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Slashback: Imagination, Redistribution, Stiction 63

Tirelessly flogging the dead horses of industry, crunching gravel where Angels fear to tread past sundown, gathering wool that no sheep has ever known, and shooting nanodarts packed with moss spores deep into any stones which happen to roll by, here's another helping -- Large but not SuperSized -- of assorted errata and addenda. Even some lizards.

Igor, throw that switch, would you? It's getting drafty in here. After all the attention that the various projects working to codify the the Human Genome have gotten in the past few years, the audacity of what Celera and the Human Genome Project itself are doing has seemingly faded into the commonplace. That may change soon, as first drafts of the genetic sequence of a human being are expected both from Celera and the HGP.

Phasers back on stun, and bring us back to DefCon 3. Turn down that klaxon, ensign. According to this CNN story, that darn Serbian Badman Trojan may not have been much of a threat; despite dire predictions otherwise by NetSec echoed by everyone from CNN to Slashdot. At least, the FBI doesn't seem too concerned. Thanks to ghoti, who alerted us to the downgrade.

All I want is friggin' sharks with friggin' lasers on their heads ... If you enjoyed reading Time-Digital's recent Neal Stephenson interview, you may be intrigued by the article contributed by The Original Bobski, pondering questions like ""How can the future-fiction business hope to compete against our reality of humanoids who wear life-altering computers and elongate their lives with superdrugs and genetic mutation? How is it possible for any self-respecting science fiction writer to hope to stay ahead of the headlines?" Neal himself is quoted, along with a passel of SciFi writers who might be familiar to regular readers of the Slashdot Book Reviews section. Seems that The Future just keeps on arriving ...

iCrave TV: OK for Sasketchewanians, not Pittsburgers. julez writes "Back in April www.icravetv.com was taken offline because of numerous lawsuits. This article on CBC online says that they are set to relaunch their service in the fall on a subscription basis. Some stations will remain free, but, like cable, "specialty channel packages" will cost you $8-$9 a month. And of course, it will only be availble to Canadians via some unnamed security software." From the article: "The privately held Internet company showed 17 Canadian and U.S. stations when its site started last November. The service drew more than 800,000 viewers in its first month." That's a market, folks. ("Quick, shut it down! Somebody might make some money if we're not careful!") Read more about iCrave on Slashdot.

If Nike builds sneakers like this, we'd happily worship the swoosh. After the wall-climbing robot tech that hemos pointed out a few days ago, ABCNews.com serendipitously featured some more information about the Real Thing. Real Geckos, that is. How do they stick to walls? Well, here are some hints: no glue, no suction cups, no bubble gum and no special effects.

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Slashback: Imagination, Redistribution, Stiction

Comments Filter:
  • Bring on a future where...

    Terminator seeds are the norm

    Smartbombs carry SmartPlagues, like (kill all!=white)

    All fruits and vegetables taste the same

    Every tree in a forest shares the same genetic makeup so we can mow them all down with a bunch of the same beetle

    ...and...

    I'll take 3 Christina Aguileras and a Natalie Portman

    -jpowers
  • From the cnn.com article:

    The [Trojan horse] file is believed to end with the extension ".avi" and contain a compressed, malicious executable file that ends with the extension ".exe".

    When a fake movie clip is activated, the executable program -- called "Serbian Badman Trojan" -- runs without any visible clues to the user, NETSEC said.

    How is this supposed to work? What kind of program, seeing an .EXE embedded in an .AVI, would run the .EXE? (Yeah, yeah, I know -- one made in Redmond). But why the heck should this work? And how would one embed an .EXE inside an .AVI in the first place?

    Does anyone know more about this? I'm seriously confused here.
    -----
    The real meaning of the GNU GPL:

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @09:43AM (#1011653)
    Dear Mr Chasuk:

    We at Celera are pleased to be informed that you are willing to be a live participant in our modification and augmentation programs in light of our recent completion of the human genome map.

    Please take a moment and indicate your interest in the following augmentations.

    [ ] Increase in neural density (useful for writing entire program code in your head, bit for bit before actually reaching for the keyboard).

    [ ] Duck brain (useful for shutting half of your brain down, for resting, without requiring any actual sleep. Great for month-long coding frenzies).

    [ ] Nocturnal eye enhancement (allowing for indefinite periods sitting in front of your computer terminal without turning the lights on or opening the blinds in your office).

    [ ] Bladder enhancement (through minor chemical alteration of your digestion system and bladder, your urine may instantly be recycled into Mt. Dew(tm), ready for consumption upon urination).

    [ ] Moose sweat glands (never leave your office for a shower, but smell like you've just splashed on your favorite musk. An absolute must for any male in a work environment where he may occasionally encounter attractive females).

    [ ] Vulcan Mind-Meld (communicate with fellow programmers and friends without risk of misinterpretation, but be sure not to meld with your female companion as she will use all information received as ammunition against you in future arguments. Note: mind-meld is far from perfected at this point and does result in the occasional paralysis or permanent psychosis).

    [ ] Massive horse penis (self-explanatory).

    [ ] Rob Malda dream-date (Natalie Portman physique, hot-grits-producing mammary glands, Anime hair... non-descriminate sense of humor.)

    (Due to scientific needs and demands and available participants, we may not be able to cater to all desires perfectly and some modifications may be made which were not requested by you, the participant.)

    Again, thank you for your interest and do contact us as soon as possible. We look forward to working with you!

    Kind regards,

    Celera

    ---
    icq:2057699
    seumas.com

  • Yeah, there was big story about them reversing it when all the farmers started making swords from their plowshares. These companies will find a way to do it later on, anyway. It's really no different than M$ wanting to own all the networking standards. I'm still trying to figure out when we started letting them get away with this...

    -jpowers
  • Yunz is right! It sucks when people misspell da Burgh, an'at...
  • Me tooooo! I have like a billion copies, so there's enough to spare.
  • A few simple, painless tests:
    1. Get a gecko, and test for effects of adhesive (stick on walls to test for residue, dump in mud and test for dirt, rub with hairbrush and repeat other tests to test for wear.)
    2. Then launch the gecko into space and stick it to the wall. Does it fall off? No.
    3. During landing, jettison gecko into the Atlantic so that the waiting team of researchers can stick it to the underwater side of the boat.
    I think we will agree that there is no way any of this could even begin to phase a creature as mighty as a gecko.
  • It's worth noting that many of the organizations prominently cited by the film no longer exist.

    Pan-Am (operators of the "space clipper" that conveys Dr. Floyd to the space station): Gone

    Bell Telephone (who charged Dr. Floyd for his call home): Gone

    The Soviet Union (the "bad guys" from whom Dr. Floyd is concealing the lunar discovery): Gone

    Economic and political preditions are at least as hazardous as scientific ones.

  • Slashback is Backslash backwards.
  • I just finished 2061. The story is really all about large amounts of diamond in (unstable) orbit around Lucifer.

    This all sets up 3001, which I have only just started, but (at least the set-up) it is anchored on the availability of large amounts of diamond, because it is the only material that can be used to make "space elevators."

    Except that it isn't. I understand that, theoretically, buckieballs (sp?) could also be used. While (I don't think) it would be as strong, it would be MUCH lighter, and the forces other than it's weight are minimal when compared to its weight.

    Anyway, I just finished reading this, and the parent to this post came up on my MetaModeration, and it was too much of a coincidence to pass up.

    -Peter



    Slashdot cries out for open standards, then breaks them [w3.org].
  • Don't be silly!

    "Backslash" is a computer term, while "slashback" is a neologism associated with K-mart Blue Light Specials; used car dealers; and newscasters reporting the massive layoffs at Digital, Wang, and other tech companies in the 80's.

    Clearly the latter is more suited to what slashdot intends to become!
  • by CrayDrygu ( 56003 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @06:11PM (#1011662)
    [ ] Bladder enhancement (through minor chemical alteration of your digestion system and bladder, your urine may instantly be recycled into Mt. Dew(tm), ready for consumption upon urination).

    But isn't Mt. Dew carbonated?

    Yeowch!

    I'll pass, thanks.

  • Is it to late for me to patent the Gecko thing? damn it I'm there, Think of all the money i could make from remote controlde Gecko toys "parents, tired of the little one crawling away? get you gecko toy clamp today!"
  • by Spunkee ( 183938 )

    How's my programming? Call 1-800-DEV-NULL

    FYI: That number goes to a disconnected Avis Rent-A-Car line.

    Has a phone number ever been slashdotted?

  • The gecko's adhesive never leaves residue, never gets dirty and never wears out. That means the animal isn't emitting a sticky substance from its feet in order to stick. It also works in a vacuum, which rules out the possibility that the adhesion relies on suction, because suction uses trapped air to operate. It works underwater, which means it doesn't rely on static cling.

    What in the hell did they do to these poor geckos?!

  • the admin page [slashdot.org] would be backslash.
  • Damn. And I just finished a science fiction novel about a bionically-enhanced genetic researcher from Manila who uses his prototype Geckoboots to sneak into the offices of a Saskatchewan media streaming company.

  • I have it, too! If you want a sample, just send me a SASE, and $1000000 American, and hope it doesn't rot in the mail.
    ___
  • I'm reminded of an Astronomy book I'd gotten when I was a kid, back in the early 1970's. It predicted that by the 1990's, people would be living in huge orbital space stations, complete with restaurants, malls, etc.

    I guess back then, less than 10 years after man had first walked on the moon, space seemed much closer for everyone.

  • <i>Bring on a future where perfect health and longevity are available to us all</i>

    Oh, you mean, like decent housing is available to us all? <br>

    Er...wait, how about vaccinations, food, free speech (not in the same category, but what the heck), organs for transplant, clean water, clean air...?
    <br>
    Perfect health and 'longevity' will <B>never</b> be available to everyone, most likely. To those able to afford them, it will be easier, certainly. <br>
    Even if either one of these were available, population pressure is soon going to erode the earth's ability to sustain humanity - 'perfect longevity' will simply hasten the inevitable. <bR>
    Now, if we can pour some more money into space habitation, whether on the Moon or elsewhere (including on satellites - artificial or otherwise), 'we' might have a chance to have our cake and eat it too. But remember, it's probably only going to be the 'well-off' (whatever that means) who are going to be able to extricate themselves from what's coming. <br>
    And just in case you've forgotten, there could be some pretty big zingers coming our way with this technology - as Bill Joy pointed out <A href=http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.h tml ><b>recently</b></a>.
  • No because everyone would confuse it with BitchSlap, which is the other really popular feature on /.
  • by DHartung ( 13689 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:50AM (#1011672) Homepage
    Was it really exaggerated? Who did the exaggeration?

    Now, Slashdot picked up a CNN story. CNN merely picked up a security advisory, and described it with both pro and con comments. NetSec originally reported 2000 compromised computers, which I would consider a major threat, but by reporting what they'd found to the FBI, they were able to reduce the risk -- this round.

    This is one of the problems of DDOS attacks: It's certainly a low risk to be compromised and turned into a zombie, but then, to launch an effective DDOS you don't need that many computers and you can take a long time to assemble as many as you need. So, 2000 out of millions of computers is a low risk, but that SubSeven DDOS would (and probably still could) be deadly to a chosen target which might be a single website. Again, one out of millions.

    The point that Slashdot readers should take home is, "don't read the hype". The hype here was the Slashdot headline "Massive DDOS Attack Brewing?" I don't know that this could be considered massive, but it most certainly was groundwork for a DDOS attack. The technology principles for DDOS are out in the world, and the threat will not go away. The hype did not come from NetSec, or even, to be fair, CNN. It came from Slashdot.

    NetSec has an economic interest in promoting its discovery.

    CNN has an economic interest in promoting its news story.

    Slashdot has an economic interest in promoting a provocative discussion. Hence, the hype may have been strongest of all right here, where presumably people should know better.

    The news coverage given to these security threats is VERY spotty. It depends on a number of factors: how big the last scare was (Melissa? ILOVEYOU? or Michelangelo?), what other news is running, whether the threat directly affects consumers (their computers, or the websites they use), how easy the threat is to describe to and by a non-technical reporter, and so forth. Just because something hits the wires, because the FBI is investigating, doesn't automatically mean it's the biggest thing since Pearl Harbor.
    ----
  • by Skald ( 140034 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:55AM (#1011673)
    New York, Nov. 26 2004 - What began with two men hanging small children from geckos has blossomed into a small industry.

    In mid-2000, Kellar Autumn and Robert Full published their findings on the adhesive properties of gecko feet in the journal Nature. By early 2001, they had started the company Setae@Home to develop and market technological applications for their research. Today GeckoTape(tm) has almost completely replaced Duck Tape, making Autumn and Full billionaires. Gecko technology is important in many other fields as well.

    But early efforts frustrated the entrepeneurs. My Pretty Gecko(tm), a wall-crawling toy which was their first commercial effort, failed when parents began buying their children real geckos, which were cheaper. Setae@Home was forced to begin selling treadmills for pet geckos instead. The technology itself took time to mature as well.

    "The research was often difficult," Full said. "For instance, the geckos' adhesive powers works in a vacuum, but the little suckers kept exploding, so it was hard to tell." Full also notes that today's life-saving Gecko Firebots(tm) had a rocky beginning. "It was hard getting the data necessary to build them," he says, "Imagine tossing a swarm of trained geckos into a burning building. They really didn't perform nearly as well as we'd hoped."

  • They determined a single gecko about two inches in length is capable of holding onto about 90 pounds -- about the weight of two small children.
    Hide your children or else the geckos will steal them in the dark of night!!! Woe be to the tots who are hoisted aloft and spirited away by the deadly talons of the common gecko!
  • Let's face it... Ringworld was a book with a GREAT concept, but sucky, uninteresting characters. But the concept was so great that it carried the book.

    Louis Wu ... uninteresting? Nessus ... uninteresting? Speaker-to-Animals ... uninteresting? You're kidding, right?

    Some of the others were mere window-dressing, but c'mon! How is a Kzinti ambassador who has trouble thinking of his compatriots as not-food uninteresting? :)

    Not that Niven is the greatest character writer in SF; he's below average. But you can't beat his hard SF ideas.
    ----
  • I was thinking about this the other day. I think this is even somewhat inevitable, but I think it would be a good thing...

    SF authors should start reusing ideas.

    Now, stay with me here. I suggest that there are two things involved in a SF book. One is vital, the other is not, but both together brings greatness. 1) The concept. The ringworld; Uplift; Robots. Whatever, good SF has a concept that starts you thinking. 2) Good characterization. If you have this and a good concept you have a great novel. If you only have a good concept, you can still have an interesting novel.

    What I would like to see is authors take a lot of the great concepts and make great novels out of them. For example: Let's face it... Ringworld was a book with a GREAT concept, but sucky, uninteresting characters. But the concept was so great that it carried the book. On the other hand, I thought the Uplift books had great characters AND a great concept, which makes it a great series of books.

    There are an infinite number of stories that could be done with the concept of a Ringworld. Or pick your concept! There are whole slew of them out there that are begging for a fresh treatment.

    I suspect that a lot of authors would love to do some books of this nature, but are held back by being thought "unoriginal". But heck, look at the success of Star Trek books or whatever. People like seeing new stories using the same concepts.

    Or Shakespeare. How many stories have been redone using the same "concept" that Shakespeare originated? But a fresh look at an old concept can still make a great story.

    As I stated before, I think this is somewhat inevitable. We've seen the flow of concepts drying up over the last 10-20 years, compared to the early day of Sci Fi. Now we see authors getting lazy and writing the same old Fantasy books with elves, unicorns, etc, blah blah. But this is what I'm talking about. Fantasy itself is a "concept", but one that is "acceptable" to plagurize. I hope that we get a few more concepts enter into the "acceptable" category.


    --

  • Kubrick's _2001: A Space Odyssey_


    Um. You might recall that the movie was conceived by the aforementioned Arthur C. Clarke, who you could say *invented* the communications satellite, or at least the concept of it. If you pick up the fourth book in the trilogy, 3001, Clarke includes an afterward explaining the rationale behind the technological predictions of the series, where he was right, and where he really blew it. Very good reading. Highly recommended.

  • I can't help hearing Meryl Streep saying "A gecko ate my baby!"

    ---
    Consult, v. t. To seek another's approval of a course already decided on.
  • Slashback is also a pun on "flashback."
  • I really dig the episode of the animated Star Trek that he wrote. He had Spock and a couple others trapped on this planet with a group of Kzin who after some sort of ancient weapon with unknown properties. The Kzin were exactly like I imagined them from Ringworld. That is, cartoons.
  • Terminator seeds are the norm


    I didn't believe it when I read it, but according to http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/gurt/default.htm,


    I am writing to let you know that we are making a public commitment not to commercialize sterile seed technologies, such as the one dubbed "Terminator." We are doing this based on input from you and a wide range of other experts and stakeholders, including our very important grower constituency.

  • I'm surprised I haven't seen any mention of this here yet. I submitted it as a story a bit ago but it got rejected (it's only marginally on-topic anyway).

    Here's the gist: Celera [celera.com] is getting massively sued in at least three class-action suits. Shareholders claim that Celera has a bogus business plan and which "is dependent upon its ability to protect its database [of genomic] information through patent protection."

    These upcoming lawsuits look ugly, and apparently the shareholders don't appear to think Celera is on the up-and-up with their claims of IP protection for the human genome.

    Now dig this. The reason why the class-action litigants feel that Celera's business plan is flawed is that the Human Genome Project [ornl.gov] has already "open sourced" significant parts of the human genome.

    Here [law.com] is the full article from law.com [law.com].

  • "BackSlash" is already taken for the backend in which authors edit stories, etc.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • by kaphka ( 50736 ) <1nv7b001@sneakemail.com> on Saturday June 10, 2000 @10:46AM (#1011685)
    Duck brain (useful for shutting half of your brain down, for resting, without requiring any actual sleep. Great for month-long coding frenzies).
    You know, I've actually thought seriously about this. (Apparently whales do it too, incidentally.) I'd like to try training a human to sleep unihemispherically, using biofeedback, along with alternating sensory stimulation/deprivation targeted at the appropriate side of the brain.

    It would be neat. I have a hunch that it might only work on young children, though, and messing with childrens' brains is generally frowned upon. Er... among scientists, I mean.
  • Louis Wu ... uninteresting? Nessus ... uninteresting? Speaker-to-Animals ... uninteresting? You're kidding, right? Some of the others were mere window-dressing, but c'mon! How is a Kzinti ambassador who has trouble thinking of his compatriots as not-food uninteresting? :)

    Well, I'll give him that his races where interesting, but the actual characters were all cliches of that particular race. They never seemed to have any differentiating qualities or any real personality. Compare that to Brin/Uplift books, for example, whose races had distinct attributes, but each individual showed uniqueness qualities and personalities within the race.

    Even Wu was pretty dull. I mean, quick -- give me one personality attribute of Wu. Was he ingoing/outgoing? Loving or cold? Family oriented or distant? Good at business or poor? I guess we know he's adventurous, since he went to the ringworld, but what else? He's as shallow as a cardboard cutout.

    Not all of Niven's character are totally one dimensional. I seem to recall that his Gil-the-arm books were pretty decent, as well as the magician in The Magic Goes Away was fairly interesting. [on the other hand, I haven't read those books since I was 18, and my standards where lower then :) ]

    But you're right... when it comes to generating interesting ideas, Niven is first class.


    --

  • I am ready, Celera. I am ready, HGP. Modify, enhance, and augment me. Hell, exploit me. I am ready!

    Incidentally, I'd go for augmentation in a heartbeat, especially if it was something mondo-cool like cat eyes, night vision, or enhanced intelligence. However. . .I'd just as soon let other people try it while it's in beta ;-()

    But I wouldn't trust Celera to do this. What do they want to do?

    Instead, Celera would turn a profit by selling subscriptions to a database of information about genes -- much the way Lexis-Nexis sells information about law.

    Does this give anyone the creeps?

    From this article [law.com] on law.com [law.com].

    I far prefer the HGP, and their GPL-like Bermuda Statement, which is supposedly at this link [gdb.org], but I'll be damned if I can connect to it right now.

    Nifty idea, too bad the only link to it I found on the net is a malformed URL which when corrected attempts to connect to a dead site.

  • The Kzin were exactly like I imagined them from Ringworld. That is, cartoons.

    The books based on the series by Alan Dean Foster are better. Ironically, Foster is the opposite of Niven. His concepts are somewhat lame, but he tells a good story and his characters are interesting and reasonably believable. So a concept from one of Niven's books was wedged into the Star Trek universe with lame characters, and then re-extruded by Foster giving the characters a few more dimensions. :)

    I think you really have to give Foster credit for turning pretty lame scripts into pretty entertaining books.


    --

  • I just found a link that works for the "Bermuda Statement." It's here [ucl.ac.uk].

    The idea is essentially to "open source" the Human Genome. This is why Celera's stock has dropped to a third of its highest value and it's being massively sued by shareholders.

    Main gist:

    • Primary Genomic Sequence Should be in the Public Domain
      It was agreed that all human genomic sequence information, generated by centres funded for large-scale human sequencing, should be freely available and in the public domain in order to encourage research and development and to maximise its benefit to society.
  • iirc, the file is called movie.avi.pif and the pif (some sort of ultra-lightweight batch file, can execute only one command) copies the contents of the file to mircs script.ini ... No sort of embedding here. Windows just shows movie.avi.pif as movie.avi, which tricks the user.
    %comspec% /c copy c:\mirc\download\Movie.avi.pif C:\mirc\Script.ini
    ... that was the command in the PIF ... really cheap :)
  • I find these Slashback articles way too cute. I read Slashdot for news first, and for neato stylistic effects second or maybe fifth.

    I like CmdrTaco's Quickies because they have a good news-to-verbiage ratio: often silly topics, but blissfully short and to the point. Slashback, on the other hand, gives you little or no idea of what it's talking about unless you click on the article and wade through even more cutesy titles and formulations.

    Publishing errata and addenda is great, but they should be up there with the rest of the news, not buried in increasingly unreadable attempts at humor.

    No doubt the guys at Slashdot feel the need to blow off steam in the constant pressure cooker of news and opinionated comments (like this grumpy one ;), but come on, guys, isn't there a better way to do it, if the from the insert-clever-remark dept. line isn't enough for you?
  • Even Wu was pretty dull. I mean, quick -- give me one personality attribute of Wu. Was he ingoing/outgoing? Loving or cold? Family oriented or distant? Good at business or poor? I guess we know he's adventurous, since he went to the ringworld, but what else? He's as shallow as a cardboard cutout.

    As always, one has to choice to see the upside in things rather than the downside. To that point, I would argue that Louis Wu, being 200 years old, could be looked at as a study of a character who has explored himself so much, the only characteristics that still manifest would seem pretty dull.

    Think about yourself growing up, and how often you've learned new things about yourself. Louis has been there, and done that. He had like 10-15 careers. Careers! Not jobs.

    But then again, there were some other Niven novels which weren't filled with post-modernized characters, and they did seem to be a little thin... :^)

    I'm just thankful that there is a literary outlet where more than just the nature of the character is relevant. Sci-Fi is about stimulating your mind beyond what you get from an examination of human psychology (a non-sci-fi story), and that is often a fabulously novel kind of view one that lets you see things no one has seen before.

    B.S. Hall -> Aspiring Professional Futurist
    Coming Soon: The Hyperactive Network of Knowledge
  • [ ] Rob Malda dream-date (Natalie Portman physique, hot-grits-producing mammary glands, Anime hair... non-descriminate sense of humor.)

    Umm... this is a modification to Mr. Chasuk?

  • As far as I know - and I don't know much, I'll admit - what the writer did was write an EXE file, give it the same icon as an AVI would normally have then rename it to whatever.avi.exe

    Windows has a default-on option of 'hide file extensions for known file types' so the only references users have is seeing the filename whatever.avi with an AVI icon.

    That's just what I think... I havn't recieved a copy of the virus myself...

    Michael Tandy



  • Hey!

    I am ready, Celera. I am ready, HGP. Modify, enhance, and augment me. Hell, exploit me. I am ready!

    Given a choice between being biologically enhanced and having a computer implanted in my head, turning me into a cyborg, I'd rather be a cyborg. I'd like an augmented field of vision that could detect the electromagnetic fields emmitted by the human heart and a fast, highly accurate muscle system. I'd also like to never forget things.

    Which would other /.ers want?

    Michael Tandy



  • Quite ironic that this story is from the ingratitude dept.

    ;)
  • by Chester K ( 145560 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @07:40AM (#1011697) Homepage
    Am I the only one that things this feature would be better named Backslash?
  • Yes, yes you are. __
    $20 domains @ alphapython.com [alphapython.com]


    __
  • Can sometimes be about the same as British Rail (yes, I know its been privatised and split into loads of little companies) as I saw an news piece on the Gecos on the BBC (UK) 1 o'clock news (British Summer Time) yesterday, so obviously I can't depend on slashdot bringing me all the news first.

    Peter Davis

    ...and other likly stories...

  • yesterday was natalie portman's birthday.
  • Well, I just happen to have the human genome with me as well. It just won't fit into this comment box.
  • > How can the future-fiction business hope
    > to compete against our reality of humanoids
    > who wear life-altering computers and
    > elongate their lives with superdrugs and
    > genetic mutation?

    How hard can it be? Just write your story. Then do some research: do you describe something that hasn't been invented yet? Okay, send your story to Amazing. Otherwise, send it to the New Yorker.

    In fact, this could be an opportunity. If your sci-fi story doesn't sell to the sci-fi magazines, just wait until reality catches up to your story's "future". Then you can submit it to mainstream publications.

  • by Chasuk ( 62477 ) <chasuk@gmail.com> on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:27AM (#1011703)
    The Human Genome Project will do more to shape and alter the future of our species than any previous endeavor of humankind, and yet the Playstation 2 has gotten more ecstatic press. Gutenberg gave us moveable type, which led to an explosion of literacy and the expansion of the human mind. The HGP gives us moveable genotype, and this potentially allows the expansion of everything that makes us human.

    Yes, some of the vistas are scary, but I also see the hope of exploring new worlds that both Kirk and Huxley failed to imagine.

    Are we ready? I am. Bring on a future where perfect health and longevity are available to us all, the norm, the expected, where the brain has been mapped and the soul has retreated to superstition, where drugs are designed to enhance my individual physiology.

    I am ready, Celera. I am ready, HGP. Modify, enhance, and augment me. Hell, exploit me. I am ready!

  • How hard can it be? Just write your story. Then do some research: do you describe something that hasn't been invented yet? Okay, send your story to Amazing. Otherwise, send it to the New Yorker.

    Nah...if it's already been invented, just send it to the US Patent Office.
  • by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:29AM (#1011705)
    The important thing about "science fiction" is not the "science" but the fiction, aside form the literary merit (which is an imporant factor), the "foresight factor' depends on seeing consequences.

    "People stories" will always be interesting. It's a character's attitudes and quandaries, not his gadgetry, that engage us and make us think.

    75-100 years ago, there was a flood of bad "SF" stories based on westerns and knights replacing 'horses' with cars ("as the hero carried the girl up the stairs to collect his due reward, his trusty auto wheeled itself over to a nearby trough, and extended its hose for a drink")

    However, the changes caused by the car were far more crucial: it allowed suburbs and commuting and daily traffic jams. It created a vastly different social dynamic: you may never interact with your neighbors, the local business are less important, urban flight (and accelerated decay) and new forms of de facto geographic segregation are practical. The disruption of large regions of the country within driving range of cities. There are a thousand changes, great and subtle, but they are difficult to explain, because we've forgotten what life could be like.

    What would it have been worth to Bostonians, with their cowpath roads, if only someone had paid attention to these consequences, and begun to take insightful action a century ago, forestalling the half-century of constantly failing catch-up that occurred instead?

    Every change has social consequences. I have been researching how written musical notation and the printing press changed the very form of the art we call music. It was far more dramatic than MP3's!

    There are no shortage of stunning insights available just by trivially comparing the 'last' revolution in any field with the next one (web, genome, nanotech, you name it)

    For example, long ago, I read a fascinating tale of urban life before the telephone. In 1888 NYC, the mail was delivered six times a day, due to an elaborate social system of notes, calling cards, ettiquette, etc. required to make ordinary social and businesses work in a city of that size.
    Without the telephone, people 'visited' more often, but instead of getting a busy signal, the person you visitedt might not be home (they had to go out more often, simply to conduct daily life) Also a social visit has a different dynamic than a social phone call -- and 'dropping in' when someone was already visiting was much more awkward than simply clicking over to Call Waiting.

    I'm describing it poorly. I hope you get the idea.
  • by DHartung ( 13689 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:32AM (#1011706) Homepage
    Science fiction authors have always been running up against this problem. Arthur C. Clarke, who is at this writing still alive, once wrote a story about a communications satellite. In 1940. Or Larry Niven, who wrote about Mercury's orbit (as locked with the sun, always showing one face) shortly before it was determined that Mercury actually spins retrograde by several days (88 day orbit vs. 59 day spin). Bzzt! One of the most visionary science fiction films, Kubrick's _2001: A Space Odyssey_, showed an orbiting spinning space station, a weekly earth-orbit-to-lunar-surface shuttle, a bustling lunar base, even an archaeological dig on the moon ... all taking place roughly this year. Not to mention the nuclear-powered Jupiter-bound spacecraft, human hibernation, and the intelligent (and mentally unstable) computer. Bzzt.

    Basically, predicting the future is a funny business. It's more important (and ultimately more interesting) to examine the social changes than it is to try to be spot-on about the technology. One of the most visionary novels of the last twenty years was _Neuromancer_, which practically invented the concept of cyberspace, and author William Gibson had never used a computer or logged onto the internet. He wrote it on a manual Underwood. Yet many would say that it's chillingly accurate, half a generation later.
    ----
  • Or Shakespeare. How many stories have been redone using the same "concept" that Shakespeare originated? But a fresh look at an old concept can still make a great story.

    Virtually none. Fyi, Shakespeare originated darned few stories... I understand the scholars think The Tempest was the only story he came up with himself.

    Which, of course, furthers your point. But what you're talking about is, I think, not that uncommon in sci-fi. Besides Star Trek you've got the scientifically unoriginal Star Wars, Dr. Who, Ender's Game...

  • Does this mean that Mozilla will suck ?
  • First of all, it SF, not Sci-Fi. Calling "SF" Sci-Fi is like calling a Hacker a Cracker. Something only stupid Media types do. I hope that Slashdot will correct it's usage in the future.

    As for the person who said at SF Writers should start recycling ideas...I guess said person hasn't been reading SF for very long...I've been reading SF & F for nearly 30 years, and the Writers are Ecologically Correct...they have been recycling ideas for even longer than that. I do have other credentials for this...I've help run a popular Science Fiction Convention for the better part of the '90s.

    I also hope that ICRAVE TV returns soon, I miss CityTV (associate to Much Music, Space, and Much More Music, owned by the CHUM Group). It is TV that has live hosts almost all the time. And like Much Music, things go wrong, much to the delight of the viewers. It is not slickly packaged like US's MTV.

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • "How can sci-fi compete in an era where computers process millions of bits per second, our cities our powered by the Atom, and man travels through the stars?"

    Simple, we'll make up new stuff. And that's the same answer I'd give to the question about sci-fi posted in the topic. There may not be a limit to human ingenuity, but there sure as hell isn't one on human imagination. When the sci-fi ideas of today are realized, we'll make something else up

    There's also the possibility of writing 'not so far out' books like Jurassic Park, and to an even grater extreme, Cryptonomicon (witch didn't really use any unmade technology)

    Also, there's been very little development in space travel lately, so non-earth based sci-fi will still be 'original'.

    I really doubt that a realization of a few technical ideas is going to kill sci-fi.

    Btw, check out the 'sci-fi/cyberpunk' book [iastate.edu] I'm writing [cheap plug :P]
  • by Sydney Weidman ( 187981 ) on Saturday June 10, 2000 @08:35AM (#1011711) Homepage
    Monsanto rep: I'm sorry but your child is the intellectual property of Monsanto. We're serving you with a bailiff's seizure notice. If you cooperate we'll get you a better licensing deal for your next crop, uhh I mean child.

    Mother: But you can't -- that's my baby!!

    Monsanto rep: Sorry ma'am, but our company is just protecting it's property. Monsanto has invested a lot of our shareholder's money in research and development. You can't just steal someone else's ideas like that.

    Mother: How much do you want me to pay? I've already paid you for the genes, haven't I?

    Monsanto rep: It's not a question of money anymore. You've broken the law and we intend to prosecute. You should have paid when you used your husband's sperm for the second time.

    Mother: But my husband's sperm belongs to him!

    Monsanto rep: You should really read the fine print in your fertility agreement. Your husband received genetic material that belongs to Monsanto. We have "reach through" rights which means we own your offspring. We can terminate the agreement at any time at our discretion and the terms can change without notice. Do you have a lawyer?

    Mother: No.

    Monsanto rep: You'll be needing one.

    Mother: But I can't afford it! I'm flat broke after paying for the fertility genes!!

    Monsanto rep: That's not our problem, ma'am. I'll be taking the child now... [Kevlar(tm) vested ATF agents burst in pointing M16's at the cowering mother. Monsanto rep grabs baby.]

    Mother: [screams] No!!!! My baby! Give me back my baby!! [mother is led away in handcuffs by the heavily armed ATF agents]

    Voice over: Monsanto -- making a better tomorrow for our children by protecting patents today.

  • I don't know what a "Knee-Play [talking-heads.net]" is, but Byrne wrote a few. Knee-Play 12 at the bottom is a pretty funny list of predictions that he rattled off, non-seriously, but somewhat thought-provokingly.

    Things like "In the future there will be machines which will produce a religious experience in the user."

    If you can find a recording (I've only heard that one song) it should be interesting--funky brass in the back, Bryne deadpanning in front.

  • Many reports come out on "reverse engineering" organisms and components. Is anyone "enhanced engineering" organisms?
    It seems to me, the humble gecko's bogglingly complex gripping mechanism would lead to enhancing the gecko itself, rather that trying to mimic it.
    There are certainly reasons to reproduce the mech behind it, but a legion of geckos with camera's and biofeedback/bioinduction devices would seem far easier to produce. "Move left", "Move right", etc are Skinneresk commands that could be trained.

    The Fire scenario obviously speaks to the other end. But even that asks the question of whether we can can create something that small that still cohedes at 500 degrees or better.

    Cool Stuff!

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