Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seeing the Future: Clouds and Stars

3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract
(Photo Credit: Jonathan Williams and Paula Aguilera/Mediated Matter)

"MIT professor Neri Oxman has displayed what is claimed to be the world’s first 3D-printed photosynthetic wearable prototype embedded with living matter. Dubbed "Mushtari," the wearable is constructed from 58 meters (190 ft) of 3D-printed tubes coiled into a mass that emulates the construction of the human gastrointestinal tract. Filled with living bacteria designed to fluoresce and produce sugars or bio-fuel when exposed to light, Mushtari is a vision of a possible future where symbiotic human/microorganism relationships may help us explore other worlds in space."
- Via the Gizmag article, World’s first photosynthetic living matter-infused 3D-printed wearable


Mac's memorial was always intended to be a time-capsule (as well as a tribute and a virtual touchstone), but I've generally lagged way behind on that aspect. Every now and then I'll notice things that might be posted, but I'm never impressed enough to bother. Today was one of those days when, in fact, three stories presented themselves - 2 via my emailbox and the third via my home page - and, well, three's the charm, so here I am again.

The first bit came as a link (from Tam B, over at HOTTC) in reference to this "wearable" prototype embedded with living matter. At first glance it seems like a cool idea, but then we learn Neri Oxman's prototype "emulates" a gastrointestinal tract complete with living bacteria (i.e., not for the squeamish).

Of course, why anyone would want to wear their guts inside-out, and wander around like a probiotic advertisement is a question for higher minds than mine, but, then again, what about those "living bacteria"? Call me an alarmist, but what if they suddenly escape and mutate? (Coming soon to a theater near you: "The Tee-shirt That Ate Los Angeles.")

In the same article, Gizmag features a 3D-printed sculpture by Oxman shown at a 2014 exhibit at London's Science Museum, entitled "Pneuma 2" (below).

This is your brain on mutated gastrointestinal bacteria.

"Pneuma 2" - 3D-printed sculpture - Neri Oxman
(Photo Credit: Gizmag/Stu Roberts)

Below is another 3D-printed prototype from the same exhibit: an aero engine. I'm not sure of its actual application, but it looks kind of exotic, and my guess is that if you somehow combined it with Pneuma 2 you'd create a working model of (Singularity guru) Ray Kurzweil's latest notion of a new and improved artificial brain...

Model aero engine made with printed parts.

"We have 300 million pattern recognizers in the neocortex by my estimate. That hierarchy we build ourselves, each of these pattern recognizers capable of connecting itself to other neocortexes, to build its hierarchy. We build that hierarchy from the moment we're born or before that. We're constantly building it, but we run up against this limitation of 300 million. We'll be able to extend that and think in the cloud."
- Via Big Think's Ray Kurzweil: Your Brain In the Cloud.


I'm not sure how Kurzweil's "brain" works (!) but, apparently his estimated 300 million or so pattern recognizers we already naturally create and possess are not enough for the job. Moreover, if we could somehow equip our new and improved (reverse-engineered) artificial brains with "cloud-based" extensions... we could, um, "think in the cloud."

Comment withheld.

But, let's say (for the sake of argument) that our minds already have "extensions"... ones that we, as a species, are unaware of. If so, where would this leave Ray Kurzweil's cloud? In any case, should the denizens of that cloud happen to succeed, they'd better equip their new habitat with some kind of firewall, because something tells me an advanced intelligence (or bacterial Morris worms of the mutated gastrointestinal kind) would have no qualms about devouring those clouds (and/or seeding them with all sorts of nasty little toxins).

Which brings us to story #3: contacting our alien overlords! Yes, indeed, if you've been hankering to "show and tell" with an advanced (or not so advanced) intelligence, now's your chance. Observe: NASA Pluto Probe May Carry Crowdsourced Message to Aliens.

Not a bad idea... provided you know your recipients... and that your "Message to the Stars"  is the sort of "message" The Aliens might appreciate. 

For instance, if we sent up something like Oxman's "wearable art" and it was eventually intercepted by a race of giant intestinally-shaped worm-like aliens (with eyes... but without one shred of a sense of humor), we might create a War of the Worlds... and then what?

And, so much for today's time-capsule...

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