A widely held meme has it that all the cells in our bodies are replaced every seven years.
However, based on advances in molecular science we now know—or at least strongly suspect—that this is not entirely true.
Some parts of your body, for example the cells comprising your rib meat, appear to be replaced roughly once every 15.9 years.
Your blood cells, on the other hand, soundly thrashed by your circulatory system, are unceremoniously flushed from your body at about the 120-day mark.
The top spot in the rejuvenation game, however, goes to the lining of your stomach which—thanks to the acids needed to breakdown the great gobs of gunk some folks (but none of us, I’m sure) chunk down daily—only lasts five days.
Science has so far found only one class of cells that stubbornly refuse to move over in favor of new ones. Alas, it is those in your cerebral cortex. They just degrade, grind down, and otherwise wear out until one day you find yourself standing in the grocery store wearing bedroom slippers and wondering where your car keys have gone.
And so, lest my current train of thought slip away, I move on to the point…
Which is that, in the same way that our cells are steadily replaced—with the exception of those recalcitrants just noted—so are elements of our everyday world.
Our Changing World
If one were a fan of the prolific Ray Kurzweil, one would likely chirp up with any number of observations on this topic of our changing world, leading with an array of facts (and maybe some factoids) about the impact of an exponential increase in computational power occurring simultaneously across every single type of human activity.
There is much to be said for this proposition. Regardless, the fact is things are a-changing and a-changing pretty damn quickly.
I would like to share a few recent examples of this a-changing, but must be uncharacteristically brief as I am (a) really busy and (b) preparing to hop on a plane to Europe.
For the mathematically oriented among you: (a) + (b)/ t = GMDIG (get my derriere in gear).
So here’s just a couple of things that are changing, and are about to make a big impact.
The era of 3-D printing is just beginning. It was reported recently that Harvard scientists (read: grad students messing around with unlimited alumni funds) created a jumping robot.
As the mainstream media love to hype new tech—but only because their audiences like it—you may have read this particular story.
But the novelty of a “jumping robot” is massively overshadowed by the 3-D printing aspect of it.
Think about it. Previously, said Harvard grads would have had to draw up their diagrams and specification sheets, smoke
some pot a scholarly pipe and deeply ponder if the theory would actually work in practice.
When convinced it would, they would then proceed to beg for the necessary funds to have the parts of said robot cast, assembled, and tested.
Should the robot fail to achieve liftoff, into the trash bin it would go and the process would repeat until—like Edison’s purported 10,000 experiments leading up to the invention of the lightbulb (which, as a Tesla-fan, paint me skeptical)—the adults would yank the funding or the students would reach the stage of butt-slapping success they worked so hard to achieve.
(Trivia question: In the course of his experimentations, what material did Edison finally stumble upon that resulted in the invention of the light bulb? A certain bet winner, the answer is “bamboo.”)
Yet, with 3-D printing spreading across the land, the entire process of experimentation becomes a matter of fiddling around with CAD programs, followed by pushing a button, and, voilà!, in a relatively short period of time, you have your prototype.
Doesn’t work, into the bin it goes, a few key strokes to fix the observed flaws, and the process begins again.
Furthermore, when said grad students reach that “By Jove, I think we’ve got it!” moment, the process of sharing the technology becomes as fast as sending an email with the computer schematic to upload.
In two shakes of a lamb’s tail (the technical term for less than a few years from now), you are going to have a 3-D printer in your house, and instead of wandering down to Toyz Were Uz , Christmas will be the presentation of downloadable content.
Why, imagine the added surprise of giving a schematic that the child (or other loved one) has no idea what it is until the 3-D printer completes its last cycle?
“A bust of Homer Simpson’s head? Yeah, great. Just what I always wanted… not.”
(Heads up, entrepreneurs, there’s a fortune to be made in locking up 3-D printing rights to pretty much anything. But you better hurry, or the Chinese will get there first. And to my Chinese friends… 问候中国黑客。请给我的利润来自1 / 0次 这个想法).
But here’s the thing. As you are probably already aware, there is always a lag between the invention of a new technology and it going viral.
Consider the iPad. The first commercial tablet computer was launched in the mid-1980s. Yet the technology wasn’t widely adopted until the launch of the iPad in… quick, close your eyes and take a guess…
….2010 (another bet winner).
For the inattentive, it would have appeared as if the iPad arrived like a swarm of locusts.
One moment, no iPad.
The next, the world is littered with them.
However, what had really happened was a natural progression starting with the invention and exuberant introduction of a technology that fails commercially, then goes into the equivalent of hibernation for what can be a lengthy period of time.
But even though the technology all but disappears from the public eye, behind the scenes tinkerers keep tinkering and, helped along by the steady ascent of mankind (especially the exponential computational progress mentioned earlier), the technology evolves until one day it can deliver on the full promise.
As the chart here shows, wildfire adoption follows.
What I’m flapping my arms about here is that you need to pay attention to the adoption curve on 3-D printing because pretty much every investor who piled into the sector during its initial exuberant launch phase lost money.
Sure, it seemed like a winner at the time, but though the sector bounced like Harvard’s squishy booger robot, it then came straight back to earth.
As the old adage goes (is there such a thing as a “new” adage?), pioneering is painful. Burned by a lack of understanding of the adoption curve, investors took what remained of their chips and slid them back into their pockets.
However, with the aforementioned exponential explosion in computational power simultaneously blah-blah-blah, the adoption cycle is tightening up. Which is to say that rather than 30 years passing between invention and wildfire adoption, we can expect the new technologies to burn hot much more quickly.
I could try to go into all the many ways 3-D printing will revolutionize our lives over the next few years, but per the above formula, I need to GMDIG and so willl move on, leaving you to give your own cerebral cortex cells a bit of much-needed exercise pondering the implications.
However, before I slip toward the exit, I would like to briefly mention a few other technologies now headed for the hockey stick part of the adaption incubation process:
Drones. The first FAA-approved commercial drone drop just took place. From what I can tell, it was largely symbolic and something of a publicity stunt, but nonetheless, rather than driving a couple of hours over rough back-country roads, a group in Virginia relied on a drone to deliver a bundle of medicines to a rural clinic.
Can pizzas be far behind? Click here for the story.
Personal service robots. Since we are on the topic of adoption curves, don’t forget personal robots, which have been “in the works” for something approaching forever. Even so, it appears they are now eerily tottering up that same curve. Here’s a story about a new hotel in Japan staffed almost entirely with Mr. and Ms. Robotos. Oh, and just because they can, a robotic dinosaur. Here’s the story.
Holograms. Friend and Sendero subscriber Frank Y. sent along a video this morning of a Microsoft demo of their new holographic viewing device. Imagine being able to imagine your environment and have it come to pass. This is serious sci-fi stuff. Here’s the story.
And that’s just barely scratching the surface on the many life-changing technologies working up the accelerating curve (self-driving cars being the one I am most looking forward to).
The world is about to go through a truly radical change and, for the most part, it will be a change for the better.
For the most part…
Be Afraid of the Big Bad (Lone) Wolf
In the category of “for the most part,” last week saw yet another lone-wolf terrorist attack. In Chattanooga. Of all places.
This is important because the media reaction, while not nearly as flamboyant as with the sort of large coordinated strikes for which the World Trade Center attack will forever serve as a paradigm, is sufficiently energetic to gain the terrorists exactly what they want.
Which is, to borrow a phrase, “Shock and Awe”… though more accurately, what they are really creating is “Fear and Loathing.”
The point, which I won’t dwell on as I prefer the sunny side of the street, is that now that this particular genie is out of the bottle—as it has been in the Middle East for many years now—the “soft targets” available in the U.S. and other Western nations to a lone gunman are literally infinite.
The implications are unfortunate for anyone who prizes personal freedom. That’s because this attack, and the next, and the one after that—even if involving only a few unfortunates who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time—provide license to Big Brother to ramp up survellience, security, and suppression of the free movement of people and goods.
And by “license,” I mean that the citizenry—like a dog trained with a stick (across the rump), and encouraged by the all-too-eager media—will willingly go along with each new measure and even clamor for it.
“To keep the nation safe” and all of that.
Anyone living in the Ground Zero countries—which is to say the degrading democracies favored as targets by psycho-slamists—will increasingly have to bow and scrape to the government’s overlapping security agencies.
Or move somewhere else.
There are no other alternatives.
The Big Hack
Still on the shadowed side of the street, it is becoming clear that despite spending billions on new toys of warcraft and the soldiers to operate them, the next conflict is likely to start, and maybe end, in cyberspace.
As you have probably heard, hackers—purportedly working for the Chinese government—infiltrated US government records and stole untold amounts of personal data on pretty much every government employee, including all military personnel and contractors.
Given the size of the government, we are talking about the records of roughly one out of five Americans.
Pete Kofod, ex-military hard man, cyber-security expert, and fellow homeowner at La Estancia de Cafayate, told me that this was a really big and very important hack. And that at least one reason the Chinese are suspected is because a number of the companies contracted by the U.S. government to provide security clearance for government employees in turn sub-contracted the work to… you guessed it, Chinese companies.
Regardless, whichever entity had the skill set to pull off this cyber-caper likely also has the capability to massage that data, cross-reference, and do a lot more damage than merely running someone’s credit card in order to buy the latest Minecraft mod.
Of course, the US government must now ponder its options. Tit for tat and all of that.
(On the topic of knowing where cyber-attacks emanate, click here to check out an amazing real-time map of cyber-attacks.)
Can it be long before tits and tats become widespread disruption of core infrastructure?
Were the largely downplayed but pretty much simultaneous shutdowns of the New York Stock Exchange and the Wall Street Journal a warning shot?
There is little question that there is a cyberwar in the future, and probably not the very distant future.
One can only hope the targets don’t include electrical utilities in the frozen North in the middle of winter, or air traffic control on a peak travel day.
Because that would engender an aggressive response, potentially even causing the Dr. Strangeloves to spin out of control.
While one wishes this sort of thing will never happen, it is the height of folly to assume it won’t.
Because, as amazing as the changing world will be, it will always have its risks, and it’s up to each of us to take steps to personally mitigate those risks.
Or at least give the other side of the double edge of technology enough thought that you aren’t caught completely unawares should things go off the rails.
Even so, let me stress: in sum I’m convinced the world is going to only get better. Exponentially better, actually.
And, thanks to advances in medical technology—a topic I could dedicate an entire blog post to—the odds are good that most of you dear readers will be there to enjoy it.
With that rather abrupt but sunny ending, I must dart as other duties call… loudly.
I can’t predict such things with any accuracy, but as my trail will be meandering here and there throughout Europe over the next couple of weeks, I suspect these missives may go missing for a bit.
Regardless, I will keep Sendero and you, my small cadre of readers—about 120 at this point—in mind as I wander about. (Do feel free to pass this along to others you know who might enjoy it.)
Until our trails next cross….