I am a big fan of John Berkey’s paintings, though the prices are very much out of my range. The images bespeak a space-borne industrial capacity that would make our current global industry look like a craft fair. In some ways I see ventures like asteroid mining as baby steps to our grandchildren working in awesome structures like the one above.
How does it work?
A small power led (no heat, small power consumption) reflects on the white rear, which diffuses a smooth and uniform light.
On the wider, SF aspect of things, lamps like this are appealing to a fairly narrow market, and at the price point very few would sell in a traditional storefront. 20 years ago, these lamps would not exist. Right now, they are available over the internet and quite accessible, and so the maker gets a bit of income. Hooray. What will it look like 20 years from now?
As a science fiction and futurism buff, I can only get excited at the prospect of Asteroid Mining. Not because of their plan to mine things like platinum, which is appealing enough. I like the idea because if they manage to make asteroid mining profitable, space will open up quickly and dramatically.
A major barrier to space exploration has always been cost and risk. Government agencies like NASA have been seriously constrained by the confluence of these two issues – as you reduce risk you increase cost. A zero risk effort is monstrously expensive, and NASA has been (somewhat rightly) shy of risking humans in risky ventures. Fair enough – if they lost a Mars mission full of astronauts, they would likely have to shut their doors and Mars exploration would be pushed back a generation or two.
But commercial ventures have different risk/cost ratios. If a corporation like Planetary Resources loses a robot mining craft, or even loses everything, others can and will learn from their mistakes. They can still reduce risk, but they are not required to eliminate it altogether in the way that government entities must.
This makes me very optimistic. I don’t have an attachment to any particular entity or type of organization reaching space, and I think that viable space commercialization and (possibly) colonization will be enough of a singularity that it is impossible to predict the outcomes as they apply down here on earth. But what I am enthusiastically in support of is humans expanding into space, as soon as possible.
We are an adaptable species, but we are also at our best when we have significant challenges. Space exploration is a much more interesting and exciting challenge than many of the dystopian futures current SF seems obsessed with.
Anyone who every played Half Life can agree that these autonomous sentry guns are both cool and very scary. It is also cool and scary to know that Project Sentry Gun has plans, software and instructions on how to make your own device available for free. Yes, all the turrets are for paintballs and airsoft guns, but it wouldn’t take much of a tinker to convert them to real, scary guns. It wouldn’t take much of a prison budget shortfall to configure these to create ‘no mans lands’ around prisons, rather than using human guards.
The wistful voice of the turret in the demo video does not help to reduce the creepiness at all.
Any science fiction fan can see all kinds of potential dystopian downsides to this sort of application. That said, things like this are inevitable with increased automation.
Being somewhat uncomfortable with incarcerating ever-growing percentages of the population, I am inclined to wish that our societies would find other ways to reduce the cost of prisons. However, these guards aren’t likely to be bribed or to smuggle any weapons into the prison, which is probably a good thing.
The robots in the video are fairly benign. Six generations down the line is where I will get concerned – nobody needs a robot gun turret guarding anything without some serious dangers arising.
ExtremeTech has gathered a collection of videos that showcase the many exciting developments in robots over the last couple of years. I think this is one of those SF tropes that will change our lives in dramatic and unexpected ways over the next ten years.
That said, outside of anticipated (and terrifying) military applications, I think the advent of smart machines in our lives is now so commonplace that we won’t be as amazed as we expected. A robot to do the dishes? Of course, along with driving the car, mowing the lawn and a zillion other things that are merely logical extensions of the smart computing we are coming to terms with now.
Some of the videos have appeared here on the Rocket Ship, but many are new to me and hopefully to you as well. Enjoy.
Halo4 , the next installment in an SF video game series that is much loved by its players (unlike many other Microsoft products), will be released on November 6th, 2012. Given that people have been known to take the day off work when a new Halo is released, what are the odds that all those fanatical players will take time to vote in the US presidential election?