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 Danny Belkin | dannybelkin.com Skip to content

We’ve seen a few of these in a variety of papers, this time it’s Time magazine’s turn to carry the life and times of Ray K and the singularity. Not much is new here to those who have been following the field, but it is a good read (especially for those who have not yet been exposed to the meme) as well as doing a good job at least in showing how much unnoticed progress has been made in the last few years.

Definitely worth a read.

Following up on the recent post regarding the apparent financial and social decline of the US, I’ve come across a report that the city of Detroit is so deep in dept and finding it so hard to raise money that it is planning to downsize vital public services, such as the police and fire departments. As harsh a measure as that sounds, one that is potentially frightening to the local population, it is only a symptom of the larger decay of one of the big American cities, home to the local car industries (or what’s left of them) and legendary home of Motown.

Looking at the larger picture, the city (with several others on their way to follow) is actually downsizing not only in budget and manpower but also in size – neighborhoods are actually being deserted  and left to nature. A Time report on this can be seen here.

A quick search on the topic brought me to this blog, the author of which is a Detroit resident who goes around the city armed with his DSLR and archives, among many other things, the widespread urban decay. The photos he takes are really depressing – a lot of boarded up houses, abandoned churches and schools, city blocks which used to be teeming with people and are now completely abandoned (except for wildlife, that is).

The pictures really best tell the tale (have a look at additional posts on this blog – there are a lot of really haunting pictures, especially the ones of schools):

Such a phenomena was truly unbelievable to me, coming from a country where the population is quite crowded and real estate prices booming, and living in Western Europe where while land is available, some areas (notably the Netherlands) are very crowded. In hindsight, though, urban degeneration is possible and ultimately likely when financials are taken into account – and that’s a clear sign that the American system is not well.

I was  asked a few months ago to answer three questions for the new “Rough Guide to the Future” which has just come out in print: Looking at the future of humanity (with no particular timeframe), what’s a. your highest hope; b. your best bet and c. your view as to what’s likely to happen in view of answers a. and b.

As this is a futuristic publication I naturally veered to the singularity aspect of what I see in humanity’s future, particularly the merging with AI, of which I wrote of extensively here. Some would call this about as far-fetched as can be (heck, some of my closest peeps constantly jibe me about this), but read the article here on the site and judge for yourself…

Now, while they did manage to get my job title wrong, I think it came out quite well.

Of course, any publication that I contribute to deserves a full-fledged plug, so if you want to read the experts’ opinion on what’s to come in a variety of fields, and this includes some very serious people and not just frenzied geeks like myself, you can order yourself a copy  here.

A few months ago I cycled down to “downtown” Strasbourg and got myself a spanking new HTC Desire. Now this baby (below) is a great phone, miles better than its predecessor which I had (the Magic) – but it came with two downsides.First was the need to change my contract to the local Orange franchise – that it, what used to be France Telecom. I thought I knew a cutthroat mobile company before but boy, was I wrong. These guys, as it’s emerged in the last few months, are amazingly good at finding new and innovative ways of fleecing you from your money. And no matter what snazzy package you choose, the costs will always surpass this, sometimes by a lot! And not due to excessive talking…

However, that is a well-known problem which seems to blight Orange affiliates in many countries. What I did not expect, however, was that after choosing a not-at-all affordable package and phone (on what is supposedly an open-source OS-based phone) I got a phone which was 1. filled with integrated, non-removable software from the mobile provider and 2. that I was forced to rely on the same provider for software updates, i.e. updates to the Android OS. Now, anyone’s frustration from being forced to have non-removable apps he or she didn’t ask for bloating their newly-purchased mobile is one thing. Being forced to rely on a local provider for important OS updates, while the same company has a clear incentive not to upgrade so you are forced to return periodically and get a new device – totally sucks!

And so, as ever, I dove online in search of a solution, only to discover a myriad of souls across many countries in the same predicament – apparently mobile providers are uniformly nasty! I was happy to discover that one can a. ROOT his/her device and gain complete control over it – using either simple, one click processes or complex ones which take hours or days to figure out if it’s your first time . b. having done so, FLASH new software updates without relying on any company’s generosity (replying only on the wonderful open source community).

Hallelujah! Viva the revolution 👿

I’ve since also rooted and upgraded my old Magic, upgrading to Froyo before handing it over to my sister so she joins the Android crowd rather than the monotonous self-satisfied Legion of Jobs zombies.

A few useful links for you if you’re setting out to reclaim your droid:

  1. The Unlockr: a great repository for numerous mobile how-to’s, including notably rooting and flashing HTC devices
  2. UnRevoked – if you’ve got a relatively recent Android phone, this is the easiest one-click solution for rooting and taking control of your device.
  3. Leedroid – a great ROM developer – currently on Froyo (Android 2.2):
  • This is the web repository for all the relevant downloads.
  • This is the latest (as of writing) thread on the ROM release. Naturally, it’s on XDA developers, a wonderful website which you probably know and use if you’re not an Android noob, or will if you’re in the process of learning the ropes like I was a few weeks ago.

Oh. And in any case, mobile bloatware, provider control of OS updates, etc. etc…I’d stillrather get an open source Android-based device than yet another iPhone every day of the week!



So, with a nod to a previous post I put on here a few months ago regarding how much it makes sense and looks likely that cars will start driving themselves soon enough, with technology emerging today that could see this done in coming years – it seems that things are indeed moving quickly in this direction.

I read a short article a few days ago from the NYT reporting that Google is a company who’s working on this and has gotten quite advanced…surprising when you think of the nature of the company, that this development has come from the mogul of search rather than from a Toyota or Mercedes. In any case, it’s a welcome piece of news and if things keep advancing this quickly we may be chauffeured around by automatic cars sooner than we thought!

It does make you wonder whether Goog is looking at this from a general geeky “wouldn’t it be cool if…” point of view or whether they actually see a business in this which fits in with their model. They say they don’t have a plan, and looking at the time horizon this may be true. It does make sense however that if people spend time in their car and are not driving it – they have more time to spend online and thus are more exposed to advertising. However, car automation is way out of Google’s core business…interesting to see what comes out of this one…

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