Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Your Plugged-In Future

Posted on September 30, 2011 in Arts & Culture
By Dylan Martin

Earlier this year, an IBM supercomputer by the name of Watson defeated two of Jeopardy!’s best competitors, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Now Watson is getting ready to help diagnose and treat patients at the Columbia University Medical Center. The computer marks a major accomplishment in artificial intelligence, which means a greater chance of a robot uprising. Before the takeover happens, let’s look at what technology will bring us in our remaining time on Earth.


When Sonic the Hedgehog is running around loops and ramps with no golden rings to his name, we know his life is at risk — one collision with a baddie and he’s gone. The zero ring display on the interface tells us to be more cautious with our movement, and now thanks to the decreasing price of various sensors, we’re starting to see this video game mechanic in real life.

The July issue of Wired Magazine details a concept called the “feedback loop,” a method researched by psychologists at Stanford University  that seeks to curb bad behavior by providing real-time feedback on a person’s actions. This idea is already seen in electronic speed limit displays that tell drivers they may be driving too fast, but its use is even more widespread in smartphone applications like “Lose it!” and “Run Keeper” that help users track their diet and exercise routines. A chief scientist at, a San Francisco-based tech company, said gamification will eventually influence management methods at workplaces with the use of reward-systems similar to those found in the social networking platform Foursquare.

Digitized Media Consumption

Online services like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify are not only changing the way we consume media, but they’re changing the entire economy of media. Throw in the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers, and the methods of buying hard copies seem old and inefficient. It’s highly convenient to have all this media with a simple tap or click, but there are some interesting battles ahead of us — battles that will make us rethink their value and whether or not we should actually own anything we watch, read or listen to.

If you use these services as your multimedia library, hold on tight. As The Atlantic pointed out in a recent article, you don’t necessarily have control over ever-changing interfaces and media libraries. Licensing deals with publishing companies are the crux of these services, which means any albums, movies or books can be pulled. At the beginning of next year Netflix will lose its rights to stream premium content provided by Starz. In 2009, Amazon ironically deleted a version of “1984” from Kindle devices because of a publishing conflict.

Driverless Cars

Driverless cars are no longer relegated to movies like “I, Robot” and “Minority Report.” In fact, we are so far along in this great technological push, the state of Nevada has already legalized the use of autonomous cars on public roads, which was instigated by lobbying efforts from Google, which is developing its own prototypes.

This all started with the invention of modern cruise control in the 1940s, but more recent advances like self-parking systems and autonomous brake control have been seen in the past decade. General Motors says we can expect commercial driverless cars as soon as 2018.

Although the technology will bring forth questions of personal freedom and control over the wheel, it could change the entire traffic infrastructure and improve traffic control, fuel efficiency, automotive safety and work productivity. Imagine if you could finish that essay in 80 mph traffic and no one got hurt.

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