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.
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.
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.
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.
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 31: Patriotism, Disney Style
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!
I am a firm believer that technology can sometimes make you “dumber.” Sometimes having “an app for that” can lead to the loss of basic skills — and we become dependent on a machine to do actions for us. Calculators have dulled our ability to do basic math, texts have degraded the English language to sentences like “C U L8r,” and Mapquest has made us paper-map illiterate. The infiltration of technology into autos is no different… soon we might not even have to know how to drive! (And that would be a sad day.)
Cars are now packed with the newest examples of the “cutting edge” — but technology and computers aren’t always the best thing. Some features are “so smart” they can be downright annoying or end up being completely unhelpful. Here is my take on some of the cool features available today… but are they really enriching our lives or are they making us lazy, easily-annoyed, distracted drivers?
The Sun reported today:
Police confirmed one man has died who is believed to be the soldier.
David Cameron vowed Britain would “never buckle” in the face of terrorism and condemned the “absolutely sickening” attack.
In footage, obtained by The Sun, one of the terrorists speaks directly in to the camera bragging about the horrific attack boasting the public and their “children” were targets of extremists.
He says: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you…Your people will never be safe.
“In our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe.
“Remove your governments they don’t care about you.
“You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns you think politicians are going to die? No it’s going to be the average guy, like you, and your children.
“So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace.”
image courtesy shutterstock / Vadim Sadovski
Check out Walter’s previous articles in this ongoing series Thursday mornings exploring video games, cultural villains, and American values at PJ Lifestyle. From May 2: “Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness,” and last week: “What Zombies Teach Us About Human Nature.” And also see Walter’s A Reason For Faith series, reprinted last week here. In these four articles Walter begins to formalize his task of synthesizing the Judeo-Christian tradition with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Tea Party activism. - DMS
In one of the most vivid dreams I can recall, I witnessed the landing of a plainly alien spaceship. It came lucidly, dancing on the edge of wakefulness, informed by enough of my rousing consciousness that it felt particularly real. I remember the feeling that my feet were glued to the ground, that I couldn’t move if I wanted to, not on account of some external force, but due to an overwhelming sense of awe and anticipation. The one thought dominating my mind: everything is about to change.
Though it was only a dream, I retain the memory as vividly as though it were of an actual experience and believe I will respond similarly if ever confronted by a true interplanetary delegation. Something about that kind of moment, when the veil lifts upon an existential mystery, produces an irresistible thrill. Perhaps that tops the list of reasons why our popular culture remains ever fascinated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life.
Aliens have become such a prolific device in our entertainment that we sometimes take them for granted. Like a modern deus ex machina, aliens can be relied upon to suspend disbelief in an otherwise inconceivable scenario. (How does Superman fly? Simple, he’s an alien!) Extraterrestrials rank alongside Nazis, zombies, and generic terrorists as the most common villains found in video games. Unlike those others, however, aliens may also be allies. Nothing inherent to extraterrestrial life demands it be villainous. Beings from other worlds often act as mirrors for examining the human condition, when not merely lurking among shadow and neon strobe.
It’s probably no coincidence that the advent of ufology, which is an actual word in the dictionary meaning the study of unidentified flying objects, coincides with the initial proliferation of aviation and the early years of the space age. We began to look up into the sky right about the time we realized there was nothing left to find over the horizon. In times past, when the known world was still defined by the flickering edge of torchlight, we imagined unspeakable monsters much closer to home. Spirits, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, fairies, vampires — all were the alien invaders and abductors of their time. As we have come to dismiss them as infeasible and childish, our imagination turns to the stars, where the realm of possibility remains seemingly infinite.
Certainly, we can see how aliens have stepped in to fill the role of menacing ghoul. Ridley Scott’s original Alien was essentially a horror film, a science-fiction creature feature. While the execution was masterful, the formula proved well-established and has been revisited ever since.
We have a new rivalry: the Google self-driving car vs. the General Motors “Super Cruise.” The tech world is all revved up about autonomous cars; it’s like Minority Report meets Back to the Future! But before we start singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, we need to take a step back and evaluate the feasibility of the implementation of the technology.
Cars are already available with semi-autonomous features: cruise control, automatic breaking (for objects that enter the car’s sensor fields), parallel park assist, and new features that guide cars back into their lane if they veer too much. The new Cadillac “Super Cruise” is attempting to one-up these features: it can steer the car within the lane, and will make the driver’s seat vibrate if the car veers out of bounds. It can also brake and accelerate to maintain a “selectable distance” between the car and those in front of it. Proponents of semi-autonomous, and future (fully) autonomous, cars argue that this technology will lead to safer roads, less accidents, better gas mileage, and less need for mistake-prone humans to be driving. I disagree. What about the imperfect nature of our new chauffeurs: computers?
SXSW Monday: I’m here today to check more sessions and events out. Most that I’m interested in are in the afternoon. In the morning, a man needs his coffee, and as I’m walking from my parked car — wherever that is, somewhere blocks away from the action — to the convention center, a man asks me out of the clear blue sky:= “Hey, would you like some free coffee?”
Um, yeah. I would. Very much. He ushers me over to this trailer, which it turns out belongs to GE.
Those two white arms are robots. The barista attaches a syringe to to what, I guess, is its hand. The syringe is full of condensed coffee. She doesn’t start you on a coffee IV, which is a pity.
They snap a photo of you, or a logo that you’re wearing or have handy.
I happened to be wearing my PJTV shirt…
So, after a few seconds, the robot gets the image and passably writes it onto the foam on top of the coffee.
Thanks to Vivian at RetailMeNot for letting me snap pics while the robot was making her coffee. Click on the next page to see the holographic tour guide.
That is the question sought to be answered by the new book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, who discuss the pros and cons of a 3D world where we could possibly have a machine that could make everything. The authors state “[in] the not-so-distant future, people will 3D print living tissue, nutritionally calibrated food, and ready-made, fully assembled electronic components.”
The book looks at the history of 3D printing and how it came about and from there, the chapters discuss everything from what these machines can make to the legal difficulties that will follow from the technology. From the Backcover:
Businesses will be liberated from the tyrannies of economies of scale
Factories and global supply chains will shrink, finding themselves closer to their customers
The law, already reeling from digital media, will once again need to be redefined
Our environment might breathe easier in a 3D printed economy, or it could choke on a rising tide of plastic
3D printed digital and intelligent, adaptive materials will change our relationship with the physical world
What do you think of 3D technology: Is it the next best thing or will we choke on a rising tide of plastic?
AUSTIN — Some of the best transportation thinkers in Texas and across the United States are being upstaged this week by a car that drives itself.
About 1,400 people are attending the eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum through Tuesday in Austin. But while those experts meet in Hilton conference rooms and grapple with tough issues such as how to handle an increase in freight-hauling trucks on the roads, or how to pay for highways under a tightened state budget, it’s the Google “self-driving car” parked outside the downtown Austin hotel’s entrance that’s getting the most hubbub.
“It would probably do a better job driving than we do,” quipped Linda Thomas of Longview, who on Monday afternoon took turns shooting snapshots of the Google car with her husband, Charles.
The car is among a fleet of about 10 vehicles developed during the past eight years by researchers at Google and Stanford University. Google representatives said that on Tuesday they plan to take the car, a Lexus hybrid, for a spin on Austin-area roads, including infamously congested Interstate 35.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Today I’m at the Dallas Sci-Fi Expo (which is actually taking place in Irving). Kevin Sorbo and Morena Baccarin will be here today and tomorrow, along with stars from Back to the Future, Battlestar Galactica, Tron, comic book artists, and of course, just about every superhero and villain imaginable.
Let’s walk the exhibition floor and see who turns up.
I don’t know what they’re selling, but they had a lot of buyers.
Even a Sith.
Today’s PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection comes From Ed Driscoll’s “Far from Complete: Great Books Missing in the Kindle Format” article:
Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke: A quarter century before Star Trek: The Next Generation displayed its first replicator onscreen, Clarke was writing about them in Profiles, along with plenty of other futuristic technology; some we now take for granted (such as the Internet and the Kindle) and others that are still on the drawing board. Again, why isn’t such a forward-thinking book not an ebook as well?
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Publication Date: April 28, 2009
In 2004, Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD, published Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. Their groundbreaking book marshaled thousands of scientific studies to make the case that new developments in medicine and technology will allow us to radically extend our life expectancies and slow down the aging process. Soon, our notion of what it means to be a 55-year-old will be as outdated as an eight-track tape player.
TRANSCEND: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever presents a practical, enjoyable program so that readers can live long enough (and remain healthy long enough) to take full advantage of the biotech and nanotech advances that have already begun and will be occurring at an accelerating pace during the years ahead. To help readers remember the nine key components of the program, Ray and Terry have arranged them into a mnemonic:
Talk with your doctor
This easy-to-follow program will help readers transcend the boundaries of our genetic legacy and live long enough to live forever.
New Year’s Resolution #6: Stop sacrificing health on the altar of workaholism. Saturday Bookshelf suggestions explore various diet and exercise regiments.
Shutterstock image courtesy / Andrea Danti
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Glenn Reynolds talks to Professor James D. Miller of Smith College. Miller is the author of Singularity Rising. Will there come a time when technology becomes so smart that it will alter human civilization? Can you survive what Miller calls the singularity? Find out why this is not science fiction, on this InstaVision.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stands as one of the most creative scripts produced in 2012. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley play an odd couple united on a quest to reconnect with their respective pasts before a meteor destroys all life on Earth. Dramatically deviating from the clichés of the disaster genre, Seeking a Friend presents a doomed humanity that takes the apocalypse fairly well. While including requisite scenes of panic and riot, the film’s characters strive toward some sense of relationship in their final days.
We too seem to be taking the apocalypse pretty well. Our world hurls toward its scheduled end on December 21st according to predictions based on the ancient Mayan calendar. It’s something folks like Art Bell, George Noory, and their overnight talk radio guests have been warning us about for years. It serves as the subject of several books, a keyword of countless websites, the inspiration for a variety of B movies, and the premise behind Roland Emmerich’s consummate disaster film titled simply 2012. After years of hype, the date approaches. Yet there is a conspicuous lack of panic.
The smart money bets on the continued survival of both humanity and our planet. As my friend and PJ Media colleague Sunny Lohmann recently quipped on Twin Cities News Talk, the only thing sure to come beyond the winter solstice is more daylight. Predictions of Armageddon have an impressive failure rate.
Be that as it may, we should not completely dismiss the potential for a kind of apocalypse. No, I don’t mean the fiscal cliff, Obama’s second term, or an imminent economic meltdown. I’m talking about an apocalypse of the kind which has come many times before, a moment in history when a culture unravels under a development so overwhelming that established institutions pass into ruin. Think of the Aztecs and their encounter with Spanish conquistadors. They scurried about, minding their own business, when the white man arrived to unmake their world.
At a moment like that, two things happen. Newly introduced technology bowls over indigenous methods, and a new way of thinking transmits through that technical superiority. That kind of apocalypse, one which reforms our world and thus destroys our way of life, looms not only possible, but anticipated.
While powerful transcanial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the frontal lobe of the brain can alleviate symptoms of depression, those receiving the treatment did not report effects on sleep or arousal commonly seen with antidepressant medications, researchers have found.
“People’s sleep gets better as their depression improves, but the treatment doesn’t itself cause sedation or insomnia.” said Dr. Peter B. Rosenquist, Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University.
The finding resulted from a secondary analysis of a study of 301 patients at 23 sites comparing the anti-depressive effects of the Neuronetics Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy System to placebo treatment in patients resistant to antidepressant medications. These initial findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2007, were the primary evidence in the FDA’s approval of TMS for depression.
Related at PJ Media today:
Every once in a while, theres news which reminds us that were living in the age of accelerating change. This is one of those times: A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.
This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
The promise of home 3-D printing is that you can construct anything you want from the comfort and convenience of your own living room. For a group whose mission is to 3-D print a working pistol from scratch, however, that promise has been revoked.
Defense Distributed, a collective led by UT-Austin law student Cody Wilson, has raised $20,000 online in a bid to design and develop the world’s first entirely 3-D printed gun, which it calls the Wiki Weapon. If it succeeds, not only will it build its own prototype, it will share the design publicly, so that anyone around the world with a 3-D printer can print his own pistol. It’s sort of the opposite of “Don’t try this at home.”
In a promotional video, Wilson waxes philosophical about the project. “The Defense Distributed goal isn’t really personal armament,” he says. “It’s more the liberation of information. It’s about living in a world where you can just download the file for the thing you want to make in this life. As the printing press revolutionized literacy, 3-D printing is in its moment.”
Turns out the company that leased Defense Distributed its 3-D printer doesn’t see it that way. In a letter to Wilson dated Sept. 26, the legal counsel for Stratasys Inc. informed Wilson that it was cancelling his lease of the company’s uPrint SE printer. “It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes,” the company wrote, noting that Wilson lacked a federal license for manufacturing firearms.
More Futurism at PJ Lifestyle: