Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

no-guarantee-still

Sci-fi Saturday: In “No Guarantee,” Brain Uploading Proves Costly

In a ruined mid-21st century Britain, a couple gains tickets to a virtual world — if their brains can be uploaded. But can they?

“No Guarantee” (2016) by Stuart Black and Nick Mather (at DUST, May 11, 2021) 5:22 min. A couple living in the ruins of London 2056 must decide whether they should upload their consciousnesses into the mysterious Cloud 9.” Fuller description: “London 2056 – the city is dying and those living in the smog-clogged ruins live by their wits. Those who can afford to opt out of the desperation upload their consciousnesses to Cloud 9. This is advertised as a one way ticket to virtual heaven – but can the Company who run it really be trusted? Virgil and Mary have different attitudes: she wants to go, he doesn’t. Can she persuade him to ‘ascend’ before he dies from terminal illness?…

thumbs up face down.jpg
woman doing thumbs up positive gesture in shock face, looking skeptical and sarcastic, surprised with open mouth

Can the Machine Know You Are Just Being Sarcastic?

Researchers claim to have come up with an artificial intelligence program that can detect sarcasm on social media platforms

There’s an old joke about the bored engineering student slouched in the back of the Remedial English Grammar and Composition class. The instructor was lecturing on the use of negatives. In some languages, she explained, negatives can be piled on top of one another without changing the overall negative (“no”) meaning. But in English, adding two negatives together creates a positive. For example: “I am never going there again.” means just what it says (“never”). but “I am not ‘never going there again’” means that maybe you are going there again (“yes, if some changes are made”). The first negative negates the second. The teacher went on to say, “But there is no language in the world in which two…

aliens-invade-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Aliens Invade

Sci-Fi Saturday: In Fenestra, the Aliens Land in a Domestic Drama

As the alien ships loom worldwide, the cheating boyfriend thinks he can just come back…

“Fenestra” (2020) at DUST by Jason Sheedy (May 13, 2021, 3:49 min) “A heartbroken woman must contend with a cheating boyfriend — and an incoming alien invasion.” Review: Okay. What if the aliens land just as a guy wants his woman to know that he is sorry for cheating on her after six faithful years. Of course, he counts on coming back to her amid the chaos. But maybe his stepping out was happening at just the right time for her… Who is she anyway? Erin Ownbey does a good job of looking pretty fed up and Brett Brooks of just not getting it. Impressive alien ships. “Fenestra” is under four minutes in length, which is handy if you would…

a-man-likes-a-big-paper-box-in-the-apartment-a-emotional-man-fondle-a-big-package-in-the-empty-room-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
A man likes a big paper box in the apartment. A emotional man fondle a big package in the empty room.

Sci-fi Saturday: Why You Do NOT Want To Duplicate Yourself

“The Unboxing Video” offers philosophy as well as dark comedy around the question of what being “oneself” means

“The Unboxing Video” (2019) at DUST by Scott Pickett (April 27, 2021, 12:07 min, film info here. Language warning.) Unboxing? “Unboxing is the act of documenting oneself, mostly on video, of opening a packaged product from a box and displaying, reviewing, and showing off its contents.” – Dictionary.com “One man attempts to make the greatest unboxing video in the world. Not an easy task as at every twist and turn he unknowingly reveals more about himself than anything else.” Review: James, a lonely man, decides to replicate himself via a body scan, a DNA swab, and a brain upload. He invites us to watch as he unpacks his boxed replicant, James 1.0. But when James turns the replicant on, he…

flowers-and-a-toy-on-a-lamppost-in-memory-of-the-person-who-died-at-this-place-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Flowers and a toy on a lamppost in memory of the person who died at this place

Sci-fi Saturday: Could Stored Memories Bring Back the Dead?

A nerd sees a way to bring back his friend Adam from Adam’s girlfriend’s memories

“Adam 2.0” (2020) by Devin Dilmore and 101Exit (April 29, 2021 at DUST, 11:45 min.) “Two friends take a high tech risk for the chance to talk to their best friend one more time.” Review: The “main memory storage facility” on the U.S. West Coast has been destroyed, possibly by terrorists, and household memory storage capsules may be leaking deadly radiation. But two people, played by Caleb Thomas and Andrea Fantauzzi, have found a way to save their memories during the crisis. They attempt to recreate a dead friend, Adam (Chris Bradley), that way. Could the same technology that can store human memories “offsite” be used that way? But then a bigger question arises when one character asks, “Will it…

happy-april-fools-day-and-funny-pranks-concept-with-a-pair-of-comical-glasses-with-bushy-eyebrows-and-thick-mustache-isolated-on-blue-background-with-copy-space-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Happy april fool's day and funny pranks concept with a pair of comical glasses with bushy eyebrows and thick mustache isolated on blue background with copy space

Comedy: An Endangered Art Form in the Age of Rage?

A deeper issue underlies the current posturing against the Babylon Bee and the cartoon skunk PePe LePew

The Babylon Bee, an evangelical Christian satire site, has become unFunny to much of the elite commentariat of our day. The comedy gold the commentariat attacks has created says a good deal about the role of Big Social Media in funnelling and shaping our culture. Many commentators were not used to hearing their icons mocked, even gently. By 2019, fact-checking site Snopes started “fact-checking” obvious satire and the Bee responded (of course) with ridicule. But a New York Times headline of the day raises the issue that must really have been nagging at many aspirants to social power: “Satire or Deceit? Christian Humor Site Feuds With Snopes.” The Bee has its defenders, notably David French: Snopes has fact-checked whether Democrats…

closeup-of-hand-female-caregiver-holding-oxygen-mask-with-cute-child-patient-in-hospital-bed-or-homelittle-girl-putting-inhalationdoctor-or-nurse-intensive-carehealth-caresupporthelp-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Closeup of hand female caregiver holding oxygen mask with cute child patient in hospital bed or home,little girl putting inhalation,doctor or nurse intensive care,health care,support,help concept

A Short Film Explores the Dreamscape of a Child in a Coma

While her faithful father waits and tries to connect with her…

Last week, five animated short films competed for Oscar gold, with the top prize going to the emotionally charged “If Anything Happens I Love You.” The short is a bold examination of bereavement as two parents grapple with the violent loss of their young daughter. It’s a worthy winner. However, my own pick didn’t make the shortlist. WiNDUP (2020), written and directed by young creative Yibing Jiang, is also a poignant meditation on parenthood and grief — in this case, for a child in a possibly irreversible coma — as well as a technical gem. Jiang’s company, Unity, uses custom-built software to create shorts in “real-time 3D” on standard computers. Doing without certain tools that animators take for granted today,…

futuristic-and-sci-fi-human-android-portrait-with-pcb-metallic-skin-and-binary-code-green-background-ai-it-technology-robotics-science-transhumanism-3d-rendering-illustration-concepts-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Futuristic and sci-fi human android portrait with pcb metallic skin and binary code green background. AI, IT, technology, robotics, science, transhumanism 3D rendering illustration concepts.

Sci-fi Saturday: The Artist’s Android Has a Surprise for Him…

He makes the fateful decision to allow her to depart from her programming during a crisis

“Muse” (2020) by Azhur Saleem and (April 13, 2021 at DUST, 12:33 min) “An artist turns to his android muse for help when trying to sell his newest paintings, but events take a dark and disturbing turn when the android learns what has inspired the work.” An artist welcomes in an art gallery owner to view his latest offerings, his in-house android at his beck and call. When the meeting turns sour and the guest tries to leave, Alderman calls on Kay and… So begins the next day. When police officers come knocking regarding an altercation outside, it transpires that Alderman has amended Kay’s CPU to respond to un-programmed demands – including murder to which she complies and the police…

neural-networks-of-the-human-brain-3d-illustration-of-abstract-nerve-centers-electrical-impulses-in-brain-bright-full-color-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Neural networks of the human brain. 3d illustration of abstract nerve centers. Electrical impulses in brain. Bright full color

Young Filmmaker Tackles the Hype About Computing the Brain

In Silico, in which Noah Hutton sorts hope from hype, goes livestream today

Twelve years ago Noah Hutton (pictured), who had some background in neuroscience, heard prominent neuroscientist Henry Markram tell viewers in a TED talk that he had determined how to simulate a complete human brain, via supercomputers, within a decade. At the time, Hutton didn’t question that and he started to document the Blue Brain project that Markham directed, which started with a mouse brain. But then things stalled: As Hutton recounted in Scientific American yesterday, “there were magnificent fly-through visualizations of the first square millimeter of simulated rat brain set to The Blue Danube available in a visitor’s screening room, but a definite lack of progress along the road map towards a human brain.” There was, however, the recognition that…

set-of-detective-of-holmes-times-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
set of Detective of Holmes times

Abduction: A Thinking Skill You Can Do But Computers Can’t

A Norwegian police detective fills us in on how to use abduction for better thinking

Ivar Fahsing, detective chief superintendent at the Norwegian Police University College, has “worked on some of the worst crimes in Norway for 30 years.” He had to hone his thinking skills but, he says, many of us have never learned to “make safe judgments under pressure.” He is also convinced that any of us can improve our skills and he offers some help from his experience investigating crimes. One skill he focuses on is abduction, which was Sherlock Holmes’s favorite method. Yes, Holmes always tells his sidekick and foil, Dr. Watson, that he uses deduction — but he doesn’t: In the Sherlock Holmes novels, our titular hero continuously assails Dr Watson, a man of science, about the merits of deductive…

padlock-china-flag-on-a-smartphone-and-china-map-symbolizing-the-great-firewall-of-china-concept-or-gfw-and-all-extreme-internet-censorship-in-china-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Padlock, China flag on a smartphone and China map, symbolizing the Great Firewall of China concept or GFW and all extreme Internet censorship in China

The Academy Award Goes to… 404

Chinese citizens were suddenly no longer allowed to know of an Oscar for Best Director won by a Beijing-born woman, let alone see the film

As the hoopla from the 92nd Academy Awards last weekend fades, if you search for “Chloe Zhao” on Google, you’ll discover a curious thing: She is the first Asian director and second female director to win an Academy Award for best director, for her film Nomadland. Search for “Chloe Zhao” or her Chinese name, “Zhao Ting,” on Baidu in China and you’ll find “only scattered links to deleted articles about the Academy Award honor” (Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2021). Posts on Weibo and WeChat congratulating her were removed within minutes of the announcement of her win for best director. Rewriting the story in the U.S. Zhao (pictured) was born in Beijing, went to a boarding school in the U.K.,…

big-brother-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Big brother

How Orwell’s 1984 Can Be Seen As an Argument for God’s Existence

Atheism is not only fundamental to the power of the Party in 1984 but is also its central weakness

University of Nebraska political science prof Carson Holloway (pictured) asks, “Does discrediting the existence of God promote enlightened thinking or a lack of objective reality?” Unpacking the social structure in George Orwell’s classic totalitarian dystopia, 1984 (1949), he observes that not only does the Party have the power of life and death but the atheistic Party faithful fear death as utter annihilation: Atheism is the moral basis of the Party’s unlimited hold on its own members because it makes them terrified of death as absolute nonexistence. Like any government, the Party in 1984 has the power to kill disobedient subjects. Party members, however, view death not just as the end of bodily life, but as a complete erasure of their…

visualization-of-painted-dream-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Visualization of Painted Dream

Sci-fi Saturday: “Limbo” Profiles a Future Approach to Punishment

The convict must live in a vision, induced during a coma, as the victim (or bereft loved one), in an attempt to rehabilitate him by teaching empathy

“Limbo” (2020) at DUST by Andrew Morris and Rob Silva (April 8, 2021 at DUST, 24:21) “One man’s search for his kidnapped daughter causes his reality to unravel.” A most interesting premise: In the future, there are no prisons. There are no institutions with high walls and barred cells. Instead, the convicted are placed into a coma and forced to live out their sentence within a dream, with reality inverted, as the victim of their own crime. You killed someone’s wife? Your sentence is a life where your spouse has been taken from you, leaving you to toil in grief and mental anguish. But for ‘inmates’ who are wrongfully convicted, and are forced to live in their punishing alternate reality…

alien-portrait-with-stars-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
alien portrait with stars

SETI Director Warns: Those Aliens Could Be Malevolent

Harvard astronomer agrees: We’ve sent a lot of signals in recent years; they may have got them. But now what?

As the Mars Rover Perseverance bumps around looking for fossil bacteria and such, many students of possible ET life are becoming surprisingly cautious about what it might mean: “We have no reason to believe that technological advancement and altruism or morality are somehow linked,” SETI researcher Andrew Siemion told Inverse. “There probably are malevolent civilizations elsewhere in the universe so that’s certainly something that we should consider as we continue to explore the universe.” Siemion, who’s the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal of the alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project, is invoking a tension at the heart of any project searching for alien life. Successfully finding it would change the world — but there’s also no guarantee humanity…

debris-still

Sci-fi Saturday: New NBC X-files Clone “Debris” Feels Disjointed

Perhaps that’s intentional, though many critics aren’t getting it yet

Debris by J. H. Wyman (TV series, 2021, 13 episodes): “Two agents from two different continents, and two different mindsets, must work together to investigate why.” Debris, J. H. Wyman’s third major foray into science fiction (Fringe, and Almost Human being the others), seems to be getting a cool reception from critics and viewers alike. But maybe it needs time to coalesce. However, time and a forgiving audience are in short supply these days in the crowded entertainment landscape. The show’s premise is that an alien spacecraft has broken up in our solar system and crashed to earth, creating the “Debris” of the title. Of course, these artifacts cause strange “advanced technology” effects (not magic) and our government agents must…

flying-car-future-air-car-3d-concept-futuristic-vehicle-in-the-city-car-concept-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Flying Car, Future Air Car 3d Concept, Futuristic Vehicle In The City,  Car Concept - 3D Rendering

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Futurism Doesn’t Mean Smarter People?

Comic scenes would dot the aerial landscape, dispelling the usual earnestness of sci-fi films

“Floaters” at DUST by Karl Poyzer and Joseph Roberts (March 25, 2021, 4:03 min) “High in the sky of a sci-fi metropolis a lone spaceship is confronted by a much larger and more intimidating vessel. When the bigger ship asks the small one why they share the same identification number a strange quandary forms and a mile-high debate ensues.” This comic short (4 min) makes clear that a futurist landscape need not be inhabited by evolved superheroes or philosophical aliens. It could be inhabited by the same sort of people the traffic cop stops every day. Or denser. This animated film uses architectural rather than cartoon style. It also uses a technique too often neglected these days*: We hear the…

3d-render-dinosaur-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
3d render dinosaur.

Neuralink Cofounder: We Can Bring “Exotic” Dinosaurs To Life Now

Whether Max Hodak can do that or not, many scientists ponder, when SHOULD we try to bring back extinct species?

Neuralink is currently best known for brain-computer interfaces, including a test monkey playing pong ball with his mind. But Elon Musk’s co-founder Max Hodak has a bigger idea: Breed and engineer “super exotic novel species”of dinosaurs: “We could probably build Jurassic Park if we wanted to,” Hodak tweeted on Saturday. “Wouldn’t be genetically authentic dinosaurs but [shrugging emoji]. Maybe 15 years of breeding + engineering to get super exotic novel species.” Dan Robitzski, “Neuralink Co-founder Says We Have the Tech to Build An Actual Jurassic Park” at Futurism Any life forms that resulted from dino DNA studies would not be “genetically authentic” dinosaurs because we don’t have living dinosaur sexual cells to work with. They might, however, be more or…

businessman-working-with-skeleton-in-office-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Businessman working with skeleton in office

Sci-fi Saturday: When “The Workplace” Is Anything But

The short film (less than 10 min) starts with a woman reassuring herself, unsettlingly, “I AM the boss”

“The Workplace” at DUST by Carlyn Hudson (April 1, 2021, 9:32 min) We’ve been warned: “You are very qualified.” For what though? “In a future economy subsumed by technological employment, humans continue to find meaning through their ‘work’ — where the lucky ones get to show up to an “office” from 9-5 and live out their mundane workplace fantasies.” This sci-fi short will appeal to many who have had a job at the corner of Rat and Race and sense that’s a blessing compared to the alternative. It starts with a woman reassuring herself, “I AM the boss,” and cuts to her interviewing a job candidate who seems off-putting at first but appears qualified — and then things get weird.…

surprised-nerd-student-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Surprised nerd student

Fermat’s Last Tango: Lively Musical For Nerds

The ghost of Fermat and other giants from the Aftermath Club help (frustrate?) a mathematician’s effort to prove Fermat’s famous Last Theorem

If you are a nerd, the musical Fermat’s Last Tango (2001) is hilarious. Mathematician Pierre de Fermat proposed his last theorem around 1637. He wrote a note in the margin of a copy of Arithmetica, a book written by a 3rd-century Alexandrian mathematician, Diophantus. Fermat’s short scribble claimed that he could prove that a specific Diophantine equation had no solution. But whatever Fermat was thinking died with him in 1665. A proof of Fermat’s last theorem eluded mathematicians over 300 years until Princeton’s Andrew Wiles proved it in 1995. Fermat’s Last Tango is a fantasy account of Wiles’s life while he was working on the proof. The play is a musical sprinkled with nerdy inside jokes. For example, part of…

Mars terraforming step (Elements of this image furnished by NASA). 3D rendering
Mars terraforming step (Elements of this image furnished by NASA). 3D rendering

Sci-fi Saturday: When Terraforming Mars Means Mars-forming People

In this award-winner, the underground humans must, according to the terraforming colony's rules, deny emotion, which pretty much guarantees a story

“New Mars” at DUST by Susie Jones (March 30, 2021, 19:14 min) Earth is no more. A new generation lives underground on Mars preparing to begin a new life as the colonists of a planet which is being terraformed into a new habitable world. ‘New Mars’ is a society driven by science and logic to ensure humans will not make the same destructive decisions this time round. But two young hopefuls struggle with the intensity of their feelings – which inadvertently propels them towards an unexpected truth about their existence. (IMDB) “New Mars” premiered in 2019 and has won a number of awards. It conveys the claustrophobia of an underground world where death rules the planet’s surface. Life on a…