[Flash Forward] Eyes In The Skies

Eyes In The Skies

09/10/2018 by Rose Eveleth

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=56569312
Episode: https://traffic.megaphone.fm/PPY7807019689.mp3?updated=1539044717

Computers are getting smaller and smaller. But what if we had sensors the size of dust, that could float through the air undetected, talk to one another, gather information, and transmit that information back down to a central place? This is the concept behind smart dust, and it’s more plausible than you might think.

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute
Faine Greenwood, journalist and drone expert
Stacey Higginbotham, journalist, co-host of the Internet of Things podcast

→ → More information band background reading at flashforwardpod.com ←←

Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth. The intro music is by Asura and the outtro music is by Hussalonia. The episode art is by Matt Lubchansky.

If you want to suggest a future we should take on, send us a note on Twitter, Facebook or by email at info@flashforwardpod.com. We love hearing your ideas! And if you think you’ve spotted one of the little references I’ve hidden in the episode, email us there too. If you’re right, I’ll send you something cool.

And if you want to support the show, there are a few ways you can do that too! Head to http://www.flashforwardpod.com/support for more about how to give. But if that’s not in the cards for you, you can head to iTunes and leave us a nice review or just tell your friends about us. Those things really do help.
That’s all for this future, come back next time and we’ll travel to a new one.

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Listen Date: 2018-10-15

This was a topic I had no super interest in; though I was vaguely aware of it – maybe thanks to reading Michael Crichton’s Prey? Or the trope of nanite swarms from Civilization: Call to Power? I can’t really remember, but it definitely wasn’t from the Discovery Channel hype documentaries the episode mentioned. One thing which was similar in concept, though not in underlying technology, was the Arthur C Clarke book about tiny wormholes for visible light communication – I think it was called The Light of Other Days.

The interesting things or connections I took from this episode:

  • The riff on how these tiny sensors will have to power themselves through solar power or temperature differentials, and could make oil companies even less relevant – except as producers of the plastic that would make such sensors light enough to be truly ubiquitious.
  • The interview which said that a visible drone was less creepy than an invisible swarm.
  • How making such sensors recyclable or cleanuppable could make them prohibitively expensive, but not making them so could lead to huge swarms of dead electronic junk all over the world.
  • But on the flip side, the cool idea of embedding such sensors in packaging to see where packaging will end up.

Strangely, the privacy and surveillance aspects weren’t the most interesting or alarming things in this episode, or even the most well described.

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