I need an Iphone.

No, REALLY.  Or, failing that, memristors, and fast, please.  Huge chunks of the more meaningful parts of what I do are based on the ability to recall either language vocabulary or historical data on the fly, and I can say unequivocally that these things would make me significantly more effective all across the board.  The “internet lookup” to which said article refers is not all that different in kind from a grammar-table lookup.  Welcome to the Shadowrun sci-fi world of “skillsofts” and uploading your Wheelock’s Latin Grammar.   Babelfish is already breaking down tons of barriers with cheap and good-enough basic translation (I’ve carried on some reasonably serious conversations in Polish with an art-historian/tailor in Krakow, for instance, via Poltran.com, and otherwise, my IQ in slavic languages is about the same as my shoe size):  this would, in only one possible application, be like taking that and hooking it up to a nuke plant.

Not to mention — along with the basic facts of history, I teach critical thinking.  I have no fear of the day we can simply upload every piece of raw data you need to bypass the data-crunching part of a high-school education, and make education all about how to employ those ideas in ways that, at the risk of sounding corny, increase that person’s power and ability to shape their future to their liking.

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  1. Mike

     /  March 17, 2009

    I’ll go for that. They have sniper programs for Iphone you can plug into targeting scopes for crying out loud. That and the hand held Ipod size language translators we are using in Iraq and Afghanistan. You speak into the mic and it translates it to ARabic, or Dari, or Pastun. And you can then have the other guy speak into the mic and get a reasonable translation (accents can jack it up somewhat, but it averages a 85% accurate translation which is good enough for government work).

    The future is now. We have armed drones, helmet radios with GPS, hand hend laser range finders and designators, hand held language translators, computer scope, quik-seal bandages, and the list goes on. We even have rudimentary combat exo-skels and if you wanted to strech it a bit, power armor of a very rough and simple type and artillery shells that can curve around geographical features.

    Rifts? We have actually gone BEYOND Rifts in some cases. I saw an article in the Rifter a while back that was actually baaed off of not an idea from Sci-fi, but from actual military equipment and ideas. We are now outrunning sci-fi.

    And it is F(*^ING AWESOME!!!!!!!!

  2. Now we need scifi to turn into something based on human endeavor… new raft of space novels b/c we’re out there.

  3. drteine

     /  March 18, 2009

    I’d wait a bit before getting one. The new 3rd generation phones currently in Japan, and probably 1-2 years from here, are far superior from everything I’ve read. Plus I’m hoping we’ll get some competitive plans on service from these companies, because right now they’re way to expensive.
    As for the SciFi on human endeavor – I guess that depends on who you’re reading these days. Most of the SciFi I read in Analog tends to deal with how humans adapt to or take advantage of new technology rather than describing new technological innovations in huge detail.

  4. drteine

     /  March 18, 2009

    This article I just read seems very appropriate here.

    Apparently most of the UK SciFi authors are admitting its hard to keep up with all the breakthroughs occurring.

  5. The future’s not here ’til I get my damn jetpack. hrmmf!

  6. Drteine: that suggests to me that most of those changes are occurring in ways that haven’t yet noticeably affected the lives of lots of people — hidden in the infrastructure, so to speak.

  7. Oh, for the record: I despise hidden infrastructure.

  8. drteine

     /  March 18, 2009

    Most technological changes do occur in ways that take time to see the effects of. Big overnight changes come from political events, or to invoke Science Fiction again, visits from extra-terrestrial life forms. So all these changes going on now we may not see the consequences from for another 5-10 years. Mike is seeing it now because the military has always been an early adapter of technology. By the time the rest of the population has encountered it, it’s usually old hat in Military circles. A possible exception to this would be computing and social networking, but even then the Military has embraced the potential of these technologies fully – at least at the research lab level.
    Most of the Science Fiction I’m reading which is brand new is either predicting how people will react to these coming technological changes, or, focuses on the traditional themes of Science Fiction: First contact, space operas, hard SciFi, etc. And it doesn’t always predict well. Even some of the best SciFi authors we all know of got some things laughably wrong.
    The key thing to remember about many scientific and technical breakthroughs is that just because you read about it doesn’t mean it has been proven to be practical or commercially viable. From my own experience only 10% of all breakthroughs in the lab ever have any chance of being practical, and only 1-2% of those ever go into commercial use and reality. Sometimes the breakthroughs are quite minor and are step-growth events, and other times they’re major leaps. The leaps are very rare.

    I’ll give one last example and then shut up. In Analog about 4-5 years ago there was a story that borrowed from a recent discovery that some plants are genetically pre-disposed to pull metals out of water. In this case it was a plant that pulled mercury ions out of water and consolidated it in the leaves without it being toxic to the plant. So the real-world application (but still not in wide use today) is to put these plants in contaminated ground water sites, pull out the mercury, and incinerate the plant to recycle and sequester the metal. The SciFi story in Analog had a scientist who engineered huge lilypads that pulled gold out of water and he made them salt-loving plants. He then grew them to enormous size, sucked all the gold out of the oceans (there are large ppm quantities of dissolved gold in the oceans) and collapsed the world gold market. Because there was so much of it, gold was used for all sorts of new technical things, and stupid stuff as well. The protagonist in the story reminded people that even Aluminum used to be worth more than gold at one time, but given the right technology anything can be made cheap.

  9. Mike

     /  March 18, 2009

    Now that would rock. Gold is massively useful in anything electric, especially circuits and wiring. Silver too, that is one of the reasons why we moved away from 90% plus silver coins in the early 60s. It was at that time that true microcircuits and real high tech stuff as we know it started being massed produced and silver was a main part of it. Strategic in more than one sense if you will. Having plants that do this is a cool idea.

    Of course if the government is involved then this stuff is going to remain Sci-Fi FORRRRRRREVER.

  10. drteine

     /  March 19, 2009

    In the story it was the out-of-business gold and mining industry that sabotaged the technology but it was government-funded research that discovered the idea.
    You are right though, government doesn’t innovate, but it does a very good job funding and discovering the basic science that others can go off and apply to a particular problem.

  11. Mike

     /  March 23, 2009

    I don’t know if anyone is going to read this since its an old thread but I just saw yet another Rifts idea made reality. Actually, it a Chaos Earth idea, but damn its cool. They have built and are now deploying to Afghanistan a “dog-bot”. Its a four legged robot used to carry equipment like a mule (roughly 250 pound load). It can run at speeds of 4 mph and keep pace on a routine march speed. It can right itself if you trip it up or knock it over. The idea is to use it as a bullet-proof mule or as someone/thing to carry a soldiers ruck and pack and extra ammo while he just carries fighting gear and isn’t so weighted down.

    If we mounted a laser on its back it looks absolutely like a Hound Combat robot from NEMA on Rifts earth. God, what a cool time to be soldier

  12. drteine

     /  March 24, 2009

    I actually know the model you’re talking about and the comment on the laser reminds me of another conversation relating to Rifts and other games.

    With the increasing emphasis of putting weapons on robots, I’m hearing some conversation about the 3 laws of robotics being written into the programming for autonomous robots with weapons, but not the ones that are remote controlled. Of course, we’re not completely at autonomous drones yet, but we’re getting there.

    So – Skynet or new solider tools? Which will it be?

  13. Mike

     /  March 24, 2009

    BOLOs? I hope anyway. We are really only up to drones as of this moment (remote controlled, not AI controlled). I can’t think that we are going to ever give up the final say to a machine anytime soon, but you never can tell.


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