The Eight Biggest Over-reactions to Technology of All-Time

October 07 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: 2008   Rating: 11 Hot

Nothing gets humans up in arms like a new technology. Will it cure our ills and save us from destruction? Or end the world in one cataclysmic Earth-shattering moment? Clearly, no invention has accomplished either, but try telling that to the fanatical, hysterical or just plain irrational among us. Now, with technology advancing at an ever quickening pace, rational thinking is in short supply. Here then, to prove this point, are eight of the biggest freak-out moments in technology history:

Writing Will Make us Forget – Socrates

The written word and the ability to understand it is considered one of the most important developments ever achieved by mankind and a defining step for any civilization.  But not everyone was always a fan. Even that hero of western philosophy, Socrates, once argued that writing would make people lazy and forgetful!

“The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it,” said Socrates, “They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered.”

Sound familiar? It is the same argument that some people nowadays are directing at both Google and the World Wide Web.

Given that pretty much every major advancement subsequent to the birth of writing is built on writing itself (collectively we have advanced much faster through the use of writing) it certainly did anything but make people lazy. Forgetful? Perhaps, on an individual level.  But I sure am glad Plato broke out his quill to write down Socrates’ teachings, lest I couldn’t “remember” to complain about him now.

Get Out of the Way, Here Comes the Train!

Reportedly, when the Lumiere Brothers showed their films for the first time at the Grand Cafe in Paris in 1895, audience members ran out of the room in a panic. Why? To avoid being hit by the image of a train pulling into a station!

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Jack Uldrich on Senate Run and Need for Foresight in Government

September 11 2008 / by Jeff Hilford / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

Congratulations to best selling futurist and Future Blogger contributor Jack Uldrich who finished second in his bid for the Minnesota Independent Party nomination for U.S. Senate. Given his late entry into a 7 competitor field that included winner Dean Barkley, who served a short stint in the U.S. Senate as Paul Wellstone’s replacement in 2002, it was a very admirable effort. Barkley was also the endorsee of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, whose gubernatorial campaign he successfully managed in 1998. Jack easily finished ahead of the Independent party’s endorsed candidate and the rest of the field on his way to capturing 12.4 percent of the vote.

I caught up with Jack today to get his quick take on the role of foresight in the political process.

JH: What kind of response did you get as a futurist running for office?

JU: It didn’t help or hurt. I actually changed the description of what I do to ‘Business Technology Forecaster” to make it more accessible. People’s perceptions of futurists are sometimes more pie-in-the-sky than pragmatic, though in the long run, the impact of accelerating change will necessitate that we all become futurists.

JH: What role do you think foresight should play in politics?

JU: It’s absolutely critical. Look at all the big issues: energy, the economy, climate change, healthcare, social security – they’re all being dramatically impacted by accelerating technological change. Take energy for example – there are so many technologies that will be available sooner than people think that you can’t have a rational conversation without factoring these in. Social Security is another big issue. We have a 10 trillion dollar debt, but a 70 trillion dollar commitment to prepare for in the future. Given the life extension technologies on the horizon, even this number will rise significantly.

JH: How will the impact of foresight in politics evolve over the next four years?

JU: Washington needs to begin addressing these issues now. If they don’t, these issues will be hoisted upon them very quickly. Like an 800lb brick.

JH: How do you feel now coming off the campaign?

JU: I’m glad to have gone through the process, learned a lot and am very thankful to my supporters. I’m disappointed to not have the chance to face-off against Al Franken and Norm Coleman, as I feel that I could have elevated the conversation in a number of critical ways.

Which futurist would make the best President of the United States

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Space Tourism to Help the Earth by Quantifying Climate Change

October 09 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 8 Hot

I wrote about the unveiling of White Knight Two back in July, and no, it is not yet ferrying billionaires to sub-orbital six minute vacations. But it has just become useful (rather than enviable) to the rest of us.

On September 30th, The International Astronautical Congress announced that Virgin Galactic was partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to measure greenhouse gasses in the upper atmosphere using White Night Two and Space Ship Two. Both crafts will be fitted with atmospheric sensors and will begin gathering data in test flights.

The planes are uniquely suited to help the NOAA for two reasons. The most obvious is that they will go much higher than conventional aircraft. Thus, they can monitor the hard to reach mesosphere and thermosphere. Information about these layers of the atmosphere is vital for scientist to create accurate climate change models. Also, the planes were designed with tubes that channel outside air to internal speed sensors. This feature was added in the design phase in anticipation of scientific work.

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