Category Archives: Machines / gadgets / technology / games

The Age of Moonshot Ideals?

It is hopeless to try to guess at how the future will judge us. We are in the thick of things, and we don’t know what will emerge as important or significant over time. Events that seem to us exciting … Continue reading

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Robots and responsibility

[Another excerpt from Reality (a primer)] What worries many people about being told that the mind isn’t distinct from the body is what that might mean for human freedom and responsibility. If I create a robot that comes over and … Continue reading

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Achieving Star Trek

Culture is an engine that transforms food into ideas. Individual bodies are responsible for turning food into energy, but it takes a mind to create ideas, and a mind is possible only in a community. Just as a body requires … Continue reading

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Being obducted into other worlds

I have been sucked into the latest game made by the Myst people, Obduction. I’m about a third of the way through, but the premise seems to be that there are four or five worlds existing in the same space … Continue reading

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Brains and typewriters

Aristotle was not aware of any mind/body problem. He understood that all (well, almost all) of the things we do with our minds are capacities of the human body. “Thinking is something a human does” – what is especially problematic … Continue reading

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Brave New World

Reading Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future (Viking, 2016). Kelly is one of the founding editors of Wired, and this book is about the promise of emerging technologies to, well, shape our … Continue reading

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Energy, culture, and Civilization

I only recently came across the ideas of Leslie White (1900-1975). White was an American anthropologist who developed a mathematical model for civilization. Civilization, or Culture, according to White, is a product of Energy and Technology (C = E x … Continue reading

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Brainwashing, the Red Scare, and the Turing Test

I just came across this brilliant lecture, “Imitation Games: Conspiratorial Sciences and Intelligent Machines,” given recently by Simon Schaffer. I’ve noted Schaffer’s work before on early automata. Here he extends his interest in our fascination with automata to post-WWII paranoia. … Continue reading

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Star Wars awakens

(No spoilers) Star Wars came out in 1977, and I was 12 years old, which means it hit me the way a T-16 can bull’s-eye womp rats (at least with the right pilot). I remember Nixon resigning, and I remember … Continue reading

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The Cyborg of Practical Wisdom

The biggest struggle my fellow modern-day cyborgs and I face is to create a virtual reality that connects more wholesomely with the human part of our nature. The artificial reality we currently plug into is a Terry Gilliam nightmare. Too … Continue reading

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What they needed

Then – without warning, without prelude, without even a minute to try to wrap a terrestrial head around the idea – Earth found itself in the middle of a galactic war. It was like neanderthals finding themselves on the beach at Normandy. … Continue reading

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The Magical Dimensions of the Globe

There’s a particularly good episode of Doctor Who (“The Shakespeare Code”) wherein the Doctor and Martha visit Shakespeare and save the world from a conspiracy of witches. The witches’ plan is to take possession of Shakespeare and force him to write … Continue reading

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Multitasking and multipurposing

The other day was entirely typical, but I paused to consider the wonder of it all. I was trading moves back and forth with a friend playing Civilization. I was the American civilization under Roosevelt, and because of some luck … Continue reading

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Worlds of Terry Gilliam and M. C. Escher

I recently had the chance to watch Terry Gilliam’s film, The Zero Theorem. I gather that some have called it the final piece of the Brazil trilogy (following Twelve Monkeys), and that makes some sense: in all three films, we … Continue reading

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Automata of our own making

[Currently reading Minsoo Kang, Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: the Automaton in the European Imagination (Harvard UP, 2011).] Human beings groove on creating things in which they can see themselves. Mirrors, of course – but also cave paintings, sculptures, plays, … Continue reading

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