Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Here's a bajillion dollars, if you can spend a few million on software development.

Here's a bajillion dollar idea for someone who can make it happen.  Combine image recognition software + 3d modelling software + time & location tagged images (and videos) to build a 3d virtual world, instanced by time.  Conceptually, with 2 or more photos of the same building from different angles, one could start to build a 3D model of that building.  The more photos you use, the better the model could be. Those 2 or more photos could even be separate frames from a video or movie.  So if you knew where a video was shot and when, you might be able to build a 3D model of the set of the video.  Then, you could use subsequent photos or video to refine the model, or build a separate model of how that place appeared at a different time.  To start with, you'd have to go with popular places that are frequently photographed, like Times Square, and use all of the photos you can find to build a model of Times Square, and instance it for different times.  Eventually, you might be able to take a virtual tour of Times Square in 1950, or 1970 or any date you please.

As more and more data is added to a given model, one might even be able to work backwards and identify the time and location of a random photo, if it includes a popular landmark.

And when Google decides to take all of their stored photos and videos, and run it through this system, you might be able to take a virtual reality stroll through nearly any city for the last 40-50 years, or longer ago for really well photographed places.

And once they run facial recognition software on their archive, and scan it for license plates, they might be able to track any heavily photographed event (or person) from years ago.  For instance they could combine photos and in game footage of a Yankees game, and be able to virtually put you in the stands for any game of the last 20-30 years, and watch it play out from that viewpoint, and maybe even be able to accurately model and identify the people sitting next to you.  Of course, it wouldn't just be sporting events that could be recreated, using this technique, one would be able to tour the World Trade Center for instance or walk the decks of the Titanic.

And that was my daydream on my drive in to work this morning.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The violence inherent in the system

Violence. In 1762 Jean-Jaques Rousseau published a book titled "The Social Contract".  It was the culmination of generations of philosophical debate, but it was remarkable in the way that it succinctly stated that the benefits of living in civilized society should outweigh the loss of freedom implicit in living in that society.  The chief benefit is security.  Each citizen gains protection of their life, of their property and their possessions.  The point is that when we agree to not steal from, hurt or murder our fellow citizens, we are likewise protected from being stolen from, and being hurt or killed by our neighbors.  And when a citizen transgresses against this contract, a civilized society, will rectify the wrong and penalized the wrongdoer according to laws and procedures created beforehand and applied equally to all citizens.

The idea of the social contract was a dramatic improvement over the divine right of kings and other similar rationalizations of monarchy, theology and empire.  It is the philosophical underpinning of democracy.   And 250+ years later, it's still just an idea.  And the reason is because for every idealist who says that the freedom and security of living in a civilized country should be equally distributed to all, there's someone gaining wealth and power by saying "Except for those people. They don't count."

Implicit in the social contract is a means of enforcement.  The social contract empowers the state to enact penalties up to and including the commission of violence to compel adherence to the terms of the social contract.  But the nebulous 'state' does not enforce the equally nebulous 'social contract'.  The platonic ideal of the social contract is embodied in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and all of the lesser laws and ordinances which we as citizens are duty bound to obey.  The 'state' too is embodied by our fellow citizens in the military, in the police, and the other regulatory agencies to which enforcement has been delegated by our government.

So when we leave the realm of philosophy and look at how the social contract works for actual citizens, it becomes obvious that the implementation of this concept could use some reform. Race and class are the right and left of problem and the oponents of measures to reduce inequality are playing an excellent game of rope-a-dope with the American public and the press.  Each time someone raises a fact like "African Americans are 28 times more likely to be killed by the police" someone will claim that it's not about race, it's about crime, as if African Americans committed 28 times more crime than other Americans.  If someone suggests that helping the poor would be a sensible and charitable thing to do, then someone else will state that (African American) thugs and moochers already get too many handouts and that they all just need to get married and get a good paying job.  Race and class are the chicken and egg dilemma of inequality in America