How do we go about discussing the gap between our technology’s potential and how well we reach that potential? In many ways technology is the ultimate incarnation of the expression, “more than the sum of it’s parts”. A smart phone mostly consists of simple things like plastic, silicon, glass, metal. Yet, the way in which those substances come together has resulted in a device that has transformed our entire society.
I recently watched an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where this issue came to mind. The crew of the Enterprise encountered beings with advanced scientific know how. These beings stole a shuttle craft and used it’s existing technology to travel 20 times faster than was previously possible by humans.
Faster than Warp Speed
The technology to accomplish this “uber feat” was already there. It was only a matter of rearranging it or programming it in a new way. This gap between what our technology is capable of and what we do with it could be an important subject to consider.
As our technology advances, it becomes more likely that a single genius or group of smart people can use it to achieve an “uber feat”. It need not come in the form of traveling 20 times faster than is humanly possible.
Mark Zuckerberg 1+1 = 1 Billion
Mark Zuckerberg could be an example. He used existing technologies to parlay a few lines of programming code into a billion dollar industry and a communications revolution.
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Controlling a computer with your mind is probably one of the next great leaps forward for humanity. Imagine having a pair of glasses that house a miniature computer that learns to translate your brainwaves into commands on a computer screen visible through those glasses.
Sergey Brin wears Google Glass
You might be able to write paragraphs of text as quickly as you think them. Imagine a complete catalog of the running commentary in your mind. You might be able to access programs and give commands without having to see fully open windows on your screen. Imagine disarming the security system on your house to let your kids get in, while giving the command to pre heat the oven, turn up the AC, and turn on the sprinkler with a few thoughts. Imagine running a factory or city-wide utility system. What if it were possible to build something as complex as an aircraft carrier using robotic factories patched in to the minds of a few engineers. Rather than “overseeing” every single task, the engineers might give certain pre determined commands and only have to be aware of a limited amount of items at a time.
The technology to scan your brain and control objects in the real world is maturing rapidly. There are toys that allow you to control flying vehicles with your thoughts.
Controlling a Drone with Your Mind
Using the mind to control a mouse on the computer screen is also possible. The technology will become increasingly sensitive to the electrical signals in the brain. Computer learning will make it possible to more accurately interpret the patterns of those signals. In turn, humans will get better at interacting with the devices. The result will be an eventual synergy between computer and human that is far more efficient than it is today.
It’s entirely possible a company like Apple could pioneer this type of interface/operating system. Their recent venture into wearables that give bio feedback could be an indicator of things to come. Though Apple has seemed to drop the “i” from their recent products, I think the “iMind” would be a great name for the OS.
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Some day computers and apps will be able to monitor what you are looking at by watching your eyes. This eye tracking technology is in it’s infancy at the time I am writing this blog. It has not yet permeated our society.
Eye Tracking Technology
At the moment, much of the focus has been on tracking the eyes of one person at a time. Eventually, it may be possible to track the eye movements of a room full of people simultaneously. They would not all need to be facing the same direction or wearing special glasses. Omni directional cameras could be strategically placed to see all eyes everywhere.
Omni Directional Camera
This could help architects and designers better understand how people perceive their environments. It could also help advertisers know when their ads have been seen. In a venue like a sporting event, it would be extremely valuable to know if the the most valued ad realestate lived up to it’s price.
“Did you see my ad and for how long did you look? Did you just look or did your eyes read the text?” Advertisers want to know the answer.
When dealing with one person, It might be possible to project an image in such a way that no matter where that person looks, they see the projection. Eye tracking technology could determine where you are looking, and a moveable projector could create the display.
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I recently watched a Ted Talk by Harald Hass. He demonstrated the technology of Li-Fi (Light Fidelity). In short, it is the use of the visible light part of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit data. Technology such as Wi-Fi uses the radio wave part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Li-Fi has a far, far greater data capacity than Wi-Fi.
In a way, astronomy utilizes a type of “Light Communication” already. Stars communicate their composition by emitting a certain spectrum of light. Astronomers then decode the light to determine what elements are present.
Some theorize that light travels at different speeds when in different mediums and perhaps in interstellar space. What if the speed of light moves a great deal faster between star systems?
Stars could communicate, or be a part of a communication network, in Li-Fi. Not to mention that stars also emit radio waves (Wi-Fi), ultraviolet waves etc. Quite a large spectrum.
Billions of stars buzzing with electromagnetic emissions.
And to go further out on a limb; what if stars are the equivalent of neurons or have the capacity for thought themselves? If the thoughts of these thinking beings move slower, at a different time rate than ours…. the time spans that it takes to receive information from star to star, may not seem long.
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We have all heard of the familiar zip file. It’s a compressed version of our picture or video that makes the file size smaller. Scientists, mathematicians and programmers are working on advanced compression algorithms that could change the way you view your media.
Imagine streaming a full length HD movie to your smart phone in a reasonable amount of time on your existing phone plan. And probably with no overages. Then simply attach your phone to the big screen of your choice and enjoy.
Holographic information may lend itself to this advanced compression technology. In theory, a holographic projection requires enormous amounts of data.
A hologram is data intensive
Advanced compression opens the door to more wide spread usage. Golf ball sized, portable devices could be stationed anywhere with the ability to project holographic, realistic images. Street signs could be replaced with Google Map projections accompanied by advertising. Local businesses could promote their products and services. States and municipalities could share the advertising income with Google.
Advanced compression technology could play an important role in the next technological revolution.