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Why Doesn't Apple Do Stuff Like This?

Only Apple can implement this feature, because it would involve a background process running on the iPhone to continuously check the time and then launch the processes; but I want a "macros" feature where the device would "replay" a series of touches I make on it at scheduled intervals.

In other words: I launch a Macro app, press the "record" option, and then a little blue bar appears at the top of the screen (like when I'm making a phone call) and says "Touch here to finish recording macro". It then makes a history of whatever app(s) I'm touching and where on the screen I'm touching. I stop the macro, then set it to replay at certain times - hourly, daily, weekly, and so on.

It would be an enormously valuable piece of automation - imagine using it to take stop motion pictures, send email notifications, or play a certain song at certain times... it would reduce using apps to the level of repeatable, atomic actions and allow people to be even more productive. They would just need to tie it into the native timer used by iPhone OS.

There's no reason why Apple couldn't implement something like this by their next OS release.

(This post was motivated by a desire to replace my clock radio by using an alarm on the iPhone to launch the NPR app and listen to the live stream of WNYC)

Fallout: Apple iPad

No handwriting/gesture recognition or pen computing. No cameras. No haptic feedback. No voice control demonstrated, though I can't see why they'd remove that. 3G only on more expensive models, and no announcement of carriers other than AT&T though the devices aren't locked so one presumes other carriers will support it.

Saying that the iPad is "between" smartphone and laptop is disingenuous. It's actually below both of these, because it's a step backwards in user interaction and device communication. You can't use the iPad for augmented reality the way you can an iPhone or iPod touch. And why isn't there any interaction between the iPhone and the iPad? Why not forget 3G with the thing entirely and let me tether my iPhone to it? Where is the much vaunted ecosystem - why isn't there a role for iPhone/iPod to play with the iPad? You still really need to own a computer of some sort with a USB port and iTunes on it so you can sync the iPad to it, so it's not like the iPad eliminates the need to own a computer.

The iPad is basically a competitor to the Kindle and the Nintendo DSi, and it's a way to lock down content further using specialized hardware. A simpler mobile device, aimed at a market that wants as little to do with computers as possible. Really the only "innovation" here was using the larger screen size to reintroduce features into core apps and put a prettier face on them. Having more screen real estate means being able to do more with iPhone OS widgets and such, but that's about all that changed. I really, really hope that they port these core application interface changes back to Mac OS - it will be very disappointing if they don't.
The Apple Tablet, which seems at this point will be revealed to the world on Wednesday, will very likely be a respectable accomplishment in the engineering of computing hardware. It will be light, have good battery life, have touch-sensitivity, and a nice big screen - it will probably also have some great processing speed and power for its form and size. It will surely also keep a lot of laps very warm!

But what's really impressive about Yet Another Computer? Sure it will be beautifully designed, but what's it going to change about the way people use computers?

Computers are inherently limited by their input capabilities. I would argue that the reason why the iPhone has been so innovative is simply because it incorporates more types of sensor and allows for different kinds of measurement and input. The early iPhone had an accelerometer, GPS, and a still camera all in one - at the time this was impressive because the higher computing ability of the platform allowed for some impressive applications that turned the data from these inputs into even more interesting data. Social networking via mobile device finally became possible.

The next iPhone introduced a compass, video recording, and Voice Control - and all of these were also very interesting additions. Augmented reality applications now entered the fray, thanks to the compass. Streaming video and live broadcasting applications are now commonplace. Dictation applications are also starting to pop up (voice translation applications can't be too far behind).

So my guess with the new Apple tablet coming out is that it will only truly be innovative if it incorporates more sensor inputs. I don't think this is actually too likely, because I'm not sure that there are many other input devices that are "mainstream" in devices at this point. Maybe infrared sensors, in the sense that the Wii uses them to detect motion and distance from Wiimotes? But I'm not seeing that just yet. Perhaps a gyroscope of some sort, to improve accuracy compared to an accelerometer? Both are possible, but neither really opens up new opportunities for innovative ways to use personal computing devices.

Here's a short list of additional types of inputs and ways they could be used innovatively:

1) EEG/neural interfaces - biofeedback to determine my mood; an iPod that plays sad or happy music to match my feelings when appropriate. On/Off control by thought, change volume by thinking "louder" and "softer", the ultimate remote control. Agents that suggest things to do based on my current mental state. ("Go to bed, you're tired.")

2) Temperature sensors - computer wakes up when I enter the room and the temperature rises. Automation of heating and cooling and lighting systems.

3) Biosensors - detect my internal/external temperature, my heart rate, blood pressure. Health applications are obvious. But how about using these to detect moods? Or lies, for that matter? Who doesn't want to carry around a personal lie detector in their pocket that buzzes them when the person across from them changes their tone of voice, captures their microexpression on camera, and notices their skin temperature rising slightly? EMG (Electromyogram) to detect when my muscles are flexing and react to a twitch or flicking movement of a hand.

All of this doesn't even approach the topic of innovative outputs. Projectors pop immediately to mind, and projection technology is just peeking over the top of the horizon now. Personal projectors are not far off. And painting an image onto a wall with a projector, and then feeding it via camera into an augmented reality app for even further enhancement could create some really interesting positive feedback loops.

I don't believe that the new Apple tablet will incorporate any of what I've described above. But this is the path that future innovation needs to take, to keep adding more and more input devices to collect more and more types of data, as clearly demonstrated by the advancements made by the iPhones. I do think that it's likely that the tablet will have some kind of gesture and handwriting recognition, in the form of pen computing. It would be ridiculous for Apple to release a tablet that didn't have that, and there was some previous evidence of work at the OS and API levels showing recognition of handwritten Chinese and Japanese characters. I think it's also possible that there might be increased haptic sensitivity - maybe better measurement of pressure on the screen surface, maybe even temperature measurement, and possibly even vibrational feedback. Having a front facing camera might also be a no-brainer; dual cameras are better than one or none.

The bottom line is this: the future of computing is nigh, and we are all going to become Batman. And it's going to be awesome.

Semi-irregular Comics Mike is Reading

Batman and Robin - Seems like this is delayed for some reason. I still recommend picking it up though, it seems to be readily available as back issues on all the shelves (don't know why, it's a good book).

Top 10 Season Two - I think I hear crickets.

Red Mass For Mars - Wait a second... where the heck did all these comics go?

Walking Dead - If you haven't read this by now, you might want to just forget it and wait for the TV series they're producing based on the books. Otherwise, it's all available for you in convenient collections.

Anna Mercury - The last issue of this was pretty boss, and contained the "big reveal". Hopefully the next issue is coming soon.

Viking - Still liking this piece, but each issue feels a little disjointed from the last, and it's hard to understand the character continuity. It's a failure in writing, but I'm trying to ignore it and see where things lead.

Buck Rogers - I am really digging this book a lot. The writers are taking some really bold strides with their style, and readers need to work to keep up, but it's a rewarding story with some great art and design.

Doktor Sleepless - I'm wondering whether I should just ditch this book at this point. Warren, are you stretching too thin??

Gravel - If you hadn't heard, Warren Ellis's Gravel was picked up for a movie deal. Conveniently for you, the books are now available as collections, on shelves now!

Irredeemable - This "Superman goes nuts" story is still going well, and is now leading up to...

Incorruptible - I used to be derisive of Mark Waid, but lately he seems to be going back to his roots. BOOM! Studios is the label on this book and Irredeemable, and this latest entry is building the universe around his own superhero world gone wrong. The story here is of a villain who basically has a nervous breakdown when "The Plutonian" runs amok in Irredeemable; his reasoning is that, if the most powerful superhero has gone batshit, the end is nigh and survival is literally the only thing that matters and it's time to "step up" and save everyone (including himself).

No Hero - This book is done, and I'm glad for it. Warren needs more time to work on other things.

Ignition City - Another Ellis book that is finished, and also glad for it. Would have liked a little more in the ending myself, but this seems to be Warren's style these days.

Incognito - Ended VERY well. I really hope to visit this world again soon!!

Supergod - Warren's latest: what happens when we actually create godlike superhumans? A take on dystopic Singularity... since the first posthumans are beyond our understanding, our expectations and interactions with them are completely off the mark. They're not here to save the world, they're just going to destroy it.

Astonishing X-Men - Ellis has been doing a sporadic run on this title, and it varies in quality; it has held up okay, but again he seems to be working so hard on so many things that his entire work overall suffers. I'm sticking with it though.

Thor - For some reason I haven't been mentioning Thor enough. JMS of Babylon 5 and Rising Stars fame penned an excellent run of the book, and now he's basically all wrapped up with it - but the new team has completely picked up the ball where he left off, and it was such a seamless transition I didn't notice JMS wasn't on the book. If the JMS run is collected now (I'm not sure I haven't been paying attention), go pick it up!

Superman: Secret Origin - if you liked the Geoff Johns Superman, you need to pick this series up. It's excellent stuff, it synthesizes all the best things about Superman mythos into a coherent and enjoyable story. Geoff's Superman is to me the definitive Superman.

Punisher MAX - I think this is basically the only MAX book left out there, but it's totally worth getting. Steve Dillon of Ennis/Dillon and Preacher fame is the artist, so it takes me right back to the good old Ennis/Dillon Punisher days. And the first arc is all about Punisher versus Kingpin, so it's classic classic stuff.

POWERS - Oh hey, POWERS! Another new series? Is every issue of POWERS issue #1 now? Heck I don't care, just keep making the damn books!

Graphic Novel BONUS: R. Crumb's The Book of Genesis Illustrated! I finally got a copy of this, after the first printing completely sold out all over the universe. It is literally every single work of the first book of the bible, chapter and verse. And I've never read the whole thing, so it just goes to show you that I will literally read ANYTHING if it comes in comic book form and is well illustrated. All I have to say is: there was a whole lot of begatting going on in those early days, when people lived for like a thousand years or so.

Electronics and me

Going to classes at NYCResistor and working with electronics has really opened up my mind and broadened my horizons. I've always wanted to solder and do more with kits and bits and pieces of things, and now that I've started playing around I feel more empowered than I ever have before, maybe even surpassing the feelings of empowerment that came from learning how to program.

This is stuff that actually AFFECTS THE REAL WORLD. I mean, it amazes me that I now have the basic abilities required to make devices that DO STUFF. Now that I've built some kits, made some basic circuits, and loaded code onto chips, I've started thinking about the world around me and what parts make up the devices I use every day. I now routinely take things apart and stick the pieces I want into static bags. Just today I grabbed an old night light with a light sensor on it, tore the plastic off it and found a tiny little circuit with the sensor, a resistor, and a transistor hooked up to the prongs for the outlet. My plan is to unsolder the bits off the board and rebuild the circuit and figure out how to hook it into my Freeduino.

Because now I'm thinking things like: I can make automatic blinds that open and close according to the amount of light I want in the room. I can make a pseudo-random cat treat feeder which dispenses occasionally when my cat steps on a pedal, and use that to break my cat's bad habit of constantly wanting food and waking me up at all hours (he'll mess with the feeder instead). I can hack that new Jedi mind trick/EEG reader toy that's coming out this holiday season and create a thought controlled puppet/robot.

I'm in a whole new world. I only wish I'd started down this path sooner!

Thanksgiving in Massachusetts?

I'm considering coming up to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving weekend - who is around, and wants to hang out that weekend?

More Singularity Summit 2009 Notes


When digital consciousness is achieved, and people can make copies of themselves, they'll be able to synthesize myriad individual experiences into a single meta-self. This meta-mind will exist like a carrier wave that can either house in a central repository and work on the job of filtering and synthesis, or float among its multiple consciousnesses to experience life in real time. The individual mind at that time can be said to have meta-consciousness, or to be m-conscious.

Additionally, life recording and lifelogging will allow people to directly share experiences. When full HD video, audio, and portable fMRI and other sensory apparati make it possible to fully document experiences and feelings and thoughts about experiences, and those experiences are copied and shared, m-minds will incorporate the lives of others into their own. People will be able to know the intent of artists when experiencing their works, they'll have empathy on a level never before known; and through the filters of multiple consciousnesses, they will be able to comprehend various experiences in multiple ways. This is the future of culture - directly experienced meta-culture, and selves incorporating chosen pieces of others directly into their consciousnesses and m-consciousness.

Multiple m-consciousnesses of various configurations may also exist, but unless one goes through the effort of balancing the load between all of them equally, one m-self will be larger than all others. And it would probably also be desirable to have a single m-mind that contains all experiences from all conscinesses and m consciousnesses, simply to have that type of total synthesis available.

The most likely path to this scenario involves a combination of neurobiological engineering and synthetic biology integrated with electronic devices. Biological experience as encoded on neurons will be translated into digital electromagnetic signals for rapid translation and telecommunication. Storage media will be synthetic biological drives, external clusters of neurons with electronic interfaces to devices and biomechanical selves, and electromagnetic and photon echo interfaces for biological selves.

Periodically the m-self, or overself, will send filtered updates back down the line to its underselves; judiciously edited experiences that are appropriate for each underself. Relations between selves and m-selves will seem familial on the surface, and conflicts will surely arise, and may seem like a case of schizophrenia or disassociative identity disorder.
Technology: from stone to steel to silicon

Hippocampus replacements happening now

Upper limits on intelligence? Computability (NP-completeness), time, size and number of molecules in universe

Technology and culture are intertwined (Stephenson's "feed" versus "seed")

What if the Singularity has already happened multiple times over the life of the universe, and the current amount of non-dark matter is what's left over? (older ultimate intelligences have used all their available resources in the universe)

If cognitive biases occur due to structural evolutionary accidents in the brain, what kinds of biases will occur in designed intelligences?

Biological neural drives will happen before designed intelligences.
- Photon echoes on retina for human-computer interfaces (Ed Boyden, MIT Media Lab)
- External memory storage devices
- An optimally engineered bio-drive of microtubules that can be connected to for the transfer of memory back and forth with human brain
- Learn skills, knowledge transfer at will, absorption of artificial memories

Neural Remixing
- Life recording, full HD audio and video, with multiple perspectives
- Translate digital recordings into bio-storage, mapping to microtubules
- Directly upload other people's life recorded experiences into your memories
- Loss of individuality? Suffusion of identity?
So here's a love story about two fish. The first fish I fell in love with for all the wrong reasons. It was a beautiful fish, the texture was really flavorful, it was very meaty, and even better - as if a fish needed to be better - it was raised in the supposed highest standards of sustainability. This company claimed it was the first sustainable agriculture company in North America. I was in a relationship with this fish for many years. And one day I got a phone call from the head of PR for the company; he asked me to cook a lunch for a group of top food editors and writers and prepare a meal based on this fish and speak about the company's sustainability. Great, I thought, what better way to speak about the plight of the oceans, the state of fisheries around the world than through this prism of responsible, sustainable agriculture?

Read more...Collapse )

The Miyazaki-Is-Disturbing Scale

Hayao Miyazaki has made a wide range of wonderful fantasy anime, and they each seem to be tailored to a particular age group. His major feature films seem to fall on a scale of Totally Germane For Toddlers to I'm An Adult And I'm Cringing Slightly. This is how I would rank his films on this scale:

  • My Neighbor Totoro, 1988 (Any age can watch this and enjoy it)
  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, 2008 (This actually has a "bad guy" in it and thus is one step higher)
  • Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989 (Kiki has a lot of challenges within herself to overcome, and some conflict)
  • Laputa: Castle in the Sky, 1986 (Lots of conflict, actual bad guys and high stakes adventure)
  • Spirited Away, 2001 (Many nightmarish monsters, but nobody actually gets hurt)
  • Porco Rosso, 1992 (airplane duels, gunfights, lots of violence, but again nobody gets killed)
  • Howl's Moving Castle, 2004 (Depicts war and mass destruction, people get hurt)
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 1984 (Psychadelic monsters and situations, blood and conflict)
  • Princess Mononoke, 1997 film (Lots of blood and death and suffering and weird shit)

Somehow I have missed seeing Porco Rosso, and thus cannot place it accurately on the scale. I should rectify this. I suspect it's in the middle somewhere, since it's about a flying ace pig.

UDPATED: Porco Rosso, watched and added.

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