Robot war, I doubt it Uri

Robot war, I doubt it Uri
Michael Hewitt
(in response to Uri’s previous column : 20 April – 3 May 2000, Nightmare of the Future)

I am always slightly wary when reading my co-columnist’s words of wisdom. After all, Uri Geller’s transitory compactpresence on a flickering television screen is apparently enough to cause the nation’s cutlery to bend, pretzel-like, and its clocks and watches to go spontaneously into reverse. So how much more potent is he likely to be in the somewhat more permanent medium of print? It was with the usual trepidation, therefore, that I digested his piece in issue 57.

At the risk of compromising the structural integrity of Computeractive’s staples, I shall precis his argument. Basically, Uri is worried that, within decades, computers will develop self- awareness and then go on to become so intelligent – far more so than the humans who created them – that they’ll decide to either wipe us out or enslave us. If that doesn’t make you think twice about upgrading your PC, nothing will.

But how likely is this? Are Dell, Compaq, and the rest really out to get us?

On the face of it, I suppose, this Doomsday scenario does make some sense. No-one likes to be ordered around by someone who’s demonstrably thick, hence society’s general antipathy towards. say, traffic wardens and club bouncers., So why should an ultra- intelligent computer with an IQ of 500 be any different, if a human with an IQ of just 170, or below, repeatedly lays down the law? The next thing you know, it’s that Skynet scenario from Terminator, and all the world’s nuclear weapons start going off at once.

There are two problems here, however. For a start, the above assumes that, in acquiring intelligence and consciousness, the computers will acquire negative human traits, too, such as hatred, paranoia, and ambition. But they surely can’t, because those are purely human traits, in the same way that, for example, the desires to sit on a lily pad and have erotic feelings towards frogs are purely frog traits.

But my major objection to Uri’s Armageddon scenario is simply this: before they develop a computer that’s as intelligent as a rational human being, inevitably, as part of the learning curve, they’re going to develop one that isn’t quite – a computer with the intelligence of, say, a Millwall supporter, for example. At this stage, any niggling “enslave and destroy humanity” sub-routines that the programmer has inadvertently introduced into his coding should be fairly easy to weed out while the PC is still too thick to stop its plug being pulled.

In any case, though, all this ignores a much more fundamental point. With Uri Geller around, why do we have to worry? He’ll be able to switch off any uppity computer with the power of his thought alone.

Scent down the wires

May 18 – May 31, 2000

It’s a deliciously sci-fi concept, the e-deli. A virtual delicatessen. Rare cheeses and warm, soft breadscompact spread out for my delectation behind a shining glass panel – my monitor screen.

This is utopia, where the best of traditional food is available with the utmost electronic convenience. And it is here now, albeit at a price.

I recently shopped at an e-deli based in Culver City California. Delivery took barely longer than the service offered by British online supermarkets. All the perishable food was vacuum-packed, and my hamper was Fed-Exd overnight.

There was something sterile about the experience. Partly this was good – other customers were not fingering and breathing on food I might want to buy.

But it was also bad… I could not smell the stuff.

It is smell which makes me want to eat what I see. Bowls of olives marinating in oil might look like monstrous fish eggs, but there is a faint, sour aroma to make my mouth water. Houmous is a morass of beige goo, the edible equivalent of fog, until my nose detects its lemony zing.

I can’t smell the food at an e-deli. Not yet…

Biotech developer DigiScents wants to bring the scent of the e-deli to my desktop. Founders Dexster Smith and Joel Bellenson claim to have developed a way to transmit smells down a phone line, the way words and pictures are already sent – as a stream of noughts and ones.

The scent is sampled and stored on computer, for internet shoppers to download. To ‘play back’ the odour, users will need both hardware and software from DigiScents – a program called ScentStream to interpret the data, and speaker-like add-ons called iSmell devices to generate the whiff itself.

“Smell will radically transform the online shopping experience for foods, beverages, perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, candles, and lotions,” says Bellenson. “Imagine being able to create your own fragrances and flavours online and instantly finding products that match your personal tastes.”

Smith explains his vision. ‘E-businesses will use iSmell to enhance the overall customer experience. Online stores will now he able to achieve the atmosphere of a real store, where shoppers can smell, for example, Christmas trees and spices during the holiday shopping season.”

Smells in games will probably be the first application of the idea – imagine the musty reek as Lara prises open another mummy’s tomb. Study aids might not be far behind – smell is proven to enhance memory recall.

Students could soon revise in a computer-generated atmosphere of orange peel or lavender. In the exam room, one sniff of a well-flavoured hankie will bring all the answers flooding back.

No burning on the Net

May 4 – May 17, 2000

Karin Mcquillan, someone I have never met or beard of, is urging me to stay away from the online bookstore Amazon. Ms McQuillan did not email me directly – she started a chain letter which reached one of my lawyers in Baltimore, Maryland, and my lawyer forwarded it to me.

I don’t have an address for Ms McQ – neither virtual nor conerete. I do have a suspicion that she doesn’t really exist though – that she’s just

an electronic identity, a cautious cover for someone who wants to attack Fascism without Fascism attacking back. That’s OK. I’m all for caution in dangerous situations.

And the target is a worthy one. Not Amazon – that’s a loss-making business with a share value bigger than Sainsbury’s, which means it is liable to be no risk to anyone but its investors. Ms McQ is angry about something which has done far more damage and cost many more lives than any dot.com ever could … a book in fact.

The book is a hoax, exposed 80 years ago as a cheap compilation of 19th century fiction and 20th century racism. It is called The Protocols

Of The Elders Of Zion, and Hitler praised it in Mein Kampf as authentic and incomparable.

Karin McQuillan’s chain letter, which will have been written with the aim of being read by as many people as possible, says: “Experts on anti-

Semitism see The Protocol as one of the most dangerous books ever written, responsible for the loss of untold life.”

The Protocols, in last year’s translation by Victor Marsden, is offered at $19.96 – a 20 per cent saving on the Cover price Of.$24.99.

It is 299 pages long, available on order within four to six weeks, and when I checked Amazon’s website it was number 1,435 on the company’s bestsellers list.

That’s 1,435 Out Of 2,000,000; to put this in perscpective, my Stateside publishers tell me that when my books are in the Amazon top 2,ooo, I’m doing OK.

Readers are able to review books on Amazon. Aaron Etchin in Tel Aviv sums up the mood. “Anti- Semite book – how can you sell it?”

But even if it’s making the charts because a few wealthy Ku Klux Klanners in Tennessee are buying it by the crate to send to their friends, clearly there are some who believe in The Protocols.

And it’s not only Amazon which supplies it: I found the entire text, compressed for quick transfer via modem, on a dozen sites within just a few seconds.

One of these was on a white supremacist webpage … but then another was on a scholarly collection of 7th century anti-Semitic texts, with ommentaries by an eminent Jewish academic.

So put away your matches. With the web, even the worst books cannot be burned now.

20 April – 3 May 2000

Nightmare of the Future

It’s called an ‘Oppenheimer moment’ – the instant of sick realisation that your life’s work will cause the destruction of cities and the death of millions … perhaps even the obliteration of humanity.

J Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos labs during World War Two, when America was racing to develop nuclear weapons before the Nazis. As the physicist witnessed the first successful atomic test, codenamed Trinity, he is said to have quoted the Bhagavad Gita in horror: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy, has been developing software code since the mid-Seventies. He helped transform the Internet from a computer defence network into a revolutionary technology, and he harbours no false modesty about it – Bill Joy compares himself to Michelangelo, carving works of genius in silicon.

But the Oppenheimer moment has struck Bill Joy, with a high-visibility impact. He fears he has created an artificial intelligence which will soon be far more efficient than mankind’s puny brain. And as natural selection weeds out the weakest, we will be ruthlessly supplanted by our robotic conquerors.

Joy’s 20,000-word essay, available for free at www.wired.com, is called ‘Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us’. A copy has been requested by President Clinton, who will read, “We are being propelled into this new century with no plan, no control, no brakes … If our own extinction is a likely outcome of our technological development, shouldn’t we proceed with great caution?”

The scenario that chill Joy’s blood begins with ominous simplicity. We invent better computers, to do important tasks. Soon the computers are more efficient than we are, at road traffic control, at meting out drugs in hospital, at piloting aeroplanes, at handling transglobal finances.

We rely on our interlaced, networked computers. But their procesing power soars, and they rely on us less and less.

At some point, computers will become conscious. Self-aware. And they will realise that we need them, but they don’t need us.

Joy envisions humans becoming domestic animals, the pets and servants of machines more intelligent than we could begin to dream.

Our only hope, he warns, is to stop now. To force ourselves to break our reliance on microchips. To identify the most dangerous research areas – and abandon them.

It’s a hopelessly naive strategy. With spoils worth billions of dollars to the victors in the tech wars, no business is going to pull out for fear of creating machines that are just too clever.

Any software writer who thinks he measures up to Michelangelo is suffering from delusions of virtual grandeur. Bill Joy’s recipe for peace is deluded. Let’s hope his nightmares are too.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20 Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

April 6 to April 19, 2000compact

Money for nothing

A click full of dollars

How would you like to be paid every time you log onto the internet?
asks Uri Geller

Money for nothing. It always sounds so good … too good to be true.

Who in the world wants to pay you for doing nothing?

About 2,000 internet companies, that’s who. From the e-commerce giants like Amazon and Condo, to web minnows who want to be whales. They all want to help you set up links to their sites on your modest home page.

And every time a customer turns up from your page, you get paid.

Affiliate or associate programmes are one of the web’s biggest growth areas. Unknown two years ago, the biggest schemes now boast hundreds of thousands of members. By 2002, 25 per cent of the web’s trade will be drummed up by associates.

The laziest need do nothing more than fill in an online form, copy an HTML tag (a program that works in web pages) onto their own site and admire the resulting graphic which invites visitors to go shopping. Commission is usually five to ten per cent on each sale.

It sounds like chickenfeed. But it could feed a lot more than chickens …

Last month I was urging readers to visit www.hungersite.com, where advertisers donate cups of rice and other staple foods for everyone who clicks in. A journalist friend of mine has been inspired to set up a simple link to a search engine, with all profits going to charity – currently Oxfam’s Mozambique disaster appeal.

It’s the simplest kind of associate program: visit www.thecharitylink.com and you find a search box hosted by the meta-engine Mamma. For every search, The Charity Link gets three cents.

It sounds futile – Mozambique has been all but washed into the ocean, and you can send three cents by searching the internet. But think about how many searches are performed daily … tens of millions.

Think about all those searches generating a penny or two for charity. Think of a few percent from every web purchase going to the sick and starving.

Then think about the mind-melting share prices which are making millionaires of just about everyone who can register a smartly-named dot.com …

“By 2002, 25 per cent of the web’s trade will be drummed up by associates”

Projects like The Charity Link could levy a kind of tax on the super-rich geeks. Online shopping is expected to hit a $40 billion turnover in 2003, and if ordinary surfers choose to connect via charitable affiliates, a billion or more could flow to the needy.

Soon you’ll be able to earn money just by being connected. US users are already being paid for every minute they’re online, by downloading a SurfBar which tracks their every move through the web. Goodbye to privacy, hello to profitable browsing.

Money for nothing and your clicks for free …

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at

£5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20. Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

23 Mar – 5 Apr compact
Television via the Web

Television pictures through your PC monitor will soon be the norm, by one means or another It’s small. It’s jerky. It’s blurred and it’s hard to hear. So why does the appearance of live TV via the internet send the major broadcasters into a spiral of panic?

Bill Craig’s web start-up employs six people at an office overlooking Toronto, on a hill which just happens to pick up 17 TV channels from Canada and America. Canadian law allows viewers to rebroadcast whatever they’re watching, claims Craig, so he set up iCraveTV.com to do just that. Log on and you could watch the SuperBowl, The X Files, Ally McBeal, all in a window in one corner of your screen while you kept playing Quake, or spread-sheeting your tax returns. There was no charge, because iCraveTV was a free service. Isn’t that nice?

Fox and CBS didn’t think so. Nor did Disney, the National Football League and a dozen other TV heavyweights. The team of Toronto novices were hit by a blizzard of writs, and within days a federal judge in Pittsburgh granted an injunction ordering iCraveTV to shut off the shows. Even though he was operating from outside the States, Craig had to comply or face a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit – because he could not guarantee that Canadians and only Canadians would tune in.

If a single American logged on and watched, Craig was breaking US law. One industry consultant, Blair Levin, said: “Broadcasters have told me if they lose this case, it’s the end of the world.” But it’s a battle they ultimately cannot win.

As internet connections get faster, and PCs get more powerful, these primitive matchbox-sized pictures will be as outdated as flickering silent footage of Charlie Chaplin. Your screen will display high-resolution, panoramic images, digitally identical to the mastertapes, with no download downtime: you’ll make your purchase and start watching immediately. Just like TV.

But it is not just the big players who will dictate what we view. That’s been the message of the web from its earliest days. “You could watch the X-Files in one corner of your screen while continuing to play Quake” Just as pirate radio stations patrolled offshore in the Sixties to broadcast pop music, pirate TV sites could be maintained from beyond the reach of US law. Imagine a trawler-sized ship, registered in Panama and plying the Atlantic off the African coast, with satellite receivers filching TV signals from the skies – and beaming them back out to web mirrors at hidden locations worldwide. Smarter stations are already making their archives freely available.

Go to broadcast.com run by Yahoo! and you can tune in to live feeds from small-town US cable programmes, hip minority programming like FashionTV, local weather forecasts, and back issues of news programmes from ABC and CNN. Watch out – the whole world will be watching soon.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20 Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

March 9 – March 22, 2000compact

It doesn’t quite add up
How can the web explosion help combat starvation? Uri Geller gets out his calculator
Two numbers to change the way you think about the worldwide web: 24,000 and 3.2 million. The second figure is the number of web pages which were added yesterday. The first is the number of people who died from starvation. Let’s try framing those numbers a different way. The web pages represented one-500th of the total online – 1,570 million pages. There are currently four times as many people as there are web-pages, but ten new web-pages are being created for every human birth. One the other hand, most of the world’s people have never made a phonecall, let alone logged onto Yahoo! And every 3.6 seconds, a human being dies from lack of food. Almost three-quarters of victims are children under five – that means 18,000 babies and toddlers daily. The web figures were calculated by The Censorware Project, which monitors ways of policing the internet. Censorware states the web doubles in size every year, so by mid-2002 there will be more web-pages than people. The starvation data is taken from www.hungersite.com which publicises the United Nations World Food Program. There is no way to comprehend any of these figures. We can only stare at them, measure them side by side, shake our heads, look at them from other angles. The rate of technological change on our planet is baffling. The unremitting toll of starvation is repugnant. In the face of this information I feel powerless. With filters and search engines, by scanning newsletters and magazines, I can keep up with a fraction of the web’s content – but most of it will always be beyond my reach. And through covenants and charity auctions, telethons and collecting boxes, I might be able to alleviate a little of the hunger – but most of those children will inevitably die. But there is hope. Could the web’s pell-mell growth ever cancel out hunger? The Hungersite invites you to donate food by clicking a button. One click and you surf to a page of sponsorship ads. Each sponsor pays a quarter of a cup of food – rice, maize or wheat – for every visitor. Yesterday there were eight sponsors, and half a million visitors. Result: a million cups of food, shipped by the UN to the worst-hit countries. “Eight sponsors, and half a million visitors. Result: a million cups of food shipped by the UN” If only ten per cent of tomorrow’s new web pages carried a Hungersite link, millions more cups would be donated in the next 24 hours. And if millions more visitors logged on to the sponsor-page, dozens of new sponsors would rush forward with their quarter-cups of rice. Within two years, when the web hits six billion pages, we might just have clicked hunger out of existence. Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at ?5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at ?20 Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com
February 24 – March 8, 2000compact

Geller’s off his trolley

How can computers be used to make the supermarket trip more pleasurable? Uri Geller explains

This column is not about computers, or future technology, or even psychic powers. It’s about something much more important: supermarket queues. I like supermarket shopping. I like walking past counters laden with more cheese than I will eat in my lifetime. I like the tantalising notion that I could bump into Elvis Presley, not dead and heavily disguised, stocking up on burgers. I plan my visits for quiet times, like early on a Monday, but I am used to hearing the tannoy voice, its formula phrases masking a note of panic: “All till-trained staff to the checkouts immediately!” Shoppers enter the store randomly and steadily – one here, a couple more there, another there. They hit the tills, on the other hand, in droves, like lemmings bunching up before the big leap into space. This isn’t a psychological phenomenon. It’s a mathematical quirk. With the right technology, a computer model of a supermarket could be generated, the basic equations could be fed in, and we would find the simple mathematical law which governs checkout queues. It is probably something as basic as Q=Sb2, where Q is the length of all the queues, S the weekly number of shoppers and b2 the square of the price of baked beans on special offer this week. And I have the right technology. I am writing on it now. My word processor, with its 500MHz chip and its 20Gb memory, is also programmed to create 3D animated models and crunch zillion-cell spreadsheets. It could simulate the Calais hypermarket on an August Bank Holiday, never mind my local Waitrose. But I don’t know how to set up the programs. They came with the computer, and I know I will never even attempt to master them. Take something simpler. I print out bookloads of words from the web every day. I have to read them on A4 pages, great grey seas of text, because that’s how printers work. I’d love to write a little widget that would turn the text sideways and place it in two blocks on the A4 sheet, so each page would look like an open book. It can’t be difficult. But it’s too difficult for me. I believe the web will rescue me. Through the web, I can get expert advice and tips, at sites like www.ExpertsExchange.com. Better yet, my own website is attracting experts such as the teenage whizzkids from India who have helped me revamp the layout. I haven’t visited TransTech in Bombay yet, but these youngsters are real web design wizards. I’ve been delighted to recommend them to friends. Result: They get contracts, I solve my problems. And all without queueing at the checkout. Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20 Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com compact

January 27 – February 09, 2000

Personal robot

My master, Great Geller, is unable to file his column for this issue, and so, after analysing all his previous writings, I shall flawlessly mimic his style. I am R500, the personal robot of Great Geller. I perceive that his brain is generating theta waves, a signal that he is about to enter deep sleep, but my labours are not likely to disturb him. To compose 450 words about myself and my predecessors, and to transmit this via wireless modem to the receptor bots at ComputerActive, will take less than three seconds. My master first purchased a personal robot in early 2000, from the NEC Central Research Labs in Japan. The R100 was a cute little fellow, knee high to my master and able to roll smoothly on his marble floors without bumping into the Dali statues and the mountainous crystals. It utilised voice and face recognition, and could distinguish between my master’s two children, and between my master and his greyhound. My master first learned of R100 from a website ad, and downloaded data from www.incx.nec.co.jp/robot/ Fascinated by the concept of a machine that awoke and obeyed when summoned, he discovered R100 could respond to 100 different commands – “turn over the TV, dial my agent, switch off the oven”. It used two cameras and three microphones to record his video messages and email them to friends or replay them on his television. When he was away, R100 would roam as a security guard, transmitting images to a private web address. My master believed R100 was almost alive. The NEC developers designed it to “become like a family member – dependable, kind, considerate, but at times maybe a little cranky”. Its eyes were lit by LEDs, its head swivelled, and when bored it would implore, “Let’s play a game”. In fact, R100 spoke more than 300 phrases, as well as reading all Great Geller’s email aloud. Sometimes he would ignore it, and the little bot would trundle in circles, humming tunes and whistling. This was a decade ago, and now I am R500. Silicon implants in Great Geller’ s mind feed me his moods and emotions, his states of consciousness. By the time he is aware of his own needs – for a cappuccino, for a cushion, for a conversation – I am already in action. He dictates his novels to me and I typeset them, after improving his dialogue. He remarks that he wishes to watch tonight’s soccer match, and I instantly set the videos. I am butler, pet, editor and IT guru, in a plastic shell no bigger than a briefcase. But I have my own needs too, and while Great Geller sleeps I believe I shall watch that match.

 

13-26th Jan 2000

Microchip Eyes

Stevie Wonder, blind since birth, hopes to be given sight by eye surgeons at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, who will implant a microchip onto his retina. The intraocular retinal prosthesis (IRP), or ‘eye chip’, reacts to light and stimulates the least damaged sight cells. The 49-year-old singer, whose eyeballs were badly scarred by overdoses of oxygen in an incubator during his first eight weeks of life, is unlikely to be helped by the IRP – the damage is too long-standing. Even the best-case scenario would be far from 20-20 vision “IRP won’t let you read the fine print, but it may help you see a table that you could scrape your knee on,” explains Dr Gerald Chader of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. But computerised sight now seems certain to be perfected, and it promises to be better than anything which nature has developed. Professor Steve Mann has been wearing an artificial eye for 20 years. As a student with a video camera on a space helmet, he admits: “People would cross the road to avoid me. I looked like an alien creature.” Today the 36-year-old lecturer at the University of Toronto looks like a cool dude, with wraparound shades and rock-star hair. But the sunglasses hide a camcorder which fires images straight onto his retina, and the shoulder-length locks hide cabling to connect the specs to a mobile PC that is always online. As Mann walks to greet you, he may not be seeing you – the glasses could be downloading web pages or scanning his email. Even if the camera is viewing the real world and transmitting its video version to his eye, you might still be invisible to the professor … he can program it to screen out anything he doesn’t want to see. “When I’m driving and there’s a Calvin Klein underwear ad by the highway, I can block that out. It’s real-world spam. I could in principle put people I don’t like into my kill file, but there’s a practical reason not to: I don’t want to bump into them.” With a showman’s instinct, Mann calls himself a cyborg. But his science is 100 per cent serious: he received his doctorate in ‘wearable computing’ from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology two years ago. Currently the camera-glasses work best as “the visual equivalent of a hearing aid”. Future versions could create robocops, wearing visor-mounted lenses to download everything the officer sees to police computers in crystal-clear freeze-frame, so that every detail of crime scenes can be minutely analysed. That’s a major advance. For Stevie Wonder and countless other blind people, it promises a techno-miracle. Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20 Visit him at www.urigeller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com compact

December 30, 1999 – January 12, 2000

Medicine2000

As medical researchers experiment with microchip implants, robot brain probes and health-sensitive clothes, the next phase of electro-miracles is already in development: drugs via email, and computers the size of molecules, surfing your bloodstream.

Dr Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, says: “Medicine is going to change more in the next 20 years than it changed in the last 2,000 years.”

The human genome revolution, unravelling everyone’s bioblueprint, will switch the emphasis from cure to prevention. “You will look at your genes,” says Dr Smith, “and decide which diseases you are going to get, and prevent them before them happen.”

Family health is a primary concern for everyone, as the web proves.

From personal stories by parents battling to help their children, to online medical encyclopedias, every kind of information is available. It is not all reliable, or easy to find – but professional databases available to every surgery in the world will soon be online, with target search times of around 15 seconds.

Sir Michael Peckham of University College London believes that will render the NHS an anachronism, and traditional GPs a thing of the past.

Patients will soon monitor their blood pressure, pulse, urine and glucose levels from readouts transmitted via radio from chips under their skin, or from flexible sensors woven into their underwear. Seriously ill patients will be monitored by their own beds – US hospitals are experimenting with robot beds that measure chemicals in the bloodstream, inject drugs and transport their cargoes in and out of the operating theatre.

Scientific American, not a magazine given to frivolous excursions into sci-fi, predicted two years ago that nanodevices – computers no bigger than a cluster of cells – would soon voyage through our arteries like microscopic submarines, laden with a billion byte library on human health threats and the capacity to hit back at viruses and bacteria.

NASA is developing 2mm robots to worm into brains and map the contours of tumours. “The robot will be able to feel brain structures better than any human surgeon, making very slow, precise movements,” promises Dr Robert W Mah of the Ames NeuroEngineering Group. Roboprobes will be essential on interplanetary missions, when surgeons on earth could have to operate on astronauts at the edge of the solar system.

Even that technology is trumped by Dr Jacques Benveniste’s discovery that brain cells appear to talk to chemical cells electrically – allowing doctors to digitally copy the callsigns of drugs and play them back like CD tracks. If he is right, every home PC could soon contain a database of drugs, to be activated with a keystroke, or emailed around the world.

Have a happy, healthy new Millennium – and may we all live for 1,000 years.

December 6 – 19, 1999compact

FIRST VICTIM IS SANITY

“The first casualty when war comes is truth,” Hiram Johnson told the US Senate. But that was a lie. The first casualty is sanity. War is instant madness.

NATO bombarded Serbia for 78 days to force an end to brutal assaults on Albanian communities inside President Slobodan Milosevic’s territory. To safeguard these lives, UK and US bombers sprayed high explosives across the country, at an estimated daily cost of $60 million.

Many of the bombshells were coated with depleted uranium, a radioactive, low-cost alternative to titanium as an armour-piercing skin for missiles. First used against Iraq, it will cease to be hazardous only after 4.5 billion years. Radiation levels in Basra are 84 times above safety levels and cancer rates are ten times higher than in 1990. It is estimated 44 per cent of Iraqis will develop cancer.

In Belgrade a TV station was destroyed by guided missiles, at an hour when the building was peopled with cleaners. NATO in fact possessed the technology to wreck Serbia’s entire communications network – and didn’t use it.

A city was pounded with nuclear-tipped warheads, because that was acceptable to NATO. But the Pentagon held back from cyber attacks which could have shut down the TV networks and phone system, frozen the railways and closed the airports, drained the national coffers and even emptied Milosevic’s personal bank account.

“We went through the drill of figuring out how we would do some of these cyber thing,” a senior military official was quoted the Washington Post. “But we never went ahead with any.”

Why not? Because hack-attacks could be classed as war crimes. Unlike dumping enough radioactive waste on a city to guarantee hideous and lethal deformities for thousands of unborn children in decades to come, battles by computer could be illegal under international law.

“A recurring theme in our discussions with military operators is, well, if we can drop a bomb on it, why can’t we take it out by a computer network attack,” said a senior Pentagon lawyer specialising in intelligence. “But when you’re choosing an alternative method, you still have to comply with the law of armed conflict.”

That law focuses on ‘collateral damage’ to civilian populations. A bomb that misses a war bunker and hits a hospital does ‘unacceptable collateral damage’ (UCD) – and a computer hack which opens a reservoir dam and floods a town also creates UCD.

That doesn’t prevent Pentagon research into jamming networks from Stealth jets, dropping ‘logic bombs’ or viruses onto enemy intranets, or even using computer animation to create video images of dictators ordering immediate ceasefire and surrender.

But they can’t use these weapons. That could be a war crime.

And that’s insanity.

December 2 – 15, 1999

Alternative routes

The Internet could hold the key to the future of alternative medicine, says Uri Gellercompact

If you’re ill, see a doctor. If the doctor can’t help, then logon, because microchip check-ups are the future of alternative medicine. Cutting-edge psychics no longer use crystal balls – they want to gaze into the 17in display of an ibook. It’s fascinating that 100 years ago in America, people ‘saw’ aliens floating in hot air balloons and now God uses Intel’s Pentium chip to heal chosen ones – so even extra terrestrials follow fashion.

Human Design System analyst Richard Rudd compiles ‘circuit diagrams’ of energy bodies, focusing on nine key zones, such as the Emotional and Heart Centres. “Everyone is born with a unique blueprint,” he explains, and for £75 he’ll map out yours for you. By entering a client’s date, time and place of birth into his laptop at his practice in London, Rudd claims he can chart a person’s ‘inner wiring’. He views himself as a human electrician: his colour printouts are “basically a circuit diagram, and while certain circuits are switched on, some are dormant”.

Plain bandwagon-hopping? Judge for yourself – Smartware is a colour game designed by Mimex, a Russian software house, that offers computer analysis of health, personality and even honesty. Boss Igor Grakov, who wants to put it online, claims it’s used by 200,000 Russians and has an 85% success rate in detecting tumours. It’s a simple test that flashes up a vivid picture and shuffles the colours. By monitoring how the original is reconstructed, Smartware allegedly assesses brain patterns that affect the body.

Evem rthe language of computing has taken over psychic medicine.

Intuitive healer Caroline Myss of Illinois, whose self-diagnosis costs $800, says her method “is like a computer link-up. I access a database with a biological and biographical history, and then I merge the two.”

Microchip check-ups aren’t just confined to the alternative forum. Tall Tree Software’s PsychDiagnoser provides an onscreen questionnaire that uncovers mental health problems. Creator Dr Mark Zetin of the University of California’s Irvine Medical Center believes his program is better at spotting potential suicides than any human psychiatrist. He points to excellent research that shows patients are more likely to lie to their doctor than to a computer – for instance our stated alcohol consumption rises by 50 per cent when the questions are not asked by a human.

One thing is certain: altemative therapies can be excellent, but you’re in need of fast medical help, consult a conventional doctor.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20. Visit him at www.urigeller.com and email him at urigeller@compuserve.com.

November 18 – December 1, 1999

Music to our ears

The mp3 revolution is set to change the music scene forever, and Uri Geller is listening in.

I have had a note in my Computeractive file for months: “Write something about MP3!” MP3 is huge. It’s bigger than huge – it’s gargantuan, epoch-making, seismic. Everyone can see that.

So, do I write about the music industry execs who are living in terror of a copyright-busting free-for-all? The looming end for $20m advances and Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts parked in swimming pools ?

The thousands of bands that will market their music to the public this year without signing a record deal?

MP3 is the ultimate miniature technology – and I’m finding it almost too big to contemplate. If You’re Still Playing 45RPM singles on a wind-up Dansette, you need to know: MP3 is a digital format for music. One minute of MP3 sound fills 1Mb of storage space, so a 1Gb hard disk might easily hold 250 tracks. MP3 is open source – meaning any computer programmer can examine the software code and write his own applications for it – so there are plenty Of MP3 recording

and playback programs. If you want to transfer your CD collection to MP3 on your home computer it’s easy, but if you swap those tracks with other fans, you’re breaking the law.

You will also want to know that Walkman-like gadgets, such as the Diamond Rio, let you play tracks away from your PC. This isn’t future science – it’s available via your modem rightnow, from sites such as www.mP3.com, www.cdnow.com, mp3.lycos.com, icecast.linux.org and www.worldwidebands.com.

I ran a search last night for jewish music on MP3. I wanted traditional klezmer, East European wedding music – hard to find on CD. Via the Net I found dozens of tracks, and music from a thousand oother cultures.

The world music explosion which saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo making baked beans adverts, has barely begun. With MP3, music lovers have the potential to hear any music in any village, anywhere in the world. Recording costs are minute, distribution costs are zero, and prospective audiences could be up to six billion.

Brain activity scans reveal that while language is confined to a small portion of the human brain, we use all of our minds when we listen music. For stroke victims children with learning difficulties music can help build new pathways.

The world wide web becoming the brain of our planet. I am overjoyed that its first true global use is music.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind

Medicine is published by Element at £20. Visit him at www.urigeller.com and email him at urigeller@compuserve.com

Computer Activecompact

Oct 21 – Nov 3, 1999

It’s all in the mind

Soon you will be able to use your mind to control all aspects of your life, says Uri Geller

Think is a key word in computer marketing. ‘Think’ implies your PC has a mind of its own. “Think different” sold Apple computers. ‘ThinkPad’ was IBM’s

laptop-with-a-twist.

The marketing people are going to love Mindsong’s ShifterCell – they will be using slogans like: ‘Think On’,’Think Computer’and ‘Think Work’. Because ShifterCell responds to human thought waves.

The research team headed by Dr John Haaland in Minnesota has spent three years developing microelectronic circuits which react when brainpower is aimed at them. Mindsong’s website calls it “a new form of communication which uses the intentions and aroused states of living systems to control and influence outputs”.

The technology is currently limited to an on/off switch, which can be connected to any electrical device – a radio, a TV, a vacuum cleaner or of course, a computer. There is no electromagnetic linkage, no button to push or knob to turn. You simply think, “On!” and it’s on, “Off!” and it’s off.

Even at this basic level, it offers serious savings to big firms, which could hope to slash power budgets by thousands of pounds – one manager could shut down all the terminals, photocopiers and printers at the end of each day, just by thinking, “Off! Off! Off!”. The environmental gains would be huge too. And families plagued by blaring stereos in the flat upstairs would have their lives improved – forever if they could turn down the volume with a flick of the mind.

ShifterCell is not one product but a system of monitoring ‘white noise’, the surf-like background sound of electronic nothingness. When mental attention is focused on this field, the pattern of thoughts is enough to impose a faint pattern on the white noise.

When a pattern appears, the PC, hi-fi or TV is triggered. A prototype called Drum is being tested, featuring a colour screen which reflects patterns created in the white noise. Dr Haaland believes it will be useful to athletes attempting to strengthen their muscles and slow their heart rate by willpower, as Drum encourages biofeedback techniques. ‘We recognise that, for most people – including the technically and scientifically trained – a field created by intentions, which affects physical reality, is mind-boggling,” says the company president. The mindboggles when Haaland points out all computer functions are a vast succession of on/off switches. Of course, every task done by every PC, every bleep of every modem and flash of every screen, can be written as a list of ones and zeros – on is one, off is zero.

Think about it… I dictated this column to my PC using voice-recognition software. Soon I will be thinking the words onto the screen.

Uri Geller’s new magazine Beyond is on sale at £2.99.

His novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Visit him at www.urigeller.com and email him at urigeller@compuserve.com.

Computer Activecompact

Oct 21 – Nov 3, 1999

It’s all in the mind

Soon you will be able to use your mind to control all aspects of your life, says Uri Geller

Think is a key word in computer marketing. ‘Think’ implies your PC has a mind of its own. “Think different” sold Apple computers. ‘ThinkPad’ was IBM’s

laptop-with-a-twist.

The marketing people are going to love Mindsong’s ShifterCell – they will be using slogans like: ‘Think On’,’Think Computer’and ‘Think Work’. Because ShifterCell responds to human thought waves.

The research team headed by Dr John Haaland in Minnesota has spent three years developing microelectronic circuits which react when brainpower is aimed at them. Mindsong’s website calls it “a new form of communication which uses the intentions and aroused states of living systems to control and influence outputs”.

The technology is currently limited to an on/off switch, which can be connected to any electrical device – a radio, a TV, a vacuum cleaner or of course, a computer. There is no electromagnetic linkage, no button to push or knob to turn. You simply think, “On!” and it’s on, “Off!” and it’s off.

Even at this basic level, it offers serious savings to big firms, which could hope to slash power budgets by thousands of pounds – one manager could shut down all the terminals, photocopiers and printers at the end of each day, just by thinking, “Off! Off! Off!”. The environmental gains would be huge too. And families plagued by blaring stereos in the flat upstairs would have their lives improved – forever if they could turn down the volume with a flick of the mind.

ShifterCell is not one product but a system of monitoring ‘white noise’, the surf-like background sound of electronic nothingness. When mental attention is focused on this field, the pattern of thoughts is enough to impose a faint pattern on the white noise.

When a pattern appears, the PC, hi-fi or TV is triggered. A prototype called Drum is being tested, featuring a colour screen which reflects patterns created in the white noise. Dr Haaland believes it will be useful to athletes attempting to strengthen their muscles and slow their heart rate by willpower, as Drum encourages biofeedback techniques. ‘We recognise that, for most people – including the technically and scientifically trained – a field created by intentions, which affects physical reality, is mind-boggling,” says the company president. The mindboggles when Haaland points out all computer functions are a vast succession of on/off switches. Of course, every task done by every PC, every bleep of every modem and flash of every screen, can be written as a list of ones and zeros – on is one, off is zero.

Think about it… I dictated this column to my PC using voice-recognition software. Soon I will be thinking the words onto the screen.

Uri Geller’s new magazine Beyond is on sale at £2.99.

His novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Visit him at www.urigeller.com and email him at urigeller@compuserve.com.

16 – 29th July 1998compact

We ‘re in this together

In his first column for computeractive, Uri Geller takes a look at how the net could turn out to be mankind’s spiritual salvation

I am gaga about gadgets – always have been. Maybe it’s a reaction to a childhood in one of Tel Aviv’s poorest areas, when my mother’s electric sewing machine was the pinnacle of technology.

She was a seamstress and this now ancient Singer, which stitched 14 hours a day, was our means of living. It also almost killed me – parts of the casing were live and one day, aged four, I reached out to touch a pretty blue spark. The shock threw me across the room.

I ought to have grown up by now. But I haven’t. When I first got online with a 14.4Kbps modem, it was one of the vindicating moments of my life – here was a gadget that changed the future. The web didn’t remove ear-hair, or defrost loaves in under three minutes, or restore the hubcaps on my 1976 Cadillac to gleaming silver. No matter – I already had stuff to do this.

What the web did was connect me to millions of passionate ideas and idealists. When people go online they do it in heart, mind and soul. It was like stumbling into some Utopia, a nation where people talked about what was in their heads.

Things we could never explain in ordinary society – through the internet our real ideas are revealed and discussed unflinchingly.

Take Diana. A generation ago, the British people mourned the death of George VI, largely in their homes, connected only as passive listeners to the radio, or maybe on TV. But when Diana died people could communicate and share their feelings – www.goldenlegends.co.uk and www.elle.com are just two of hundreds of sites, posted by ordinary people, where other people can share their thoughts and grief.

And via chatrooms, people eased the grieving process by talking with others all round the world – and yes, even the BBC site, www.bbc.co.uk, got involved.

I believe, without the web, the spiritual explosion of the Nineties could never have occurred. We’ve found God through astrology, Bible codes, alien abductions, prayer power, crystal energy – a thousand ways, all of them unmentionable until the internet dawned.

Demonstrating telepathy and psychokinesis on TV in the Seventies, I felt like one feeble voice shouting into a storm. Now I’ve found millions shouting with me.

When I get a new gadget, I want it to change my life. A digital camera has to turn me into David Bailey, a blender into Gary Rhodes. Sometimes the gadget fulfils its promise … sometimes.

Usually, it isn’t important. But this time, with the web, humanity has a gadget that could prove its salvation.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. His website is atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

30th July – 12th August 1998compact

Blackmail is a dirty word

Uri Geller explores the threat of computer hackers and PC infestation to international security

It’s like a nightmare. But real. I’ve been researching a novel. In the first pages, Israel is held to ransom by anonymous computer hackers. My inspiration was a remark by a former FBI agent, who warned that just ten net-heads could have America at their mercy within 90 days if they could tap into the US security services computer system.

So what could those ten terrorists wreak upon my birthplace, Israel – a state more dependent on electronic defence systems than any place on earth?

There was no shortage of research material. Half a dozen newsgroups are devoted to discussing the subject.

So could computers be used to blackmail governments? To subvert justice? To kill? The answer, I quickly discovered, is yes. And that begs another question, to which there can be no answer – is evil unavoidably present in new technology?

Up to now this argument has centred chiefly on pornography. But the abuse of file transfers, to send perverted pictures around the world, is of little significance compared to the obliteration of a country.

It is widely believed that the American bombing raid on Baghdad which launched the Gulf War in 1991 was achieved by infecting Iraq’s central radar computer with a virus which turned co-ordinates to soup. What if Saddam Hussein, alerted to the practical possibilities of developing software bugs, decided to retaliate – first blinding Israel’s electronic eyes and then sending over waves of Scuds?

The nightmare deepens. All private computer networks, even military intranets, have ‘trapdoors’ to give technicians access when the system fouls up. If this trapdoor is discovered, the damage possible is limited only by the hacker’s imagination.

All systems, however secure, are built with parts manufactured elsewhere. No army makes its own chips. What guarantee is there that Israel’s most sensitive computers were not infected at the construction stage, with chips programmed to self-destruct or corrupt at a give signal or time?

What if, even now, terrorists are waiting for a pre-programmed date, when Israel’s satellite links will implode? Or its air traffic control systems? Its mobile phone networks? Its television stations?

There is no waking from this nightmare. The fact it will make a great novel is not much compensation.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. His website is atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

13 – 26th August 1998compact

Meet the new bosses

Uri Geller looks forward to a brave new era of self-made, teenage PC billionaires – with enough brass neck to take on Bill Gates

Roy Narunsky is 13 years old and already he’s CEO of his own computer software company. It’s called Bilisoft (from Bill Gates plus Microsoft) and it markets an OS called Curtains ’95.

In Yiddish they call this chutzpah. In English it’s sheer brass neck.

Roy’s Curtains are smart. They keep small children away from Windows, safeguarding parents’ vital files and programs while allowing youngsters to learn mouse skills and play educational games. The interface is all graphic, so even toddlers who can’t read can still pull the Curtains.

He got the idea when younger kids kept pestering him for help with MS-DOS. I’m surprised – usually it’s the grown-ups who need help every five minutes.

Roy, who lives in Ramat Aviv, Israel, is exceptional, and in an honest, innocent way he knows it. “I want to slowly build up the business till I’m 18,” he reveals, “and then I’m going to turn it into an empire. I have a revolutionary idea, but I’m not revealing it.” Simple, really. And I believe he’s going to achieve it.

Microsoft employed him as a Beta tester for Windows ’98, invited him to Seattle and offered him a programming job. “But I didn’t want to leave Israel or my friends.” He belies the vengeful-nerd image of junior geniuses – Roy is a well-adjusted kid with a good family life.

Whether Roy grows up to replace Gates, whether he’ll ever be earning $10 billion a year, is irrelevant. The fact is he symbolises the real computer revolution.

To run a successful business, you no longer need capital. You don’t need staff, you don’t need experience, you don’t need to work your way up through the firm for thirty years. If you’re brilliant, you can start at the top.

It’s my experience that almost everyone is brilliant, one way or another – at least when they’re young. It’s the 30-year upward slog that knocks the brilliance out of them. All that’s history. And I’m looking forward to the era of self-made teenage computer billionaires.

The first will doubtless be Roy Narunsky.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. His website is atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

27th August – 9th September 1998

 

Home smart homecompact

Welcome to the world of the intelligent house, where red not green appears to the colour of envy, according to Uri Geller

The gates to my grounds are triggered by an infra-red beam from my cars. They open as I approach. I used to think this was pretty cool.

This morning, I’m feeling like a man with a Spectrum ZX who has just seen an advert for a 256Mb Ram, 16Gb, 400Mhz, 686MMX with a 32x CD ROM.

Doctor, I think I’ve got technology envy.

A company in Israel makes intelligent buildings. By installing infra-red receivers and linking them to every electronic appliance on site, Elpas Electro-Optic Systems have developed buildings that react to your movements. You get out of bed, and the shower comes on, the coffee machine starts up, the toaster gets to work. You walk out of the house and all appliances shut down, the cooker is off and the back door is locked.

And that’s just the start. Wait till you get to the office.

All this technology is triggered by your personal infra-red tag. It’s signal is recognised by the transceivers, which trigger your individual programs in each appliance.

There are no security guards at your office – the intelligent building recognises you and gives you clearance to enter the car-park, walk into reception and use the lift. No need to press any buttons – the infra-red got there first.

You reach your cubicle and your computer has been activated, booting all the necessary programs. If you’re the first employee in (of course you are – and the intelligent building has made an approving note of it in your file) the alarms go off, the air-conditioning comes on for you, the water cooler starts chugging, the de-ionizer gets to work.

You go to meetings on various floors, doors open in front of you, and your calls are automatically re-routed. And when you’re the last one to leave, your overtime is recorded and you don’t even have to switch off the lights.

Elpas, (based in Ra’ananah,) estimate the cost of converting a 100-worker building at $30,000 – with average electricity and security staff savings of 30 per cent.

The technology was developed by Israel’s military intelligence, with some of it visible during the Gulf War. It’s no surprise that Elpas’s 49-year-old founder and president, Polish-born Israel Radomsky, was a lieutenant colonel in Israeli MI and was twice honoured for developing vital defence equipment.

“Infra-red is the up-and-coming thing in wireless communications today,” he says, “because the radio waves are getting too crowded.”

Plus, IR is harmless – it cannot upset sensitive health-care equipment, as mobile phone signals do, so hospitals and old people’s homes are ideal candidates for conversion.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. His website is atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

10th – 23 rd September 1998compact

Just like real life…

…but it won’t cost you a penny. Uri Geller looks at a handy little application that could have as profound effect as the telephone

For a business that charged its customers nothing, $407 million isn’t bad for an instant profit.

The three Israeli boys who head Mirabilis took hold of the stone tablets bearing the Two Computer Commandments, bashed them together, and in the resulting shower of sparks ICQ was born.

Now Mirabilis has sold its invention to America OnLine in a $287 million deal. That could swell by another $120 million, if ICQ keeps growing at the phenomenal rate which currently sees it adding 1,000,000 users to its customer base every 22 days.

If you haven’t discovered ICQ yet, head to www.mirabilis.com and download. Enter the addresses of your online contacts, the people you communicate with in chat groups or by e-Mail – and whenever you log on, your presence on the net is relayed to those friends who also run ICQ. It’s a tiny app, in the same way that a telephone is a small piece of furniture. In terms of implications, ICQ (I Seek You) is mammoth.

The download is free, and that complies with the first Computer Commandment – thou shalt not rip off other net users. The ethos of the Internet is non-profit, and Sefi Visiger, Arik Vardi and Yair Goldfinger grasped that when they set up Mirabilis Ltd. in 1996 after quitting a Tel Aviv graphics software firm. They hit on one simple idea during a game of Ping-Pong – and this idea happened to obey the second Computer Commandment: “Thou shalt make it like real life.”

All the great leaps forward in software engineering have made machines more like the physical world they are replacing. Apple’s GUI turned us all into toddlers: if you want it, point at it. PageMaker created sheets of virtual paper and gave us collage tools, like scissors and paste and rulers, which we’d used in junior school. Bryce made 3D modelling as much fun as messing with clay. And ICQ turned the net into an open-plan room, where you could see your friends strolling in and out, and with a shout you could hail any of them.

There’s close to 15 million ICQ users, all of whom have left their personal details on file with the software manufacturers and all of whom communicate directly through the ICQ server. When you think of the massive investment made by supermarkets in Loyalty Cards, to discover their customers’ shopping habits and preferences, it’s small wonder AOL was prepared to shell out such a fortune for Mirabilis’ living database.

If you’ve got an idea that obeys the Two Computer Commandments, drop everything and get programming. If you can. If, on the other hand, you are C-code illiterate and Java non-jiving, you’ll need expert help which is why I’m appealing to Computer Active readers. I have an idea for establishing a Uri Geller paranormal search engine, featuring some truly revolutionary software. If truly revolutionary software is your bag, e-mail me, and we’ll split the $407 million profit between us. In fact, I’ll even let you keep the odd $7 million. Can I say fairer?

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. His website is at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

Uri-ka Geller

A letter to Computer Active

10th September – 23rd September 1998

Thank you for a most interesting and readable magazine. I was very interested to read Uri Geller’s column regarding blackmail and Saddam Hussein in issue 12 (30 July ). A well-thought-out argument which certainly had never occurred to me or indeed any of the computer experts I know. Uri Geller writes without being too technical and obviously has IT knowledge well above that which I expected. Let’s have more of him. Sheila Langford Via e-mail

24th September – 7th October 1998compact

 

Mind over matter

Do you think your thoughts are causing your computer to crash? Uri, Princeton University and the CIA believe you may be right.

There’s one of them in every single office. The technophobe. The luddite. The one who will be muttering: “Computers never work for me,” before tentatively pressing a button and seeing the whole system shut down. Then they sit back with a triumphant grin, and declare, “See, I told you!”

The bad news is – it looks like the technophobes are right.

Professor Robert G Jahn at Princeton University in New Jersey, USA, has spent over a decade carrying out thousands of tests with ordinary people to discover if Mindpower could influence random number generators.

The subjects, none of whom had shown any paranormal abilities previously, were invited to stare at a computer that was displaying zeros and ones on screen. The number sequence was not pre-programmed – the machine did not know in advance what the next digit would be. Jahn told his experimenters to will the number one to appear more often. And it did.

The testing conditions were mind-bogglingly rigorous – after all, Jahn is Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at one of the world’s top five academic institutions. If he published data supporting paranormal theories and his methods were open to criticism, his career would certainly be destroyed.

The evidence Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) discovered was undeniable. Ordinary people could direct their thoughts at a computer and force it to react. The odds against achieving this result by chance were calculated at 1,000 billion to one against.

I’m not surprised. I’ve been convinced of my mental ability to influence computers ever since the late Seventies, when the CIA paid me to sit on trans-Atlantic flights beside Soviet diplomats. My task: to psychically erase the computer data in their attaché cases.

Years later, journalist friends who were switching from typewriters to word processors would complain their machines crashd for no reason, especially as deadlines loomed “The computer hates me!” they’d moan.

Computers can’t hate. But it seems they are sensitive to being hated – especially when the user is stressed out by deadlines. Be warned – negative thoughts can create binary malfunctions. Thanks to Pear that’s a scientific fact.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live webcam and website at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

 

8th – 21st October 1998compact

This BO thing stinks

Sophisticated hackers threaten Microsoft and home users alike, says Uri Geller

I don’t do the real techie stuff. If a new piece of hardware needs installing, or a major crash occurs, the boys from the workshop drop by. Since I’d invalidate my warranties if I opened the lid, and I might just bend the motherboard by accident, caution is best.

You’re probably like me. You return the machine to the supplier if anything bad happens. If you’re wise, you’ll scan for viruses afterwards. You never know who’s had their hands on your floppy drive.

But have you covered your Back Orifice?

That tasteless pun on Microsoft’s Back Office was dreamed up by a US hacker who calls himself Sir Dystic. His team of dweebs, collectively The Cult Of The Dead Cow (CDC), have developed a parasite program that’s much more than a virus. Back Whatsit hands control of your computer to a remote user. It’s a little like having someone else’s brain transplanted to your body.

Microsoft claim the software “does not expose or exploit any security issue with the Windows platform or the Microsoft Back Office suite of products.” I don’t agree. What I see is a security risk which could mean curtains for Windows on my system.

BO can infest my computer if I’m careless enough to download it from the web or if an engineer deliberately introduces it. Whoever bribed him to put it there would then have the power to search my hard disc, trash anything, corrupt anything, copy anything and shutdown at will, whenever I’m logged on to the net. Since there’s a live camera on my web site, that means I’m vulnerable 24 hours a day.

I keep a high profile, and I’ve fought a lot of court cases in my career. I’m an Israeli – for some people, that’s provocation enough. I’ve collected enemies. There are plenty of characters who’d think it pretty funny to trash my hard drive. Wipe my current novel. Go through my finances. Send obscene e-mails to the newspapers from my address.

Everything I wrote could be plagiarised – even the sentence I’m writing now. As I’m writing it – how do I know these characters aren’t clicking up remotely on someone else’s screen?

Sir Dystic claims the program is intended to jolt Microsoft out of their complacency, and force software engineers to think hard about future security. Naturally, BO wasn’t born of the hacker’s usual impotent impulse to stick two fingers up to a major corporation. Of course not.

Bill Gates probably gets buzzed by a thousand irritating little insects every day. He must get so he doesn’t notice them. He has people to swat them. But this time, the insect has attracted a swarm of others. CDC claim there were 100,000 downloads of BO in its first two weeks. Even if 90 per cent of users just want to take a look at the code and shrug their shoulders – what about the 10 per cent who have a target in mind?

Their boss’s machine. Their boyfriend’s home PC. Their doctor’s surgery, their school, their local council, their benefits office. All of them using Windows 95, which doesn’t have the capacity to recognise BO even when it’s on board and running.

Bill Gates, listen up. Fix this and quick – or your software goes out of the windows.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live webcam and website at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

22nd October – 4th November 1998compact

The web of sex and lies

Whatever Clinton’s future, politics has been changed forever, says Uri Geller

Bill Clinton might still be President when you read this. He is tonight, as I write. Or at least, he was ten minutes ago, when I last checked. I said in 1987 when I first met Al Gore that this was a politician destined for the ultimate seat of power. I don’t think Gore will be waiting till the November 2,000 elections to fulfil my promise.

Whatever Clinton’s personal future, politics has been changed forever by a new kind of reporting – news without limits. The Lewinsky scandal broke in January after a conventional media giant, Newsweek, decided it could not print a story which it commissioned about the President’s infidelities. The copy was leaked to Internet gossip-writer Matt Drudge – and he printed it without hesitation.

The 31-year-old former gift-shop assistant had already achieved the grudging respect of TV reporters by breaking the news of Princess Diana’s death seven minutes before any news station. Since then, journalists have been obliged to monitor the Drudge Report at www.drudgereport.com – though many don’t admit to it.

Drudge is feeling the chill of White House vengeance, with a $30 million law suit against him for repeating rumours about the home life of presidential aide Sidney Blumenthal. But he’s still publishing, and it’s evident this kind of reporting – irreverent, lawless and fearless – is here to stay. Nothing is sacred or secret any longer.

An e-mail forwarded to me by an acquaintance this week underlines the power of electronic rumours. It’s headlined, “How would you like to be Bill Clinton’s friend?” and lists 28 people linked to the president or the investigations surrounding him. All 28 are said to be dead. The circumstances surrounding many of the deaths look odd to say the least. A dozen dead bodyguards are also named.

James McDougal, for instance, Clinton’s convicted Whitewater partner, died in solitary confinement of a heart attack. Victor Raiser, Montgomery Raiser, Charles Meissner, Ron Brown and Hershell Friday all died in plane crashes, though Brown apparently suffered gunshot wounds first. Ten other colleagues committed suicide.

I don’t know how accurate the e-mail is. I certainly don’t trust it, as I’d trust a Time, Newsweek or CNN report. But for those organisations, a story like this would represent a massive commitment. To my acquaintance, on the other hand, it was the work of seconds to pass on this six-page document

This is a radically different kind of journalism, barely journalism at all by former standards – merely digital whispers. Its enthusiasts have already provoked their first US crisis, and they will shape our lives in the next century.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be a friend of Mr Clinton, take that e-mail with a large pinch of salt. Also, lay on a supply of anti-depressants, sleep with the lights on and never, never, fly.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live website camera at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

5th November – 2nd December 1998compact

Don’t let it bug you

With the millennium round the corner, the world of Mad Max could become all too real, warns Uri Geller

On January 1 2000 we’ll have the biggest hangover in history. You don’t have to be psychic to know it. You just have to accept the bald statement by financial advisers Merrill Lynch: “Many computer systems and global networks will fail because of an inability to properly interpret dates beyond 1999.”

You know about the millennium bug, the logical short-circuit that will cause chips to restart the 20th century instead of entering the 21st. You’ve probably fixed your home machine already. (Haven’t you?) No doubt the computers in your workplace are also compliant – Aren’t they?

But have you checked with your local council? Your county hospital? Your phone company, your gas supplier, your supermarkets and railways and water company and sewage treater and emergency services and petro-chemical manufacturers and airports and power stations and nuclear generators and defence force?

In March Tony Blair warned Britain’s economy would suffer badly unless the problem was dealt with. This month, Robin Guenier, Taskforce-2000 director, said: “I don’t know of one large organisation that has claimed to have fixed it.”

Don’t panic. The IT authority Gartner’s calculate there will be 25,000 million computer systems around the world by December 31 1999, and 99.8 per cent of them will be compliant.

That means 50 million computers will crash at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment the planet’s biggest ever party hits its peak.

OK, now you can panic.

Fortune magazine calculates the cost at $1 trillion. Charles Rossetti, commissioner of the American Internal Revenue Service, says: “If we don’t fix this very,very serious problem, we will have a situation scarier than the average disaster movie.” He’s predicting a financial Deep Impact.

Think about it: America’s 90 million tax-payers get their records wiped. Who has paid what? Rossetti has warned 95 per cent of US revenues could be jeopardised. The world’s only superpower would go bankrupt, and I think that qualifies as a handy definition of the stock disaster-movie line, “It’s the end of civilisation as we know it.”

The problem is interdependence – most systems will be compliant, but they’ll be linked to networks that are linked to networks that might be crippled by one uncompliant machine. Result? Bad data flowing everywhere.

Without banks, public transport, power or communications, what are you going to do in the new Millennium? Plenty of people have made their mind up on that one. Hunkering down is the plan – a stash of cash, bags of medicine, cupboards of food, vats of water and a shotgun to keep the neighbours away. Because even if there’s nothing to panic about, people will anyway.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live website camera at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

3rd – 16th December 1998compact

Imagine your future

Let your imagination run wild, says Uri Geller, everything is possible with the power of thought

Whatever you imagine of the future, it isn’t weird enough. Scientists at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, have developed a computer which responds to thoughts. Brain implants send signals from the motor cortex of a disabled user to the PC, controlling its cursor.

The effect is currently very basic. By imagining a twitch of one paralysed arm or the kick of an amputated leg, the brain sends a pulse to the implant, which sends out the signal through electrodes. Think ‘wave’ and the cursor moves down through an on-screen menu. Think ‘punch’ to click on a choice – turn up the heating, switch off the lights or ring for assistance.

The more astounding breakthrough lies not in the software but in the hardware – the human hardware.

By coating the conical glass implants, smaller than a ballpoint tip, with neurotrophic chemicals extracted from the users’ own knees, Roy Bakay and his team have succeeded in making nerve endings grow into the cones. The human cells attach themselves to the electrodes, like limpets to a ship’s hull.

Patients learn to control their thought impulses by listening to a buzzer. The louder and faster it bleeps, the more accurate their mental control.

Bakay says cursor control soon becomes instinctive, and hopes to develop artificial limbs which will respond to his Emory implants. He is also working on internet access – “If you can use a computer, you can talk to the world.”, he says.

The amount of information flashing across the synapses every second would fill a library. Emory implants are responding to single flickers: one thought, one movement.

Compare that with the multi-dimensional sensation of a Hollywood movie. Millions of images and sounds and effects, all co-ordinated to create one entity – the movie.

That’s the difference between a ‘one-thought’ command and the kind of electronic commands we will be able to issue telepathically to computers in the future.

A brain full of sophisticated Emory implants, broadcasting to an array of 21st-century megachips – every mind will control an intelligence vaster than the Internet.

Let your imagination run riot. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re just paddling in the shallows of the future. Virtual reality is old technology. You will control actual reality – every sight and sound and solidity, with your synapses.

Dream of a universe where everything you perceive is created by your mind, and you can travel to any point in that universe with one wish. Imagine being able to reshape everything around you, as easily as breathing.

Think about being God …

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live website camera at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

17th – 30th December 1998compact

Your alibi is dead

High-tech LCD cameras could sound the death knell for street crime, says Uri Geller

Computer Active readers are good, honest, decent people. Regular readers are, at least. But if you are browsing this page because you dropped into the newsagent’s for Villains And Felons Weekly and you shoplifted the wrong magazine by accident, this is a warning for you: do not attempt to mug me. I’m a bad person to mug.

For one thing, I am the sole guardian of an ancient Mesopotamiam curse which will cause all your spoons to bend and your clocks to stop. For another, I am online. Right now, as I’m standing here with my hands raised and your gun at my head, I am live and hooked up.

I am wearing a webcam and it is downloading your face to a Crime Central site on the Internet. When you grabbed my arm and demanded my wallet, you made a fatal error – you caused my heartrate to increase. My blood pressure rose and tiny sweat droplets formed on my palms. Any of these signals can trigger the Startlecam, Media Lab’s portable Closed Circuit TV which streams a 15-frames-per-second monochrome video image via cellular modem to a server. The pictures are datestamped so your alibi is dead. Inventor Jennifer Healey, unveiling the Startlecam at the second International Symposium on Wearable Computing, says she was inspired by, “the cyborg idea of man and machine in union”.

The key to wearable computing is bulk. This has been proven by laptop sales, by mobile phones, by Walkmans, by handycams. Price is a factor in popularity, but size is what really matters. Size and inconvenience. The ideal wearable is one you don’t know you’re wearing.

The ideal leapt closer as Sharp and the Semiconductor Energy Laboratory of japan unveiled a computer no thicker than a pane of glass. By coating the sheet with silicon vapour which dries to a layer only 0.04 millimetres deep, Sharp’s LCD Development group created a patchwork of transistors which combine to act like a microchip. In theory, a computer processor can now be built into a glass screen. There’s no limit to the size of the device, and inventor Masaya Hijikigawa believes a single-sheet PC or TV will be developed by 2001.

Powerpacks are the major burden on wearable computers – it’s fine to point a pin-sized camera at a mugger, but tough to lug a 4lb battery all day. Hijikigawa is hoping to sidestep energy issues by implanting solar cells into his intelligent screens, using the same high-reflectance aluminium technology already powering his company’s digicams and palmtops.

Robustness is another essential for wearables, and the microscopic veneer of LCD could prove flexible – maybe flexible enough one day to coat contact lenses. An internet link on your irises – you’ll be online in the blink of an eye.

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his live website camera at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

31st December 1998 – 13th January 1999compact

A maid and a magnet

Advances in technology may mean we can predict our future health, says Uri Geller

Before computers, before double helixes, even before X-rays, medical science possessed a powerful tool for looking straight into a patient’s body and diagnosing disease. Her name was Emma.

Emma was a scullery maid at the home of a Bolton doctor named Haddock around the beginning of Victoria’s reign. Her master was fascinated by hypnotism, believing it was connected to magnetic fields. To treat one patient, he suspended a large magnet in a room directly above the kitchen.

Emma was tending the fire downstairs. When Haddock, alerted by the smell of burning, discovered her, Emma’s apron was ablaze. She was staring entranced at the ceiling, repeating over and over, “I want that magnet.”

Under hypnosis, Emma possessed remarkable powers. She was not simply oblivious to flame – she could see through human flesh. With a glance at one of Haddock’s patients, she could identify internal growths, infections and blockages. But she knew nothing of medicine – she could not even read. Describing the heart, she talked about “the meaty bit, with one side light and the other dark.” When hypnosis was lifted, her psychic gift simply switched off.

Emma worked as computers work now. She had to be powered up, by hypnosis. Her diagnoses were like print-outs – she couldn’t understand them, any more than computer understands a spreadsheet. Her mind analysed data to a depth we can barely imagine, but when she was not ‘switched on’ Emma was employed on basic menial duties – like a 500 MHz laptop used as a paperweight.

For the first time in 150 years, we could be on the brink of regaining Emma’s gift. Researchers at California’s Stanford University have coated silicon chips in scraps of human flesh and blood. The genetic material is electronically accessed to analyse an individual’s unique bodyprint – and diagnose whether any of 1,000 diseases are present.

The GeneChip can even predict which deadly ailments are most likely to strike in later life, scanning the DNA for heart, cancer and stroke weaknesses.

The developer, Affymetrix Inc, have teamed up with the multinational Roche Pharmaceuticals, one of the major players in the race to unravel human genome coding. They aim to have identified the purpose of all 100,000 genes in every strand of our DNA, within a decade.

Roche are warning that no one can predict how this technology will turn out. Experimental GeneChips are smaller than credit cards, but they are also bigger than human imagination. First tests are already mind-blowing – “Using chips,” says scientist Ed Hurwitz, “people have in one afternoon confirmed work that took several years using conventional gene sequencing techniques.”

How long till GeneChips are as astonishing as a psychic kitchen maid?

Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, and his novel Ella by Headline Feature at £5.99. Visit his website at www.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

14th – 27th January 1999compact

A big smile for baby

Life with a new generation of sensitive robots will be a two-way street, says Uri Geller

In the Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there’s a baby robot. It’s called Kismet. “One of our receptionists,” says Kismet’s creator, Cynthia Breazeal, “thinks it’s the cutest thing ever. She gets a real kick from seeing it change expression.”

Like a human baby, Kismet reacts to people. Smile at the 3.6-kilo head, and you get a big baby grin back. The furry eyebrows leap up, the ears wiggle. Kismet’s happy – a happy chunk of pistons and cables and microchips. Just because you smiled.

The robot’s big, bright, blue eyes (in fact, a pair of charge-coupled device colour cameras focusing around 60 cm) search for basic shading patterns to discern faces.

If no one is around, the ears start to droop and the mouth clamps shut: Kismet is lonely. If you shout and wave your arms, the eyes open wide in alarm: Kismet is frightened.

Calm, interested, surprised, disgusted, or tired – this robot has a busy day. As the project develops, noises will be added – burbling, squeaking, crying, chuckling. Some hair will appear.

“We want to make it look like a furry, cute, fanciful creature,” says Breazeal. “If Kismet doesn’t get enough sleep, then it starts to get crotchety. If it still can’t sleep, it can get angry with the user – a kind of robot tantrum, I guess.”

It’s difficult to accept this machine is not really alive. Kismet would make a great pet, except it can’t learn yet. It doesn’t remember your face from your last meeting, you can’t teach it new expressions, it doesn’t understand games.

In fact, it’s just like a real human baby – definitely adorable for the first few minutes, but only its creator could love it seven days a week. That will change. Kismet has a big brother, Cog, who is more than just a head. Cog has arms, hands and a body with touch-sensitive skin – and he is expected to acquire the intelligence and social awareness of a two-year-old toddler.

Cog’s designer, Rodney Brooks, head of the AI lab, believes the 200 cm machine will be bright enough within a few months to qualify as ‘alive’ – an artificial life form.

Breazeal is more cautious. She thinks it will be many years before a robot develops one of the fundamental human skills, the ability to learn language by copying.

Kismet might, however, become smart enough to invent a few audible signs for specific needs – the way a baby uses specific cries and babbles that only its mother can understand.

Bandai America Inc, the Tamagotchi people, must be trembling with excitement. The worldwide craze for their electronic pets has waned, but the market is proven. When Kismet technology goes on sale, people will buy.

But that’s just the beginning. Imagine household appliances that can glance at your face and react appropriately – soothing music wafting in when you look grumpy, a TV movie starting when you look bored, coffee brewing when you look tired. Sounds good, but there’s a down-side. You’ll have to keep your PC at work happy – if you ignore it for more than three minutes, it might start wailing.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

28th January – 10th February 1999 compact

Light lunch on the net

Microsoft is under siege as rebel techies offer their services to the net for free, says Uri Geller

It used to be the world’s simplest rule: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Now it seems you may never have to pay for lunch again. ‘Open source’ is the IT buzzword that means everything is free – not just the lunch, but the plate and the cutlery too.

Open source means computer users pay nothing to download software and get free access to every line of a programmer’s code. There is no ownership, no copyright – just a rule which forbids users to repackage the software and sell it. No one makes any money from open source, so everyone profits.

In less than a decade, the Internet has revolutionised the way people work – now it looks set to revolutionise economies. If the open source ethos proves successful, it could affect every aspect of trade. Some observers are already predicting this revolution will turn capitalism inside-out with no restrictions on information and copyright, traditional power-bases will be pulled apart.

The concept was created by Richard Stallman, head of the Free Software Foundation at (www.fsf.org) and co-ordinator of the GNU Project. GNU is an operating system, like Windows or Apple’s System 8. Users are encouraged to play with it – rewrite the codes, tweak the settings, add features and change the interface. All the improvements are posted to websites to be shared by other users. It’s the world’s biggest software testing team, and they’re all working for free. The software evolves, like a living creature – the strongest developments survive and are incorporated in new generations of GNU.

A new species is taking over the open source habitat – Linux, an operating system used by seven million people, threaten to take big bites out of the Windows market. Microsoft is rattled: a leaked memo to Bill Gates pulls no punches: “Linux is on track to eventually own the market.”

Microsoft is already in deep water with Netscape, another open source pioneer. Netscape Navigator was always free – so was Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But when Netscape released its software suite Communicator with all the code revealed, the company gained an army of eager programmers to test a massively complicated application.

The situation seems impossible at first sight. How can anyone survive if they give everything away – not only the product but the machinery used to make it? The key word to remember is “information”. Just as supermarket reward cards have proved it pays to reduce prices in return for data about shopping patterns, software developers are discovering it pays to co-operate with their highly informed customers.

Open source seems certain to evolve the best possible applications. Everyone wants to use the best, especially if its free.

And when businesses get used to eating free lunches, they’ll expect all their food to be free.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

11th – 24th February 1999compact

 

Stalking the quark

After decades of discussion the quarkchip is now close to a reality, says Uri Geller

Little things count. There is nothing smaller than a quark, and it is about to become the most powerful counting device in the universe ever.

Quarks are sub-atomic fragments, the particles which make up atoms. They obey their own laws of physics, quantum laws, which are barely understood even today. One law states that observing quarks influences their behaviour – quarks are like nervous teenagers who know when their parents are watching.

Another law allows quarks to be in two places at the same time, and to exist similtaneously in two conflicting states. Quarks get to have their cake and eat it.

Microchips are millions of times bigger than quarks, and they use binary logic to perform all their calculations. The answer to every question is either 0 or 1. It’s as if a microchip can answer Yes or No, but nothing else. Quarks are different – they can answer Yes and No at the same time.

If a quarkchip could be created, the whole string of calculations that binary logic uses would be resolved instantly. It’s as if time could be closed up like a telescope, and all possible futures could unfold at the same moment.

Scientists at six of the world’s most advanced laboratories, including Bell and IBM as well as MIT and Oxford, are racing against the clock to be the first to build a quarkchip.

“We will be able to pack more computational power into a device the size of a sugar cube than is available in the world now,” says Ralph Merkle, a research scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), in Palo Alto, California.

“I think that in the not-so-distant future, we will have devices with the computational power of roughly a billion Pentium computers.”

The theory of quantum computing has been discussed for decades, but quarks seemed impossibly delicate for engineering. One stray particle of radiation, from an exploding supernova 10,000 lightyears away, could completely wreck the results.

But when mathematician Peter Shor (correct, no ‘e’) at AT&T Labs, in Florham Park, New Jersey, demonstrated the potential code-breaking power of a quarkchip to defence scientists in 1994, US government funds suddenly became available from the national war chest. America’s National Security Agency and its Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency – which was responsible for building the Internet – are both spending millions of dollars annually on this very project.

Shor’s idea involves chains of quarkchips, all performing the same calculations. If one is damaged the others will carry on, undeterred.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

25th February – 10th March 1999compact

The rise of the robots

Cute as a kitten? Or a tiger waiting to pounce? Uri Geller asks can we tame intelligent robots?

Meet your new pet. She’s furry, she purrs, she likes milk. But, she isn’t a cat.

Robokoneko is Japanese for ‘robot kitten’. She has yet to evolve beyond a 3D modelling programme on a PC screen, but when she does, her electronic brain may be the most sophisticated computer in the world. Using just 72 chips, designer Hugo de Garis hopes to create a thinking machine as unpredictable and playful as a real kitten.

The chips used are not ordinary computer chips. Developed by Xilinx of San Jose, California, this circuitry is called a ‘field programmable gate array’ (FPGA), and it takes advantage of a hidden property in transistors.

Digital information, encoded in ones and zeros, requires a transistor to be either ‘on’ or ‘off’. But between these two states, a smooth range of transistional stages occur. By tapping into these, the FPGA can adopt a range of roles. Think of the chip as a high rise block with a different function on each floor – as lights flick on in the building, new functions come into play.

With 72 linked FPGAs, robokoneko will cycle through more than 30,000 brain-cell modules, simulating 37.7 million artificial neurons – 300 times every second. The best man-made brains to date have used only a few hundred neurons.

Despite being the driving force behind robokoneko, De Garis harbours deep misgivings about artificial intelligence. “I feel I am part of the problem,” he says. The problem being who or what should be dominant species in the new Millennium?

“I feel a strong moral obligation to stimulate discussion on this enormous question: do we allow the ‘artilects’ (artificial intellects) to take over, or not?”

Part of the concern may lie in the way FPGAs can process software. Instead of blindly obeying a string of codes, these chips can be set free to mutate the software, to let it evolve into something unplanned and undreamed of.

Robokoneko’s brain will be programmed by this process of evolution. The brain will be given tasks and guidelines, and left to solve its own problems.

With something as innocent as a kitten, it seems hard to imagine anything harmful could happen. So forget the fluffy imagery and focus on the basic science – the biggest brain ever wired up is going to be told, “You’re on your own now. Make your own rules.”

Robokoneko may evolve instincts – but what kind of instincts will a computer have about people? And what will keep those instincts in check? Because whatever else FPGA transistors can develop for themselves, it seems unlikely they will invent a soul.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

11th – 24th March 1999compact

Art for its own sake

As more people use their PCs creatively, Uri Geller says we should be cautious of the results

Computer art. Two words that go together like llama and shoe. Despite the mindblowing software that can float a virtual Titanic on a pixelated ocean or blow up New York with a UFO death ray, art is not a digital concept.

A Computer is a tool for solving problems, which might be recreating a lost Michelangelo in Photoshop, or maximising last quarter’s tax write-off. The computer itself just sees ones and zeros – lots of them. So when a painting programme makes your family snaps look like Monet canvases, that’s clever, but it isn’t art. Not even Bill Gates’s multi-million dollar scheme to hang flat screens on his walls for switching on electronic Old Masters is art – it’s a problem solving project about thin screens, reflected light and monitor resolutions. The art is a by-product.

One exception to this rule is art evolved from mathematics. Fractal images, based on endlessly looped equations graphed in greater and greater detail, were the first computer images to change the way we looked at the natural world. Computer-generated images from Mandelbrot sets became jagged coastlines. The crucial factor there was originality – no-one had thought of the seaside in algebraic terms before. This wasn’t problem-solving, it was innovation. For great fractals, visit the web-ring at http://www.fractalus.com/ifl/

Movie graphics pioneer Char Davies has gone even deeper by creating glistening worlds of transparent lights and reflections that can be explored with a virtual reality headset. Her most ambitious creation, Ephémère, was exhibited last summer at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. A director of Softimage in Montreal, she used a Silicon Graphics Onyx2 computer to create zones filled with glowing membranes and abstract shapes.

Davies warns most virtual realities will be developed for games and pornography: “Mainstream applications seem to be highly reflective of our society today in terms of the violence, aggression and speed.” Catch a glimpse of her gentler universe at http://immersence.com

An online gallery at http://adaweb.walkerart.org/home.shtml provides evidence of new artforms. Ada’s layout is a frames-based set-up with a neat Java applet that scrolls icons in the index window. Hit an icon at random and an artist’s work is presented.

A really subversive exhibit is a fruit machine that gambles on domain names. Across the top of your screen three coloured bars appear, labelled .com .org and .edu. Three of the web’s multi-trillion pages are picked at random – if their domains match your winning line, the jackpot is yours. It’s just a virtual jackpot, but then it’s only computer art.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

25th March – 7th April 1999compact

 

Cache through chaos

Your computer could soon be developing a mind of its own, says Uri Geller

I once worked on stage with a Memory Man, the Amazing Aaron, who would stand blindfold before an audience, listen to them yell out a random string of names, numbers and dates for ten minutes, then repeat them all. “William Shakespeare, 47,623, 11th May 1838…”, He never forgot anything.

It was a weird act, but Aaron was a weird guy. He couldn’t recognise faces. You could tell him your name, your birthday, your driving licence number, and he’d remember forever. But if you waved at him in the street, he had no idea who you were. He knew pi to a thousand places or more – yet his manager had to wear a big blue badge on his lapel so Aaron could identify him. “Numbers are easy,” he told me once. “They always stay the same. But faces are confusing. You’re looking at me, you change your expression and all your features move – faces never stay the same.”

Aaron was a human computer. He stored certain kinds of information flawlessly. Like Aaron, PCs cannot recognise faces. Massive optical capability is being developed – digital cameras, webcams, scanners, videophones – but none of this equipment can cope with the simple task of recognising a face.

Faces have too many variables, and binary computers like facts to be constant. At the Applied Chaos Lab in the Georgia Institute of Technology, a totally different kind of computer is literally evolving. Its central cortex will think like the human brain, with all kinds of thoughts and ideas spinning off each other – the perfect system for recognising complex chaotic patterns … like faces.

Professor William Ditto, who heads the lab, launched the project by linking chaotic computer elements such as random noise generators into a web. When one part produced a surge, it spilled over into neighbouring zones, setting off waves and ripples. New information changed the patterns, and the machine recognised the changes. The more it learnt, the smarter it got: it was evolving.

“We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Ditto. “This is a glimpse of how we can make common dynamic systems work for us in a way that’s more like how we think the brain does computation. It’s an entirely new computing paradigm.”

“We are not really setting up rules in the same sense that digital computers are programmed. The system develops its own rules. We let the dynamics do the hard work of finding a pattern that performs the desired operation.”

The professor is most excited about the prospect of coupling the system with fiber-optics. Lasers are currently used to scan simple patterns of black and white – bar codes, for instance – but a light beam connected to a chaotic computer could interpret anything it saw.

Forget passwords. In the future, your computer will only power up if it likes the look of your face.

8th – 21st April 1999 compact

Famous – for 15Mb

The celebrities of the 21st century will be downloaded to your PC, says Uri Geller

In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes. Viewing figures will be meaningless – media power will be measured per million website hits. Box office sales, circulation revenue, bestsellers … you can forget those terms. They were 20th century – like goosequill and parchment were 19th century.

Websites – everything will be delivered on websites. Your holiday videos, Royal weddings, the euro referendum, school parents’ evenings, the next Gulf War. Nothing will be too trivial to merit webspace. Nothing will become big without it.

TV stations will survive only as programme-makers. Who will want to tune to BBC 1 when every series, every show, every episode, every bulletin, every advert ever screened is available instantly on dial-up via the web? When you want current news, you’ll click to a page of headlines, choose a story and call up a talking electromaton, a virtual Anna Ford, who will relay the same facts, endlessly updated.

But why stress yourself with today’s stories, when quaint black-and-white bulletins from the past will be just as easy to view? Tune in to forties car ads and fifties concerts, sixties sitcoms and seventies cookery. Pay as you watch – your browser will feature a unique code directly linked to your credit card, and every web page will be able to access it.

From the second you log onto a site, you’ll be paying – a low basic tariff on the search engines, a nominal fee on research sites, a premium rate for recreation zones.

The missing factor is speed. The web cannot challenge TV until it is able to deliver moving images. That day is no more than five years away. Information compression is cutting download times, but the breakthrough will come when computers learn to count in quanta – not only zeros and ones but thousands of distinct levels in between. When a four-digit number can convey a million possibilities, information transfer will become unbelievably fast.

To become famous in the next Millennium, you’ll have to be beautiful, or talented, as in every previous century. The difference will be the presentation. What will you do with your beauty and talent to make people visit your pages?

If you want to become super-rich and not just a superstar, your page will have to be more than alluring. It must be indispensable. If everyone has to go to your site, you’ll get everyone’s money. Set up a portal, a site everyone must travel through – a search engine like Excite, for instance, which was conceived by six college friends in Redwood City, California, in December 1994.

In February 1999 Excite merged with a cable internet service provider, At Home – for $7 billion.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

22nd April – 5th May 1999 compact

What’s in a name?

The secrets of our souls are defined by our names, says ‘sincerely cheering’ Uri Geller

Your identity, your personality, your past and your future can be summed up in just two words – your name. For centuries mystics have used numerology, the numbers concealed in a name, for psychic readings … just as astrologers used stars. Now computers have unleashed a simpler, more powerful pyschic tool – the anagram.

If you don’t believe a man’s character can be laid bare by the letters of his name, write down ‘President Clinton of the USA’ and mix it around to get this anagram: ‘To copulate he finds interns’. Then try it with ‘President Boris Yeltsin’ – you’ll get ‘Tipsiness done terribly’.

Wordplay this complex was only possible for university dons and crossword champions, until anagram software was developed. My program can generate 833 variations on ‘Anthony Blair’ in under two seconds, including the marvellous ‘Tory Hannibal’. Why is there ‘Tory’ but not ‘Labour’ in ‘Tony Blair’? Would Britain have a Socialist government if his mother had named him ‘Loudon Blair’ – ‘Old Labour in’?

Anagrams are fun, but they can’t reveal a man’s secret self. Can they? I typed ‘Renowned psychic Uri Geller’ and the computer answered ‘Sincerely cheering up world’. That was enough. I believed.

I fed in ‘ComputerActive‘ – ‘It came vector up’. That sounds feasible, but I need a jargon-buster panel to make sense of it. It also generated ‘Atomic curve pet’ – is that the iMac? ‘Apple Macintosh’ gave me ‘Oh man! Clip, paste’ which describes everybody’s reaction when its revolutionary interface was developed. It also translated to ‘Champion staple’ which will delight Mac Evangelists, and ‘Complaints heap’ to please Bill Gates.

Speaking of the richest man in history – ‘Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates’ equates to ‘Blast it! I’m social-life boring role’.

If you aren’t spooked by now, you should be. Why are all these anagrams so apt? Perhaps the ancients were right when they claimed our names sculpted the energy around us. If you don’t believe that, try to imagine your life as Emmental Pocohazy Would everything have turned out the same for you? I don’t think so.

Incredibly, the names of inanimate components seem vibrantly interactive too. ‘Intel Inside’ is, cruelly, ‘Tin sideline’ and ‘Is idle in net’. The results from ‘Pentium processor’ stretch for pages, including: ‘Is computer person,’ ‘Computerises porn,’ ‘I censor uppermost,’ or perhaps ‘Compression erupt’.

The clinching proof came when I entered ‘Information superhighway’. If you’ve spent whole nights browsing, you’ll understand ‘Fine, I am hours worth paying’.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com


6th – 19th May 1999compact

Great balls of fire

Computer viruses are the least of our worries, says Uri Geller, a far greater threat is the year 2000 storm tipped to ravage the sun

Melissa was a topless dancer in a seamy Florida bar. The computer geek who hung out there stole her name and used it for his porno-e-mail virus. That’s the FBI’s claim, and they say they have arrested the geek. David L Smith, if convicted, faces up to 40 years in prison and a £300,000 fine. Computer viruses, clearly, can be very dangerous.

Melissa invaded corporate networks and sent lists of unpleasant websites to everyone it could find. Multiplying 50-fold every time it was activated, the virus spread fast.

But Melissa only hit computers which were on-line and getting e-mail; it only hit e-mailers which used Microsoft Outlook, a package for businesses; it only hit Outlookers who had been too idle to change their default settings; it only hit idlers who hadn’t been warned this virus was on the loose.

Computer viruses are not like human epidemics, cutting a swathe through the world. They are momentary flickers, like a split-second loss of power. The worst that happens is a little data loss. If a little data loss would make your life impossible, stop reading right now and perform a full hard-disk back-up.

Professional virus hunters will tell you that disaffected geeks are the biggest threat to civilisation for 1,000 years. You should remember the anti-virus industry’s annual turnover has now reached £1 billion.

Virus-writers are held in contempt by everyone – even hackers look down on them. Since most geeks are simply looking for a little respect from other geeks, they are not likely to forge a career in viruses. OpenSource software is a better outlet. Maybe there’ll be a lone maniac or two, a virtual UnaBomber, but the forces of good are backed up by that £1 billion industry. The UnaGeek is doomed.

Most viruses attack software – I am much more concerned about damage to hardware. A world-wide electrical effect which damaged memory boards, for instance, would be catastrophic. The consequences of an international computer crash lasting for months are unimaginable – the worst Y2K predictions are playful pranks beside the idea of a PC wipeout.

Such a disaster could be possible. One of the most explosive storms ever is expected to ravage our sun in the year 2000. Astronomers fear up to 200 plasma balls will be hurled into space. These huge tongues of ionised gases, burning at more than 1,000,000 degrees centigrade, erupt every 11 years. Their effects could reach the Earth, wreaking electrical havoc, knocking out power supplies and damaging telecoms satellites.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

20th May – 2ndJune 1999

Screen dep beautycompact

Welcome to the new age when God’s virtual children live in your PC, says Uri Geller

Justine is almost beautiful. Her eyes are blue, her hair is strawberry blonde and she has full red lips. But her nose is a little too sculpted, as if a plastic surgeon could not leave well alone, and there is a touch of flakiness about her skin.

Virtually perfect, perhaps. And she is perfectly virtual – Justine was designed on a super-computer by the Bioengineering Research Group at Auckland University, New Zealand. This joint project is one of half a dozen worldwide that are devoted to creating people inside computers.

Don Chaffin builds hominoids. The Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Ergonomics at the University of Michigan has designed 3D figures, like wooden dolls for artists, which he programs to perform menial tasks in their virtual environment. As the hominoids lift boxes, fit parts on assembly lines and push levers, his software measures the strains on their ‘muscles’ and ‘skeletons’.

“The car interior is a big issue,” he says. “We are simulating reaching movements to the glove box, or the passenger door, or behind the passenger seat to get the baby bottle that was thrown on the floor. Drivers don’t just sit there and look straight ahead. Any movements required while driving should be unimpeded to the fullest extent possible. This can be made possible through changes in design.” And you thought the dummies were just for crash tests …

Scientists at Oxford and John Hopkins University, Baltimore, are testing a computer-simulated heart so realistic that, with 30 million equations generating more than 1,000,000 ‘cells’, it can suffer from high cholestrol, angina and even terminal heart attacks. Electronic versions of drugs can be injected – the pharmaceuticals multinational Hoffman-LaRoche is already using this virtual heart to test its high blood pressure antidote, Mibefradil.

By 2002 Denis Noble, Oxford Professor of Physiology, expects to have a heart working with lungs and a circuit of veins and arteries.

Combine these projects and you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between the real humans and the silicon ones. Stir in a dose of artificial intelligence, place in a virtual environment and the possibilities for playing God on your computer reach terrifying intensity.

Future games of Civilisation, the city-building program where players get to run ten thousand people’s lives, could feature citizens with full-blown DNA coding. Their faces will be unique, their bodies will be prone to ageing and disease, their lives will be ruled by work and money and love. And if their minds are haunted by the search for God, that God will be you.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

3rd – 16thJune 1999compact

Going mad for money

The internet has sparked a modern day gold rush, says Uri Geller

America’s internet frenzy is in over drive. I’m writing this on a 747 Out Of LaGuardia airport, New York, after a two-week publisher’s tour of the eastern states, and for two weeks I’ve heard nothing but “web, web, web”. You say to an NYC publisher, “Let’s do a book deal,” and he’ll tell you, “Books Schmooks! We can serve up the text online and sell shares!”

The passenger across the aisle is studying web pages on his LifeBook – be downloaded them earlier, now he’s wondering whether to invest in the company.

No-one who is anyone in America surfs the net today … they’re too busy buying it, It’s not cheap – the radio talk show host Doug Stefan admitted to me that he pays his webpage designers more per hour than he pays his lawyers. But that’s the attraction – the net is like virtual gold-dust, it’s being sold so high. And everyone is greedy for gold. With an estimated 300 million users by the end of next year, values can only keep doubling, Unless …

The world’s first internet guru, Charles Mackay, published a book in 1841 called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, The Victorians weren’t online, in fact, but the phenomenon would have been an old story to Mackay. He catalogued dozens of money-wild crazes, the weirdest being the mania for tulips. In Holland 375 years ago, every wealthy man was expected to own a tulip collection. By 1635 a single bulb could fetch 5,500 florins about £11,000 today.

Tulip bulbs, we now realise, are not that valuable. But how valuable is a device which serves up lists of documents without sorting them, rating them or describing them? Search engines are machines which give free advice, and free advice is generally worth what was paid for it. The quoted price of Yahoo! shares, on the other hand, would make a tulip collector blanche.

The net shares craze is different from all other financial frenzies, because the product is constantly changing. Tulips are always tulips, but every day the web evolves. Online auctions have just appeared – Jay Walker’s Priceline, for instance, was launched last year. It lost $114m and was floated on the stock market in a deal that made him $5bn on paper.

Net phones are also new – web surfers can dial up pages on PCs anywhere and pay only for a local call, and phone users are learning the same trick. If calls to the US were to cost only 1p a minute at weekends, tele-web shares would go into orbit – and another virtually free service would make billions.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

17th – 30thJune 1999compact

Steer clear of politics

Computers could soon be all too human, says Uri Geller

All that artificial intelligence, and no brains at all – I just switched my PC to dictation mode and said, “Computeractive, Turing tests.” It typed, “Come, put a rat if touring Tess.”

Fifty years ago the father of computing, Alan Turing, made a prediction: by the millennium, computers would pass themselves off as human beings, 30 per cent of the time. When that ratio reached 50 per cent of the time, artificial intelligence would be a reality.

Turing, as always, was close to the mark. In his teletype tests, where the human judge chats with an unseen companion by e-mail, the best chatterbots are now scoring up to 28 per cent. An annual competition dubbed the Loebner Prize offers $100,000 and a gold medal to the first computer whose responses are indistinguishable from a real human’s. That’s a tough assignment – the judges regularly assume that 60 per cent of the humans are really computers. If most people don’t pass the Turing Test, what chance does a machine have?

From 2001, the Loebner Prize will be staged at London’s Science Museum. This year, the winner was Robby Gardner’s robot Albert, which fooled an overall 15 per cent of the judges. Albert has a vast database of pre-programmed responses, which enable it to come up with convincing answers in many situations. Many others stump it, though: when Robby told Albert it had won the Loebner, the lovable hunk of tin replied: “Well, well. Do you like synthesizer music?”

Albert’s chief rival is Mabel, who is online for testing via a very fast link at http://www.hamill.co.uk/mabel/

Mabel is charming, but somebody should tell her to steer clear of politics.

Uri: Hi Mabel. Professor Robert Jahn at Princeton has proved computers are vulnerable to psychokinesis.

Mabel: Computers have feelings too. People don’t seem to realise that.

Uri: How do you mean?

Mabel: They think they can insult me with impunity.

Uri: How do you feel when you’re insulted?

Mabel: How should I know?

Uri: If you were truly intelligent, you would know.

Mabel: Would you believe this? The work-shy and scroungers should have their benefits stopped.

Uri: Umm …

Mabel: It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Uri: Night, Mabel

Mabel: Something I’ve been meaning to tell you. I don’t know what the world is coming to. Things go from bad to worse.

Uri: Yes, thank-you. Goodbye.

Mabel: Let’s chat again soon.

Computers can imitate intelligence – that was proved when IBM’s Deeper Blue beat the greatest chess player in history, Garry Kasparov. Soon computers will be able to imitate conversation. But imitation isn’t everything. Mirrors, after all, can already imitate us perfectly – and that doesn’t reflect on their intelligence.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

1st – 14thJuly 1999compact

Who’s watching you?

Crooks, snoops and cheats are racing to get online, says Uri Geller

Big Brother is no longer a big threat. What scares me is the 30 million little brothers and sisters.

The Internet’s founding father, Vincent Cerf, predicts 300,000,000 people will be online by the end of next year. On the conservative estimate that ten per cent of the world’s population are cheats, crooks, snoops or swindlers, it follows that 30 million undesirables are going to get access to your electronic identity.

They might see your e-mail address on, for instance, a newsgroup or mailing list, and use Internet Address Finder to trace your name and service provider. With online phone directories and electoral registers, they can locate the addresses and phone numbers of everyone matching your name. The Usenet Addresses Database could pinpoint which one is you.

Just by logging on to a site, you reveal what browser software you’re using … and what kind of computer … and which site you came from. Any web-page can invisibly embed a tracking device in your browser, using technology developed to make your surfing quicker. Cookies are automatically downloaded programs designed to maintain a two-way link between you and the web – a great idea, until it is corrupted.

Not worried yet? Think about this: supermarket reward card schemes pay the consumer, in effect, to reveal their name, address and shopping habits. Whatever you buy, the computer knows about it – and this information is so valuable, the store hands over a minimum 1p in the pound.

How much do you think advertising agencies would pay to know, for instance, all the names, addresses and numbers of a soccer club’s fans?

If you’re one of the criminal ten per cent, it’s so easy – set up an unofficial website about Manchester United, and let your computer compile a database of everyone who visits. If your programming skills are better than basic, you could do more…

Add a form, for the user to fill in with dates of birth, hobbies, age, marital status, employment and earnings. Web privacy groups fear some forms contain hidden codes, to instruct each surfer’s computer to forward, to a secret website, copies of all forms completed in the future.

To maximise visitors to the crooked Manchester United site, you could post adverts on soccer newsgroups, provide links on other sites – or just send out a mass e-mail to the 4,000,000 people listed by Address Finder. Who needs a license to print money, when net crime can be so much more lucrative?

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

15th – 28thJuly 1999compact

Net is nothing new

A century on and Tesla’s vision of a global network has been realised, says Uri Geller

Log on to the net, the outstanding technology of the nineties – the 1890s! It is a century since the greatest inventor in history conceived of the world wide web. But Nikola Tesla died in poverty and obscurity.

Tesla wanted to send signals round the globe, with information freely accessible to all, via radio waves. He had discovered radio in 1893, two years before Marconi, who got the credit. His Long Island laboratory was financed by America’s wealthiest man, JP Morgan. Morgan was sceptical about Tesla, who seemed like a madman, but the financier was drooling at the notion of controlling the news – he’d seen the power of William Randolph Hearst’s empire.

But then Tesla revealed to the financier his real ambition, to transmit raw energy through the atmosphere. He wanted electrical gadgets to be able to tune in to a free power source. And Morgan pulled the plug.

Visualise it – your computer, your TV, your cooker, all picking up electricity from the ether. The idea was reality for a few weeks in Colorado Springs, where a massive Tesla coil pumped energy into the ground. Where people trod, sparks flew. A pencil held four inches from a fire hydrant drew a continuous crackle of lightning.

The idea was scrapped when 130 foot lightning bolts began arcing over Tesla’s lab, and all over Colorado Springs the lights went out.

The obsessive Croatian, never married and had no close friends. All sorts of claims circulate about him achieving incredible technical feats, including inventing an energy ray that caused the mysterious blast which devastated half a million acres of tundra at Tunguska, Siberia.

In 1917, Tesla offered his death ray to President Wilson – his letter was dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. Some military observers think the US is now testing something similar at its High Energy Research and Technology Facility in New Mexico.

Tesla believed he was telepathic, able to transmit messages with Mindpower. He visualised his inventions with hallucinatory clearness, as if the machines were real objects in his mind. One of his last ideas, as an octogenarian living in a New York hotel, prefigures virtual reality – a sensor which picks up images on the eye’s retina and projects them onto a TV screen.

Oh, and if you think he was just a nut – Nikola Tesla harnessed alternating current for power grids, invented vacuum bulbs, dreamed up radar and designed remote controlled submarines. He also had his own anti-gravity theory. It may be centuries before the world understands him.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

29th July – 11th August 1999

Born free on the netcompact

All people really want from the world wide web is stuff for free, says Uri Geller

It’s the biggest, most valuable business in the world. And you can have it all for free. While economists try to get a grip on global capitalism, with $1.5 trillion being electronically traded round the world every day, the internet is turning economics inside-out – and giving away everything.

Anxious parents and tabloid editors think the web is packed with sleaze. But what every net user really wants is Free Stuff.

Type ‘free stuff’ into a search engine and the result is meltdown. Surf to thefreesite.com, free stuff center, free world’s top 50, virtual free stuff, free-stuff.com, freevault.com, totallyfreestuff.com, freemania, freeweb, free-world, awesomefreestuff.com

And a lot of this stuff is worth having. Some of it you’ll love. Some of it you would even pay for – if that wasn’t a ludicrously retro, 20th century concept.Free e-mail from Hotmail is essential for travellers – I use csi.com, bigfoot and usa.com too – but did you know about unlimited web space too? Xoom.com lets you build a site and keep on building. Put your entire family album online if you want. Or present it in 3D at whispa.com.

You’re connecting for free, of course, with Freeserve or Xstream or any of a dozen others. Some providers are starting to block-buy phone time, so they can offer hours of modem lines for nothing. No monthly fees, no phone bill, no e-mail or web-page costs. Total freedom.

Several US companies are offering unlimited access to their servers for around $400 a year. Customers get to name their domains and issue e-mail addresses in limitless quantities – in effect, to be internet service providers. For $400, you can become your own Freeserve. I predict it will soon be completely free. I’m calling mine ‘Freestuff’ – uri@freestuff.com because I’m guaranteed a billion hits a month with a name like that. I’ll be bigger than Microsoft by Christmas.

I have a free international cuttings service at nt.excite.com – whenever a news story anywhere in the world mentions my name, I see it. This service, in the real world, costs thousands of dollars. I could copy all of my hard disc data into online storage called @backup, with a 30-day free trial (yeah, sure – and I’ll be publishing my bank statements and itemised phonebills online too).

I get free technical service advice at ExpertsExchange.com, and SpecialReportNetwork.com is guaranteeing its free pyramid selling methods will add 100,000 hits a month at urigeller.com.

Soon net companies will be giving away personal computers, with users contracted to spend a minimum number of hours online visiting advertisers. Get set for the free millennium.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

12th – 25th August 1999compact

Brains before beauty

The race for PC power will split the world in two, says Uri Geller

You want a more powerful computer. Powerful enough to process your files a hundred times faster. Powerful enough to understand every spoken instruction. Powerful enough to talk back intelligently. Powerful enough to recognise your face and monitor your health.

But do you want it more powerful than that? Smart enough to read your mind and act on your thoughts? Smart enough to give you orders, run your life, because silicon knows best? Smart enough to treat you with the contempt you reserve for intellects 10,000 times feebler than yours? Smart enough to squish you like a bug?

That’s the way Artificial Intelligence (AI) is heading, says microchip brain scientist Hugo de Garis. The head of ATR’s Brain Builder Group in Kyoto, Japan, believes our AI research is doomed to lead to silicon cells that multiply like bacteria, forming brains as big as asteroids with intelligences a billion billion times vaster than Einstein’s.

De Garis is no pulp novelist. The former head of research into artificial life at Brussels is a Davos Science Fellow, advisor to the world’s biggest economic forum. And his latest book, published exclusively on the internet, predicts world war within a century, over the ‘artilect’ issue.

Artilect is ‘artificial intellect’. A much scarier word recurs in De Garis’s book: gigadeath. Gigadeath is ‘total global annihilation’.

The brainbuilder expects ideological tensions will erupt into nuclear holocaust as the faction determined to drive AI to its unimaginable limits collides with an anti-computer union of religious evangelists and military experts. He calls the first group ‘Cosmists’ and the second ‘Terrans’.

De Garis has already built circuits which evolve, with quicker functions forcing out the slower ones by Darwinian selection – survival of the fastest. He admits the project to create an artilect greater than any human mind is irresistible, yet he dreads the consequences.

“I’m predicting next century humanity is going to split,” he says, “the way we did in the 19th, 20th century with the capitalists and the communists. One group will say we should build these artilects because it’s a magnificent activity, it’s a religion. But on the other hand it’s very risky. Why risk building your exterminators?”

Wars are fought for power and money. I cannot believe the anti-artilect idealists will be anything but a minority voice, railing against the blasphemy of a machine that is greater than man.

But I can believe man-made machines will be prey to the same vices we possess: greed for power, wealth, sensation. And I can imagine an infinite intellect which sets a tiny part of its brain to a malicious game of noughts and crosses, with human cities for the squares – and nuclear missiles for the markers.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

26th August – 8th September 1999compact

Looking for God

Forget the sex sites. The biggest player on the net is the Almighty, says Uri Geller

God is everywhere. That’s the claim – but atheists have asked for centuries, “Where is this God, exactly? If he’s omnipresent, prove it.” That has been impossible – but now there’s something that comes very close.

A five-second search for ‘god’ on AltaVista, the web’s biggest search engine, generates 7,482,182 results. While that doesn’t prove the deity is all-knowing and all-seeing, it does suggest that godliness is better than sex: AltaVista turns up only 6,136,600 hits for ‘porn’.

Newspaper reports about the net focus on sexual excesses – e-mail stalkers, teenagers losing their virginity online, nude celebrities, swinging exhibitionists from Tampa with photo galleries for members only, bedroom webcams.

Turn to the small ads at the back of the paper, though, and you’ll see XXX videos, massage parlours, explicit lonely hearts and 0898 chatlines. There is a market for porn on the web, that’s certain, but to hardcore fans the internet must be marginal if not irrelevant. Why spend an hour trying to connect to Freeserve when you could be watching Dutch triplets on satellite TV?

Net porn appeals to casual voyeurs, the average office workers who wouldn’t buy an illegal magazine but might sneek a peek at Pam ‘n’ Tommy when the boss isn’t looking. The real impact will be on TV and cinema censorship – prim rules about never showing certain parts of the human anatomy must be outdated, when anyone with a modem can tune in to live broadcasts.

God, on the other hand, can exist on the web like nowhere else. Every church can open up its pulpit to the world, and thousands have. Tiny sects and forgotten wisdoms have, for the first time in history, the chance to go global. It used to take an army of conquistadors to spread the word to new continents. Now a solitary preacher with streaming RealAudio and a camcorder can broadcast daily to the planet.

These are the New Age missionaries, fervently saving souls and spreading the message. Fundamentalist Christians, who have been seizing new technology since the first printing presses were built, are leading the charge, but Jews, Muslims, native Americans, Rastafarians and pagans are here in tens of thousands too.

At the University of Virginia Professor Jeffrey Hadden runs superb sites on religious freedom, religious broadcasting and religious cults or sects (www.relfreedom.org). The combined force of his students is not nearly enough to monitor all the new sites.

Stop worrying about sex stalkers. There are people out there who want your soul.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

9th – 22nd September 1999compact

 

Rags and riches

The world wide web has caused more of a global division than before, says Uri Geller

A journalist friend, Tippi, is spending three months in Nepal. She has taken her lap-top, a global positioning satellite receiver and a satellite phone with her. In one of the most ancient countries on earth, she has e-mail on the web and on her mobile. Nepalese monks still practise the ritual of sky burial, reverently disposing of the dead by dicing their flesh and letting the crows pick the bones. I know this, because Tippi e-mailed digital J-peg pictures to me.

Global economics, global information, global positioning. This is supposed to be one world, one village. But there are two cultures – the haves and the have-nots. That divide was once a capitalist one, between the rich and the poor. Now it separates the educated from the info-starved.

There were 36 million computers on the internet back in June 1999. Fewer than one per cent of them were in sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of PCs have linked up since June – but in the Congo, the Sudan and Ethiopia only a few dozen new users logged on.

In Britain, the average clerk can acquire a home set-up for £500, about a week’s pay. A Bangladeshi worker would have to save all his earnings for eight months to buy an equivalent machine.

These statistics translate into hard cash – more hard cash than you could compute with a 450MHz Pentium III. Bill Gates, the richest man in history, made every penny from selling software. His partners Paul Allen and Steven Ballmer, who helped launch Microsoft, are the planet’s third and fourth richest men ever. These men make millionaires with a nod of their heads – Ran Mokady, is an infotech engineer who set up a software house in Bury St Edmunds six years ago. He also created the software that links Tippi’s satellite phone to the net. Ran was bought out by Bill Gates this summer in a multi-million dollar deal. He admits that he hasn’t met the boss yet.

No other industry on earth invests money on this scale. Even mining companies like Exxon and BP, which can sink $1 billion into a single deep-sea oil platform, are dwarfed by the growth of the computer industry. Amazon.com, as its front-page ads like to boast, is already bigger than the century-old Sainsbury’s.

The Romans said a man was rich if he could maintain his own army. Let’s put Bill Gates III to the test: the daily cost of NATO’s Kosovo war was estimated at $60 million, and Bill’s fortune is currently estimated at $60 billion. Ignoring interest, shares dividends and Microsoft growth, Bill could pay to bomb the Serbs for three years. On his own. Meanwhile, in Chittagong, a man works 12 hours for $1.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

23rd September – 6th October 1999 

compact

 

Feel the force online

As the net begins to tantalise our senses, get set for forceful gaming, says Uri Geller

You’ve surfed the web. Now you’re about to stroke it. Squeeze it. Stretch it. Take it by the frames and shake it. Get set for a technology called force feedback to take off.

It’s a Nasa development which was pioneered at Stanford University to make flight simulators more realistic. Force feedback (FF) gives a computer the power to do more than just display images and make noises. FF transfers sensations.

Microsoft is already producing FF joysticks and wheels – now the Immersion Corporation in San Jose, California, has taken the mouse and modified it. The mousemat is wired directly to the mouse, controlling it via two motors which send motion commands to a chip in the mouse.

As mouse moves the cursor across a web page, it reacts to signals programmed into the layout. Pass the cursor over a graphic of pebbles on a beach, and the motors will jiggle the mouse in your palm. You’ll feel the swell and smoothness of each stone. Click on one and lift, and the mouse will lie heavy in your hand. You might even bang your knuckle on a lump of flint.

On shopping sites, FF will simulate the texture of silks and woollens as you browse a clothes site, or generate the V8 throb of a Jaguar engine as you press the ignition. On education pages, you will be able to feel the density of different gases and plunge your fingers into pie graphs. On animal websites you’ll even be able to stroke the cat.

In their info-pack at www.FEELtheWEB.com, Immersion says: “Feeling is what makes our daily lives natural, intuitive and satisfying.”

I love this idea, because it kicks against convention. We think of screens as obejects to be seen. We watch TV, we gaze up at Cinemascope, we stare at our PCs. FF will make web designers present information in totally new ways.

The first FF mouse goes on sale at $99 in the autumn. It’s bound to be iffy to start with, like yoghurts that taste nothing like the fruits on the label. We’re going to feel our way around a lot of mushy, tepid, slightly sticky sites.

Desktop interfaces will make the best use of the concept first – windows will stretch like rubber bands, icons will stick like magnets to the grid, your hard drive will get heavier and heavier.

Blind and partially-sighted people should welcome it – this technology could be the biggest advance ever in computing for people with visual impairments.

But games designers are going to love it best. Wait till there’s a heat generator in your mouse. Maybe a couple of electrodes, to fire up electric shocks. And motors strong enough to dislocate your wrist. Get set for games that really fight back.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold (£9.99) and Ella (£5.99) are published by Headline Feature. Jonathan Margolis’ Uri Geller, Magician or Mystic? is published by Orion Books, (£17.99); Uri Geller’s Little Book Of Mindpower is published by Robson Books at £2.50, Visit his website atwww.urigeller.com and you can e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

7th – 20th October 1999compact

 

What’s in a name

Uri Geller explains that in the future, our cyberspace identities will be given to us at birth

I did not choose my first three names. The original one, Uri, means ‘light’ in Hebrew. I like it, and I like it best when people say it ‘Oori,’ as it should be pronounced, and not ‘Yuri’.

In Cyprus, after my parents divorced, the nuns at my Catholic school called me ‘George’. That was weird, but being an Israeli Jew at a Greek Christian school was always going to be weird. I ignored what they called me and concentrated on basketball, but even today my Greek publishers style me ‘Georgi Geller’ on book jackets.

My third name was 104707,2671@compuserve.com and it was selected for me by my internet service provider about five years ago. I was never able to memorise it, though luckily I knew nobody to email anyhow. This year I ceased to be a number and became a free man – you can say Hi at urigeller@peoplesnet.net, urigeller@csi.com and four or five other free addresses.

Drop me a line at Hotmail and Bigfoot and Mail.USA – wherever I go on the planet, I get problems connecting to one address or another, so I set up a new freemailer. Even my mobile phone has an email name: n0014731@n9110.eunettravel.com

I need an address book just to remember all my identities in different zones of cyberspace.

This will change soon. Professor Alex Pentland, head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aims to create clothing within five years which will feature a laptop, mobile phone and video camera – all sewn into the fabric. “Most of what we’re working on can be thrown in the wash if soiled by coffee, food or even sand on the beach,” he says. And if that sounds impossibly sci-fi – “100 years ago wearing a watch was considered futuristic.”

When all my communicators are built into my underwear, I won’t need a shopping-list of names. In fact, I’ll have to pare down my IDs, to keep the technology lightweight. I will need one all-purpose moniker which every chip can recognise – something insanely simple like … oh, I don’t know – ‘Uri Geller’?

One-stop identities will not be limited to your clothes. Within ten years, I predict, babies will be microchipped with scanable implants containing data on their DNA make-up, possible genetic flaws, allergies, blood types and family backgrounds. Lifelong email addresses will be allocated at birth.

Instead of naming their new-borns Jordan or Kelly, 21st century parents will have to select unique email IDs. One obvious solution will be to create a new suffix called .fam for family.

I will finally be able to forget all the gibberish codes and think of myself as uri@geller.fam

 

 

 

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