Going green is a noble cause. Both corporations and consumers are picking up on the trend due to market pressure. There’s no question about it, buyers like me feel warm and fuzzy when they purchase a product that is truly both sustainable and Eco-friendly.
But although this movement has grand intentions, it is not without its demons. After all, how can you tell if a product is really Eco-friendly or if the manufacturer just wants to make a quick buck? Enter Greenwashing, the practice of tricking consumers into believing a product to be green.
Examples of this practice include slapping a nice palm tree on a bottle of corrosive chemicals or being ambiguous about their environmental claims. Increasingly, greenwashing is a growing trend that any informed consumer must watch out for.
In the GE Ecomagination commercial below, the company portrays a mining operation with sexy and slender miners having fun with the pick-axes and drilling machines. The message is that energy from coal is getting more beautiful because of GE’s emissions reducing technology. It is an abundant resource that’s for sure, with an estimated supply of 250 years.
But many of us know that coal is the dirtiest burning fossil fuel, releasing hefty amounts of sulfur-oxides that produces acid rain and greenhouse emissions. Coal extraction is also a brutal process that severely scars the environment from strip mining and unthinkable amounts of toxic sludge (read: Thousands of tons). So what does a company like GE have in their bag of tricks that would make coal a viable candidate for all our future power needs?
Men have a infamous tendency to let their phallic tendencies dictate what they create. It is perhaps why some of the most famous builds like the Great Pyramids, Taj Majal and the Washington monument were made.
So, it didn’t surprise me when I recently read about an effort to create the world’s first male organ controlled computer.
So now that men have brought the inevitable to the realm of technology, I wonder how else humans of the future might interact with their computers?
With the recent (or not so recent) popularity of Nintendo Wii and its gyroscopic features, the rest of the human-computer interface market seems to have entered an innovative period. It looks rather likely that we’ll soon be playing games through VR googles, gesturing in the air to perform fluid dynamics calculations and maybe even writing Dear-John letters by thought alone.
Best of all, we won’t have wait decades for many of these advances as some amazing new products are already in prototype and will be market-ready in the very near-term. Here are some of the particularly interesting interface candidates:
1. In 2004, four people, two of them partly paralyzed wheelchair users successfully moved a computer cursor with a sensor cap that reads your brain with electrodes. In late February, technology pioneer Emotiv Systems announced the EPOC neuroheadset, a light weight, inexpensive ($300 USD), wireless headset that detects conscious thoughts, expressions, and emotions. Emotiv’s aim is the video games market and could open up a whole new generation of emotional immersive-ness in games.”
2. A modern take on a classic: The Livescribe pulse Smartpen is a pen that doubles as a stereo voice recorder, a music player, and most unique of all, a tiny infrared camera that picks up commands from a specially designed notebook. The ‘Dot’ notebook has record, pause, stop, playback, and navigation ‘buttons’ that you can tap on the bottom of the page to control the pen.
3. How about turning ANY surface, wall, table, or floor into a primary input device that can read handwriting, act as a musical instrument, a touchpad, or even a keyboard if you’re so inclined. The technology is called Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer-Human Interaction (TAI-CHI) and the power is in sound waves.
Coming soon to your living room: a wild safari in the scorching
African savanna starring you, armed with nothing but your camera.
Afrika is the next step in a generation of video games
that seek to become more than just entertainment and can actually
make you smarter.
the latest game by Rhino Studios, is set to be released in Japan on
the PS3 in late August. You play it from
the perspective of a nature photographer and naturalist armed with
a Nikon stalking realistic wildlife in painstakingly recreated
savannas. The photos you snap are saved like a lexicon, or
Africa-pedia, where you can read up all about the real facts of the
animal. The PS3’s multi-cored cell
is being utilized to is fullest potential to recreate the complex
AI and behavior of the animals in
mirror world fashion, and it’s is just one of many in the
increasing trend of video games that are as educational as they are
made to be entertaining.
Because the game is not about rifles or grenades, it is perfect
for younger children who can learn about Africa’s wildlife in a
fully immersive 3D world rather than a bread-and-butter textbook.
And what a field trip it is without all the expenses and dangers of
But using video games to teach isn’t a new idea. An all-girls
high school in Japan have already been using Nintendo DS’s to
teach English. The verdict? The students feel right at home with
the new devices. Katie Salen, a game designer and director of the
graduate Design and Technology program at
Parsons School of Design, is leading the way in using video
games as a foundation for education for an accelerating world. Her
goal is to open a school based on gaming literacy.
Wright wants you to play god. To open the floodgates of your
imagination and fill an entire living universe with unique
His massive plan seems to be working as people are already
ravenous for Spore. In just 18 days nearly
1.6 million species of creatures were uploaded in to Sporepedia,
Spore’s worldwide database of user-created lifeforms.
The nascent Spore universe is already up to 1,876,714 creatures
(and counting) in its genetic database, surpassing the 1.75 million
identified species on Earth. By itself this is a spectacular feat
but even more so when you realize that the full game hasn’t even
touched store shelves yet.
Wright, Spore’s creator, and also of The
Sims, Sim City, and Sim Everything (an actual former name of
Spore), hopes the advance release of the Spore Creature Creator will tease
us into the full serving of Spore available in September.
With the Spore hype in full effect I thought to give it a test
run myself to see if such games are truly the future of user
generated content. So today I will take you on a brief tour through
the Spore Creature Creator.
The Creature Creator is available both as a free-trial version
with a quarter of the full content and a $10 boxed version with all
of the creature body parts. The version I am going to take you
through is the trial version, readily available at the Spore site.
Upon installation, the game asks you to register for an
online account to Spore. You can play offline too but you won’t be
able to store your creatures in the massive Sporepedia database. I
jumped right into “Create a Creature” mode and got started
A Pear. Or a Gourd. I can’t tell, but it squirms around. I
assume it’s dying for its creator to give it some life. You are
given 2,000 genetic points to spend, and limbs, eyeballs, and
tentacles all vary in cost. The system is simple, drag body parts
from the menu to attach and pull to detach. (cont.)
Ah, space tourism. You ditched
Paris or Tokyo to the dismay of your spouse and now sit some 600
miles above Earth with an ice-cold Mojito in hand. “See, honey?
This isn’t so bad.” As you take a sip the pilot speaks over the
intercom about some turbulence. That’s fine you think, it can’t be
bad as the bumpy airplane trips to Los Angeles back when you were a
Just then, you see gold specks scream pass the window at 17,500
miles an hour, followed by the loud thud of a space helmet that
leaves a considerable dent in your window outside. The entire
space-plane trembles violently as red lights flood on. The pilot
reassures that it was just space turbulence and to strap on seat
belts. “This wasn’t mentioned in the catalogue” you thought, your
spouse giving you a look that you know all too well.
This may not be the common vision of space tourism but the
reality is that since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik back in
1958 there is an estimated one million pieces of junk floating in
orbit. Of those, 9,000 objects are bigger than a tennis ball, large
enough to cause catastrophic damage to moving space shuttles,
satellites, and space stations. Most are pieces from old satellites
and garbage left behind by previous missions. Adding to this mess
are nuts, bolts, and screwdrivers that have errantly drifted into
space from missions, and an expensive Hasselblad camera with exposed
pictures still inside.
According to the European
Space Agency, of the 5,500 tons of material in orbit, 93% is
junk that includes parts of old spacecraft, depleted rocket
boosters, garbage bags ,and even nuclear coolant. Each piece can
and are dividing into more pieces. Only 7% of the material in orbit
is operational spacecraft in use.
Besides posing an ethical problem of using our orbit as a
landfill, the junk pose a big problem to current and future
missions because of their ultra-high velocities in orbit. At 17,500
miles per hour, a millimeter speck of paint has the same amount of
energy as a .22 caliber long rifle bullet, a pea sized piece has
the lethal potential of a 400-lb safe traveling at 60 mph, and a
tennis ball sized piece of metal is essentially 25 sticks of
So what can we do about this junk? Is there a way to get it out
of orbit? Perhaps zap it? Or give it a nudge? (cont.)
Imagine a Friday drive down to a golf course in a neighboring
state, followed by a relaxing Saturday of hiking and fishing, then
spending Sunday at home relaxing with the family. While an extra
day off may not seem like much, who wouldn’t enjoy perpetual 3-day
Thanks to rising fuel prices, that’s exactly what a new State
bill in Utah proposes for thousands of government employees. In
an effort to curb air pollution and reduce state and commuter
energy costs, legislators are seriously pushing for a 4-day,
10-hour work, Monday-to-Thursday work week in place of the
traditional 5-day week.
If the bill is passed, public schools in Utah will transition to
149-day school years instead of 172, with class time extended by 65
minutes each day. But don’t worry about vital public services
because the State police, prison guards, courts, public
universities, and even state-run liquor stores will still hold
regular hours on Fridays. Likewise, hazardous spill disposal and
medicaid phone line services will not be affected by the
The idea of a four day work week isn’t new. Ever since the gas
crisis of the 1970’s the idea has been floating around to conserve
fuel costs, but only recently have people begun to get excited
about the possible switch-up now that gasoline prices are seriously
pinching travel and commuter budgets.
For example, Suffolk County and New York are already
considering the plan, so it looks as though this could be the
start of a much broader trend. (cont.)
Email was introduced to the public in the mid 90’s, marking a
big shift in communication efficiency and relegating snail mail to
the handling of American Express ads, magazine subscriptions, and
utility bills. Since then the corporate world has since embraced
it, just as Hallmark cards have been replaced by e-birthday cards.
But with times and the web changing so rapidly in the last decade
email is now increasingly considered an ‘internet app classic’.
A recent article by Alex Iskold at ReadWriteWeb
looks to challengers like Twitter and Facebook to dethrone email sooner
than later. Iskold points out that over the last five years the
shift away from email appears to have be in favor of simplicity.
People who once used emails to keep up with family and friends now
have moved on to IM. Similarly, bloggers use bridge apps like
Twitter that combines the shortness of an IM, with the
get-to-know-you personality of blogs. Even the face of email has
transformed with gmail taking the lead in a jack-of-all-trades
interface combining chat and a word processor. (I’m typing this
post right into Google Docs.)
Looking at the trends of the past, I don’t think email will go
in the way of the Dodo. I think of email’s relationship to its
‘successors’ as radio to television. TV didn’t kill radio, and the
Internet definitely didn’t kill TV. They just did all of their
respective jobs the best. Email is still the perferred way for
corporate communication, and a good number of us still tune into
our favorite radio stations on the freeway. Is email in danger
then? Will savvy web users and bloggers one day ditch email in
favor of Twitter and Gchat?
Only two things are certain. Apps will become more modular and
specialized and there will be cross-platform competition.
In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world.
Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In
ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in
the world. With world population exploding and shifting so
dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more
humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the
Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children
of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans
have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In
one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen,
and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an
abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is
the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her
hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam
recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over
time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased
“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very
odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly
The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a
survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming
immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little
remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched
Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by
widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there
are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons,
terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria
strain, asteroids, global warming.
Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled
into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited
allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about
recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and
should do something about issues like global warming and runaway
population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in
Children of Men remind us that there may well be other
formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our
Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article
by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very
real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy
Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with
magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval
fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has
fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.
This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created
a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the
village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has
resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily
losing population. (cont.)