June 2002 Archives

Battelle's technology top tens

Battelle, a US technology development company, has a collection of technology forecasts such as "Top Ten Breakthroughs for Household Products by 2007" and "Strategic Technologies by 2020." Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but a nice set of self-contained lists that could come in handy.

Think again about global warming

Andrew Kenny claims that global cooling is more likely than global warming. Why don't we hear about it? Because, unlike global warming, there's no one we can blame for geological-scale cooling. With greedy companies and corrupt governments as targets, "global warming has become an immense international gravy train worth billions of dollars," blinding people to the truth. He goes too far at times (eg, claiming anti-warming campaigners want poor countries "to remain mired in noble poverty"), but it does make one think twice about things that have become ingrained as indisputable fact. Which is always good. (via SciTech Daily Review)

Health insurance from eBay

I always thought it interesting that there are people who make their living selling things on eBay. Something about the Internet enabling a new kind of person-to-person commerce that was stable enough to provide people with a livelihood. Now, eBay are hoping to offer health insurance to their biggest sellers. It seems like the next step in a less-formalised economy, one in which relationships neglected by the disintegrating life-long-employer--employee relationship are fulfilled by other means. (via Plastic)

When do we run out of future?

The Rapture Index keeps track of whether we're approaching the End Times by counting various indicating factors (Satanism, The False Prophet, Inflation, etc). Daft, but I love reducing important and complex things to a single number. And if the index rises we'll know that all our futures work may have been pointless after all! (via Boing Boing)

Customise your robot dog


A while ago I mentioned how it's becoming easier to re-program robots designed for consumer entertainment. Matt Jones went to see Natalie Jeremienko talking about her Feral Robotic Dogs project which is all about finding new uses for "toys" like Sony's AIBO, and how to go about customising them. Maybe customising robot dogs is just giving us practice for when we start fiddling with genes and customising living things. (An aside: why don't I have a job that involves going to see interesting people speak?)

Advancing Futures: Future Studies in Higher Education looks like an interesting book (Amazon US, UK). An all-star cast of academic futurists on the state of future studies, corralled by Jim Dator, of the Hawaii Research Centre for Futures Studies. (via Futurist Update)

Every government online

I love obsessively huge collections of links on a single topic, and the Governments on the WWW site fits the bill. A handy resource with links to vast numbers of international, national and local governments, institutions, departments, embassies... there are 1166 entries for Great Britain and Northern Ireland alone! No updates in over a year though. (via Interconnected)

Successful ground-up governance

We hear a lot about how the networked society will bring political decision making closer to individuals, but finding concrete examples of this trend in action is tough. However, a week ago, the British government backed down over a proposal to expand its internet monitoring programme to allow more agencies access to traffic data. The proposal was due to become law after a mere 90 minutes of debate, but the UK internet community began campaigning and soon the government's plans were postponed and, days later, shelved. The BBC has credited those behind Stand and FaxYourMP with making the difference (also on a TV report (Real file)) by alerting a wider audience and then giving people the means to quickly and simply contact their representatives. If a handful of people with some technical know-how can empower the public to achieve a government u-turn now, where will we be in 10 years? I hesitated in posting this as I have a vested interest (as Stand's hastily copied-and-pasted design testifies), and it's hard for me to be objective.

CIA's global technology revolution

Subtitled "Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015" this report contains two main chapters: first, a detailed look at the current state of the technologies and where they might progress to by 2015. Second, a discussion of what factors may cause them to either take off or stagnate, and the effects of both scenarios. While it acknowledges that trends of all kinds can have profound effects on each other, much of the report is written as if nothing outside technology exists -- necessary, given its purpose, but kind of odd. However, a couple of good quotes:

Big, cool, practical "robot"

Plustech have developed a large vehicle designed to walk through forest terrain with an operator in the cockpit controlling the attached tools. Watching the two videos of the robot-like machine in action it's hard to believe it's not a Star Wars special effect. (via Haddock)

Future fictional populations

Lionel Shriver, an American writer, looks at how novelists have dealt with differing predictions of population change: virii, natural disasters, war or population explosion. (via Arts & Letters Daily)

The first light pollution law

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I've been wondering for some time whether campaigners will make headway in their campaigns to limit human light and sound pollution. The Czech Republic has become the first country to introduce a law forbidding outdoor lighting that spills out above the horizontal plane.

Programming robots at home

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An article about Robot SDKs (Software Development Kits which allow developers to write code that controls robots) that are available for commercially available robots such as Lego Mindstorms and Sony's AIBO. The latter is most interesting given that in the psat Sony has been very restrictive with information that would allow people to program their robot dogs. Anyway, encouraging third-party developers like this can only be good as it tends to produce more innovative results than solely in-house development. (via Generation5 which has loads of robot stuff)

Environmentally friendlier flights

Having heard a lot about cars using alternative fuels, I've often wondered about planes, given how much fuel they burn. 35 European organisations coordinated by Airbus are looking into liquid hydrogen planes in their Cryoplane project (or you can read a European Union press release).

A report from the University of California-Santa Cruz, USA, suggests that global warming and population increases could have a disastrous effect for the already dry US state over coming decades. Maybe green roofs and porous paving would help. Oh, and global warming does exist apparently, if you were in any doubt.