Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

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Black hole somewere in space. Science fiction. Dramatic space background. Elements of this image were furnished by NASA

A Choice Between Saving One’s Child and Oneself — Sci-fi Saturday

Is life always so simple? Well, we shall see

“Zoe” at DUST by Derek Abel, 2019 and uploaded to DUST, June 21, 2021, 4:58 min) ZOE and her FATHER have lived in space all their lives. The space station they call home is about to explode. Their only chance of survival is an old escape pod but there’s only room for one. Review: The film is very well done technically and the actors are veterans. Zoe is played by Zahlee Moore and her dad by Luke Reeves. That said, the ending seemed too saccharine, too soft. No real sacrifice was required. Not like “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) which gives a much better sense of what would probably really happen. In “The Wreck… “:…

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Left-handed woman writing in notebook at wooden table, closeup

Aliens Who Landed Here Would Just Starve, Science Writer Predicts

We tend to assume that any life form could live with our complicated chemistry but what if — fundamentally — not?

NASA has — quite recently — stopped being snarky about aliens. That does not make them true. It just means we don’t have to live with the snark now. Which makes it easier to think. Will Lockett makes the point at Medium that if extraterrestrials did land on Earth, they would probablystarve to death: The way life forms work (at least, the only ones we know) involves chirality: All living organisms are based upon certain ‘mirror’ isomers of amino acids. Although normal chemical reactions produce right and left mirrors in equal amounts, often called a ‘racemic mixture’, the proteins which constitute the organelles in living cells are composed entirely of right handed forms of sugars and left handed forms of…

Robot prints on a typewriter

The Great American Novel Will Not be Written by a Computer

It takes more than statistical genius to understand words and create works of art

I’ve written before about how computer algorithms are like Nigel Richards, the New Zealander who has won multiple French-language Scrabble tournaments even though he does not understand the words he is spelling. Computers can similarly manipulate words in many useful ways — e.g., spellchecking, searching, alphabetizing — without any understanding of the words they are manipulating. To know what words mean, they would have to understand the world we live in. They don’t. One example is their struggles with the Winograd schema challenge — recognizing what it refers to in a sentence. Another example is the inability to answer simple questions like, “Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards if I close my eyes?” A third type of example is the brittleness of language translation programs. Yet another…

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people standing in front of paintings

AI Restores Lost Parts of Rembrandt’s Night Watch

The iconic painting’s edges were cut off to fit a certain space in a town hall in 1715 and the cut parts were never recovered

The Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) is practically synonymous with the Old Masters school of painting in the Western world. But one of his paintings did not fare well over the years. As Isis Davis-Marks at the Smithsonian Magazine tells it, In 1642, Rembrandt van Rijn completed a dynamic painting called The Night Watch, which depicts the captain of an Amsterdam city militia urging his men into battle. But in 1715 someone cut all four sides of the canvas to hang it on a wall in Amsterdam’s Town Hall, and the strips seemingly vanished into thin air. Isis Davis-Marks, “Lost Edges of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ Are Restored Using Artificial Intelligence” at Smithsonian Magazine (June 25, 2021) Here’s what’s left:…

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hunting

Killing People for “Likes” on an Alien Planet: Sci-fi Saturday

If only this crisp tale didn’t sound so much like the social media we actually know

“Happy Hunting” at DUST by Jess Wolinsky and Jordan M. Hahn (June 22, 2021 at DUST, 2020 at IMDB, 8:06 min) Content warning: Suicide depiction Happy Hunting is a story of Tyler (also known as @66Shadow), an influencer who will do anything to gain followers. In his quest for fame, he now finds himself live-streaming on the nearby planet Proxima Centauri B, where researchers infected with a cosmetic abnormality are hunted for sport, to break @SgtSurge’s kill record. Tyler hunts with precise skill, allowing him to track and kill three victims despite their pleas for mercy, all while hamming it up for his drone companion, who live-streams his every move. He is then attacked by a potential fourth victim, catching…

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Admiring the lake from a pier

When You Are the Only Human Left— Sci-Fi Saturday

Are you the only human left alive or are you the only one who is not alive?

“Martha” at DUST by Alexandra Blue (May 27, 2021, 16:19 min) “Martha wakes up one morning and gets ready, listening to music, brushing her teeth and cramming in breakfast like any other day. But this is no ordinary day. When she leaves the house she shares with her mother, she realizes that everyone has disappeared, and she is the last person on Earth.” Review: The film begins deceptively peacefully with an untidy teen, on her own briefly while Mom is on (apparently) a business trip. Then, abruptly, she discovers a near-impossibility: A car crashed into a tree with no one in site and the key still in the ignition. Good turn of the plot, that. No King Kongs. No Godzillas.…

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Ghost town in fog

Landing Back on Earth as the Sole Inhabitant — Sci-fi Saturday

Unless we count the cat

“Origin” at DUST by David Parrella (Jun 17, 2021), 12:24 min) An astronaut from an interstellar colony returns to Earth to determine why they lost contact. Review: The production values here are good but the plot is quite confusing. The heroic sacrifice never results in information as to the cause of the loss of contact. Trying not to introduce spoilers here but: Any outfit that could found an interstellar colony should be onto glitches like the one on which the story’s crisis turns. Also, as one commenter put it, “too many plotholes.” For example, why does the car even start and where does the gasoline come from? How did the cat survive? If the cat survived, why isn’t everything else…

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Total population control concept with CCTV videocam and small figures of people

A One-Girl War With the Total Surveillance State —Sci-fi Saturday

The acting, ambience, and special effects in “Bolero” are top quality

“Boléro” at DUST by Sarah Gross (June 13, 2021, 17:24) In a future where telepaths are used by the government to monitor the public and root out insurgents, Maya, a non-speaking teen, witnesses her father’s brutal and unjust execution. Set on a path of revenge and destruction, Maya joins the Resistance, hellbent on tracking down Reader 8, the telepath responsible for her father’s death. However, when Maya finally locates her target after years of searching, she is confronted with a choice: either capture Reader 8 and deliver essential intelligence to the Resistance or take him out and fulfill her vengeful quest. Review: “Boléro” debuted at IMDB in 2019 and has deservedly won some industry awards. The acting, ambience, and special…

book threads
book

Books: The First Step in Fighting Cancel Culture

Malicious envy was always out there but before social media it could rarely assemble so large a mob
Many writers and artists are beginning to speak out and take action, recognizing that sharing the cost of speaking up reduces its burden. Read More ›
faceless army
blinded slaves in the water

Books: Cancel Culture As an Invisible Army of Censors

The new censorship is different from traditional “banned” or “challenged” lists because a younger, much more active crowd is behind it

For authors, Cancel Culture, powered by social media, is becoming a serious business. A poorly thought-out tweet from years past — or merely one to which socially powerful people take exception — may destroy a career. The mob has hit genre fiction hard. One author, studying the trend, recounts, Since March, I have been sending discreet messages to authors of young adult fiction. I approached 24 people, in several countries, all writing in English. In total, 15 authors replied, of whom 11 agreed to talk to me, either by email or on the phone. Two subsequently withdrew, in one case following professional advice. Two have received death threats and five would only talk if I concealed their identity. This is…

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Science fiction illustration of a battle cruiser spaceship travelling faster than the speed of light in hyperspace, 3d digitally rendered illustration

What If a Loved One Aged Much Faster Than You? – Sci-fi Saturday

It’s one of the implications of faster-than-light travel

“ARK” at DUST by Nelson Cruz (June 8, 2021, 8:19 min) “Captain Mira Bernhard is finally home after a lengthy mission to the new planet, GAIA – humanity’s last hope. But what’s only been a 5-year trip for her, has been 45-year wait for her husband.” Review: ARK debuted in 2020. Time, we are told, is running out for Earth. The radio announcer, informing the audience of Bernhard’s ship’s arrival, also announces that this will be the final week of broadcasts. We are told that Bernhard’s husband Peter (played by Patrick Gorman) does not know what to expect. But, of course, he really does. And he faces a big decision: Should he just free her (Sheila Cutchlow) to return to…

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AI・人工知能

Could You Be Reconstructed From Your Memories? – Sci-fi Saturday

If you were, would destroying the digitized “you” be murder?

“The Final Moments of Karl Brant” at DUST by Neil Ellice and Matthew Wilson (June 10, 2021 at DUST, 15:46 min) “Set in the near future where experimental technology allows two detectives to bring a murder victim back to life in a digital state in order to question him about his final moments.” Review: This is an “oldie” from 2013, recently uploaded to DUST. Entrepreneur Karl Brant and academic neuroscientist Bennett Ferryman were partners in a promising new high tech venture in which Brant suddenly perishes, leaving Ferryman now the sole owner — and under interrogation down at the local cop shop: “Am I a suspect?” “Not if you give us a good reason why you shouldn’t be.” Not too…

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astronomy, bright, constellation

A Wrinkle In Time: Reading Science Fiction At An Early Age

An early introduction to science fiction will be a boon to any child's imagination

When I was young, my father was constantly pressing new books into my hands. The first in remembrance was C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The second to stand out was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. It was a funny choice, really. My father’s theology does not match L’Engle’s universalism, nor are his preferred subjects math and science. At the time, I was unable to wrap my mind around concepts of dimension and time introduced by L’Engle, but the novel became a fast favorite that I have returned to in my adulthood. A Wrinkle In Time was most recently brought back into popular view when an adaptation imagined by director Ava DuVernay was released in theaters…

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They Knows.

“Are We Alone?” Asks a New Sci-Fi Short. But Then Why?

In “Laniakea,” we are introduced to a civilization’s – museum? Or what is it? An intriguing Sci-fi Saturday

“Laniakea” at DUST by Dima Taran (November 13, 2020, 5:48 min, animated) “The action takes place in the future, when superluminal speeds allow for travel to any point in the universe. People are hoping to find extraterrestrial life, but as of yet no one has succeeding in finding anything. One day, a lonely man finds a message in a monolith that has been drifting in space. It helps him to find a portal that leads to the home planet of those who made the monolith. He finds a giant structure, a building. But …This place is breathing on its own. Where has everyone gone?” Review: Good graphics and animation, in the service of a sobering point. The aliens could have…

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white and black table clock

If It’s Real, It Must Be Endured. – Sci-Fi Saturday

“It’s Okay?”, using futurist technology, takes a woman back through her time with someone she loves.

“It’s Okay” at DUST by Justin Giddings and Ryan Welsh (June 3, 2021, 8:47 min) In this Black Mirror-esque tale, a couple revisit key moments of their past, only for their memories to take an unexpected turn. … Cam and Alex are a simple couple living an un-extraordinary life, when strange things suddenly start happening to them. Will they uncover the truth before they lose one other? Review: This is a remarkably well done short film. The directors are in control of their plot. If you don’t entirely understand what is happening at first, you will later. And that’s no easy task when the very proposition of the story involves bending time. The human mind is structured to understand time…

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technology and socialism

“AI is fastest path to Communism,” says Elon Musk’s partner

In a viral TikTok video, the singer/songwriter said AI will lead us to a world of leisure and no work

Social media was aflood yesterday with confusion and intrigue when Grimes – a Canadian singer/songwriter and 3-year partner to technological entrepreneur Elon Musk – said that “AI is actually the fastest path to communism” and encouraged communists to embrace the technology if they want to see their political dreams come true. Grimes (born Claire Elise Boucher) posted a short video to TikTok on Thursday, proposing that artificial intelligence could lead us to a utopia in which no one has to work and everyone lives in leisure: “I have a proposition for the communists. So, typically most of the communists I know are not big fans of AI. But if you think about it, AI is actually the fastest path to…

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Full moon in a black night sky

Sixty Billion Stars. And No Aliens? What Now?

Are we approaching a crisis of faith in ET?

At Universe Today, Matt Williams asks if it is time to update the Drake Equation, by which you could settle — in your own mind — how likely the aliens are. It began to be developed nearly sixty years ago at a conference at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. And everyone took for granted that we would be hearing from the aliens soon. That was the basis of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — keeping the hope alive. Rather than being an actual means for quantifying the number of intelligent species in our galaxy, the purpose of the equation was meant to frame the discussion on SETI. In addition to encapsulating the challenges facing scientists,…

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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of a grey alien holding the earth

When the Human Race Is Down to Its Final Offer … Sci-fi Saturday

The downbeat human lawyer and the alien corporate lawyer in Final Offer achieve artful comedy by the too-little used technique of witty dialogue, NOT gags

“Final Offer” at DUST by Mark Slutsky (July 19, 2018, 11:23 min) “A down-on-his-luck lawyer awakes in a doorless room to find he’s been selected to negotiate on behalf of the human race.” Review: Henry, a lawyer accustomed to late night barhopping, wakes up in a strange boardroom: “Henry, you have been selected to represent your species in what is almost surely the biggest trade agreement in the history of your planet.” “My planet?” Well, it’s science fiction. The corporate lawyer (Anna Hopkins) announces that her client — an alien the very sight of which causes our hero (Aaron Abrams) to retch — wishes to “acquire” Earth’s oceans. Or appropriate them if a few minutes of negotiations don’t work for…

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Image catastrophe on Earth

What Would the Ruins of “Eden” Be Like?: Sci-fi Saturday

Scavenging for artifacts on a ruined planet, a space drifter comes across the ruins of a high-tech civilization

“Eden” (2018) at DUST (May 20, 2021) by Kristian Bakstad, 11:51 min: “Deep in the recesses of space, a lone scavenger hunts for a valuable artifact on a desolate planet. When he discovers an abandoned facility, he ventures inside hoping for his big payday; but instead encounters a mad man and the remnants of a religious cult.” Review: This one got a lot of negative reviews but the studio has been around for a while, so let’s have another look. The lead character (Christoff Lundgren) is agreeably scuzzy, batting around in space. The opening portrays his lifestyle well: His tracking system detects something that might be evidence of a ruined advanced ET civilization to scavenge. He needs something he can…

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Divided young couple busy with their smartphones each

The (Magnetic) Force Is Strong With Apple — Here’s How to Resist

To keep the magnetic force in check between Big Tech and us, we must first establish who is boss over our technology

With the iPhone 12, Apple has introduced a new line of accessories that use magnetism to quickly attach and charge the phone. The company has used magnets for years to connect charging adapters and cases. Now they’re adding it to more products with the bet that iPhone users will find the lure of magnetic connection irresistible. As a natural phenomenon, magnetism is as old as dirt and yet it still amazes us when we see it in action. There’s another kind of magnetism at work here, too. It’s the pull of attraction between Apple’s devices and the people who use them. Like many longtime Apple customers, I have felt this attraction since 2008 when I purchased my first iPhone, the 3G.…