The future of ‘government’

Tuesday 30 October 2012, 12.30am HKT


GUUS GOORTS is an affable Dutchman who runs a language learning portal in Singapore called Yago. This is his first (and exclusive) article for The Naked Listener’s Weblog in which he ponders over the future of ‘government’ in face of our world of information overload.

The Naked Listener himself could have written something about this, but it’ll just be too longwinded and nowhere near as concise or good in quality. Gentle Reader, you ARE in luck for a change.

* * *

Why ‘government’ will become obsolete

Google’s Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that we now produce as much information in two days as that in all the years from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003 combined — a mind-boggling stat.

In other words, information is hardly a scarcity anymore. The issue now is how to find the most trustworthy information. Or whether it’s actually trustworthy to begin with.

While the rivers of information flow and grow daily, we’re just starting to adjust ourselves to the new reality of information overload.

Here are just three examples why ‘government’ is going to be largely obsolete in future:—

Government investment agencies exist to help businesses identify business partners locally and abroad. Yet a quick search through LinkedIn is already a quicker help for you to identify prospects — with that extra ‘edge’ of giving you a better idea of who you’re actually dealing with because you already know those people there who know other people who knows still others you can and could connect with.

Say you’re in school and take school maths. Your teacher is already assigned to you. You can’t request a different teacher, no matter how much you hate his style, or guts. Yet on YouTube, you could find a fearsome number of explanations for any possible mathematical concept you’re interested in, and choose the ones that gel for you.

Education authorities inspect and certify schools (particularly private schools) in our countries. Most of us still care whether that job is done properly and transparently. From what I know of this certification process here in Singapore, it’s a paper exercise in which the school in question just needs to submit ‘this’ permit or ‘that’ certificate. No one from the Ministry of Education comes to the school and talks to the students to see if teachers there are passionate, effective or just plain agreeable in what they do. Yet just by visiting a school review site, the average person can get a better idea of the school’s standing than romping through official government education reports.

Those and other responsibilities of our governments are replaceable by Internet sources, sometimes with qualitative improvements over the existing situation. The idea is that, if people come together and share, it gives us a much better knowledge base than any ‘analogue’ human organisation could do. In other words, government needs to employ more ‘spot checks.’ The Internet can be used to capture life itself.

‘Filter through the bullshit’

Sure enough, we know most of the information on the Internet is (shall we say) crap. We’re all still trying to figure out how to filter through the bullshit (never mind filter out) and bring the best information to the surface. I think we’re making progress nonetheless.

We’re not in the clear yet. We still stuck in many of our old-fashioned ways. At the moment, the new stuff coming from new technologies makes many things possible — but not probable yet.

A few days ago, someone on my train ride was using an iPad as a paper substitute to do long division. To me, that’s a bit like taking a brand-new car, lashing reins and harness to it, and getting horses to pull it. Are we going back to Square One again?!

Back to Square One by habit?

In the early days of the automobile, some places required that
motorcars be driven with horses to comply with road regulations.
One such place was Nantucket (an island in Cape Cod, Massachusetts),
which banned entry to motorcars for 18 years (1900–1918)
unless and until a driver fitted his motorcar with a horse.

.

Ultimately for the good

WE HAVE TO ADAPT to what’s possible in order to make it probable. Here are some changes (adaptations?) that I foresee taking place, certainly in my lifetime:—

Schooling no longer will be about acquiring knowledge. It’ll be more about skills building and learning by doing. One of the most important skills in future is how to find information; our information overload of today makes this a more-needed skill than it ever has been in the past. Another important skill is the capability (as opposed to just ‘ability’) to distinguish the good from the bad — to sort the wheat from the chaff, the bullshit from the gems. Today’s information-laden world is crap and full of crap. Then, after all that, we need the skill to put information to practical use.

Sources of information that were (and are) historically and conventionally trusted by all will become less and less relevant over time. Why ever should I subscribe to a newspaper unless it offers something I cannot find elsewhere?

Truth isn’t absolute anymore. We all know only too well that whatever viewpoint we hold or want to support, we can find plenty of likeminded opinions and facts to back it up. To stay sane (or some semblance of it), it becomes more and more important to be able to realise there are just no ‘neutral’ sources of information.

Just those three changes sound scary enough. I see the changes will ultimately be for the good of all. Information and opportunities are, and will continue to be, available to more and more people in more and different ways. Those and other realignments will allow people to go beyond relying on the élites of society to make bigger, useful and useable contributions to society.

Which scares us more, information scarcity or information abundance? Which is scarier, the change from scarcity to abundance of information or the opportunities that could come from the change?

_____

Originally from the Netherlands, Guus Goorts is based in Singapore since 2006. After several years in the field of corporate training, he founded Yago Languages — a resource website for language learners — and runs a language learning blog of his own.

Text © Guus Goorts / Yago.sg, 2012. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12381)

Future vibes, future hypes

Sunday 16 September 2012, 4.22am HKT


LET’S talk about things we see.

Or hear or read in public.

The stuff we see, hear or read in public that give off strong future vibes.

Personally, seeing CGI (computer-generated imagery) doesn’t blow me away. Seeing CIGS (copper iridium gallium selenide solar cells) does.

Especially since I caught sight of solar panels for the first time in Los Angeles back in the early 1970s.

I love how it feels to see someone using crazy future technology, especially future technology that gets the job done right beside technology that doesn’t get the same job done.

Smartphones are pretty crazy, though not exactly helping us to get the job done. Once people start walking around with augmented-reality eyeglasses, I might go out into the public just to look at them tripping out and tripping over into the sidewalk and getting run over by buses swerving to avoid them.

It’s damn eye-opening just how futuristic and sci-fi some of our mainstream techno-shiz is.

What else is cool right now that makes us think of the future? What technologies can we look forward to? What buses are avoiding us?

Future towers

The flippin’ skyscrapers and sundry towers of capitalism/socialism/quantitative easing we build these days — imagine how effing cool they will be when they’re being built for gardening and don’t need residents! Civilisation!

Wishful thinking. They’ll never get built (for gardening, less residents) because only insurance carriers and subprime mortgage companies will have the money to build them. Oh well…

These are the droids looking for you

Finally within touching distance are androids, grandroids and assorted robots — the haemorrhoids of humanitoids dreamt up in the last hundred years.

Now that 3D printers have become reality since 10 years ago, we now have the satisfaction of knowing that a few more years down the road we can have biomechanical Xeroxes made of our favourite psychopaths.

“We have the technology to rebuild him.” Into what?

Bionics. “My body parts from supermarket carts.”

That’s just awesome. I didn’t realise bionic technology was so far advanced after reading various techno journals lately. To hell with Google’s Glasses. We gonna get The Six Million Dollar LED Fleshlight That Can Do French Cooking and English Tea soon.

Now that I’m officially ‘old’ because of having to wear bifocals, it got me thinking. Couldn’t bionics be the future of virtual reality? Instead of having some huge 360° machine or a holodeck-type device, couldn’t we just have self-adjusting lenses (contact or otherwise) that project graphics to create a sense of immersive environment? All we’d then need is maybe a $500 omnidirectional treadmill and 25 bucks of Chinese-made motion sensors to capture movement — voila! virtual reality!

If reality is too much for you…

The various journal articles I’ve read lately basically say the holodeck is a horribly primitive way of going about 3D immersion.

For now, the best way apparently is to ‘release’ (read: inject) nanobots into the brain and network them to coordinate electrical impulses to stimulate the brain. The new electrical impulses generated would cause the brain to ignore regular stimuli so that a new virtual reality is built just as real as reality.

That’s dynamite on paper. If those nanobots go on the fritz, your brain is going to be supper for the nanobots.

If robotics (nano or otherwise) isn’t your cup of tea, try biology.

The latest research is heading towards the retrovirus approach. Insert special, precisely manufactured genes into your neurons (brain cells). Send in a light signal or some other kind of signal via a cable, and the augmented cells will transmit electrical signals throughout your brain.

Will any of you plug in once the animal testing is over?

They promised us flying cars. So where the hell are they? How long are we still going to have to wait?

The flying car was first promised to us in Jules Verne’s “Master of the World” (1904).

Actually, flying cars might be a terrible idea after all, considering the unending litany of traffic accidents and deaths we have already for ground-based vehicles. Flying cars with the proverbial well-oiled nut behind the wheel (joystick?) ramming into each other mid-air and raining down flying debris doesn’t make for punctual supper time for most of us.

Instead of flying cars, we have the next best (or dangerous) thing: driverless cars.

Oh, man, chill, baby, chill, while your car drives you where you need to be at your whim and quim. You could even sleep whilst the car drove itself. Round the bend or over a cliff. The possibilities of population reduction

Reality is just Avatar-level CGI

Roadtrip? Blaze all day. I’ll plug in and never return — assuming it’s indistinguishable from real life. Also assuming I could modify the simulation on the fly to do whatever eff I want.

Just like that crap electronic music called dubstep or whatever the hell it’s called.

If 3D imaging is your ‘thing,’ try this video: CES ’11: Japan’s Laser 3D Image Display — it’s the ‘realest’ 3D imaging we can get, no?

Kind of goddamn dangerous too. They’re shooting a laser powerful enough to explode air.

If you have a yen for dangerous living, build your own fusion reactor. Sure, it’s still in concept stage and currently nobody has one or can operate one for more than a fraction of a second.

Every torus reactor that has ever been built has been pretty much for experimentation. No one has produced any energy from such reactors — but you’re assured your input electricity bill will be sky-high and contribootin’ to the national economy. That must count for something, right?

Deus Ex Machina Ex Healthcare Ex Common Sense

Medical breakthroughs are some of the things that most impress me. Not always for the right reasons, but they impressed all the same.

If you’re into transhumanism (and other big words that you don’t know the meanings of), here is a YouTube excerpt of the documentary “Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Transhumanism” — it’s about real-life cyborgs.

Kevin “Captain Cyborg” Warwick, the world’s first cyborg hailing from Coventry in England, had a microchip implanted into his arm that he could use (successfully) to control basic household objects.

The first impressive thing about his chip-in-the-arm technology was that it was already done in the early 2000s.

The second impressive thing was this: the guy’s an idiot — can’t he just walk over to the household objects and fiddle them about with his own hands? Test it on a paraplegic, not on yourself, stupid.

Personally, I’m still waiting for bioprinting or 3D organ printing to fix my left knee and ex-split pelvis that I spent 37 months on crutches because of. My eyeballs need fixing too because they ain’t what they used to be and need bifocals (short for Birth-Interrupting Faggot Optical Crap-Attracting Lamer Spectacles).

The National Geographic magazine ran a feature (“The Big Idea: Organ Regeneration,” March 2011) about growing body parts.

Well, slay me, buddy boy, I’m gonna set up my mid-air secret underground wine cellar in my 15th-floor home just to grow my own (eyeballs, for instance), now that Quantitative Easing 3 (‘QE3’) looks set to destroy national healthcare services worldwide and the water here in Hong Kong ain’t thrilling to write home about.

* * *

Whatever the technology, be sure they’ll build HER first
for your brother from another mother
with the winner, winner, chicken dinner…

.

… while the rest of us make do with THIS
tryin’ t’get lucky in K’ntucky

* * *

In most pulp sci-fi of old, our technological breakthroughs set us free.

Instead most people have become slaves to it.

_____

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. (B12288)

Images via apina, c4c, m4f and author | Flying car via Popular Mechanics | Reality via Faris Yakob | Frankenstein via Phi Stars.

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