Filed under: Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Gene Roddenberry, General Musings, MIT, NASA, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, Star Trek, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Challenger, inspiration, jim downey, NASA, Open Culture, Ronald McNair, science, Science Fiction, space, Space Shuttle, Star Trek, video, writing, www youtube
… how what you write, or say, or do, will inspire and encourage others:
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Augmented Reality, Ballistics, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Fireworks, General Musings, Government, Guns, movies, Nuclear weapons, Predictions, Preparedness, Privacy, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, UFO, Violence, Wired, YouTube | Tags: ammunition, augmented reality, ballistics, blogging, Boeing, Cold War, drone, drones, guns, Guns.com, jim downey, laser, movies, North Dakota, predictions, Science Fiction, space, technology, The Thing, USSR, video, Watch the skies, www youtube
That’s from the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, one of the first (and defining) science fiction movies which set the stage for much of what was to come even to the present day.
It was also very much a product of the early Cold War era, reflecting the fear* of the USSR and atomic weaponry. This is typical — science fiction usually is a reflection of (or commentary on) the technology and social conditions of the era when it was created.
So, what to make of two news items which showed up this week?
Here’s the first:
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.
With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.
And here’s the second:
Hang on to your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.
The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.
* * *
Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.
I’m already seeing posts by friends on social media complaining about drones being operated by annoying neighbors, with discussion about what possible solutions there might be to deal with them (both by legal recourse and um, more informal approaches). There have been a number of news items already about people who have shot down drones, and there’s even a company advertising a specific kind of shotgun ammunition for just that.
“Watch the skies!”, indeed.
Filed under: Apollo program, Brave New World, Buzz Aldrin, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, General Musings, Government, NASA, Neil Armstrong, Society | Tags: 1776, America, Apollo 11, blogging, Buzz Aldrin, Civil War, Fourth of July, history, jim downey, Kitty Hawk, Moon, NASA, Neil Armstrong, space
Tomorrow I turn 57. Yeah, on the Fourth of July.
That might seem a little weird to someone who doesn’t have a birthday on the Fourth. Not to me. I’ve grown up with it.
But you know what seems weird to me?
That I’ve been alive for almost one-fourth of the entire time that the United States has existed. Run the numbers, and you’ll see.
It’s very odd to realize just how young our country is in some ways. And how much things have changed just in my lifetime.
And I remember growing up with casual racism of the worst sort. When homophobia was so deeply ingrained and widespread that the word itself didn’t even really exist. I remember using words like n***** and f***** without a trace of embarrassment, because they were so common.
Things have changed somewhat. Not enough. But still, too much for some people. Because change can be scary. Threatening.
The length of my life will take you to the time of Sputnik. The length of another such will take you back before Kitty Hawk. And just one more will land you well before the Civil War.
Change can be hard. And the fight never ends. But have hope: progress can be made. Both for individuals and for countries. Perhaps, even, for the whole world.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, General Musings, Humor, Marketing, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, blogging, Expert, humor, jim downey, predictions, science, Science Fiction, ScienceDaily, short story, technology, writing
“Here ya go!” said the salesman with almost sincere enthusiasm as he handed the key fob across the desk to me. “Your Googel AutoDrive Sedan is ready and waiting!”
“Thanks,” I said, with little desire to mask my exhaustion. I hated buying cars. I took the fob, stood up to go.
“Oh, one last thing …”
I cringed. Looked at him. He still had a gleam in his eye. Which I knew meant he hadn’t finished toying with me yet. “Yes?”
“In going through your profile, I noted that your credit score was … a tad low.” His smile widened just a bit.
“So? I financed it through MegaLoan. You got your money.”
“Well, yes,” he said. “But I wasn’t talking about the financing … ”
I waited to see where this was going. I was sure it wasn’t going to be someplace I liked.
He didn’t disappoint me. His smile broadened even more. “As you know, the AutoDrive system is programmed to consider every possible factor in road safety and benefit to society — in full accordance with all relevant laws.”
“Well … how shall I put this … your low credit score means that in some situations, AutoDrive may elect to …” he paused to savor the effect “… maximize the benefits to society in the event of an accident.”
“Well, if the situation warrants, someone who has a better credit score … who provides a greater benefit to society, as shown by their assets and wealth creation … may be deemed less expendable than you are.”
I had hoped my outrage would startle him. Instead, he licked his lips. “Now, now, not to worry. There’s an easy way to mitigate the chances of that happening.”
I sighed. “How much?”
“Well, we have a Net Worth insurance policy we offer which will indemnify society against loss of more valuable citizens, available on a sliding scale …”
Filed under: Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Government, NPR, Predictions, Privacy, Society, tech | Tags: blogging, civil liberties, DHS, drones, jim downey, Martin Niemöller, NPR, predictions, privacy, Secret Service, technology, Washington Post, Wikipedia
First they flew to watch for illegal immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an illegal immigrant.
Then they flew to look for marijuana farms, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a marijuana farmer.
Then they flew to watch the White House, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not the President.
Then … and then … and then …
Filed under: Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Government, Humor, Predictions, Privacy, Science Fiction, Society, tech | Tags: blogging, civil liberties, Constitution, Focus Life Gear, government, humor, jim downey, Kunihiko Morinaga, predictions, privacy, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, technology, tracking, writing
He turned the hand-held on, did a quick check to make sure it had the software and apps he’d asked for. Everything was there. He’d pick up a burner phone later, and swap the SIMM card into the hand-held. He turned off the hand-held, dropped it into a special pocket inside his vest – one which was RF-blocked. He had another such compartment in his satchel. These, like the wallet/holster, were prohibited items and grounds for arrest in the States, but while they would raise an eyebrow in the UK they weren’t technically illegal.
And even earlier did a blog post about a commercial product to isolate a phone that way when I first thought of it: Off the Grid Bag. (Which actually works quite well, as a matter of fact; I got one of those and have tested/used it exactly as intended.)
Well, now someone has come up with the idea of making actual articles of clothing using the same idea:
Sure, you could just turn off your phone. But that would be too easy. Now, thanks to Trident (yes, the chewing gum) and fashion designer Kunihiko Morinaga, you can repel all cellphone transmissions simply by wearing these hip threads called Focus Life Gear—made of radio frequency shielding fabric.
I suppose that since I haven’t actually published St Cybi’s Well yet I can’t claim to have predicted this tech, but no matter — it’s an obvious application of existing technology and desire for privacy. But still, kinda fun.
Tip of the radio-wave-blocking hat to Tim for the news item! Thanks!