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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Of Tractors and Transformers

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Someone just posted on a futurists' forum:

Wow, I just saw this on youtube? Come on, now! There's no way this thing is real...is there?

http://youtube.com/watch?v=MDVWMx36jto


To which I replied:
I've seen a number of pseudo-mecha out there like it, Trammel, but remember, just because something looks vaguely mecha-like doesn't mean it has any real combat capabilities, and even if we had a real mech unit, it wouldn't necessarily be even as effective as a normal tank.

After all, what are the classic mech abilities? To be able to walk, to fire weapons and perhaps to pick up objects? A smaller, man-sized or slightly larger suit of power armor might be useful to infantry troops or SWAT teams facing heavy weapons, but being higher off the ground isn't necessarily an advantage when people are shooting at you. Note, for example, that the cockpit shown in this video seems to fairly exposed to hostile fire. Certainly it could be armored, but wouldn't increasing the mass of the upper half of the machine make that much more unwieldy? Even if it can walk in the first place?

That doesn't mean large devices which can walk, lift and have integrated, extremely powerful tools (as opposed to weapons) are useless -- even a "transformer"-style truck/robot could extremely practical. Why? If you have the technology, why not construct a powered shell capable of working with heavy materials and equipment with its "hands"? For example, why not build a robot of that type which can cut down and move trees, or excavate rock, soil and clay? Heck, why not a smaller version capable of moving heavy loads? The transformer aspect would come into play if your designs were sophisticated and reliable enough to change back and forth from robot-with-articulated-hands to simple truck. You could move your vehicle around on roads in one form, and walk into rough terrain and do your heavy work in the other.

This isn't as wild a notion as you might think -- there are still plenty of jobs where you might want to apply that kind of "muscle." And why, really, should people break their backs when machines could plausibly do the dangerous, agonizing labor themselves?

Future Imperative

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