Sunday, 31 March 2019

Research: A I Doctors

As I work my way through the book A Brief History of the Future we revisit medicine. I wrote recently about Regenerative Medicine and now the book proposes Artificial Intelligence Doctors. As with many of the other topics, I found development is already in progress.

The website of the British Medical Journal has an article on the debate about the viability of A I in diagnosis and treatment.
Machines that can learn and correct themselves already perform better than doctors at some tasks, says Jörg Goldhahn, but Vanessa Rampton and Giatgen A Spinas maintain that machines will never be able to replicate the inter-relational quality of the therapeutic nature of the doctor-patient relationship.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Building a Castle: Defences

Castles had gatehouses to protect the entrance, which was the weakest point. The gatehouse itself had lots of defences.

Since the castle was surrounded by a ditch or moat, a bridge was needed across the gap. There were three types of drawbridge.

The simplest type was the best known, the lifting bridge which pivoted at one end in the gateway, lifted by chains. The chains passed through slots in the wall to windlasses in the gatehouse. The disadvantage with this was the time it took to raise the drawbridge if there was an attack.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Research: Mission to Mars

Before I began looking at A Brief History of the Future by Charles Joynson, I was reading Robert Zubrin’s book Entering Space, subtitled Creating a Spacefaring Civilization. I wrote a couple of posts on what he said about Mars, Mars Direct and The Mars Society.

Now A Brief History of the Future has got to speaking of Mars too. A mission was launched in 2071.


To keep the astronauts from feeling isolated on the ten-month mission to Mars, they set up a connection so that:
… anyone on Earth with a webcam and internet access could ask an astronaut, cosmonaut or taikonaut a question, leave words of encouragement or make useful suggestions. Insults or negative comments were screened out by AIs and the travellers spent much of their time each day answering questions with a camera bot following them as they spoke and worked.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Building a Castle: Defensive Towers

Caerphilly Castle
Early castles had walkways along the top of the walls on the inside, but it was soon realised that towers provided much better defences. Not only did they stick out from the walls, providing better angles to shoot attackers, but arrow slits or loops were built in at each floor level to enable archers to shoot without getting shot at.

Initially towers were open on the inside, but later the back was built and provided extra accommodation. Towers were rectangular or hexagonal, but master masons found round towers more stable, especially since a major technique in attacking a castle was to undermine the walls or towers. Providing more defences was no good if the towers could be undermined and toppled. Some castles had D-shaped towers built onto the existing walls.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Research: Internet

A Brief History of the Future makes a very interesting proposition regarding the future of the Internet. Already we are feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available. He suggests that:

In the 2070s the Internet of computers changed from a World Wide Web of information to the R Net of relevant knowledge. This meant that people were fed information triggered by position, direction, occupation and requirement. All this information was delivered through AR glasses and voice activated AIs. Most websites disappeared and activation engines appeared to replace search engines.
There are already applications which access GPS and give you information relevant to your location, and map applications can track your position as you travel. Company servers hold databases of information relevant to your occupation. But how do you specify your requirements except through a search engine?

The answer is voice and image searches.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Building a Castle: Mortar

Once you have the stone to build your castle, you need mortar to fix it together. As well as the quarrymen and stonecutters for the stone, you need mortar makers to prepare the mortar and mason layers to put the walls together using trowel, plumb line and mason's level.

Mortar was made from lime, sand and water, using different proportions depending on the quality of the materials. They kept the recipes secret and passed them down from father to son. Just as they used three different types of stone (see last week), they used three types of mortar: a flexible type for arches and vaults, a fine type for facing walls, and a coarse type for the rubble core of the walls. This last type can take hundreds of years to set, to allow for the stones to settle over time. Archaeologists have found mortar in the centre of some castle walls that is still not set, centuries after it was mixed.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Research: Bioengineering

A Brief History of the Future suggests that in 2070 bioluminescent lichens using DNA from squid were grown on buildings to provide lighting when the street lights failed, and other engineered bacteria and algae were used to provide power.

So I Googled it, and most of what I found was too technical for someone with no science background to understand, but I did get these examples:
  • Already bioengineering is producing fuel from algae to use instead of petrol.