February 08, 2004

M104 Roll Call

Attention all FastForward Posse members:

I switched computers at Christmas time and somehow managed to lose my Posse mailing list. If you are a member of the group formerly known as the FastForward Posse (or would like to be) please drop me an e-mail.


I've got some big Posse...I mean M104 plans for the coming months, so please drop me a line. I have most of your e-mail addresses anyway, but this is a lot easier.


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February 04, 2004

Official Headgear

Iíve decided that M104, the Sombrero Nebula (details), will henceforth be the official headgear of the FastForward Posse. In fact, I wonder how the gang would feel about changing our name from FastForward Posse to M104? Sounds kinda mean and secret-agenty, doesnít it?

Image courtesy of the Hubble. Just one more reason we should keep the thing.

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November 21, 2003

FastForward to Accelerating Change

We live in an age of rapid and dramatic change. Society is changing. Technology is changing. People are changing. What does it all mean? Where is it all leading? The FastForward Posse attempts to shed some light.

Ask the Experts (I)

John Smart is President of the Institute for Accelerating Change (IAC). If you want to plunge headfirst into the topic of rapid change, one of the best places to go is the IAC website. This group is dedicated to helping the world prepare for the Technological Singularity, the ultimate outcome of accelerating change.

Get Grounded

Contrarily, we should consider what won't change. It's an analogy to mathematical "invariants", objects that don't change under transformation. For example, assume that humanity (or others) won't bypass physical law as currently known. This becomes an "invariant" that constrains our speculation of the future. A mistake here is particular interesting!

Karl Hallowell

Study the Lines

We can track the course of change in history and in our own lives. By familiarizing ourselves with these lines through time, we can better understand what to expect next, and even begin to play a hand in bringing about changes we want.

Study the Cycles

History can repeat itself in more than one way. Sometimes it seems that events are recurring; sometimes it seems as the an entire era is being replayed. It's possible that history cycles through these epochs periodically, and that the period is decreasing as histories spirals into the next phase. What's going to happen next?

Well, what happened next the last time?

Embrace Change; Embrace the Strange (I)

You probably don't realize what a strange world you live in. Suppose you had a phone that could place a call back in time. Let's call someone 50 years ago, in the year 1953. Okay? You've got a parent or grandparent on the line, somebody who would be interested in knowing about you and your life. Let's see how that conversation might go:

Try explaining your job.

Turn on the TV and describe the programming. Maybe you'll get really lucky and Temptation Island or South Park or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy will be on. Do you have a satellite dish? Tivo? Go ahead. Explain. Maybe you can't get on the TV because your child is playing one of those driving games based on The Simpsons. That should be pretty easy to explain.

Tell them about your daughter's tattoos and pierced eyebrow.

They're interested in politics? Tell them about the former governor of Minnesota and the new governor of California. Hell, tell them about the governor of California who became President.

They're interested in religion? Tell them about that new Episcopal bishop. You can fill them on on the Massachusetts ruling on gay marriage while you're at it.

Tell them about PETA.

Tell them about microwave popcorn.

Explain to them about 9/11 and the War on Terrorism. Be sure to background them with the Cold War and how it ended.

Fill them in on stem cell research and the human cloning ban. Oh, and the big news about mapping the human genome.

Tell them that we went to the moon, but now it's been so long ago that a lot of people don't believe it ever happened.

Try to explain Bill Gates to them. Or the browser wars. Or the dot-com bubble. Or the Y2K bug.

Tell them about NAMBLA.

Tell them about your wireless phone. Don't forget to mention how you play games on it.

At what point do you think they would have hung up? Pretty early on, I'd venture to guess.

Maybe We're Imagining It

Changes themselves do *not* accelerate. But thanks to the distortion of memory, you remember the good old days as slow and peaceful, which of course they were not. Our society and economy depends on ongoing change. But the aging of the population may well put a stop to that. With that in mind, one can only encourage 'staying young'.

R. Klaver

As the Experts (II)

Maybe we're not imagining it. Check out Ray Kurzweil's Chronology of Change. After you've had a chance to digest it, read where he thinks these developments are leading us.

Embrace Change; Embrace the Strange (II)

Forget fifty years ago. Use the phone to call yourself ten years ago. Tell all about how you're tracking several interesting memes in your favorite blogs.

Do the Math

If e is "the black jewel of the calculus" (David Berlinski -- A Tour of the Calculus), and only an expert (x=pert) can understand compound interest and thereby understand the true effect of a fixed rate of change, then only a true Speculist, gazing upon the "Black Diamond of Hope", may see what is to be expected (exp [ectr]t) when the rate of change itself is changing.

NOTE: See this week's Speculist University entry (coming soon) for enlightenment. WARNING! Contains more Scary Mathematical Symbols™. May not be suitable for the faint-hearted.

Mike Sargent

Embrace Change; Embrace the Strange (III)

Forget the past. Living here in the present, we really aren't prepared for how strange the world has become. Posse member Joanie points us to a website that captures a little of this strangeness: RealityCarnival. Enjoy the arts? Spend some time looking at Pseudo Miros or Lego Eschers. Ready to have some fun? Try out recreational activities like Google Grokking or Amazon Whacking. Or while away the afternoon dissecting Britney Spears. Look around this site. If change is accelerating, weirdness is growing exponentially. I doubt most of us could explain these things to ourselves, much less somebody from the past.

Where Will it End?

Maybe we'll learn that all reality is encoded in Pi (similar to an idea we'll be seeing later in Stillness, by the way). Maybe we'll take steps and prevent being enslaved by machines. Maybe we'll get really lucky, and end up as plants or housepets.

That's it for now. Thanks to all the Posse members who participated. This was a fun one!

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November 20, 2003


I've decided to extend the deadline for this week's FastForward. Please have your submissions to me by no later than noon, mountain time, tomorrow.

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November 18, 2003

Join the FastForward Posse!

From time to time, The Speculist hosts a sort of internal blogwave called FastForward. So far, we’ve done FastForwards on life extension, ubiquitous computing, Mars, and artificial intelligence.

Our next FastForward, on the subject of Accelerating Change, will be Friday, November 22. The world is changing faster than we can sometimes comprehend. FastForward to Accelerating Change will be an exploration of some of the most dramatic (and subtle) changes we face. Everyone is invited to join up with the FastForward Posse and help us explore this vital topic.

The FastForward Posse is a loose confederation of futurists (several of them excellent bloggers in their own right) who contribute to FastForward. To become a member, just send me something to use in the next FastForward. Feed me links, pictures, jokes, and above all your speculations and ruminations (50 words or less would be great) geared to shed light on the subject of rapid change. Everything is fair game for this one — society, politics, technology, how crappy TV is — you name it. You can review how rapidly things have changed in an area of interest, or you can look forward to changes yet to come. I'll need all submissions by 11 PM mountain time on Thursday, November 21.

Send your submissions to The Speculist.

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September 15, 2003

Open the Pod Bay Door, Hal

FastForward to Artificial Intelligence

Here are a some speculations on the emerging world of artificial intelligence, compliments of the FastForward Posse. Their love is real, but I sometimes I'm not sure whether they are.

We must think carefully about what we want to use AI for. Consider the opening sentences from an article running in a recent Village Voice article

As American warfare has shifted from draftees to drones, science and the military in the United States have become inseparable. But some scientists are refusing to let their robots grow up to be killers.

I'm a proponent of developing "smart" military technology, but these scientists may have a point. If current robotic and AI technologies may eventually evolve into superintelligences who will make a go/no-go decision about the future of humanity, don't we want these technologies to start out as sweet and docile as possible?

What we need is a mathematical model for the "brute force" approach to AI and it's time-domain derivation. In what year might we expect a brute-force AI — a cerebral neurology simulation — to be developed on a given quantity of hardware? Here are some thoughts.

Read some Gene Wolfe, whose treatment of artificial intelligence in The Book of the Long Sun (vols 1 and 2), has generated much thoughtful discussion which has been archived here. If Wolfe's vision is realized, personalities of the rich and famous will find immortality and deification inside computers, artificial beings (chems) will mate and construct their offspring, while natural beings (bios) do it the old-fashioned way.

We already have the hardware necessary for AI. The computers are fast enough and will grow faster. The problem is fundamentally that we don't have a software implementation. There may be social aspects to this as well. AI suffers from the "nano" disease. There's a lot of computer science that is undeservingly self-categorized as "artificial intelligence". I think eventually we will see multiple ways of creating "intelligence" in software. Some of these will be quite alien to human modes of thought.

Some concrete predictions: within ten years we will have something that is genuine low-level artificial intelligence (i.e., smarter than an ant *cough*) and within twenty years we will have much smarter programs that can run on today's PCs. The most useful AI will be programs that can sift through collections of databases and come up with rational answers to poorly defined questions. e.g., given the information coming off of the news wire, make the optimal profit for my company. The databases might not fit on a current day PC, but the decision making process will.

Here's a classic Science fiction novel that tells the story of an Artificial Intelligence taking over. This book was recently recommended to us by an AI.

I don't look forward to artificial intelligence. For starters, I can't handle relying on "people" to do things the right way. You know, my way. Either people don't listen or they get hung up doing it "their" way. It's always a huge disappointment. So what happens when the machines take over? Well, assuming that the machines are here to serve us, one would expect them be very good listeners and do exactly as requested. Seems perfect. But rarely do I know what I really want and even when I do, I don't communicate it well enough. So AI machines doing exactly what I ask for would, invariably, never do it right. Even if they were programmed to keep inquiring until they knew exactly what I wanted, it would be so irritating, I would have to keep a baseball bat handy, so I could swing for the fences whenever one of 'em got too inquisitive. It just makes me sick. We're talking about this great future and possible immortality, and all I can think of is how far their little fake skulls will fly off some 36-oz wood.

Talk with some AI's for yourself. Get your own book recommendations. Our favorites include Jabberwacky, Alice, and McGonz. Plus Ramona, of course.

Read some Greg Egan. Egan has written some of the definitive fiction about uploading human personality and about a distant future in which almost all intelligence (including human intelligence) is artificial.

Thanks to Mike Sargent, Chris Hall, Karl Hallowell, Ringleader Mike


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September 06, 2003

Call for Submissions

The next FastForward will be Friday, Sept. 12. If you've been enviously tracking the exploits of some of our more prominent FastForward Posse members and wondering if there isn't some way you, too, can be a part — well, this here is your big chance.

To join the Posse, just contribute something to FastForward. (Here's the first one we did; here's the second one; here's the one we did last week about Mars.)

Feed me links, pictures, jokes, and above all your speculations and ruminations (50 words or less would be great). I'll need all submissions by noon mountain time on Friday, Sept. 12.

The topic will be artifical intelligence, the coming age of thinking machines. What will developments in this field mean to us? Will we get something like the social prostheses I wrote about earlier this week? Will our cars drive themselves? Especially our flying cars?

And what will our relationship with AI's be? Will they just be annoying? Will we best friends with software? Will some loser try to marry his PDA?

And what about this Technological Singularity thing? Will the AIs give us a paradise on Earth, keep us in little cages like pets, or eliminate all carbon-based life-forms as we would mildew in the shower?

I can't wait to find out what you think about it.

Send your submissions to The Speculist.

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August 29, 2003

The Good Stuff

FastForward Supplement

Just in time for the weekend, Posse Ringleader Vic is chiming in with some cocktail recipes for those post-Mars-Day/Labor Day parties that everyone is sure to be having. There's also another Mars cocktail recipe in this week's main FastForward feature, plus reader Sanjeev was good enough to provide one the other day (check the comments).

As old Jon Jonzz would say, "Drink responsibly, everybody."

Vic's Tips

The Future of Style, Fashion, Hipness

Hey, Folks

This weekend is not too late to have a few friends over to celebrate our close encounter with Mars. Even geeky Future Fanboys like you can throw a decent Mars party if you have the right refreshments on hand. Consider serving your guests one or all of the following to sip on while viewing Big Red.


Valentine Michael Smith Martini

Want to try to grok that special someone? Mix her up a couple of these. (Works quicker than plain water.)


Viking Lander on the Rocks

The perfect thing to down before extending your probe arm in the search for signs of life.


Combine Gin and Midori in Shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a martini glass. Enjoy.

Mix with ice and strain into a shot glass.

(Modified from a drink found on BarNoneDrinks.)

(Modified from a drink found on BarNoneDrinks.)


This one goes over especially well with the future-minded ladies:

Barsoomian Wallbanger

Turns the girl next door into a Princess of Mars every time.


Shake with ice and strain into a 2 oz. shot glass.

(Modified from a drink found on BarNoneDrinks.)

I guarantee your exploration will be ultimately enhanced with the help of these extraterrestrial libations.

— Vic —

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August 26, 2003

My Favorite Martians

...all read The Speculist. Presented for your interplanetary enjoyment, a list they have compiled of things to do this week in celebration of the convergence of Mars and Earth.

(This and other righteous Mars Photos downloaded from Calvin J. Hamilton's Views of the Solar System.)

FastForward to Mars

Join the Mars Society. This week, we're closer to Mars than we've been in nearly 60,000 years, but we're still about 35 million miles away. The Mars Society believes that's too far, and they're working to close the gap.

See Mars at its best: A list of resources from Astronomy.com.

Grok the Red Planet. Read this essay on Mars as part of our popular culture.

Explore Mars now. Check out the interactive Mars Base.

Eat at Mars. Mars 2112 is a restaurant in NYC.

Buy a piece of Mars. It's easier to get than you think.

Read fun Mars fiction.

Fight City Hall. Why haven't we sent a manned mission to Mars yet? Is it a failure of NASA leadership? Some of us were discussing this over on Transterrestrial Musings last week and we concluded that the problem might be with the job title of the head NASA guy. He's called the "NASA Administrator." How lame is that? Give the guy (or his replacement) a better title, and maybe he or she can get more done.

Check current conditions.

Martian Clock & Calendar

The Daily Martian Weather Report

Read fun Mars nonfiction.

Get all Eastern and philosophical about Mars. Contemplate this haiku inspired by the long-suffering Nozomi probe.

Ruddy arid orb,
Our new home away from home,
Why aren't we there yet?

Become a Martian.

Mars has the same land area as Earth plus a much weaker gravity well. In a few thousand years, it will be better connected to the rest of humanity than Earth will.

Will Mars be adapted to humanity or vice versa? It's more likely that the latter will occur, making "terraformed" Mars unlikely. We won't need a "second Earth". The weaker gravity will always mean some degree of adaptation by humanity is required. This may become part of the beginning of the speciation of the human race.

A key export product of Mars will be data from novel experimentation with social systems in an environment more Earth-like than outer space. A successful social experiment in, say, the Asteroid Belt might find its way to Earth via early adopters on Mars. That is to say, the belters take the big risks, Mars then tries it out, and finally conservative Earth slowly accepts it.

Get a telescope so you can get a good up-close look. Lots of choices here. Also here. (They're having a big sale called Mars Madness. Good name!)

Here's another possibility:

Also, they say that Mars is so close this time around that you can make out features of the planet using a good pair of binoculars.

Face the unpleasant possibilities. What if Mars is turns out to be very different from what we expected or hoped for?

Ponder what might have been. Man Conquers Space is a fictional documentary tracing the history of space exploration had it followed the path outlined in a visionary series of articles in Colliers Magazine in 1952.

Mix up a pitcher of Stoli Orange Martians and have some friends over.


2 shots of Stoli Orange
l/4 shot Cointreau
Slice of Orange

Shake in chipped ice, pour in Martini glass and add slice of orange, voila!!!

Fight City Hall (2). Maybe we need more than just a change of job title. Joe Katzman explains why, perhaps, NASA itself has to go.

Go completely bonkers. Resources to help you in your quest to become some kind of unbalanced, flipped-out, in-need-of-medication Mars Nut.

Remember the good old days. Mars has been on our minds a lot over the past 150 years. Here are a few of the high points:

A great big Martian thank you to our FastForward Posse for helping put this list together, and a warm Red Planet welcome to all new Posse members. Contributors this week: Mike Sargent, Troy Loney, Karl Hallowell, Steve Yeago, Jeff Patterson, Andrew LLoyd, Bob Baker, Robert Hinkley, Joanie (our number one Posse recruiter), and Vic (our resident artist). Plus anyone I missed. Thanks, folks.

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August 22, 2003

Red Planet Madness

Next Wednesday is an important day in the history not just of the Speculist, but of planet Earth. On Wednesday, the Earth will be closer to the planet Mars than it has been for almost 60,000 years.


To celebrate, I've declared that next week will be Red Planet Madness at the Speculist. Everything we do will have a Mars or space theme.

This would be a great time to think about joining the FastForward Posse. To apply for membership, all you have to do is send us something to use in next week's FastForward column. If we use it, you're in!

Here's what we we're looking for:

  • Links to interesting Mars-related websites, news stories, products, pictures
  • .

  • One-liner tips about how to make the best of Red Planet Madness, etc.

  • Write a mini-essay (50 words or less) on Mars, space, rockets, that kind of thing.

  • Any and everything else you'd like to do. Surprise me!

Send your submissions to me before noon, Mountain time on Tuesday.

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August 19, 2003

Get Jacked In, People

This week we welcome several new members to the FastForward Posse as we try to make sense of the Infinite Internet. Let's see what there is to see in this Brave New Unwired World.

FastForward to the Infinite Internet

1. Read the Book!

2. Mike Sargent:

A couple of the things I anticipate (with varying degrees of dread and desire) about Mr. Lightman's "exponentially smarter and more responsive" future environment are:

— The eventual (within this century) integration of biological (nerve tissue) sensors and processors (eyes, ears, skin, tongues, noses and brains, human and otherwise) either directly (current examples: cochlear and retinal implants) or inductively (see ITF#8). When combined with '4G', IPv6, or similar data-transfer concepts this implies that the entire phylum Chordata (if not further afield) might conceivably be 'wired together', downloaded and archived, or interrogated (in either the positive and the pejorative senses).

—Initially, the 'skinriders' (those who cross-connect their own nervous systems with others) will probably be regarded in a similar light to the pierced, tattooed and scarified of our current society. As 'skinriding' and 'upgrades to the wetware' (enhanced senses, offboard storage of memories, etc.) become more capable and more frequently used for 'practical' purposes like sociobiological research or military applications, those who do not, at minimum, use some kind of noninvasive neural interface on a daily basis will come to be regarded as marginal, nearly crippled, and probably suspected of motives similar to some of the more violent anti-technological religious sects active today.

Mike wins this weeks LISP Memorial Prize for robust use of parentheses.

Some of our less astute readers are going to need a little help with the "positive sense of interrogation.” (Okay, actually it’s me. What the heck does this mean?) I wonder: if the whole phylum is wired together out here in meat space, how much longer will it be before an exact digital replica exists online? And when that happens, will everything out here be considered redundant? Expendable, even?

I propose we drop the name FastForward Posse in favor of The Skinriders. Or does that sound too much like something you'd order on Adult pay-per-view?

- Phil -

3. Get a Wearable Display

Available from Charmed.com.

4. Bob Baker:

One of the uses of G5 technology will be transmitting medical data from monobots resident in the human body. Monobots (monitor robots), based on nanotechnology, will monitor the health of the host at the cellular level. Monobots specifically designed to measure cellular processes will send the data to storage sites where it will be analyzed for variance with previous data archived in massive medical storage facilities. The future of the human race is not to wear computers but to host them. This technology is at least 50 years distant and probably 100 - 200 years before it is perfected and common.

Bob knows his robots. Plus he’s the only member of the Posse who can parse the phrase "50 words or less.”

- Phil -

5. NTT DoCoMo

One of the companies Alex talked about extensively last week. Check out their Vision 2010 video for a look at a truly wired (wireless) world.

6. Ringleader Vic:

I've been waiting for someone to capitalize on the best idea yet. Picture a world in which you never have to carry a wallet again. There will be no need for identification. No need for cash or credit cards. No more John Does.

Instead of credit card machines and ATM's, technology should allow for a device that scans your most unique identifier, your fingerprint. Just think of all the major conveniences. Dining out? "That'll be $65.75 Sir. Please touch the pad. Pulled over by the cops? "I need to see your index finger please!" There will be no more wondering if the two slaughtered gentlemen on the TV screen are really who the media says they are: just scan the fingers dude.

Lost children would be no problem. "I want my mommy!" Scan the finger…….beep…beep ….zip…zip…zip, out comes the sheet. Joey Jones - Ph. 555-5555 address 1935 Maple St. "We're taking you home son!"

Imagine the effect on petty theft. "Hey!, someone stole my wallet!" Now it will be, "Hey! Someone cut my hand off!" The only problem with trying to steal the entire hand is that the original owner would have to enter four fingers in his predetermined order. The thief would have no idea what that order is and would look pretty stupid trying to scan a bloody hand.

In Short there would be no need for any ID or any need for billing of any kind again. Every service would require a touch that would automatically be deducted from your bank account monthly. Groceries, gas your phone….EVERYTHING. Just make sure your employer recharges your print on payday to cover all of those convenient expenses.

Vic, don’t you ever watch the Sopranos? They always cut off the heads and hands of the victims to make sure you can’t identify them. I think nanotechnology will make counterfeiting fingerprints fairly easy. We’ll need to find another unique identifier. Retina? Probably not much harder to copy than fingerprints. Your individual DNA? Nope. Too easy to steal.

Maybe DNA plus PIN code?

Bonus points to Vic for providing a self-portrait.

- Phil -

7. Get a Complete Wearable Computer

Available from Charmed.com.

8. Joanie:

Do we really need access to the Internet everywhere we go? Do we?

At first thought, this sounds like a great idea. You have access to store websites and can compare prices while you're out shopping. You can e-mail your significant other and ask where the hell they are when they're supposed to have met you at Ikea 30 minutes ago. Keep tabs on your kids while they're out on a date.

MOM: Hello! I know you're there.
MOM: I know you have your instant messenger up. That better be ALL that's "up" or you'll be in serious trouble. I'm getting your dad in on this one.
DAD: Listen up, I expect you to answer your mother when she's messaging you!
DAD: I can see you're online.
DAD: Answer me now, you hear?
KID: Oh, hi Dad. I was just in the bathroom and left my jacketputer here at the table.
DAD: What table? Where are you? Why didn't you have your GPS working? Aren't you wearing your ballcapputer?
KID: No. I'm not wearing the cap tonight. I hate that hat. We're at XYZ Pizza.
DAD: Let me see.
MOM: I don't like their pizza. It tastes like cardboard. And, why are you out without your hat? What's wrong with your hat? Your grandmother bought that for you!
KID: (Firing up the jacketcam) See? There's Shannon, Keith, Jack, Beth, and the rest of the gang.
DAD: Did you just say gang? Are you involved in gang activity?
KID: Dad, chill. I meant the whole "gang" of my friends. You know, a group of people? Not, like, Crips and Bloods. As if! You know we're not those kinds of kids. I mean, we live in a town of 1,400 people! Everyone knows everyone else...we're tiny! What territory would we fight over? The corner of 1st and Main? Hardly worth it. Who wants the claim the flower shop as their territory?
DAD: Okay, I misunderstood.
MOM: Honey, you really shouldn't read so much into what he says.
DAD: Are you behaving yourself? Why'd Shannon go under the table? She better not be unzipping your pants, young man!
KID: Dad! She dropped her napkin. The pizza's here. Can I go now?
DAD: Lower your sleeve so I can see what she's doing.
KID: (Shannon appears back on screen - waves napkin at KID'S dad.) See? There she is. Nothing to worry about. I'm gonna go now. I wanna eat this pizza while it's still hot.
MOM: You will be home by curfew won't you?
DAD: Leave the jacketcam on, son.
MOM: Leave the jacketcam on, son.
KID: No way! I gotta go. (End cam)
DAD: You leave that cam on, young man!
DAD: Hey! Put that back on!
KID: (signed off messenger)
DAD: He signed off.
MOM: I see that.
DAD: I have half a mind to go down there after him and take him his capputer.
MOM: Not dressed like that, you won't! And, quit looking at porn!

...whoah, I have to cut this short lest I compromise the pristine, Epcot-like atmosphere we’ve maintained so well here at the Speculist. Read the rest (it’s wicked funny) over at Joanie's blog.

More from da Goddess:

Or, imagine what bloggers would do computer access EVERYWHERE! We already have people blogging about bowel movements and plumbing disasters. Do you really wanna go into the bathroom with these people? You do realize they'll start taking pictures and posting them, don't you? We don't wanna go there. Please.

Technology at our finger tips is handy. But, it can also be intrusive and obstructive. People should get off-line and live life! There's nothing wrong with a little old-fashioned legwork while out shopping. There's nothing wrong with being disconnected from the rest of the world and enjoying time alone with family or friends or heck, even truly "alone"....

Now, where did my coffee mug with the WiFi card go?.

Joanie is the official choice of the Speculist for TBOTCOTW's sexiest female blogger poll. Everyone drop by (early and often) and cast your votes for her.

- Phil -

9. Consider the Alternatives

How about these four possible futures for the Internet?

10. Ringleader Mike

It seems that jacking in these days centers around getting broadband and then synching everything you own to it. This is the PDA model in which you have single point of managing everything: appointments, contacts, reminders, emails, phone calls, web sites, music, movies, lovers. Then you work from there. It seems pretty limiting, but with all the noise, it is comforting to know that everything you care about collects in one place. It's sort of like having a home, which I think we all connect to on some level.

Wireless still seems a bit for the birds. I'm yet to see an implementation that actually gives you true freedom from the wired world. At best, it fills in the short gaps of the wired world and lets you wander off a bit before getting out of range or needing a refresh from the wired home base. Again, unless you're a true nomad, you probably don't care about this limitation.

The great thing about this brave new hooked-to-everything world (and perhaps it's ultimate flaw) is that there's always a way to connect to someone doing something somewhere somehow for some stupid reason. It seems great but it could turn the whole place into a bad episode of short attention span theatre. Google is great but how do you even begin to care about everything? Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I need my blinders.

I think we’re fast approaching the day when having any kind of blinders at all will require installing a really good firewall.

- Phil -

Thanks to everyone who participated this week. Good stuff!

All next week, the Speculist celebrates the near convergence of Earth with the planet Mars. FastForward will be a compendium of all things Martian. How do we get there, what would we do there, is there life there? Entries on Barsoom, Mars Bars, Mars Attacks, The Martian Chronicles, and Kenneth Mars are all welcome. Send them to the Speculist by midnight Monday (8/25).

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August 12, 2003

No FastForward

Looks like the worm got the better of us. I'm going to postpone this week's FastForward until next Tuesday. So if you're interested in joining the FastForward Posse, this is your big chance. Just read our interview with Alex Lightman (this week's Speaking of the Future) and send in your own ideas for reaping the benefits of 4G communications systems, wearable computers, or just plain jacking in to the everywhere,on-all-the-time Internet.

Send suggestions, scenarios, vignettes, links to The Speculist.

Posted by Phil at 10:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

Be a Long Liver

Tomorrow, Cambridge professor Aubrey de Grey will be telling us about serious scientific work that he's doing in search of a cure for human aging. In the mean time, the FastForward Posse presents a list of practical life-extension techniques that you can try right now. You'll note that actual anti-aging suggestions are interspersed with ideas for feeling and acting younger. It's all a package, folks.

Also, we know we need to work on the attitude of the ringleader who submitted items 3, 9, and 13. Mike, here's a life extension tip just for you: lighten up, dude.

FastForward to Life Extension

  1. Be a scientist or engineer. It turns out they live longer. Who knew?

  2. Solid colors are your friend — no patterns.

  3. I've got one word for you: implants. The bigger, the better. Something to put the bop back in those tube-sock boobs. Something to resurrect that chin from that pool of neck. Something to elongate, bolster, emphasize, downplay, brighten, and otherwise fix what materialized after millions of years gene pool tic-tac-toe. There's also the creams and ointments that put the youth back in your face, thigh, neck, butt, foot, hand, chest, and...elsewhere. Gagillions of workout and diet regimes with the gigagillions of dollars to go with them. The list goes on forever. If I could just be stronger, smoother, littler, thinner, faster, pithier, better in bed, more like him, less like her, blah, blah, blah...

  4. Get a bicycle. The exercise will make you healthier and riding it will make you feel like a kid. You'll probably want to avoid busy streets (or this could really backfire as a life-extension strategy).

  5. Highlight your hair.

  6. Eat like a freaking sparrow or super-model or something. Calorie restriction is the only approach that has been clinically proven to slow aging (for mice, that is.)

  7. Make sure your friends are all at least five years older than you. Ten is better; fifteen is ideal. You'll look younger by comparison.

  8. Get your teeth whitened.

  9. Get some mid-life crisis accessories. You know, the fast car, loose woman, new toy, old flame sort of thing. This is the stuff that goes beyond (but usually with) looking young; it's feeling young. People might do anything to give them a sense of renewal or power. That's really what it all boils down to: renewal and power. Those are things we had we were young: the ability to bounce back, that sense that you can make a difference and had the power to do so; just an overall resiliency. That's what people want to have back. It's a sort of sentimental longing for those salad days when everything was so much better than they are now. Except the only reason everything was so rosy back then, is because you were probably too ignorant to realize how bad it really was.

  10. Have an affair with someone 10-15 years your junior. Not recommended for those under, say, 35. Not recommended for married people. Important tip: get out early, before the age difference dawns on both of you and you begin to feel older.

  11. Improve your posture. (Yoga really helps.)

  12. Live in Andorra, Japan, or San Marino. If you live in Malawi, Mozambique, or Zambia, move.

  13. To live younger, you must embrace reality with the same vitality you had in your youth. Take everything that life has to offer and charge ahead. Everything hasn't turned out quite right, this is true, but to be truly young, who really gives a flying crap. Look at any child. Are they agonizing over a failed life? Are they contemplating the value of their existence? Hell no. They take what the get because they really have no idea what they're missing out on. Strive for reckless abandon. Strive for seeing things for the first time. Strive for break, bend, burst, bust because you were just too damn curious. Strive for noticing nothing at all. It's really all there is anyway.

  14. Lycopene.

  15. Above all, moisturize.

  16. Hedge your bets. Have a good backup plan just in case you do die.

Thanks to Posse ringleaders Mike, Suraya, and Vick for helping to compile this list.

Next week, Alex Lightman is going to introduce us to a coming brave new world of ubiquitous wireless networks and computers embedded everywhere in our environments, including on our persons. If you have any thoughts on how we can enjoy the benefits of "jacking in" today, send them on to me. If one of your ideas is included in next week's FastForward, you will receive no compensation to speak of. However, you will be admitted as a member in full standing of the FastForward Posse.

Posted by Phil at 07:02 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack