Ready, Aim, Phaser

Ready, Aim, Phaser

LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and their use in the military is advancing fast.

I am not just talking about things like laser sights mounted on assault rifles, but actual portable high energy laser weapons for taking out ships, planes, drones, rockets, mortars, and surface to air missiles.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense Systems (HELLADS) is looking for smaller and lighter 150 kilowatt laser systems “enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats” and is powerful enough to destroy aircraft!

Just about all science fiction weaponry relies on lasers to fight and defeat the future enemy whether the phasers and disrupters from Star Trek, turbolasers and laser cannons on Star Wars, and laser torpedeos and blaster turrets in Battlestar Galactica.

According to Mashable (27 January 2013) “this year liquid-cooled, solid-state laser weapons will be installed on fighter planes” for testing.

Fast Company (8 March 2012) points out the challenges with laser tracking and killing including clouds, haze, and dust that weaken the laser. However, these challenges no longer seem insurmountable.

All the talk on gun control is so 20th century, the real conversation for the new era will be on laser weapons and whether phasers should be set on stun or kill. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UK Ministry of Defence)

We’re In It Together

This is a cool vision by Tom Clancy of the “future soldier” from the Ghost Recon game series.
The mixture of advanced weaponry, high-tech reconnaissance and surveillance, drones and robotics, future combat uniforms, and cloaking technology is just super.

If you have time and interest, there is another longer video here with footage that is particularly good starting at about the 3:40 marker.

Like Star Trek paving the way for real-life advances in technology and space exploration, Clancy’s future soldier will be another example of life imitating art.

When we marry the vision and creativity of our entertainment industry, with the technical skills of our scientists and engineers, and the risk-taking of our entrepreneurs, we can do truly awesome things.

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”–we’re in it together!

iGlasses, Your Next Smartphone

Yesterday, a hyped-up video came out by Google on Project Glass.

Basically this is Star Trek-type glasses that provide everything that’s on your smartphone plus some augmented reality, where real world sensation is augmented with computer-generated information.

The video shows the glasses integrated with functionality for email/messaging/phones calls, photos/videos, music, reminders, weather, maps/directions, transportation updates, and more.

Aside from the integration into the glasses themselves, they really didn’t demonstrate any major new technologies–and was sort of disappointing actually.

It reminds of Google+, which came out and didn’t add anything much new over FaceBook, and hence hasn’t really caught on–copycatting just isn’t enough in the high-tech industry, where real innovation is what’s valued.

While I like the idea of more and better ways of getting the types of information and functionality that’s on your smartphone, I really don’t think glasses is the way to go.

Frankly, after having LASIK surgery more than 12 years ago, I am so happy not to have to wear those obtrusive frames on my face anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back.

I would envision having these functions either built microscopically into contact lens or projected by mini-wearable cameras in front of you as a true reality overlay–and I think Minority Report thought of that one first.

The only way that I would even consider wearing glasses for this was if Apple made them and called them iGlasses. 😉

In The Year 2032 And Beyond

Trends help us to see where things are coming from and potentially where they are going.

There is a Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast for 2010-2015 that projects global IP traffic (voice, video, and data) and the numbers are ginormous!

Here are some highlights from their highlights for where we will be in only 3 years–by 2015:

Annual global IP traffic will reach one zettabyte (which is about 100 million x all printed material in the U.S. Library of Congress (which is 10 terabytes)).

Devices connected to the network will be 2 for 1 for every person on this planet (and many people who live in 3rd world conditions do not have any devices, so what does that say for how many devices the rest of us have?).

Non-PC traffic (from TVs, tablets, smartphones, more) will reach 15% and is more than doubling every year (makes you think about when you fridge and toaster are going to be connected to the Internet).

Mobile Data traffic is practically doubling (or 92%) annually meaning a growth of 2,600% over 5 years (and according to the New York Times (5 Jan 2012) “The Top 1% of Mobile Users Consume Half of The World’s Bandwidth” and the top 10% of users consume 90%!).

Video traffic (TV, Video on Demand, Peer to Peer, etc.) will be almost 2/3 (or 62%) of all consumer internet traffic (and services like YouTube, Skype, FaceTime, Hulu are WebEx all play a role as we want to see as much or more than hear what is going on).

The takeaway for me from all this is that truly information transmission is exploding over the Internet, and we will continue to need more advanced technologies to “pipe” it all to where its going and do it faster than ever.

However to build on these forecasts, over the longer term (further out in time, so more risky, of course)–say 20 years or so–some of my colleagues and I studying at National Defense University project the following:

Rather than transmitting voice, video, and data over the Internet, we will be focused on transmitting thoughts (mental activity rather than spoken) and transmitting matter (like the Transporter on Star Trek).

– Transmission of thoughts will occur in real-time, through persistent connections, probably implants in teeth, glasses, subcutaneous, etc.

Safety and health will be monitored through these same “connections” and medicine or other physiological treatments for routine things will be administered remotely through the same.

Education will be through instantaneous zaps of information to your brain (like in The Matrix) from a universal database, rather than through traditional in-class or online courses.

– Like now, the contextual policy and legal issues will be around privacy and security–and you will need to pay dutifully for each in a world where not only what you say and do, but rather what you think, can get you in lots of trouble.

Okay, for these things to happen by 2032 is probably a little aggressive, but don’t rule any of them out over time.  😉

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Very cool new military technology by BAE Systems called Adaptiv–it’s an invisibility cloak (yes, we now have the technology of the Klingon Empire at our disposal!)
Hexagonal pixel plates are affixed to tanks (and soon battle ships) and these can change temperatures to be invisible to infra-red sensors and confuse heat seeking missiles.
Moreover, onboard cameras pick up surrounding scenarios and can display this onto the vehicle’s pixels, so that the military vehicles blend right into their environs.
Another trick, is that that the pixels can display alternate images to masquerade itself— so a tank is now a simple car or even a cow (according to Wired UK, 6 September 2011).
Like the Trojan Horse, I can only imagine what a military power could do by fully exploiting this capability–whether through the conduct of hit and run maneuvers or by invading and conquering  an unsuspecting foe.
This is the emergence of a whole new era of war-fighting capabilities, where camouflage is no longer just covering yourself with the basic elements, but rather where technology is used to create a virtual reality that masks the true physical.
On the battlefield, this technology will enable us to seemingly be there one minute, and gone the next (machines and people)–that’s technology magic that even Houdini would be envious of.
And yet, this is still just the beginning…we are only now bordering on the capabilities inherent in the Star Trek holodeck–where whole alternate environments are just a simulation away.

Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped “Crew Module” can separate from the “Service Module” that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying “saucer” that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).  

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).
The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet). 
Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate “dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks” and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.  Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).
Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.
Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. 🙂
(Source Photos: Orion from Wikipedia and Star Trek Enterprise from here)

>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.

>Is Technology Measured by Progress or Unrealized Potential?

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Is technology progress measured by how far we’ve come or by what remains to be achieved?

The Wall Street Journal (9-10, October 2010) ran an interview with Peter Thiel, who in ranked #377 in Forbes 400 (2008) with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal. In 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 investment in Facebook for 25.2% of the company. Nice!

Remarkable for someone who has made a fortune in technology, Thiel now believes, as the Journal puts it, that “American ingenuity has hit a dead end.”

According to Thiel, “people don’t want to believe that technology is broken…Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology—all (of) these (are) areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think.”

Thiel bemoans our inability to achieve the vision of The Jetsons, as he states: “We don’t have flying cars. Space exploration is stalled. There are no undersea cities. Household robots do not cater to our needs…” According to Thiel, we have reached and are stuck in a long-term stagnation.

Thiel’s theory of technology stagnation is completely contrary, I believe, to the reality that most, if not all, of us are living each and every day, where technology is constantly on the move and if anything, we as organizations and individual struggle to keep pace.

For me personally, the refresh rate for technology is 2 years or less, depending on available cash flow for all the new stuff constantly hitting the market.

In my experience, technology is as dynamic as ever, if not more so. In fact, I have seen no evidence that Moore’s Law has been overcome by events (OBE).

Across government, I am seeing the interest and rate of adoption of new technologies steady or on the rise in areas as diverse as cloud computing, mobile computing, social computing, green computing, knowledge management, business intelligence, and geospatial information systems, and more.

There is no shortage of technology investments to make, IT projects to work on, and new technical capabilities to bring to the business.

While we may not have achieved the full vision set out by Hollywood and other technology visionaries, yet—rest assured, we are well are on way and barring unforeseen events, we most certainly will!

I don’t know about Spacely Sprockets’, but I’d place a few good investments bets around on a future that looks pretty darn close to The Jetsons, along with a good dose of Star Trek ingenuity for measure.

Perhaps Mr. Thiel’s views are a result of frustration that we have not achieved all that we can, rather than a reflection that we have not gotten anywhere. In any case, I enjoyed reading his views and look forward to learning more.

>Reality Trumps Virtuality

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What a crazy news story (reported through South Korean news media)—and true. This South Korean couple, addicted to a video game, ends up starving their 3-month old child to death.

The video game that the couple was addicted to happened to be about raising a virtual child—of all things.

The couple—a 41 year old father and 25 year old mother were both unemployed—and fed their child only once a day, while they spent 4-6 hours a day playing games at the Internet café.

When the child died, the couple was playing video games all night long.

This is an unbelievably tragic story that defies logic, where troubled parents caught in the web of the virtual world, abrogate their responsibilities to themselves and their child in the real world.

So are these two parents just a bunch of whack jobs…an oddity that we shake our heads at disapproving or is this something more?

While the American Medical Association has so far declined to include Internet Addiction Disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, pending further study, we know that we as a society have become in a sense obsessed (although maybe not yet clinically) with everything online—getting information, communicating, networking, shopping, and gaming—and for the most part, we love it!

Some programs like Second Life even go so far as to create virtual worlds where people interact with each other through avatars. They meet, socialize, and participate in activities in a world of only composed of 3-D models—where reality is what programmers make of it—in a coding sense.

Social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and numerous specialized online communities—for all sorts of shared interests from books to music, dating to investing, and philanthropy to travel—are available to chose from and are widely popular destinations.

It seems truly that many people have become more comfortable living in the IP address on the World Wide Web than at their street address within their true day-to-day realities. Their chosen avatars, pseudo-names, and online profiles often far more exciting then the persons, occupations, and lifestyle they physically inhabit. The virtual world has become an escape for many, and a place many are all too happy to engross themselves in 2, 4, 6 or more hours a day.

What happens to the occupants of our real world, when we choose to retreat to virtual worlds?

Well at the extreme is the fate of the 3-month old baby who died of neglect and hunger. More common are spouses and children, and others—family, friends and associates—who are increasingly physically and emotionally distant.

Our connection to people in real life—around us—are traded in for long-distance, abstract, and virtual relationships with people we often hardly know on the Internet.

We routinely trade emails, instant messages, tweets, and blog comments, with people who we hardly know—often do not even know people’s real names and cannot pronounce their presumed cities of residence.

While the Internet is in many ways miraculous in its ability to bring us together—across time and space, in other ways it can potentially substitute the surreal for the real, the meaningless for the meaningful, and empty chatter with people we barely know and never really will for true giving with people we absolutely care about.

At the extreme, we cannot let real children die because we are hiding in cyberspace feeding our virtual addiction. In more common terms, we must not trade our most important real world relationships and activities for those that are phantom experiences in cyberspace.

It is great to extend our reach with the Internet, but it is not okay to do so at the expense of those that are truly at arms reach. We must find a balance between the two worlds we now live in—real and virtual!

While there is every reason to love the Internet—communication, connection, and convenience—it has also become a retreat from people’s very real world problems.

When Online, people are not hungry, not sick, not unemployed, not lonely, not judged—instead they are in a sense one with everybody else in a common pool of bite and bytes—where no one knows them or their situations. Online, they are anonymous, no ones and at the same time anyone they want to be.

The Internet is a great place to be—to escape to—sort of the like the Holodeck on the Star Trek. Choose your program—and you can be in any time and at any place—interacting with anybody. It is not real, but it feels real when you are there.

I remember when I used to watch Star Trek and be fascinated by the experiences the characters had when they went into the Holodeck’s alternate reality. At the same time (and I think this was the intention of the show), after awhile I found myself wanting the characters to get back to reality and deal with the issues that they truly had to face. Somehow watching them escape “too much” wasn’t very satisfying.

To me, real relationships, even with and maybe because of their inherent challenges and tests, is more satisfying than virtuality, because of the deeper impact of the actions and interactions. Cyberspace is a great augmented reality, but it cannot replace reality.

In the end, being online is a nice place to visit (and there are a lot of benefits to being there), but I wouldn’t want to live there all the time and miss the real fun.

>Pushing Out The Edge

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These are my remarks from the MeriTalk Innovation Nation 2010 Conference, “Edge Warrior” Panel today. I was the Moderator and this was my introduction to the discussion by the panelists on Edge Computing.

As I thought about the concept of edge computing an image came to my mind—of a cliff—, representing the limits of what is possible today. Then the cliff started to expand–to-grow in size- -with the edge constantly being pushed further out. This is a way to think about the future of technology. We want to be “leading edge,” and some may even want to be “bleeding edge, but we certainly don’t want to go “over-the-edge, so we need to expand and create new opportunities in our organizations.

Both the public and the private sectors are pushing into new frontiers in a variety of innovative technologies that take us to the edge, everywhere. We’re hearing about many of them today at the conference – cloud computing, social computing, mobile computing, green computing and more. And it’s exciting to think about what we can accomplish if we put promising new technologies to work for the government.

But, we must be careful not to fall into one of two extremes, either jumping in prematurely and making costly mistakes, or avoiding and resisting change in favor of the “tried and true” or what I would call the perpetual status quo and never growing to our true potential as individuals, agencies, and a nation.

To me, true leaders don’t fall into either extreme, but rather they brings both sides together to find a balanced approach to innovation, growth, change, and yes, even some elements of managed risk. In any organization, technology leadership is not about leading employees to the edge of the computing cliff, but rather about pushing out the edge so that their capabilities are constantly increasing, while the risks are also constantly being mitigated.

In fact, technology leadership is not very far from the vision that we saw on the show, Star Trek. The show pushed the boundaries of what was possible—going where no one had gone before, but always striving to keep the ship intact and the crew safe.

While we are the stewards to keep our agencies secure to serve the public, we must also acknowledge that we live in a dynamic, competitive, rapidly changing, and increasingly global environment and we cannot afford to stand still while others press ahead. To meet the challenges that face us, we must constantly seek out better ways of executing our mission, and new technologies are critically important in helping us to do this in all directions and at all the edges.

Finally, this is especially true in today’s world, when agency computing is no longer restricted to our brick and mortar office buildings but rather is ubiquitous. From the corner Starbucks to the most remote regions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, our customers demand to be productive everywhere, to carry out their mission.