Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Fantasy landscape with fog, water and stone.

The Only Mad People In Dr. Strange’s Multiverse Are The Writers

We don’t know why Wanda has morphed into a villain or why good and evil have become morally equivalent

On our last delve into the Multiverse of Madness (2022), we followed Dr. Strange to Wanda Maximoff’s house. As the scene opens, it is clear that, controversially, Wanda has faced no repercussions for the events depicted in WandaVision. (2021). Tragically, Wanda has chosen to follow the words of the Dark hold — and those of us who watched WandaVision on Disney Plus will never get to see her struggle. So we don’t understand why she chose to listen to the words of the book. Nothing is accounted for. Wanda is just bad now, and we must accept it. Except — this is and isn’t true at the same time. On the one hand, the writers want us to understand that Read More ›

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businessman and technology

Sci-Fi Predictions for the Future That Really Happened

The 1950s was often right too. It may depend on how badly we need something to happen

Last week, we looked at a 1964 prediction of life in the 2020s that definitely did not happen: chimpanzees driving cars and doing housework. Back then, people who recognized that chimpanzees were intelligent seem to have known little about their natural characteristics. But in fairness, many predictions did come to pass, including the pocket-sized phone that could relay facial images, predicted in a 1956 magazine article: The journalist, Robert Beason, wrote about features such as touchtone dialing, video calling, voice recognition and small colour screens capable of being used as tiny televisions, built into compact devices. His interviewee, Harold Osborne, the retiring chief engineer of American Telephone & Telegraph also foresaw other common features of modern smartphones, such as quick Read More ›

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Doctor Strange is Coming

Do Life History or Moral Choices Matter in a Multiverse?

In this third part of my extended review of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I look at how characters suddenly alter with no accounting

Last week we covered the first scene of Multiverse of Madness (2022). This week, we’ll try to move a little faster. After a travesty of an opening scene, Doctor Strange wakes up from his dream about the multiverse just in time for his former girlfriend Christine’s wedding. Strange tries to be happy for her but it’s clear he’s not in a good humor. However, he doesn’t get to brood for long because a sudden attack from a random monster occurs in the city, and he flies off to save the day. During this fight, he discovers America Chavez. With some help from Wong, they manage to slay the monster and lead her to safety at a local restaurant… because, apparently, Read More ›

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Terrariums

Dartmouth Physicist Slams Matrix Idea That Life Is an Aliens’ Sim

A number of prominent people have taken philosopher Nick Bostrom’s idea that our universe is a computer sim seriously

Matrix fans, take heed: Dartmouth College physicist Marcelo Gleiser is not a fan of the idea that we are all living in a giant simulation created by intelligent aliens. He takes issue with it for ethical reasons as well as physics ones: “It is little more than a fancy excuse for escapist fantasizing.” Well, some prominent people in our world are escapists! That would include science broadcaster Neil deGrasse Tyson, driverless car entrepreneur Elon Musk, and former Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014), traces the idea that our universe is a computer simulation by advanced aliens to an influential 2003 paper by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute and Read More ›

Close up of a Chimpanzee-family (mother and her two kids)

Retro Future: In a 1960s Take on the 2020s, Chimps Do Our Chores

And drive cars. The Rand Corporation actually put out a video promoting the idea…

Our “past future” — that is, what people fifty or sixty years ago thought life would be like today — can be instructive and sobering. In 1964, the Rand Corporation put out the idea that by 2020, chimpanzees would be doing household tasks and (safely) driving cars. (The chimps are from 40 seconds to 110 seconds.) The idea that chimpanzees are just furry people must have been well entrenched in those days. It was during the same time period that some prominent scientists, including Frank Drake and Carl Sagan (1934–1996), were actively researching the idea of communicating intelligently with dolphins as well. But the sad reality is that efforts to integrate chimpanzees (and dolphins) into the human world have often Read More ›

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multiverse conceptual illustration

Dr. Strange’s Multiverse of Madness Features Infinite Problems

The extensive edits to Sam Rami’s work as a director have left it riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies

In my review last week, I ranted about the multiverse as a concept in storytelling, and how the Mouse has used it an excuse to turn Wanda Maximoff into a sorry shadow of her former self. If I could describe the problems overall with the movie in one word, that word would be laziness. The multiverse is used as an excuse for all kinds of incoherent nonsense. Before going into detail, it is important to note that Multiverse of Madness (2022) went through massive reshoots before its release. Film aficionados have said that, while there are hints of Sam Rami’s directing style, they were very few in number and it is evident that the edits to the film were extensive. Read More ›

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Parasaurolophus in the Forest - Two Parasaurolophus dinosaurs browse on foliage of the Montezuma Cypress tree as Cronopia mammals scrurry to safety.

Where We Stand Today With Jurassic Park

There have been a number of unexpected finds of from dinosaurs besides bones; some paleontologists dig hopefully

The recent find of a complete, well-preserved baby mammoth was greeted with gasps: She’s over 30,000 years old, and yet her preservation is astounding: She has her skin, her tiny tusk nubs, her toenails, and her little tail. She still has tufts of fur, and her trunk—with its prehensile tip—is complete and malleable. Looking at the initial photograph from where she was found at a Yukon gold mine, she looks like she only recently met her demise. Jeanne Timmons, “‘Gasps’ as Scientists Reveal Preserved Baby Woolly Mammoth” at Gizmodo (July 2, 2022) It’s easy to see why: And the find naturally renews questions about resurrecting much, much older extinct life forms through via recovered DNA. Never mind whether it’s a Read More ›

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Face in multiverse

Dr. Strange: Can the Multiverse Really Work as a Plot Device?

That’s a question Disney's Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness begs us to ask — though but the screenwriters’ answer might be disturbing

Before reviewing the movie in detail, I wound up writing this little prelude regarding the problem with the multiverse plot device in general. It spilled onto the page before I could stop it but then other viewers might be asking some of these same questions. Disney, or as I like to refer to this hell-spawn of a company, the Mouse, is at it again. Where is the Pied Piper when you need him? There are many bad movies in the world, but very rarely does one deserve the term, cinematic abomination. The last time I used that loathsome title, I was watching Luke Skywalker suck green milk from an alien walrus. What is the common factor between The Last Jedi Read More ›

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brown brick wall

New Military Technology Can “See” Through Walls

Military? How long before our nosy civilian neighbors have one?

Xaver 1000TM, a new gadget from Israel-based imaging specialist firm Camero, doesn’t provide a video of what’s going on behind the wall; it detects and pinpoints evidence of activity: The technology can display live objects, behind walls, in such high resolution that it can detect whether a person is sitting, standing, or lying down, even if they have been motionless for a significant period. Specific body parts are also detectable, the company said. Operating it is easy and requires minimal training, Shephard Media reported, and it only requires a single user to make use of a simple interface on an embedded 10.1-inch touchscreen display. It can penetrate through most common building materials, Camero-Tech said. Joshua Zitser, “New Israeli military technology Read More ›

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Alien Planet with Moons

Could Real Planets Be Like the Sci-Fi Ones?

The hive mind works well on Earth. Could global consciousness work on Pandora in Avatar (2009)?

Last month we looked at some really strange planets astronomers have discovered outside our solar system. Which prompts a question: Could some of the odd planets known to science fiction exist in the actual universe, given its laws? How about Tatooine from Star Wars which orbits “two scorching suns”? Part of a binary star system, the planet orbited two scorching suns, resulting in the world lacking the necessary surface water to sustain large populations. As a result, many residents of the planet instead drew water from the atmosphere via moisture farms. The planet also had little surface vegetation. It was the homeworld to the native Jawa and Tusken Raider species and of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, who would go on Read More ›

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AI, Machine learning, Hands of robot and human touching on big data network connection background, Science and artificial intelligence technology, innovation and futuristic.

Transcendence Review, Part 2: Spoonful of Water with the Nanotech

When Will — now an AI — “possesses” a tradesman so that he can touch his wife Evelyn again, Evelyn begins to have second thoughts…

Last Saturday, we reviewed reviewed the first half of Transcendence (2014); now, wrapping up, here are some final thoughts. Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) builds her now-AI husband Will (Johnny Depp) his facility, and he begins a variety of experiments using nanotech for rejuvenation. Things seem to be going well enough until a construction worker is mugged outside the facility. Will witnesses the mugging through the cameras and Evelyn has the man brought inside where Will heals his wounds using the tech developed on site. Things seem to be going well… at first. But two problems arise. First, Will allows a video of him healing the man to circulate so that he can attract others to the facility. Second, he puts a Read More ›

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Portrait of a man with pixel dispersion effect

Review: Transcendence — The Soul Meets the Singularity

In Part 1 of my review of the 2014 classic, we start with the question: Can a human mind be completely transferred to a computer?

Since Johnny Depp has been all over the news lately, this would be a great time to review his contribution to the world of sci-fi, Transcendence (2014), or as I like to call it, “Oh Great. Now, We Have to Kill the Internet.” The movie plays on two themes. First, there is the idea that futurist Ray Kurzweil calls the Singularity, a moment where AI surpasses humanity. Second, the movie explores two closely related questions: Is there a soul, and does this soul reside within the brain? Johnny Depp’s character, Will Caster, does not believe in the soul, but he does recognize that there is some unmapped region within biological life that allows a human to distinguish between right and Read More ›

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Time concept. Hi-res digitally generated image.

A Form of Time Travel That Might Be Possible…

In world of entropy, time runs in one direction and reversing it would create impossible contradictions. physicists say

Of the four dimensions, only time is mysterious. We can play games with the other three, the spatial dimensions — imagining, for example, 2- or even 1-dimensional universes, as in Flatland (1884). But in the end, they follow the rules. Time goes in one direction only and time travel — moving time in the other direction is easy to imagine in principle but full of nearly impossible conundrums in practice. Astrophysicists struggle to figure it out. Our brains are adapted to keeping track of the present (the experience of “now”) and the past (memory). But that only tells us how we come to be aware of time. It doesn’t tell us what time is. We get a bit closer, says Read More ›