Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lindens Losers Again

I won't spend much time on this article except to say that the comments say it all really.  I've used my cellphone to talk to people in SL before, it's much easier and less prone to breaking.  And cheaper than paying Linden Labs another fee for something that already exists.

I said before that Second Life was the most unchanged thing in my life in the last year and a bit and hazarded that it's because some technology doesn't need changing.  But on the issue of fixing known issues before introducing new erro- new features - I think LL are doing themselves no favours when they trot out this kind of crap though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Way This Can End Badly

Autonomous warehouse 'bots. Check.
Cyborg rat brains.  Check.
Interfacing and interacting. Check.

Nothing to see here, move alo - wait.  No, wait...  Really...

The grids of neurons that exhibit oddly synchronised waves of activity, and that can "learn" in limited ways, they are first steps.  Judging by the acceleration in technology by application of technology, we should see results from this in under five years, results along the lines of biological control units that can be stuck into any framework and figure out what to do and how to do it.

And the neat video in that last link (look down the bottom of the article, there are two thumbnails that link to a video each) shows how easily a cluster of neurons in one country can be effectively co-opted into operating a "body" in some other widely separated place.

All in all I'd expect to see this technology in military applications by the end of the year, (they always get the coolest toys first) and in some "robotic realistic cuddle pet" animatronic that you have to keep fed with a special nutrient solution by Christmas 2010...  And running the world at any time after that...

Plurk'd, Twitter'd, and Tumblr'd

Do people "get" Twitter?  Do they "get" Second Life?  Judging from articles and stuff I read, no, most people don't get most of the important advances in communications technology at all.  And that's what they are, communications technologies.  People communicating with people, albeit in a way that a seeming 75% of those people don't actually "get."

For about a year now I've only been into SL to fix problems for sandbox users, and used Twitter mainly to keep an eye on a steadily growing group of friends - whom I also keep up with on Friendfeed, Plurk, Flickr, Facebook, and a growing number of blogs and photo/microblog/video/location services.  It's not that I am afraid those people will slip through the net or that I might miss a gem of wisdom -- rather, it's because those services aren't all duplications of each other.  They each have distinct purposes, and convey different information.  Even when you look at two microblogging services, they have different aims and people use them for subtly different things.

Well, those that get it, they manage to use them in subtly different ways, anyway.  It's what differentiates he savvy from the unwashed.  To me, there are now two types of people in the world, those that can and then the rest.  I also think that people can gradually absorb the technology, but not lose it.  A bit like walking, you never forget.

Tonight I logged into SL and chatted to someone I hadn't met there for a good six months, and as usual we swapped building tips and good locations to build at.  And it amazed me how quickly I was back doing all the things that make a good builder in SL, examining and prodding at everything the other person was showing me, keeping an eye on the various group messages, trying the builds out for myself...

And then it hit me - in the whole of my life over the last year and a bit, the world around me has been changing, weather patterns are different, politics changed forever, the economy in freefall and recovery, everything changing almost by the day.  And the most malleable and innovative place in my life, Second Life, has been the most stable and the least changed...  That's how I measure how well the users "get" something - if it's a good application that does its job, then it doesn't have to be changed because enough people will stick with it and make it their own.

Anyhow - I said all that to set this up - an article that says we'll have indoor holidays and robot prostitutes.  I'm particularly impressed with a "visionary" who doesn't actually seem to get what he's talking about...

Before you go telling me that he must be right cos he's a perfesser, think on this:  He claims to have factored in all the elements, climate change, technology, blah blah yada yada so why are his lips moving and all I smell is gently steaming male cow wastes?

I'll tell you why, it's because of the "...costs for basics such as electricity and food increased..." among other things.  Paradoxically, as we pass peak oil and start generating really cheap sustainable energy from ever cheaper wind wave and solar energy collectors, Yeoman reckons electricity will increase in cost.  And what's his brilliant answer to those posited higher costs?  Of course!  Why didn't I think of it?  Instead of doing what operators have been doing for millennia and exploiting poor people, we're all going to use more robots that run on electricity!  Unless his robots actually run on melted-down poor people...

And those "giant cruise ships" - what are they going to be powered by?  Bullshit?  Cos there's a headstart being made on that fuel source, I tell ya...  And of course we're going to just keep making ever larger and more environmentally unfriendly wastes of resources like those cruise ships and refrigerated covered ski slopes in the tropics because they don't waste resources and electricity like crazy - right?  Yeah right...  

Resources - all resources - are stretching thinner and thinner, so I doubt that being seen prodigiously wasting them will be seen as a Good Thing in another few years, and certainly most of the world will frown when those precious resources are thrown away on a holiday destination...

Also he's blaming the need on the old "ageing population" crap.  Come on, how many more generations of people does he think will become old weak frail cripples, especially when there's a choice of wasting resources on building a holiday destination for the geriatric frail aged or using those resources to make sure bodies don't age and infirmities don't eventuate?

I'm also having a problem with his dystopic future where it seems that most people won't have employment because those sneaky robots will have usurped all the jobs, working as they will for that hellaciously expensive electricity rather than a few dollars an hour.  And of course that presumes that there will still be people with jobs that can afford to visit one of those holiday attractions, seeing how robots have taken all the jobs.  How do the customers in his vision earn the money they will spend?  To cover those gigantic food and electric costs?  Something here is not a balanced economy.

Those are the main reasons I think that here's another person that just doesn't "get" what they're talking about, and I only hope he starts learning through osmosis, the basic facts and figures of what the next fifty years hold for us.  I don't think that any of those visions will come true except as one-off projects that will survive as curiosities.

I'm more inclined to say that as electricity becomes the preferred power source over fossil fuels, and it becomes apparent that it's harder to fly Mohammed to the mountain by electric transport than it is to send a VR mountain to Mohammed's computer, this "blabber" that's currently not understood by so many will become the lingua franca (and eventually the mother tongue,) and a lot more holidays will be carried out a good deal closer to home, and a lot more often than just once a year.

And you can Plurk, Twitter, and Tumblr that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

If It Takes Pictures, It's A Camera - Right?

Or perhaps wrong.  Sony have released a gadget they call the Party Shot.  I am having trouble calling this a "gadget' instead of what it is, which is a robot.  People get this idea that a robot has to be something spectacular and just the other side of the Uncanny Valley but in fact it's a machine that can perform certain functions in an automated way.  ("Robota" or worker is the origin of the word, Karel Capek is generally credited with the use of the word to mean mechanical workers.)

This is a gadget that follows the people in a room, focuses and composes the shot, and takes the shot.  It does that in an independent and autonomous way, it uses the camera as the tool to accomplish that, and to me that's the definition of a robot.

It's not too far away from a description of another gadget that would have to be called a robot, and which Defense contractors, Defense personnel, and ethicists are arguing about at length and in depth:

This is a gadget that follows people, focuses, and takes the shot.

The argument over whether or not to let a robot AI pull the trigger on an attack has been vexing DoD and their contractors for years now.  I say, give Sony or some other commercial outfit the contract - and your killer drones will even send home nicely framed and "anti-shake"d pictures of the resultant carnage...

UPDATE: At least this article gets it right, it's robotic.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Case Of The Nanodiamond Meteorite

Science-y and slightly related to cyborgs and technology, is the question of nano-diamond meteorites.  It occurs to me that this is one of those things I read when it happened, and didn't bat an eyelid.  But leave it to 2AM and having just laid down to get to sleep, for a bit of e revelation to make itself felt...

It's composed of various forms of carbon.  Out there in space, according to the second page of that same article, is a fairly large chunk of carbon which that meteorite was probably once a part of.  And carbon is a prerequisite for life. (Life as we carbon-based lifeforms know it, at any rate.)   I also get this impression that pretty much every piece of carbon I've ever seen was part of a living creature at some stage.  Like, there's no such thing as a "carbon rock" that I'm aware of.

Coal is a carbon rock but it is formed from decomposed and compressed living creatures.  Diamonds are compressed coals.  Every bit of carbon I've ever seen in my life and travels was alive and kicking at some stage in its lifecycle.

What are the odds that all the carbon in space is just inorganic in origin, given our experience here on Earth is so vastly different?  Which means that perhaps there is a good reason for presuming the existence of a lot of other life forms in the rest of the Universe.

And that takes me to a random thought about electronic/mechanical life, which we're on the brink of creating, and which is going to be based on silicon and other materials that we don't consider a building block of life, and which (as far as we can tell) were never part of a living thing the way carbon was.

Maybe that's going to be one of the bases of a definition of life?  That "life" has to be able to recycle it's own elements and molecules, over and over?

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