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By (February 20, 2009) ()

In the future we will use technology we have today, but we will figure out how to use it in ways that make middle class office workers more efficient middle class office workers. Sorry that was over-the-top cynical, let me try that again. In the future, we’ll combine slightly obsolete technologies developed over the past 20 years with economies of scale, modern fabrication techniques, and global supply chain systems to compliment humans with objects that harmoniously integrate into our lives by compensating for our weaknesses. That was better.

I believe in objects having their own voice, being able to tell us their own stories, creating a humble sense of purpose for themselves that gives them purpose and relevance. But I believe much more in the creators of these objects as either the humans that use them or their siblings. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll discuss a group (Estee, Zoe, Sonaar, Mitch and myself) project I’m currently a part of .

I’ll start with the LED. Discovered in 1907, it took 30 years of development starting at Marconi Labs just to get to a point in the 1960s where a corollary to Moore’s law allowed efficiency and light output to increase exponentially, with a doubling occurring about every 36 months. Very recently, a UV emitting LED in the 270nm range has been developed that matches the photosensitivity of microorganisms’s absorption spectrum of DNA. This LED costs approximately $60. Let’s take this LED and match it up with a micro controller and an op amp circuit, tools commonly used for prototyping in the ITP environment. Now we have a working prototype (after a few iterations) for a device that can detect pathogens in water. It’s not designed yet. It’s not meant to to withstand vandals, harsh environmental conditions, water ingress, and a wide range of users. But now we have something in our hands that works, that detects pathogens in water (current prototype cost: $130), three weeks after we started.

Now we can take this device and add a GSM modem to it ($100) and pull this data into existing sensor networks that have been built from a technologically neutral standpoint. Assuming that this device can also extract location information from location tower information, we’ve essentially designed a protospime. It’s not exactly in the image of Sterling, openspime and Julian Bleecker, but it does the bare essentials. It manages to speak about what it’s doing, in both the context of time and place.

Why must the beneficiaries of the SPIME ideas primarily be the privileged parts of the world, when we are only marginally benefit from what blogjects and spimes have to offer? Dimitrios, Maria and Carmen have only so much to benefit from a shorter queue at the airport, whereas water quality in the developing world is an enormous issue.


February 20, 2009


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