Hey, kids! Here comes another franchise reboot no one wanted. Robocop returns in 2014 taking new form played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman.
The new take looks to resume the original’s political satire by leveraging concern over domestic spying and the use of drone technology by law enforcement. In retrospect, the original film deserves a lot of credit for anticipating the modern convergence of military technology and domestic law enforcement. The Verge reports:
“We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars,” said Jose Padilha, the film’s director. “The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”
Despite retaining many of the themes established in the 1987 film, the reboot will depart from the original on many key plot points. IGN shares the details:
In this RoboCop, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) isn’t killed by a ruthless outlaw and his henchmen, In fact, he’s not killed at all. He’s gravely injured by a car bomb that leaves him massively burned all over his body. In order to “save ” him — and give OmniCorp their cyborg lawman they’ve been desiring — Omni scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) essentially amputates Alex’s body from the neck down and rebuilds him as, yes, RoboCop. (They keep Alex’s right hand as a humanizing element for when RoboCop shakes hands with people.)
There were several scenes with OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton), a believer in his products and what they can do for the world who makes his decisions not so much out of being a villain as because he’s decided it’s simply the best option available for his business and what he thinks it can provide. Keaton described Sellars as an antagonist rather than as a villain.
Readers may recall that Omni Consumer Products senior president Dick Jones, played with relish by the irrepressible Ronnie Cox, was the ultimate villain in the original. As he and director Paul Verhoeven also did in Total Recall, Cox created one of the greatest caricatures of corporate villainy put to film.
Here’s my elevator pitch for a modern follow-up to Back to the Future. Since this is likely the only place it will ever be expressed, I am willing to waive any shot at a story consultant credit.
The year is 2015, our 2015, the one we tick toward now, unremarkable and mundane. We don’t watch holographic movies. We don’t eat rehydrated food. And we certainly don’t commute in flying cars. Of course, most of us wouldn’t expect to be doing any of that. But one among us does, one who years ago glimpsed a future very different from our present. For that man, Martin Seamus McFly, the world is wrong. Ever since a tragedy which first triggered his suspicion that the future was not unfolding as it should, McFly has become increasingly compelled to find out where and when history went off the rails.
You can imagine where the tale might go from there. Suffice it to say the disparity between how 2015 was imagined in Back to the Future Part II and how it has manifest in real life would be the catalyst for brining the band back together.
The nearly thirty year interval between the release of Back to the Future and today has unfolded very differently from how writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale imagined it. As it turns out, the world does not yet run on garbage-fueled fusion and fashion still refuses to accept the wearing of two ties or the turning of pockets inside-out. Perhaps we can live without those innovations. But I want my flying car.
Why do our projections of the future prove so grossly inaccurate? Some imagined developments manifest more quickly than expected. Star Trek’s communicator portended the cell phone, as its pads and touchscreens portended tablets. Yet, it also imagined we’d still be using “computer tapes” in the 23rd century. Other imagined developments remained imagined. We’re still some time away from anything approximating warp drive or transporter technology. What enables us to achieve some but not all of our imagined progress?
No other project in the history of the Walt Disney Company has borne Walt’s stamp more than EPCOT. At the same time, no single project has undergone as many changes as EPCOT has. Through the years between 1966 when Walt Disney first introduced the EPCOT concept as the centerpiece of the company’s Florida Project and 1982 when EPCOT Center opened, the company produced a series of promotional films to promote what EPCOT was going to be. Let’s take a look at them and see how EPCOT changed over the years, from theory to reality.
The EPCOT Film, 1966
The first mention of EPCOT – the location as well as the concept – came in this short film. Disney produced the film a year after the first press conference announcing the company’s Florida Project, and the short gave Walt an opportunity to present his grand vision thoughtfully and in detail. It would be Walt’s last appearance before his death in December 1966.
The company first showed the film to Florida legislators and business leaders in February 1967 at a theater just outside Orlando. The showing had two purposes: to reassure these movers and shakers that the Florida Project was still a reality in the wake of its champion’s death and to grease the wheels for the massive legislative push that would create the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the quasi-governmental agency Disney uses to run Walt Disney World without local interference.
Walt commissioned Marty Sklar to write the script for the film, and Sklar does a fine job expressing the EPCOT concept. Additionally, The EPCOT Film explains for its audience the successes of Disneyland and the purpose of WED Enterprises, later Walt Disney Imagineering.
In the film, Walt’s ideas are more theoretical than practical (except for the theme park). In fact, Sklar himself referred to the Epcot concept as “Waltopia.” The prototype city with its climate-controlled downtown, minimal transportation, and experimental technology in every home would rely on free enterprise to sustain new ideas:
In fact, we’re counting on the cooperation of American industry to provide their very best thinking during the planning and the creation of our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. And most important of all, when EPCOT has become a reality and we find the need for technologies that don’t even exist today, it’s our hope that EPCOT will stimulate American industry to develop new solutions that will meet the needs of people expressed right here in this experimental community.
…if we can bring together the technical know-how of American industry and the creative imagination of the Disney organization, I’m confident we can create—right here in Disney World—a showcase to the world of the American free enterprise system.
The EPCOT Film displayed Walt’s exuberant and optimistic futurism in its purest form. Alas, his death less than two months after filming essentially put the kibosh on his experimental city concept.
As a child, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad worked for a major airline as a mechanic and I spent a fair amount of time in and around aircraft as a result.
Dad was also a big computer nerd who always had the latest and greatest personal computer in the house. Those two interests combined in the form of flight simulators. The first I can recall was Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64, a program which used simple geometry and rows of lights on the ground as reference points to indicate that you were moving. Later came Microsoft Flight Simulator in its various and progressive forms, raising the bar of realism and fidelity with each new version.
Having recently built a new computing rig, I have a renewed interest in flight simulation after many years away from it. I’m currently deliberating between the purchase of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the most recent yet dated entry in that franchise, or the more contemporary X-Plane 10.
One of the truly amazing selling points of the latter is its immersive recreation of the entire planet. X-Plane 10 utilizes terrain and scenery auto-generation built atop data obtained from OpenStreetMap to simulate your town – and every other one on Earth – with amazing fidelity. In one video demonstrating the technology, the lead developer boasts that the road system proves adequately detailed to serve as a driving simulator. Indeed, YouTube videos showing a virtual drive down X-Plane 10’s streets prove reminiscent of any given trip through any given suburb, complete with picket fences and SUVs.
This is the second of my daily reading/writing journals, a new routine of season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Reading Regimen. Each morning I will juxtapose two book excerpts with the day’s headlines and try in the afternoon to make sense of the chaos of the day’s news. Click here for Monday’s entry: ‘We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…’
Dawn Book Reading:
What is America 2.0? Our failing welfare state model enacted by FDR and expanded by all Presidents since, now dying slowly as the next model prepares to overtake it. An Excerpt from America 3.0‘s introduction by James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus:
Quote of the Day #1: “The government sector is in a state of decay reminiscent of the Brezhnev period in the Soviet Union, with apparatchicks with no new ideas repeating the same cliches and the same failed policies, seemingly unaware that their system was doomed.”
And from page 2:
Quote of the Day #2 predicting a 2040 Millennial Lifestyle: “They suffered unemployment and underemployment in their twenties, and now that opportunity is opening up again they are making the most of it. Tempered by hardship and enduring frustration, some have retreated into immersive virtual entertainment, which is the synthetic nirvana of the time, replacing drugs for many. But most have grasped with gusto for delayed dreams in the real world.”
Morning News Round Up
Lead PJM Stories Today:
Roger L. Simon: The Zimmerman Trial as Media Pornography
Whatever his or the president’s proclivities, this trial should never have happened. As we now know, with the prosecution’s case wrapped, not only is there no evidence to prove Zimmerman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, there’s virtually no evidence to prove him guilty at all. Farce indeed.
Spitzer aims to join an NYC ballot that already includes fellow sex-scandler Anthony Weiner running for mayor.
“I think my sense that the public has a capacity to forgive that’s grown and I’ve understood that from what I call my walking down the street poll sensitivity. Anybody who’s in politics interacts with people, and even though I’m not in politics, obviously, I’m well enough known so I talk to people. I enjoy that process,” Spitzer said.
“When you talk to people, you understand their emotions. I see that forgiveness and willingness to give folks a second chance and obviously the examples you just gave are evidence of that. Whether that will transfer to me is an open question. Every case is different. And that is why there’s massive uncertainty, risk, and as there should be, and is rightly the case that there’s risk,” he continued.
Michael Ledeen’s Faster Please: The Information Revolution and the Snooping State
One of my favorite bits of wisdom about the modern world goes “the information revolution happened and the information won.” We’re drowning in information. We can read most any newspaper and watch most any TV program anywhere in the world at any hour of the day or night. We can find out what so and so thinks about most anything, and we can even check to see if he has changed his mind over the years. We can also find out virtually anything we want to know about a person’s health, income, job, diet, religion, reading habits…whatever. I’m not talking about the IRS or the NSA-acting-as-FBI-proxy; these data are all over the place, from Utah to Canada to Googleland (don’t forget that “Google is Hal”). (h/t James Burt, who commented on the MIT Technology Review site).
The good news, so to speak, is that there is so much information, our abilities to sort it out are overwhelmed. Paradoxically, we’ve probably got more to worry about from the Department of Education than from the National Security Agency.
We are rightly enraged to discover that the IRS snoops into the reading and prayer habits of Obama’s political opponents, and that the NSA-acting-as-FBI-proxy intercepts and stores all the phone calls and emails it can get its virtual claws on. But it’s not just the national security agencies and the tax men that do this. Companies trying to identify likely customers do it. They also do it to real and potential competitors. Hackers do it, sometimes for their own excitement, sometimes on commission. And “educators” do it too, even to kindergarteners.
Andrew C. McCarthy’s Ordered Liberty: Our Friends the Saudis and Their Moderate Sharia Decapitations
Philippe Karsenty: No First Amendment Here: French Court Finds Me Guilty in Al-Dura Affair
Roger Kimball: Family Fun? You’ll Need a Permit for That
Today’s PJ Lifestyle Stories:
Did you know Canada has a Texas? Each Tuesday Kathy Shaidle is going to provide some Canadian education…
Becky continues to provide tips and advice for the great spots to visit in D.C.:
In an odd coincidence I actually had a lunch that resembled this post that I found waiting for me after I got back…
Bryan Preston: How to Make the Best Corn-on-the-Cob You Will Ever Eat
Theodore Dalrymple: Can Advances in Medical Technology Make Us Less Healthy?
A Few Relevant News Headlines From Around the Web Today:
Ben Shapiro at Breitbart News: Broward County Sheriff Prepares for Post-Trayvon Verdict Riots
Alana Goodman at the Free Beacon: Rebel Yell:Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements
A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.
Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.
From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.
“Some say Rand is not Ron because he is ‘willing to play them game,’” Hunter continued. “That’s exactly right. That’s the point—to play it, influence it, and win it as much as you can. The neoconservatives certainly do, to their advantage.”
Hunter has also said that Rand Paul holds the same foreign policy views as his father, Ron Paul.
“The philosophy hasn’t substantively changed [from Ron Paul to Rand Paul]. The methods and style most certainly have.”
However, a spokesperson for Paul said Hunter was not speaking for the senator.
Hunter also discussed Paul’s intention to take non-interventionism into the “mainstream” in a comment to libertarian website the Daily Paul in January.
“I see, finally, a Republican willing to take the more sane, non-interventionist message into the mainstream in a way that can stick and possibly become policy,” said Hunter.
“Ron started this whole thing,” he added. “Rand is taking it to the next level.”
Again however, Hunter said does not think Rand Paul is a non-interventionist when asked by the Free Beacon.
Jonathan S Tobin at Commentary: Anti-Semitic Hate for Kids … and Adults
It is shocking that the official media of the group that Kerry considers a partner for peace would be broadcasting hate and using children to do it. But, of course, as anyone who follows the PMW website regularly knows, there is actually nothing unusual about the PA acting in this manner.
The PA media has broadcast a steady diet of hatred against Israel and Jews since its inception after the Oslo Accords brought it into existence with numerous examples of them employing children and broadcasts specifically aimed at youngsters to do so. One of the great tragedies of the last 20 years has been the way Israel’s supposed peace partners have sowed the seeds of future conflict by inculcating their youth with doctrines that treat Jews as subhuman monsters with no rights or claims upon the land that both sides claim as their own.
There will be those who will argue that similar hatred exists among Israelis, as occasional incidents inside the green line and so-called “price tag” attacks on Palestinians in the territories indicate. But the difference between the two sides is actually illustrative of the way Israel has embraced the hope for peace while Palestinians have not.
The point is hatred of Jews by Palestinians is something that is officially endorsed by the Palestinian Authority while hatred of Arabs is incessantly condemned by the Israeli media and the government. Jewish prejudice against Arabs exists, but only as the actions of a minority, while mainstream Palestinian culture endorses hate. While Israeli schools adopted curricula seeking to promote “peace education,” the Palestinian schools still use textbooks that are filled with the same kind of vile delegitimization seen on PA TV.
Enough of the daily darkness? Me too. Time to come up for air.
And Some Headlines and Videos from the World of Entertainment, Arts, Technology and Culture:
David Shapiro on piano:
Encouraging developments on intergalactic travel, via Charlie Martin today at PJ Lifestyle:
Random Dude Eats Random Food: The Fried Pickles and Tavern Burger at Drake’s in Indianapolis
Grand Theft Auto V trailer, hat tip Deadline Hollywood:
“Tempered by hardship and enduring frustration, some have retreated into immersive virtual entertainment, which is the synthetic nirvana of the time, replacing drugs for many. But most have grasped with gusto for delayed dreams in the real world.”
From the Archives:
From Spengler in 2006 at Asia Times: Jihad, the Lord’s Supper, and eternal life
Why is self-sacrifice always and everywhere the cost of eternal life? It is not because a vengeful and sanguineous God demands his due before issuing us a visa to heaven. Quite the contrary: we must sacrifice our earthly self, our attachment to the pleasures and petty victories of our short mortal life if we really are to gain the eternal life that we desire. The animal led to the altar, indeed Jesus on the cross, is ourselves: we die along with the sacrifice and yet live, by the grace of God. YHWH did not want Isaac to die, but without taking Abraham to Mount Moriah, Abraham himself could not have been transformed into the man desirous and deserving of immortal life. Jesus died and took upon him the sins of the world, in Christian terms, precisely so that a vicarious sacrifice would redeem those who come to him.
What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love. God gives Jews and Christians a path that their foot can tread, one that is not too hard for mortals, to secure the unobtainable, namely immortal life, as if by miracle. Out of love God gives the Torah to the Jews, not because God is a stickler for the execution of 613 commandments, but because it is a path upon which the Jew may sacrifice and yet live, and receive his portion of the World to Come. The most important sacrifice in Judaism is the Sabbath – “our offering of rest”, says the congregation in the Sabbath prayers – a day of inactivity that acknowledges that the Earth is the Lord’s. It is a sacrifice, as it were, of ego. In this framework, incidentally, it is pointless to distinguish Judaism as a “religion of works” as opposed to Christianity as a “religion of faith”.
Read all of Alana Goodman’s piece about Rand Paul’s neo-confederate employee. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Rand Paul is the Barack Obama of the Right. He is a paleo-libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, anti-American radical just pretending to be a mainstream, patriotic Tea Party American. Rand Paul’s Jeremiah Wright is his father Ron Paul, who filled him with even more antisemitic conspiracy theories and tolerance of anti-American hate than the President’s deranged mentor.
If Rand Paul can’t even be trusted to judge the character of his own staff then how can he be trusted to judge how to handle America’s enemies?
Recently I wrote about what I call Walt Disney’s optimistic futurism. Walt Disney believed – perhaps to a fault – that advances in technology and communications would make the future an exciting and vibrant place for everyone. This notion manifested itself in Walt’s ultimate dream: his planned community, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow), which was to be part of the company’s Florida Project, which became Walt Disney World.
The EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) theme park at Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1982. The park embodies the spirit of Disney’s optimistic futurism. One attraction in particular – Horizons, which was open from 1983 to 1999 – encapsulated Walt’s ideas like no other. Although Horizons closed nearly 15 years ago, a rabid cult following (including yours truly) still professes deep affection for the ride.
In its storyboard stage, Horizons went by the name Century 3, a nod to the third century of America’s existence. The Imagineers later changed the name to Futureprobe, but not for long, due to the unpleasant connotation of the word probe. General Electric sponsored the ride, and the Imagineers intended for it to be the sequel to another GE-sponsored attraction, The Carousel of Progress.
The slogan for Horizons – “If we can dream it, we can do it” – was the brainchild of Imagineer Tony Baxter, though it was so reminiscent of Walt Disney that to this day many writers falsely attribute it to Walt. In many ways, Horizons was a quintessential Disney dark ride, utilizing the company’s Omnimover technology to usher guests through the space, which looked like a diamond-shaped spaceship and suggested an unending horizon ahead.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a lot about Walt Disney. I’ve covered his political journey, his faith, his commitment to excellence, his patriotism, his futuristic vision, and the presence of certain Judeo-Christian values in his films (with more to come in the ensuing weeks). Today I want to emphasize the commitment Walt and his brother Roy held to the free market, remarkable in light of the fact that the brothers grew up in a socialist household.
Roy and Walt’s father Elias had an entrepreneurial streak but he was either unlucky or a terrible businessman. Yet he professed socialist views. Elias tried to impress these ideals on his sons. As I wrote about him recently:
Elias…was a Socialist — in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Wayland’s newspaper, Appeal to Reason, “was folksy” and “reached the common man’s ears but irritated the intellectual’s.” Elias Disney subscribed to Appeal to Reason, and Walt remembered cutting his teeth as an artist by copying the cartoons. Walt said he “could draw cartoons of ‘Capital’ and ‘Labor’ pretty good, the big fat capitalist with the money with his foot on the neck of the laboring man with the little cap on his head.”
Elias Disney voted for Progressive William Jennings Bryan and Socialist Eugene Debs in presidential elections, despite being an entrepreneur and employer.
Roy, who became Walt’s business partner, may have provided an early education in capitalism and the entrepreneur’s spirit. Bob Thomas writes in his biography Building A Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire (which I am currently reading):
Clem Flickinger, a boyhood friend of Walt’s, recalled in 1987 what may have been Roy’s first venture into capitalism. He planted an acre of popcorn. When the ears ripened, he shucked them, dried them in the sun, and shelled the kernels. He packed the popcorn into candy sacks and sold them in Marceline.
When Walt headed to California to pursue his dream of running his own studio, he sought out Roy for advice, partnership, and a little seed money. Walt provided the creative spark, and it was up to Roy to conjure up the funds to fulfill the ideas.
Or something like that — from StrategyPage:
Chinese military journals are full of exhortations to “render the enemy deaf and blind” by attacking their space satellites. Yet there is little discussion about how China would do this. That is because China does not want the rest of the world to pay too much attention to Chinese work on jamming satellite signals, damaging satellites with lasers and generally leaving them intact but inoperable rather than destroying them.
China did conduct a very visible “KillSat” test in 2007 that blew one of their old weather satellites apart. This was not good for anyone with satellites in orbit because that particular test created over 3,000 large (very destructive) fragments in orbit. These fragments are under no one’s control and will demolish any satellites they encounter. China has not repeated this test and now it is believed that the 2007 test was more of a deception than demonstration. China wants the world to ignore their more intense efforts to disable or isolate satellites in orbit rather than blowing them up.
Going for the eyes is one way to end a fight very, very quickly.
The question is this. On the home front, we’d likely lose TV, phone service, weather warnings,some internet, and general chaos, inconvenience, and some deaths. On the fighting front (should there actually be one), our military would lose tons of intel and much of the networking that it uses as a force multiplier.
Would that be enough to knock us out of the fight?
The Japanese thought so at Pearl Harbor, but I don’t think we’re the same people we were in 1941.
Check out the previous installments in Chris Queen’s ongoing series exploring the values and philosophy of Walt Disney:
April 22: 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds
May 31: Patriotism, Disney Style
Many visions of the future — from 1984 to Silent Spring to Blade Runner to After Earth – lead us to believe a bleak, gray-skied world awaits. The prevailing theme of dystopian futurists is that we and the generations to follow are going to destroy our society or our planet because of our greed. Most futurists view the world through a cynical, grim prism, and optimistic futurists come few and far between. One of them left his mark on the world in a most indelible way — Walt Disney.
When many people think of Disney they feel nostalgia, fantasy, and escapism, but in reality, Walt possessed a strong vision for making the future better than the present. He believed that technology and free enterprise held the key to a positive future.
Walt’s futuristic dreams began to manifest themselves in the science-fiction-crazy 1950s. On the Disneyland television series, he devoted entire episodes to the conquest of space, landing on the moon, going beyond the moon, and using satellites to improve life on Earth. He and director Ward Kimball worked with leading scientific lights such as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley to create diagrams and dramatizations of potential space travel that even predate NASA — and what ended up on the screen resembled actual space travel in surprising ways!
I am a firm believer that technology can sometimes make you “dumber.” Sometimes having “an app for that” can lead to the loss of basic skills — and we become dependent on a machine to do actions for us. Calculators have dulled our ability to do basic math, texts have degraded the English language to sentences like “C U L8r,” and Mapquest has made us paper-map illiterate. The infiltration of technology into autos is no different… soon we might not even have to know how to drive! (And that would be a sad day.)
Cars are now packed with the newest examples of the “cutting edge” — but technology and computers aren’t always the best thing. Some features are “so smart” they can be downright annoying or end up being completely unhelpful. Here is my take on some of the cool features available today… but are they really enriching our lives or are they making us lazy, easily-annoyed, distracted drivers?
The Sun reported today:
Police confirmed one man has died who is believed to be the soldier.
David Cameron vowed Britain would “never buckle” in the face of terrorism and condemned the “absolutely sickening” attack.
In footage, obtained by The Sun, one of the terrorists speaks directly in to the camera bragging about the horrific attack boasting the public and their “children” were targets of extremists.
He says: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you…Your people will never be safe.
“In our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe.
“Remove your governments they don’t care about you.
“You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns you think politicians are going to die? No it’s going to be the average guy, like you, and your children.
“So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace.”
image courtesy shutterstock / Vadim Sadovski
Check out Walter’s previous articles in this ongoing series Thursday mornings exploring video games, cultural villains, and American values at PJ Lifestyle. From May 2: “Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness,” and last week: “What Zombies Teach Us About Human Nature.” And also see Walter’s A Reason For Faith series, reprinted last week here. In these four articles Walter begins to formalize his task of synthesizing the Judeo-Christian tradition with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Tea Party activism. - DMS
In one of the most vivid dreams I can recall, I witnessed the landing of a plainly alien spaceship. It came lucidly, dancing on the edge of wakefulness, informed by enough of my rousing consciousness that it felt particularly real. I remember the feeling that my feet were glued to the ground, that I couldn’t move if I wanted to, not on account of some external force, but due to an overwhelming sense of awe and anticipation. The one thought dominating my mind: everything is about to change.
Though it was only a dream, I retain the memory as vividly as though it were of an actual experience and believe I will respond similarly if ever confronted by a true interplanetary delegation. Something about that kind of moment, when the veil lifts upon an existential mystery, produces an irresistible thrill. Perhaps that tops the list of reasons why our popular culture remains ever fascinated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life.
Aliens have become such a prolific device in our entertainment that we sometimes take them for granted. Like a modern deus ex machina, aliens can be relied upon to suspend disbelief in an otherwise inconceivable scenario. (How does Superman fly? Simple, he’s an alien!) Extraterrestrials rank alongside Nazis, zombies, and generic terrorists as the most common villains found in video games. Unlike those others, however, aliens may also be allies. Nothing inherent to extraterrestrial life demands it be villainous. Beings from other worlds often act as mirrors for examining the human condition, when not merely lurking among shadow and neon strobe.
It’s probably no coincidence that the advent of ufology, which is an actual word in the dictionary meaning the study of unidentified flying objects, coincides with the initial proliferation of aviation and the early years of the space age. We began to look up into the sky right about the time we realized there was nothing left to find over the horizon. In times past, when the known world was still defined by the flickering edge of torchlight, we imagined unspeakable monsters much closer to home. Spirits, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, fairies, vampires — all were the alien invaders and abductors of their time. As we have come to dismiss them as infeasible and childish, our imagination turns to the stars, where the realm of possibility remains seemingly infinite.
Certainly, we can see how aliens have stepped in to fill the role of menacing ghoul. Ridley Scott’s original Alien was essentially a horror film, a science-fiction creature feature. While the execution was masterful, the formula proved well-established and has been revisited ever since.
We have a new rivalry: the Google self-driving car vs. the General Motors “Super Cruise.” The tech world is all revved up about autonomous cars; it’s like Minority Report meets Back to the Future! But before we start singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, we need to take a step back and evaluate the feasibility of the implementation of the technology.
Cars are already available with semi-autonomous features: cruise control, automatic breaking (for objects that enter the car’s sensor fields), parallel park assist, and new features that guide cars back into their lane if they veer too much. The new Cadillac “Super Cruise” is attempting to one-up these features: it can steer the car within the lane, and will make the driver’s seat vibrate if the car veers out of bounds. It can also brake and accelerate to maintain a “selectable distance” between the car and those in front of it. Proponents of semi-autonomous, and future (fully) autonomous, cars argue that this technology will lead to safer roads, less accidents, better gas mileage, and less need for mistake-prone humans to be driving. I disagree. What about the imperfect nature of our new chauffeurs: computers?
SXSW Monday: I’m here today to check more sessions and events out. Most that I’m interested in are in the afternoon. In the morning, a man needs his coffee, and as I’m walking from my parked car — wherever that is, somewhere blocks away from the action — to the convention center, a man asks me out of the clear blue sky:= “Hey, would you like some free coffee?”
Um, yeah. I would. Very much. He ushers me over to this trailer, which it turns out belongs to GE.
Those two white arms are robots. The barista attaches a syringe to to what, I guess, is its hand. The syringe is full of condensed coffee. She doesn’t start you on a coffee IV, which is a pity.
They snap a photo of you, or a logo that you’re wearing or have handy.
I happened to be wearing my PJTV shirt…
So, after a few seconds, the robot gets the image and passably writes it onto the foam on top of the coffee.
Thanks to Vivian at RetailMeNot for letting me snap pics while the robot was making her coffee. Click on the next page to see the holographic tour guide.
That is the question sought to be answered by the new book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, who discuss the pros and cons of a 3D world where we could possibly have a machine that could make everything. The authors state “[in] the not-so-distant future, people will 3D print living tissue, nutritionally calibrated food, and ready-made, fully assembled electronic components.”
The book looks at the history of 3D printing and how it came about and from there, the chapters discuss everything from what these machines can make to the legal difficulties that will follow from the technology. From the Backcover:
Businesses will be liberated from the tyrannies of economies of scale
Factories and global supply chains will shrink, finding themselves closer to their customers
The law, already reeling from digital media, will once again need to be redefined
Our environment might breathe easier in a 3D printed economy, or it could choke on a rising tide of plastic
3D printed digital and intelligent, adaptive materials will change our relationship with the physical world
What do you think of 3D technology: Is it the next best thing or will we choke on a rising tide of plastic?
AUSTIN — Some of the best transportation thinkers in Texas and across the United States are being upstaged this week by a car that drives itself.
About 1,400 people are attending the eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum through Tuesday in Austin. But while those experts meet in Hilton conference rooms and grapple with tough issues such as how to handle an increase in freight-hauling trucks on the roads, or how to pay for highways under a tightened state budget, it’s the Google “self-driving car” parked outside the downtown Austin hotel’s entrance that’s getting the most hubbub.
“It would probably do a better job driving than we do,” quipped Linda Thomas of Longview, who on Monday afternoon took turns shooting snapshots of the Google car with her husband, Charles.
The car is among a fleet of about 10 vehicles developed during the past eight years by researchers at Google and Stanford University. Google representatives said that on Tuesday they plan to take the car, a Lexus hybrid, for a spin on Austin-area roads, including infamously congested Interstate 35.
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Today I’m at the Dallas Sci-Fi Expo (which is actually taking place in Irving). Kevin Sorbo and Morena Baccarin will be here today and tomorrow, along with stars from Back to the Future, Battlestar Galactica, Tron, comic book artists, and of course, just about every superhero and villain imaginable.
Let’s walk the exhibition floor and see who turns up.
I don’t know what they’re selling, but they had a lot of buyers.
Even a Sith.
Today’s PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection comes From Ed Driscoll’s “Far from Complete: Great Books Missing in the Kindle Format” article:
Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke: A quarter century before Star Trek: The Next Generation displayed its first replicator onscreen, Clarke was writing about them in Profiles, along with plenty of other futuristic technology; some we now take for granted (such as the Internet and the Kindle) and others that are still on the drawing board. Again, why isn’t such a forward-thinking book not an ebook as well?
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Publication Date: April 28, 2009
In 2004, Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD, published Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. Their groundbreaking book marshaled thousands of scientific studies to make the case that new developments in medicine and technology will allow us to radically extend our life expectancies and slow down the aging process. Soon, our notion of what it means to be a 55-year-old will be as outdated as an eight-track tape player.
TRANSCEND: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever presents a practical, enjoyable program so that readers can live long enough (and remain healthy long enough) to take full advantage of the biotech and nanotech advances that have already begun and will be occurring at an accelerating pace during the years ahead. To help readers remember the nine key components of the program, Ray and Terry have arranged them into a mnemonic:
Talk with your doctor
This easy-to-follow program will help readers transcend the boundaries of our genetic legacy and live long enough to live forever.
New Year’s Resolution #6: Stop sacrificing health on the altar of workaholism. Saturday Bookshelf suggestions explore various diet and exercise regiments.
Shutterstock image courtesy / Andrea Danti
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Glenn Reynolds talks to Professor James D. Miller of Smith College. Miller is the author of Singularity Rising. Will there come a time when technology becomes so smart that it will alter human civilization? Can you survive what Miller calls the singularity? Find out why this is not science fiction, on this InstaVision.
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