So far in this blog series, I’ve talked about the management of things that live in places that can be located on the globe. Species, like elephants and mud snails. Ecosystems, like rain forests or coral reefs. On a smaller level, microclimates.
These all matter very much. But there are even bigger challenges that have no specific home but affect every place. Air is one of them, and frankly most of climate change comes down to managing the air badly.
There is another critical element.
What do we need second only to air? What lives everywhere and takes multiple forms? What must be cleaned and acts as a cleaner? What is a habitat and is needed by all habitats? What carves the deepest canyons in the world? What does every living being, in every place on the globe need?
I live in the Pacific Northwest of America, a place rich with water. I’ve been on my bike almost every weekend so far this year, and mostly that means I’ve been rained on, almost rained on, or on one particularly cold ride, rained on, snowed on, and sleeted on.
When I think about the future, I often worry about water. Some future problems will be the same ones I’ve been experiencing on my bike: too much water. But primarily they will be problems of scarcity.
I’ll start with one specific example I found in my research. Generally, I think of rivers as something we use for irrigation. Last year, we irrigated the Rio Grande river. Instead of using the river, we fed it.
That is not the usual relationship between humans and rivers.
I’ll mention three freshwater problems as a reminder of the scale of the issues:
1. Glaciers are melting. This is causing the sea level to rise, and also reducing the amount of fresh water available in some places.
2. Climate change has been linked to drought, which has been widespread lately. This year, Californians have lived in fear that water shortages will leave farmland fallow and may even leave some communities without any water at all. None.
3. Aquifers are being quickly depleted, making water harder to reach via wells and also causing the ground to subside, saltwater to intrude, and water quality to decline.
There are far more problems related to water than this, but lets move on to solution. Water conservation does matter. The needle is moving the right direction: per capita water use is dropping in the United States. This is because of a combination of education, infrastructure upgrades (removing leaks from water systems), new technology (less wasteful toilets and shower heads etc.), and regulation. We need to do more, and I’m sure we can and will. But as bright a spot as conservation has turned out to be, it won’t help when a drought or the depletion of groundwater means there’s no water to conserve.
So we’re going to have to exert a bit more control on the water picture. Here are a few things we’ll be doing in the future:
· For coastal cities, there’s a reasonable obvious solution: desalination. It’s terribly expensive today. But we know how to address that. Investment in solar power has driven the cost down by roughly 60% in the last three years. Desalination technology hasn’t enjoyed as much investment, but that could change rapidly as California contemplates building new plants. As expensive as desalinization is, trucking water from other places could be far more expensive given the dense population.
· There are places in the world where water is available but contaminated. Some very interesting work has been happening to create ways to clean this water. From a LifeStraw to new hydro-packs, there are innovative tools coming online for families to carry and clean water more easily. These tools could also be used to carry water and clean water enough to grow healthy food.
· It takes far more water to grow and harvest a steak than a salad. A simple change in human diet to reduce animal protein by half would drastically reduce the amount of water needed to feed the world. While this is a simple conservation measure, it’s not yet occurring at scale. For example, a major crop in California is alfalfa, itself a thirsty grass. California’s alfalfa is largely sold to China, effectively exporting the product of scarce water offshore.
· Water rights laws are often old and inadequate or even damaging to current needs. A new framework for water rights may help us decide how to distribute and care for water in a fairer way. This is going to be a hard change to make with current holders of rights fighting to retain them. But the reality is that much of our water is oversubscribed already; existing rights can’t be filled anyway. The system can be fixed.
· Weather management: We may be looking to weather management to mitigate risks of severe storms brought on by climate change. Chances are we’ll also become even more serious rainmakers than we are now. Powerful big data analytics are helping us understand the problems inherent in climate change, and those same or similar models should also help us mitigate challenges. Expect more tools to seed clouds to make more rain, and maybe also ways to calm a hurricane.
The care and management of any kind of garden takes water management. In a future world where we’ve taking far more responsibility for land use, water management that looks at broad territories will be a foundational skill. We’ll have to be bold about it. If we don’t success at managing this fundamental resource, we will fail at many of the things we need to do. Rivers will dry up, cities and towns will wither away, and many of the ecosystems we are working to preserve will fail. And this is just the freshwater problem….
I’m quite pleased to be back into the business of working on the blog series, and for returning readers thanks for returning after a three month hiatus. I had some fiction to commit, which will turn into the Edge of Dark, available from Pyr in 2015.
I’ll be delivering a talk about Backing into Eden at the World Future Society in Orlando in July, and with luck, I’ll also have an ebook version available near then.
As always, here are links to some of the articles I read for research in case you want to do your own exploration:
Someone interviewing me for a magazine asked me what current technology tomorrow’s children would find obsolete. I almost answered “The Internet.” Then I decided to think about that answer a little bit because it’s pretty scary. Then I decided it’s true.
Shortly, humans may find today’s wide open Internet as archaic as we now find phones that are wired to walls.
Here’s why. There are three huge pressures on the internet as we know it today – the one where I can write this essay, post it on my website, and you can find it and read it. Whoever you are.
The first strike is today’s news. We appear to be losing the network neutrality fight, or the idea that all content is treated equally when it comes to transport. You and I may be paying our internet carriers more to use the best search engines, watch sports games in real time, or download the New York Times every morning. That’s on top of what we might pay for the content itself. So we could pony up $4.99 for a video and then get an add-on fee of 19 cents to download it. Or worse, someone like me who is not famous may pay more money to make my content available to everyone. Oh, yeah, I do that now. At least if I want everyone on my friends list to see a post, I have to pay FaceBook. But I could end up also paying Cox or Time Warner a little extra. Or it could be if you want to read this post, you’ll have to wait through a one minute download time. Except you won’t, and I won’t, and only the premium content will be seen by much of anybody. This is a current fight full of active petitions. We should all be screaming and demanding a win. Note that while the loss of net neutrality will start by having a deleterious effect on consumers and creators of entertainment content, the next target may very well be the movement of business data. Want to store your iPhone backup in the Cloud? Here’s your transport fee.
Strike two is yesterday’s news, still recent enough it occasionally comes up for a sip of media air. The NSA is searching everybody with no warrant. In fact, the NSA has been so busy opening back doors to the Internet that the front door may be getting locked. I’ve heard rumors of corporations who are already building or planning to build private internal networks with no connection whatsoever to the Internet. They’re reportedly doing this in order to protect their intellectual property from other corporate and government thieves (can you say China) who are after it. But now they have to worry about their own government building back doors into servers and not telling anyone at all, especially the American corporations using the compromised hardware and/or software. I suspect that a lot of internal traffic is coming off of the open Internet and going into secondary networks between campuses. This adds business costs. A lot of them. In a related reaction to the NSA and the USA that runs it, we may be seeing Great Firewalls around friendly, democrative countries soon. At this point, I don’t think it matters what President Obama says to us or to our friends. Our trust has been breached. Private networks, face to face meetings, and other more secure tools are going to happen. Even though I’m a rabid transparency advocate, there’s no part of me that thinks that all private conversations and early-IP should be public, or that the transparency should be a one-way mirror from the NSA into my phone. So strike two – 1984 in 2014.
Which leads us to strike three; Crime. Crime isn’t new news at all, but cybercrime appears to be the fastest growing industry on the planet. No, I haven’t done that research. But I did determine that my belief that it’s growing fast is widely supported. Most other crime rates are steady or decreasing. This includes violent crimes, and property crimes. But cybercrime? Way up. I’m in far more danger of suffering from identity theft than I am of being robbed on the street. And so is almost everyone else. Likewise, the businesses we work for and the governments who protect us (and spy on us) are also under constant threat. It’s wearying. Someday, there may be more peril than promise from doing my shopping online. Given that I shopped at Target three times right before Christmas, I’m feeling a little like that today.
That’s a lot for the Internet to handle. And if we lose the open Internet, we will have lost something innocent and hopeful. We will have lost one of the more important tools for equality in the world. We will have lost a way for all people everywhere to have a voice that can heard by anyone. Oh, we’ll still have an Internet. But it might not feel very much like the one we have today. We may not be willing to use it for anything very interesting at all. We’ll still get Netflix and Game of Thrones and CNN, but we won’t have it all like we do today.
So I set a challenge for myself to use Glass while hosting the SFWA readings and to be as natural as I could, and to get some pictures and video. This was about a two hour event, and the battery lasted and still had juice left at the end. I wore them the whole time, even when I had the mike, and they felt normal (most of the time). Of course, science fiction readers and writers are a friendly crowd for Glass.
Here is a link to a short video of Nicola Griffith reading and here is one of Kelley Eskridge reading. Neither video is excellent, although it’s nice to hear the readers and both Kelley and Nicola transport you even if they are tiny images almost obscured by the person in front of me and certainly less prominent in the video than the half-empty beer glasses on the table. The picture to the right is Kelley.
Now that I’m up to three wearables from time to time (a Pebble, a Fitbit, and Glass), I’ve become convinced that the “Internet of Things on our Bodies” is hamstrung. I can’t use the hands-free bluetooth capability to listen to music on my iPhone while wearing Glass and still do anything useful with Glass. I can’t ask Glass how my fitbit says I’m doing. Anytime I answer the phone these days, I have to tell it whether I want to take the call on Glass, via the iPhone speakers, via the iPhone itself, or – even though I can’t talk to it – on my Jambox. Thankfully the fitbit has no interest in answering a call or I’d be out of small screen room to display all of the choices. The Pebble is also too dumb to take a call, but the Dick Tracey watch is on its way.
What I want from CES is a phone that acts as the one ring to control all of my wearables. As it is, the iPhone is optimized to be a computer, not a remote control. I don’t want as many remote controls for my body as I have for my television. So CES, please read Tolkien?
A few people have asked me how it’s going with Glass. So here’s a report (and there is a story about barcodes – hang on, it’s at the end). The pictures are all #throughglass.
I did get the turn by turn directions working and used them on a route I knew in a low traffic time. Less distracting than using the iPhone Google Maps and looking down all of the time, but I think there may need to a be a mode you can drop Glass into that says “Turn by turn directions and camera only – no other interruptions” to avoid the temptation to look up at Glass very often while driving. I don’t really want texts or email shoved in my face while I’m driving. So better than a phone, but still with a distraction factor. The safest map to use in the car is the built in one in the dash, except that it’s wholly out of date after 6 years and updates cost more than a new phone. So I’m not doing them. Shouldn’t our cars be as configurable as our phones? But that’s a side-issue….
I FINALLY figured out the send problem (Glass kept saying it had sent things but they never arrived anywhere). I tried reconfiguring EVERYTHING for HOURS and was about to throw Glass through the window. I even broke down and sent a note to Google support which didn’t get answered. So I went back in last night and dutifully searched the Glass support and finally found a thread that was useful. Apparently when Glass sets up a contact, it defaults to send everything to a Hangout. WTF? I didn’t even know you could send things to a hangout. I’ve only used hangouts a few times (Skype is far more pervasive – it crosses OS ecosystems). I still have no idea how you get something that was sent to a hangout if you aren’t IN a hangout. Maybe this is the result of being in my fifties and trying new things. I was reading my friend Stepto’s book, “A Microsoft Life,” and he talked about a condition he called the “Redmond Reality Distortion Field” where developers live in an artificially techno world and think everyone else does, too. I suspect Google developers use hangouts like the rest of us use phones or email. This also reminds me of my first iPod, where it took me hours to figure out how to change the volume. Maybe I’m just slow.
1. For the things Glass is good at (Taking pictures, turn by turn directions, fast replies to simple emails, simple Google searches) it’s awesome.
2. I remain convinced the big deal is being hands-free. The possible and useful applications are mind-boggling.
3. There actually aren’t many places in today’s society to wear Glass in company. It’s more of a separator than a uniter. Meetings and meals become about Glass, which is just silly. That may change over time – it’s early and most people I know are seeing Glass for the first time when they see me wearing it.
4. I still can’t wink with my right eye.
5. Nancy Kress was right. We need to be able to name our Glass. Walking around repeating the mantra “Ok Glass” gets pretty stupid sounding after a while. I really want to say, “OK Thor,” or “OK Minerva” or even, “OK Dad.”
6. There is a warning about Lasik that I found buried in the support menus. I have no idea how seriously to take the warning. Hasn’t 50% of the population or so had Lasik by now? I have – like a decade a go. All it says is that the flap on the cornea never heals so Glass is more dangerous for wearers who have had Lasik. How much more dangerous? Do I have to worry about the dogs pulling me over while walking, about tripping, about daily stuff? Or just about getting a face full of airbag? If I wear the clear shades, does that provide adequate protection? No real information seems to be easily available on the web.
And now on to the barcode story….I was driving into work, contemplating whether or not to keep Glass. It’s cool tech and I like having it, but it utility is pretty low for me other than ego-boost of having it. There’s some utility, and a lot of fun, but is it more useful than the new computer I would buy with the money if I turn my Glass in? Remember I work the equivalent of two and a half jobs or so, and thus adding a thing that takes time to troubleshoot and play with is not irrelevant, and spending $1500 to leave something in a drawer is just plain stupid. And the Lasik warning is a little scary. Glass is NOT worth losing my vision over. Don’t take this as me not liking Glass – I like it a lot. But there are reasons for me to question it. So I go in to get my morning latte at LLadro, and they have a questions of the day up. ”What was the first use of the barcode?”
I have no idea. I guess inventory, although I’m sure I’m wrong. But it’s worth a free cup of coffee. The barrista says, “No. It was railroad cars. And you know? People hated them. The guy who invented bar codes said they would be all over everything, and no one believed him. I guess that’s how it is with new technology.”
I suspect that’s how it will be with Glass.
Note that I checked the Barrista’s story, and I found that trains did in fact sport the first bar-code like identifiers.
Seattle Geekly is one of my favorite podcasts. There are two reasons: the show is fun to listen to (even if you’re not from Seattle) and the creators, Shannon and Matt, are fabulous. Here they are in episode 206, interviewing me as well as fellow author William Hertling and filk singers Debs and Errol.
Even better, there’s a giveaway. Drop by the site and enter for a chance to win a free copy of the Ruby’s Song duology.
So just a short update on my Glass experience so far…..
After taking Glass out to a party (see previous post) I felt up to taking Glass in to work for the pre-holiday work days. I also took it down to a coffee shop for lunch and out to take some pictures. So here’s some impressions:
I’m learning where it feels weird to wear Glass and where it feels more natural (and more places will probably feel more natural as time goes on). Just walking around town outside, I really liked it and felt cool. This photo is Marina Park with a single sun-brightened bench.
Wearing it in restaurants was a little weird. Kind of like a “look at me” statement. Mind you, I’m a Leo and a public speaker who loves to be on stage, so don’t get wrong – I like being kind of “look at me” but the reaction Glass gets varies from “Cool!” to “Don’t look at me your moronic alien.” Of course, many people don’t notice at all or just don’t know what Glass is. Some people clearly believe it’s autonomous. I’ve had to explain to two people now that it’s just a computer and it does what I tell it to, just like my phone. It’s not recording everything I see all the time. Really.
In restaurants Glass felt OK in big noisy ones, and not as good in quieter places. Bathrooms – no. Even if it’s off – it makes people nervous. It’s no more dangerous than a phone clutched in my hand, but still….
Things I’ve learned —-
How to accept and place calls – really easy. The earpiece vibrates strangely when people talk to me and feels a little distracting. Katie (the household seventeen year old) said my voice is clearer through Glass than on the iPhone Speaker.
I did learn how to tether it to the iPhone. Still thinking maybe I should have gone to Android and a second phone. My iPhone is now data central for Glass, for the Pebble, and for the Fitbit (my three wearables) and I can’t sync more devices well – like my blue tooth speakers or wireless headset. Maybe I still need to learn to do it. It feels like having only one remote-control when you need two.
The setup for Wink was annoying me since I can’t manage to wink (I keep walking around practicing winking with my right eye, but I’m not doing it well enough to calibrate Glass yet and I look rather funny trying). Solution? Katie can wink. She put Glass on and calibrated Wink to her, so I still can’t use Wink, but Glass has stopped insisting that I try to set Wink up. This is a large relief.
After five days, I’m much more facile with moving around Glass, although I still do unexpected things once in a while like accidentally delete a picture or take one, or send something to the wrong person, although that doesn’t matter yet. I can’t get Glass to actually send anything. I have contacts set up, and Glass thinks it’s sending things but it’s not. Or at least no one I know is receiving anything. Almost surely a mis-configuration on my side.
The battery is getting better.
Things I want? For Glass to sync with my fitbit and tell me how many steps I’ve takes so far today. To be able to tell it to “stop” when it wants something you don’t want/can’t do like the Wink setup.
Well, off to spike the ham with cloves. Merry holidays to all!
Took Google Glass out to Patrick Swenson’s birthday/holiday party. Here is a brief summary:
It didn’t feel as weird to be wearing Glass as I thought it would. A number of people were interested in seeing Glass, which makes sense since it was a room full of science fiction writers and tech geeks. I did not leave it on all of the time. It is comfortable to wear for an hour at a time (I didn’t try longer).
I was the only one with Glass there – not surprising since I haven’t seen it in the wild in Seattle much.
Almost everyone wanted/expected Glass to do more than I could make it do without better connectivity. I MUST tether – buy an Android or give up my unlimited data plan. It might actually be cheaper to add an Android phone (to tether I apparently need to buy the most expensive data plan AND add tethering, which adds $35 a month to the phone bill). Two phones would solve another problem — I like to walk with my wireless headphones and listen to podcasts or books or music. I also want to walk with Glass. But I can’t synch two handsfree devices to one phone (duh!). It turns out this is why I couldn’t pair Glass to the iPhone for two days – my wireless headphone set is always paired. No way I can switch from the wireless headphones to Glass with Glass’s battery life. Glass made it through three hours of party. I am already “girl with two pairs of glasses” and I’m not certain I want to be “girl with two phones.” But if I take my headphones and Glass for a walk, Glass will be a brick unless I have ubiquitous wireless. Or unless when I tether it I don’t also need bluetooth. Need to explore that. I suspect ubiquitous wireless is a pre-requisite for wide-spread and easy wearable computing. I knew that, but this Explorer experience is an underline.
All I know how to do so far to take a picture is to go through the verbal commands, which in a crowded room means loudly saying “OK Glass. Take a Picture.” Kind of distracting, and not very social. I will have to learn the other ways to do it. Currently practicing my right-eye wink and still failing. I also can’t get Glass to stop insisting I try to make wink work, which is a distraction.
I did manage to get a couple of pictures (poor ones) and a decent video of Ken Scholes and Nancy Kress doing music, but the video turns out to be an animated GIF and appears not to play in WordPress or on FB. So I haven’t posted it anywhere. Note to self: taking a really good video of a subject that’s sitting down requires not moving one’s head! This is an inside bad-light Glass photo of Ken and Nancy (and Christy – which I might have spelled wrong). The video-as-x-seconds of animated Gif is too distracting to post.
Funniest comment? Nancy Kress thought I should name it something different than “OK Glass.” Not a bad idea to have a configurable trigger phrase that would allow us to personalize Glass.
Yesterday was more full of snow and dead batteries and work and a family movie than it was of Glass. It’s interesting just to see the family reactions to Glass, though (which is still only at home). Yesterday morning I had an immediate success when I put on Glass and asked for the weather and had it in seconds. When Toni came down for her coffee, I tried to show her, and asked Glass for the temperature. Glass decided “temperature” meant “picture” and took a picture of Toni in her bathrobe and then when I tried to ask it about the temperature again it tried to email the picture to a couple of guys I did a podcast interview with a few months ago. Not good. As far as I know, I managed to intercept the bathrobe picture before it got mailed. Later, when I wanted to take a picture of the snow outside our house while I was waiting for AAA, it worked great. But now Toni thinks Glass is no better than Siri, and I hope that she’s not right. The household seventeen-year-old does well with Siri, but Toni and I both struggle to get anything useful. Toni seems – at best – to be mildly amused that I brought Glass home.
Katie is mostly interested in the fashion implications – does Glass confer a unibrow and does it block your eye? (no and no, IMHO)
Today I am back at it trying to learn a little since I plan to take Glass out to a party tonight I have successfully snugged it to my iPhone with bluetooth and updated some Google contacts and dropped those into Glass. I am finding that I need to go update my Google electronic self which is way more out of date than my IOS self or my FaceBook self. That, I suppose, was predictable. I failed at getting “Wink” to calibrate, so I will not be winking any pictures into existence. I can wink with my left eye, but I can’t wink one-eyed right and Glass appears to know the difference between a wink and a blink.
I basically feel like I still don’t know very much. I did manage to find my pictures. The picture up above is the photo of the snow outside our house that I took with Glass.
The boxing and presentation of Glass is cool. Glass is light and easy to wear.
Set up is pretty easy. It took me a few tries to get it connected to my home wifi and I haven’t yet gotten it connected to the iPhone via bluetooth. I can’t tell if it needs to be connected to a hotspot (but it looks like no hotspot is needed unless I want turn by turn directions, which I kinda do). In that case, can I use a wifi hotspot and tether to that or do I have to tether to my phone? Something I may be able to ask Glass.
I’ve figured out how to take a picture, query Google, navigate around, and charge Glass. There is a lot of help available to Glass Explorers and I will be looking at that more. But there is one problem (I think). The iOS advice almost all seems (reasonably enough) to be for Glass pre IOS My Glass app. I get it – no problem. No frustration. But it does make it confusing – I often can’t tell what instructions apply now and what instructions apply to Glass and IOS pre-My Glass for IOS. Time will fix that up.
The screen is easy to read and I can wear Glass and reading glasses both at once. It DOES look dorky, but I will hunt for reading glasses where that isn’t true. I probably just need thinner frames or frameless ones.
There is a learning curve. Some things are easy (like querying Google) and others are harder (I haven’t done it yet, but the instructions for posting a picture to FB look way worse than just taking the picture on the phone and posting it – more steps). After a few hours I’ve scratched the surface and I’m packing it in for the night. Not ready to go out in public yet, but maybe to a party this Saturday. Hopefully I can figure out the tethering thing by then.
For your entertainment, here is an iPhone selfie of me with two pairs:
I am a writer, public speaker, and a futurist. I’m interested in how new technologies might change us and our world, particularly for the better.
I’m excited about my most recent book series, a duology called “Ruby’s Song” which includes the books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, both published by Pyr. I’m also doing a non-fiction blog series, Backing into Eden, which comes out roughly twice a month and explores ways to care for the world, now and in the future.