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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Teleportation, Time Travel, and Immortality

With Moore's law still in effect, we need some ambitions with exponential growth. Science fiction and religion express some of our deepest desires, so let's talk about the prospects for teleportation, time travel, and immortality. Our technology won't be able to deliver these in quite the way you want, but we can approximate them in just the way today's aircraft achieved Icarus's dream of flying with his own muscles.

For example, we can provide teleportation, not by moving you, but by moving the situation to you. Someone recently performed heart surgery remotely (see,15240,97023,00.html for a recent report). The same technique also works for time travel as long as you're willing to restrict your travels to the past. Using image capture and analysis, we can capture a complete event in three dimensions with sound and smells. Then we can make a virtual reality Karaoke machine that allows you to insert yourself into the action (see for Takeo Kanade's project, which will allow you to play the role of the referee in a past football game).

Immortality, however, will take a few more years to accomplish. We start by capturing everything that happens in your life. Gordon Bell is working on this (see Then a suitable amount of machine learning should be able to create the algorithms you use for all behavior. These algorithms are then downloaded to a robot that looks like you. If this doesn't meet your definition of immortality you might buy the real thing from Ray Kurzweil at
posted - 5/30/2006

posted by Jim Morris @ 8:51 PM  1 comments

Friday, May 12, 2006

Is A.I. Crap?

At a meeting of leading computer scientists, a presentation by one was followed by another asking, “Isn’t this just the old Artificial Intelligence crap?” Aside from showing that rudeness is alive and well in our field, the question is useful, and its premise should be addressed. Indeed, the announced purpose of the meeting was to breathe some life into an allegedly intellectually timid computer systems community, and A.I. might do the trick.

Sometimes I look at academics as a sort of intellectual digestive system, taking in new knowledge and ideas and incrementally processing them to nourish society with new capabilities and graduates. In this model, the entry to the computer science digestive system is manned by the science fiction writers like Neal Stephenson and George Lucas. They examine the technological landscape, look at humankind’s needs and aspirations, and then tell a story about how it might all come together. (Jules Verne should get at least a little credit for NASA’s trips to the moon.) Next in line along the intellectual tract is MIT’s Media Lab, which has often tried new ideas and stunts that others apply years later. At this point, scientists in artificial intelligence take these ideas and create prototypes that are more widely applicable. Next along the intellectual digestive tract come various systems engineers who perfect the prototype and create systems that are engineered and understood. Finally, the theoreticians reduce ideas and questions to their simplest essence, putting them in a form that can be easily taught and remembered.

Each stage in the digestive system has an important role to play and where one decides to work is more a matter of temperament than talent. As to which end produces crap, I’ll let you decide.
posted - 5/12/2006

posted by Jim Morris @ 8:57 PM  0 comments

Friday, May 05, 2006

Forward to the Past

Remember 1984? The PC was shipping, the Macintosh was introduced, AT&T was about to be broken up, and our computing model was timesharing. Technology has changed a lot since then, but we're about to go back to a centralized computing model enabled by the Internet. The PC is about to become a high-powered AJAX terminal. And AT&T is back, too. Before you shudder, realize that AT&T created our model for what a good computer-based service should be: a large, complex infrastructure supporting a very simple interface to a vital service that is ubiquitous and always up. Let's hope the Internet becomes as serviceable as the old black telephone. The future belongs to services transmitted by the Internet and delivered on many different kinds of devices.

posted by Jim Morris @ 8:58 PM  0 comments

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