Sunday, August 14, 2005

Magic on TV

I don't usually watch TV, but today I was asked to record a show on a VCR so I was just randomly flipping through the channels while the casette was rewinding. I can't believe our TV has already sank that low...

I can feel their magic power

On the left is a fat Georgian magic healer. In the middle a hippy-like clairvoyant that looks like a horse. And the host on the right. I can't believe that anyone is falling for that shit, but apparently some do, they all looked serious. Unbelievable, now I want to gouge my eyes out. I think I better to go read to ease the pain a bit.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Seeing the world

Australian company Astrovision announced plans to provide real-time satellite video (first of Australia) with resolution down to 250 metres.

"Users [will be] able to select destinations and zoom in to as close as 60 metres and to as far out as 57,000 kilometres. ...Astrovision plans to launch five satellites to provide coverage of the globe over a decade."

Do you know where is this place?

There are already thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) webcams everywhere in the world, providing 24-hour live feeds of what is happening "there". Get the feeling of it with this nice artistic piece - Netlag.

In the future more and more information about the world will be available to us indirectly (i.e. we won't see it with our own eyes) and this information will be multi-facetous, instant, customized and interactive.

In a sense, this is about gradually become omnipresent. Ultimately every human will be able to instantly know everything that is happening anywhere on Earth, know about every raindrop falling, every leaf trembling. Just like gods. Isn't it cool?

Posted to Future Wiki

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Just watched and listened to the Animusic - a video music-driven computer animation. It's a 30-minute video, with seven different animations.

Future Retro

Harmonic Voltage

It's very original, both music and animation are very good. Short clips can be downloaded from the Animusic website. ATi has a real-time version of "Pipe Dream" and the video version. The DVD can also be downloaded from eDonkey network.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Two types of change

While reading one emotional overview of the trends in the ICT market, it dawned on me that the constant change everyone keeps to be talking about for the past few decades is not monolithic.

There are two distinct components in it.

  • One is the squabble between the competitors in the global marketplace. The outsourcing, the competitive threat from emerging markets of China and India, the need to serve the needs of diverse international customers. This kind of stuff. You can no longer be safe, no matter what your business is, and you need to change. But at the core this is essentially a pointless zero-sum game that noone really benefits from. When Walmart forces you to squeeze out every penny from your suppliers, the economy overall suffers (or gains only marginally). When Procter & Gamble introduces another "NEW!!!" shampoo, customers' lives don't really change. Yes, the market economy causes everyone to strive for perfection, but the difference between perfect and the "good enough" is not really worth it.
  • Much more important are the constant technological improvements - the never-ending unstoppable progress of science and technology. This is what makes our lives today so much better than 100 years ago, not competition between global oligopolies. This change benefits not the competition, but from cooperation. Incidentally, this is what will bring us the Singularity and other transhumanist goodness. It doesn't really matter who makes the mobile phone handsets - Nokia or one of its new Chinese rivals, what matters is that overall tehcnologies improve and make better products possible, regardless of who is in charge.
The potential of business innovations isn't zero, but it is often overestimated. Yes, you probably can shave off a few percentage points from your costs using outsourcing, an ISO 9001 quality program, new staff motivation technique, management training in change management or some other snake oil of the day. This may even help you beat your archrival (or, more likely, maintain the status quo). But it will all be forgotten in a decade. The real, long lasting changes and qualitative orders-of-magnitude improvements come from changes in underlying technologies, not business techniques.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Automatic context sensitive search

I just came across an amazing application, Watson from Intellext. This program automatically searches online for content relevant to documents that you are working on. It supports a variety of Internet sources and it seems to be possible to add more. Right now it only supports Microsoft Office programs (Word, Powerpoint, etc.) and only English language, somewhat limiting its usefulness, but when it can be used, it's great.

Watson gets the keywords from the document and searchs for them, showing the results in a side panel

The results are surprisingly relevant and often very useful

It saves you the hassle of carefully thinking about relevant search queries. The document you are editing becomes one big search query and the results (a few hundred links, usually) come almost instantly. So far I have only tried it on existing documents, but it should be interesting to try to use it while writing a new document, augmenting my knowledge and memory with the power of the Internet. :)

Obviously, in the future automatic context-sensitive search will become much more common. Computers will be presenting us with hints, ideas, reminders, based on what we are doing, reading, talking about. The amount of available data, including our photos, e-mails, posts, conversations, etc. is growing very fast, as well as the amount of relevant information online. In the past it made sense to perform research (originally a literature search, later a google search) before writing a paper or preparing a presentation. But increasingly this becomes redundant and useless, as the amount of useful and relevant information often far exceeds our need in it.

So it makes sense to pay less attention to getting all the information. The computer should just give us something and we will use it. This is how our memory works - we are not trying to produce a perfect recollection of our past actions or of school knowledge that we acquired - we simply use what our subconsciousness gives us. A good illustration to the expected future of search is in Charles Stross's Accelerando, where search agents are running on human exocortices.