Most PandoDaily readers, I assume, accept the idea that technology can make our lives better. We lionize companies like Google, Twitter, Intel, Apple, and Microsoft. We applaud CEOs as celebrities, and, as was the…
Most PandoDaily readers, I assume, accept the idea that technology can make our lives better. We lionize companies like Google, Twitter, Intel, Apple, and Microsoft. We applaud CEOs as celebrities, and, as was the…
China will send its first probe to land on the moon by the end of the year, space administrators said Wednesday according to state media.
Planning and construction for the unmanned Chang’e-3 mission have been completed and it has “officially entered its launch implementation phase” the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence said, Xinhua reported.
It will be launched “at the end of this year”, the official news agency said, adding that it will see a Chinese orbiter land on the moon for the first time, after using an unspecified technique to slow its speed.
In Chinese mythology, Chang’e is a woman who lives in a palace on the moon.
China’s space programme is run by the People’s Liberation Army and the original statement was not available to AFP.
Beijing sees the multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise, as well as the ruling Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
The project is heavily promoted to the domestic audience, and President Xi Jinping attended the launch of its last manned mission, Shenzhou-10, in June.
China’s space capabilities remain far behind those of the United States and Russia, but it aims to build a station orbiting earth by 2020, with putting a man on the moon a future ambition.
The last human to walk on the Earth’s natural satellite was Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan in 1972.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – There is a good chance young people growing up in today’s always-wired world will eventually become bright, nimble decision makers – if they don’t wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book.
So say 1,021 technology insiders, critics and students surveyed by the Pew Research Center who were fairly evenly split about how always-on technology will impact the teenagers and twenty-somethings of “Generation Y.”
In the survey, released on Wednesday, 55 percent agreed with a statement that in 2020 the brains of young people would be “wired” differently from those over 35, with good results for finding answers quickly and without shortcomings in their mental processes.
But 42 percent were pessimistic, agreeing with a second statement that in 2020 young technology users would be easily distracted, would lack deep thinking skills and would thirst only for instant gratification.
“There is this tension going on between the positive and the negative (aspects) that we foresee,” said Janna Anderson, an associate professor at North Carolina’s Elon University and one of the study’s authors.
“Right now a lot of people (in the survey) are responding, ‘That’s already my life.’ They are anticipating this,” she told Reuters.
The survey’s forecasts carry weight since a similar poll taken in the early 1990s accurately predicted conflicts that would arise between online technology and copyrights, privacy and established institutions, Anderson said.
The survey participants gave consistent predictions on the key skills young people would need in 2020. They included public problem-solving through cooperative work, searching effectively for information online, and weighing the quality of information.
“In contrast, the ability to read one thing and think hard about it for hours will not be of no consequence, but it will be of far less consequence for most people,” Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Inc’s top researcher and one of the survey’s respondents, said in comments carried in the Pew report.
Barry Chudakov, a research fellow at the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, said staying aware of technology’s influence and intrusions would be at a premium.
“Is this my intention, or is the tool inciting me to feel and think this way?” he wrote.
Many of those surveyed backed educational reforms to make distracted young people better able to handle always-on technology and to focus. They included time-out zones, meditation, silence areas and going without Internet devices.
Alvaro Retena, distinguished technologist at Hewlett-Packard Co, forecast stagnation in technology and even in literature as attention spans shorten.
The Pew Research Center’s survey was carried out online from August 28 to October 31, 2011, as part of Pew’s ongoing project on the Internet and American life.
The study involved respondents ranging from such industry insiders as Bruce Nordman, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Hal Varian, Google Inc’s top economist, to university and high school students.
Forty percent of those surveyed were research scientists or employed by a college or university, and 12 percent work for an information technology company, the poll said.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch)
[Image via Shutterstock.com.]
Mochila insert follows …
What if you could forget a bad memory by taking a pill? It seems like a weird question, but as this article in this month’s edition of Wired makes clear, it’s a question that’s probably going to become a very real one for a lot of people within our lifetimes. Scientists have basically figured out how memories work—contrary to popular belief, they’re not like files you just pull out and then put away but in fact are rewritten every time you remember them—and once they realized that, they realized that they had a working idea of how to literally erase a memory. And not like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, either. They believe they can get really specific, targeting a single incident that a person wants to forget. The most obvious application of this technology would be to treat people with PTSD, but it could also be used to curb drug addiction or phantom pain.
I think most people, when they hear about this kind of technology, immediately dismiss it out of hand as dystopian, but I want to make the case for it. I think people should have the option to erase a memory if they want. Call me pro-choice on memory erasure. These are my reasons why:
1) Memory isn’t as sacrosanct as people think. People tend to think of memories as perfect recollections of things how they actually happened. We accept that they fade over time, but we generally don’t think they’re untrustworthy. But as this article shows, actually memory is a pretty shitty system, as could be expected of a system that evolved in a patchwork style. There’s a very good-enough-ness quality to how memory actually works. The memory you want to wipe is probably all corrupt and incorrect anyway, making its value less than you might initially think. Human brains are simply not great places to store important information. Not only do they store memories in an inefficient way that corrupts the data, but they degrade and eventually die, which terminates the memory altogether. This is why humans have, throughout our entire history, tried to devise better ways to remember stuff than simply putting it in our brains. We invented writing, the printing press, and now computers mainly so that we can remember stuff that our brains are shitty at recalling. We already know on some level that there’s no special reason that memories have to be stored in the brain and nowhere else, so why not purge a memory that is legitimately causing a person problems?
2) Just because a memory isn’t stored in your brain doesn’t mean it’s gone. I think some people think of memory erasure and they think that it’s the same thing as pretending something never happened in the first place. (The “Eternal Sunshine” idea.) But that’s not exactly how this would play out. If you’ll read the article, you’ll see that the people that are doing memory-softening trials right now actually write down their memories at the beginning of treatment, and then reread the memories as part of the treatment. If they develop a pill that can target and wipe a specific memory, I imagine this is how it will play out: You’ll wipe the memory but have it stored in written form that you can then reread later so that the you know that it did happen and can act accordingly. For instance, imagine you were in a terrible car accident where a passenger was killed, and you can’t stop replaying the horror in your head over and over. You take the pill, and forget the accident. Then you read a summary of what happened. You still have the general idea of it—you know and feel that this happened to you—but the visceral horror isn’t attached to it anymore.
3) Fears that people will be irresponsible with this are way overblown. The fear—again, stoked by “Eternal Sunshine”—is that people will run around erasing any unpleasant memory willy-nilly, and with it, they won’t remember important lessons, etc. This fear misunderstans how most people think of themeselves and their memories. In reality, most people are attached to their negative memories, precisely because they feel those memories are an important part of who they are. Listen to how people actually talk about bad experiences. Very little “I wished that never happened” and a lot more “well, that sucked, but I’m glad I went through it and really, I wouldn’t change a thing, because it made me the person I am today”. Most people are glad to remember ugly break-ups, stupid fights, and even embarrassing mistakes, because they feel it’s prevention against that ever happening again. When it comes to other bad experiences, such as being really sick, that aren’t our faults, we still tend to cling to the memory. If nothing else, the time you threw up all over (fill in something really embarrassing) makes a great story.
These technologies are intended for and will be used by people who have a memory that is crippling them. Post-traumatic stress disorder is no joke; symptoms range from insomnia to paranoia to fear or sadness so crippling that the patient can’t leave the house. Jobs are lost, marriages break up, and sufferers often resort to suicide. Purging their brain of the memory and putting it on paper where it can’t hurt them is an act of mercy. Again, it’s not like the patient will be unaware that they were in war/were raped/escaped from a tower on 9/11. They will know this and be familiar with all the relevant details, after they read it on paper. All that will really be missing is the feelings of fear and pain that are attached to the original biological memory.
The arc when strange new technologies come out is that people are fearful and prone to wild theorizing about how this is the one that other people are just going to wildly misuse and all sorts of terrible, dystopian things will happen. And then those things don’t happen and slowly but surely, the fears calm down. Eventually, we stop thinking of the technology as “technology” and just think of it as the thing that always was. It’s okay to have a little faith in your fellow man, especially when it comes to things like giving them right to make very personal choices on complex matters. That’s true of abortion, and it’s true of something as deeply personal as handling mental health issues like persistent and troubling memories.
A team of Taiwanese researchers have developed an “invisible key” technology which allows users to unlock their doors by means of simple hand gestures, the head of the team said Monday.
“In the future, you won’t have to worry about losing or forgetting your keys,” said Tsai Yao-pin, who teaches at the Technology and Science Institute of Northern Taiwan.
At the heart of the technology developed by his team is a chip that can detect movement in three dimensions, as used in Nintendo’s Wii video game console, he said.
The technology allows users to easily unlock their doors by repeating a gesture preset in the sensor, according to Tsai.
The “invisible key” won him a gold medal at the four-day Taipei International Invention Show and Technomart which ended Sunday.
He estimated that it make take half a year for the invention to go commercial as several interested companies have approached him.
The world needs $1.9 trillion in green technology investments a year, with over half of that sum necessary for developing countries,” the UN said Tuesday.
“Over the next 40 years, $1.9 trillion (1.31 trillion euros) per year will be needed for incremental investments in green technologies,” the UN Economic and Social Affairs body said in its annual survey.
“At least one-half, or $1.1 trillion per year, of the required investments will need to be made in developing countries to meet their rapidly increasing food and energy demands through the application of green technologies,” it added.
At the moment, “external financing currently available for green technology investments in developing countries is far from sufficient to meet the challenge,” it assessed.
Over the last two years, climate change funds managed by World Bank disbursed about $20 billion, a fraction of the sum necessary for developing countries to build up clean energy technologies, sustainable farming techniques and technologies that help cut non-biodegradable waste production.
Even though states agreed during a 2009 Copenhagen summit to spend $30 billion over 2010 to 2012 and $100 billion a year by 2020 in transfers to developing countries, these sums have not been realised.
They would also fall short of the actual investment required.
“The survey estimates that developing countries will require a little over $1 trillion a year in incremental green investment,” said the report.
“While a large proportion of the incremental investment would ultimately be financed from developing countries’ public and private resources, international financing will be indispensable, particularly in the early years, in jump-starting green investment and financing the adoption of external technologies,” it added.
Author of the report Rob Vos said that “business as usual is not an option.”
“Without drastic improvements in and diffusion of green technologies, we will not reverse the ongoing ecological destruction and secure a decent livelihood for all of humankind, now and in the future,” he added.
Pixar, a pioneer of computer animation that has made a dozen profitable feature films and become one of the most successful studios on the planet, is celebrating its 25th birthday.
Born in the early 1980s as George Lucas’s computer graphics division, the company took off after it was purchased by Apple founder Steve Jobs in 1986 and christened “Pixar.”
That year, the hopping desk lamp and ball, heroes of Pixar’s first film — the short “Luxo Jr” — lit the way toward a new generation of features entirely composed of computer graphics.
“The combination of changing technology and artistic creation gave something that had never been done before,” said Ed Catmull, one of the company’s founders and now president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“The movie-telling was an extension of creative technology.”
He compares the company’s emergence to the advent of Disney, which showed a previous generation the potential of cartoons and purchased Pixar in 2006.
“It’s like the early days of Disney, when filmmaking was brand new and animation was brand new, it was a technical revolution,” Catmull told AFP.
“People don’t think about that today because it happened so long ago. But Walt was always bringing the newest technology.”
In 1995, Pixar scored big with “Toy Story,” the first feature-length film composed entirely of computer-generated graphics.
The animated feature tracing the adventures of a toy cowboy and spaceman dazzled viewers and critics alike, bringing in more than $350 million worldwide.
“‘Toy Story’ was the first CG film where the audience was no longer aware that they were watching computer-generated images, they just wanted to know what happens to Woody and Buzz Lightyear,” said Tom Sito, a former Disney and Dreamworks animator who now teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Other pioneering computer animation studios were made up of engineers and research scientists trying to be amateur artists, along with a few professional artists struggling to learn computer programming.
“Pixar adopted a system of building a top-quality technical engineering division and a top quality creative team, and kept their duties separate. This way, each could accomplish the tasks they were best at,” he continued.
The strategy paid off, as Pixar cranked out a string of hits, including two more Toy Story installments, “Monsters, Inc” (2001), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “Cars” (2006), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Wall-E” (2008) and “Up” (2009).
The movies have raked in some $6.5 billion and 26 Academy awards, taking their place alongside Disney’s library of classic family films.
Pixar’s location in Emeryville, a suburb of San Francisco far from the Hollywood Hills, reflects its success, with employees performing Tai Chi in spacious new gardens framed by sleek modern buildings.
A casual atmosphere prevails, with John Lasseter — who has been with the company since its Lucas days and is now the creative director of Pixar and Disney — sporting a Hawaiian shirt and sneakers as he mingled with animators.
Catmull said Pixar’s success is less a matter of perfection than relentless self-criticism.
“We had some projects in which we realized that they were not working, so we threw away what we got and restarted… We had failures like many others, we just don’t release them,” he said.
“Sometimes people confuse the goal of making a film with making a great film. And the goal is not to make a film. The goal is to make a film that actually connects with people.”
The United States will support India’s continued exemption from global nuclear trade rules despite moves to tighten up restrictions, the US ambassador to India said on Thursday.
Last week the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which governs global nuclear trade, decided to tighten guidelines for transfers of sensitive uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology.
India, which has a electricity deficit, has an ambitious nuclear programme and won a special exemption in 2008 from NSG rules, which was negotiated by the United States.
Countries are normally required to have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty — which India has refused to do — and open their reactors to international scrutiny before they can buy atomic technology and uranium.
“The White House and the Obama administration strongly and vehemently support the clean waiver for India,” the outgoing US ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, told reporters on Thursday.
India is concerned that the new NSG guidelines could restrict its access to foreign technology, which will be vital if it is to expand atomic power at its targeted rate.
India’s fast-growing economy is heavily dependent on coal. Less than three percent of India’s electricity comes from nuclear power, but it hopes to raise the figure to 25 percent by 2050.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that France and Russia still intended to do business with India despite the move by the NSG, which includes the US, Russia, China, European Union countries and some others.
Companies from France, Russia, the US and Japan are competing for a slice of the $175 billion India plans to spend on nuclear reactors.
U.S Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) announced bipartisan House legislation on Wednesday to regulate how mobile devices’ location data can be used by law enforcement, commercial entities or private citizens.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) co-authored the Geolocation, Privacy and Security (GPS) Act and related legislation has been introduced to the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Welch announced his support for the bill in Montpelier and Brattleboro.
“Consumers greatly benefit from a multitude of new technologies and devices, but there is also a downside,” he said. “Abuse of this technology can lead to an invasion of privacy and civil liberties. Our bill provides a clean legal framework on when and how this technology can be used. It provides much-needed clarity to consumers, law enforcement and commercial providers.”
The GPS Act would require the government to show probable cause and get a warrant before acquiring the geolocational information of a U.S. person and create criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track a person’s movements. It would also prohibit businesses from sharing customers’ geolocational information with third parties without the customer’s consent.
Web giant Google said Tuesday that the United States stands to lose up to $3.2 trillion in potential gross domestic product (GDP) growth if it further delays policies that encourage renewable energy technology.
In an economic study published on the company’s official blog, Google researchers assumed several key breakthroughs would be made in solar, wind and biomass energy, then drew their models outwards through 2050.
Comparing their results to models based on “business as usual” in the carbon-generating energy economy, Google found that delaying public policies to encourage green tech by just four more years could result in the loss of up to $3.2 trillion in GDP and the failure to realize as many as 1.4 million new jobs.
The study also suggested that clean energy policies being considered today would also reduce average household energy costs by over $942 a year, cut back on U.S. oil consumption by 1.1 billion barrels a year and shave off at least 13 percent of the nation’s total carbon emissions by 2030.
By 2050, Google projects a net gain of 3.9 million jobs and a total carbon output reduction of 55 percent.
The key to achieving those results is rapid improvements in current technology and public policies that encourage growth. For instance, they showed that compressed natural gas could remain a dominant market force if the development of electric vehicle batteries isn’t ramped up very quickly. They also show how difficult it will be for any single electricity source to compete with coal power in terms of economics, with coal continuing to offer more power for less dollars for the foreseeable future.
While the study’s findings seem promising indeed, it is absolutely in-line with Google’s agenda to promote renewable energy technologies. The company has hired several lobbying firms to bend lawmakers’ ears on the matter, spending over $1.2 million to do so in the first quarter of 2011 alone.
Just by the company’s lobbying efforts, it becomes clear that the web giant plans to be a big part in the rise of green technology. It has already spent over $780 million investing in clean tech firms in an effort to find energy sources cheaper than coal.
The full study was available online (PDF).
Image courtesy of Robert Scoble