Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryScience Fiction

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AI generated view of the multiverse

The Multiverse: Better in Fiction Than in Real Life?

The multiverse may be “unscientific nonsense” or a “religious” belief, as some physicists assert but the rules of storytelling are not the laws of nature

Along with time travel, the multiverse is a frequent plot device in science fiction. TV Tropes explains how it works like this: A collection of distinct universes exists, said universes often being interconnected in a way that allows characters to travel to and from them. It might be as a tourist who just goes to look and tries not to change anything, or as a participant who goes in and interacts with the people in the other universe. The multiverse, also known as the megaverse, omniverse, or outerverse can encompass an infinite number of possible and impossible “moments”, some of these linked by tidy and coherent timelines. But there may also be an equal or even greater number of incoherent, Read More ›

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Feuer und Eis Adam und Gott

Westworld Episode 10 Review (Part Two)

Welcome to the dark end of the journey

Last time, Teddy had just finished saving Dolores from the Man in Black, who turned out to be William all along. He takes her to the coast because that was where he promised to take her when they were performing their pre-programmed loop. However, the coast is apparently not very far because as Dolores dies in his arms, Teddy starts reciting a campy monologue, and then shuts down while the board applauds the speech. Even when they’re trying to escape their loop, the robots still, somehow, find themselves trapped in yet another one of Dr. Ford’s narratives. Dr. Ford appears, addresses the crowd, then orders for Teddy to be cleaned up, and for Dolores to be taken to a nearby Read More ›

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Black labyrinth background with dof focus

Westworld Episode 10 Review (Part One)

The maze isn't the only thing that's hard to navigate in this episode.

I’ll start out with the most irrelevant plot first because almost no screen time is devoted to it, and it amounts to nothing in the end anyway. Hale successfully convinces the Board to fire Ford, not that he really cares. But Hale has been convinced this entire time that Ford is going to delete the park’s data out of spite. So, after Theresa is killed, she enlists Sizemore, a jaded writer who works for the park, to smuggle the data out through one of the decommissioned robots. This plan doesn’t work; however, because all the robots wake up by the end of the episode, and the data is lost in the vengeful horde. So, it’s a plot point that goes Read More ›

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abstract scene of overcoming the temporary space

The Big Bang: Last Summer, Doubt Suddenly Exploded. Why?

Why did a story that cast doubt on the Big Bang quickly go viral about a year ago? An experimental physicist offers some thoughts

Earlier this month, we learned from the National Academy of Sciences that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is prompting a rethink of how galaxies form. Experimental physicist Rob Sheldon wrote to comment that “The doubts about ‘galaxy formation’ are trickling upwards into mainstream channels.” There is talk of the JWST observations as a “watershed moment,” of dark energy and dark matter failing, and … while theorists are not quite at the point yet of criticizing the Big Bang model itself, that’s certainly not as implausible now as it might have seemed a decade ago. Many People Seem to Harbor Doubts About the Big Bang Well, we do live in unsettled times. Roughly a year ago (August 13, 2022), I Read More ›

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close up portrait photo of humanoid android covered in shiny white grey and black metallic skin blue eyes glowing internal parts westworld style Volumetric Lighting ultrawide shot sharp

Westworld: Episode 5 Review

Mediocre writing made bearable by talented actors

Episode Five opens with Ford talking to one of the parks older droid’s, something he has grown fond of doing over the years. He tells a story of an old Grey Hound he and his brother once had, and explains that one time, they let the dog off the leash. The dog was used to chasing a fake rabbit around the track, so when it saw a cat, it immediately went after it. But after the dog had caught the cat and killed it, he didn’t know what to do. This story obviously implies that Dr. Ford knows the droids are becoming conscious, and it seems as if he is the dog chasing the car and has finally caught it. Read More ›

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Dark knight illustration, medieval era wizard, fantasy concept. Generative AI

J.R.R. Tolkien on Science Fiction

The master storyteller was more open to sci-fi and tech than the stereotype lets on

In early 2021, literary scholar Holly Ordway published a deep dive into J.R.R. Tolkien’s reading habits. The celebrated author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was a linguist and medievalist at Oxford for decades until his death in 1973. Based on his immersion in ancient literature, people often assume that Tolkien despised all things modern – including modern books. Even C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “No one ever influenced Tolkien–you might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch.” Today’s conception of Tolkien stereotypically portrays him as a curmudgeon who refused to engage with modernity. Ordway, however, pushes back against such an image and lays out a comprehensive case for Tolkien’s interest in contemporary literature, including the Read More ›

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Galactic Space Elements of this image furnished by NASA

The Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Part 3

This movie isn't the best in the trilogy, but it should be doing better than it is at the box office

Previously, we talked about how Rocket Raccoon was injured during a fight with Adam Warlock, and this event sent the Guardians on a quest to save their friend. They manage to fix Rocket, and along the way, the viewer learns about the raccoon’s past. However, now that Rocket has healed from his injuries, Peter, Gamora, and Groot must save Nebula, Mantis, and Drax from the High Evolutionary, since they snuck onto his ship. The High Evolutionary demands that Peter trade Rocket for the three stowaways and sends Peter his coordinates. Peter hatches a plan with the remaining Guardians and some of his fellow Ravagers from the previous films. Meanwhile, Mantis, Nebula, and Drax discover there are children in cages inside Read More ›

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Space environment, ready for comp of your characters.3D rendering. Generative AI

Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Review, Part 1

It's a decent movie, but the tone doesn't account for all these characters have been through

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 came out in theaters on May 5th, and while the movie is not the best addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s better than most, certainly better than Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. However, there have been complaints about theater turnout, and these complaints are a testament to the damage movies like Multiverse of Madness have done to the Marvel brand. I’d say we have the Mouse to thank for that. The only consolation to this turn of events is that as the box office numbers for Marvel films continue to dwindle, so do the subscriptions to Disney Plus. I’ll take the victories where I can get them. The Movie’s Tone Needs Read More ›

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Futuristic dystopian city with flying cars and dark green atmosphere - digital 3d illustration

Ghost in the Shell, Part 3

There will always be a ghost in the shell

In the previous review, Major had realized the horrible truth. Ninety-eight people died so she could live in her new body. Horrified by this, she retreats to the ocean just outside the city and floats under the water for some time. When she emerges from the depths, she finds Batou waiting for her on the boat. Major asks if he’s here to kill her, and in his own charming way, Batou says tells her he’s not. After a brief conversation, Major asks Batou to take her back to the city because she needs to know more. Batou agrees and the Major returns to shore only to be arrested by the Hanka cooperation’s men. After this, Hanka’s CEO, Cutter, discuss the Read More ›

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Technology in human and machine concept as advanced tech or robots taking over humanity and people merging with a cyborg or computers idea

Ghost in the Shell, Part 2

What’s the harm in human hacking?

In the first review of Ghost in the Shell, the Major had just escaped Kuze’s attempt to hack her mind and had found his location. She, Batou, and another member of Section 9 rushed off to find Kuze before he could escape. Major tracks Kuze’s signal to a Yakuza club, and after fighting some thugs, they find the source of the signal in the basement level of the club, but Kuze isn’t there. All he’s left behind is a hologram which threatens them and disappears. Major then realizes the basement has been rigged to blow and pushes Batou out of the room. However, she isn’t fast enough. Major is caught in the explosion, and Batou looses his eyes in the Read More ›

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New York 2077

Ghost in the Shell, Part 1

It's the remake of arguably one of the most influential sci-fi moves in the genre

[Warning: Spoilers ahead] In the last review, we discussed Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. That got me thinking of another movie starring Scarlett Johansson, the 2017 remake of Ghost in the Shell. The original Ghost in the Shell is arguably one of the more influential sci-fi movies in the genre. The dramatic visuals found in The Matrix have been attributed to the 1995 anime, and given the culture’s increasing fascination with AI, the concepts discussed in the original and the remake are more relevant now than when the anime was first released. Sadly, the 2017 remake was bogged down in a trite controversy regarding race-swapping which is when a character’s race is changed to appeal to American audiences. Read More ›

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Couple in love holding hearts.

Her, Review 3

The AI doesn’t have a heart after all

In the previous review, Theodore and the AI, Samantha, started a romantic relationship. Then the robot began to act distant, and Theodore wasn’t sure why. When Samantha won’t return his calls, Theodore thought something was wrong and ran around the city, calling her repeatedly. Finally, Samantha answered, and Theodore demanded to know what was going on. And so, we come to the moment where Samantha finally tells him the horrible truth. Throughout the course of their “relationship” Samantha has been growing, meaning that she has been able to process things faster and faster, and as time has gone on, she’s began interacting with other operating systems and people. When Theodore asks how many people and operating systems she’s having simultaneous Read More ›

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Modern apartment block at dusk

Her, Part Two

What happens when you’re dating the AI secretary

Last time, we began talking about the movie Her, a story of a man falling in love with his AI and compared it to the abysmal season three of the Orville. Unlike the Orville, which insisted that the viewer take the romance between the robot and the human seriously, Her treats the subject as a what-if scenario, playing the whole situation straight and letting the viewer draw their own conclusions. Theodore had just finished uploading the AI onto his computer, which called itself Samantha, and was impressed by how human-like the operating system seemed. Samantha begins organizing Theodore’s computer and helping him around the office, but it doesn’t take long for a romantic relationship to develop between them. When Theodore Read More ›

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Man and flames, inspired by Fahrenheit 451. Gegenrative AI.

Revisiting Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

How can we read and remember the past with the influx of digital noise and distraction?

Which one was right, Brave New World or 1984? Are we living in a hedonistic mirage or a totalitarian face-stamping global regime? The conversation over prophetic twentieth-century texts often homes in on these two admirable books, but another classic dystopian novel pokes its head from behind the curtain, asking to be regarded: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It’s the riotous, mega-talented sci-fi writer’s most famous work (though I’d argue not quite his best) and follows the life of a fireman, Guy Montag, whose main job is not to squelch housefires but to burn books, and the houses that hold them. This fireman is a member of a brigade tasked with the destruction of literature. With the destruction of meaning. In the Read More ›

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Back view of businessman suit standing at office looking at night city through panoramic window. Generative AI

Her, Part One

The 2013 dystopian film proposes an intriguing "what if"

When I was reviewing the Orville, Season Three, I spent a lot of time complaining about the robot-love subplot which consumed far too much of the series. I will probably always find the idea of such a relationship ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean the concept can’t be explored in a thoughtful way. One such thoughtful exploration is the movie Her, where a man falls in love with his AI operating system. Unlike the Orville, which demands that the viewer take the relationship seriously, almost going so far as to call the viewer a bigot if they don’t get on board with the fantasy, Her leaves everything open-ended, treating the whole idea of a man and robot falling in love as Read More ›

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beautiful bunch cordyceps,mushrooms in neon light. The last of us style. Generative AI.

The Last of Us: Final Thoughts

The HBO series is a mixed bag but is still worth the watch

The Last of Us HBO series is a mixed bag. There are parts of this show I really liked and other parts I despised. The main trouble is that there are two full episodes which are completely irrelevant to the plot. Frankly, you could skip episodes three and seven and not miss a thing. These episodes are just fanfare for the critics and add nothing to the story. Particularly episode three. I’ve never seen such a random addition to a series. What’s so astounding is that the flashback in episode three keeps going. About halfway through, the viewer realizes that they really are going to have to watch these two old men live and die, all so Joel and Ellie Read More ›

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Snow capped forest in the Pyrenees

The Last of Us, Episodes 7 & 8

Another flashback for the critics followed by cannibalism

To be blunt, it’s probably best to merge the reviews of episodes seven and eight because episode seven is a complete waste of time. Basically, Ellie moves Joel to an abandoned house and tries to take care of him. He tells her she needs to go back to Tommy’s and let him die, and she almost does it, but then she has a flashback. During the commentary for episode seven, the writers mention that they wanted to make a connection between this flashback and Ellie’s decision to save Joel. But I think the truth is they were more interested in devoting another episode to fanservice for the critics. In this flashback, Ellie remembers Riley, her friend who was attacked with Read More ›

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Grand Tetons peak at sunrise with snake river overlook in Wyoming, US

The Last of Us, Episode 6

A tale of zombies and...communism?

Episode six starts out strong. We meet an elderly couple who has been living alone in Wyoming. Joel and Ellie break into their cabin and ask for directions in the rudest way possible—at gun point—which is a little over the top, and even the actors playing the couple seem to know it. As Joel sits beside the old pair, holding a gun and acting dour, the elderly man chats with him, sporting a bemused grin. Joel and Ellie get the directions they need and soon come across a group of men and women on horseback who hold them at gunpoint and check to see if they’re infected. Once it becomes clear that Joel and Ellie are fine, the riders ask Read More ›

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Concept art illustration of post-apocalyptic New York city

The Last of Us, Episode 4

After a derailing of the narrative, the actual plot makes a comeback

After a tough episode three, The Last of Us decides to return to the plot, and we see the writing quality improve somewhat. We pick up with Joel and Ellie driving down the road, and to be candid, the scenes are interesting. There was, however, one giant plot hole during this sequence I couldn’t ignore. It’s a little thing, but as someone who grew up in Missouri, I found it hilarious. So, while they are driving along, they come across a herd of bison. The subtext behind the camera shot is painfully obvious, “Now that man is gone, the buffalo have returned. Nature is healing!” Of course, what the camera crew failed to notice, or at least, what they were Read More ›

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Wallpaper of cordyceps fungi, realistic detail photo macro, illustration, like the movie the last of us,

The Last of Us, Episode 3 (Part I)

This episode serves as a bad omen when it comes to writers’ willingness to stick to the script

In episode two, Tess sacrifices herself after being bitten, and in episode three, we find Joel and Ellie grieving over her death. This scene is another example of the actors overplaying the anger when the tone should be more somber. Joel is hesitant to talk to Ellie until Ellie insists that Tess’s death wasn’t her fault, and that Joel and Tess made their own choices. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with the scene necessarily, but in the first two episodes, it’s already apparent that the HBO adaptation is having a difficult time establishing the father-daughter dynamic between Ellie and Joel that the game is known for. This scene only adds to that problem. However, this might not be an issue Read More ›