AIs taking over? What the heck for?

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CybermenOne of the favorite discussions amongst sci-fi fans, scientists, computer experts and roboticists is the idea that artificial intelligence, or AI, will someday become so smart that it will “kill all the humans” and take over the world.  The trope has led to innumerable books, movies, papers, games and debates, and keeps everyone looking sideways at their computers whenever they do something unexpected.  It has arguably become the largest source of mass paranoia in the industrialized world, now surpassing our distrust of government.

And it’s fun to talk about, whether we expect it to happen or not. Continue reading

Prius: The evolution of the automobile

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Prius c ThreeLast weekend, I took the plunge: I replaced my 2000 Hyundai Tiburon with a Toyota Prius C Three, the newest iteration of Prius to come off of the Toyota assembly lines.  There were a number of reasons for my upgrade, not the least of which was the aging condition of that beautiful shark, and its increasing maintenance costs.  But I was also ready to move up to the next generation of automobiles… the generation that I expected to jump into in 2000, but wound up buying the Tiburon instead.  Now, twelve years later, I finally have the next generation of car, and I find myself wanting to catalog the ways in which the car has improved over its older self. Continue reading

Do we need a publishing industry?

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A recent article by Eoin Purcell examined the damage done to the publishing industry by the Agency pricing scheme.  His take on it was that publishers had lost the battle and the war to maintain their position in the publishing industry, and that it was about time for existing publishers to make way for the new breed of publishers, or find a way to re-invent themselves to take advantage of the new digital era.

Eoin’s impression is that the publishing industry must evolve, or perish and be replaced.  But I wonder about that: Do we need a replacement for the publishing industry’s existing players?  Do we need a publishing industry at all? Continue reading

Take 2: Revising an ebook in no time flat

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There’s a unique feeling an ebook author gets when they’ve released their book into the markets, ready to be bought… they’ve alerted the media, and told their customers and friends to spread the word… and they sit back, take a breath, and wait to see what develops. Naturally, what they want to see is right-off healthy sales, and maybe a few emails in their inbox telling them how great their book was.

So it was a let-down, to say the least, when I released a book a year ago, and quickly received emails… counting down my editing and grammatical errors. Continue reading

How about a self-driving car in your future?

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Some of you are probably aware that Google has been testing a self-driving car on California streets since last year. (Check out a few videos if you’re interested.)  They believe they have progressed far enough in their tests that they have gone to the Nevada legislature to legally allow their cars on Nevada roads… and that they earn an exemption from the law prohibiting texting while driving.

There’s nothing new about the concept of the self-driven car; science fiction has been toying with them for decades, of course.  But with the latest in sensor systems being applied to digital roadmaps and image recognition technology, cars are learning to recognize roads and hazards and direct themselves.  As a 2010 NY Times article put it: “Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated.”

I’m not sure whether the Google car is really ready for prime time, but I do think it’s a step in the right direction. Continue reading

Media catches up to the myths

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Thor's Chris HemsworthI just came from seeing the movie “Thor” this afternoon.  Being a superhero fan from way back, watching the characters’ transition from comic books to live action on the big screen always fascinates me.

Witness “Thor,” which featured quite a lot of action taking place in the otherworldly realms of Asgard and Jotuheim (the homes of the Norse Gods and the Frost Giants, respectively).  To say that Asgard looked like the penultimate Realm Eternal is like saying that Miss Universe is pretty… it was jaw-droppingly beautiful, went on for miles and miles, and was placed in the most incredible celestial backdrop ever conceived by man. Continue reading

Scarcity to Abundance: E-books and the pain of the Digital Revolution

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It has been baffling to many aficionados why the e-book market has taken so long to develop… isn’t it as simple as opening up a new counter at the bookstore, or creating a new section of an online bookstore, and beginning to sell e-book content? Alas, e-books have proven to be much more than simply a new format for reading, as the constant banter over selling paradigms, formats, price, piracy and access have effectively demonstrated. E-books represent no less than a conceptual change to an entire world of literature, a foundation-shaking event that will eventually leave the industries devoted to literature forever changed. It is the real significance of the Digital Revolution: The fundamental difference between a commodity that was once scarce, and one that is now abundant. Continue reading