Archive for February, 2010

Cell Phones: 2030

The cell phone has become the most common electronic device that people have today. The reason is simple: cells phones are gobbling up all other functions of electronic devices. They are music players, movie players, they can go online, etc. So what does the future hold for the cell phone?

A common prediction I’ve found is that printable batteries and circuits will lead to cell phones being imbedded in clothing. Basically the speakerphone and microphone will be part of the collar all functions would presumably be controlled through voice.

Am I the only one that thinks this is ridiculous? I mean, first there’s the issue of how you wash the shirt. If you had electronics embedding in clothing you probably also have figured out how to make them be able to go through the wash. Second, wouldn’t you have to have cell phones imbedded in every shirt you wear? Otherwise if you’re wearing another shirt and get a call, you’ll miss it. This is essentially the same problem for why we don’t have video phones: who wants to put on pants (or the right shirt) to answer the phone? And if you did have cell phones in every shirt, wouldn’t you also have to have some overriding system that would ensure calls are directed to the correct shirt?

The other prediction I’ve found is that cell phones will eventually shrink into earpieces, like Bluetooth but without the phone base. This is also pretty silly to me. I mean, Bluetooth is good, but there are a lot of functions a Bluetooth can’t handle, like texting or surfing the web. Basically both this prediction and the one above suffer from the same problem: failing to take into account all the functions a cell phone has. Why is it that cell phones are getting comparatively larger will full-color screens? Because that is how you text and play games and go online. Seriously, turn off your computer monitor and try to surf the web. Can’t do it, huh?

So what do I think cell phones will become in the next twenty years? Cell phones will likely remain separate, handheld apparatuses. There will likely be a detachable earpiece, but one can be reconnected to the phone when taken off (so the two can be carried as a single unit, rather than two separate ones). It will be fully voice-command capable. They will likely become much thinner, perhaps no thicker than a credit card, but still have a large screen. A future cell phone will like look very much like credit, or two connected end-to-end if it’s a flip phone.

But isn’t a phone like that liable to get broken or snapped in half? No. Cell phones in 2030 will also likely be flexible. You can bend it, sit on it, and do all sorts of things without having it break. Flexible computer screens are starting to be developed, and the full-color, high-res screen is often the most expensive component of any electronic device. By making the screen pretty much unbreakable, you’ll less likely to have to end up buying a new phone because of it. It will also likely have full video capabilities, making it a true video phone, but an option that can easily be deactivated by the user. Despite its presence it likely won’t be used as much as voice-only calls or text messaging, simply because people would rather only hear a voice. It’s much easier to keep your privacy when someone can’t see you, and adding a video option won’t dramatically increase the price of the phone.

Of course, it will still be able to do all the things phones to today. In fact, they may even design it so it can flip out twice (once vertically, one horizontally) so that you end up with a screen four times as large as the original phone. A huge trend today is moving away from physical media like DVDs or CDs and having everyone streaming from the internet. Computer processing power by 2030 will make it very fast and easy to stream a full-length Blu-Ray-quality movie in minutes, and being able to stream any TV show or movie from anywhere will be very popular.

So anyway, that’s what I think. Later, we’ll of course see communications and computer technology be fused with human biology, but by 2030 the technology won’t be quite there yet.


Ethics and Science

One of the recurring arguments amongst more moderate religious and irreligious people is that science and religion really aren’t incompatible, it’s just that they concern themselves with different areas. Science is about observation and fact, whereas religion is about morality and ethics.

I am one of those people who thinks that religion and science are, at the most fundamental level, completely incompatible. I know that there are many religious scientists, and scientific religious people, but this does not mean that the two can really coexist. In these instances, it’s just that these people have erected some sort of partition in their head that has declared a certain set of beliefs (the religious ones) off limits to scrutiny, or at least subject to different standards of scrutiny. Science promotes free inquiry, and demands that all claims be backed up with empirical observation. Religion simply ignores empiricism and demands its followers believe based on faith. From a scientific point of view this is absurd. If you do not have any support for your hypothesis, no one is going to accept it. And, unlike religion, science won’t chastise other scientists for being “closed-minded”. No, it will in fact chastise you for not having any empirical backing.

                But, what about ethics? There is no doubt that being an ethical person is very important. But did you know that science has a lot to say when it comes to ethics? It may surprise you to know that, using evolution, you can not only predict the existence of an ethical code, but also which exact principles the code will have.

                This is a tremendous claim. Many religious people point to The Ten Commandments or some other code as a basis for their own morality, but, using science, we can actually construct a parallel list, derived solely through evolutionary logic.

                First, we must determine just what is an ethical code. I define it as something with which we have a “gut feeling” is right or wrong. We feel what is right and what is wrong, even if we can’t articulate it. Why would we have these feelings? From an evolutionary standpoint, we would have them if it would give us a competitive advantage to have them.

                So what ethical feelings would we have if they were evolved? Well, a taboo against murder would be the most obvious one. If you hang around someone who tends to murder people, you’re much likely to end up murdered yourself. Since evolution depends on creatures which survive and reproduce, shunning people who murder is evolutionarily prudent. A similar argument goes for stealing. Way back in time, whatever we bothered to lug around with us was very likely essential for survival. Without it, our odds for survival go down, and so allowing such behavior will be selected against.

                Helping others is also something that would selected for. If you help someone, say by bringing them food when they cannot hunt or gather themselves, they are more likely to survive, and if you are helped, you are more likely to survive. What is interesting is that we can winnow down all these ethical codes and declare that our ethical feelings are all based on what will help our social group remain cohesive. As group animals, we depend on others for help. By banding together, the odds for all of us to survive increases.

                This is why most animals in the world live in groups. There is an evolutionary advantage to it. And such groups will develop rather complex ethical systems, at least in higher animals. What is interesting is that we do see these complex social systems develop. Chimps instinctively know it’s wrong to murder another chimp within their own group. Wild dogs will develop social structures without fighting or bloodshed, because such behavior would be counterproductive. It all points to an ethical code that evolved naturally, rather than having it being dictated by a supreme being.

Of course, one could argue that a god could have simply given us and the animals these codes because they do help with survival, but that does not mean that god’s sanction infuses these principles with “right” and “wrong”. They are right or wrong regardless of a god’s sanction.

So what is our evolved ethical code? If we test each one of these, we see that evolution easily selects for them (note: not all ethical codes are listed, due to lack of ingenuity by the author).

1)      Do not murder

2)      Do not steal

3)      Submit to authority

4)      Take care of your children

5)      Take care of the females in the group

6)      Promote promiscuity, especially among males

The last one is interesting contrasted against traditional Christian values. We are hard-wired to intrinsically feel all of these (and more), and it’s almost impossible to break them. Four billion years went into their development and a few decades of trying to oppose it is futile.

Hello, Bozos!

Hi! So–wait what was that? Sorry, I thought I heard something unthinkable.

Hm?…I’m sorry, could you repeat that?…no…



So Much For Meg Whitman

It’s 2010 which means come this November Arnold Schwarzenegger will no longer be Governor (being capped to two terms). I heard on the radio a candidate by the name of Meg Whitman, who seemed to be in touch when it came to government spending and general economic issues. I believe  in cutting spending and decreasing the size of government and Ms. Whitman seems the clear choice in that category.

But then I looked up her stance on various social issues and found that she supported Prop 8 and Prop 4, two measures I very strongly opposed. Oh well.

It’s an interesting problem. I want Ms. Whitman as Governor so she can (hopefully) finally fix our state, but do I really have give up my and other people’s freedoms to do so? No, I won’t do that. Even though it pains my cold, black, libertarian heart, social issues should be considered more important than economic ones.

I guess its back to the ol’ candidacy board. Maybe I’ll even have to vote (horror) Democrat.