the _alf blog

Saturday, August 19, 2006

This one made me laugh, I just had to throw on here: There is a company called the Soylent Green Biscuit Company. Of course they sell Soylent Green T-shirts instead of biscuits, but it's still an interesting name.

What it T-I-Z with da R-F-I-D


RFID is Radio Frequency ID technology, and is basically just a short-range radio-based communications technology. The difference between it and previous technology primarily lies in it's size (small enough to be easily concealed in common objects) and it's cost (cheap enough to be distributed at a massive scale).

RFID chips are used for many things including detecting theft of merchandise, tracking shipments as they pass through plane/train/ship ports, as well as in up and coming credit and identification cards.

This (edited) excerpt from C|Net news helps explain:

"The generic name for this technology is RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification. RFID tags are very small microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response.

"You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET's own Alorie Gilbert wrote about how Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install 'smart shelves' with RFID readers. In what will become the largest test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan Hill, California.

"Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict that in quantities of one billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents a tag.

"It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18 thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And according to the EE Times, the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags in banknotes."

The 1984 Aspect

All this is just wonderful, but what does this mean in terms of us, as citizens of the United States (and other countries - for while they may not be affected directly, this does seem to be an international trend.) This C|Net News article, dated more than three years ago, raises concerns about a DARPA project designed to enhance survielance of U.S. citizens, and also brings to light the key question: What happens when this technology gets into the wrong hands.

The reason that RFID starts debates and gets people are stirred up, is because it brings to light the fact that socially, we are not able to be responsible with the increase in technological power.

Here's my point: Short of a global cataclysm, technology will continue to be developed, it's just a matter of who and how it is put to use, and whether or not the people in the society allow pursuant corruption to occur.

There will always be those who will devote their life's work to developing some new fangled technology that the world has never seen before. Often, the people doing this are well intentioned. Einstein didn't do his atomic research so that we could atomic-bomb Japan, most biological scientists don't study disease so they can create new ones, and so on.

The problem lies in the fact that our social structure is not setup to handle those few who would manipulate in order to use technology for their own evil ends.

Do you really think that George Bush, John McCain, Nouri al-Maliki, Tony Blair, etc., etc. call the shots on an International scale? Listen to George Bush say something that wasn't written by one of his speech writers, and you decide for yourself if this man is in charge of the United States.

Certain people pull the strings. If would of course be logical for them to remain omitted from the public spotlight, because if they were they could be targeted - you can target something that you don't know the locatin of. What's more, this isn't a new concept! We've had this same damned problem for a really long time.

But it really just boils down to this: The vast majority of people in society are basically well intentioned. Sure people are this and people are that, but I mean when you get down to the basic question of whether or not they would rather their fellow man survive or be destroyed and subverted, most people would be in the former category. As such, "we" have an advantage in numbers.

We also have a significant disadvantage: It's all too easy to assume that because YOU don't have a subversive plot, that others don't either. But I assure you, these elements do exist.

That said, I personally look forward to advancing technology. It makes life easier and more productive for everyone, plus: it's fun. BUt, I make it a point to discern the development of the technology itself from the use to which it is put - since the latter is often masked behind other forces.

The Alf Recommends the Lensman Series

Since you are now convinced about the value of literature after my last post, I'd like to hazard a brief description of E. E. "Doc" Smith (plagarized, I admit, but I don't think the owners of the original clip will mind).

E. E. Smith was a chemical engineer in Washington DC when, in 1915, a next-door neighbor suggested that he turn his speculations regarding space travel into a science fiction novel. Smith at first demurred, saying that the story would be a failure without romatic content and that he did not feel comfortable writing that himself. His neighbor's wife suggested that she would be willing to take care of those details if he wrote the larger framework. Smith set to the task.

They finished "Skylark of Space" in 1919. It would be eight more years before it was published as a serial in Amazing Stories. Smith actually lost money on the venture, since the $125 he was paid by Amazing Stories didn't cover the cost of the postage he had spent sending the manuscript to dozens of uninterested publishers over the years.

Skylark was an immense success and Smith devoted much time over the next forty years to writing novels. His stories involve huge contests fought with fearsome and rapidly evolving technology between the spirited forces of good and democracy against the many-layered cabals of evil. His name has become closely associated with the space opera genre,and his work has greatly influenced modern science fiction — print, movies and video games.

Note, incidentally, that Smith was a real PhD and chemical engineer. He worked in the food industry for much of his life and popular legend has it that he was the researcher who figured out how to get powdered sugar to stick to doughnuts.

Unfortunately, many of Smith's books have been out of print for years, and copies of the original hardcover editions can be hard to find.

The Alf's last post after it's gone through the jive translator

Here's my last post after it's been run through the jive translator.

Not too long ago some homey uh mine and ah' were feedin' da bud lunch togeder, and he told me he'd recently eyeball some numba' of sto'ies by Louis L'Amour. Ah be baaad... Mah' reply wuz, uh course, "Whut? Ain't dat Western? Cowboys and Indians stuff?"

He simply said "Yeah, but it's waaay coo'."

Afta' readin' several uh de "Sacket" series, ah' figured out whut he's rappin' about. Man! De doodad ah' gots out uh it wuz dat some real scribbler kin truly immerse ya' in his wo'ld - make da damn ya' feel de characters' problems, dig it de strengd, de fears, etc. Co' got d' beat! From eyeballin' Louis L'Amour ya' end down wid some real feelin' uh depd into de frontia' of dis country some couple hundred years ago. 'S coo', bro. And, fum whut he scribbles, ah' assho' man ya' it wuz not some matta' of plum some cheesey shoot-em-up tails; but rada' an adventurous treck uh survival on de frontier. Ah be baaad... Sho' man, some sucka's dig blown away wid revolvers, and uh course many uh de sto'ies gots some fine goat involved - but if youse comparin' t'some one-hour-fifteen-minute Western ya' saw on public television in de 90's, oh joker is it some different deal. Whut's mo'e, dis be plum a simple 'esample uh de effect dat some piece uh quality literature kin gots. Dis be an 'espuh'ience ya' plum duzn't dig fum watchin' TV o' eyeballin' some newssheet. And while eyeballin' literature kin in itself pull one away fum reality enough t'disrupt one's life, it be my observashun dat allowin' oneself t'be immersed in one's own self-created reality, guided by de audo', be a much healdia' 'sperience dan some continual co'pse-likes infusion uh some sucka elses pictures fum de television. 'S coo', bro.