Mobility, future tech, and an artificial nose

11th September, Berlin, 2:24pm, today I’d like to write down some of the thoughts circling in my head for a while. Let’s see if I can bring them together in a meaningful narrative.

I’ve been reading the book “Move” by Parag Khanna which talks about mobility in general and why it’s our destiny. He argues that “there are countries with 300 million ageing people and decaying infrastructure while roughly 2 billion young people are sitting idle in Latin America and the Middle East, and Asia. We have countless hectares of arable farmland across depopulated Canada and Russia, while millions of African farmers are driven from their lands by drought. There are countries with sterling political systems yet few citizens, but also hundreds of millions suffering under despotic regimes or living in refugee camps.”. His arguments resonate with me as a person who moved from Turkey to Germany. The book is full of data about the current state of almost all countries and regions. Who is ready to receive immigrants, who has fresh water sources, who would suffer most when water levels rise, temperatures rise, etc. But what intrigued me most is the idea of a streamlined passport system which would help us move easier, carrying our data across borders, reducing the burden of paperwork, and help us keep our rights wherever we go. As a software engineer this idea makes me wonder how to solve this technical problem. Our personal data is already there, we willingly record and log everything. The problem is the integration between countries. The problem is the willingness of countries to share the data with each other. It’s an issue of security and trust. Every country has a bit of information about the individual, a piece of the puzzle. No one would agree to centralise this valuable information in a single country’s borders. So, the data will stay decentralised. The integrations between countries has to be uniform? Can it be an open source code? It would make it a big target for hackers. We actually have a technology that can cross borders; blockchain. Can we use Ethereum to build a global password system? So, this is the first idea that’s been running in my mind.

Second idea is about the recent news of the iPhone 14 which has a satellite connection now. SpaceX and StarLink have been working on a satellite constellation to build a network in orbit, to achieve internet connection anywhere around the world. Apple seems to be slowly tapping into that idea.

The third idea is about quantum computers. They are already available in cloud providers like AWS or Google, but the usage is so far limited. I have no doubt that we’ll figure out how to utilise them and will soon break the internet. We’ll have to rethink all the security protocols. 

We can throw the metaverse in the mix too. There are so many branches of technological development going on that it’s dizzying to watch and speculate.

Here is my speculation; a satellite constellation of quantum computers that runs the blockchain which has the global passport and metaverse is built on. Since quantum computers require a very cold environment to operate, space is the best place to run them. And they won’t be easily reachable by any country, adding another layer of security to the overall system. I forgot to mention the DAOs which are at the core of this concept. Basically, they are systems where “code is law”. You can only change the code by voting in a democratic way. There is nothing stopping us building all our infrastructure in the manner of a DAO. 

This leads me to another thought experiment. A dystopian world, a Black Mirror episode. Imagine everything we do is logged at all times and is public information. What we ate, how many times we went to the bathroom, what we talked about in our bedroom, where we looked, everything. Consent is implicitly given during birth and is irrevocable. It’s hard to imagine right now, but it’s no different than the state of nature, or where everybody would be naked and wouldn’t know that it’s a shame. Perfect openness, nothing is hidden. If there would be chips in our brains, even our thoughts can be logged too. The upside is we wouldn’t spend much time finding unwanted behaviour, finding criminals, solving disputes, detecting illnesses, thus preventing pandemics. By using the tremendous amount of data, we can detect even the most subtle patterns in the populace. We can measure the progress or the decay in any society. The downside is if you make a mistake, perhaps as a child, or are born with a defect, born with an illness, or involved in an accident that would leave you disabled, then it’s public knowledge too. Will we be mature enough to be able to accept those differences? Or will we have prejudice? Will the civilisation divide into perfects and imperfects?

A story idea based on the fully transparent society; a guy with a very mild autism, working as a chaos engineer, gets a call from a crime syndicate which is located in the Sahel desert. They say we’ve been watching your data and we realised that you have a tendency for crime and your skillset is a perfect match for our organisation. Come join us, you’ll live a life of anonymity and endless adventure. I guess it would be the same promises every crime organisation uses to lure recruits today. The difference would be security forces would call him immediately and would try to stop him from converting. They would say look here is the number of people they reach out to every year, here are the number of people who joined them, very few, how short is the life expectancy of those joiners, etc. They would add how those criminal tendencies wouldn’t matter until he does something wrong, and how valuable he is to the true society. The criminal syndicate would call right after the security forces, because they would’ve access to the public information about him and would know every word that was uttered in that call. Syndicate would reject the arguments by saying the security forces cannot approach a thousand miles to Sahel without the syndicate knowing it. And tell him that he is given his current job, as far away from Sahel as possible, because the true society already detected his tendency for crime, and he already hit the ceiling in his career. I guess these calls would continue back and forth a few times more, while the character and the readers would swing between the decision to stay in the grid vs leaving it without an option to come back.

I’ve been thinking about metaverse and the VR headsets and I thought it manipulates us visually and with sounds, but the sense of smell is missing from a deeper immersion. How different our lives would be if there was a device that can reproduce the smells of nature? It would be missing without a device that can capture the smells in nature; an artificial nose. Then if these devices can be installed in a mobile phone, we would have a smellgram. Like the camera, we would go around capturing every smell around us; roses, mouth watering food smells, rainy day earth smell, various perfumes, bodily smells too. We would need filters for foul smell. We would catalogue the smell of every flower, every tree, every spice, every fruit. Parents would post the smell of their children. New car owners would post that fresh interior smell. Match making apps would use the bodily odours in their algorithms. Algorithms can detect illnesses. And there would be unique smells, like a festival, would include the smell of the crowd, or your childhood blanket which can take you to your past in a single whiff. We can use the perfumes directly from the phone, replacing the bottle, and pay per usage. Mass protests could involve spraying bad smells on a busy square, making the place unusable for a while. Art exhibitions would enhance each piece with a companion smell. There would be health issues related to too much smelling, just like spending too much time on social media today. Temporarily losing our sense of smell? Becoming addicted to certain smells? After a while we’ll have interesting statistics of which country uses which spice in their food, what kind of flavour they prefer in their soap, in their perfume, or who prefers natural body odour, etc.

Stream Recording:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s