The Top 5 Spookiest Technologies
Coming soon to change lives and businesses: robotic flies and living computers.
While visionaries like the CEO of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) give speeches about the tremendous opportunities that technology has in store for us, let us not forget about the innovations that might change our lives in not so rosy ways -- and innovations that may even pose significant threats.
Here's a brief round-up of some fresh breakthroughs.
Wave to the Camera Watching You From 15,000 Feet
Imagine if there were two small drones hanging out in the sky at 15,000 feet, surveilling the whole of Manhattan. That's what the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researchers are now trying to develop.
Their Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) uses a 1.8-gigapixel video camera so precise that it could spot a single person waving on the ground. What is even more amazing is that the super camera is comprised of 368 standard phone camera modules extracted from common smartphones. Not scared yet? Then you should know that the system could also track moving objects including cars and people.
Check out the video and pictures to get a better sense of its capabilities and start mourning your privacy.
Remote Brain Control? We're Not Far Off
Remember that scene in The Matrix where Neo had all the knowledge and skills required for his mission loaded directly into his brain? Or imagine if you were a bystander in the case of an emergency, and a trained doctor could connect right to your brain remotely so that you could perform all the required operations on the victims in need, even though you don't have any special medical skills.
Both scenarios could soon become reality as a recent Brazil-US study suggests. (A less scientific explanation is here).
The researchers were able to connect two rat brains so that the "knowledge" about a certain skill (press that particular lever, get a reward, for example) was transmitted in real time from one rat to another in a cage 4,000 miles away.
So forget "body mass index" -- here comes the new, trendier definition for BMI. It stands for brain-to-machine interface and it will soon revolutionize the way we get or share knowledge.
It can be scary though. Imagine hackers breaking into your brain and "taking control" of your body. Or downloading the essential skills you deemed unique. Or creating botnets of rats or other animals. Security giants like Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ:SYMC) may need to adjust to those new types of threats fairly soon.
Get Ready to Welcome Living Computers
Stanford University researchers recently announced the invention of a transistor-like structure built with human gene substances, RNA and DNA. Though it has a limited application now, the "biological transistor" could pave the way for more advanced technology including a most intriguing possibility: the creation of computers that operate not on electrons, but on biological substances within living cells.
And it'll probably happen sooner than we expect, allowing all the crazy biocomputing things you've read about in sci-fiction books and seen in movies to become a reality.
Fly-Sized Drones? Don't Be Surprised
Already frightening at full size, drones are now being downscaled to the size of a common fly by Harvard researchers, making them potentially creepier.
Even though these robo-flies are receiving control and power signals through a wire, remember that these are just the first generation of the category. More advanced tiny, flying drones are to come. Perhaps they'll be fitted with solar batteries and carry tiny radios for wireless control.
Be sure to check out this fascinating video and think for a moment how immensely useful (or deadly) those miniscule drones might become when mass produced.
While still somewhat in a prototype phase and cursed with setbacks, glasses that are always connected and always surveilling might well become a game-changer in social order as we know it.
So far, the implications of using products like Google Glass seem to vary. We expect some functions will be welcomed – like the ability to pull up a map or other relevant information straight in front of your eyes – but others are controversial. Will Google Glass further destroy our privacy and make socialization awkward? ("Is he looking at me or at his Google Glass screen?")
A number of institutions have already prohibited people from wearing Google Glass on their premises, and the list of venues barring the device is sure to grow. With its video recording capabilities limited only by battery life, Google Glass allows users to breach others' privacy literally in the blink of an eye.
Unless Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) comes up with something even more pervasive – and that rumored smart watch project doesn't count – Google Glass will remain on the top of the most impressive -- and scariest -- technological innovations so far. And it's almost ready for the mass market.