Brain Canvas

Reach inside your brain and pull out something Beautiful.

ESPN and The Food Network should launch new channel

with 2 comments

Even if you are not a sports fanatic, you have to give credit to ESPN for building one of the most successful media franchises around today in little over 30 years. In addition to their flagship ESPN cable television channel, they have about 15 other stations and affiliated networks, ESPN.com, local market ESPN radio stations, ESPN mobile, ESPN The Magazine, and perhaps the most innovative platform in their portfolio, ESPN3.com, which lets people who get their internet from any one of about two dozen service providers access live streaming games for free. Given the enormity of the ESPN franchise and sporting media in general (which is owned by Disney), there are probably a few things I’m missing, but you get the idea. For those who are sports enthusiasts, its not just the deluge of coverage that makes ESPN in particular such an appealing channel. Despite being entirely dedicated to sports, it manages to keep itself fun, hip, accessible, almost nerdy by not taking itself too seriously and actively ditching a lot of the ‘machismo’ that might come along with this sort of thing. That SportsCenter commercial with Star Wars characters captures in its entirety the brand that ESPN has built and why its so successful. Compare that with the few hours of The Food Network that I recently and somewhat accidentally watched. They still of course have shows like cooking with fat, Italian, George Bush (BAM!). But the format of these shows is a little bit outdated, something that The Food Network has clearly realized as evidenced by the line-up of shows promoted on their website. Unfortunately for us the viewer, it seems the network executives decided the best way to put a fresh new face on food was a super-sized dose of reality T.V. The show I forced myself to struggle through was Chef vs. City, which watches like an attempt to wed The Amazing Race with No Reservations, but falls short of both, especially Anthony Bourdain’s fantastic No Reservations. The best example of The Food Network’s “Dancing with the Stars”-like approach has to be their show What Would Brian Boitano Make, which has to be a conscious reference to South Park: The Movie. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, despite being on ABC and not The Food Network, is another good example of this. It reminds me of that show where they make surprise renovations of peoples’ homes who’ve been through some sort of tragedy. Both feature traveling do-gooders with spiky hair, although Jamie’s revolution has been known to famously blow up in his face from time to time. Now, The Food Network and similar programs have (or could have) a fairly noble purpose: to better educate people about their food and make healthy eating a realistic goal for a wider audience than your typical Whole Paycheck shopper. From my experience watching this channel though, I didn’t learn anything about my food, where it came from, or how to prepare it in a way that would help me to easily eat healthier. In large part I think you can attribute this to the nature of the programming – you don’t pander to the lowest common denominator of society when you are trying to radically change the way that society uses media to engage with a certain topic, like ESPN has with sports. I’ll admit that athletics lends itself to this kind of presentation a little bit more easily than food does, but that doesn’t mean that some of the same principles couldn’t apply. Lets see a food network that is funny and does not take itself too seriously. Wouldn’t it be great to see Rachel Ray in the same kind of self deprecating commercials that SportsCenter puts LeBron James in (“Chosen one, huh?”)? Lets also see something that’s a bit more intelligent too. I honestly do not and will never care what Brian Boitano would make. As hilarious as it is to watch “Emeril, Live” and realize that he looks like a fat, Italian George Bush (if you don’t believe me do an image search for Emeril, its uncanny how much he looks like a young “Dub-ya”), it hardly inspires me to lift a finger to make anything remotely close to what this man is cooking up. A better understanding of how people consume media these days wouldn’t hurt either. ESPN does a great job of putting non-stop sports coverage at your finger tips. Above all make it fast paced, high energy and fun. What if there was a show called “WineCenter”, which each day broke down the best recipes cooked on the food network that day and had experts picks on which wines to pair with them, and combines that with web based content that gave you links to clips of all the dishes being prepared along with instructions for the recipes and a google maps link for where to buy the ingredients in your neighborhood. Now that would be a food channel to change the game in as many ways as ESPN has.
Share

Written by Andrew

May 17th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Campus Paintball War

without comments

It was a Tuesday afternoon when they sealed the borders of the campus. Confusion spread around the place as students and faculty found they could not leave.  Shortly after the police and paramilitary trucks rolled into place to block access, the president of the university administration was heard on all the loudspeakers on campus, calling for all students to go to their dorms and all faculty to their offices; if they live off-campus, then they should stay in their classrooms, he clarified. Twenty minutes later, as the sound of helicopters whisked the air with a steady chopping beat, uniformed teams of administration lackeys strode into the gathering rooms of the old campus.  They carried with them large black bags and cases.  They all wore hard plastic face masks and body armor, giving them the appearance of riot police.  Each team carried a portable radio, which they turned on loudly while they called for the increasingly nervous population to sit down and shut up.  The voice of the president quacked to life: “You are now a part of a vital experiment, in which you must participate at pain of legal action or bodily harm against your person.  These people in black are referees.  You must obey them and you may not harm them.  They are carrying your equipment for the experiment.  The campus has been cordoned off into two base halves, and you are now on a team by virtue of which building you happen to be in right now.  The referees will give you armor with pressure sensation and GPS tracking, and everyone will receive a paintball gun.  West campus is the Red Team, East campus is the Blue Team.  After everyone is issued equipment, the doors will open.  Your team must capture the other team’s beacon and bring it safely back to your citadel, a location which the referees will reveal when they produce each team’s flag.  When you are shot, depending on where you are hit, you will either have to receive in-simulation medical care or you will be out of the simulation and your gun will stop working.  If  you are out of the simulation due to your wounds, there will be a nightly airlift to take the disabled to a holding facility where you will stay until the simulation ends.  The campus will only be unsealed when one team has captured the other’s beacon and returned it to their own citadel, and I personally verify that they have won.  Each side of the campus has one dining hall currently in their possession, which is stocked with enough food to support the needs of half the campus population for seven days.  Enjoy the paintball war.” His voice did not rise or fall, nor were there any hesitations or errant utterances, while he delivered this most unexpected address. Read the rest of this entry »
Share

Written by Preston

May 5th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Brain Canvas Theme for May: Entertainment

without comments

A new month, a new theme. This time, we will focus on the lighter side of things: Entertainment! The fun and the furiously fun, and all that’s in between, are the inspiration for our gray matter splatter this May. If you have any saplings of enjoyment waiting in vain for sunlight on your windowsill, do not hesitate to post them in the comments or send them to us in an email (check our about page). When you smile, we smile; when you comment, the world will smile with you. Your thoughts won’t submit themselves! Be a part of the conversation and make this canvas even more interesting because you came.
Share

Written by Preston

May 5th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

A cure for aging?

without comments

Today’s post is an effort to develop my previous post on advanced robotic prostheses to a new level. Robotic prostheses and other advances in biomedical technology not only improve the quality of life for both disabled persons and the able bodied, but have the potential to extend life itself to the point where aging is a thing of the past. Two of the more interesting speculations on how life could eventually be extended, perhaps indefinitely, are mind uploading and the replacement of limbs and organs with cloned biological or artificial substitutes. The two concepts approach life extension from opposing angles. One the digitizing of human consciousness leading ultimately to a non-corporeal existence. The other the replacement or enhancement of vital human limbs and organs with cloned tissue or artificial mechanical parts as they wear out or contract diseases like cancer. The idea that advances in bio-technology could some day prolong human life indefinitely may be something of a pipe dream. Much of the research is pseudo-scientific at best. It is however undeniable that gradual advances in these fields will provide the technology to increasingly expand the length of human life. In the 20th century the average life span in the United States increased by about 2/3. While the rate of increase has been steadily declining, this would seem to be logical as the increases throughout most of the 20th century would have relied on social improvements (e.g. improved sanitation and nutrition) while the next stage would rely on technical advances taking a much longer period of time to develop and implement widely. Despite the questionable feasibility of indefinite life extension, it is none the less interesting to consider what our societies would look like in a world where natural aging and death from old age and disease has all but been eliminated. Would it be beneficial or detrimental to our society? I believe the positive outcomes outweigh the challenges that an ageless society presents. The burden on social services, the environment and natural resources management would increase dramatically. If you thought social security in the United States was already broken, imagine how it would look if the average person were living hundreds or thousands of years. Ultimately, and perhaps counterintuitively, a world in which aging has been cured could be one which places a much higher value on individual human life and the long term sustainability of our lifestyles. We would care more about needless poverty and death knowing that the victims could have lived thousands of years and contributed countless discoveries and innovations. We would be less inclined to destroy our ecosystems, knowing that the long term effects would not be things we could pass down to faceless nameless descendants, but real world consequences we would have to face in a short matter of a few hundred years. A truly ageless society may ultimately be nothing more than a science fiction fantasy, but increasing lifespans are already a reality. What better time than now to create solutions to the challenges it presents and means of maximizing its benefits?
Share

Written by Andrew

April 26th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Quick-Delivery Health Tips for a Better Life

with 6 comments

People make bad decisions about their health.  Some of us are quite lazy and do not exercise.  We ingest in excess.  American society in particular is so dysfunctional about reinforcing good health habits that many schools nutritionally poison students, as highlighted in this TED Talk by Jamie Oliver. The most striking features of our self-destructive behavior are that we either transgress in the face of our own cognitive dissonance, or we are ignorant of the very processes and materials which keep us alive and healthy.  Universal healthcare can meet a baseline of society’s needs, but it is still expensive because healthcare itself is expensive.  Even the government cannot get at the foundations of our obstacles to good daily health, like the school systems that focus on food affordability over balanced nutrition.  Stronger action must be taken. Individuals must take charge over their own health, but the health landscape is not simple.  Healthy food costs more, the poorest and unhealthiest communities often lack affordable access to nutritional food and health information, and intense pressure from social groups and media can keep people from making clear-headed decisions. Mobile communications devices, the falling cost of personalized medicine, and social networks can help people make smart health decisions with precision-targeted information.  Let’s combine a few key ingredients to deliver a revolutionary platform that looks as simple as a fortune cookie slip to 95% of users and stands on the best the past generation’s technical advancements. When these systems work together, a person could avoid bad health decisions before they are made.  They could learn more about the choices they can make regarding food safety by simply scanning a food’s bar code with their mobile phone and displaying its nutritional information (and competing prices with other nearby similar items).  GPS location pinging could deliver highly relevant health warnings about disease outbreaks, heat waves, contaminated food sources, fresh food providers and air quality.  A running tab of one’s daily nutritional intake could be easily kept by scanning foods at home, or even food names at restaurants.  Have you got a peanut allergy, or do you avoid pork? Spectrographic chemical analysis with the same camera you use to post photos to Twitpic can show what you’re really eating. Emergency response and mitigation would be more effective.  By making part or all of your health records available to health institutions on the Internet, you could deliver an emergency text coupled with GPS location and your problem to emergency medical systems instead of, or before, explaining further in voice over the telephone – which could be a video call at the press of a button.  Armed with this information, help can reach you faster and with all the right equipment to save your life before you get to the hospital. The greatest aid in making good health decisions may be much simpler than all of that.  Every day, when you wake up and as you sit down to a meal and when you pass the swimming pool, a simple health fact or tip could appear on your mobile as a gentle reminder about the choices you can make to live a healthier life.  Your social networks can power this: relevant stories your friends share about their health or the decisions they make and their consequences can populate some of these messages.  Think of these as targeted health-related aphorisms: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” transformed into “This gym is offering a three-month promotional price for membership. Click here for more details about the offer.  Click here for details about the benefits of exercise.” Foresight and good design, by working with what we have, can transform the well-being of all people by empowering them to make smart choices.
Share

Written by Preston

April 12th, 2010 at 5:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

How technologies to help Veterans can help us all

with 2 comments

I recently saw Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway PT, talking about the new prosthetic arm for veterans developed by his Deka Research and Development Firm.
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Dean Kamen
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News
The Deka “Luke” Arm (named for Luke Skywalker’s mechanical hand, cut off by his father Lego Darth Vader) certainly has a noble background. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (a.k.a DARPA approached Kamen with a challenge to build a prosthetic arm that had the accuracy to pick a raisin off a table, the control to pick up a grape with out breaking it, and the ability to place both in the mouth of the user. Despite major advances in military weaponry over the last five decades, the prosthetic arm for wounded veterans had remained the same: a wooden (or plastic) stick with a hook. Amazingly, this arm would be connected to the nervous system of the user offering a futuristic life-like experience for the user. The potential impact of this technology on the health and wellness of amputees is clear. Imagine though, the impact that this technology could have for those of us fortunate enough to never experience an amputation. I was, however, disappointed that Kamen did not touch on the impact this technology could have on the health and wellness of those who are already healthy and well. Kamen appeared on the show with the Deka arm strapped to his shoulder with his normal human arm strapped to his side. What I would have wanted to see was the Deka arm strapped to his side beneath his human arm , leaving both fully functional. This is by no means meant to trivialize the very important work being done to improve the lives of our wounded veterans. This is incredibly important work that deserves praise and continued funding on its own merits. It is an attempt to do some legitimate speculating on how this “dual use” technology could improve the lives of all humans. The practical implications of this technology are certainly too numerous and unimaginable to try and capture them all here. That being said, I think one of the most obvious future applications of this kind of technology is the increase in human productivity and longevity. With Deka arms or similar technology perfected, the productivity of the average person would effectively double. Not only would you have twice the number of arms and hands, but half of them would not be subject to the effects of fatigue and aging. The impact on the lives of the elderly or people engaged in manual labor would be tremendous. Some of the more difficult to imagine improvements to life could be in the arts, consumer technology and sports. Imagine a keyboard designed for the human with four sets of hands and 20 fingers. Similarly, racket sports needless to say, would never be the same again.
Share

Written by Andrew

April 10th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Brain Canvas Theme for April: Health

without comments

We at BrainCanvas, in our quest to bring powerful, insightful and crazy “what if” ideas to the forefront of popular consciousness, have come down from our mountain seance to bring forth a new Law of the Land. Starting with Andrew‘s post on Monday, each month we will focus our expressions into particular themes. This month, April 02010, will be focused on the subject of “health.” We will pull from the fringes and the beating heart of the five dimensions to incorporate new and ancient logic, knowledge and art on the subject of health and extract crystallized “what ifs” from these ingredients. If you know of any particularly interesting ideas or sources, please post them in the comments or send them to us in an email (check our about page). While we’re on comments: this canvas is made more beautiful with your own strokes.  Comment early and comment often and together we will paint Something Beautiful. Thanks for reading and let us know when you are inspired!
Share

Written by Preston

April 2nd, 2010 at 4:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Your Body is a DNA Factory

without comments

As Human Beings, its very easy to trick ourselves into thinking that the evolution of life on Earth was nothing more than a 3 Billion year development project finally culminating in us. I believe the story goes something like this: “A really long time ago, for reasons that nobody knows, an amoeba appeared. Then a while later there were trilobites and other weird fish beetles. Then came dinosaurs. They died. Next came monkeys that gradually stood up taller. Then the Egyptians. Then us. Game Over.” Its a pretty convenient way to think about the history of life, and it of course places special attention on us, the destined outcome. Even to those with a more educated understanding of life on Earth, the tendency is there to think of these billions of years as careful trial and error in the perfection of the physical traits and biological processes necessary to create us. “Some cells mutated that accidentally gave an advantage to one individual, who passed on that trait, and over time its progeny replaced their forebears.” Its a pretty straightforward explanation and I think a fairly standard recap of your average high school biology lesson on natural selection. But consider this, from “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson: “Ninety Seven percent of your DNA consists of nothing but long stretches of meaningless garble – “junk,” or “non-coding DNA,” as bio-chemists prefer to put it. Only here and there along each strand do you find sections that control and organize vital functions.” The amazing thing is that the 97% that serves no function still replicates itself like the other pieces of DNA and is passed on to our offspring. DNA is such a basic and vital part of bio-chemistry, but there is only such a small portion that actually benefits us in any way. So, did our physical traits and biological processes evolve to suit us, or did we evolve to perpetuate their existence? What if each evolutionary leap forward was not the next step down the inevitable road to Homo Sapiens but was rather simply provided an advantage to the survival of the host vessel for our DNA? If we accept this as truth, then we must accept the chilling reality that there really is no purpose to life greater than the reproduction and continuation of that life.
Share

Written by Andrew

March 24th, 2010 at 5:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Rocketship Temple

with 2 comments

On a distant world, in one possible future, our descendants have lived cut-off from the rest of humanity for thousands of years. Like the Polynesians who populated the islands of the Pacific by adventurous island-hopping, these humans are the descendants of colonists, themselves the descendants of colonists, themselves descendants of the people of old Earth. When their vessel landed in the middle of a great valley on this new rock, the settlers were glad to breathe fresh air and to feel soil beneath their feet.  These wayfaring families decided their destination had been reached and began to establish the foundations of sedentary agricultural human civilization in their new home.  After a few years, the thousand or so settlers had produced enough protein and carbohydrates to stock their starship for a run back to the fringe of connected human presence in the galaxy.  However, when the engineers went to turn on the engines, nothing happened.  The ship’s electrical systems functioned, but the engines did not.  A week-long investigation of the ship’s propulsion system revealed that the affected parts could not be repaired on this world.  Only highly advanced parts that were available back in the web of connected society could fix the problem. Most of the settlers were furious.  The engineers sent out a signal with their location and their material needs, reasoning that within about five years a supply ship would come with the necessary parts. No ship ever came. When there were only a handful of settlers left who remembered life back in the network of human civilization, they told stories of their home worlds to the children of the colony, and how the great starship in the middle of the valley brought them from across the stars to occupy their new home.  Massive and iconic, the ship became the focal point of the collective consciousness of the new colony’s culture.  Its sophisticated and polished interior had enough power from its reactors to provide hundreds of millenia worth of electricity.  The new generations who never experienced life outside this colony marveled at the technology inside, which was far more advanced than anything they could produce with their hand-me-down tools and skills. Those with enough knowledge and skill to operate the functions inside the ship were revered as the wisest men of the colony.  In time, they began to occupy a role that we would call “priestly,” learning the intricacies of foreign technology and presiding over their civilization’s “world axis.”  Celebrations and rituals began to use the ship as a temple, and it slowly became sacred to all. As the population of the colony ballooned and more dense urban development became necessary, the hulking metal temple became the center of a growing city.  Boulevards and plazas were built at its entrances, with the largest avenue reserved for its main doors.  Statues were erected along this sacramental road.  Important buildings were built in close proximity to it, and residences beyond.  Generations came and went and technology improved.  Complex edifices, offices and tenement blocks and meeting halls growing ever higher and more connected replaced older structures.  In this society, proximity to the cultural lodestone was of paramount importance.  Rather than a dirty, all-consuming sprawl across the valley and up the mountain-walls, their city was like one giant unbroken work of wood, then masonry, then steel and glass.  Above it all rose the interstellar ziggurat. The legends twisted and changed in the course of time, but the same thread of salvation was woven as the most ancient and cryptic part of their cultural identity: Inside the temple lies the key to a road that leads beyond the stars.
Share

Written by Preston

March 16th, 2010 at 4:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Intentional Social Migrants Flock to High Bandwidth

with 2 comments

The predominant trend since the Second Industrial Revolution has been for the young to move to cities, where there is more opportunity and infrastructure; primarily for employment but also for culture and social opportunity. The villages and small towns of the hinterland are left without a strong talent base and slip into a perilous decline on account of brain drain. If the Internet and its applications are able to attract a large suite of industries that require workers to have no particular place to do their job so long as they have high bandwidth, people could voluntarily move out to the country without fear of losing other opportunities. They could even create a sort of new wave of “intentional communities” where people of different backgrounds and skill sets move to certain towns.  Perhaps they migrate because of the weather, recreational opportunities, cultural heritage, or just because they like the name of the town – but always because that town has high bandwidth. These social migrants could formulate a new culture in each community, halting or even reversing the dominant trend of cultural hegemony. Small cities and rural villages which aggressively pursue bandwidth resources, possibly through municipal broadband initiatives, would completely transform their economic and cultural prospects.  Decayed failed industrial towns which gain a critical amount of bandwidth, and are lucky enough to be chosen by a particular social migrant community as their home, could see a boom like that which towns located along the Interstate experienced two generations ago.  Towns that are not on best natural harbor in the world or that lack a massive airport can leverage other benefits they have.  Some of them may have a large number of attractive prewar homes.  They may be picturesquely located along a difficult-to-reach mountain ridge or beach, or be situated next to a sleepy river.  Some small college towns already have the keys to economic and cultural success that could be amplified by a massive injection of bandwidth and smart promotion. “Nice town, but I couldn’t be a (name it) here.  There aren’t enough jobs.” Or, “I love these open spaces.  If only my company’s office could be out here!”  These sad words should deliver no more nightmares to local chambers of commerce.  The wireless worker is not a new phenomenon, but it still takes a certain industry or certain kind of worker to become a digital nomad.  Only huge cities, which are also Internet hubs, have enough bandwidth to be both reliable and affordable to enable telecommuting for the masses.  Not until a critical mass of companies can meet and work nearly 100% virtually will intentional social migration become a possibility.  The United States is notably behind other developed nations in both broadband speed and deployment.  The economic backcountry should take the lead in gaining broadband services and a whole new cultural phenomenon could become easily attainable for most Americans.  Furthermore, this idea of social migration enabled by high bandwidth would not just be limited to the US: any country with high bandwidth and an interested populace could see a new migratory wave – away from the cities. Intentional social migrants, fueled by a hunger for bandwidth, could revitalize the cultural and economic outlook of the developed world.
Share

Written by Preston

March 1st, 2010 at 6:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,