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Will “smart grid” efforts succeed?

The White House announced last week that is was planning to forge ahead with "smart grid" plans for the United States. By increasing controls technology and digital information, the effort would potentially update the American electrical transmission system to provide real-time information about the state of the grid. Supporters of the move say that by monitoring power - where, when and how it's used - consumers and power companies could store power overnight, incorporate intermittent generators like wind and solar, and generally get more bang for their buck. Skeptics, however, mention possible drawbacks in bringing IT to energy, including the security and privacy concerns of consumers whose movements on the grid could be traced and tracked by multiple parties. What do you think? Will "smart grid" efforts succeed? Yes or no?

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If artificial intelligence outsmarts two live contestants, is that a bad sign for the humans?

This week's question addresses a robot and one of America's most well-known game shows. A supercomputer named Watson, designed by IBM and consisting of 90 IBM Power 750 Express servers, is set to face two human contestants on the US quiz show Jeopardy this week. IBM says Watson signals a new era in computing where machines will increasingly be able to learn and understand humans' more subtle requests. Jeopardy is seen as the greatest challenge for Watson because of the show's fast format and the clues' frequent emphasis on puns, riddles, and creativity in the language: something humans have traditionally excelled at understanding and computers have not. What do you think? If artificial intelligence outsmarts two live contestants, is that a bad sign for the humans?

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Is there another "Earth" out there, fit for life as we know it?

This week's question looks at an announcement from scientists operating NASA's Kepler satellite, who reported this week that they had identified 1,235 possible planets orbiting other stars, potentially three times the previously recorded number. Although no Earth-like planet has been determined yet, fifty-four of the possible exoplanets are in habitable zones of stars where temperatures should be moderate enough for liquid water. What do you think? Is there another "Earth" out there, fit for life as we know it? Yes or no?

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Do social networks make us less social?

This week's Question of the Week focuses on Web 2.0 interaction. A recent report from the University of Texas, Austin, says that networking sites like Facebook make users more sociable and "afford opportunities for new expressions of friendship, intimacy and community." A recent book by Sherry Turkle, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other," conversely, makes the case that social media interactions isolate, and even dehumanize, its members. What do you think? Do social networks make us less social? Yes or no?

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Will an optional phone-disabling service make the roads safer?

This week's Question focuses on a new service from T-Mobile that, for just 4.99 a month, automatically disables rings and messages, and sends calls to voicemail when the phone is in a moving car. The services being tested and deployed are voluntary and can be overridden if a driver needs to use the phone for an emergency. The technology is aimed at curbing distractions and keeping people from texting or using the phone while driving. What do you think? Will an optional phone-disabling service make the roads safer? Yes or no?

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Will the Apple/Verizon partnership lead to widespread iPhone use in the enterprise?

This week's question addresses last week's news that Verizon will soon sell the iPhone 4. Although some analysts say the move may double Apple's market share, many enterprises and financial institutions have held back on the mobile device due to concerns of its cost, security capabilities, and its compatibility with in-house systems like Microsoft Outlook. Will the Apple/Verizon partnership lead to widespread iPhone use in the enterprise? Yes or no?

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Should toys be kept out of a Happy Meal?

This week's Question of the Week concerns a new law in San Francisco, taking effect on Dec. 1 that bans restaurant toy giveaways unless the meals meet certain healthy standards for calories, sodium, and fat. Supporters say the move will offer better nutrition standards for children, while opponents say the law interferes with the market and that items like the Happy Meal are part of an enjoyable, family experience. What do you think? Should toys be kept out of a Happy Meal?

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