Eight Technologies: Did They Change the World?

Eighteen years ago I wrote a blog post about an article in Business 2.0 that I read, entitled Eight Technologies That Will Change the World. I thought sufficient time has passed, and it would be interesting to revisit this article and see how things have changed.

Biointeractive Materials

The big idea: High-tech sensors for living systems

Technology in this area hasn't moved forward much, at least for materials embedded into living beings. However, wearables have become the quickly evolving area where biointeractivity has come into play. Beginning with digital devices keeping track of our steps (there were many non-digital versions for decades before), to wearables keeping track of our location, heartrate, EKG... and with the announcement of Apple Watch Series 6, our blood oxygen levels this technology is now advancing at a break-neck speed.

It may not be the embedded devices we were all imagining, but these devices are monitoring us in real time.

Biofuel Production Plants

The big idea: Replacing oil with fuels from genetically engineered crops

The biofuel space has continued to grow considerably over the past 18 years, with multiple types of diesel fuel, ethanol and other alcohol fuels being produced. Most of us are probably driving with ethanol in our tanks, at least partially (around 10% in most places in the United States), and because of this it is likely the most popular biofuel. This popularity is in part of the US Government's subsidy of corn production, making ethanol very cheap to produce.


The big idea: Artificial systems to replace lost or disabled body parts

Bionics may be the are that has had the most profound advancement. We now have fully functional artificial hearts, cochlear implant devices, and of course biomenchanical replacements for arms and legs. Some of these even controlled in part my the brain.

There are many more advancements in progress such as silicon-based retinas, red blood cells, stem cells and other tissues.


The big idea: Computer-aided telekinesis

Up until a couple of years ago, and then more info a few weeks ago, I would have said cognitronics hasn't moved at all, but then Elon Musk announced Neuralink. Prior to this there had been research of course, but none so public or definitive as this.

Combinatorial Science

The big idea: Combining statistical analysis and massive computing power to cut research time

This is one area that there have been massive leaps in. Between computation power continuing to increase at the speed Moore predicted, and the advancement in managing what we now call "Big data", data analysis capabilities have exponentially increased in the past 18 years.


The big idea: Classifying people based on their genetics

Genotyping, as everyone is probably aware, is well developed an commonplace at this point. 23 and Me certainly popularized personal DNA testing, and with the 2019 holiday season, spread it even further. Both companies (and others) can reveal lots of information about your ancestry as well as health issues that you may have based on your genome. This data is not always 100% accurate, but the accuracy will increase over time.

Molecular Manufacturing

The big idea: Building complex structures, atom by atom

The idea of nanorobots was all the rage in the 1990s popular culture, and there has been some continued research in that area as well. However there hasn't been any substantial advances, although nature itself invented walking protiens long ago.

Quantum Nucleonics

The big idea: A portable, safe, nonpolluting source of nuclear power

This is another pie-in-the-sky technology that has never made it out of the research phase, although it certainly makes for an interesting read, and should really be the base for a sci-fi book (I imagine it probably is already)

I hope you enjoyed a little stroll through memory lane. Technology always advances at a snails pace, and at break-neck speed at the same time.

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Goodbye Aaron Swartz.

About 13 years ago or so I logged onto IRC (as I had many times before), and found a group of guys in a room that I felt like I fit into. Aaron Swartz was one of those guys. I was fairly active there for a couple years, but as jobs and priorities changed I wasn't able to socialize there as often as I might otherwise have wanted. Aaron, although young, was brilliant. His insight into the inner workings of the mind, and politics specifically was simple and smart. He made quite an impression on me, which is why I (to this day) host one of the mirrors of I felt it was something I had the resources to supply in his quest for freedom of all sorts.

I never met him in person. I hadn't talked to him in years, except for the occasional pleasantry, yet I saw him excel in the thing he was great in - fighting to keep things free that should be free, whether it was technical specifications, democracy, or publicly funded journals. He was quite amazing at these things.

I always felt that his interests and activities should be important to everyone. I always struggled with being active in those things myself because I felt the importance, but life always seemed to get in the way. I did what I could.

Aaron committed suicide today. We might not ever know the reason why, although many of us will suspect. He will certainly be missed long into the future, and will hopefully be remembered as a person that fought for freedom.

I'm really unsure why I'm writing this except that this seemed the most appropriate place (more that 140 characters, and published in RSS especially), and there is some cathartic feeling.

Aaron was a star that shone very brightly. I regret that I didn't know him more. Maybe I could have helped in the end, but who knows.

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    Quick Update:

    Recently we moved to California in April, and I am now working for Apple.

    For those of you using my apps, I'm looking at options, and will keep you all informed.

    In related news, I will be at WWDC this year! We should meet -- message me on Twitter

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    Indie+Relief : All Revenue Will Go to Haiti on Jan 20.

    In response to the earthquakes in Haiti, Second Gear Software and Garrett Murray have teamed up to create Indie+Relief - a group of iPhone and Mac developers giving to Haiti.

    I was a bit late to the game, so I'm not officially listed, but will be participating. All revenue (minus Apple's cut) from Humidor and MyGarden for January 20th will be given to Yéle Haiti, an organization created by musician Wyclef Jean to help Haiti's children.

    Over 130 other developers are participating. If you need some software, go buy it now!

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    Finally Found the Error I've Been Looking for (or "OSX Error Code Lookup Tool")

    In a recent project, I kept receiving a -10000 error in the console when running my app. Quite frustrating to say the least since the error description was useless, and Google wasn't any help at all either.

    So I was completely thrilled to come across the OSX Error Code Lookup Tool. Download, compile, and plug in your error code -- it'll give you something good back!

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    Cheater, Cheater Pumpkin Eater (or "Cheaters Never Win")

    ... at least I hope they don't.

    Seriously people, why are you paying for reviews?

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    Need a Programmer

    If anyone is looking for an exceptional .NET programmer, let me know. A good friend of mine needs a job.

    Thank you, and good night.

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    Time per student (or "The Math is Very Simple")

    An discussion I was a part of asked why homeschooling isn't 6 hours per day and is more frequently just a couple, and how that can be effective as compared to public schooling.

    The math is very simple:

    Public school: average of 180 school days. 30 students per class 6 classes per day 45 minutes per class

    Total time the teacher can spend with each student per day: 1.5 minutes. A total of 4.5 hours per year.

    Homeschool: Younger grades: 2 hours of school per day. 1 teacher 1 student

    Total time per student per day: 2 hours per day. Total time per student per year: 360 Hours.

    The argument typically then turns to "but the parent isn't always as educated as a public school teacher."

    Even so, I have to believe that the child getting 80 TIMES the amount of time with the teacher would outweigh (in most cases) the parent's educational deficit. And the homeschool parents I know are active in learning what is needed anyway (I understand that is anecdotal evidence).

    In fact, based on Wikipedia, 8.8% of Homeschool mothers (mothers are typically the parent that teaches) have a masters degrees, compared to 4.5% nationally. The same holds true for associates and bachelors degrees -- homeschool moms more frequently have a degree. The separation is even greater for homeschool fathers, where 19.8% have a Masters compared to 5.4% nationally.

    In short, homeschooled children on average get much more time spent with them per child, and the parents have higher education compared to the rest of the nation.

    For those parents that can do it, and live in a deficient school system, homeschool is a good option.

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    Color Me Crazy (or "When a Color Isn't Just a Color")

    Ever need to use an image as a background, but can't figure out how? It's quite simple -- colors aren't always colors:

    UIImage *patternImage = [UIImage imageWithContentsOfFile:[[NSBundle mainBundle] pathForResource:@"patternImage" ofType:@"png"]];
    [myView setBackgroundColor:[UIColor colorWithPatternImage: patternImage]];
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    We are a Billion Fragments (or "Removing URL Fragments with NSURL")

    NSURL is a wonderfully powerful Cocoa object, bet there is at least one thing it leaves out, but I'll show you how to fix that. URLs are composed of several distinct parts. Given the example URL of this is broken into these parts:

    • scheme (http://)
      • authority (
      • path (/path/to/file/page.htm)
      • query (key=val)
      • fragment (foo)

    You can read more about all of this in RFC3986. Today I'm just focusing on the fragment part.

    Frequently, you have an NSURL object and may just want the URL without the fragment, to find distinct pages in a site for example.

    This Objective-C category on the NSURL object does just that.


    //  PDNSURLExtras.h
    //  Created by Eric Vitiello on 11/5/09.
    //  Copyright 2009 Eric Vitiello. All rights reserved.
    @interface NSURL (PDExtras)
    - (NSURL *)urlByRemovingFragment;


    //  PDNSURLExtras.m
    //  Created by Eric Vitiello on 11/5/09.
    //  Copyright 2009 Eric Vitiello. All rights reserved.
    #import "PDNSURLExtras.h"
    @implementation NSURL (PDExtras)
    -(NSURL *)urlByRemovingFragment {
    	NSString *urlString = [self absoluteString];
    	// Find that last component in the string from the end to make sure to get the last one
    	NSRange fragmentRange = [urlString rangeOfString:@"#" options:NSBackwardsSearch];
    	if (fragmentRange.location != NSNotFound) {
    		// Chop the fragment.
    		NSString* newURLString = [urlString substringToIndex:fragmentRange.location];
    		return [NSURL URLWithString:newURLString];
    	} else {
    		return self;

    To use:*

    NSURL *url = [NSURL URLWithString:@""];
    NSURL *urlWithoutFragment = [url urlByRemovingFragment];

    Nice and simple. Enjoy!

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