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I Want My Jetcar! May 31, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events.
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When I was a kid in the 1950’s, futurists were proclaiming that soon we would each have our own personal jetcar (or jetpack–remember The Jetson’s!) This thought sparked my enthusiasm for the future, as I trudged 1 1/2 miles through snow to get to school.Sci-fi writer Charlie Stross explains why it didn’t happen. Throughout the 20th Century, rapid advances in travel speed encouraged the thought that progress in hurtling through space was unlimited, so futurists projecting current trends predicted jetcars for everyone. Little did we know that by 1970 the rate of improvements in transportation speed would plummet. So much for the jetcar, a disappointment from which I have never quite recovered.

So what does Stross predict will be in today’s future? Lifelogs!

Today, I can pick up about 1Gb of FLASH memory in a postage stamp sized card for that much money. fast-forward a decade and that’ll be 100Gb. Two decades and we’ll be up to 10Tb.

10Tb is an interesting number. That’s a megabit for every second in a year — there are roughly 10 million seconds per year. That’s enough to store a live DivX video stream — compressed a lot relative to a DVD, but the same overall resolution — of everything I look at for a year, including time I spend sleeping, or in the bathroom. Realistically, with multiplexing, it puts three or four video channels and a sound channel and other telemetry — a heart monitor, say, a running GPS/Galileo location signal, everything I type and every mouse event I send — onto that chip, while I’m awake. All the time. It’s a life log; replay it and you’ve got a journal file for my life. Ten euros a year in 2027, or maybe a thousand euros a year in 2017. (Cheaper if we use those pesky rotating hard disks — it’s actually about five thousand euros if we want to do this right now.)

Why would anyone want to do this?

I can think of several reasons. Initially, it’ll be edge cases. Police officers on duty: it’d be great to record everything they see, as evidence. Folks with early stage neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimers: with voice tagging and some sophisticated searching, it’s a memory prosthesis.

Add optical character recognition on the fly for any text you look at, speech-to-text for anything you say, and it’s all indexed and searchable. “What was the title of the book I looked at and wanted to remember last Thursday at 3pm?”

Think of it as google for real life.

Total personal history, 24/7, at your fingertips! But there is something wrong with this picture, as early 20th Century French philosopher Henri Bergson points out:

Suppose then, we imagine a mind always thinking of what it has just done and never of what it is doing, like a song which lags behind its accompaniment. Let us try to picture to ourselves a certain in-born lack of elasticity of both sense and intelligence, which brings it to pass that we continue to see what is no longer visible, to hear what is no longer audible, to say what is no longer to the point: in short, to adapt ourselves to a past and therefore imaginary situation, when we ought to be shaping our conduct in accordance with the reality which is present. (From An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic)

Ahh. We will be able to watch ourselves watching the past, watching the past, watching the past…

I want my jetcar!!!

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Comments»

1. Nina Rosenstand - June 2, 2007

That’s what I love about sci-fi! It gives us a chance to evaluate the future before it happens: Do we really want to be on video 24/7, like The Truman Show, except we’d all be the stars of our own show? I read recently that there is a section of London where a person passing through will have passed by 30+ videocameras within half an hour (give or take–I’m relying on my memory here). The future is not far away. But the Lifelog (the “Flog”?), when it comes, will only teach us one thing (aside from the fact that we can indeed solve a lot of crimes that way): It can only tell us the “that,” not the “why.” You still need human motivations and interpretation in order to understand what happened, and what is happening–and what you’re about to make happen. Besides, anyone who has watched an entire video of an entire event (such as an all-day picnic or a wedding) was probably stunned to realize that we simply can’t stand watching all the details again. Blessed oblivion does have a purpose, in moderation. This is where the human story-telling art comes in again: We can edit and rescue the gems from the stream of fluff. The 24/7 cameras can’t do that…
But I’m sorry about the jetcar, Dwight. I got what I wanted from the 1950s! An instant camera with huge color pictures and video you can edit!

2. Jennie Linck - June 7, 2007

I don’t think its a bad idea to have something in our brains constantly recording everything we see and feel. As long as its viewed more like memory storage rather then something as pointless as a T.V. program. As it is I try and avoid watching T.V., I feel like the people in advertisement are purposly trying to over load peoples scences to a point of us Americans being completely in the dark about the world and happy about it.
I myself have a hurrible short term memory, being able to set good reminders or being able to go back and remember something completely would be amazing. I’d never lose my keys. I’d get in less pointless arguments over whats already been said and done because we’d be able to go back and watch exactly what happened. Verbal contracts would actually hold a bit more substance so it would be easier to trust people because there words would be documented. Its insane how many “you said this” “no i didn’t” arguments I’ve been in and seen.
It might also protect kids who are mistreated. Kids who are abused would no longer be afraid to tell athorities about it, the fear that no one would believe them and it would only make the abusing parent more angry.
The biggest downside of this though would be obsession. People get lost in moments. Someone who has lost there parents or someone they love might spend all there time watching and trying to re-live those moments they had with that person. People who lose too much in there life that they become obsessed with what they use to have, and now with this technology, there is the beautiful illusion that they can be close to those moments.

If this were to become a public reallity, they should find a way to monitor it so its only used when it is needed to be, maybe some kind of limit system that people can only go back and watch once a day for 10 minutes so that people will save it for when they really need to go back and find something. Maybe an exception on the limit for people who have major memory problems.

Then there is the problem of privacy, if others are able to access this. There should probably be the same laws with accessing this information as there is with searching a persons car or home. If you tell a police officer they can not come in, then they can’t, unless they get some kind of specially warent or something.

A jet car would be cool, but I’m just as happy flying the Cessnas (i’m training to be a pilot)


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