First: now up on kindle: Four essays, also found in my collection, Through Stranger Eyes.
--The Dark Side: Star Wars Mythology and Ingratitude
--The Matrix: Tomorrow may be different
--George Orwell and the Self-fulfilling prophecy: Why 1984 didn't happen
--Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs the Modern Age
Amateurs have always played a significant role in scientific discovery, particularly in earlier phases, in astronomy and the natural sciences. During the last century, we've seen an increasing trend toward professionalization of all aspects of society; however I have forecast a counter-trend toward an Age of Amateurs. Indeed, the sheer number and complexity of our challenges will demand a wider proliferation of skills than just one-per-person. For many reasons, we may be returning to a greater emphasis on citizen involvement, even in areas like national defense and self-reliance. In one case -- the scope of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- will be enhanced by thousands of amateur dishes scanning the skies, sharing their results through the internet. Now I talk about this in a newly posted video that may open your eyes to a fascinating trend.
== Possible “blowback” repercussions of War Technology ==
See a very interesting article and panel, about the possible privacy and liberty and existential repercussions -- or "blowback" -- of rapidly advancing military technologies. Alas, the very smart panelists did miss several points.
(1) The very thing that (they fret) most threatens privacy is the same thing that can protect privacy... at least a small but sufficient amount of it. Likewise freedom. Omni-veillance is true to the spirit of the Enlightenment. Only an onmi-empowered citizenry will have a chance of protecting either.
(2) No military technology ever had side effects greater than the H-Bomb, which altered us at the very deepest psychological level. Every male of my age owes his life to Saint Bomb, because the regular schedule of human warmaking would have sent us to some horrid, all-consuming, conventional World War III, some time in the seventies or eighties.
(3) Emphasis on fantastically computerized and miniaturized AI and robotics and "telepathics" in the future will come fraught with a basic danger... that all our potential enemies are working hard to develop technologies that might universally degrade computers and radio on some future battlefield. The theory is that such a degradation will harm the most hackable and tech-dependent combatants, most of all. This is a potential failure mode similar to one that struck the laste Roman Empire. See more on this in my article Forgetting Our American Tradition: The Folly of Relying Exclusively on a Protector Caste.
I could go on and on. There are dozens of ramifications... some of which were discussed in enlightening ways by this panel... and many of which they never touched upon.
=== Science and Coolstuff ==
Can bacteria make you smarter? Wait a minute, I thought eating dirt wasn't so smart a thing to do!
Fascinating stuff! Do high incentives lead to poor performance?
Stefan reports: “Totally awesome: A lander concept that can not only take off and land in earth's gravity well, but can do a motor shutdown and restart in mid air!”
Speaking of levitation... The Magnetic Suspension Device – for all your home levitation needs.
HP Thinks Sensors Will Lead to The Next Big Wave of Computing. The Internet of Interconnected Things
Is Optical technology coming of age?
“Empirical evidence suggests that events taking place in periods of positive social mood are of a dramatically different character from events you can expect when the mood is negative -- thus the importance of mood as an early-warning indicator for extreme events in human society.” I agree in general, that depressing a civilization’s confidence is the surest way to prepare it to fail.