Menu

Blog

Archive for the ‘futurism’ category: Page 542

Jun 16, 2009

The Lifeboat Conversation

Posted by in categories: education, finance, futurism, lifeboat, policy, space

Many years ago, in December 1993 to be approximate, I noticed a space-related poster on the wall of Eric Klien’s office in the headquarters of the Atlantis Project. We chatted for a bit about the possibilities for colonies in space. Later, Eric mentioned that this conversation was one of the formative moments in his conception of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Another friend, filmmaker Meg McLain has noticed that orbital hotels and space cruise liners are all vapor ware. Indeed, we’ve had few better depictions of realistic “how it would feel” space resorts since 1968’s Kubrick classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Remember the Pan Am flight to orbit, the huge hotel and mall complex, and the transfer to a lunar shuttle? To this day I know people who bought reservation certificates for whenever Pan Am would begin to fly to the Moon.

In 2004, after the X Prize victory, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would be flying tourists by 2007. So far, none.

A little later, Bigelow announced a fifty million dollar prize if only tourists could be launched to orbit by January 2010. I expect the prize money won’t be claimed in time.

Continue reading “The Lifeboat Conversation” »

Jun 9, 2009

Hack-Jet: Losing a commercial airliner in a networked world

Posted by in categories: complex systems, counterterrorism, futurism

Hack-Jet

When there is a catastrophic loss of an aircraft in any circumstances, there are inevitably a host of questions raised about the safety and security of the aviation operation. The loss of Air France flight 447 off the coast of Brazil with little evidence upon which to work inevitably raises the level of speculation surrounding the fate of the flight. Large-scale incidents such as this create an enormous cloud of data, which has to be investigated in order to discover the pattern of events, which led to the loss (not helped when some of it may be two miles under the ocean surface). So far French authorities have been quick to rule out terrorism it has however, emerged that a bomb hoax against an Air France flight had been made the previous week flying a different route from Argentina. This currently does not seem to be linked and no terrorist group has claimed responsibility. Much of the speculation regarding the fate of the aircraft has focused on the effects of bad weather or a glitch in the fly-by-wire systemthat could have caused the plane to dive uncontrollably. There is however another theory, which while currently unlikely, if true would change the global aviation security situation overnight. A Hacked-Jet.

Given the plethora of software modern jets rely on it seems reasonable to assume that these systems could be compromised by code designed to trigger catastrophic systemic events within the aircraft’s navigation or other critical electronic systems. Just as aircraft have a physical presence they increasingly have a virtual footprint and this changes their vulnerability. A systemic software corruption may account for the mysterious absence of a Mayday call — the communications system may have been offline. Designing airport and aviation security to keep lethal code off civilian aircraft would in the short-term, be beyond any government civil security regime. A malicious code attack of this kind against any civilian airliner would, therefore be catastrophic not only for the airline industry but also for the wider global economy until security caught up with this new threat. The technical ability to conduct an attack of this kind remains highly specialized (for now) but the knowledge to conduct attacks in this mold would be as deadly as WMD and easier to spread through our networked world. Electronic systems on aircraft are designed for safety not security, they therefore do not account for malicious internal actions.

While this may seem the stuff of fiction in January 2008 this broad topic was discussed due to the planned arrival of the Boeing 787, which is designed to be more ‘wired’ –offering greater passenger connectivity. Air Safety regulations have not been designed to accommodate the idea of an attack against on-board electronic systems and the FAA proposed special conditions , which were subsequently commented upon by the Air Line Pilots Association and Airbus. There is some interesting back and forth in the proposed special conditions, which are after all only to apply to the Boeing 787. In one section, Airbus rightly pointed out that making it a safety condition that the internal design of civilian aircraft should ‘prevent all inadvertent or malicious changes to [the electronic system]’ would be impossible during the life cycle of the aircraft because ‘security threats evolve very rapidly’.Boeing responded to these reports in an AP article stating that there were sufficient safeguards to shut out the Internet from internal aircraft systems a conclusion the FAA broadly agreed with - Wired Magazine covered much of the ground. During the press surrounding this the security writer Bruce Schneier commented that, “The odds of this being perfect are zero. It’s possible Boeing can make their connection to the Internet secure. If they do, it will be the first time in the history of mankind anyone’s done that.” Of course securing the airborne aircraft isn’t the only concern when maintenance and diagnostic systems constantly refresh while the aircraft is on the ground. Malicious action could infect any part of this process. While a combination of factors probably led to the tragic loss of flight AF447 the current uncertainty serves to highlight a potential game-changing aviation security scenario that no airline or government is equipped to face.

Continue reading “Hack-Jet: Losing a commercial airliner in a networked world” »

May 18, 2009

Top 6 Upcoming Health Events

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, events, futurism

The air is buzzing. People are talking about health more than ever before, and it’s good news for patients. Technology is making it possible for patients to take an active role in “participatory medicine”, partnering with their doctors to decide on the best course of action for their health.

Over the next few months, these 6 events will bring together patients, researchers, doctors, and health enthusiasts. Discussions, partnerships, and innovations will emerge. Keep your eye on these, and attend if you can!

1. TEDMED — October 27–30, http://www.tedmed.com
The medical version of the legendary TED conferences. From the TEDMED site: “The fifth in a series created by Marc Hodosh and Richard Saul Wurman, TEDMED celebrates conversations that demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and healthcare related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital.” This year’s speakers include Dean Kamen, Craig Venter, Sanjay Gupta and Goldie Hawn..

2. Transform — September 13–15, http://centerforinnovation.mayo.edu/transform
A collaborative symposium at The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. From the Transform site: “Transform brings together a dynamic group of speakers and participants from inside and outside the health care industry to explore the intersections between human experience, health care delivery and new business models. Join us to imagine and create innovative ways to deliver a better health care experience in a 21st century world.”

Continue reading “Top 6 Upcoming Health Events” »

May 4, 2009

Forever Young

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, futurism, human trajectories, media & arts, space

(Crossposted on the blog of Starship Reckless)

Eleven years ago, Random House published my book To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek. With the occasion of the premiere of the Star Trek reboot film and with my mind still bruised from the turgid awfulness of Battlestar Galactica, I decided to post the epilogue of my book, very lightly updated — as an antidote to blasé pseudo-sophistication and a reminder that Prometheus is humanity’s best embodiment. My major hope for the new film is that Uhura does more than answer phones and/or smooch Kirk.

Coda: The Infinite Frontier

star-trekA younger science than physics, biology is more linear and less exotic than its older sibling. Whereas physics is (mostly) elegant and symmetric, biology is lunging and ungainly, bound to the material and macroscopic. Its predictions are more specific, its theories less sweeping. And yet, in the end, the exploration of life is the frontier that matters the most. Life gives meaning to all elegant theories and contraptions, life is where the worlds of cosmology and ethics intersect.

Continue reading “Forever Young” »

May 3, 2009

Swine Flu Update: are we entering an Age of Pandemics?

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, nanotechnology, space, sustainability

May 2: Many U.S. emergency rooms and hospitals crammed with people… ”Walking well” flood hospitals… Clinics double their traffic in major cities … ER rooms turn away EMT cases. — CNN

Update May 4: Confirmed cases of H1N1 virus now at 985 in 20 countries (Mexico: 590, 25 deaths) — WHO. In U.S.: 245 confirmed U.S. cases in 35 states. — CDC.

“We might be entering an Age of Pandemics… a broad array of dangerous emerging 21st-century diseases, man-made or natural, brand-new or old, newly resistant to our current vaccines and antiviral drugs…. Martin Rees bet $1,000 that bioterror or bioerror would unleash a catastrophic event claiming one million lives in the next two decades…. Why? Less forest, more contact with animals… more meat eating (Africans last year consumed nearly 700 million wild animals… numbers of chickens raised for food in China have increased 1,000-fold over the past few decades)… farmers cut down jungle, creating deforested areas that once served as barriers to the zoonotic viruses…” — Larry Brilliant, Wall Street Journal


Apr 5, 2009

On Being Bitten to Death by Ducks

Posted by in categories: biological, complex systems, education, ethics, futurism, policy

(Crossposted on the blog of Starship Reckless)

Working feverishly on the bench, I’ve had little time to closely track the ongoing spat between Dawkins and Nisbet. Others have dissected this conflict and its ramifications in great detail. What I want to discuss is whether scientists can or should represent their fields to non-scientists.

There is more than a dollop of truth in the Hollywood cliché of the tongue-tied scientist. Nevertheless, scientists can explain at least their own domain of expertise just fine, even become major popular voices (Sagan, Hawkin, Gould — and, yes, Dawkins; all white Anglo men, granted, but at least it means they have fewer gatekeepers questioning their legitimacy). Most scientists don’t speak up because they’re clocking infernally long hours doing first-hand science and/or training successors, rather than trying to become middle(wo)men for their disciplines.

prometheus

Continue reading “On Being Bitten to Death by Ducks” »

Mar 13, 2009

Q&A: The robot wars have arrived

Posted by in categories: defense, engineering, futurism, military, robotics/AI

March 12, 2009 10:00 AM PDT

Q&A: The robot wars have arrived

Continue reading “Q&A: The robot wars have arrived” »

Feb 24, 2009

I Don’t Want To Live in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, futurism, habitats, robotics/AI, space

Image from The Road film, based on Cormac McCarthy's book

How About You?
I’ve just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road at the recommendation of my cousin Marie-Eve. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world and the main protagonists — a father and son — basically spend all their time looking for food and shelter, and try to avoid being robbed or killed by other starving survivors.

It very much makes me not want to live in such a world. Everybody would probably agree. Yet few people actually do much to reduce the chances of of such a scenario happening. In fact, it’s worse than that; few people even seriously entertain the possibility that such a scenario could happen.

People don’t think about such things because they are unpleasant and they don’t feel they can do anything about them, but if more people actually did think about them, we could do something. We might never be completely safe, but we could significantly improve our odds over the status quo.

Continue reading “I Don't Want To Live in a Post-Apocalyptic World” »

Feb 20, 2009

Juan Enriquez: Beyond the crisis, mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis

Posted by in category: futurism

http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_shares_mindboggling_new_science.html

Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don’t look for it on your ballot — or in the stock exchange. It’ll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be … different.

Jan 27, 2009

Finding a Cure for Collective Neurosis in the Attention Economy

Posted by in categories: economics, existential risks, futurism, media & arts

(This essay has been published by the Innovation Journalism Blog — here — Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum — here — and the EJC Magazine of the European Journalism Centre — here)

Thousands of lives were consumed by the November terror attacks in Mumbai.

“Wait a second”, you might be thinking. “The attacks were truly horrific, but all news reports say around two hundred people were killed by the terrorists, so thousands of lives were definitely not consumed.”

You are right. And you are wrong.

Continue reading “Finding a Cure for Collective Neurosis in the Attention Economy” »