2013 will be a year of more rapid advances in technology, lingering worries about the economy and a search for solutions about climate change. Patrick Tucker, deputy editor of The Futurist magazine, views 2013 a...
John Hagel: "If you have tightly scripted jobs that are highly standardized where there's no room for individual initiative or creativity, machines by and large can do those kinds of activities much better than human beings. They're much more predictable. They're much more reliable. We as human beings have flaws. We tend to get distracted. We tend to go off into unexpected areas. "
On which problems should we focus research in medicine and the biological sciences? There is a strong argument for tackling the diseases that kill the most people –diseases like malaria, measles, and diarrhea, which kill millions in developing countries, but very few in the developed world. Developed countries, however, devote most of their research funds to the diseases from which their citizens suffer, and that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Given that constraint, which medical breakthrough would do the most to improve our lives?
Via Szabolcs Kósa
Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise again this year, putting the world on a path toward dangerous climate change and making the internationally-accepted warming target of 2 degrees Celsius nearly “unachievable,” say researchers.
Researchers have begun to show that it is possible to use brain recordings to reconstruct aspects of an image or movie clip someone is viewing, a sound someone is hearing or even the text someone is reading. A new study by University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University scientists brings this work one step closer to actual mind reading by using brain recordings to infer the way people organize associations between words in their memories.
News and features about transhumanism, Humanity Plus, H+, Humanity 2.0 and the ethical, medical and social issues associated with them. How can we enhance the human body and mind through a series of improvements already in the workings? Are cryonics, avatars and futuristic medicine providing a dilemma for transhumanists? Do military modifications give rise to an army of supersoldiers? Already existing: Cyborg cockroaches that can be remotely controlled. A bodyhacker's wish list: Sleep replacement and 3D-printed shapeshifting. Smart drugs lead to 'moral enhancement' - a chemical approach to transhumanism.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report, Global Coal Risk Assessment, that analyzes information about proposed new coal-fired plants and other market trends in order to assess potential future risks to the global climate.
The report finds that there are 1,199 new coal power plants in the works, totaling more than 1.4 million megawatts of capacity worldwide. That’s four times the capacity of all the coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Seventy-six percent of the coal plants are proposed for India and China, with the U.S. seventh in the world for coal power plants in development. According to the WRI, if all of these projects are built, it would add new coal power capacity that is almost four times the current capacity of all coal-fired plants in the U.S.
View the locations of proposed coal-fired power plants by country in this interactive map at the article link.
A team at the University of Southampton are pioneering a technique to predict when an ecosystem is likely to collapse, which may also have potential for foretelling crises in agriculture, fisheries or even social systems preventing another...
SpaceX's Grasshopper takes a 12-story leap towards full and rapid rocket reusability in a test flight conducted December 17, 2012 at SpaceX's rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Grasshopper, a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTVL), rose 131 feet (40 meters), hovered and landed safely on the pad using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control. The total test duration was 29 seconds. Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure.
The 12-story flight marks a significant increase over the height and length of hover of Grasshopper's previous test flights, which took place earlier this fall. In September, Grasshopper flew to 1.8 meters (6 feet), and in November, it flew to 5.4 meters (17.7 feet/2 stories) including a brief hover.
Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successively more sophisticated flights expected over the next several months.
t’s been fashionable in military circles to talk about cyberspace as a “fifth domain” for warfare, along with land, space, air and sea. But there’s a sixth and arguably more important warfighting domain emerging: the human brain.
This new battlespace is not just about influencing hearts and minds with people seeking information. It’s about involuntarily penetrating, shaping, and coercing the mind in the ultimate realization of Clausewitz’s definition of war: compelling an adversary to submit to one’s will. And the most powerful tool in this war is brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies, which connect the human brain to devices.
Current BCI work ranges from researchers compiling and interfacing neural data such as in the Human Conectome Project to work by scientists hardening the human brain against rubber hose cryptanalysis to technologists connecting the brain to robotic systems. While these groups are streamlining the BCI for either security or humanitarian purposes, the reality is that misapplication of such research and technology has significant implications for the future of warfare.
Where BCIs can provide opportunities for injured or disabled soldiers to remain on active duty post-injury, enable paralyzed individuals to use their brain to type, or allow amputees to feel using bionic limbs, they can also be exploited if hacked. BCIs can be used to manipulate … or kill.
Via Daniel House, Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Everybody is talking about 'data is the new oil' aka big-data. SoLoMo (social local mobile) is the battle cry of the day. Human-machine interfaces are rapidly evolving and may quickly become commonplace (think Google Glasses, MSFT Kinect), artificial intelligence is the geek-phrase-of-the-day, and Kurzweil says the singularity is near/here. So how will our world really change in the next 5 years, i.e. the way we communicate, get information, create, buy and sell, travel, live and learn? What are the biggest threats and the hottest opportunities - not just in financial terms, but also in societal and human terms? Futurist Gerd Leonhard will share his foresights and explore the key 'networked society' scenarios"
Via Szabolcs Kósa, Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
olsen jay nelson's insight:
I've been a fan of Gerd for a little while; he always has some great food for thought...
The last 12 months has seen the unveiling of a number of commercial space ventures whose audacious plans can’t be immediately dismissed given the technical and financial pedigree of their founders and backers. Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced the formation of Stratolaunch Systems, an air-launch system that requires the development of the world’s largest airplane. Allen assembled a team that included Scaled Composites and, originally, SpaceX (since replaced by Orbital Sciences), with a board that included Burt Rutan and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. In April, Planetary Resources announced plans for a series of robotic missions to prospect and, eventually, mine asteroids. That company has an impressive list of investors, including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt as well as Ross Perot Jr. and former Microsoft executive and two-time space tourist Charles Simonyi.
Yet, the goals of these startups—a giant air-launch system and missions to prospect and mine asteroids—pale in comparison to the goal of another new space startup: sending people to the surface of the Moon. That feat has been accomplished only six times, and by one nation, the United States, with the last such mission, Apollo 17, flying 40 years ago this month. At the time, it was a potent symbol of America’s capabilities, and one of the signature achievements of the 20th century. The scale of that accomplishment, in many respects, grows as the decades stretch on without anyone else repeating it.
Greg Pollowitz writes on NRO: David Horsey writes in today’s Los Angeles Times: What do Manhattan and Miami have in common with ancient Pompeii? They are doomed places where the residents cannot imagine that the good times will ever end.
Astronomers have in the past 20 years located several hundred planets orbiting distant stars, and they have only scratched the surface. In a small patch of stars—less than 1 percent of the sky—in the Northern Hemisphere, NASA's Kepler mission has already found more than 100 planets, along with strong hints of thousands more. Stars across the sky ought to be similarly laden with planets. A recent study indicated that each star hosts, on average, 1.6 planets. Exoplanets, as these strange worlds are called, are as plentiful as weeds—they crop up wherever they can. Whether any of them harbors life remains to be seen, but the odds of finding such a world are getting better.
Our understanding of the Internet, social networking, and the role of the prosumer in them is greatly enhanced by analyzing them through the lens of a number of ideas associated with postmodern theory.
There is, for example, the argument that the goal in any conversation, including those that characterize science, is not to find the “truth” but simply to keep the conversation going. The Internet is a site of such conversations. It is a world in which there is rarely, if ever, an answer, a conclusion, a finished product, a truth. Instead, there are lots of ongoing conversations and many new ideas and insights. Prime examples of this on the Internet include wikis in general and Wikipedia in particular, blogs and social networking sites. Google’s index is continually evolving and a complete iteration online content is impossible. All such sites involve open-ended processes that admit of no final conclusion.
Postmodernists tend to decenter whatever they analyze and to focus on the periphery. One searches in vain for the center of the Internet or of social networking sites. They are multi-faceted and always in the process of being made. As a result, even if a center could be found (and it can’t), it would immediately change. The idea of the “long tail” reflects this kind of decentering. Instead of focusing on a few “hits”, blockbusters, or best sellers, the long tail involves an emphasis on the infinitely larger number of phenomena (e.g. books, music productions) that are part of the long tail.