Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the directors of the documentary Jesus Camp, produced a short video at The New York Times about the dismantling of Detroit.
One freezing evening we happened upon the young men in this film, who were illegally dismantling a former Cadillac repair shop. They worked recklessly to tear down the steel beams and copper fasteners. They were in a hurry to make it to the scrap yard before it closed at 10 p.m., sell their spoils and head to the bar.
Surprisingly, these guys, who all lacked high school diplomas, seemed to have a better understanding of their place in the global food chain than many educated American 20-somethings. The young men regularly checked the fluctuating price of metals before they determined their next scrap hunt, and they had a clear view of where these resources were going and why.
I don’t mean to go around hawking my wares, but this seemed so relevant and useful to you personally that I thought it would be wrong not to share it. Please keep in mind that I am financially involved with this offer, but even so I think you’ll find I was right to share this marvelous opportunity with you today.
Well now here I’ve wasted a lot of your time with technicalities and jibber jabber, I’ll come to my point quickly. Let me ask you just one question:
Have you ever wanted to have a spleen named after you?
Update: Why Google is ditching search
Craig Damrauer put together a slideshow at The Atlantic Monthly demonstrating the math of the technology he expected by now:
When you get right down to it a lot of the ‘future’ things I saw in cartoons, TV shows and movies while growing up have come true. We have instant food (TV dinner + microwave), video phones and 3D television. Robots help fight our wars (drones) and the cops are armed with guns they can set on stun. So it’s helpful to see this as a glass half full kind of scenario. However, there are a few things I’d hoped for that I’ve yet to see. Here’s a small selection.
Half a dozen Russian speakers, all under thirty, packed up their car after a weekend rental of one of my neighbor’s cottages here in the Driftless Regional Resort Region. A few may have glanced at me as I scrabbled in the dirt, digging up buried money and muttering, “I am uncovering my wealth.”
I just got chided by my 91-year-old mother for not being on Facebook more often.
“What I can promise you is this – when you get out of college, if I’m president, you’ll have a job.”
“Nobody cares about science anymore. They want feelings instead of facts!” “How do you know?” “I got a hunch.”
— Zach Weiner (@ZachWeiner) December 23, 2011
Future Joel gets the tiny piece.
Up bright and early for the Starvest. We traveled further each year, hopping from system to system in the rickety ship we’d pieced together. In order to keep needs low, artificial water had been rationed since before I could remember, but most of our days were spent gathering the real kind from the seemingly endless brimming galaxies. It got tough to even see stars for what they were after a few years, large gaseous rounds or small immovable solid objects. You just start calculating, as soon as you land how much you can gather. Bryn asked me the other day if we’d ever return to a star she particularly liked. I had never even thought of that possibility. Stars were simply starvested and we moved on, sending back smaller, heavily guarded vessels with the liquids to be counted and stored. The rich could afford the real stuff, but Bryn, my father and myself were given only a small measure on the anniversary of our birth. Father carefully saved his, hoping someday to trade for better parts or perhaps land on Home Planet. I taste the smallest sip every year, feeling the lightening quick effects of even the lightest drop for days, smooth against the tongue, giving courage to the heart and clarity to the mind, and then put my portion with his. Bryn asked why we tried so hard since more work just meant more star water for others, but she’s too young to understand that there are limits to this universe and there’s only a few more years left to gather. New stars are born to replace the old ones that have been harvested, but not quickly enough and they won’t even be ready when my ten-thousandth granddaughter is born and scraping the skies.
If Steve Jobs predicted the future, it should also be pointed out that Bill Watterson had the same prescience, just with less optimism.
Some hobbyist hackers have rigged up an iPhone 4S to collect brain wave patterns from some simple ECG pads, translate them into synthesized speech, which is in turn pumped through the 3.5 mm headphone jack, and recognized by Siri as a usable command. Besides pressing the home key to initiate Siri, all you have to do is think your command, and your iPhone 4S will hop to it. The engineers expect that they’ll even be able to eliminate the need to press the home key, making it fully automatic. So far, the guys at Project Black Mirror have been able to link 25 brain wave patterns to specific Siri commands. Of course, right now the project is a bulky Arduino test board hooked up to a Macbook, which also occupies the headphone jack, and makes the user look like he belongs in Clockwork Orange, but these guys are putting up a Kickstarter page shortly to get funding and turn this thing into a real product.
I guess I should say this would be pretty easy to fake, but when Siri was announced I told my sister-in-law in ten years Siri would be in our heads. Maybe I was too pessimistic. Here’s the Black Mirror blog, so you can follow along.
I know this iteration of Siri makes for a lot of amusement — and the ever increasing potential defilement of the public contract — but it’s hard to remember another technological innovation1 that makes my head immediately imagine ten years from now.
1Except for the last time Apple introduced a new technology.
Would you give up the experience of reading to have instant recall of all books?
I posted a week or so ago about Assistant, a potential voice controlled personal management system available with the next version of the iPhone software. Joel was skeptical, Michael was amused. Here is what Norman Winarsky, the co-founder of Siri, which the software would be based on, thinks about the possibilities:
Let me first say I have no knowledge of what Apple plans to do with the Siri purchase. I read the rumors just like everyone else and it appears that Apple is getting ready to reveal what it has done with Siri over the past year and a half (we were actually expecting it at WWDC). Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event. I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift.
I guess we’ll see tomorrow.