Monday, May 21, 2007

Today in Technology

It really is wonderful to be living in whatever this era is: a casual browse through the news today suggests many hopeful advances, and some rather worrying (but utterly predictable) developments.

As to the former we have the world's first "tiny implantable biocomputers". These are very similar to something Eric Drexler describes in Engines of Creation: tiny autonomous robots that manipulate the interiors of cells for medical purposes.

I've read quite a lot about this sort of idea, and it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from speculation. I wonder how Drexler's ideas of "tiny nanotechnological robots that allow us to live forever" will actually be instantiated in the real world.

Anyway, this new development looks like another concrete step towards the medical revolution.

In other news, it was only a matter of time before some bright spark thought of this. Attaching cameras to toy-helicopters is fairly middle-of-the-road near future SF, and I'm surprised it hasn't already happened (I've always had a guilty sense that it is worthwhile this sort of thing happening just for the slight thrill of realising that you're living in a cool cyberpunk-ish world, but what cyberpunk and SF often fails to get across is how rapidly such things become mundane, irritating, and a damned infringement on our civil liberties).

I'm fortunate enough to live in a fairly low-crime area, but nevertheless a friend of mine was beaten up the other night. As often is the case, it wasn't quite a mugging, but occupied the kind of frustrating grey-area of mindless intimidation and spontaneous violence that ASBOs are meant to target.

Antisocial behaviour is an interesting problem: by which I mean it's one that I can't see a solution to and have always had the luxury of not having to worry about. I instinctively feel that politicians should concentrate on the causes of antisocial behaviour, but I don't really know what they are, or what we'd have to sacrifice to remove the cause.

I can empathise with people who want to see something concrete done quickly to deal with the problems of young men like myself making life unpleasant for these people, but I can also see that there must be some deeper cause. Perhaps if the legal age at which you can purchase alcohol in pubs was lowered to 13 then there would be less of a problem with young people hanging around on street corners.

Anyway, back to technology, and this article(2) in The Times, which claims parents are starting to spy on their children through their kid's social networking pages. I'm not sure why it is "spying" when your parent does it (as opposed to some anonymous figure from another country).

A point is made in another article that my generation are leaving behind an "indelible electronic" trail of images and comments we may come to regret in later life. I can think of only a couple of pictures that might cause me some embarrassment, and they appear to have dropped out of the public view on the web, and in any case neither are particularly horrific.

I suppose that we will have to adapt to having every aspect of our lives recorded in hi-def, 7.1 surround sound, smell-0-vision, tagged to a precise date and global location. Charles Stross has written an article on this topic, containing the usual raft of brain-zapping insights and ideas.

It is interesting how rapidly the reality of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has come around and become mundane, and how much more complicated the reality actually is. The real world generally seems to be more complex and more boring than fantasy.

This is an interesting trick to pull off.

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