» Futurism
  
Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

What Are The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 1950s?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s series exploring the development of science fiction by decade: The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910sThe 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s,  The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s, and What Were the Most Significant Science Fiction Stories of the 1940s?

Although the decade of the 1940s is rightly referred to as the golden age of science fiction, the 1950s were hardly less so given the heady mix of veteran authors and new writers of the next generation. Cordwainer Smith, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. Van Vogt, and Arthur C. Clark would all continue to produce new stories, each one it seemed, destined to be a classic in the field.

Meanwhile, new writers like Roger Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, Richard Matheson, Harry Harrison, and Brian Aldiss would all have their first stories published in the 1950s, many pointing away from the hard science that occupied the attention of their predecessors and toward the social sciences that would concern much of SF in the next decade.

But that was still years in the future. At the start of the 1950s, outer space and other planets and alien life forms were still the primary concern of science fiction with a surprising amount of it finding its way onto celluloid with impressive adaptations of stories like Joseph W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” as The Thing From Another World and Harry Bates’ “Farewell to the Master” as The Day the Earth Stood Still, both from 1951.

Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers, filmed as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956, and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds came in 1953. Robert A. Heinlein’s “Rocketship Galileo” filmed as Destination Moon arrived in 1950 and 1955 offered This Island Earth, based on the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones.

Then there were the films based on original treatments by established SF authors such as Heinlein’s Project Moonbase and Bradbury’s It Came From Outer Space.

Finally, such impressive films as Forbidden Planet, with no visible connection with any established science fiction writer, seemed to prove that Hollywood, if not the rest of the world outside the small pond of literary SF, was finally getting it.

The Demise of Pulp Magazines

At the same time, the seedbed of modern science fiction, the pulp magazine, was becoming a vanishing breed. Its demise was determined, at first with increased cancellations of such venerable magazines as Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, and then their shrinking dimensions and page count, and finally the triumph of the paperback original that restored the primacy of the novel over the short story.

At first, SF writers began by collecting and interconnecting short stories or expanding serials they’d written for the magazines to fill out the pages needed for paperback publication, but, by the end of the decade, they were choosing to write original novels intended for first publication directly as paperbacks.

The trend would signal the end of the SF magazine’s place at the center of the science fiction movement and eventually relegated them to backwater status. Established writers would soon dominate the limited page count in an ever-decreasing number of magazines leaving far less room than in previous years for new writers to establish themselves.

In the new world of paperback books, SF veteran A.E. Van Vogt led the charge in 1950 with The Voyage of the Space Beagle, a groundbreaking novel composed of four previously published short stories. It follows the adventures of a huge ship on a deep-space exploratory mission and the philosophical and political battles that take place among the crew.

The next year, John Wyndham’s apocalyptic Day of the Triffids was released in the United States. It tells the tale of a world where everyone is blinded by a meteor shower while having to deal with rampaging carnivorous plants called triffids. Its end-of-the-world setting inspired a whole sub-genre of disaster stories dealing with everything from the earth falling into the sun to earthquakes to out of control grass!

Following in Van Vogt’s footsteps, Ray Bradbury also took a number of previously published stories and debuted The Martian Chronicles in 1950 but it wasn’t until 1953 that his first original novel appeared (and arguably the one that made him a household name): Fahrenheit 451. Based on a number of previously published stories, the novel was nevertheless a paperback original about a dystopian future in which books were banned and firemen were assigned to burn them wherever they were found.

Also published in 1953 was Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore. Influential as one of the first of the alternate history sub-genre that would become hugely popular in later decades, Moore’s book is about Hodge Backmaker who lives in a world where the Confederacy won the Civil War. Managing to travel back in time, he revisits Gettysburg, the scene of the South’s greatest victory. But in arriving in the past, Backmaker changes history and becomes stranded in the new timeline: our own!

After building a reputation as a short story writer, up-and-comer Richard Matheson broke through into novels early with 1954′s I Am Legend. Adapted into film at least three times, and arguably the inspiration for the end of the world zombie fad that has swept movies and television, the book details a future in which everyone on Earth has turned into a vampire except Robert Neville. Eventually, Neville is captured by the vampires who are evolving into a new race who resent and fear him. Preparing for his death, Neville comes to the realization that as the last surviving human on Earth, he has become a legend to its inheritors.

Perhaps not strictly SF, the setting of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (published in 1957) takes place in the near future as America’s industrialists are hounded from society by an oppressive government to wait within a secret sanctuary for the day when society falls apart and their talents for invention and organization are needed again.

Concurrent with science fiction’s breakout into book publication, magazine SF was still a going concern through most of the 1950s even as many titles began to shrink to digest size towards the end of the decade. There, many of the authors who have since become giants in the field continued to hone their craft and offer their readers incredible worlds of imagination.

Among them was Alfred Bester whose “Demolished Man” was serialized in Galaxy Magazine in 1952. Again, hugely influential, its tale of murder in a world where the police can read minds was followed in 1956 by the author’s next big entry, “The Stars My Destination.”

Also serialized, this time in 1955 issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, was Walter M. Miller’s “A Canticle For Leibowitz,” a tale of an apocalyptic future wherein the monks of the Albertian Order of Liebowitz work to preserve knowledge of the past through a new Dark Age.

What all of these serials have in common is that they were eventually gathered into novel format as was true for Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Soldier.” First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1959 and eventually gathered between covers as the better known Starship Troopers.

But all good things come to an end and the conclusion of classical SF was in sight as the 1960s dawned and a new breed of writers would emerge with different concerns than their elders from the golden age. They would set the stage for the eventual fragmentation, watering down, and dissolution of the field resulting in its being overrun by fantasy, television adaptations, endless book series, and space Marine warfare. With few exceptions, the great, mind-blowing ideas that had marked SF’s rise in the 1940s and 50s would come less frequently and then eventually just come to a halt.

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

The Future of Civilized Society: One World

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “

In more dystopian moods, it is easy to agree with David Gelernter and other esteemed analysts that the future of civilized society moves away from nationalism and toward globalism.

Even when in a hopeful frame of mind, it is hard to see a future where borders demark true nations, cultures differentiate, and international relationships of enmity, accord, and alliance in constant flux survive the One World homogenization of humankind.

H.G. Wells’ prescient novel The Time Machine can be interpreted instructively when envisioning a globalist world.

In Wells’ classic, grotesque Morlocks exchanged for their captive Eloi masses relative safety and equalitarian comfort, as prelude to a final solution (Elois as Morlock food).

With Morlocks at the top of a denationalized globe, everything will be on the One World table, and precious little will be on anyone else’s table.

On planet Earth in 2070, the nationalistic lifeblood of our species may well have been drained away by centralized, authoritarian governance.

With no meaningful borders, no nationalistic instincts surviving, the globe will be comprised of regionalized clumps of loosely aggregated peoples, who call a family home, and call a house home, but have no nation.  A planet of exiles, rootless but for the whims of procreation and geography.

Eskimos still populate the Arctic Circle, but they are less Native Americans than contemporary Cro-Magnons, with electric heat and Sno-cats, under the yoke of something so far distant as to be mythical—until you make the wrong move.

Frenchmen still revere the Eiffel Tower, Frenchmen-in-name-only.

As unchecked in-migration globalizes Europe from within, encircled Israel invites Jews to make pilgrimage to the seat of Judeo-Christianity, and the Third World overwhelms the United States, the last voices for nationalistic life on Earth will not simply become marginalized. They become Morlock food.

What is now the European Union becomes the Hemispheric Union, answerable to a World Union ruled by progressive, anti-nationalistic “states-people,” subversive Machiavellians, and grand planners like Jonathan Gruber. Three heroes of the history of the march to globalism: President Barack Obama, Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and the aforementioned Gruber, to name a few.

For nationalist die-hards, “Going, Galt” will be an option-in-extremis.

Godless oligarchs, bolstered by globe-spanning enforcement arms, (let’s just call them Morlocks), will control markets, infrastructures, institutions, and the modes of inescapable surveillance. Pockets of resistance will come under the jurisdiction of entities with the power to bleed-out “neo-patriots” who opt to go down fighting for whatever flag they fly, on whatever hill they are willing to die on.

The panoply of national flags themselves becomes quaint memorabilia, emblematic of a time when humans organized themselves territorially under variant symbolic imagery. The stars and bars, as viewed by the enlightened group-think of the globalists, may well be presented in the history books (assuming Old Glory survives them) sans irony beside the Nazi swastika and the Soviet hammer and sickle.

All will be congregated under one image, brainstormed by the mid-millennial heirs of Gruber, vetted by committees for whom nationalistic identification has become a Neanderthal vestige, and unveiled by whatever alarming potentate or de facto death panel first mounts the throne of globalist dominance.

George Orwell’s 1984 triumvirate of Big Brother truths–war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength–will break down like: There is only one real seat of power; regional conflicts are treated as tribal warfare, and allowed to play out or be snuffed out as befits the grand design. The only real wars, which won’t last long, will be when the World government moves to suppress forces that would restore a nationalistic society.

The truly free will be hunted, and the masses propagandized by the everlastingly repeated deconstruction of the old countries, as ancient now as cave paintings, and the everlastingly repeated atheist prayer that the New Order is the new illumination of life on Earth.

Ignorance is valued when religion falls and nation states die off. It will be deemed counterproductive to remember a time when a nation was something to pledge allegiance to, to fight for, and to love.

It is countercultural conservatism’s job, and the job of all patriots looking to preserve their countries, to keep an eagle-eye on the twin heralds of One World: multiculturalism and diversity.

There’s a difference between when global culture is being celebrated, and being foisted.

There is a place for the acknowledgement and even celebration of myriad world cultures, but there is no place for slick, subliminal messaging aimed at convincing us that the world is one big happy family, and that the best way to live life on Earth is to abandon the thought that there is anything special about our homelands.

End Times believers worry that the black hole of Revelations is nigh, and that the Return is imminent. (So, repent.) But even if unthinkable weapons are let loose by ancient enemies, God forbid, some globalists, like the underground Morlocks, will survive.

When they emerge from the rubble of the nation states, there will form a new consensus. That consensus will criminalize nationalism, abolish identification with all but one flag, and use Armageddon to justify the propagation of One World: “Imagine” devoid of John Lennon, without the national pride that the hungry Morlocks wiped off the face of the earth.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the seventeenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

Read bullet | Comments »

What Is the Future of Religion?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

Science! It’s given us lasers and spaceships and explained the many great mysteries of life, like what is the sun, where does lightning come from, and what’s the deal with platypuses? Every day, the men in the lab coats tease out more secrets from this universe, and technology solves more of our problems (remember back in the day, when if you were lost in the woods, you couldn’t pull out your phone and quickly look up the filmography of the guy who played Balki in Perfect Strangers?).

So as we go into a future with robots and a greater knowledge of quantum physics, what exactly do we need thousands-of-years-old texts on morality for?

That’s my question: What is the future of religion?

As part of my novel, Superego, I take a look at religion hundreds of years in the future, when mankind has spread throughout the universe and interacted with numerous other sentient lifeforms. And this is all viewed through the lens of the protagonist, Rico, who is a coldly rational, conscienceless psychopath (though probably still not as irritating an atheist as Richard Dawkins). From his perspective, Rico finds faith to be a rather odd thing, as people can — and often do — just decide to believe in any nonsense they, for some reason, find appealing.

But as society advances in technology and knowledge, will we still hold on at all to what many consider superstitions of old? Frankly, I can’t remember ever seeing the Jetsons attend church. Plus, to many people science is increasingly replacing the need for religion. We can now understand the world through rational thought… and even people not that good at rational thought love science — there are things like the “I f-ing love science!” Facebook group basically turning science into a fetish of dumb people.

Science certainly seems more exciting than some ancient texts that don’t even mention T. rexes or black holes.

So maybe our future will be one where we only look to science for answers (“Oh, Men of the White Coat, tell us what to believe, and it shall be believed!”). We will be beings of pure logical thought with no need for the vagaries of religion.

The only problem is that people don’t work that way. Even as a child, I saw how the idea of a purely logical being like Spock (R.I.P.) was in fact illogical, because while logic is a great tool for solving problems, it never tells you what problems to solve.

From a purely detached standpoint, neither working hard at a career to be successful nor curling up in a hole to die is a more logical thing to do than the other until you add some values to the equation (for instance, how much you treasure money versus good old hole-sleeping). And values do not come from logic but from the irrational parts of our minds. And it’s that irrational drive that causes people to create and build things, and something purely logical like a computer is rather useless until one of us irrational idiots starts mashing its keyboard to either write some code or comment on a YouTube video.

Read bullet | 77 Comments »

What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

Imagine it’s the future. You have your jet pack, your laser gun, your robot butler, your much smaller or much bigger phone (I don’t really get what direction phones are going right now). The music of kids these days is awful beyond all human comprehension. No one celebrates Earth Day anymore because we’ve found much better planets more worth celebrating and live on those. So do you see yourself there, in the future? Now I want you to answer one question: What does your tax bill look like?

That’s my question today: What is the future of government? Hi, I’m Frank J. Fleming. You might remember me from a bunch of political humor writing and a great peace plan that involves nuking only one natural satellite, but now I’m also a science fiction author. Liberty Island has published my first novel, Superego, which is a heartwarming story about a genetically engineered psychotic hitman who accidentally becomes a hero, falls in love, and, of course, kills lots of people. My intention in writing the novel was for it to be a fun action-adventure, but I explore a lot of themes in the novel that seem worth discussing. And one of the themes is what could happen to government in the future.

Now, anyone who knows how to use a calculator does not predict a great future for the U.S. government, but I’m not talking about specific governments here (like whether a thousand years from now there will still inexplicably be a Canada). I’m talking about the nature of government in general and how that might evolve.

When you think of a future government, probably the first thing that pops into your mind is the Federation in Star Trek. Another might be the Empire from Star Wars, but I said we’re talking about government in the future, and the Empire is from a long time ago. Anyway, the Federation is a more left-wing, highly organized type of government. And what do all the ships in the Federation have? Phasers and proton torpedos — because if you’re going to go around the galaxy telling people what to do, you’re going to need them.

The Federation reflects a problem with our current model of government and why it might not last into the future. That’s because it’s still based on a rather primitive notion: I’m bigger than you, so you have to do what I say. The first government was probably the largest guy in the tribe ruthlessly enforcing the rule that no one could make fun of his fancy leader hat, and then things escalated from there.  In a way, government is a more civilized way of putting a gun to someone’s head to make them do something — whether those edicts come from a democratically elected government or a single guy with a fancy leader hat. The reason most people obey laws — even really asinine ones — is that they know the government is big and can hurt them if they don’t. We don’t see something like passing a tax on cigarettes as a violent act, but that’s what Eric Garner got killed over. If the government is interested in enforcing a law, it will have to resort to using violence if someone does not comply. And the progressive vision of the future of government is that we will be threatened with violence over more and more things, like if we don’t buy health insurance or if our soda is too large.

In Superego, man has spread out to countless planets and interacts with numerous other sentient species, all with their own laws and customs. There are also spaceships that allow nearly instantaneous travel across the galaxy, which means someone could commit a crime on one planet and quickly get to some place where the government has no jurisdiction. The scope of the universe’s population has basically gotten too big for a traditional centralized government, meaning government can’t enforce much and thus becomes rather feckless — like a space Europe. This leaves a vacuum that is filled by ruthless criminal syndicates — organizations that don’t worry about borders or jurisdiction and rule wherever they’re strong enough to enforce their will. Which leads to an interesting side question about government: How is an organization like a mafia different from a traditional government, if at all?

So that’s what I see: Government just won’t work in the future. Eventually the scope of humanity (and perhaps alien-ity) will get so big that governments will either become irrelevant or will have to become extremely ruthless to keep enforcing their will. And, anyway, is our vision of the future really that the only way people can live together is if we have this big entity threatening us with fines and imprisonment over millions and millions of different things? Instead I think our future  — at least the one we should aim for — is using our advances in technology and our knowledge to find more ways people can work together voluntarily. We’ll always need punishments for theft and violence, but perhaps we can find ways to work together and provide for the poor and needy without all the threats over non-violent actions, such as how we choose to run our own lives or our own businesses. It does seem like a nicer, more peaceful future than our current arc.

So along with my rocket ships and genetically engineered miniature T. rex, I see little to no tax bill at all.

What do you think is the future of government?

Join the discussion on Twitter. And submit your answer to Frank’s question for publication at PJ Lifestyle: DaveSwindlePJM [AT] Gmail.com

*****

The essay above is the beginning of the second volume in the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014

January 2015

February 2015

Read bullet | 43 Comments »

Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.

But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?

Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:

America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…

While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?

… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.

The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?

The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.

Read bullet | 22 Comments »

15 Things Back to the Future II Predicted for 2015

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Paul Cooper

Back in 1989, Americans marveled at what the year 2015 might look like in the popular film Back to the Future II.  The second installment in the time-traveling trilogy focused heavily on Marty McFly and his girlfriend being taken by their pal Doc Brown 30 years into the future and seeing what life was going to be like.

Well, 2015 has arrived. What predictions did the filmmakers get right? What did they get wrong? Here are 15 things Back to the Future II predicted would happen by 2015. You’ll find some predictions were eerily accurate while many others were way off.

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

Why the Chance of Life on Mars Went Up

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
(Not an actual depiction of Mars.)

(Not an actual depiction of Mars.)

The chances are still slim of there being life on the Red Planet, but they’re better than they were last year:

A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday.

Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months.

For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.

“It is one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider as we go forward,” said John P. Grotzinger, the mission’s project scientist.

The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them.

Let the terraforming begin.

****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | 6 Comments »

It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MATH

There’s (almost) an app for that:

I’ve seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone’s camera at them. It’s like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again.

****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

Would You Ever Buy a Robot For Your Home?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Read bullet | Comments »

Robot Cheetah Sounds Like An Animated TV show For Grownups, But No

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Via Gizmodo:

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.

The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.

I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.

*****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | Comments »

Man Loses Half His Skull. 3D Printing Gives Him the Lost Half Back

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

3D printing is incredibly disruptive technology. It has already impacted the debate over guns. Researchers are using it to recreate antique musical instruments.

At 3DPrint.com, they have the story of a Chinese man who lost half of his skull in a fall. 3D printing will give him that half of his skull back.

The 46-year-old was working at his construction job one day when he fall three stories to the ground. The fall left him disfigured, as if he had a large dent in the side of his head.

Surgion [sic] MaoGuo Shu, of Xijing Hospital, who has seen a vast array of head and skull injuries, says that cases like Hu’s are very rare, and finding a solution to fix the damaged skull is very complex and difficult. To try and come up with a solution, the hospital brought in dozens of experts in the field. What they came up with was an idea for a 3D printed titanium mesh which would cover Hu’s brain and help make his skull look normal again. Thankfully for Hu, he won’t have to pay a dime for the surgery, as the hospital is covering the cost, and an American company, Stryker has agreed to pay for the 3D printing and materials used in the printing process.

The titanium printed mesh should return his skull to his normal shape over time. His brain, which was badly damaged in the fall leaving Hu unable to talk and write, might regenerate itself, according to the doctors.

******

cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

Read bullet | Comments »

The Next Big Player in the Drone Wars?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MR ROBOTO

Japan:

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.

Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.

Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | Comments »

There’s a Tricorder App for That

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
This is you in 2017.

This is you in 2017.

Star Trek is coming to your iPhone:

Accidentally slicing into an unripe avocado or trying to guess the nutritional value of a restaurant meal might soon be problems of the past thanks to SCiO, a pocket-sized spectrometer that lets users analyze the molecular structure of anything from food to plants — even the human body — and view the results on their iPhone.

Consumer Physics, SCiO’s creators, promise a Star Trek-like experience with the device. Users can point the Zippo-sized scanner at an avocado, for example, and find out how ripe the fruit is without touching or peeling it.

SCiO could be used to analyze a plate of food to determine its caloric and fat content, making meal tracking easier. It might also help users ensure their medication is authentic, or check soil conditions and alert gardeners that their plants aren’t receiving enough water.

$299 might seem like a steep buy-in, but that’s just for the first-generation model. There will be newer models and knockoffs for $99 within a couple of years, at which point the Tricorder SCiO becomes almost as ubiquitous as smartphones are.

*****
Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | Comments »

The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

104163

President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?

tumblr_meoasoftn81rw2uyvo1_500

Read bullet | 33 Comments »

As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Theodore Dalrymple

shutterstock_114133954

There is nothing quite as difficult to predict as the future. In my lifetime I have already lived through an “inevitable” ice age that never materialized and “inevitable” mass starvation (through overpopulation) that also never happened. When I was in Central America I remember reading a book called Inevitable Revolutions by the historian Walter LaFeber, but more than a quarter of a century later the inevitable still had not taken place. By now, according to predictions, most of us should have been dead from AIDS, that is if variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Ebola virus had not got us first. The repeated failure of confident predictions is therefore almost enough to make one sceptical of dire visions of the future. Only the sheer pleasure of contemplating catastrophe to come keeps the market for apocalypses alive.

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.

The article states that “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.” Similar results have been obtained elsewhere. In the light of this unexpected and unpredicted trend, estimates of the prevalence of dementia in England have had to be revised downwards by 24 percent. The burden of the elderly on the economy will therefore not be as great as was feared.

What accounts for the decline in the prevalence of dementia?

Read bullet | 22 Comments »

So, Who’s Ready for a Sky Full of Amazon Drones?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

amazon-primeair
60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.

Charlie Rose: This is?

Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.

Charlie Rose: Yeah?

Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.

Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?

Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.

Charlie Rose: Wow!

Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.

Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.

Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.

Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?

Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.

Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…

Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…

Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?

Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.

Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.

Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.

Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?

Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…

Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.

This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.

The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.

When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.
****

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

Read bullet | 16 Comments »

Debate: Death to the New Deal! Screw Social Security!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Dear Ron,

I thought it fitting to select Halloween as the day for a brief entry into the debate about whether conservatives should surrender and just accept the permanence of the Democrats’ unconstitutional welfare state. I have three points for your consideration.

1. The Welfare State Is a Zombie and It Can Be Killed.

My position is straightforward: I’m with Andy 100% and believe that conservatives must work over the coming decades to disassemble the federal government’s unconstitutional welfare state. This is an entirely reasonable, achievable goal. See James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus’s America 3.0 for the blueprint. They call the shrinking of the federal government and rebalancing of powers between the states “the big haircut.” See my review from a few weeks ago: On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

2. My Generation Is Never Going to See a Damn Dime of the Social Security that’s Being Unwillingly Extracted From Us By Force of Imprisonment.

What kind of technology will America have come the 2020s, 2030s, 2040s? I tend to embrace the Ray Kurzweil model that predicts such things as artificial intelligence smarter than man in 2028. It won’t be until the 2050s when the first millennials are ready for where Social Security is set at today. Who is going to genuinely claim that Social Security will still be needed with the technology of decades from now making everything in the economy infinitely cheaper and lifespan expanding?

3. Charles Krauthammer Is Not All That Well-Known Outside of our Political Bubble and Amongst Those Who Don’t Watch Fox News.

Plenty of your commenters jumped on you for this one and I’ll pile on too:

Dr. Krauthammer is, as I am certain all PJM readers know, America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman for conservatism.

These days just about the only conservative media spokesman (who wasn’t a major politician at some point) that the non-politically obsessed can name is Rush Limbaugh. And maybe Ann Coulter too thanks to all her Today show type appearances where she says the right things to provoke the postmodern progressives.

But you’re half-right. Krauthammer is America’s most well-known and highly regarded spokesman, but it’s not of just overall “conservatism,” a role held for decades by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Read bullet | 70 Comments »

Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Florida Project

Less than two months before his death from lung cancer, Walt Disney wrapped production on a short film detailing his plans for the 27,443 acres his company had purchased in Central Florida. He shared his grand vision for what his inner circle called the “Florida Project.” With writing help from Marty Sklar, Walt explained his ideas for more than just a theme park:

Right now our plans include an airport of the future (down here in Osceola County), an entrance complex where all visitors will enter Disney World, an industrial park area covering about 1000 acres, and of course, the theme park area way up here. And all these varied activities around the Disney World will be tied together with a high-speed rapid transit system running almost the full length of the property.

But the most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project—in fact, the heart of everything well be doing in Disney World—will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT, spelled E-P-C-O-T: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Here it is in larger scale.

EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

The futuristic city included a domed urban area with climate control for shoppers and hotel guests, along with transportation throughout the city via People Mover and Monorail. Residents of EPCOT (or Progess City, as some came to call it) would always have the latest technology at their fingertips. It was a bold dream, for sure, and some believed it would die with Walt.

Read bullet | Comments »

The Future Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

OBJECTS IN MIRROR

What to get to go with your 3D printer? A 3D laser scanner, of course.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

Read bullet | Comments »

4 Safety Systems Steering us Closer to Autonomous Cars

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Google-Car

Autonomous cars have been creating some buzz in the news lately.  From coverage on their capabilities and advantages to warnings about their limitations and security issues, everyone seems to be curious about the autonomous car.  Something else is brewing within this new-age driving hoopla: a battle for control of the stick shift.  Computer-operated driving systems are quickly infiltrating our beloved cars, crossing the line from “human driver” to “automated chauffeur.”  Are you ready?

A lot of the talk surrounding these systems is acronym-heavy and the names change depending on the car manufacturer.  (I see they are already creating aliases to confuse the human competition!)  Here’s an easy-to-read, short guide to the systems that are bringing us closer to autonomous cars.

1. Park-Assist

This is the system that allows drivers who dislike parallel parking to sit back, relax, and let the car do it for them.  The existence of this system does not indicate an fully autonomous car—the driver still needs to help the car out with shifting.

How does it work? Although the computer takes over to maneuver the car into the parking spot, most systems still allow the driver to press the brake, controlling the speed of the system’s parking throughout the entire maneuver.  To begin, the car will indicate to the driver when to stop alongside the car it intends to parallel park behind.  The driver will need to shift into Reverse to allow the system to back the car into the space.  When the car determines it has finished this procedure, it will notify the driver to shift into Drive.  The car will then pull forward, evening out the spacing.  Finally, the car will notify the driver to put it into park.

Available in: Ford Focus Titanium, Toyota Prius V, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GL350 (just to name a few)

Read bullet | Comments »

Home Sweet Home of the Future

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

Many people have wondered where I do most of my blogging. Wonder no more:

And when I’m not at the computer, I’m relaxing in my sweet home theater:

(Both clips uploaded to YouTube by Matt Novak of the Paleo-Future blog, from a March 1967 episode of the CBS show The 21st Century, hosted by Walter Cronkite. Between speeches calling for “one-world government,” and believing that Karl Rove had Osama bin Laden on ice in Area 51 during the 2004 election, Cronkite’s actual decade spent in the 2st century before passing away in 2009 was much more chaotic.)

*****

Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog

Read bullet | Comments »

On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Sunset on 9/11

For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen each afternoon I juxtapose book excerpts with a collection of PJ Media’s headlines and links to the 10 most interesting stories I find each morning from other sites around the web. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of humanity’s place in the universe. This series’ current focus also begins each day through highlighting the contributions of an important writer.

My original plan for today’s 9/11 reflection had been to write something very mean about Barack Obama and the Shadow President who actually makes his decisions, Valerie Jarrett.

I was angry at the president over Syria and particularly the way he had knocked off the radar his other scandals: the IRS targeting of his political opponents, his NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of all internet traffic, the myriad of corruptions in Eric Holder’s racialist Justice Department, and, finally, what I still believe and pray will someday emerge in full clarity for all Americans as what it is, Obama’s Worse-Than-Watergate for which he should be impeached. His abandonment of four American heroes to die as they called for help, the still mysterious circumstances of just why Ambassador Chris Stevens was there on the anniversary of 9/11, and then the administration’s denial of a terrorist attack, asserting against all evidence that the attack was the result of “spontaneous uprisings” provoked by a YouTube video whose filmmaker was promptly arrested. (Think any Muslim in the Middle East has any idea he technically sat in jail for a parole violation, instead of for blaspheming the Prophet?)

But enough of all that. Or it’s “goodbye to all that” that’s the cliché of choice for previous generations, right?

Throughout Obama’s presidency I’ve called him just about every name in the book short of the Birthers’ “Kenyan.” But what’s the point any more? There’s no longer an election to win. There is no one left to try to convince of Obama’s stealth-socialist, Alinskyite strategy for “fundamentally transforming America.” Now all that’s necessary is to stand back and quietly mutter “I told you so” as our Democrat, progressive, and leftist friends watch in horror as Obama’s agenda collapses across the board. What will be left to brag about at the end of eight years? A healthcare law that doesn’t work and that Obama himself has delayed implementing?

Read bullet | 21 Comments »

Face Recognition Software Advances: Big Brother Could Soon be Watching Everything You Do

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
He knows when you're asleep, he knows when you're awake.

He knows when you’re asleep, he knows when you’re awake.

The New York Times assures us that facial scanning is improving by leaps and bounds:

WASHINGTON — The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.

The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.

There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.

My thought on reading this was first that no technology is ever infallible, and that being the twin brother of someone seen leaving a bomb — say — particularly if you were both adopted out at birth and don’t know of each other would be an uncomfortable situation.

Add to this that the technology is not even at that level and being the second-cousin of a crime suspect, with certain common family features would be enough to get you police attention. You can see how this would violate your fourth amendment rights, right? Not to mention your rights to life and liberty, to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness.

To be fair, the New York Times reports that people in charge of this technology development are also aware that it needs to be a lot more developed before it’s used, even if its creators think “difficulties will just fall away.”

On the other hand, my second thought was that yes, this technology could be very useful for fighting terrorism and other such public safety hazards. But when has technology in the hands of government been used only for the logical or most beneficial process?

Like social security numbers becoming de-facto IDs, this will change into attempts at preventing crimes — perhaps laudable in themselves, but leading to a future where Big Brother is ALWAYS watching you. And let’s not forget the information that can be leaked just before elections, by the same entity whose IRS leaked confidential forms of political opponents of the current administration.

To be fair the New York Times recognizes that too:

“This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ms. McCall said. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

In particular, she said, there should be limits on whose faces are loaded into them when they are ready for deployment. Ms. McCall said it would be acceptable to use it for terrorism watch lists, but she feared any effort to systematically track everyone’s public movements by using a comprehensive database of driver’s license photographs.

Now whether they’ll remember this is a danger while progressives are in power is something else.

During the cold war, anti-nuke activists often said giving a nation nuclear weapons was like handing a loaded gun to an idiot. The same can be said of facial recognition systems and the government. And I hope we keep the gun away. As useful as it could be in certain, specialized cases, it would be unmitigated disaster in most others.

*******

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com © Kletr

Read bullet | Comments »

Pixar’s Alternate Universe?

Friday, July 26th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Pixar Characters

Everybody’s a geek about something culturally. For some it’s science fiction, while others may geek out over sports. For me, it’s Disney culture (don’t act so shocked), college sports, and Star Wars. But everybody has something that they’re a geek about.

Some geeks — and I’m using the term in a cultural light, rather than referring to nerds or dorks — go too far in their obsession. Some dress in elaborate costume for events like Comic Con or DragonCon, or even renaissance fairs. (Yes, I realize I’m stepping on some toes here.) Others show it off on their skin. Still others devote months of their time to devising theories on how a certain studio’s movies are interconnected. Meet Jon Negroni.

By day, Negroni manages social media and SEO for a non-profit organization, and he writes a blog for young professionals. And — bless his heart — he’s apparently a Pixar fan. Negroni has developed an elaborate theory explaining how all the features in the Pixar canon are related.

Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme.

Negroni’s timeline runs as follows:

Read bullet | 9 Comments »