Thursday, April 29, 2004

the all-seeing eye

The engineer in me is fascinated by this Spyball (via Gizmodo) that can be rolled into a room, whereupon it will right itself and take a 360° scan of the room, broadcasting the video back to whoever threw it. I am a little upset, however, that many of the cool inventions lately seem to have a military/police purpose. When I was at university I saw that most of the research money wasn't coming from the private sector (as it does in times of true cultural growth, from the Rennaissance to Silicon Valley) - the military, in one form or another, was footing the bill for everything. As an electronics engineer, I was interested in robotics projects, but they all seemed to be in the realm of 'urban robots' that could be thrown into a dangerous area or covert surveillance bots, particulary of the miniature flying variety that soldiers can carry around in their backpacks and launch into hostile areas. Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favor of technologies that keep people from getting hurt, I just worry that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail, and I didn't want to spend my grad years working on some tool to make fascism more efficient. I don't know what it's like where you live, but here in Portland the cops look (and occasionally act) like stormtroopers, and I think they could use more tools for relating to the people they 'serve'; they seem to have a "Charlie's everywhere, man" attitude towards the citizens.