Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

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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.…

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Melting Watch

Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold

An employee wants to rebel against the greed and injustice but then she would run out of time …

“The Bargain” at DUST by Eleonora Mignoli (May 18, 2021, 10:57 min) “Hired by a man who buys and sells time, a young bodyguard is torn between serving her master and fighting for the people he ruins with his power.” Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to…

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Two ants. Conflict, ants fight. Conceptually - dialogue, conversation, meeting, showdown, difficult negotiations. Beautiful rainbow background. Ants large, raised abdomens

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Insects Could Put Humans on Trial?

In Science+, a shrunken inventor finds himself facing Ant Justice

“Science+” at DUST by Leela Varghese (February 28, 2021, 11:11 min) “When Matt accidentally shrinks himself and is captured by the ants whom he has unwittingly been squashing, he must find a way to escape their clutches and his impending death sentence.” Review: This is what good comedy looks like. Matt is filming himself doing various science projects for his (possibly) YouTube program “Science+”, when he gets shrunk by his own shrink-o-matic. The ants, seen face to face, turn out to be roughly like people, of whom — Matt discovers — he has killed nearly 3500. They learned English from humans in Britain but otherwise they speak Ant. You must hear that. And no more spoilers. The story raises some…

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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?…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.,…