Uploading…of the Human Mind?

Mind uploading isn’t exactly a new idea. But technology is improving so quickly now that it’s starting to move out of the realm of science fiction and into reality.

Mind Uploading: Is it Possible?

Until recently, mind uploading was confined to the world of fiction. However, new developments may change that. The other day, Russian media mogul Dmitry Itskov unveiled his “Avatar” project. He hopes to perform mind uploading by putting a human mind into a robot within ten years. In thirty years, he hopes to develop hologram bodies. Here’s more on mind uploading from Wired.com:

The Pentagon’s new Avatar project, unveiled by Danger Room a few weeks back, sounds freaky enough: Soldiers practically inhabiting the bodies of robots, who’d act as “surrogates” for their human overlords in battle.

But according to Dmitry Itskov, a 31-year-old Russian media mogul, the U.S. military’s Avatar initiative doesn’t go nearly far enough. He’s got a massive, sci-fi-esque venture of his own that he hopes will put the Pentagon’s project to shame. Itskov’s plan: Construct robots that’ll (within 10 years, he hopes) actually store a human’s mind and keep that consciousness working. Forever…

(See Wired.com for more on mind uploading)

Real Life Battlefield Illusions?

Those wacky folks at DARPA are at it again.

DARPA & Real Life Battlefield Illusions?

Not satisfied with creating invisibility cloaks or predicting future crimes, DARPA has turned its attention to a new project called “Battlefield Illusion.” The idea is to create hallucinations during military engagements that “manage the adversary’s sensory perception.” Here’s more on the latest DARPA project from Wired:

Arthur C. Clarke once famously quipped that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So perhaps it was inevitable that the Pentagon’s extreme technology arm would eventually start acting like magicians — and try to create illusions on the front lines.

In its new budget, unveiled on Monday, Darpa introduced a new $4 million investigation into technologies that will “manage the adversary’s sensory perception” in order to “confuse, delay, inhibit, or misdirect [his] actions.” Darpa calls the project “Battlefield Illusion.” Of course.

“The current operational art of human-sensory battlefield deception is largely an ad-hoc practice,” the agency sighs as it lays out the project’s goals. But if researchers can better understand “how humans use their brains to process sensory inputs,” the military should be able to develop “auditory and visual” hallucinations that will “provide tactical advantage for our forces.”

(See Darpa’s Magic Plan: ‘Battlefield Illusions’ to Mess With Enemy Minds for the rest)

Da Vinci’s One-Wheeled Car?

During his remarkable life, Leonardo da Vinci designed versions of many extraordinary things that we use today – a calculator, a tank, and even a helicopter. But he also designed something that never quite cracked modern society – the monowheel or the one wheeled car.

The Dynasphere: Leonardo da Vinci’s Monowheel?

In 1932, Dr. John Purves, inspired by a da Vinci sketch, invented a strange monowheel vehicle known as the Dynasphere. Back then, monowheels were all the rage among inventors and were considered a potentially serious competitor to the car. This never materialized however, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment.

The Dynasphere was unique among other monowheels of its time, primarily because of its width. This provided stability so the driver didn’t have to worry about rebalancing the vehicle while driving it.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Amazingly enough, the Dynasphere monowheel could reach speeds up to 25 miles per hour. Unfortunately, it proved impossible to steer or brake. If a driver attempted to brake too hard, he or she would experience “gerbiling.” In other words, the force of braking would overcome the force of gravity. The driver would cease driving the Dynasphere monowheel and become a part of it, spinning uncontrollably along the inside of the wheel. See this Youtube video from British Pathe to watch the Dynasphere monowheel in action.

A Bullet…that Steers Itself?

The world is full of strange “future weapons.” But is it ready for self-steering bullets, capable of hitting targets over a mile away?

Future Weapons: A Bullet that Steers Itself?

So, what kind of future weapons is the world ready for? Is it ready for self-steering bullets, capable of hitting targets over a mile away? The military and Lockheed Martin seem to think so. Apparently, this new “future weapon” could be used to “minimize civilian casualties.” Unless, of course, civilians happen to be the targets in the first place. Here’s more on this strange new “future weapon” from BBC News:

A self-guiding bullet that can steer itself towards its target is being developed for use by the US military. The bullet uses tiny fins to correct the course of its flight allowing it to hit laser-illuminated targets.

It is designed to be capable of hitting objects at distances of about 2km (1.24 miles). Work on a prototype suggests that accuracy is best at longer ranges. A think tank says the tech is well-suited to snipers, but worries about it being marketed to the public…

(See the rest on this “future weapon” at BBC News)

Bulletproof…skin?

Will soldiers of the future eschew bulletproof vests for bulletproof skin?

Will Soldiers of the Future have Bulletproof Skin?

By integrating spider silk into human skin cells, researchers have developed human tissue that can withstand a bullet (okay, a bullet fired at half-speed). Still, it’s a pretty impressive achievement. Here’s more on this new bulletproof skin from New Scientist:

What if your skin could resist a speeding bullet? Now a new futuristic tissue designed by artist Jalila Essaïdi, which reinforces human skin cells with spider silk, can stop a whizzing projectile without being pierced. Although its threads may look fragile, a spider-silk weave is four times stronger than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.

…But its resistance has its limits: when shot at a full speed of 329 m/s, the bullet pierces the material and travels through it.

(See more on bulletproof skin at New Scientist)

DARPA’s Invisibility Cloak?

Yes, it’s true. Thanks to DARPA funding, a group of scientists have done the impossible. They’ve invented an invisibility cloak.

A Working Invisibility Cloak?

We first reported on invisibility cloak technology back in October 2011. This technology is a little different. But don’t get too excited…this invisibility cloak only works for 50 picoseconds…in other words, 40 trillionths of a second. That’s not enough time to blink let alone sneak through the hallways of Hogwarts. While some improvement is possible, it would apparently take a gigantic machine (18,600 miles long!) to make this invisibility cloak last for a complete second.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Still, it’s not all for naught. The invisibility cloak, developed with DARPA funding, could help improve fibre-optic communications security. Then again, it could also be used to hide computer viruses as they’re passed into high-speed data streams. Here’s more on this new invisibility cloak from Fox News:

We see events happening as light from them reaches our eyes. Usually it’s a continuous flow of light. In the new research, however, scientists were able to interrupt that flow for just an instant.

Other newly created invisibility cloaks fashioned by scientists move the light beams away in the traditional three dimensions. The Cornell team alters not where the light flows but how fast it moves, changing in the dimension of time, not space.

They tinkered with the speed of beams of light in a way that would make it appear to surveillance cameras or laser security beams that an event, such as an art heist, isn’t happening…

(Read the rest on this new invisibility cloak at Fox News)

Thomas Edison…Kills an Elephant?

One of our favorite topics here at Guerrilla Explorer is what we like to call “Dark History,” or the ugly bits of the past that get papered over by modern scholars eager to tell hero’s tales. Case in point…the man who killed Topsy the elephant via electrocution…none other than Thomas Edison himself.

Thomas Edison: Inventer or Patent Abuser?

According to the history books, Edison, aka The Wizard of Menlo Park, was a prolific inventor responsible for creating many wonderful things, including the light bulb. Except Edison didn’t create the light bulb. He just took Sir Joseph Swan’s working design and made a few small modifications. Then he patented it in America and proceeded to publicize himself as the true inventor. Indeed, Edison’s abuse of the patent system is reason he’s credited as the 4th most prolific inventor in history.

The Electrocution of Topsy the Elephant?

But today we’re focusing on something else, namely the War of Currents. The War of Currents was a long-pitched ferocious battle to determine the future of electric power distribution in the United States. It pitted Edison’s direct current (DC) against the alternating current (AC) promoted by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. By January 4, 1903, Edison had essentially lost the war. But he refused to give up. Instead, he resorted to fear-mongering and attempted to show the dangers of AC. How? By electrocuting an elephant named Topsy.

Of course, standards were different back then. Still, the death of Topsy showed the lengths the desperate Edison was willing to go to win the War of Currents. It was a brutal demonstration.

Here’s more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy from Wired:

Edison’s aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting “Westinghoused”). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

Park officials originally considered hanging Topsy but the SPCA objected on humanitarian grounds, so someone suggesting having the pachyderm “ride the lightning,” a practice that had been used in the American penal system since 1890 to dispatch the condemned. Edison was happy to oblige…

(See Wired.com for more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy)

A Virus…that Hacks the Human Mind?

Last year, Craig Venter created a form of artificial life, which he called “Synthia.” Now, the field of Synthetic Biology is racing ahead and experts are beginning to wonder what sort of hell this new science might unleash upon the world. Are scientists close to developing a virus that can hack the human mind? In other words, will mind-reading soon be a reality?

Is Mind-Reading a Reality?

The short answer is “No.” Mind-jacking and mind-reading have no basis in reality…at least for the moment. The longer answer is more complicated. Scientists believe that our expertise in the field of genetic engineering is “out-accelerating natural evolution by a factor of millions of years.” And since the human brain is similar in some ways to a computer, it stands to reason that a virus could be created that would allow one person to essentially hack another person’s brain. In other words, mind-reading.

“I advocate that cells are living computers and DNA is a programming language. This is one of the most powerful technologies in the world. I want to see life programmed and used to solve global challenges so that humanity can achieve a sustainable relationship within the biosphere. It’s growing fast. It will grow faster than computer technologies.” ~ Andrew Hessel, Singularity University

How long until Mind-Reading becomes a Reality?

And that day might be closer than you think. According to IBM’s “5 in 5” predictions, mind-reading will be possible within five years. This will be done by linking the human brain to electronic devices. Some early applications include gaming as well as developing a better understanding of brain disorders like autism.

“While much of the brain remains a mystery, progress has been made in understanding and reading electrical brain activity were we can use computers to see how the brain responds to facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and the thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions. So the idea is to use these electrical synapses to also do everyday activities such as placing a phone call, turning on the lights or even in the healthcare space for rehabilitation.” ~ Kevin Brown, IBM Software Group’s Emerging Technologies

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Once mind-reading becomes a reality, it’s not a far jump to mind control. Of course, there are many potential benefits to these new technologies. But the risks remain profound. Will we someday be uploading the equivalent of security software to our brains to protect them from attack? Only time will tell…

Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov

In 1997, Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player of all time, squared off against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. This epic rematch has since been called “the most spectacular chess event in history.” Who won this “Man vs. Machine” battle?

Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 1?

With two six-month exceptions, Garry Kasparov was ranked “chess world number one” by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) from January 1984 to January 2006. Although there is room for debate, he is widely considered the greatest chess player of all time.

In 1996, he played an IBM supercomputer named Deep Blue in a 6-match series. Grandmaster Joel Benjamin lent his expertise to the computer by helping to develop its “opening book.” On February 10 of that year, Deep Blue won its first match against Kasparov, making it the first form of artificial intelligence to defeat a reigning world champion. However, Kasparov won three and drew two out of the next five games, giving him a 4-2 victory.

Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 2?

Although Deep Blue was beaten, it wasn’t finished. Programmers upgraded the computer and set up a six-game rematch with Kasparov in May 1997. Kasparov was ready but so was the machine. It could evaluate 200 million positions per second and was capable of searching anywhere from 6 to more than 20 moves ahead.

Predictably, this match was closer than the previous one. After five games, each player had one victory and there were three draws. With the score knotted at 2.5 apiece, man and machine settled in for the final bout.

The final game lasted less than an hour. And when the dust had cleared, Deep Blue had won handily. At last, machine had defeated man…or had it?

Did Garry Kasparov lose Confidence? Or did Deep Blue Cheat?

Kasparov’s loss was hard to explain. He opened in somewhat questionable fashion. Worse, he switched up his his moves and fell into “a well known book trap.” Chess historians speculate that Kasparov was tired and had lost confidence. He was also unhappy with the fact that he was denied access to Deep Blue’s recent games while the team that operated Deep Blue could study hundreds of his own. Finally, over the course of the series, he’d chosen to play numerous openings and defenses designed to catch Deep Blue off-guard. While these moves worked to some degree, they also forced him to play in ways that were unfamiliar to him.

However, Kasparov also had a darker theory. He claimed to have seen evidence of human creativity in the second game, which would’ve been against the rules. IBM denied the allegation but strangely, initially refused to show him Deep Blue’s logbooks. Eventually, Kasparov went onto Larry King Live and challenged Deep Blue to a third match consisting of ten games which would not be sponsored by IBM. If he lost, he promised to recognize Deep Blue as the world champion. IBM, oddly enough, refused and dismantled its chess playing machine.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

In January 2003, Kasparov went to war with Deep Junior, a machine capable of considering three million moves per second. The series began in similar fashion to the 1997 one, with three draws and each side winning a game. In the rubber match, Kasparov played to a draw. He would achieve the same result against a separate computer in November of that year.

A sizable percentage of observers believe that computers can now regularly defeat grandmasters and indeed, high-profile games in 2005 and 2006 offer nothing to contradict that notion. Meanwhile, Kasparov has since moved onto politics, namely in opposition to Vladimir Putin. Will he ever return to defend mankind’s honor against machines? Only time will tell.

An iPhone…in 1922?

In 1921, the cinemagazine Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was launched. In Issue 41, a strange invention was showcased, one that wouldn’t come to practical fruition for almost a century. Did someone nearly invent the first iPhone…in 1922?

Chaos!

So, as many of you know, I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

The First iPhone…in 1922?

Now, Eve and Everybody’s Film Review was designed to show women “doing interesting and novel jobs and hobbies, fashion displays and novelty items ranging from excerpts of musicals and plays to slow-motion camera studies of nature.” And indeed, the film in question definitely fits into that category.

“Bless us, they’re never still – always up to something new. And Eve’s latest invasion is in the wireless world – ” ~ Eve and Everybody’s Film Review #41

The ironically-silent film clip turned up in an old film archive owned by British Pathe. As you can see, it shows two women walking on a sidewalk, presumably in the United States which dominated the telephone industry at that time. They stop next to a fire hydrant and prepare to use “Eve’s Portable Wireless Phone.” Using a wire, they connect the phone to the fire hydrant. Apparently, “this provides the radio phone with a ground connection as was necessary in the old analogue radios.”

Afterward, they raise an umbrella which is also connected to the “first iPhone,” presumably to act as an aerial device. They proceed to speak to an operator who plays a record for them. They stand outside (in the snow mind you) and enjoy their proto-iPhone.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

As far as I know, no one has determined the first iPhone’s inventor yet or whether it reached any stage of production. Still, it’s pretty amazing that someone actually attempted to create a portable phone and music player almost 90 years ago. Back then, some might’ve argued that such a device lacked convenience and ease of use. After all, how many women would’ve wanted to carry around a large wooden box full of wires and hang out by a fire hydrant? Fortunately, Eve’s Fashion Review had an answer for those critics.

”It’s Eve’s portable wireless phone – and won’t hubby have a time when he has to carry one!”