Category Archives: Technology and Society

Personal Vidcams

Glenn points to this article about battlefield use of high-storage-capacity videocameras.

I suspect that it won’t be long before people start having these installed in their cars to quickly resolve disputes in accidents. It would be particularly helpful against people who deliberately cause fender benders for insurance fraud. I’d think that the insurance industry would start offering discounts for people who have them, and that eventually they’d become factory equipment.

Predictions Of The Future

From the past.

Some of them held up pretty well, and some of them didn’t really happen until the twenty-first century, and some haven’t panned out at all (like using electric currents to encourage plant growth, and the quiet cities). Slightly subsonic electric ships don’t seem likely to happen any time soon, and pneumatics came and went, being used only for niche applications. Still an interesting set of prognostications for the time.

[Update a few minutes later]


As Paul Dietz points out in comments, they’re only calling for ships that go a mile a minute. I was somehow thinking ten miles a minute (close to sonic velocity). Don’t ask why I was thinking that–I don’t know. Yes, sixty miles an hour is theoretically possible, but it’s high power consumption.

An End To Privacy?

It’s not here yet, but it’s definitely on the way:

Police found a so-called “skirt cam” under a subway grate at 88th Street and Lexington Avenue Tuesday afternoon after a woman called police saying she had noticed suspicious wires protruding from the grate as she passed by.

Emphasis yours truly.

Once Wifi is ubiquitous, there will be no “suspicious wires” to betray the location of a camera, and cameras will continue to get smaller and more power efficient (though there is a physical limit on how small the lense can get). Consider this a glimpse not just of womens’ undergarments (assuming they’re wearing same), but of the future.

Greening of GE

GE started a big ecomagination advertising campaign. I think that proactively spending to be a net cleaner of the environment by buying up carbon emission permits (where they are for sale) would be more effective than their research spending at abating pollution. But of course, the image is more important to them than the results.

If GE wanted to reduce internal pollutants at lowest cost, it would have an internal tax on GE polluters and provide cash to corporate abaters. The pollution permit trading scheme would decentralize the decisions about what abatement projects to fund out to the individual profit and loss units. That is good public policy for the world if it decides to cut carbon emissions. It is also good public policy for countries, states or cities that want to cut the maximum emissions for the least social dislocation.

China and India have probably reached the tipping point in many of their cities where their inhabitants are rich enough to want a cleaner environment even if it has some associated increases in the cost of doing business. US reached that point in about the 1940s and has been getting cleaner ever since.

I think the campaign may be a flop. It sounds to me like Echo Machination and is a little too reminiscent of HP’s Invent! campaign. But they are the masters of their sound and image and they are probably right on the winning emotion if not on the details.

For two takes on “echo think” (fka group think), read this novel-length fictional account, Rigged by Ross Miller, my former boss and czar of risk management at GE R&D. There is another article in today’s FT (trial/subscription required after first two paragraphs).

Cat Man Do

Expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing as the technology for body morphing (particularly genetic) continues to develop:

He charges $1,000 a day for his appearances, but the offers are sporadic. Avner said his agent is pitching a show for him on the Fox television network, but the details are still murky.

“If I could make a living at it, it would be nice,” he said.

He said his need to transform himself into a form of human cat stems from his Indian background as a member of the Huron and Lakota tribes. He grew up in Michigan and was given the Indian name of Stalking Cat. Following an ancient Huron tradition, Avner said he is changing himself into his totem of a tiger.

Not surprisingly, he has a web site.