Friday, October 14, 2005

108 TIPS FOR TIME TRAVELLERS - Your Essential Guide to New Technology and
the Future. By Peter Cochrane.

The future is guaranteed to be fascinating, even though all of us haven't seen it yet. Peter Cochrane can however imagine what it will be or might be. He based this thoughts on intelligence gathered in his professional career.

IMAGINE you have the privilege of catching a glimpse of the future through
someone else's eyes. Feel the accompanying adrenalin rush of one who
partakes in an experience quite unlike that of any other ordinary
Now know this is a rare opportunity. The man who proffers this is Peter
Cochrane. Someone quite in tune with things beyond today. This guide is
not written for academics, researchers or scientists. It is for the
ordinary folk like you and I, who usually do not have the time to read the
entire newspaper on a daily basis.
The only prerequisite for reading this book is that you need to be
acquainted to some small degree with artificial intelligence, or maybe in
another sense, information technology. If you have no inkling of either,
your interest in this book should stop at the end of this sentence.
Cochrane's compiled contribution is the sum of his works for the Daily
Telegraph over the years. In his column, he muses over things that-will-
be. In his position as head of research at British Telecom, he is well
placed to project his thoughts of a futuristic environment for the
A person can mentally jog through this book with the nonchalant attitude
of an individual who has no interest in the future, or he could be a
serious voyeur of a third millennium planet. Either way, he will benefit
from Cochrane's cerebral gymnastic exercises, sometimes thought-provoking,
sometimes merely entertaining.
There are fascinating nuggets of information scattered all over the
pages. Just when you think you have better things to do than to continue
with the book, Cochrane comes up with this: `At a conservative estimate,
and assuming we could use every corner of our brain (which we cannot),
each of us could store about 5,000 years' worth of continuous
conversation, and about five years' worth of continuous video.
`At an altitude of 10km, a balloon has a line-of-sight surface horizon
of some 350km, and there a radio communication footprint of the order of
700km in diameter.
`Sulphuric acid bubbles violently out of volcanic vents at about 400
degrees centigrade, creating a highly toxic mix with deep-ocean salt water
at four degrees. This mix is so toxic to us that there is no legal way we
could get a permit to dump waste of equal toxicity into the ocean. And yet
there are worms and crabs in great numbers and variety feeding off a layer
of white bacteria that lies inches-thick over vast expanses of the seabed
surrounding these vents.'
There are 108 items altogether from front to back. They are described as
`monologues' by the writer himself. As he explains: `Each monologue is
self-contained and so they can be read in any order. There seems to be no
logical way to order the subject matter. And I made no effort to do so.'
Peter Cochrane has credentials (BSc, MSc, PhD, and DSc) which will
impress even the cleverest among us. The wonderful revelation is that he
does not even come across as cocky in his writings.
The thoughts of this scientist are manufactured via his laptop which has
crashed on numerous occasions at great altitudes on trans-Atlantic
flights. Even scientists are prone to technological frustrations that
plague most of us PC users on one occasion or another. The only exception
is that he talks about them in a clinical manner. He analyses the hardware
problem and sometimes clears the trail until he tracks the source of the
problem to a software bug.
Despite his privileged position at British Telecom, he is not isolated
from the myriad woes that pervade and permeate the IT realm. At the end of
the day, he is still an ordinary dad who goes home to his wife and
Being in the forefront of the artificial revolution gives Cochrane an
enormous advantage over lesser mortals like us. From his vantage point,
much can be discerned, and much more can be discarded as technological
trivia or mechanical toys that are merely passing fads.
One can describe the writer as a traveller who has a season pass on a
time machine. Actually, he does not get off the machine but merely catches
glimpses of the world-to-be from the window of his Time Capsule.
Cochrane puts it succinctly a subject which is close to his personal
interest - the computer.
`Computers are already the most effective and powerful mind magnifiers
that humans have ever produced. Without computers we would not understand
the detail of chaos, weather systems, epidemiology, DNA, the turbulent
flow of air over an aircraft wing, our own genome, and very much more,'
proclaims the Master of the Universe of technological bits and bytes.
For the common man, this book comes at a time on Earth when science
seems to reign supreme. The third Millennium beckons. Unmanned spacecraft
now orbit the outer limits somewhere near Mars to provide information on a
planet which has intrigued a major portion of Earth's population with its
mysteries, spread chiefly by science fiction novels.
Cochrane's literary contribution helps you take that one step beyond.
Boldly going where few men have gone before in their imagination. There,
out there, on the outer fringes of man's imagination, accompanied by the
numerous scientific and engineering breakthroughs, the reader is given a
mental tour of what it is like to live in a world beyond tomorrow.
Basically, catching more than a glimpse of the environment that your great
grandchildren will live in. What a thrill, even for most of us who are
armchair time travellers.

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