Friday, 30 December 2011

Predator Drones, Acoustic Weapons, & Hipster Cops in Scramble Suits: Future Policing that Protects the Future From You

Hipster Cop from Sparrow Media on Vimeo.

<a href='' target='_new' title=''A Scanner Darkly' Clip: "Scramble Suit"'>Video: 'A Scanner Darkly' Clip: "Scramble Suit"</a>

Friday, 23 December 2011

Prometheus (official high-definition trailer)

I was online last night and saw how fans were counting down in "real time" till the official release of the first trailer. As you can see from the poster, as per the first film, a "big dumb object" (to use Peter Nicholl's term) features prominently. While  it's pleasing to see some evidence of continuity, there may also be a real danger of moving quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous: have a close look at the trailer below, and be sure to freeze it at around 44 seconds in. If you look to the right, very closely, you'll see a humanoid figure who resembles the enormous head in the poster. I really hope then that the Space Jockeys don't prove to be a race that resembles the silly Cenobites from the Hellraiser films (or that other similarly nattily attired villain in Dark City).

To be fair though, I don't have much to go on yet, so I should probably wait till next August before passing judgement. I'm going to be taking in some new material, not specifically related to this film, over the course of the next few days; hopefully it might inspire me to drop in here again to post something about the kind of horror I'd like to eventually see in a science fiction film.

#OWS | Your Time Is Now

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is already starting to look like dated science fiction

By 2037 the federally funded chimpanzee research population will "largely cease to exist" in the United States. Advances in the development of other research tools, including cell-based tests and other animal models, have rendered chimpanzees largely nonessential as research subjects, the committee noted.~National Academy of Science, Dec 15; Science Insider, Dec 15

An invaluable resource from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

If you're a researcher or a concerned private citizen, then you will agree with me that it is just fantastic to have such an exhaustive list at your fingertips, which includes dramas and documentaries, all tagged to assist your searches:

Film Topics
Abortion (9)
Biomedical Research (14)
Bionics and Cyborg Technologies (8)
Care of the Elderly and Geriatrics (3)
Creation Identity - Sperm, Egg and Embryo Donation (22)
Eugenics and Genetic Enhancement (37)
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (28)
Human Cloning (31)
Human Dignity - Full Moral Status (10)
Human Embryology (16)
Human Genetics (14)
Human Sexuality and Biology (1)
Human Transplantation (17)
Human-Nonhuman Hybrids and Chimeras (11)
Neuroethics and the Neurobiology of Moral Responsibility (1)
Organ Trafficking (13)
Psychiatry (34)
Surrogacy (5)
Xenotranplantation (9)
Film Types
Documentary (118)
Drama (165)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The only living witness...

Depressing as it is to read speculations about China one day launching electromagnetic pulse bomb attacks against the United States, I suppose at least this pic offers a salutary reminder that things could be even worse if a omnicidal maniac ever had the means at their disposal to deliver destruction on an even larger scale. So don't tell me that this blog never looks on the sunny side of life, right?

There's no way for me to be sure of course, but I'm constantly amazed at the numbers of requests for help I've noticed editors get from Chinese students looking to get into MIT and the like to study computer science. Many of the applicants refer to their interest in hacking/security issues, so I can't help wondering if the ulterior motive is sometimes to later use this knowledge for cyberwar (including accessing the knowledge bases of foreign corporations to learn how they make their products, so their Chinese competitors can attempt to copy and improve them).

I don't want to make this sound like Sinophobia though, not least because I think the political  science and computer science departments of any university in the West you can name are in all likelihood equally complicit in state security issues. With regard to political science, for example, one need only consider the critiques of South East Asian Studies as being too closely aligned to the objectives of the U.S. State Department, given its downplaying of the significance of revolution as a developmental logic in this region, in the interest of emphasizing functionalist systems theory instead.

Having said that, the fact remains that China's comparatively low ranking on the Press Freedom Index indicates it is inherently more difficult for its Fourth Estate to "witness" and thereby preempt the kind of realpolitik I've referred to in this post.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Transhuman Space

It's been around for a while now, but time has not diminished its power to provoke debates about the myriad ways in which transhumanism may play out (in the distant future), thanks to the game's detailed world-building. I think Transhuman Space could even be used as a teaching aid. I like to consider some of its central themes alongside my earlier post on AIs, moral consideration etc. To the future!

The sliding scale of robot intelligence: We have non-sapient AI (NAI), low-sapient AI (LAI), and Sapient AI (SAI). Also their template IQ bonus is dependent on their program complexity.

Two kinds of brain uploading. "Ghosts" where the brain is destroyed in the process, and "shadows" where the brain survives but the AI simulation isn't as good.

Transhumanism is banned: Largely averted, though various societies ban some Transhumanist technologies - the Islamic Caliphate bans ghosts, the European Union bans radical human genetic engineering, and so on.

What measure is a nonhuman? Legal attitudes vary greatly by country, usually AIs and Uplifts are property and Bioroids are treated as permanent minors while Ghosts and Parahumans are full citizens but there are exceptions. For example the EU gives full citizenship to Bioroids and SAI while the Caliphate treats SAI as people and Ghosts as abominations (my guess is they believe infomorphs have souls). (

The Eight Day

This made me think of the character "Coyote" from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. But I should defer instead to the statement of the artists responsible for the work.

Makis Voridis

So this will mean austerity measures will rain down on the Greek people like blows from an axe. Derridata emailed me something on a not unrelated note: 

with the coming collapse of the Eurozone it's hard not to ponder what it will become of it as a reworked rallying call for nationalists

I'm a Judeo-Christian morality with a Greco-Roman intellect
It's the way we're short-wired
It's a civilising force that demands respect - from the Baltic to the Straits Of Gibraltar
A blue flag gold star sparks a brand new empire
Ours to build, ours the choice

I'm in an European Super State
Every citizen required to debate!

Why are the proud descendants of Plato paying off more debts accommodating NATO?
We the caretakers of democracy no longer tolerate this hypocrisy
Baltic to the Straits Of Gibraltar
A blue flag gold star sparks a brand new empire
Ours to build, ours the choice

I'm in an European Super State
Every citizen required to debate!

- Old Europe

I'm a Judeo-Christian morality with a Greco-Roman intellect
It's the way we're short-wired
It's a civilising force that demands respect - from the Baltic to the Straits Of Gibraltar
A blue flag gold star sparks a brand new empire
Ours to build, ours the choice

I'm in an European Super State
Every citizen required to debate!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The welfare state: why we need a "Jerusalem for all"

This appeal to the inclusiveness of the British welfare state harks back to the post-war period. It is offered at a time when moves are afoot in Britain to make it a mandatory requirement for chemotherapy or radiotherapy patients to have to report for job interviews. As a part-time personal carer for someone with cancer myself, I am so shocked beyond belief that I really don't know what to say. Anyway, the speaker in the video is so eloquent I don't think I could add much.

All I'll say then is that the idea of appealing to a "Jerusalem for all", which acknowledges Britain's fine past welfare legacy, indeed comparable to Australia's at that time in many respects, can, I believe, be clearly distinguished from comparisons of any continuity between, say, the Scandinavian welfare state, and Nazi policy. I would have quoted Roger Griffin to this effect, but he did not give me permission to cite his reaction on this blog, so I'll refer interested readers instead to something else I've come across. Check out page 266 of the following book, which refers to British historian of science, Paul Weindling (Weindling basically argues that Nazi eugenics were different from the very outset from the Scandinavian program).

Indeed, it is fascinating how in the present British context there is such critical awareness of the odious legacy of Nazi "Sonderbehandlung" (check out the comments thread of the post I've linked to here if you're curious).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bringing it all back home....

Just remember, the police started using helicopters after their proven success in the Vietnam War, so it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise that moves would be afoot to now introduce drones as well. Will this be for covert surveillance only (sinister enough), or will we see these things armed as well? And if they are to be armed, how long will it be till a missile is "accidentally" launched into the next demonstration by the Occupy movement or something similar? Trust me, it will never happen to the Tea Party.

It reminds me of that wonderful line from Alien: "the company must have wanted it (i.e. the alien creature) for their Urban Pacification Unit."

"Idea of civilians using drone aircraft may soon fly with FAA - "The Federal Aviation Administration plans to propose new rules for the use of small drones in January, a first step toward clearing the way for police departments, farmers and others to employ the technology."

Let me guess: you're feeling safer already, right?

South Korea to trial robot prison guards

It is just wrong on so many levels

So may we all look forward to the day when we toil in private prisons assembling Microsoft products under the watchful eye of our robot overlords!!