While visionaries like the CEO of
about the tremendous opportunities that technology has in store
for us, let us not forget about the innovations that might change
our lives in not so rosy ways -- and innovations that may even
pose significant threats.
Here's a brief round-up of some fresh breakthroughs.
Wave to the Camera Watching You From 15,000 Feet
Imagine if there were two small drones hanging out in the sky at
15,000 feet, surveilling the whole of Manhattan. That's what the
government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
researchers are now trying to develop.
Photo by DARPA
Their Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging
System (ARGUS-IS) uses a 1.8-gigapixel video camera so precise
that it could spot a single person waving on the ground. What is
even more amazing is that the super camera is comprised of 368
standard phone camera modules extracted from common smartphones.
Not scared yet? Then you should know that the system could also
track moving objects including cars and people.
to get a better sense of its capabilities and start mourning your
Remote Brain Control? We're Not Far Off
Remember that scene in
where Neo had all the knowledge and skills required for his
mission loaded directly into his brain? Or imagine if you were a
bystander in the case of an emergency, and a trained doctor could
connect right to your brain remotely so that you could perform
all the required operations on the victims in need, even though
you don't have any special medical skills.
Both scenarios could soon become reality as a
recent Brazil-US study suggests
. (A less scientific explanation is
Photo from the scientific report of Miguel Pais-Vieira, Mikhail
Lebedev, Carolina Kunicki, Jing Wang & Miguel A. L.
The researchers were able to connect two rat brains so that the
"knowledge" about a certain skill (press that particular lever,
get a reward, for example) was transmitted in real time from one
rat to another in a cage 4,000 miles away.
So forget "body mass index" -- here comes the new, trendier
definition for BMI. It stands for brain-to-machine interface and
it will soon revolutionize the way we get or share knowledge.
It can be scary though. Imagine hackers breaking into your brain
and "taking control" of your body. Or downloading the essential
skills you deemed unique. Or creating botnets of rats or other
animals. Security giants like
) may need to adjust to those new types of threats fairly soon.
Get Ready to Welcome Living Computers
Stanford University researchers
the invention of a transistor-like structure built with human
gene substances, RNA and DNA. Though it has a limited application
now, the "biological transistor" could
pave the way
for more advanced technology including a most intriguing
possibility: the creation of computers that operate not on
electrons, but on biological substances within living cells.
Photo by ynse
And it'll probably happen sooner than we expect, allowing all
the crazy biocomputing things you've read about in sci-fiction
books and seen in movies to become a reality.
Fly-Sized Drones? Don't Be Surprised
Already frightening at full size, drones are now being downscaled
to the size of a common fly by
, making them potentially creepier.
Photo by Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon
Even though these robo-flies are receiving control and power
signals through a wire, remember that these are just the first
generation of the category. More advanced tiny, flying drones are
to come. Perhaps they'll be fitted with solar batteries and carry
tiny radios for wireless control.
Be sure to check out this
and think for a moment how immensely useful (or deadly) those
miniscule drones might become when mass produced.
While still somewhat in a prototype phase and cursed with
glasses that are always connected and always surveilling
might well become a game-changer in social order as we know it.
So far, the implications of using products like Google Glass seem
to vary. We expect some functions will be welcomed - like the
ability to pull up a map or other relevant information straight
in front of your eyes - but others are controversial. Will Google
Glass further destroy our privacy and make socialization awkward?
("Is he looking at me or at his Google Glass screen?")
Photo by Google
The Tesla Model S Is the New Toyota Prius
number of institutions
have already prohibited people from wearing Google Glass on their
premises, and the list of venues barring the device is sure to
grow. With its video recording capabilities limited only by
battery life, Google Glass allows users to breach others' privacy
literally in the blink of an eye.
) comes up with something even more pervasive - and that rumored
smart watch project doesn't count - Google Glass will remain on
the top of the most impressive -- and scariest -- technological
innovations so far. And it's almost ready for the mass market.