Total Recall and You Thought It was Only a Movie
I don't know how many of you are sci-fi fans, but my guess is that it's probably a good percentage. Therefore, I also suspect that many of you recognize the title of my column.
For those of you who don't, Total Recall is the name of a film that stars Arnold Schwartzenegger in a futuristic society where memory implants are an everyday occurance. In this particular situation, Arnold wants to get one of these in the form of a vacation at the “Recall” center that provides vacation memory implants. But, as can be expected, something goes awry and, well go rent it and you'll find out the rest.
However, what I'm about to discuss is all too real. For me, its awesome — for the more conservative, it just might freak ‘em out.
The subject is nanotechnology, and the topic is nanosensors.
Ray Kurzweil is a truly esteemed high-tech visionary and author of several books on artificial intelligence and speech recognition. And, IMHO, probably the foremost expert on the subject. He recently gave a speech that immediately brought on visions of Total Recall.
Kurzweil expects, that by the year 2030 nanosensors will be as prolific as Web phones. For this particular application, nanosensors will be cursing through our veins, hobnobbing with red and white corpuscles, sending and receiving radio waves from our 802.99z-enabled wearable computers. Implanted microchips could amplify or supplant some brain functions, and individuals could share memories and inner experiences by “beaming” them electronically to others.
Yea … beam me up Scotty! Since virtual reality can already amplify sensory experiences and spontaneously change an individuals identity or sex (sex?), just imagine the possibilities.
I could project an image of Ben Afflicted (with hair). But on the other hand, am I really dating Jennifer Aniston? (hmmm … now I know why I though she needed a shave).
Even now, manufacturers and research groups are experimenting with wearable computers utilizing magnetic and RF sensors embedded in clothing. Wearable computers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology enable business users to exchange business cards simply by shaking hands (let's try this at MTT-S). Kurzweil believes it will be possible to “beam” someone your experiences, tapping all five senses.
Science fiction? we know better. Cochlea implants are already rebuilding the hearing of previously deaf patients, and implanted chips have been shown to aid the muscle control of patients with Parkinson's disease. Can you imagine what can be done with wireless interconnect (talk about a resurgence of the wireless industry).
It is estimated that the human brain makes only about 200 calculations per second. The computing machinery available in 2030 will be able to make 100 trillion connections and 1,026 calculations per second (better lay in a good supply of ginko biloba). And the memory footprint — 12 million bytes — will pale by comparison to computer memory footprints. This means that, literally, artificial intelligence would be five time smarter that we are, just using the process of fuzzy logic. It's awesome to think what such computers might be capable of if they can “learn,” as well.
Now, of course, there are a number of scenarios that could play out in the next 30 years that may vary the rate of this technology's deployment. The conservative right does a fair job of road-blocking technology.
Visionaries like Kurzweil and Stephen Hawking always present the edge of the envelope. Yet, despite the best efforts of the conservatives, technology leaks through. That is the bright spot that drives these, and other forward-thinking individuals.
It's impossible to stop technology. The responsibility of the tech sector is to see that safeguards are built in. That is something we need to work on.
But, secretly, I'd love to have a billion or so nanosensors cursing through my veins, microwaving gigabits of data to my wearable (or implanted) computer.
On the down side, imagine what would happen if humans, merged with computing machinery, caught a nanovirus. I wonder what antinanobiotics would be … nanolasers zapping nanosensors … built in computer games … bing … bing.
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