Monday, January 23, 2017

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

          The Silver Age Superman had a big ol’ computer in his Fortress called Univac, which could accurately predict future events based on any data supplied to it. 

 Of course, any change in the variables could affect the outcome, as in Minority Report, which posited catching a criminal before he can commit a crime that had been forecast (although using precognition instead of technology).  As illustrated in 1983's War Games, using computers to predict forthcoming events may have unforeseen consequences!
          Leaving aside the question of future prediction vs free will, the entire point of war gaming and other similar exercises is similar — trying to forecast what options are most likely.

      IRL, PECOTA is a program for predicting baseball players’ future performance.   There are plenty of computers involved in “forecasting” the weather, and look how well THAT works; example: NYC’s “non-storm “ of January 2015.
          The infamous Web Bot could supposedly predict future events based on internet searches, which led to its predicting a polar reversal and worldwide cataclysm on 12/21/2012.  A similar net-searching program called EMBERS is underway at Virginia Tech. Other “branching reality”  computer programs are used in business and other strategic applications.  But until the branching reality of human choice can be quantified, all future predictions will be only provisional.


          This involves the use of mechanical or electronics means to verify identity through stored measurements.  A familiar trope of crime or espionage fiction involves one side trying to defeat the other side’s biometric defenses.  Whether pressing an amputated finger to a fingerprint reader (Malaysian car thieves in 2005) or holding a freshly plucked eye up for retina scan (Demolition Man), it’s probably been thought of.

          In Star Trek II, Kirk used a retina scan to access the Project Genesis proposal.  In the 1992 film Sneakers, Robert Redford’s voice was his passport.

          IRL, this kind of security has a ways to go.  Mythbusters even proved that a detector designed to only accept “living” fingerprint  was easily fooled by a printed scan of an authenticated user’s print!  And as early as the 1970s, the US military was researching ways to alter one person’s retina to “spoof” another person’s pattern.  Look out, Minority Report! 

          Sadly, automated security can only take us so far.  There may always be a need for real-life watchmen — assuming they can stay awake on those long overnight shifts.

See you on Thursday.

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