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From Here To Singularity

"The time from here to Singularity depends sensitively on the particulars of what we humans do during the next decade (and even the next few years)."

Archive for Technology

Look! Up in the sky! It’s Virtual Earth! (video)

Following on from yesterday’s post (well, not really) is this TED video demonstrating the latest in virtual real reality processing. Something tells me that this isn’t going to be as good as the real thing. But, I sure if we wait a decade or so…

Microsoft’s Stephen Lawler gives a whirlwind tour of Virtual Earth, moving up, down and through its hyperreal cityscapes with dazzlingly fluidity, a remarkable feat that requires staggering amounts of data to bring into focus. Google might still be ahead of the game, but even in beta, Virtual Earth shows incredible promise. Microsoft’s visions for the product — as a provider of real-time weather and traffic data, or a realistic backdrop for game developers and IM conversations, or virtual ad space — all seem well within the limits of possibility.

TED | Talks | Stephen Lawler: Look! Up in the sky! It’s Virtual Earth! (video)

Face-Recognition Software now better than humans

neural net
One of the fundamental hurdles that artificial intelligence has yet to overcome is in the realm of pattern matching. Neural networks in general and the human mind specifically are fabulous pattern matching machines. Neural networks work on a problem in parallel, and consequently are ideally suited to the process of quickly recognizing a match to a phenomenon from very large set of possible matches that it has previously been trained to remember.

However, brute processing force, combined with modern algorithms have now developed into machine recognition superior to our own, and in a field where we are he most highly specialized in the task: facial recognition.

machine recognition of human individuals has improved tenfold since 2002 and a hundredfold since 1995. Indeed, the best face-recognition algorithms now perform more accurately than most humans can manage.

What’s more while human recognition is heavily weighted towards recognizing the faces of those we are most familiar with, modern facial recognition algorithms are equally accurate with all faces – faster then we are capable of recognizing those we are closest to.

Technology Review: Better Face-Recognition Software

Technology assisted synesthesia

We have known for hundreds of years that our sensory systems are very maleable – and can adapt to all sorts of input very rapidly. Investigating the inversion of the image on the retina, George Stratton developed a paid of “upside down glasses”, that flipped the image delivered to his eyes. After 4 days of wearing them, he found himself seeing ‘normally’ again – through the glasses. I then took him another four days of stumbling around not wearing them to ‘switch back’ to normal sight.

Modern day Strattons are exploring more practical, and equally amazing readaptions of sensation.

For six weird weeks in the fall of 2004, Udo Wächter had an unerring sense of direction. Every morning after he got out of the shower, Wächter, a sysadmin at the University of Osnabrück in Germany, put on a wide beige belt lined with 13 vibrating pads — the same weight-and-gear modules that make a cell phone judder. On the outside of the belt were a power supply and a sensor that detected Earth’s magnetic field. Whichever buzzer was pointing north would go off. Constantly.

“It was slightly strange at first,” Wächter says, “though on the bike, it was great.” He started to become more aware of the peregrinations he had to make while trying to reach a destination. “I finally understood just how much roads actually wind,” he says. He learned to deal with the stares he got in the library, his belt humming like a distant chain saw. Deep into the experiment, Wächter says, “I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn’t get lost, even in a completely new place.”

It’s only a matter of time until we all start using our bodies sensory inputs in ways they were never intended…

Wired 15.04: Mixed Feelings

Brainstem surgery on a three year old

brainstem surgeryThis little girl is three years old, and receiving a brainstem implant. This is not a cochlear implant – according to the article, the auditory nerve was not functioning at all, so why bother with it – just plug straight into the brain.

It was an operation that not only gave the three-year-old her place in history — she is the first child in Australasia to receive an auditory brainstem implant — but could pave the way for revolutionary advances in medicine.

Small hole opens Jorjas mind to a sound future – National –

Prenatal baby name search engine optimization

If you are an online presence, having a high search ranking is a rather good thing. If you don’t show up at the top of the list, the chances you will be visited by a someone at a search declines logarithmically, which cuts you out of the running for whatever they are searching for before you even get your goods on the table.

Well, no one isn’t online any more: we are all ‘online presences’. So, the logical conclusion would be that search engine optimizing isn’t just for web sites selling crap: if you want junior to have that one-up on the competition, the extra boost that gets them the job/the promotion/the corner office, you need to get working with engine optimizing him or her.
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