Saturday, August 29, 2009

Assessment of Technology's Promise - The Moon and Beyond

This blog entry analyzes a forecast made in Technology’s Promise regarding space travel, specifically travel to the moon and Mars [1]. In Technology’s Promise, it is predicted that a new space vehicle will be readied to land humans on the moon to build an inhabitable base by 2014. This prediction, published in 2008, was based on the apparent strength at the time of a United States president-endorsed program to reach Mars by 2020.

The forecast must not have taken into account the budgetary constraints of NASA at the time and made a presumption that the enormously costly program would be assured of financial support. The current estimation is that the program would be $US 50 billion short of developing the rockets to lift the payload, that is not including the funding of the moon base, the payload the rocket is supposed to carry [2], [3]. The current funding level at NASA would not support a moon base until well beyond 2028.

The forecast must also not have taken into account the technologies necessary to lift such a heavy payload to the moon for a moon base nor the prerequisite science that must be undertaken to establish a moon base. Rockets powerful enough to lift the payload, the Ares 1, are still in development and behind schedule, although scheduled for test flight in August, 2009 [3]. It is generally accepted, as the prediction points out, that there is water trapped as ice at the poles of the moon. The ice has not been sampled or tested however; before humans may consider habitation near this water source for its use, it will have to first be determined through robotic excursions if the water is potable.

Beyond the wide miss of the nearer term forecast, it is suggested a moon base is necessary to accommodate the future flow of those leaving earth for points beyond the moon. Considering it takes one year to make a round trip to Mars at current velocity capabilities, it seems very unlikely there will be a large number of ‘pioneers’ striking out into the abyss of space beyond the mooon. We already know from our excursions that Mars is not hospitable and contains no raw materials of need for human life; it is certainly not a paradise in space to be longed for. Only the ruining of the planet or the discovery of a paradise within the solar system could induce a flow of pioneers to the moon.

In this author’s opinion, there is no reason to consider space travel any further when we have famine, overpopulation, pollution, economic turmoil, and disease as issues facing humanity.

[1] Halal, William. (2008). Technology’s promise. Expert knowledge on the transformation of business and society. Palgrave Macmillan. New York.

[2] Achenbach, Joel. (2009). NASA’s moon plan too ambitious, Obama panel says. Retrieved from Posted August 15, 2009.

[3] Kluger, Jeffrey. (2008). Does Obama want to ground NASA's next moon mission. Time. Retrieved from,8599,1866045,00.html. Posted December 11, 2008.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nano Robot Innovation in the Next Ten Years

An innovation that could materialize in the next ten years is nano robots [4]. Nano robots are extremely small, about one-billionth of a meter or just 5 molecules across. One of the possible uses of nano robots is in medicine. One theory is that nano robots will be able to swim through the bloodstream and release medication to targeted sites [1]. A rendering of a nano robot swimming through the blood stream is shown at right.

Possible medical uses of nano robots include eliminating blood clots, assisting in blood clotting, removing blood born parasites, breaking down kidney stones, and clearing plaque from blood vessels [1]. This author questions the ability of a robot to accurately "swim" through blood vessels and navigate the arterial and venus systems as a bird does through a forest. The added difficulty of swimming through the blood stream would be the pulsing of the blood from heart contractions. This would be adding the equivalent of hurrican force winds to a bird's flight. It would require incredibly complex capabilities in motation and navigation for a nano robot to swim through surging blood and expanding and collapsing vessels. This author likens a nano robot swimming and navigating through blood vessels to a one-gram fish trying to swim with accuracy in a white water rapid river.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil has discussed nano technology at length and makes predictions about their use. [2], [3]. Kurzweil predicts nano technology will enable the emailing of three dimensional objects. This author believes this idea lies outside the boundaries prescribed by physics.

There is increasing interest in many industries of nano technology so it’s use may not be far into the future [5]. There is a nano robot that can find cancer cells and research is underway for them to find toxic substances. A university created one molecule transporter that can move a microscope tip [5].
It is possible nano robots will be in use within the next 10 years but likely not for swimming in blood streams or transporting three dimensional objects via radio waves.

[1] Strickland, Jonathan. (not dated). HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 22 August, 2009 from
[2] Kurzweil, Ray. (not dated). Ray Kurzweil on the future of nanotechnology. Bigthink. Retrieved 22 August, 2009 from

[3] Kurzweil, Ray. (not dated). Ray Kurzweil on the future of nanotechnology. Bigthink. Retrieved 22 August, 2009 from

[4] YouTube, (not dated). Collection of nano robot videos at YouTube. Retrieved from

[5] Nano Broadcast. (not dated). Are Nano Robots in Our Future? Nanotechnology news blog. Retrieved from

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Year 3 Assessment of Dr. Hazel Henderson's 15 Year Predictions

Dr. Hazel Henderson is a renowned futurist that prescribed what might take place in the next fifteen years in 2007 [1]. This blog captures the first three years assessment of the fifteen. To begin, Dr. Henderson states that “Futurists do not have crystal balls. The best of us seek to identify trends, ahead of conventional wisdom”.

Dr. Henderson has a domain of concern for the human family and it is that filter that yields the range of predictions. Dr. Henderson predicts that the model of the European Union collaboratively working out issues will by used in other regions and that smaller bodies of nations will not be deciding and enforcing rules upon others. There has been no evident movement toward this end in light of ongoing conflicts and power positions and their actors. There appear to be groups of states remaining in tact in several regions.

Monetarily, Dr. Henderson predicts that Asia will move toward a regional currency and a financial power base which appears to be entirely true in evidence of monetary strength at the three year mark. Dr. Henderson is completely correct in areas of currency and monetary values. Dr. Henderson states that entities will move dollars to Euros and Yens and dollars will be at risk of value. This will be exacerbated by disapproval of US policy. Within two years of these predictions there was a complete collapse of the financial system and the slide continues downward of the dollar’s value against the Euro. Dr. Henderson predicts that after the upheaval a new system of valuation may emerge not based on gold. There is currently wide concern that dollars have inadequate backing of physical value.

Regarding social and human welfare, Dr. Henderson predicts that the United Nations will emerge as the focal point for mediating global concerns. The United States is harshly singled out as an obstacle to the proper functioning of the United Nations. This prediction will have to be watched with hope as the future unfolds.

Taxation; there is too much of it on everything. A simple telephone line costs about $18 per month, until taxes, fees, and surcharges are added for a total bill of $28. According to Henderson, the future will see taxation increase on waste, pollution, and planned obsolescence. In a world that is striving to be more ‘green’, it is logical to tax the predicted categories. How many years of legislation, and then enforcement, at how much cost, will it take to arrive at such taxation? Is it possible to wrangle through the bureaucracy of legislation and fight the warriors that don’t want it to be so to achieve a swing in the taxation base? This prediction may take a while longer than 15 years.

Henderson predicts that the world will move away from fossil fuels; this is definitely true with wind power, and MICRO wind power.

What about the United States eliminating insurance companies from the medical care cost equation? Dr. Henderson is certain on this point; definitely yes. Major debate is currently raging across the land on this issue.

While it is too early to tell if some of the 15 years predictions made by Dr. Henderson will come to pass, it is clearly evident that many of those predictions are underway.

[1] Henderson, Hazel. 2007. The Next 15 Years. Essays on the Future. GreenMoney Journal. Volume 15, issue 4, number 63.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Web 2.0 Tool Quickr from IBM

There is a Web 2.0 tool from IBM named Lotus Quickr that supports strategic decision making. The figure at right shows icons for some of the functions in Quickr. The tool helps strategic decisions by providing users the ability to share content collaboratively. Other features of Quickr that support strategic decisions are the shared repository capable of holding and organizing all types of documents and linking to web sites and playing sound files. Quickr makes use of wikis and blogs and allows ATOM and RSS feeds. A final feature enabling strategic decision making is that documents may be checked in and out of libraries thus maintaining version control. A number of podcasts are available via RSS feed describing the use of Quickr for decision making in the list at right.

Quickr can be accessed from Microsoft Office, Lotus Sametime or Notes, and from Windows Explorer making it readily available to users with straight forward integration into business processes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Structured Design Process and Pacific Northwest Energy Efficiency

Alexander Christakis describes and examines the use of Structured Design Process (SDP) in his book “How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-Laboratories of Democracy” [1]. Christakis reveals several case studies; one of those was conducted in the Pacific Northwest United States to examine how to foster energy efficiency. It is a long lasting and substantial undertaking for a group of people to collaborate on a topic that sets decades-long action items and behaviors of governments and populaces. This entry analyzes the energy efficiency case study in its use of the SDP.

The Structured Design Process (SDP) consists of 29 entities; six methods of reaching consensus, seven patterns of language, three phases of execution, three key roles, four stages of inquiry, and six dialogue laws. Several of the SDP entities are evidenced in the case study of evaluating the actions for achieving greater energy efficiency in the Pacific Northwest. All three phases of design are included in the case study. Discovery, the creation of triggering questions, defining of boundaries, and planning of activities is manifested in the planning of the gathering, the triggering questions of what trends and events are having the greatest impact on electric energy efficiency and what short-term action options will affect trends.

Some of the language patterns used in the case study include the influence tree pattern, the options field pattern, and the verbal and graphic patterns. The influence tree pattern is modified to be a plausibility tree and used to advantage of understanding relationships between four separate tracks. Track 1, energy conservation, is shown to influence the other tracks and many components within the tracks. The verbal language pattern is evident in the discussions and definitions of terms. The options field pattern is deployed iteratively to narrow down the original ninety-one action options to 17 team deliberated options, finally yielding a total of eight consensus action items.

All four stages of inquiry were used during the energy efficiency collaboration. The facilitators defined the intent of the design and drove toward action items that increase electric energy efficiency. The sub-teams of participants created and chose alternative action designs, they chose preferred alternatives, and they planned for action reaching eight agreed upon actions. Of the six consensus methods, the SDP for energy efficiency used the options field, trade-off analysis, and nominal group technique. The participants were divided into teams and performed their analyses on the options.

Regarding the dialogue laws, there was a large diversity of participants from industry, government, and academia representing ranging interests from energy production, to the environment, and political science. Dialogues were contained in groups to avoid mental overload by the material.

[1] Christakis, Alexander and Bausch, Kenneth. How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-Laboratories of Democracy. Information Age Publishing. Greenwich, Ct. 2006.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Web 2.0 Mind Map and Collaboration Tool

One cool web 2.0 tool is Seavus DropMind, a mind mapping tool [1]. This tool is an interactive online tool to map concepts and ideas. The access to DropMind is via a cloud hosted application. It is possible to annotate the mind map with hyperlinks, text, and graphics. Personal graphics can be used in the mind map and it can be shared in chat and published. The outputs from DropMind can be converted into Microsoft Powerpoint slides. Very helpfully, the icons in the mind map can be colored and weighted to emphasize points. The map can be balanced and organized to achieve the desired layout. It is also possible to select portions of the map for viewing or printing. The DropMind tool uses Microsoft Silverlight as a pre-requisite.

The tool can be used in to support strategic discussions. The mind map can be shared interactively so multiple minds can work on a problem together and capture the combined thoughts graphically. The sharing of the outputs via presentation makes it possible for non-online users to provide comment on the mind map. By recommending variations in color, boldness, and icons, collaborative users can make the intended messages more clear. The concept to graphically map the brainstorming of a group is a brilliant step forward in collaborative problem solving.

An image of a DropMind mind map is shown in the figure below.

[1] DropMind Unique Collaboration.

Horizon Report on Adoption of Cloud and Storage

The 2009 Horizon Report by New Media Consortium and Educause addresses trends and technologies that are emerging or promising to play a significant role in teaching or learning [3]. The report discusses technologies in timelines of adoption of one year, two to three years, and four to five years.

This blog discusses a one year emergent trend; cloud computing. According to the Horizon report, the trend is to make use of applications, storage, and compute power that is located on the Internet. The trend of cloud computing might require numerous technologies; those mentioned in the Horizon report include applications such as photo and video sharing and mathematic parallel computing.

The one year or less to adoption by the general populace appears accurate as evidenced in the thousands, perhaps millions, of people that use Flickr and U-Tube for photo and video repositories. The report suggests that cloud computing can and will be used in education and research and provides examples of the virtual computing lab at North Carolina State University and the cloud computing testing center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.

The ability to use applications on the Internet by the general populace is clearly a viable entity of cloud computing. Evidence that storage resources will be used in research and teaching is not forthcoming in the report. Cloud storage resources must be shown to be secure and provide the necessary methods to ensure privacy and regulatory compliance of the data stored in the cloud before it is readily adopted. Storage resources must also be shown to be properly backed up so data availability is certain. The Horizon report does not address these issues that could well be barriers to adoption of cloud storage resources and move the adoption time by teaching institutions into the future. According to a Computerworld article on cloud storage, it is “wise to proceed with caution”, “few… businesses are willing to trust the cloud”, and some would “never entrust… data to an external cloud provider” [1]. As stated in NetworkWorld, “Enterprises also must consider the possibility that data could be stolen or viewed by people who are not authorized to see it.”, "Any time you let the data out of your computer room you're asking for trouble from a security point of view,", “a company's data could be stored next to a competitor's”, and as stated by Forrester analyst Reichman, “The storage industry isn't fully there yet with really secure multitenancy offerings," [2].

This author believes the road to adoption of cloud storage is more problematic than cloud applications and that research and teaching will take much longer than one year to adopt cloud storage.

[1] Mitchell, Robert L., Cloud storage triggers security worries. Computerworld Storage.

[2] Brodkin, John., Can you trust your data to Amazon, other storage cloud providers?. NetworkWorld.

[3] The Horizon Report 2009 Edition. New Media Consortium.