Future robots: capable of thinking, reasoning; even falling in love

March 18 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 19

By Dick Pelletier

Humans have always been fascinated by robots, a fascination fueled in part by science-fiction renderings of such characters as R2D2, C3PO, HAL, The Terminator, and Data.

However, a world run by robots is no longer science-fiction. Today, robotic systems work on assembly lines; clean floors; monitor kids; help the disabled; explore Mars; and assist in our security.

IRobot CEO, Rodney Brooks says the robotics industry is undergoing huge changes with major focus now on personal robots. Industry consultant Dr. Joanne Pransky agrees. In 10 years, Pransky expects to purchase a robot that can clean house, prepare and serve meals, and help her become more efficient with tomorrow’s technologies.

Much impetus for robot development comes from Japan, where demographic trends and labor costs have created a growing market for machines that replace humans. Hitachi’s EMIEW can perform any number of factory and office jobs.

“Hold on”, say opponents. Though robots perform many mundane and physical jobs that humans don’t want, the net result is that millions become unemployed. Seegrid chief scientist, Hans Moravec agrees that future robotic development could be disruptive to the economy.

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The Social Will to Accelerate

April 09 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 15 Hot

Exponential technology and information are poised to transform the world, but can the human species muster the social will to let that happen?

To date we’ve created amazingly fuel-efficient cars, robust water purifiers, revolutionary stem cell -based therapies, and better, cheaper light bulbs, all of which have met with great social and political resistance, greatly slowing the pace of their spread. This has caused many to scratch their heads in confusion, others to curse up at the sky, and some to chuckle at the naivete of their fellow meme-monkeys.

Take for example Dean Kamen, the Edison of our time who invented compact kidney dialysis, the Segway human transporter and most recently a water purifier that could save upwards of 5 million lives in under-developed nations if widely deployed. Kamen’s innovations have repeatedly encountered social barriers, causing him to proclaim that creating new technology is the easy part.

“I’m disappointed with every project I ever do. Because you work on something for years that you think should take hours. You finally get it done and you think, ‘Now the world’s going to be a better place,’ expressed Kamen in a recent Newsweek article, “Then you find out that as fast as technology moves, people move at the same slow, cautious pace they always did. If anything, people have gotten more cautious, more afraid of change, more skeptical, more cynical.”

Sloth-like technology diffusion is nothing new. The late great Everett Rogers taught us that all technologies except for Interactive Communication Technologies (ICTs) spread at an amazingly slow rate due to cultural barriers. Seasoned futurists all point out a consistent bias in favor of overly ambitious predictions and sternly warn their fellow prognosticators to avoid similar mistakes. And now Kamen has joined the ranks of those with enough experience to back up the notion. (cont.)

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Future weather control: no more storms, earthquakes, tsunamis

May 29 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: General   Rating: 14 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

In just ninety seconds, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed Japan’s economy in 1923 throwing the country into chaos. Instability opened the door for a military government, which quickly led to war in Southeast Asia, then to WWII, dishing out unimaginable horrors to the world.

Could a 1923 disaster repeat itself? What if the Southern California “Big One”, forecast for years by experts, actually happened and 16 million people suddenly found their homes submerged in the Pacific Ocean? Could an event like this destroy the American economy, and how would that affect the rest of the world?

Property losses from violent weather are increasing. The recent Myanmar cyclone and China earthquake have both caused huge losses in lives, weakened economies and devastated areas. Everyone enjoys nature’s breathtaking beauty and we could not exist without its bounty, but sometimes this Earth we call home can be harsh and unforgiving.

Forward-thinking scientists believe current knowledge of weather modification, combined with our newest wonder science – molecular nanotechnology – will one day provide an opportunity for humanity to inoculate itself against natural disasters.

Geologists describe earth’s atmosphere as an envelope of air, rotating with the continents and oceans; receiving enormous amounts of energy from the Sun’s radiation, which powers weather events. Typical energy expended in a tornado funnel is equal to about fifty kilotons of explosives; a thunderstorm exchanges about ten times this much during its lifetime; and a moderate size Atlantic hurricane can build up to more than 1,000 megatons of energy. (cont.)

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Tomorrow's Internet - holographic get-togethers and more

April 20 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

A new higher-speed Internet2, now under development in labs around the world, will one day offer holographic images indiscernible from reality, providing an array of applications that we can only dream of today.

With digital video resolution four times finer than today’s HDTV, and haptic technologies that provide a realistic sense of touch, researchers can create holograph images of people filmed thousands of miles away enabling lifelike virtual interaction indiscernible from reality. The system uses cameras that capture live images of people from two or more places, merges the data, and feeds it back to all locations.

We could organize a meeting with friends or relatives from cities scattered around the world without anyone actually traveling. People will kiss, hug and reminisce as if they were in the same room. And our senses will convince us that they are there. We could even meet with a simulation of a favorite celebrity. (cont.)

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The future includes me

July 15 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

An ulterior motive drives much of the optimism and positive take that appears in ‘FutureTalk’ articles which describe how the future might unfold.

There is an audacious thought roaming through my brain that the “magical future” I describe so often actually includes me. With a little luck, I believe that I can stay alive and reap all the benefits this wonder time has to offer.

Though more than 50 million will die in 2008, I am convinced that I will not be among them. In researching articles each week, I discover facts that support the optimistic slant that each topic seems to take.

Chronologically my body has reached seventy-seven years; biologically it behaves as a mid-sixty-year-old, and emotionally it sometimes acts like a ‘30 something. By continuing to believe optimistically about the future, it’s easy for me to imagine myself ‘being there’. (cont.)

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What might your great-great grandchildren think of today's world?

March 17 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: Beyond   Rating: 11

By Dick Pelletier

I believe humans and their machines will evolve into a mind-boggling future.

We will greet new technologies with much joy. By late 2020’s and early 2030’s, advanced nanotech could be making everything from dishes to carpets self-cleaning, and household air permanently fresh. For properly designed nano-replicators, dirt would become food.

High resolution screens could project different images to each eye, giving us incredible 3D TV so real that the screen would seem like a window into another world.

Some envision systems that would share thoughts and emotions from mind to mind. It may be possible in the future to link neural structures via transducers and electromagnetic signals to provide a sort of telepathy easier to use than today’s telephones.

And of course as we trek through what some experts describe as the “golden age of intelligence” – 2035-2050 – humanity could learn to merge with their machines resulting in powerful bodies that require no maintenance. Say goodbye to human aging and unwanted deaths.

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Telepresence, avatars enrich our lives in near future

May 21 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine a future where there is no clear distinction between real and simulated events. Welcome to the world of virtual reality. In contrast to today’s crude videoconferencing methods, tomorrow’s revolutionary “telepresence” systems expected by 2015 or before, will look and sound like you are actually together in real reality. You’ll establish eye contact, look around each other, and otherwise have the sense of being together.

Tomorrow’s Internet will power this new system. Cameras will transmit live two-way pictures over a terabyte-speed network similar to today’s Internet2. With sensors embedded in clothing to track movement, parties at both ends can project themselves into a virtual reality 3-D simulation of the event – everyone interacts with everyone with “telepresence.”

“This new system marks the beginning of a revolution expected to take us by storm in the next decade,” says Dr. Pierre Boulanger, University of Alberta VR researcher. People separated by distance can be together in this virtual world, to enjoy a living room chat, share meals at the dinner table, or cozy up even more intimately. Everyone feels hand shakes, hugs and kisses as if they were real.

In addition, say goodbye to confusing controls for home entertainment systems and computers. Lifelike 3D avatars (virtual assistants) which speak perfect “human” will become our primary interface with all our technologies.

These amazing screen images will do just about everything for us. They will answer questions; negotiate Internet transactions; make it easy for us to operate computers and home entertainment systems; and maintain household temperature, lighting and security. These cute creatures, resembling favorite celebrities or loved ones, will appear on our TV, cell phone screen, and car radio display. Later, advances in holography will enable avatars to jump off the screen and follow us around the house. (cont.)

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Coming soon: cars that wink, laugh, cry, and get angry

June 16 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

In the future, your car will detect danger possibilities and protect you as you encounter other cars on the road. It will automatically display a happy, sad, or angry look to convey appropriate feelings to other drivers in response to their action. This is the vision of four Toyota Motor employees in Japan who recently patented this creative technology.

Car modifications include a hood with slits and designs that resemble eyebrows, eyelids and tears, which glow with different light shades and colors to reflect desired moods; an antenna that wags like a puppy dog’s tail to show happiness; and a body that can crouch low on its wheelbase when timid, or stand tall to express displeasure.

By 2015 or before, “cars with feelings” could be arriving at dealer showrooms everywhere. These cars can display a wide range of expressions to help us interact with other drivers on the road. Today, we can only honk horns, tap brakes, flash headlights, or use turn signals. It’s difficult to thank another driver for letting us enter the lane, or to show disapproval at someone who cuts us off.

The intelligence system on these new cars with personalities calculate road and vehicle conditions such as steering angle, braking, and speed. It also correlates driver reactions, road and car conditions, and automatically creates correct color and position for the eyebrows, antenna, lights and vehicle height.

If a pre-set number of points indicate an approaching careless or hostile driver, the system creates an anger reaction. The headlights glow red, the eyebrows light up, but the antenna and height remains in a standard “cool” position. A happy, satisfied look is displayed to reward a courteous driver. A friendly “wink” shows that you agree with a driver’s action, or it could also be an attempt at flirting. (cont.)

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Supercomputer will speed breakthroughs in medical research

June 18 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

As our “miracle” 21st century begins to unfold, a statement, which has been an eternal truth for most of human history, is now being seriously challenged: Humans will always be battling sicknesses. Many scientists believe this statement could be overturned within the next three decades, and most of the credit for this feat would lie in our ability to increase computer power.

Today, medical researchers, in efforts to cure heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other human ills, perform trial and error experiments in labs, and conduct human clinical trials that yield excruciatingly slow results. Cancer deaths are predicted to not end for another seven years, and cures for other diseases are projected to be even more elusive.

But researchers say we could speed medical research progress by first using Clinical Trial Simulations (CTS). If we preceded actual human trials with high-speed computer simulations, the end results would be reached much faster. Ronald Gieschke, of Hoffmann-La Roche in Switzerland, claims CTS will have a significant impact on the way in which drugs are developed in the future. “Human clinical trials will still be necessary,” Gieschke says, “but CTS will make them faster and more accurate”.

In addressing the need for increased computer power, IBM’s new “Roadrunner,” built for the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved performance of 1.026 petaflops (more than one quadrillion floating point operations per second) and is now rated as the fastest supercomputer in the world.

The DOE announced that this computer will link its facilities to other government labs and major research centers around the world. Scientists will find easy access to this new supercomputer later this year, according to a LANL spokesman. The new machine will enable breakthrough discoveries in biology that will fundamentally change medical science and its impact across society. (cont.)

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Time Travel Could Become Reality

February 27 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 10

Time Travel could become reality sooner than you think.

By Dick Pelletier

At a UCLA workshop attended by yours truly and an assortment of future-thinkers, the late physicist Dr. Robert Forward told the group that further understanding of general relativity and quantum mechanics would one day enable humans to travel backwards and forwards through time. “Given the money and the mandate,” Forward said, “a time machine will be built.”

This workshop convened in 1983, and today, 24 years later, scientists are bringing this bold concept closer to reality. Professor Amos Ori at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology recently created a theoretical model of a time machine based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, which would allow people to travel back in time.

Ori’s theory, published in the prestigious science journal Physical Review, describes how a future time machine could be built by forming “closed time-like curves” in a donut-shaped area of space-time. A person traveling around this donut loop would go further back in time with each lap.

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Merging with machines inevitable, scientists say

April 01 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9

By Dick Pelletier

Today, we are entering the beginning stages of a society that many futurists believe will not end until man and machine become completely integrated into a single being – an enhanced human.

The biotech revolution, from 2010 to 2020, promises to correct many of our biological flaws including vulnerability to disease and telltale signs of aging. Doctors will re-grow cells, tissues and organs to replace aging body parts; and by as early as mid-2020s, most humans can look forward to an extended healthy lifespan of 200 years or more.

Molecular nanotech marks the next step in our march towards this futuristic society. From about 2025, we will enjoy home-replicators that provide food, clothing, and essentials at little cost; and tiny nanobots that roam through arteries and veins keeping us forever fit and healthy.

The final stage of achieving this remarkable future lies in supercomputers and artificial intelligence; powerful robot-like machines that many predict will outthink humans by 2030. These silicon marvels will possess reasoning and logic similar to our own, but can share data and knowledge millions of times faster than we can with our slow human language; a desirable feature that many humans will want to incorporate into their bodies, experts say.

(cont.)

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What happens when machines learn to speak?

May 28 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Throw away the computer mouse, keyboard, and TV remote. A new speaking machine, expected in the next decade, is about to become your newest “electronic” friend. This new voice-interactive machine will browse the Internet searching for information it thinks will interest you, and will help unravel the maize of TV channels. The machine will converse in a pleasant voice as it listens carefully to your instructions, then offers suggestions on what Internet data or TV programs it thinks you might enjoy.

This new voice-interactive machine will appear as an avatar – an on-screen image resembling your favorite movie character, religious icon, or loved one. On command, it will appear on the TV screen, computer monitor, car radio or cell phone, addressing you by name, and asking what you would like.

Most people think interactive systems like these are a long way off, but two trends are quickening the pace. Improved speech-recognition systems will soon enable people to converse with computers in normal-spoken language, and entrepreneurs are rushing to the Internet creating new business applications with software “agents” that take advantage of speech recognition.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates claims that by 2012, voice-enabled “smart” systems will allow us to converse naturally and comfortably, directly with our display, reducing need for mouse and keyboard. Avatars will help us shop, work, learn, and conduct business and social relationships on the Internet. At home, they will provide security, change lighting and temperature as needed, and deliver news, sports, games, and entertainment anywhere in the house. (cont.)

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