« January 2007 | Main Page | March 2007 »

Monthly Archives

February 26, 2007

Rosetta and the Craters of Mars

I love pictures from space probes, and particularly get a kick out of the shots that include some evidence of the probe in question -- tracks in the sand, antenna booms, and such. These pictures offer a much greater sense of "being there" than do the traditional panorama scenes (lovely though those may be). The vast majority of these shots come from landers, so it's always a delight to see a picture from a robotic spacecraft that includes a bit of itself.

The picture is from the Rosetta probe, heading to its 2014 meeting with the a comet in the far reaches of the solar system. On February 25, Rosetta made its closest approach to Mars for the slingshot speed boost, and snapped this picture as it did so. (Technically, Rosetta's lander, called the Philae, took the picture, but still.)

Link to the European Space Agency report on the shot; click the image for a larger version.

February 23, 2007

The Resilient World

Environmental architect William McDonough is said to have asked, "If a person described her relationship with her spouse as merely 'sustainable' wouldn’t you feel sorry for both of them?"

The word "sustainability" has come to dominate environmental discourse, employed to mean a condition in which we take no more from our environment than the environment is able to restore. It's a reasonably goal, but a limited one. Sustainability is a static concept: it says nothing about change, or improvement. McDonough's point is that "sustainable" is hardly a condition worth celebrating; at best, it's the maintenance of the status quo.

It seems to me that what we should be striving for is an environment -- and a civilization -- able to handle dynamic, unexpected changes without threatening to collapse. This is more than simply sustainable, it's regenerative and diverse, relying on both a capacity to absorb shocks and to co-evolve with them. In a word, it's resilient.

If we're to survive the 21st century, we need to be striving for environmental and civilizational resiliency.

In a "sustainable" environment, we live in constant fear of greed, accident or malice tipping the balance away from sustainability, returning us to the spiral of over-consumption and environmental depletion. Ironically, the goal of environmental sustainability is highly likely to put us on the path of ongoing environmental management. To an extent, this is already true -- ecologist Daniel Janzen argues that we're better off thinking of the environment as a garden to be tended than as wilds to be preserved -- but sustainability as a goal means constant vigilance. It's not simply that the environment can no longer be considered "wild;" in the sustainability paradigm, the environment can only be considered a subject. A sustainable world is one that manages to avoid imminent disaster, but remains perpetually on the precipice.

The underlying problem with the concept of "sustainability" is that it's inherently static. It presumes that there's a special point at which we can maintain ourselves and maintain the world, and once we find the right combination of behavior and technology that allows us to reduce our environmental footprint to a "one planet" world, we should stay there. For some sustainability advocates, this can include limiting ourselves technologically, as suggested by the frequency with which such advocates dismiss "techno-fixes" as simply allowing us to continue to behave badly. More broadly, as a strategic goal, sustainability pushes us towards striving to achieve success within boundaries; the primary emphasis of the concept is on stability.

"Resiliency," conversely, admits that change is inevitable and in many cases out of our hands, so the environment -- and our relationship with it -- needs to be able to withstand unexpected shocks. Greed, accident or malice may have harmful results, but (barring something likely to lead to a Class 2 or Class 3 Apocalypse), such results can be absorbed without threat to the overall health of the planet's ecosystem. If we talk about "environmental resiliency," then, we mean a goal of supporting the planet's ability to withstand and regenerate in the event of local or even widespread disruption.

Like sustainability, resiliency is a strategic concept, intended to guide how choices are made. But resiliency doesn't presuppose limitations; rather, it encourages the diversification of capacities, in order to be responsive to uncertain future problems. We can think of this as "strategic flexibility" or "maintaining our options," but it comes down to avoiding being trapped on a losing path.

When applied directly to environmental strategies, resiliency may appear similar to sustainability in superficial ways. Both sustainability and resilience would encourage aggressive moves to greater energy efficiency, for example. The similarity of tactics belies a divergence of intent, however; for sustainability the purpose is to reduce our impact to below a certain threshold, while for resilience, it's to increase the resources available to meet future problems. We see overlap like this because resiliency embraces the near-term goal of sustainability, inasmuch as resiliency recognizes that the depletion of planetary resources and ecosystem diversity is a self-destructive process.

For me, environmental resilience is a much more satisfying philosophy than environmental sustainability because of its emphasis on increasing our (our planet's) ability to withstand crises. Sustainability is a brittle state: unexpected changes (natural or otherwise) can easily cause its collapse. Resilience is all about being able to handle the unexpected. It does not ignore the need to be "sustainable" in the most general sense, but does not see that as a goal or end-point in and of itself. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.

February 22, 2007

Thursday Topsight, February 22, 2007

EMERGY-C-sm.jpgClearing out some of the backlog...

• Word of the Week: Retroprobium A neologism by Paul Saffo, retroprobium is defined as "retroactive opprobrium... judging past actions by present standards." A clear example would be the horror we feel today at the overwhelming racism in the U.S. just 50 years ago (not meant to say that there's no racism today, but it manifests in a very different and more subtle way). I've believed for awhile that, by the mid-century if not sooner, the present-day practice of eating meat from dead animals will be seen with a similar kind of horror, for reasons combining environmental awareness, ethical awareness, and health. Now I have a word for that kind of reaction.

Oddly, the examples that Saffo cites -- reactions to past drug use, and potential problems for the digital exhibitionism of the MySpace generation -- ring false to me. I don't see the criticism of decades-old drug use that he does (outside of a few narrow groups), and I'm not convinced that the MySpacers of today will be embarrassed in the years to come by their digital archives. I think it's more likely to be such a commonplace experience that any sting will have long since evaporated. If anything, the retroprobium I more commonly see involves changing values around inflicting harm or arbitrary restrictions upon others, not inflicting "harm" (as perceived by some) on oneself.

Maybe it's a generational difference.

• Low-Energy Websites: I have the gut sense that "life hacking" common activities to reduce one's energy footprint (hence greenhouse gas footprint) is going to be huge. My cheeseburger footprint series was an example, but Treehugger today comes up with something even better -- because there's already a clever solution.

Displays that produce light-per-pixel, such as on-their-way-out CRTs and on-their-way-in Organic LEDs (but not the traditional LEDs in your current laptop display, which has an always-on backlight that's selectively blocked), draw differing amounts of power depending upon which colors they display: on a typical CRT, an all-white screen draws 74 watts, while an all-black screen only draws 59 watts. A minor difference, seemingly, but if you calculate out the difference that would result by Google changing its home page from white to black, the results are enormous:

Take at look at Google, for instance, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let's assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs [so the savings is 750 megatwatt-hours total], and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that's about $75,000/year, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.

But all-black web-pages can be very hard to read (especially if the text is black, too). But wait! Designer Jon Doucette looked at the Energy Star ratings for different colors, and came up with a low-energy web palette, shown here at the top of this entry. This palette will, on average, draw only about 3-4 more watts than an all-black page.

Looks like a site redesign may be in order...

digitaltext.jpg• The Web is People!: Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University, has assembled a terrific four-and-a-half-minute video called "The Machine is Us/ing Us" that explains what "Web 2.0" means -- not with a cold lecture or a pseudo-powerpoint, but by showing us the new world.

It's hard to describe, really -- there are no voices, just a musical score, and a remarkably clever presentation of words on the screen. If you don't know what people mean by Web 2.0, watch it; if you think that Web 2.0 is just marketing hype, watch it; if you think you know exactly what Web 2.0 is, watch it.

In other words... oh, just go watch it.

• Six Views of Jupiter: Eight different spacecraft have visited Jupiter over the past 34 years, and in nearly every case, each successive probe had better imaging capabilities. The Planetary Society's blog put together a nice composite shot of pictures of Jupiter, showing the Great Red Spot, from six different missions, from Pioneer 10 in 1973 through New Horizons in 2007. New Horizons isn't actually a Jupiter probe, it's heading of to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, but using a gravity assist slingshot from Jupiter.

The good: it shows just how much the Great Red Spot has changed in what is really quite a short period of time -- it may not last the century.

The sad: the pictures are only in black and white, not color -- even from the ones able to take more-or-less true color pictures.

• Change Your Default Passwords, Damnit! Bruce Schneier describes a clever hack that can easily take over a home wireless router. Easily, that is, if you haven't changed your damn default password. Sheesh. It takes all of 3 seconds to do, and even a simple password is better than sticking with the default.

February 21, 2007

Up for Air

Apologies on the spotty blogging this month; I really thought that February would be a chance to focus on the blog and book proposals. Instead, I have even more work on my table. This is not inherently a bad thing -- work is good, paid work especially -- but it does mean that some projects end up lower down the list than they should be.

I have a metric buttload of items bookmarked for comment and link, so I'll try to get at least some of them up onto the site over the remaining days of the month.


As the result of a casual conversation at the Good Ancestor Principle workshop, I've added SocialForge.org to the list of domains in my care. The name is a reference to SourceForge and BioForge, websites that offer resources for open source programming and open source bioengineering, respectively. I bought it because it seemed like a good name and concept, but I didn't really have an agenda for what I'd do with it.

Any suggestions as to what would be the best approach to the use of SocialForge?

February 15, 2007

Open Source Terraforming

Whether we like it or not, geoengineering -- a process I've taken to calling "(re)terraforming the Earth" -- is now on the table as a strategy for dealing with onrushing climate disaster. This isn't because it's a particularly good idea; as far as we presently know, the potential negative impacts of geoengineering projects seem to significantly outweigh any benefits. Nonetheless, (re)terraforming has drawn an increasing amount of attention over the past few months. One key reason is that, if it could be made to work, it wouldn't just moderate climate change -- i.e., slow it or stop it -- it would actually serve as a climate change remediation method, reversing global warming.

The cynical and the insipid apparently believe that pursuing the geoengineering option would allow us to avoid making any changes in technology or behavior intended to reduce greenhouse gas output. This sort of logic is wrong, utterly wrong. For any plausible geoengineering project to succeed, we'd have to have already stabilized the climate. As it turns out, the brilliant and clearly-needed advances in technology and changes in behavior supported by those of us who proudly wear the label "bright green" will do exactly this, reducing, even eventually eliminating, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. We need to do this as quickly as possible. As the saying goes, if you want to get out of the hole you're in, the first thing to do is stop digging.

But none of the bright green solutions -- ultra-efficient buildings and vehicles, top-to-bottom urban redesigns, local foods, renewable energy systems, and the like -- will do anything to reduce the anthropogenic greenhouse gases that have already been emitted. The best result we get is stabilizing at an already high greenhouse gas level. And because of ocean thermal inertia and other big, slow climate effects, the Earth will continue to warm for a couple of decades even after we stop all greenhouse gas emissions. Transforming our civilization into a bright green wonderland won't be easy, and under even the most optimistic estimates will take at least a decade; by the time we finally stop putting out additional greenhouse gases, we could well have gone past a point where globally disastrous results are inevitable. In fact, given the complexity of climate feedback systems, we may already have passed such a tipping point, even if we stopped all emissions today.

In other words, while stopping digging is absolutely necessary, it won't actually refill the hole.

I'm hopeful that eliminating anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be enough; if more optimistic scenarios are correct, ceasing to emit additional greenhouse gases in the next decade or two will be sufficient to avoid real disaster. This would be a wonderful outcome, and not just because we would have dodged the global warming bullet. Many of the best steps we can take along these lines are distributed, incremental, collaborative, and quite often make use of open systems and standards: all very good things, with larger social implications than just for climate moderation, and the heart of what Open the Future is all about.

But if we learn that we've already passed the climate disaster tipping point, if we want to avoid a civilization-threatening outcome, we'll have to figure out how to refill the hole -- to reduce overall temperature increases, or to remove methane, CO2 or other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And that means that we'd have to look at geoengineering.

Or, to be more accurate, we'll have to keep looking at geoengineering. As it happens, the "(re)terraforming to fix global warming" genie is already out of the bottle. It happened just last week.

On February 9, 2007, Virgin Corporation honcho Richard Branson announced that he would give $25 million to the winner of the "Virgin Earth Challenge:"

The Virgin Earth Challenge will award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design which will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases each year for at least ten years without countervailing harmful effects. This removal must have long term effects and contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate.

Reaction in the green blogosphere has been cautiously optimistic, with most responses noting a comparison to the "X-Prize" for private space flight, and some observing that air travel, such as that provided by Virgin Airways, remains a big source of greenhouse gases. Much to my surprise, however, none of the major green blogs noted the most significant aspect of this competition:

This is explicitly a call for geoengineering projects.

The Virgin Earth Challenge isn't simply looking for better ways to reduce or eliminate new greenhouse gas emissions, it's looking for ways to remove existing CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere -- that's what "net removal" means. This competition seeks ways to make an active, substantial change to the Earth's geophysical systems. Richard Branson is underwriting terraforming, and given that the consensus new mainstream environmentalist position is to be solidly anti-geoengineering, the lack of reaction to what is essentially the "Terraforming Challenge" is a bit surprising.

But if we're already looking at geoengineering, and may potentially need to consider it as a necessary path to survival, how can we do it in a way that has the best chance to avoid making matters worse?

I've already given away the answer in the title: open up the process.

I've long argued that openness is the best way to ensure the safe development and deployment of transformative technologies like molecular nanotechnology, general machine intelligence, and radical human bioenhancements. Geoengineering technologies should be added to this list. The reasons are clear: the more people who can examine and evaluate the geotechnological proposals, the greater the likelihood of finding subtle flaws or dangers, and the greater the pool of knowledge that can offer solutions.

As I put it in my 2003 essay for the final Whole Earth magazine (and the source of this blog's name), "Open the Future,"

Opening the books on emerging technologies, making the information about how they work widely available and easily accessible, in turn creates the possibility of a global defense against accidents or the inevitable depredations of a few. Openness speaks to our long traditions of democracy, free expression, and the scientific method, even as it harnesses one of the newest and best forces in our culture: the power of networks and the distributed-collaboration tools they evolve.

Broad access to... [transformative] tools and knowledge would help millions of people examine and analyze emerging information, nano- and biotechnologies [and geotechnologies], looking for errors and flaws that could lead to dangerous or unintended results. This concept has precedent: it already works in the world of software, with the "free software" or "open source" movement. A multitude of developers, each interested in making sure the software is as reliable and secure as possible, do a demonstrably better job at making hard-to-attack software than an office park's worth of programmers whose main concerns are market share, liability, and maintaining trade secrets.

[...]The more people participate, even in small ways, the better we get at building up our knowledge and defenses. And this openness has another, not insubstantial, benefit: transparency. It is far more difficult to obscure the implications of new technologies (or, conversely, to oversell their possibilities) when people around the world can read the plans.

The idea of opening transformative technologies is controversial. One argument often leveled against it is that it puts dangerous "knowledge-enabled" technologies into the hands of people who would abuse them. Fortunately, such a charge isn't likely to apply in any significant way to discussions of geotechnology, largely because the industrial capacity required to take advantage of these technologies is well beyond most countries, let alone super-empowered individuals and small groups. Another criticism of the open approach attacks it for undermining the market. But concerns about proprietary information and profit potential are hard to fathom with terraforming -- there would be no plausible way to limit access to climate change remediation only to those who pay for it. Ultimately, the downsides of making potential geoengineering methods open are tiny, while the benefits are massive.

It's not entirely clear if an open source approach for terraforming technology would be allowed within the Virgin Earth Challenge rules. The "terms and conditions" appear to require secrecy during the development process, but leave open the possibility of a variety of licensing conditions afterwards. Presumably, this would include open source/free access licenses. This is better than nothing, but the secrecy-during-development requirements should have an exception for open source competitors. The value of the "many eyes" approach is enhanced if it isn't limited to after-the-fact analysis. Discovery of a flaw requiring a redesign is less costly -- and less likely to be ignored -- if it happens early in the development process.

Let me be clear: I am not calling for geoengineering as the solution to global warming. We know nowhere near enough to make (re)terraforming a plausible or safe option. Our best pathway to avoiding climate disaster remains the rapid reduction and elimination of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. But I am calling for us to learn more about geotechnologies. Like it or not, we've entered the era of intentional geoengineering. The people who believe that (re)terraforming is a bad idea need to be part of the discussion about specific proposals, not simply sources of blanket condemnations. We need their insights and intelligence. The best way to make that happen, the best way to make sure that any terraforming effort leads to a global benefit, not harm, is to open the process of studying and developing geotechnological tools.

It may well be the best example yet seen of the importance of opening the future.

February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin!


Charles Darwin, born 198 years ago today...

February 9, 2007

Simple Comment Spam Filtering Enabled

I use fairly aggressive filtering of incoming comments to hold back the spam storm, but that still leaves me deleting dozens of (unpublished, but in the system) spam comments every day or two. I'm now trying out a simple challenge-response method as a way of blocking automated spam.

Every time you enter a comment you'll be asked to type in a particular word in a box below the comment entry.

This word is static, so regular posters should feel free to let it auto-fill; I'll only change it if a spam system is able to figure it out.

For now, I'm going to leave the hold-for-moderation on as a general rule, just to make sure everything is working as it should.

February 8, 2007

Good Ancestors... But Who Are Our Descendants?

metropolis.jpgThe "Good Ancestor Principle" is based on a challenge posed by Jonas Salk:

...the most important question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we being good ancestors?” Given the rapidly changing discoveries and conditions of the times, this opens up a crucial conversation – just what will it take for our descendants to look back at our decisions today and judge us good ancestors?

The two-day Good Ancestor Principle workshop focused primarily upon teasing out just what it would mean to be a good ancestor, and a bit upon exploring various ways of making sure the Earth inherited by our descendants is better than the Earth we inherited. But a surprisingly large part of the conversation covered a question that is at once unexpected and entirely relevant: just who will our descendants be?

The baseline assumption, not unreasonably, was that our descendants will be people like us, individuals living deep within the "human condition" of pain, love, family, death, and so forth; as a result, the "better ancestors" question inevitably focuses upon the external world of politics, warfare, the global environment, poverty, and so forth (essentially, the WorldChanging arena). Some participants suggested a more radical vision, of populations with genetic enhancements including extreme longevity. Sadly, this part of the conversation never managed to get much past the tired "how will the Enhanced abuse the Normals" tropes, so we never really got to the "...and how can we be good ancestors to them?" question, other than to point out that we ourselves may be filling in the role of "descendants" if we end up living for centuries.

Vernor VingeInstead, we ran right past the "human++" scenario right into the Singularity -- and with Vernor Vinge in attendance, this is hardly surprising. (Not that Vinge is dead-certain that the Singularity is on its way; when he speaks next week at the Long Now seminar in San Francisco, he'll be covering what change looks like in a world where a Singularity doesn't happen.) This group of philosophers and writers really take the Singularity concept seriously, and not for Kurzweilian "let's all get uploaded into Heaven 2.0" reasons. Their recurring question had a strong evolutionary theme: what niche is left for humans if machines become ascendant?

Ben Goertzel describes his generalized AI modelThe conversation about the Singularity touched on more than science fiction stories, because of the attendance of Ben Goertzel, a cognitive science/computer science specialist who runs a company called "Novamente" -- a company with the express goal of creating the first Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). He has a working theory of how to do it, some early prototypes (that for now exist solely in virtual environments), and a small number of employees in the US and Brazil. He says that with the right funding, his team would be able to produce a working AGI system within ten years. With his current funding, it might take a bit longer.

According to Goertzel, the Singularity would happen fairly shortly after his AGI wakes up.

It was a surreal moment for me. I've been writing about the Singularity and related issues for years, and have spoken to a number of people who were working on related technologies or were major enthusiasts of the concept (the self-described "Singularitarians"). This was the first time I sat down with someone who was both. Goertzel is confident of his vision, and quite clear on the potential outcomes, many of which would be unpleasant for humankind. When I spoke to my wife mid-way through the first day, I semi-jokingly told her that I'd just met the man who was going to destroy the world.

Ben doesn't actually want that to happen, as far as I can tell, and has made a point of considering from the very beginning of his work the problem of giving super-intelligent machines a sense of ethics that would preclude them from wanting to make choices that would be harmful to humankind.

In 2002, he wrote:

...I would like an AGI to consider human beings as having a great deal of value. I would prefer, for instance, if the Earth did not become densely populated with AGI’s that feel about humans as most humans feel about cows and sheep – let alone as most humans feel about ants or bacteria, or instances of Microsoft Word. To see the potential problem here, consider the possibility of a future AGI whose intelligence is as much greater than ours, as ours is greater than that of a sheep or an ant or even a bacterium. Why should it value us particularly? Perhaps it can create creatures of our measly intelligence and complexity level without hardly any effort at all. In that case, can we really expect it to value us significantly? This is not an easy question.

Beyond my attachment to my own species, there are many general values that I hold, that I would like future AGI’s to hold. For example, I would like future AGI’s to place a significant value on:

  1. Diversity
  2. Life: relatively unintelligent life like trees and protozoa and bunnies, as well as intelligent life like humans and dolphins and other AGI’s.
  3. The generation of new pattern (on “creation” and “creativity” broadly conceived)
  4. The preservation of existing structures and systems
  5. The happiness of other intelligent or living systems (“compassion”)
  6. The happiness and continued existence of humans

(From his essay "Thoughts on AI Morality," in which he quotes both Ray Kurzweil and Jello Biafra.)

The issue of how to give AGIs a sense of empathy towards humans consumed a major part of the Good Ancestor Principle workshop discussion. The participants recognized quickly that what this technology meant was the creation of a parallel line of descendants of humankind. In essence, the answer to the question of "how can we be better ancestors for our descendants" is answered in part by "making sure our other descendants are helpful, not harmful."

Ultimately, the notion of being good ancestors by reducing the chances that our descendants will be harmed appeared in nearly every attempt to answer Jonas Salk's challenge. It's a point that's both obvious and subtle. Of course we want to reduce the chances that our descendants will be harmed; the real challenge is figuring out just what we are doing today that runs counter to that desire. We don't always recognize the longer-term harm emerging from a short-term benefit. This goes back to an argument I've made time and again: the real problems we're facing in the 21st century are the long, slow threats. We need our solutions to have a long term consciousness, too.

That strikes me as an important value for any intelligent being to hold, organic or otherwise.

Caption Contest

(Taken by Vlasta Radan at the Good Ancestor Principle 2007 workshop)

February 7, 2007

Things That Make Me Happy

• Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon is available, in its entirety, online, at both the Internet Archive and Google Video. As either MPEG or Flash video, of course, so it's not as good as a DVD version, but still. This is one of the best movies ever made, and has become a fundamental piece of cultural knowledge: it's the story of a truth told four ways. (Via WMMNA)

• The $100 Laptop will use a new -- and very clever -- form of security to prevent virus and malware attacks. Rather than the traditional (and not very effective) firewall and "are you sure you want to do this?" security method, the designers have gone with a system that gives each application its own "virtual machine." A virus that infects a web connection, for example, would only ever be able to affect the web software, and would never be able to infect other programs, including the file system. The emergence of new system security models rock, both because it means we're not stuck with failing paradigms, and because it could have very interesting implications for biological immune systems.

• 17-Year-Old Madhavi Gavini, a student at the Mississippi Institute of Science and Mathematics, has figured out a novel cure for Pseudomonas bacteria, an opportunistic bacteria that ravages people with suppressed immune systems (such as Cystic Fibrosis and AIDS). What's more, it's based on common plants and herbs. Best of all, she's made it open source.

While Madhavi could become a millionaire by patenting her work, she has something else in mind: making it openly available. She points out, "If I were going to patent this, the rights would have to be sold to a pharmaceutical company, and that would greatly increase the cost of the drug once it's developed. So to prevent that from happening, by publishing it, the information becomes readily available and any company that wants to manufacture it, would be able to. So the price would be much lower due to competition and the people who need it most will have access to it."

(Via open...)

• About a decade ago, I helped a television producer named Rick Okie imagine the world of 2010 for a science fiction show called "Earth: Final Conflict." The show had its ups and downs, but did have some very cool future artifacts, most notably the GlobalLink -- a handheld wireless communication device with a scroll-out screen. It was a design that struck me as being eminently plausible, only needing a few more tech advances to make real.

It looks like tech has advanced, as the Luxembourg company Polymer Vision has teamed up with Telecom Italia to produce the "Cellular-Book" (aka the "READIUS"), a handheld wireless communication device with a scroll-out screen.

Here's a side-by-side of the GlobalLink (left) and Cellular-Book (right):


Just needs the built-in camera. (Via Smart Mobs)

• Finally, according to the British Medical Journal, learning to play the Didgeridoo is an effective treatment for sleep apnea. Swiss researchers found that eight weeks of didgeridoo instruction sufficiently strengthened throat muscles to reduce snoring and daytime sleepiness at least as well as the conventional treatment for sleep apnea, a "positive airway pressure" mask worn over the nose and mouth all night. Considering that sleep apnea can be a precursor to pulmonary and cardiac problems, even death, this is a clever treatment of a serious problem. Janice wants to know (a) does it work on non-apnea snoring, and (b) where I could start getting didgeridoo lessons.

February 3, 2007

Still Alive... Just Busy

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few days. Meetings and deadlines are always fun.

I'm heading out to the "Good Ancestor Principle" workshop today, so blogging may be spotty for a few more days. But check out this collection of essays by the participants in the workshop. Some really mind-bending stuff here.

Jamais Cascio

Contact Jamais  ÃƒÂƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚ƒÃ‚¢Ã‚€Â¢  Bio

Co-Founder, WorldChanging.com

Director of Impacts Analysis, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Fellow, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Affiliate, Institute for the Future


Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered By MovableType 4.37