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.
Washington Post writer Jeff Guo recently made waves when he said he often watched TV shows and movies in fast-forward mode, something that allowed him to view up to four shows in an hour. That could be the beginning of something that may not end well. Why next we’ll have TV producers making shows that cater for being viewed that way.
Here the obsession with doing whatever’s technologically feasible parts company with reason. People like Gao appear to be afflicted by a strange new personality disorder for which psychiatrists have yet to coin a name. Watching a good film or TV programme in fast-forward would be like eating your favourite food via a stomach tube that bypasses the tastebuds. To put it another way, what’s the bloody point?
You might see four features in an hour, but how much of each will stay with you? Given the distractions we’re subject to while sitting in front of a TV screen – the need to constantly check smartphones for one – what do you recall of anything you see at normal speed, anyway?
What’s the solution? Cut back on some shows you watch, so you can focus one or two? Eliminate other activities from your life, so there’s more time to watch TV? I wish I knew the answer.
At 5:45 exactly, after I’d completed my last round and made sure that everyone was gone, I used my key card to swipe into the office. I looked at the stacks of old office machinery that lined the back wall, and thought to myself that there was no way anyone would notice one crummy broken printer was missing. So I grabbed it, put it in a recyclable grocery bag, and went home.
An introduction to aircraft flight recorders, often known as black boxes. That’s a misnomer, if ever there were one, as they are usually orange in colour.
What’s also interesting is that no one in the aviation industry exactly knows how fight recorders became known as black boxes in the first place. Perhaps the term was made popular by the media? Black box certainly has more presence than orange box, so possibly that explains it?