Pilot rating: January 2011

Author: Ury Smirnov. Category: Subjective rating of changes. Date:08.02.2011, 22:58.

In my “Google Reader” under the project “Subjective rating of changes (@ Ury Smirnov)» I follow ideas, projects, events and trends that may affect the life, thinking and attitudes of people in the future. Below there is a test ratings of January 2011.

1. Technology-“crutch” would help to refuse the technologies-“prostheses”

Application for self-control of brain activity. Already, it is more than just a 100 dollar toy: with its help, for example, one can learn to relax and concentrate, control one’s mood, creative and working tonus, as well as to choose the best time for work and leisure. A huge class of devices based on the use of brain interfaces with feedback is born before our eyes. These devices will be used not only for games, but mainly for personal growth, discovery and development of skills, professional, sports, household and other skills training, (an example, of a “smart cap” that helps to learn to play golf is here).
By the way, once I have proposed in this blog the idea of one of such devices – and, as they say, I’m ready to continue to share new ideas with interested investors. 🙂 The market is very promising: in ten years it could become a key on in the sphere of informational technologies. It is even possible that the market will give the world some charismatic visionaries like Steve Jobs, who dreamed of changing the world through a wide spread of computer technologies. At least an objective necessity in the “active dreamers” appears again.
I’ll start from a distance. The next 40 years will be a unique period in mankind’s life. There was a global demographic transition in 1995: Earth population growth reached a maximum rate (800 million per year) and began to decline. According to forecasts, by mid-century demographic revolution would almost complete, after which the population of the planet gradually stabilize at 10-11 billion people.
The mankind will be in a completely new situation when, figuratively speaking, all the tenants, breaking while the moving a half of furniture, has finally entered the house and can now safely make his arrangement. Although the alignment of living standards in all parts of the world will take several more generations – this task, you see, is much easier to realize in a stabilization of world population, than in the period of explosive growth. Even the prospects for human development in the second half of the century will become more clear and predictable, and this is good in itself.
We would only experience exacerbation of the inertia of demographic imbalances between the regions of the planet, which will interfere with the energy, food, climate and other global issues. There is a reasonably hope that the severity of some of these problems will be weakened by the development of technology. At the very least, just last six weeks the news getting into my monitoring were about the development of technologies that would reduce by 2050 emissions carbon dioxide by 80% compared to current levels, also about offering payback solution of the global problem of desalination and water purification, about increase the service life of nuclear fuel 60 times. There were some encouraging news in the field of hydrogen, alternative energy and the development of new kind of biofuel. When in 2004 I was preparing a series of reviews on the same topic and technological projects of that time merely postpone the inevitable in the future, as it seemed, economic / energy crisis of “gasoline civilization.” Today, there are developments that are trying to prevent it.
It is unlikely that the coming decades will be a cakewalk for our children, given the unresolved contradictions of the global economy, the growing social and religious conflicts. It is possible that, under the pressure of circumstances, people will choose wrong and even tragic scenarios.
One of the most dangerous temptations of the XXI century is the ideological venture formulated as follows: “The load of problems is excessive for people such as they are created by nature. Spiritual educators for thousands of years had a chance to change human nature for the better. And what happened? The man just runs faster to the abyss! The only chance is given with technologies: a change in the genome of human biochemistry, providing him with new bodies, the transfer of consciousness into artificial media. This is – a chance to make a reasonable mankind, and to make a man the immortal. ”
Who does not want to become immortal? 🙂 However, we, the post-Soviet people, did know that any attempt to change the nature of the system without first removing the mess, leads to chaos in the inheritance of a new system? Our conflicts and problems will never disappear and become a new, perhaps even more severe and even irreversible, if in the process of homo-transformation will be lost human essence (freedom of choice, the desire for knowledge and willingness to share the acquired knowledge, creativity and a change of environment, love as the ability to understand other beings).
Brain interfaces with feedback are also technologies. But these are technologies that are needed to abandon the technologies at the expense of the human own abilities. It’s like a book: a few hours you are inspired with other people’s thoughts, to begin then to live with your own mind. It’s like a “crutch”: once you’ll return it to “doctor” – as opposed to “artificial limbs” that you are suggested to replace for ever healthy, in fact, but untrained your own “limbs.”
The man who can control his mind and emotions is more competitive, more successful, less susceptible to manipulation, is more aware of their interests and formulate them in a relationship with the state, business and professional environment. He is more reasonable in building his life and contributes to a more reasonable arrangement of society. Personal systems of brain activity control will contribute to the development of these qualities in people.

2. People will become truly powerful when the machine understand what people want

I’ve recently read with great interest the news that IBM had made a breakthrough in the understanding of natural human language by machine. However, I have serious doubts that it’d be possible to create the mind equal to men’s one at least in this century. But this is not required. Machine intelligence is of a different, non-human nature (deterministic, algorithmic), but has superhuman abilities (to make calculations at the speeds unavailable for man, is able to capture in a single “act of the thinking” a lot of measurements and the slices of reality). Therefore, a complete “mutual understanding” of man and machine will provide people with unimaginable opportunities for information and knowledge as well as real world objects management. People will become truly powerful when the machines understand what people want. But first people need to understand what they want themselves.

3. It is not yet a planet-garden but not longer the city-hell

The transformation of cities in the pedestrian zone, the transfer of highways underground. Given that in the near future, ground transportation will start to use ecologically clean “engines” (electric vehicles, hydrogen powered cars) – I think there are no need to reorganize all of the old style of the cities on the earth. But, perhaps, soon we really will start to build as a garden city reconstructed and new neighborhoods and settlements. That will be, perhaps, the most striking and visible change of our way of life from the time of industrialization.

4. Almost by Plato: “the world of ideas” cooperates with “the world of things”

Saturation of the living environment of man with interactive virtual objects. The so-called immersive spaces that provide presence and interaction with digital virtual objects, in conjunction with augmented reality technology, will make our living environment “fluid” and diverse, will give everyone more space for creativity, manifestation of the “Self”. Our lives, in a sense, become an art, reminiscent of an interactive touch film in which we ourselves will be directors.
Of the same importance is that on the way to a more rational economy people can get rid of abundant unnecessary things: the aesthetic and / or functional roles of many real-world objects may be well taken by their digital copies.

5. … and things cooperate with people

Interactive toys that children can hold in their hands, as usual cubes, developing their kinesthetic abilities and forgetting about computer games. Are not these ingenious and useful inventions in themselves? But after them, I also see an important trend that will appear in full in ten years. Perhaps later – but I want very much to believe that by that time the world economy will transform, the need of that is obvious thanks to the current economic crisis. And if such a transformation will occur, or at least start – then it must be accompanied by a change of state of mind, change the philosophical and cultural paradigm. Relatively speaking, postmodernism is coming to be replaced with a new “-ism” (it would be time already).
In my opinion, one of the manifestations of the new “-ism” in the world of things will be a total rethinking of the objects surrounding us as a way to rationalize the world. Philosophers will comment on: the real purpose of things is revealed only when we allow it to freely cooperate with its owner.
Already now, such “reinterpreted” things appear more and more often: the aforementioned children’s blocks, capable of “playing with each other”, is not an isolated example. So, I liked the “anti-stress pen” that “resists” nervous gestures of the owner, “smart” packaging that changes color when the product is spoiled, and a virtual window that can display any landscape, when it is rain. Just in time these conceptual projects will be much more – and they will create a new image of the material world.
Note that the main rule of “rethinking” will be renewed self-sufficiency thing – the presence of an autonomous mechanism of interaction with a person independent of the connection to the Internet. This is a feature inherent in all of this stuff – as opposed to status-functional gadgets.

6. Ethics is not brake but the “manager” of progress

Treatment of disease using embryonic stem cells derived from a single cell, the extraction of which does not lead to the death of the embryo. This achievement of cell therapy, remarkable in itself, I also consider as an important precedent for the successful resolution of ethical conflicts associated with the use of stem cell technology (and the embryos remain intact, and patients will be healed). I hope that the search for such solutions will be carried out also in other areas of medicine where there are also ethical conflicts (e.g., transplantation).

7. To learn, “having fun”

Training of employees of companies with the help of computer game-simulations and social networks. I believe that before the 2030-2040 year now familiar scheme of corporate business organization fully yield the palm to the network. Large organizations will remain in the infrastructure sectors (transport, communications, energy, etc). In other industries, major corporations will be transformed into research centers, which will sell the innovative designs and, perhaps, to lease part of the intellectual resources to the network project teams. This process is already a latent one and I will soon write a new post about it.
As for the technology training (“network” in fact) that takes seventh place in the ranking, it certainly is already useful now and in the future will help large organizations to compete with the major part of dynamic network structures.
8. Highways without drivers
Transport systems that work without drivers, traffic jams and accidents. Obviously, the project will not only significantly improve traffic safety, but also change our relationship with time and with each other.

9. Master of Multimedia

The acceleration of information consumption by accelerated video and listen to audio books – is not it, there’s something in the idea expressed at the Habr?
When we’ll go out from present crisis, people will have real reasons to consume and process more information per unit time. Now there are no a lot of such reasons, given the poor efficiency of the mass software for information. So, the interest in the program text summarization will certainly revive in the future, and these programs will be able to take into account personalized information needs of each user.
Also, the program will appear that will be a sort of “abstracting” the audio-video information. Remember the “awakened” genius from the movie “Lawnmower Man” by Stephen King? As he was “delighted” musical novelties listening only a few chords of each song? And why more – if it is so clear what new composer and musicians want to say? Now think about how you study the painting albums. Quickly glance over the pages on which “everything is clear” and stay for a time at the masterpieces that are interesting for you.
I see clearly a niche for programs for easy, comfortable, while maintaining complete control over the material, “flipping” of audio and video information (including the “speed” of her playing, as suggested by the above mentioned author of the idea Constantine Podshumok). Today’s players for this purpose are poorly suited. I can prepare technical project for interested developers. 🙂

10. To see “through walls”

Three-dimensional virtual reality as a GPS-way orientation of pilots in all weather conditions. Apart from the fact that this idea will enhance safety, it is, slightly modified, could improve our lives in other situations. For example, owners of large business centers, shopping malls, concert halls, sports arenas, etc., could offer a free service that communicates with GPS-devices of visitors. Entering the building, you get a signal offering to download a three-dimensional diagram of the building, through which you can easily locate all offices, shops, banks, cafes, call centers, conference rooms, restrooms, etc. in this object.

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