Is 1984 just a little late, or is the Future here?

In some research I was doing I came across this bit of rather astounding recent (1/17/08) news:

Can Machines Issue Islamic Fatwas

“He [Dr. Anwas Fawzi] describes the device [Asharq Al-Awsat] as “a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if they were alive,”

And a discussion of it at technovelgy (where science meets fiction – an interesting site):

“Electronic Mufti’ May Issue Machine Fatwas:


I read about this in SF all the time – a favorite tech device of writers lately, but was sort of shocked to see it on Dvice (SciFi Channel’s science/tech news) and through Technovelgy – has the future arrived? New song: “And she’ll have fun, fun, fun, ’til her Daddy takes the lenses away”…

Here’s the Technovelgy article:
Circuit Contact Lens, Presaged By Niven, Barnes and Vinge:

Here’s the University of Washington original story:
Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Womanuse bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes — visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go. The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.“The UW engineers used microscopic scale manufacturing techniques to create a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with imprinted electronic circuits and lights. If used by human beings, a pair of contact lenses with circuits and lights would be the perfect display for augmented reality systems.
(Contact lens with circuits close-up)

‘Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,’ said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. ‘This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.'”

Here’s the DVice article:
Bionic vision contact lenses being developed :

And for what’s out there now, check out this headset that is a VR set, with mini screen that mimics a real computer screen in front of your eyes – sort of an early lens prototype:

And 1984 may be late, but Big Brother is here! – see the following articles:

Australasian Intelligent Speed Adaptation Initiative – Big Road Brother – A way to make cars slow down after a warning is given, and even stop them.

“The technology uses GPS and a database that identifies speed limits on all roads and operates on three levels.

Drivers get an audible warning they are over the limit at level one.

At level two, the device cuts power to the engine to prevent the driver from speeding, but the system can be adjusted or overridden.

At level three, the system cannot be switched off or adjusted and all speeding is cut.

The device could be fitted to repeat speeding offenders, or to all vehicles.” Big Brother speed control to be trialled:

And in a Terminator take – FBI Demands SkyNet, Uh, Server in the Sky:

“The FBI supports Server in the Sky, an international database of biometric data accessible by law enforcement officials in countries allied in the ‘war on terror.’

Although the database would be used to hunt criminals and terrorists, it would contain biometric information like iris scans, finger prints and facial images about ordinary citizens whose names have come up in criminal investigations. The FBI told the Guardian (a UK news organization):

‘Server in the Sky is an FBI initiative designed to foster the advanced search and exchange of biometric information on a global scale. While it is currently in the concept and design stages, once complete it will provide a technical forum for member nations to submit biometric search requests to other nations. It will maintain a core holding of the world’s ‘worst of the worst’ individuals. Any identifications of these people will be sent as a priority message to the requesting nation.’

Although the FBI proposes to establish three categories of suspects, the lowest category includes ‘subjects of terrorist investigations.’ Don’t forget that warrantless wiretapping projects target vast networks of innocent civilians as well as the few real suspects in an investigation.

The FBI hopes to have a pilot project up and running by the middle of this year.”

If your paranoiac streak is not fully satisfied by this story, see also:

DNA Fingerprint Database for Worker’s Gattaca-Style Proposed:

“Do we need a national DNA or fingerprint database for all American workers to address the immigration problem? New York’s Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg has gone on record advocating such a plan – a biometric identification system [] that would be compulsory for all workers.”

and in “Minority Report” style – “Precrime” Database For London Homicide Prevention Unit“:

“Criminal profilers working for the London Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Prevention Unit are putting together a list of 100 future murderers.

I believe I am reading these reports correctly; they are not simply keeping a list of, let’s say, murderers who have done their time in prison and are now at large. This pilot project seeks to identify people who will in the future commit serious crimes.”…

“Instead they are using databases. It appears that the Unit is creating psychological profiles of likely offenders to predict patterns of behavior. Statements from former partners, information from mental health workers and details of past complaints are being combined to identify the 100 men most likely to commit murder in the near future.

Once an individual has been identified, police would decide whether to begin arrest proceedings, or alert social services who could steer targeted individuals into ‘management programs.'”

See “FBI wants instant access to British identity data“:,,2241005,00.html

Tuesday January 15, 2008, The Guardian

Iris eye recognition ID cards
Each person’s iris is as individual as their fingerprint, but with 266 identifiable features is much more detailed. Photograph: Science Photo Library “Senior British police officials are talking to the FBI about an international database to hunt for major criminals and terrorists.

The US-initiated programme, ‘Server in the Sky’, would take cooperation between the police forces way beyond the current faxing of fingerprints across the Atlantic. Allies in the ‘war against terror’ – the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – have formed a working group, the International Information Consortium, to plan their strategy.

Biometric measurements, irises or palm prints as well as fingerprints, and other personal information are likely to be exchanged across the network. One section will feature the world’s most wanted suspects. The database could hold details of millions of criminals and suspects.”

Microchips To Be Implanted In UK Convicts:

“RFID-based microchips will soon be used to tag prisoners, according to a Ministry of Justice official in the United Kingdom.

(VeriChip RFID tag for human implantation) I’m assuming that they want to use something like the VeriChip, which is a very small Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag about the size of a large grain of rice. It can be injected directly into the body; a special coating on the glass case of the chip helps it to bond with living tissue and stay in place. A special RFID reader broadcasts a signal, and the antenna in the VeriChip draws power from the reader and sends its data. The VeriChip is a passive RFID tag: since it does not require a battery, it has a virtually unlimited life span.

Officials want to use the technology to reduce overcrowding in prisons. The tagged prisoners would be released and then tracked.”

And for some crazy ideas, check out these futuristic techs:

Plasma-based propulsion is just one of OSU’s crazy projects for DARPA:

“The big brains at DARPA are at it again, this time teaming up with Oklahoma State University to develop unmanned aerial vehicles that will be small enough to fit into a soldier’s pocket. The heart of the project is the experimental propulsion system that has no moving parts and utilizes plasma thrusters. The need for such a tiny UAV comes after the realization that most of the unmanned reconnaissance vehicles used at the moment are poor indoors and in urban areas. OSU’s UAV would allow all soldiers to carry UAVs and see what they’re getting into before hand.”

Sound cloak is boon for concert halls, submarines:

sub_cloak.jpgWe’ve all heard the high school lesson about wave interference — like when sound waves hit an object, bending around it and crashing into each other to create a whole new pattern when they reach the other side. Now researches say that it might be possible to create a “cloak” for an object that would make the sound waves pass and emerge from the other side like they were never disturbed.Such a cloak is only theoretical at this point, but engineers at Duke University say they’ve come up with a “recipe” for an acoustic material that would make anything within disappear from sound waves, much like that invisibility cloak did for microwaves. Anyone designing a concert hall would love to have that recipe so they could negate the acoustic effect of structural components like beams. And if you could make it big enough, the cloak would even hide a submarine from sonar.”

See also: Tecnovelgy’s ‘Inaudibility Cloak’ Is Theoretically Possible:

and the press release from Duke University, Invisibility Cloaks’ Could Break Sound Barriers:

And for one I see truly cool applications on this one for mobile use in business, military or simply home environments:

Mighty morphin’ shipping container transforms into house in 90 seconds flat:


“It starts off as an ordinary shipping container, but throw a switch and ninety seconds later the Illy Push Button House has magically expanded into a five-room abode. Architect and designer Adam Kalkin created this jack-in-the-box-like dwelling, whose sections are unfolded by powerful hydraulic cylinders controlled by a computer in the kitchen section. The house is made out of recycled materials, and has a dining area in the center, surrounded by a bedroom, living room, library and kitchen.”

So, is Big Brother just around the corner? And what do we want? Technology, with it’s “anything goes” attitude, or a check on it? When technology goes rampant, we see both the good AND the bad. I wouldn’t mind a folding house, or a device that would slow my car to prevent a ticket, but I’m not sure about some of the more military style things, like the tiny “airplane,” which although it has great safety uses, it also can be used for spying, both military and non-military, the latter being more troublesome – either private or governmental use has some definite legal ramifications. As does the invisibility cloak, shades of Harry Potter.

So have some fun – I will write more about a few of these and the issues that surround the application of them later.

2 responses to “Is 1984 just a little late, or is the Future here?

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