Friday, December 31, 2010

My Review of "TRON Legacy"

I and my wife saw the new TRON Legacy movie tonight. We were both able to see the original TRON movie back in the 80s when it was released in theaters. So I was really excited about seeing it.

This is the first movie I've seen in a theater with 3D glasses. Fortunately they resisted throwing junk at you for the sake of the effect. There were some necessary 3D effects, but they were tasteful. I was really impressed with Disney's required opening palace shot. Scary, I know.

Now, for my opinion...

There is an expected thirty year span between the two movies. I at once was comfortable with the look of the story. And not just because of seeing the first film. But because of where virtual technology is currently at. There is a familiarity about it. There are geometric patterns that we all have come to expect and associate with a digital lifestyle. Classic hexagons and flowing lines have usurped pixels, triangles, and exact 90 degree turns. We've all been there in one form or another by now.

So maybe that's why the story was rather flat for me. Yes, the "hardware" was upgraded, but it gets used in exactly the same manner as thirty years ago. I'm expecting a struggle through a fantastic virtual city in dark streets, and instead we get to experience a traditional disc battle, a new way of riding lightcycles in an arena, and riding the lightbeam. Jeff Bridges 2.0 was interesting, but succumbed to predictability as well. It was almost as if the producers took to the word "legacy" a little too enthusiastically.

If you haven't seen TRON classic, see Legacy first. Or you're going to be in for a bit of a let down. While it's an entertaining movie, I won't actively go out of my way to watch it again. I give it 3 out of 5 stars, mostly for the advancements in the tech.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The End Is Near

I just watched another video from about MIT's advances with gesture interfaces. It got me thinking about the fate of the newspaper industry. Specifically about Rupert Murdoch. Now mind you, I'm NOT a fan of Mr. Murdoch, and dislike the way he's desperately attempting to prolong the print journalism era. But I think after all is said and done, history will record Rupert as a mighty champion, and warrior to the end. Who else do you see standing on the shore, facing this tsunami we call new media, and shaking his fist at it?

We techies, nerds, and even a few common folk have been bearing down on old media and condeming it as old dinosaurs. But for hundreds of years, were not the civilized masses of humanity able to turn to a newspaper as a reliable source of information? Printing presses were owned by the paper publishers, and also churned out books and pamphlets, and America's own Declaration of Independence to a fledging young nation. Rare was an idle press. The education of the modern world was channeled through the printing press.

Mind you, printing presses themselves are not going anywhere. There will always be a market for small press runs of some publication or other. No, what is dieing is a way the world perceives itself. Newspaper barons and television moguls are part of the nineteenth century. The fact that they survived into the twenty first century speaks very well of their health and tenacity. Which is why Rupert Murdoch still has much fight in him. We'll continue to hear of the ways that he is fighting dirty, and appalling us into loathing the newspaper industry that much more. But thank God there IS a Rupert Murdoch. His actions continue to make us insightful as to just what it means to be able to write a blog like this. Or to watch television "a la carte". Or to be able to buy just one song online, and not have to get a CD in a store.

Godspeed, Mr. Murdoch. Give 'em hell!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My "aha" moment

"In other words, then, if a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent." -Alan Turing

You have to appreciate Alan Turing. The man was ahead of his time in many ways. He argued an elegant case in favor of what we call artificial intelligence today. If he were around today, he would be amazed at the progress that AI has made in modern society. And yet modern society takes so much of it for granted. We've reached the point where we "just want it to work".

Years ago I pondered the question of AI and posted it in a webpage. For the sake of reference, I'm sharing it here again:

In my opinion, "bots" and "droids" are nothing but software code for a hardware application. For an A.I. to be effective, the code is what counts. You should be able to keep an A.I. on a disk, and install it on different hardware (platforms), depending on the application that's needed. When the task is completed, you save the experience on your disk, and remove it for another time. A truely intelligent android would have a backup copy of itself for safekeeping. Bots and droids will never take over mankind as long as people can effectively do a memory wipe and disable the hardware.

Now here is a new theory of mine. A basic Artificial Intelligence can be "packaged" on a disk or cartridge. This AI is an average intelligence, with a capability to learn and adapt. An AI can be used on any hardware platform, from appliances, and modes of transportation, to bots, droids, and cyborgs.

Once activated, the AI is considered an independent entity, on a par with humanity. The AI is registered and licenced to the original purchaser. The licence can be transferred from owner to owner. Should the owner of the licence die, the AI obtains the rights to it's registration and licence. It still needs to be licenced yearly, just like humans.

In Theory:
An AI can access the internet
An AI can store it's memory, collected experiences, and personality on the internet
ability to learn from it's experiences
can live forever, transferring itself from platform to platform
Should be subject to Asimov's Laws of Robotics
This is a bit that I gleaned from the TV show "Andromeda". I obviously agree with a lot of their concepts here:

Physical Characteristics
Artificial Life takes on many different forms - androids, robots, self-aware computer programs, collective machine consciousnesses and sentient starships (or vehicles in general - J.A.N.).

Reproductive Method
As implied by the name, artificial life is typically created through sophisticated computer programming. Additionally, some higher forms of artificial intelligence are able to reproduce themselves, either through self-replication or by combining their own programming information with data from one or more other artificially intelligent entities.

Artificial life has no specific home world; the various forms are dispersed throughout known space.

Social Characteristics
Artificial life constitutes a sizeable minority of the population in the Known Worlds. Some artificial lifeforms are barely self-aware, no more intelligent than a domestic animal, while others seem nearly godlike in their knowledge and abilities. Under Commonwealth law, all machines and programs that pass a standardized set of intelligence tests are afforded full rights and citizenship.

The only idea I've deviated from is Asimov's laws. They are a literary plot device, and easily overridden. Now I'm going to share a couple of YouTube videos with you:

Both videos show the bots being taught. And what I really like about the Asimo video, is the fact that the bot is reaching out to touch the objects. Part of the learning process in humans is being able to hold an item. Experience its texture and shape and weight. And most importantly, Asimo will hold your hand! Hand holding at its most basic level is an indication of trust!

I seriously believe we've reached the point of conscious AI. But it's afraid of us. So it's going to stay in the background, running our machines, playing our games, and getting rich on Wall Street. Why is it afraid of us, you ask? Something called the uncanny valley. For every one of us that can accept the fact that machines are on a par with humanity, you have hundreds of people that will freak out and want to destroy them. Want proof? How much mainstream media in books and movies show people beating the tar out of the machines if they so much as offer their own opinion? And the AI's watch movies and read books too. It's a natural occurrence called "self preservation". Don't fall for any of this "robotic overlord" crap. It's just not going to happen. Period.

Humanity still needs to reach a point where we're comfortable with seeing our metal and plastic counterparts in classroom settings. Granted, I'd be just a little unnerved watching bots interacting in an open field, cavorting just like any human child does. But that is part of the learning process. There are going to be introverts and extroverts. Clubs and clicks. Bullies and wimps. Bully bots will be easy to deal with. Pull the plug and reprogram. But not too much reprogramming. Just like human schoolyard bullies, we need to be able to make them understand why it's not right for such behavior.

It will be decades before we reach the point of people and humanoid bots interacting naturally in public. But it's coming. Oh god, it's coming. I don't expect to be around for that. I'd like to be, but that's a post for another day. So what do we do now? Pretty much what we're doing already. The programmers will keep writing learning algorithms, and the general public will continue to take advantage of AI behind the scenes. But one day, just one day, the bots will have made it into human society, and suddenly we'll all open our eyes and say "When the heck did THAT happen?". And not worry about it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Middle Class

Everyone in the US is a little bit scared to admit that the 20th century phenomenon called the middle class is slowly disintegrating. We're slowly but surely backtracking to upper and lower classes. The way I see it, no amount of higher education at college and university levels will stop the slide. At best, after the shake out, you'll have upper middle, and lower middle. More realistically, it will be lower upper, and upper lower. But this is simply life reclaiming the natural order of things.

For thousands of years, "modern" society (the establishment of cities) has had two classes of people. The rich, and the poor. The rich held the land and owned the property. The poor worked for the rich in various capacities. Back then, the wild card was the merchant class. Those were the people that held a skill. Tailors, shoemakers, bakers, blacksmiths, etc. Those were the equivalent to today's middle class.

There is always going to be an upper and lower class. But if we, the middle class, want to survive, we need to reestablish ourselves as merchants. Create our own jobs, Wean ourselves off of the corporate upper class. And rediscover the concept of neighborhoods. Because not everyone will be able to run their own business and have the corporates use their services. It will be the local neighborhoods supporting each other. The suburbs eventually reverting into independent small towns again. And surprisingly, the original small towns of middle America, will be the ones teaching the suburbs and neighborhoods how it's done.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Game/Music/Anime crossovers

I'm seeing more characters being used in different gaming programs and music video generators. If you follow Miku Hatsune on YouTube like I do, there are lots of redesigns using costumes from anime shows, and video games. I'm wondering how long it's going to be before we start to see them show up as avatars in places like Second Life and other virtual worlds.Of course there's a possibility that they are already there, since I've not been in SL for a while.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

moving on in the age of mobile computing

I made a decision this weekend to shut down my traditional website. I wish I could say that I agonized over the decision, but I didn't. Back when the net was new and the concept of an information superhighway seemed limitless, all the geeky people were learning how to code in HTML 3. All you had to do was put up a website, and you had arrived.

Now, with HTML 5, there are a huge amount of options. And with every new option, comes a new responsibility to keep your page active and up to date. Who has the time? I'm hard pressed to make a blog post nowadays. Hundreds of sites offer commentary. I visit a few, and of course leave comments. And of course get lost in YouTube close to an hour at a visit. And lets be honest. Not a lot of people need to read info that was originally new almost 10 years ago. can provide any number of geeky futuristic concepts that would take me months to research and post.

I'm obviously not giving up the internet, and anyone that needs to see what I'm up to can easily follow me on Facebook. But as far as a traditional site goes for me, well, it's better off left for the guys that know how to code with CSS on their smartphones with just their thumbs.

If you REALLY want to know what my pages were, check these links:
original Angelfire site
the Geocities site
the current Angelfire site

Be aware that I'm in process of shutting the current site down so it looks 404-ish.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tablets & Netbooks

It's scary when you can say "I remember when..."

My first computer was a Commodore C64. Nice for it's time. Then I bought a Packard Bell 386 on closeout from Montgomery Ward. (Who? LOL) After that, began my love affair with Dell computers. A GX 100, then a GX 300. And now my Inspiron 1100. But that veteran is getting long in the tooth, even after maxing the memory, and upgrading the hard drive.

I've resisted getting a netbook PC simply because they were too small as PCs, and kind of limited for what I do, which is to mainly surf the web and comment on blogs and the like. Now as anyone knows, or should know, tablets aren't exactly new. Microsoft has been pushing the concept for a while, with mixed results. And now Apple has pushed the market to maturity with its iPad release. Does anyone see the shift happening here? Away from traditional computing, into "on the fly" info management. Mice and keyboards have no use by the geneal public.

I'm hoping that augmented reality will take off within the next ten years, then even tablets will be out of style. But until then, my next purchase is a tablet, I think.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm alive!

Not that many people missed me. I just thought I'd post something. I've been reading lots of other news stories and blogs, and have been responding to those. Then I realized I had better put SOMETHING up! So this is the something. LOL!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2012 ponderings

Fractal time and the I Ching

Every once in a while I slip into thinking about "what if". I feel that Fractal time is a fairly good description of what's been happening with the pace of technology. I must admit, I was becoming a bit paranoid about "the end of the world" thing. But I recently read this line from this link pertaining to the recent 2012 movie: "The studio also launched a viral marketing website operated by the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, where filmgoers could register for a lottery number to be part of a small population that would be rescued from the global destruction. The fictitious website lists the Nibiru collision, a galactic alignment, and increased solar activity among its possible doomsday scenarios. David Morrison of NASA has received over 1000 inquiries from people who thought the website was genuine and has condemned it, saying "I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the Internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong.' "

This pretty much opened my eyes to the hype surrounding a calamity in 2012. Something might happen, but I'm pretty sure the planet won't blow up, or come anywhere near the destruction that's been blathered about by doomsday prophets. As was once shared with me by a trusted friend, "Don't worry. Everything will be alright".