Why I’m an Optimist: Large Scale Macro Trends

A symbol to me of the power of our future, and our technology. I traveled thousands of miles in mere hours to snap this digital photo and capture it on a chip the size of a postage stamp.

While we move forward in technology at a furious pace there certainly are some huge gaps, and as those gaps and verges close we will see many new things that nobody predicted nor could have predicted; and we will see old things fade away. The largest scale macro trends will continue regardless of gaps and pitfalls; if one path to the future closes a thousand others will open. It’s been that way for most of our history and that’s a large scale macro trend I don’t expect to falter.

In future articles I’m going to outline some gaps I’ve seen, and potential means to close them. Please keep in mind however that nobody can predict the future – that you can only predict trends. Even when predicting trends you are likely to get the future wrong if you look at micro or macro trends — you cannot predict which trends will continue, and which will end, you can only look at the large confluences of trends and attempt guesses at which are most likely to continue. In other words you know that it’s likely that the Mississippi will make it to the Gulf of Mexico regardless of the oxbows and loops it makes.

Think of the sharp trend lines and market charts once there of VHS and Beta Max tape manufacturing and sales to get an idea of what I mean. At the dawn of the tape age, none could predict with certainty the micro trend of the war between the formats, or whether the macro trend of tape sales in general would continue, but it was easy to step back and see the larger scale macro trend of generic technology – data storage media would continue to change, but storage would continue to become less expensive, smaller in form and format, and more widely available.

Whether that tape machine was capturing and streaming back data in your Betamax, VHS, or computer room backup tape carousel it was all same-same when you consider the larger macro function of the technology: Capturing data for preservation and/or later playback. That was global.

The generic larger purpose of tapes and the various tape formats was to record and preserve data. The real trend wasn’t between the formats or the physical shape or the protocols: it was really towards more data in less physical space and for less cost. That large scale macro trend was occurring in all formats, from silicon to tape to hard drives to optical and it continues through this day. It’s also quite possible that some other technology will replace both Blue Ray and HD-DVD before that format battle ever finishes.

A few years back it would have been a massive project in capital and expense to perform a one time physical transfer of 650 gigabytes of data between two companies or vendors – however right now a single person could pop into SAM’s or Best Buy and pick up at 1 Terabyte or 2 Terabyte USB drive and get that transfer done in under two hours if you eliminate the travel time. Even better than that you can see storage devices becoming something a bit more than just storage devices. One example is the “Eye-Fi” chip – it’s specialized storage for Digital cameras, but it’s also a GPS and a Wifi network adapter for your camera. It’s the size of a postage stamp, and the width of a couple of quarters.

There are cards with larger memory space, and you could put an entire K-12 education in the space of one of these postage stamp cards if you worked at it.

So when looking at the longer term future to get to accurate predictions of trends you must take them to higher functional large scale levels, or look at them as very large scale macro trends. Worldwide soybean production going up is not a large scale macro trend. The large scale macro trend behind that simplex market trend is that food supplies and therefor diets are diversifying globally.

This large scale macro trend is the confluence of several technologies crossing verges, and no particular macro trend (in the marketing, woo-woo “we are trying to sell you something” definition of macro trends) is responsible.

Instead all are somewhat needed, including better packaging, preservation, transport, free trade, the internet and television proliferation of diverse cultural methods of cooking,  etc . etc.  Don’t worry however foodies: if any of these smaller macro trends falters, something else will take its place. The large scale macro trend of more diverse diets and food supplies is not going to end anytime soon because large scale macro trends are measured in centuries and millenniums, not years and decades. They are determined only in part by demographics and desires as marketers would tell you, but also by technology.  There might be momentary fluctuations – some that last a decade or two, or even some like the Dark Ages that last centuries, but the large macro trends will continue. Other examples of large scale macro trends:

  • Worldwide capital increases
  • Our sources of energy multiply
  • Our ability to store and transfer knowledge increases
  • Life spans increase

Technology becomes more complex, and more capable, while becoming more accessible as individual powers and capabilities increase. In my garage sits a car with more horsepower than most medieval kings could muster in a few moments, in my computer is a powerful media studio that can broadcast to the world over the internet, on tap at the nearest electrical outlet is more energy than that held by all of the tyrants in history who ever held human slaves.

The particular spots or time where these large scale macro trends fail are the exceptions not the rule. Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa are two places where these overall trends break right now,  but they are the exceptions not the rule, and over time even those places will improve.

So it is that I am a confident optimist based on the past example of our long history. Whatever pratfalls, missteps, and tumbles that humanity has taken we have always managed to dust off and carry on with the journey after. As we witness one of those pratfalls that will become the biggest environmental disaster since we started recording them in the Gulf of Mexico I am also confident that over time the problem can be overcome.

Hunters After the Storm

The birds were on the hunt for bugs and worms after the rainstorm the other day.

Environmental Disaster

This is what happens when you drill in deep zones where the pressures are immense — possibly the worst environmental disaster too date once it’s all said and done. Here are a series of time lapse photos that show the growth and extent of the Gulf oil leak from NASA satellites Terra and Aqua:

The Rise of Skynet Might be Closer than you Think

This is a great technical achievement using off the shelf consumer parts. If “The Graduate” were remade today the one word would be “Robotics” not “Plastics”…

May’s End Moon

Here is tonight’s moon, taken with the T2, enjoy. Remember click the thumbnail to embiggen… A bit blurrier than normal, the wind’s a bit stiff tonight, which makes it hard to get a good shot in low light even with a tripod.

Higher Dimensions- Speculation and Ideas from Brian Greene

This will make you think; and we all certainly need to do more of that.

More :

To learn more about String Theory, watch Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe” on NOVA:

Also see Brian Greene’s book on String Theory “The Elegant Universe”:

Or Brian Greene’s book on General Physics “The Fabric of the Cosmos”:

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Frankenputer Streaming Media Server: It Lives

I got tired of having fifteen different flavors of media (pictures, movies, songs, home videos, bought videos, DVDs, Memory chips with pics, etc. etc. etc.) that all required different devices or different cables or some widget or wadget to display, hear, or print. So I grabbed all of the old computer carcasses out of the basement and piece-patched them together to create a pretty robust server that I can stream everything to and also back up my pics, music, and movies to. Thus starts The Chronicles of Frankenputer.

I’m going to try out Windows media server and also Itunes to see how they compare – along the way I’ll note the “technology gaps” so you can overcome them easier or know what isn’t quite ready yet for those who might be planning doing this themselves. Before you say “what’s the big deal, it’s just a computer hooked to a big screen so you can play DVD’s” keep in mind that this critter is also wireless, a back up server, and running Media center, Itunes, and Photoshop, and it connects to everything wireless in the house. It’s more than just another computer as a DVD player set up…

The media server specs are here:

  • Core II duo CPU
  • 8 4 GB memory*
  • 1.5 TB disk space (I had butt loads of old 250 GB drives around to create that with.)
  • Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard
  • Wireless N network adapter
  • Nvidia GTX 260 video card
  • DVI-D to HDMI adapter for the flat screen
  • Creative sound card for 5.1 sound
  • Windows 7 64 bit
  • Photoshop Elements 8.0

Here’s a picture of the of it under construction with temp keyboard and speakers. After I’m done configuring it will go under the cabinet and plug into the 5.1 sound. I’m using an old FX-7026 case and MB as base, but the parts are cobbled from other machines — the poor thing is really a Frankenputer full of hand me down parts. It’s networked wth Wireless N, so any widget from security cams to my regular camera can stream to the big screen, which is kind of nice.

With Microsoft Media center I’ve been able to add home movies, Netflix, CBS online, streaming internet radio, all of my picture directories, and all of my video libraries. Streaming Hulu and Netflix comes across much better than I expected, and I’m going to hit the other video channels to bookmark them later tonight (youtube, vimeo, etc. etc. ) along with satellite radio since I have a sub for that in the car.

Of course any other internet site (yes, Pron! too) works fine and later I’ll be adding the Kindle PC reader. It also replaced my DVD/ Blu ray player which allows me to raise the shelves high enough to fit this in the cabinet. Since this thing blows a lot more heat than the DVR I am also going to make a cutout with a small fan in the back of the cabinet. After that I will probably upgrade the DVD R/W drive, the one I have in it now was a loss leader no name that cost $25.00.
Even though it sounds great, there are still gaps in the technologies, and I’ll be going over some of those in the near future. There are also things you can’t get yet over the internet that you can get over cable, so this solution is not for everyone, but later I’ll be looking at methods to tie into the Cable DVR.

*Update: the original 8 GB was dropped to 4 GB after I discovered that Frankenputer has a pair of bad memory slots. (the 2 two gig simms work fine in other PC’s) I also discovered that loading ITUNES still loads the Gear drivers, and these can hose up some older internal DVD drives, forewarned is forearmed. I had to unload ITUNES to make the DVD fully functional, but ITUNES worked fine while it was loaded, and I will attempt a reload now that I have a newer DVD drive. In the meantime Media player works good.

Envision: Art Video

Here’s a very colorful art video hosted at Vimeo, enjoy.

ENVISION : Step into the sensory box from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.

The Squinx

If you answer his riddle correctly he allows you to pass.

“I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.”


answer: Tomorrow