3 Investors Are Already Funding Off-World Mining
The Sci-Fi Premise:
The idea of mining other planets/moons/asteroids for minerals not found on Earth wasn't invented by Avatar -- that's what the robots in Blade Runner were built for, after all. But it's never good news -- these movies are always about a dying Earth sending astronauts to go exploit space rocks for the resources we've drained from our own planet. It's what the ship in Alien was doing before the aliens arrived, and it's the backdrop for the video game franchise Dead Space.
"Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to death we go!"
Note that it always ends in a horrific massacre at the hands of otherworldly monsters.
James Cameron, not content to get his hands on just one Ridley Scott sci-fi franchise, has partnered with several other mega-rich investors to bring Blade Runner's dystopia one step closer to reality. Planetary Resources -- a company that was founded two years ago but kept secret until very recently (because that's completely normal and shouldn't creep you out in the slightest) -- plans to make up for our severe shortage of unobtainium here on Earth by sending robots to mine nearby asteroids.
Seriously, Jim, a $237 million budget and "unobtainium" was the best you could come up with?
With guys like Ross Perot Jr. and Google's Larry Page also pelting the venture with obscene wads of cash, the company isn't wasting any time: They plan to launch their first test craft within two years, and from there, they're looking to aim for near-Earth asteroids, with on-board robots (sorry, they probably won't look like Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah) setting up bases to get down to some off-world mining.
And no, this isn't just a case of bajillionaires not realizing when they can't accomplish something just by tossing cash around: The company was co-founded by Peter Diamandis, who helped start the X-Prize competition to spur nongovernmental space flight -- remember how that turned out? And MIT Professor of Planetary Science Richard Binzel agrees that seeking out things like water and metals on asteroids is a step that humanity must take sooner or later, especially if we want to stake our claim to more of the cosmos. A trip to Mars, for example, might be made possible by stopping at the occasional asteroid to refuel the ship and pick up a latte at Starbucks (come on, you know it'll happen).
On Mars, Apple Stores already outnumber the aliens 3 to 1.
Of course, some of the comments by people involved with the project break away from "progressive, forward-thinking science" and veer more toward "Holy shit, that's totally batshit insane" territory. For example, one of the company's apparent goals is to "capture" a small asteroid and draw it into the moon's orbit so that we can have our very own dangerously-close-to-Earth asteroid to study whenever we want. That can't go wrong, right?
But don't worry, it'll probably be at least a few years before we have to worry about the robots that they send up to live on our new pet asteroid going all psycho when they discover their own mortality. We'll have accidentally opened the portal to hell long before then.
"Y'all are gonna want to wear shorts."
2 Iris Scanning/Invasive Advertising Is Here Now
The Sci-Fi Premise:
In Minority Report, Tom Cruise is a wanted man who needs to clear his name by playing with huge touch screens and doing lots and lots of running. In one scene, Cruise undergoes black market eye-replacement surgery -- not to swap his out for a less crazy pair, but because the cities of the future come equipped with hidden iris-scanning technology to identify fugitives on the run.
It replaced the less accurate "Pinky-swear you're not a fugitive" test.
And in the future Earth of Minority Report, that technology is everywhere -- billboards even use it to say your name and make personalized sales pitches as you walk by. It's not just Big Brother that electronically tracks your every step, it's Lexus.
So, how far off do you think this technology is? Minority Report took place in a weird future full of psychics and impractically futuristic cars and force field guns. That film was set in 2054, but governments and advertisers in the real world certainly aren't going to wait that long.
"But I want to sublimate consumers nowwwwwww!"
In fact, the city of Leon, Mexico, partnered with biometrics firm Global Rainmakers Inc. to install iris scanners throughout their city in an attempt to make it the "most secure city in the world." While the firm is busily installing their Big Brother boxes all over the city, the city is building an iris database, starting with criminals -- the idea being that if, say, a wanted man tries to escape by plane, iris scanners at the airport will find and track him, allowing security and police to easily detain him. But to make sure regular law-abiding citizens don't feel left out, they can have their irises scanned into the database, too -- presumably to make it easier to check into places on Facebook. Jeff Carter, CDO of GRI and former member of a think tank involving Bank of America, Harvard and MIT, predicts that "Every person, place, and thing will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years."
We're a little disappointed that none of them go all Clockwork Orange on your eyelids.
While that's all well and good ("well and good" in this case meaning "pants-pissingly terrifying"), it's not the final step. What about those creepy-ass personalized ads? Well, Tokyo, for example, has installed billboards that examine the faces of those looking at them to determine that person's age and gender, and then adjust the advertisement on the billboard to something targeted at that demographic.
And this isn't going to be restricted to Tokyo, either. America, sick and tired of being out-crazied by the Japanese, will soon have it as well, thanks to Immersive Labs, who plan on implementing the technology in busy sections of major American cities. While the facial scanners won't identify the specific person looking at the ad -- yet -- they will determine what "consumer category" they fall under and present content tailored to that person's predicted tastes.
"AdGuess predicts that you would like a hug."
It's like the ads on Facebook, only way more embarrassing, because everyone around you can point and snicker when a billboard assumes you're clearly in the market for a Fleshlight.