Tag Archives: technology

Ten ideas that are going to change the world, again

The world is changing fast, but you haven’t seen nothing yet. The good news is, the world that we know is likely to morph into something quite different within our lifetime.

The mobile and internet revolution happened in our lifetime – it started in the mid eighties and has had a tremendous impact in the lives of almost everyone on the globe. Now the next wave shall be dominated by revolution in energy sector, biological sciences and of course electronics. But I will also nominate a social-science phenomena that I think shall be significant.

Futurologists are studying trends scientifically. But books by visionaries like Orwell (1984), H.G.Wells (The first man in the moon, The world set free), Jules Verne (From earth to the moon, Thousand leagues under the sea) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) were science fiction-y, bleak and quite accurate.

The ideas selected are just on the verge of practical application. For cross-verifying the truth, just research the internet – you would be amazed at the amount of information already available on these topics.

 1.           Cars will run on water

Ratan Tata dreams of cars running on water: Scientist
PTI, Jan 1, 2011
Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata’s dream is to see cars run on water and he has invested USD 15 million in a start-up firm supporting research in the field, an eminent scientist said today. Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, Prof C N R Rao said one of his close friends and a professor in the famed Massechusetts Institute of Technology in the US has found a way to split water directly into hydrogen and oxygen….

The dream and hoaxes related to cars running on water have been with us for the last half century. The logic is simple – split water into hydrogen and oxygen and use them as fuels. It shall be the ultimate cheap and environment-friendly fuel. The problem has been, it was easier said than done. But now, I believe, with hydrocarbons reserves nearing their end, there shall be renewed effort to make the dream possible.

2.           Driverless Cars

The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law in June 2011 concerning the operation of driverless cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for driverless car laws. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for a self-driven car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driver-less technology.

While on cars, here is another revolution in the pipeline – automatically driven cars. Google is investing in the technology and hopes for early commercialization.

The concept is not as weird as it sounds now – in fact, once driverless cars become a vogue, we would find the idea of ‘driving’ strange, barbaric  and cumbersome. Imagine, properly programmed cars, running efficiently as per traffic rules. DO NOT imagine bad programming, programme crashes or that the car computers ‘hangs’ in the middle of the road.

3.           Mind reading machines

Mind-reading breakthrough hailed by US scientists
February 02, 2012
A machine capable of deciphering people’s thoughts could become a reality thanks to a breakthrough by US neuro-scientists. Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley developed a technique to record and decode patients’ brainwaves and translate the electrical activity into words.

  

Radiotelepathy
Freeman Dyson, physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies.
The futurist expects a burgeoning field of neurology to result in radiotelepathy, “the direct communication of feelings and thoughts from brain to brain. The ancient myth of telepathy, induced by occult and spooky action-at-a-distance, would be replaced by a prosaic kind of telepathy induced by physical tools.”

I expect the mobile phone industry to be the first to implement the thought reading technology. This is mainly because of the intense competition and money involved in the industry and also because of the strides made in neuro-sciences.

The implications are mind-boggling, but not all of them are pleasant. How, for instance, would you password-lock your brain waves. If, and I think there will be, there would be mind-reading machines, control over humans could be greater and intrusive.

 4.       Artificial heart

 
New lease of life: Plastic heart helps escape death
August 3, 2011 | PTI
LONDON: Surgeons claim to have carried out a ground-breaking artificial heart transplant operation on a 40-year-old man, suffering from end-stage failure of both chambers of his heart. During a six-hour successful operation, surgeons at Papworth Hospital in the UK replaced Matthew Green’s damaged heart with a device that they say will serve the role of both ventricles and heart valves.

 

Heart is actually a mechanical devise, and more readily created in the lab than other parts. The problem has been the human body, which rejects all external things. The scientists are fast overcoming this resistance, and like artificial valves and pace-makers, full artificial hearts are around the corner.

5.           Human Cloning, stem cell research and Cancer research

Scientists replicate natural cloning in world first
Breakthrough by team from Prague has human implications
May 2, 2012 Eva Peňázová
Scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences have discovered the secret to natural cloning, a revelation that could have future implications for replicating human organs.
 

Medical science is on the verge of two important breakthroughs – victory over cancer and AIDS. Further ahead is the brave world of stem cell research and human cloning.

Cloning has been a morally contentious issue, and there are laws banning research in the field. But, going by the news items on the net, research in the field continues unabated. I believe, this technology is easy to master, and its implications are positive in the field of medical aid. These researches are likely to help us by the time we reach old age.

6.           Genetic engineering to stop aging

Scientists Find Genetic Engineering Technique Reverses Effects Of Aging In Mice
November 3, 2011
Darren J. Baker and Jan M. van Deursen working at the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic said they had succeeded in disrupting the natural aging of cells through a breakthrough in genetic engineering. In their work, the scientists affirmed they had manipulated senescent cells, which are believed to spur the aging of tissues. By cleansing the body of such cells, researchers are hoping they can stave off the deleterious effects of aging, The New York Times reports. 

It is hardly likely that the scientists are worried about the aging mice. You get the point – the break-though has a human implication. And given the desperate desire to stop aging, the commercialization of the techniques are likely to be faster than you think. I do not, however, expect popping pills or getting procedures done to stop the spread of my greying hairs. Or will I?

7.           Moon tourism

 A Desert Town on the way up
Kenneth Chang/The New York Times/ May 5, 2012
MOJAVE, Calif. The sign into town, slightly weathered, says “Gateway to Space!”
The mélange of small aerospace companies at Mojave shows that the ambitions of the New Space movement go far beyond serving as a delivery service for NASA.
Two of the companies are fronted by famous billionaires: Virgin Galactic is part of Richard Branson’s empire, while Stratolaunch is the brainchild of Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft. Stratolaunch is building two cavernous structures, a factory to build an airplane with the widest wingspan and a hangar to store it in. The airplane will be an airborne launching pad for a rocket.
 

A decade from now, the dream destination for the romantically inclined rich, is not likely to be beaches of Miami or the French Riviera – it will be Moon. Budget travel to Moon is the next logical step – be advised to take your own food as they will charge you a bomb on the rocket.

8.   Solar energy

 Better, Cheaper Solar Cells
The cost of photovoltaic cells (that turn sunlight into electricity) are coming down. In less than ten years the cost of solar energy could be at parity with the cost of electricity from the grid, and solar cells could be standard features in new residential construction. Your house could power itself about a third of the time.

 

Saudi Arabia Plans $109 Billion Solar Future
By 3p May 14th, 2012 
Saudi Arabia will seek investors interested in a $109 billion plan to generate power from solar energy. The ambitious plan calls for a long term goal of generating an entire third of the nation’s electricity from solar power by the year 2032.

 

The key point in both the news stories is that ‘one-third’ of all energy requirements shall be met by solar energy in the near future. Solar energy is the cleanest and shall have a positive impact on the planet. Also notice Saudis taking interest in the project – the hydrocarbon reserves are limited and shall end sometime in this century itself. The Saudis, with their deserts, are rightly positioned to keep dabbling in energy market.

9.           One world – decline of nationalism

Now for the social science break-through I promised. I shall not point towards any news story, but consider the following facts- increased global trade, increased global tourism, decrease in wars and success (yes, I stand by that) of European economic integration. Apart from the flashpoint of Middle East and Afghanistan, there are no significant ideological-political fault-lines to divide the world.

Internet and other communication technologies are bringing the people together. Rabindranath Tagore was pretty uncomfortable with the idea of nationalism – he found it divisive and limiting. Sri Aurobindo also predicted a global village, devoid of boundaries. But in reality, a global village shall not remain the dream of poets and mystics only.

I believe that even before we realize the change, we shall be living in a boundary-less village, with no global bureaucracy – and weak national governments.

10.               Digitalization of knowledge

With work going on to convert huge amounts of books and research papers into digital form, and because huge amounts of this digital data shall be freely available on the net, the pace of research in all fields of human endeavour shall increase exponentially. It will be like the invention of the printing press that changed the world surreptitiously.

However, to end, some words of caution.

  • There are some basic human factors like greed, hate, jealousy and love that will never change – ‘the more things change, the more they will remain the same’.
  • Not all changes will be good – many things will happen that will make us nostalgic for the good old days.
  • There would be disruptions because of climate change and increasing human population. There will be scarcity of drinking water in many parts of the world. Dissatisfaction over disparities will lead to greater localized violence.
  • Consider this from New York Times – “Albert Brooks, the actor and director, brought out “2030,” in which the nation’s economy is sent into a spin by seemingly good news: cancer is cured. The bad-news twist: the resulting drain on national resources by an aging population that no longer conforms to the actuarial tables and continues to consume resources at baby-boomer rates, and a rather literal twist on the notion of intergenerational warfare.”

Having said that, the balance sheet does not look too bad. The future is something to look forward to, if not downright rosy.

Do add to this list, or dispute the claims – it shall be fun hearing of more idea that will change our world, in our own lifetime!

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Why this damn blog doesn’t take off: Top ten reasons.

It is not a little surprising that this blog, with its awesome content, hasn’t taken off yet. Serious enquiry into the matter, backed by five minutes of concentrated thought, has revealed some reasons, which I submit for the use and caution of fellow bloggers:

1. Aliens have infiltrated the web: While the content of this blog doesn’t discuss matters related to the frontiers of scientific thought, it also does not target a sub-human intelligence. I believe, though I do not have proof as of now, that species other than homo sapiens have infiltrated the web. Since this species are sub-human in intelligence, they can only appreciate things like Angry Birds and Kolavari Di.

2. The blog is not about Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Paris Hilton: Or, for that matter, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry or Lindsay Lohan. Anything on the net which does not directly relate to these awesome people, is doomed. I shall seriously look into this matter, beginning with this blog entry.

3. There is no porn or erotica on this site: This is suicidal. Basically shy by nature, I have so far avoided this serious genre, but I know I shall have to work on my attitude to rectify this short-coming.

4. The site doesn’t assist in piracy: Now what is the use of a web-site that does not, in the name of freedom on the web, assist people in downloading latest music and games, movies and software?

5. Zionist-Stalinist-Capitalist conspiracy: For once these three top conspiratorial forces have come together to thwart my effort to make the world a better place, a world where everyone is equal, a world where there are no disparities, a world where…..You get my point (a world where I am popular and rich).

6. I do not pamper potential readers by liking their posts: I would, believe me, do that, day in and day out, had I got time to do so. It does take time to write the stuff that I post, besides doing all the things that I have to do to keep alive. I shall, from now on, post the most well-considered, most powerful comment on each blog that I visit, which is, “Awesome”.

7. I do not ask questions: People do not want to know, they want to tell. (The same is the case with me, but then, on this blog, I can assume that that is ok.) So, instead of posting information and other content, I shall ask for it. In the poetry section, for example, I shall say… “What is the best line you ever wrote? Please do tell…” rather than “The ferocious beast that doth trod……” or some such rot.

8. I do not pay for getting this stuff on the web: Now you may think that the web is free, but it is not. All the ecommerce business has taken over the place, and even wordpress will not allow ‘Plugins’ unless it is a paid blog. And without ‘Plugins’, whatever they are, you are doomed. Believe me, I am told the aliens love the sites which have these plugin-thingies.

9. The people have polarized themselves into two camps, and I cater to neither of them: The world has polarized itself into the religious (here there are numerous subdivisions- the Guru-chelas, the spiritualists, the dooms-dayers, the ‘true’ sects, the hate-others, the terrorists…) and the profane (here there is unity – all are one – they all watch porn).

Now, I know I will have to choose sides. And I will have to be loud about it. If I align myself with the second group, I would have to do things that Sunny Leone does. If I am with the first bunch, I have to scream and kick up a row. I will have to tell the world what the non-believers are doing, and why they shall rot in the everlasting hell (in great salacious detail) and why I shall, with my brethren, be drinking honeyed wine in heaven few years from now.

10. People want to buy things: They do not like being free loaders. Awesome ads, targeted audiences on the social media sites and celebrity endorsements are all that I need. I think I may have to convert this site to a paid one, where I charge in dollars for you people to read this stuff. And I know you shall do so. Just consider this list from a research by the Pew Research Centre (2011):

 

Usage

% of adult internet users in the U.S. who do this online
1 Use a search engine to find information 92
2 Send or read e-mail 91
3 Look for information online about a service or product 78
4 Get news 76
5 Go online just for fun or to pass the time ((you know how)) 74
6 Buy a product 71
7 Watch a video on a video-sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo 71
8 Look for “how-to,” “do-it-yourself” or repair information 68
9 Use an online social networking site like Facebook 64
10 Pay to access or download digital content online 43
11 Download music, other files to your computer 37
12 Play online games 36
13 Read someone else’s online journal or blog 32
14 Look for religious/spiritual info 32
15 Post comments to an online news group, website, blog or photo site 32

(The Pew people are coy; they do not mention the smut and piracy as the top draws. Everyone knows that it is so, so probably they assumed it as said. Also notice that Item no 13 and 15 are the same set of people, keeping each other happy by posting ‘awesome’.)

My eyes have been opened by this deep research (it took full 5 minutes of research, followed by 5 minutes of deep thinking, interrupted though this process was, due to a game of Angry Birds). Let the message go down to the fellow bloggers.

The message is (in case it has not become clear yet) – leave a like at the bottom of this page, and do visit again. Bye.

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So you think you cannot live without mobile? Think again…

You can live without your mobile phone. Yes, believe me you can. Don’t look at me like that – remember till about ten to twelve years back that none of us had a mobile, and we are doing ok, thank you. But now every Tom, Dick and his dog has a mobile, and feels incomplete without it.

Consider these facts:

  • The one thing people want to have if marooned on a desert island, is a mobile. Earlier it was a member of the opposite gender (remember The Blue Lagoon? Now, if there would be a remake it would be called ‘Girl and a Mobile’ or a ‘Boy and a Mobile’.)
  • More people in India are having mobile phones in their homes than running water or toilets. (I do not know how a mobile phone can substitute for these essentials, but it is true, I am not making this up.)

I have multiple grouse against the mobile phone, and shall systematically list them now for your kind consideration. Put your phone on the silent mode, and please pay attention – it may save your life.

It rings at the most inappropriate times. I have seen a bridegroom (and not just in a commercial) taking a call in the middle of his marriage ceremony. I did not ask him later, out of shyness, what happened during the wedding night, but I am sure his cell records would show that he hardly slept.

It will ring while you are driving, and persistently. How does it figure out that you are on the wheel, beats me. And it is easy to say that one must not take a call while driving, or that you should park your car on the side and then take the call. What with traffic these days, there is no ‘side’ to park on, even if you assume that the other drivers would let you change the lanes.

I think I need not list the awkward moments when the phone rang in my life – it would be too revealing and embarrassing – but I just wish to draw your attention to the nuisance value of the gadget. (Some people that I know might have to list out the moments in their lives when it is not ringing. My dear friend Senthil, the poor TV Newsman is one of them.)

The most serious concern I have against it is that it has made me a twenty four hour slave to the office. The regime of the bosses used to end at 5.30 pm sharp, in the good old days (or any other time schedule that you followed). But now, there are no excuses for not being available 27×7. Woe betides the junior whose phone gets discharged or is on the silent mode, ever.

The sad part in the whole affair is that it has ended the reign of the Free Will. It has ended the concept of choice, of individual opinion. There is no question that you will have to have a mobile phone, and that when it rings, you will HAVE to receive the call.

The medium, they say, is the message. Mobile phone is so possessive that the wives seem liberal and freedom-loving compared to them. You can spend hours on it, speaking to a friend, but imagine what happens when this same friend drops in. You make him sit in the drawing room, with a cup of tea, and are to the balcony, taking on the phone! Luckily, the friend does not mind, for he too is on the call.

You are led to believe that the phone will save you when you are in trouble. Totally untrue. Suppose you are stuck under a rubble just after an earthquake. Believe me, the phone will be out of the reach. Or even if it is with you, the networks will be down. Why? Simply because of the mobile towers – they would have fallen with the buildings, you silly thing!

In fact the mobiles are leading to serious accidents and fatalities almost daily. Drinking and driving was safer than being on a phone while driving, but we all do it. We daily read of the cases of people being run over by TRAINS, because the people crossing the rail tracks were too busy on their phones. (I hope this happens just in India – but here it does.) And we have not begun speaking about the health hazard from the radiations – the mobile industry sees to it that no clear opinion is formed about the matter. With the increasing number of incidents of cancer in society in the recent years, I would not be surprised if the culprit is the high exposure to mobile radiations.

I do not know how the mobile phone is aiding in building up relationships, but I suspect lot are being broken due to them. Cell phone records (both in the mobile set and with the cell company) are deadly, and not only to the criminals and the crooks.

Give a mobile to a child – and watch the graph of his grades go down like a ski slope. Do not give the child his mobile, and watch your popularity go down on the same slope. Just try to extract a teenage girl from the grip of this beast, and put her onto something useful like, reading a book, maybe, and you will realize that the days when parents were the king are long past.

Now it is only the brave hearts, the adventurous and the rebels – people like neo-hippies – who can dare to experience the pure living and high thinking life without the mobile, who can breathe in the fresh air, consciously and knowingly and who can look at the sunrise and the sunsets at the beaches. They can even dance and get drenched in the rains and not worrying about their phone. The blasted thing leaves you with no choice but to believe in God, or with the hope that there will be a day when some newer technology would kill this beast.

 

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State of the World – 2012. (Mid-year review: A spoof)

As we wait for the promised doomsday (this year it is 21st December), we are not sure how much to invest in the event. My gut feeling is, the Mayans just ran out of paper to print their eternal calendar, or got bored at this very point, and left the task unfinished. In fact I saw my boy start with the noble mission of writing down ‘all the numbers’ only to leave the task at 3,100 – significantly short of infinity I would say. So I can understand how the Mayans would have felt at 21.12.2012.

But more than that, 2012 is so supremely boring that some of the mystical effect of 2012 may also have rubbed off them, making them a little less driven and goal oriented.

I do not wish to discourage the optimists, but I would advise that it would be a waste of effort to invest in bunkers and Mars rocket schemes, just on the word of the Mayans. In fact I had higher hopes from Iran earlier this year, but then, it is that kind of an year…

US and Iran tried to build up something entertaining, but then again, their heart was not in the job. They cannot match the Israelis for dedication towards goals, and both the sole surviving superpower, and the sole surviving ‘potential-evil-incarnate’ somehow went off to an unearned Spring holiday, and the world was once again left to bide time with the mug shots of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Between these two, humanity has yet to decide who is worse – it is touch and go as far as I see it.

Meanwhile, oil prices continue to rise, and the pundits continue to forecast that they are likely to rise further. The number of oil sector pundits has shot up to 60 million now (incidentally, the average sperm-count is also 60 million per milliliter, but I don’t know whether the two facts are connected in any way).

The business of oil-sector-pundits is doing well, as is that of the futurologists, but in other sectors there is gloom – the top MBA types in the West (including the bankers) are trying to survive at dollar 5 grand a year, with an assured ten percent annual increment. They predict that such a gloomy scenario is not good for the world – it is hurting the luxury yacht and casino business no end. Last heard, US President was very worried about these two sectors – he is thinking of calling a G-20 meeting on the issue.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the London Olympics, one wonders what it would mean for the city – financial ruin or revival in fortunes? (Make no mistake, Sports only mean business and entertainment now – they have lost their independent sectoral identity.) I believe that in the lethargic 2012, sportsmen would be struggling to match their own selection records, let alone beat the milestones. However one does have high hopes when it comes to WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends), Salman Rushdie and Dow Chemicals to provide some entertainment.

Some hope remains from the Femen protestors, who are working hard to make the world a better place – for males. I hope they will not be afflicted by the lethargy of 2012, and would find sufficient drive to peel off their tops and hound the eager and hard working cops of Eastern Europe. They could, I would suggest, give an annual calendar of protest to their governments, who could then use it to promote tourism in their (economically) depressed countries.

The Russian elections lived up to its promise of pure entertainment – at the cutting edge of fact and fiction – and Putin’s Russia continues to love and hate the man simultaneously. It is however the US, which is such a letdown – I promise you nobody outside of US understands a word what the 1300 Presidential candidates are saying. The fact that they all look frauds of the highest order, specially chosen by Obama to run against him, and speak on issues that may be relevant to small towns in the middle America, makes it a dull year for America watchers (approximately 50 % of the world –  the other 50%, living in poorest of conditions, does not know what America is).

Will America finally leave Afghanistan? I don’t believe that this year the soldiers would have the energy to pack the bags. Their ammunition, their porn mags, their tiffin boxes etc are scattered all over Afghanistan, and it would not be possible to pack all that in a year. Therefore there has been a call to let the wives join the GIs for a while (but with Taliban and other lechers around, it seems hardly likely that the Christian fathers would allow Obama to take that decision in an election year.)

Meanwhile, the Apple Corporation has got its priorities clear – name everything with a small ‘i’ and go for the kill while the aura of Steve Job lasts. Facebook now has more individual on it than the global population, and denies rumors of a ‘bubble’. I have heard even Mark Zuckerberg is tiring of counting his money, and had asked Bill Gates for advice. Gates, I believe told him to just ‘grin and bear it’, and that he is yet to figure out how to stop the flow. Gates was investing in real estate, I am told, hoping for a 2008 redux.

Maldives awaits a slow death, with steadily rising water levels, even as the world sympathetically reassures the Maldivians that with doomsday around the corner, the island would not face a slow oblivion. But the Maldivians are a pessimistic lot – they are not impressed, and keep on harping on cutting carbon emission levels. Theirs is a new version of ‘quit smoking’ campaign at a global level, and to the developed world, just as quirky and fetishistic.

There is little hope that the year would take off – even the Wikileaks is not leaking any more. In my present despondent state, it seems to me that we are doomed to keep on counting meaninglessly till eternity – I mean till 31st December 2012.

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