Swedish researchers have developed an integrated circuit that runs on chemicals as opposed to electronics. The countdown to human assimilation has begun.
First the transistor, then the chip. When the first semiconductor transistor was developed in late 1947, there was no idea how important it would be in the creation of today’s technology. Someone from Sweden must have a clue since he has now developed an IC chip that uses chemicals instead of electronics. The IC is built upon logic gates based on ion transistors first developed in 2009. Now begins further development into more complex chips.
Why chemicals? Why not? For starters, the human body is not electronic. There’s electricity at work (mostly in the nerves), but humans run mostly on chemicals, so the use of a chemical chip has obvious advantages:
(from Phys.org) “We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signalling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signalling substances, for example acetylcholine,” says Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group.
This could be used to bypass damaged nerves to control muscles directly, but this is only one possibility. Such chem-chips can be used for any type of signaling and control. Example: An artificial pancreas can have such a chip that monitors blood-sugar levels, then signals another chip to make insulin as needed.
The Next Step… With a basic circuit done, more complex circuitry can now be developed. That would include elements such as ion inverters and NAND gates… and memristors? Could happen. Then from there…
“The back half is all solid propellant. There’s different valves for directional control. The nose is all electronic. You’ve heard of a bullet that has your name on it? Well, this one really does.” (Marvin James (played by Stan Shaw).
Hollywood may sue over this! There’s more shit about to hit the fan if it hasn’t already, I’ll be blogging more on that by the weekend. But Hollywood might want to know that not only are whole movies being pirated, but companies are stealing the technology from within them.
Specifically, Runaway’s “smart” missile-bullets. Sandia National Labs has developed a self-guided bullet (a “micro-missile” might be a better description) that can hit a target a mile away. Now they’re looking for a partner to further develop and bring the new ammo to market.
Not exactly the smartest bullet, but being able guide itself within 8 inches of a target 1000 yards away makes regular bullets look like dumbasses.
A more sophisticated way to wake up dead. The bullet is essentially a laser-guided missile; You point your laser-pointer at your target and the bullet’s optronics does the rest… assuming you pull the trigger to send it on its way.
At four inches long, the prototype won’t fit your Saturday-night special. Also, it requires a smooth-bore barrel to launch out of. Most bullets need a rifled barrel to give them a gyroscopic-stabilizing spin, but the bullet-missile has fins that stabilize and even control its flight path.
An LED attached during a night test turns the smart bullet into a tracer round.
Just in time for ACTA signings. Given recent events over SOPA/PIPA, announcement of this bullet can either be a dream come true or a security nightmare. Potential customers for the bullet include the military, law enforcement and recreational shooters, so Sandia says. Of course, they’ll eventually find their way into the wrong hands. But first they need to be developed and brought to market first.
Will the missile-bullets be corner-turning heat-seekers like in the movie? Maybe future versions will have the ability to “pick” a target, or even be programmed for a specific target. Maybe a pheromone-guided, nuclear tipped version that can be fired from a 50-caliber gun can be made. Whenever Sandia announces the market version, they should get one man to “pull the trigger.”
These two bills, IF passed and signed into law, are supposed to end… or at least curtail… Internet “piracy.” But, there are major problems with both bills. Problems that can not only hurt legitimate sites and users, but can be exploited and abused to no end. The EFF has a one-page list of problems (PDF).
Meet Rep. Lamar Smith, the asswipe behind SOPA. If I had more time, I would have drawn a dick on his face.
Cowboy politics. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is the mastermind behind SOPA, introducing it back in October. It seems, however, that he has been grazing on some “greener” pastures:
(CNET) - As CNET reported in December, Smith, a self-described former ranch manager whose congressional district encompasses the cropland and grazing land stretching between Austin and San Antonio, Texas, has become Hollywood’s favorite Republican. The TV, movie, and music industries are the top donors to his 2012 campaign committee, and he’s been feted by music and movie industry lobbyists at dinners and concerts.
Back-pocket puppet of the MPAA/RIAA cartel, in other words, representing farmers, not tech industries. Little wonder why many believe that SOPA is just bad and wrong, and it would do more harm than good.
What harm could it do? SOPA is worded to make “offending” sites vanish from the Net completely. At least that’s how CNET describes SOPA section 102:
A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order…Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.
There’s also a problem of scope: PIPA primarily targets the offender’s DNS providers and finances. SOPA is reportedly broader, going after their ISPs and even requiring them to monitor traffic including using deep packet inspection. Reddit goes into gory detail about what they would need to do if they receive a SOPA notice:
(Reddit SOPA FAQ) - If the Attorney General served reddit with an order to remove links to a domain, we would be required to scrub every post and comment on the site containing the domain and censor the links out, even if the specific link contained no infringing content. We would also need to implement a system to automatically censor the domain from any future posts or comments. This places a measurable burden upon the site’s technical infrastructure. It also damages one of the most important tenets of reddit, and the internet as a whole – free and open discussion about whatever the fuck you want.
This may be why the likes of Google, Wikipedia, WordPress, and others don’t like what SOPA represents. Even now, some companies that originally backed SOPA are now having second thoughts.
“Verizon continues to look at SOPA, and while it’s fair to say that we have concerns about the legislation, we are working with congressional staff to address those concerns,” a representative told us.
Tim McKone, AT&T’s executive vice president of federal relations, said that “we have been supportive of the general framework” of the Senate bill. But when it comes to SOPA, all AT&T would say is that it is “working constructively with Chairman Smith and others toward a similar end in the House.”
Collateral damage. Not all sites went dark to protect freedom of speech; File-sharing website Megaupload was taken offline (or is at least very slow to respond) as seven people associated with it, including the founder, were arrested for copyright infringement.
(Technorati) Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, is the site’s founder and was arrested in New Zealand, according to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Of the six others indicted, three have been arrested. Officially, the seven people were indicted with five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, according to authorities. The nearly two-year investigation was unsealed Thursday (19-Jan-2012) and it revealed that the grand jury in Virginia made its decision almost two weeks ago.
The timing of the arrests, done the day after the blackout, is not only suspicious, but also has made life inconvenient for those who had legitimate use of Megaupload:
(TorrentFreak)The feds shut down MegaUpload a few hours ago.
Eight people we charged with criminal copyright infringement charges, and all files hosted on the site were pulled offline.
However, do the feds realize that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people used the site to share research data, work documents, personal video collections and much more?
What will happen to these personal non-infringing files?
People are outraged on Twitter and are demanding access to their files immediately.
Knowing is half the battle. With all the protests and counter-attacks surrounding SOPA/PIPA and the Megaupload shutdown, Congress finally came to its senses and have “shelved” the two bills… for now.
(AFP via Yahoo)Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he was delaying next week’s vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith said he would “revisit” the House version, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the Protect IP Act,” Reid announced in a statement two days after a wave of online protests against the bill swept the Internet.
It appears that freedom of speech has won out, but the victory is only temporary. More likely, there may be some tweaking of the bills to make them more palatable (or at least, more confusing) then reintroduced when everyone has forgotten what the bills were about so there would be less opposition to them. This way, there would be less shit hitting the fans.
Today (18-Aug-2011), IBM researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.
This is your brain on a chip. Last Thursday IBM announced the development of a new computer chip that works like a human brain (press release here). Not content with pwning Jeopardy!, Big Blue is now looking to take artificial intelligence to the next level… or at least another step closer to human.
The chips are part of the DARPA funded project SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) and their production is completion of phase one.
Dharmendra Modha, principal investigator: “This is the seed for a new generation of computers, using a combination of supercomputing, neuroscience, and nanotechnology,” Modha said in an interview with VentureBeat. ”The computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.”
Think about this. The idea behind the SyNAPSE project is to create computers with human-like abilities; Computer chips that accurately mimics the operations of the brain. IBM’s chips can do things like navigate and identify objects and patterns, but the ultimate goal would be to analyze more complex systems and learn. Yes, learn. All while using less power than current technologies can.
But this is a DARPA project. DARPA, as in the Mad Scientist division of America’s DoD. The same people who made the Internet possible. Most likely, this is being developed for some sort of military analysis and strategy generation system, like a high-stakes chess machine.
But isn’t that how Skynet started?
Alex Trebek: “The answer: The human race… Watson”
Watson: “What is screwed?”
People as Data. Imagine having your body wired 24/7/365 to collect data on what you eat, how you move, when you go to the bathroom,… when (or IF) you get laid…, and that data is used to tweak your body and mind through organic or cybernetic means. Orwell revisited? Google’s or Apple’s business plan?
Financial Times’ April Dembosky reports on a growing group of bio-hackers, or “self-quantifiers,” who are doing just that, and they even have a website where other would-be bio-hackers can find more info (Quantified Self) and meat - er, meet - each other. They held a conference in late May in California to explore the possibilities and discuss the effects of self-quantification not only on each other, but on society as a whole (link for more info).
“We like to hack hardware and software, why not hack our bodies?” says Tim Chang.
Past is prolog. The idea of self-quantification isn’t new, as a paragraph on Benjamin Franklin shows how he kept track of 13 virtues that he would check off when violated. This would help him keep his moral bearing straight. Modern self-quantifiers see themselves doing something similar, only with modern implantable equipment like pacemakers and insulin pumps. And the medical community is also taking notice. Modern medicine has always had a “magic bullet” or “one size fits all” mentality for treating ailments. With the data gathered by willing self-quantifying patients, doctors can better tailor treatments for those cases where the standard issue treatments can cause adverse side effects… like killing the patient. That could save lots on insurance and lawsuits.
Already these self-quantifiers are comparing themselves to a group of 1970s era computer geeks: Early-adopters and hobbyists with visions of everyone in every household quantifying themselves to tweak their meat for optimum performance. One possible system described is the Sprout:
The self-tracking equivalent of an early model, 30lb, four-part desktop computer is Fujitsu Laboratories’ Sprout, as worn by software engineer Alex Gilman at the Quantified Self Conference: a maze of sensors and wires send data from his ear, chest and arm to the pocket-sized computer clipped to his belt – the Sprout. The Sprout synchronizes the physical data from the body sensors and from the apps on his iPod Touch where he records his moods and drowsiness levels. What is now a mess of raw, useless data can be calculated and translated into a neat graph that will eventually be used to measure stress and fatigue, manage weight loss, even predict illness.
The potential of the Sprout is intriguing, but mass appeal will only come when such devices are consolidated into small, wireless, all-in-one products that make data collection completely passive, says Chang. Most will require little to no human effort and some will even be “game-ified”, he says, made as fun and addictive as Angry Birds.
“… and right here is where I farted.”
Speaking of games, I can already see athletes at ALL levels wanting to use self-quantification and bio-hacking. They probably already do, with a poke of ster… I mean “vitamins.” But using this system is not considered cheating… yet.
The Bigger Question: Do you REALLY want to be tracked and quantified? Self-quantification may sound pretty cool, until you need to find a place to put all your biometrics. Not only do you need large enough space, but that space needs to be secure from unauthorized access:
The implications for privacy are dramatic. Advocates and politicians were in an uproar when they realised the kind of access that Apple and Google have to geographic data derived from phones. Imagining three years worth of heart rate data or depression symptoms travelling through mobile devices – potentially being offered for sale to drug or insurance companies, exploited by advertisers or hacked by cyber criminals – puts watchdog groups on alert.
“What consumers need to realise is there’s a huge, huge demand for information about their activities, and the protections for the information about their activities are far, far, far less than what they think,” says Lee Tien, a privacy attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “A lot of these cloud services fall outside the federal and state privacy regimes.”
To put it another way, do you want to hear from Lulzsec that you are genetically predisposed to being gay or homicidal?
Most, if not all, self-quantifiers do it of their own free will, in the name of self-improvement. To many outsiders, they can’t get over the feeling of orwellianism mixed with a bit of narcissism. Even former self-quantifiers admit to taking the quest to perfection to the extreme:
“People thought I was narcissistic. What they didn’t see was the self-punishment, the fear, the hatred behind the tracking,” writes Alexandra Carmichael, one of the founders of CureTogether.com, in a poem about why she stopped tracking herself. “I had stopped trusting myself. Letting the numbers drown out my intuition, my instincts.”
Despite the perils, the self-quantifiers are willing to continue the tracking and tweaking in hopes of making humans a better species. Will they become Friedrich Nietzsche’s ubermensch, or just a bunch of skin-eating mutants roaming the streets? Nobody has come up with an app for that, and that leads to the most important question:
Haven’t we been here before? With the war in Iraq winding down and the Afghanistan front becoming less relevant since Osama Bin’s termination, the Pentagon… and their corporate masters… are now looking for new battlegrounds to make a profit. They have plenty of choices: Korea, Iran, Canada, cyberspace,…
The Pentagon, which was penetrated by a computer virus in 2008, wants to take cyberwarfare to a new level. In essence, they want to use conventional military force to counteract cyberattacks:
“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
Equivalency test. How to scale a response to a cyberattack is but one problem the Pentagon has to deal with.
They want to send a nuclear-tipped cruise missile up this guy’s ass because he posted a comment about how Sarah Palin deserves to be raped in public and in front of her family.
They already have an idea as to how to make a scale work:
If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a “use of force” consideration, which could merit retaliation.
“A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same,” Gen. Dunlap said Monday. The U.S. would need to show that the cyber weapon used had an effect that was the equivalent of a conventional attack.
For instance, if computer sabotage shut down as much commerce as would a naval blockade, it could be considered an act of war that justifies retaliation, Mr. Lewis said. Gauges would include “death, damage, destruction or a high level of disruption” he said.
Got ‘em in our sights… we think. Finding where to aim those bombs and missiles will be the biggest challenge to the Pentagon. Most cyberattacks on US systems “originate” in countries like Russia and China. That could mean that someone from those nations, with possible government backing, actually did the hack. Or it could just be zombie systems from those nations, with the actual master somewhere else.
… but for Amanda Boxtell, who has been paralyzed for 18 years following a skiing accident, the new-mobility provided to her with her new eLegs is exciting, especially for CNN’s Ali Velshi. Developed by Berkeley Bionics, the eLegs were introduced on 7-Oct-2010. I haven’t seen or heard of these legs until November 10, at 12:45 PM EST, when I saw the CNN broadcast for the first time. You can see the video on CNN’s site if the vid above doesn’t work.
The system is rather clunky, requiring a couple of crutches/canes to act as input for the legs, but it brings Amanda one step closer (literally) to full mobility. At least, it gets her out of her wheelchair.
Iron Man or HULC? Berkeley Bionics should know something about robotic exoskeletons; They also developed one for the US military called the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, which they licensed to Lockeed-Martin:
The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.
I suspect that the eLegs were developed from HULC technology. Hopefully they won’t come with 20mm folding-fin rocket launchers, although Lockheed-Martin is looking to adapt the HULC for industrial use (like Ripley’s loader suit) and medical applications.
Meanwhile, Raytheon Sarcos is developing its own robosuit for soldiers. Also clunky, as it still needs to be tethered to a power source:
The video and accompanying article can be found here.
Still waiting for Tony Stark. What we’re looking at are first-generation robo-suits. Naturally, they will get better as the technology advances, so a real Iron Man is years away. Now we have time to save up for when such suits are made available at our favorite outfitters. (To give you an idea, Raytheon’s suit is projected to cost $150K US).
The “Bill” is currently “in committee,” meaning that some congressional members are reviewing the “Bill” to see if it is something that can easily pass, if some tweaking is necessary, or if it should be dumped altogether. If you want to see this “Bill” for yourself (you need some bathroom material or a cure for insomnia) you can find the full text on GovTrack.us where you can also track its progress.
Many bills do die in committee, so the odds are against this one surviving. But if it does survive and becomes law…
The bill creates two blacklists of Internet domain names. The first can be added to by a court, the second by the Attorney General. Internet service providers (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the government’s gratitude) for blocking domains on the second list.
Which sites would be tagets? Anyone “dedicated to infringing activity.” But read on…
Well, it means sites like YouTube could get censored in the US. Copyright holders like Viacom argue that copyrighted material is central to activity of YouTube. But under current US law, YouTube is perfectly legal as long as they take down copyrighted material when they’re informed about it — which is why Viacom lost their case in court. If this bill passes, Viacom doesn’t even need to prove YouTube is doing anything illegal — as long as they can persuade a court that enough other people are using it for copyright infringement, that’s enough to get the whole site censored.
And even without a court order, sites can get blacklisted just by order of the Attorney General — and the bill encourages ISPs to block those sites as well. ISPs have plenty of reason to obey a government blacklist even when they’re not legally required.
The US Constitution says that we’re supposed to have “due process” in the courts before a site gets its plug pulled, but in our post-9/11 security-surveillance state, due process can now be bypassed and a site can be shut down even though it never did anything wrong. If a person has a problem with a website, all they need to do is complain and … 404: Site not found. Imagine WikiLeaks, or even our own Cyberpunk Review site, being on someone’s shit-list. WikiLeaks can be considered a site “dedicated to infringing activity,” and Cyberpunk Review’s media and news about a genre that is inherently anarchistic and criminal in nature…
History Never Repeats… unless they didn’t study. I remember hearing something about Australia’s attempt at blacklist censorship failing. If someone down under can let us know what the status of that attempt. In the mean time, US citizens can sign an online petition to help stop S.3804.
Better still, let’s try this: Find out the congress-critters supporting this “bill” and the members of the MPAA and follow them around in speaker-packed cars or large boom-boxes set to continuously play FSR’s “Fuck the MPAA” to get our message across.
To be honest, I don’t think any of those corporate whores will ever get the message unless they’re raped in public.
“I ACTUALLY think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” said the search giant’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, in a recent and controversial interview. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”
“G” as in God? Whether you found it online yesterday (31-Aug-2010) or in today’s dead tree edition (or just hearing about it now), cyberpunk’s godfather William Gibson gives his op-ed about Google’s want of playing god in telling us what to do.
OK, it’s not because of Google’s want of telling us what to do, but the apparent need of anyone who uses the big “G” to decide what they want to do. Those who use G’s services actually contribute to the search giant’s ability to make decisions for us. Gibson likens G to a genie that can grant our wishes:
We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world.
Of course, the “everyone accessible to the world” part is what some balk at as we find our personal information being more and more exposed online.
The inmates run the prison. The idea of Google being a sort of panopticon prison, with G as the proverbial omnipotent warden and us as the inmates, but Gibson argues that is only half-true:
In Google, we are at once the surveilled and the individual retinal cells of the surveillant, however many millions of us, constantly if unconsciously participatory. We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state, one that handily says no to China. Or yes, depending on profit considerations and strategy. But we do not participate in Google on that level. We’re citizens, but without rights.
As said before, it’s the people who use Google’s services who actually contribute to the building of the panopticon, and the real problem comes in when those people (over)expose themselves on social network sites. Gibson sees possibilities in a fake identity industry for such carelessness since Google doesn’t seem interested in protecting users from their own stupidity.
Don’t blame the government. It would be easy to do so IF the advances in technology wasn’t so quick. But when the only law Google follows is Moore’s Law, technology will always stomp a mud hole in legislation’s face and walk it dry:
We also seldom imagined (in spite of ample evidence) that emergent technologies would leave legislation in the dust, yet they do. In a world characterized by technologically driven change, we necessarily legislate after the fact, perpetually scrambling to catch up, while the core architectures of the future, increasingly, are erected by entities like Google.
Then again, Google is “a very large and powerful corporation to boot.” Too big to fail, and far too big to give a fuck.
As the technology gets smaller, it will become harder to find a place to put the battery. America’s DARPA agency has an idea on how to power our implants…
Mad scientists strike again. DARPA, America’s DoD division of mad scientists responsible for the Internet, has been working on an important project for implantable electronic devices: How to power them when they are so small that the smallest batteries currently being manufactured are still too big to fit.
Smithsonian’s Michael Belfiore writes about a couple of DARPA ideas for the magazine’s August 2010 edition… possibly as a not-so-subtle advert for his book about the agency.
(In my best He-Man voice) I HAVE THE POWEEEEERRRRRR! Literally. DARPA plans to power implants involves “scavenging” (that’s the term they’re using) the human body to generate the power needed for implants. To make that power, DARPA plans to use human movement (”vibrations”) and body heat:
(Smithsonian) - Obviously, our bodies generate heat—thermal energy. They also produce vibrations when we move—kinetic energy. Both forms of energy can be converted into electricity. Anantha Chandrakasan, an MIT electrical engineering professor, who is working on the problem with a former student named Yogesh Ramadass, says the challenge is to harvest adequate amounts of power from the body and then efficiently direct it to the device that needs it.
In the case of harnessing vibrations, Chandrakasan and his colleagues use piezoelectric materials, which produce an electric current when subjected to mechanical pressure. For energy scavenging, ordinary vibrations caused by walking or even just nodding your head might stimulate a piezo material to generate electricity, which is then converted into the direct current (DC) used by electronics, stored in solid-state capacitors and discharged when needed. This entire apparatus fits on a chip no larger than a few square millimeters. Small embedded devices could be directly built onto the chip, or the chip could transmit energy wirelessly to nearby devices. The chip could also use thermoelectric materials, which produce an electric current when exposed to two different temperatures—such as body heat and the (usually) cooler air around us.
I remember reports of flexible solar electricity-generating plastic sheets from a year or two ago that this project can use. The plastic can be made transparent so it can be used in eye implants and contact lenses. Another possible human power source, written about by Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz in 2002, gets its power from glucose in the human bloodstream:
(University of California, Berkeley Lab Notes) - The prototype microbial fuel cell contains a tiny chamber where the microbe resides. Glucose flows into the chamber, causing hydrogen protons and electrons to be generated during the fermentation process. In a June paper, Lin and graduate students Mu Chiao, Kien B. Lam, and Yu-Chuan Su reported that their tiny powerhouse cranked out 300 microvolts for two hours until the solution dried out in the open air. That kind of power is plenty for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), tiny machines fabricated similarly to the way integrated circuits are manufactured.
Sort of want. If you’re the kind of person who wants implants, you will need to have a way to power them. Which method of human-power harvesting will work best or win out is yet to be determined. Then again, there will be those who would rather not get into the implanting scene, though I can’t understand why…
“What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this. “