Flash Earth. This site will let you switch between Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth. It's fun comparing the two. I'm not sure which one looks better, I think it's basically a split between the two, because on one hand, you can zoom in more on MSN (although it's not actually greater resolution after a certain point) but on the other hand, it's actually in color on most of Google's. I like how easy it is to find places on the earth anymore. Starting all the way zoomed out, I can just find my house by clicking the zoom wheel up and moving the map a little bit each time.
The post below this is one of the reasons Hollywood will no longer be the center of movie making anymore. Another reason is because anyone who wants to will be making films. I've said this before; as the cost drops and the availability of high tech film-making equipment increases, more and more films will be made by 'normal' people that look as good as the ones made by Hollywood. Of course, we'll have to see how the acting goes.
Posted by Robert Stern on 10/26/2005 05:13:00 PM
What is your Sex ID? This survey thing by the BBC will tell you whether your brain is more male or more female. You'll need a ruler that can measure in millimeters for the one part though (it's measuring your fingers). My survey said I have a neutral brain, that the left side of my brain is dominant, I prefer more feminine faces (duh), and that people are greedy apparently (see the last part of the survey).
Posted by Robert Stern on 10/26/2005 12:24:00 PM
Here's another one I wrote in 2002. I made up some funny words, like robotous. Oh well. It's good to see that my ideas have always been cracked out though.
A technomyth is a myth about technology perpetuated in culture by movies, television, or just word of mouth. One such technomyth is the belief that machines and humans are at odds and that machines will enslave mankind. This myth is shown in movies such as The Matrix or Terminator, where robots were given intelligence and go to war with man. In The Matrix, robots have enslaved mankind after a war and use them as a sort of battery. In Terminator, robots were created with an artificial intelligence and are in a war with mankind, causing humans to basically become an endangered species. However, this isn’t the only or even the most likely scenario. Already now, people are becoming more and more dependant on technology. The internet, cell phones, computers, cars, and just technology in general are things that a lot of people are beginning to need to function in life. Could you go to school or work if you couldn’t use a car? Do you only use your cell phone to make calls? Do you spend most of your free time watching television or sitting on the computer? With prosthetics, artificial organs, more advanced computers, and smaller devices, humans are beginning to truly need machines to function in society. Eventually, man and machine may even become one, a new species, what I call Homo robotous.
There are at least two ways man and machine can combine. One such way, is as a cybernetic organism, or cyborg. A cyborg is a human that has physiological processes aided by electronic or mechanical devices. A cyborg would be someone with a robotic limb or organ, such as an arm or even an artificial heart. To some extent, people with prosthetic limbs or a pacemaker can be considered cyborgs. The other way is a human’s consciousness, or their actual brain, could be put into a machine, either a computer or a robotic body. This may be accomplished by downloading someone’s consciousness into a computer and freeing them of the restraints of a body, while limiting them with the restraints of a machine. Both methods would effectively combine man and machine.
The first symbiosis of man and machine, the cyborg, already exists today, although it is still in the early stages of development. Computer controlled prosthetic limbs, while still somewhat limited and expensive, do exist. A company called Animated Prosthetics has a robotic hand that can grasp and rotate based of off signals it receives from its user. Also, a blind man named Jerry has had a video camera attached to his head that allows him to actually see somewhat. Jerry “perceives up to 100 specks of light that appear and disappear, like stars that come and go behind passing clouds, as his field of vision shifts” (Ritter para 1.) The camera’s outputs go into his head through wires and send signals that would normally come from his eyes into his brain from the video camera. It is enough that he “can read large letters and navigate around big objects by using a camera wired directly to his brain” (Ritter Para 1.) People with pacemakers could also be considered cyborgs. A pacemaker is a device that is used to help regulate a slow heartbeat. A pacemaker is electronic and “contains a lithium battery and what is, essentially, a little computer” (Cardiac Consultants para 10.) Eventually, entirely artificial limbs and organs will be created that function as well as, if not better than the original. An artificial heart has been the goal of many scientists for years due to the difficulty of locating donors and rejection problems. Another area of the body, perhaps the most important part that may be enhanced by technology is the mind
In the movie Johnny Mnemonic, a “courier” named Johnny has a brain implant that allows him use his brain like a hard drive to smuggle data to various areas. The brain implant is “wet wired” into his head and actually uses his brain to store the information, so that it cannot be detected by normal means. Brain implants could be used to treat various disorders of the mind, such as dyslexia or maybe even schizophrenia. They could regulate the flow of chemicals in the mind and help people who are depressed much like Prozac does. Brain implants could also be used to supplement our brains, not just fix things that are wrong. Some sort of flash memory or a hard drive could be implanted into someone that would store everything they see and hear. This could then be brought up by simply thinking, much like a normal memory is, however, it would be a perfect copy of what occurred, as opposed to often muddled and biased memories. Mini computers could be installed that allow someone to think faster, do math calculations easier, or maybe even search on the internet for an answer by just thinking about it. Imagine how much information would be available to someone through these methods. Maybe even too much information. At what point would someone’s mind become too powerful?
The other main way man could converge with machine is by inputting his consciousness into one. This would be basically downloading someone’s entire mind into a computer or robot so that they can control it. Another option would be to actually transport their brain into the machine, although this may still be considered a cyborg somewhat. The amount of space needed on the computer to download an entire human consciousness is about 1 petabyte, which is equal to 1,000,000 gigabytes, far more than is easily available to the average person. However, some day, with the rate that hard drives and other storage formats are expanding, perhaps we will be able to download our minds into a computer for either storage or for use on the machine, as an “artificial” intelligence…although I don’t think I would want to be trapped as a ghost in the machine. Even if it is only a copy, it would still have the same thoughts as you and thus feel like it is actually the real you, so everything you hope for, it would want as well and be utterly unable to attain it.
There are several reasons someone might want to be input into a computer. One reason would be to preserve themselves if they were dying, lost the use of their body, or they needed to control some aspect of the computer or internet. Perhaps people’s consciousnesses could be given jobs inside computers and a whole actual virtual world would exist. A world with real people inside of machines could be created. Much like Kirtchev says, “We are the ELECTRONIC MINDS, a group of free-minded rebels. Cyberpunks. We live in Cyberspace, we are everywhere, we know no boundaries.”(Kirtchev para 1.) People’s consciousnesses could live and work inside of cyberspace, independent or with the real world. Maybe for some reason, the real world as we know it has been destroyed; people will need to live in the artificial world, much like in the movie The Matrix. However, instead of being imprisoned in the artificial world by robots, they put themselves there so they can have a reality outside of their own. Its not that farfetched, people already do many things to escape reality, this one is just more permanent.
As we move forward into the future, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are becoming more and more dependant on technology. Eventually, as artificial hearts and organs come into play, people will actually need it to live. Already we need some technologies to live. Medicines, water treatments, power plants to heat our homes, these are all examples of technologies we need right now. It is only a matter of time before more people feel the need to supplement or even replace existing body parts with machinery to increase their functioning in society. A construction worker may want robotic arms to lift heavier objects; a body guard may want robotic parts to be faster and stronger; while scientists may want brain implants to help supplement their knowledge. Brain implants are becoming reality, with various kits and experiments going on that allow people to control mouse cursors or other things by pure thought alone. Hard drives and digital memory storage is rapidly increasing, although at the rate that Moore’s law is going, it will take several years for petabyte drives to even be affordable to the average person. So will we end up converging with machine in symbiosis? Perhaps eventually a new species will “evolve” by our own doing, Homo robotous, or perhaps we will be forced to escape with our minds into cyberspace…maybe we already have.
Ritter, Malcolm. “Camera Helps Blind to See.” The Associated Press. New York. January 16, 2000. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/blindman000116.html.
Cardiac Consultants. “Pacemaker Implementation.” 1998. http://www.cardiacconsultants.com/pacemaker.htm.
Ruff, Matt. “Petabyte RAM Chips.” Notes on Various Technologies Mentioned in Sewer. 1997. The Atlantic Monthly Press. http://home.att.net/~Storytellers/sewrtech.html.
Thomson, Elizabeth A. “Monkey controls robotic arm using brain signals sent over Internet.” MIT Tech Talk. Cambridge, Massachusetts. December 6, 2000. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/2000/dec06/monkeys.html.
Goodwin, Sarah. “Emory Neuroscientists Use Brain Implant To Help Paralyzed And Speech-Impaired Patients Communicate Via Computer.” Emory Health Sciences Press Release. February 23, 1998. http://www.emory.edu/WHSC/HSNEWS/releases/feb99/022399brain.html.
Kirtchev, Christian A. “A Cyberpunk Manifesto.” Readings Online: A Virtual Commonplace. Ed. Paul Amore. New York: Houghton-Mifflin College, 2001. http://college.hmco.com/english/amore/index.html.
Posted by Robert Stern on 10/24/2005 11:54:00 PM
I wrote this paper in 2002:
The Handspring PDA is a device used to store programs, dates, phone numbers, and many other pieces of information. It is a rectangular device about the size of a small book. It has a screen for input using a plastic pen, known as a stylus. The stylus allows you to write information into the PDA. Many different programs or information can be downloaded to it from the computer using a docking cradle. The Handspring is mainly used by mostly a small group of people so far. It does however allow them to make better use of the things around them. The technology has the possibility of changing things in the future.
The PDA Itself
What is the technology, who uses it, and what does it do?
The Handspring is mainly used by business people, people interested in high end toys, or college kids. They use it for storing dates, addresses, phone numbers, or they use it to store programs. There are many free programs available to download, but they require a PC to sync up with. This somewhat limits the power of the PDA, as it’s chained to a home computer. There are many different types of programs, such as email checkers or map programs, or even web browsers and e-book readers. The Handspring even has a card that allows you to store extra things over the standard 8 MB’s on it. I use this card to store hundreds of e-books, which are books written in a text document that can be read on the PDA or a computer.
Most people in the US appear to have at least seen others use PDA’s in their life, or have seen them at the store. Many can’t find the extra money to shell out on something that they may not have a use for, thus they are not in real high demand yet. They are considered mostly a novelty so far, used for playing games, or for someone that has had experience with earlier models and knows their usefulness.
Is the technology more of a tool or a machine?
The PDA seems to be more of a machine rather than a tool. It will still function when no one else is around. It will keep on changing the date of its own internal clock as the days pass. It will be perfectly happy doing so until it runs down its batteries. It forces the user to adapt to its style of input, the stylus and graffiti system. Graffiti is the writing input, which is similar to most people’s normal handwriting, but different enough that it has to be learned.
However, the Handspring does exhibit several tool qualities as well. Without a human to input information and change the batteries, it becomes little more than a paperweight that can tell time. Also, it is used by people to help them remember things.
How does the technology extend people’s senses and capabilities?
The device is mainly used to supplement our own abilities of remembering information. It is somewhat like an extension to our own minds, allowing us to remember more information then would be normally practical. Whereas our mind could perhaps only store a limited amount of text, the Handspring, can hold as much information on as many cards you have. The only problem is to remember which card has which information. This device can also extend a person’s voice if they have a modem to go on the internet. It will let them talk to people around the world that are on the internet. It can extend thought and feeling, through the various books that can be stored on it. Thoughts of hundreds of other people are at your fingertips, assuming you have installed them. Your feelings about things can change after you see other’s viewpoints or ideas.
How does the technology limit people’s senses and capabilities?
Since it extends their mind, it also limits their memory. People that use a PDA have to remember less because the machine does it for them. This means they are less likely to remember things they used to, such as phone numbers or addresses. This means if they don’t have their PDA with them at some point, they may feel powerless or unable to recall important events.
The Goals of the PDA
What is being commodified?
When someone buys the PDA, they buy it on the promise of being more connected. More connected with information, more connected with people, or more connected with themselves. The companies show some of the uses of a PDA, and tell people it will let them remember more. It is selling knowledge.
Is the need for the technology real or created?
The need for the PDA was originally created. When they were first invented and had limited functions, they were mostly a high tech toy. Now, however, they can store a virtually unlimited amount of information. I find that on days I don’t have my PDA, I always end up wishing I had it with, much like an addiction. The sheer amount of information you can bring up is amazing. You get used to being able to look up things that you weren’t able to normally look up. You become dependent on the technology to go about your daily life.
The Effects of the PDA
How does the technology affect education?
The PDA has the possibility of changing education entirely. Today, in most classes, we are required to memorize and regurgitate information. However, if all the information is at our fingertips with the PDA through wireless internet, then the focus will shift from memorization to comprehension. You won’t be required to memorize bits of information for a test and forget them. You’ll be required to understand how to use the information you have at your fingertips. Most math tests are memorizing formulas and definitions and rewriting examples that you saw in the book. If all the information you need to solve a problem is in your PDA and you can use it, you now need to know how to use the information to solve the problem. Problems can be more difficult and challenge the students to use their minds to solve problems rather than memorize things for a short time and forget them. Things that the student needs to use more often will be memorized just by repetition. The problem is what happens if the student doesn’t have the PDA with for some reason? They can’t solve the problems because they don’t have the information right there. They become cut off from all the knowledge they once had, almost as if they had a section of their mind removed.
How does the technology affect technologies of the future?
PDA’s of the future could change everything. If wireless internet is better incorporated (in other words, practically free or pay by the month, not by the minute), the whole way things are done could be changed. Computers are continually getting smaller, so that PDA’s will someday be as powerful as desktop counterparts. Communication over the internet could occur through PDA’s, as could the finding of information. Storage of pictures, songs, movies, and books would all be on one little card. The portability would allow you to take it with anywhere. They will probably serve functions as a phone through the internet or the internet through cell phones, as some are being built combined with cell phones already, such as the new Handspring Treo. I think the two technologies will ultimately converge into one, with either the cell phone being used to receive the internet, or the internet being used to place calls. The PDA could even result in less deforestation, because if more information is electronic, fewer trees will need to be cut down for the paper used in books. The PDA seems to have a future because eventually people that use them will need them in their everyday lives and provide a market for more of them.
At first glance, the technology appears almost entirely beneficial. It lets someone have access to far more information then they normally could. It allows them to be connected with the world, at least, the world that has the internet. It enhances the productivity and efficiency of a person and may even change the way people are educated. However, you need to think about the things that weren’t touched upon as much. The device requires batteries and they need to be replaced after a certain amount of months. So while trees may be saved from deforestation, batteries will quickly fill up landfills unless a rechargeable method battery system is used. If PDA’s replace cell phones, they too will start to create a waste similar to the problem currently going on with cell phones. As technology advances, people need to upgrade and replace their old technology. Most just dispose of it in the trash and buy a new one. It is actually a very serious problem, since it occurs about every two years and there are so many cell phone users. Another problem is that people will not have the knowledge they extended unless they have their PDA’s with them. Overall, the technology will have a very interesting future to observe.
Fishbein, Bette K. “Waste in the Wireless World: The Challenge of Cell Phones.” May 2002. http://www.informinc.org/cellphone.htm.
Posted by Robert Stern on 10/24/2005 11:48:00 PM