Future robots: capable of thinking, reasoning; even falling in love

March 18 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 19

By Dick Pelletier

Humans have always been fascinated by robots, a fascination fueled in part by science-fiction renderings of such characters as R2D2, C3PO, HAL, The Terminator, and Data.

However, a world run by robots is no longer science-fiction. Today, robotic systems work on assembly lines; clean floors; monitor kids; help the disabled; explore Mars; and assist in our security.

IRobot CEO, Rodney Brooks says the robotics industry is undergoing huge changes with major focus now on personal robots. Industry consultant Dr. Joanne Pransky agrees. In 10 years, Pransky expects to purchase a robot that can clean house, prepare and serve meals, and help her become more efficient with tomorrow’s technologies.

Much impetus for robot development comes from Japan, where demographic trends and labor costs have created a growing market for machines that replace humans. Hitachi’s EMIEW can perform any number of factory and office jobs.

“Hold on”, say opponents. Though robots perform many mundane and physical jobs that humans don’t want, the net result is that millions become unemployed. Seegrid chief scientist, Hans Moravec agrees that future robotic development could be disruptive to the economy.

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Future weather control: no more storms, earthquakes, tsunamis

May 29 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: General   Rating: 14 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

In just ninety seconds, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed Japan’s economy in 1923 throwing the country into chaos. Instability opened the door for a military government, which quickly led to war in Southeast Asia, then to WWII, dishing out unimaginable horrors to the world.

Could a 1923 disaster repeat itself? What if the Southern California “Big One”, forecast for years by experts, actually happened and 16 million people suddenly found their homes submerged in the Pacific Ocean? Could an event like this destroy the American economy, and how would that affect the rest of the world?

Property losses from violent weather are increasing. The recent Myanmar cyclone and China earthquake have both caused huge losses in lives, weakened economies and devastated areas. Everyone enjoys nature’s breathtaking beauty and we could not exist without its bounty, but sometimes this Earth we call home can be harsh and unforgiving.

Forward-thinking scientists believe current knowledge of weather modification, combined with our newest wonder science – molecular nanotechnology – will one day provide an opportunity for humanity to inoculate itself against natural disasters.

Geologists describe earth’s atmosphere as an envelope of air, rotating with the continents and oceans; receiving enormous amounts of energy from the Sun’s radiation, which powers weather events. Typical energy expended in a tornado funnel is equal to about fifty kilotons of explosives; a thunderstorm exchanges about ten times this much during its lifetime; and a moderate size Atlantic hurricane can build up to more than 1,000 megatons of energy. (cont.)

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Tomorrow's Internet - holographic get-togethers and more

April 20 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

A new higher-speed Internet2, now under development in labs around the world, will one day offer holographic images indiscernible from reality, providing an array of applications that we can only dream of today.

With digital video resolution four times finer than today’s HDTV, and haptic technologies that provide a realistic sense of touch, researchers can create holograph images of people filmed thousands of miles away enabling lifelike virtual interaction indiscernible from reality. The system uses cameras that capture live images of people from two or more places, merges the data, and feeds it back to all locations.

We could organize a meeting with friends or relatives from cities scattered around the world without anyone actually traveling. People will kiss, hug and reminisce as if they were in the same room. And our senses will convince us that they are there. We could even meet with a simulation of a favorite celebrity. (cont.)

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The future includes me

July 15 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

An ulterior motive drives much of the optimism and positive take that appears in ‘FutureTalk’ articles which describe how the future might unfold.

There is an audacious thought roaming through my brain that the “magical future” I describe so often actually includes me. With a little luck, I believe that I can stay alive and reap all the benefits this wonder time has to offer.

Though more than 50 million will die in 2008, I am convinced that I will not be among them. In researching articles each week, I discover facts that support the optimistic slant that each topic seems to take.

Chronologically my body has reached seventy-seven years; biologically it behaves as a mid-sixty-year-old, and emotionally it sometimes acts like a ‘30 something. By continuing to believe optimistically about the future, it’s easy for me to imagine myself ‘being there’. (cont.)

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Telepresence, avatars enrich our lives in near future

May 21 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine a future where there is no clear distinction between real and simulated events. Welcome to the world of virtual reality. In contrast to today’s crude videoconferencing methods, tomorrow’s revolutionary “telepresence” systems expected by 2015 or before, will look and sound like you are actually together in real reality. You’ll establish eye contact, look around each other, and otherwise have the sense of being together.

Tomorrow’s Internet will power this new system. Cameras will transmit live two-way pictures over a terabyte-speed network similar to today’s Internet2. With sensors embedded in clothing to track movement, parties at both ends can project themselves into a virtual reality 3-D simulation of the event – everyone interacts with everyone with “telepresence.”

“This new system marks the beginning of a revolution expected to take us by storm in the next decade,” says Dr. Pierre Boulanger, University of Alberta VR researcher. People separated by distance can be together in this virtual world, to enjoy a living room chat, share meals at the dinner table, or cozy up even more intimately. Everyone feels hand shakes, hugs and kisses as if they were real.

In addition, say goodbye to confusing controls for home entertainment systems and computers. Lifelike 3D avatars (virtual assistants) which speak perfect “human” will become our primary interface with all our technologies.

These amazing screen images will do just about everything for us. They will answer questions; negotiate Internet transactions; make it easy for us to operate computers and home entertainment systems; and maintain household temperature, lighting and security. These cute creatures, resembling favorite celebrities or loved ones, will appear on our TV, cell phone screen, and car radio display. Later, advances in holography will enable avatars to jump off the screen and follow us around the house. (cont.)

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Coming soon: cars that wink, laugh, cry, and get angry

June 16 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Transportation   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

In the future, your car will detect danger possibilities and protect you as you encounter other cars on the road. It will automatically display a happy, sad, or angry look to convey appropriate feelings to other drivers in response to their action. This is the vision of four Toyota Motor employees in Japan who recently patented this creative technology.

Car modifications include a hood with slits and designs that resemble eyebrows, eyelids and tears, which glow with different light shades and colors to reflect desired moods; an antenna that wags like a puppy dog’s tail to show happiness; and a body that can crouch low on its wheelbase when timid, or stand tall to express displeasure.

By 2015 or before, “cars with feelings” could be arriving at dealer showrooms everywhere. These cars can display a wide range of expressions to help us interact with other drivers on the road. Today, we can only honk horns, tap brakes, flash headlights, or use turn signals. It’s difficult to thank another driver for letting us enter the lane, or to show disapproval at someone who cuts us off.

The intelligence system on these new cars with personalities calculate road and vehicle conditions such as steering angle, braking, and speed. It also correlates driver reactions, road and car conditions, and automatically creates correct color and position for the eyebrows, antenna, lights and vehicle height.

If a pre-set number of points indicate an approaching careless or hostile driver, the system creates an anger reaction. The headlights glow red, the eyebrows light up, but the antenna and height remains in a standard “cool” position. A happy, satisfied look is displayed to reward a courteous driver. A friendly “wink” shows that you agree with a driver’s action, or it could also be an attempt at flirting. (cont.)

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Supercomputer will speed breakthroughs in medical research

June 18 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

As our “miracle” 21st century begins to unfold, a statement, which has been an eternal truth for most of human history, is now being seriously challenged: Humans will always be battling sicknesses. Many scientists believe this statement could be overturned within the next three decades, and most of the credit for this feat would lie in our ability to increase computer power.

Today, medical researchers, in efforts to cure heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other human ills, perform trial and error experiments in labs, and conduct human clinical trials that yield excruciatingly slow results. Cancer deaths are predicted to not end for another seven years, and cures for other diseases are projected to be even more elusive.

But researchers say we could speed medical research progress by first using Clinical Trial Simulations (CTS). If we preceded actual human trials with high-speed computer simulations, the end results would be reached much faster. Ronald Gieschke, of Hoffmann-La Roche in Switzerland, claims CTS will have a significant impact on the way in which drugs are developed in the future. “Human clinical trials will still be necessary,” Gieschke says, “but CTS will make them faster and more accurate”.

In addressing the need for increased computer power, IBM’s new “Roadrunner,” built for the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved performance of 1.026 petaflops (more than one quadrillion floating point operations per second) and is now rated as the fastest supercomputer in the world.

The DOE announced that this computer will link its facilities to other government labs and major research centers around the world. Scientists will find easy access to this new supercomputer later this year, according to a LANL spokesman. The new machine will enable breakthrough discoveries in biology that will fundamentally change medical science and its impact across society. (cont.)

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Dick Pelletier Sees a Magical Future Ahead of Us

March 13 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 9

Science and technology columnist Dick Pelletier is very optimistic about what’s to come, especially for someone born in 1931. He authors the blog, PositiveFuturist, which serves as a central resource for anyone interested in how advancing technologies are merging and amplifying each other to create what he calls a “magical future”.

What some may consider a utopian dream – a world in which aging has been eliminated, and physical and psychological capabilities expanded – Pelletier sees as a very real possibility for the next 20-30 year period. In a recent MemeBox interview, Pelletier was kind enough to share his views about the NBIC convergence he sees driving these breakthroughs, offering a bright and exciting vision of the future to come.

“NBIC convergence refers to the interaction of advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive sciences,” Pelletier explained.

As a fan of Ray Kurzweil’s theory of accelerating change, he believes these technologies are advancing exponentially as the rate of change gains momentum.

“As this phenomenon becomes more understood, the possibility that we can enhance human performance and actually design our own evolution will become clear. NBIC convergence will impact dramatically with working habits and the economy. Nanotech and infotech advances could, as early as the last half of this century, turn Earth into a non-commerce scarcity-free world.”

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Merging with machines inevitable, scientists say

April 01 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9

By Dick Pelletier

Today, we are entering the beginning stages of a society that many futurists believe will not end until man and machine become completely integrated into a single being – an enhanced human.

The biotech revolution, from 2010 to 2020, promises to correct many of our biological flaws including vulnerability to disease and telltale signs of aging. Doctors will re-grow cells, tissues and organs to replace aging body parts; and by as early as mid-2020s, most humans can look forward to an extended healthy lifespan of 200 years or more.

Molecular nanotech marks the next step in our march towards this futuristic society. From about 2025, we will enjoy home-replicators that provide food, clothing, and essentials at little cost; and tiny nanobots that roam through arteries and veins keeping us forever fit and healthy.

The final stage of achieving this remarkable future lies in supercomputers and artificial intelligence; powerful robot-like machines that many predict will outthink humans by 2030. These silicon marvels will possess reasoning and logic similar to our own, but can share data and knowledge millions of times faster than we can with our slow human language; a desirable feature that many humans will want to incorporate into their bodies, experts say.

(cont.)

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What happens when machines learn to speak?

May 28 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Throw away the computer mouse, keyboard, and TV remote. A new speaking machine, expected in the next decade, is about to become your newest “electronic” friend. This new voice-interactive machine will browse the Internet searching for information it thinks will interest you, and will help unravel the maize of TV channels. The machine will converse in a pleasant voice as it listens carefully to your instructions, then offers suggestions on what Internet data or TV programs it thinks you might enjoy.

This new voice-interactive machine will appear as an avatar – an on-screen image resembling your favorite movie character, religious icon, or loved one. On command, it will appear on the TV screen, computer monitor, car radio or cell phone, addressing you by name, and asking what you would like.

Most people think interactive systems like these are a long way off, but two trends are quickening the pace. Improved speech-recognition systems will soon enable people to converse with computers in normal-spoken language, and entrepreneurs are rushing to the Internet creating new business applications with software “agents” that take advantage of speech recognition.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates claims that by 2012, voice-enabled “smart” systems will allow us to converse naturally and comfortably, directly with our display, reducing need for mouse and keyboard. Avatars will help us shop, work, learn, and conduct business and social relationships on the Internet. At home, they will provide security, change lighting and temperature as needed, and deliver news, sports, games, and entertainment anywhere in the house. (cont.)

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Earth 12000: Exploring space, time, and parallel universes

July 03 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

A glance at what life may be like ten millennia from now, by Dick Pelletier

Of course, nobody can predict exactly how the future will unfold in 10,000 years, but by tracking technology advances expected in the coming centuries, we see changes that will transform humanity into super-intelligent beings focused on developing space, exploring universes, and traveling through time.

Imagine if you could peek in on the dinosaurs’ first-hand, enjoy an exotic vacation thousands of light years from Earth, or jump into a parallel universe where another you is living a far more exciting life than yours – and you could stay there if you like.

For years, scientists around the world have bandied about the revolutionary idea that future humans could zip across the universe using wormholes as high-speed portals enabling faster-than-light travel to explore space, enter other universes, and witness the past and future.

Wormholes enable travel between its two openings. One end of the wormhole stays home while the other is carted away at sub-light velocities to the destination, connecting the two locations through a tunnel in warped space-time. A person enters the wormhole, and depending on the connection, exits to a remote destination in space, another time in the past or future, or into a parallel universe.

Consensus among most scientists has been that wormholes are so destructive; people would be torn to subatomic bits if they tried such a thing. However, a new paper by University of Utah physicist Lior Burko now raises the possibility that wormholes may not annihilate all matter, and the potential for hyperspace travel could one day be realized. (cont.)

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Get ready for big things from world of nanotech

July 20 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Arthur C. Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter mankind’s newest plunge into the future – nanotechnology.

One day soon, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a “nanofactory” will sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up any product you want – plasma TV, clothes, an appliance, or whatever your dreams desire – at little or no cost.

This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not. According to AI entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil and nanotech author Eric Drexler, this nanofactory will arrive by the 3rd decade of this century – 2020-2030.

Here’s how nanotech replicators would work: microscopic-size machines collect raw atoms from supplied chemicals, or from something as inexpensive as seawater, and enable those atoms to grow or “morph” into the final product: a sweater, refrigerator, health medicine, or even a duplicate nanofactory.

Key technologies of the past half-century – transistors, semiconductors, and genetic engineering – all focused on reducing size, materials and costs, while increasing power and efficiency. We now stand poised to continue this trend into a revolution that offers the potential to rebuild the entire physical world – our bodies and brains included – one atom at a time.

The National Institutes of Health states that someday implanted nanotech materials will actually become part of the body – able to search out and destroy cancer cells before they develop into a tumor, or precisely direct drugs to heal damaged tissues – and when no longer needed, dissolve and be absorbed or excreted. (cont.)

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