The Less Popular Revolutions

If you frequent science and tech-related sites you will have noticed that some topics seem to come up all the time. Genetic engineering, AI, nanotechnology – there’s one breakthrough discovery after another, all promising the next Industrial Revolution very soon indeed, probably within our lifetimes. The revolution(s) may actually arrive – there’s definitely plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

However, there are other fields of research that also have a significant potential to bring about a revolution even sooner, for better or worse. Let me tell you about two such technologies that recently came to my attention. Yes, this is a rant.

Trusted Computing

In a nutshell, Trusted Computing aims for implementing software and communications security on the hardware level (more). Granted, TC hasn’t made the headlines for a while – I only came across it through some unrelated Google searches – but the idea is backed by large companies like Microsoft and Intel, and it is already being used in some real-life systems. If fully implemented, TC could have a huge impact on our lives and provide us with many new and exciting benefits :

  1. Better protection from viruses, malware and phishing. Excellent protection against identity theft. And the best part – no more cheaters in online games (yes, really).
  2. No more piracy! Finally, DRM would become more than a nuisance – controlled by the copyright-owners, your hardware would simply refuse to run pirated software or play DVD rips.
  3. No more anonymity! Each piece of hardware can be uniquely identified and, with some effort, linked to the user’s identity.

Isn’t that great? Well, not really, but as Vernor Vinge puts it :

[Trusted Computing] fits the trajectory that economics and technical progress are following. In one way or another almost every faction of society will demand the protection of [TC].
The infrastructure for such control will probably arrive in any case.

Luckily, he was being sarcastic. Probably.

Brain-Computer Interfaces

As you might have heard, controlling computers with your brain is not science fiction, not anymore.

  1. The technology exists – it’s been tested, it works, it’s already on the market – for example, you can buy the NIA for less than $200. Sure, it won’t turn you into $superhero_name, but it’s a start.
  2. If something is available to the general populace then it’s a safe bet that a secret lab somewhere already has a working prototype of “version 2.0”.
  3. With the right software and a bit of training you could probably use the NIA to drive a car. With your brain. Right now. Now, read #2 again.


There’s a quote that says “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. We may not have anything that advanced yet. However, I believe that at this point in our evolution we have invented multiple technologies that we can advance to that level. That is, we can take a technology – say, carbon nanotubes – and make a believable prediction it will eventually become “indistinguishable from magic”. It doesn’t require a giant leap of faith or divine intervention, as would be necessary for some older technologies (say, windmills).

The question is, can we survive the revolution?

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