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"'With today's technology, only very elementary
objects can be teleported,' said Gisin. 'Possibly,
larger objects like a molecule will be teleported in
my life-time, but really large objects are not
teleportable using foreseeable technologies.'
Scientists say there is simply too much information
in a human that needs to be teleported to make this
'The key thing for now is the sheer amount of
information involved,' said Braunstein. 'Even with
the best communication channels we could conceive of
at the moment, transferring all that info would take
the age of the universe.'"
Nicholas Gisin, Physicist, Univ. of Geneva, and
Samuel Braunstein, Professor of Infomatics, Univ. of
Wales at Bangor.
From the Jan. 29 National Geographic News
our attention by reader Dana Hoggatt)
We may see teleportation move
to molecules, as predicted. And the thought of
transmitting the "data of a human" might well still
seem "impossible" at that time. Yet I remember all
too well when the fastest that we could transmit
data over a phone line was 10 characters per second,
or 19,200 bits/second over a direct connection
between two side-by-side computers. The thought of
transmitting a detailed color digital picture at
that time was similarly "impossible," yet it's
When I graphed the
commonly-available end-user data rates from those
days of 110 baud modems through today, I found (to
my surprise) that the speed at which we can
communicate has been growing at an exponential
rate. So long as that rate of growth continues, I
can conceive that the day will come when
transmitting the information of "a human" might have
the negligible impact of Emailing a picture, today.
This might not transpire, of
course. But I suggest that now that the idea of
teleportation has been proven and demonstrated (if
only for miniscule bits so far), the idea of Star
Trek's Transporter has moved from the realm of "sci
fi" into the realm of the "merely difficult."
I recall when, just after 9600
baud modems were introduced, a respected modem
engineer advised me that "THIS was the time to buy,"
since he could mathematically prove that data could
not be transmitted over the phone line any faster.
And he was right. But he failed to take into
account that human ingenuity would find ways to pack
more than one bit of information into each bit
actually transmitted. It may sound like smoke and
mirrors, but it works -- which is why modems are
five-times faster today.
That's one example of why I
believe so strongly that human innovation can do
almost anything, given the desire, time, and
resources (or sometimes just a lucky break.)
I would not bet on anything
being "impossible" -- as with the modem, it's
sometimes just a matter of perspective.
Back to Table of Contents
There are many possibilities
for our future CPU. Some follow the route of
ever-refined silicon. Others plan to crunch numbers
with light. And still other techniques, as recently
improved by Israeli scientists at the Weizmann
plan to use the stuff of life itself -- DNA -- to
provide massively parallel and powerful computing
for tasks that lend themselves to this type of
thanks to readers Dana Hoggatt, Ken Lacrosse, Dave
Hammond, and others.)
But it's not just the
incredibly small size of these DNA computing devices
that's so fascinating (one-trillion of them can fit
into a drop of water; a "spoonful" holds
"15-thousand-trillion computers"); it's also
that these scientists have arranged it so that the
DNA actually provides the power to do the
calculations! (They do this by breaking the bonds
between the two strands of the DNA helix, thereby
releasing sufficient energy.)
It's also a very different way
of thinking about "computing:"
"Think of DNA as software, and enzymes as hardware.
Put them together in a test tube. The way in which
these molecules undergo chemical reactions with each
other allows simple operations to be performed as a
byproduct of the reactions. The scientists tell the
devices what to do by controlling the composition of
the DNA software molecules. It's a completely
different approach to pushing electrons around a dry
circuit in a conventional computer."
"Once the input, software, and hardware molecules
are mixed in a solution, it operates to completion
There's hope and expectation
that the day will come when our bodies will be
"patrolled" by specialized DNA devices that monitor
what's going on, and then resolve anything they find
amiss. After all -- the DNA would feel right at
may also find another article about DNA, in the Feb.
25 New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/25/science/25HELI.html),
DNA computing is still very
much in its infancy -- just as silicon computing was
perhaps thirty-years ago. Yet it represents a very
good example of the things that lie ahead, driven by
the ingenuity of the men and women who refuse to
take "impossible" for an answer -- those who
consistently explore the frontiers in so many odd
and seemingly improbable directions, only to find
ways to change almost everything...
So again, Don't Blink!
Back to Table of Contents
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Back to Table of Contents
Early this year we explored Ian
Person's view of how technology may have changed the
holiday season in 2020
followed this up with a selection of your comments
on the subject (at
in this issue we finish this discussion with an
alternate, articulate viewpoint from reader Mark
issues back, you asked for feedback about the 2020
Christmas. While some of those things are neat and
probable, I don't know if all are desirable. In
response I have created my own 2020 wish list for
is what I want from future-tech; most are about
giving me back the major thing that has been taken
away in our quest for better, cheaper, smaller:
Time. Some are about removing the middleman.
None of these are new, and some are here now or just
about ready. I am simply telling you what would be
tops on my list for development:
1) To be able to do work from anywhere on the
surface of the planet and be connected in a wireless
fashion for a flat fee. This means full
videoconferencing with avatars in a virtual
environment, or with full sensory telepresence in
the real one (I could bulldoze a construction site
in Minnesota while sailing on a catamaran in the
Caribbean). Think of the reduction of pollutants and
stress by not having our major highways clogged with
traffic for the daily commute? The increase of
"quality time" by removing that 1.5 hour round trip
to the "office" for millions of people around the
globe every working day would be incalculable.
2) To have domestic devices that clean the
home. Start with floors & carpets. To extend this
further I would love something that tidies up and
dusts, washes windows, clears the dinner table,
loads dishwasher and puts the dishes away. Paramount
is a domestic robot that could wash clothes, then
fold and hang them. And if it could clean out the
cat litter box, mow the lawn, clean the pool and
take out the garbage I would be ecstatic. I would
pay in the neighborhood of $20 grand for such a
thing, as long as it had at least a 5-year life that
The automatic clothes washers and dryers made a huge
improvement in the daily lives of women (a fact of
life from that era, no sexist branding please) when
they were first developed. They reduced the time to
do this domestic chore by a huge degree. Now
dishwashers help, but I still want to remove all of
the chores associated with keeping the domicile
clean to automata. I know that some people do employ
"domestics" -- people who perform these tasks today.
But I do not want another human being to have to
waste their potential in these mundane duties. The
"food replicator" idea is nice, but if I could
remove all the other chores then I would have the
time to devote to cooking my own healthy meals with
3) Children worldwide being taught via the same
affordable immersive technology described in #1,
above. You have had articles describing disposable
printed cell phones, I am sure that in two decades
the technology to provide a realistic immersive
experience will be so cheap it could be distributed
to ALL children at a nominal cost. With school
infrastructures being neglected in this and other
countries, the return on this investment would far
outweigh the initial expense. With the use of
intelligent agents and electronic and human mentors,
the quality of education should result in an
exponential increase in the students' abilities.
They would still meet for sports & other "real life"
There will be obvious social, religious and despotic
hurdles to overcome before this could be a reality
for all children. But there are minor technological
hurdles that stand in the way of making this a
reality for those who are "allowed" to use it.
4) Transportation "pods." The Family SUV needs
to be rethought. Every day as my commuter bus zooms
along, I look out at these 6 and 8 passenger
vehicles with a single driver occupant and wonder
"why?" I think a lot of it is because they need to
ferry the kids about due to after-school actives,
Bobby to French lessons and Susie to soccer. So the
parents are now taxi-drivers; shuttling back and
forth. There is a balancing act as to what the kids
can take because of the limitations of how many
activities the Dad can shuttle the kids about in an
afternoon. The kids are 8 years old and can't drive
themselves, and you are not going to call a taxi,
plop your kid in the back seat, and wave goodbye for
obvious security reasons.
But with totally robot-controlled transportation
pods that hold 1 - 2 passengers, the kids could zip
off to their respective activities for a reasonable
fee. The parent would schedule these activities and
the pod would only deliver the kids to the
destinations allowed, in safety and comfort. Also,
if a kid was off somewhere and got stranded, he/she
could always summon one of these pods and be assured
it would deliver them straight home. If the pod
became disabled, it could summon another, or if it
felt it was under threat, it could button-down and
call the authorities, sending streaming video of the
I know there are many technological and social
hurdles to overcome, but having a secure method to
transport our children to controlled destinations
would be a huge timesaver for the parents, and a big
benefit for the kids. They could go to a party at a
friend's home while we can finish our painting or
sculpture classes, instead of us polishing our
taxi-driving skills. Using the same technology, we
could also increase the efficiency of our existing
highway infrastructure by relinquishing driver
control to machines. This will not be an easy sell.
Probably my least acceptable proposal.
5) High-speed Mag-Lev passenger rail, using the
existing rail corridors or the median between our
interstate highways. Bullet trains are here now. We
need to make the commitment to use them. Air travel
should really be for international, overseas, or
6) Battery storage technology and solar power.
If we had put just a fraction of the trillions of
dollars pumped into nuclear energy programs into
these two technologies, then most of us would be
powering our individual homes with solar. We
wouldn't have suffered the Enron price-fixing
debacle or the scandal that California got hit with
a few years ago.
Today, a good chunk of the generated energy is lost
in its creation and transmission; the waste is
enormous, as is the volume of pollutants. We have
dependence on fossil fuels and aging nuclear
generators to satisfy the largest part or our energy
diet. If we could get solar efficiencies up slightly
and reduce the cost through mass production, we
could create far more than we currently consume.
If battery technology could be enhanced, we could
store the excess for "rainy days." No more news
reports of thousands of homes darkened due to some
weather event. If the batteries are light and cheap
enough, then electric cars could be a reality.
Suddenly the power struggle and dependence on
foreign sources of energy would be removed from the
equation. Not just for the United States, but for
all countries where there is a reasonable amount of
average solar activity. Then, wind, hydro and tidal
power generation could take up much of the slack, as
geothermal does now in Iceland. Coal strip-mining
and oil spills can be phased down. (I am too much
of a realist to say phased "out" in 20 or even 50
years, but it's possible.)
that is my short-list. Nothing earth-shattering.
Stuff we can almost do now, or know that we could
do. Things that I know could be done in two to five
decades if we really put some effort into it.
Thanks for listening and for keeping me abreast of
the latest developments. Your articles stimulate my
thinking in so many ways. Keep them coming, please.
Thank you, Mark. I'd like to see much of that
Back to Table of Contents
It may be called
a "laser" rather than a "phaser," but as I read an
article from MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.com/news/831012.asp),
it certainly sounded like a baby version of the
Enterprise's famous weapon.
The Army, it seems, has now used an experimental
mobile laser to destroy a supersonic artillery shell
in-flight, preventing any harm to the shell's
target. According to Lt. General Joseph Cosumano,
high-energy lasers have the capacity to change the
face of the battlefield."
system is (apparently) still a long way from making
it to the battlefield, yet scientists seem likely to
keep extending its capabilities -- consider that
they are already looking to extend a laser's ability
to destroy ICBM warheads both outside of and within
Of course this,
like so many promising ideas, may never make it, er,
off the ground, but it does seem as if science
fiction authors are going to have to come up with
ideas newer than "phasers." Which naturally will
spark the NEXT scientists to tackle THOSE ideas --
and to "make them so!"
Back to Table of Contents
It's taken several years, but
it's now very hard to find a PC or notebook that
does not have one or more USB connectors.
Especially with the upgraded "USB 2.0" now spreading
(which raises USB's bandwidth from 12
megabits/second to 480 megabits/second), this
interface lets most of us forget the
not-very-long-ago horrors of adding peripherals to
(Note that an upgrade to
"FireWire," also known by the user-friendly name
"IEEE 1394b," is the other contender for your
higher-speed peripheral connections (digital video,
etc.), and it's now upping its speed from an
original 480 megabits/second, to 800 megabits/second
to remain the speed leader of the pack.)
It's the ubiquity and the
flexibility of such interfaces that makes them so
useful. But -- can flexibility go too far?
Look carefully at this picture,
brought to our attention by reader Richard Meyer:
The site's in Japanese
hotline/20030222/etc_habrashi.html) so I
have to guess. Let's see, a USB powered-toothbrush
might be valuable when you're camping in the
wilderness with only a notebook for power (but we
won't go down that paradoxical and improbable
trail.) Or perhaps the computer will keep track of
how well you actually brush each tooth, and then
wirelessly advises your dentist. Or...
But why let it stand there?
How about, as pointed out by the Feb. 28 issue of
"Mike's List" (http://www.mikeslist.com/57.htm),
a USB-powered "hot mug" to keep your computer-side
coffee warm? (http://www.dct-net.co.jp/special/usb_hot.html)
Or perhaps a small USB-powered warming
blanket, in case your feet or lap gets cold while
computing through the night?
The fly in this ointment, however, is that a
USB port can supply only a small amount, 2.5 watts,
of power (500 milliamps at 5 volts according to
while FireWire provides a still relatively small 12
- 45 watts for comparison -
So I do wonder just how warm your lap or coffee
could be kept. Nevertheless, they're novel and cute
ideas, even if perhaps impractical.
But you decide! (Me? I'll
bring an antiquarian toothbrush of the un-powered
Back to Table of Contents
Finally, television sets have
certainly proliferated, often showing up in several
rooms in each house. But so far, they've been
relegated to homes in PEOPLES' homes.
But now, thanks to Sharp and
Tokyo toy-maker Takara, DOLLS' HOMES are about to be
furnished with 1.5-inch, fully-operating TVs,
complete with adjustable volume and channels, and
even "video recording capability," according to the
Feb. 19 SiliconValley.com
This tiny TV will cost the dolls who live there, or
the doll's owner (or the doll's owner's parents)
$166 each, and it looks like they'll (initially, at
least) only be available in Japan.
I hope the dolls enjoy their
entertainment. And I have to wonder if the doll's
little owner will restrict what the doll can watch, based
on any parental restrictions put on her.
if the doll's TV might give her a way around HER TV
viewing restrictions! I remember hearing about a
young teenager who convinced her mother to let her
sign up for one of the popular online services, even
though the mother was skeptical about the "safety"
and appropriateness of the material available. So
the teenager established the account with her
mother's consent, and as agreed, the mother explored
herself for the first week. Finding nothing
particularly offensive, the mother gave it a clean
bill of health and let the teen have unfettered
access. At which point the teen disabled the
"parental controls" she had set...)
But back to dolls and their own
TVs, this might well get out of hand -- could this
set a foul precedent, that we're expected to provide
our toys with toys? What happens when we eventually
have domestic robots -- will they demand similar
accoutrements? Might they unionize if we don't
From such seemingly little
acorns, huge (sometimes ugly) trees do sometimes
"The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and
trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less
than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in
the Knowledge Age.
"The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey
R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group.
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