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Robot Cheetah Sounds Like An Animated TV show For Grownups, But No

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Via Gizmodo:

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.

The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.

I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Man Loses Half His Skull. 3D Printing Gives Him the Lost Half Back

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

3D printing is incredibly disruptive technology. It has already impacted the debate over guns. Researchers are using it to recreate antique musical instruments.

At 3DPrint.com, they have the story of a Chinese man who lost half of his skull in a fall. 3D printing will give him that half of his skull back.

The 46-year-old was working at his construction job one day when he fall three stories to the ground. The fall left him disfigured, as if he had a large dent in the side of his head.

Surgion [sic] MaoGuo Shu, of Xijing Hospital, who has seen a vast array of head and skull injuries, says that cases like Hu’s are very rare, and finding a solution to fix the damaged skull is very complex and difficult. To try and come up with a solution, the hospital brought in dozens of experts in the field. What they came up with was an idea for a 3D printed titanium mesh which would cover Hu’s brain and help make his skull look normal again. Thankfully for Hu, he won’t have to pay a dime for the surgery, as the hospital is covering the cost, and an American company, Stryker has agreed to pay for the 3D printing and materials used in the printing process.

The titanium printed mesh should return his skull to his normal shape over time. His brain, which was badly damaged in the fall leaving Hu unable to talk and write, might regenerate itself, according to the doctors.

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cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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The Next Big Player in the Drone Wars?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MR ROBOTO

Japan:

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.

Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.

Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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There’s a Tricorder App for That

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
This is you in 2017.

This is you in 2017.

Star Trek is coming to your iPhone:

Accidentally slicing into an unripe avocado or trying to guess the nutritional value of a restaurant meal might soon be problems of the past thanks to SCiO, a pocket-sized spectrometer that lets users analyze the molecular structure of anything from food to plants — even the human body — and view the results on their iPhone.

Consumer Physics, SCiO’s creators, promise a Star Trek-like experience with the device. Users can point the Zippo-sized scanner at an avocado, for example, and find out how ripe the fruit is without touching or peeling it.

SCiO could be used to analyze a plate of food to determine its caloric and fat content, making meal tracking easier. It might also help users ensure their medication is authentic, or check soil conditions and alert gardeners that their plants aren’t receiving enough water.

$299 might seem like a steep buy-in, but that’s just for the first-generation model. There will be newer models and knockoffs for $99 within a couple of years, at which point the Tricorder SCiO becomes almost as ubiquitous as smartphones are.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?

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As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_114133954

There is nothing quite as difficult to predict as the future. In my lifetime I have already lived through an “inevitable” ice age that never materialized and “inevitable” mass starvation (through overpopulation) that also never happened. When I was in Central America I remember reading a book called Inevitable Revolutions by the historian Walter LaFeber, but more than a quarter of a century later the inevitable still had not taken place. By now, according to predictions, most of us should have been dead from AIDS, that is if variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Ebola virus had not got us first. The repeated failure of confident predictions is therefore almost enough to make one sceptical of dire visions of the future. Only the sheer pleasure of contemplating catastrophe to come keeps the market for apocalypses alive.

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.

The article states that “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.” Similar results have been obtained elsewhere. In the light of this unexpected and unpredicted trend, estimates of the prevalence of dementia in England have had to be revised downwards by 24 percent. The burden of the elderly on the economy will therefore not be as great as was feared.

What accounts for the decline in the prevalence of dementia?

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So, Who’s Ready for a Sky Full of Amazon Drones?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

amazon-primeair
60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.

Charlie Rose: This is?

Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.

Charlie Rose: Yeah?

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?

Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.

Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…

Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…

Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?

Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.

Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.

Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.

Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?

Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…

Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.

This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.

The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.

When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.
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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Debate: Death to the New Deal! Screw Social Security!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Dear Ron,

I thought it fitting to select Halloween as the day for a brief entry into the debate about whether conservatives should surrender and just accept the permanence of the Democrats’ unconstitutional welfare state. I have three points for your consideration.

1. The Welfare State Is a Zombie and It Can Be Killed.

My position is straightforward: I’m with Andy 100% and believe that conservatives must work over the coming decades to disassemble the federal government’s unconstitutional welfare state. This is an entirely reasonable, achievable goal. See James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus’s America 3.0 for the blueprint. They call the shrinking of the federal government and rebalancing of powers between the states “the big haircut.” See my review from a few weeks ago: On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

2. My Generation Is Never Going to See a Damn Dime of the Social Security that’s Being Unwillingly Extracted From Us By Force of Imprisonment.

What kind of technology will America have come the 2020s, 2030s, 2040s? I tend to embrace the Ray Kurzweil model that predicts such things as artificial intelligence smarter than man in 2028. It won’t be until the 2050s when the first millennials are ready for where Social Security is set at today. Who is going to genuinely claim that Social Security will still be needed with the technology of decades from now making everything in the economy infinitely cheaper and lifespan expanding?

3. Charles Krauthammer Is Not All That Well-Known Outside of our Political Bubble and Amongst Those Who Don’t Watch Fox News.

Plenty of your commenters jumped on you for this one and I’ll pile on too:

Dr. Krauthammer is, as I am certain all PJM readers know, America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman for conservatism.

These days just about the only conservative media spokesman (who wasn’t a major politician at some point) that the non-politically obsessed can name is Rush Limbaugh. And maybe Ann Coulter too thanks to all her Today show type appearances where she says the right things to provoke the postmodern progressives.

But you’re half-right. Krauthammer is America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman, but it’s not of just overall “conservatism,” a role held for decades by William F. Buckley, Jr.

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Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Florida Project

Less than two months before his death from lung cancer, Walt Disney wrapped production on a short film detailing his plans for the 27,443 acres his company had purchased in Central Florida. He shared his grand vision for what his inner circle called the “Florida Project.” With writing help from Marty Sklar, Walt explained his ideas for more than just a theme park:

Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.

But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.

EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

The futuristic city included a domed urban area with climate control for shoppers and hotel guests, along with transportation throughout the city via People Mover and Monorail. Residents of EPCOT (or Progess City, as some came to call it) would always have the latest technology at their fingertips. It was a bold dream, for sure, and some believed it would die with Walt.

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The Future Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

OBJECTS IN MIRROR

What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Google-Car

Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

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Home Sweet Home of the Future

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

Many people have wondered where I do most of my blogging. Wonder no more:

And when I’m not at the computer, I’m relaxing in my sweet home theater:

(Both clips uploaded to YouTube by Matt Novak of the Paleo-Future blog, from a March 1967 episode of the CBS show The 21st Century, hosted by Walter Cronkite. Between speeches calling for “one-world government,” and believing that Karl Rove had Osama bin Laden on ice in Area 51 during the 2004 election, Cronkite’s actual decade spent in the 2st century before passing away in 2009 was much more chaotic.)

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Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

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On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Sunset on 9/11

For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen each afternoon I juxtapose book excerpts with a collection of PJ Media’s headlines and links to the 10 most interesting stories I find each morning from other sites around the web. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of humanity’s place in the universe. This series’ current focus also begins each day through highlighting the contributions of an important writer.

My original plan for today’s 9/11 reflection had been to write something very mean about Barack Obama and the Shadow President who actually makes his decisions, Valerie Jarrett.

I was angry at the president over Syria and particularly the way he had knocked off the radar his other scandals: the IRS targeting of his political opponents, his NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of all internet traffic, the myriad of corruptions in Eric Holder’s racialist Justice Department, and, finally, what I still believe and pray will someday emerge in full clarity for all Americans as what it is, Obama’s Worse-Than-Watergate for which he should be impeached. His abandonment of four American heroes to die as they called for help, the still mysterious circumstances of just why Ambassador Chris Stevens was there on the anniversary of 9/11, and then the administration’s denial of a terrorist attack, asserting against all evidence that the attack was the result of “spontaneous uprisings” provoked by a YouTube video whose filmmaker was promptly arrested. (Think any Muslim in the Middle East has any idea he technically sat in jail for a parole violation, instead of for blaspheming the Prophet?)

But enough of all that. Or it’s “goodbye to all that” that’s the cliché of choice for previous generations, right?

Throughout Obama’s presidency I’ve called him just about every name in the book short of the Birthers’ “Kenyan.” But what’s the point any more? There’s no longer an election to win. There is no one left to try to convince of Obama’s stealth-socialist, Alinskyite strategy for “fundamentally transforming America.” Now all that’s necessary is to stand back and quietly mutter “I told you so” as our Democrat, progressive, and leftist friends watch in horror as Obama’s agenda collapses across the board. What will be left to brag about at the end of eight years? A healthcare law that doesn’t work and that Obama himself has delayed implementing?

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Face Recognition Software Advances: Big Brother Could Soon be Watching Everything You Do

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
He knows when you're asleep, he knows when you're awake.

He knows when you’re asleep, he knows when you’re awake.

The New York Times assures us that facial scanning is improving by leaps and bounds:

WASHINGTON — The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.

The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.

There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.

My thought on reading this was first that no technology is ever infallible, and that being the twin brother of someone seen leaving a bomb — say — particularly if you were both adopted out at birth and don’t know of each other would be an uncomfortable situation.

Add to this that the technology is not even at that level and being the second-cousin of a crime suspect, with certain common family features would be enough to get you police attention. You can see how this would violate your fourth amendment rights, right? Not to mention your rights to life and liberty, to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness.

To be fair, the New York Times reports that people in charge of this technology development are also aware that it needs to be a lot more developed before it’s used, even if its creators think “difficulties will just fall away.”

On the other hand, my second thought was that yes, this technology could be very useful for fighting terrorism and other such public safety hazards. But when has technology in the hands of government been used only for the logical or most beneficial process?

Like social security numbers becoming de-facto IDs, this will change into attempts at preventing crimes — perhaps laudable in themselves, but leading to a future where Big Brother is ALWAYS watching you. And let’s not forget the information that can be leaked just before elections, by the same entity whose IRS leaked confidential forms of political opponents of the current administration.

To be fair the New York Times recognizes that too:

“This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ms. McCall said. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

In particular, she said, there should be limits on whose faces are loaded into them when they are ready for deployment. Ms. McCall said it would be acceptable to use it for terrorism watch lists, but she feared any effort to systematically track everyone’s public movements by using a comprehensive database of driver’s license photographs.

Now whether they’ll remember this is a danger while progressives are in power is something else.

During the cold war, anti-nuke activists often said giving a nation nuclear weapons was like handing a loaded gun to an idiot. The same can be said of facial recognition systems and the government. And I hope we keep the gun away. As useful as it could be in certain, specialized cases, it would be unmitigated disaster in most others.

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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com © Kletr

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Pixar’s Alternate Universe?

Friday, July 26th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Pixar Characters

Everybody’s a geek about something culturally. For some it’s science fiction, while others may geek out over sports. For me, it’s Disney culture (don’t act so shocked), college sports, and Star Wars. But everybody has something that they’re a geek about.

Some geeks — and I’m using the term in a cultural light, rather than referring to nerds or dorks — go too far in their obsession. Some dress in elaborate costume for events like Comic Con or DragonCon, or even renaissance fairs. (Yes, I realize I’m stepping on some toes here.) Others show it off on their skin. Still others devote months of their time to devising theories on how a certain studio’s movies are interconnected. Meet Jon Negroni.

By day, Negroni manages social media and SEO for a non-profit organization, and he writes a blog for young professionals. And — bless his heart — he’s apparently a Pixar fan. Negroni has developed an elaborate theory explaining how all the features in the Pixar canon are related.

Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme.

Negroni’s timeline runs as follows:

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New Robocop to Resume Original’s Satire

Friday, July 26th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

hi res robocop reboot 656

Hey, kids! Here comes another franchise reboot no one wanted. Robocop returns in 2014 taking new form played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman.

The new take looks to resume the original’s political satire by leveraging concern over domestic spying and the use of drone technology by law enforcement. In retrospect, the original film deserves a lot of credit for anticipating the modern convergence of military technology and domestic law enforcement. The Verge reports:

“We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars,” said Jose Padilha, the film’s director. “The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”

Despite retaining many of the themes established in the 1987 film, the reboot will depart from the original on many key plot points. IGN shares the details:

In this RoboCop, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) isn’t killed by a ruthless outlaw and his henchmen, In fact, he’s not killed at all. He’s gravely injured by a car bomb that leaves him massively burned all over his body. In order to “save ” him — and give OmniCorp their cyborg lawman they’ve been desiring — Omni scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) essentially amputates Alex’s body from the neck down and rebuilds him as, yes, RoboCop. (They keep Alex’s right hand as a humanizing element for when RoboCop shakes hands with people.)

There were several scenes with OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton), a believer in his products and what they can do for the world who makes his decisions not so much out of being a villain as because he’s decided it’s simply the best option available for his business and what he thinks it can provide. Keaton described Sellars as an antagonist rather than as a villain.

Readers may recall that Omni Consumer Products senior president Dick Jones, played with relish by the irrepressible Ronnie Cox, was the ultimate villain in the original. As he and director Paul Verhoeven also did in Total Recall, Cox created one of the greatest caricatures of corporate villainy put to film.

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Dude, Where’s My Flying Car?

Friday, July 19th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson
DeLorean_682_1312995a

Hell, I’ll even settle for a hoverboard.

Here’s my elevator pitch for a modern follow-up to Back to the Future. Since this is likely the only place it will ever be expressed, I am willing to waive any shot at a story consultant credit.

The year is 2015, our 2015, the one we tick toward now, unremarkable and mundane. We don’t watch holographic movies. We don’t eat rehydrated food. And we certainly don’t commute in flying cars. Of course, most of us wouldn’t expect to be doing any of that. But one among us does, one who years ago glimpsed a future very different from our present. For that man, Martin Seamus McFly, the world is wrong. Ever since a tragedy which first triggered his suspicion that the future was not unfolding as it should, McFly has become increasingly compelled to find out where and when history went off the rails.

You can imagine where the tale might go from there. Suffice it to say the disparity between how 2015 was imagined in Back to the Future Part II and how it has manifest in real life would be the catalyst for brining the band back together.

The nearly thirty year interval between the release of Back to the Future and today has unfolded very differently from how writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale imagined it. As it turns out, the world does not yet run on garbage-fueled fusion and fashion still refuses to accept the wearing of two ties or the turning of pockets inside-out. Perhaps we can live without those innovations. But I want my flying car.

Why do our projections of the future prove so grossly inaccurate? Some imagined developments manifest more quickly than expected. Star Trek’s communicator portended the cell phone, as its pads and touchscreens portended tablets. Yet, it also imagined we’d still be using “computer tapes” in the 23rd century. Other imagined developments remained imagined. We’re still some time away from anything approximating warp drive or transporter technology. What enables us to achieve some but not all of our imagined progress?

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The Evolution of EPCOT Through The Eyes of Preview Films

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 - by Chris Queen
EPCOT concept art by Herb Ryman

EPCOT concept art by Herb Ryman

No other project in the history of the Walt Disney Company has borne Walt’s stamp more than EPCOT. At the same time, no single project has undergone as many changes as EPCOT has. Through the years between 1966 when Walt Disney first introduced the EPCOT concept as the centerpiece of the company’s Florida Project and 1982 when EPCOT Center opened, the company produced a series of promotional films to promote what EPCOT was going to be. Let’s take a look at them and see how EPCOT changed over the years, from theory to reality.

The EPCOT Film, 1966

The first mention of EPCOT – the location as well as the concept – came in this short film. Disney produced the film a year after the first press conference announcing the company’s Florida Project, and the short gave Walt an opportunity to present his grand vision thoughtfully and in detail. It would be Walt’s last appearance before his death in December 1966.

The company first showed the film to Florida legislators and business leaders in February 1967 at a theater just outside Orlando. The showing had two purposes: to reassure these movers and shakers that the Florida Project was still a reality in the wake of its champion’s death and to grease the wheels for the massive legislative push that would create the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the quasi-governmental agency Disney uses to run Walt Disney World without local interference.

Walt commissioned Marty Sklar to write the script for the film, and Sklar does a fine job expressing the EPCOT concept. Additionally, The EPCOT Film explains for its audience the successes of Disneyland and the purpose of WED Enterprises, later Walt Disney Imagineering.

YouTube Preview Image

In the film, Walt’s ideas are more theoretical than practical (except for the theme park). In fact, Sklar himself referred to the Epcot concept as “Waltopia.” The prototype city with its climate-controlled downtown, minimal transportation, and experimental technology in every home would rely on free enterprise to sustain new ideas:

In fact, we’re counting on the cooperation of American industry to provide their very best thinking during the planning and the creation of our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And most important of all, when EPCOT has become a reality and we find the need for technologies that don’t even exist today, it’s our hope that EPCOT will stimulate American industry to develop new solutions that will meet the needs of people expressed right here in this experimental community.

[...]

…if we can bring together the technical know-how of American industry and the creative imagination of the Disney organization, I’m confident we can create—right here in Disney World—a showcase to the world of the American free enterprise system.

The EPCOT Film displayed Walt’s exuberant and optimistic futurism in its purest form. Alas, his death less than two months after filming essentially put the kibosh on his experimental city concept.

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Will Virtual Reality Make Privacy Obsolete?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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As a child, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad worked for a major airline as a mechanic and I spent a fair amount of time in and around aircraft as a result.

Dad was also a big computer nerd who always had the latest and greatest personal computer in the house. Those two interests combined in the form of flight simulators. The first I can recall was Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64, a program which used simple geometry and rows of lights on the ground as reference points to indicate that you were moving. Later came Microsoft Flight Simulator in its various and progressive forms, raising the bar of realism and fidelity with each new version.

Having recently built a new computing rig, I have a renewed interest in flight simulation after many years away from it. I’m currently deliberating between the purchase of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the most recent yet dated entry in that franchise, or the more contemporary X-Plane 10.

One of the truly amazing selling points of the latter is its immersive recreation of the entire planet. X-Plane 10 utilizes terrain and scenery auto-generation built atop data obtained from OpenStreetMap to simulate your town – and every other one on Earth – with amazing fidelity. In one video demonstrating the technology, the lead developer boasts that the road system proves adequately detailed to serve as a driving simulator. Indeed, YouTube videos showing a virtual drive down X-Plane 10’s streets prove reminiscent of any given trip through any given suburb, complete with picket fences and SUVs.

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Can We Just Fast Forward to 2040? Please?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

This is the second of my daily reading/writing journals, a new routine of season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Reading Regimen. Each morning I will juxtapose two book excerpts with the day’s headlines and try in the afternoon to make sense of the chaos of the day’s news. Click here for Monday’s entry: ‘We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…’

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Dawn Book Reading:

What is America 2.0? Our failing welfare state model enacted by FDR and expanded by all Presidents since, now dying slowly as the next model prepares to overtake it. An Excerpt from America 3.0‘s introduction by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus:

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Quote of the Day #1: “The government sector is in a state of decay reminiscent of the Brezhnev period in the Soviet Union, with apparatchicks with no new ideas repeating the same cliches and the same failed policies, seemingly unaware that their system was doomed.”

And from page 2:

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Quote of the Day #2 predicting a 2040 Millennial Lifestyle: “They suffered unemployment and underemployment in their twenties, and now that opportunity is opening up again they are making the most of it. Tempered by hardship and enduring frustration, some have retreated into immersive virtual entertainment, which is the synthetic nirvana of the time, replacing drugs for many. But most have grasped with gusto for delayed dreams in the real world.”

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Morning News Round Up

Lead PJM Stories Today:

Roger L. Simon: The Zimmerman Trial as Media Pornography

Whatever his or the president’s proclivities, this trial should never have happened. As we now know, with the prosecution’s case wrapped, not only is there no evidence to prove Zimmerman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, there’s virtually no evidence to prove him guilty at all. Farce indeed.

Bridget Johnson: Spitzer on Re-entering Politics: People Forgive More Than They Used To

Spitzer aims to join an NYC ballot that already includes fellow sex-scandler Anthony Weiner running for mayor.

“I think my sense that the public has a capacity to forgive that’s grown and I’ve understood that from what I call my walking down the street poll sensitivity. Anybody who’s in politics interacts with people, and even though I’m not in politics, obviously, I’m well enough known so I talk to people. I enjoy that process,” Spitzer said.

“When you talk to people, you understand their emotions. I see that forgiveness and willingness to give folks a second chance and obviously the examples you just gave are evidence of that. Whether that will transfer to me is an open question. Every case is different. And that is why there’s massive uncertainty, risk, and as there should be, and is rightly the case that there’s risk,” he continued.

Michael Ledeen’s Faster Please: The Information Revolution and the Snooping State

One of my favorite bits of wisdom about the modern world goes “the information revolution happened and the information won.” We’re drowning in information. We can read most any newspaper and watch most any TV program anywhere in the world at any hour of the day or night. We can find out what so and so thinks about most anything, and we can even check to see if he has changed his mind over the years.  We can also find out virtually anything we want to know about a person’s health, income, job, diet, religion, reading habits…whatever.  I’m not talking about the IRS or the NSA-acting-as-FBI-proxy;  these data are all over the place, from Utah to Canada to Googleland (don’t forget that “Google is Hal”). (h/t James Burt, who commented on the MIT Technology Review site).

The good news, so to speak, is that there is so much information, our abilities to sort it out are overwhelmed.  Paradoxically, we’ve probably got more to worry about from the Department of Education than from the National Security Agency.

We are rightly enraged to discover that the IRS snoops into the reading and prayer habits of Obama’s political opponents, and that the NSA-acting-as-FBI-proxy intercepts and stores all the phone calls and emails it can get its virtual claws on.  But it’s not just the national security agencies and the tax men that do this.  Companies trying to identify likely customers do it.  They also do it to real and potential competitors.  Hackers do it, sometimes for their own excitement, sometimes on commission.  And “educators” do it too, even to kindergarteners.

Bob Owens: Deconstructing the Trayvon Martin Narrative: Nothing Left to Argue?

Andrew C. McCarthy’s Ordered Liberty: Our Friends the Saudis and Their Moderate Sharia Decapitations

Philippe Karsenty: No First Amendment Here: French Court Finds Me Guilty in Al-Dura Affair

Roger Kimball: Family Fun? You’ll Need a Permit for That

Today’s PJ Lifestyle Stories:

Did you know Canada has a Texas? Each Tuesday Kathy Shaidle is going to provide some Canadian education…

Kathy Shaidle: Come Hell or High Water: Calgary Stampede Goes On Despite Disaster

Chris Queen: History Channel, This Is Why You Can’t Have Nice Things

Becky continues to provide tips and advice for the great spots to visit in D.C.:

Becky Graebner: Rediscovering Washington, D.C.: Acting Like a Tourist and (Surprisingly) Liking It

In an odd coincidence I actually had a lunch that resembled this post that I found waiting for me after I got back…

Bryan Preston: How to Make the Best Corn-on-the-Cob You Will Ever Eat

Theodore Dalrymple: Can Advances in Medical Technology Make Us Less Healthy?

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A Few Relevant News Headlines From Around the Web Today:

Ben Shapiro at Breitbart News: Broward County Sheriff Prepares for Post-Trayvon Verdict Riots

Alana Goodman at the Free Beacon: Rebel Yell:Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

……

“Some say Rand is not Ron because he is ‘willing to play them game,’” Hunter continued. “That’s exactly right. That’s the point—to play it, influence it, and win it as much as you can. The neoconservatives certainly do, to their advantage.”

Hunter has also said that Rand Paul holds the same foreign policy views as his father, Ron Paul.

“The philosophy hasn’t substantively changed [from Ron Paul to Rand Paul]. The methods and style most certainly have.”

However, a spokesperson for Paul said Hunter was not speaking for the senator.

Hunter also discussed Paul’s intention to take non-interventionism into the “mainstream” in a comment to libertarian website the Daily Paul in January.

“I see, finally, a Republican willing to take the more sane, non-interventionist message into the mainstream in a way that can stick and possibly become policy,” said Hunter.

“Ron started this whole thing,” he added. “Rand is taking it to the next level.”

Again however, Hunter said does not think Rand Paul is a non-interventionist when asked by the Free Beacon.

Jonathan S Tobin at CommentaryAnti-Semitic Hate for Kids … and Adults

It is shocking that the official media of the group that Kerry considers a partner for peace would be broadcasting hate and using children to do it. But, of course, as anyone who follows the PMW website regularly knows, there is actually nothing unusual about the PA acting in this manner.

The PA media has broadcast a steady diet of hatred against Israel and Jews since its inception after the Oslo Accords brought it into existence with numerous examples of them employing children and broadcasts specifically aimed at youngsters to do so. One of the great tragedies of the last 20 years has been the way Israel’s supposed peace partners have sowed the seeds of future conflict by inculcating their youth with doctrines that treat Jews as subhuman monsters with no rights or claims upon the land that both sides claim as their own.

There will be those who will argue that similar hatred exists among Israelis, as occasional incidents inside the green line and so-called “price tag” attacks on Palestinians in the territories indicate. But the difference between the two sides is actually illustrative of the way Israel has embraced the hope for peace while Palestinians have not.

The point is hatred of Jews by Palestinians is something that is officially endorsed by the Palestinian Authority while hatred of Arabs is incessantly condemned by the Israeli media and the government. Jewish prejudice against Arabs exists, but only as the actions of a minority, while mainstream Palestinian culture endorses hate. While Israeli schools adopted curricula seeking to promote “peace education,” the Palestinian schools still use textbooks that are filled with the same kind of vile delegitimization seen on PA TV.

Enough of the daily darkness? Me too. Time to come up for air.

And Some Headlines and Videos from the World of Entertainment, Arts, Technology and Culture:

David Shapiro on piano:

Encouraging developments on intergalactic travel, via Charlie Martin today at PJ Lifestyle:

Random Dude Eats Random Food: The Fried Pickles and Tavern Burger at Drake’s in Indianapolis

Media Bistro Vs BuzzFeed Over Offensive “Egyptian Revolution with Jurassic Park Gifs” Piece

Grand Theft Auto V trailer, hat tip Deadline Hollywood:

“Tempered by hardship and enduring frustration, some have retreated into immersive virtual entertainment, which is the synthetic nirvana of the time, replacing drugs for many. But most have grasped with gusto for delayed dreams in the real world.”

From the Archives:

From Spengler in 2006 at Asia Times: Jihad, the Lord’s Supper, and eternal life

Why is self-sacrifice always and everywhere the cost of eternal life? It is not because a vengeful and sanguineous God demands his due before issuing us a visa to heaven. Quite the contrary: we must sacrifice our earthly self, our attachment to the pleasures and petty victories of our short mortal life if we really are to gain the eternal life that we desire. The animal led to the altar, indeed Jesus on the cross, is ourselves: we die along with the sacrifice and yet live, by the grace of God. YHWH did not want Isaac to die, but without taking Abraham to Mount Moriah, Abraham himself could not have been transformed into the man desirous and deserving of immortal life. Jesus died and took upon him the sins of the world, in Christian terms, precisely so that a vicarious sacrifice would redeem those who come to him.

What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love. God gives Jews and Christians a path that their foot can tread, one that is not too hard for mortals, to secure the unobtainable, namely immortal life, as if by miracle. Out of love God gives the Torah to the Jews, not because God is a stickler for the execution of 613 commandments, but because it is a path upon which the Jew may sacrifice and yet live, and receive his portion of the World to Come. The most important sacrifice in Judaism is the Sabbath – “our offering of rest”, says the congregation in the Sabbath prayers – a day of inactivity that acknowledges that the Earth is the Lord’s. It is a sacrifice, as it were, of ego. In this framework, incidentally, it is pointless to distinguish Judaism as a “religion of works” as opposed to Christianity as a “religion of faith”.

Afternoon Reflections

Read all of Alana Goodman’s piece about Rand Paul’s neo-confederate employee. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rand Paul is the Barack Obama of the Right. He is a paleo-libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, anti-American radical just pretending to be a mainstream, patriotic Tea Party American. Rand Paul’s Jeremiah Wright is his father Ron Paul, who filled him with even more antisemitic conspiracy theories and tolerance of anti-American hate than the President’s deranged mentor.

If Rand Paul can’t even be trusted to judge the character of his own staff then how can he be trusted to judge how to handle America’s enemies?

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Horizons: Walt Disney’s Lost Futuristic Legacy

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

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Recently I wrote about what I call Walt Disney’s optimistic futurism. Walt Disney believed – perhaps to a fault – that advances in technology and communications would make the future an exciting and vibrant place for everyone. This notion manifested itself in Walt’s ultimate dream: his planned community, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow), which was to be part of the company’s Florida Project, which became Walt Disney World.

The EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) theme park at Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1982. The park embodies the spirit of Disney’s optimistic futurism. One attraction in particular – Horizons, which was open from 1983 to 1999 – encapsulated Walt’s ideas like no other. Although Horizons closed nearly 15 years ago, a rabid cult following (including yours truly) still professes deep affection for the ride.

In its storyboard stage, Horizons went by the name Century 3, a nod to the third century of America’s existence. The Imagineers later changed the name to Futureprobe, but not for long, due to the unpleasant connotation of the word probe. General Electric sponsored the ride, and the Imagineers intended for it to be the sequel to another GE-sponsored attraction, The Carousel of Progress.

The slogan for Horizons – “If we can dream it, we can do it” – was the brainchild of Imagineer Tony Baxter, though it was so reminiscent of Walt Disney that to this day many writers falsely attribute it to Walt. In many ways, Horizons was a quintessential Disney dark ride, utilizing the company’s Omnimover technology to usher guests through the space, which looked like a diamond-shaped spaceship and suggested an unending horizon ahead.

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Walt & Roy Disney: Champions of Free Enterprise

Friday, June 14th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a lot about Walt Disney. I’ve covered his political journey, his faith, his commitment to excellence, his patriotism, his futuristic vision, and the presence of certain Judeo-Christian values in his films (with more to come in the ensuing weeks). Today I want to emphasize the commitment Walt and his brother Roy held to the free market, remarkable in light of the fact that the brothers grew up in a socialist household.

Roy and Walt’s father Elias had an entrepreneurial streak but he was either unlucky or a terrible businessman. Yet he professed socialist views. Elias tried to impress these ideals on his sons. As I wrote about him recently:

Elias…was a Socialist — in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

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Wayland’s newspaper, Appeal to Reason, “was folksy” and “reached the common man’s ears but irritated the intellectual’s.” Elias Disney subscribed to Appeal to Reason, and Walt remembered cutting his teeth as an artist by copying the cartoons. Walt said he “could draw cartoons of ‘Capital’ and ‘Labor’ pretty good, the big fat capitalist with the money with his foot on the neck of the laboring man with the little cap on his head.”

Elias Disney voted for Progressive William Jennings Bryan and Socialist Eugene Debs in presidential elections, despite being an entrepreneur and employer.

Roy, who became Walt’s business partner, may have provided an early education in capitalism and the entrepreneur’s spirit. Bob Thomas writes in his biography Building A Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire (which I am currently reading):

Clem Flickinger, a boyhood friend of Walt’s, recalled in 1987 what may have been Roy’s first venture into capitalism. He planted an acre of popcorn. When the ears ripened, he shucked them, dried them in the sun, and shelled the kernels. He packed the popcorn into candy sacks and sold them in Marceline.

When Walt headed to California to pursue his dream of running his own studio, he sought out Roy for advice, partnership, and a little seed money. Walt provided the creative spark, and it was up to Roy to conjure up the funds to fulfill the ideas.

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The New Space Race: HULK SMASH!

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

Or something like that — from StrategyPage:

Chinese military journals are full of exhortations to “render the enemy deaf and blind” by attacking their space satellites. Yet there is little discussion about how China would do this. That is because China does not want the rest of the world to pay too much attention to Chinese work on jamming satellite signals, damaging satellites with lasers and generally leaving them intact but inoperable rather than destroying them.

China did conduct a very visible “KillSat” test in 2007 that blew one of their old weather satellites apart. This was not good for anyone with satellites in orbit because that particular test created over 3,000 large (very destructive) fragments in orbit. These fragments are under no one’s control and will demolish any satellites they encounter. China has not repeated this test and now it is believed that the 2007 test was more of a deception than demonstration. China wants the world to ignore their more intense efforts to disable or isolate satellites in orbit rather than blowing them up.

Going for the eyes is one way to end a fight very, very quickly.

The question is this. On the home front, we’d likely lose TV, phone service, weather warnings,some internet, and general chaos, inconvenience, and some deaths. On the fighting front (should there actually be one), our military would lose tons of intel and much of the networking that it uses as a force multiplier.

Would that be enough to knock us out of the fight?

The Japanese thought so at Pearl Harbor, but I don’t think we’re the same people we were in 1941.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Walt Disney’s Optimistic Futurism

Friday, June 7th, 2013 - by Chris Queen
Progress City, an integral part of Walt Disney's original vision for his "Florida Project"

Progress City, an integral part of Walt Disney’s original vision for his “Florida Project”

Check out the previous installments in Chris Queen’s ongoing series exploring the values and philosophy of Walt Disney:

April 22: 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds

May 3: Walt Disney’s Fascinating Political Journey

May 10: 5 Examples of the Value of Faith in Disney’s Classic Films

May 17: How Disney Culture Values Excellence

May 24: 5 Disney Films That Define Key Family Values

May 31: Patriotism, Disney Style

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Many visions of the future — from 1984 to Silent Spring to Blade Runner to After Earth – lead us to believe a bleak, gray-skied world awaits. The prevailing theme of dystopian futurists is that we and the generations to follow are going to destroy our society or our planet because of our greed. Most futurists view the world through a cynical, grim prism, and optimistic futurists come few and far between. One of them left his mark on the world in a most indelible way — Walt Disney.

When many people think of Disney they feel nostalgia, fantasy, and escapism, but in reality, Walt possessed a strong vision for making the future better than the present. He believed that technology and free enterprise held the key to a positive future.

Walt’s futuristic dreams began to manifest themselves in the science-fiction-crazy 1950s. On the Disneyland television series, he devoted entire episodes to the conquest of space, landing on the moon, going beyond the moon, and using satellites to improve life on Earth. He and director Ward Kimball worked with leading scientific lights such as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley to create diagrams and dramatizations of potential space travel that even predate NASA — and what ended up on the screen resembled actual space travel in surprising ways!

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