Autonomous drones

Farhad Manjoo describes what a team at the University of Pennsylvania is doing with autonomous drones – the team calls them quadrotors – I Love You, Killer Robots

The drones are very small, autonomous and extremely nimble. They can determine location of nearby drones.

Check out the drones as they fly through windows at various angles:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=MvRTALJp8DM]

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Predicting who is expecting by their shopping patterns in the second trimester – the power of data-mining

Kashmir Hill, from Forbes, reports in How Target Figures Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did that Target is data-mining purchases to predict who is the early stage of pregnancy.

By cross-referencing a lot of purchasing data, Target can calculate the probability of a customer being pregnant and even estimate a delivery date.  The article quotes Charles Duhigg of the New York Times:

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Smartphone sales are looking like a Shuttle takeoff

Don’t quite know how to get my head around this.

Remember the view when the Shuttle engines and rockets lit off?  Millions of pounds of spaceship are up and outta’ here.  

In a flash it’s clear of the pad and a few moments later it’s miles high and hundreds of miles downrange.  Smartphone sales are on that kind of curve.

Mark Perry, at Carpe Diem, points to this article by E.D. Kain at Forbes:  Smartphone Shipments Top PCs For The First Time Ever.

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Our near future can be an era of abundance

A book to be released in February suggests that radical advances in technologies will improve the lives of everyone, especially the poor – Abundance – The future is better than you think.

Here’s a description from the book’s website:

In Abundance, space entrepreneur turned innovation pioneer Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, infinite computing, ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing, nanomaterials, synthetic biology, and many other exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous two hundred years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet.

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Cool internet capabilities can be used for censorship and suppression of dissent

The Wall Street Journal has been running a series of posts on how technology can be used for censorship and surveillance of government critics. They call their series CENSORSHIP INC.

Today’s article, Life Under the Gaze of Gadhafi’s Spies, continues a discussion of how not-so-nice governments can track dissidents in real-time.

This long-running series is showing the downside to the cool, nifty technology that we enjoy today.  That same stuff used to make your web browsing so wonderful and allows me the platform to pontificate in this blog, can also be used by dictators to suppress dissent.  From today’s article discussing the experiences of Mr. Khaled Mehiri, a human-rights advocate:

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Private sector rocket launches will resupply space station

SpaceX will launch it’s first space shot on a resupply flight to the space station in late November.  NASA gave technical approval to the launch.

Update – the SpaceX resupply mission was a success.

Why is this discussion in a blog about nonprofit issues? Three reasons.

First, is a superb illustration of stretching our brains. In the nonprofit sector we need to be intentionally thinking about the future. See my discussions here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Just the idea of private space flights will stretch our brain.

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Peering forward – technology is destroying and creating jobs

“Technology is eating jobs”

So says Andy Kessler in his Wall Street Journal article, Is Your Job an Endangered Species?

He says there are two kinds of workers today:

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