Technology Link Dump

My last post on technological change seems to have struck a nerve and I've been running across a lot of things along similar lines this week... Here are a few links on the subject:
  • Charlie Stross is writing his next novel on his cell phone:
    Being inclined towards crazy stunt performances, I'm planning on writing "Halting State" on my mobile phone. This is technologically feasible because the phone in question has more memory and online storage than every mainframe in North America in 1972 (and about the same amount of raw processing power as a 1977-vintage Cray-1 supercomputer). It's a zeitgeist thing: I need to get into the right frame of mind, and I need to use a mobile phone for the same reason Neal Stephenson used a fountain pen when he wrote the Baroque cycle. Afters all, I want to stick my head ten years into the future. Personal computers are already pass´┐Ż; sales are declining, performance is stagnating, the real action is all in the interstitial networked devices that keep washing up on the beaches of our bandwidth ocean, crazy-weird things like 3G phones and battery-powered network attached storage boxes and bluetooth-controlled vibrators. (It's getting weird out there in embedded intelligence land; the net is alive to the sound of pinging toasters, RFID chips are the latest virus target, and people are making business deals inside computer games.)
    I have yet to read one of Stross's novels, but he's in the queue...
  • Speaking of speculative fiction, Steven Den Beste has a post on Chizumatic (no permalinks, so you'll have to go a scrollin') about the difficulties faced in creating a plausible science fiction story placed in the future:
    1. Science and engineering now are expanding on an exponential curve.
    2. But not equally in all areas. In some areas they have run up against intransigent problems.
    3. Advances in one area can have incalculably large effects on other areas which at first seem completely unrelated.
    4. Much of this is driven by economic forces in ways which are difficult to predict or even understand after the fact.

    For instance, there was a period in which the main driver of technical advances in desktop computing was business use. But starting about 1994 that changed, and for a period of about ten years the bleeding edge was computer gamers. ...

    You look at the history of technological development and it becomes clear that it isn't possible for any person to predict it. I can tell you for sure that when we were working on the Arpanet at BBN in the 1980's, we didn't have the slightest clue as to what the Internet would eventually become, or all the ways in which it would be used. The idea of 8 megabit pipes into the home was preposterous in the extreme -- but that's what I've got. This is James Burke's "Connections" idea: it all relates, and serendipitous discoveries in one area can revolutionize other areas which are not apparently related in any way. How much have advances in powered machinery changed the lives and careers of farmers, for instance?

    With acceleration in development of new technologies, just what kind of advances could we really expect 200 years from now? The only thing that's certain is that it's impossible for us to guess. But if you posit interstellar travel by then, then there should be a lot of advances in other areas, and those advances may be used in "unimportant" ways to make life easier for people, and not just in big-ticket "obvious" ways.
    It's an excellent post and it ends on an... interesting note.
  • Shamus found an old 2001 article in PC Gamer speculating what computers would be like in 2006. It turns out that in some areas (like CPU speed), they were wildly overoptimistic, in other areas (broadband and portable devices), not so much.
  • Your Upgrade Is Ready: This popular mechanics article summarizes some advancements on the biological engineering and nanotechnology front.
    Weddell seals can stay underwater comfortably for more than an hour. As concrete-shoe wearers have discovered, humans can't make it past a few minutes. Why not? The seals don't have enormous lungs in comparison to humans--but they do have extraordinary blood, capable of storing great quantities of oxygen. Robert Freitas, a research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Manufacturing, has published a detailed blueprint for an artificial red blood cell, which he calls a respirocyte. Injected into the bloodstream, these superefficient oxygen-grabbers could put the scuba industry out of business.

    As Freitas envisions it, each respirocyte--a ball measuring a thousandth of a millimeter across--is a tiny pressurized gas tank. Inject the balls and they course through the blood vessels, releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide in the body's periphery and recharging themselves with oxygen in the lungs. Freitas says respirocytes would transport oxygen 236 times more efficiently than red blood cells--and a syringeful could carry as much oxygen as your entire bloodstream.
    I tend to take stuff like this with a grain of salt, as such overviews usually end up being a little more sensational than reality, but still interesting reading. [via Event Horizon]
That's all for now...