Peter Nowak | Talks at Google

Male #1: Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming.
We are very pleased to have a 63-minute or less talk by Peter Nowak. We have that much
HD space currently. Um, renowned CBC tech, blogger, tweetist, and now, author. And thank
you very much for agreeing to come and talk about your book, and we look forward to your
talk. [Applause] Peter Nowak: All right, uh… can you hear
me okay? All right, well, thanks. First of all, thanks very much for having me, this
is a, this is a considerable honor for me. I understand I’m one of a handful of few Canadian
authors, to actually get to do this. So that’s, that’s, that’s really great. And I also think
it’s fantastic that Google, not just Google, but any company does this sort of thing. Because
I think, it’s fantastic not just for authors to be able to come in and talk about what
they’ve done, but also to, for, for employees to actually get company time to actually hear
interesting new perspectives, which I hope I can bring to you today. So, I guess what
I’m going to do is I made a little presentation on keynotes; my first ever presentation. I
thought it was, it was a little project that I undertook and I had a blast doing it. So
I figured I’d do this so you wouldn’t just have to look at me; you would have something
else look at, because I’m just not that interesting. So okay, so this is “Sex, Bombs, and And Burgers”.
This is my new book. It just came out last week. So I’ll give you a bit of an overview
as to what I’m going to try run-through here. So, I’ll quickly tell you about who I am,
how the book came to be, and I’ll tell you about what I call the shameful Trinity, which
are kind of 3 base instincts at the root of this book. And of course, those are food…
fast food/food processing, war, and pornography. And because this is Google, I’ll tell you
a little bit about some of Google’s relevance to all of this stuff. And of course, I’ll
try to give a little bit of a look of the future. So, okay, so, quickly who am I? I’ve
been writing about technology for about 13 years. I’m currently the Senior Science and
Technology Reporter at CBC news. We don’t actually have a
[Inaudible] Beep Junior-technology reporter so; it’s kind of
an interesting title. Beep
I’ve also… What is that?
[Inaudible] Beep
[Inaudible] [laughter]
Um, right, so, I’ve also worked for the National Post, I lived abroad a couple years in China
and New Zealand. I was the Technology Reporter for the New Zealand Herald. I used to write
about software for The Globe and Mail many, many years ago. And when I was in China I
freelanced for a lot of newspapers so some of them are listed there. Okay, so, I often
get asked, where did you think of or what was your idea or what was your inspiration
for this book? And sadly it was Paris Hilton. [laughter] If you will remember a few years
ago, she is obviously famous for being famous. Actually, the way she became famous was this
infamous sex tape that was circulating on the Internet a few years ago.
And if you, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but essentially the crux of the video was
her having sex with her then boyfriend and it was all green. So, you know, and being
a nerd that I am, I was not really paying attention to what was going on I was just
looking at it thinking, wow where have I seen the green thing before? So I thought back,
and it finally clicked that it was actually going back to 1991, when the United States
helped to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. I remember the CNN footage that was going on at the time.
It was all green tinged; it was all in night vision. So that really got me thinking, all
right, so here’s an example of military developed technology passed into the consumer’s space,
and interestingly enough, here’s, here’s a great example of it being used in a sexual
way. Of course, Paris Hilton’s video is essentially amateur porn. So the more I started reading
up on it, started looking into it, and I started finding lots and lots of examples of technologies
that have been developed by the military eventually found their way into the consumer’s space.
And I’ll talk about those in a minute. The more I looked into it, the more I found links
between the military technology and porn technology as well, and see Paris was a good example.
So, now where does the food part come into it? Well, around the same time, sort of, two
things were happening, I was reading a book called “Fast Food Nation”, I don’t know if
anybody’s read it. It’s a very good book. And there’s one chapter in there that really
stood out for me. It was the author Eric Schlosser, he visited a chemical factory in New Jersey
where he sampled a whole bunch of artificial flavors. And I read that and I was like, “Wow
that’s crazy. I’d never thought about that before.” At the same time, I was kinda starting
to get into my 30s and getting older, and starting to slow down, feel sluggish, and
I started reading labels on foods in grocery stores, and seeing all the crazy stuff that
goes into them. So it really made me realize, how much technology
goes into the food that we eat. Even a simple banana, you know, has genetic, has genetically,
there’s genetic engineering in the banana. There’s gas applied to the banana to make
it ripen, and all this crazy stuff. Um, so the more I looked at a few technologies again
I found incredible links to the military, and those links are kind of, they come in
two different ways. And I will talk about those as well. [Long pause video shows new slide showing
images of monkeys] Okay, so I call this the shameful Trinity.
So this is essentially our three base instincts which is the need to fight or compete, the
need to reproduce and/or titillate ourselves, and the need to eat as much as we possibly
can or amass as much as we can. So the image on the left, I’ll talk about
that in a second. That’s actually a drawing from Science Magazine of the oldest human
skeleton found. I’ll talk about that in a second. The image on the right, which I like to call
angry Wimpy eating burger… it was drawn by a friend of mine named Stefan, and it’s
in the book… and it kind of illustrates the whole shameful Trinity. So, going back to the skeleton, which is,
scientists have named Arthur, Ardipithecus ramidus. I think I’m saying that correctly. So the
skeleton is over 4.4 million years old, they only discovered it last year, and some of
the theories that have been published about the skeleton are in National Geographic and
in Science are really interesting. Because researchers at Kent State University have
figured that that shameful Trinity of food, sex, and eating are actually responsible for
humans getting up off of all fours and walking on two feet. And the rationale is the way
that men use to compete for women, and this is back in caveman days, I guess you could
say, is they would obviously fight it out, and the guy with the biggest muscles and biggest
teeth would usually get the woman. So, the lesser males, the beta males, I guess, they
had to kind of improvise to try to get some action themselves. So we know that they figured
out another way to get a female’s interests is to give gifts. And what was the only gifts
back then that really mattered? Well, it was food. So as the theory goes, these guys would
go out and get food for women and bring it back to them, but in order to do so they have
to be able to carry it. So they eventually have developed the ability to stand up and
carrying their food. So I think that’s kind of an interesting illustration of where this
is going. [Long pause] So, nearly 5 million years later, nothing
has changed. We still compete; we still, we still, despite centuries and despite millions
of years of trying to overcome this; these base instincts, we have not gotten any closer
to that. As I think this Burger King ad shows, I think this is from Malaysia. Uh, so these
three base needs over time have translated into serious, serious industries. Now if we
look at the military industry. The military industry is one of the biggest
in the world last year, and I’m sorry, in 2008 we were spending globally $1.4 trillion,
which is about two and half percent of global GDP. The United States has been the big driver
of that and they have spent about 42% of that. China, as you can see it is number two, but
they are only, basically, it’s a drop, but what they are spending is a drop in the bucket
compared to what the US is. And just for an interesting Canadian fact is, I thought was
kind of neat, is that the Pentagon’s black budgets, this is the money that they don’t
really talk about that they are spending, it is estimated to be about $50 billion which
is about triple what Canada spends on our entire military. So the last 10 years has
seen a major increase in spending to about 35%. Getting into the porn business, the porn business
is a lot harder to measure because there’s not; it’s primarily dominated by small private
companies that are not required to report what they make. So it’s really, there’s only
really a best estimate figures here, but even taken with a grain of salt, $97 billion is
a really big global industry. So, as you can see, it’s more than a lot of the major technology
companies put together. And China, South Korea, Japan are apparently the biggest spenders. The United States is
up their fourth with about $14 billion. So, the number there that’s pretty whopping is
that more than $3,000 is spent every second on porn. And of course, the amount spent in
the US is more than all of the three mainstream networks put together. So, getting into food, the food is the biggest
industry in the world. It is about $4.8 trillion, about 10% of the entire output. There’s no
coincidence that, and this is what I’m talking about a little bit when I go further in the
food industry, is food is essential to everything else we have. You know, until we secure our
food supply nothing else really matters, you know, if you don’t have enough to eat we don’t
have iPods, we don’t have flat screen TVs. So it’s no surprise that the most prosperous
countries in the world are also the biggest food producers. So, as you can see the top
three food producers are all G8 countries. And McDonald’s, obviously you’ll see, is a
very big part of that. I think Google surpassed McDonald’s in ready revenue in the last year
or two. So, good job. [laughter; video shows slide titled “Food”
with image of a Whopper with seven patties and Chinese writing]
So I’ll start with food, because like I said that’s kind of… this is actually real too,
I can’t actually off the top my head remember whether it’s in Japan or Korea, I think it
was Japan. It was just a monstrosity. So as I said food is kind of the real basic. Until
you have your food supply secured, nothing else really matters. So in recent years, there
has been a lot of almost a cottage industry developed, that criticizes the sort of industrialized
food system. So I come in documentary food movies like “Food Inc.” which was nominated
for an Oscar or of course the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” one of the sort of premises of these
books and the movies is that industrialized food is bad, but the fact is without it we’d
be starving.
And I’ll tell you a bit more about why that is. The way that technology develops is if
you look at the way developed in the United States was. Start before I get to that let
me tell you a little bit about the whole issue out there is a very strong movement right
now for organic food, producing organic food, and local farming, and that sort of thing.
That stuff is all great and I think they are luxuries. And I do think that they are luxuries
that we can kind of enjoy here and in the developed world, but the fact is if we all
converted to, if we converted all of our food system to organic and locally grown, I think
there would be rampant starvation in not too long of a time, because ah, farming is still
very much at the mercy of mother nature so if you get too much rain one year and too
little rain one year you are screwed either way. So, now we’ll move on to the three of what
I like to call the three epochs of food. And these are sort of the three major areas or
the three major times that food technology was developed. So we start with World War
II this was really when mass food processing was born. That’s when, it was kind of the
first real situation where United States had to send a bunch of their soldiers overseas,
and find some way to feed them. So, they had to come up with ways to make the food last
longer, not spoil. And when you’re talking about things like milk and eggs it’s not,
it’s not easy to do. So a lot of money and a lot of research and development went into
things like dehydration or flash freezing. And spray drying which is a process where
you, it’s like dehydrating except you do it with hot air. So, things like the aftereffects
of this after the war were things like coffee, Maxwell House coffee, for example. You know
they basically powderize beans, and then they dehydrate them, and once you add water, and
then you have coffee again. And they did this with eggs and stuff like that. And if you’ve
ever had Quick, and you drink Quick when you were kids that was the process that was kind
of the direct byproduct of World War II. One of the big things that came out of the war
too was something called the mass spectrometer. It was, it’s, it could
possibly be one of the dullest instruments, dullest scientific instruments ever invented
but it’s also perhaps the most important, because it allowed scientists to study matter
on a, on an atomic level. So, it analyzed, they used it in developing the atomic bomb
they isolated isotopes, and all that fun stuff. But food companies really took to it after
the war because it was a fantastic way for them to look at, one good example was Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola is always very sort of jealously guarded its formula. Well, somebody could
put Coca-Cola into this mass spectrometer and figure out exactly what is going on in
there and replicate it. Now of course you will get into trademark and intellectual property
issues, but the bottom line is that it allowed food processors to really drill down into
the very essence of food. And that of course led to, going back “Fast Food Nation”, and
led to the development of the flavor industry. So all of this kind of came together after
the war in the 50s and 60s, because one of the big byproducts of food processing whether
it is dehydration or whatever it is that it strips food of its nutrients, it strips it
of its tastes, so you know, it’s not healthy for you. It doesn’t taste good; but with the
mass spectrometer chemical, the food processors can now develop chemicals to put all of that
stuff back in. So, they could really do anything they wanted to food and then basically chemically
make it taste good to some extent a little bit better for you. So. The second major epoch of food was the space
race and the fast food revolution, which kind of happened during the Cold War. Now NASA
has probably helped develop some of the, more technology than just about any organization
you can think of. I’ll talk a bit more about what they’ve done in other areas. But in terms
of food one of the things, John Glenn, the first American astronauts that went into space,
I am sorry the first astronaut that actually ate in space. Because they sent him around
the world and he took up this tube of applesauce. Basically, he was only up there for I think
five hours, but they just wanted to do an experiment. They said, we wanted to see if
you could swallow in space. So he squeezes applesauce into his mouth, and he swallowed
it, and said Yep! Okay! Good. [mumbles] We can eat in space. So NASA then basically turned
the Pillsbury and said well we’re going to the moon so we’re gonna have to send people
out there for a bunch of days at a time. So they’re going to need something so Pillsbury
can you make some croissants or something. And Pillsbury found, NASA had such high standards, that
Pillsbury found their entire food system, the entire way that they produce food for
you and I was deplorable. So, they completely revamped their entire quality control system
and over the decades, it led to some system called “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control
Points” which is basically food testing at every single point. So, you know at the farm,
to harvesting of it, to the packaging of it, to the processing of it, etc. etc. In this
system, HACCP is now used in every single developed country, by every single food, every
single food company in the world. And that’s , it’s hard to overstate the importance of
NASA’s contributions in this area because this system basically has prevented so much
tainted food from getting out there, I mean it’s hard to estimate how much it could be. So, McDonald’s on the other hand, was also
growing at the same time. McDonald’s has really put a lot of development into small things
and into big things. You know, from humble things like automated ketchup dispensers,
but then going on to bigger things like frozen fries and frozen burgers. Frozen foods were
around before McDonald’s, but McDonald’s because it grew into such a big huge powerhouse so
quickly it very quickly developed power or influence over the food industry; kind of
similar to Google not in terms of industry but in terms of influence. So any sort of
innovations that McDonald’s came up with soon translated into the larger food industry.
So one other thing they also did was that they pioneered, you know a Wal-Mart or Dell
often get credit a lot of credit for really developing the just-in-time delivery supply
chain system, but McDonald’s was actually there first. In the 60s they had something
like a couple of hundred beef suppliers. And they figured, this is problematic because
it is hard to keep track of so many beef companies. So what we need to do is pair them down. And
what they did was, this happened about the same time they started instituting frozen
burgers. By doing that, I think they lessened it down to about five suppliers, and so they
basically limited their points of, you know, problems, problems arising. So the third epoch of food, which I think
we are currently in, started in late 70s and early 80s. And this is where we start getting
into genetically modified foods. There is a fine line, there actually the line is
difficult to tell where we got from hybrid seeds and hybrid foods to genetically modified
foods because it wasn’t, there wasn’t a lot of food scientists don’t believe there is
a clear division between the two. But in the early days, Monsanto was one of the first
to jump on this. Monsanto was a chemical company, that started just over a hundred years ago
and they have been hated since their inception. Little-known fact that they are actually the
company that introduced Coca-Cola to caffeine. And they have also been busted the world over
for illegal dumping and all sorts of stuff like that. They’re like the environmental
movement’s public enemy number one. So it is no surprise that we now have books and
movies that are really critical of the Monsanto. But what Monsanto did was they came up with
the fertilizer. I’ll tell you briefly about the green revolution in an unfamiliar. The
fellow in the picture there is actually Norman Borlaug, who’s possibly the greatest humanitarian
that has ever lived. He was the father the green revolution, which after World War II,
and there is a nice link to the war here. After World War II, the United States and
the rest of the free world were very concerned about spread of Communism. So they supported
developing nations and in a number of ways, one of which was they supplied them with arms,
another way would be that they supplied them with financing and that’s sort of thing, but
another I think far more ingenious approach was trying to give these developing countries
that means to become prosperous themselves. And like I said before the only way to do
that is to take care of your food supply first. So Mexico was where this all started. Mexico,
right after World War II was kind of, they had food supply problems and the people were
starting to think ‘hey maybe Communism is the answer.’ So they sent not Norman Borlaug,
who is a biologist down there, and he came up with this new kind of wheat. It was a hybrid
strain that resistance a lot of the climate problems that they had in Mexico. And what
happened was over very short period of time, the wheat yields in Mexico just exploded.
And after a few years the people of Mexico had more than enough food and they became
exporters. This is part of what was called the “Mexican miracle” which was, I think about
20 years of steady economic growth in Mexico. So it worked wonders in Mexico and thoughts
of Communism fell by the wayside, so they exported this idea to a number of other countries.
They did it in India was next and same effect in India, and Pakistan their food was secured.
Within a very short period of time they became exporters of food. And eventually economically
prosperous. So, Monsanto, part of the green revolution was, a need for chemical fertilizers,
so Monsanto was very quick in there and that was one of the criticisms of both the green
revolution and Mosanto is that it makes farmers dependant on these chemical fertilizers. But
anyhow, so they came out with this weed killer called Roundup, and it was the number-one
weed killer in the world until the 80s. But their patent was running out. So what they
did was they came up with something rather ingenious, or sinister, depending how your
perspective. They decided’ hey let’s genetically engineer some seeds, which when they grow
the plants, they will actually be resistant to Roundup. So that means that a farmer can
go out, buy Roundup, spray it on his fields, and the weed killer will kill all the weeds,
but the plants, which are naturally resistant to this weed killer will resist it. And um,
so essentially, in technological terms they created a light list, basically only the plants
that they deemed worthy would survive their killer spray. And so that is where we are
at now. And that is a lot of the recent criticism because also a source of intellectual property
issues both in regards to this killer into the seeds themselves. Now in the 90s, just as these genetically
modified seeds were starting to take off, there was a big outbreak of mad cow disease
in the UK and that really cast a chill over the whole industry. And mad cow’s cause, they
found mad cow was caused by cows eating basically junk food, eating chemically treated plants
and all that stuff. So Europe got very scared of genetically modified seeds and any foods
that basically were created from genetically modified seeds and that kind of spread to
African as well, and that is kind of where we are at now. It has been the situation where
people are not sure what the long-term effects of these genetically modified seeds are going
to be. The other main criticism is that again, Monsanto and a few other companies control
the patents to these seeds. So there is concern that really it’s all profit motivated. But
the fact is, humanitarian aids of genetically modified, humanitarian uses of genetically
modified foods are coming. There is something called Golden Rice created about 10 years
ago by a Swiss scientist. And it was created; he did it in the universities so it was free
from any sort of corporate funding or patenting or anything like that. He did run into intellectual
property issues but that is a side story. It is now going through regulatory process.
Things have are really slow down this area because people really nervous about it. Golden
Rice is something; it is rice, it is kind of yellow or orangey colored it has been genetically
modified to have a higher vitamin A content. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem
in developing countries. It leads to blindness in children and even death. So the first place
they are looking to roll it out is the Philippines. And it looks like it is going to happen in
the next year or two. And this is great because it is going to be really the first rollout
of genetically modified plants, that are not be done, you know, on a purely profit driven
basis. [Long pause] Okay, so the last thing, I think this is a
last thing I’m going to say about food today. The other link between food and war is that
a lack of food usually means war, or it usually creates the conditions for war. These quotes
these are from one of the folks I spoke to from one of my books a fellow named Peter
Singer. He has written a number of books. His latest is called “Wired for War”. It is
all about robots and war. It is an awesome book; you should check it out. These quotes
here are from a previous book of his called “Children at War”, which is about children
at war. And these are actually three quotes from children between the ages of 12 and 14
who were recruited in Africa I think all of them are in the Congo or somewhere around
there. They were recruited by local warlords into their armies. And as you can see, the
common denominator in all of them is the need for food.29.06 So bottom line there is if we can feed the
world, we can eliminate a lot of the causing causes, causal issues for why people actually
enlist to fight, to become soldiers, to become terrorists. [Long pause, video shows the word ‘War’ with
images of war with the words “War=Death and suffering, but we all benefit from it” scrolling
across slide] [Clears throat]So war, the military is probably
the biggest development of technologies and I am sure that probably is not a surprise
to many people. I think the major point in my book is the negatives of these base instincts
of ours: wars, porn, and fast food. We see them every day, and we are very much aware
of them. As these pictures illustrate, but I guess, what I’ve tried to point out is that
a lot of these negatives actually provide us with a lot of comforts and conveniences
that we never think of. So war is definitely horrific, it causes death and destruction
and suffering, but the fact is that in some, in many, many ways all of us have benefited
from. It is kind of unfortunate but it is true. So the reasons that military forces spend
money on developing new technologies, some of them are fairly obvious, having an advantage
over your enemy, of course, is a big motivator. But also, believe it or not, trying to come
up with stuff that actually results in less people dying is a very big motivator of military
forces particularly their own people. Of course, there are positive economic byproducts.
World War II is probably the best example. The world was in a depression before the war
came along and all of a sudden industry is pumping out everything from shoes to submarines,
and so the global economic situation rebounds. So universities which are a lot of research
comes from, and development comes from research in the US. There are estimates that a third
of all faculty since 1945have somehow been funded by, and somehow benefited from military
funding. So even Sergey Brin and Larry they even benefited in a way, some of the computers
that they used at Stanford were supplied by DARPA which is one of the US military’s main
technology labs. So, again there is three epochs of war. World
War II of course, was the big one; there were large inventions everyone knows about. Like
the Jets, the good powers of digital computers. But some of the smaller ones I focused a lot
on some of the smaller ones in my book not too many people know about that probably has
a huge effect on us. Things like the microwave oven which originated as radar and plastics
a lot of plastics such as Teflon and the plastic Coke bottles are made of. I cannot think of
it off the top of my head. A lot of these plastics were developed during the war kind
of by accident. So, what did all these things do, they contributed towards transforming
society into a very much consumer driven society after the war. So there is a magazine as,
a famous magazine ad in the 40s the late 40s that basically said “after total war comes
total living.” And you have time to put yourself in the shoes of the people that were living
at the time. First, they had a depression to deal with, and then they have the World
War II to deal with. That was two decades of absolute depravation. So when the war ends,
of course you know, basically that uncorks a whole bunch of pent up [inaudible ] and
people want to just live it up. There comes a huge wave of consumer products that came
out after the war it, that were developed for more technologies. The second
epoch was the Cold War and the space race, which was kind of an offshoot of the Cold
War. Again today, when you think of space exploration and the international space station
which I believe there is 18 countries that have taken part in the international space
station. We think of it as the utmost and international cooperation and whatnot, but
in the 50s, the 40s, 50s, and 60s, it totally was not. It was not about who can create the
rockets that could lift the satellites in orbit or people into orbit. It was all about
who can create the rockets that could launch, lob nukes over the ocean at your enemy. So
the space race was very much military influence. And that is why we are worried about rocket
testing by countries like North Korea and Iran today. So I mentioned some of the NASA
innovations in food, but, I mean, it’s just countless, you could fill a book with the
things that NASA has come up with that has translated into everyday life. I just listed
a few there. You know, stronger tires, they came up with safety grading and concrete so
that you know, the roads would have better traction, and these are all over the place.
Even in the jet propulsion Lab in California, they came up with the Super Soaker. I cannot
remember the story behind that one, but it was crazy. So DARPA which I mentioned is the
“Defense advanced research project agency”. DARPA was created same time that NASA was
this is just like the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik. . It’s kind of funny, after World
War II, the Americans were really and dare I say cocky, which is unusual for Americans.
[laughter] Um, they were like’ oh we have all the technological
might in the world, we’re awesome etc’. And then of course the Soviet Union beat them
in the face with the first satellite; Sputnik. So there was kind of a panic not just because
Americans realized hey we lost our technological edge, but also because, as I said with the
previous slide, the Soviet Union just proved that ‘hey we have the missiles launched nukes
at you.’ So they were really scared. So the government formed NASA and DARPA to sort of
make sure this never happens again. And DARPA just like NASA, is also another just fountain
of things, of technologies that first started as military and eventually came to the commercial
realm and of course the best example is the Internet’s which Vint Cerf there, he was probably
the key one of the key figures in designing. I had to find that picture because I remember saying
it. You know he did a speech here a couple years ago at the University of Waterloo and
he showed it, I remember I and my full nerdness I thought it was hilarious. So into the third epoch of war, the Middle East is a, deep chapter I’ve got to in the book is called Operation
Desert Lab. One of the unfortunate things about the way that military technology tends
to unfold is that it’s got to be tested. And you can test it in labs all you want but there
is no better way to test than in actual warfare. And for the past 20 years or so, basically
that meant Iraq and Afghanistan. So the first liberation of Kuwait, as I mentioned with
Paris Hilton and the night vision, that was an opportunity for the US to test out a lot
of technology they had sitting on the shelves basically since the Vietnam War. They didn’t
really know if they worked or not. So some examples that are the laser-guided smart bombs.
These are now, the laser-guidance signals on the smart bombs is now finding its way
into cars like the new Lexus. They use lasers to detect how far in front of them another
car is, and they can adjust their speed accordingly. GPS of course was first rolled out for operation
Desert Storm, and now it’s in basically every phone. Norman Schwarzkopf who was the American
General that basically led the liberation, he kind of summed it all up. He called it.
He called that war the technology war. And he said ‘I could not have done it all without
the computers.’ Now that was in ’91 which was right around when Windows 3 I think it
was, and I believe that was the first real version of Windows that took off, because
it was the first one that was easy to use. Uh, the US military was buying something like
$3 billion dollars worth of computers and software at the time. So they were a major
clients a major buyer of Windows. I’m not to say that Microsoft’s success is largely
dependent on those sales, but it certainly contributed. So coming into today, the so-called
War on Terror, one of the serious side effects we are going to see from that is our robots.
I’m sure you’ve heard about this elsewhere. The robots are, there is major, major money
going into robotic deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. had to start with something
like 120 and they’re up to something close to 10,000 now. In this area, we start them
with bomb disposal robots, but now we’ve got to these flying reapers that launch missiles
and all sorts of stuff like that. So the companies that are designing the robots for Iraq and
Afghanistan they are different than Japanese companies. Japanese companies who grew like
Toyota, they have created robots that play the violin and play soccer in the process.
But who really wants a robot to do that? And also these robots cost millions of dollars,
so they are pretty much completely impractical. The military robots on the other side, on
the other hand, are being designed with cost-effectiveness and actual usefulness in mind. So that’s why
you take a company like IRobots down in Boston, they designed a lot of the bomb disposal robots,
but they also build the Roomba vacuum cleaner. And basically when talking with the company,
the lessons they learned in war, they’ve applied to their home robots, which is basically make
it cheap, make it useful otherwise it won’t sell. So for the next 5-10 years this is going
to have a huge effect on us. One of the’ way out their’ technologies that
is being worked on is invisibility. Which sounds like a crackpots talk but scientists
have actually succeeded in making things invisible. And they’re doing it using something called
meta-materials, which are materials that are constructed at microscopic levels. And somehow,
I’m not a scientist so I can’t explain it; this allows them to conduct electromagnetism
in ways that are not naturally found. So actually, I have a short video here. Certainly the godfather
of invisibility is a fellow named Sir John Pendry, British, and I visited him and he
explained how invisibility works. So hopefully this will work.
[shows video “How does an invisible cloak work?”]
[background music from Sir John Pendry video]>>Sir John Pendry: Now, um, the the way that
the cloak works is that it is very simple actually. You know, it surprised me that people
were surprised because the principle was so simple. So you would have to imagine that lights flowing
like water, imagine it’s a fluid, and not, not really light. And if it were fluid and
you put an obstacle in its way and of course the light would either bounce off an obstacle,
or be absorbed by it if it was blank, but fluid doesn’t do that. Fluid goes round, okay?
And kind of closes up the other side. And so, when you are a bit downstream, you don’t
know there’s an obstacle is there. Of course the fluid is flowing smoothly again like a
stick in
a stream, or something like that. And that’s the trick that you want light to move like
a fluid. It doesn’t normally, but you gotta make it do that. And if you can, the light
does a kind of chicane around the object you are trying to hide. Never hits it, otherwise
it would scatter and you would see the object. It goes around it. But then, if it just went
off anyplace, you’d actually see a shadow. And you don’t want to see that. So to close
out the flow, it’s got to come back to its original trajectory.
>>Male #1: Right.>>Sir John: And so it’s got to do this, like,
chicane around round thing, and that’s, that’s the principle of the cloak. Very, very simple.
There’s nothing clever about that. Where the clever bit comes in, is going from saying,
that you want the light to flow like this to saying how can you arrange that?
[background music from Sir John Pendry video] Peter: Um, right. And how that happens is
in meta-material that conduct electromagnet magnetism in many strange bizarre ways. We’re
just starting to look into these things so the effects of meta-materials can only be
guessed at right now. But it can lead to some pretty amazing stuff.

So that brings us to porn of course, [pause while video shows slide with a picture of
a woman, and image of Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Playboy Magazine with the caption
“Porn=Infidelity and Objectification on bottom of slide] so again the negatives of porn are
numerous and all around us and we hear about them every day. It is seen as a cause for
everything from marital infidelity to objective, object, objects, I can’t even say it. That
word there. [Pointing at word “Objectification” on slide]
Um, and those are definitely too varying extents, those negatives are definitely true. Um, picture
on the left is actually not a real person is something called a real doll, which is
a company in California sells. They are basically sex dolls. They have steel skeletons with
latex skin and it’s apparently very lifelike, I don’t know. [laughter] And anyway they sell
for like $7,000 but anyways, that was the first issue of Playboy. So the way that the
porn industry can tributes to technological innovation is a little bit different than
the military or the food industry. They don’t really have labs with engineers working on stuff.
But they are very much an early adopter. They often are able to provide people who do you
create the technology with some much-needed dollars to basically develop their ideas.
Further taking them to a much much larger mainstream audience. And the reason they are
able to innovate is because they are small companies they don’t have shareholders to
worry about, they don’t have to worry about quarterly targets and all that stuff. And
of course the last reason they generally have tons and tons of money. So again in
keeping with the theme, there is kind of three eras of porn and technological development.
The first was the second World War comment during the war the military, again than American
military had a very strong need to film footage. Whether it was for training, whether it was
for newsreels back home etc.. So they trained a lot of soldiers in how to basically become
amateur moviemakers but they couldn’t use standard cameras that were being used in Hollywood
because they were just giant huge monstrosities that just didn’t move. So they needed small
portable cameras. So they put a lot of effort into developing 16mm and 8mm small cameras,
and they standardized these things and made them really easy to use. And by doing all
that they effectively make them cheaper. So what happened after the war is that all these
thousands of soldiers go off into their daily lives and some of them took their camera skills
and filmed basically some backyard barbecues or children’s birthday parties etc.. But others
decided ‘hey I am going to try to go pro.’ And one of the most important guys to do that
is the fellow in that left in that picture, Russ Meyer. So he was a combat photographer
that was actually part of General George Patton’s brigade. And the fellow to his right, I don’t
know if you can recognize him, but that is Roger Ebert. They were good buddies. Ebert
actually wrote a few of Russ Meyer’s early movies. And what Meyer did was he kind of
started in 1959 with a movie called “The Immoral Mr. Tease.” He basically redefined what was
permissible in mainstream film. That film is basically about a door-to-door salesman
who goes around and has this uncanny knack of running into naked women. So a lot of Russ
Meyer’s early films were basically soft-core porn, and it really kind of led to this whole
craze called sexploitation. Which basically be, were just films that the only point in
them was to actually have sex in them? So, and of course, interestingly before Russ Meyer
went off to do films, so in between George Patton and porn he was a photographer for
Playboy. So he’s kind of the film equivalent to Hugh Hefner.
[Long pause, video shows new slide titled “Three epochs porn” with bulleted points listed
and an image of the VCR box for the movie “Debbie Does Dallas”]
Um, so that of course, that whole market developed. And that is how we got to the home entertainment
era, which kind of started with PT BN, the VCR. The VCR is probably the best example
in the history of porn technology. It is not porn technology. In the history of technology
is probably the one thing that is most famous for the porn industry’s involvement because
when the VCR came out there was a lot of, Hollywood was very nervous about VCRs. They
said they were generally to piracy and they actually went out and sued Sony. And so the
lawsuit went on for a number of years. It is kind of an argument that sounds eerily
similar to downloading today. So who, the porn companies, saw this and stepped in to
the void. They saw this and they thought, hey this is a way to get our products to the
consumer rather than making the consumer come to us. Which in the late 70s and early 80s
was these shady peep show being next to the tattoo parlors in the crack part of town.
So they again, this is a case where they would be early adopters. If you look at a top 10
rental list in the late 70s and early 80s, it was dominated by porn movies such as “Debbie
does Dallas.” So the DVD was kind of a repeat. Hollywood
was very nervous about getting into DVDs because previous similar technologies such as CD-ROM
and video discs flopped. So they were kind of gun shy about it, but the porn companies
said “Hey this fantastic; look the picture quality on this thing.” So they went into
it and again provided an early market for DVD makers.
And then of course we come to the Internet.
So the Internet, really in the early days when it was just text based, and you had the
usenets. In ’95 there is a stat there, that four of the most popular boards were sex related.
Playboy claims that it was the first magazine that had a web site in ’94. And of course,
it was getting 5 million visits by ’97. Which in ’97 how many internet users were there?
Not that many so if you had 5 million in a day, that is pretty impressive. Um, and since
you guys all work for an internet company, I am sure I do not really need to tell you
much more about what kind of numbers porn usually develops or drives on the internet.
And you know about streaming. One thing that isn’t well known is the whole idea of affiliate
marketing, which the porn companies came up with in the 90s. So, it’s a bit of a convoluted
description here but basically if you have one site over here and the other site over
here. And this site advertised, though no sorry, and this site you put a link on this
site over here, and somebody clicked on the link to go to this site; this site here would
pay this site some money. Which sounds kind of familiar.
So there’s this fellow by the name Scott Coffman he’s the founder of the Adult Entertainment
Broadcast Network one of the most successful porn companies out there. They say they’re
one of the most successful pay-per-view companies in or outside of porn because what they did
was… a lot of porn sites would ask people to sign up and pay a monthly membership. They
basically did the same thing that they charge people by the minute rather than by the month.
And it became huge, huge doing this. And as he says there, “We didn’t just show the way
technology, but also in economics.” Of course, the Internet has come around just
like every other major media industry, it has come around to bite the porn guys in the
butt, because they are suffering from piracy, and free content, and freely available amateur
content. And the downside for them is unlike, let’s say the music business or the movie
business, they don’t have sort of a live component to fall back on. The music industry you know
bands make a lot of their money from touring, movies make a lot of money from box office,
porn they don’t have anything like that so they’re running scared right now. So that brings us to Google and I apologize
for that. I apologize for the image. But when I saw
it, I thought… [Laughter]
…completely demonic. So In working on my book I went down to Mountain
View and I talk to a couple of key folks because Google links particularly to
the military in some areas are pretty fascinating I think. Google Earth is of course one of
them. It arose from something called, if you really go back in its history, it arose from
something called the Corona project. Which was basically early spy satellites that was
in a satellites and it would take pictures and they would eject film canisters on parachutes
and then they would fall gently to Earth, and jets would fly by and grab them. Which
seems like a roadrunner cartoon or something. They eventually discontinued because they
thought this is actually really stupid. And actually they lost with one of their film
canisters, and they detected a Soviet sub waiting below the drops zone. And so that
was the end of that. The satellites are used in the program were called Keyhole. So the
replacement for Corona was Landsat. A program called Landsat. And that program started to
make satellite imagery programming commercially available. Coincidentally one of the first
companies to actually buy satellite photography was McDonald’s. But 2001 Keyhole was started
and it was funded by a number of companies and the CIA it has a venture capital company
called In-Q-Tel, and that company is one of the main investors in Keyhole. Now Keyhole
of course was acquired by Google and then eventually turned into Google Earth and Maps.
And that is John Hanke with Google Earth and Maps in the photo. So he had a couple of interesting
things to say in terms of links between military funding and mainstream technology companies.
I won’t read those to you can see it there. [Pause]
There are a couple of other things there on the topic. [pause while video shows new slide
titled “Military Investment” with new bulleted points listed] Okay, so one of the other key
links and this is where we venture into a little bit of silliness. Does anybody know
who these two are?
No? Okay, the guy on the left is Franz Och so he is ahead of Google Translate. And before he came to he won a DARPA contest. DARPA sometimes sponsors these crazy
contests, and so he came up with the algorithm that basically powers Google translate and
it’s something called statistical machine translation. Which basically what it does,
it analyzes patterns in language. Previous attempts at translation, you would just program
the computer with say, English and French and the computer would try to compare the
grammatical rules. It didn’t work very well. So, the statistical machine translation compares
patterns of the two languages, and it actually gets pretty good results. I use Translate
all the time. It’s pretty cool. So the other guy, a guy named Daniel Greystone,
he is the main character in Caprica, which is the prequel to Battle
Star Galactica. The greatest show ever. And it’s kind of funny, because while I was working
on the book, I watched the pilot of Caprica. And so the character’s daughter, a girl named
Zoe, she comes up with this algorithm. That basically takes all of a person’s personal
data so credit card records, e-mails, face book updates, whatever; and it analyzes patterns
in nodes. And basically it can predict a personality pattern, which I thought the similarities
between how Google translate works and how this supposed artificial intelligence on the
show work. I thought they were pretty close. So I asked Franz about it. Whether Google is
going to create killer cylon robots? And that’s what he had to say. He in a nutshell, he wasn’t
sure if it would create crazy robots that he did agree that it would definitely create
smarter software. Interestingly, DARPA is using some of the same techniques now. [sneeze]
All right so, the last couple of things about the future. I actually noticed after the slide together.
The picture on this book on the
left side actually looks a lot like the CBC logo. [laughter] So ultimately, and one of
the things I tried to point out in the book is, again, we see the negatives of war, porn,
and that’s the around us every day. I tried to point out a lot of our comforts and conveniences
also come from these three areas. Ultimately, technology is really in control, and I’m sure
everybody here agrees; what you do with it is what matters. Now the things to take away
from this is that over the last century it has really been the United States that has
driven a lot of this stuff, because the United States is pretty, it’s undisputed that it
has been the technology center of the world. But things are changing, and the rest of the
world is developing, and these base instincts that we’ve been talking about are universal.
It doesn’t matter what country you live in. People want these three things, and are governed
by these three things. So, if they’re going to continue… Male #2: In contrast, like, Japan went to
a bad [inaudible]. It was a very different world. If you look at things like Star Trek,
where technology lead you to a utopian future compared to the Manga in Japan where technology
is seen as evil. So is, like, is war the contrast between like winning and losing in all it
affects it will? Or… [inaudible]. Peter: Yeah, I didn’t look too much on that
side of things, but I think what I tried to do is I try to stay focused on the technology.
I did actually in an earlier draft have a lot more, you know, is this stuff good or
bad for us. But I think. as I went through my editors and I decided, let’s keep this
on technology. I’ve asked a few times like, so are war, porn, and fast food good for us?
But who in their right mind is going to say war is good? I don’t know, you can’t possibly
say it’s good, but it’s not that black or white in question. Again the point I try to
stress is that positives do come out of it, but that’s an excellent idea.
And I forgot to repeat your question. [Laughter] Male #3: [inaudible] In connection with the
local food movement, I’m on the board of directors for a food link will the region but it’s.
We’re now finding [inaudible] that we are really interested in really putting the market
back in to the farmer’s hands. What happened years ago, well the last 30 years the marketing
boards [inaudible] allow big grocery retailers to start looking further afield and to the
fields and farmers starting to get [inaudible]. And so I’m hopeful that it isn’t just a luxury,
and that’s we can all start eating locally and more healthily. If that’s a word. And
you know, in years to come. Peter: So that roughly summarize that. You’re
hopeful that we can all start the organically and locally grown. More of that in the years
to come. Male #3: Yeah, I think you know, not every
farmer is using, buys into Monsanto. Peter: Right Male #3: Man I may know they show this stuff.
When I used to go to agricultural conferences they would say here, if you drop a bit of
this yr. that tree in the center of that field, it will die. Peter: Yeah Male #3: And it did. It is remarkable. Peter: Yeah Male #3: Hopefully we’ll be able to modify
foods even if it’s strange to protect themselves from certain things without the use of Monsanto’s
chemicals. I think some of the breeding of plants and animals
[inaudible] should improve better food as long as we don’t use you know things from
the feed company that Peter: Right Male #3: promotes growth unnaturally. Peter: I guess I can reply to that in two
ways. I don’t know how many people saw Food Inc. [inaudible] have you seen it? Male #3: I didn’t. Peter: Well, you should it is probably of
interest to you. One of the most interesting parts of that movie I found was when he talked
Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart and strangely you wouldn’t think this but they’re actually starting
to get into a lot of organic food. They’ve got possibly one of the largest organic food
sections, I don’t know if that’s the case in Canada, but apparently it is in the US.
But they’re doing this, not to be a market purist, but because there’s demand for it,
right? And Wal-Mart getting into it can only be a positive thing, because that will create
far more demand for organic farmers and performers to create organically grown foods and use
locally grown foods. And that is going to bring it down from being a luxury you because
Wal-Mart has a certain business client to and they don’t want to sell expensive foods
so they will want to bring down the cost and they do that by increasing volume, right?
So, yeah I think, part of your hope I think is likely to come true. Male #3: It’s the farmer’s hope that says
man I hope [inaudible] Peter: Exactly. Yeah, the other thing I’d
say about that thought is people always equates the technology was bad negative, making food
worse. But there are scientists, the food scientists that are very aware of this. And
they are working on it. One of the things I didn’t mention one of the developments of
NASA and the US military jointly developed was something called the retort pouch. And
if you can picture military rations in your head, they come in sort of aluminum pouches
and these pouches are actually a major development in food, because what they do is they put
the food in the pouch, and they seal the pouch and then they cook it. But because the pouches
are a lot thinner than a can, that is what they do with cans previously, but because
the pouch is a lot thinner than a can, they don’t have to cook the food for as long, which
means that it retains more of its natural nutrients, its natural flavors. Which also
means they need to put fewer additives into the food. And it is also a win for the food
producer because the pouches are a hell of a lot cheaper and lighter so therefore cheaper
to ship. So really that is the case where everybody is winning Male4: That’s a long way from sardines [inaudible]. Peter: Exactly. Any other questions? Male #5: I wanted to ask, have you had the
chance to review the forces that tried combating these tendencies for your book. For example,
there is more and more people who would like to eat healthier food and who shop for healthy
food. There is more and more people that want to stop wars to minimize it. There is more
and more parents in the world that want to protect their children from going to porn
sites and related content. So, what are their ongoing efforts? Who undertakes them? What
is their result and outcome in trying to change that? It’s evident that it’s not possible
to, to, to completely remove it because they’re our instincts. But there is moderation and
there is control. So, is there anyone doing, trying to implement control to make internet
safer and healthier? Peter: And that’s a very excellent question.
And I’ll try to answer in all three areas as briefly as I can. In the area of war, I
am not saying this to suck up, but I think actually Google is doing a lot. In the realm
of translation, the translation is incredibly important because once people can communicate
with each other in real time across languages. The Internet opened up communication to peoples
from all over the world, right? The language is still a barrier. Once that barrier falls,
once you can communicate in real-time and you start getting friends requests on Facebook
from China, if it is hard now for democratic country to go to war, it will be a lot more
difficult when its own people are actually speaking to and understand the people in the
country they might want to go to war against. So that is a very positive development I think.
The development of communications technologies of which Translate is one of them is a serious
and major force, antiwar forces and I think that that is great. In pornography, one of the interesting, I
don’t think I put this in the slide show; one of the interesting motivators for porn
companies to jump on new technology is because they are almost always unregulated. So if
you look at now with the Internet, governments are only just starting to get to regulate
the Internet and saying okay we need controls on this, this sort of content is not acceptable,
etc. etc. And that’s about; we’ve been using the Internet now for about 15 years or so,
maybe a little longer. But, so unfortunately in the pornography side of things, it’s a
cat and mouse thing. Once the government and regulators start to prevent or start to take
steps to blocking pornography on the Internet their going to move on to the next technology.
What can that be? It maybe robots, sex robots. [laughter] As for food, and yes I think there’s quite
a bit in the book about, there’s a whole chapter about genetically modified foods, and the
controversy over them. And there are a lot of people who, Prince Charles’s is probably
the biggest name that opposes genetically modified foods and his weight in the argument
has largely determined where we’re at with genetically modified food people. A lot of
the resistance in Europe and Africa to those seeds is thanks to people like Prince Charles
and also Greenpeace is a very big protester of them as well. I do mention that. I think,
I don’t want to be fatalistic about it, but I think if you boil down the argument of my
book, is that these forces are kind of inevitable and so even going back to the issue of war,
stronger communication between people of the world is going to result in less war .it also
might mean it’s going to be a different kind of war. So I think one nifty idea is obviously
the US has a lot of military robots now, right? What if we get to a point in time that where
war basically equals one country’s robots against another country’s robots? That’s actually
kind of not a bad war. So, does that answer your question?

Male# 6: [Inaudible] so too, pretty much related questions [inaudible] one is that the title
of your book, it makes it seem like all three factors are in equal footing. Is this true?
Or do you think that there is a specific way that this is [inaudible] say war is a greater
driver of technology than the others? And a related question is , on observation, that
overall sex and food are ends to themselves, and war is more of a means to an end does
that correlate with your [inaudible]? Peter: Yes, so the question was, essentially
of Sex, Bombs, and Burgers, are they all on equal footing in terms of their influence
or is one more important than the other? And the second part was? Male #6: Like, I would imagine that war would
be somehow a second class citizen because it’s only a means to an end…
Peter: Right Male #6: where the other ones are direct instincts.
Peter: so direct instincts versus means to an end. Okay, the first part is easier to
answer. Yeah, pretty clearly war is, the military is much, much larger influence than the other
two. Because it’s also the common denominator to the other two as well. As is found in the
book, links between porn and war are pretty strong. Links between food and war are pretty
strong. You don’t find too many links between food and sex, strangely…except, for you
know, movies like 9 and half weeks, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. Anyways, so yeah,
the military definitely does drive, the military is a very strong or very serious creator of
technology. The porn industry is very much an early adopter of technologies. The food
industry doesn’t spend that much on R& D, every time they put out a small change, a
small innovation; it has massive, massive repercussions. And it’s so now the second
part of it… Male #6: Well, you mentioned about how war
there seems to be like the dominate path or so…
Peter: Yes, Yes, in terms of the title, you sometimes have to have a catchy title.
[laughter] Male #6: It’s catchy.
Male #7: [inaudible] It’s really, but war isn’t but, is it but[inaudible] Sex, [inaudible]
sex and war with the genocide that happens going into villages [inaudible] raping and
killing, there is a very real, you know, at that point[inaudible] or together there evil
partners. And then the food. Just like there are starving children, [inaudible]and that’s
why we work [inaudible]. Peter: Thank you.
Male 8: Okay, thanks everyone for coming. Let’s thank peter for his great talk.

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