Back in the 90's and this would be during my teens, one of the TV shows that I used to watch with great interest was the series called "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest".
This was a powerful and captivating cartoon series, with all the right ingredients in the mix. There was adventure, action and suspense. But there were also themes if one was paying enough attention. There was this eclectic mix of computers and technology in general, virtual reality, virtual worlds/cyber space and some, if not all of the episodes were related to either investigating a paranormal event or beating up the bad guys in the real and/or virtual worlds.
The development and background of each one of the characters and their stories was really well thought out and it complimented the overall story really well. Speaking of the characters, the show consisted of the following. (In random order):
Now, this tv series (that was developed in the 90's) largely focused around Jonny, Hadji and Jessie. With Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon making appearances from time to time. Thought I'd make that distinction, as some of the previous versions from the 60's and 70's had more so focused on the characters of Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon.
That being said, Dr. Benton Quest was and will be my favourite fictional character from an actual TV series. I used to watch this character with great interest. The character of Dr. Quest was depicted as a brilliant scientist, someone who is well versed with the different kinds of technology. He also possessed a broad range of interests, that would range from archaeology to an interest in mysticism. From time to time, the US Government would hire him, with the intent of unravelling and investigating the unexplained paranormal events.
The thing that captured the bulk of my attention was the use of Technology. For me personally, my love for technology came about at a very early age and that was when my dad got us a Atari and a couple of books on how to code in BASIC.
But, only after watching and observing Dr. Benton Quest, could I begin to understand the world of possibilities that could come about with the proper use of technology. I mean there were always other shows and movies. But the interactions as they were exhibited by Dr. Benton Quest, seemed like a very natural and logical extension of technology in the next decade or so. The kinds of technologies that seemed more realistic and attainable within the next decade or so.
Now that I look back and recollect those very interactions, I can see how this fictional character of Dr. Benton Quest was shown as making good use of the following technologies (below). Please note: This was a while back and I am pulling all of this from memory and my memory from the 90's is hazy at best. But, let's give it a try:
Like I said, such a fascinating character. Even if it was fictional. Overall, the cartoon series also made it a point in promoting good themes. Such as the indirect promotion of science and technology and also important concepts such as diversity, respect, service and sacrifice.
Odd coincidence, my height and weight is exactly the same, compared to this fictional character of Dr. Benton Quest. Also similarity of interest when it comes to science, computer science, archaeology and some mysticism.
Last but not the least, why don't they make tv shows like these anymore?
The following is a book review for the”Age of Spiritual Machines” written by Ray Kurzweil.
To begin with and to quote from the back cover:
”Imagine a world where the difference between man and machine blurs, where the line between humanity and technology fades, and where the soul and the silicon chip unite. This is not science fiction. This is the 21st century according to Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of the most innovative and compelling technology of our era. In his inspired hands, life in the new millennium no longer seems daunting. Instead, it promises to be an age in which the marriage of human sensitivity and artificial intelligence fundamentally alters and improves the way we live”
Now before I get into the details, let me begin by saying that I really really enjoyed Kurzweil’s writing style and well, the content. I think it was almost a decade ago, that I was casually introduced to the concept of the ‘technological singularity’ . That is what started my casual interest in all things cognitive sciences, very limited interest in artificial intelligence e.t.c. For someone to even dabble in these subjects and not come across the works of Ray Kurzweil is simply unheard of. So, up until this time, I have simply been watching some ofthe things that Ray has to say, primarily through Youtube. But this was the first book that I have gone through (cover to cover) that has been written by Ray himself.
For anyone who is not familiar with the basic concepts of Technological Singularity and or does not even have a latent interest in cognitive science, but happens to be reading this blogpost. For those individuals, this book is about technology, advances in computing, artificial intelligence and well unravelling some of the mysteries when it comes to a complex organ such as the human brain. And as the title of the book suggests, the content of the book builds up very quickly to determine the probability of when a machine based brain will emerge and the different scenarios of how it will all come about.
Now, a little bit about the author. Ray comes across as someone who thinks very deeply about the subjects that he is writing about. Kurzweil has the rare ability of painting the big picture, as well as getting into the details of how that vision will eventually come about. A significant percentage of the predictions that Kurzweil has made, have come true some 2 decade or more later. Remarkable track record. This list of predictions is long and unbelievably accurate (in scope and timing). Here is an example:
Kurzweil has also got a knack for debating both sides of the issue. I found the dialogues that keep popping up in the book from time to time, to be informative and amusing at the same time. These are thought experiments in the shape and form of dialogues really.
The Actual Book Review
Kurzweil’s manages to pull content from a variety of subjects, and not just related to the items mentioned above. It's almost like poetry. For example, the story begins with the very creation of the universe and subsequently the start of the evolutionary process here on earth. Then he gets into defining technology, as in what's technology at the bare minimum, the inevitability of technology and computing. Explaining things from the perspective of chaos and order, inevitability of Moore's Law e.t.c.
The next couple of chapters build up very quickly and we start getting into the realm of artificial intelligence and the various possibilities that will come about, with the emergence of a machine based brain. Kurzweil highlights the enormous benefits to society and I would say that the significant majority of the book focuses on the events leading up to, during and in a post technical singularity world. There is even a chronological timeline towards the back of the book that highlights the major achievements in the history of computing and tech and then shows the evolutionary path that these trends will be following.
There are some warnings, but by and large the content is focused on the benefits. The only exception to that rule are the warnings to pay attention to potential attacks from the luddites. A reoccurring theme throughout the book.
Also, there are so many ideas packed into this book! I couldn't help, but to stop, think about all the things Kurzweil had prophesied. You have to remember, that this book was written in 1995. So it was eerie to review the content and then actually come to the conclusion that some of these events (on the projected timeline) are occurring as we speak, exactly like Kurzweil had predicted some 19 years ago. For example, there is mention of Virtual Reality and Kurzweil starts getting into the details of how it will play out. And that totally was/is Oculus Rift and OMNI.
Coming back to the ideas bit. Seriously, there are entire product lines mentioned in this book. So quite naturally, I found myself sending out a couple of tweets relating to this.
Overall, this has got to be one of the most interesting books that I have gone through.
Our grasp of our consciousness is, well, still a guess. But Kurzweil predicts that in a couple of decades, we will start seeing the emergence of machines, machines that claim to be having spiritual experiences.
In short, Kurzweil has made me rethink the very notion of what it means to be human.
The Age of Spiritual machines. What a wonderful, wonderful read. Thank you Ray Kurzweil!
Noticed this in the news a couple of days back.
Google's Project Ara
Project Ara is the codename for an initiative by Google that aims to develop a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. The platform will include a structural frame that holds smartphone modules of the owner's choice, such as a display, keyboard or an extra battery. It would allow users to swap out malfunctioning modules or upgrade individual modules as innovations emerge, providing longer lifetime cycles for the handset, and potentially reducing electronic waste.
Excellent timing for such a project. In fact this is how I envision the smartphone/computing device of the immediate future to be. And infact, this is what I was partly thinking of when I made the following blog-post in May 2012.
The next big thing in Tech: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.
Originally published on Feb 14, 2013
It seems like cyber-security is one of those issues that seem to keep falling off the wayside.
So, even with trillions of dollars worth of information leeched. State secrets stolen, Intellectual property theft, Fortune 1000 companies infiltrated. It's mind boggling to wonder, why this issue does not get the attention it deserves.
So I put on my Analyst hat and decided to peer into the issue from the historical perspective. As in, what has really happened in the past couple of decades. Here's what I was able to unearth:
It was during the late 90′s that President Bill Clinton invited some of the top hackers in the United States to the White House. The President reached out to the hacker community with a clear intent of starting an open and honest dialogue. His message to this group of elite hackers was simple. United States faces cyber threats from all fronts, known and unknown and he wanted their help in helping safeguard these digital assets.
U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a $1.46 billion initiative to improve government computer security. The plan would establish a network of intrusion detection monitors for certain federal agencies and encourage the private sector to do the same. [link]
June: The Bush administration files a bill to create the Department of Homeland Security, which, among other things, will be responsible for protecting the nation’s critical IT infrastructure.
During the annual RSA conference, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a simple request: “Send some of your best & brightest employees to help the government’s efforts.” [link]
Accoring to ICS-CERT, U.S. critical infrastructure companies saw a dramatic increase in the number of reported cyber-security incidents between 2009 and 2011. In fact, the rate of increase on critical infrastructure alone was a staggering 2200%. [link]
Cyber Security advisor Richard Clarke warned that most of the major companies (within United States) are being regularly infiltrated by foreign hackers employed to steal R&D.
Obama signs a Cyber Security executive order. But it’s mostly relegated to information sharing. No comprehensive plan when it comes to safeguarding critical assets and/or a strategy to prevent a wide scale cyber attack. And/or creating a separate network for critical infrastructure.
Between the ever increasing rate of hacking incidents, state sponsored acts of cyber espionage, as well as a growing number of attacks against critical infrastructure. It’s pretty evident here that something needs to be done. However, I am wondering:
Overall, the issue is finally getting addressed. But I suspect and I really hope that I am wrong. But I suspect that:
Whether it is cyber defence or any other kind of defence, the need is clear. The ability to provision efficient and advanced technologies in order to mitigate and prevent attacks of all kinds. Amongst other things, there is a huge need to leverage systems-thinking in order to overcome these issues. The names of men like Vannevar Bush and Frederick Terman comes to mind.
The inability to provision a new kind of intelligence and a new framework for military and governance could be very costly.
When I swim, I see this:
Need a water-proof “brain-computer interface” that would allow me to switch between:
As a resultant, productivity and human well-being can be increased. We’d end up reducing toil, as we won’t be slogging through specific activities during specific points during the day.
We have Google Glass (which isn’t exactly a BMI). Also, we’re making steady progress when it comes to brain machine or brain computer interfaces in general.
However, I started thinking about an interface that you could use in virtually any environment. That would be very lightweight. And since it will be constantly connected to the Internet, you don’t want the radiation to impact your brain.
I started Googling BMI because my mobility was somewhat restricted after an auto-mobile accident in February 2013.
This blog-post has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite some time.
In 2012, I came across an interesting research paper by Nils J. Nilsson. The title of this research paper is ’Artificial Intelligence, Employment and Income‘. It appears that the actual research paper was published in the summer of 1984.
Nilsson has raised a couple of interesting points in this paper. Excerpt below:
Now I haven't even scraped the surface of AI, machine learning and mobile robotics in general. But, these technologies will mature very rapidly and when they do, then there will be some sort of an impact on jobs. And specifically routine based jobs.
Hence, I think I agree with the gist of what Professor Nilsson has mentioned in this paper.
The sentiment about generational wide changes is shared amongst one or two other individuals that I have spoken to as well. In particular, I recall my conversation with one of the CompSci Professor at Ryerson University and how they agreed with the statement being made in bullet # 2 above.
Civilization would have to make the necessary changes today, in order to be able to truly meet the impact, that the birth of true and real A.I is going to create in the future. Waiting for that moment to arrive is not an option.
Professor Nils J. Nilsson is not the first or the only scientist to have raised this issue in a reasonable, legible, rational way. Shedding light on this issue is important. Equally important is to do it in such a way that is rational. That does not have a luddite bias attached to it. Here, I use the term technology in the broader sense. One that encompasses advancement made in computing, AI and robotics. We need more investments and continued advancement in these areas as this is the only way of ensuring that we are able to provide for 7 billion people (and growing).
Also, in the near-term future state, the overall issue of employment requires a new vision and a new way of thinking. Hence, design-thinking becomes that much more important.