Robert Knight is a neuroscientist who leads a research team at the University of California at Berkeley.  His team and others at Berkeley have been doing a good bit of investigation into the ability to use fMRI to “read” people’s thoughts.  The science revolves around the concept of programming computers to translate brain waves into words.

Some have postulated a wide variety of amazing applications.  For example, you might be able to rewatch your dreams on a PC.  Medical caregivers and loved ones might be able to communicate with patients in a coma.  A person who has lost the ability to speak normally now could speak virtually.  Although we have a long way to go before these benefits materialize, we are headed in that direction.  And what about involuntary participation?

As with every technological breakthrough, we as a society owe it to ourselves and the generations that follow to understand the good and bad applications and implications.  To use what we have discovered in an ethically appropriate manner is an indispensable calling from which we must not shrink.  Those ethical dilemmas may be upon us sooner rather than later.

One of the neatest films that touches on the potential of this sort of situation is Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg).  In that film, law enforcement is able to monitor people’s thoughts, thereby anticipating criminal behavior before it occurs.  Armed with this information, law enforcement (the “Precrime” unit) intercepts would-be criminals before the crimes are committed.

I had a science teacher in seventh grade who frequently said, “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science.”  I think that concept was once somewhat difficult to grasp.  Today, it is becomingly increasingly obvious.  Hopefully, the cognizance of ethical dilemmas will be too.

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In yesterday’s blog post I mentioned the current state of Microsoft’s OS support announcements.  These announcements can freshly prompt us to consider if a new PC purchase should be on our agenda.

As with so many things in life, the trick is in the timing.  Buy too soon and you might end up with an OS that doesn’t have all the major bugs exterminated.  I think this is what happened to many people who came early to the party with Vista.  Buy too late and you might truncate the useful lifespan of the unit.

Purchasing a new PC should happen at a prime time, fully assessing multiple factors.  The decision will always depend on business needs, technology needs, costs, benefits, and again, optimally timing the ongoing Microsoft OS development cycles.

I pay rapt attention to the early and ongoing OS reviews before diving in headfirst.  Once I have reasonable assurance the newer OS is a smooth, stable system, then I am in the zone for a new machine.  Factoring in the business and IT needs, and the associated costs and benefits of a new PC, then I might take the plunge.  So far, I have been quite successful in maximizing my productivity while minimizing my costs by following this strategy.

Do I always call it perfectly?  What do you think?

Well, at least I derive comfort from the fact it isn’t the first error message to which I’ve had to say “Okay.”

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As it prepares for the release of Windows 8, Microsoft recently announced its support timetable for Vista and Windows 7.  Vista will remain fully supported through 2017.  Windows 7 will remain fully supported through 2020.

I’m sure this was good news to the folks like me who enjoy milking an OS for all it’s worth.  My desktop PC is a Vista machine and my laptop is Windows 7—and I love Windows 7.  I occasionally use some older Windows XP PCs, but I never use those for mission-critical work.  They barely earn their keep by having the questionable title of “last-ditch backups.”  And, did I mention I love Windows 7?

I am happy to know of Microsoft’s OS support plans.  That helps me to do my technology planning better.  With technology constantly changing, having a few solid parameters in hand does make things slightly less hectic.

Long live Windows 7!—At least for eight more years.

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Mixed Chicks is a hair products company catering to multicultural women.  When a larger competitor (Sally Beauty Supply) began selling a new product line called, “Mixed Silk,” with many similarities to the Mixed Chicks’ product line, owners Wendy Levy and Kim Etheredge had to make a serious decision: Should they take some form of legal action to protect their trademark and brand, or should they adopt a more tangential approach?

Opinions on this situation will vary.  Some people prefer to be as legally aggressive as possible, citing the serious need to protect all aspects of the business.  Others will quickly react to the high cost of attorneys, and adopt a laissez-faire position.  Some will go for an in-between approach and initiate some limited legal action in the hopes of scaring off the competition.  Each approach has merit.

In the Mixed Chicks situation, legal action could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years.  The outcome is not guaranteed.  A judge could even rule in favor of the larger competitor and Levy and Etheredge could lose all they have worked to build.  Perhaps the in-between legal bluff maneuver might bring positive results.  But if it doesn’t, then that is still money and time wasted.

An alternate approach would be to get aggressive, but not in the courtroom of attorneys.  Rather, get aggressive in the courtroom of the marketplace.  Mixed Chicks could choose to ignore the larger competitor.  We’ve all heard the saying, “love me or hate me, but don’t ignore me!”  Mixed Chicks could play the distinguished, aloof, superior product position—confident in its standing.

In spite of the fact the larger competitor priced its products lower than the Mixed Chicks’ products, this could backfire favorably right into Mixed Chicks’ market strategy.  People tend to ascribe more value to a higher priced product.  That can create a draw.  Not every consumer shops purely on price.  Consumers also look for value, quality, and reputation.

Although I am not afraid of a good fight on principle, my sense is Mixed Chicks will do better in the long run to go with the latter approach.  And after all, what do we hear from any market leader?  “There are many imitators, but only one genuine article.”

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Do you suffer from PVS?  PVS is one of the latest afflictions to which some of us have fallen victim, including me.  Some have described it as a tactile hallucination.

PVS stands for Phantom Vibration Syndrome.  It describes those moments when you suddenly find yourself reaching for your pocketed cell phone because, at least for a split second, you thought you felt it vibrating, only to learn it was not.  Initial reports and anecdotal evidence suggest two-thirds of us have experienced PVS.

We place our cell phone on vibrate because we don’t want to create a disturbance, but our 24/7 connected mindset predisposes us always to be on “vibrate watch.”  So we become a bit trigger happy.

How exciting!  Another technology-driven affliction for our modern world to dodge.  I’m sure PVS will take its place in the halls of occupational hazards among the likes of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hmm.  I wonder if PVS therapy will qualify under my HSA.  I will have to check that.  But not now.  I’ve got to run—I think my cell phone is vibrating!

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