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Man finds a black kind of rock that burns; discovers that you can get a lot of this rock if you dig deeper, but deep mines have water. In order to successfully mine this rock, man devises a steam powered engine (neatly enough powered by this same rock) to pump out the water. No, not the steam engines you're familiar with. This is the Newcomen Steam Engine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newcomen_engine

The Newcomen Engine has a fatal flaw: it cools the steam for the return stroke, losing energy to the latent heat of evaporation each time. James Watt discovers the latent heat of evaporation, and realizes that separating the condenser from the piston would improve efficiency. So let's go build some railroads, right? Not so fast. It would still be another 30 years (100 years from the invention of the Newcomen Engine) before railroads and ferry boats would be regularly powered by reciprocating steam engines.

What's the moral? For 100 years, vast leaps in technology came one after the other. In the process, the Laws of Thermodynamics were discovered and described. Many learned men stood around patting each other on the back at how successful, how inventive they were...at digging a black rock called "coal" from the ground.

But most people don't dig rock from the ground. Most people do travel from point A to point B on a fairly regular basis. The world changed when 100 years of technology left the mine shaft and the factory, and got people where they were going just a bit faster.

I'm convinced that computers are still at the Newcomen/Watt transition. We have a ways to go before the world truly changes.

This perspective is interesting when applied to communications.

Parlay. Courier. Pigeon. Mail. Telegraph. Telephone. Transatlantic Comms. Fax. Early Internet. Email. Text Messaging. Live Chat. Voip. Twitter. Facebook Messages. Video Chat.

It's a naƮve summary of communications history, but look at the persistence of some of the early players. Many have not been replaced to this day - snailmail, POTS, Fax, Email, Chat, VOIP, Videochat - there are fundamental reasons to stick with certain technologies (Fax, POTS, FB and Twitter excepted). There is disruption to be had, but there is still massive value in some of the oldest methods, with some evolutionary shifts.

The services need to adapt, and incumbents do restrict progress, but the 'email killer' notion is not well conceived. Most people don't use email as a 'todo' - that's an extension, not a replacement. This is why Rapportive has a market, but is not _the_ market.

An idea I've been musing on: is there a fundamental set of problems of humanity from which all economic activity is derived? For example:

"Shrink the world": couriers, seafarers, caravans, riders, roadbuilders, railroads, telegraphs, automobiles, steamships, dockworkers, truck drivers, aviation, telephones, email, social networking, videoconferencing.

"Organize labor": lords, finance, education, recruiting, HR, management, information systems, law, accounting.

"Keep us safe": militia, pikemen, shamans, legions, samurai, knights, musketeers, standing armies, chemists, doctors & nurses, the military/industrial complex.

"Food and shelter": self-explanatory.

"Money for primarily good feelings, not stuff": charity, religion, theater, tv, films, gambling, music, story books, fashion, holidays, tourism.

"Find stuff to burn" is a pretty big chunk too.

"Control more energy than your body can produce"

The "sex & war" category seems to be a great catalyst for innovation. These days, "sex" of course means "Internet porn".

Don't know if you'll get this,

but it's cause we all want to grow. To keep the gains from growing, and insure it's invested. We intrinsically don't want to see kids starve, why?

That answer's the perspective, I think.

Not sure if this answers your question, but the fundamental problem from which all economic activity is derived is scarcity.

> there is still massive value in some of the oldest methods, with some evolutionary shifts.

Yes, and newer protocols often carry emulation layers for older protocols, so we have things like POTS running on top of TCP/IP, when just several years ago most of us still had TCP/IP running on top of POTS via dialup modems.

The other day I needed my insurance company to send a fax to my bank (banking regulations mandate the use of faxes rather than electronic formats to share documents). The insurance agent did it by hitting a few keys on her computer. A piece of paper didn't leave her office, but it arrived on cue at the bank's fax machine nonetheless.

Sidenote: One of the interesting side effects of the internet disrupting traditional retail is that the losses in traditional lettermail delivery are being offset by massive gains in package delivery. The USPS has pilloried itself by doubling down with huge new investments in the part of its business that is shrinking instead of pivoting into the obvious growth opportunity.

Some would argue Email is little more than USPS over IP.

I think the most interesting aspect of modern communications - accidentally in the 90s, deliberately in the post-twitter-era - is the simple addressability of people.

There was a tradition of letter writing for centuries (visit the British Library), but it required some level of introduction to connect. The academic roots of email broke some communication boundaries (to the time-detriment of prominent academics), and Twitter has opened the same addressability to celebrities and field-leaders (with a more voluntary twist I would say).

Yes, but this addressability of people also means that the sender must have some value to provide.

Being able to self-create a platform of value that you can offer to people you wish to network with is crucial (I created a magazine to accomplish this objective).

> Yes, but this addressability of people also means that the sender must have some value to provide.

If only that were the whole of it. The sender must have some value to provide in the eyes of the recipient. But the recipient will actually have to look at the message in order to determine if this is the case or not. That decision alone makes many messages that were sent with value '0' a net negative to the recipient.

Hence all the spam. If the 'providing of value' would be a thing we could determine in advance then the low barrier would not be an issue.

Effectively a spam filter determines that the value of a message is '0' to the intended recipient to avoid them becoming negatives.

The breakthrough in your comm analogy will come with the translation of thought to word.

We will wear a device which will be able to read our brainwaves and determine which word we are thinking ala dictation, then send that to the recipient.

This will be wired-telepathy - the recipient will get a message which they can receive any way they choose; visually (email - they read it) audio playback, or thought-injection. It is played back on the nerves and is "heard" in their head as a thought. (evolutionary results to be sure)

As a life long Cyberpunk enthusiast who, at 37 years old, has been using computers daily since I was 8, I really have concern over the mental health of the yet-to-be digital world.

I.E. the ADHD that will result in direct cerebral access to information 24/7.

What will be the impact on the (generally) serially wired brain to vastly parallel inputs?

I suspect massive upheaval on the social level. There will always be adopters of immersion, as there will be the future Amish who will eschew all digital, but the median social reaction will be a result more of our true, and unknown, innate biology that we wont even be aware of until this happens.

> We will wear a device which will be able to read our brainwaves and determine which word we are thinking ala dictation

Since this thread is presumably being read by entrepreneurs making bets on the future of technology, it needs to be said that this will never happen with the current imaging technology. Brainwaves implies EEG, and the research in this field strongly suggests that it is information theoretically impossible to extract this information through the electrical activity on the scalp.

For this vision to become reality we need a new imaging device that has both the temporal resolution of an EEG, and a spatial resolution that probably needs to be better than an MRI.

In summary: Certain things are impossible. I can say with certainty that no algorithmic improvement will allow this to work using an EEG. I don't know whether it is physically possible to create a non invasive imaging device that allows such a signal to be detected reliably, but it certainly does not exist today, and it seems like a leap of faith to assume that it definitely will exist at some point in the future.

I can key morse code at 40wpm with two muscles. With one hand I can chord at 120wpm. On a stenowriter I can transcribe about as quickly as most people can read - 250wpm.

I've invested an extraordinary amount of effort into improving the speed at which I can interface with a computer; I think the practical limit is about 300 baud, half-duplex.

Of course, we're trying to establish an interface with a bafflingly complex lump of grey meat, but are we really daunted by the idea of outpacing a V.21 modem?

Your judgment that present technology is inadequate is based on the assumption that computers need to learn to read the human thoughts.

What about the inverse, that the humans learn how to think in a way that a computer understands? That will be much easier, as humans learn much better than computers, and also much safer - I will have complete control over which of my thoughts the computer can detect and interpret.

The human learning to adapt to the machine has been the way EEG-based brain computer interfaces have been made for a couple of decades. Using machine learning to adapt the machine to the human is a much more recent development.

It is possible today to make EEG controlled devices. They typically differentiate between a small number of real or imagined movements in the user. This is awesome, because it can allow severely paralyzed people to communicate, control a wheelchair. etc. Nevertheless, the algorithms used to do this are perfectly useless when it comes to distinguishing whatever words the user is internally vocalizing.

The keyboard is not very good at determining which words I'm internally vocalizing either, still seems to work. The point I'm trying to convey is that maybe we can learn to transmit words using some form of brain reader, but that measures something else than vocalizing.

Doesn't have to be "brainwaves". The brain has a few outputs that can be highjacked (e.g. a computer with a neural interface that appears to be another muscle in the body). I don't know whether the bandwidth of these outputs is sufficient for interesting communication; we've evolved to take in far more data than we produce.

Edit It seems that more direct methods of neural interface are already plausible: http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/37873/

It doesn't actually need to be noninvasive. If an invasive procedure is useful enough and can be made safe, eventually it will be ubiquitous.

The problem with invasive is upgrading.

Asher's Gridlinked supposed a limited set of society [operatives & wealthy] who could manage this fulltime connection, and even then it was perceived as unhealthy.

Wikipedia has undoubtedly changed how our generation views knowledge, but it's still a pull-technology. Outbound messaging will still be a push-technology (nobody wants to compose an email of their stream-of-consciousness, and brains are poorly wired to retain full structure in mental 'RAM')

Wetware doesn't add significant differences to the existing protocols - merely a more rapid input mechanism than checking your phone. Assuming contact is voluntary, people will not opt for the PubSub model for comms. If you choose to use it for trivia, caveat emptor.

Sure, but I was not saying that there will be compulsory receipt of info... though, given human nature and the already prevalent propensity for people to be overly responsive to the flood of alerts - I see a negative impact on conscious.

It will be very interesting to say the least.

Personally, I am already overly unacceptable to the karma endorphin boost from reddit, quora and HN. I was thinking about this just the other day; I was originally against karma being hidden on posts, but now, I like the fact I am less enticed to for bias based on that number.

We already continually scan for karma upticks on all our primary sites. This is bad...

Killer app for email is idiot-proof cryptographic signatures and cryptography.

It's baffling to me that a squiggle on a bit of paper is more trustworthy than a properly implemented cryptographic signature.

You are contradicting yourself. On one hand, you state that a "killer app", i.e. something that everyone would use is cryptography. On the other hand, you state that the vast majority of people trust a squiggle on paper, rather than actual crypto. If the average joe doesn't care about crypto, why would a crypto email be interesting?

You'd need to find a way to make crypto interesting. Lots of email don't have crypto, so if you sell something that does crypto well, then you can corner the newly created crypto market.

A peer-to-peer system for sharing music/films that does good strong crypto (and faster than tor) would do the job.

There is ResoMail which does it, and it seems it's not very popular.

I don't seem to understand why did you put "Facebook Messages" in a line of great inventions. Isn't it just another "Live Chat"? Am i missing something?

Facebook (and Twitter to some extent) solve one of the biggest problems of email which is the concept of verified sender.

I add it to the paradigm shifts as it resolves (in its own [large] namespace) a longstanding problem with email.

I add it to the 'transient' list as its solution is purely driven by network effects which leaves it vulnerable to the next player sideways market dissolution.

It's a bit of a stretch to say they solved it. I'm not on FB and so FB to me don't matter. On the other hand, I'm part of an Active Directory of my company, so AD solves this problem for me at work. But none of them guarantee that the email came from the particular person and not from a dog.

No, Facebook Messages and Facebook Chat are two different things.


Yes anyone who says that "email isn't a messaging protocol" has probably been smoking to many of those funny Jazz cigarettes.

Before the rail roads, people didn't do all that much travelling from A to B, unless they were very wealthy or had some external pressure like the need to find work or religious persecution, they mostly stayed at A. Which makes the invention of rail roads even more impressive in my eyes, it created demand rather than addressing it.

What moved from A to B was coal, ore, wheat, manufactures, but mostly by rivers. You can see this on a good map of northeast U.S. -- ask yourself why Pennsylvania is essentially rural in its center, with large cities at both ends, or why New York State is essentially rural 50 miles from the Hudson. Inland water transport was so important that the major capital projects of the early 19th century were canals.

The initial advantage of railroads over barges wasn't reach but speed. By moving goods faster, merchants were able to sell and receive payment faster, no small thing when credit was scarce, uncertain and expensive. I expect the initial rail lines served the same markets as the canals (that's where the business was), then began to extend their reach with spur lines.

There was probably some rail demand creation as the roads extended into the West -- farmland near a railroad was no different than that 20 miles away in anything but railroad proximity. But that was later, after the technology's dynamics were well understood and the players well capitalized.

Yes. The conscious revolution is just beginning, our species is very young, and the stars are still far away.

Yeah but until we invest as much time, money, and effort into defense against weapons and customized microorganisms as we do into their creation, we're running the risk of this young species (and maybe a lot of the other ones) disappearing very, very soon.

Oh please. Humanity is pretty much the definition of a species that should, in all probability, have died out on a multitude of occasions over the years and I am not just talking about the world wars and Nuclear Bombs, but things like the plagues, Spanish flu and all the rest of the diseases; the host of predators for which we are no match at all (a standard monkey is stronger than all but the best trained humans), the environment we inhabited (today that is not much of an issue) when we left Africa (why do you think we left? Properly because stronger tribes where pushing us further and further away and the alternative was dead on the shore), when we left the jungle, when we went to Siberia (again almost certainly pushed by stronger tribes) and when we went to Europe (same reason) where we had to fight the Neanderthals. Basically humanity has been on the winning sides of terrible odds since we started out. Don't forget that we nearly didn't make it in Africa (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080424-human...).

No wonder we love and underdog -- there is no greater under dog than humanity.

There is an amusing passage in "The Black Swan" about how a turkey would estimate its own life expectancy as Thanksgiving draws closer...

Don't confuse the fact that we've been lucky not to go extinct yet with evidence that we won't, especially when you being around to make that inference is conditional on said luck.

Amusingly that's not a bad argument that we're living in a simulation. Disregarding any particular human, humanity itself has done remarkably well against the odds in the same sense that story-book characters do remarkably well against the odds and that, at least when they're on a winning trend, player-controlled populations (whether in Populous, C&C, etc.) do well against the video game's odds or against other players.

Isn't that mostly survival bias at work? No matter what the odds were, the winners write history. If we had died out in one of the steps along the way, we wouldn't be here writing about it.

Once humanity spread around the world, the odds of a natural catastrophe killing all of us at the same time became very low (limited to planetary-scale distasters).

Only since the industrial revolution we've been on a more dangerous path toward central points of failure. On a geological time scale, that's only a very short time. But we've been testing our luck really hard.

Or perhaps it's an argument for multiple realities. There may be uncountable parallel timelines where humanity died out at every possible point during our history.

That said I get the simulation theory feeling pretty solid sometimes, to the point where grappling with it is one of the major themes of the graphic novel I'm in the middle of...

> No wonder we love and underdog -- there is no greater under dog than humanity.

Tell that to the Dodo, the Quagga, the Javan Tiger and the Thylacine. And many others besides.

Weak and winning is "underdog", weak and losing is "loser".

By that definition, every loser that hasn't yet lost is a winner. There is no way to tell the difference except hindsight. I bet the dinosaurs told themselves that they were totally different than all those other weak-ass species that had joined the annals of history 76 Myr ago...

I second this. We can either destroy our-self or become a more vibrant, multicultural civilization. See Physicist Dr. Michio Kaku on this:


I think this is a good thread to recommend Andy Kessler's book "How We Got Here" which can be downloaded from here (http://akessler.blogs.com/andy_kessler/2005/04/hwgh.html). It's a parallel history between economy and technology evolution up from the steam engine genesis.

I think you are right.

I don't agree with PG when he is talking about Apple. "None of them are run by product visionaries" is simply not true. Steve Jobs had great respect for companies like Sony because there are product visionary companies. Sony, IBM, Philips, and a lot of others, all companies that gave us great products we now are using every day. But it took years to get there.

E-ink for example was created in 1997 and is still in development. But we all know e-readers. A great example of a visionary product imho.

Sorry, Sony was a great engineering company, worthy of being respected, until they sold out and became a content creation company. Look at how the hobbled the mini-disc years ago. Sony deserves absolutely no respect these days.

While I can totally see where you are coming from, I think it is not fair to say that sony does not deserve any respect whatsoever anymore. They were innovators at first, too and have come a long way since.

I do not agree with sony's content creation affairs, however they continue to innovate with good products (e.g. look at the digital cameras, camera sensors etc.)

More often than not, there is no clear distinction between good and bad, certainly less so with amazingly huge companies such as sony, apple, exxon etc.

The key is 'gave'. Past tense.

I think a lot more start-up people would fear (or even care about) Microsoft if Bill Gates was still running it. The same goes for the rest of the companies you mention.

Similar, but different story. In the 800s, looking for an immortality elixir, man discovers a solid black chemical explosive. In time (around 1132), this finds itself as an early propellant in ranged missiles. Later it uses in other applications: mining, firearms, entertainment, bombs and myriad others.

But the use as missile propellant remains. Looking for similar, but more powerful propellants for these missiles (to give them more kinetic impact, longer range, and other properties).

Progress was slow until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when liquid fueled rockets were invented as well as an entire host of various chemical explosives with vastly different properties.

Progress was rapid, and soon missiles could travel hundreds of miles, and had enough extra capacity to deliver even more powerful explosives to their target.

However, accuracy was poor at best. Various types of complex control systems were designed and built into the missiles. As man realized that missiles could be scaled up and lift payloads up into orbit and beyond, bringing the payloads down in the desired location became even more important.

Inertial systems, radio control, celestial navigation and even attempts at manned guidance!

However, navigating is a general problem, and not just useful for missiles. Ships, people, surveyors, and others, all need to know where on the earth they are. In the 60s, with the advent of orbital missiles and satellites, a system of satellites was placed in orbit. And using a complicated collection of quartz oscillators, early computers, and various radio receiving equipment, one could (after a number of minutes collecting data and inputting it into dedicated guidance computers) determine where they were on Earth to accuracy of a few hundred meters.

Enter the nuclear age which gave us ultra-precise clocks, combined with transistors, then integrated circuits and all segments of the navigation problem were improved. By 1978, these components were small and reliable enough that missiles pushed constellation after constellation of satellites into orbit. Ground receivers were small enough to fit into the bodies of other missiles enabling them to navigate to targets with accuracy in the single meters with constant positional fixes along the flight path.

Realizing that the navigation computers and radios were now small enough to fit on a missile, it also meant they could be fit onto ships, large aircraft, and large trucks.

Later improvements to atomic timekeeping, computers, radios and other pieces meant that the receivers could be made man carry-able and fit into backpacks, small vehicles and on and on. Accuracy was improved to inches, and missiles could suddenly be dropped into selected air vents in specific buildings.

Except suddenly nobody cared as much about moving missiles, they found that knowing where they and their stuff was in the world was far more interesting and useful. Further improvements in computing meant that the navigational radios and computers could fit into a handheld device, then be integrated with high quality geospatial data, heuristic path finding algorithms and suddenly we have satnav in our cars.

Reusing the same navigation tech and we find we can improve the geospatial data considerably, improving navigation. Fixing these devices to the ground and we can measure plate tectonics for the first time, track fleets of vehicles in real-time, saving millions of dollars in fuel, compute phasors in power lines improving power delivery systems, ultra precise atomic clocks means precise time synchronization (with accuracy +-10 ns).

Further improvements in miniaturization puts navigation into handheld phones, and suddenly we know what restaurants are nearby. Tie it to a database collecting reviews and we know if it's good. Tied to the previously developed navigation system and we can even get walking directions there.

In other words, most people don't need to guide a missile, but they do need to find a good place to eat. And when the technology developed for busting a bunker left the avionics systems it got people and their stuff where they wanted to go faster and with less confusion than before.

Today it's hard to imagine a time when we didn't know the exact location of just about everything.

As of 2012, start-ups with over 1 billion growth potential appears to revolve around services or products offered to a large portion of the society or companies and which can generate 10 to 100 USD per person ( employee or individual) per year such as Search(ads), emails, education, showbiz, healthcare. Here are some additions; cheaper fuel, integrated software-as-a-service(kill salesforce or gapps), faster travel, space travel, home robots/ai, and better science.

In some cases there is a need for someone to open a new market. If Apple or Google had build a home robot with few basic functions, wouldn't a lot of people buy it and then it would open a new market?

More ambitious things to kill;

- Kill the "house"; since the days of the community cave a house has been human shelter #1; nowadays there might be better alternatives to an owned house.

- Kill the "state" or "a better citizenship"; provide the same things the state provides, leaner and cheaper.

- Kill the capital investment; create an automatic investor which selects virtually existing start-ups based on instant financial metrics.

- Kill the "company";

- Kill "democracy"; a better voting system

- Kill placental reproduction or sexual production; 9 months are too much.

I've been thinking about the 'Kill the state' idea for a while. It just makes sense. I have more in common with the average person in Germany than I do with the average person in Kansas or Alabama (not necessarily politically, but culturally). With online communities and instantaneous worldwide communication, I am also more closely in touch with my global counterparts than a significant portion of people in my own country.

In short, nation boundaries are slowly becoming outdated. We will probably have to wait for actual teleportation before this fully comes to pass :)

>It just makes sense. I have more in common with the average person in Germany than I do with the average person in Kansas or Alabama

Unless you socialize, talk to your family and take your entertainment in German, I struggle to imagine what you mean.

No, this works for me as well.

Not Germany specifically, but I left the US for France. I don't mesh with the culture 100%, but... more so than I did in the US, except for little localized pockets there. Just for starters, religion plays a far smaller/quieter role here; no one cares that I'm an atheist. When I come back to the US, it's just so obvious and... loud, and everywhere. It grates incredibly.

I certainly talk with my family frequently, though just between parents & siblings we're already split across both US coasts, the Netherlands, and (me in) France. My in-laws are in Malaysia & the US; we also talk regularly, and try to see everyone in person at least once a year.

But I never, never forget about state borders. I don't have that option; they don't let me. My wife is Malaysian; I'm American (as is our daughter), we reside in France and my employer is in the UK. We have to file tax returns in both US & France, and have wasted weeks of our lives doing paperwork and waiting in line in embassies and other government offices (sometimes forced to stay in hotels to be near an embassy in the morning... we don't live near one!) sorting out all of the incredibly stupid details.

My wife needs a visa for flights to the US, or Canada (and was once ejected from Canada because she had a US-bound flight with a Canadian stopover, and hadn't realized that mattered. Yup, it really does.

The hoops you have to jump through to emigrate to a country -- like she did to the US, and we both did to France -- are horrible, with uncertain outcomes, and often poorly documented.

I'll stop the rant, but I'd really, really love any progress away from current states.

I think he means he prefers the package of services provided by the German gov more than the package provided by the Kansas/Alabama gov.

Its not not about language or political views. I was referring to culture and values.

Can you expand on this? Because I would find it impossible to separate German politics from culture/values, and I think many, many Anglophones would find the Deutschsprachige love of orderliness maddening; easily 30% even in a country like Denmark where practically everyone who is capable of working speaks nigh on flawless English. I realise the Danes aren't German but they're more ordentlich than the Dutch and it's that that would piss so many off, so fast.

Language tends to be very strongly intertwined with culture as the main means for conveying said culture. So I'm curious in what way you feel culturally closer to Germany. (disclaimer: I have spent about 80% of my life in Austria and about 18% in Britain, speak both languages but identify much more strongly with British culture)

But the English language is mostly a germanic language, and the British people have mostly germanic DNA. Contrasting Austria and Britain is not that big of a divide. A better contrast would be between Britian/Germany/Austria and one of the latin countries, or a slavic country, etc.

When the US was founded, there were essentially two separate civilizations within the countries borders. This was true until one annihilated the other during the US civil war, but it was never assimilated until the last few decades. This means there is a major cultural divide that still exists.

I would say that the North took more of the Anglo-Saxon protestant values than the South. Hard-working, industrious, religious but-not-overtly-so.

You seem to either be defining "culture" very narrowly in terms of work ethic, or you haven't spent any significant amount of time in the countries mentioned. Or maybe both.

Even with the narrow definition of culture, I can't say I agree. Austrian society is rather conservative. There may be progressive and industrious individuals, but I certainly not the country as a whole. I haven't lived in Germany, but I'd certainly say British people are more liberally minded and individualistic than Austrians.

Despite their disdain for politicians, Austrians will typically expect the state to solve their problems, and accept paying vast amounts in taxes. An example of this is higher education: the majority expects it to be completely free for students, very much at the expense of quality.

The civil service is enormous, inefficient and somewhat corrupt, but it seems to be accepted as a requirement for stability and welfare as a huge provider of jobs. Contrast this to the British fears of a "nanny state" and general grumbling about taxation.

Here's my theory how the differences came about:

1. You're right to point out a certain north/south gradient across Europe, but you're forgetting that Austria and Bavaria were historically the centre of the counter-reformation, unlike central and northern Germany. So, for a long time, very much catholic like southwestern Europe; even anti-protestant. Religion obviously has very much taken a back seat in recent decades, but culture (there's that word again) changes much more slowly.

2. The Austro-Hungarian Empire used to stretch deep into the Balkan and Eastern Europe. Although the German language dominates today, Slavic and Hungarian surnames and people's appearances today still hint at a past where Austria, and Vienna as the capital in particular, was much more heterogeneous. Even the use of the German language is also not quite as straightforward as it seems: the names for many foods are different from those used in Germany and have Slavic, Hungarian and Italian origins. (and I would personally consider food to be a part of a society's culture)

The English-German connection you point out is, by the way, quite far in the past. The Norman invasion of England injected a lot of latin vocabulary into the English language, and that was in the 11th century.

I'm not trying to make a moral judgment by the way; I have family in and from both countries. I can't predict which country will be more prosperous in 50 or 100 years' time; Austrians are probably the happier ones at the moment. I'll readily admit to having my own strong opinions on whether it will stay that way, but that's not really the point here.

For what it's worth, I likewise can't really comment on the differences in culture across the United States from personal experience. I'd be surprised, though, if the differences were as big as across Europe. (I'm leaving aside insular communities such as the Amish who deliberately do not mix with general society; you get those everywhere, and their populations tend to be small)

Could you elaborate on the idea of "Kill the house"? It sounds fascinating.

If modern human life is a drama (consumption), the house is the center location where it mostly occurs. Most people work for a house for all their lives. You feel safe and comfortable in your house, you sleep there, keep all the stuff you bought such as computers there. Most of us are enjoying our sunday at our houses enjoying the Internet.

We had a lot of variations for the "house"; the wood > shared caves by a community > single house > apartment(flats). Hotels, cottages as complementary. So the question is, can the current tech start-ups disrupt the concept of the house? It is a broad topic, but random things which comes to my mind without going too deep:

- make virtual windows where you and your selected facebook friends see a common virtual place or a real scenery where you install cameras (for example in beautiful places on earth), use high quality display and cameras. (google's very fast internet may have a use here)

- kill the walls by replacing them with always-on displays and cameras to your remote counterpart. two distant house should feel become virtually "one". (rasperry pi or cheaper hardware may help here in the next one)

- rethink home automation (irobot does it in some sense) or simply build a branded robot which can simply fetch a sandwich. a central web service can be at the center, or a social web service.

- make location-independent apartments(flats) which are stackable, moveable, expandable.

- managed kitchen or fridge based on your dietary requirements by a web service.

I've always thought of creating a dining room where one wall would be a projected screen that would give you the illusion that your dining in a different part of the world.

It would be actually be even cooler if you could get a live stream from restaurants for their "virtual table" dining guests

Ballistic missiles since the early 60s had inertial internal guiding systems, fully independent of any satellites. Navigatinal Satellites would be shot down first in case of an all-out nuclear war.

I believe the UGM-27 was the first to be targeted via something like GPS, but it was only used for determining launch site, and I think that stayed the norm until the late 80's when the GPS systems could be shrunk and hardened for high-g operation. So yes, most Ballistic missiles maintained an inertial guidance system for many years after GPS was launched. But it was the requirement to know accurate position of mobile launch sites (in order to preprogram the missile's flight computers with appropriate inertial target solution) that motivated the system in the first place.

If you're interested in this sort of thing, you should watch the BBC series "Connections".


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