The number of ways of “going off-world” to explore and adventure is quickly multiplying, in a general sense.
In times past, off-worlding was something done largely through reading: A great author would come up with a concept (like around the world in 80-days) and people would pick up the book in huge numbers and try it on for size.
Then along came radio and television in the last century, advances in rocketry, solid fuel advances, gyroscopic guidance systems, and from there it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to the International Space Station.
But another kind of “off-worlding” evolved, as well: The kind where people like me said “Too many people” and went to seek solitude in out-of-the-way places. For me (and two years for Elaine) that meant living over a decade on a moderately-sized sailboat. Adventure was the game and the “off-world” was more like “off-the-grid.” Our cruising grounds ranged from the Haida Gawaii islands to the Mexican border and every port in-between.
Yet while we were doing that, both professionally and personally we became aware of another kind of “off-worlding” that was evolving.
This was on the backs of other breakthroughs: The transistor which begat the chip, that begat the IC, which necessitated the computer operating system and from this fertile soil grew something even greater: Artificial realities.
People began to move into them: Second Life was the most expansive, but even now we have seen the first digital version of Tulip Mania in the virtual world as Bitcoin soared to the $1,200 range, only to collapse to the $300 range.
Yet that was only edge. The virtual world’s frontier opened even more with messaging, phone numbers for life, and video conferencing.
And then came Google’s Glass and if you click that symbol upper right, you’ll be able to view Microsoft’s coming effort to blend digital world with real world in its Hololens project.
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We may also see the beginnings of the first-ever virtual customer wars over who will own the “on-ramp” to this new frontier.
Google has been preparing the way with ventures in robotics and operating systems that sprang from its expertise in Search. Microsoft, on the other hand, was a late-comer to Search (with Bing) but had a much tighter integration at the OS levels and key product strength at the Basic Six level (word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, games, and personal information managers).
And then there was Apple which, pardon the pun, has tried to cherry-pick the most useful applications and (building from the Motorola 68000 series platform) has evolved a different look and feel to the MMI – the man-machine interface.
The real problem ahead is a curious one for humans.
Last week, Elaine and I had lunch with a reader who’s perhaps the world expert is analog music synthesizers. (Hint: http://www.synthesizers.com/). What we are looking for (and got) was some insight into how that other “off-world” approach (robotic) will work out. Our Synthesizer whiz has also done robotics…
I think I mentioned that Elaine’s been an early adopter of the Roomba, with one of the forerunners to the iRobot Roomba 770 Vacuum Cleaning Robot for Pets and Allergies.
But the curious part of robotics, as a part of the “off-world press” is that for a couple of years, Elaine’s robot simply sat (unused) in a closet. Reason? Robotics wasn’t yet at the point where we could say “stay on carpet” and have the machine obey. It had a way of getting stuck in places, too. The upshot of it was that Elaine could easily “out vacuum” the robot.
Over time, the gap will fall, reverse, and at some point, Elaine will go the way of John Henry (who fought valiantly against the steam drill used by railroads).
It’s a curious thing: Keeping the genetics of technical evolution in mind, and diagraming the evolution of the future. Notable today because Microsoft is on the verge of launch of what could be the “better mousetrap.”
One thing becomes evident, regardless of of price points and feature sets: More and more it appears that “software eco-systems” are the new business model for on-planet, off-worlding.
Apple, Google/Android, and Microsoft are the three main choices you’ll see evolving. And at least initially, each will have the following attributes:
- A core competency
- An operating system
- A consumer-marketing systems of revenue generation
- And a vision of how computing integrates into people’s lives.
Each has its shortcomings, not the least of which is price.
While Microsoft’s vision is (almost refreshingly light on robotics, Google’s is heavily-weighted on the other side. Apple hasn’t gotten there yet and whether their slick marketing will be able to keep their eco-system happy with a smarter watch should be a classic for the marketing textbooks.
The concern Elaine and I had going into lunch with our reader last week remains relatively unanswered: After you automate the home appliance with a microprocessor what’s the next most useful thing a person would actually pay for?
Microsoft is betting on their blend of software environment overpaid on the physical environment. But Google’s already got a head-start with Glass development.
As human population pressure continues to build, the fly in the ointment that was our “First Things” section of Peoplenomics this weekend, was the ugly demography working its way in background: All three of the major software ecosystems are predicated on there continuing to be available markets of consumers.
The problem is that when you look at the global statistics, the n umber of people available to go “off-world” into some of these virtualized realms may be limited: And an increasing number, due to religious fundamentalism, don’t look at off-worlding of the sort we’re speaking of here, as being a worthwhile goal.
No, I don’t agree with them on much, but they may be asking the right question.
What is the point of life?
And more to the point for further contemplations: What’s the point of life on a planet where the highest birthrates continue to be shown in places like Niger, Uganda, Burkina Faso, which most Americans have never even heard of?
Welcome to another Monday: Same planet – 7-billion deep. Same problems as we left with on Friday, and same upper classes and first world push to get off planet as quickly as we can.
Three choices: Actual (space), virtual (pick an ecosystem), or internal (pick a path to enlightenment, but be careful which drugs or tools are selected, since the first world taboos those to fund governments and religions which don’t want too many people off-worlding that way. It’s bad for compliance and it’s bad for revenue.
Cheery, huh? We’ve screwed up the real planet pretty damn well, I’d say. So what do we do today to start fixing that?
Have you noticed how the mainstream media doesn’t talk about the inherent ecological conflict between life extension and global population density?
Trust me: When you hit your 60’s, you will notice this and a whole lot more.
How Did They Know?
Now I feel like our electronic scale in the bathroom is bugged. Just this morning the Gallup organization reports that Obesity in the US is up to 27.7% and the largest gains were among seniors.
I want to know how they knew! I’m doing my part, the way I look at it. Never was much of a joiner, but pass the cream cheese…
Around the Ranch: Working, Working
Once again I ran some more diesel through the old Kubota – which continues to stand up to serious tractor abuse much better than I would have expected. Got another few acres whacked down and the place is starting to look pretty good, again.
The problem is that we’re only 2-months out from the local pollen festival. There’s so many pine trees around that when they pollenate it looks like snow on people’s cars.
By then, the acreage will be ready for another whacking.
I wish there was a simpler way to do it (like a memo to Ma Nature: “Please install grass here.”)
Disfortunately, t’ain’t no such-wise memos to be found. But I figure if I keep cutting down trees and brush long enough, she’ll take the clue.
Or I’ll simply give up or run out of diesel.
Ya’ll come back tomorrow and write when you get rich…