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The RoBlog
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Thinking About the Future: Hologram Movies
See, here it is only mere moments since I posted the last entry and here I am posting the next one.

I was just reading the Technological Lifestyles section of the OMNI Future Almanac and had to toss in my comments. We're on page 194 for those of you following along at home.

The discussion is about the future of movie entertainment and how holographic movies may be one way that theaters retain the ever more flighty movie customer. The time frame is roughly the turn of the century. Problem is, I haven't heard any buzz about holographic movies. I'm guessing that since I've heard buzz about digital projectors in movies for quite some time now and there is still no movie theater near me (as far as I know), and probably not one near you unless you are George Lucas, that holographic movies are still at least 10 years out.

But here's an interesting thought: Consider that if portable computing has gotten to the point that you have a constant heads up display with you (which I believe it will be, or at least will be very close by in 10 years), it may be entirely possible that we could be seeing movies in 3D through stereoscopic glasses that most of use are wearing all the time anyway. A little bit of software and you can send one image to one lense and another image to the other lense. Poof! 3D with no hologram required. You might have to include data from several different cameras and sensors to detect your head motion to give the proper impression of 3D as you look around, but that could still be much easier that large scale holographic movie production.

If this were to be the way popular 3D were to unfold, I suspect it will have little impact on the development of holographs except to slow down the development a bit. It may be that holographs would need to fill a different niche than the movie industry, however.

Just something to think about.

What ever happened to the holographs? Let me know at: roblog@thenetatwork.com, or leave a comment.
Think About the Future!
So, my dad loaned me the "OMNI Future Almanac" from the now defunct OMNI magazine. In it are predections on all aspects of the future as seen from 1981 (the book was published in 1982, but there are a few references to 1981 as being the actual year it was written). It's very interesting in what it gets wrong and what it gets right.

As a person who is interested in determining what will happen in the years to come, it reminded me of what a difficult proposition seeing the future can be.

Here's a couple of things that struck me about future-casting while reading it:
Politics changes like the wind
It is very difficult to determine what will happen to various countries more than 10 years out. I know nothing about international politics, but I'm pretty sure that if I was thinking about it in 1981, I would not have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union; certainly OMNI didn't see it coming. And figuring out what localized instabilities would cause what to happen on the global scene is entirely beyond my comprehension. These events have the possibility of drastically changing every aspect about the future that we could predict. My opinion is that you just have to predict around them and hope for the best.

Complexity is not to be Underestimated
I would say that a rule of thumb for predicting the future is this: Complex problems get more complex the closer we appear to solving them. So often predictions of the future get caught up in the mentality of "we have just conquered a major part of the problem, therefore we should only be a short while to finishing the rest." It would seem that those complex problems of any consequence (Unified Field Theory, Cure for Cancer, Ultra-Clean Energy, etc) just get more and more complex with each step to be completed. If you are predicting something like the cure for cancer in the next 10 years, I'm guessing that you're missing the fact that one of your assumptions about how it will proceed from here contains a problem whose solution is more difficult than any previous problem in the past. It's the subtle ones that are the killers.

New Innovations are Hard to Predict
It is from these unforeseen, complex problems that we will have to solve in the future, that the great new innovations are likely to come from; and since we don't know the problems, we don't really know what we'll gain from them. It is likely that, in our effort to find a clean source of energy, for example, that we'll learn something that will transform the would in a way we had never predicted. What if we discovered that a certain kind of insect could provide enough energy to run a house and you only had to feed it a tomatoe a day. I'm guessing that'd have a profound impact on the world, but I couldn't say what (except that the price of tomatoes would rise dramatically). Could you? But it's just such wierd things that are likely to happen with us having no way to predict them.

Humans are a Self-Correcting System
This means that extreme views of the future, but utopian and dystopian, are fairly unlikely. If energy is important, we'll find a way to keep providing it for cheap whether it means making a new kind, or putting more effort into squeezing the last little bit out of the old kind. We are as unlikely to blow ourselves up as we are to lay down all of our arms. We aren't going to destroy the planet, but we may have to do some creative engineering to prevent it. The point is that we WILL prevent it before it becomes devastating. Does this mean there won't be devastating consequences to what we are doing? No. What it means is that if you can see the problems coming, it'll probably get dealt with before it destroys the planet. On the other end of the spectrum, if you can find a way for humans to all live in peace, someone else can think of a way to exploit it, or a very good reason why it's not a path most people would want the world to take.

Never Underestimate People's Power to Find Things Disagreeable
I think this is a problem with older predictions of the future more than more recent predections (just a guess on my part, if more recent predictions aren't better at this, shame on them). When people talk about sweeping changes that will effect everyone, the typically fail to think about how people will react to these changes. Genetic engineering is an obvious target: the OMNI book predicted wide-spread adoption of genetically modified foods, but failed to grasp the fact that people might have reservations with foods that have been modified by man's fallable hands. You looking forward to the day when you have a computer providing you data on everything you see? What if the camera on that computer came equipped with the same infrared camera that caused such a fuss because it could see under clothes in the daylight? What if it didn't need to have the camera to figure out what you look like naked and present it to any passerby (this will ultimately be the point to the longer article I write about copyright a privacy)? Think people might get on edge about it? Even if they don't it'll probably slow things down a while while our brains all catch up to the new implications. The point being that even if something is super sexy, it probably won't be adopted overnight, so you have to allow for that when you say that something will happen in the next 20 years.

Anyway, that's all for now. Probably more in a little bit as I dissect various predictions made by OMNI.

Interested in the future and how we might better predict it? Drop me a line at: roblog@thenetatwork.com
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Quick Rant
Ok, here's something I'm getting tired of seeing:

I get a marketing email from some company (that I've opted in to previously) and decide that I no longer want to receive the emails.

I click on the unsubscribe link and it asks me for my password. I have, of course, forgotten my password eons ago, so I click on "Forgot your Password?". Now I get a form asking me to provide the answer to some stock question they asked me lo those many eons ago. An answer that I've also forgotten, in no small part due to the fact that I wasn't about to give out my precious birthday information (or th like) for the goods they were going to give me back (the value on the goods was too low), so I had made up something.

All the while, I have an email address they could send me the information to. But they won't. So now I'm forced to have my email filtering software call this SPAM, which does neither me nor the company I'm subscribing to any good. They've mucked up my spam filter's ability to detect true spam, while thinking that I'm seeing their emails but just not getting interested in them. Most likely, they'll complain that I'm in the class of users that is overzealous about use of the "Mark As Spam" button. I'd send them an email explaining my situation but, of course, there's no way to do that on their form.

I'm seeing this increasingly often as sites try to tighten up their security, but I ask you, how secure does unsubscribe really need to be? If it's important, send me an unsubscribe confirmation email; if I don't get that, odds are I wasn't getting your email to begin with. Yahoo, I'm looking at you!

Another annoyance on this level is the inability to unsubscribe using a link rather than reply. I use different email addresses in the domain that I own each time I sign up for something so I can track who's selling my name to whom (you may be surprised, actually, at how rarely a name gets sold by a company that acquired it legitimately), all of which get funnelled back to a single account. I don't have 200 machines set up each with a different email account on it, so when I reply to unsubscribe I get a notice that my email address (the master address everything gets sent to) isn't on their list. Or WORSE, I get an email that my master address was successfully unsubscribed, leading me to believe that they didn't check, and now I've provided them with my master address to spam.

I read a few months back that as many as 1% of Internet users use a different (valid) email address each time they sign up for something. This may not sound like much, but clients that I work with (who are large companies) tend to have mailing lists that contain around 250K names. This means that almost 3000 people use my strategy. It's trivial to build an unsubscribe page, and I bet more people would use a link than would use reply even if they didn't use my strategy, so it's a good investment.

Yes, I know some of you are saying "why would I want to make unsubscriptions easier". Trust me when I say that this is a good thing for the business as well. Yes, your unsubscribes may go up, but so will your read rates. And do you think that someone who had to jump through a lot of hoops is likely to come back and register in the future? I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyway, leave a comment if you think I'm totally off base. See you next rant.

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