Awesome New Infrared Camera, Cloak of Darkness Loses Potency

April 02 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6

NEC has unveiled a powerful new infrared camera that can extrapolate the thermal signatures of objects with absolutely no light present – a big breakthrough that will result in vastly better night-vision for consumers everywhere.

Showcased at the 2008 Security Show in Tokyo, the new HX0830M1 camera has been a bit hit due to the “variety of applications including security- for intruder detection, disaster relief- for searching for victims; and vision enhancement- for use in aircraft, ships, and motor vehicles”, according to Diginfonews .

Further adding to the appeal, the HX0830M1 can be used to collect temperature distribution data, which will help to keep people out of harm’s way “in high voltage environments or very high places”.

To truly grasp the night-time resolution enabled by this new product, you’ve gotta wath the following video:

It’s only a matter of time until we, or our robotic self-driving cars, will employ such infrared technology to augment our vision whenever we encounter darkness. In which case it seems like darkness itself, barring deliberate obfuscation, may be on the way out.

Personal Data: The New Gold Rush

August 07 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 4

If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about this case involving stolen credit and debit card information. Identity theft usually doesn’t call for much attention, but the sheer scope of the theft has left the world reeling. Only eleven men have been indicted in the theft of over 40 million credit card numbers from US stores.

“The indictments, which alleged that at least nine major U.S. retailers were hacked, were unsealed Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California, prosecutors said.”

The information was stolen with “sniffer” programs in the retail software, designed to record credit card numbers, passwords and account information.

The size of this theft is amazing, but it makes one think about technology and where it’s headed. Just how much damage could a hacker accomplish in the near future? With the internet consistently taking the place of personal hard drives (Google Documents, Flickr, Facebook), we’re relying more and more on the Internet for our personal data. In the future we’ll see fingerprints, facial recognition software and retinal scans added into the mix for added security – but how safe will this all be?

The thing about data is that it can always be hacked. Even the most encrypted software on Earth can be disassembled, rewritten and pirated. In order to recognize your voice, your eyes or your fingerprints a computer has to store this information somewhere. So what happens if a hacker gets a hold of this information?

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Doomsday Scenario: The EMP

August 21 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 4

The US Navy recently spent 7.5 million dollars on developing an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) generator. The by-product of a nuclear blast, an EMP fries anything electronic within its reach. In a worse-case scenario, a massive nuclear bomb could be detonated over the Atlantic seaboard, knocking out electricity in cities like New York, Washington DC, Boston and Philadelphia. This could be used as a pre-emptive strike for an invasion, to blind radar to incoming missiles or for some other nefarious purpose. Knocking out electronics for a few weeks might just be enough to send our culture into complete chaos. In effect, we’re hard at work building such a weapon to test its effects on potential military and civilian targets so as to better prepare in case of attack.

Our culture has become incredibly dependent on electronic gadgets and information networks. Land-lines have been replaced by cellphones, the postal system by email and social network websites. Is there any doubt that even just ten years down the line our dependence will grow even more? Our reliance on electronics certainly isn’t going to diminish, it’s going to increase exponentially. With that in mind, how much damage could an EMP do in the near future?

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Deadly Armies of Robotic Children

August 21 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 4

If there’s one thing a science fiction movie will guarantee you, it’s that friendly looking robots will be friendly, and evil looking robots will kill you. As we get closer and closer to an age where robots take a more important role in our lives in both the civilian and military sense, I somehow doubt the builders of military robots will follow the unspoken laws of mass storytelling. With international PR increasingly becoming more important, will military robots all be made to look like death-machines? Or will they take on a more harmless look of, let’s say, Pound Puppies?

Although the image of an army of killer puppy robots equipped with the latest artillery might cause one to smirk, it may not be too far off. Friendly-looking robots, much like friendly-looking humans, are more likely to be perceived as harmless than your standard military death-machine. WALL-E, armed with fifty pounds of C-4, can get places where the army’s latest killer robot couldn’t.

With robots continually achieving a more human look, it would make sense for the military to eventually design robots that like children instead of Terminator’s famed T-101 cyborg. And with robotics jumping in leaps and bounds all the time, suicide-ready humanoid robots are that much closer to reality.

Even if a rocket-laden robot tank could strike a lot of fear into an enemy, friendly looking robots have a greater chance of avoiding attacks as well as slipping into enemy lines. Face it, Skynet went wrong in making Arnold their model of robot — it should have been puppies.

Image: Kris Van de Vijver (Flickr,CC-Attribution)

Is the Right to Bear Arms Totally Moot?

August 26 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

A general returning from the Russian battlefront has overthrown the U.S. government and is calling herself dictator for life. Democracy has been crushed beneath the weight of America’s military engine. In every major city the National Guard has assumed control, weeded out dissenters, and executed former public officials. You, having seen Red Dawn over fifty times, grab a gang of friends and escape into the forest with a vast array of munitions you had stashed in case of such an emergency. Your rebel group sets up camp in a cave where you plan to organize your resistance and hopefully assist in overthrowing the martial government. You post lookouts and spend time working on a sweet patch for your team jackets.

Then an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flies overhead, locates your entire group via infrared sensors and blows you all to Kingdom Come.

This is not a totally implausible future scenario. If military advancements in technology continue to get better, which it will, what hope does armed citizenry have against advanced weapons systems and automated robotic armies?

In a famous essay titled What Good Can a Handgun Do Against an Army? written by Mike Vanderboegh of the Alabama Militia, he decries that although military technology is advancing, a simple pistol can make all the difference. His theory, much like the movie Red Dawn, is that with a pistol you can kill your way to better weaponry. Killing one soldier with a pistol will get you a rifle or “perhaps you get very lucky and pickup a light machine gun, two boxes of ammunition and a haversack of hand grenades.” From there you could use the grenades to attack larger targets which yield even more supplies. A pistol will get you a rifle, a rifle will get you a machine gun, and so on until you eventually start capturing tanks, constantly upgrading your way through the enemy.

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Your Brain: the War Machine

September 04 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

The Army recently awarded a team of UC Irvine researchers a $4 million dollar grant to study the foundations of synthetic telepathy, a new practice that monitors brain patterns and mental images via a central computer which then deciphers the information, transforming it into actual machine-readable data. In other words, your thoughts would be captured and translated by the computer which, much like Twitter, would then distribute them to others you’re wishing to contact.

The practical implications of this technology, when fully operational, are amazing, as are the military applications. When it comes to war, one of the few constants throughout the centuries, be it in Roman times or even today, is the lack of quick and reliable communication. Effectively deployed synthetic telepathy would basically eliminate the inefficiencies of communication in the field. Any army in possession of this kind of technology would enjoy a tremendous advantage.

Commanders in the field would be able to look at a map, decide which units should be deployed where, what their function would be, and instantaneously send messages to relevant sub-commanders or even individual soldiers with their orders. Instant responses from teams in the field reporting locations of mine fields, mobilizing enemy forces, or potential weak positioning points would afford any commander equipped to receive and process this information in real-time such a strategic advantage that opposing them would seem almost futile.

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8 Useful Creatures that Military Robots Could Mimic to Devastating Effect

September 23 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

We’ve seen some amazing robots recently. There’s the robotic tuna fish that will hopefully revolutionize the submarine world, there’s the super-realistic cod developed in Japan which still creeps me out, and of course let’s not forget the giant robotic spider that made Liverpool it’s home until it was herded into a tunnel by flamethrowers, hopefully never to be seen again (that thing still gives me nightmares).

The idea that these robots could be used by the military is very realistic. And while robotic fish are a great choice (imagine thousands of silent torpedoes, swimming around the ocean, looking for enemy ships), a giant spider might not be such a great choice. It’s an easy target, doesn’t hide very well, and despite the terror of facing one, you could outrun it easily.

So what things in the world should the military imitate in their desire for the perfect robotic weapon?

Children: My personal favorite. The idea that a simple child could be a deadly robot just makes so much sense to me. I mean, why would you think that five year old huddled in the corner in fear is actually programmed to rip your throat out?

Hornets: Already feared by all, the technology involved in making a hornet capable of delivering a poison sting, or possibly performing recon on enemy sites is too great to pass up. You could let a million of them loose on the countryside, spanning entire continents, looking for any sign of enemy activity (or even spying on other countries in peacetime).

Bats: It’s been tried before in World War II with live bats strapped to bombs (it didn’t work, go figure), but robotic bats would be stealthy and unnoticed. Their primary use would be night surveillance since any other creature flying around at night would be incredibly suspicious. On top of that, they could roost during the day, recharging their batteries with the Sun.

Snakes: Snakes are stealthy, can move efficiently on the ground, and have incredible senses. Now this could mean you could use it for surveillance, crossing a mine field,even silently taking out guards. Don’t forget there are sea snakes too. The only problem you’d run into is if you tried to invade Ireland, whoops.

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Why Future Guns Won't Look Threatening

September 29 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

I’m a huge fan of homemade gadgets. In fact, I have probably three different items around my cramped apartment right now in various states of functionality. My favorite so far is my old LCD screen from 2001 I’ve taken apart and hope to turn into something a little less bulky (2001 LCD screens are kinda large, remember them?). In fact, Hack a Day is one of my most favorite sites to peruse for homegrown goodness. There are all kinds of beneficial devices you can build yourself.

And then you come up with this device.

Basically, if you ever want to be shot by the police for possibly the stupidest reason ever, then please, make your own. This all metal rubber band gun comes with two handles, a laser sight (for those distant targets) and even a flashlight for when the zombies invade your house at night.

If they are hoping that a toy company will pick this up for future production, they are sadly mistaken (then again, with some of the Nerf guns coming out these day, maybe it’s not too far off).

The Great Lunar War of 2023-2024: Helium-3, Surface Area & Solar Supremacy

October 16 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

A soft future fiction scenario.

By 2020 space had become an unexpectedly crowded place. Catalyzed by evolutionary shuttle design systems, increasingly capable robotics, and super-efficient solar cell technology, mankind’s Space Reach had expanded considerably. Orbital tourism had exploded, asteroid mining efforts were in their early stages, extra-terrestrial solar harvesting had become the new rage and the race to dominate the extensive lunar Helium 3 reserves (a critical step toward the seemingly inevitable construction of a Dyson Sphere) was on.

On April 1, 2021 the first lunar construction bots, assembled in orbit using scattered material from the McMullen Asteroid Incident of 2018, and sent forth by private company LunaFacia, parachuted to down to the moon. - Sure, it’s impossible due to lack of atmosphere, but please suspend your disbelief for the moment. ;)

Controlled by a mix of on-board AI algorithms and remote instruction from “pilots” orbiting the moon in private spacecraft, the multitude of Lunar Bots quickly deployed arrays of fold-out solar cells across the surface of the four major Helium-3 sites. It soon became clear that LunaFacia, a Chinese-funded venture, was systematically laying down the infrastructure for an extensive mining and nuclear energy operation.

Of course, the play to dominate lunar Helium-3 did not sit well with the United States and the Russian Federation, the #2 and #3 world economies, and so they formalized the secret Greiner-Blashinsky Lunar Surface Pact and commenced collaborative construction of a similar solar droid army.

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Christine Peterson, coiner of "Open Source", and MemeBox Demo at Bay Area Future Salon Tonight

October 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

If you’re near the San Francisco Bay Area this evening, Friday the 16th, then I strongly encourage you to swing by the monthly Future Salon featuring Foresight Institute President Christine Peterson who will be presenting on the provocative topic:

Open Source Sensing: Using open source & nanotechnology to reduce surveillance & head off Iraq-style wars.

Christine, who coined the term “open source”, contends that distributed approaches will be critical to combating the inherently distributed terrorism phenomenon:

In the U.S. and other countries, concerns regarding terrorism are driving massive new centralized surveillance systems, with little or no regard for their potential effect on civil liberties. However, unlike nuclear weapons delivered by ICBMs, terrorism is inherently a bottom-up, distributed challenge, requiring a similar response. Open source software provides a useful model for a set of technologies that address security concerns in a distributed way, with the added benefit of relatively fast response time.

We can use open source techniques, combined with the latest in sensing technologies, as an alternative to centralized surveillance. Such technologies could also build trust when used in arms control applications, potentially heading off “wars of forced inspection” such as the recent war in Iraq.

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For the Upcoming Robot Apocalypse, the First Robot Defense Company

October 20 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

If you’re worried about the upcoming robot apocalypse featured prominently in movies like iRobot or Terminator, check out this concept of a defense company that deals specifically with the growing robotic threat.

Weapons Against Robots (WAR) is a defense company that specializes in combating our titanium oppressors. They feature products such as advanced weapon systems, detection systems (that way you won’t have to train dogs to sniff them out) and “robo virus” protection that promises “real time infiltration, adaption and reporting.”

Although the site is probably just an artistic mock-up or a futurist marketing ploy, it’s still a kick. Check it out.

How seriously should we take the growing robotic threat?

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Flash Mobs as Cover for Criminal Activity

October 20 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Security   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Witnessing the rapid spread of the Flash Mob phenomenon, fueled by emerging driver organizations like Improv Everywhere, it occurred to me that these increasingly frequent and massive events could be used as cover for various forms of criminal activity. The first scenario that popped into my head was that of a bank robber arranging such a coordinated diversion to cover his or her tracks.

For example, imagine if the following flash mob (arranged in San Francisco just two weekends ago) was diverted to surround or walk through a bank or other burglary target:

A clever criminal dressed in bright red could then use such a crowd as cover for a quick escape.

Just how feasible is such a scenario?

As it turns out, a small-scale and version of this plan was successfully executed up in Monroe, Washington just two weeks ago.

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