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CategoryArts & Culture

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Unique scribe library full of old and valuable manuscripts

Surprising Ways AI Can Help Recover Lost Languages

Researchers into lost languages hail the new technologies as a golden age for discovery

When an apparently indecipherable manuscript from a lost language turns up, AI can help. But first, how is a language born and how does it die (or get lost)? We really don’t know how human language was born; theories abound but all we know for sure is that it is unique. In a 2017 paper at BMC Biology, evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel states flatly, “Human language is unique among all forms of animal communication.” In his open-access paper, he cuts short the widely popularized claims for chimpanzee language: Most ape sign language, for example, is concerned with requests for food. The trained chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky’s longest recorded ‘utterance’, when translated from sign language, was ‘give orange me give eat orange…

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nave espacial

Are the Aliens We Never See Obeying Star Trek’s Prime Directive?

The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope, astronomers recently scoured a part of the sky known to contain at least 10 million star systems for evidence of alien technology (“techno signatures”). And the result? “With this dataset, we found no technosignatures — no sign of intelligent life.” Professor Tingay said even though this was the broadest search yet, he was not shocked by the result. “As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is big, really big’.” International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, “Australian telescope finds no signs of alien technology in 10 million star systems” at ScienceDaily The paper is open access. Various sources offer explanations for the absent aliens; the most popular is that…

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3D Rendered Fantasy Alien Landscape With Abstract Formations - 3D Illustration

Seven Reasons (So Far) Why the Aliens Never Show Up

Some experts think they became AI and some that they were killed by their AI but others say they never existed. Who's most likely right?

Science fiction author Matt Williams is writing a series at Universe Today that offers the leading explanations for why They never write, They never phone… It’s based on an incident in 1950 when Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) asked colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory a question: If space aliens are a sure thing, “Where is everybody?” As Seth Shostak puts it at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), The remark came while Fermi was discussing with his mealtime mates the possibility that many sophisticated societies populate the Galaxy. They thought it reasonable to assume that we have a lot of cosmic company. But somewhere between one sentence and the next, Fermi’s supple brain realized that if this was true,…

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Unusual robotic eye in steampunk style. Focused robot look. Background pattern close-up.

What Goes Right and Wrong When We Predict a High-Tech Future

A pundit who predicted the internet also thought that the horse would be nearly extinct by now

An article in Ladies’ Home Journal predicted 2001 a century earlier. Here’s a video version: Futurism is a hit and miss business: Fast food is predicted (3:40) but so is the extinction of the horse (3:20). Apparently, the futurist, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., did not foresee a future for horses in recreation and sports except for “the rich.” He predicted the internet and wireless communications in principle (5:57, 13:29): “A husband sitting in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago.” But, surprisingly, he did not see much of a commercial future for the airplane but rather favored dirigibles and electrified ships (8:20ff). He predicted high-speed trains but also…

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Oh no!

Six Limitations of Artificial Intelligence As We Know It

You’d better hope it doesn’t run your life, as Robert J. Marks explains to Larry Linenschmidt

The list is a selection from “Bingecast: Robert J. Marks on the Limitations of Artificial Intelligence,” a discussion between Larry L. Linenschmidt of the Hill Country Institute and Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. The focus on why we mistakenly attribute understanding and creativity to computers. The interview was originally published by the Hill Country Institute and is reproduced with thanks.  https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-097-Robert-Marks.mp3 Here is a partial transcript, listing six limits of AI as we know it: (The Show Notes, Additional Resources, and a link to the full transcript are below.) 1. Computers can do a great deal but, by their nature, they are limited to algorithms. Larry L. Linenschmidt: When I read the term “classical computer,” how does a computer function? Let’s build on…

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Aerial view of New York downtown building roofs. Bird's eye view from helicopter of cityscape metropolis infrastructure, traffic cars, yellow cabs moving on city streets and crossing district avenues

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Promise and Problems of Big Open Data

For some software, bad data doesn’t matter; for other software, working off of month-old data could be life-threatening

Last week, Microsoft released its critically acclaimed Microsoft Flight Simulator, to much cheering and applause. The game creates a photorealistic journey across the planet. Artificial intelligence combines multiple data sets to create a magnificent virtual experience of flying through the world. The data comes from satellite maps for terrain and texture information and OpenStreetMap to add three dimensional information to city data, such as building heights and other information. Combining all these data sources generates a 3D world using a variety of AI photogrammetry techniques. The program then streams this world to you as you fly through it. Additionally, the system streams in real-world weather data, so that the weather experienced in any part of the world is transmitted to…

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Futuristic Science Fiction Bedroom Interior with Planet Earth View in Space Station, 3D Rendering

When Science Fiction Comes to Life…

Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it sometimes grows out of it

A senior editor at Wired told us a while back that science fiction writer H. G. Wells’s 1914 tale, The World Set Free, formed part of the inspiration for the atomic bomb, exploded over Hiroshima in 1945. … in the novel Wells imagines a new kind of bomb, based on a nuclear chain reaction. In this science fiction story Wells imagines that atomic energy would be discovered in 1933 (20 years in his future), and that the bomb would first explode in 1956. Wikipedia notes, “As fate or coincidence would have it, in reality the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book in 1932, conceived of the idea of nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and filed for patents on it in…

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Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the store.

The Amazing Things We Can Do with Virtual and Augmented Reality

The “father of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness, talks to Robert J. Marks about his vision for the future

In a recent podcast, “Robert J. Marks and Thomas Furness on VR and AR,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness. They focused on the cutting edge of virtual reality today. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-094-Thomas-Furness.mp3 Transcript. Partial transcript: Robert J. Marks: So, Dr. Furness, we have been talking about a number of fascinating things, but there’s still some things that I’d like to talk to you about. Another one is ARToolworks. Now, AR stands for augmented reality. Thomas Furness: Now, the difference really is between the VRs generally, where you are completely immersed in a computer-generated environment. That’s all you see is the computer generation of images. AR, on the other hand,…

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into the deep woods, atmospheric landscape with archway and ancient trees, misty and foggy mood

Is Sci Fi Brain Decoding Becoming a Reality?

To what extent can the inner workings of thought and dream be measured through correlation?

Today I want to look at something slightly different. After stumbling upon a piece by Cassidy Ward titled “Inception’s dream-reading technology is becoming reality” over at SYFY Wire, I started thinking more about the idea of reading our dreams. He’s talking about Inception, a 2013 film from Christopher Nolan, of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight fame: The protagonist, Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a thief who makes his living stealing corporate secrets by invading a target’s dreams. Our dreams are meant to be safe, untouchable. They are constructed of our most private thoughts, unbidden even by our own conscious selves. To invade them is to invade the most sanctified halls of our minds. If we’re not safe in our…

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Digital illustration painting design style a dragon slayer fighting with boss of dragon in video game, against ruins city.

AI-written Scenario for Dungeons & Dragons Is Actually Quite Good

It is a computer revolution, not in type, but in scale

I still remember walking past the tabletop game store in the mall when I was a kid. I used to think, “that looks really interesting, but everyone would think I’m a nerd if I started playing it.” Admittedly, I am most definitely a nerd, and proud of it. But only recently have I begun diving into the world of tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons (otherwise known as D&D). The poster (left), from one of the many Dungeons & Dragons-themed films of recent decades, gives some sense of the genre. My first experience pillaging through a cave as I smashed anything and everything with my mighty hammer was way more enjoyable than I imagined. The experience was most definitely helped…

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The runway of a rural small airfield against a blue sky

Third Kind Is a Unique Kind of Sci-Fi Film

Director Yorgos Zois helps us to interpret others’ real-life experiences through the sci-fi genre

This week I’ve got another Sci-Fi Saturday short for you. Although not much is currently going on in the big world of sci-fi (though there is always something going on), there never seems to be a dull drum when it comes to short films. Although not a brand new release, Third Kind (2018, 32 min) by Yorgos Zois is interesting, unique, and thought-provoking in several ways. First, let’s talk about interesting. While I would gladly say that most short films I watch are interesting, the slow burn of Third Kind makes it more interesting than most. As three archeologists visit a long since abandoned earth (we’re not really told what time the archeologists are from), they search for a mysterious…

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Round robot's eye

Exclusive!: John Lennox Answers Our Questions About AI in 2084

In his new book, 2084, the Oxford mathematician doubts that AI, now or then, will out-think humans. Our real worry is how they will be used. Read More ›
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robotic arm catch for electronic assembly line. The robot for smart technology manufacturing process.

What to make of Erica, the AI Superstar Robot?

I have a hard time conceiving of a way that this film could be successful without a little bit of cheating.

An AI super star? In case sci-fi fans haven’t heard, there is a new actress on the block. Her name is Erica and she is a… robot. According to the Hollywood Reporter Erica will star in a sci-fi film called b, “b follows a scientist who discovers dangers associated with a program he created to perfect human DNA and helps the artificially intelligent woman he designed (Erica) escape.” A part of me chuckles, thinking of the creepy uncanny valley Youtube videos of failed attempts at human-like robotics. However, robotics doesn’t seem to be the center of attention here. As Hollywood Reporter also reports, b is, “a $70 million science fiction film which producers say will be the first to rely…

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Gemstones collection jewelry set.

Two More Hidden Gems Among the Sci-Fi Shorts

I spotted both of these gems on Short of the Week and was instantly intrigued

Back in the old days, I used to endlessly browse YouTube for short films; hoping I would find a hidden gem. Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for any aspiring filmmaker but short films can be very difficult to pull off. It could certainly be said that each film deserves respect in one way or another. Every now and then, however, I would find something brilliant hidden in the corners of YouTube. Nowadays, though, Short of the Week has pretty much taken the burden of searching off my hands. First up, we have This Time Away (2019): Nigel is an elderly man living as a recluse, haunted by his past and memory of the family he once had, until…

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Blue glowing multiverse in space

Is Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Right re the Multiverse?

Sheldon Cooper insists that in no universe would he dance with Penny

A collection of universes is called a multiverse. If there are enough universes in a multiverse, can almost anything happen? No. Common models of the universe aren’t big enough. The argument that anything can happen in a multiverse is nicely presented in a 2011 scene in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory (2007–2019) involving consummate nerd Sheldon Cooper and Penny, the girl next door (here). Penny: Morning, Sheldon! Come dance with me! Sheldon: No. Penny: Why not? Sheldon: While I subscribe to the Many Worlds theory, which posits the existence of an infinite number of Sheldons in an infinite number of universes, I assure you that in none of them I am dancing. Penny: Are you fun in any of…

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Free-range red angus cattle on pasture, Argentina.

No Free Will Means No Justice

Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system

Without free will, no one is innocent. Who asks cattle on the way to the abattoir if they are guilty or innocent?

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abstract circle fractal background

Hulu’s Devs Series: Where They Get Determinism Wrong

Devs disposes of a key limitation of computers that can supposedly predict the future with psychobabble

Call me a nitpicker: As a computer engineer, I must say, computers cannot predict the future.

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ufo flying over the desert

Close Encounters, Fifth Kind, Just Missed Contact

Worth a watch but Stephen Greer and I part company when he makes clear that he believes everything is conscious

In his documentary on UFOs, Stephen Greer certainly gets one thing right: Consciousness doesn’t fit into conventional science inquiry.

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couple of two seniors or mature people walking in the airport going to their gate and take their flight wearing medical mask to prevent virus like coronavirus or covid-19 - carrying luggage or trolley

Ten Ways COVID-19 Will Change Your Next Air Trip

You’ll still get there but it definitely won’t be half the fun

On board, the plane will be cleaner but also leaner. Expect to wear a mask and snack before you go.

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Circuit board with CPU.  Motherboard system chip with glowing processor. Computer´s technology and internet concept.

Devs Both Grips and Challenges Hulu Viewers

I had fully expected Devs to be yet another series about sentient AI but it is something fresher

Alex Garland departs from conventional sci-fi themes to create a thought-provoking film, packed with action and based on a challenging underlying philosophy.

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