The Robots are Coming, The Robots are Coming! May 12, 2005

A gazillion years ago (okay, five years ago) Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems had a seminal article in Wired magazine about how the technologies we are building will probably destroy us. As you may guess, this was one of the articles that started me down the path of techology criticism.

One of the scary visions Joy presents is that of “grey goo” - the voracious mass that would result if self-replicating nanorobots become unstoppable (as he assumes they would). Paranoids beware: the prototype is here.

If It Feels Good… February 3, 2005

There’s no question that human beings are hardwired to make new stuff out of old stuff, to want to discover new things and make old things better. Ever since the first proto-human picked up a rock and used it as a tool, there have been engineers, and ever since someone investigated what that rock could break and what it couldn’t, there have been scientists. People like figuring our how things work and then making new things that work. It turns out that all those teachers were right: Science is fun!

The Robots Are Coming! January 19, 2005

The Feature (a web journal owned by Nokia, for what it’s worth) has a very interesting article by Mark Frauenfelder about the near future of personal robotics.

The article is noteworthy both for its coverage of several new devices being created, and for Frauenfelder’s questions over the ethics of passing certain types of work to machines. For a generation that grew up on Star Trek and the Jetsons, I doubt that many will share his concerns, but it’s great to see someone trying to open the debate.

CNN’s Top 25 Innovations January 8, 2005

It’s a new year, and that means that everyone and their dogs feel compelled to write about the most interesting things of the last X amount of time. CNN had weighed into the fray with its list of the top 25 innovations of the last 25 years.

Using Technology for Awesome December 12, 2004

So far I have been talking pretty exclusively about technologies that I think need some scrutiny for their potential negative effects. So, in the name of balance I thought that I ought to point out that I don’t think all tech is bad tech. To that end, here are a half dozen technologies I think are really cool.

In no particular order, they are…

RFID - Really Freakin’ Insane, Dude December 3, 2004

So, by now pretty much everyone knows about RFIDs. These are the little chips that are being put in stuff you buy that allows stores like Wal-Mart to more easily track their inventory. This is supposed to help keep costs down by making shoplifting a lot harder and inventory management a lot easier.

Many businesses have gotten pretty excited about the idea of an automated way to keep track of their goods. The online magazine RFID Journal is a wealth of information geared to the more or less pro-RFID business community.

Call me on my cell phone! November 9, 2004

OK, I admit it. I have a pretty intense emotional response to a particular kind of technology. The ubiquitous cell phone. I don’t much like telephones to being with, and the idea of having one on your person at all times strikes me as a particular kind of hell. But what’s really appalling is the way that having a cell phone seems to be a license to be rude. Cell phones ring in theatres, people answer them in the middle of conversations with real live people and hanging out with someone who is checking their voicemail constantly gives you the feeling that you don’t rate too highly in their books.

Technorealism October 19, 2004

Back in the day (1998) a bunch of concerned people came together to write a sort of manifesto on technology (mainly regarding the Internet). Due to the nature of things, it’s still hanging around on the web, though it looks like no activity has gone on at the site for a couple of years now. The idea, however, is as timely as it ever was.

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