Singularity and ESI’s


I always thought of singularity as being when supercomputers end up being able to match human intelligence. One of the early science fiction films that influenced me in my youth was 2001 A Space Odyssey. I loved all of Arthur C Clarke’s books,but HAL 9000 was my first introduction to the concept of a computer that thinks, reasons and has emotions. I’ve often thought  that if a computer reached that level, it would consider humans to be animals to be eradicated as quickly as possible. The way we humans behave is often totally irrational and inappropriate, we are actively destroying our planet and instead of working together to fix it.

So I was somewhat surprised to read of research by organisations such as DARPA working on the concept of singularity as being a combination of genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. I don’t know why I was surprised. First, the concept of Ubermensch probably goes way back before Nietzsche, perhaps even to da Vinci. Some people consider Nietzsche to be the inspiration for Hitler’s concept of the Aryan master-race.

Over the years we have seen many films such as The Terminator, TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and it is only logical that for many reasons, the military, NASA and others need to be able to modify humans to be more powerful. The military can use people who have super vision, night vision, extreme strength and resilience and of course if we are going to send people into space for long periods of time, wouldn’t it be easier if they were able to withstand low or no gravity for long periods of time, perhaps very high gravity, be able to thrive on different diets, different atmosphere etc. Just adding a little justification here.

One of the first areas that the concept of enhanced human beings is a result of the medical world finding ways to aide humans who have had injuries or other conditions, for example having lost an arm or a hand. It is now only mildly surprising to see people with a stump, manipulating a prosthetic hand and managing complex tasks.

The BeBionic Hand in the video above is due for release in June of this year and will make a huge difference to many people. Of course the military and those who can afford it, can add this type of enhancement technology to the able bodied. Imagine having an exoskeleton that would allow you to lift a 200 pound weight 500 times in a row. With millions of dollars of funding from DARPA, Sarcos, a recently purchased subsidiary of Raytheon has built the XOS Exoskeleton which can do that, it’s real technology, not something out of a Marvel comic or a SciFi movie. It’s very real.

They call this a Combat Robot, but imagine the other uses. For example imagine the uses of a suit like this for civil defence emergencies, after an earthquake, or rescuing people from a major motor accident. I’ve said it many times before: Science Fiction is becoming fact at a pace that is mind boggling.

I’ll finish for now with eyesight. Imagine being able to see and focus way beyond what humans can normally do. Did you know that Tiger Woods used to have -11 eyesight, which is about as short sighted as you can get. According to TLC Eye Centres, he wouldn’t have been able to see the ball without glasses until he had Lasik treatment. They say that he now has eyesight significantly better than the average person and that this contributed to his golfing success. According to a story on the Slate website, many athletes are being targeted by marketing offering them an advantage by enhancing their eyesight when there is nothing wrong with it. Last year I wrote about Tanya Vlach who was trying to get someone to provide her with a bionic eye. Checking out her blog, she hasn’t achieved her goal yet, but I suspect she will.

If you’d like to know more about enhanced humans and DARPA, I’ll leave the last word to Wired Magazine who have an excellent article (already 3 years old) about some of the amazing developments that have probably already been dramatically improved on and we haven’t even started on nanotechnology.

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Life without Internet Part 3


While it is still clear in my mind, a couple of days ago, after losing my net connectivity for a few days, I said I would look at a typical day on the net to see how reliant I am on it. Here’s a synopsis of my connected day yesterday.

After having breakfast I went to my PC at home and posted a new photo on my Buzznet page and read the 11 comments people had left on my photos from the previous day. I checked out a few photos from my friends and left comments where appropriate.

I then posted Songwriting Tip 89 on my Twitter page after reading and replying to a few ‘tweets’ from my friends.

I checked a few emails on my GMail account which is once again up over 100 emails that I haven’t read yet. Most of them related to the Music Submission service I subscribed to last month. Several traditional radio stations as well as streaming stations have picked up my songs, so lots of follow up to do there.

Listened to a couple of songs and made a few comments in a forum at Music Forte.

I had a quick look at my MySpace messages and shared emails with a great singer in the UK who is looking for some bookings for a NZ Tour. Gave her some contacts to follow up.

Last but by far not least, I updated my podcasts on iTunes and downloaded them to my iPod so I can listen to them in my car with my Belkin FM Transmitter.

So off to work listening to my latest podcasts, including one from Podcast Tools which was debating whether you should use WordPress as your podcast host. It was fairly compelling, but for now, given that all the podcatchers including iTunes know where to find me, I’ll maintain the status quo. Great that WordPress now offers 3GB and I am pondering how to take advantage of that.

So into the office and fighting through around 50 unread emails (not spam) including lots of CV’s as I am about to employ a new sales and marketing assistant and into the day. Email is a major part of my day and I could not be efficient without it. Problem is I have to much, but once my Assistant has been employed we will be able to share the burden. My email folders are also over the corporate email limit which is a pain because I don’t have time to really cull it. I don’t think my limit is appropriate to my position, but anyway, that’s another debate.

My browser is permanently open with 5 tabs being our corporate Intranet, our website, my iGoogle page, Grab a Seat which is Air New Zealand’s page of daily specials, nothing special for me today but occassionally they have some amazing deals. I also have WordPress open to remind me to keep an eye out.

I posted a help forum on my Geekzone page after looking up the Philips Helpdesk details for my Skype phones, which started playing up after I replaced my modem. Couldn’t find out how to reset them.

Got together with the developers who are working on our Facebook application which we hope to launch in the next few weeks, which also included getting a new GeoCoder built to help with the maps that will be on the page.

Downloaded a Reference Checking Form from our Intranet which was surprisingly good.

Followed through a few stories from my iGoogle aggregator about GPS, location based news etc, including a couple of DIGGS.

Gave a recommendation to one of the pioneer leaders in the car navigation industry on my LinkedIn page.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few items because I found keeping a log too slow. But you get the idea. I am very connected.

When I got home, I once again checked MySpace messages, friend requests etc, caught up with Facebook, sent out another couple of Tweets on Twitter, caught up with some more email, put some photos onto a CD for printing that a friend emailed to me and finished with a couple of poker tournaments, one on Facebook to stay ahead of my friends in points and the other in PokerStars where I am getting my funny money up to the 7 figures so I can cash it in for some free real money. I like the idea of building up a stake of real money without ever having to have invested my own hard earned cash.

So turn off the monitor and off to bed. There was more to my day, I’m not that shallow, but this story was just about the connected parts of my day. The reality is that whether it is on my Blackberry, my home PC or my work PC, I am almost constantly active on the web. My life would be very weird if I wasn’t wired.

Life without Internet


You realise how much your life is tied into the net when it doesn’t work. Yesterday my girls told me that the net at home had been flaky for a couple of days. I went and checked, ready for a catch up on Facebook, update my blog, post some music onto another site, check my email, post some photos onto Buzznet etc and sure enough, no connection.

I rang the Telecom Xtra helpdesk after checking all the connections, rebooting the modem and goping through all the settings.  They got me to check all the connections, reboot the modeom and go through all the settings, checked the connection to the exchange and said they have to refer me to their advanced team who should call me within 3-5 days.

How’s that, just as well I still have a connection in the office or I would lose contact with my world. Today I’m going to buy a new DLink Modem / Router in case that’s died because the wireless has been flaky for a while. Then I can tick off the hardware as well.

But the point is, my life is inextricably connected to the net. I am a connected person. Yes, I write and play songs and I read analogue books, but most of my day (and I like it that way) is connected to the web.

This morning my younger daughter is off to a film set for a walk on part in a soap opera. I couldn’t go onto the net and print her a route map to the studio and like most women, she isn’t great at reading road maps. I have some amazing digital photos from my trip to White Island and wanted to post some on the net, but I can’t. I wanted to have a chat on the forum at Music Forte with a guy who reckons I flit in and out and don’t add much value, (his opinion, not mine) but I can’t argue if I can’t get in. I wanted to download some more podcasts to listen to as I will be in the car a lot today, nope.

So today’s lives are very different from that of Ed Hillary climbing Everest, although today’s climbers, ocean kayakers and other adventurers these days keep blogs to so that the world can plot their progress. We book our travel on the net and keep an eye out for delays the same way.

Last year  terrorists tried to take down the hubs that control Internet flow around the world. Imagine the chaos. The ‘developed world’ imho would collapse if our Internet traffic was cut off and we have only really started ourdigital journey. I’m not even going to try and imagine what life would be like. Wouldn’t it be interesting over a day, any day, to note down all the interactions we have with the net, all the different things we do, and imagine how we would cope without it. For a start I wouldn’t have a job, because most of my business is done on the net and many of our products work on the net.

Damn, looks like I may just have to start logging all my internet activity for a day and work through the implications. I already know its going to be scary. But first of all I have to  get my broadband connection working at home!