Top 10 innovations for war on terrorIn May 2004, a panel of military and national security experts, academics, futurists and technologists met at the Battelle Institute in Columbus, Ohio. They identified and ranked the 10 innovations that will have greatest impact to win the war on terrorism. Note that one key non-science/technology item was included.
Swarms & SmartBots - distributed intelligencePut out some sugar in your backyard - in a few minutes, the ants or the bees will arrive. It's as if the myriad of insects have a single, powerful brain. They solve problems that would seem to be impossible even for huge, supercomputers.
Insects are a great conceptual model for tiny, distributed, sensors and actuators. They have simple local interactions with one another, adding up to complicated group behaviors, like building complicated hives or huge anthills. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Michael Crichton's novel PREY told a scary story of tiny invisible dust with super intelligence, that attacked humans as prey. Smart "dust" may seem like science fiction. But Intel is working on it, with visions of billions of microprocessors everywhere.
Originally a DARPA project, Intel is working with US Berkeley to create cubic millimeter-sized sensors, or "motes." The idea is to combine tiny MEMS sensors with intelligence and wireless communications. When used in vast quantities, this smart dust can perform tasks that have hitherto been impossible with conventional computing.
Intel has invested in Crossbow's TinyOS, an open-source software platform that works on fewer than 8 kilobytes of memory, for distributed smart sensor networks. Expect amazing results, in many different kinds of applications.
Another DARPA originated project with a similar approach is iRobot's SwarmBots. These are still somewhat bigger than dust - 5-inch cubes, with tiny brains and electric motors. Each has a small color camera for simple object recognition, as well as sensors that detect light. Communications between the SwarmBots are handled by an array of infrared transmitters and receivers. Imagine telling thousands of these tiny Swarmbots to go invade a terrorist hideout.
Military brainstormers think that thousands of tiny robots working together may play an important role in future operations such as land-mine disposal or cleaning up chemical spills. One application might be a horde of tiny robots on the ground, coordinating their actions with aerial combat robot drones. Now that would be an awesome swarm!
Machine-to-machine - the new M2M revolutionAccording to Glen Allmendinger of Harbor Research, M2M technologies will penetrate the world far more deeply, and change the world far more profoundly, than did the technologies of the PC era. But it will be pervasive, ubiquitous, invisible - a very different thing.
M2M does not arrive in the world as a distinct, perceivable product operating in a distinct, controlled environment. You don't buy it the way you buy a PC running a specific desktop OS. It arrives in about a million different ways, most of them designed not to be directly perceivable by humans.
Networked "embedded intelligence" is what pervasive computing and M2M are all about. The information coming from a device can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, than the device itself: for example, current location, part number, where it was purchased, when it was installed and by whom, critical specifications, diagnostics, availability of spares, replacement alternatives, repair instructions, usage patterns, and more.
Glen Allmendinger has a penchant for verbal images that make good sense: "M2M will bend the traditional linear value chain into a feedback loop through which the heartbeats of manufactured objects will continually flow back through complex business alliances that create, distribute, and service those objects."
All this invisible machine activity makes the information about assets, costs, and liabilities vastly more visible to managers and to the decision-making process.
M2M will unleash a wave of productivity and efficiencies previously unseen. When manufactured objects are continually sending field intelligence back, OEMs will be able to shed costs, explore new revenue opportunities, and solve customer problems as never before.
Harbor Research has just completed a major new study on M2M adoption. Get it!
Crony Capitalism continuesWith all the noise about the abuse of corporate power by Enron, WorldComm, Tyco and other companies, you'd think that the "crony capitalism" disease may have diminished. But is seems to be going right on. It's hard to eradicate. Directors and executives seem to be continuing to cut themselves sweet deals.
Many companies are still practicing old-fashioned corporate cronyism. Some 75% of companies recently surveyed still engage in crony deals.
Here are the most common actions, ranked by frequency.
Editorial - "That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!"In the 2000 election, George W. Bush lost the popular vote and was elected unfairly. A significant segment of American voters still feel bad about that.
The new President proceeded to chalk up the largest deficit in US history. He launched a war that has alienated most of our allies. The world had admired America - now they think we are just war-mongers.
Bush's primary reasons for launching the pre-emptive war in Iraq:
It is now clear that, immediately on becoming President, Bush was intent on attacking Iraq. The books by Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke and Bob Woodward document that with excruciating detail. The Neo-conservative Agenda could not be explained to the American people, and so they were busy cooking up excuses which they felt were black-and-white and credible. Any one who wasn't on the track to accommodate what the President wanted was "not patriotic".
The outgoing President, Bill Clinton, informed the incoming President that Osama bin Laden was a significant threat - Bush "changed the subject". When 9/11 occurred, it was admittedly a total surprise to National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice: "Who could have imagined this!" And yet, several warnings had occurred. At the very least it's sheer incompetence.
Bush touts his "strong record" on the "war on terror". And yet, Iraq was a serous error that has caused heightened terrorist activities.
Then came the Abu Ghraib torture, supposedly a surprise to the administration. Now, it turns out that the authorization for this type of treatment (stripping prisoners naked and using attack dogs) came directly from the Whitehouse! And still, no one has been held accountable!
What does it take for this President and his Administration to be removed? Indeed, there are calls for Impeachment; but that will be long and messy.
But wait, the American people will be conducting a "performance evaluation" in November!
Read the lyrics of this song, and imagine Dick Cheney singing it
eFeedbackRon Davis [firstname.lastname@example.org] has some excellent insights on future economies and education:
"As our systems become more and more efficient, taken to an extreme, one techno-capitalist will be sitting at his PC making everything for everyone else. What will these few demand in return for supporting the rest of society?
"Having come of age during the invasion of Japanese products, I have always felt that the "real" war is being fought on the factory floor. Only now I see that the "arms" for this war originate in the classroom, which has been woefully neglected during the past generation. Current political efforts to correct the education problem has been to establish standardized tests. In response, the education system now just teaches just enough to get students to pass these tests. My children have brought home class assignments specifically tailored to specific sections of the standardized test. So now if some topic is not on the test, it gets dropped from the curriculum.
"We should be spending more money on "Education R&D", learning how to do a better job of teaching, not testing. What methods in the classroom work and which do not. If we spent a fraction of Defense R&D spending on researching improved classroom teaching methods, we would not be turning out second-class graduates."
"Our military is in the Persian Gulf because cheap oil is a "local" matter in the US. Our military is not in places where genocide or something as bad is happening because those are "local" to someplace without resources critical to the US.
"I find that when I express views like the above in forums like the ones hosted by the WSJ, I'm thrown into the Democrat partisan category. Well, I don't support either party. I would be happy to see GW Bush do what Lyndon Johnson did and announce that he's not going to run for re-election. This would cause no problem, as the Republicans will have plenty of time to find a new candidate using the traditional backroom politics. The idea that the voters decide who the candidate will be is fiction - the Dems chose someone no one particularly likes because conventional wisdom deemed the others to be unelectable.
"As if the Dem to be anointed hasn't moved enough to the middle of the sludge, the running mate many propose is a Republican who is pretty generally considered to be the anti-Dubya.
"Basically I view the "left" and the "right" to be two faces of a 'parent' that wants to determine how I live my life. On the one hand, we have the sugar and spice approach which buys you off if you do what they want. And on the other hand, you have the switch and belt approach which will beat you if you do what they say you shouldn't."
"The situation you describe has been some time in the making and both political parties, along with certain special interest groups (the NEA not least among them), bear the responsibility for the current educational train wreck.
"We have long retired teaching basic, critical thinking and academics in favor of a more broad-based curriculum that concerns itself first and foremost with immersing our children in sociological concepts to an obscene degree, while leaving math and the sciences severely wanting.
"When a child of 8 knows what homosexuality, environmentalism, and vegetarianism are but can't make change for a dollar, or understand why the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west, we have a problem and it's not political, it's systemic."
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