Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Missing Android and The Cellborg
Somewhere out in the world today is the head of a robot and no one is quite sure where it might be, and even stranger, the robot itself was based on the likeness of a man who often feared that he might one day be replaced by a robot which would be convinced that it was real and that the real man was a fake. In fact, much of the writings of the late Phillip K. Dick focused on the nature of reality and the rise of technology. The android created was "touring" the country and the head ... just ... went missing.
This tale was odd enough to begin with - the android's memory was loaded with the writings of PKD himself, so you could ask "it" questions and "it" would respond with PKD's own words. Biometric ID software allowed the fake PKD to recognize faces, interpret body language and expression which then led to the responses it gave to those who spoke to "it."
And now it's just ... out there, somewhere. Was it a planned escape? Is It pondering what to do next? It It writing It's first novel or short story? Is It plotting an organized android revolution? Makes me feel trapped in one of the original PKD's books.
Biological humans seem, as PKD predicted, to be searching for more and more ways to computerize their bodies. A new trend among 20-somethings is to buy a home kit and do self-implants so they can use their hands to interact with the world without touching anything. They call themselves "taggers" and use the implants to gain access to VIP clubs, use it open locked doors, as password protection for computer systems or add it to clothing so it emits light and link with GPS systems to keep them from getting lost, I suppose. Too bad no one put one such tracker in the missing robot head. And what happens if your implant also has your debit/credit card info - could you walk through a store, leave, and later find yourself charged for thousands of dollars in purchases simply by walking down an aisle filled with chip-filled goods??
At a recent conference on the ever-growing use of nanotechnology - structures made on the scale of atoms and molecules, for example a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide - the Future looks paved with tiny nano-bots. These micro-machines are already at use in cosmetics, paint, fabrics, building materials, medicine and more. The U.S. government is expected to spend $6 billion on such research this year and the private sector likewise will spend about $6 billion on these products this year as well.
This week, researchers have announced success in fusing brain cells with computer chips that are about 1 millimeter square. Applications for medicine and business are immense - creating chips that utilize proteins and neurons to achieve their tiny nano-programs.
Also, it was announced this week that researchers have created what they call a "cellborg." It is the first success in blending micro-organisms with electronics. The new "cellborg" is acting a sensor to detect changes in humidity, but the applications include being able to detect gases or chemicals, which promises usage within medicine and security technology.
And earlier this month, the first ever NanoTech Consumer Products Inventory was made available to the public. Some 212 products are currently listed, and more are being added on a nearly daily basis, though not all items currently being used are offered to the public - yet. One nano researcher says:
"We are at the vanguard of discovering the endless benefits of nanotechnology for applications like targeted cancer treatments and more efficient solar cells. With this inventory, we also are learning that this technology is already being incorporated into our daily lives. It's on store shelves and being sold in every part of the world," said David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, which is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts."
I used to make a joke that I was waiting for what I called "The Media Patch" - a device I imagined would be about the size of a postage stamp, and would connect my brain to telephone service, computer and online access, television and radio. Guess I need to revise that to a simple tiny implant, which also includes all my financial and medical information -- though right now that would be "broke" and "feeling pretty good, but with a little paranoia about computer chips."