Sunday, September 18, 2005

For Locutus 

In the spirit of the song, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,’ I thought I’d change gears and talk about stuff that puts me in a good mood. Like a lot of people in Blogtopia, I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek and tend to waste my pretty mind mulling over things that haven’t happened yet, but might. And seeing as how I’m a blogger now, dammit, I can blog about anything I damn well please, even when it’s not about depressing fascist politics and crony murdering chickenhawks.

First up: something my sister says she’ll have to buy me for Christmas just to get me to shut up about it, the heads up display:

MicroOptical's viewers are the smallest, lightest head-up displays available today. They accept standard VGA, NTSC, PAL, RS170 and RS232 signals and weigh about 1 ounce. They project the information where you need it most — right in front of you. The careful attention to ergonomics in MicroOptical's designs make the viewers the most comfortable and useful viewing systems available anywhere.

MicroOptical's patented optical system gives the user the impression of a free-floating monitor. This unique optical system is what allows the user to maintain natural vision and awareness of the environment. The viewers are plug and play, ergonomic, and attach easily to prescription or safety eyewear.

One of the things I do hate about being poor is that it prevents me from buying neat toys like this. But I look forward to the time when the technology becomes cheap and common enough for a little guttersnipe like me to afford one. Eventually, I imagine we’ll even be able to move cursors with our line of sight, and click thru pages by blinking. Sci-fi writers have been on this for years, and I’m glad to see it become Sci-fact.

Next up: say it like Princess Leia with me: Help me, Bio-Fuel, you’re our only hope! I have a friend who actually makes this stuff, from ‘recycled’ fryer oil, in TX no less. Business is going gangbusters for him, and as we all tremble before the coming effects of Peak Oil, I take comfort that there are some who aren’t sitting around waiting for the gummint to make tomorrow happen. Here’s the money quote:

Both biodiesel and ethanol are clean, grow-your-own fuels that can be made on-site in small villages from renewable, locally available resources, for the most part using simple equipment that a village blacksmith can make and maintain.

I have this crazy dream of a Second Wave of American Heartland populism, and the heyday glory years of the Grange, in which farmers and local town governments and unemployed people come together and say, “Hey, you know what? We don’t need government subsidies, big corporate farming or to move to the cities to feed our families. We can make, sell, and subsist off of biofuels with the technology we’ve got right now!” followed by a wave of barn dances, bbq parties and Grapes of Wrath camaraderie for all (I did grow up in a farm town, after all). When people talk about American ingenuity, a future free from all the things progressives hate most, and opportunity for the little guy, I see biofuels as the easiest answer of them all. I know, there are serious transition issues to be dealt with, but watching my friend go from 0 to 60 with his own little lab and a buddy with some seed cash, I think those problems are not going to be as difficult as the Oil Industry shills, I mean mainstream media, has led us to believe.

Finally, I want to recommend to you all one of the greatest scientific minds writing fiction, fact and speculation/research today, Prof. Vernor Vinge. Not only is he totally cool (he responded to an email of mine once), he’s the author of award winning books and proponent of this totally cool idea, the Singularity:

I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.
What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid. In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve the creation of still more intelligent entities -- on a still-shorter time scale. The best analogy that I see is with the evolutionary past: Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster than natural selection can do its work -- the world acts as its own simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability to internalize the world and conduct "what if's" in our heads; we can solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection. Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human past as we humans are from the lower animals.

From the human point of view this change will be a throwing away of all the previous rules, perhaps in the blink of an eye, an exponential runaway beyond any hope of control. Developments that before were thought might only happen in "a million years" (if ever) will likely happen in the next century.

It’s not really as scary as it sounds. Or, it’s totally scary and will represent the merging of Humanity with the Godhead. Your choice. go read the whole paper, it's not long. This subject has been all the rage in sci-fi for about ten years now, with people like Dan Simmons, Ken MacLeod and practically every other ‘hard’ sci-fi writer taking a turn. But most simply, I look forward to a time when the very nature of our existence will be something completely different, something totally beyond our ability to predict from our current perspective, and one in which intelligence is freed from the limitations of ‘meatspace’ and set upon the Universe like a shining star.

OK, I’m a corny dreamer.

I’d like to leave you with a couple of book recommendations, if you’ve read them I’d love to hear about it in the comments. These are some of my favorite authors, and I’m sure I’ll write more on them again soon.

Macarthur Winner Octavia Butler, and her damning, prescient Parable of the Sower.

Ultrafeminist and unapologetic Sherri Tepper, for her equally far sighted Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.

Metahistorian vampire lover Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, from whom you can learn more history than ten undergraduate seminars, anything from the Saint Germain Chronicles.

I dedicate this post to my year old nephew, whom I love enough to have to believe will have a future, no matter what the Republicans may bring. Happy Birthday, Locutus.

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
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