ACCELER8OR

Jan 16 2012

Le Future According To Val, Part One: When Technologies Meet, Interact, and Things Go Boom.

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So here we are in the year 2012, which far too many people predict will be the year the world ends. Some believe in cosmic disaster; some believe aliens will make contact; some believe “God” will “return” and magically wipe away everyone who doesn’t believe “the right things”. All of them share a single common problem — a complete lack of evidence of any sort.

Yet even among those who dismiss these “doomsdagry predictions,” you find those who proclaim dooms of a different sort, such as claims that we are fast approaching the “death of innovation” or even the “death of advanced civilization.” Even these predictions are hindered by a lack of any provable evidence, and joined by a single common theme — fear of the future.

There is a reason for this. The future is a very scary place. Not because we have reached an ending, which in reality, we certainly have, but because so few people can see beyond that ending to the birth that will follow. This isn’t a unique situation, as we’ve been through similar processes previously, most notably following the invention of the printing press that lead to the end of the Catholic Church’s monolithic existence by sparking the protestant revolution; made reading a common skill and enabled the Renaissance. More recently, we experienced the industrial revolution that has lead to our current world. It’s this “world” that is reaching its end. But this is neither doom, nor a disaster, even though it will most certainly be chaotic and sadly cost far too many lives as we make a transition from our present reality into an entirely new and different one.

It’s this new and different reality that I see coming that underlies everything I have written, and that has caused some to call me all sorts of names — from wild eyed optimist to certified lunatic. The names are pretty meaningless, because they simply reflect the inability of many to grasp the connections and implications of the various technologies I report on. For this, I must apologize, since there are so many interconnections that it is hard to give a complete picture. That is, however, the purpose of this two part article — to give a brief overview of the connections and describe how those connections interact to produce the end result that I perceive.

To begin, I view the human animal as driven primarily by two instincts, which in combination produce the overwhelming majority of the complex behaviors of the human race. The first instinct is survival. We are genetically programmed to survive. And as part of this instinct, we form collectives, because collectives are a mechanism that promotes our survival. The second instinct is reproduction. We are genetically programmed to compete for sex. Note I specifically say sex because for the majority of history, mankind has been seeking ways to get more sex without the reproductive aspect coming into play. Sex is the universal drive. Actual reproduction is secondary.

It is the interplay of these two drives that leads us to form collectives to promote our common survival, and then to compete within those collectives for sex, which leads to the creation of Pecking Orders. I discuss this far more fully in my blog post, On Government, which also discusses the interplay of these instincts to create the “Status Game” that underlies much of human activity. The “Status Game” is one of the primary drivers that I look at for analyzing any given technology. In essence, I ask myself “how will this technology be used to increase or decrease an individual’s status, and how will this affect the pecking order.” Almost any technology will have an effect on the pecking order, though that effect is not always immediately apparent. There are many other aspects I examine as well, many of them I covered in my H+ article, “A Peek into the Demoness’s Mind,” but my primary focus is always “how will this affect the status quo” Why? Because it’s the social aspects of technology that truly dictate how a technology will be used, how it will spread through society, and ultimately determine what impact that technology has on our world.

And it’s that social impact that primarily determines what technologies I report on, because certain technologies have the long term effect of being what I call “Great Levelers” in that, regardless what of their immediate short term effects are, in the long term they all show the extreme likelihood of “leveling the field” and effectively removing many of the “Pillars” that support the near vertical pecking order of our current era, and will cause that pecking order to essentially collapse into a nearly horizontal one in the not too distant future, which will directly result in a world in which the overwhelming majority of causes of human suffering, war, crime, and injustice will no longer exist.

So with that clarified, let’s see where it all goes, shall we?

In my initial articles on H+, I opened up with a discussion on VR, and how we have arrived at the stage of “good enough VR,” then proceeded to discuss the “Metaverse” — the combined worldspace of augmented reality, virtual reality and the mirror reality. And then, I finished discussing how I saw VR as the “Gateway” to the “Big Three” of Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics.) Since then I’ve written on the numerous advances in graphene, 3D printers, and the possibility of extreme body modification. Looked at singly, these each have extremely large potential for disruptive upheaval, which I discuss in the relevant article and their commentary, but their largest effects will happen at the intersection where all of these technologies will synergistically magnify their effects on the pecking order. In short, they meet, interact, and things go boom.

You are likely all aware of Moore’s Law and the exponential increase in computing power it has successfully predicted for decades. What you might not be aware of is that once we begin incorporating graphene and CNTs into advanced processors, that law is going to be obsolete because the rate of increasing computing power will likely leap several orders of magnitude almost overnight. That massive increase in computing power in and of itself may not seem that significant until you begin to realize many of the other potentials inherent in the use of graphene electronics, some of which I covered here in “Here Comes Film Computing.” Graphene is not merely useful for making processors, but displays, cameras, lidars, solar cells, and basically nearly every single form of electronic device we currently have figured out how to make. But beyond its uses in electronics, graphene has amazing structural properties. A sheet the thinness of cellophane would be strong enough to support the weight of an elephant while still retaining near perfect optical transparency. As such, it has the potential to replace nearly every material we currently use to construct almost every manufactured product from knick-knacks to skyscrapers. When you combine both of these uses, you might begin grasping some of the massive impact graphene will begin having in the very near future as we begin manufacturing massive quantities of it. Carbon is only the single most abundant element in the world and roll-to-roll manufacturing of massive sheets of graphene has already been accomplished.

So to truly understand the impact that graphene will have requires looking at it from several directions at once, most of which many people find brain bending in the extreme. Imagine a world in which nearly every single manufactured product is not only constructed from graphene, but incorporates graphene electronics, and in which nearly every single visual characteristic is controllable, and likely many non-visual ones as well. Imagine a toothbrush that has bristles you can make soft or stiff as you please, clothes that change their fit and appearance depending on whether you are at work or at the bar. Imagine a world in which all these things are available for minimal cost because they are all made from carbon; and produced on demand using fractions of ounces of actual material. A world in which everything is programmable, customizable, and interactive. Imagine cars that you have to place weights in to keep from blowing away in a strong wind, but which can bounce like rubber when you somehow manage to crash head on into another car, absorbing almost all of the force of impact without harming the passenger while taking no damage from impact. A world in which nothing ever needs a repair because if something malfunctions, you toss it into the recycler and print out a new one. A world in which no product of a material nature has any value at all because it can be instantly reproduced, copied endlessly, and improved upon by anyone, where any product manufactured out of iron or wood or stone is considered junk because it is such an inferior, clunky, and unintelligent material to build from.

Then I would like you to consider the next layer. Add to this world of ultracheap carbon based products, a “Mirror” of reality, a cyber universe that merges the virtual and the real, in which the very world you move through is an interactive computer interface. A world where every person you look at, talk to, or interact with is just as programmable, customizable and interactive as the scenery around you. Where your “personal space” is as malleable as a dreamscape. Imagine a world in which a combination of prosthetics, bioprinters, and even mere virtual costumes could make it possible for every single person in the world to be their own personal “perfect” self, regardless of what that self might be, or even if that self changes from day to day. Imagine a world in which you record your every moment of existence to enable you to possess perfect recall; where even the very sensations you experience could be recorded and replayed whenever you desire. Visualize a world wherein the entirety of all human knowledge is available; in which everyone from adult to child has access to the finest professors of every subject at a mere inquiry. Visualize a world in which science itself is no longer the play-toy of a few; where knowledge is no longer a commodity available to only those who can pay; but free for every single human being on the planet to pursue to their hearts content. Think about a world in which every single desire and fantasy can be fulfilled, in which all the darkest, most secret fantasies you ever masturbated to could be simulated.

That last one probably threw you for a loop, didn’t it? But it really shouldn’t have, because I did say at the beginning of this article that sex is one of the primary drivers of human behavior. Seriously, I am a succubus precisely because that fact. I assure you, sex will be a major factor at play in the creation of “perfect selves,” regardless of if that self is merely a perfected version of your basic appearance or if you choose such a radically different appearance such as myself. And this is where the social aspects of all of this technology really begin that synergistic mixing that leads to boom.

Consider a reality in which everyone is Superman. One in which everyone is a “hottie;” in which every single person in the world looks like a porno model, regardless of race sex or species. Because with the combination of graphene processors, 3d printed carbon based “smart materials”, VR, and biomodification via stemcells, that is the inevitable direction I see things progressing.

If you are like many people, you are probably screaming no at the top of your lungs; certain that a world so very radically different than the one you are used to will ever be possible. The problem here is that you don’t truly understand how the “status game” works.  The pecking order exists to enable our DNA to merge “the best” (itself) with “the best” (a mate with superior DNA).  How this drive manifests itself differs in each gender, as well as in how strongly it manifests from person to person, but that is meaningless to the “pecking order,” which is how we decide “superior” from “inferior.” We compete to determine who is “better.” Wealth, power, good looks, and a thousand other “markers” have been created merely to allow our DNA to find and merge with the best other human DNA it can find. That’s it. Everything else is complications we’ve invented as smart apes to hide from each other the fact that all we really want to do is get into each other’s pants. Even us geeks want our chosen mates to desire us for our “big brains” so that we can bump uglies as often as we can. You might want to deny this fact, but I’ll lay you odds that the reason why you want to deny it will be because you will be afraid admitting this truth could lead to less nookie.

So, now that you are suitably outraged, let me direct your attention to an H+ article by my friend Hank Pellissier on Sexbots.

I particularly recommend reading all of the comments, and yes, I am aware it is a very long read since there are a lot of them, because they cover an enormous set of issues, not the least of which is the depth to which people will lie to themselves about sex and gender roles. However, to save time for those of you doing the tl;dr thing, I will quote the original point I made in response, which is far down the page.

“Sex is everywhere. No-one in our culture can avoid being exposed to it. But at the same time, we deny it constantly. Its okay for a kid to watch the cold blooded killing of a hundred people in an action movie, but heaven’s forbid he watches Debbie Does Dallas. Go online, and well, as everyone knows, the internet is for porn.

And even that isn’t the craziest thing we do. Our teens are raised to view dating as a war between a girl trying to stay a virgin, and the boys trying to get her to put out by any means possible. Any girl who fails to stay a virgin is a slut, and any boy who fails to get laid is a faggot.

We worship action heroes who treat the opposite sex as momentary pleasures, and who’s ability to get between their co-stars legs is taken for granted. We tell our kids in every single way possible SEX IS GOOD, while hypocritically trying to tell them it’s bad.

Second Life is often times ridiculed as a “pornoverse” but to be brutally honest about things, SL has sex poses, fetish gear, and everything else you can think of to appeal to the pervert in you for one reason, and one reason alone.

PEOPLE WANTED IT THAT WAY.

Released from the restraints of public hypocrisy people want to release their pent up libidos.

And now we are going to be entering the age of VR. As Joe Quirk said in the latest issue of H+, we’re looking at a future where clothes are going to be a joke. Between those sext messages you sent on your phone, scanning technology that will map your body to the nanometer of accuracy for 3d modeling, and AR that can put those two together to create an “X-ray” app, your modesty will cease to exist.

Sexbots? As controversial as they may sound now. we probably won’t even notice them growing more popular. To many VR people like me will be busy breaking down social taboos and inhibitions to make sexbots seem like much of anything.

And when those sexbots can act as surrogates? XDDDDDD

Needless to say, every last bit of tech applied to sexbots will also end up as a cybernetic enhancement option as well. Can we say the end of erectile dysfunction and the death of K-Y?

So, as a succubus, you could just say I’m simply preparing for the inevitable, and definitely highly sexual, future.”

I am making this point because the ability of all of this emerging technology to create such a “leveling” effect as I discussed earlier is tied into this basic driver of the “Status Game.” Personal appearance is a marker because it determines “sexiness” on one level and “genetic superiority” on another. Wealth is a marker because it is another sign of “genetic superiority”. At every level, the higher up the “pecking order” you are, the more our genetically driven instincts make us want to have sex with you. Additionally, the higher up the pecking order you are, the greater the demands you make for tribute as a reward for being “superior” and the greater the number of people you find to be undeserving “inferior” beings. We are programmed to desire greater status and instinctively embrace anything we perceive as granting it. It’s a pied piper we have chased for all our existence, equaled by only one other desire… immortality.

And it’s the lure that will pull us inevitably towards faster computers, better VR, greater ability to manipulate our own bodies, and better sex. And that is where the consequences come in.

To be continued.

Sep 07 2011

From “Dirty” To “Pristine” Uses Of Technology

 

I wrote a line on the Acceler8or Facebook page that went ‎”I look for the ‘dirty’ uses of technology, and then trace backwards from them to the ‘pristine’ uses.” R.U. wanted me to explain that line a little more and discuss exactly what I meant by it.

So I’d like to start by discussing why I stress “being a succubus” as part of my articles, because it’s part and parcel of those “dirty uses” I was talking about, and it gives me a chance to talk about myself and how I see this coming about in a manner that might sound a lot less like “wishful thinking” than most of you probably think possible.

So, first off, let’s start by examining the end result: Valkyrie Ice, 7 foot tall Amazon succubus. She has batwings, cloven hooves, a long prehensile tail with a spaded tip that can act as a third hand, pointed ears, upper and lower fangs, and rams horns. Why I want to look like this isn’t important. I simply do, and I am willing to go to great lengths to get my way because I’m human, irrational, and don’t give a flying fuck about whether you approve of my desires in any way.  Pretty much like most humans. The big difference is that I’m actually willing to be honest about my desires instead of keeping them concealed out of fear of being socially acceptable. You might not find succubi attractive, but I know for a fact that there are many other people out there besides me who do, and while “the majority” might raise an eyebrow at me, that still leaves millions of people in the “long tail” who are going to be perfectly happy chasing mine.

If you are not familiar with “The Long Tail” it’s the marketing term for the ever smaller demographic divisions that lie outside the “mass market.” It’s the “niche” market, the subdividisions between 1 person and “everybody.” Everybody likes food. Not everyone likes “Aunt Wheezies Real Coon Squeezins!” (No, that’s not a real product.) The “Long Tail” is what powers Amazon and EBay, finding the other people who want that still packaged 1st edition Jawa with vinyl cape and basically catering to desires that are too “small” for the big guys to bother with. The “Giant’s” can’t concern themselves with anything that won’t sell to everyone, and this has been the model for the entire industrial revolution. If “Everyone” doesn’t buy it, it’s just not worth making. However, in the age of the internet, the “Long Tail” is proving to be a market many times larger than the “Mass Market” and some companies are beginning to realize diversity is the future, not the old “You can have it in any color you like so long as it’s Black” mindset of the megacorps.

And with so many numerous technological developments ongoing, understanding the “long tail” is crucial to any attempts to predict the future. In short, any future predictions that assume that the current corporate ideals of “You take it our way, or you get nothing” will continue to remain in force are flawed. Any assumption that the “majority” will prevent the development of “odd and strange” technology to cater to individuals like me is based in the illusion that there actually is a “Majority” when in truth, every single one of us belongs to one small subsection of the “Long Tail” in one way or another. You may not want hooves and tails, but you might love to have a new nose, or to look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. You might want neon hair, or just hair that is curly, but everyone has some desire that is not  universally shared.  

And this is what leads to the Law of Unintended consequences, technology version. “For every developed technology, there will be the ‘intended use’ it was created for and an unknown number of ‘unintended uses’ that will be found for it.”

So let’s look at my desires to be a succubus again, now that we understand that those desires are neither unique nor universal, merely one demographic among endless others in the “Long Tail.” In fact, if you go to SecondLife and do a search for “demons” you will find there are hundreds of shops dedicated to… well, horns, hooves, spaded tails, wings and everything else “demonic.” In fact, one of the most successful long term shops in all of SL is Grendel’s Children, a shop exclusively for non-human Avatars and accessories.

So I’m going to set aside long term futuristic developments in biotech and such which could lead to my physically becoming a succubus, and even set aside such “dismissible” technology as VR to look at how I could physically look like a succubus inside of ten years. We’re going to let our imaginations go wild and think like a Hollywood makeup technician with free reign on methods and an unlimited budget, and design a “succubus suit” that would allow me to walk onto a set looking like the demoness I want to be. That shouldn’t really be a huge stretch, since it’s already been done with Tim Curry in his role as “Darkness” in Ridley Scott’s Legend. I will however add one caveat, I’m going to assume the use of a lot of “in the lab” technology that could enable me to act in this suit exactly like I really had this body without any “digital” effects being added in post processing or needing a crew of puppeteers to control.

So, first off, let’s start with the body suit itself. I’m going to want it to be lightweight and unrestrictive while still supporting wings, horns, hooves and a tail. It’s going to have to fit to my form and allow me to “be naked” while still being “in costume.” It’s also going to need to be tough enough to stand up to stunts and to contain its own animatronics for the wings, tail and hooves because I’m expecting to be filmed using 360 degree camera technology and I can’t have cables and power lines connected to the suit or it will ruin the “no post processing digital effects” rule. In fact, I want this suit to look so realistic that I can walk down the street in it and not have people be able to tell it’s a suit. I’m even going to want it to be wearable dancing… and even during sex.

I know, I’m so demanding. I’m making this nearly impossible… or am I? The fact is, I’m deliberately setting the conditions to illustrate that there are numerous “in the lab” technologies that could make this a reality, with only minor modifications to suit my “other than intended” uses.

Let’s start off with the actual body suit, because it should be obvious that it’s going to require some pretty sophisticated materials to make. Metal and plastic are just not going to cut it. Traditional servomotors won’t do either. So we look to the labs, and we see a lot of developments in metamaterials. There’s a variety of potential materials to chose from, graphene being one of the most promising, although boron carbide is also a potential choice, or possibly even Kevlar. We’ve even got Aluminum foam, aerogels (and artificial muscles made from spider-silk, CNTs, and various polymers. That makes it pretty clear that while I cannot specifically say which of the various laboratory-made metamaterials will be cheap, easy to manufacture, or which will be easiest to use in a 3d printer, I can be pretty sure that one or another of them will be available to do the various things I’m going to need this suit to do.

The first thing is that it has to be skin tight. If I look at the artificial muscles being worked on, I can envision the possibility of a suit made from them that will “shrink to fit” perfectly. And as they are extremely lightweight fibers, there’s a good possibility I can make it transparent. Additionally, given the strength of said “muscles,” making a harness to keep the wings firmly attached to my back, tail firmly attached to my rear, and make sure my hoof shoes and horns fit without wobbling should be pretty easy as well. As these parts would be made out of extremely lightweight but superstrong materials, as discussed above, they should be fairly easy to keep tightly fitted to the body in the appropriate areas, especially if we have the entire suit being actively controlled to maintain optimum fit by minimally expanding and contracting as it senses my body motions.

Wait a minute, you say, how is it supposed to do that? Well, that’s where printable electronics comes in. Stanford University just perfected a means to make a “decal” out of an electronic circuit that can then be applied to any material. That suit could be literally controlled on a thread by thread basis to ensure perfect fit. In addition, it could be adjusted to provide support, like a bit of tummy tuck and breast support. While wearing it, my body could look as perfect as it’s possible to look, while (hopefully) still allowing for a “nude” look and full freedom of motion. And those same “artificial muscles” could be used to mimic the actual muscles that would be found in batwings, making them able to extend and flex just like a real one. With properly made wings, the “bouncing” effect seen in many mechanical devices that use servos could be eliminated. Also, the same “muscle cloth” could be used as the wing membranes. As for the tail, well Festo’s already created a robot “elephant’s trunk” arm, meaning a full prehensile tail is quite feasible.

In fact, the hooves might be one of the more difficult things to properly make, because it has to keep my foot on tiptoe, provide support to keep it that way without sacrificing the ability to bend my ankle, as well as control the actual hoof to keep the base of the hoof aligned to the plain of the floor to ensure good footing. This likely means a bit of exoskeleton will be needed, essentially making the hooves a prosthetic device that fits over my foot and compensates for the stress of walking like a ballerina all day. (And yes, I could, if asked, draw a potential design sketch.)

But how to control it? Well, Epoch’s Emotiv EEG headset is already available, so we simply include a version of it into the skull cap that is snuggly fitted to my head, keeping my horns solidly in place, and viola — with the proper control software and some practice, I have a “Succubus” suit that fit’s like a second skin. But we still need to provide power for all those electronics don’t we? Lucky me that several dozen different breakthroughs in ultracapacitor batteries (Google it as there are far too many to link), as well as flexible solar have been in the headlines recently, no? Those wings, with their large surface areas would make great solar collectors and there are multiple flexible storage solutions that could be sandwiched into the membranes as well.

Now a lot of this would be difficult to make right now, but with the likely advances in 3d printing over the next decade, we can certainly assume that while my suit might not be “cheap” it is likely going to be within the realm of technical feasibility. So, now that we’ve shown how we could potentially create such a suit, we have to look outside the narrow demographic of “people who want to look like succubi” and see if there’s a much broader demographic that could use this collection of technology as a solution to a much wider range of issues. I can certainly think of several. For example, the wings and musculature is likely to be seen first in a next generation model artificial arm or leg. The “skin suit” has applications as a replacement for the current “pressure suits” worn by pilots who experience high-g’s. Combined with graphene or boron carbide and some clever design, it could even be a means to create a form fitting “Ironman” exoskeleton type suit for soldiers, police, firemen, and even athletes.  Combined with an Epoc, it could possibly even be a means to enable the paralyzed to control their bodies again (prior to stemcell regeneration of nerves.) And that’s not even to mention the clothes that true “skin tight” cloth could make possible. So we can be pretty sure that a good possibility exists for the creation of the “skin suit” for reasons much less “kinky” than my demoness fetish. So now we have the “pure” uses of this technology, i.e. the uses which are broad enough to be “intentional,” and thus more likely to be developed than my rather narrow uses.

However, there is yet another factor to consider. What other demographics in the “long tail” would have alternative uses for the same technology? And I can also find plenty of those, from transvestites wanting “girl suits” to furries who would add an animal facemask with animatronics and video camera eyes to the rest, to motorcyclists (the “armored” version would probably act like a full body helmet) and even to more modest uses like “control top” panty hose that actually could act like a girdle without sacrificing important functions… like breathing.

So now, here we are, with a whole bevy of technological puzzle pieces, and a few potential ways they could be fitted together to make a variety of “solutions” to various “problems.” Will they be put together this way? Who knows? But there is a demand for products like these — or very similar ones — regardless of whether everyone shares in the demand or not. And as the “long tail” grows ever more prominent as more and more “niche markets” find their customers, I don’t doubt that my succubus suit, or something very like it, will come to be. After all, I’m a human with a desire, and willing to pay to have that desire filled, and sooner or later, someone is going to create the supply to meet my demand.

And when they do, I’m going to have fun getting my tail chased.