How do we protect our heads?

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A recent article in Treehugger takes an interesting path in explaining that there’s little point to arguing whether cyclists should wear bike helmets (for their own protection, they should—argument over); the real issue is whether we should all be wearing helmets, cycling or not.

causes of head injuriesIn case you hadn’t heard, the human body gained a lot by going vertical: Longer distance vision has been a godsend for the survival of our species.  But in the process, it lost something significant: The human skull and the brain within are not strong enough to withstand a fall from the height of a standing human; if a human body falls over, the impact of that fall to the skull can kill you.  Did you catch that?  You can get a concussion or crack your skull open falling from your standing height to the ground.  And people die or become permanently and seriously injured to the head by slipping, tripping, getting knocked down or otherwise losing consciousness and falling over.  Every day.  Eesh.

In fact, the number of people who suffer head injuries on bicycles are laughingly small compared to those who suffer head injuries by other means… cars (of course) being the most common of all. (One more reason to support the development of self-driving cars, I think.)  So maybe this concern about bike helmets really is looking at the issue the wrong way.  Continue reading

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Security: Encryption, A.I. and drones (Oh my!)

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data securitydata securityPersonal security has taken a number of recent hits, most notably with the reports of recent hacking into the databases of Target, Home Depot and other national retailers. Financial institutions are finally concluding that the U.S. needs to start using chip-embedded credit cards to better protect their funds and identities.

On the heels of that, the iPhone 6 has been released with an encryption system that (supposedly) no government or agency can break, keeping anything stored therein private from prying eyes.  On one hand, law enforcement agencies are complaining that this will only make their jobs more difficult.  On the other, agencies are realizing this makes their operatives’ data better protected.  And, of course, private individuals like the idea of being able to secure all of their data, allowing them to, as law enforcement puts it, “place themselves beyond the law.”

But as secrets become easier to keep, we run the risk of ne’er-do-wells attacking us more often, targeting our institutions, our money, and even our lives, using the same security measures we rely on.  Does my need for privacy include allowing a terrorist an easier time destroying my plane?  Is the collection of internet porn on my cellphone so important that we should also allow foreign agents to store their collection of bomb making manuals and list of suppliers on their cellphones?   Do we have to allow people to keep whatever secrets they have, only to examine them within an inch of their lives every time they approach a public place?  Continue reading

You want a self-driving car. Think about it.

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Self-driving car from I, Robot

Self-driving car from I, Robot, courtesy 20th Century Fox

I know.  It almost sounds blasphemous.  Imagine, a car that drives itself, as do the cars in my novel Sarcology.  No input from a driver, other than telling the car your destination.  Then turning your back on the car until it tells you you’ve arrived.  It’s crazy.  No car could drive as well as you can.  No car could get you where you’re going faster or easier than you can.  And no robot could be a safer driver than you.

Yet, robotics technology is improving by leaps and bounds every day.  Google, using the latest in computers, GPS and sensory technology, has created a car that has run so safely over the past year (one accident, caused by the other car) that two states have decided to make self-driving cars legal on their streets.  Other states are already looking them over, as other car makers and experimenters are working on their own self-driving car technology.  And in every state, many drivers now gladly watch in hands-off mode as cars park themselves.  The writing is on the traffic sign.

And you still don’t want cars to drive you around?  Well, maybe you just haven’t thought it through. Continue reading

Gun Control

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no gunsYes, I said it.  I used the words.  Put the two together, something so many people are loathe to do, and spelled out “gun control.”

Because somebody needs to.

The U.S. has had a gun problem for quite some time.  It’s like a nationwide addiction that no one is willing to address, much less treat.  Why?  Because over two centuries ago, our forefathers told us we have a right to own and use guns.   (Mind you, this was written when the country was on a wartime footing on its own shores… details, details.)  And today, although we haven’t fought a war on our lands for over a century, we have dangerous people among us, and we want to protect ourselves.

So we buy guns.  Many of us don’t learn to use them properly… many of us don’t store them properly… many of us keep ammo in them, leave safeties off and put them where kids can get at them… but there you go.  We feel safer. Continue reading