1. Computer program power consumption
    A programming language that “minimizes” power consumption through minimal interconnect usage (e.g. memory calls).
  2. Food sourcing power consumption
    Farmland supply to cities: how to optimize land usage? What part of the produce can be made local e.g. made at the consumer or turned to hydroponic and its culture brought within the city itself?

Both these problems require a grammar of solutions, rather than a single instance, due to the diversity of the operating/boundary conditions that are encountered.
As such, I don’t think that a “proof of correctness” for either can be hoped for, but perhaps a number of heuristic checks might prove the point.
The former is addressed by a single technology, whereas the second requires a diverse array of strategies.

General considerations

  • Area and land usage
    Arbitrary rearrangement of the resources is not trivial: CPUs are designed with CAD tools that favor periodicity and reuse, and farmland restricts supply due to physiological productivity/rest cycles.
  • Time and flow
    Time plays a part as well: the edges in these supply nets do not handle a constant flow. In the first case, storage is regulated by registers, queues and stacks, whereas in the second, the flowing entities are subject to seasonal variation, degrade with time etc.

This framework is intentionally generic in order to highlight similarities, and it is of course a work in progress.
Both these problems in fact have broad political implications, which leaves plenty of space for many juicy discussions. Looking forward.

Literature

  1. An article from the NYT: A Balance Between the Factory and the Local Farm (Feb. 2010) highlights both the high costs of local (i.e. small-scale) green production, citing The 64$ Tomato, and the related climatic issues (e.g. cultivation on terrain located in the snow belt).
    The article closes with “Localism is difficult to scale up enough to feed a whole country in any season. But on the other extreme are the mammoth food factories in the United States. Here, frequent E. coli and salmonella bacteria outbreaks […] may be a case of a manufacturing system that has grown too fast or too large to be managed well.
    Somewhere, there is a happy medium.” — an optimum, if you will.

Side questions

  • Why do large-scale economics “work better”? i.e. have a larger monetary efficiency, which drives down the prices for the end user? More effective supply chain, waste minimization, minimization of downtime …
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Extensions and interfaces

October 16, 2013

I would like to gather here data and interpretation regarding artificial extensions to human capability (the broadest definition of “technology”): We are witnessing transition from “technology-as-screwdriver” to “technology-as-cognition-extension”? More precisely, exactly how advanced must a technology be, until one cannot realize anymore to be using it?
This abstracts one step beyond A.C.Clarke’s “Third Law”: technology and magic will, at that point, be reduced to commonplace human experience, and therefore become indistinguishable from it.
It’s a rather bold statement, and I’m no starry-eyed singularitarian. Let’s start with a simple analysis by restricting to present-day tangible R&D results, and leave end-of-history predictions to fortune tellers.

Large scale: Behavioral trait clustering
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/03/06/1218772110.abstract
October 29, 2012 : “We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender. The analysis presented is based on a dataset of over 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes, detailed demographic profiles, and the results of several psychometric tests. […]”

Personal scale: Distributed training for machine learning
October 11, 2013 : “Qualcomm also envisions alternatives to app stores, which he called “experience stores,” allowing users to download expertise into their consumer products”. Have a look at the original EETimes article.
While neural networks aren’t exactly news, the idea of “sharing” training across devices seems intriguing. I wonder whether this concept is of broader applicability.

Personal scale: Human-computer interfaces
This is where human-machine interaction, on a personal (affordable, household) scale started: computer mice, hypertext introduced in 1968 during Douglas Engelbart’s “mother of all demos” (official title “A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect”): http://www.dougengelbart.org/firsts/dougs-1968-demo.html

… and this is (a small selection of) where we are now:

Technical Illusions CastAR, an Augmented Reality “platform” composed of glasses with integrated projector, wand/joystick, backreflective mat (AR) or VR glass add-ons.
Video here
Still raking funds from the Kickstarter community, but apparently it’s going well. I’m a bit concerned about all that hardware one has to deploy, especially the “mat”. Apart from showers, only one application I can think of benefits from mats.

Thalmic Myo.
Video here
This one is an interesting concept: it’s an armband device that integrates accelerometer and bearing sensors with neural readout, so muscular twitching such as finger contraction can be correlated with movement of the limb as a whole, allowing for very expressive interaction. It has been available for pre-order for a few months now and will sell for 149 USD from the beginning of 2014, and I’m seriously considering getting one.

Leap Motion, and extensions thereof, e.g. the DexType “keyboard” software, see below.
Video here
The Leap Motion simply processes optical range information (possibly using “structured light” like the Microsoft Kinect), so a number of artifacts in the gesture recognition are to be “engineered against”. However, offering an open SDK was a winning move, there are tens of application and games in various stages of development being offered on the Leap store.

Possible implications
Adaptive communication: i.e. terminals that are aware of user patterns and sync accordingly, “sync” meaning information display based on remote context (e.g. remote user busy or focused on other). Attention economics brokerage.
Are we heading towards higher-order communication, i.e. in which one won’t communicate with a machine one character at a time but through symbols, sign language, ideograms?
Next level: J.Lanier’s “postsymbolic” communication in cuttlefish; the “body” of a user (intended in an extended sense, i.e. with hardware enhancements) becomes a signaling device in its own right (e.g. flashing, changing shape/”state”, radiating information etc.)

In fact, I think it’s only natural that machine interfaces are to be evolved in order to effectively disappear, the only question is when will this transition occur.