Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Lucky Numbers

Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket

In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet, a young woman gets hold of a ticket out

Our next sci fi short is “Here comes Frieda”: (Ripple Effect, 7:34 min) As yet another superstorm bears down on a desperate, weary city in the year 2040, a young woman seeks to redeem her winning sweepstakes ticket for a better life in a low Earth orbit paradise. This film is the ultimate environmental dystopia (no spoilers). It works to the extent that it portrays real characters. The building maintenance man is especially good. Because it is a very short film the filmmakers need not address the question of just why the environment apocalypse is so dire. Nature has a way of rebalancing itself; this has been true since the beginning of life on Earth. The problem with environment damage…

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life on planet Mars, astronaut discovers bacterial life on the surface of a rock

At Scientific American: The Aliens Could Be Extremely Boring

Well, we can’t be sure, can we? It’s literally a whole other world

Okay, it’s just a thought. But what if all the interesting stuff is happening in our own imaginations? Caleb Scharf is a University of Columbia astrobiologist and here is his view: There’ll be some initial oddities, some curiosities that aren’t quite the things we planned for. A dull carrier wave signal for instance. Over time more evidence will show up, until eventually it’s clear that there are lots of species out there, puttering around in their own little neighborhoods and doing nothing truly extraordinary, because those possibilities were, in the end, more the product of our lively imaginations than anything that the universe compels life towards. Of course, I’m being a little facetious, the first discovery of life of any…

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Scrap recycling plant, Crane grabber, pile metal to recycle

Sci Fi Saturday: Terrified by a Scrap Monster

Well, if you have never been terrified by a Scrap Monster, you are clearly missing out

Here’s “Pinki” by Spike Hyunsuk Kim (11:08 min) On a back street, a scrap monster makes a sudden lunge at a man. A pink-haired girl helps him, and their future is down to whether he remembers her. No surprise, she is a girl from his high school past. The production values are well done but it’s not clear if this is strictly sci-fi. The scrap monster tormenting the fellow seems right out of folklore rather than sci-fi. That said, it’s fun watching a middle class South Korean business executive try to cope with the Scrap Monster. An agreeable short. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci Fi Saturday: What if there were serious wars over clouds? In…

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Picture of puckered lips

AI 2020 Smash hits #5: Deepfakes — What They Can and Can’t Do

Deepfakes? Our minds often actually fill in a lot of our background for us when we are not even aware of it

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway, are back, with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). Time to celebrate the real achievements! Well, our nerds think that #5 is believable deep fakes in entertainment, for better or worse Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Jon, what are deep fakes and what is Disney doing that’s going to wow us? Jonathan Bartlett: People are worried about the…

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dramatic sunset over cracked earth. Desert landscape background.

Sci Fi Saturday: What If There Were Serious Wars Over Clouds?

In a world that still has technology but is desperately short of water, that could happen

In “The Oceanmaker” (9:40 min, January 20, 2018) by Martell Animation, “After the seas have disappeared, a courageous pilot fights against vicious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds.” The animation is well done. But character questions arise. The unnamed pilot seems very nervous. She succeeds in fighting off the water pirates who have clever methods for capturing the world’s remaining water from a remaining cloud. But it’s not clear why she is cast in the role. There are people out there who are much more comfortable with conflict. It’s also unclear why, in a devastated, waterless world, all that technology is still available (what about food, fuel, etc.?) However, the nice thing about…

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Old Vintage Arcade Video Games in an empty dark gaming room with blue light with glowing displays and beautiful retro design

Sci Fi Saturday: Can Video Games Save a Lone Survivor?

The film features fine animations of apocalyptic scenes of post-civilization

In “High Score” (3:50 min) by Adrien Vallade, Lou Maurice De Reparaz, Brian Lim, Elodie Ferrer, Pablo Cortes, “In a post-apocalyptic world, a man takes refuge in an arcade.” This is a very short “short” from a French company. The animation scenes of ruin are very well done. Not wholly clear why the video arcade manages to work without a reliable power system but every film is allowed one improbable incident (only one). At any rate (no spoilers), the wholly lone guy actually finds an opponent to play the game with. Some of us would have liked the film to be longer and more complex. What if the opposing player were an intelligent alien or an elemental force? The film…

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translation, business, and technology concept - male translator or businessman with laptop computer thinking at office over greeting words in different foreign languages

#10 AI Success!: Translation Gets Faster and Better

Machine translation, properly used, can help us communicate better

Once again, our Walter Bradley Center director, Robert J. Marks, is back with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway —this time to to discuss real advances in AI in 2020. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about some of the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). Now it’s time to celebrate the real achievements! Let’s start with how machine translation, properly used, can help us communicate better. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-116-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at 03:11. Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Okay, let’s get started with the countdown of AI smash hits of the last…

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astronaut looking at the alien tentacles coming out of the portal, digital art style, illustration painting

Researchers: We Don’t See ETs Because They Are All Dead

According to some NASA researchers, they may have destroyed themselves

A recent NASA study suggests that most extraterrestrial civilizations have died out. : The statement comes from researchers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the California Institute of Technology and Santiago High School who used an updated version of an equation to calculate the likely existence of intelligent life and determined aliens may have emerged some eight billion years after our galaxy formed. With these results, the team included the idea that progress of science and technology inevitably leads to the destruction of civilizations and because humans have yet to make contact outside our planet, scientists now think they know why… ‘If intelligent life is likely to destroy themselves, it is not surprising that there is little or no intelligent life…

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Sci Fi Saturday: Can a Robot Find a Better Planet Than Earth

The trouble is, the robot is governed by Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics

In “Avarya” (19:30 min) by Gökalp Gönen (English subtitles) an elderly human fleeing Earth seeking a new habitable planet is trapped in his own ship after the robot overseer finds every single candidate planet unsuitable. The robot’s behavior is based strictly on Isaac Asimov’s’s Laws of Robotics: First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. And it’s a dark and witty…

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Close encounters of the third kind. Unidentified objects coming from space. Contact with extraterrestrials UFO.

Science Writer Warns: Contact With Aliens Might Not Turn Out Well

Lockett doesn’t say we shouldn’t explore; it’s more of a warning

Will Lockett offers some pessimistic thoughts: It is 100% possible that our cosmic neighbours might have no empathy at all, hunt us for sport, have tribal wars, regular duals to the death or ritualistically kill foreign organisms for religious reasons. So rather than being overrun by the galactic version of the British, it might be more like the Klingons or Predator (Ridley Scott). They may even be like the Vogons from Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy and see Earth as something in the way that needs to be demolished. Will Lockett, “Should We Meet Aliens?” at Medium Lockett doesn’t say we shouldn’t explore; it’s more of a warning: If by some miracle there is a civilisation a few lightyears…

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The head of a cyborg with wires on a gray background.

Sci Fi Saturday: Kiko: A Great Short But Key Questions Unanswered

A lonely retail service robot longs for a world beyond her store

“Kiko,” (9:20 min) by Jamil Munoz, tells the tale of a lonely retail service android who longs for a world beyond her store. Her signature line, “Goodnight, Charlie,” is priceless, as she is then all alone again, a mere as part of the business equipment. It’s an agreeable short (no spoilers, except that the kid who comes to her rescue is great). The android is wholly believable but the film never addresses the question of how the proprietor of “Charlie’s” computer retail store could have created or acquired a robot that had attributes like wanting a different type of life. A farmer can’t “create” a horse who wants to go to university. Even if the farmer could create a horse,…

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Top view of attractive young woman sleeping well in bed hugging soft white pillow. Teenage girl resting, good night sleep concept. Lady enjoys fresh soft bedding linen and mattress in bedroom

#5 AI hype: AI Could Go Psychotic Due To Lack of Sleep!

Well, that’s what we can hear from Scientific American, if we believe all we read

Our nerds here at the Walter Bradley Center have been discussing the AI hypes of the year. Our director Robert J. Marks, Eric Holloway and Jonathan Bartlett have been talking about 12 overyhyped AI ideas. From AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part II, here’s #5 AI: can go psychotic due to lack of sleep! https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-114-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at 16:03. Here’s a partial transcript. Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript. The story started at Scientific American Some types of artificial intelligence could start to hallucinate if they don’t get enough rest, just as humans do… The change will come when (and if) AI systems that mimic living brains are incorporated into the wide…

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Chat bot concept

#6 A Conversation Bot Is Cool —If You Really Lower Your Standards

A system that supposedly generates conversation—but have you noticed what is says?

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks has been interviewing fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the year. From AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part II. Now here’s #6. A means of generating copy from AI: “GPT-3 Is “Mindblowing” If You Don’t Question It Too Closely So what about the bot that replaces conversation? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-114-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at “09:03. Here’s a partial transcript. Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript. Robert J. Marks: GPT-3. Those are four alphanumeric letters that rhyme. GPT-3. And, there was a headline that says there’s a subreddit populated entirely by AI personifications of other subreddits. First…

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Watermelon Pacman eating small red round pieces

#7 AI Can Create Great New Video Games All by Itself!

In our 2020 "Dirty Dozen" AI myths: It’s actually just remixing previous games

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks has been interviewing fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the year. From AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part II. Now here’s #7. Computers can create their own video games, no imagination involved! Or maybe… wait … don’t invest just yet … https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-114-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 “Computers can create their own video games” starts at 05:07. Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Okay. Number seven. AI can implement video games just by watching. This was from an article called “Learning to simulate dynamic environments with gameGAN.” Eric Holloway (pictured): Yeah but…

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King and queen playing cards

Deepfake of Queen’s Christmas Message Highlights Era of Fake News

The concept is actually an old one and we are not helpless against such deceptions

Elizabeth II is among the longest-serving constitutional monarchs in history (1953–). Britain’s edgy Channel 4 tested the waters with a deepfake Christmas address: In Commonwealth countries like Canada, it is a longstanding custom to listen to Elizabeth’s Christmas Address. So how did the fake fare?: If you have bad eyesight and limited hearing, you might, might, be fooled by the fake Queen on a busy Christmas day. But by the time she starts talking about Netflix and launches into a dance routine, you’d surely know something’s up. Channel 4 makes little effort to hide its deception, but that hasn’t stopped some critics from expressing discomfort with the stunt. Rhett Jones, “First Deepfake Address from the Queen of England Makes Its…

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sri lanka elephant

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Next-Stage Evolution Children Appear?

A sci-fi short from Sri Lanka looks at the possibilities

Here’s the last item in our Saturday reviews of free, relevant sci-fi fun from DUST, the sci-fi channel at YouTube. This one is “Vikaari”from Synhedrion Studios (Sri Lanka, 13:54): Due to some possible “evolutionary transformation,” children in Sri Lanka are born with no emotional reaction to anything but with the ability for telekinesis and a hive mind. It’s suggested that that is an adaptive response to continuous warfare. Many want to kill them, saying “They look like kids, but they’re not.” Eerily reminiscent of the persecution of people with Down Syndrome. Evolution theories are evoked in glowing color to explain the situation though many such theories are contested today. The story is very well done as a parable of the…

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alien planet landscape, beautiful forest the surface of an exoplanet

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life Gets an Update

The universe appears fine-tuned for life to a dramatic degree; it’s at least reasonable to think it’s out there

California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Santiago High School are updating the famous Drake Equation (1961): Over the span of human history, many have wondered if life exists on other planets—intelligent or otherwise. As new tools have been applied to the question, many space scientists have become convinced that the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations developing seems more probable than not given all that has been learned. As other exoplanet systems have been found, many circling stars very similar to our sun, it has become difficult to find anything unique about our own planet to justify a belief that Earth alone ever produced life. In this new effort, the researchers have expanded on research done by Frank Drake…

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The face of a child robot.

Sci-Fi Saturday: Can Parents Get Back a Dead Child as an Android?

They aren’t even united in their grief; they just think they must “do something” to get back a facsimile of what they remember.

Are you in lockdown at home? Hey, here’s another one we found, in our weekly foray into free short sci-fi. This is from SkillLab Creative Studio: “Article 19-42” (14:29 min) A French couple (subtitles in English) drive to an old barn in northern woods, on a seemingly curious mission—to resurrect a dead child as an android: One wouldn’t offer a spoiler, such as above, except that the film goes on way too long without making that part clear. The ambience—one suspects that the lab is illegal—is wonderful. The central characters are pitch perfect: parents of an only child, united by and obsessed with her death. They aren’t even entirely united in their grief; they both want to get back at…

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Spaceship in space above the planets in distant solar system. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Astrobiologist: Change How We Search For ET!

There’s a longstanding controversy in the pursuit of extraterrestrial life as to whether life forms must be carbon-based

Sara Imari Walker, of Arizona State University, puts her finger on a key issue: The discovery of life on another planet should be a momentous event for humanity, but any announcement of a biosignature detection made right now will not be a milestone but a mess, because scientists will have no consensus that we’ve even made a discovery. Here on Earth, we don’t recognize life by its atmospheric byproducts. In fact, none of our current biosignatures address the central question: What about us makes us alive? Our biosignatures are not definitive signs of life because we don’t have a coherent theory of what life is… Carl Sagan famously showed that adopting a definition that includes the ability to eat, metabolize,…

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smart hotel in hospitality industry 4.0 technology concept, robot butler (robot assistant) use for greet arriving guests, deliver customer, items to rooms, give information, support  variety languages

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief

An elderly woman buys a robot to help her when she finds herself all alone, due to tragedy

In our weekly foray into free sci-fi at DUST, we found “Rewind” (13:36 min, set in December 2043) An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do housework and hang Christmas decorations. It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare! That said, the robot is obviously a guy in a “robot” suit. He learns to do housework, appreciate snow—and to deal with tragedy a robot could never really understand. A robot can’t deal with things that are non-computable because non-computables cannot be programmed. This is a fact often overlooked by heady futurists. But don’t let that…