Monday, May 28, 2012

Requirements for Predictive Models of Human Behavior

Psychohistory is a concept from the renowned science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  In his Foundation books, a small group of individuals used a complex mathematical formula to predict the movement of the entirety of the human race.  His supposition was that in aggregate, humans are predictable - especially when the numbers got very large.

There are three things necessary for such a fantastical mathematical model to be possible, and we're approaching them all at an accelerating pace.

Statistical Significance

Perhaps the easiest for humans to strive for is the numbers required to move humans into statistically governed quantities.  Similar to how we can predict the pressure exerted by air when it is compressed, we'd need a very large number of people to make sweeping generalizations.  We're approaching seven billion people on the planet, but is that enough to be statistically valid?  I think not, but we're probably not that far off.  

Unified Theory

The is probably the most difficult of the three requirements to achieve.  Right now, there are many different areas of study of the human condition.  Psychology, physiology, crowd behaviors, emotions, philosophy, political science, and many more.  Each of them is revealing insights into how people act as either individuals or part of a group.  Each of them is giving a single, minuscule building block to the big picture.  To make this work, all the different scientists will have to come together to put their piece into a single model with standard measures.  It's like hearing cats, if all the cats have P.H.D's.  

Computing Power

The most important one is a computer to run the entirety of the equation.  Without a computer of sufficient speed, we would never know the output of our equations, and possibly be unable to interpret them anyway.  When we break through the barrier of quantum computing, it opens up the possibility that we will have enough data storage capacity to make possible the complex calculations needed to make an educated prediction on the future of man-kind.  

Until all those come together, there will be no way to determine what will happen in the future with any scientific accuracy.  We have to rely on futurists and dreamers to help us envision the future and what it means to us.  I have no doubt that we'll get there... eventually.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

How much TV will be in your transportation?

Today, there is an epidemic of distracted driving.  The most visible cause is texting on cell phones - reading and typing at 60 MPH.  All the old causes are still there - eating, reading the newspaper, cell phone calls, shaving, makeup, and plain old inattentiveness.  None of those, or any of the other distracted driving causes, are built into your car. 

Unfortunately that isn't going to be the case forever.  Aftermarket tech providers are offering a multitude of digital monitors that you can install into the dashboard of your car.  One web site actually gave directions on how to mount your iPad to your car, presumably for hands-free distraction.  

Just like texting in cars, this is going to cause many accidents.  There will always be people that choose to do things at inappropriate and sometimes dangerous times.  And as more people do, it will cause more accidents, and there will eventually be a backlash by the public.  

So my prediction is that we will start seeing more dashboard televisions in cars, rather than just the digital status display in many cars today.  And then their use will get out of hand, including streaming video from internet services while driving.  And finally there will be laws against their use in some states, and they will only be available through aftermarket sellers again.  

Will that save us from distracted drivers?  No, but it will certainly cut the number of drivers who hit you while watching their favorite television shows.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Computer Mind Reading

When computers were first invented, they had a keyboard and a cursor.  Then later we added a mouse and graphical displays.  Video games came out with joysticks.  Trackballs.  Touch-screen virtual keyboards.  Swipe-typing.  All of them are physical physical physical!  

Enter the brainwave control helmets!  The ones for sale a few years ago were definitely geeky.  They had electrodes, wires, and probably gears and steam engines.  But today the helmets are becoming smaller, more stylish, and more sensitive.  

Eventually someone (ghost of Steve Jobs) is going to make a product that has no controls other than a headband.  Typing a paper will no longer give you carpal tunnel syndrome.  And it could be faster for navigation, too, as long as you can remember what you need to navigate to.  

And that's just within the next 20 years!  There is every possibility that these types of controls will eventually be implantable, and that people will be able to continuously link to computers around them.  You could have a iHouse that links to your iBrain.  The danger, of course, is the possibility of viruses!  There needs to be some damn good error testing!  


Monday, May 7, 2012

Reused Everything

For many years, we've been hearing about more and more about recycling and its importance.  The EPA, though, included two more - reduce and reuse.  I'm all for reduction, but that isn't something you can see with your eyes.  Reusing, though, has caught on and there are several niches where that maxim is becoming important.  


I've started to see more examples of people reusing materials for art projects.  This is especially evident trash from our childhood or refuse with a deep cultural significance, or both.  For instance, I love this home decoration made out of discarded computer keys.  Here is an article with 7 more reuse artwork projects.  


New houses tend to be made out of less sturdy materials than the houses still standing from 50+ years ago.  Even then some architects were reusing materials from large building projects in their houses.  I read a book about building houses that advocated using old railroad ties to support the roof, as well as salvaged doors, windows, floors, etc.  


I enjoy books, and I'm so glad that there is such a large market for used and donated book.  I'm sad, though, that there isn't more strictness on what gets written down (somehow) because libraries are often overflowing with texts, which get indiscriminately destroyed when space requires.  


If you haven't heard of it, check out Freecycle.  It is an online service that allows you to post your unwanted junk, and others will often say they want it, and come pick it up from you.  It's taking advantage of the idea that one person's trash is another's treasure in a unique, technologically sophisticated way.  I wonder when small businesses are going to get in on that, and eventually there could be an associated trade in old business furniture or other un-marked office equipment.  


If you've seen 5 episodes of Dragonballz, you've seen 500, am I right?