I remember the VCR, or VideoCassette Recorder, and I remember the day it was superseded by CD and DVD discs. I remember the tape tangling up, and being “eaten” by VCR players. I remember them making owning a collection of movies more trouble than it was worth, on account of their bulk and weight.
How often do you buy a new device, be it a smartphone, a laptop, or household appliance, and adjust the factory, or default, settings? Do you customise whatever you’ve just acquired to specifically suit your needs, or do you leave it as is? Often times, people don’t change anything, handing the manufacturers a certain degree of control in the process.
They might not seem like much, but defaults (and their designers) hold immense power – they make decisions for us that we’re not even aware of making. Consider the fact that most people never change the factory settings on their computer, the default ringtone on their phones, or the default temperature in their fridge. Someone, somewhere, decided what those defaults should be – and it probably wasn’t you.
We really don’t take to new things do we? Apparently when coffee and refrigerators arrived, respectively, they were met with resistance. Yet where would we be without either?
Harvard University professor, Calestous Juma, suggests the reluctance to adopt new technologies isn’t out of a fear of innovation as such though, rather it comes down to a sense of loss, in relinquishing an older something, that has been part of out lives for, possibly, quite sometime.
Among Juma’s assertions is that people don’t fear innovation simply because the technology is new, but because innovation often means losing a piece of their identity or lifestyle. Innovation can also separate people from nature or their sense of purpose – two things that Juma argues are fundamental to the human experience.
Say what you will about drones, or unmanned aerial vehicle, some of their applications could, at best, be considered questionable, but when it comes to finding a good angle, or vantage point, for photographers, it could be said they come into their own. Check out some of these photos, taken with the aid of drones, and see what I mean.
We may live forever more in a digital afterlife. It’s a notion we hear a lot about, and wouldn’t it be something to know, and interact with, our descendants living centuries in the future? But is it really possible? Could we upload our brains, so to speak, into some hard drive, and live, fully conscious, as a kind of digital avatar of our once corporeal selves?
You could have the same afterlife for yourself in any simulated environment you like. But even if that kind of technology is possible, and even if that digital entity thought of itself as existing in continuity with your previous self, would you really be the same person? As a neuroscientist, my interest lies mainly in a more practical question: is it even technically possible to duplicate yourself in a computer program? The short answer is: probably, but not for a while.
Flick the switch, and there be light. It’s probably something we take so much for granted, that we don’t even think about. For people living in off-grid communities though, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, lighting a home is far from simple, or cost-effective for that matter. And how long do you think you might tolerate living with a kerosene lamp?
Where are we going to find the space to store our seemingly limitless stock of photos and videos, together with all the other data we need to keep, when our hard drives are forever running out of space?
Researchers at the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, may have found the solution, an atomic-scale rewritable data-storage device, that can potentially hold up to five hundred terabits of data, within a square inch. To put that sort of capacity into real terms, every book ever written, could be stored on a device the size of a postage stamp.
This atomic hard drive, developed by Sander Otte and his colleagues at Delft University, features a storage density that’s 500 times larger than state-of-the-art hard disk drives. At 500 terabits per square inch, it has the potential to store the entire contents of the US Library of Congress in a 0.1-mm wide cube.
People creating their own pandemics, the complete end of privacy, irreversible climate change, robots that will either manipulate us, or try to kill us, and the rise of authoritarianism, these are some of the less pleasant aspects that the future might hold for us.
As threats to national security increase, and as these threats expand in severity, governments will find it necessary to enact draconian measures. Over time, many of the freedoms and civil liberties we currently take for granted, such as the freedom of assembly, the right to privacy, or the right to travel both within and beyond the borders of our home country, could be drastically diminished.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game you play on your smartphone, that everyone is talking about. It’s also driving some people around the bend, particularly when crowds appear, without warning, outside their house, or apartment building, because a Pokéstop, a place where players can stock up on game goodies, is situated there.
Usually, these spots are located in public places, such as parks, but it looks like areas close to private property are being included. The on the flip side, small businesses are benefiting from the crowds that the game is drawing to some places, so that has to be a plus.
Smart businesses have caught on too. As Pokemon Go users traverse their towns in search of Pokemon, local stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity, driving huge amounts of foot traffic and conversions both with simple in-app purchases and creative marketing campaigns.