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Science Technology

TR Picks 10 Emerging Technologies of 08 76

arktemplar suggests Technology Review for their annual list of 10 emerging technologies that the editors believe will be particularly important over the next few years. Quoting: "This is work ready to emerge from the lab, in a broad range of areas: energy, computer hardware and software, biological imaging, social interactions. Two of the technologies — cellulolytic enzymes and atomic magnetometers — are efforts by leading scientists to solve critical problems, while five — surprise modeling, connectomics, probabilistic CMOS, reality mining, and offline Web applications — represent whole new ways of looking at problems. And three — graphene transistors, nanoradio, and wireless power — are amazing feats of engineering that have created something entirely new."
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TR Picks 10 Emerging Technologies of 08

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:00AM (#22484282)
    Nikola Tesla would like to have a word with you about "new" wireless power.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't see why this was modded flamebait. Tesla, for all his faults, did unequivocally demonstrate wireless power transmission a century ago. Hey, every time you use one of those high-school crystal radio kits you demonstrate wireless electromagnetic power distribution on a small scale - those things don't have batteries, they drive the speaker by power from the wave. Shrug.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        The only technology I care about:

        - cloning arteries to replace the my current, aged, clogged-with-cholesterol pipes.

        Also a new cloned heart and lungs would be good, but without clean pipes to carry the blood, they won't get the oxygen they need to survive. We need to be able to clone brand-new arteries! (Alternatively they could design little nanobots that "eat" cholesterol off the walls of arteries, and use said cholesterol for the bots' power sources, thereby making my pipes nice & clean again.) (
    • It's also terribly inefficient. It HAS to be. There is no known way around that.
      • That is, if it is to work at ranges over a meter or maybe two. And in order to be very practical, it really has to. If I am within three feet of a charging station, I might as well just plug the little sumbitch in! After all, it's only an arm's length away!

        At current effective ranges, it doesn't "solve" any problems, because your plug is no farther away. If the range is extended, then you lose efficiency...
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Actually, you're completely wrong.

          At current effective ranges the 'charging station' can be:

          1. A desk/nightstand drawer, glove box, or other places where people put phone, PDA, iPod, or other items when not in use.
          2. A desk surface, where wireless mice, keyboard, and other computer peripherals often sit.
          3. Other surfaces where other new technologies may require power (maybe refrigerator magnets that display the weather).

          As for just 'plug the little sumbitch in', the charging station can be built to be unive
          • That description reminds me of my electric toothbrush. The "stand" where I place the thing has no direct electrical connection. Instead the batteries are charged by proximity to the charger (using magnetic flux I believe).

            This technology could be modified for 1-2 feet range, rather than just 1 inch. Although it would be inefficient. (And I'm not sure I want strong EM waves penetrating my body. Who knows what might happen to body cells being heated by power waves, even if only 1/2 a degree.)
            • That description reminds me of my electric toothbrush. The "stand" where I place the thing has no direct electrical connection. Instead the batteries are charged by proximity to the charger (using magnetic flux I believe).

              I have a shaver that way. I was thinking of why this would be useful, beyond technophilia. But since it's in the bathroom, and the shaver can be used in the shower, this would prevent shorting and corrosion from water that could drip into a conventional charger. But there's a big drawb

          • by beowulf ( 12899 )
            Or a charging station could be embedded in your driveway/garage where you park your electric car.
          • The examples you give are exactly the kind I refer to when I say that there is very little to gain and something to lose in the process. I have my charging plug(s) on my nightstand. I plug my mouse into my PC or keyboard (when not using a wireless anyway, which lasts for months on one charge of NiMH AA batteries) and so on. My phone, MP3 player, etc. all plug into the USB on my laptop, OR into convenient, standard 5V chargers that I already have by my desk and nightstand...

            These are non-problems for anyb
  • Top 10? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    What, is this Digg?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, that's here [].
  • by ( 1195047 ) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:04AM (#22484296) Homepage Journal

    Modeling Surprise [] - Much of modern life depends on forecasts: where the next hurricane will make landfall, how the stock market will react to falling home prices, who will win the next primary. While existing computer models predict many things fairly accurately, surprises still crop up, and we probably can't eliminate them. But Eric Horvitz, head of the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group at Microsoft Research, thinks we can at least minimize them, using a technique he calls "surprise modeling."
    The rest of the entry is pretty interesting, although Microsoft may be in for more "surprises" in the coming year than many might think...
    • Re:My favorite. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:27AM (#22484418) Homepage
      I can't believe that this beat out CIGS []. 10-13% efficient in mass production (2/3rds that of silicon cells), but only $0.50-$1.50/W (cheaper than coal power even in Alaska), with almost no solar degradation or even radiation degradation (a big deal for satellites). And very lightweight at the same time. There are about two dozen companies working on different mass production methods, so them making it to market is pretty much a certainty. Nanosolar is already selling to Germany for $0.90/W, and reportedly makes its cells for $0.30/W. How could this not be a top 10 emerging tech?

      A few others, among many:

        * Long-lifespan, passively safe lithium-ion batteries hitting the market
        * Vastly more energy dense energy storage techs in the lab
        * The resurgence of the electric car (for example, the $27k highway-speed Aptera []).
        * Rocket launch costs for less than half what even the Russians, Chinese, and Indians are selling via SpaceX
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Namors ( 934315 )
      Offline Web Applications [] AIR is a "runtime environment," an extra layer of software that allows the same program to run on different operating systems and hardware. (Java is another example.) With AIR, developers can use Web technologies such as HTML and Flash to write software for the desktop. Users won't have to seek out AIR to enjoy its benefits; they'll be prompted to download it along with the first AIR applications they want to use.

      I thought it was a joke at first. This line actually made me check
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by solafide ( 845228 )
        Isn't that just HTML 5? [] "Persistent storage. Both key / value and a SQL database are supported. ... An API that enables offline Web applications. " - we don't need another program, we need spec-following browsers, unlike IE has been in the past. Sure, it'll be 10 years before HTML5 is widespread, but it's better to have a standard than use a proprietary, closed-source runtime enviroment. Look at how long Java took to become standardized.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by __aapspi39 ( 944843 )
        Its quite possible that you might not of heard of AIR unless you're a web developer or working in some associated area.

        Imho the power of adobe flex combined with the hoards of flash developers out there will do a great deal to make AIR a success.

        There has been talk of downloading it automatically with the next iteration of the Flash plugin. The ubiquity that this product would achieve at that point in time shouldn't need explaining.

        As long as its kept (relatively) open, in the same way as flex and flash hav
        • Pardon my ignorance, but how does this differ from Google Gears, other than being able to bundle it with the already-popular Flash plugin?
  • by Kinky Bass Junk ( 880011 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:06AM (#22484304)

    Alex Zettl's tiny radios, built from nanotubes, could improve everything from cell phones to medical diagnostics.

    I'm liking where this could take encrypted trunking systems.
  • by Izabael_DaJinn ( 1231856 ) * <.moc.leabazi. .ta. .todhsals.> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:20AM (#22484378) Homepage Journal
    Let's test their past! From 2001: []

    Brain-Machine Interface | Flexible Transitors | Data Mining | Digital Rights Management | Biometrics | Natural Language Processing | Microphotonics | Untangling Code | Robot Design | Microfluidics

    DRM hasn't really changed my life other than add one more annoyance.

    "Data Mining" sounds basically like "Reality Mining" in the new list.

    I'm sure there has been great strides in "Robot Design" that help in manufacturing, but what about the others?

    I don't think these technologies have changed my life at all seven years after they were predicted, or have they?


    • by glittalogik ( 837604 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:32AM (#22484442)
      On the other hand, they did pick up on nanosolar research in 2004 [], which is coming into its own now [].
    • by jdigriz ( 676802 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:16AM (#22484634)
      I don't think those 2001 techs were intended to change your life in particular. The title on the article says they were intended to change the world. And they have..

      Data Mining: Remember Total Information Awareness? Just about every government anti-terrorist intelligence program that isn't intercept-based or human intelligence based is a data mining program

      Biometrics: Fairly important, gotta give those data mining programs something to mine. The ability to authenticate a tape from Osama Bin Laden has been in the news. Facial recognition software has been burgeoning. And cheap thumbprint drives are available off-the shelf. Not to mention new governmental requirements for passports and driver's licenses

      Natural Language Processing: Apparently Dragon Naturally Speaking now works really well with just a minimum of training. Internet translators are getting better, but still are pretty awful. I won't speculate about NSA and Echelon's abilities to focus in on keywords.

      DRM: It's everywhere, and it sucks.

      Robot design has made great strides. iRobot is selling ton of bots for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they've been proven to save lives. Predator and Global Hawk drones are critical tools in both wars. We've got two robots wheeling around on Mars exploring new things every day. And another robot craft in orbit around Saturn.

      Microfluidics are becoming important in biotech from what I hear, but it's not my field.

      No idea bout microphotonics.

      BMI hasn't made it out of the lab, except for the Braingate chip which is still in limited use

      Untangling code is not in wide-scale use.

      Flexible transistors have not thus far proven important. There's only one device that I know of out there with a flexible screen and it uses digital ink tech,

      So, all in all, I'd say MIT did a pretty good job of prediction in 2001.

    • Well, the university of washington seattle seems to be doing considerable work on Brain machine interfaces as is Georgia-Tech.

      Stanford,MIT,Caltech have been devoting considerable resources to microfuidics, they have had this for the last four years or so I believe. Microphotonics is a really interesting topic (I know a guy who is doing his masters in this, and from what he tells me it seems to be extremely interesting).

      NLP has come a long way, I beleive that I can without violating the NDA inform yo
    • Their predictions were not so bad. But the effects of the technologies have probably tipped the scales toward the "bad" side, for society.

      Brain-machine interface has made some real progress, but sorry you can't get a videogame controller just yet. Wait another 5 years. (And such things must ALWAYS be voluntary! Never, ever, ever mandatory. Ever. Period.)

      "Flxible" transistors are a reality and today you can buy a gadget with a roll-up screen. Okay, the transistors themselves are not flexible, but every
      • by cnettel ( 836611 )

        Contrary to what others here have been saying, Dragon Naturally Speaking and similar programs are NOT "Natural Language Processing". They are, instead, language translaton programs. The former refers to extracting actual meaning, of some kind, from the input. The latter means little more than determining what words you said closely enough to perform some pre-programmed actions. The two things are worlds apart. There has been some real progress in the latter... but computers really don't "understand" language any better than they did decades ago.

        Do you have any specific source for that? I would say that most anything that fits as an ACL paper is also NLP of some sort, or at least that's the current trend in modifying the definition. With the advances of statistical systems in many fields where "real" content extraction was once thought to be the holy grail, the actual difference is blurred. I think that we will define away anything close to strong AI as "something else" for quite a long time, even at the point when it is obvious that the only thin

    • Biometrics became a wide-spread 'novelty' technology. =P

      Seriously....all the new laptops with their useless fingerprint scanners. >_>
  • by sugarman ( 33437 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:22AM (#22484388)
    The summary reads like someone made a side trip through the jargometer.

    Surprise modeling?
    Reality mining?

    You gotta be freakin' kidding me.
  • Here's hoping for flying cars next year!
  • by Mr2001 ( 90979 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:44AM (#22484502) Homepage Journal
    I don't know if you guys have heard about reality mining, but it's some pretty fascinating technology.

    Apparently, out there in the so-called "real world" -- you know, the place where the lights are only on for half the day and the heat doesn't work at night -- there's stuff to be found. Valuable stuff like gold, silver, copper, coal, diamonds... and you can just dig a hole to get access to it.

    Now you might be wondering why it's called "reality mining" and not "hole digging". Well, it's not quite as easy as I made it sound. You can't just dig any old place, you have to know where to look. And you can't just use a shovel; most of the time you need some heavy duty equipment. You have to sort through all the possible places to dig, filter that information, and somehow figure out which places are more likely to have the stuff you're looking for, and which approaches will work best to get it out. So it's kind of like data mining, but you're using it to get something in the real world.

    It's fun, profitable, and best of all: you get to wear a hat with a light on it! Reality mining is the future, folks. Better get on the bandwagon while there's still room.
    • It's fun, profitable, and best of all: you get to wear a hat with a light on it! Reality mining is the future, folks. Better get on the bandwagon while there's still room.

      It has been around for like two hundred years, and is called Economic Geology.

  • sad (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Oil : First the embargo of 1973, now it's over $100 a barrel. No significant progress has been made to end the oil age. I guess no one in the world, USA or otherwise, has the brains or concentration needed to do a "manhattan project" that would solve this problem once and for all. Cheap compact cars in the late 1980's got higher mileage than the latest compacts do now (excluding expensive hybrids). We're getting ripped off every-fsking-day, and hardly anyone seems to notice, let alone complain.
    • by tylernt ( 581794 )

      Cheap compact cars in the late 1980's got higher mileage than the latest compacts do now (excluding expensive hybrids).
      Oh, I don't know. Diesel Volkswagens from the late 70s and early 80s got about 50MPG, so it still seems like those fancy hybrids aren't making much headway.

      I, too, wonder why we don't care about fuel economy. Europe currently has 70MPG diesels, but they're not exported into the US because there is no market for them here.
  • by Zymergy ( 803632 ) * on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:48AM (#22484522)
    This is the coolest thing on the list: *Cellulolytic Enzymes*
    This "technology" basically involves feeding bacteria or protozoa on plant materials (AKA "Biomass") which are primarily composed of cellulose (which is really just chains of varying lengths of beta-glycosidic bonded glucose sugar molecules).
    (NOTE: We call the Alpha-glycosidic bonded glucose sugar molecules STARCH, and we can eat those, but NOT the Beta-bonded variety.)
    The 'Cellulolytic' Enzymes are from genetically-engineered Bacterium or Protozoans which are utilized to cleave the glycosidic linkage in the Cellulose and are additionally modified and/or chemically engineered into Butanol, Ethanol, Methanol, and other biofuel 'alcohols'.
    Think of the process like a big container full of termite guts that basically partially digest (break the beta-glycosidic bonds of) the cellulose from your yard waste, grass trimmings, leaves, logs, switchgrass, tree bark, recycled paper, etc.. into their base glucose sugars which can then be easily modified into alcohols by the same (or different) single-celled critters.
    This process will truly reveal the hyped artificial market (largely tax-subsidy supported) of the Corn Ethanol "market". POOF! it will go away and foodstuffs will be affordable again (and the price of beer will drop from farmers planing more cereals again!). Jimmy Carter did this with the Peanut in the 1970's... Take away the artificial market, Poof! Farmers plant what is in actual demand, not what is only profitable due to tax subsidies. (And yes, there is a $0.50 per gallon tax subsidy for ethanol production.) Cellulolytic Enzyme tech can produce alcohols without the need for those subsidies. (oh, but you can bet they will still be there... that is, unless the ADM, et al "Corn Lobby" does not set a caveat in the law subsidizing only ethanol produced from corn (you call it maize)! ) -Sort of reminds me of Zymergy (AKA Zymurgy)... but then again, that is the (yeast) anaerobic fermentation of sugars/starches, a similar yet very different process.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      We will be able to ferment books into beer. Hooray !
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jon_S ( 15368 )
      This whole process was essentially perfected in the 1980's []. I worked in that lab at the time. When oil prices fell through the floor in 1986, nobody cared about it any more. Now that oil is $100/barrel, people do.

      However, you still have the problem of finding enough biomass to produce enough liquid fuel. Even if you are growing cellulose instead of corn starch, it's still a lot of biomass. And there still is the energy needed to run the process.
    • Corn ethanol is a stop gap. It has contributed to driving the price of milk up by increasing the price of cow feed. This technology disengages biofuel from corn but leaves you wondering where the biomass is coming from. Alcohol, though it reduced particulate emissions because it is oxygenated, still releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Arguements have been made that the biomass used for alcohol production would have decomposed and release CO2 anyway and so it is carbon neutral technology. Unfortunat
  • Gee, they are predicting that a technology that was released in 2002 on Lotus Domino 6.0 will be brand new this year. Hurray!!!

    Of course when Adobe releases it, we can listen to the Notes trolls complain that Lotus didn't make their 6 year old technology conform to a 'standard' that was created in 2008.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:59AM (#22484562) Homepage
    1. Modeling Surprise May shake up the derivatives industry, but probably won't be of general interest.
    2. Probabilistic chips This idea goes back to the 1970s, and it comes around every time the semiconductor industry has a yield problem. But so far, the fab people have solved their yield problem before this became necessary, except for memory. Huge architectural headache for limited gain.
    3. NanoRadio Too early to say.
    4. Wireless power Cordless recharging, really. Good idea, but there are at least four competing schemes, and if they don't get their act together and settle on a standard, none of them will go anywhere.
    5. Atomic magnetometers Magnetic sensors that can be built in arrays with wafer fab technology. Very useful.
    6. Offline web applications 1997 called; it wants its Java applets back.
    7. Graphene transistors Maybe. But so far, every alternative to silicon has been worse.
    8. Connectonomics Reverse engineer the nervous system. Eventually, someone will do that. But not too soon.
    9. Reality mining Another Big Brother idea motivated by ad revenue.
    10. Cellulolytic Enzymes This is the big one: cellulose to fuel, cheaply. Several groups are getting close to making it work. If this works, we have a permanent answer to the end of oil.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arktemplar ( 1060050 )

      7. Connectonomics Reverse engineer the nervous system. Eventually, someone will do that. But not too soon.

      Well, we are currently working on somthing like this, only thing is we are doing circuit (RLC) simulaitons of the pathway, we are basically checking to see if an impulse is given at a point how it will propagate, so yeah, it is happening. It will not of course be a commercialsed/used in hospitals tomorrow type of a product but I am sure it will happen.

      ** If it doesnt I'm screwed with my pet project.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      [Animats [] wrote: ]If this works, we have a permanent answer to the end of oil.

      On the NPR show "Talk of the Nation (Science Friday)" airing February 1, 2008, host Ira Flatow spoke to two guests who believe that the construction of a very large solar array in the Nevada desert could generate enough electricity to power the entire United States (with some caveats about the distribution system technology). Therefore, one could also imagine a society of electric vehicles all powered by the sun.

      Unfortunately I do

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      9. Reality mining Another Big Brother idea motivated by ad revenue.
      Give credit where credit is due. Candid Microphone (1947) and Candid Camera (1948) both came long before the Big Brother (1999) house.

      And George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in 1948 and first published in 1949, just so you know I'm just joking and not clueless.
  • by Sadsfae ( 242195 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @01:31AM (#22484698) Homepage
    I do not see Duke Nukem Forever on that list anywhere
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by DavidV ( 167283 )

      I do not see Duke Nukem Forever on that list anywhere
      Nah, I hear that's coming out next year.
    • Keep looking. It's right up there with flying cars, nuclear fusion, and lunar vacations.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @02:32AM (#22484946)
    Quote: "The ambitious plan faces a significant hurdle, however: no one has yet demonstrated a cost-competitive industrial process for making cellulosic biofuels."


    This is an example of a specialist like Arnold having her head buried in her own specialty, and ignoring what is going on in other specialties around her.

    The new "thermal reactor" method of making biodiesel is already under way commercially, and can (and does) make biodiesel cost-competitively from nearly anything organic, including cellulosic materials. The difference is that this process bypasses ethanol entirely, and produces oil instead.

    The corporation behind the first large thermal biodiesel plant has claimed that they could create more NET USABLE energy (i.e., production minus cost) via oil from waste cornstalks than could ever be produced via ethanol from the kernels. And probably cheaper... they are economically viable now while ethanol is still shaky even with subsidies.

    This is not to say that advances made by people like Arnold are not valuable! Of course they are. But they do need to poke their head out of their offices once in a while to find out what else is going on in the world.
  • Most of the list (although being a cool technology and may become practical in the next 10 years) is perhaps more suitable for the Disney's World of Tomorrow (with it's regulars like smart homes, flying cars, etc).

    The only real thing that will take off in the next two years is the offline webapps. And no - it's not Java applets. And I have doubts about the Adobe's AIR platform. My bet would be on Mozilla.

    • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
      Off-Line web apps is something that IBM should be pushing right now. They have had a working system for off-line web apps out in the wild since 2002 with the release Domino 6.0. DOLS (Domino Off Line Services) not only allows for off line web apps. It also already has security worked out as well as many tools for integrating it with other systems.
  • Graphene (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vashdot ( 887177 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @02:56AM (#22485054)
    Graphene: the 2D hexagonal carbon lattice made in every pencil scratching... boring, right? It seems everyone, myself included, in Condensed Matter (Solid State) Physics is working on this one. It's like high-Tc superconductivity, very promising. Unlike that field, however, it's open to much more reliable experiments and slightly simpler theory. The upload rate on arxiv is over 1 paper/day on this material*.

    The key to graphene (from a theoretical standpoint) is that its band structure is gapless and electrons (ok, quasi-electrons) are massless, moving at ~10^6 m/s! Normal (Si-based, GaAs, ...) semiconductors are gapped, meaning there is some energy associated with the valence and conduction bands and there is an energy gap between them. Experimentally we can control certain parameters (doping, primarily) to change electron/hole occupation of the bands and thus make things like p/n junctions, transistors and so on. With graphene, there's no gap. On one hand, this means ballistic transport is approximately possible. Graphene has a ridiculously high mobility (ludicrous speed even). However, we need to come up with tricks to make it into traditional electronics. Ribbons are one approach. The edges break rotational symmetry and give rise to edge states, which can be manipulated to create a gap. Some other types of topological defects can do it too. There are probably over 1000 papers on the subject and in some sense the field is less than 5 years old. I'm glad to see the recognition this is getting and hopefully we'll be a part of some new groundbreaking tech.

    *I'm currently working on a pretty interesting theory which may or may not solve the switching issue mentioned in the article; alas, the proof is too small to fit in the margins of this post!
  • Despite what some folks have said here, "offline web apps" are NOT new. Not even a little bit. The sarcastic posters have been a lot closer to reality. "Offline" web apps REALLY (Yes, really. Truly. Technically and otherwise.) nothing more than desktop apps that access the web when you want them to. WE ALREADY HAVE THOSE. Really. We have for a long time now.

    They may interact with their "online" counterparts when you go online... but again: there is NOTHING new there. This is NOT some late-breaking new te
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrEasy ( 559739 )
      The same objections were made about AJAX (it's not new, it's just a buzzword, yadda yadda), yet things really took off once a few nice apps were written that way by Google. I think the same thing will be true when it comes to offline web apps, and not surprisingly I bet Google will be there first, with their Gears tool.
      • In that case, could you please explain what an "offline web application" is, as well as how it differs from types of applications that came before it?
      • That doesn't make what I said untrue, it just means that Google popularized it.

        But "offline web tools" really HAVE been around for a long time. A long, long time as such things go. Not just a few years like Ajax.
  • by vikstar ( 615372 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @04:31AM (#22485436) Journal
    of the wireless power, you can download the paper here: [].
  • Probabilistic CMOS? As in...

    "NTOSKRNL.EXE might have crashed. Perhaps you might want to reboot?

    [Maybe Yes] [Maybe No]"
    (Sorry, could not resist...)
  • ...surprises still crop up, and we probably can't eliminate them. But Eric Horvitz, head of the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group at Microsoft Research, thinks we can at least minimize them, using a technique he calls "surprise modeling.
    I can just imagine it now

    == MicrosoftSurprise® Alert ==
    Microsoft Surprise has detected that your software is about to crash though there is nothing you can do about it.
  • New ideas? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @08:37AM (#22486686)
    I went and read the various descriptions in the article, and it seems to me that about half of these ideas are not new at all, but have simply been re-labeled. Here's my brief reaction to a few of them. . .

    Surprise Modeling: "To monitor surprises effectively, says Horvitz, the machine has to have both knowledge--a good cognitive model of what humans find surprising--and foresight: some way to predict a surprising event in time for the user to do something about it." You mean like weather forecasting? Isn't most, if not all scientific pursuit dedicated to the understanding of natural systems so that we can know what to expect where once we were attributing events to Zeus and such?

    Connectonomics: "Lichtman is a neuroscientist, and the image is the first comprehensive wiring diagram of part of the mammalian nervous system. The lines denote axons, the long, hairlike extensions of nerve cells that transmit signals from one neuron to the next; the leaves are synapses, the connections that the axons make with other neurons or muscle cells. The diagram is the fruit of an emerging field called "connectomics," which attempts to physically map the tangle of neural circuits that collect, process, and archive information in the nervous system." --Well that's very nice, but perhaps he ought to examine the role DC currents play in cellular and nervous system activity. Broken bones don't knit back together through the application of electricity for no reason. What else does low-current DC electricity do in the human body? Actually, quite a lot; a fair bit is known about this subject, but that information seems to elude the Dr. Lichtmans of the world. --And why shouldn't it, what with such massive interest in the development of the following technological bonanzas. . .

    Wireless Power: "Having difficulty imagining a vast infrastructure of wires extending into every city, building, and room, Tesla figured that wireless was the way to go. He drew up plans for a tower, about 57 meters tall, that he claimed would transmit power to points kilometers away, and even started to build one on Long Island. Though his team did some tests, funding ran out before the tower was completed. The promise of airborne power faded rapidly as the industrial world proved willing to wire up." --Yup. Tesla. And all this time I was thankful he never achieved his goal in this regard. Cell phones are bad enough [] as it is, which is why I expect out of all these 'emerging' technologies, that this one will be unstoppable.

    Reality Mining: "Researchers have been mining data from the physical world for years, says Alex Kass, a researcher who leads reality-mining projects at Accenture, a consulting and technology services firm. Sensors in manufacturing plants tell operators when equipment is faulty, and cameras on highways monitor traffic flow. But now, he says, "reality mining is getting personal."" What? So the massive profit growth [] of the whole Air Miles thing has up until now been sold simply as a way to keep track of how much milk is left in stock at the local 7/11? Gosh. Who knew?

    Other people have commented on the bio-fuels thing, and the fact that we've had Java and Flash for some time now, and anyway I have to leave the house in a few minutes. So enjoy the future. Ciao.


  • What happens when you try "surprise modeling" on a "probabilistic chip"-based system? I'm thinking the uncertainty of the calculations, which are based on somewhat imprecise or unknown inputs, might lead to less-than-ideal results; not exactly "garbage in, garbage out", but close...

    Personally, I found this list to be a rehash of so many old things with new names as to be pretty much worthless....

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe