Once I foolishly thought that liking computers meant I could and should be a computer scientist. Half of two programming classes later, I sought refuge in the social sciences.
Since that lapse in judgment, I decided to overcompensate by reading about everything tech-related to stay in the loop.
It’s not the hardware that excites me per se, though I will never turn down a good-looking device. Nor is it the software; I’m an admiring observer when it comes to both. What does excite me comes from what I know as a consumer and user of both of the above.
Technology in all its form, but especially the Internet and computers, is wired in daily life and study. From anthropology to economics to psychobiology, a connection can always be made.
Think of this as your weekly connection.
This column won’t tell you how to code the next Facebook, for I don’t know anything past “Hello World!” (the first thing you learn in any programming class), but it will try to illustrate how new and existing platforms, programs, and playthings will affect our collective behavior.
To inaugurate this column, I contacted two former professors of mine. One taught a seminar on Google; the other, by about three degrees of separation, helped create the Internet.
Asked what new developments or trends in technology they were most excited about, both mentioned the behemoth and ultimate curator of the Internet: Google.
Google has been extending its reach beyond search engine functions, dabbling in automobiles, alternative energy and television.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on Google’s modified Toyota Prius, which was spotted along Highway 1 driving itself. The car uses a series of sensors to navigate the streets and artificial-intelligence software to make decisions based on its surroundings.
“(Automated cars) won’t happen overnight,” said Martin Greenberger, the IBM chair in computers and information systems at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “But what’s possible to achieve are worth paying attention to, especially as safety comes up as an issue.”
Robot cars have the potential to react faster and drive more efficiently than humans can. Implementing this technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive closer together. While autonomous cars are far from appearing on the highways en masse, there is a strong safety incentive to eventually mass producing them.
As Google tests what’s possible in autonomous driving, the result “will influence the shape of personal transportation in ways that’s a little bit hard to draw the picture currently,” Greenberger said.
Yet there are many road blocks to implementing self-driving cars in the technical and legal realms.
Not to outdo itself on the streets with self-driven cars, Google took it to the shores and announced its partnership with Good Energies to invest a proposed $5 billion for offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard.
With the system’s 350-mile backbone cable, to be called the Atlantic Wind Connection, the states along the East Coast would be able to use and store turbine energy. There are clear environmental and economic benefits, but there are also bureaucratic and political hindrances. The project is still unfolding but worth following.
The last in this trio of Google pursuits is the initial release of Google TV, the latest attempt to integrate traditional cable, satellite and broadcast TV with video from YouTube or Netflix, alongside Web content.
“(Usually) you have a successful model and you continue, but in tech, it changes. Google knows how to do these things,” said John Richardson, professor and associate dean of UCLA’s Graduate Division in Information Studies. Richardson also teaches a Fiat Lux seminar on Google.
Google as a home entertainment platform may be confusing because it’s both hardware and software that could be integrated with your TV. Rather than channeling in on the specifics, imagine the Google search bar returning online video and live TV results in addition to Web results. By combining TV with the Web, the traditional entertainment system becomes interactive.
Smart phones have augmented our expectations of a cell phone and have changed the way we interact with mobile devices.
“TV has really worked its way right into the fabric of society. “¦ In the longer term, (Google) could alter the way we use TV,” Greenberger said.
If TV is the next frontier to be revolutionized, I better get one soon.
_If you want to watch television with Tran, e-mail her at