Saturday, September 27, 2008

There are some things that won't change.

Do you agree with this article ? Or like me, do you get an awful sense of deja vu?  Like, remembering the furore and hooha about - well, lemme see - oh yeah, um gopher and ftp - no-one would care about IP rights any more, civilisation was going to end, yada yada.  The World Wide Web - no-one would care about IP rights any more, civilisation was going to end, yada yada.  Music and file peer networks - no-one would care about IP rights any more, civilisation was going to end, yada yada.

Now it's the turn of VR (the technology of which, by the way, has been around since VRML standards were first laid down before the Internet had really opened its doors to the public.  Now all of a sudden there's the same crap, again.

"What's that thing?" 
"Ugh.  M-kalak made it, he calls it the World Wide Wheel.  It lets you carry big stuff all by yourself, easily."
"Oh great - soon no-one care about hunting rights any more, civilisation gonna end, yada yada.  Hey did I just invent 'yada yada?'"
"Ugh, yeah.  8 - ) <- (smiley face.)  Oh ugh!  Now I gone and invented SFSF .  Ugh!  And acronyms!"

No shit hey?  Whenever anyone invents something, someone will use it for evil?  Where did you ever get that idea from?  And it's up to us as individuals to make sure we don't get evilled?  What a radical idea!  You mean, like, we need to look out for ourselves, no Government nannies to intervene for us?  G'wan, get outta here!

:UPDATE: Seems that maybe VR insecurities are the least, and least relevant,  of the problems that face IT departments and companies today.  Some people just have no respect for IP rights, civilisation's gonna end, yada yada.  

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Inventor For Hire.

I remember, back in 2004, saying to the people at the company where I worked, "This would be right up our alley!  We already produce one of the best 3D GIS type applications, and the hardware to do what I'm thinking surely can't be too far away."

The lethargy and ennui was palpable, it was a bit like speaking to a bunch of fish heads at the local seafood shop.  Glazed eyes, mouths slack, and definitely no sign of interest.  What was I referring to?  That soon, mobile devices would have GPS built-in, that we already knew how to extract significant details out of an image file, and that more and more images were going online, of places of interest.

So if you know the GPS location of a PDA, and you have a picture taken by that device at that spot, you could quite quickly and easily extract salient features, and figure out what the picture was of, and send back information on that particular feature.  Add the image to your stock of images of the place if it showed any improved salient feature information.

Then - four years later, I see this.  They've added the ability to add social tags and info.  But in general, I can only say "f*ck you, my former employers, for being so reticent to try something new."

Wouldn't be so bad if it was a one off, but it's not.  It's one of a long string (probably close to several hundred if I stopped count, much as that would annoy me) of ideas and concepts I've had, and of which a few dozen then surfaced in real life, some with quite compelling success.

So if you're a person or company not averse to possibly developing the next Killer App or Killer Device, talk to me.  Tell me what you do, and I'll see if I can find you a new WorldCam.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Quantum Leap For Lasers?

So it looks like the defence forces in the USA will have tactical lasers to add to their armoury in a year or less.  And their own admission is that they will not really be a humane weapon at all, it seems that they've taken a step backwards here. 

Honestly - does this sound humane?

"[F]rom what we know, the Air Force considers laser effects on eyes and skin, for the most part. Skin damage is very much easier to achieve than penetration; simply raising skin temperature to (say) 80C/ 180 f to a depth of a couple of millimeters will cause serious blistering (second-third degree burns). If 40% of the body is burned in this way, then the target will be disabled and may die."

Ummm that makes the tacticla laser a weapon which is surely never intended to actually be used against a human opponent?  Therefore, this weapon must work by increasing the fear and terror of the enemy.  And that kind of mkaes it a weapon of terrorism doesn't it?  How ironic...

Here's a thought for all those people out there thinking up bigger ans nastier ways to kill other people - the laser is an effective weapon because it aligns all the waves of the light.  But the photons comprising those entrained waves are still spread out over a considerable distance.  Now that science has proven that they can slow down photons, think how much more "pew-pew" a laser would be if, instead of delivering all those photons in an entrained wave but temporally disparate, and instead concentrated the photons into a single event...  At least it would punch a hole through the target rather than slow broil them...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Society killzones, a population control mechanism.

What if the killzone is inside you?  What if, eh?  In high school I had a biology teacher who gleefully referred to the penicillin barrier as "the kill zone."  I often wonder if he had more than an inkling, and if his not yet felt inklings coloured my life.

The "kill zone" is that ring of penicillin you paint in the agar-agar growth medium, to prevent whatever you're culturing in the centre from reaching the edges of the petri dish.  The smudge of living fungus, or whatever that you put in the centre, multiplies happily until it reaches the barrier, where it's stopped.  Works great for non-airborne things, and I spent most of my time peering at the throngs of bugs I grew, never having to worry about them getting loose and contaminating other experiments, other people, or myself.

But since then I've discovered that we humans have a lot of built-in kill zones and barriers.  For example - try to think about a truly infinite Universe - at some stage you'll run into a place where your mind won't go further, outside of which you just can't comprehend. 

For example, if I tell you the Universe is infinite and so is Time, you'll nod and say "ah yes - and it's curved, too" without really batting an eyelid.  Then I'll ask you whether you believe in God or The Big Bang.  "Oh yeah!" you'll say, "I tend to believe " whatever theory you follow.  And then I'll lead you into the place where we can't cross...

See, if the Universe and Time really are infinite, then at some point in the Universe, at some time, there will have been or is yet to be, a moment when God creates the Universe.  And wherever or whenever in the Universe that happens, it will by default become true in the entire Universe...  So the theologists will rub their hands gleefully and will politely point out that this shows how entirely pruent it is, to live a good Christian life.  Just because, once and wherce this happens, it will become The Law.

At which point I'll happily point out to them that by the definition of "infinite possibility" there must also be a whence and wherce, in which the Universe appeared in the blinking of a Big Bang.  And that too, once or wherce it happens, must also become The Law.  Ditto for Buddhism, zoroastrianism, spontaneous generationism, and "it just happened"ism.  And, indeed, for EVERY conceivable scenario of Universal Creation.  In fact, there MUST be a place in the Universe where it's not true that the Universe is infinite, too.

They're all true.  And when it sinks in that you can't conceive that, not at all, you'll have found one of your mental killzones.

Similarly, it seems there are biological killzones in living creatures too.  I've read about an experiment done with rats, which demonstrate that while there's biological pressure to reproduce and prosper, there's also a killzone which comes into effect when populations grow too large.  Rats were given ideal food and water conditions, in a strictly limited amount of space. 

First few generations of rats flourished and prospered in Rat Heaven. Then as the population pressure increased, their society began to break down.  Mothers stopped looking after infants, stopped keeping healthy clean nests, and often went out and got pregnant immediately they'd given birth, abandoning the litter.  Fights and squabbles became more callous and deadly and were fought more often, over next to no provocation.  Rats sought escape in repetitive addictive behaviours. 

Look - that is a piece of research I can't recall where I read it, but it impressed me even back then when I read it, because of the parallels I saw in human society.  All species have a drive to "live long and prosper" but apparently we also have a killzone which says "enough is enough" and then kicks in.  Honestly, look around and see the increase in the same sick-society symptoms as those rats showed.  We're well on the way to rebalancing our population. 

I have a theory that the increase in the speed at which we can get from place to place has something to do with a perception of a greatly increased population, and therefore the "life is cheap" symptoms creep in.  Also, we probably communicate with between 10 and thousands more people than our ancestors, so once again we experience much the same population pressure as we would if those people were all living in the same place as us.  And I'm guessing that whatever mechanism causes the socialisation failures in us is being tickled by this huge perceived population.

Maybe autistic people have developed the ultimate coping mechanism...

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