What a week for Star Trek fans. Was the universe conspiring to bring their favourite technologies closer to reality?
First Intel predicted voice-control would be as big as touch within the ‘next few years’. Those of us who have fallen out of love with Siri might find that difficult to believe. But Mooly Elen reckons the world is close to cracking a computer that can be told to drop out of Warp.
Not that this feat would be unique, according to another report. Based on the latest estimates that there are 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there, Gizmodo crunched the numbers down to ‘reveal’ that 79.9 million alien civilisations might have developed Warp Capability. Science? Hardly. Fiction? Definitely. But thought-provoking nevertheless.
But if we do get meet Warp-Capable-Aliens, it seems we’ll be more Borg than human by that time. As Ramez Naam points out, we’re already a good way down the line with neurotech implants. Next stop, brain-to-brain communication.
We always suspected the Borg were really us, just with funny lumps on the side of the face.
And as we cruise along in our starship, the crew’s entertainment needs will almost certainly be met in a holodeck. Whilst not actually at CES, Microsoft still used the platform to reveal its IllumiRooom, a Kinect-plus-projector combination that turns an entire room into a screen.
Not impressed? Then consider the possibilities for nanoscale antennas that are able to control light. Lifelike holograms suddenly seem achievable.
As does interstellar space travel, once you find out we’re starting to get to grips with Dark Matter. Because we may have even found a new force that affects it. That’s truly significant, given we’d only found four Fundamental Forces in the universe previously. And that’d be a fifth – the only one to interact with the Dark Stuff.
But if that’s too speculative and theoretical for you, you’ll be pleased to know that booking a hotel room in space for 2016 is a practical possibility right now. Sure, it’ll cost close to a million bucks all-in for five nights. But the living quarters are a lot more spacious than you might imagine. Astronauts on the ISS will be looking on in envy.
And even the less well-off will continue to experience new realities.
With all our devices perpetually connected they’re going to start learning what we like. Then they’ll co-operate to predict what we need. Before giving us access to it in the most cost-effective manner. All before we realised something new was available.
And maybe that something will be the latest mobile, controlled by gestures as well as voice. Or some new pharmaceuticals, made effective by a perfect, man-made type of glass. Or a self-adjusting pillow, a ‘Twitter Holiday Butler‘, a screen made of mist, a microwave zapper for garden weeds or a TV that’ll change channels when you give it that special look.
But consider the downsides too. With everything connected your data exhaust fumes will make you as identifiable as your (newly discovered) linguistic fingerprint. So you’ll be pleased to know there’s now a reason for demanding online privacy.
Once-upon a time there was no easy comeback to the assertion that: ‘If you’re doing nothing wrong, there’s nothing to be afraid of. So why would you want privacy?’
Everyone has something to hide and usually no one cares. By surveilling everyone, you catch the benign breaches of law and taboo. If the public are all guilty, the executive part of the government can selectively enforce laws, essentially giving them both judicial and legislative power, which defeats the whole point of separation of powers.
Which also means the police will have time to catch the real cyber-criminals. Like the hacker who created a virus and started taunting the Japanese police with a series of riddles in their effort to catch him. His latest was strapped to a cat. The detail of this story reads like a particularly over-the-top Scandinavian crime novel. Perhaps he’s watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo a few too many times.
Next, he’ll be hiding messages in Skype packets.
Or perhaps his schadenfreude is driven by a messy break-up. Looks like the science of not being dumped came a few weeks too late for him.
Or perhaps he’s a gadget freak and couldn’t afford to check-out the best of the latest at CES.
So let’s hope, in the words of IBM’s free-thinking supercomputer, it’s all ‘bullshit’.
Because recharging batteries as you walk isn’t going to damp down the next Vesuvius.
And if we don’t solve that crisis then the rate at which we get hold of that lovely Star Trek tech might just slow to something less than exponential.
A possibility we’d rather not have to consider.
The bluster and general irrelevance of another Consumer Entertainment Show (CES) is upon us.
It’s hard to ignore the shiny baubles of mobile gaming devices from unexpected sources. And see-through, neon washing machines are definitely a source of amusement. Although nowhere near as useful as a complete range of home appliances that can be controlled from your phone.
But the constant screams of higher clock speeds and better screens flashing before our eyes soon became a little like a cheese-grater on the brain. At least Forbes recognised CES’s unnecessary irrelevance this year.
Fortunately, there was plenty of news from outside the crazed circus in Vegas, where light was definitely the topic of the day.
Roads are going to glow in the dark. And in the snow. Meanwhile we discovered you can make a 55-watt bulb from bleach, water and a plastic bottle.
But for those addicted to electricity it appears coal might again be the future. We can now make it from plant matter overnight, rather than waiting for nature to take millions of years. And this new stuff is carbon-neutral.
Mobile phone addicts also got a dose of good news. It’s reckoned clinics to treat their addiction will be up and running this year.
But nothing would be as intellectually satisfying as this:
Now that really put a smile on our faces.