Humans as AI’s pets? …Okay.

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“Like people including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have predicted, I agree that the future is scary and very bad for people. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they’ll think faster than us and they’ll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.”

Steve WozniakSo spoke Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in an interview with the Australian Financial Review. And he’s not alone.  It seems everyone from renowned scientists to prominent science fiction authors to SF moviemakers all believe that the “robopocalypse” is nigh, and it spells doom for the human race.  Though maybe it’s significant that we haven’t heard the same from programmers or psychologists over the years… because, so far, no one has managed to come up with a compelling reason why AI would want (or even need) to take over the world… as I’ve said myself in the past.

Regardless, I’d like to address the other half of that comment for the moment: The idea that humans, once the AIs take over, would subjugate us or just plain wipe us out.  Wozniak himself described humans post-robopocalypse as the “pets” of computers… and implied that that was a bad thing.  I strongly challenge that idea. Continue reading

Lost: Complement to The Prisoner

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LostLost.  Perhaps a more polarizing television show hasn’t existed since the 1960s.  The series about the fate of the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 was fascinating and maddening at the same time… often to the same viewers at the same time.  It weaved a strange story about a strange island that tormented its occupants, and ended on a bittersweet note that left the viewer wondering exactly how long they had been watching a bunch of dead men walking.

But Lost had most viewers fooled, for it was never a show about its plot.  Lost was a show about personal journeys and life-affirming moments.  It taught us about what motivates people, as individuals and as groups, in a world that is no more comprehensible than it is controllable.

And in this way, it provides a bookend to a 1960s TV show that equally fascinated and maddened audiences, that gave viewers an ending that really wasn’t, while presenting revelations about the main character that were really comments about ourselves: The Prisoner.

Continue reading

Technophobia: A resolution

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Google GlassAn article I read recently described the outright animosity experienced by a reporter on a long-term evaluation of Google Glass.  I learned a new word from the article, one directed (openly) at the author: Glasshole.  The article was shared with me on Facebook by a friend, who made reference of another word I’d just learned: Bluedouche (someone who wears a bluetooth earpiece in the presence of other people, whether they are actually on a phone conversation or not).  I’ll bet you that at the turn of the 20th century, people weren’t being called names by showing up at parties with timepieces strapped to their wrists.

It served to remind me—as if I needed reminding—that a lot of people are still distrustful, distracted and outright frightened of technology.  Still.  In 2014. Continue reading

Technology vs solitude

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Steven Lyle JordanOn a recent episode of Conan O’Brien, comedian Louis C.K. discussed why he doesn’t want to give his daughters smartphones (I love discussions like this, especially when no one thinks to include asking whether the smartphone denier has his own smartphone).  In a nutshell, Louis criticizes smartphones—really, phones in general—for allowing us to dodge moments of solitude or sadness, moments he feels we should embrace and celebrate.  He believes our solitary moments are the most important to us, and should not be missed.

Frankly, I’d expect that from a comedian whose most popular axiom is that everyone’s unhappy.  Of course he wants people to stay unhappy… those are the kind of people he jokes about, and the kind of people who most appreciate his humor, so they are the people that keep him employed.  But I’d say he’s dead wrong.  Humans should not be alone or unhappy; neither should they celebrate unhappiness or solitude.  That’s not being human. Continue reading

Babies expensive? Don’t have one. Duh.

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brood_500A recent New York Times article has proven to be very popular among the news media: It outlines the high cost of having babies in the United States, more than twice as high as the cost in the next-costliest country (Switzerland—and three times the cost if you have a Caesarian as opposed to traditional birth).

Far be it from me to debate the costs of our medical system in this country.  There’s no need.  We all know how absolutely messed up it is, so I won’t get into it.  What I will get into is the fact that, among all of the steps people are suggesting to deal with this issue, the one thing I don’t hear much of is the most obvious solution: Don’t have a kid. Continue reading

Americans applaud better security

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Police are applauded after Tsarnaev is capturedLast week’s nightmare in Boston makes for an interesting argument about the state of security in the United States at the moment, and the value in improving that security for all American citizens.  Though it’s hard to say the bombing at the Boston Marathon wouldn’t have happened if security had been tighter, it is easy to say it would have been significantly more difficult to have happened… that the perpetrators would have been likely captured or killed sooner… and that the American public is behind law enforcement when it comes to protecting our skins.  Continue reading

Drones in the USA: Should we worry?

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surveillance droneThe use of flying surveillance drones is beginning to move from the battlefield to our domestic shores.  Not surprisingly, it is stirring up plenty of controversy.

Some of the concern reflects the present use of drones in battle areas.  Equipped with sophisticated surveillance equipment and lethal munitions, military drones are sent on reconnaissance and surgical kill missions against military targets, leaders and terrorists.  Which all sounds fine in a battle situation (even if they still result in some collateral damage); but what about in the USA?  Some citizens are concerned that Americans in the US would be singled out as targets for military-grade drones to attack, and they question whether an American citizen determined to be a threat against other Americans should be surgically killed on American soil.

Okay… that’s not entirely true.  The real concern American citizens have is that our government, not being infallible, will be told by some anonymous or insane source that one of us law-abiding citizens is a terrorist; and that the government, not questioning or investigating said information, will fire off a drone to take us out on our way to Burger King. Continue reading

Fashion and workplace (lack of) equality

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sexy legsIn the news today is a 200-year-old French law that’s just been overturned for being, basically, outdated and pointless: A ban on women’s trousers.  Though it hasn’t been seriously observed for quite some time, France finally decided to strike the old law, designed (when it was written) to keep women out of certain job opportunities.

This strikes me as interesting—not just because it gives me an excuse to show the picture at left—but because the issue of sexual equality in the workplace has always set me off by its obvious imbalance.  Continue reading

Steampunk fashion in your future?

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Gary Oldman wearing PradaThe media has recently been abuzz about a statement from IBM that, according to analysis by one of their supercomputers, Steampunk style will be big in the coming fashion seasons.

(By “the media,” of course, I mean a few sci-fi and steampunk-centric blogs… full disclosure Steve)

IBM’s supercomputers apparently noticed a lot of steampunk-related chatter on blogs and gaming sites, and therefore made the prediction that steampunk was the next Big Thing, and we’d all soon be looking like Gary Oldman in his recent Prada photoshoot (left).

So, what’s the real likelihood that we’ll be checking out steampunk fashions at Target soon? Continue reading

Sex and the robotics trade

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You know you would.

Robotics has always had a very real dichotomy, a chasm separating the vision and the reality.  Where imagination has given us human-like robots like Parody, the Terminator, Data and Gigolo Joe… reality has given us auto factory welding machines.

Yet, as technology surges inexorably forward, and companies have taken to animatronicizing mannequins for tech and auto shows, the supposed likelihood of achieving robots that can substitute for humans remains just around that imaginary corner.

If we do turn that corner… will we find a red light district there? Continue reading