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Monday, September 12, 2016

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today! -- continued



Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.

[Some of this was used as content for the Program Book of SoonerCon 24 in June 2015.  Hope you like the idea!]

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SUBSPACE RADIO / INSTANT COMMUNICATION
          With the comprehension of space’s immensities came the need in fiction to cope with those distances in relation to communication.  If a spaceship is traveling at relativistic speeds, they would arrive before any radio signals!

          Le Guin coined the term “ansible” for her take on instant communications, in 1966 (derived from the word “answerable”).  Previous versions of the same idea were Isaac Asimov’s “hyperwave relay” and the “Dirac transmitter” (aka “beep”) proposed by James Blish in his Cities in Flight tales.  [The Dirac Transmitter was named for quantum physicist Paul Dirac.] 

          The Star Trek term “subspace radio” is more suggestive, implying that communications can somehow detour around “normal” space, therefore sidetracking the speed-of-light restrictions that radio waves must endure.  The TNG Writer’s Manual stated that communications could go about 100 times faster than the fastest warp-drive vessel.  In other words, your ship could never outrun an interfering ambassador’s backseat meddling!

          One observer says, “The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tends to stop the use of apparent FTL quantum effects for sending information.”  So in reality it looks as if, even with communications,  the Speed of Light isn’t just a suggestion … it’s the law!


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MOOD ORGAN

          That’s Philip K Dick’s 1968 term in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for a dial-a-mood device.  It can also be a catch-all term for any plug-in-and-drop-out concept.

          The idea of escaping it all through total immersion has been around a while.  A 1929 tale “The Chamber of Life” in Amazing Stories posited a “pleasure machine,” and many writers have examined the concept of one person vicariously sharing another’s experiences.  Sometimes this uses the memories up, so that the originator is an empty shell (as in the 1989 New Twilight Zone episode, “The Mind of Simon Foster”).
          Larry Niven’s creation, the droud, is a pleasure-the-brain addiction featured in his Known Space tales.

          Real-world investigations into external manipulation of thoughts or moods can be approached in varying ways.  Wired brain stimulation is a therapeutic tool for epilepsy or other conditions.  Remote stimulation has been effected by the use of various radio waves by CIA and other types.  Some ELFs (Extremely Low Frequencies) will cause feelings of unease or panic, or even physical sickness — the original “brown note.”
          We’re a long way from actually being able to impact or influence moods or thoughts, except through the grosser methods of political ads and friendly word-of-twitter.  And of course, painting your room a calming color.

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DUPLICATING RAY
          Several SF tales as early as the 1940s examined the disastrous effect such tech would have on any market-based technology.  Why work for a living if you could “copy” as much gold as you want?

          Of course, in fiction things go wrong more dramatically.  DC Comics’ Bizarros arose from a malfunctioning duplicator ray, from which arose imperfect copies of various DC characters, beginning with 1958’s Superboy #68.  Some of our more seasoned readers may remember Htrae, the cube-shaped planet entirely populated by various Bizarros.
          But, back to the ideal of things going right:  Neal Stephenson and others have suggested rebuilding matter using nano-technology.  It can even be argued that the present 3-D Printer is an early step in the right direction.  

 After all, in January 2015 the Prez and Vice-Prez got to inspect a (functional) 3-D-printed Shelby Cobra roadster.   

Likewise, in February 2015 a headline read, “Kansas 3-D Printing Lab Creates Prosthetics for Boy.”  However, it’s probable that this will remain only a gleam in the dreams of people who don’t understand the harsh realities of  E = mc2.  You can’t make somethin’ from nothin’!

          (Without divine assistance.)

See you Thursday!
 

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