Friday, June 14, 2002

Omega Economy -- NAPSTER FABBING -- Napster Fabbing and Nanotech are key to the Omega Economy. Along with making economics ecological and subject to chaotic/ complexity modelling, applying the Napster model to desktop fabrication makes manufacturing all but obselete. If you haven't come across Nanotech yet, Drexler's groundbreaking work Engines of Creation is now online. Burns and Howison's original article on Napster fabbing is here , as is an introductory essay entitled "What is a Fabber?" Articles are already starting to pop up looking at the impact and market path of this emerging technology. Buss Modeling Technology and 3d Concepts already have prototype and production models ready to go. Next stop, Drexler's NanoBox.
Omega Economy -- DTP CIRCUITS -- If Gutenberg could take a look at one of today's Kinko's, he would surely loose his mind. The amount of publishing power on today's desktop is light years ahead of any newspaper or publishing house even 30 years ago. Now the same kind of revolution is coming to the semiconductor industry. Even though the fastest and best chips might still come from the majors like AMD and Intel, it's looking increasingly like you'll soon be able to design and fab at home. What with the virtualization of print and music (and the coeval ability to download and produce them at home) is starting to happen with circuitry. Research on NanoPaste and injet printing of circuits is already beginning to commercialized. Research is also moving ahead on plastic transistors and foldable cicuitry (first utilized for the disposable cell-phone). For mass production, roll-to-roll offset printing has now been adapted to cicuitry by one of my favourite co's Rolltronics. I think I'm gonna like it when this his peer-to-peer networks...
Omega Economy -- VIRTUALIZATION -- While Baudrillard and others have brought attention to the increasing download of the simulation (of all kinds) into the real, what has been largely ignored is that simulation is a two-way street. While the simulation gives reality a greater fluidity, we in the real give the simulation a greater structure. Both are changed. The internet gets its digital infrastructure and coding and we get glimpses of the Jetson's future popping up in the marketplace. Until the Omega point where the two are virtually indistinguishable. With avatars, VRML and the like, we're starting to upload reality into the simulation. One of the coolest things out there right now has got to be the Polhemus 3D scanner. Like the hand scanners of yore, you move it in a sweeping motion over objects to be scanned in and voila -- instant online 3D model! For other strange and wonderful 3D scanners of all types, check out Cyberware's vast collection of goodies. Not to be outdone, both Intel and the US Defence Department through PNNL have developed their own methods for scanning realworld objects. Intel's light field mapping is more designed for display than scanning, but stands to become the de facto standard for scanning and display in virtual worlds. PNNL, on the other hand, has designed what is perhaps the world's most advanced 3d holographic scanner for airports. Let's hope these things become the photomat booths of the future...
Omega Economy -- CHAOS & COMPLEXITY -- Ever since Kelly's seminal speculative article on chaos and the stock market, there has been a renewed interest in using the mathmatics of chaos and complexity for simulating (and predicting) economic processes. Rivero's work on artificial adaptive agents is an example of the type of work being done in the field. A clearinghouse of information on complexity and economics can be found here. The ultimate hope is to have the predictive capacity to continuously match supply and demand, resulting in perfect distribution and therefore zero inflation. The result would (supposedly) be a combination of the planned economics of communism (based on complexity modelling) and the chaotic corrective mechanisms of capitalism.
Omega Economy-- ECOLOGY -- One of the primary difficulties with modern economics (or at least ideological economics) is it's failure to account for externalities or the byproducts of production. The results of this are obvious, particularly where the environment is concerned. By ignoring the networked or systemic nature of production, the current economy tends to deny long term accounting of waste byproducts, to the detriment of the environment. The concept of joint production allows for a more accurate accounting of productive processes from the viewpoint of ecology. As well, such a model bounds economics with thermodynamics, bringing it into line with natural processes. Central to this marriage is the concept of entropy which is only beginning to turn up in economic discussions. Further reading is here.

Monday, May 13, 2002

NexGen Computing -- INTERFACE -- The next generation interface is bound to be a combination of stuff poping up on Nooface and, two of the coolest sites on the net, IMHO. Check 'em out to see what's been going on since you saw Lawnmower Man. Graphically, i3dimensions has a great product that should be open souced as soon as humanly possible. Combined with grid rendering (below), the 3d internet may not be so far away after all. Finally, if the bulky gloves and suits turned you off the first time, sensors from Silicon Sensing (providers to the Segway Human Transporter) and accellerometers from IME may make the old VR scuba gear all but obselete. Combined with conductive fabric from Elektex, your new VR gloves might look more like Isotoners (tm) instead of something you ripped off from a wayward hockey player.
NexGen Computing -- SOUND -- NXT Sound. Sonic wallpaper. 'Nuff said.
NexGen Computing -- STORAGE -- For a quick primer on the principles and promise of holographic storage, try this SciAm article. The best work to date is being done in Japan by Myeongkyu Lee using UV light to cure and erase the holographically stored data. The hope? One terabyte of storage per cubic inch. A new spatial light modulator may help them reach those densities.
NexGen Computing -- MEMORY -- Quantum memory is starting to come online both for silicon and optical applications. Quantum Tunneling memory or TSRAMs are more suited to silicon applications, while Quantum Well Memory looks poised to dominate optics. For heady research, try here. Manufacturing difficulties are currently being overcome.
NexGen Computing -- OPTICAL -- Optical technologies have had a slow start, but some brilliant work is being done in the field. Lenslet is doing amazing research into optical DSP chips, and is currently shipping Tera-ops reconfigurable DSPs A truly amazing product. Trellis Photonics is pioneering electroholographic routing which will inevitably find its way inside an all-optical computer. Google around on their researchers and see what they're up to...Primarion is already putting fiber in the box in order to max out throughput, and judging from this SPIE report, we're getting very close to having electro-optic hybrids some time soon. The holy grail, though, is all-optical soliton computing, which stands to blow away anything previously conceived by getting light to steer light impulses in an on-the-fly, reconfigurable optical architecture. Please let this come to market....
NexGen Computing -- SILICON -- While in the short term silicon is still on the table, there are a few twists to keep it interesting. Reconfigurable computing is getting hotter by the day and Star Bridge Systems is already producing first generation RC's. Almost all RC's are woking off the ever-useful Xilinx line of FPGA's. As FPGA computing proliferates, as well as (yet again) printable circuits, places like Opencores will become the hardware equivalent of (open source) Linux. Eventually the whole market could become Napsterized, where you download the hardware as you require it and print or flash it to FPGA within seconds. As far as architecture is concerned, synchoronous should go, in favour of massively parallel asynchronous logic. The network must extend inside the computer. The Amulet Group and Sharp have already produced experimental production units. What would be truly interesting would be a large neural network based on Amulet's core and Sharp's flow control architecture, all flashed to a big fat Xilinx chip. Low power consumption, scalability and fast processing...what more could you ask for?
NexGen Computing -- GRID RENDERING -- So you've got your wireless walkman (tm) computer and your mirrorshades, but you'd like a 3D rendered world to walk around in? That can be arranged. The Syzygy project is a clustered VR program initially designed for CAVE applications. Teamed up with grid computing (made famous by the SETI@home project) and ultrawideband wireless, you can have the Gibsonian world you always wanted.
NexGen Computing -- DISPLAYS -- I'd like my mirrorshades please...but getting to the point where a Head Mounted Display is the size of your average pair of sunglasses is proviing to be difficult. Current state of the art is probably the virtual i-glasses from i/o or, ofcourse, the glasstron from Sony. Unfortunately, both have some pretty hefty power requirements and no bluetooth to keep you portable. Fortunately help is on the way. The Wedge, originally developed for 50" displays could be easily scaled down to HMD sizes, particularly if paired with IBM's Roentgen chips.

Getting costs down to size will be a matter of applying printing technologies to chip fab. Cambrdige Display and Litrex are already moving into production on print-on-LCD's.

The most innovative display technology to date though, is iridigm's interferometric display. It's bloody brilliant. If only they would change the MEMs over to piezo and use some UV holography to make it planar (parallel) addressable, they would have the perfect display...

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Integrated Systems for Power Generation IX -- Though in many ways a less elegant solution to hydrocarbon pollution than microwave CVD (see below), Enviroscrub's waste processing technology is nevertheless producing impressive results.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Integrated Systems for Power Generation VIII -- After researchers at Oak Ridge Nuclear got greedy for funding and fudged some of their data, Integral Fast Reactors got put on the back burner. But really, what's not to like about a nuke that eats radioacive waste for breakfast and generates hydrocarbon-free power? Seems a much better bet than the Pebble Bed reactors that are being pushed for next generation nuclear.
Integrated Systems for Power Generation VII -- Instead of trying to GM food, how about doing a number on these critters? Research is already in full swing.
Integrated Systems for Power Generation VI -- The next generation of solar cells is here. Want to mass produce them?
Integrated Systems for Power Generation V -- Got waste fly ash and carbon? Pharoah-crete and other geo-polymers allow for the creation of novel materials from waste products.
Integrated Systems for Power Generation IV -- Got waste heat? Eneco's solid-state heat to energy conversion technology can help.
Integrated Systems for Power Generation III -- A seemingly forgotten technology in the West, Russian reseachers have been pluggin away at Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) for some time as have the Japanese. One wonders if magnetic advances such as the Halbach array, originally designed for Maglev, will drastically cut the costs eliminating the need for exotic materials.
Integrated Systems for Power Generation II -- From the semiconductor manufacturing industry comes Cathode Vapour Deposition, a means of breaking molecular bonds via plasma and depositing materials on thin films. Clever Aussies have adapted the method as a means of breaking apart the bonds between hydrocarbon pollutants such as CO2, NO2 and SO2. Just nuke it!
This blog is devoted to systems approaches to technology, finding out what the new paradigms are and what their societal impact will be. This is not an end point but a jumping off point. Here we still believe in the future. Welcome to New Earth.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Integrated Systems for Power Generation I -- Coal is (unfortunately) the new oil. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal, possessing vast reserves that incur little geopolitical cost. California alone is planning to build four new coal plants in the near future. Instead of the groteque Dickensian hellstacks of our forefathers, here is a new foundation for clean coal energy: if they're going to build them anyway, let them build one of these.