Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

The 2020s: the decade our tech learns to understand us

January 13, 2020

The 2020s: the decade our tech learns to understand us

I do an annual prediction post on my I Love My Kindle blog (The Year Ahead ), and honestly, I have a decent track record (I hit all 3 of my big predictions for 2019, for example).

I started to think about how tech in general might change in this decade, the 2020s.

Obviously, there will be a lot of change in a lot of areas, and I’m sure some of it will surprise me.

However, I do feel confident about one change that we’ll all wonder how we didn’t have it earlier…and that people who grow up with it will hardly notice.

Our tech will begin to understand us much better.

I don’t mean the literal meaning of our conversation, but that will come, too.

I mean that it will know how we feel and guess our intent.

That may sound like science fiction, but it’s already happening.

I have a free app from Microsoft

Seeing AI

intended for people with visual challenges. I can point my phone at someone, and it will give me a broad sense of how they are feeling: “35-year old female with glasses looking angry.”

There are apps to help people on the autism spectrum, who sometimes have a hard time interpreting other people’s feelings, determine just that.

It’s not that hard. Oh, it’s possible to get it wrong, but looking at a person and determining if they are happy or sad is usually pretty simple for humans to do and will be for our tech to do by the end of the decade.

I recently got the

Anki Vector robot (at AmazonSmile*)

as a gift.

It’s easy to tell “how it is feeling”…and its entire face is just two eyes. It does have other body language (it can get sort of “hopping mad”, for example), but even without eyebrows, which help to communicate, you can tell.

This ability for tech to understand how we feel isn’t artificial intelligence (which will improve a lot also): it’s called “artificial empathy”.

It will use artificial intelligence to achieve it, and there are similarities. There are three main elements:

  • What can they sense?
  • How can they process it?
  • What can they do with that conclusion?

Vision sensors are part of the first one: that will give them facial recognition, but also things like gestures. Gestures are less universal, though. When they get precise enough to tell things like dilating pupils, they’ll be able to get past more cultural habits.

Another major sense will be hearing. We can tell on an audio phone call if someone is happy or angry, and we can hear it in radio dramas and podcasts. That’s going to help and that tech undoubtedly exists, although not necessarily in the general market (I’d be very surprised if law enforcement and the military don’t both have something which does that with, oh, 75% accuracy).

People talk about “smelling fear”. Tech is less far along with scent then with vision or hearing…I’m not sure that will be effective in the next ten years.

Those are all senses we have.

Tech will have some that we really can’t utilize. For example, it might be able to monitor blood flow at a distance, or cortisol levels (to detect stress).

That all has to do with detecting our emotions, and that’s one part of what I expect.

The other big part is context.

Our tech will begin to understand what the situation is, and what types of information we want in it (and what actions we may want it to take).

I just ran into a situation like that today.

I was writing about the debutday of the Adam West Batman series in 1966. I could have done the math in my head as to how long ago it was, but decided to use the calculator on my computer so I wasn’t trusting to my (usually reliable) math skills.

Well, I didn’t notice that I had accidentally typed 2010-1966 instead of 2020. So, I tweeted out 44 years instead of 54 years.

I fully expect that within ten years, it would have known I was probably trying to do a year calculation, and asked me if that’s what I meant.

Context will include things like:

  • Are you in the car?
  • Are you at work?
  • What time of day is it?
  • What day of the week is it?
  • Are you on vacation?
  • To whom are you speaking? Your Significant Other? Your child? Your boss? Your coworker?

The combination of these two things, being able to understand what we are likely to want in a given situation, and to tell in the moment how we are feeling, will eliminate a lot of the frustration we have now with tech. Our digital assistants will know when to respond with a joke or a true apology. They’ll play music which makes us, as individuals, feel better…or that gets us energized for a challenge. It may suggest that we talk to someone we haven’t in a while…and let it go if we don’t like that idea.

Yes, I think that will be the most significant change in tech in the next ten years…bigger than augmented reality, bigger than autonomous vehicles, at least in how it affects us personally. It doesn’t matter what the tech is: this will change our relationship and interactions with it.

What do you think? Am I overestimating what our tech will be able to do? How important it will be for us? Is there some other tech change you think will be more important? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

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Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

July 28, 2019

Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

I take a lot of pictures of our dogs…they even have their own free Flipboard magazine:

Butterscotch Chaos and Friends

I usually upload a picture a day, which I take with my Galaxy S10.

Phone camera tech is amazing nowadays! The autofocus is much faster than it was even two years ago. Most often, the pictures look great.

On the weekends, some of the pictures I take are at a dog park in our area…we’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of the best dog parks in the world.

However, my issue had been that sometimes, other people (or dogs) are in the pictures. You develop little social groups, or “packs” as our dogs might call them. 😉 Our dogs are also very friendly, and will walk right up to strangers to be petted.

I’m not comfortable putting identifiable people on the internet without their permission.

So, I looked for a way or an app which might be able to remove those other people.

After reading up, I decided to buy (yes, pay for)

ADVA Soft TouchRetouch

I paid $2.99 for it…and it has far exceeded my expectations!

First, a little level setting.

Part of what I do for a living, a big part, is training people on software. I’ve been doing that for a long time. However, that has never been photo editing software. I’ve done some things with images in PowerPoint and such, and I used to edit Super 8mm film, but it’s all been pretty simple.

So, I can understand well how to use the app, but I don’t have any special photo editing experience.

With very little learning curve, I’ve often been able to remove objects from my photographs…and in under a minute.

Here’s an example of that:

If you take a look, I didn’t only remove the pen: I cleaned smudges off of the white cable in the back, and did some other minor retouching.

Now, it doesn’t always work that well. If there’s a complicated background behind the subject, it sometimes can’t figure out what it should use to fill in the gap.

There are, though, more tools than just the object remover. With that one, I just run my finger over what I want removed, then tell it to “Go”.

There is also an eraser…if my “smudge” gets on to something I don’t want removed, I can erase that part of the smudge first.

Undoing is also easy if I don’t like the result.

What about those other tools?

  • Quick Repair: Quick Brush: this one removes things without me tapping Go first. It can work well, but it doesn’t give you the chance to use that eraser
  • Quick Repair: Blemish Remover: it takes off spots and such. It really is a retouching tool
  • Line Removal: this one is terrific! You trace along a line…let’s say the cord for a device. You don’t have to be careful: it detects it, and then it can remove the whole thing
  • Clone Stamp: this one is tricky, and I’m not always happy with the result, although sometimes it is exactly what I need. You put a reference marker over something in the image, and then as you draw with your finger, it copies it. The issues I have with it are primarily: it’s too easy to move off where you intend (your reference location moves with your cloning finger), so something else comes into the cloned area…as a suggested improvement, I would love to be able to anchor the reference spot so it didn’t move; the image appears to be very flat, all the same, whereas when TouchRetouch removes an object, the image replacement is nicely textured

Here’s another example: again, I did this in under a minute for this article.

Of course, I mentioned sharing, and that’s important. Fortunately, TouchRetouch has good sharing options!

I don’t have to save the image first, or at all. What choices you have will vary based on what’s on your phone, but everything I want is there.

Everybody should have the choice to “Save as Copy” or “Modify Original”…I often save it as a copy.

You can choose format (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), size, and JPEG Quality.

I can send it to social media, save it directly to Flipboard, tweet it, and so on.

In terms of sources, I do wish it would show me my albums within my apps, or give me search, but I can get to my phone’s gallery, Amazon Photos, Google Photos, Downloads, OneDrive, Google Drive…that’s robust.

Bottom line? Well worth the $2.99! When it works right away, which is most of the time, it’s like magic. If it needs some human intervention, it’s still reasonably easy.

Do you have any TouchRetouch tips you’d like to share? Is there another photo editing app you feel is a must have? Would you just simply never pay for an app? 🙂 Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Facebook may not be doing “heardu” ads…but it sure seems like something is!

November 4, 2017

Facebook may not be doing “heardu” ads…but it sure seems like something is!

While Facebook has repeatedly denied using your phone’s microphone to “eavesdrop” on your casual conversations and target ads to you based on that, I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where something on my phone doing that seems the most likely explanation.

It certainly doesn’t have to be Facebook, and I would think in my case, that would be unlikely. I don’t use Facebook much at all, and I didn’t see the ads on Facebook. In one case, it was an ad at the top of my e-mail feed.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that my experiences prove that my phone is listening to me to target ads…it’s just that it seems like the most likely explanation.

What are the other explanations?

One would be that the ad is just random, and it just happened to come right after I talked about a relevant subject. Part of it would be that I noticed the ad because I had been talking about it. Let’s say the ad was for…pineapples. Let’s also say I get an ad for pineapples once a week. I might not ever notice that I get those pineapple ads (that happens with a lot of ads…it’s part of why they show the same ones to you over and over) until it was relevant, because I had been talking and thinking about it.

Another possibility would be that the ad was targeted to me…but not based on the conversation. We’ll go back to the pineapple example.  While I may have been talking about pineapples, I might also have searched for information about them in a search engine, or belonged to a group of pineapple lovers…or that I had other interests which statistically made it seem likely that I was interested in pineapples. That’s one of the things that can make it seem mysterious…it could be that the majority of people who watch, say, My Favorite Martian reruns also like pineapples.

Both of those things are probably mistaken for heardu ads (I just made up that term, by the way) from time to time.

I’ll give you my two recent scenarios, and you can decide if it seems likely or not. If you have another idea which you think is more likely, I’d be happy to hear it. 🙂

In the first case, my Significant Other and I were staying in a hotel to attend my sibling’s wedding. There were a couple of other attendees joining us in our suite a couple of days later.

I realized that, because of the clothing we’d all need to have for various events, that we’d need more hangers than we had. I suggested we stop by the Front Desk on the way out to ask for some more.

After that conversation (and note that we had not searched for hangers on our devices, or asked our devices about hangers), an ad showed up on my SO’s device…for wooden hangers.

That seems like a really odd thing to be randomly advertised. Yes, we probably had done things on our phones which had to do with formal wear…and I suppose it could have read our itineraries and known we were going to a wedding, and even that we were staying in a hotel. However, guessing that we needed hangers at that exact time seems less believable to me than something we know is technologically possible. I know my phone listens to me…I can say, “OK, Google” and it will interact with me. If it wasn’t listening to me, it wouldn’t know when I said, “OK, Google”.

The other one was that I was recently teaching a class to surgeons. One example we were using was a surgery where the referring condition was a hernia.

I did not need to research anything online about hernias.

After I’d been teaching the class for a couple of hours, we took a break…and I had a banner ad at the top of my e-mail feed related to hernia mesh!

That one seems especially unlikely to me to have happened in another way. I’m not particularly in a risk group for hernias. I don’t belong to any hernia special interest groups. I suppose it could be based on my profession…if it was reading PDFs on my device, then perhaps.

At this point, it simply seems most likely to me that it heard my conversation and targeted the ad.

Quite a few apps have microphone access on my phone…I know I could turn it off, but I do use it often…and I really don’t mind getting targeted ads. If I’m going to get ads anyway, they might as well be more relevant.

That’s what I think: feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

July 14, 2017

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with an app!

That may seem odd, since this is ostensibly designed to help those with visual challenges.

It will do that. I know a couple of people it will help.

Let me link to it first (it’s only currently available for iOS…iPhones, iPads, iPod touch):

What it does is recognize things: people, text, dogs, a kitchen, a computer…it’s gotten all of those right for me.

It doesn’t just tell you that it’s a person…it guesses at age and gender, and will tell you hair color, if the person has glasses or a beard, and so on.

It also, and this will be very useful for people with autism, will attempt to interpret the person’s expression (happy, neutral, angry…).

Now, it’s important for me to say that it didn’t ever get the age exactly right, although it was often close. A person I know well wasn’t pleased when it interpreted them as significantly older than was true. 😉

I tried it both with photos on a computer screen, and with real life objects, and it was generally pretty good. We had fun when it interpreted a knit blanket as a close-up of a sandwich, but that was not typical.

It can also read text out loud, and that worked for me, too! There was a computer program which wasn’t accessible to the screen reader on the computer…but Seeing AI could read it. It will take some practice for how I hold it, but even initially, it did read what I needed.

I think you’ll have fun playing around with it!

A few tips:

  • The “scene” interpreter, which it says is in beta, is how it interprets objects (like dogs, toys, computers…)
  • Go to the Settings menu (three lines) to use face recognition…you can teach it to recognize specific people. That will be useful for someone I know who has “face blindness”: they can’t recognize celebrities or even family members in pictures by their faces
  • When I was trying to work with it reading off the computer, it worked much better when I went into settings and had it turn off “Manage lighting”…that meant the flash didn’t come on. When the flash was on, there was too much glare for it to recognize things


Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Gauntlet thrown! 😉

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When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

October 22, 2015

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

Yesterday was October 21st, 2015,

Back to the Future Day (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s the day in 1989’s Back to the Future II that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future.

There were many, many stories about it…enough to fill a Ford Super De Luxe convertible. 😉 Now, I’m not suggesting they were similar to the material that filled Biff Tannen’s car…far from it.

Most were thoughtful comparisons of what was shown in the movie (fict((ional)) future) versus how we actually live today (fact future…at least, the future to 1989). I particularly liked this one:

Back to the Future 2015

However, as an owner of an

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ve been really surprised that people have generally ignored Marty McFly’s future home’s automation and talktech.

In the movie (and there are mild spoilers here…more about bits than about the plot), the house welcomes a character. Another character says, “….you should reprogram: it’s dangerous to enter without lights on.” When the character repeats, “Lights on?”, the lights come on in the room, with a tone to let the user know that the command has been heard (or just to acknowledge the lights coming on).

That is how I turn the lights on in my house…and the voice that tells me “Okay” is much more natural than what we generally hear in the movie.

I say, “Alexa, turn on the Family Room”, or “Alexa, turn on the Library”.

My Echo hears me and Alexa turns on the appropriate bulb which was part of the

GE Link Starter Kit, PLINK-SKIT, Wireless, A19 LED Light Bulb, Pack of 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

Could I “reprogram” the house to simply turn on the lights when I got home?


The Wink app (Wink, by the way, has been sold following a bankruptcy by Quirky, but my equipment still works) has “robots”. I could tell it:

  • If the robot detects my location changing to arriving at my home address
  • Anytime
  • Then turn lights on

I don’t do that, but it’s an option.

Later, another character tells the talktech to turn off the “art” on a big screen and to display several channels (simultaneously).

That’s a bit tougher to do currently. I’m going to be testing in the near future using our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to communicate with a

Samsung SmartThings Hub (at AmazonSmile*)

to control a

Logitech Harmony Home Control (at AmazonSmile*)

to in turn control an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I know, I know…that’s quite a daisy chain. Alexa is on my Fire TV (this is the 2nd generation), but it can’t actually control the channels or do voice search. The Fire TV does voice search, but that’s a different system. I do hope that the Fire TV will eventually be able to natively not only open, say, Hulu, but “Show me the next episode of [show name]”. I think we’ll get there within the next two years.

Regardless, talktech is a solid hit for BttF2…why wasn’t it being mentioned in stories and infographics along with self-lacing sneakers, hoverboards, and holograms?

Does it seem so natural that it wasn’t worth analysis? Alternatively, did the writers not realize that this arrived right on schedule? The Echo and the Alexa Voice Service have had a super soft launch…there weren’t lines of people outside a store waiting for the Echo. It’s been more like a rising tide than an asteroid strike. Amazon may be very clever in avoiding huge expectations and great demand and having it gradually just become part of our lives.

Now, let’s talk about fact future versus fict future.

How many predictions did Back to the Future 2 get right?

There were no predictions…so none. 😉

Back to the Future 2 is a work of fiction: it’s not the analysis of a futurist or the premonitions of a psychic.

Much of what we see is there for comic effect, and to tie into the first and third movies.

Let’s take Jaws 19 playing at a movie theatre.

  • Jaws was released in 1975
  • Jaws 2 was released in 1978
  • Jaws 3-D was released in 1983
  • Jaws: The Revenge (effectively Jaws 4) was released in 1987

From 1985 (when Bttf2 is set) to 2015, a new Jaws movie would have to have come out on average every 15 months or so. While it’s certainly possible that production schedules will become shorter as technology improves, I’m not sure that’s a specific prediction they intended (but I’d be happy to be contradicted by the moviemakers…comment, Bob Gale?). 😉

We can also see that Jaws 19 is directed by Max Spielberg. Max was born on June 13, 1985…and is the son of Steven Spielberg, the director of the original Jaws (and an Executive Producer) on BttF2. Is this a prediction of a fact based on trends and analysis…or an in joke? I’d lean towards the latter… 😉

While some geeky fiction is trying to project current trends, it’s also often a commentary on the present. It may not be intended at all to represent a likely future…in some cases, it’s actually intended to help stave off some developments portrayed within it.

That’s one issue with fict future versus fact future comparisons.

Another one is this: the future may be boring. 🙂

Drama is based on difficulty: stress, risk, friction, and difficult choices.

Technology, especially in the past decade or so, has been about removing all that.

Let’s say we set a new Back to the Future, set thirty years from now (2045).

Cars are impossible to crash. It’s impossible to fall off a building. All weaponry is nonlethal. Anyone on the street can be immediately identified and helped.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen by then…but it is a not unreasonable assessment of the trends.

Not only is the tendency towards less danger (and therefore less drama), there are two other factors.

Technology is becoming more invisible, and it’s becoming more internal.

BttF2 uses fingerprint technology for the house to allow someone to enter.

Currently, SmartHomes can use SmartPhones to recognize when someone comes to the home and unlocks the door (although there is a hypothetical risk that the phone could be stolen).

In the future, I fully expect that our technology will recognize us by our simple biology…no technology necessary to be carried. Facial recognition is one way, but there may be others, akin to the original Outer Limits’ O.B.I.T. (Outer Band Individuated Teletracer), which basically picks up on an individual’s unique electromagnetic emanations.

It wouldn’t be very dramatic in a movie, though, to simply have the door open, with no indication of how the individual was recognized.

Similarly, the TV should have been able to largely anticipate what the character wanted to watch…or at least, most of it. That conversation should not be necessary at some point in the future (not necessarily in the next thirty years), but again, would be much less dramatic. Imagine this scene in a movie:

A detective wakes up at home. The lights simply come on. The self-cleaning clothes change from pyjamas to a uniform with no interaction. The detective sits down to a breakfast table, where the food is already ready and eats breakfast (again, no interaction). The detective steps outside, and a car is waiting. The detective gets in the car, and it drives away…already knowing where the detective wants to go, and monitoring the detective’s emotional reaction to its choices. En route to where a criminal is already unconscious (having been spotted and subdued by autonomous technology), other cars smoothly move out of the way on their own.

Not very dramatic, right?

In terms of technology becoming more internal…I feel like we are very connected to other people now, but not with the strangers immediately in our vicinity.

Classic old time movie scene: a newsboy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” Somebody buys a paper, and we see the headline. The character exclaims, “Gosh all hemlock!”

Current version: character gets a subtle vibration notification, glances at a watch, and reads the news. In the same room, other characters are checking watches or phone…could be the same headline, might be something else, like a reminder to buy milk. Everything is done without speech.

Which one makes the better scene?

Even though geeky fiction isn’t usually trying to actually predict the future, sometimes it does…but intriguingly, it is sometimes a case of life imitating art.

Dr. Martin Cooper has suggested that seeing the communicator on Star Trek inspired his work on the mobile phone.

Does anyone doubt that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon have been inspirations for work on ray guns?

Fiction may not intentionally predict the future…but it may help to inspire it.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

A tragic argument for self-driving cars

October 12, 2015

A tragic argument for self-driving cars

A recent event in our neighborhood has been weighing pretty heavily on me.

Several years ago, we got a new dog.

One of our cats wasn’t happy with the dog. We’ve generally had dogs and cats together, but this dog was particularly bouncy. Not aggressive, but just overly excitable and without much self-control.

The cat ran away…

When cats run away, they are almost always on the same block, or at least, right nearby. When dogs get scared, they can run for miles, and then have no idea where they are. Cats go to ground within territory they know…at least, that’s what an animal expert I know told me.

I found the cat across the street at a neighbor’s…we didn’t know that neighbor well.

Our neighbor already knew “Leo”…he would go over and see her, prior to the dog becoming part of the family. She was so nice in taking care of him while he was there, and even more nice in giving us Leo back.

Leo and the dog eventually came to terms.

Later, when our neighbor became more infirm, she couldn’t keep a pet of her own…and gave us cat items she had.

Still later, I believe she had a stroke.

She started using a walker.

It would take her a few minutes to get out of the car.

One or two relatives apparently moved in with her as caregivers.

Recently, there was a tragic incident.

Our neighbor hit a person in a wheelchair while driving.

The person in the wheelchair died a couple of days later, apparently from injuries sustained.

We first heard about it when it was reported as a hit and run.

We feel terrible for the victim, and for the victim’s family.

We are also very worried about what is going to happen with our neighbor.

She is cooperating with the police investigation. They found her a few blocks away from the accident…near (possibly at) her house.

Of course, we don’t know what actually happened. We don’t know if she even knew she hit the wheelchair.

If she did, my best guess is that she was going to her home to get help from her caregivers. The house is literally under five minutes away from the intersection. It would have taken her that long to get out of the car where he was, and she couldn’t be much help.

She is older, and I had someone ask me if I thought she was sharp enough to know she should have waited at the scene.

I said yes, and I also thought she was compassionate enough to risk going to jail in order to get help for the victim.

We will follow what happens.

It’s been especially hard to read heartless comments on line about what happened…speculation and assertions about our neighbor’s intentions.

I’ve also seen more caring comments talking about what to do about senior drivers. Yes, senior drivers are involved in more fatal accidents than the average…although not as many as young drivers.

We don’t know if age was a contributing factor. We don’t know that our neighbor’s own disability was a contributing factor.

We do know one thing…a human being was driving that car.

A self-driving car would not have hit the wheelchair, sparing both of them (and everyone who knows them).

This will be part of our future.

When I was speaking about self-driving cars to a group, I had someone say, “What if a three-year old ran out into the street?”

I’d much rather have a self-driving car in that situation. It’s going to avoid the collision…it likely won’t know it’s a child, and no, it won’t have compassion, the empathy a human being would have. It will avoid the child with the same efficiency with which it would avoid a rolling garbage can.

Humans, in that situation, may panic. It happens many times a year that a person steps on the gas instead of the brake when something goes wrong.

Right now, the biggest barrier to saving lives with self-driving cars is emotional and political.

No, they aren’t as good as the best human drivers are in all situations.

Yes, they are good enough right now to do some things better than the average human driver…and by doing so, reduce tragedies like this one.

Nothing is going to make what has already happened better. I know that for me, this is partially just an emotional desire to have some sort of impact on happens in the future…just like the people who want more driver testing for seniors, or who wanted to blame the driver for being on a cellphone (which almost certainly wasn’t the case).

Even if I can’t make it real, though, I think I’ll see a future within in the next ten years where horrible happenings like this are reduced…thanks to self-driving cars.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog.

The Geeky Seventies

June 9, 2015

The Geeky Seventies

CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:

Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.

The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.

I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. 😉 I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.

Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.

As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.

The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.

Now I do. 🙂

This post is going to give you an overview of geek-friendly culture in the 1970s.

It was definitely a transformative decade…even if the Transformers didn’t arrive until the 1980s. 😉

Geek culture moved mainstream in very big ways. Predominantly, there was Star Wars, which made space opera a blockbuster, but we could also look at The Exorcist for horror, and Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice) for vampires.

We saw the arrival of Stephen King as a novelist, and the publication of Dungeons and Dragons.

Home video technology meant that people could easily watch movies after they were out of theatres…decades after, in some cases. Prior to that, some of us had three-minute long Super 8 movies, and the real hobbyists might have 16mm reels, but the Betamax and others meant our cinematic history (including the geeky part) was much more accessible.

Star Trek: the Original Series was canceled in 1969…but the fandom continued. That led to the first Star Trek convention in the 1970s. Science fiction conventions went back to 1939, but this was different.

Batman in the 1960s might have made superheroes a hit on TV, but Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were part of the 1970s scene.

The Weird World interested a lot more people…the In Search Of TV series was only one part of that, but was many viewers’ first exposure to some of these topics.

Let’s look at some of the highlights in different areas:


How times have changed!

When you look at the top ten US grossing movies released in the 1960s, arguably only two are geek-friendly (GF) and not specifically intended for the family/children’s market:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. 101 Dalmations
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Doctor Zhivago
  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  6. Mary Poppins
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Thunderball (GF)
  9. Cleopatra
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (GF)

By the end of the 1970s, that picture had entirely changed, and would look more like our box office today:

  1. Star Wars (GF)
  2. Jaws (GF)
  3. The Sting
  4. Animal House
  5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (eventually) GF
  6. The Godfather
  7. Superman (GF)
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (GF)
  9. Smokey and the Bandit
  10. Blazing Saddles

The Exorcist (1973) brought straight up horror to blockbuster status and mainstream acceptance (along with a lot of protests).

In 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the summer. Up to that point, it had largely been a season of cheapo exploitation movies. People actually went outside (including drive-ins), not to the movies. Jaws reshaped all that, giving us the summer blockbuster season. There have been heated debates about whether or not Jaws is a fantasy (are we supposed to believe the shark is just a shark, or something more?), but it was clearly a monster movie.

Then in 1977, Star Wars changed it all.

While those movies were all big hits, there were a lot of other significant geek movies. Undeniably, we have to count the Rocky Horror Picture Show as establishing midnight movies and a special kind of cult film. It flopped when it came out, but then got a new life in a new way. He’s the hero…that’s right, the hero. 😉

Here are some other stand-outs:

  • Alien (1979)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Logan’s Run (1979)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Live and Let Die (1973) (the first Roger Moore James Bond)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Enter the Dragon (193)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • The Wiz (1978)
  • Westworld (1973)
  • Four of the original Planet of the Apes movies
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Tommy (1975)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Ralph Bakshi)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Phantasm (1979)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Death Race 2000 (1975)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Freaky Friday (1976)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • The Car (1977)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The  Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Eraserhead (1977)


Sure, the 1960s had been huge for high concept TV (with 1964 particularly important), but the 1970s built on that with many geek-friendly hits. Batman on TV had burned out by 1970, but opened the field for other superheroes (DC, Marvel, and bionic). Star Wars and James Bond were both big in movie theatres, and we saw their effect on the small screen as well. Home video arrived, which began to give us more options (although cable wouldn’t be a factor until the 1980s). Saturday morning got trippy with the Kroffts (although H.R. Pufnstuf debuted in 1969), and saw the return of Star Trek with the original cast…in animated form.

Some geek-friendly series:

  • Wonder Woman
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Saturday Night Live (Coneheads! Land Shark!)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Fantasy Island
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Land of the Lost
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Kung Fu
  • Space: 1999
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Bionic Woman
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Tomorrow People
  • Isis
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Blakes 7
  • The Amazing Spier-Man
  • Nanny and the Professor
  • Shazam!
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • SCTV
  • Paddington Bear
  • The New Avengers
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Super Friends
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Sapphire & Steel
  • Star Blazers
  • The Prisoner
  • Quark
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Invisible Man (David McCallum)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Doctor Who in the United States
  • Monty Python in the United States


I’ve gone into depth on the general topic of literature of the 1970s in another blog of mine:

I Love My Kindle: Books in the 1970s

In terms of geek-friendly, it was a huge decade! Just as movies saw the mainstreaming of geek-friendly genres, bookstores saw bestsellers from a new author named Stephen King, and a vampire hit (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice).

While geek-specific bookstores (and comic book stores) were crucial, you could walk into a the newly national Barnes & Noble chain and get a variety of science fiction/fantasy/supernatural horror. You wanted military SF? You had Joe Haldeman. Light fantasy? Enter Xanth by Piers Anthony. Social science fiction? The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Ringworld…Riverworld…we weren’t only reaching out to new planets, we were visiting new worlds and universes.

Here are some of the stand-out titles and authors:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
  • Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
  • Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
  • Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover
  • The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Edward Packard


1974 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons…and we had Advanced D&D by the end of the decade. This was really the decade that saw the RPG (Role-Playing Game) world established, and would include Runequest and Traveller.


Star Trek:  The Original Series ended in 1969, but the people who had come together to fight for a third season kept at it. That included the first Star Trek convention (well, the first widely available to the public one in 1972), the return of the original cast for the animated series, and eventually, 1979, to the big screen.


Again, there was a transition happening, with some significant experimentation.

  • Jack Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC, and introduced Darkseid
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide first appeared
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow take a philosophical walk-about across America
  • Mister Miracle debuts
  • An arc in Spider-Man features drug use, and defies the Comics Code Authority
  • Ra’s Al Ghul first appears
  • The Kree-Skrull War storyline
  • The Sandman
  • War Machine makes his first appearance
  • Wonder Woman gives up her powers

The Weird World

  • The TV series In Search of… (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) was instrumental in reinteresting people in the Roswell Incident
  • 1973 was dubbed “The Year of the Humanoids” by UFO researcher David Webb…one of the most famous was the Pascagoula incident
  • Uri Geller was famous, even appearing on the Tonight Show in 1973 to “bend spoons”
  • Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander was published in 1970
  • The Mysterious Monsters was a Sunn Classics documentary, featuring Peter Graves
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek was released in 1972
  • The Unidentified, published in 1975, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark, is Coleman’s first “name on the cover” book
  • John A. Keel’s inimitable The Mothman Prophecies was published in 1975
  • Momo, the Missouri Monster, was just one of many hairy bipeds
  • Newsstands had magazines galore, including Ancient Astronauts
  • The “flipper photo” of the Loch Ness Monster was taken in 1972 by Dr. Robert Rines’ team
  • In 1975, Travis Walton is missing for several days, and a report emerges of an abduction by aliens


Listening to LPs was definitely a 1970s thing, and there were some definitely geeky concept albums.

  • 1972: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
  • 1978: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
  • 1978: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!


  • Home computers became a thing in 1977, with the Apple II, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), and the TRS-80 (Tandy Radio Shack)
  • Skylab launched in 1973…and docked with the Russian Soyuz in 1975
  • The Atari 2600 was released in 1977
  • The first Pong arcade game was put to use in 1972. Arcade games would really take off with Space Invaders in 1978

There’s a bit of the geeky 1970s for you! We certainly didn’t cover everything, but you can see the big shift from geek culture being kids and niche to becoming the mainstream pop culture force that it is today. Want to add something? Feel free to comment on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Before Ex Machina, there was My Living Doll

April 6, 2015

Before Ex Machina, there was My Living Doll

“I’m just an it.”
–AF709 (aka Rhoda Miller)
I’ll Leave It All to You
episode of My Living Doll
written by Alan Dales

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina opens this Friday, April 10th, in the USA.

If someone has described the movie to you, perhaps based on seeing the trailer, what are the odds they’ve started out with saying it’s “that movie about artificial intelligence”? I would guess it’s far more likely that they’ve featured that it has a “female robot”, or perhaps even “girl robot”.

I write a lot about


in The Measured Circle, both the fictional kind and the ones that are inhabiting the world with us.

One of the most fascinating things to me is how we relate to them. As The Measured Circle defines robots*, they are already part of our lives. Our perceptions of them, especially what prejudices we bring to the relationships, may profoundly affect the future lives of Homo sapiens.

There has been a lot of talk recently about gender stereotypes, especially in the geek community.

There is no question that Ex Machina would be perceived as a very different movie if its “robotagonist” was constructed to appear to be male.

“Female” appearing robots have been the exception in science fiction…but have not been absent:

  • In R.U.R., the play which coined the term in 1920, there are main robot characters who are female. These robots are human appearing, and in fact, are organic…nowadays, we might be more inclined to think of them as clones, but they are created to be workers (which is essentially what the term means)
  • In Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis, a robot of Maria is able to impersonate a human being (passing the so called “Turing test”). We also see the robot without its human skinlike covering
  • Starting in 1962, The Jetsons had Rosie, a robot maid. In some ways, she has established the standard of what we want from our home robots, both in terms of task  capability  and social interaction. Rosie could not only carry on a conversation, she could disagree and give advice. She is shown to be an older model, but the family has an understandable emotional attachment to her
  • 1962 also brought us Platinum (AKA Tina), one of The Metal Men. These were artificially intelligent robots, and a superhero team. Platinum had a faulty “responsometer”, which made her believe she actually was human…and she was in love with Dr. Magnus, the human creator of The Metal Men. While that situation was sometimes played for laughs, Platinum was a full member of the team
  • 1966’s Italian spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, and its sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, have robotic female weapons
  • If you had as much money as Richie Rich, wouldn’t you want a robot in your house? 1970 introduced Irona, a robot maid…who had considerably more capabilities than that. The 2015 Netflix series had an android appearing Irona, although the original was obviously metal
  • In 1976, The Bionic Woman popularized the term “fembot” for female appearing robots. That is not, of course, The Bionic Woman herself (who is a cyborg…a human with machine amplification), but actual robots (constructed from scratch). Similarly Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager is not a robot
  • Daryl Hannah garnered a lot of attention as Pris in BladeRunner in 1982
  • 1985 brought us Small Wonder on TV, with “V.I.C.I.” (Voice Input Child Identicant), a robotic ten-year old
  • If you visited Delos, the adult amusement park that is the setting of Westworld, female robots abounded…and human/robot sex was the norm
  • 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery  recycled  the term “fembots”, although the robots were arguably more like Dr. Goldfoot’s creations than the ones which appeared on The Bionic Woman
  • Summer Glau portrayed Cameron, an intellectually (and emotionally?) complex Terminator who is a main character in Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles, starting in 2008

That’s only a partial list: for more, see

Wikipedia’s List of fictional female robots and cyborgs

although as it states, not everyone on this list is a robot.

However, a series which very directly addresses the idea of how humans will relate to robots, and the role of artificial intelligence, is

My Living Doll (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping**)

and available on Hulu.

Well, at least part of it is…at this point, only eleven episodes are available (and those may be all that survive, although fans hold out hope for the discovery of the others).

I’ve recently watched all of the episodes, and while it might seem easy to dismiss it as “Julie Newmar as a man’s fantasy”, it’s much more interesting than that.

AF709 certainly starts out as simply an object. Robert Cummings’  psychiatrist is a womanizer and misogynist (his perfect woman would “keep her mouth shut”), and accidentally ends up caring for this robot, which has been built without authorization. It’s inventor coincidentally gets sent to Pakistan after the robot escapes from the lab.

Over time, though, AF709 (who is introduced by Cummings’ Dr. McDonald as “Rhoda” to other people, from whom he is hiding her nature), begins to appear to exhibit genuine human emotion and innovative behavior.

Does she, though?

In early episodes especially, there can be confusion when her “echo confirmation” (as we might call it today) causes her to repeat what people say back to them…often leaving off the first word or two. That can lead to them thinking she is confirming what they are saying. An exchange might go something like, “You fed the dog, right?” “Fed the dog.”

In later episodes, she appears to be having fun, and even acting independently.

Newmar’s performance is extraordinary, and much above the material. She has a dancer’s discipline, and the ability to reproduce actions the same way from episode to episode. She explains her databank depth in the same way, even ending with, “This…is a recording” with the same pause. She talks about her “associated components”, and does the same move to demonstrate them.

Famously, when she doesn’t understand something, she may say, “That does not compute”. That’s been cited as the origin of that phrase, although I would guess more people know it from The (male-sounding) Robot’s use of it on Lost in Space (years later).

It isn’t clear in the series as to whether Rhoda has genuinely become self aware, as appears to be the case, or if she is still mimicking human behavior (as she is clearly created to do, presumably as an easy way to program her for her intended use…space missions). Dr. McDonald intentionally sets out to make her more human (but not in a liberated way) as an experiment…did he succeed, or is she just better at acting the way she has computed humans should act?

I’m sure that question (and its implications for how we treat robots, including what “rights” we give them) will be part of Friday’s Ex Machina…and will increasingly be part of our own lives in the future.

* A robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

** When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


February 15, 2015


The San Francisco Call | July 9 1908 | page 1
retyped from



Trustee Hopkins Orders Experimenter from Laboratory When Voices Sound

Stock Holder in  Commercial  System Resents Sordid Spirit of Worker

Brave Professors Comes to Aid of Young Scientist with Offer of Barn

When advancement of  learning  leads to sordid gain should it be frowned upon by a university? Trustee Timothy Hokins [sic] of Stanford, the temporary business manager of the institution while Treasurer Charles G. Lathrop is away, has answered this question emphatically in the affirmative by withholding the privileges of the laboratories for a brilliant young graduate of the cardinal institution, who has lately developed some startling improvement in wireless telephony.

Dr. C. D. Marx,  head of the department of civil engineering and a member of the commission of engineers, engaged in the rebuilding of the university, has answered the question just as emphatically in the negative by installing the apparatus of the young inventor in his spacious barn,  where  it is said that the system has proven so successful that the professor’s livestock have been driven into a  state of panic by the mysterious voices in the loft of their home.


Friends of C.F. Elwell, the inventor in the case, have been unkind enough to suggest that Hopkins was moved to issue his ukase by the fact that he is a heavy stock holder and a member of the executive board of the Pacific States telephone and telegraph company. They point to the significant fact that the apparatus of the big steel tower of the ruined library building was allowed to remain  undisturbed  as long as the university authorities believed that it was there to catch dots and dashes and not vocal sounds.

Elwell has become well known for his original work in electrical engineering and long before his graduation he was made an assistant in that department at Stanford. Last year his work attracted the attention of the men who are trying to sell a wireless telephone system to the government, and the young engineer was appointed to conduct experiments for the company on this coast. The backers the enterprise supplied him with $6,000 worth of apparatus, and while college was still open he used this in conjunction with the electrical and chemical laboratories of the university.


As soon as Stanford closed for the summer he applied to Hopkins for the privilege of using the  laboratories during the vacation period, and it is said that the business manager, still laboring under the delusion that the experiments were concerned with wireless telegraphy alone, granted the required permission without question.

The secret was well kept for a time, but the voices in the tower swore at central one day, and Hopkins must have been passing at the time, for the inventor was summoned to his office and ordered to remove himself and his apparatus from the campus.

Asked for a reason for this order, the business manager declared that the project was purely a commercial affair, and ans such should be given neither the aid nor the sanction of the university. With no place to take his expensive apparatus, Elwell was in danger of despair until Marx came forward with his offer of a refuge.


The Measured Circle note: it’s fascinating that we already see the narrative of a corporate interest trying to prevent disruption to its industry. Wireless voice transmission? Sounds like a cellphone…which may make the use of one in Oz a few years later less impressive (The Wizard of Oz invented the cellphone). Is it also being suggested here that it was profanity that led to the shutdown (“…the voices in the tower swore at central one day”), or was that just because it was loud enough to be overheard? If the former, it mirrors issues which still exist today.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard and try the  The Weird Old Days Flipboard magazine as well

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Is it swarm in here? The Navy announces autonomous swarm boats

October 15, 2014

Is it swarm in here? The Navy announces autonomous swarm boats

“You sunk my battleship!”

Well, technically, you didn’t sink it…robotic ships you unleashed surrounded it and sank it.

In this

media release by David Smalley

the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, proudly says, “The Future Is Now”.

We geeks know that isn’t always a good thing. 😉

In this case, the Navy can retrofit boats with CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing), enabling them to (on their own) coordinate a “swarming attack” on an enemy vessel. They can surround it and just hold it there, or (under human direction), destroy it. The Navy says they can “…deter or destroy attacking adversaries. Any weapons fire from the USVs would need to be initiated by a Sailor supervising the mission.”

There is a video linked on that page, and somehow, it reminded me of the M-5 drill from the original Star Trek’s The Ultimate Computer episode*.

This was kind of a mirror universe version. In the Trek episode, a robotically controlled Enterprise is swarmed by human-controlled starships in a war game.

In this case, a human-controlled vessel was swarmed by robotically-controlled vessels in a war game.

Generally, robots in war are designed to reduce unintended collateral damage. A gun doesn’t have to be “smart” to kill people: it’s made smart so it knows who not to kill.  A smart land mine would choose whether or not to explode, as opposed to current land mines, which maim  indiscriminately.

Even as an advocate of robot rights, we at the Measured Circle have to admit feeling a bit…weirded out by this one.

It certainly seems as though military vessels could be sailing along with this fleet of fast boats zooming along side, like dolphins following a fishing boat. The USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) detect that a kayaker has entered the area, and immediately surround it…at their own discretion. They won’t shoot unless told to do so…if everything goes according to plan (and it always does, right?). 😉

Okay, feeling fine with that? What if we throw drones into the mix? Yep, the media release (which shows this is forward thinking…it isn’t a “press release”) specifically mentions that this system could be expanded to include UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). It suggests it could also be used for tanks and such.

There is just something about the way they’ve written the press release and done the video that makes it sound like one of those weapons demonstrations we see in the movies…just before everything goes wrong.

On the other hand, maybe it’s the demo from Short Circuit…one of these vessels gets hit by lightning, becomes self aware, and sets off on a wacky but peaceful boat trip with Zach Galifinakis and Zooey Deschanel on a madcap comedy, while being pursued by Colonel Nick Offerman as it seeks its designer, Jim Parsons.

If that’s the case, carry on…

* I rewatched that episode in preparation for this post, and it is worth noting that there is a “self-driving” spaceship in it…and it seems to be accepted as routine that an ore freighter would be driving itself around. Yet another case where Star Trek preceded reality…

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them


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