, Roth attributing it to his choice to cover the beautiful painted and chromed engine, as well as to the Beatles. He stated that people were now buying guitars instead of cars.

Ultimately, the car was sold to another custom enthusiast, then to a series of private collectors. It was rediscovered in 2006 outside of an adult bookstore in Juarez, Mexico. After some finagling, a new collector was able to purchase the car and fully restored it, unveiling the reborn Orbitron in 2008.

More information and pictures are here at Kustomrama.

From the BBC:

A newly-developed heat-ray gun that burns the skin but doesn’t cause permanent injury is now with US troops in Afghanistan.

The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal weapon designed to disperse violent crowds and repel enemies.

It uses a focused invisible beam that causes an “intolerable heating sensation”, but only penetrates the skin to the equivalent of three sheets of paper.

The discomfort causes whoever it’s pointed at to immediately start moving away. They often scream but the US military says the chance of injury from the system is 0.1%.

It’s already been tested more than 11,000 times on around 700 volunteers. Even reporters have faced the heat-ray.

Interesting thing about tech like this is what happens once you improve it. Think about computers. Effectively, since the first difference engines, computers have done nothing but calculations. The only things that have changed are that the calculations got more abstract and complex, and the devices themselves got smaller – massively smaller.

Right now the ADS is mounted to a mobile armored vehicle. Imagine, instead, the ADS as a device implanted into, say, every street lamp in a city. Instant riot control. Or, to the wheels of a car. Instant car jacking defense. Or what about to the buttons on your clothes? Personal protection.

The ADS as it is now is little more than an expensive PR stunt, but what could be done with the tech in twenty or thirty years, now that’s the interesting stuff.

Things are speeding up. People are moving faster, goods are moving faster, information is moving faster, ideas are moving faster. You can’t take a moment to study something because by the time you blink, it will have changed.

Previously, there was a definite sense of things happening around you. Identifiable periods in history were long – sometimes centuries long – and they were things that you could see and appreciate being a part of while they were going on. You could have a sense of the gravity and importance of something. But, as technology started to kick in, things sped up. They got faster. They accelerated. Century long periods were cut down to decades, then years, then months, to the days or hours that define periods now.

Think about the late 1960s. The American Social Revolution. Civil rights, feminism, anti-war, and pro-drug movements all spun into one broad counter-culture thread. And everyone could feel it happening. You knew these were the defining days of a period of history. It lasted long enough for you to be able to grab hold of something tangible and hang on for the ride if you were so inclined.

But after that? Things start to blur together, like things moving past the window of a speeding car. The 70s blended into the 80s which blended into the 90s which blends into now. The biggest event was the end of the Cold War, but that was more of a left over from a previous period when things moved slower.

Now I feel like I exist in a world that is blurring around me because it moves so fast. Nothing is tangible because by the time you’ve reached out your arm to touch it, it has already faded away. Things are more ephemeral than they’ve ever been, and it is all due to the acceleration that technology caused.

Think about it like eating a fine, multi-course meal. Except, that the time you have for each course is half of the previous one. Before you’re even out of the appetizer/soup/salad courses, you’re throat is jacked open and food is shoved straight down your throat. The flavors mash-up, you can’t appreciate any of the texture or nuance, but because things keep coming, you start to forget what it was like to ever be able to chew or savor the food. Eventually, you just go numb to the whole experience, as the only sensation that’s left is a mass of food stuffs being forced into your gullet. Time and experience have been force-compacted into bland, forgettable food stuffs.

I love technology, it lets me do things that absolutely blow my mind (like typing this piece), but this is my greatest apprehension about it.


Interesting way to present this data. One of those nice little “if money and resources weren’t a problem, we could do THIS!” sort of things.

But, if you want to take a little bit of – heh – sunshine from this, look at the metrics they give you for energy consumption. While the total amount of energy used is going up, the rate at which it is going up is decreasing.

Now you just have to wonder if we have the resources to survive the run up to the point where the curves intersect and we have just the right amount of resources to meet our energy needs.

Court Rules Against F.C.C. in ‘Net Neutrality’ Case


Published: April 6, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

Tuesday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable company. It had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose so called “net neutrality” obligations.

It marks a serious setback for the F.C.C., which needs authority to regulate the Internet in order to push ahead with key parts of its national broadband plan.

That just came across the wire, I pulled it from the NYT.

Time to pull out this graphic:

And the piece I wrote to go along with it.

Graphic by Gizmodo

I want to talk to you about dark places.

Not literally places that lack adequate illumination, but locations that don’t exist. Like a place built out of dark matter and powered by dark energy, completely hidden from human perception, but real and there all the same.

FourSquare, the newest means of shouting about your life on the web, was the impetus for this idea. For those of you with a life and more important things to do with your time, let me explain FourSquare. You go places, tag yourself as being in that location with FourSquare, and then get “badges” when you accomplish things. For example, going to a place more than anyone else and becoming “mayor” of that place or visiting a gym and getting a “fit” badge. Pointless, intangible things, but for some reason people love it. There is also a tacked-on messaging system where people can leave each other suggestions of things to do at certain locations, and notes about those locations.

(Unlike Twitter, FourSquare stands a real chance of making money with their system. The amount of data they are harvesting from their users and the ability to connect businesses to those users will make the people behind it very, very rich.)

Up until their last update, if you checked in at a new place, you had to know the exact street address of a location. Annoying in every instance, downright near impossible if you are, say, in a shopping center or a mall. With the new update, however, you don’t need the address. You can just drop in the name of the place, and the address will get filled in later.

Which made me wonder – what if you just made up a place? Call it NoPlace, and then start slamming it with notes and suggestions and ideas. You’ve made a little nook in a system designed to handle the digital footprints of real places, but that nook doesn’t correspond to anything real. It is just a place out in the ether, filled with information. This is a dark place.

The name comes from darknet, the term being used to describe closed-access networks. Being they professional, social, even piracy oriented, they are the new dominant feature of the Internet these days. The professional and social ones normally start with people who’s trade involves more idea than object. They want to discuss their ideas with others like them, but email is too clunky, and the large social networks will expose them to prying eyes, so they close themselves off and go dark. There are entire cloned networks of Twitter for people like this, they took the API and built themselves a feed that is hidden away from the rest of the world.

The good internet data pirates operate in the same way now. Private ftp networks, torrent swarms that only accept pre-set IPs, encrypted newsgroups, they are the fertile ground for what the music, movie and electronic game trade groups pushed into the shadows after the hey-day of file sharing programs like Napster, Limewire, Kazaa and first generation of torrent sites like Suprnova and The Pirate Bay (yes I know TPB is still around, but they exist in a weird legal limbo land, and the originators are in jail).

Ironically, the most important and exciting places on the Internet are hidden away behind closed doors in Fight Club-esque secrecy. First rule of a darknet is that you don’t talk about a darknet. Which itself is counter point to the idea of an open network with all of the information of the world available for anyone who is willing to go looking.

But back to the local space application of this, the dark place. Essentially, the idea of using FourSquare for this is rather pointless. The functionality is too limited, but it did serve to give me an idea of what it could do. If you take a theoretical jump to include some actual augmented reality functionality, instead of faking it like FourSquare tries to do, you could end up with something like a digital speakeasy. The person who wants to form the group goes to a place in a city; a tree in a park, a pool table in a bar, or something so mundane no one else would notice it. Then that person drops an AR landmark at this spot, say with a password protected login. People with the password then get access to whatever was in that landmark, be it just a few lines of text, a video, a forum, a program, whatever. You could bury a secret history in the digital ether of a city, and no one would know save those that were supposed to know.

I’m not entirely sure why you would want to do any of this, but I’m thinking more about the how rather than the why of it right now. Didn’t get the point of Twitter, and I don’t really get the point of FourSquare, but that doesn’t stop millions of people from using those applications. It seems the good ideas are always built more around how these days, and people just hope the why shows up somewhere along the way.

There could be commercial potential in this, if you wanted to offer coupons to people who were in your businesses and you had, say a chalk board with that day’s password on it. But, I’m really more interested in the potential to hide information in a place that can only be retrieved from other people coming to that same place.

Hidden points of thought, secreted away in the dark places. That’s what this thought is about.

God I love the potential of the future.

That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.

The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.

Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.

The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.

We’ll refer to it as aml.

That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.

The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.

Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.

We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.


That leaves mass.

The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.

I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!

It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.

So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.


Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh

The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.

And the point and impetus to all of this?

The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?

Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.

What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?

Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.



The Horribly Brain Breaking Question:

If you are born into a state of augmented reality, does that augmented reality become reality? And if so, what does augmented augmented reality look like?

The Drunken Stumble of Thoughts to Get There:

Effectively, we’re already living in an augmented reality in comparison to things that don’t have as broad of a range of senses as we do. We live in an augmented reality compared to dogs. Bees live in an augmented reality compared to us.

Now, what if you added a bit of tech to the human biology. Say, a self-replicating nano device that was a genetic Internet connection. GPS, connectivity to the group thought, ocular content browsing, location based data sources, all of that shit that is part of what we’re theorizing augmented reality to look like. The first generation to have something like this could honestly call their existence an augmented reality. But, what about their children?

They come out of the womb and their reality is already augmented, so the baseline is moved up and it opens up the question as to whether or not you can legitimately call it augmented still.

Then, what the hell do these people do to push their reality even farther? Make what they’re perceiving real instead of illusory?

Ah, Jesus, what the hell would that even mean?

Realtime reassembling of reality to match the group consciousness?

Is the increase in the speed of data transmission and processing really doing anything more than accelerating the trip to impermanence?

This is a video of the Raleigh sewer monster. They’ve been finding these clumps of biomatter all over the sewer system in that city, but this is the first video footage of them.

I want to point something out before we go any further – this could be a complete sack of shit. A very well done viral campaign, probably. Malphrus is the company that took the video, and according to their website, they handle large constructions projects, especially those with water. But, something doesn’t sit right with me about the name “Malphrus”.  What sort of business would have a prefix that means bad or evil? I did some digging and malphrus could be a made up word that means “bad eye” or “evil eye”.  I’m being this skeptical because I really I want to believe this, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way.

If this thing is real, then we don’t know what the fuck it is. At first they thought it was a slime mold at the slimy part of its life cycle, but it moves. So, then they thought it was something called annelid worms, which it could be. The problem, though, is that these things have a uniform skin. If they are individual organisms, then they are wrapping themselves in a communal coating. Colonizing isn’t uncommon for annelid worms, tube worms are annelid worms for example, but never under a single skin.

The most interesting part of this for me is not the life form itself (which is fascinating if real), but rather what the life form potentially implies.

We living in a reality that obeys the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy. Things cannot be destroyed, only transformed. This applies to biological spaces, too. We cut down a forest to build a city. The space that was the forest is now the city. Instead of trees you have lamp posts and buildings. Instead of creeks you have sewers and drainage systems. The space has inherently changed, but it is still a space for life to grow and occupy.

By the way I’m not going to get into an environmental debate over the right or wrong of this, so put the pitchforks down now.

So as human civilization supplants the previous ecosystems, we’re replacing it with something new. And if this thing is real, then we’re seeing the space that we’ve created get populated by new kinds of life. Life that in all likelihood would never have come into being with out the ecosystem that we created.

Humanity is like a faster acting blue-green algae. Algae reformed this planet from a CO2 atmosphere to an O2 atmosphere. It may have taken half a billion years, but a life form did it. We’re changing the planet in the same way, but in matter of centuries, not epocs. If this is really something new, then we’re looking at the rise of the first new organism to take advantage of the world that we’ve created.

Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. But with that salt, marvel at the potentiality of an ecosystem dependant of civlization.

I woke up this morning and found the Internet was running around banging its head into walls again. Great, I thought, either another celebrity died or Apple’s released a new phone. Or maybe both. Maybe Steven Jobs died and resurrected himself as the True Jesus Phone.

Thankfully, it turned out to be none of that. Google released a short, but tantalizing statement about their new OS, named uncreatively enough, Google Chrome OS. In the press release, Google promises an OS targeted toward netbooks, but scalable up to desktop PCs, with a boot time measured in seconds, not minutes and the best part? It’ll be totally free.

My friends and I are already visibly turgid over Google’s last announcement, Google Wave. I plan on shoving all of my writing over to Waves where people will be able to edit and provide critiques. No more need for stupid Facebook invites to events, either. Just start a Wave for an event and send it out to everyone. That’s not even getting into the options for gaming and creative group projects.

But, when you combine the ideas in my head from Google Wave with a 3lb netbook with a 6+ hour battery life for less than $500, you change my fucking life. In a good way. This is something to be watched.

Oh, as an aside, there was a line in the press release:

They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files.

That got me thinking about a video I saw a few years back that talked about Google basically taking over the world in a benevolent way with user-specific data. After about thirty minutes of digging, I found the video. This version is shit for quality, but you can find the original here.

Now, I want you to think about what you watched and how spot on those people were. The iPhone/iPod Touch is the iPod Wifi. Google’s iReader is Newsbotseter. Google Wave is Google Grid. Instead of the NTY suing Google, the AP did. Oh, and that last bit about geotagged podcasts? That’s fucking Twitter, just with sound instead of text.

Let that sink in for a second, bring it to a simmer then add this: We are now able to prophecy our future because of consumer trends and technology functionality.

From WIRED’s Danger Room:

Even by the standards of the Pentagon fringe science arm, this project sounds far-out: “” that can be ordered to “self-assemble or alter their shape, perform a function and then disassemble themselves.” But researchers back by Darpa are actually making progress on this incredible goal, Henry Kenyon at Signal magazine reports.

One day, that could lead to “morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and ’soft’ robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.” A soldier could even reach into a can of unformed goop, and order up a custom-made tool or a “universal spare part.”

One team from Harvard is working on a kind of “generalized Rubik’s Cube” that can fold into all kinds of shapes. Another is trying to order large strands of synthetic DNA to bind together in a “molecular Velcro.” An MIT group is building “’self-folding origami’ machines that use specialized sheets of material with built-in actuators and data. These machines use cutting-edge mathematical theorems to fold themselves into virtually any three-dimensional object.”

My interest with this is the instant fabrication possibilities that a basic technological building offers.

The commercial potential is incredible. I buy an assembler and some building block goop. Then I slot it with a few basic templates I’ve purchased. Dishes, flatware, bits of a table, objects built out of single pieces or primitives. If I chose, I can lease templates for more complex items. For a few hundred bucks, I can buy a one-time use template from Sony that will spit out an HD television. Transportation and packaging costs would be nil. Think of it as a digital download of a physical object from a service like Steam or Emusic.

Beyond that, the ability to instantaneously create something is part of the Singularity. In order to keep the technological advancement going past a certain point, you’d have to be able to produce ideas as fast as you can think them, something I’ve mentioned before. Starting from a universal building block would make that sort of thing possible.

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