Monday, September 26, 2005

The winds are howling

After Katrina and Rita, the biggest winds are complaints from government officials, especially the 'loyal opposition' and 'victims rights' groups.

The critics keep complaining that the Feds should be more effective at evacuating major cities in the U.S. Just like fire drills, the only way to significantly improve is to practice.

Any major metropolitan areas willing to practice? Should only take a few days and a few billion dollars. How about Chicago? New York could use the practice as could Washington DC. Evacuating LA could be insightful. How about Seattle, Miami, or Atlanta? No, perhaps, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia or Minneapolis. Some of these mayors need to step up an volunteer for the good of the country.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Singularity is coming, soon.

Singularity is coming, evidently soon.
Singularity is the point at which machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Our brains and our bodies will merge with our machines. There is a new book due out next week that will explain this and the consequences in great detail.
The Singularity Is Near portrays what life will be like after this event— a human- machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed; world hunger will be solved; our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death; and virtually any physical product can be created from information alone. The Singularity Is Near also considers the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes, and is certain to be one of the most widely discussed and provocative books of 2005.

This [computing] power increase, combined with the predicted growth of nanotechnology—robots the size of red blood cells inserted into the body—will make possible, within two decades, complete scanning of the human brain. By then, computer hardware should be capable of running accurate software models of human intelligence. By the end of the 2020s, computers will pass the Turing Test, simulating a living person well enough to fool an interrogator. At that point, Kurzweil believes, a genuine synthesis of the strengths of human and machine intelligence becomes possible: pattern recognition and inference on the human side, large memory with instant recall and easy data-sharing on the machine side.

Freed from the built-in limitations of the brain, machine intelligence will then be able to use nanotechnological design to far exceed human intelligence. But at the same time, nanotechnological implants can be used to augment human brains, creating a hybrid intelligence unlike anything previously known. Ultimately, Kurzweil predicts, the predominant component of human intelligence will be non-biological, and more of our experiences will take place in virtual reality than in the physical world. Human-machine intelligence will saturate the immediate vicinity of the Earth, and eventually grow to fill the universe. Kurzweil backs his predictions with numerous citations of other experts, and while some of the arguments are dense, the book repays close attention.

You can order it at Amazon,
What's interesting is that this guy is not just another crackpot or science fiction writer, he is an inventor and futurist.

Should make for interesting reading.

I need all the help I can get. I just don't know if I can wait that long. ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Swirling Questions Around Hurricane Katrina

1. Why wasn't the plan followed?
Interesting that the detailed plan web page now has this message:

Access Denied

Either you are not currently logged in, or you do not have access to this tab page within the portal. Please contact the portal administrator to obtain access.

2. What happened to the access to the detailed evacuation plan?

3. Why did this happen?

4. Why was the Red Cross kept out?

Acess (sic) to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local
authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot
enter New Orleans against their orders.
5. What did they do with all that money they received?
Army's engineers spent millions on Louisiana projects labeled as pork

6. Why didn't they fix the problems exposed LAST YEAR?

Ivan exposes flaws in N.O.'s disaster plans
05:09 PM CDT on Sunday,
September 19, 2004.

7. Why such looting during such a catastrophe?

A Perfect Storm of Lawlessness

8. How could FEMA overlook this assistance?

9. What has the Orleans Levee Board been up to?

In December of 1995, the Orleans Levee Board, the local government entity that oversees the levees and floodgates designed to protect New Orleans and the surrounding areas from rising waters, bragged in a supplement to the Times-Picayune newspaper about federal money received to protect the region from hurricanes.

"In the past four years, the Orleans Levee Board has built up its arsenal. The additional defenses are so critical that Levee Commissioners marched into Congress and brought back almost $60 million to help pay for protection," the pamphlet declared. "The most ambitious flood-fighting plan in generations was drafted. An unprecedented $140 million building campaign launched 41
Why did the city fail to take advantage of what Amtrak says was its offer to take a couple hundred passengers on its last train out of New Orleans?

It's too hot!

Summers just seem to be longer and hotter. Hurricanes are more frequent and more deadly. Must be global warming.

Then again, maybe not.


New Orleans could just be a blip on the radar screens of disasters. What is being done to the worst potential flu threat since the 1918 epidemic?

Scientists have long forecast the appearance of an influenza virus capable of infecting 40 percent of the world's human population and killing unimaginable numbers.

The havoc such a disease could wreak is commonly compared to the devastation of the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people in 18 months. But avian flu is far more dangerous. It kills 100 percent of the domesticated chickens it infects, and among humans the disease is also lethal

An H5N1 avian influenza that is transmittable from human to human could be even more devastating: assuming a mortality rate of 20 percent and 80 million illnesses, the United States could be looking at 16 million deaths and unimaginable economic costs. This extreme outcome is a worst-case scenario; it assumes failure to produce an effective vaccine rapidly enough to make a difference and a virus that remains impervious to some antiflu drugs. But the 207,000 reckoning is clearly a conservative guess.

Preventing this catastrophic outcome will requires months of preparation and planning. Are we prepared? Read more here or here.