CCTV Nation — Security at What Cost?

December 30 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

cctv.jpgA lot of people keep telling me that if one has nothing to hide, then why worry about wire-taps or security cameras?  If you're not planning to rob a bank or kidnap a spoiled celebrity then you should be fine, right?

I have to admit, that argument is pretty solid.  I don't plan on doing anything like kidnapping rich kids (at least until the economy gets worse) so I shouldn't worry.  But the real issue here is privacy.  Humans love privacy, and yet we're afraid of just about everything.  Finding a balance between the two can be difficult at times and rarely easy.  You might not be doing something illegal that would cause you to fear security cameras, but think again.

Chances are you've done something that could be construed as illegal and fined.  Not coming to a full stop at stop signs lands you a ticket for every mistake.  Urinating in public when you're coming home from the bars at 2am could land you an indecency ticket and possible jail time.  Any prank you've ever pulled from toilet papering a house to stealing a road sign would be prosecuted (for those that notice these crimes are kinda specific examples, I've never TP'd a house, it's a waste of paper).

Someone will always be watching and to think that minor offenses will be ignored is naive since cities are always looking for new sources of revenue.  And as it becomes clear that the cameras don't actually prevent any crime (London has 1.5 million CCTV cameras and bombings still happen) people will rely more and more on security cameras which do more.  Facial recognition is the next step, following people from camera to camera, tracking their paths.  Your entire path from when you leave your house to when you finally return is on record.  Great for Alzheimers patients, but I think I'll pass.

I prefer a world where I can enjoy anonymity and freedom to do silly things like hit golf balls off my front lawn, or drop water balloons from a parking garage, or streak on campus.  Would I like to find out who broke into my car?  Yes.  But not at the cost of killing my privacy.

What do you think about privacy?

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Alas, Poor Mouse, I Knew Him Well…

July 23 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 5

In an interview with the BBC, Gartner analyst Steve Prentice predicts the demise of the mouse (the thing in your hand right now, not actual mice – we need those for testing drugs on) in the next three to five years. He remarks that although the mouse works fine for desktops, for mobile devices like laptops, “it’s over.” But how accurate is this belief? Is the mouse genuinely on the edge of extinction?

It could be true. A laptop touchpad is hard to use, and carrying around mice with all the other usual laptop baggage (power cords, wireless internet cards, headphones) is impractical, and on top of that, you need a flat surface. If there’s one thing the Nintendo Wii has shown us, it’s that tracking technology is not only available, but it’s cheap.

While there’s no denying that vocal and facial recognition software has the potential to do away with the mouse, a majority of users still believe that our little friend is a long way from retirement. The reasoning? Well, for one thing, the mouse is incredibly useful and quick. And, in the words of Adrian Kingsly-Hughes at ZDNet, “Anything that replaces the mouse not only has to be better than it, it’ll have to be a LOT better.” In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The mouse may well be discarded at some point in our near future, but the odds of that happening in the next five years seem like a pipe dream to me.

What do you see happening with the mouse?

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IBM Gives Us a Look At The Future With Their "Five In Five"

December 01 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2013   Rating: 3

IBM held its Third Annual "Five in Five" which looks at emerging trends as well as what IBM itself is developing in their own labs around the world.  Here's the vid.


While previous predictions given by these "Five in Five" releases can be somewhat fanciful (like mind-reading cellphones for instance), this latest list has the refreshing feel of being very near and very possible.

Solar technology will be built into everything

IBM states that within five years we could be seeing thin-film solar technology built into everything around us.  This includes sidewalks, driveways, paint, windows and even clothing.  Their belief is that thin-film solar will get so cheap that it can be applied everywhere in our lives.  It's ability to be flexible also makes it easy to wrap around our daily devices which could benefit from a little extra power boost.  It's interesting to think that while some people are clamoring for white asphalt and roofing tiles to reflect the Suns energy and save on lighting, another faction will emerge that will want solar film instead.  Of course the question remains: are you going to want to hook a battery up to your clothing?

Your health can be pre-determined

Mapping DNA keeps getting faster and cheaper as the years go along.  It only makes sense that very soon people will begin to use that genetic information to look for hereditary traits that could impact your health.  In finding out you have a high chance of becoming diabetic, you may try and change your diet to avoid or delay its effects.  Basically, it's the movie GATTACA without being able to actually alter the DNA before birth.  I wonder how you'll take the news when they tell you that the junk food you so love is literally killing your body and taking years off your life.

Surfing the Web through speech

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Google Voice Recognition Having a Tough Time With British Accents

November 19 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Communication   Year: 2008   Rating: 1

Although Google finally got approval for its voice recognition upgrade released earlier this week for the iPhone, it has run into some snags overseas. Not downloading problems, but more of a language barrier.

Although there has been some amazing feedback to the voice recognition feature here in the US, people in the United Kingdom have some serious issues with the update. Mainly, the fact that it can’t understand their thick accents. “The free application, which allows iPhone owners to use the Google search engine with their voice, mistook the word “iPhone” variously for “sex,” “Einstein” and “kitchen sink,” said the Daily Telegraph.” It seems that the accents of those in the UK are responsible for limiting voice recognition technology. It makes one wonder if people will have to develop a North American accent until voice recognition is able to deal with the varied British accents.

Will there be a Universal Voice Recognition Voice?

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