You Too Will Surf Virtual Halls of the Dead

October 20 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Culture   Year: 2013   Rating: 12 Hot

The increasing richness of memorial media is a powerful by-product of accelerating change in technology, information and communication. In five years time, both broad public-facing and private 3d memorial media has a good chance of taking off, gradually catalyzing a shift in the way we interact with history and our dearly departed.

How do we properly remember and honor the dead? Our cultural answer to this question has changed over the millennia alongside with the invention of memory-enhancing technologies such as symbols, spoken language, writing, photography, video, digital information and the web.

Now the trend continues as powerful new disruptors such as social media, semantic search, virtual worlds and mirror worlds allow us to assemble, aggregate and interact with information about the dearly departed in surprising new ways.

On the most basic level, crowd-edited text-based structures like Wikipedia have already catalyzed an explosion of biographical data capture and made possible a growing niche of specialized human memorial websites.

Similarly, account-driven portals like Geanealogy.com’s Virtual Cemetery Project, MyCemetery, and World Gardens have been growing in popularity and each lay claim to being “The World’s First Online Memorial and Virtual Cemetery” or such.

In the physical world, progressive cemetery Hollywood Forever, which boasts the densest concentration of celebrity gravesites, has sparked a media memorial trend by displaying actors’ hilight reels beside their tombs. (Yes, for a pretty steep price you too can purchase your very own Lifestories Kiosk.)

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Could China help the world move beyond the combustion engine?

October 13 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2014   Rating: 9 Hot

What if we are being too cynical about China’s eco-future in the transportation sector?

Imagine a future in which China is the secret to moving the world’s auto fleet beyond liquid fuels and the combustion engine.

If they can master electron storage systems of advanced batteries, fuel cells and capacitors- they might surprise the world!

Warren Buffet thinks so. The Oracle of Omaha recently invested $233 into Chinese battery and electric vehicle maker BYD.

Now, we are hearing a similar message from other electrical storage system giants who are needed to transform our global auto fleet. A recent Economic Times article China seen as potential electric car hub describes a vision of Johnson Controls where China changes its course to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.

Buffet and Johnson Controls see China’s natural advantages:

-Fewer ‘legacy’ issues of existing infrastructure and embedded interests

-Top down policy control to accelerate changes around infrastructure

-Chinese leaders see cleantech as a growth industry, especially around energy storage and electric motor propulsion systems

-Small cars & scooters are the most likely candidates for electric propulsion systems. China (and India) are prime candidates

- A geopolitical desire to avoid issues of oil’s biggest problem. Lack of substitutability. Oil is the perfect fuel, but you can’t put coal or solar or nuclear into a liquid gas tank*. Electricity and hydrogen can be produced by any energy resource.

Of course, electric vehicles are not entirely ‘clean’ and certainly lead to suburban expansion and loss of rural lands. But the trade offs and consequences of doing nothing are hard to challenge. China’s urban areas would benefit from the removal of millions of uncontrolled polluting vehicles.

Even if electricity production came from coal, it is easier to control carbon emissions at a single point power plant rather than individual cars. And China’s industrial strength is powerful enough to change the direction of electric storage companies as well as automakers.

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The New Office: Your Lap

October 07 2008 / by Lani / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

The office. It’s a dreaded workspace for many, for others it’s a grand tradition (and, for a few, it’s just a funny TV show). However you see it, the office as it exists now is evolving. Have a look at yours. Does it resemble the standard Dilbert-esque vision rife with miles and miles of identical cubicles, Sticky-Notes, and studded with those ever-flattering fluorescent tubes? Or is it simpler setup- a laptop on your lap?

These days, companies are rethinking the way we work. The new workspace, called non-territorial or non-assigned workspaces, resemble a modern version of musical chairs. Employees come to work and find their spot. This model works for Cisco Systems. At other companies, such as Bank of America, employees can reserve spaces or meeting rooms. Others (think IBM) don’t even have offices.

Mind you, the concept of the paperless office isn’t new. It’s been floating around since the 1940’s. The Atlantic featured a series on Memex machines, theoretical proto-hypertext computer systems that were to function as self-contained research libraries, in 1945. Life Magazine soon followed with illustrations. And, of course, we can’t forget gems like The Jetsons, or Brazil, or even Spielberg’s Minority Report.

Although, we’re not quite hovercraft bound, the future of the office is increasingly flexible and mobile. Employees will no longer be confined to the cubicle. The advent of wireless technologies, smartphones, teleconferencing and the Web 2.0 cloud has made the office as we know it, a thing of the past. Today, virtual is the way to go.

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Learning from the LHC or: How I Stopped Worrying and Started Loving the Collider!

September 29 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Inspired, in part, by Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

People are expressing some pretty melodramatic and, dare I say, silly reactions to the Large Hadron Collider. Every time I turn around, there’s a new headline about the LHC. Several papers have labelled it The God Machine, and some misinformed bloggers have dubbed it the Doomsday Machine. Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho filed their famous lawsuit against the collider because it might cause the end of the world. And of course, my personal favorite, this guy.

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The Progressive Automotive X Prize race begins in one year!

September 24 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation   Year: 2012   Rating: 3

By jvarden

Formed from an alliance between the X PRIZE Foundation and Progressive Insurance, the $10 million dollar Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE began on March 20, 2008. Progressive Automotive X recognizes the importance of vehicles in the modern American society as well as their environmental and economical impact. Oil dependence and carbon dioxide emissions are the detrimental byproducts of our vehicular independence.

This X Prize goal is to design, construct, and build efficient and clean 100 MPGe (mile per gallon energy equivalent) vehicle that meets all safety standards and could potentially be purchased by customers. Not only do these sixty-plus teams strive for the generous grand prize, but they also create an atmosphere of competition and innovation with a cleaner world in mind.

As the teams who applied to the Progressive Automotive X Prize are quite numerous, the candidate list shall contain those with unique strategies and approaches that made them stand out from the rest of the crowd:


- AirShip Technologies Powered by electric based track-spheres system and bio-diesel, fuel cell, or lithium-ion battery packs
- Aptera Lightweight electric vehicle that is actually classified as a motorcycle
- Atlas Motor Works Revolutionary engine that runs on fuels or compressed air
- Brilliant EV Diesel-electric hybrid with solar panels
- Lydell All-electric drive with a small engine for use when necessary
- MDI/ZPM Compressed air vehicle - Miastrada An airship-shaped body suspended over a six-wheel road-following system with an electric motor
- Myers Motors A one-seat, all-electric motorcycle that plugs into 110 volt outlets
- Revolution Motors Two-seater, pure electric and hybrid that can run on gas or biofuel
- Roane Inventions An electric car that can also drive on a monorail
- Team TWIKE IV A human-electric hybrid vehicle bicycle
- Tesla Motors An all-electric vehicle with a lithium-ion battery
- TTW Vehicles Three-wheel, two-seater electric/hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle
- XLR8SUN solar-powered and plug-in vehicle

The X Prize race will begin in New York City in September 2009 before moving onto other major metro areas until a contestant meets all the detailed goals.

We will be looking more closely at the leading X Prize candidates in the days and weeks ahead!

Let's use rewarding deep brain stimulation to help the baby boomers exercise

September 24 2008 / by iPlant / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 3

The baby boomers are getting older. Their pensions and healthcare will exert an enormous strain on European, north American, East Asian and Australian economies over the next few decades. Advances in medicine and medical technology continue to reduce blood-pressures, patch up hearts, extract cancers and extend life expectancy worldwide, but the brain, it turns out, does not yield to traditional methods, and effective treatments for cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s remain elusive. In the US, the annual cost of care for sufferers of Alzheimer’s is expected to exceed the total current healthcare budget ($1 trillion) as 10 million baby boomers develop the disease (Nixon et al, 2008 , Alzheimer’s Association, 2008).

There is, however, one highly effective preventive treatment: heavy physical exercise cuts one’s risk of stroke and neurodegenerative disease in half (Medina, 2008). Heavy, regular physical exercise improves blood supply to the brain, eliminates free radicals and stimulates the generation of new neurons. In the coming decades, 500 billion dollars or more could thus be saved each year in the US alone if every baby boomer exercised daily. The problem of course is that exercise is difficult and people are sedentary, so sedentary in fact that we are faced with a looming obesity epidemic that compounds the problem of age-related cognitive decline. And there’s no way of using modern medicine to improve people’s motivation to engage in physical exercise, right?

Wrong. A technique called rewarding brain stimulation has for decades allowed researchers to motivate rats to run (Burgess et al, 1991), lift weights (Garner et al, 1991) and learn other behaviours (Hermer-Vasquez et al, 2005).

Here’s how it might work in people: A person needing help to exercise would go to a hospital or a private clinic to be fitted with a deep brain stimulation implant capable of activating his reward system (the dopamine system).

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YouTube Co-Founder Chad Hurley's 10-Year Web Video Market Predictions

September 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2018   Rating: 5 Hot

Yesterday, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley shot off some optimistic predictions about the web video industry. He opined that ten years from now “online video broadcasting will be the most ubiquitous and accessible form of communication.”

I certainly buy that web video broadcasting will be near ubiquitous. Hurley’s reasoning nicely reflects my own:

“The tools for video recording will continue to become smaller and more affordable. Personal media devices will be universal and interconnected. Even more people will have the opportunity to record and share even more video with a small group of friends or everyone around the world.”

But I am not sure that I’m sold on web video as the “most accessible form of communication”.

Why? Not because I think it won’t explode – web video will to be massive by 2018. Rather, I believe it’s possible that some nascent comm technology may just zoom past web video during that span, or more likely, subsume it.

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Energy independence will take commitment like space race

September 05 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Energy is the life-blood of America – it affects our economy, standard of living and national security. And our prime current energy source – oil – is a product we can no longer afford.

High gas prices, air pollution, and global warming are part of the problem, but more important are the tensions brought about with countries that supply this non-renewable energy. For decades, these tensions have directly or indirectly been at the root of most global conflicts.

In a “Wired Magazine” article, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall say concerns about oil supply are indirectly responsible for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have caused strained relationships with our allies. And clashes with the Muslim world, mired in oil interests, finally brought the unthinkable to our shores – the “9-11” World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Schwartz and Randall believe there’s only one way to insulate the U.S. from oil’s corrosive power. “We must develop an alternative energy,” they say. “Hydrogen stores energy more effectively than batteries, burns twice as efficiently in a fuel cell as gasoline does in an internal combustion engine, and leaves only water. It’s plentiful, clean, and capable of powering cars, homes and factories.”

Today’s energy situation is reminiscent of Soviet cold war times. In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space, and in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in orbit. Afraid Soviet space domination would make our country unable to defend itself, President Kennedy announced Apollo, a 10-year, $100 billion program (in today’s dollars) to land a man on the moon. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong made his “giant step for mankind” and America quickly regained world leadership.

Schwartz and Randall believe we face a similar threat today from foreign oil dependency. “As President Kennedy responded to Soviet space superiority,” they said, “Our next president must respond to foreign oil by making energy independence a national priority to be achieved within 10 years.”

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Which Virtual World Will Rule 1 Year From Now?

September 04 2008 / by Christina / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Media   Year: 2009   Rating: 4

Millions of users log on to virtual worlds, such as the highly sophisticated and popular Second Life and the user-friendly Lively every day, positioning virtual worlds to become the future of internet browsing.

A recent Rezzable poll asking “Which virtual world will rule one year from now?” concluded with an overwhelming vote for the already popular Second Life, while Google’s new platform Lively came in a distant second; other platforms barely made the chart.

Second Life is the most developed platform right now, with almost 15 million total residents. By far the most stable and capable of the flock, SL has become a meeting place for many adults, especially appealing to gamers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

According to self-reported data, Second Life users are primarily male, with an average age of 33. Features of SL that set it apart from other Virtual Worlds include sophisticated avatar customization, the ability purchase land, and a large and thriving economy. Linden dollars allow users to create, market, and sell virtual products and services, a feature similar to that of World of Warcraft – which has kept WoW users shelling out the big bucks for years. There are currently over L$ 5 billion in supply, with an exchange rate of approximately L$ 250 to the US Dollar.

User generated content (UGC) is probably the most important feature keeping SL at the top of the list. The Second Life platform allows for creative users to design an infinite variety of content (i.e. objects, clothing, buildings, real life recreations, virtual businesses, etc.).

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Voice-enabled ID chips will soon make our lives more efficient

September 03 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

By Dick Pelletier

You enter the supermarket, grab an electronic cart that recognizes you from your touch, toss in some bags and begin shopping. The monitor on your ‘smart cart’ displays products, price, and total amount spent; and even subtracts items returned to the shelf.

As you wind through the aisles, the cart’s voice recognizes products you’re running low on, and offers special discounts just for you. When finished shopping, simply tap a ‘chipped’ finger indicating payment preference and walk out the door – no more lines or grocery clerks to deal with. On exit, select an option to deactivate or encrypt all chips, which protects your privacy by preventing evildoers from tracking you or your merchandise.

After putting items away at home, the milk might say, “I expire in nine days, would you like a 24-hour reminder”, or the hat you purchased may say, “Hey Dick, why not wear me now, you know how great I make you look”.

By 2012, experts believe the above scenarios could be happening at stores everywhere.

Milwaukee futurist David Zach agrees that voice-enabled chips will increase efficiency. Clothes could remark, “Don’t wash me with colors”; cars may cry out, “I need oil”, and a glass might tell the bartender, “he’s had enough”.

Wearable computer maker Vocollect believes their voice-enabled machines can team up with RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips used to identify items, and create an enormous array of exciting applications.

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Brain-machine interface connects disabled to computers

September 03 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Cyberkinetics of Foxborough Massachusetts has begun FDA-approved clinical trials with BrainGate, a device that enables paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains – and eventually could help them regain complete mobility.

Most handicapped people are satisfied if they can get a rudimentary connection to the outside world. BrainGate enables them to achieve far more than that. By controlling the computer cursor, patients can access Internet information, TV entertainment, and control lights and appliances – with just their thoughts.

And as this amazing technology advances, researchers believe it could enable brain signals to bypass damaged nerve tissues and restore mobility to paralyzed limbs. “The goal of BrainGate is to develop a fast, reliable, and unobtrusive connection between the brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer” said Cyberkinetics President Tim Surgenor.

BrainGate may sound like science fiction, but its not. The device is smaller than a dime and contains 100 wires thinner than human hairs which connect with the portion of the brain that controls motor activity. The wires detect when neurons are fired and sends those signals through a tiny connector mounted on the skull to a computer.

Implanted into the brains of five handicapped patients, the device is already showing great promise. A 25-year-old quadriplegic has successfully been able to switch on lights, adjust the volume on a TV, change channels, and read e-mail using only his thoughts. And he was able to do these tasks while carrying on a conversation and moving his head at the same time.

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Nanotech wonders hyped at Wash. DC conference

September 01 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

At the First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology held in Washington DC, researchers discussed the possibilities expected of this new wonder science, including glittering visions of abundance and long, healthy life spans.

Within 20 years, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a “nanofactory” could sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up any product you want – food, clothing, appliances, or whatever your dreams desire – at little or no cost.

Nanofactories work by collecting atoms from something as inexpensive as dirt or seawater, and using software downloaded from the Internet, directs those atoms to “grow” into the final product. A nanofactory can even “grow” another nanofactory.

This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not. Foresight Institute sociologist Bryan Bruns said nanotech will provide solutions for some 2.7 billion people now living on less than $2 per day, and eliminate poverty worldwide.

Bruns envisions a “2025 Whole Earth Catalog” which would offer economic water filtration systems that purify 100,000 gallons of water a day; inexpensive solar roofing panels that come in rolls like Saran Wrap; powerful inexpensive computers that fit inside eyeglass frames; and suitcase-size nanoclinics with a full range of diagnostics and treatments.

“Turn trash into treasure”, could become the slogan of the 2020s. Nanorefineries will break down unwanted consumer items, sewage sludge, and other waste materials, and re-build them into food, clothing, or household items.

Institute for Molecular Manufacturing’s Robert Freitas added, “not only will nanotech provide us with a lot of cool stuff and eliminate global poverty; it will also help us live a really long time”. Freitas predicted by 2015, nanoproducts will diagnose illnesses and destroy cancer cells – and by mid-2020s, tiny cell-repair mechanisms will roam through our bodies keeping us strong, youthful, and forever healthy.

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