Many a sci-fi author has made money writing a book — which later becomes a movie — that scares people with the proposition that machines will some day take over the world.
Given that most machines, like your dryer, can’t do simple jobs (like drying clothes) without problems (eating your socks, tying your sweater in knots, shredding tissue paper into three million bits), I really don’t understand this fear. Even the most intelligent computers need to be booted (both in the computer sense and in the physical sense) several times a week to make them work properly.
My incomprehension aside, I just read something that should allay those fears. Machines will not take over the world. We will not be replaced by machines. We’re taking over *their* turf.
NTT, a Japanese communications company, has worked on a technology they call RedTacton which allows the human body to transmit data. Relax — this does not involve Matrix style jacks in the back of the head. You won’t even have to learn the secret of navigating voice mail systems without going insane.
The technology makes use of your skin’s naturally occurring minute electrical field, modulates it very slightly and voila! You become your own broadband network, transmitting at speeds of up to 2Mbps.
This means you could have a RedTacton enabled digital camera in your pocket, and you could upload the photos just by touching a spot on a similarly enabled computer. You could trade music files with someone just by shaking their hand. You could swap phone numbers with some hottie you meet in a bar with a quick smooch. Or if you’re Paris Hilton, you could swap all your friends phone numbers and raunchy videos as well.
The possibilities this technology would allow are endless. I’m ecstatic. For one thing it means that never again will my computer be able to tell me it can’t print because it can’t find the printer. I can just march over to the printer and fwap the data directly into it.
It will give students a whole new way to pass notes in class. It will also give them a whole new way to cheat on exams, but it will also give teachers a method for fighting back. Just walk up and lay a casual hand on the student’s shoulder, smile, and upload the DELETE CHEAT SHEET program.
It will drive music industry executives mad, because they’ll now have to sue grandmothers, young children, *and* anyone they see holding hands in a suspicious way, on the grounds they might have been file swapping.
Meanwhile, teenagers will have a new reason to roll their eyes at their parents. I can just see my sons now. “Jeeze, Mum, you actually used *wires* to send data? Or *radio waves?* Didn’t the dinosaurs get in the way of the signal?”
On the downside, approximately two minutes after the technology hits the mass market, spammers will find a way to use it. This will probably involve paying people to ride the subway and jostle other riders, thereby transmitting several thousand adverts for cheap Rolexes, sex drugs, and banned CDs into their iPods.
Virus writers will also surely try to use the technology as well, writing programs especially designed to spread quickly via human to human contact. This will lead to confusion and embarrassment at your yearly physical. “Yes doc, everything is fine. Well, apart from that worm I had last month. No wait! I mean computer worm! What are you doing prepping for surgery?!”
However even human transmitted computer viruses have their upside. Research scientists could program a ‘fake’ virus designed to spread from person to person and report back to a main computer as to where it is, allowing us to better understand how real viruses spread.
Finally, it will totally revolutionize Hollywood. In future spy movies, I can just see James Bond visiting Q now, asking for the technology. “Strictly for Queen and country of course, old chap. Must personally check out all of Goldfinger’s henchwomen, to make sure, they’re not, you know, carrying secret hench codes and so forth.”
And in vampire movies, the villains won’t be out for blood, they’ll be out for data.
“Come on darlink! Just vun… byte!”