Archive for July, 2006|Monthly archive page

Future Boy: This is your brain on Google – Jul. 21, 2006

OK, I just read this:

Future Boy: This is your brain on Google – Jul. 21, 2006
Stu Wolf, one of the top scientists at Darpa, the Pentagon’s scientific research agency which gave birth to the Internet, seriously believes we’ll all be wearing computers in headbands within 20 years.

By that time, we’ll have superfast, supertiny computers that make today’s machines look like typewriters. The desktop will be dead, says Wolf, and the headband will dominate.

“We already know we can trigger neurons mechanically,” he says. “You can interact directly with the brain without implanted electrodes. Then the next step is being able to think something and have it happen: Flying a plane, driving a car, operating household machinery.”

Controlling devices with the mind is just the beginning. Next, Wolf believes, is what he calls “network-enabled telepathy” – instant thought transfer. In other words, your thoughts will flow from your brain over the network right into someone else’s brain. If you think instant messaging is addictive, just wait for instant thinking.

What utter nonsense! Sure, this will be very useful for people who cannot effectively use their limbs, but is is better than interacting through eyes and hands?

Our brains have a lot of dedicated ‘machinery’ to take care of our hands and other limbs. We we do not have to think about every single thing we do. For example, we do not have to think like this: “OK, I want to pick up this piece of paper, so I must position my hands correctly, with the right fingers ready to grip it” and so on. Most of the time we don’t even have a conscious thought about simple things like this — our brains have specialized components dedicated to take care of this on our behalf.

So here is the thing, by removing the use of our limbs we will have to learn new skills to operate these thought-interception devices.

Do you think that you won’t have to switch metal modes to get into driving mode for example? OK, if driving mode is simply telling an artificial intelligence agent where you want to go, fine. But if you are required to navigate the roads, you will be without the aid of millions of years of muscle memory. You will have to concentrate.

You will have less of your brain available for other tasks.

That’s what I think anyway.

Lebanon

I find it hard to find words for what is happening in Lebanon. However, the sureality of another war not called ‘war’, but ‘nice-people-against-evil-terrorists’ comes through when looking at the people caught up in the middle somehow, like the American tax payers currently in Lebanon:

Paying for the bomb:

“The F-16I costs about $45 million per plane and the order, the largest Israeli military purchase in history, will be financed by the annual U.S. military aid package.”
http://www.israeli-weapons.com/weapons/aircraft/f-16i/F-16I.html

Evacuation not included:

“Harty said she understood people were irked by having to pay for their evacuations to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, about 100 miles northwest, but that a 1956 law requires that the State Department be reimbursed.”
http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/18/lebanon.evacuation/index.html

AI vs. AI

Artificial Intelligence vs. Augmented Intelligence:

From IP: “The advent of strong AI (exceeding human intelligence) is the most important transformation this century will see, and it will happen within 25 years, says Ray Kurzweil, who will present this paper at The Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence Conference: The next 50 years (AI@50) on July 14, 2006.”

Let’s just be clear that AI (exceeding human intelligence) means: Something smarter than us. For me this has already happened; there are plenty of people out there much smarter than me.

I’d like more effort on how I can better work with these people.

AI is great and useful in specific areas. But why can’t we also invest more in what Doug Engelbart calls ‘augmenting human intelligence’ as well?

When will someone say something like: “in the next 25 years we will have a word processor with the capability to quickly and efficiently work with the person writing.”

Or how about this: “in the next 25 years we will have an email system more advanced than we have today”.

OK, that last one was a bit facetious, I am a little bitter that email has not improved (user interface or capability wise) much in the last 15-20 years or so. Seriously, the minds on IP have nothing better to communicate through (technically) than Dave’s (fantastically well moderated) plain text email list!

Please, please, computer games and movie graphics are doing well on the back of Moore’s law. There is so much that can be done here. And before I get the ‘what are you doing then’ question, we are (as many here know) making a tiny little widget that let’s you interact with all the text on the web, fundamentally altering its structure (for Firefox now, IE soon). And this is a self-funded, almost hobby project. Imagine what MS or Apple or Adobe could do if they bothered.

So how about another read-through of Doug Engelbart’s ‘Augmenting Human Intellect’ paper, first published in 1962, a useful framework for how to apply this Moore’s law delivered power. – http://tinyurl.com/krego

Remember the Jetsons’s? There is a great scene in one of them, where Mr. Jetson goes to work and presses a button which is labeled (something like) ‘Do Work’ and the computer does all the work. When this happens (in 25 years or whenever), why would Mr. Jetson be needed to press that button? Why would people be needed at all. At that point, should we just trust AI to make important decisions for us?

Argh, at the risk of repeating myself; don’t replace me, augment me!

LUMIX

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX01 is the most elegant tool I have ever used.

The build quality is fantastic, more reminiscent of the Leica’s of old (and indeed this is a Leica of sorts, they use Leica optics and Leica sells their own version of this range). Instead of thin metal or plastic that you can quite physically feel will be outmoded in a few months, this does not feel disposable.

This is an upgrade to the earlier, wonderful FX9. The only differences I can notice is a slightly more ergonomic body, wider lens (and actually useful widening from 35 to 28mm) and wide screen video recording.

The 6MB still photography this camera is capable of is superb, but it is not the reason I rave about it. This camera, for me, is all about the video. It features TV quality (that is, 640*480 by 30fps) video with – get this – great audio. The sound recording from this camera is better than from my semi-pro SONY 3CCD video camera.

Sure, the image quality is not the most impressive out there, compared to dedicated video cameras, especially the HD cameras, but as I have written about on http://www.fleetingmoment.org – as an artist, I feel more like I am wielding a quick pencil and notepad than a video camera. Crucially, the people I take pictures of feel the same. Have a look, there is now some (compressed, smaller size) video up on Fleeting Moment.

This camera is part of a new era for art.

It is as significant as the introduction of color film. Or talking pictures. It’s that big a deal.

7/7

Today I stood with strangers on Tottenham Court Road in London for two minutes reflecting on the terrible bombing a year ago. People left offices to stand in the street, we stood there together, silent, for a couple of minutes, just looking out into nowhere, there was nowhere to look. Just remembering and paying respects. As well we should.

But I cannot help thinking about the war we are in. I don’t know if the 7/7 bombers would have acted if we hadn’t invaded Iraq. I am not sure there is a connection at all. It’s just not something I can ever really know. However, we did invade Iraq and have unleashed a civil war. If our politicians believed their own spin or not I don’t know. Was it a war started for what they thought was a good reason or something else? I don’t know.

But I do know that we invaded. Politicians we elected sent forces paid for by our taxes. And because of this, there are bombings in Iraq every day.

Have we in Britain become like America, where foreign lives are a dime a dozen and only our own citizens count?

If Iraqis were to have a minute memorial for every bomb that kills, they would no longer be able to speak.

So are we, as citizens of the ‘alliance of the willing’ keeping silent for them by letting this violence go on?

Ours is not a respectful silence, it is a shameful silence. If we can shut up for two minutes on a busy weekday for fallen countrymen, imagine what we could do if we all spoke up for two minutes in support of those in Iraq.

Personally I don’t believe we should speak up to get our precious solders home. We should speak up to send many, many more, to build a safe land for all the precious people there, invaders and local.

It takes about two minutes to send an email to your representative to speak up about how you think we should work to end this suffering, will you invest that time?

To email Tony Blair you can go to: http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page821.asp

To email George Bush visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

New Mobile Phone.

Doug emailed me asking for mobile phone advice. I really had no clue what’s going on in the market so I did some research. Turns out the Sony Ericsson w810i is quite nice. Also turns out I have been spending more than £100 on pre-pay lately, so time for a contract.

Goo things: The phone is nice, physically it is not too large, fits very comfortably in the hand. Nice and simple texting and phone calling operations. Not heavy. Cool looking.

Bad points: Not very customizable, not like the P910. Tiny address book with hardly and space for notes and it does not import pictures. The speakers are add. Seems they need a second to warm up. LiSA does not sound so great on this phone. Doesn’t like multiple contacts, like for example, some of my friends have a mobile number for each country they spend time in but the phone only wants to import the first number listed!

In general, yes, I’m happy with it.

Emily n Me

Emily and I are now officially together. It’s quite wonderful! We have been a couple since her birthday, the 13th of May. Yes, it’s a whole new world.