The Help Button Is Only A Kiosk Away

Great job by the ANAR (Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk) Foundation in Europe to aid abused children.

The ad is hidden from adults, and the message is only visible to children–based on their height and angle of viewing.

To the abused child, they see: “If someone hurts you, phone us and we’ll help” with a number to call to get help in an anonymous and confidential way.

To the accompanying adult, they see: “Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.”

This is a great reminder to adults to behave themselves in how they treat children, and a way to get critical assistance information to children discreetly.

Learning from this, I’d love to see a similar campaign here in the U.S. to help child abuse victims, as well as other variations to help abused women, human trafficking victims, and others–by finding technological innovations to help them get the message in ways that their abusers don’t necessarily detect and which can’t easily be blocked from their victims.

Perhaps, one way to do this is to widely deploy emergency, push button, help kiosks where victims can easily reach out for assistance, where otherwise they would have no way to call for help–such as when their phones, money, passports, and so on have been confiscated.

Their are a lot of people hurting out there and we need to get to them to tell them that there is help available, that they will be protected (and mean it), and that they can easily reach out and we’ll be right there for them.

Now that’s an easy button to really help people. 😉

Security Advisory For Architecture Drawings

Blueprint

Dark Reading (21 June 2012) came out with security news of a AutoCAD Worm called ACAD/Medre.A that targets design documents.

I also found warnings about this vulnerability at PC magazine (24 June 2012).

This malware was discovered by computer security firm ESET.

This is a serious exploitation in the industry leader for computer-aided design and drafting that is used to create most of our architectural blueprints.

Approximately 10,000 machines are said to have been affected in Peru and vicinity, with documents being siphoned off to email accounts in China.

With information on our architectural structure and designs for skyscrapers, government building, military installations, bridges, power plants, dams, communication hubs, transportation facilities, and more, our critical infrastructure would be seriously jeopardized.

This can even be used to steal intellectual property such as designs for innovations or even products pending patents.

This new malware is another example of how cyber espionage is a scary new reality that can leave us completely exposed from the inside out.

Need any more reason to “air gap” sensitive information and systems?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Wade Rockett)

Technology Forecasting Made Easy

Envisioning_technology

Here is a really nice technology forecast visualization from Envisioning Technology.

It covers almost three decades from 2012 through 2040.

And includes an exhaustive list of technology categories for the following:

– Artificial Intelligence
– Internet
– Interfaces
– Sensors
– Ubiquitous Computing
– Robotics
– Biotechnology
– Materials
– Energy
– Space
– Geoengineering

Further, specific technologies are informed by their:

Relative Importance–by bubble size
Consumer Impact–by size of the node’s outline
Related Clusters–by a jagged edge

Additionally, what I really like about their online version is that when you hover a technology, you get a decent description of what it is.

Looking in the out-years, it was great to see cool innovations such as machine-augmented cognition, retinal screens, space-based solar power, programmable matter, and anti-aging drugs–so we’ll be overall smarter, more connected, exist in a more energized and malleable society, and live long-enough to appreciate it all. 😉

Deus Ex-Overtaken By Technology

 

Deus Ex is an action role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter game. It sold more than a million copies as of 2009 and was named “Best PC Game of All Time.”

 

A prequel Deus Ex: Human Evolution is due to be released this month (August 2011). 

 

You play a coalition anti-terrorist agent in a world slipping further and further into chaos.

 

The time is 2052 and you are in a dystopian society where society has progressed faster technologically than it has evolved spiritually–and people are struggling to cope with technological change and are abusing new technology.

 

The challenges portrayed in the trailer show people using/abusing technological augmentation–the integration of technology with their human bodies–replacing damaged limbs, adding computer chips, and even “upgrading themselves”.

 

There are many issues raised about where we are going as a society with technology:

 

1) Are we playing G-d–when we change ourselves with technology, not because we have too (i.e. because of sickness), but rather because we want to–at what point are we perhaps overstepping theologically, ethically, or otherwise?

 

2) Are we playing with fire–when we start to systematically alter our makeup and change ourselves into some sort of half-human and half-machine entities or creatures are we tempting nature, fate, evolution with what the final outcome of who we become is?  As the end of the trailer warns: “Be human, remain human”–imagine what type of cyborg creatures we may become if we let things go to extremes.

 

3) Technology may never be enough–As we integrate technology into our beings, where does it stop? The minute we stop, others continue and we risk being “less intelligent, less strong, and less capable than the rest of the human race.” In short, are we facing a technological race toward dehumanization and as enhanced machines.

 

4) Drugs and other vices follow–To prevent technology augmentation from being rejected, mankind relies on ever larger and more potent doses of drugs.  We not only risk losing elements of our humanity to technology, but also to drugs and other vices that make us forget the pain of change and rejection (physical and perhaps emotional).

 

Deus Ex literally is Latin for “G-d out of the machine.” Perhaps, future dystopian society starts out by people trying to play G-d, but I think the risk is that it ends with the proverbial devil displacing the best laid intentions. 

 

While technology holds the most amazing of promises from curing disease, solving world hunger, and endless innovations (even including developing the archetype bionic man/women–“We can rebuild him…we have the technology”), without a solid moral compass and frequent check-ins, we run the risk of technology getting away from us and even doing more harm than good.

Wolfram| Alpha Reviewed

Here is an impressive video (actually part 1 of 2) introduction to Wolfram | Alpha by Stephen Wolfram. 
It is an “computational knowledge engine” ( or answers engine) that was released 2 years ago on May 15, 2009 and was named the greatest innovation of 2009 by Popular Science
It differs from Google or a traditional search engine in that it does not deliver a list of links to documents or web pages, but rather it delivers computed answers from structured data.
As there are so many web sites that profess to answer our questions–whether Q&A sites like Answers.com and Quora or online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, I am intrigued by Wolfram Alpha’s computational knowledge niche. 
While the site is useful for getting everything from the GDP of France to the height of Mt. Hermont, I found the Wolfram Alpha site struggling to answer a set of basic test questions:
1) Total amount (also tried “size”) of federal deficit — No, don’t want a definition of a deficit. 
2) Number of U.S. embassies around the world — No, don’t want the U.S. population, density, language, etc. 
3) How many employees at the Department of State — No, don’t want a list of U.S. states.
4) Air craft carriers in U.S. Navy – 11  (okay, yay!, but no list of what these are and no hyperlink, boo!)
5) (let’s try this) What are the names of U.S. aircraft carriers – No, don’t want the number of passengers and goods transported in 2009.
6) Planned number of F-35 to be produced — No, don’t want the function line F-35.
7) Members of House of Representatives – Yes, 435.
8) Time in Alaska – 3:46 am, thanks. 
9) Age of International Space Station – launch November 20, 1998 (12.7 years ago) – informative.
10) Depth of Earth’s crust – 0-22 miles – not bad. 
11) Volume of Pacific Ocean – big number provided – good enough for me. 
12) Largest lottery winnings – No, not the movie, “The Lottery.”
While Wolfram Alpha is impressive in mathematical and scientific prowess, too often, the answers just did not compute for the everyday questions posed.  
As busy people juggling many different roles in life, it’s nice to actually get an answer back when you have a question, rather than have to start searching through thousands or links from the traditional search engine page.
But when instead of getting answers, you see messages that the search engine is “computing” and then coming back with null or void responses, we are left worse off then when we started. 
We shouldn’t have to think long and hard about what we can ask or how we to ask it; the search engine should be user-centric and we should be able to be ourselves.
As search engine users, I think we have the right to expect that our focus should be on how to apply the answers rather than on the engine itself or else something is wrong. 

>Brain Sharing is Eye Opening

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This is a neat video and idea from GOOD called “Brain Sharing” by Lincoln Schatz.

The idea…what if we could plug in to someone else’s brain and see the world the way they do (for a period of time) or as they say in the video “swap CPUs”?

(This is a little reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek, where species are plugged into the Collective and become sort of one ultimate race or similarly in the movie the Matrix, where people are plugged into a master computer program that runs their world–although here it’s not an ominous context.)

But back to the point–what a powerful concept.

Rather than see things the way we see them, and think that’s the way it is, period; instead we temporarily plug into someone else’s brain (bionic implants away!) and whoa, we have the opportunity to see the world the way others see it and process the world the way they do–that is eye opening!

All of a sudden, things are not quite so simple. It’s not black and white, as they say, but lots of shades of grey.

Of course, I still believe that there is objective ethics and morality from G-d for us to live by and therefore we can distinguish right from wrong, which we are often are forced to chose.

However, when we are seeing choices through others persons eyes and processing through their brains, we may see the problems anew with different variables and effects as well as see new options for solving them that we didn’t even see before.

That’s a great thing about being a diverse society and bringing multiple views, vantage points, and brains to the table–we can innovate together beyond the limitation of any one of us alone.

This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but still one that is very important, often forgotten, and one well captured in this GOOD video.

P.S. Maybe an interesting exercise is to think about make a list of whose brains you’d like to share for a while (if only you could) and see the world the way they do.