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Ray Kurzweil, winner of the National Medal of Technology and author of the forthcoming "The Singularity Is Near," believes that we will see "profound integration of our biological systems with nonbiological intelligence," enabling routine integration of machines and the brain by 2030, says Christine Petersen, president of the Foresight Institute. By 2040, the nonbiological portion will be far more powerful than the biological portion: We will have become cyborgs, Kurzweil argues.

— Joel Garreau, "The Next Generation: Biotechnology May Make Superhero Fantasy a Reality," The Washington Post, April 26, 2002

Oh, SHT! They went for it

  By Patrick O'Grady
 Mad Dog Media

Who cares what walks?

  That's the message inherent in the decision by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to send to the Senate, unfettered by amendments and with a favorable recommendation, a measure to allow Segway Human Transporters on sidewalks and paths built or maintained with federal funds "when state and local regulations permit."

 Senate Bill S2024, introduced by GOP Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire — where Segway LLC happens to be based — won the committee's blessing on April 25, just four months after inventor Dean Kamen unveiled the $3,000, 65-pound electric scooter.

 And that ain't all. Under the impetus of a $741,000 lobbying effort, 20 states have passed laws to allow the SHTheap to be used on sidewalks, according to The Washington Post, which adds that similar laws await gubernatorial signatures in Maryland and two other states, while 16 states and the District of Columbia are to consider the issue by year's end.

 Never mind that some less-well-financed sorts have been raising safety issues. One such quoted in the Post, Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio, said that while he found the SHTheap "phenomenally innovative and exciting," he was concerned that if they are allowed on sidewalks, they will be "a major injury waiting to happen."

 "These weigh 69 to 95 pounds, depending on the model, can carry a person up to 250 pounds, plus cargo up to 75 pounds," Smith continued. "With that much mass, even traveling at 12.5 miles an hour, the virtual laws of physics say they won't be able to stop on a dime." Not unless the dime is in an inattentive pedestrian's pocket, that is.

 It's a simple case of fat cats catering to fat bastards. Americans will go to great lengths to avoid exercise, even to the point of standing atop an oversized, overpriced floor waxer in public, where their children can see them. This has much to do with why Wal-Marts look like auditions for a Discovery Channel documentary on manatees. "It's much easier to ride this than walk," Atlanta police officer Jennings Kilgore told The Associated Press. I believe him. I've seen his picture.

 If the SHTheap were really intended to revolutionize "human transport," as its proponents contend, then it would be in the streets where it belongs, with the rest of the powered vehicles, plus bicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, scootists and anyone else without a senator in his pocket. This would leave the sidewalks to those of us who occasionally enjoy a less technological means of propulsion involving those things on the far ends of our legs. But hanging headlights, taillights, turn signals, rear-view mirrors and a license-plate holder on each one of Kamen's scooters would no doubt cost more money than a few statehouse loafers and congressmen.

 It's tempting to think that this is just a passing fancy; that regardless of how the full Senate acts on S2024, before long the SHTheap will go the way of the eight-track tape, the Sony Betamax and other technological marvels as the next big thing comes along.

 But Segway just spent nearly a mil' renting legislators, and now they've hired former Subaru America president George Muller to be the head SHThead. Subaru tripled its revenues under Muller's watch, thanks to its Outback and Forester mini-SUVs, and I suspect that Kamen and his crew are expecting him to sell more SHT than Cheech and Chong, Tony Montana and the entire membership of NORML put together.

 What's next, Crocodile Dundee barreling down the Pearl Street Mall on a SHTbox, scattering window-shoppers, street musicians and panhandlers like pigeons? That'll be a g'day, eh?