Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagScience fiction

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Video camera lens

Sci-fi Saturday: What If a New Start in Life Were Two Pills Away?

Would you feel the same about suicide?

“Camgirl” at DUST by Jacob Schühle Lewis (March 9, 20:21) “Dee, disillusioned with life and working as a cam girl to make ends meet, helps a strange client, starting an unlikely friendship that might save them both.” A cam girl is a girl-next-door type for hire for viewing and chat sessions (not necessarily pornography or sex) for lonely people. The filmmaker requested a warning that the film depicts self-harm and suicide attempts and it is age-restricted. Given the declining mental health occasioned by the total lockdown response to COVID-19 in many places, vulnerable teens might indeed be best encouraged to watch something else. Meanwhile… You have to watch it here at YouTube because we can’t display it, due to the…

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Robot mirando al mundo

Sci-fi Saturday: In a World Run By Robots, a Bot Becomes a Joker

The dull, dystopian atmosphere of an Australia dominated by robots is well done and worth the watch

“System Error” at DUST by Matt Vesely/ Closer Productions (March 11, 2021, 13:12): From the director’s notes: More About “System Error”: Every day, George works his job at a dingy convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend – but George is also an immobile robotic service unit, and immobile robotic service units do not have friends. When human customer Sid tries to tell George a joke, the simple robot is baffled. So, he sets about editing his code to learn how to laugh… Review: It’s 54 years after an alien invasion and the world is dominated by advanced robotic technology. Everything seems run by robots, including a local convenience store in Australia where everything is under the control of a…

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Illustration: The Terrible Alien UFO Destroyer comes. The Combat Begins. Realistic Style. Scene / Wallpaper Design.

Sci-fi Saturday: Can an Alternative Universe Save a Lonely Girl?

A girl finds fighting space aliens easier than fighting a brain haemorrhage and a sense of guilt

“CARONTE” at DUST by Luis Tinoco (March 2, 2021, 14:04 min): “A self-absorbed teenager somehow contacts another universe after she’s injured in a car accident.” Language warning. The initial plot development is laudably clearer than that of many short DUST entries. Minimizing spoilers, it’s apparent early on that the heroine is not really a lieutenant in a space force. So what is happening in those scenes is happening either an alternative universe or all in her head. The characters are well imagined and portrayed and the real life scenes are deftly executed. The film ends as it must — not happily but inevitably, and with at least some sense of redemption. Quibble: There is way too much profanity. It gets…

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Nebula and stars in deep space, glowing mysterious universe. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Is Real-World Space Travel Just Too Daunting for ET?

That’s the Percolation Hypothesis as to why we don’t make contact with aliens. They can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can

Last week we looked at another reason that has been advanced, as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Science writer Matt Williams has been looking at the reasons (see the links below.) Last Saturday, we looked at the possibility that Earth is unusual in that it is a rocky planet whose intelligent inhabitants live on the surface. Many rocky planets and moons with icy surfaces may have interior oceans that harbor life.: In that case, intelligent life may not think of space exploration. Another hypothesis that Williams has examined is the Percolation Theory Hypothesis, that there are limits imposed by the laws of physics as to what intelligent life forms can do by way of…

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mysterious exotic exoplanet lit by a bright red star

Sci-fi Saturday: “This Planet Is Not in Our Co-ordinates”

A space courier crew gets a surprise when delivering a mysterious machine to a strange planet

“McPherson’s Toys” at DUST by Austin Charlesworth (Jan 23, 2021, 2:59 min): “Two anxious space couriers have to deliver an ominous package to an unfamiliar planet with unexpected results.” Animated. At only 3 min, this one is very short. It will give fast food staff time to prepare your burger. The space couriers find themselves on a planet not expected to be in their co-ordinates. The rest would make a great greeting card. Depending on how you react (the audience is mixed), that may be fun. The animation feels a bit old-fashioned but many viewers will like that. Perfect for nostalgia. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci-fi Saturday: A future where dreams have been privatized Unfortunately,…

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Road in dark forest

Sci-fi Saturday: A Future Where Dreams Have Been Privatized

Unfortunately, the dream Carlos wants is to see his missing family again and that's illegal …

“I Dream” at DUST by Juan Pablo Arriagada (February 20, 2021, 14.25 min, Spanish with English subtitles) “In the future, dreams have been privatized. Carlos will risk anything to have one last dream to see his missing family.” Severe language and violence warning. It’s an interesting concept: “It was just a matter of time before dreams became privatized and became a basic service. Only rich people can afford to dream. The people who can’t pay for it must work double shifts. Or buy this drug that makes them stay awake. And, by the way, it’s made by the same people that privatized sleep.” Carlos, an ex-cop whose family went missing, can afford one last dream in which he wants to…

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wooden toy model sitting on a bench

Sci-Fi Saturday: When Virtual Friends Are a Real Addiction

This animated short begins with the thirtieth birthday party of a rather glum young man

“Best Friend” at DUST by Nicholas Olivieri, Shen Yi, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair, David Feliu (Feb 16, 2021, 5:31) “In a near future, a lonely man is addicted to a product called Best Friend which offers him perfect virtual friends.” As is hinted in the title (so this is not a spoiler), we suddenly learn — via an effective plot maneuver — that all of the partying friends are virtual realities. I had already begun to wonder about the animated objects cheering along with the crowd but then maybe in the future our kitchenware will have enthusiasms … But no. It’s all in his head, as long as he keeps replenishing the supply of a chemical cocktail to a…

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Glowing yellow implant inside human head. Uses: medical, alien, future tech where monitoring and transmission of  biotelemetry is involved.

Sci-Fi Saturday: Watch What You Wish For. There IS a Tomorrow!

Carl, a lonely guy, is determined to proceed through the warning and try the Luvsik procedure, to make him fall in love at first sight

“Luvsik” at DUST by Norman Bertolino (February 29, 2021,5:00) “A man has a medical procedure done to experience love for the first time.” This short short starts out with a parody promo video for an off-standard medical treatment. It’s just the sort of promo that should — but alas, often doesn’t — send prospective patients fleeing back to their cars, then the freeway. So we know that, if Carl is unfazed, he is pretty serious about finding love. It’s also a clever way of providing the science basis for the story. No spoilers but Carl, the guy who wants the brain implant to cause him to fall in love at first sight, is told that in every case where the…

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Comb Jellyfish in the dark

Sci-Fi Saturday: We Have Met the Aliens and They Are Comb Jellies

The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined

Or something. Here’s “Seedling” at DUST, an Irish entry by Michael Donnelly V and Stevie Russell (October 22, 2020, 08:14 min) “Amidst a huge storm, a couple experience an encounter with an alien species.” The opening scene, showing a complete failure of technology (electricity, radio, telephone, car) and the resulting emotional collapse of the female lead, is a stark reminder of how dependent we are on technology today. A thousand years ago, no one would have noticed that anything was wrong, apart from a rather violent storm (which some might attribute to witchcraft, others to sin). The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined. It is not remotely what we might have expected (although there are life…

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A black cat plays with a robotic vacuum cleaner that cleans the floor.pet playing with robot vacuum cleaner

Sci-fi Saturday: The Disabled Robot Vet Gets a Job Grooming Cats

Definitely worth your five minutes, in part in order to see what cartoonists can do in sci-fi with animated stills.

“A Robot is a Robot” at DUST by Danish cartoonists Emil Friis Ernst and Nilas Røpke Driessen (February 2, 2021, 05:49 min) tells a tale: “A disabled robot war veteran finds its home among humans in the tender care of an old lady, and her hair salon for cats.” The story is told, intriguingly, as a series of cartoon stills and animated stills, beginning with the robot veteran begging on the sidewalk, whereupon the old lady takes him in. The robot floats on a single wheel and has a body like a metal tea cozy — a nice change from the more “android” type. She employs the robot to groom cats, who seem to appreciate his work, until he encounters…

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Newton's Cradle with red ball

Sci-fi Saturday: A Girl With Kinetic Powers Faces a Choice

Should she help relatives with activities she knows to be wrong?

“Kinetic” at DUST by Kylie Eaton (February 4, 2021, 05:05 min) “When Aunt Drea solicits her help with criminal activities, young Jess’s emotions spin out of control, releasing powers she’d rather keep hidden.” This “short” short film is well executed. The rural ambience is quite realistic. But “Kinetic” breaks a fundamental rule of sci-fi. For sci-fi to be a classification in art or literature, the key requirement is that the powers or circumstances must have a basis in science. None is offered here except the assertion that the girl inherited the powers from her mother and grandmother. That’s a viable idea in tales of the supernatural but not in science fiction. We have not established how the kinetic powers came…

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Asteroid near Earth

Sci-fi Saturday: An Asteroid Lingers Near Earth and Devours Time

Or, at any rate, it devours our perception of time, as one man discovers

“Flyby,” a short sci-fi film at DUST by Jesse Mittelstadt (January 28, 2021 13:22 min) “When a passing asteroid begins to affect how people perceive time, one man struggles to keep up with a life that is quickly disappearing into the future.” Note: Language and mature scenes warning. When watching the opening sequence of “Flyby,” it’s hard not to think of space cigarillo Oumuamua, for which Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb made the case that it was an extraterrestrial lightsail. Loeb has recently published a book on these and similar reflections, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (January 26, 2021). Back to the film, which takes quite a different tack, of course, addressing altered perceptions…

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Safety equipment, Life buoy or rescue buoy floating on sea to rescue people from drowning man.

Sci-fi Saturday: Rescuing Lost People

Animated, in French, with English subtitles, but don't let that deter you

Here’s a very new (January 26, 2021), very short (5:41 min) animated video from Valérie Bousquie, Joséphine Meis, Côme Roy, Antoine Vignon, and Benjamin Warnitz. In a wild an inhabited desert, a team of rangers is in charge of rescuing people who got lost there. The film is in French with English subtitles (and the promo copy could have used an English-speaking editor). It’s not clear why it is science fiction and I found the story a little hard to understand. But the professional relationships sound pretty real and make it worth the watch. Note: Someone reviewed the film at Filmnosis, commenting, “Staged in a desert, a lot of work has been dedicated to environment and character design, polished framing,…

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Walking difficulties. Aged bearded man leaning on his walking stick while thinking about his helplessness

Sci-fi Saturday: A Robot Helps an Old Fellow Rediscover Life

The robot is very well done and how he gets a name is charming

The short sci-fi film, “This Time Away” (13:23) is by Magali Barbe Nigel is an elderly man living as a recluse, haunted by his past and memory of the family he once had, until an unexpected visitor arrives and disrupts his lonely routine. No spoiler, the visitor is a robot, abandoned by children in his back yard. The relationships seem a bit unrealistic. Lots of people abandon their elderly relatives, of course. But we are being asked to believe that a robot was the big solution. In this case, it feels like magic. Well, watch it and see what you think. The robot is done really nicely. Worth watching. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci-fi Saturday:…

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Grownup daughter soothe aged mother holds her hand feeling empathy

Sci-fi Saturday: What If an Old Man Could See His Mother Again?

It is a hard film to watch if you lost a loved one, but worthwhile

A bit sad but worth seeing. (4:01 min from Nick Naum & Csaba Nagy) An old man, with a receding memory, pays to view synthetic recreations of his mother and childhood. I had a hard time watching this film because I would so like to see my parents (who died in their nineties) again, especially when they were young. But I can tell you this: My father once got a call from the country for old men. In case you ever wondered, yes, it’s real. It’s too bad if some people are scamming about it. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet,…

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Artificial intelligence and future technologies. Mixed media

Researchers: It Would Be Impossible To Control Super AI

But is superintelligent AI really possible? Some experts are skeptical

From the media release for a recent paper: The idea of artificial intelligence overthrowing humankind has been talked about for many decades, and scientists have just delivered their verdict on whether we’d be able to control a high-level computer super-intelligence. The answer? Almost definitely not. The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that super-intelligence which we can analyse. But if we’re unable to comprehend it, it’s impossible to create such a simulation. David Nield, “Calculations Show It’ll Be Impossible to Control a Super-Intelligent AI” at Science Alert The open access research study is here. First, the idea that machines can design smarter machines should be treated with skepticism: maybe we are…

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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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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…