No question about it, technology is taking us into brave new worlds, worlds that until now were the purview of science fiction. One example is a recent article by James Surowiecki who warns about the problems we can create when we use robots as stockbrokers, allowing them to respond to fluctuations in the market without human oversight. He refers to the flash crash of 2010 as an example. In that case, robots responded to Navinder Sarao’s false buy orders on a stock that sent it soaring. A happy Sarao sold his shares for a profit while the robot investors and their clients were left holding the bag. (“How robots can crash our markets,” reprint of The New Yorker in The Week, May 22, 2015, pg 33) (Also see blog 4/15/15)
A world where robots control our lives has been a fear of writers long before Dr. Who met his nemesis, the Daleks . But other fantasies have also come true. The cloak of invisibility exists. (Blog 11/26/14) A new line of clothing soon to be manufactured will use “retro-reflective material.” Under the glare of a flashbulb, images become overexposed and turn black. Designers describe their product as a blow for personal privacy. (The Week, May 22, 2015 pg. 10) Law enforcement agencies may become unhappy, but the company predicts their garments will be the rage with movies stars who want to evade the paparazzi.
Time travel is a new horizon about to be crossed. Recently, scientists have discovered a particle which may be a key to breaking the time barrier. (Blog 11/21/14) Mathematicians have developed a simulation that suggest how a time-travel loop might work. It’s called a closed time-like curve, (CTC). When gravity and time are forced into a black hole, particles, like the one recently discovered, can behave paradoxically: They can be in two places at the same time. So, when time folds in on itself in a black hole, a quantum particle has a 50% chance of being in two time periods simultaneously. Ergo, time travel. (Click)
Centuries ago a Buddhist monk wrote that what he would miss most in life when he was gone was the inability to watch clouds floating in a tranquil sky. I like cloud watching as much as anyone but what I will miss is knowing where art and science will take us.