Thursday, February 8, 2007

Picture of the day

The Pause that Refreshes

J. D. Jarvis, The Pause that Refreshes, NanoArt 2006

From NanoArt 2006. © Copyright J. D. Jarvis (click to see larger version)

NANOART is a new art discipline related to micro/nanosculptures created by artists/scientists through chemical/physical processes and/or natural micro/nanostructures that are visualized with powerful research tools like Scanning Electron Microscope and Atomic Force Microscope.

NanoArt could be for the 21st Century what Photography was for the 20th Century. We live in a technological society, in a new Renaissance period, and there is no reason for Arts to stay away from Technology. NanoArt is the expression of the New Technological Revolution and reflects the transition from Science to Art using Technology.

See all of J. D. Jarvis' NanoArt 2006 entries here, or visit his website.

Quote of the day

"We live in a technologically intensive society where the rate of technological advancement is accelerating at a pace many find troubling. In the past thirty years we have experienced more dramatic changes brought about by technology than ever before in history. Given some in-depth insights into advanced technology, research organizations (both public and private) predict there are wondrous new developments ahead that will shape our lives. These scientific and technological breakthroughs have far-reaching political, economic and social implications. These implications are not limited in scope to the country or jurisdiction where the development takes place but throughout the world."

~Kevin G. Coleman, Ph.D., Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute

Commenting on how society can cope with the massive changes that will result from our understanding of the nanoscale, Dr. Robert D. Atkinson (1) said: "We should not use the precautionary principle as our guide, nor should we just ignore the potential problems. We should go forward with research on nano while at the same time go forward with research into the potential problems from nano and the solutions to them."

(1) Vice President and Director of the Technology and New Economy Project, Progressive Policy Institute (link). Author, "The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth"

"Lurking just beyond the horizon, there is a globe-spanning, international business-changing, society-altering tsunami - from which we're catching the first waves, now. Companies, governments, and institutions are already being forced to consider a blinding rate of technological change; many finding themselves woefully unprepared. The rate at which the waves hit will likely increase, as technology advances on a double-exponential curve. Those that don't take the first preparatory steps now for massive changes soon better find someone who can, before they find themselves taking those first steps down the path towards the "dustbin of history."

~Rocky Rawstern, Editor, Nanotechnology Now ( Sept. 2003

A Transparent Society, Maybe

“The new Smart Nanobattery architecture promises an energy source that can be packaged in various configurations, with shelf life lasting decades, yet still able to be activated almost instantaneously on demand. Various battery designs based on this technology may deliver a new and unique component for system design across many fields, including defense, industrial and consumer electronics.” link

“…'next generation' computer chips which will see processors with mind-boggling memories the size of a grain of sand.”

“The new technology will have military uses with tiny spy planes the size of flies able to collect and send back information over hundreds of miles.” link

OK, those were some semi-random headlines gleaned from recent nanotech news. Semi-random since I was looking for technologies that will enable ubiquitous surveillance, but picked from amongst dozens of others that fit the “nano” mold. And keep in mind that there have been literally hundreds of similar improvements in various supporting technologies in the past few years. It seems probable that improvements along these lines will continue, and the rate at which these advances become part of “today’s technologies” will continue to increase.

So, we’ve got technologies that reduce the size of sensors, technologies that reduce the size of sensor batteries, and technologies that reduce the size and increase the capacity of memory modules. What does it all mean? It means that sometime in the not-to-distant future, perhaps 5 to 10 years from now, we will have the ability to construct cheap (nearly free) sensors that will be difficult if not impossible for the human eye to detect. These sensors will have the ability to detect everything from conversations to chemicals, and send their findings hundreds, if not thousands of miles (using satellite uplinks) to whoever is monitoring them.

What do we do about it? I don’t know. What I do know is that this “possible future” will be an issue, and probably one of the most socially disruptive of all the near term “nanotechnologies.” (A better term is “nanotechnology-enabled technology”)

In closing, I’d like to refer back to a note I made earlier about David Brin’s compelling argument in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Brin argues for a more open society; “one in which those in power would be required to adhere to the same "openness" standards as their constituents, where the authorities are monitored as well as monitoring.” Maybe this is the answer; I don’t know, but it is a place to start the debate; a debate that needs to begin soon, and needs to include all stakeholders.