Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts

February 8, 2021

Eye-Catching Slippers

Wow, these are some colorful, fluffy slippers from Steve Madden. 

Doesn't even look like a slipper or footwear!

Reminds me of the Tribbles, fluffy, gentle alien creatures from Star Trek. 

Is it alive or should I put my foot in it? 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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February 4, 2020

Pay Attention To Space Force

We're not paying close enough attention to the new U.S. Space Force.

It was signed into law by President Trump on December 20.

Space Force is the U.S. military's 6th service branch (separate from the Air Force).

While it is currently the smallest branch with 16,000 personnel and just a $40 million budget, I would look to this branch to move over time to one of the largest (if not the largest) branch of the military.

Let's face it, Earth is small potatoes in the realm of the Universe.

We will be expanding into outer space and colonizing it--we have to!

In addition, the weapons in space will be high-tech and costly relative to their earthly counterparts, and  our dominance in space will not come cheap either in terms of aerospace and engineering talent or in terms of the systems and weapons that will assure our superiority.

In January, the new Star Trek aired on CBS, and as is long said on that preminiscent science fiction show, "Space is the final frontier" and the U.S. Space Force will become front and center in our defense.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 23, 2019

When Do We Get The Replicators

Good advertisement piece for a 3D Printing Class. 

Not sure that we're nearly there yet in terms of the Star Trek vision for the Replicators that could make food and other items on demand. 

But things are slowly taking shape. 

Someone wake me up when I can order up a pizza from this thing.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 10, 2018

Space Force: Up Up And Away

Space Force as another full branch of the military is the right thing to do!

The things that get focused on, get accomplished. 

Space is the "final frontier."

And as Gene Roddenberry realized with the creation of Star Trek in 1964, it is the future of Mankind's very survival. 

It's time to stop thinking small as in planet Earth, and start thinking big as there is a whole universe out there!

Russia and China get it--hence their development and testing of anti-satellite rockets and other "kill vehicles" in space as well as lasers and jamming equipment against our satellites, and of course, their plans to colonize the Moon and land men on Mars and beyond. 

Why have we in America only gotten it in Hollywood?

Yes, there have been a few notable exceptions such as President Reagan with his vision for the Star Wars' Strategic Defense Initiative and President Trump with the bonafide stand up of a Space Force.

Some of the Pentagon brass, particularly the Air Force, may hem and haw about the politics of this thing...losing money and prestige for their branch of the military, but their power is not the concern, our power as a nation is!

I envision a day in the not too distant future when the Air Force doesn't run Space Command, but rather Space Force runs the Air Force. 

We need to put politics aside and stop laughing at our own ignorance about the potential of space for our future survival and for conflict. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 14, 2018

Happy Just The Way We Are


Great speaker today at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Mike Reiss, producer and writer for the hugely successful Simpson show--the longest-running series on primetime TV with 30 seasons and over 600 episodes!

The topic was "The Science Behind The Simpsons."

Whether the guest was Stephen Hawkings or Leonard Nimoy--there was no shortage of scientists and science in this animated, comedy show that taught us much about life.  

The video clip above was a short capture of the Simpsons singing "We are happy just the way we are."

Incremental change and continuous improvement is so important to our growth and maturation in life.

Yet, there is also a lot to be said for being happy with what you have and who you are. 

There is so much to be grateful for and plenty to enjoy at the moment. 

Many people are on the proverbial roller coaster to nowhere.  

It's nice to get off the roller coaster and finally be somewhere that makes you happy and fulfilled. 

Mary Poppins get hit by the airplane at the end of the skit, and you know what, she's not even missed. ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 14, 2015

3-D Printing Comes To Life

So my daughter is graduating high school, but is already taking a class in 3-D printing. 

(This little guy pictured here was made experimenting in the class and was a precious gift from her.)

Already prophetically envisioned in Star Trek as "the replicator," this technology has been around in primitive trial form since the 1980's.

In 3-D printing, alloyed material is successively layered under computer control to make complex shapes and products.

It makes traditional 2-D printing (on paper) look like rubbing two sticks together to build a fire (circa the paleolithic period of mankind thousands of years ago). 

The promise of 3-D printing for advanced manufacturing is absolutely incredible.

The Wall Street Journal describes how NASA researchers and engineers are working toward using 3-D printers in space to "make bricks suitable for airtight buildings and radiation proof shelters" simply using the sand already on Mars. 

Moreover, the astronauts on their journey may be eating pizza from these printers as well (except for the sand, but still probably better than MREs--Haha).

Already objects have been printed "19 feet long...stone-like building blocks weighing one-and-a-half ton each"!

In the future, 3-D printers could be sent in advance to planets we look to colonize and "lay down landing pads, roads, and shelters" in preparation of our arrival.

These printers could even build working replicas of themsleves or "swarms of self-assembling construction robots" boosting our capacity for even more building.

Moreover, technology is in the works to recycle from 3-D printing by melting down the printed products back into material that could be reused for new printing projects.

On Earth, where we have long been drawing down our natural resources as well as polluting our environment, the prospect of going to other worlds where their are new resources and we actually have the ability to use them constructively is humanity's chance for a whole new chapter of life beyond. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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July 12, 2014

Robots Reach The Clouds

So robots have reached the clouds before many of our government agencies have--who would've thought? 

Bloomberg Businessweek reports how robotic activities are being stored in the cloud and are then accessible to other robots to learn from and repeat as necessary. 


The "cloud servers essentially [are] a shared brain" where memories and experiences are uploaded and accessed by other robots with a need to know the same thing. 


The cloud is the means of transfer learning from one robot to the other.


It serves like a master neural network where the Internet provides the how-to for everything from serving juice to patients in a hospital to functioning as autonomous warbots in battle. 


Like the Borg on Star Trek with a collective brain, the cloud may become the mastermind for everything from day-to-day functioning to taking over the species of the universe. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 25, 2014

Remodulate The Shields For Cyber Security


I really like the concept for Cyber Security by Shape Security.

They have an appliance called a ShapeShifter that uses polymorphism to constantly change a website's code in order to prevent scripted botnet attacks--even as the web pages themselves maintain their look and feel.  

In essence they make the site a moving target, rather than a sitting duck. 

This is like Star Trek's modulating shield frequencies that would prevent enemies from obtaining the frequency of the shield emitters so they could then modify their weapons to bypass the shield and get in a deadly attack. 

In real life, as hackers readily change their malware, attack vectors, and social engineering tactics, we need to be agile and adapt faster than the enemy to thwart them. 

Changing defense tactics has also been used by agencies like Homeland Security to alter screening methods and throw potential terrorists off from a routine that could be more easily overcome.

I think the future of IT Security really lies in the shapeshifter strategy, where the enemy can't easily penetrate our defenses, because we're moving so fast that they can't even find our vulnerabilities and design an effective attack before we change it and up our game again.  

And hence, the evil Borg will be vanquished... ;-)
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December 8, 2013

Amazon Delivery - By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one very smart guy and when he announces that he is interested in drones delivering your next online order that makes for a lot of grandstanding. 

But really how is a dumb drone delivering an order of diapers or a book so exciting. 

Aside from putting a lot of delivery people at USPS, UPS, and FedEx out of work, what does the consumer get out of it? 

Honestly, I don't care if if the delivery comes by Zike-Bike, Crunk-Car, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or a Gazoom, as Dr. Seuss would say--I just care that it gets here fast, safely, and cheaply. 

Will a drone be able to accomplish those things, likely--so great, send the drone over with my next order, but this doesn't represent the next big technological leap. 

It doesn't give us what the real world of robotics in the future is offering: artificial intelligence, natural language processing, augmentation of humans, or substitution by robots altogether, to do things stronger, faster, and more precisely, and even perhaps companionship to people. 

Turning surveillance and attack drones into delivery agents is perhaps a nice gesture to make a weapon into an everyday service provider. 

And maybe the Octocopters even help get products to customers within that holy grail, one day timeframe, that all the retailers are scampering for.

It's certainly a great marketing tool--because it's got our attention and we're talking about it.

But I'll take a humanoid robot sporting a metallic smile that can actually interact with people, solve problems, and perform a multitude of useful everyday functions--whether a caregiver, a bodyguard, or even a virtual friend (e.g. Data from Star Trek)--over a moving thingamajig that Dr. Seuss foresaw for Marvin K. Mooney. ;-)
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April 20, 2013

Survivable Water Pipes

When an earthquake strikes, it is not just the immediate loss of life that is a concern, but the longer-term damage to critical infrastructure and the effect on human survival. 

As we know, water is critical to every living creature, and in an earthquake, when there is damage to the water infrastructure, such as the underground piping, people can be left without this basic life-sustaining commodity. 

When traditional solid cast-iron piping is used, an earthquake can cause these to deform and buckle. However, with a new ductile pipe design by Japanese company, Kubota--the pipes are built in a chain-like fashion and expand and contract, flex and bend, but do not easily break.  

According to the Wall Street Journal (14 April 2011), Kubota earthquake-resistant pipes even withstood the 9.0 quake in Japan in 2011, and it can withstand "shaking, landslides, and extreme temperatures. 

Now Los Angeles is piloting this pipe along 2 miles of its 7,000 miles of piping--they are focusing on "the most vulnerable, fault-line-adjacent areas," since the piping is 2 1/2 times the price of regular piping. 

In the absence of having a device like the Star Trek Replicator to synthesize food and water on the fly, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade our water systems and other critical infrastructure to protect us from the disasters that come. 

"Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" needs to be available not just in good times, but also in bad. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Kubota)
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February 17, 2013

And All The World Will Be One


It's a fascinating idea--can the entire world be governed as one?

I remember as a kid watching all the space shows where Earth and its entire people were always shown as one united planet.

Not only was the Earth viewed as a single governed entity and the people as united against outside forces, but multiple planets were united together in alliances--Star Trek (with The United Federation Of Planets), Star Wars (with the Republic, The Empire, and The Galactic Council), and Battlestar Galactica (with the Twelve Colonies).

In all these shows, there was planetary unity as well as an interplanetary union.

Yet, the reality in this world, as we know it, there is plenty of divisiveness and distrust, often leading to conflict, skirmishes, and even all out war. 

Over time, we have formed some unity in parts of the world--in ancient times, we had the various empires (Persian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, British, etc.) that spanned large swathes of Europe, Africa, and Asia--but since these empires were the result of conquest, I do not think this is what we mean by true world unity. 

In current times, we have unions that are geographically based and often founded on unity of ideas and beliefs--such as the United States and the European Union (with core beliefs in democracy, freedom, equality, and the rule of law), as well as the Russian Federation, and the African Union. 

So the question is can we as a world move from individual countries, nations, and states to a true world order?

The Wall Street Journal (8 October 2012) had a book review on "Governing The World" by Mark Mazower that explored whether global government was possible or even desirable given that a world government could be used not to unite disparate peoples and solve large and complex global problems, but rather for the strong to rule over, colonize, and subjugate the weak. 

So far efforts at establishing world-wide governing bodies such the League of Nations and United Nations, have been largely seen as being "mere sound and fury" and essentially ineffectual. Similarly, supportive world bodies, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have been accused by movements such as Zeitgeist of being agents of economic manipulation rather than true benefactors to help needy people.  

So far the track record of the world for governing universally people around the world has been less than stellar with events like The Holocaust, and other recent genocides in Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Darfur.

Yet, while the WSJ book review says, "early enthusiasm about the emancipatory promise of world government now seems hopefully naive," I still believe it is possible when our similarities become more important than our differences. 

In all the science-fiction shows that show the people of Earth united, it is always a result of some external threat--whether an outside enemy like the Klingons or Cylons, or other apocryphal events such as a global pandemic, killer asteroids, or even thermonuclear war. 

We can come together--not in subjugation but in jubilation--only when we stop hating and discriminating based on differences--and instead band together to raise the standard of living, freedom, and human rights of all. 

Everyday, three times a day, towards the end of the Jewish prayers in the Aleinu, we ask for the day when "G-d will rule over the whole Earth"--this is a great hope for not only G-d to be one in all the Earth, but for all people to be governed and united as one--justly and beneficially. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 27, 2013

Ready, Aim, Phaser


LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and their use in the military is advancing fast. 

I am not just talking about things like laser sights mounted on assault rifles, but actual portable high energy laser weapons for taking out ships, planes, drones, rockets, mortars, and surface to air missiles. 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense Systems (HELLADS) is looking for smaller and lighter 150 kilowatt laser systems "enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats" and is powerful enough to destroy aircraft!

Just about all science fiction weaponry relies on lasers to fight and defeat the future enemy whether the phasers and disrupters from Star Trek, turbolasers and laser cannons on Star Wars, and laser torpedeos and blaster turrets in Battlestar Galactica. 

According to Mashable (27 January 2013) "this year liquid-cooled, solid-state laser weapons will be installed on fighter planes" for testing.

Fast Company (8 March 2012) points out the challenges with laser tracking and killing including clouds, haze, and dust that weaken the laser.  However, these challenges no longer seem insurmountable. 

All the talk on gun control is so 20th century, the real conversation for the new era will be on laser weapons and whether phasers should be set on stun or kill. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UK Ministry of Defence)

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June 1, 2012

We're In It Together


This is a cool vision by Tom Clancy of the "future soldier" from the Ghost Recon game series. 

The mixture of advanced weaponry, high-tech reconnaissance and surveillance, drones and robotics, future combat uniforms, and cloaking technology is just super.

If you have time and interest, there is another longer video here with footage that is particularly good starting at about the 3:40 marker. 

Like Star Trek paving the way for real-life advances in technology and space exploration, Clancy's future soldier will be another example of life imitating art.  

When we marry the vision and creativity of our entertainment industry, with the technical skills of our scientists and engineers, and the risk-taking of our entrepreneurs, we can do truly awesome things. 

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something"--we're in it together! 

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April 5, 2012

iGlasses, Your Next Smartphone


Yesterday, a hyped-up video came out by Google on Project Glass.

Basically this is Star Trek-type glasses that provide everything that's on your smartphone plus some augmented reality, where real world sensation is augmented with computer-generated information. 

The video shows the glasses integrated with functionality for email/messaging/phones calls, photos/videos, music, reminders, weather, maps/directions, transportation updates, and more. 

Aside from the integration into the glasses themselves, they really didn't demonstrate any major new technologies--and was sort of disappointing actually.

It reminds of Google+, which came out and didn't add anything much new over FaceBook, and hence hasn't really caught on--copycatting just isn't enough in the high-tech industry, where real innovation is what's valued. 

While I like the idea of more and better ways of getting the types of information and functionality that's on your smartphone, I really don't think glasses is the way to go.

Frankly, after having LASIK surgery more than 12 years ago, I am so happy not to have to wear those obtrusive frames on my face anymore, and I certainly wouldn't want to go back.

I would envision having these functions either built microscopically into contact lens or projected by mini-wearable cameras in front of you as a true reality overlay--and I think Minority Report thought of that one first. 

The only way that I would even consider wearing glasses for this was if Apple made them and called them iGlasses. ;-)

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September 9, 2011

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Very cool new military technology by BAE Systems called Adaptiv--it's an invisibility cloak (yes, we now have the technology of the Klingon Empire at our disposal!)

Hexagonal pixel plates are affixed to tanks (and soon battle ships) and these can change temperatures to be invisible to infra-red sensors and confuse heat seeking missiles.

Moreover, onboard cameras pick up surrounding scenarios and can display this onto the vehicle's pixels, so that the military vehicles blend right into their environs.

Another trick, is that that the pixels can display alternate images to masquerade itself-- so a tank is now a simple car or even a cow (according to Wired UK, 6 Sept 2011).

Like the Trojan Horse, I can only imagine what a military power could do by fully exploiting this capability--whether through the conduct of hit and run maneuvers or by invading and conquering an unsuspecting foe.

This is the emergence of a whole new era of war-fighting capabilities, where camouflage is no longer just covering yourself with the basic elements, but rather where technology is used to create a virtual reality that masks the true physical.

On the battlefield, this technology will enable us to seemingly be there one minute, and gone the next (machines and people)--that's technology magic that even Houdini would be envious of.

And yet, this is still just the beginning...we are only now bordering on the capabilities inherent in the Star Trek holodeck--where whole alternate environments are just a simulation away.

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July 9, 2011

Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped "Crew Module" can separate from the "Service Module" that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying "saucer" that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).

The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet).

Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate "dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks" and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.

Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).

Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.

Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. :-)

(Source Photos: Star Trek Enterprise from here)

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April 24, 2011

Brain Sharing is Eye Opening

This is a neat video and idea from GOOD called "Brain Sharing" by Lincoln Schatz.

The idea...what if we could plug in to someone else's brain and see the world the way they do (for a period of time) or as they say in the video "swap CPUs"?

(This is a little reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek, where species are plugged into the Collective and become sort of one ultimate race or similarly in the movie the Matrix, where people are plugged into a master computer program that runs their world--although here it's not an ominous context.)

But back to the point--what a powerful concept.

Rather than see things the way we see them, and think that's the way it is, period; instead we temporarily plug into someone else's brain (bionic implants away!) and whoa, we have the opportunity to see the world the way others see it and process the world the way they do--that is eye opening!

All of a sudden, things are not quite so simple. It's not black and white, as they say, but lots of shades of grey.

Of course, I still believe that there is objective ethics and morality from G-d for us to live by and therefore we can distinguish right from wrong, which we are often are forced to chose.

However, when we are seeing choices through others persons eyes and processing through their brains, we may see the problems anew with different variables and effects as well as see new options for solving them that we didn't even see before.

That's a great thing about being a diverse society and bringing multiple views, vantage points, and brains to the table--we can innovate together beyond the limitation of any one of us alone.

This isn't necessarily a new concept, but still one that is very important, often forgotten, and one well captured in this GOOD video.

P.S. Maybe an interesting exercise is to think about make a list of whose brains you'd like to share for a while (if only you could) and see the world the way they do.

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December 26, 2010

Hollywood Sees The Future and It Is Shapeshifting

Ever since watching Star Trek, I’ve been fascinated by shapeshifting’s potential uses for military and law enforcement.

Now, The Economist (11 December 2010) reports that shapeshifting material, or “liquid armor,” is being tested by BAE for high-tech body armor.

Traditional body armor contains about 30 layers of protective Kevlar; however, by using the new material between the protective fibers, BAE is able to reduce the layers of Kevlar to just 10, making for lighter and more comfortable protection.

The secret to the liquid armor is that it is made of “shear-thickening fluids” from nano-engineering particles of silica, which provide the shapeshifting properties: “The molecules in such liquids are closely packed, but loosely arranged. The material behaves like a liquid in normal conditions…[but] if subjected to pressure though [like from a projectile], the molecules lock together and behave like a solid.”

In the body armor, when the fluid sandwiched Kevlar is struck by a bullet, the molecules in fluid lock together and spread the impact, thereby absorbing it more effectively.

This seems like an exciting development applying chemical engineering to protecting the warfighter and law enforcement officers.

What is also so cool is that the concept of shapeshifting being a potent force showed up almost two decades ago in movies and television—and once again we have life imitating art (so to speak)!

Hollywood captured the shapeshifters in both the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series (1993-1999). In Terminator II, a shapeshifting cyborg is sent back in time to try and kill John Connor, the leader of the resistance against the cyborgs. The shapeshifter takes on the form of the various people and things to try and get Connor, but ultimately in thwarted by the original Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Similarly, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Otto is a shapeshifting constable on the space station that protects the station and the Star Fleet command making frequent use of his abilities to shift forms, but always returning at rest to his liquid state to rejuvenate.

I’ve got to say that I applaud Hollywood and continue to see it as not only a creative core for our entertainment, but also a prescient forbear to technology and events to come.

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October 9, 2010

Is Technology Measured by Progress or Unrealized Potential?

Is technology progress measured by how far we've come or by what remains to be achieved?

The Wall Street Journal (9-10, October 2010) ran an interview with Peter Thiel, who in ranked #377 in Forbes 400 (2008) with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal. In 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 investment in Facebook for 25.2% of the company. Nice!

Remarkable for someone who has made a fortune in technology, Thiel now believes, as the Journal puts it, that “American ingenuity has hit a dead end.”

According to Thiel, “people don’t want to believe that technology is broken…Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology—all (of) these (are) areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think.”

Thiel bemoans our inability to achieve the vision of The Jetsons, as he states: “We don’t have flying cars. Space exploration is stalled. There are no undersea cities. Household robots do not cater to our needs…” According to Thiel, we have reached and are stuck in a long-term stagnation.

Thiel’s theory of technology stagnation is completely contrary, I believe, to the reality that most, if not all, of us are living each and every day, where technology is constantly on the move and if anything, we as organizations and individual struggle to keep pace.

For me personally, the refresh rate for technology is 2 years or less, depending on available cash flow for all the new stuff constantly hitting the market.

In my experience, technology is as dynamic as ever, if not more so. In fact, I have seen no evidence that Moore’s Law has been overcome by events (OBE).

Across government, I am seeing the interest and rate of adoption of new technologies steady or on the rise in areas as diverse as cloud computing, mobile computing, social computing, green computing, knowledge management, business intelligence, and geospatial information systems, and more.

There is no shortage of technology investments to make, IT projects to work on, and new technical capabilities to bring to the business.

While we may not have achieved the full vision set out by Hollywood and other technology visionaries, yet—rest assured, we are well are on way and barring unforeseen events, we most certainly will!

I don’t know about Spacely Sprockets’, but I’d place a few good investments bets around on a future that looks pretty darn close to The Jetsons, along with a good dose of Star Trek ingenuity for measure.

Perhaps Mr. Thiel’s views are a result of frustration that we have not achieved all that we can, rather than a reflection that we have not gotten anywhere. In any case, I enjoyed reading his views and look forward to learning more.


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April 3, 2010

Reality Trumps Virtuality

What a crazy news story (reported through South Korean news media)—and true. This South Korean couple, addicted to a video game, ends up starving their 3-month old child to death.

The video game that the couple was addicted to happened to be about raising a virtual child—of all things.

The couple—a 41 year old father and 25 year old mother were both unemployed—and fed their child only once a day, while they spent 4-6 hours a day playing games at the Internet cafĂ©.

When the child died, the couple was playing video games all night long.

This is an unbelievably tragic story that defies logic, where troubled parents caught in the web of the virtual world, abrogate their responsibilities to themselves and their child in the real world.

So are these two parents just a bunch of whack jobs…an oddity that we shake our heads at disapproving or is this something more?

While the American Medical Association has so far declined to include Internet Addiction Disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, pending further study, we know that we as a society have become in a sense obsessed (although maybe not yet clinically) with everything online—getting information, communicating, networking, shopping, and gaming—and for the most part, we love it!

Some programs like Second Life even go so far as to create virtual worlds where people interact with each other through avatars. They meet, socialize, and participate in activities in a world of only composed of 3-D models—where reality is what programmers make of it—in a coding sense.

Social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and numerous specialized online communities—for all sorts of shared interests from books to music, dating to investing, and philanthropy to travel—are available to chose from and are widely popular destinations.

It seems truly that many people have become more comfortable living in the IP address on the World Wide Web than at their street address within their true day-to-day realities. Their chosen avatars, pseudo-names, and online profiles often far more exciting then the persons, occupations, and lifestyle they physically inhabit. The virtual world has become an escape for many, and a place many are all too happy to engross themselves in 2, 4, 6 or more hours a day.

What happens to the occupants of our real world, when we choose to retreat to virtual worlds?

Well at the extreme is the fate of the 3-month old baby who died of neglect and hunger. More common are spouses and children, and others—family, friends and associates—who are increasingly physically and emotionally distant.

Our connection to people in real life—around us—are traded in for long-distance, abstract, and virtual relationships with people we often hardly know on the Internet.

We routinely trade emails, instant messages, tweets, and blog comments, with people who we hardly know—often do not even know people’s real names and cannot pronounce their presumed cities of residence.

While the Internet is in many ways miraculous in its ability to bring us together—across time and space, in other ways it can potentially substitute the surreal for the real, the meaningless for the meaningful, and empty chatter with people we barely know and never really will for true giving with people we absolutely care about.

At the extreme, we cannot let real children die because we are hiding in cyberspace feeding our virtual addiction. In more common terms, we must not trade our most important real world relationships and activities for those that are phantom experiences in cyberspace.

It is great to extend our reach with the Internet, but it is not okay to do so at the expense of those that are truly at arms reach. We must find a balance between the two worlds we now live in—real and virtual!

While there is every reason to love the Internet—communication, connection, and convenience—it has also become a retreat from people’s very real world problems.

When Online, people are not hungry, not sick, not unemployed, not lonely, not judged—instead they are in a sense one with everybody else in a common pool of bite and bytes—where no one knows them or their situations. Online, they are anonymous, no ones and at the same time anyone they want to be.

The Internet is a great place to be—to escape to—sort of the like the Holodeck on the Star Trek. Choose your program—and you can be in any time and at any place—interacting with anybody. It is not real, but it feels real when you are there.

I remember when I used to watch Star Trek and be fascinated by the experiences the characters had when they went into the Holodeck’s alternate reality. At the same time (and I think this was the intention of the show), after awhile I found myself wanting the characters to get back to reality and deal with the issues that they truly had to face. Somehow watching them escape “too much” wasn’t very satisfying.

To me, real relationships, even with and maybe because of their inherent challenges and tests, is more satisfying than virtuality, because of the deeper impact of the actions and interactions. Cyberspace is a great augmented reality, but it cannot replace reality.

In the end, being online is a nice place to visit (and there are a lot of benefits to being there), but I wouldn’t want to live there all the time and miss the real fun.


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