Verizon Communications is launching bundled phone, data and video services using “fiber to the premises” technology in Keller, Texas. They plan to expand services to one million homes in nine states by the end of this year and another two million homes next year.
The late 1990s saw fiber optics backbones being built all over the nation, but little of that capacity was directly connected to homes and businesses and most fiber has remained dark. With Verizon’s initial US$1 Billion investment to solve this last mile problem, we could be seeing the resurrection of all that fiber. Their initial service will offer Internet connection speeds up to 30 mbps. The leap in speed is staggering, considering that the top cable Internet speed is currently 3 mbps. Verizon will launch video services sometime next year and then they hope to leapfrog cable and satellite competitors by offering more HDTV channels and interactive capabilities.
Laser drills are the current cutting edge tools being used in some dentist’s offices today, but a new generation of technology is just around the corner. Wired has an article that follows the expected progression of technology over the next ten years, until the day when cavities are cured by a childhood vaccination and lost teeth are grown from the patients own stem cells. The compounds and fillings developed over the next few years will help the tooth to rebuild itself from damage.
Further out, nanotechnology has long promised to rebuild our dental profile from the bottom up, replacing all previous technology and allowing perfect and healthy teeth for the modern Immortal.
Britain has just opened the world’s first embryonic stem cell bank. This bank will supply stem cell lines to researchers looking for insight into and possible cures for various medical conditions.
Federal funding for such research is prohibited in the United States by an executive order from President Bush. A few states such as New Jersey and California are expected to start offering financial support as well as stem cell banks soon, but experts suggest the United States is already far behind other countries.
The debate centers around whether or not the embryos from which such stem cells are derived are in fact human life to be protected by moral, ethical and legal rights. Opponents argue that life and consciousness begin at conception and such research amounts to murder. Advocates of stem cell research argue that it has been established scientifically that there are no pain receptors or discrete organs in very young embryos. New research also suggests that reasoning and cognitive abilities are not fully developed in humans until early adulthood.
The debate will no doubt continue, but while it does, progress will also continues. Unfortunately, those of us in the United States could find ourselves left behind should the technology mature into actual cures.
There has already been one success story. A teenage patient in the United States who needed a heart transplant after a nail gun accident instead choose to be injected with stem cells. His recovery was immediate and remarkable. However, the FDA has ordered such procedures to be discontinued as they have not yet approved stem cells for such use. A year later, approval is still not in sight.
NVIDIA and ATI recently announced their next-generation graphic chips, the NV40 and the R420, respectively. Both are remarkable because they offer two times the power as the previous generation. According to the benchmarks, the ATI R420 holds a slight edge. Both chips will take advantage of the new PCI Express interface, the connection bridge that will eventually replace PCI, PCI-X and AGP.
Both companies typically refresh their products around November for the holiday shopping season, and then come out with their next-generation products in the spring. While the new chips are absolutely amazing, each generation gets closer and closer to graphics that look like they are right out of a Pixar movie. This will likely happen next year or soon thereafter. Already the chips can handle HDTV, large screens with dense amounts of pixels, and more than one display at a time.
By 2010, a typical computer will come with two large flat screen displays and a graphics card that can handle both while producing game images close to reality in their realism. These future graphics engines will also support the wallscreens that will be out by then. These graphic chips will have around 2 billion transistors (up from the 130 million or so in the current generation) and run at speeds measured in multiple gigahertz (up from today’s 500 MHz). This is all the more amazing when you realize that 2010 is less than six years away.
Social trends appear to be following the same path as technological progress. Today marks the first day that same-sex couples can get married in the first state to allow such marriages, Massachusetts. There are still hurdles ahead for the couples, not the least of which is the movement in Massachusetts to amend the state constitution to explicitly define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Such an amendment would instantly nullify the upcoming marriages. All the major news sites and channels will have continuing coverage all day and in the days ahead of this incredible change in American society. Surprisingly enough, this change is old news in many Europeans countries where it has long since become a nonissue.
You might be wondering what the hell is going on with the FrontierChannel.tv blog. Where is all the science and technology? This blog focuses primarily on the frontiers of science and technology, but these frontiers also intersect the frontiers of thought and society, among others. For example, now that gay couples can marry (for the moment and officially only in Massachusetts), near-term issues will include the rapidly advancing science of same-sex procreation, adoption rights, employment benefits for same-sex couples, gender reassignment technology and the science of gender, state versus federal rights, and many more. Not all of these issues are new, but the progress of society means that we jump to a new level of complexity, with old and new challenges more compelling and far-reaching than ever before. Frankly, I am frightened, happy, confused, and excited, and I would choose no other time in which to live.
A few years ago I coined the word “cybernudism” to describe the philosophy of giving up any privacy to combat security and privacy issues. If you have no secrets, nobody can hold anything against you. At its most literal, cybernudism labels the strange phenomenon of people using their webcams to document their lives down to their deepest and darkest sexual proclivities to any stranger who will watch. Today I attribute to cybernudism the success of reality shows, weblogging, the rise of news commentary and the ability of people to profit from their notoriety.
Cybernudism is not a word that has spread beyond the few people to which I have mentioned the idea. However, there are no new ideas, and Jeffrey Rosen has now explored the idea in his book The Naked Crowd. Wired has an interview with the author and describes the book as an exploration of “the willingness of Americans to abandon privacy for perceived security.” At Amazon.com, the Editorial Review states “In the weakest part of the book, Rosen tries to connect his larger thesis about the need to balance privacy and security to the emergence of reality TV and the exhibitionism of blogs and other technologies.”
On a personal note, and in the interest of cybernudism, what the hell have I been doing these past few years? Why am I so lacking in self-confidence? I’m not saying I could have written that book, but dammit, I COULD have written that book!
I am not yet sold on cybernudism in practice. I look forward to reading Rosen’s book, but first I will privately vent through several minutes of ferocious cursing and self-flagellation.