Filed under: Connections, Constitution, Fireworks, General Musings, Government, Kindle, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: Amazon, America, blogging, Civil War, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Fourth of July, free, freedom, history, Independence Day, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction
I wrote this nine years ago, and posted it to this blog seven years ago. It seemed like a good time to repost it.
Thoughts on This Day
One birthday, when I was nine or ten, I woke with anticipation of the presents I would receive. Still in my pajamas I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were having coffee, expecting to get the loot which was rightfully mine. My father happily handed over a small, wrapped box. I opened it eagerly, to find a little American flag on a wooden stick. My father said that since my birthday was July 4th, he thought I would appreciate the gift.
Horror-struck first at not getting anything better, then a moment later at my own greed, I guiltily told my parents that I thought it was a fine gift.
After a moment, of course, my folks brought out my real presents, and there was a fair amount of good-natured teasing and laughing about the little trick they had played on me.
That was almost 40 years ago, and I can no longer tell you what presents I received that day. But the lesson in expectations and perspective my dad taught me that morning always remained with me. My dad had been a Marine, fought in Korea, and was a deeply patriotic cop who was killed while on duty a couple of years after that birthday. I have no idea what happened to that little flag on a stick, but I do still have the flag taken from my father’s coffin, carefully and perfectly folded at the graveside when we buried him.
I’ve never looked at the American flag without remembering what a fine gift it really is and, as so many others have written, what it represents in terms of sacrifice. I love my country, as any Firecracker Baby is probably destined to do. You just can’t ignore all that early training of patriotism, fireworks, and presents all tied up together.
But that doesn’t mean that I am blinded by patriotism. As I’ve matured and gained life experience, I’ve learned many other lessons. Lessons about tempering expectations, living with occasional disappointment, accepting that things don’t always work out the way you plan no matter how hard you work, how good your intentions, or how deserving you are. Still, you learn, grow, and do the best you can. This, it seems, is also the story of America. I believe we are an exceptional people, holding great potential, with our best years still to come. But nothing is guaranteed. We must honestly, and sometimes painfully, confront our failures, learn from them, and move on. The original founders of our country were brilliant, but flawed as all humans are flawed. Some of their errors led directly to the Civil War, that great bloody second revolution of the human spirit. That they made mistakes does not negate their greatness; rather, it shows us our potential even though we are not perfect. They knew, as we should know, that only we are responsible for our self-determination. Not a king, not a God, not a ruling political class. Us.
Today we’ve been gifted with a small box with a flag inside. A token of our history. Let us not take it for granted. Let us not think that the thing itself is more important than what it represents. Let us look on it and declare our own responsibility, our own self-determination.
Happy Independence Day.
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: Amazon, Art, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Google, movies, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff | Tags: Alexei Oreskovic, Amazon, art, augmented reality, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Google, jim downey, Matt Weinberger, predictions, Science Fiction, Soli, technology, writing
From the beginning of Chapter 6:
There was just one other person in the room, standing at the side of the holo platform, hands dancing over a control board only he could see.
* * *
Jon looked to the dance Ng’s hands played in the air. “About ready?”
Ng said nothing, but just his fingers tapped a command in the air. Instantly, there appeared an image above the holo projector. It was the artifact, pretty much exactly as Jon remembered it from the first meeting a week ago.
There are many such passages in Communion of Dreams, just part of the augmented reality technology which exists at the time of the book. The basic explanation is that the user is wearing contact lenses which allow one to see a virtual reality overlay on the real world, and then within that overlay you can manipulate virtual objects/controls thanks to hand-tracking. When I wrote the book I figured that such technology would be available eventually …
… and here it is, even sooner than I expected:
* * *
The company’s lab for advanced projects showed off new technology on Friday that lets users move their fingers in the air to control objects in the virtual world.
It’s called Project Soli, and it uses radar waves to detect precise finger movements or finger “micromotions.”
The result is something that looks like it’s from a science-fiction movie such as Minority Report or Her, in which characters manipulated virtual objects by gracefully moving their hands or fingers in the air.
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: Art, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Expert systems, General Musings, Humor, Marketing, movies, NYT, Predictions, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Society, tech | Tags: art, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blogging, Communion of Dreams, Drea Cooper, DVD, Emma Cott, Expert, Grindr, humor, jim downey, Matt McMullen, New York Times, predictions, Robotica, robotics, science, Science Fiction, Seth, sex, technology, Tinder, Topless Robot, VHS, video, Zackary Canepari
Via Topless Robot, this article/video from the New York Times:
Matt McMullen has proved that some people are willing to spend thousands on sex dolls.
* * *
Mr. McMullen’s new project, which he is calling Realbotix, is an attempt to animate the doll. He has assembled a small team that includes engineers who have worked for Hanson Robotics, a robotics lab that produces shockingly lifelike humanoid robots.
Mr. McMullen is first focusing on developing convincing artificial intelligence, and a robotic head that can blink and open and close its mouth. He’s also working to integrate other emerging technologies, like a mobile app that acts like a virtual assistant and companion, and virtual reality headsets that can be used separately or in tandem with the physical doll.
It’s accepted wisdom that many new technologies come into their own and are quickly disseminated through the public when a way can be found to use them for sex and/or the depictions of same. Printing. VHS tapes. DVDs. The internet. Smartphone Apps like Tinder or Grindr.
So why not artificial intelligence?
Which isn’t the way I saw the technology for an expert system/assistant like Seth developing, but hey, I suppose whatever works …
Filed under: Augmented Reality, Connections, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: augmented reality, blogging, Charles Lieber, Communion of Dreams, Devin Powell, Harvard, jim downey, Nature Nanotechnology, predictions, Science Fiction, Smithsonian, technology
From Chapter 14 of Communion of Dreams:
“No problems with either hand since your incident with the artifact?”
“No. They were sore last night when I first woke up, but I figured that was due to the shock or whatever it was.”
She nodded. “You know how the palmkey is installed and works, right?”
“Yeah, sure. It’s a thin film injected just under the skin, forms a fluid web across the palm that is programmed to function as a close-range transceiver. Simple enough.”
News item this morning:
What if the next gadget for sending messages to your friends wasn’t a watch strapped to your wrist or a phone stuffed in your pocket—but an electronic device embedded in your brain? Now, a new kind of flexible circuit has brought us one step closer to this science fiction future. Implanted via injection, a grid of wires only a few millimeters across can insinuate itself with living neurons and eavesdrop on their chatter, offering a way for electronics to interface with your brain activity.
“We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits,” says Charles Lieber, a nanotechnologist at Harvard University and co-author of a study describing the device this week in Nature Nanotechnology.
OK, not exactly the same thing … but pretty damned close. I’m going consider that another prediction come true.