Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Future perfect?

April 27, 2010

What kind of technologies will be making headlines in 30 years? Physicist, futurist and well-known media figure Michio Kaku has some ideas about that, including thought-controlled computers, smart wallpaper, driverless cars and printable organs.

Unsurprisingly, the world of the future looks to be all about connectivity, but taken to a point where the technology disappears – leaving smart chips built into almost every household object or surface…and even you. Smart objects in your bathroom can give you a complete medical every time you take a shower, and internet connected contact lenses will let you surf the internet anywhere (while also pointing out the objects you are about to walk into presumably).

Anyway, while you’re waiting for these technological leaps, here’s a video of Michio in action:

Harry Potter technology is taking over…

August 26, 2009
What are you doing?!

What are you DOING?!

I’m going to say this up front: I’m not a fan. Magic, broomsticks, talking animals, flying buses…no thanks. In my book, it’s not a proper movie unless it ends with an enormous thermonuclear explosion. You can quote me on that.

I like good, solid, real technology. So imagine my chagrin at finding that some of the newest technologies out there seem intent on bringing the Harry Potter world to life?

First off, we have scientists developing invisibility cloaks. Professor Ulf Leonhardt at St. Andrews University has said that he expects to make “real advances in the field of invisibility” within the next two years.  He is also quoted as saying that the technology involves “geometry, light and a wee bit of magic”. Urgh.

Secondly, we have video adverts running in magazines – something very similar to Harry Potter’s Daily Prophet. The US publication Entertainment Weekly recently ran an article with a video advertisement that would play as soon as the page was opened. The device contains an extremely thin screen and a minute speaker and is, apparently, tough enough to survive being thrown by even the most enthusiastic paperboy.

In my opinion, this is the thin edge of the wedge. If this sort of thing goes unchecked, how long can it be until we have talking animals?!

Risky business

July 23, 2009

The Guardian today reported that Germany has accused China of launching an increasing number of espionage attacks, from phone-tapping to internet-based hacking, to steal their technological secrets.

Industrial espionage is big-business the world over. Apparently, car manufacturing, renewable energies, chemistry, communications and optics are all top priority for these international men (and women) of mystery.

In a recent case, two British men were charged with 12 offences relating to the theft of trade secrets after photographing secret equipment in a Goodyear factory and developing similar equipment for the Chinese market. They face a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison and a fine of $2.75million (£2million).

Despite the high penalties, this type of crime is unlikely to stop when The Journal of Criminal Justice and Security has estimated it to be worth US$100 billion a year – in the US alone. Stealing of top-secret information seems to be a risky, but lucrative, business.

“Hello? Mummy, is that you…?”

June 23, 2009

I read a deeply disturbing story today – about a new mobile phone for 4 year olds.

4 yr old phone

Check out my new toy...

The Firefly handset has five buttons: an ‘on’ and ‘off’ button, two ‘call’ buttons – one with a picture of a woman, and one with a picture of a man which will represent ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ and finally an address book button. It looks pretty much like a toy, so will appeal to the 4 year old market (if they even truly know what they want) – but the truth remains that it’s not actually a toy. It’s a real, working, mobile phone.

I find the whole thing quite bizarre, but I think the thing that worried me more was: When would you ever leave a 4 year old on its own!? Surely children of that age are always in protective care? Be it from their parents, their nurseries or schools – 24 hours a day. Luckily, the phone’s makers, an Irish couple, say that you can’t send photos or texts from it, although one handset can receive photos….hmm.

All in all, whilst I’m all for embracing modern technology, rolling with the times etc, I think 4 years old is just that little bit too early. In fact, WAY too early.

Thoughts on The Creation Museum…

June 17, 2009
When dinosaurs ruled the world...
When dinosaurs ruled the world…

Around two years ago a vast Creation Museum opened in Petersburg, Kentucky.

By all accounts a quick wander around the grounds has more in common with a theme park than a traditional museum. Weighing in at almost twice the size of our Natural History Museum, the grounds boast animatronic dinosaurs, a special effects cinema, a planetarium and a petting zoo. All in all the museum cost no less than £17m to construct.

Founded by a Christian ministry, Answers in Genesis, the museum seeks to impart various nuggets of information, such as:

  • Genesis is literally true
  • The universe was created by direct acts of God over six days
  • The universe is less than 10,000 years old

"Apparently some of them were even smart enough to open doors," said the dinosaur

But it’s interesting to note that this deliberately “non-scientific” museum makes use of a huge array of technologies that science has created in order to attempt to validate its points. Electricity, robotics, photography, telecommunications and many more all play a part in making this museum seem plausible.

It could be argued that they are not rejecting some scientific discoveries (like technology) – only evolutionary or historical discoveries. But all of this is really one package. For example, broadly speaking the same scientific knowledge that allows us to build nuclear reactors is also the basis for carbon-dating…

But then, the first result from a Google search for the age of the earth according to carbon-dating reveals…

This answer from Answers in Genesis. And with SEO like that, how could they be wrong?

Snowed under?

February 4, 2009
Dont forget your snowshoes...

Don't forget your snowshoes...

Anyone who was staring forlornly at an indicator board on Monday morning was asking the same question. How could London, a world-class city, be brought to its knees by a few inches of snow? Other major cities have to contend with continuous snow: Stockholm, Helsinki, Reykjavik, Moscow, the list goes on – and these cities do not grind to a halt…

Buses were abandoned in their depots, planes were grounded, mainline rail services disappeared and most of the tube gave one last gasp and died. Many have seen this as a failure of technology to cope with the elements and have called for investment in new snowploughs and equipment to deal with the problems.

But Boris was right, this would have been a waste of money for a city that only occasionally sees heavy snow – especially when London’s problems had little to do with machines and everything to do with people. Many wondered how underground lines could be shut by snow. Because most of the drivers had failed to turn up for work, of course!

Similarly, the buses were prevented from moving because of the risk to public safety. Transport for London said all buses – which would normally carry 6 million people on an average day – had been withdrawn from service “due to…dangerous road conditions” endangering the public.

So was this a strike by another name? Did everyone just need a day off?

Well, it’s certainly true that for just a few hours people forgot about the credit crunch and concentrated on the crunch beneath their feet. That can’t be all bad.

 

Shock to the System

January 14, 2009
Thats right, she has a bee in her bonnet

That's right, she has a bee in her bonnet

A futuristic bee-keeper? A bold fashion statement? Centrally-heated headwear for the cold weather?

No, this is Sarah – a woman who feels the pressures of modern living more than most. She’s one of a growing number of people reporting sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by appliances, mobile phones and Wi-Fi networks.

Struck down with “electro-sensitivity” (ES) ten years ago, Sarah had to give up work and stay at home, with symptoms including hair loss, sickness, high blood-pressure, memory problems, severe headaches and dizziness. At one stage things were so bad that she felt a violent shock even picking up the handset of a landline…

Obviously, now she wears protective wire netting over her head, has installed radiation reflecting foil wallpaper and has Nasa-designed curtains to keep out radiation from mobiles, transmission masts, power lines and wireless broadband.

Is this just 21st Century paranoid hypochondria – our equivalent of the witch’s curse of yesteryear – or are we looking at our generation’s asbestos? If so, tech journalists and PRs are likely to be the first to find out! Let’s hope not, eh?

French health secretary Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin recently warned against excessive phone use and award-winning neurosurgeon Dr Vini Khurana has spoken out against the potential dangers of the technologies we all now take for granted. However, the majority of scientists and researchers currently take the opposing view, stating that there is no proven link between EMR and an increased risk of cancer. Symptoms vary wildly between ES sufferers and no clinical trials have established any link.

No doubt these sufferers are experiencing real symptoms, but could they be psychosomatic in nature? Freud described patients experiencing psychosomatic blindness and even paralysis brought on by hysteria…

But who needs Freud, Richard and Judy are on the case:

The Mousetrap

December 5, 2008

 

Everyone loves mice

Everyone loves mice

The consumer technology giant Logitech has just seen the billionth computer mouse roll off its production lines. Their publicity machine merrily declared: “It’s rare in human history that a billionth of anything has been shipped by one company”. Well, actually that must happen quite a lot. If there are one billion mice, it stands to reason that there must also be a huge number of monitors, keyboards and other technology – not to mention companies that produce FMCGs…

Regardless, the first computer mouse ever produced is just about to hit 40 years of age. It was 9 December 1968 when Douglas C. Engelbart and his group of researchers at Stanford University put the first mouse through its paces. But Gartner analyst Steve Prentice has claimed that “the mouse will no longer be mainstream in three to five years”, given the arrival of touch-screen technology and other advances. Seems like a hit or mice statement to me.

Election 2.0

October 9, 2008

If New Labour’s landslide election win in 1997 marked the year parties woke up and recognised the importance of the media, will 2008 be looked back on as the year of new media? – If the flood of buzzwords emanating from both camps in the US presidential race is anything to go by then, yes.

 

Obama’s iPhone application, which turns the device into a political recruiting tool, is the latest example. But putting my initial cynicism aside, it does appear as though the application may actually serve a purpose other than having Apple’s uber-cool brand rub off on the would-be president.

 

 

2008 has demonstrated that YouTube and other video-casting sites have the potential to become the soap boxes of the digital era. Both US parties have been extremely proactive in uploading content to either endorse their candidate or cast doubts over the opponent, even throughout the primaries. Several clips suggesting McCain has more in common with George Dubya than just being a Republican have perhaps been the most influential.

 

I’m sure those of you who regularly check out viral video charts will have noticed how they’ve been dominated by US presidential videos. The sheer volume of these videos has hampered my personal crusade to find the next Star Wars Kid or fat guy falling off a diving board but it is evident that, crucially, these videos are reaching a wide audience, particularly notoriously apathetic younger voters.

The politics of technology

August 18, 2008

 

I have read a couple of articles in the last few days which got me thinking about the rising trend of collaboration, which not only seems to be having an increased effect in the enterprise but even in the esteemed Houses of Parliament.    

 

The first article, published in last week’s Computing, looks at the benefits of collaboration via web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise, such as instant messaging, social networking sites, wikis, blogs, podcasts etc.  The article applauds the advent of a collaborative era led by a new generation of up-and-coming, web 2.0-trained, young things, but simultaneously laments the lack of skilled workers having already infiltrated the world of enterprise IT.  This is an idea maintained by one of our clients, Psytechnics, who recently carried out a survey on the very topic which proved Martin Courtney’s suspicion that there is a lack of “collaborative knowledge 2.0” amongst the IT industry. 

 

The second article appeared this morning in the Editorial and Reply section of The Guardian, opening with Sir Thomas More’s description of Utopia, a place where “nobody owns anything, but everyone is rich”, as an analogy for collaboration via the open source movement (genius!).  The author goes on to suggest that Gordon Brown could claw his way back to at least moderate popularity by adopting internet collaboration as his next “big idea”, not only by bring broadband to the masses but also by following in the footsteps of the big technology companies such as IBM and Google in adopting open source software in governmental departments.  Coincidentally Brown’s Treasury does less than 1% of its operations with open source which The Guardian highlights as contrary to the cooperative spirit held up by the Labour party in past times.  I hate to agree outright with David Cameron but it seems like he might have hit the nail on the head this time when he described Gordon as “an analogue politician in a digital age”.  I wonder if he has his own Facebook page…

 


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