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Big Ideas: For the Beyond 

Send world leaders into near space
By Allison Banks

Astronauts in low Earth orbit and those who have flown in high-altitude military aircraft often say that if everyone could have such an experience just one time, our global political, educational, economic and religious institutions would be forever changed for the better. Privately funded space tourism programs are much closer to reality than many people realize, but we are not quite there yet. And so until affordable technology allows us to send mass numbers of the world's population into low Earth orbit, perhaps we should use our high-altitude military aircraft to fly world leaders into near-space. From such heights — as the blue sphere of the Earth curves dramatically against the blackness of infinity — the inner lives of our most powerful decision-makers may be opened to the realization that no single national, educational, religious or economic institution has all the answers needed for the survival of our species, and that the perceived "other" that creates so many of the world's conflicts is fiction we can do without.

Allison Banks is a student at UALR William H. Bowen School of Law who blogs at allisonbanks.com.


Fly to work
By Daniel Berleant

Next year, Martin Aircraft Co. will begin selling personal jet packs for $100,000. As the prices come down, commuters will have a new, faster option for getting to work.

Dr. Daniel Berleant is a professor of information science at UALR.


Live forever
By Craig Thompson

To gain immortality, we should record all of our conversations and take as many pictures as possible. With that data log, we could plug it in to a sort of chatbot capable of playing back snippets of conversation in response to topics suggested by others (anything from hiking, to spiders, to first dates). In a 3D virtual world (something like "Second Life"), we could then build a number of avatars that represent us at various ages and attach the chatbot. Future generations of our descendents could call up the avatar and learn all about us.

Dr. Craig Thompson is Professor and Charles Morgan/Acxiom Graduate Research Chair in the database computer science and computer engineering department at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

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