Listen to this Issue.
Give those eyes a
Quote of the Week.
Can you REALLY
A new way of
listening to computers...
There's MUCH More I Can Do For You!
Check you my other
The Genetic Revolution Is Already Here!
This is NOT
An open book...
Remember "War of the Worlds?"
The 'invaders' are
About 'The Harrow
Do you prefer to let your
ears do the work of keeping you in-touch with, and
thinking about where technology is taking us? If
so, "The Harrow Technology Report" is also available
in an audio-on-demand, MP3 version.
If you have an MP3 player
on your system (and most do, such as Window's Media
Player, RealPlayer, etc.), the link below will
either stream the file to you, or, depending on how
your system is configured, it might download the
file before playing it. Alternatively, if you
specifically want to download the file, simply use
the right-hand mouse button on the link, and choose
"Save Target As..."
Also, find out how you can
listen at whatever speed is most comfortable for you
through the FAQ at
Here's where to listen to
this week's issue!
Back to Table of Contents
"Bayer MaterialScience has agreed to a joint
development deal with InPhase [a Bell Labs spinout
specializing in holographic storage]. Bayer
MaterialScience, ... will invest $5 million in the
The two companies say that by 2006 they will
introduce both a recording and reading device and a
holographic data-storage medium, based on polymers
made by Bayer MaterialScience, with a capacity of
Conventional optical storage devices, such as DVDs
or CDs, record one bit of data at a time. But
holographic drives can read or write a million bits
at once, encoded as the interference pattern of two
intersecting laser beams.
InPhase promises two gigabytes of data on a chip the
size of a postage stamp, or 20 gigabytes on one the
size of a credit card.
300-gigabyte [holographic] disc will offer 50 times
the storage capacity of a common DVD and 460 times
that of a CD.
InPhase and Bayer MaterialScience say they are also
cooperating to research new types of specialty
polymers that will make possible discs with a
capacity of up to 1.6 terabytes -- equivalent to the
content of about four million books or about 1.6
million high-resolution photographs. Such discs
could be available by 2009."
"Funding of Innovative Startups"
MIT Technology Review
Let's see -- 20 gigabytes in a
credit card that reads one-million bits in the same
time that today's conventional disk drives can read
one bit -- NEXT YEAR! Fifty DVDs shrunk to one.
And 1.6 terabyte disks just four years from now.
Truly incredible, although not at all surprising
given the established march of technology.
This is one more excellent
example of how brilliant people find ways around, or
through, every "limit" that gets in their way. And
of course in a world of exponential technology
growth, this is (always!) only the beginning...
Back to Table of Contents
Towards the end of the Editor's
Corner of the Nov. 8, 2005 WXPnews E-Zine
Deb Shinder was exploring some of her readers'
comments on the subject of the growing lack of
technological opting-out caused by the social
acceptance of a myriad of advancing technologies.
The following response struck a chord with me:
"Alan P. had perhaps the best answer to the question
of whether technology is taking over our lives:
"only if you let it." And many other readers chimed
in on the same theme: we do, after all, have control
over whether we choose to take our laptops (and
work) with us everywhere, leave our cell phones
turned on all the time, etc. Why do so many folks
assume that if the phone rings, they're obligated to
answer it? Especially in this day of voice mail,
it's not as if that call will be lost forever if you
decide to just let it ring."
It's certainly true that we can
choose to 'walk away' from any or all elements of
technology. The problem is -- at what price?
In the business world, if you
work at a "knowledge or information-driven job," the
proliferation of PCs on every desk, notebooks in
every briefcase, PDAs in every shirt pocket or
purse, and cell phones in other pockets or on belts,
certainly have a significant positive effect on
productivity. You can prepare a client presentation
on the spur of the moment and generate a sales
contract when it has its desired effect, then get
his electronic signature and have the signed
contract and its related order in your firm's order
process before you ever reach the elevator. This is
often a Good Thing.
There's a glaring problem,
though, for the person who would prefer not to have
all of that information at her fingertips; who would
prefer to spend more time thoughtfully writing
proposals and presenting them, and then exploring
the nuances of sales contracts before they're signed
-- the problem is that her competitor might have
already closed the deal before she's prepared. It's
also possible that her competitor's automated order
(and assumedly manufacturing) processes are more
efficient and cost effective, and also give the
business' managers a better real-time feel for how
well (or not) their business is performing.
Similarly, without a wireless
PDA or cell phone, someone on the road may not get
the word of a cancelled or rescheduled meeting until
they arrive to find no one home. There is any
number of problems that the technology-un-enhanced
person might suffer.
The reality is that for many
people in many jobs, this "anywhere/anywhen
connectedness" has become the competitive norm, and
anyone not "plugged in" may well find their numbers
Similarly, when out of the
office, a growing number of social events are
created or changed on the spur of the moment through
text messaging and phone calls. If most of your
friends are plugged in, and you are not, a social
gap may widen. Of course this also (perhaps even
more so) applies to children (not just teenagers
anymore) as parents often wish to have immediate
access to their kids while leaving them with an
always-available "panic button." Many parents are
even interested in keeping track of their
teenagers. As location-aware services become
increasingly available, more than a few of those
parents may pay for the ability to "spy" on their
kids' whereabouts, or to have the system
automatically alert them if the teen wanders out of
a defined "safe area," or into an "unsafe" one.
I'm not specifically saying
that any of these implementations are "good or bad"
-- each of them can and will fall into both
categories depending on circumstances. But I am
suggesting that while you CAN choose not to
participate in any technological area, there can be
very real business and social consequences of not
That is not necessarily a good
thing. But it is increasingly a very real thing.
And it's only going to get ever more good or bad
(take your pick), ever-faster, as technology's
double-exponential growth curve continues is
If you think that these are
difficult and often complex choices to make today --
just wait (a short while).
Back to Table of Contents
You might remember some of the
brouhaha years ago when someone in the
government/military realized that the enemy of the
day had learned to remotely read the information
displayed on PC monitors, not by furtively hiding
tiny cameras in embassies (although that's happened
too), and not by using telescopes to peer through
windows at Windows (sorry), but by electronically
listening in to the signals produced by PC monitors
themselves as a side effect of displaying their
Hard as it may be to imagine,
with the appropriate hardware and software this is
possible and is one of the reasons that embassies
and other sensitive buildings sheath themselves in
copper mesh, known as a "Faraday Cage," to contain
these and other signals that can be intercepted at a
distance. Their computers were also designed to
minimize these and other potentially
information-carrying emissions through a program
called Tempest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TEMPEST).
Well, the espionage game of
technological escalatio has now taken another step
up, according to the Sept. 21, 2005 CNN.com, thanks
to researchers first at IBM and now at the
University of California, Berkeley. It seems that
when we type, each keypress generates a unique sound
based on the physical layout of the keyboard, the
individual differences in each physical key, and the
way we strike each key. Using statistical
techniques, these researchers, led by Doug Tygar,
have developed a way to simply listen to the
clack of the keyboard and, with 96% accuracy,
reconstruct what was typed!
This technique doesn't even
require high quality audio - a $10 microphone was
used for the research. Which leads me to believe
that this would also work using techniques that
remotely pilfer audio, such as when a laser is
pointed at a window of the target room and the sound
vibrations from within the room, which subtly
vibrate the window glass, are remotely "read" and
converted back into sound for "bugging"
conversations -- and now for bugging computer
I suspect that most sensitive
government/military installations have for some time
included noise generators near windows to render
laser audio interceptions impossible (or difficult
at best), but I'll bet that very few commercial
building take the threat of this type of
industrial espionage into account!
Imagine being privy to, say, internal meetings where
the pricing for competitive bids is underway, or to
any other information, verbal and now typed, that
might give one party a competitive advantage over
the eavesdropped one...
Of course this is just one
element of the continuing "Spy vs. Spy" game --
other techniques that we don't yet know about are
surely in-play. And as with this one, new
techniques will constantly be developed by bright
and innovative people (on all sides.)
(Because who knows -- might
someone, someday, learn to glean information from
how and when we DO blink?)
Back to Table of Contents
BEGIN Self-Serving Advertisement
You may not realize it,
but there's much more to The Harrow Group
than just "The Harrow Technology Report."
For almost twenty years,
as I've been sharing my research on the
ever-faster-moving and converging technologies that
are changing how we work, live, and play, I've also
been working directly with businesses and
organizations, large and small, to help them
understand and address how these changes may affect
them, their customers, and their customers'
businesses, through a series of:
Highly engaging, interactive, multimedia,
constantly-updated presentations and keynote
speeches to individual businesses, internal groups,
and trade organizations, helping participants to
viscerally understand and appreciate how technology
has brought us to where we are today, and where it's
likely to lead us tomorrow.
- Beginning with the presentation described above
(to give all participants a common understanding and
insight), the workshop further engages attendees to
explore how this march of technology might affect
their individual businesses and organizations, and
their specific needs.
Individualized consulting services, available via
phone or in-person, to help you explore the topics
and trends discussed in The Harrow Technology
Report, and related issues.
Please continue at
for additional information.
Then, contact me at
with any additional questions, to discuss fees, and
to schedule a consulting event. I look forward to
working with you!
End Self-Serving Advertisement
Back to Table of Contents
This is an updated version
of an article I've written for Future Brief
Future Brief is published by New Global Initiatives
and offers brief summaries, commentaries, and other
resources to help people, especially those on The
Hill who form national policy, to keep up on
technological innovations. But Future Brief adds an
important twist -- it "takes one step back and
looks at the greater convergence of the accelerating
changes in science and technology, with the equally
rapidly accelerating changes in society and
Let's face it: "genetic
engineering" (our modifying a living organism's gene
structure for specific goals) is showing up in the
news on a regular basis -- Google serves up more
than one million hits when asked. But although
there is a lot of early progress going on in labs,
the average person has yet to directly benefit from
genetically engineered drugs or other products, much
less from one of the potentially logical outcomes of
such research -- genetically engineered
But the genetic cat is now,
quite literally as we'll soon see, out of the bag;
the results of genetic engineering are already
beginning to show up in some very surprising ways!
The European Union has now OKed
the broad importation of Monsanto's "NK603" corn
This corn is designed to thwart a nasty parasite
that attacks traditional corn, and so could bring a
greater yield per acre.
According to the EU, this
Genetically Modified (GM) corn has been proven safe,
and they have established stringent consumer
packaging rules so that people can make informed
decisions as to whether or not to consume GM
"To GM, or not to GM,"
is an interesting choice that we're going to have to
increasingly make. As genetic engineering continues
to improve; the time may well come when we find that
GM food is safer, more abundant, perhaps better
tasting, and conceivably less costly (due to better
yields, the need for less pesticides, etc.), even
though the GM seed manufactures will surely charge
more than for traditional seed.
However, this isn't all a bed
of (natural or GM) roses. Some GM crops are
explicitly designed to NOT naturally
propagate, requiring that farmers purchase new GM
seed each season. But what would happen if a major
GM seed supplier suddenly found a serious problem in
its production capacity (think flu vaccine), or if
it identified a serious problem with the widely-used
product itself? What if a major supplier went
bankrupt? Or, perhaps more chilling, what if it
took years for long-term health issues related to
these GM crops to come to light? Would we even have
sufficient stocks of "natural" seed left to feed a
I'm certainly not saying that
genetically modified food is necessarily "bad;" the
upside potentials for feeding the growing number of
hungry humans could be high. But I do wonder about
possible long-term issues -- after all, we're really
still babes-in-the-woods when it comes to genetic
engineering. And I do wonder about the potential
danger of moving towards patented foodstuffs that
can't reproduce in the "normal" way.
It could be a global calamity
if we later find that there was a ticking time bomb
that was unintentionally engineered into our food
supply. Or, consider if a political power block
formed by the large GM companies were to exert undue
influence on nations. After all, having control
over a significant portion of a nation's critical
resource, such as food, would be a powerful position
indeed. Think gas prices...
Tabby - Modified!
But genetic engineering is NOT
limited to plants, but also to animals. And the
average person may well see the first genetically
engineered animals very close to home -- in fact
IN the home -- in 2006!
is commercializing domestic CATS that are
genetically engineered so that they don't release
the dander to which many people are allergic!!
Using "gene silencing"
techniques, Allerca suppresses the cat's production
of the natural (human allergy-causing) protein that
expresses in cat skin and saliva! (Since the
protein is so small, once released from the cat it
tends to remain airborne for months.)
Hypoallergenic cats!! For
$3,500 each. (And each will be spayed or neutered
so that you can't make more hypoallergenic cats.)
By the way, this isn't the
first genetically engineered pet. A glowing zebra
fish (thanks to the addition of a fluorescent sea
anemone gene) became available in pet stores in
early 2004. (http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994411)
Tabby - Xeroxed!
Of course purpose-built
genetically modified cats are only the very
beginning. For example, "Genetic Savings & Clone"
(I love the name! -
is already in the business of cloning your favorite
The personality isn't cloned,
of course; only the body. But it should be a
faithful copy of "your pet." However you'll REALLY
have to like your cat, since its clone will
currently cost you $50,000...
I certainly expect that prices
will decline over time, especially if/when
competitors spring up. But even now this type of
cloning might be a viable expense for successful
show cats. And later, if/when such commercial
capabilities migrate to other species, imagine the
incentive to clone triple-crown winners like
Secretariat and Seattle Slew! Or a prize bull.
Oh -- if you're a dog lover?
You'll have to wait longer since cloning a pooch
seems more difficult.
I suspect that not too many
people will get upset about the commercial cloning
of pets. But as is so often the case, I also expect
that this technology will move forward to the point
where, eventually, humans can be cloned as well.
And that will (and should!) raise all sorts of
ethical and societal questions.
the way, for good and for bad, and regardless of our
beliefs and preferences, I DO expect that once human
cloning becomes technically feasible, it WILL happen
"somewhere," even if not in those countries that ban
or very closely control the process. Ethics are
very different in different societies.)
The issues and questions
surrounding such capabilities are numerous, and
tremendously significant. Consider just a few
If you were to generate an
"aware" clone of yourself while you were still
alive, and if (as expected) it had identical DNA,
then a "bad clone" (one whose personality evolved
towards the dark side) might not be distinct from
you for forensic purposes.
brief aside: Interestingly, reader Henri Boucher
points out that identical twins do not have
identical fingerprints! A PhysicsForums discussion
explores that these may differ because of
environmental or 'chance' changes as each twin's
fingerprints evolve from identical DNA.
there may be other explanations: as the discussion
also suggests we currently believe that only 3% of
the 3 billion DNA base pairs relate to the software
that codes "us." And although I am only a genetics
neophyte, I do have to wonder if the other 97% of
our DNA does indeed cause some (or many) effects
that we just don't (yet) understand. Remember how
little we knew about that first 3% just a few years
Now back to our clone
Come to think of it, if you DID generate a
living and aware clone, would he/she/it be a legally
independent being with all the rights and
protections that a society confers on its citizens?
What would happen if someone killed that
clone -- would this be murder?
If you died while you had an 'aware clone,'
would it simply pick up your life, inherit all your
assets, and perhaps even your family? After all,
DNA testing would "prove" that it is "you!"
Would it be acceptable to grow and maintain a
non-aware clone (perhaps by suppressing the genes
that develop the higher brain functions) so that a
critical organ transplant could be performed if
And then there's that (seemingly) sci fi
specter of cloned Schwarzeneggeresque armies (think
Star Wars' Attack of the Clones, or Lord of the
Of course the list of questions
and issues goes on. But now that commercial pet
genetic engineering and cloning are real, we need to
extrapolate and explore and address these issues
with the expectation (or at least the hypothesis)
that somehow, somewhere, human variants too are
going to become real -- whether we individually, or
even nationally, think this is right or wrong.
In fact, given the
double-exponential growth of biotechnology as it
melds into the converging synergy of NBIC (the
coming together of Nanotechnology, Biology and
medicine, Information sciences, and Cognitive
sciences), we may have to answer these questions far
sooner than we might have imagined.
I have no doubt that these
scientific achievements will move forward --
knowledge is a VERY hard thing to suppress and, as
we've learned historically, suppression attempts are
rarely if ever successful. So perhaps we should
engage in these ethical and societal discussions in
advance, so that we can move carefully -- very
carefully -- and safely, as the technologies do move
And as we do so, we should be
sure to pay attention to very broad areas that reach
far beyond the mere "technical" issues that genetic
engineering and cloning will raise. After all, the
results of these sciences have the ability, quite
literally, to alter "us" and the very world in which
we live, work, and play.
To put it mildly:
Back to Table of Contents
Over time we've explored
several elements of how our expanding technological
infrastructure (for examples
is having a significant impact on the visibility of
our "private" information, and on its easy instant
accessibility. While many of the results of the
Information Age have great positive potential, the
easy melding of this personal information from many
once-disparate sources also brings the specter of
being very bad. So much so that if things continue
unchecked, we may eventually have little choice but
to accept the idea of "personal privacy" as an
Credit agencies, insurance and
medical information pools, credit card and banking
transactions, telephone call records, location
information from cell phones and toll booth
transponders (and potentially from RFID tags), and a
vast array of public records, are now for the first
time but a click away from governmental agencies,
interested businesses and their partners, and others
(if not always directly to the general public). And
where you can click, you can combine. Which makes
most of us who participate in the electronic world
an open book.
How open? Reader Victor
Panlilio points us to a poignant look at how this
could well develop, which you can view at the Web
site below. You probably won't like the result (or
the virtually unlimited spectrum of related examples
that will quickly come to mind.)
This 3-4 minute exploration of
the logical extension of today's information assets
should be chilling to any of us who value some
shreds of remaining privacy, because all of the
personal information behind the scenes of this
pizza-ordering scenario is already quite available
in electronic form (even if Social Security Numbers
currently stand in for a "National ID Number.") For
example, if you've recently called one of the
nationwide pizza chains for home delivery you may
have already experienced a nascent form of what's
depicted, and what lies ahead.
I'm hardly an "activist," yet I
strongly recommend the few minutes it will
take to view this "movie" on the ACLU's Web site.
Then, if you don't like the results -- and we really
are just one or two small steps away from making
this (at least a technological) reality, then you
may want to consider if this is a world in which you
wish to live, or have your children inherit.
If not, it's up to each of us,
through our elected representatives, to place
controls on the use of personal information. As we
continuously leave more extensive electronic tracks
behind as we move around and buy things and
communicate, I can't see the closing of Pandora's
"information-storage and sharing box." But we do
have a chance to limit how these amazingly accurate
pictures of our lives can be used.
It is up to us -- to each of
us. And there's little time.
Don't Blink! (Or someone,
somewhere, will know that you did.)
Back to Table of Contents
Finally, I'm assuming that you
must have seen Paramount Pictures' 1953 movie
"The War of the Worlds," a classic sci fi story.
That's the same H. G. Wells story that Orson Welles
used to shake up the world on Halloween, 1938 -- it
was widely mistaken for a real news broadcast (see
for a fascinating recount of how this was
done, and why it had the impact it did).
The 1953 movie, as remembered
in images at SciFlicks.com
depicts the "invasion from Mars" as a swarm of
seemingly robotic ships,
that can hover and move at will as they blast things
out of existence with energy beams from their
and from their "wingtips."
beautifully rendered, especially for its day.
Well, Mars hasn't (so
far) invaded us, and these ships remain fantasy.
But today's reality is
that it's WE who have now
invaded Mars with our own (small) swarm of (far less
that are even now
traveling around on the surface of another planet!
The NASA and JPL pictures are
astounding, and for past weeks my desktop picture
has varied across an assortment of beautiful
snapshots from another planet (see
examples that have been rendered for desktop use, or
explore the full set of NASA Mars photos and create
your own, at
Food For Thought.
As I looked at these fantasy
vs. real pictures, especially the picture looking up
at the rover robot in the same way that people
looked up at the movie's robots, it struck me that
IF there is intelligent life on Mars, they
might be as justified in taking this as an invasion
(which it technically is) as did those panicking
humans listening to the radio in 1938.
At one point in its Martian
travels the Sprit rover's computer crashed and it
'went off the air." Before it was eventually
resurrected, I did fleetingly wonder if Sprit, like
the other robots that we sent to Mars earlier but
which never reported back, might have been treated
by a Martian population in the same way that we
treated the "Mars robots" that made it to Earth in
the movie -- destroyed by a scared, invaded,
Well, if there IS
"anyone" on Mars, it now seems clear that they
didn't attack Sprit (unless, perhaps, they might
have had some form of EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse)
weapon that could have been responsible for
scrambling Sprit's flash ROM <grin>).
But it is both fascinating, and
just a little bit cautionary, to remember that we
are indeed "invading" another planet where we only
"assume" that there's no one there to object. True,
our Rovers lack "death rays," but some of their
actions could be considered improper if any resident
Martian population didn't approve of tracks on their
pristine landscape, or of rocks being disturbed,
drilled, and analyzed. And it's not only Mars that
we've "invaded" - earlier this year we dropped the
Huygens probe onto Titan, the largest of Saturn's
And we've crashed the Deep
Impact probe into comet Tempel 1.
But this is just the very
beginning. These fledgling baby steps are vital,
but we still don't really know what's out there.
Which is why as the human race, we MUST
continue reaching out to new worlds and beyond.
We should also, though, be
cautious, and prepared to demonstrate our peaceful
intentions. Because someday, somewhere, "somebody"
just might object for our various forms of
invasion. And I'd hate for us to trigger a real
"War of the Worlds..."
Back to Table of Contents
"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.
Where To Find "The
Harrow Technology Report:"
- Via Email -- Sign up for automatic delivery of this journal
(which you can also use as a notification that a new issue is available on
the Web, if you prefer to
read it there), by one of these methods:
- The fastest and easiest method is to go to this Web
and follow its instructions.
- Send an Email message to TheHarrowGroup@SendMeMore.Net
with the word SUBSCRIBE in the Subject line.
The Web -- You can, of course, also read this journal directly on the
Web at www.TheHarrowGroup.com
Additionally, to support automated access schemes, the most current issue of
the journal will always be available at this persistent link: www.TheHarrowGroup.com/current.htm
Copyright (c) 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow. All
Jeffrey R. Harrow maintains that all reasonable care and skill has been used
in the compilation of this publication. However, he shall not be under
any liability for loss or damage (including consequential loss) whatsoever
or howsoever arising as a result of the use of this publication by the
reader, his/her/its servants, agents or any third party.
All third-party trademarks are hereby acknowledged.