Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Local Sourcing

Is 3D printing part of a larger trend toward local sourcing EVERYTHING?  The answer is going to have to be yes over time, because the cost of energy (read "oil") will go up so high, that only those items not physically available at a location will be shipped.  For the earth, and with human ingenuity, the only things not capable of being produced locally are raw materials like metals and fuels.

But what can be produced locally, if given the right incentive?  Food, energy, consumer goods, services.  200 years past, farms could be isolated by 100 miles of wilderness, and they would have to create everything on their own. In the future, we may have to return to that.  Admittedly it will be a slow process, but moving certain manufacturing and production facilities back from the outsourced nether will be beneficial as the cost of fuels keeps climbing.

Local sourcing.... not just a made-up phrase anymore.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hydroponic Systems

I know that hydroponics is a thing that's been around for years.  I also believe (perhaps wrongly?) that most of them grow marijuana.  But I was recently reading about some new systems designed for indoor cultivation through hydroponics that make me want to go out and become a farmer.  Or at least buy an expensive, giant apartus to put in my already cramped apartment.  

The one that I like the look of the most is called the OmegaGarden.  It's a cylinder with plants stuck to the inside, roots out.  There is a light in the center that is always shining on the plants.  And as it turns, it dips into hydroponic solution.  Basically, you have a rotating herb garden.  You can harvest amazing amounts from it, though the crops are limited.  And its almost $3000, so I won't get one any time soon.  Besides, I'm sure my girlie would like a more outdoorsy system....

Enter the WhirliGro.  Its a crazy tube system for growing plants sky high.  You suspend the tubes filled with dirt (yeah, not exactly hydroponics, right?) in spirals above the ground.  On the spirals, you plant vegetables. And over time, you get a bunch of plants on an apparatus with the same footprint as one or two.  Its kind of cool, if you have any place with dirt at all. But since I have a small apartment and no garden, I'd have to settle for something like the....

Green Wheel.  It is exactly like it sounds, except the inside is green, not the outside.  Similar to the Omega Garden, the green wheel has a light source in the middle, surrounded by plants in a growing medium.  But differently from the OG, the Green Wheel is small and stylish and capable of fitting on your counter.  The idea of fresh herbs on my counter is pretty cool, and one I might even pay money for.  When it is finally released for sale, I'll let you know my thoughts on the price point.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Health Care

There are so many issues with the healthcare system that I really don't know where to start thinking about them.  The ones that I know off the top of my head are:

  • High healthcare costs
  • Difficulty in getting insurance
  • State-by-state regulations
  • Difficulty understanding what coverage you have
  • Doctors scared of being sued/high cost of malpractice insurance
  • Doctors performing more tests than necessary
  • Little or no preventative care nationwide
  • Insurance companies with too much lobbying power
  • Possible fraudulent activity, due to high value and low penalties
  • Unequal knowledge (patients vs. doctors vs. insurance companies vs. regulators vs. everyone!)
  • The debate about the universal right to healthcare, or not
  • Supply limitation due to high barrier to becoming a doctor
  • Specialist is more lucrative than general care is more lucrative than nurse, but they re useful in reverse order, creating abundance and scarcity at the same time
So, the question is - how do you fix all those problems?  The fix almost depends on where you stand on the role of government in people's lives.  It also depends on your world outlook, your current state of health, and your empathy with your fellow Americans.  I'd even argue that it depends on your hipocracy.  

Each of the items above have many different possible intervention points.  Depending on your information, some points are easier to see than others, but of course they vary in impact, cost, and social acceptability.  I believe that they are all interrelated, aside from all concerning the healthcare industry.  I'm convinced that there is one or a small series of causes that all the current problems with healthcare can be attributed to.  

In the future, I'm going to read up on the new healthcare bill and see how it addresses the issues I mentioned above.  

I'd love to hear you comments on my list of issues, what you think any root causes are, and what you'd do differently to make healthcare perfect.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Doomed to repeat it

The old saying goes that if you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.  The meaning being that if you don't understand the mistakes of the past, they will likely repeat themselves, rather than civilization (and even your own life) progressing and making new, completely unique mistakes.

I have a hard time remembering all the different items I learned in history class, especially the dates.  When confronted with an issue, I try to learn the machinations and the outcomes, and leave the details to the history books.

But the more I talk with people about politics and try to get their take on things, the more I realize that the minutia - the details of who was in office, what other programs were going on, economic landscape at the time, etc - the more I feel the background causes a divide in ideology.  It's the little things that really make for spirited debate, and I'd like to thank the bartender at Fizz for showing me that last night.  I'm inspired to learn more about the history of our country and the political, social, and economic climates we've been through.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Human Attribution

A study that shows that people want human attribution, rather than computer-generated?  So passe!  I'm more interested in how a computer/internet giant could use this information when knitting together crowd-sourced materials.  It actually makes me think of the Google images, where you could tag images with a partner, and the more esoteric the tag you agreed upon, the more points you could get. 

Human attribution is the idea that when a person puts a picture (or any other content, for that matter) online, they are much happier if a human responds (tag, comment, like, etc.) than if that response was computer generated (some programs can auto-tag photos).  That shouldn't be such a weird idea, since we tend to reject robots and artificial intelligences, sometimes because they are too human (but not human enough for us to accept). 

Over time, though, we may get used to having services like auto-tagging.  In that case, we will move to different means of getting human attribution.  Photos may become less important than they are now, because they move beyond sharing lives and into cataloging them.  Videos may be the only medium left where we can prove that computers aren't the ones providing responses. 

Its little computer-controlled items like this that will lead to a technology backlash.  Eventually people will start giving up services like Facebook and MySpace because they just don't offer the same validation as in the past.  And if enough services cut out validation for automation, maybe we will see regression to pre-technological times... maybe?  Please? 

Monday, June 25, 2012

See the Oxygen, See the Emotion!

Well, augmented reality glasses are on the cutting edge, but there is another high-tech advance coming glasses that allow you to see the oxygen levels in people's blood.  Interesting, yes.  Party trick, hopefully.  Invasion of privacy, kind of...?

The glasses enhance some of the colors that we can see, making the contrast between different blood concentrations more prominent.  This allows, for example, doctors to see trauma through the skin.  Or security officers to see how nervous you are.  Or a date to see when you are lying.

It's not really a privacy issue.  You can't hide something like that, because it is in plain sight all the time, anyway.  It just makes you wonder if you can train yourself to see, for example, O2 levels in blood through skin without these glasses.  Being able to do that could make you into a super hero!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Automatic Story Writer

There is so much theory out there about how to write stories.  Through school, I've read the classics.  Later, I read many fun books.  I saw movies and plays.  Listened to music.  Many follow similar paths, like the

I'd like to see the aftermath of a computer programmer programming those elements into a simulation.  With the right simulation, and the right parameters, I bet you could produce some top notch stories.  With a simulation a human would need to take the reigns after the story has been outlined.  I'm not sure we'll ever be able to create a computer program that can actively pull the human heart strings as well as a poet or painter.

To do this, you'd need a team with a bunch of computer programmers, a couple of story theorists, some good writers (to give you example sentences that can be combined, and one hell of a project leader.  There are already some people out there working on this idea, and some of the fruits of their labor have already been posted on the internet.  The Seventh Sanctum has a generator that spits out story ideas that are fusions of previous stories.  And this one has a ton of different generators, to help you create your own story.

The biggest issue would be the almost infinite number of story element combinations.  The further you get from theory toward application (in this case, making a story), the more permutations arise.