Thursday, December 29, 2011
Frank Sinatra - My Way
I didn't listen to 'the Big Blue Eyes' until I was told by a female friend of mine more than a decade ago that, if you wanna have a romantic evening with a female guest, you can do that with a bottle of wine, candle light setting, and Frank Sinatra's music in the background. Then, I dig into a beat about this legendary singer, I got to say that, she is right!
Barbra Streisand - The Way We Were
I'm not a fan of her, but you gotta admit that this song is very good. I think I heard this song long times ago when I was really young, but didn't really get that in my head till Leslie Cheung sang that in his farewell concert back in 1989. Since then, I've linked this song with the concept of growing up and time passes.
Dusty Springfield - Look of Love
There are many version of this song. I learn this song from Diana Khrall. However, I've been seeing Dusty Springfield's name popping up here and there in some all time favorite list. After I listen to Dusty's version, I gotta say that I like that antique kind of sound quality in this song that those more polished one with modern recording technology. Just like old wine.
Louis Armstrong - What a wonderful world
This song is just timeless! When I was really young, I always thought good singers should have a clear, relatively high-pitched voice, like those 3 Tenors. However, since I opened my ears more, I listen to more kind of music, that changed my mind. Louis Armstrong's voice is old and rough, but man, how powerful and warm it is. This song is a prime example of how a great voice capture your mind with every words. I always think this song is a 'song of hope'. It is a very uplifting song to tell us that our problem is nothing, things will take care of themselves. Look, the world is beautiful, we just gotta look around.
Judy Garland - Over The Rainbow
This song, similar to the 'What a wonderful world' above, has been a favorite in singing contest. I didn't care too much about the original movie. But the original version of the song by Judy Garland is another story. I also regard this song as another 'song of hope', but this one has a bit more child's hymn kinda feel to it. Anyway, I love this song, so does my 4 years old son.
Nat King Cole – Unforgettable
I first got to know this song was already the hi-tech synthesized duet version of Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie Cole. It was a nice duet in augmented reality. But, after digging in Youtube, I like the solo version by Nat much more. He is by no mean handsome, but with the great smile when he sang this song, how can you not like him and melted by his voice with lyrics?
Eagles - Hotel California
This song is one of the newest in this list. There are so many stories about this songs that I'm not gonna cite them here. You can google them if you want to. For me, I just love the guitar outro of this song and the feel of 70s in this song.
John Lennon – Imagine
Well, I like the lyrics of this song, but to me the best part is the piano sound which is so hypnotic. This song is regarded as 'song of peace', being a peace-loving person, this song can be a national anthem for any peaceful nation.
The Beatles - Yesterday
Beatles have so many good songs, it's hard to pick one. I can easily pick 'Let it Be' as another favorite. However, I think Yesterday sounds not only good, but only on a more personal way of expressing the passage of time and the missing of the good old days. The kind of young innocence that Paul sang is just priceless.
Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender
Same as Beatles, the King has so many good songs as well. However, I don't know why, whenever I think of his love songs, it will either be 'Always on my mind' or this one. Perhaps, the tenderness of this song that make it a bit stand out. I don't really like Elvis's image that much, but I've to say that his voice is magical.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Over the Christmas holidays, I was able to squeeze few hours to go to see ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’ (aka. “MI4”). It is the fourth movie of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt MI franchise. This time, it is directed by Brad Bird, the director from Pixar who made the Incredibles.
I saw all four movies of the MI franchise, I didn’t like the first one for the trailer was giving out too much of the movie, even the ending was shown. Also, MI is supposed to be a team movie, but Ethan Hunt’s team died too early in the movie. The sequel which was directed by John Woo was bad. I love John’s movies and actually there are few good scenes in MI2. However, Tom Cruise was too much of himself in that movie and I think John let him to do so to an extent that John lost his control in the movie to make it great. MI3 directed by JJ Adram was the best in the series from my standpoint. First of all, there was a team to be around Ethan Hunt and the script was tight to get audience excited. If you don’t care much about Ethan Hunt, at least you would care about his wife. Also, Philip Hoffman as the villain was a wonderful choice. Now, after few years when Tom Cruise’s career took nosedive, here comes MI4.
I honestly quite enjoy this movie, surprisingly the series of this franchise is actually getting better and better. Tom Cruise looks old but still very convincing in performing his role in the movie. He has a team of 4 and they all have their own shinning moments. The script is old fashion, but the actions and pace of the movie are good enough to make up for the lacking part. There is simply no dull moment in the movie for audiences to space out and look at their watches. I think, perhaps it is because it is directed by Brad, there are many funny moments in this movie, much more than the past 3 combined. I think that’s a good distinction from not only the past movies but other similar franchise like Jason Bourne or James Bond. Also, the sceneries in Dubai, India and Moscow as well as the hi-tech gadgets are all being used very well without creating any unnecessary distraction.
As an average movie audience without any particular expectation going into the movie, I would say that it is highly recommendable as a typical Hollywood popcorn flick.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I saw In Time few weeks back. The premise of the movie is about sometimes in the future when time is our currency. Everyone can only live up to 25 years old and people either stay the youth look by working hard in order to stay alive or just die. It is a relatively low budget sci-fi movie which is something that I actually like more than those Star Wars type of movies that with lots of CG and explosion. In Time can be classified as a ‘thinking-man’ sci-fi that reminds me of other similar movie like ‘Gattaca’ which is quite similar in genre.
In Time is full of your actors as they have to be able to play the roles at the age of 25. I don’t really like Justin Timberlake, but he has a fine or I should say ‘fit’ performance as the leading role in the movie. Amanda Seyfield as the main actress in the movie is kinda wooden in performance. I can’t recall any of her look being stunning or memorable. The whole movie is more about Justin and Amanda going heist from being pursued by authority. The only few scenes that left some kinds of imprint in my mind are:
- The ‘bank account in terms of time’ on everyone’s forearm to tell how long life is left
- The scene when Olivia Wilde (as Justin’s mom!) and Justin runs towards each other as Olivia’s clock is winding down and she died in his son’s arm with seconds late. That’s kinda cheesy but touching.
- The bank account of the rich man (Amanda’s father) in the vault was a time device that worth an ‘eon’.
- The rich man introduced 3 chicks who are all young and hot as his mom, his wife and his daughter.
- Another rich man gave his ‘time’ of more than 100 years to Justin and committed suicide as he found life is just too long and meaningless for living that long
I saw Margin Call last night. It is a low budget movie that reportedly filmed in 17 days. There is actually not much to be seen in the movie. The premise is an office in Wall Street. So, most of the scenes in the movies you will see desks, chairs, Bloomberg terminals, conference room, elevator, and restroom with few outdoor scenes in a bar, in a car, street in a suburb, and the entrance and the roof of the office building. That’s about it. Also, there is no fighting, killing, kissing, love scenes, explosion, cops, guns, any kind of comedy or horror in this movie. So, what is good about this movie? There are two: acting and story.
The cast of this movie is superb! Jeremy Iron played the top boss of the ibank as a smiling wolf. Kevin Spacey played as a sympatric head of traders. Stanley Tucci played a senior risk analyst with dignity. The others like Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany and Simon Baker all played their part well. The lesson of the movie is basically all about everybody tries to save their own ass before the others. I think the pace of the movie is tight in spite of the lack of actions. Just watching the time lapse throughout the movie and see how actors interacted with each other is just entertaining. I strongly recommend this movie.
Monday, December 19, 2011
It is Samsung Flexible AMOLED concept being used as an e-reader, a camera, a video chat system, and an interpreter that being reported in news earlier this month. Certainly, the clip make the technology really amazing and I'm sure some people would jump on buying the first products that gonna use this technology. To tell you the truth, I'm amazing by this technology too. However, it took me less than a minute to think of a whole bunch of questions and concern about the 'practicality' of this technology on the proposed usage as it is widely reported in news stories - on tablet or smartphone. It got me to recite one of the memorable line in the movie Jurassic Park that I remember all these years: 'Just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you should!'
There are two aspects about this technology that I wanna talk about: Transparency and flexibility.
It has been the development trend of consumer tech products in the past decades that products are getting more powerful, lighter, smaller and stay affordable. However, the progress has been slowed down by many factors, one thing is the cost of producing certain parts of the product which would make certain good products unprofitable in the market, thus they aren't being produced. Another key issue that has been dragging the advancement of consumer tech product is the battery issue. That's why Apple has been amazing in the evolution of its products that they became powerful but were still able to stay the same length of battery life if not longer. I think battery technology is certainly lacked behind the development of the rest of other aspects of tech products. Going back to this new technology, you can make the screen as thin as light and as transparent all you want. What about the battery? We don't know how much energy this display will consume, even if it is 50% or more energy efficient, where do you put the battery with the transparent display? At the edge of the screen? Cuz, if the display is thin, transparent and flexible, but the other 'things' including the battery aren't, what is the point of make such ugly hybrid product? I mean...like roll the display around a solid rod of battery with chipset and other stuff like camera lens, unroll it when we use it. Is that the concept? I just can't imagine that being very consumer-friendly and cool-looking!
In addition, the flexibility of this display will not be much useful if the other parts are not flexible, again the battery, chipset, lens, sensor, etc. We consumer can accept things getting small and light, but still need a lot of education on accepting tech products being flexible, particularly on the durability part. We would think that bending such product will damage it. We have been told long enough of not bending our credit card, sim card, SD card, or other cards that using NPC technology. How would we be convinced to fold our new mobile phone or tablet even it is shown to be ok to do so? It will take time.
Secondly, about the transparency of the screen. It looks like a good concept, but not for phone or tablet! Why? Because we took our phone and tablet on the go mostly. We don't just put them on the table with a white background when we use it. Namely, we will always able to see other color in the background while we are using the transparent display. Can you imagine how 'messy' and 'eye-hurting' to look at things on the screen and behind the screen as the same time? I'm not talking about augmented reality which could be useful. But, while we are reading a book, playing a game, looking at pictures, etc. We don't wanna see other 'visual noise'! Thus, I would think that such new transparent display technology would be more practical to be on glasses or helmet screens or windshield in cars as 'supplementary' tool to provide information 90% of the time, rather than taking over the need of transparency of the screen. For instances, this new display technology can help us using augmented reality, as we can see some supporting information through our glasses, like seeing the prices of houses, profile of a person walking towards you, etc. Otherwise, the transparent property of this display is not much useful. Why I mentioned 90% of the time? The only 10% time that I think this technology will be great to be used on helmet or windshield is when this is combined with camera to provide an alternative view to help us understanding our surrounding when we are visually blocked somehow, like in fog, darkness, or else. If our car has infrared camera on, then we can see through the fog or darkness by displaying objects on the new display when we are driving or flying, that would be very helpful!
Thirdly, the only thing that this new display technology that I think is relatively practical is the thinness of the display. It means that I can be mounted on a thinner body to reduce the thinness of the phone or tablet overall. Since the body itself is not flexible, the display alone being flexible is no-use. In fact, there is only so thin our phone and tablet should be, particularly our phone. It is too uncomfortable to hold a phone as thin as a credit card. For example, we worry that we may drop it and fall into the crack on a sidewalk or in a pool of dirt water, or the product may overheat or something. Most of us do feel that we need 'something' to hold on to. So, I guess there is only so thin that a mobile phone that we 'should' make. As a side-track issue, the issue of earphone is also a concern for now. If the jack of earphone is thicker than the phone itself, it would be quite awkward! Though wireless headset exists, it is still not as good as the wired one in terms of sound quality, battery, and comfort issue, etc. On the tablet side, I guess that it is more practical to accept thinner model, even if it is as thin as credit card, that should be fine, because of the way that we hold our tablet.
Well, that's my brief take on this technology. I'm sure there are other ways to use this display technology more efficiently than on mobile phone and tablet, it will be up to the genius and the market to decide. However, I really doubt that we will see such products in use on phone or tablet in 2012 as some reports suggested, cuz other issues that I mentioned above woulds till take a lot of works to do before the product become financially feasible to make. Let's wait and see.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I don’t know if what I’m about to write to you both would still make any sense by the time you both are old enough to read and understand what I’m about to say. You dad (out of a sudden and for no particular reason today) would like to share with you boys his view of the world. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, let alone years or decades from now. So, as of the time that you both are reading this post, the world will have definitely been changed for better or worse.
In various channels, like school or through mass media, we have been told that all human beings are supposed to be created equal and have free will to pursue our way of life. At least, that’s what they are told where we live in a relatively free, rich, and educated society. However, is that really true? Are we really equal and have our free will to do what we want? Some of us who think like sheeps would say yes. They would say that we can choose to have chicken for dinner in an eatery in a shopping mall that we choose to go, and bring along the mobile phone to play the game or read an ebook that we choose at the time that I want. Who is gonna stop us? Or, they would say that they can take time off to fly to a country of their choice to go sight-seeing and shop what they can or even can’t afford. Or, they can exercise their law given right to vote for the candidate to become the leader of their government. Who is gonna stop them?
Yes, it seems that we have freedom to do a lot of things and feel that we are entitled to them. Is that really true? Well… it is sort of true for people who are ‘narrowed’ minded. Why would I say that? It is because they are just too focused on their ‘own’ and doesn’t see things from a more macro-higher-up point of view. There is nothing wrong with them. They are just too ‘busy’ to mind their own businesses. They don’t care much about the world unless they feel that they are affected personally. For example, they would care about the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak combo that happened this year in Japan because they were thinking to travel to Japan, or they are sushi lover, etc. They just don’t care much else. The internet and technology do bring us closer to see what’s going on in the world, but the information overload has ‘clouded’ most people’s mind as they are being over-informed and misinform at the same time. The result is just as bad as those old days when the lack of information that made people ignorant of the world. The situation from my point of view is surprisingly the same – people are just disoriented and can’t see the world clearly.
I think that I’m fortunate enough to be able to exercise my ‘limited’ freedom to read and think in my spare time all these years to develop a relatively independent mind to form my own view on how things are running in the world. I’m not saying I’m unique or any superior or smarter than others. There are certainly other people who are sharing similar view as mine, though they are in small number. I’ve to emphazie that I can’t prove my view is the truth, but I just wanna share how I see the world as an alternative to the so-called ‘mainstream’. That’s how I see the world…
As of this year, there are 7 billions people living in about 200 countries in the world. However, the life and fate of the 7 billions may well be controlled by 7,000 or merely 700 people. The exact figure is unknown, my point is that the world is ruled by a very small number of people. I’m not gonna throw terms or teach you what politics is all about. Things should be looked from in terms of a spectrum, i.e. there are numerous degrees of grey between black and white. However, to make things a bit easy to understand, in terms of political model, there are the extremes of dictatorship and total free democracy, and anything in between. Many countries in the world are run by dictators. The smaller countries would be run by military dictators that get power through civil war or military coup to overthrow popular civil elected rulers. Those dictators will either keep their absolute power within their family or few trusted ones around them. For them, they will do ‘anything’ to stay in power as long as they can, a life term would be preferable, and create their own dynasty if possible. For some bigger countries where their political systems are not democratic, a big dominant party usually rules the country. Opponents are either allowed to form smaller parties or in the form of different factions within the big party. Regardless, the leaders of the ruling party would do whatever they can to say in power while they are in office, and would still try to run the show from behind after they left office. Namely, they try to be the ‘king-maker’ before they left office and would run the show behind the curtain after their official term is over. It is because they often try to do things that are either or both immoral and illegal that against the interest of the mass. That’s why they want to make sure their own self-interests would be protected after they left office. Anyhow, they always put to their own self-interest above the people.
Another end of the spectrum is democracy which suppose are for the people and the one who wins the most votes will be the leader of the country on fixed term with powers within pre-set boundaries. That sounds very ideal. However, to tell you the truth, as long as they are capitalist countries, the ultimate determine factor in victory and failure in election is money. Who control money, control the results. That’s why elected leaders of all ranks have to answer to their constituency (i.e. their voters) superficially, but in fact they have to kiss the invisible hands (i.e. their financial backers) that lift them up to their posts. Yes, voters can financially support their candidates, but running elections are expensive, and most voters are neither rich nor really willing to donate. Thus, the financial backers have their hands in the election. Candidates need money and the backers have money. Certainly, remember that there is no free lunch in the world. Those financial backers will ask for favor in return if the candidates are elected. So, it all comes down to when the interests of the financial backers are not in line or simply contradict to that of the voters in majority. Guess which side will the elected leaders tilt towards to? That’s why democracy is ideal in theory but it also has its dark side.
Who are those financial backers? They have many names, but they key to become financial backers is that they have to be rich. The richer they are, the more powerful they are. In reality, they are mega-rich, rich enough to run the world! You see, there are all types of countries, big and small, poor or rich, etc. However, one thing in common is that they all need money to function, so money rules! They need money to grow to become prosperous. They need money to feed their people. They need to maintain their national defense. They need money to provide services to their people. They need money to go to war if necessary. They also need money to recover from war or natural disasters. So, no money, no country!
Who have the most money? Banks are the ‘mothers’ of capitalism. They feed all companies and industries with capital to function properly. The bigger the banks, the more powerful they are. Each country (most of them) has its central bank which controls the fiscal policy and liquidity in the economy. However, the funny thing is that many of those central banks (I’m talking about the major economies) are owned by a ‘fuzzy’ list of stockholders, many of whom are actually the mega-multinational banks. Thus, they are actually the most powerful entities in the world, given big economies affect the smaller ones, not vice versa. Well, who own those mega-multinational banks? That’s a billion if not trillion dollar question. There are various conspiracy theories about who are the real owners of those banks, like some century old private banks owned by some century old families or Royalties. I’m not go into that cuz they are still partially subject to speculation and can’t prove if those conspiracies are correct without thorough investigation. However, at least up to the point of mega-multinational banks, you can tell at least how powerful those banks are as they are in control of the world that we are living in.
The world economies are already globalized these days. Isolated entities are hard to compete without forming linkage/connection/cross-ownership among themselves. So, what makes those mentioned mega-multinational banks that powerful are because they have formed closely grids of financial relationships with other big oil companies, military subcontractors, pharmaceutical companies, food producers, mass media companies and industrial conglomerates. Altogether, they basically control the lives of billions!
Therefore, my advice to you boys is that don’t just take face value of stories being reported when you boys are reading news through the traditional media. It is always worth to peel the skin of stories and take a deep look of the connected interests of entities behind if you don’t just wanna be fed with ideas superficially. That’s what intelligent and curious mind should do. Certainly, I can’t tell you exactly what difference does it make on ‘practical level’ for knowing the truth behind or simply take things at face value. Nevertheless, I always don’t believe that we should always just follow the ‘herd’ without thinking if it makes sense or not. Our intelligence is too valuable to be wasted!
That's what I wanna tell you both today!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I’m no prophet, but have long been fascinated about the concept of time. I remember that I made some predictions before, haven’t got time to dig them out today to see I was on the mark or not. Nevertheless, I still wanna make some predictions for next year. There is no proof for my predictions, just based on my ‘hunch’ or ‘gut feeling’ or whatever that I’m gonna listed out below each of my prediction below. Just for the hack of it. They are not in any order…
1. Syria will have regime change
Just another domino to fall given what happened in Libya and what the Syrian regime has done so far.
2. All NATO countries will pull their ambassadors out from Tehran
I think Britain is just a start
3. No war with Iran
I know the war drums are banging, but I think Obama is busy with re-election, and Israel has not yet ready.
4. A major earthquake of 8 or above will take place in N.America
I don’t want that to happen personally, but it is 2012 we are talking about…
5. Significant ‘Alien’ related event will take place
I don’t know what exactly it will be, perhaps something like an UFO will appear on top of a major city. Just a feeling related to 2012…
6. Titanic 3D is gonna make over US$300M in box office in N.Amer. alone
I mentioned this in one of my previous post, just wanna list it here again. I think the movie is a great movie when it was shown back in 1997. People will still flock to see it again for nostalgic reason and it will be a new experience for teens who were toddlers back then. In addition, Leo will become the sexiest man of the year.
7. The Dark Knight Rise will be the biggest movie of the year in box-office
A very safe bet, better than the Amazing Spiderman and Avengers.
8. George Clooney and Michelle William will respectively win the Best Actor and Actress in Academy Award
I’ve not seen the movie “Descendent’, but based on the historic records of the Academy voters, I think it is his turn (at least ahead of Brad Pitt). For Michelle William, I just feel that it is her time.
9. Apple will NOT release the so-called ‘iTV’
Not until 2013
10. 2012 is not the end of the world
Just another silly hype when we look back after Dec 21, 2012. However, I think a significant event will happen in 2012 that has long lasting effects to human beings. That’s why I made the Alien prediction above.
11. Window 8 and Window tablet will be duds
Most PC users won’t feel the need to upgrade given the cost and insignificant enhancement in functions. Window tablet is just too late to the game.
12. Deaths of 3 global celebrities: Thai King, Henry Kissinger, the Pope Benedict XVI
Not being mean or anything, but this kind of thing happen every year, just see http://www.deathlist.net/
13. Winners of election around the world
The U.S. – Barack Hussein Obama
He doesn’t do well in first term, but his Republicans opponents are just pathetic (except Ron Paul who will not be elected)
Taiwan - Ma Ying-jeou
He deserves it.
Hong Kong – Henry Tang
He doesn’t deserve it, but shit happens.
Russia - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
No other bigger dog in the race
France - Nicolas Sarkozy
Sleazy bastard prevails in mud fight
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I came across the following in Yahoo! today and just made me wanna evaluate myself a bit. Surprisingly, I do agree with most (but not all) of the findings below.
Dog People vs. Cat People: The Surprising Differences
By Reader's Digest Magazine
Hunch.com recently polled more than 200,000 pet owners to find out if they were dog people or cat people. The site then crossed those responses with lifestyle surveys and arrived at the following conclusions. Anything sound familiar?
Dog people: 15% more likely to be extroverts
Cat people: 11% more likely to be introverts
Dog people: 36% more likely to use a pop song as a ringtone
Cat people: 14% more likely to cling to friends at a party
Dog people: 67% more likely to call animal control if they happen upon stray kittens
Cat people: 21% more likely to try to rescue stray kittens
Dog people: 11% more likely to say they'd support cloning, but only for animals or pets
Cat people: 17% more likely to have completed a graduate degree
Dog people: 18% more likely to consider Paul McCartney their favorite Beatle
Cat people: 25% more likely to consider George Harrison their favorite Beatle
Dog people: 9% more likely to think of zoos as happy place
Cat people: 10% more likely to send messages on Twitter
Dog people: 30% more likely to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions
Cat people: 21% more likely to enjoy ironic humor and puns
Both dog and cat people:
- Talk to animals of all kinds
- Are equally likely to have a four-year degree
- Dislike animal-print clothing
Monday, November 21, 2011
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
-- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
"But what ... is it good for?"
-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968,commenting on the microchip.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
-- Western Union internal memo, 1876.
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
-- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."
-- A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face not Gary Cooper."
-- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."
"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."
-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields'Cookies.
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
-- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
-- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."
-- Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.
"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"
-- Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
-- 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.
"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training."
-- Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.
"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
-- Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
-- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
-- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction".
-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon".
-- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.
"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
-- Bill Gates, 1981
"$100 million dollars is way too much to pay for Microsoft."
-- IBM, 1982
"Who the h_ll wants to hear actors talk?"
-- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
I found some more on my own, particularly words from Steve Ballmer, ha ha....
"Let's take phones first. Right now, we're selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year. Apple is selling zero phones a year....500 dollars? Fully subsidized? With a plan? I said that is the most expensive phone in the world. And it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard. Which makes it not a very good email machine.... In six months, they'll have the most expensive phone by far ever in the marketplace..
-- Steve Ballmer's First Take On The iPhone, January 2007
“You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone.”
-- When asked about the Windows Phone competition in 2011, Steve Ballmer said.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Finally S.H.I.E.L.D. are coming together after careful planning by Marvel. We all know that Iron Man is gonna still the movie, hopefully most characters can be somehow balanced in the script and performance. Anyway, it is gonna be a hit without doubt.
2. Dark Knight Rises
I think this is gonna be the movie of the year. Great cast and Christ Nolan, can't go wrong!
3. Amazing Spiderman
I think the action is gonna be good and I've been fan of Spider-man all along, that's why I wanna see it. just don't like the idea of remake for this movie, there is nothing wrong with Tobey Macquire's version...
4. Expendables 2
Nostagia all over again with bigger parts from Arnold and Bruce. Stupid script as expected, but it is a guilty pleasure anyway.
Ridley Scott does Aliens origin, nough said.
6. Dark Shadow
Tim Burton + Johnny Depp + Vampire -> Sweet!
7. Total Recall
Just very curious of how they spend US$200M on this unnecessary remake with Colin as the lead. Hopefully, all the hi-tech gadgets in the movie and action would make up for low expectation.
8. Snow White and the Huntsman
It is gonna be a hit, very interested to see Snow White in action.
9. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Abraham as Buffy, just interesting!
10. MIB III
Don't expect much from the actors, just wanna see actions and aliens. That's all.
Just one more....
Just make a prediction ahead: this movie is gonna make US$300M plus in N.America alone.
Monday, November 14, 2011
There are tons of books being written about sleeping, such as those about insomnia or sleeping disorder, dreams, REM, etc. What I'm talking about here is nothing that scientific or eerie, but 2 things that affect many people. I don't know if the subject of this post makes any sense to anyone, but I think I consider myself being lucky to be able to claim myself as a 'matured' sleeper from the aspect of not being exhibit the following 2 behaviors that many adults I know still can't get over with.
Basically, those 2 behaviors are quite similar, they are about not getting up when we suppose to.
The first thing is about waking up by the urge to pee. It happens when we consume too much liquid in the few hours before going to sleep. If we don't pee 'enough' before bedtime to go below certain threshold which is different from person to person, we will be due to be awaken by our body in the middle of the night with an urge to pee. For me, I would just get up and go to the bathroom regardless. Then, come back to bed and sleep. It takes just a minute or less, basically it doesn't affect my overall sleep. Certainly, it would be better if I don't feel the urge at all and can sleep through the whole night before waking up in the morning. Nevertheless, it feels very natural to me to just get up and go to pee. There is no struggle or second thought about this.
However, it doesn't work that way for many people. They have many reasons not to get up. For example, it is too cold outside their warm nest in bed. They would be worry to not able to go back to sleep once they got out of bed. As such, the most common and the dumbest decision that they make is to stay in bed and trying to 'ride' it out. Basically, they try to use their 'will' to suppress their urge to pee, and hopefully they will succeed at the end and can go back to sleep again without any issue till the morning. Of course, the issue that I'm talking about here is wet-bed or insomnia. I think that is nothing but wishful thinking. Unless we are waking up by a nightmare or something, if we are waking up by the urge to pee, it means that our body is telling us that peeing is more important than sleeping. Simply trying to use our will to fight against the natural calling of our body is stupid. I've no doubt that our will will win in the way that we will not pee in bed, but using our will itself is simply against the mechanic of sleeping in which our conscious mind is not being use. The longer we use our will to fight, the more awake we may become, also there may be more to pee. As such, we would just drag on our awakening time and lose time for sleeping. Usually, it would take no time for us to go back to sleep as soon as our will surrender and get our ass to the bathroom. For knowing of such, what is the point of fighting in the first place?
The second condition is waking up by alarm clock. Well, unlike the above, that's being waking up unnaturally. Does it justify for not getting up? I think not!
We set alarm for a reason. Unless the alarm is a 'false' alarm, we set the alarm to wake ourselves up at a certain time because we need to do 'XXX', may be going to school, going to work, going to do whatever. That is usually something important. For not getting up will usually come with a 'series' of 'big' consequences. Sometimes, it will ruin our day, or even ruin our life in the worst case scenario. So, what people do is to procrastinate their getting up action for one or few more alarms, like another 5 or 10 or 15, 20 minutes. If those people know themselves well enough, they may set their alarm 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes early than they suppose to get up. That would be fine. However, some of them just don't and fooling themselves by telling themselves 'give me x more minutes!' They should be smart enough to know that those x more minutes are not gonna make them feel any better or make any difference. Theoretically speaking, I think that we would wake up naturally when our body is fully 'recharged'. However, if we need to get up before that happen for some reasons, we just have to get up since we basically can't tell how much longer we would need to sleep in order to reach that natural wake-up stage. Why bet with those x more minutes? Cuz, experience should tell us that what would happen next. I know know about others, I would just get up in my case and would drink coffee, chew gums or whatever later, and go to bed earlier next time for the sake of not allowing those extra x more minutes to ruin my day.
Well, that's just some thoughts about sleeping that I wanna blog about. That's all.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Everybody should have a dream (at least one), if not, what is the point of living? I’ve read a story or a life lesson of someone long time ago. I forgot who said it and the exact words being used, but the meaning is that “the worse thing it can be done to a person is to take way his ability to dream, i.e. make he/she feels hopeless…as such he/she would have no motivation to even wake up in the morning, and he/she basically becomes a living corpse!” Thus, just like Dr. Martin Luther King, I’ve a dream too, just not as big or noble as his. However, my dream is almost unachievable, perhaps that’s the difference between a ‘dream’ and a ‘goal’. Actually, what I’m talking about below is a dream livelihood that I would love to have. That would compose of a bunch of dreams or goals. Anyway, I would say that if I can have them all at the same point of my life and be able to maintain them for a while, that would be fantastic!
What I think would make up of my perfect dream livelihood are as follow:
Healthy body – it is extremely critical to have a healthy body in order to enjoy life. I don’t need to have the best abs or the fittest body on earth, just an overall healthy body that can function properly. By the way, I’m ok with the natural aging.
Comfortable wealth – Well, what makes me comfortable? I don’t have a number and I’m not outrageous greedy. So, multi-billions are not what I mean here. What I would consider to be comfortable wealthy is that I wouldn’t need to work involuntary to make a living for myself and my love ones for the rest of my life. Certainly, with more money, I can do bigger things or helping more people, but that would be no cap in that case. So, that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Owning a place with personal space – That would tie to wealth, so as few things below. However, I just wanna specify the conditions or things for easy understanding. A nice living place is important. I wouldn’t specify how big that needs to be. Cuz, I’m not shopaholic myself. I don’t need a lot of space to store collections of stuffs. Just a functional living space that I can relax at home, properly install my gadgets (talk about that later) and store some childhood things, that would be enough. The second key part is about ‘personal’ space. Certainly, the more spacious my home is, the more personal space that I should have, cuz I wouldn’t run into others while I want to do my things and others are doing theirs. I think I just wanna specify here is that I should have a shaft, or a corner, or a room that I can do my own things quietly without any disturb or interference by others. That’s what I want.
Healthy foods – I’m not a food critic or fanatic. What I want from foods is nutrients. Certainly, tasty and good looking dishes would be welcomed. For me healthy foods are typically fresh and natural. I don’t like possessed foods. So, those fancy color foods in bags with tons of mumbo-jumbo ingredients on labels are not for me. I don’t particularly care for exotic foods with expensive ingredients. What matter is that they are fresh and clean, i.e. are organic grown and free of generic-alternation. In terms of style or cuisine, I’m basically open to try pretty much anything. My personal preference is large vegetarian portion than meat.
Gadgets – These are the keys that help me get through the days. I learn, am informed and entertained by interacting with them. My gadgets include HDTV, iMac, PC, iPhone, iPad, sound system and all their peripheral auxiliaries. Basically, I would be able to access books, news, music, movies, videos, games, information, telecommunication, etc. through my gadgets anytime anywhere.
Comfortable clothes – For me, the basic function of clothes are keeping me covered and warm. Texture of materials should be both functional and comfortable. Cutting must be fit for purpose. That’s all.
Transportation – I’m not a car fanatic. Driving is fun in the right places and at the right time. I hate spending time in traffic in general. Thus, as long as I can access to easy, safe more-or-less comfortable and speedy transportation means conveniently, that would be enough.
Quality Family time – I’m fine to live by myself to do my own things, but also enjoy spending time with my family. However, the problem is that they are largely mutually exclusive. Thus, getting the right balance is the key and it is hard to achieve. So, it is a dream to be able to have both. The best way would be able to have time of my own undisturbed in my shaft and my family members can take care of their own, and share fun time together rather than troubles.
Travel – Being able to go anywhere anytime is a dream. I like travel, not that I have to travel very frequent. It is still nice to go to place in person to see things. Personally, I like take exotic trips rather than shopping sprees or staying in non-distinguishable resorts.
Voluntary works – There is only so much I can do on my own. Besides spending time on hobbies, it would be nice to do voluntary works every now and then.
I don’t know if my dream livelihood is too ambitious or not. However, reviewing my current condition, that would be largely unachievable when my kids are still so young. Nevertheless, I will keep my dream open and hopefully it will partially come true someday.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
War's Remote-control Future
Unmanned drone attacks and shape-shifting robots
by Anna Mulrine
Global Research, October 23, 2011
Christian Science Monitor
The Pentagon already includes unmanned drone attacks in its arsenal. Next up: housefly-sized surveillance craft, shape-changing 'chemical robots,' and tracking agents sprayed from the sky. What does it mean to have soldiers so far removed from the battlefield?
Pakistanis hold up a burning mock drone aircraft during a May rally against drone attacks in Peshawar.
In 2009, the Brookings Institution estimated that unmanned drone attacks were killing about 10 civilians
for every 1 insurgent in Pakistan. (K. Pervez/Reuters)
In the shadow of a heavily fortified enemy building, US commanders call in a chemical robot, or what looks like a blob. They give it a simple instruction: Penetrate a crack in the building and find out what's inside. Like an ice sculpture or the liquid metal assassin in "Terminator 2," the device changes shape, slips through the opening, then reassumes its original form to look around. It uses sensors woven into its fabric to sample the area for biological agents. If needed, it can seep into the cracks of a bomb to defuse it.
Soldiers hoping to eavesdrop on an enemy release a series of tiny, unmanned aircraft the size and shape of houseflies to hover in a room unnoticed, relaying invaluable video footage.
A fleet of drones roams a mountain pass, spraying a fine mist along a known terrorist transit route – the US military's version of "CSI: Al Qaeda." Days later, when troops capture suspects hundreds of miles away, they test them for traces of the "taggant" to discover whether they have traversed the trail and may, in fact, be prosecuted as insurgents.
IN PICTURES: War by remote control
Welcome to the battlefield of the future. Malleable robots. Insect-size air forces. Chemical tracers spritzed from the sky. It's the stuff of science fiction.
But these are among the myriad futuristic warfighting creations currently being developed at universities across the country with funds from the US military. And the future, in many cases, may not be too far off.
Engineering students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., for instance, are now experimenting with chemical taggants on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like the ones being used in Afghanistan. Sure, the shape-changing chemical robot that slips through cracks may be more Ray Bradbury than battlefield-ready. But the Pentagon, in its perpetual quest to find the next weapon or soldier-saving device – and with scientific assurances that it's possible – is already investing millions to develop it.
"We're not about 20 years, or 10 years, or even five years away – a lot of this could be out in the field in under two years," says Mitchell Zatkin, former director of programmable matter at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon's premier research office.
The development of a new generation of military robots, including armed drones, may eventually mark one of the biggest revolutions in warfare in generations. Throughout history, from the crossbow to the cannon to the aircraft carrier, one weapon has supplanted another as nations have strived to create increasingly lethal means of allowing armies to project power from afar.
But many of the new emerging technologies promise not only firepower but also the ability to do something else: reduce the number of soldiers needed in war. While few are suggesting armies made up exclusively of automated machines (yet), the increased use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has already reinforced the view among many policymakers and Pentagon planners that the United States can carry out effective military operations by relying largely on UAVs, targeted cruise missile strikes, and a relatively small number of special operations forces.
At the least, many enthusiasts see the new high-tech tools helping to save American lives. At the most, they see them changing the nature of war – how it's fought and how much it might cost – as well as helping America maintain its military preeminence.
Yet the prospect of a military less reliant on soldiers and more on "push button" technologies also raises profound ethical and moral questions. Will drones controlled by pilots thousands of miles away, as many of them are now, reduce war to an antiseptic video game? Will the US be more likely to wage war if doing so does not risk American lives? And what of the oversight role of Congress in a world of more remote-control weapons? Already, when lawmakers on Capitol Hill accused the Obama administration of circumventing their authority in waging war in Libya, White House lawyers argued in essence that an operation can't be considered war if there are no troops on the ground – and, as a result, does not require the permission of Congress.
"If the military continues to reduce the human cost of waging war," says Lt. Col. Edward Barrett, an ethicist at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., "there's a possibility that you're not going to try hard enough to avoid it."
Beneath a new moon, a crew pushes the 2,500-pound Predator drone toward a blacked-out flight line and prepares it for takeoff. The soldiers wheel over a pallet of Hellfire missiles and load them onto the plane's undercarriage. The Predator pilot walks around the aircraft, conducting his preflight check. He then returns to a nearby trailer, sits down at a console with joysticks and monitors, and guides the snub-nosed plane down the runway and into the night air – unmanned and fully armed.
The takeoffs of Predators with metronome regularity here at Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan, has helped turn this strip of asphalt into what the Pentagon calls the single busiest runway in the world. An aircraft lifts off or lands every two minutes. It's a reminder of how integral drones have become to the war in Afghanistan and the broader war on terror.
Initially, of course, the plan was not to put weapons on Predator drones at all. Like the first military airplanes, they were to be used just for surveillance. As the war in Iraq progressed, however, US service members jury-rigged the drones with weapons. Today, armed Predators and their larger offspring, Reapers, fly over America's battlefields, equipped with both missiles and powerful cameras, becoming the most widely used and, arguably, most important tools in the US arsenal.
Since first being introduced in Iraq and Afghanistan, their numbers have grown from 167 in 2002 to more than 7,000 today. The US Air Force is now recruiting more UAV pilots than traditional ones.
"The demand has just absolutely skyrocketed," says the commander of the Air Force's 451st Operations Group, which runs Predator and Reaper operations in Kandahar.
As their numbers have grown, so has the sophistication with which the military uses them. The earliest drones operated more as independent assets – as aerial eyes that sent back intelligence and dropped their bombs. But today the unmanned aircraft are integrated into almost every operation on the ground, acting as advanced scouts and omniscient surveyors of battle zones. They monitor the precise movements of insurgents and kill enemy leaders. They conduct "virtual lineups," zooming in powerful cameras to help determine whether a suspected insurgent may have carried out a particular attack.
"A lot of the ground commanders won't execute a mission without us," says the Air Force's commander of the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron in Afghanistan.
Robots, too, have become a far more pervasive presence on America's fields of battle. Remote-control machines that move about on wheels and tracks scour for roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan carry hand-held drones in backpacks, which they assemble and throw into the air to scope out terrain and check for enemy fighters. In the past 10 years, the Pentagon's use of robots has grown from zero to some 12,000 in war zones today.
Part of the exponential rise in the use of UAVs and robots stems from a confluence of events: improvements in technology and America's prolonged involvement in two simultaneous wars.
There is, too, the prospect of more money for military contractors eyeing a downturn in future defense budgets. Today, the amount of money being spent on research for military robotics surpasses the budget of the National Science Foundation, which, at $6.9 billion a year, funds nearly one-quarter of all federally supported scientific research at the nation's universities.
Military officials also see in the new technologies the possibility of savings in an era of shrinking budgets. Deploying forces overseas can now cost as much as $1 million a year per soldier.
Yet the biggest allure of the new high-tech armaments may be something as old as conflict itself: the desire to reduce the number of casualties on the battlefield and gain a strategic advantage over the enemy. As Lt. Gen. Richard Lynch, a commander in Iraq, observed at a conference on military robotics in Washington earlier this year: "When I look at the 153 soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice [under my command], I know that 80 percent of them were put in a situation where we could have placed an unmanned system in the same job."
Drones, in particular, seem the epitome of risk-free warfare for the nation using them – there are, after all, no pilots to shoot down. Moreover, the people who run them are often nowhere near the field of battle. Some 90 percent of the UAV operations over Afghanistan are flown by people in trailers in the deserts of Nevada. In Kandahar, soldiers help the planes take off and land and then hand over controls to the airmen in the US.
"We want to minimize the [human] footprint as much as possible," says the 451st Operations Group commander at the Kandahar airfield, where the effects of being close to the war are clearly visible: The plywood walls of the tactical operations center are lined with framed bits of jagged metal from mortars that have fallen on the airfield over the years.
While the distant control of drones may well protect American lives, it raises questions about what it means to have people so far removed from the field of conflict. "Sometimes you felt like God hurling thunderbolts from afar," says Lt. Col. Matt Martin, who was among the first generation of US soldiers to work with drones to wage war and who has written a book – "Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story."
Martin agrees that the unmanned aircraft no doubt reduce American casualties, but wonders if it makes killing "too easy, too tempting, too much like simulated combat, like the computer game Civilization."
It probably doesn't reassure critics that the flight controls for drones over the years have come to resemble video-game contollers, which the military has done to make them more intuitive for a generation of young soldiers raised on games like Gears of Warand Killzone.
Martin knows what it's like to confront the dark side of war, even as he fought it from afar. During one operation, he was piloting a drone that was tracking an insurgent. Just after he fired one of the aircraft's missiles, two children rode their bicycles into range. They were both killed. "You get good at compartmentalizing," says Martin.
What worries critics is those who are too good at it – and the impact in general of waging war at a distance. Some fret about the mechanics of the decisionmaking process: Who ultimately makes the decision to pull the trigger? And how do you decide whom to put on the hit list – a top Al Qaeda official, yes, but is some petty but persistent insurgent a matter of national security?
As the US increasingly uses drones in its secret campaigns, questions arise about how much to inform America's allies about UAV attacks and whether they alienate local populations more than they help subdue the enemy, which the US has starkly, and almost weekly, confronted with its drone campaign in Pakistan.
From the US military's viewpoint, the drone war has been fantastically successful, helping to kill key Al Qaeda operatives and Taliban insurgents with a minimum of civilian casualties and almost no US troops put at risk.
Some even believe that the ethical oversight of drones is far more rigorous than that of manned aircraft, since at least 150 people – ground crews, engineers, pilots, intelligence analyzers – are typically involved in each UAV mission.
The issue of what's a minimum of civilian losses is, of course, subjective. In 2009, the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, estimated that the US drone war was killing about 10 civilians for every 1 insurgent in Pakistan. That may be far fewer casualties than would be killed with traditional airstrikes. But it is hardly comforting to the Pakistanis.
Moreover, the very practice of taking out enemy leaders or sympathizers could at some point, according to detractors, devolve into an aerial assassination campaign. When the US used a drone strike last month to kill jihadist cleric and American-bornAnwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, President Obama hailed it as a "major blow" to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But some critics decried the killing of a US citizen with no public scrutiny.
Barrett, who is the director of research at the Naval Academy's Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, discusses with his students the prospect of whether UAVs make it easier to wage war if the government doesn't have to worry about a public outcry. "There are not the mass numbers of troops moving around and visible, so it could be easier to circumvent the oversight of Congress and, therefore, legitimate authority," he notes.
Others ask a more simple but practical question: What about the troops who conduct the UAV strikes from the Nevada desert – could they become legitimate targets of America's enemies at, say, a local mall, bringing the war on terror to the suburbs?
Some worry that the US is, in fact, placing too heavy a burden on its UAV troops. Despite warnings that "video-game warfare" might make them callous to killing, new studies suggest that the stress levels drone operators face are higher than those for infantry forces on the ground.
"Having this idea of a 'surgical war' where you can really just pinpoint the bad guys with the least amount of damage to our own force, there's a bit of naiveté in all that," says Maryann Cusinamo Love, an associate professor at Catholic University of Americain Washington, D.C.
She says the powerful cameras on the drones allow pilots to see in "great vivid detail the real-time results of their actions. That is an incredible stress on them."
It is also, she argues, a "ghettoization of the killing function in war." However justified the military mission may be, she says, "You are still giving the most stressful job of war disproportionately to this one subset of people."
Nearly as long as militaries have existed, they have invented arms to keep their soldiers as far away from danger as possible. Some sound ridiculous, others terrifying, but most have raised questions of fairness in warfare.
During World War II, Japanese forces used the jet stream to launch paper "fire balloons" rigged with bombs meant to explode when they drifted over US soil. One such balloon discovered by an American family during a picnic in the Oregon woods resulted in the only deaths in the continental US caused by enemy hostilities in the war.
For their part, US scientists experimented with a form of bio-inspired warfare: a "bat bomb" that they planned to launch in parachute-rigged casings over Japan. They imagined fitting the bodies of tiny bats with incendiary bombs on timers. The theory was that the bats, once dropped, would roost in the eaves and attics of Japan's delicate wooden dwellings, setting off fires. The technology was successfully tested but scrapped when it was deemed too expensive by the Pentagon.
On the Western front, Germany was experimenting with a remote-control tank known as the Goliath. It used technology pioneered by an American who had demonstrated a remote-control boat years earlier at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When he tried to sell his technology to the US military, however, he was met with ridicule.
"He said, 'I've got this technology,' but they started laughing – they thought he was crazy," says Peter Singer, author of "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century."
With the advent of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, technology has once again rendezvoused with military necessity. A company called iRobot in Bedford, Mass., sent a prototype of its PackBot, which soldiers began using to clear caves and bunkers suspected of being mined. When the testing period was over, "The Army unit didn't want to give the test robot back," Mr. Singer notes.
While the use of robots that can detect and defuse explosives is growing exponentially, the next big frontier for America's military R2-D2s may parallel what happened to drones: They may be fitted with weapons – offering new fighting capabilities as well as raising new concerns.
Already, researchers are experimenting with attaching machine guns to robots that can be triggered remotely. Field tests in Iraq for one of the first weaponized robots, dubbed SWORDS, didn't go well.
"There were several instances of noncommanded firing of the system during testing," says Jeffrey Jaczkowski, deputy manager of the US Army's Robotic Systems Joint Project Office.
Though US military officials tend to emphasize that troops must remain "in the loop" as robots or drones are weaponized, there remains a strong push for automation coming from the Pentagon. In 2007, the US Army sent out a request for proposals calling for robots with "fully autonomous engagement without human intervention." In other words, the ability to shoot on their own.
"Let's put it this way," says Lt. Col. David Thompson, project manager of the Army's robotic office. "We've seen the success of unmanned air vehicles that have been armed. This [weaponizing robots] is a natural extension."
At the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ronald Arkin is researching a stunning premise: whether robots can be created that treat humans on the battlefield better than human soldiers treat each other. He has pored over the first study of US soldiers returning from the Iraq war, a 2006 US Surgeon General's report that asked troops to evaluate their own ethical behavior and that of their comrades.
He was struck by "the incredibly high level of atrocities that are witnessed, committed, or abetted by soldiers." Modern warfare has not lessened the impact on soldiers. It is as stressful as ancient hand-to-hand combat with axes, he argues, because of the sorts of quick decisions that fighting with modern technology requires.
"Human beings have never been designed to operate under the combat conditions of today," he says. "There are many, many problems with the speed with which we are killing right now – and that exacerbates the potential for violation of laws of war."
With Pentagon funding, Dr. Arkin is looking at whether it is possible to build robots that behave more ethically than humans – to not be tempted to shoot someone, for instance, out of fear or revenge.
The key, he says, is that the robot should "first do no harm, rather than 'shoot first, ask questions later.' "
Such technology requires what Arkin calls an "ethical adaptor," which involves following orders. Learning, he explains, is potentially dangerous when it comes to making decisions about whether to kill. "You don't want to hand soldiers a gun and say, 'Figure out what's right and wrong.' You tell them what's right and wrong," he says. "We want to do the same for these robotic systems."
The aim, says Arkin, is not to be perfect, "but if we can achieve this goal of outperforming humans, we have saved lives – and that is the ultimate benchmark of this work."
Other research into armed robots centers not so much on outperforming humans as being able to work with them. In the not-too-distant future, military officials envision soldiers and robots teaming up in the field, with the troops able to communicate with machines the way they would with a human squad team member. Eventually, says Thompson, the robot-soldier relationship could become even more collaborative, with one human soldier leading many armed robots.
After that, the scenarios start to become something more out of the realm of film studios. For instance, retired Navy Capt. Robert Moses, president of iRobot's government and industrial relations division, can envision the day of humanless battlefields.
"I think the first thing to do is to go ahead and have the Army get comfortable with the robot," he says. One day, though, "you could write a scenario where you have an unmanned battle space – a 'Star Wars' approach."
These developments raise questions that ethicists are just beginning to unravel. This includes Peter Asaro, who last year formed the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. He's grappling with conundrums like: What, to a machine, counts as "about to shoot me?" How does a robot make a distinction between a dog, a man, and a child? How does it tell an enemy from a friend?
Such things are not entirely abstract. An automated "sentry robot" now stands guard in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, equipped with heat, voice, and motion sensors, as well as a 5 mm machine gun. What if it starts firing, accidentally or otherwise?
Within their own ranks, military officials are asking themselves similar questions. In March, the Navy launched a program at its postgraduate school in Monterey that explores the legal, social, and cultural impacts of unmanned systems. "Are we going to give the ability to a robot for conducting a killing operation based on its own software and sensors?" asks retired Navy Capt. Jeffrey Kline, who is directing the new effort. "That rightly causes a lot of red flags."
In part, military officials feel they have to develop these new systems to stay ahead of America's enemies, many of whom will be creating their own versions of automated armies. Yet that could lead to what some consider a 21st-century arms race and encourage others to use the new weapons.
Late last month, federal authorities charged a Massachusetts man with plotting an attack on the US Capitol and the Pentagon using a large, remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives. Earlier this year, Libyan rebels contacted Aeryon Labs Inc., a Canadian drone manufacturer, about buying a small unmanned helicopter. "Ultimately, I think they found us through Googling. That's how a lot of people find us," says Dave Kroetsch, Aeryon's president. Aeryon officials say they get inquires from militaries all over the world, which is one reason they have decided not to sell weaponized drones.
In the end, the emerging era of remote-control warfare – like evolutions in warfare throughout history – will likely create profound new capabilities as well as profound new problems for the US. The key will be to minimize the one over the other.
"There are many futures that can be created," says Georgia Tech roboticist Arkin. "Hopefully, we can create, I won't say a utopian, but at least not a dystopian one."
Global Research Articles by Anna Mulrine