Nature has given us purpose-designed and strategically located receptor neurons (sensors) for Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. These sensors (nerve endings) produce electrical signals that travel to the brain, conveyed by our nerves. Different sections of the brain interpret these signals.
Life perceives the world, through this electrical brain activity.
These perceptions cumulatively give us the entire experience of the world we live in. They mediate our perception and experience of “reality”.
Our memory is made up of electro-chemically stored impressions of these signals.
Mankind has learned to synthesize, edit, communicate and store electrical signals.
Man-made information processors, can edit, store, transmit across distances and present these analog signals (continuous spectrum of values) to other human beings. To do that the machines must convert these signals into discrete numbers, especially binary numbers. This conversion is called Digitizing.
Accordingly, we have digital pictures, digital motion-pictures, digital sound and music.
The digital versions of Touch, Taste and Smell are today lab experiments. Commercial gadgets to present the feel of touch and smell are on the way. Now the entire experience of reality can be electronically mediated by Man, creating a virtual sense of embodiment.
The speed of the movement of information far exceeds the speed of any physical movement. The telephone and the telegraph have spawned the digital computer and digital communications, the artifacts of the post-industrial, Information age.
Electrical signals are converted into digits (in particular: binary digits or bits).
The Internet has allowed these bits to move globally at the speed of light.
Beginning in the early 1980s, computers and information processors have rapidly dropped in cost. This has led to the Digital Revolution and the world-wide web of interconnected computing devices.
Changes in technology are influencing changes in society, as these technologies are widely adopted by mankind.
The digital revolution has marked the transition from the storage of information on fixed material objects (books for words, tape cassettes for sound, film for images), to the storage of all information in binary digital format.
The binary digital format is readily stored on a variety of media. Equally important to the revolution, is the ability to easily move the digital information between media, and to get it at remote places, or distribute it to remote places.
The digital revolution will probably continue to change the world until some new technology comes up by 2020.
Some controversies have started to occur, which we could not have imagined in the past.
By having digital copies of records stored in databases, and having those databases accessible over digital networks, the digital revolution has essentially put an end to privacy as previous generations understood privacy.
As the revolution moves forward, virtually every aspect of life is being captured and stored in some digital form. The British government plan to record biometric details of the entire population on a National Identity Register.
Digital cameras have become inexpensive. They have even become a commonplace, pervasive feature of personal mobile-phones.
Mobile telephone service providers provide value-enhancing services such as the SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia message service).
While SMS ushered in the whole culture of "texting", MMS permits the distribution of full-motion video with sound.
India was recently rocked by a couple of MMS-related scandals.
A pornographic video of a 16-year old Indian girl child (former Miss Jammu, Miss Anara Gupta ) saw widespread circulation over MMS and Video CD. The child was accused, arrested by the police and released when forensic experts claimed that it was a digitally modified video. The video may have been synthesized in mischief. The girl’s mental torture and violation of privacy was real. No forensic expert could genuinely determine whether the picture was Anara’s or not!
We can use software on personal computers to modify digital photographs in hitherto unimagined ways.
Software like Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and Gimp are easily available to all and sundry.
It has become trivially easy to digitally merge a respectable woman’s face to the picture of a naked female engaged in scandalous acts. By implication, this could drag the respectable woman into a scandal.Digital cameras, even phone-based ones are here to stay. Scandals cannot undermine the usefulness of digital cameras, nor send them back in time to the period they came from.
Software is routinely used to modify old film songs into the Remix tracks of the present.
The original artistes and the old world record companies that own the original material are outraged. But our youth, routinely make millions of illegal copies of music and distribute them among their friends.
Sharing of files over the Internet has dissolved tens of thousands of miles for geographically remote computer users.
TV shows, full movies, copyrighted music and software are trivially easy to share.
Technology, created companies like Napster, to facilitate free distribution of copyrighted digital material. Napster was prosecuted out of existence by the organized music industry.
But not before it left hordes of descendants like Kazaa and BitTorrent that continue to let people share digital content.
The pace of changes in the Law cannot keep up with the frenetic pace of increasingly ingenuous ways discovered, to circumvent it.
The ease of modification of digital content has thwarted its admissibility as evidence in a Court of Law.
Virtually anything perceived by one human being can be digitally captured, modified (morphed) and recreated as a new (sometimes even conflicting) perception for another human being.
MorphingThe real stars of today’s cinema are Special Effects.
Software programs can realize impossible perspectives. Matrix bodies moving faster than any kind of bullets. Warps, morphs, streamed visions simulating hyperreality – Movie mythology married to cyberpunk technology
Morphing is a special effect in motion pictures and animations.
It changes (or morphs) one image into another through a seamless transition.
It is mostly used to depict one person turning into another as part of a fantasy, magical or surreal sequence in, for example, a science-fiction story.
Before the computer stepped in, movie producers achieved such a depiction through a traditionally film-technique called cross-fading.
Since the early 1990s, computer software has taken over, creating more realistic transitions.
Steven Spielberg’s company Industrial Light and Magic was first to create computer-generated morphing. The first movie they did it for, was Willow, in 1988.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade followed in 1989 to decompose a human being into powder.
Morphing was technically improved in 1991, with the Michael Jackson video, Black or White. The movie, Terminator-2: Judgement Day used computer-generated morphing extensively to turn a pool of metallic fluid into many different human beings.
Massive creativity has been unleashed by morphing technology which sees inexpensive creation of advertisements for television. Today, morphing is common enough to be automatically done without human intervention. In TV shows it has routinely replaced the scene dissolve.
Ubiquitous ComputingTraditional computing ties down the user to the computer desk. Embedding tiny computers into the environment and everyday objects would enable people to move around and interact with information and computing more naturally and casually.
This is a current trend.
Ubiquitous computing (also called sentient computing) enables devices to sense changes in their environment and to automatically adapt and act based on these changes.
The sensors allow location-aware or context-aware applications to be constructed.
ConclusionMan, the highest evolved of all Life on Earth, is an information hungry creature.
We have today instant access to more information, knowledge and collective human wisdom than ever before.
Truly, computers and communications today – the artifacts of the Digital Revolution -- are mediating the Human experience.
May we use these tools wisely to advance our species and leave behind us, a more civilized and evolved world, than the one we were born into.