Self-Parking Cars, Automation and Skill

Self-Parking Cars, Automation and Skill

The advent of self-parking cars is one example of how automated systems are replacing human skills. As we face increasing automation, we must decide whether the benefits of each new automated system outweigh the loss of related skills. Knowing All the Angles In the Seinfeld episode “The Parking Space,” George boasts to Elaine of his parallel parking prowess: George: “I … Read more

Aldous Huxley on Mindful Use of Technology

Aldous Huxley on Mindful Use of Technology

In the following episode of PBS’s animated series Blank on Blank, Brave New World author Aldous Huxley warns against falling prey to the insidious uses of developments in technology. In particular, he notes: “We mustn’t be caught by surprise by our own advancing technology. This has happened again and again in history. And suddenly people have found themselves in a situation which … Read more

My Favorite Our Dried Voices Prediction Thus Far

My Favorite Our Dried Voices Prediction Thus Far

Earlier this week, researchers in South Africa began inoculating about 2,700 HIV-negative, sexually active people between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five with the latest vaccine against the virus. An equal number of volunteers will receive a placebo. Each group will receive five total injections during the year and will have their health monitored for another two years. Gita Ramjee, director of the … Read more

Self-Driving Cars and the Trolley Problem

Who should decide how self-driving cars behave in unavoidable collisions?

When I talk about my novel Our Dried Voices at a book signing or other public appearance, I like to discuss some of the automated technologies we use on a regular basis in our current lives. I almost always mention that many cars now parallel park themselves. (At least nine automobile manufacturers now offer cars with automated parking.) Parallel parking … Read more

Children of the Magenta

Pilots who depend too much on automation are called “Children of the Magenta"

In general, technology is a good thing. It’s humans that are the problem. Case in point: nuclear energy versus nuclear weapons. Splitting the atom was a huge step forward in the progress of human history. But it came with the unfortunate side effect that some humans realized they could use this technology to instantaneously annihilate entire populations of other humans. … Read more

New Ebola vaccine is ahead of schedule

New Ebola vaccine has been 100% effective

Last night, multiple reports surfaced of a new Ebola vaccine that has proven 100% effective thus far. According to BBC News, “officials at the WHO [World Health Organization] believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.” This promising treatment puts the fight against the Ebola virus well ahead of my prediction in Our Dried Voices. … Read more

The Petrov Ramjet

Bussard ramjet

Last week, NASA astronomers announced the discovery of the planet Kepler 425b, a new candidate for Earth 2.0. So far, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has found 4,696 such possible home worlds. Unfortunately, Kepler 425b is 1,400 light-years away from Earth. So how could we ever reach such a planet, even one within 50 or 100 light-years of Earth? In 1960, … Read more