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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Transhumanist
Posted: July 23, 2020 at 11:31 am
The family of the lateHarry Hains recently released the animated video for his first posthumous singleGood Enough transporting viewers into the world of ANTIBOY, one free of societal constraints and labels. Good Enough, released under Harrys artist nameANTIBOY, is the first track from his forthcoming concept albumA Glitch in Paradise, due out later this year. Check out the video below.
A multi-dimensional and compelling musician, actor(most noted forAmerican Horror StoryandThe OA,) artist, and model,Harry didnt define himself by the constructs surrounding us, and his concept ofANTIBOYoffers a portal into an age of existence where there is complete unparalleled freedom to live without preconceptions and societal labels. At a time when society is rising up to break down old systems and demanding equality for all (and on the heels of Pride), Harrys extraordinary perspective, found at the intersection of our conversations on sexuality, gender, race and self-expression, endures because of its cultural relevance as society focuses on conversations and more importantly actions surrounding racial injustice, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, systemic oppression, and equality.
In a digital utopia where there is no inequality, prejudice, or toxicity,Harry (as the genderless transhuman being ANTIBOY)imagines a world in which the human mind and the bionic body merge. Harry lived this through his own identity, which was gender fluid, shapeshifting and open to interpretation just like his music. The focus on the merger of the human consciousness with artificial intelligence, of non-binary existence opens up a conversation about what the future of our species should and could be. PRESS HEREto watch the ANTIBOY trailer. An amalgamation of rock, electronica and gothic pop,A Glitch In Paradiseexplores the virtual world of ANTIBOY as he re-lives his mistakes in order to try to correct them and find happiness. ButANTIBOYexperiences glitches and gets stuck in an endless loop of heartache, inspired by Harrys relationship with then partner Mike.Good Enough is the first tase of this heartache a song that questions being good enough for a partner.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, hes assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.
Read the original here:
ANTIBOY: The Family of Harry Hains Unveils Animated Video For Good Enough Single - Icon Vs. Icon
Posted: July 21, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Human fascination with robots has long been fused with fear. The first widespread use of the term came a century ago in a Czech play about robots manufactured to serve and work for people. The catch? The bots turn on their masters.
That plot has played out in fiction countless times since. Meanwhile, the real world has created ever more advanced versions of mechanical servants. Todays artificial intelligence (AI) is more sophisticated than anyone could have imagined decades ago, and its already influencing our lives in incredible ways even if the robot masses have not (yet) revolted. Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently said AI is more profound than fire or electricity in its impact on humanity.
But like fire, AI can burn us too. Todays Sunday magazine takes stock of where we are, where the technology is headed and the pitfalls that lie ahead with AI. There is much to celebrate, loads to fear and even more to question about a future in which machines join humans in striving for a better world.
Friends With Benefits. Imagine robots did all the cooking, cleaning and dog-walking around your house. They ferry you around town, care for a sick parent, teach kindergarten to your child, deliver packages, perform your favorite hit songs and have sex with you. Guess what? Many of those kinds of robots are already available, and will only get better at human-like tasks in the coming years.
What About My Job?We should not necessarily be thinking of AI and robotic technology as an adversary in the workplace. For manual labor, think wearable exoskeletons that can improve efficiency and reduce injury. For knowledge work, it can be a powerful assistant that helps us do our jobs better, one that reduces our own cognitive load and frees us to work on higher-order tasks and more interesting and creative things. Plus, some jobs that we dont think of being that creative today, like project manager, could get a major human makeover. The project managers of the future will have to make sophisticated decisions to get the best out of both humans and machines. Hear more on OZYs Future of X podcast.
Product Enhancement. Transhumanists cyborg is so pass explore the symbiosis of man and machine, going so far as to upgrade parts of their bodies. Think supercharged ears or a bionic arm to replace an amputated one. And then theres professional mad genius Elon Musk, who wants to fuse human brains with computers to create super-intelligent beings, and has dedicated his company Neuralink to the task. But at what point do we cease being human? Were a long way from drawing that line.
When Do I Get My Self-Driving Car?In many areas, AI has not yet lived up to the hype. Despite overly optimistic predictions, fully autonomous cars are still only in use in certain trial programs. It often can exacerbate racial bias. And the technology has not yet made a dent in complex fields such as accounting, law, engineering and health care. These disappointments are breeding the technologys many doubters. Read more on OZY.
COVID-Accelerated. Some AI trends are getting a boost amid the pandemic and economic turbulence. Fast food chain White Castle is hiring Flippy, a burger-flipping robot, later this year to reduce human contact with the food. AI is being pressed into service to identify the next pandemic. But the crisis has also exposed AIs limits: When our behavior went haywire in response to the virus, machine-learning systems for inventory management, streaming recommendations and other areas couldnt keep up.
Arms Race. By 2030, a third of the combat capacity of Russia is expected to be driven by AI including AI-guided missiles with the ability to change their target mid-flight. Israel has adopted a targeting network to aid the Israel Defense Forces in remotely patrolling the many contentious regions under their control. The U.S. is building a robotic submarine system that will detect underwater mines and other anti-submarine enemy action. But its China that appears to be one robotic step ahead, with its massive domestic surveillance program and military drones that can ferry passengers. Read more on OZY https://www.ozy.com/the-new-and-the-next/which-military-has-the-edge-in-the-a-i-arms-race/358014/
Global Gears.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received a prototype, developed by Boeing Australia, of a jet-powered drone to flank and protect its manned combat aircraft. Brazil and India have set up panels for their militaries to work with cutting-edge labs on developing AI. The U.K.s Ministry of Defence has launched its own AI lab, as has the South Korean army, which has also used a sentry robot in the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea.
Quiz: Which country has touted its work on mini-robots that can slide under enemy tanks? The answer is at the bottom of this story.
Do Killer Robots Dream?There are corners of the internet that scream about bloodthirsty bots already enacting takeovers. But an increasing number of serious people are expressing concern about malicious AI. From the U.S. and other major militaries refusing to sign a treaty against fully autonomous weapons to the time Facebook had to shut down its chatbots because they created their own language, runaway robots should concern us all. Read more on OZY.
Sins of the Flesh. As with many technological advances, the sex industry is on it. Functional sex robots are hitting the market (if you can afford to pay up to $10,000), but experts are raising the alarm about moral questions, with reports that the bots can be programmed to reenact a rape scenario or resemble children. But would child sex dolls actually prevent pedophilia?
You Tell Us. Would you ever have sex with a robot? If not, why not? If so, whom would you design your robot to resemble? Take our Twitter poll.
L Is for the Way You Look at Me. These robotic relationships may well become about more than sex. Many experts believe that humans will fall in love with robot companions as they advance, in part because our brains are not equipped to parse those emotions. In fact, a growing number of people identify as digisexuals attracted to androids.
Algorithmic Soul Mate. AI is being put to use to make real-life connections as well. One service called AIMM promises to both find you a mate and then coach you through the courting process, with all sorts of questionable, at times sexist assumptions that remind us that AI is only as good as the people creating it. Read more on OZY.
Incredible Shrinking Surgeon.Robot-assisted surgery is becoming more widespread and affordable by the day. Eager for the next big leap? Watch out for Boston-based Vicarious Surgical, which recently won recognition from the Food and Drug Administration as a breakthrough device for using virtual reality and tiny robots to perform surgeries inside your body guided by the surgeon on the outside. Read more about robot-assisted surgery on OZY.
Diagnostic Test. Reports of the demise of the radiologist were greatly exaggerated, but AI is getting better at diagnosis. Google recently announced that its AI system often but not always matches or outperforms humans in diagnosing breast cancer. And machine diagnosis is another trend thats seeing a pandemic surge, as the need to swiftly identify coronavirus outbreaks is a matter of life and death.
Nursing Aide. Robots are already popping up at hospitals, performing tasks like delivering medication. And their capabilities are starting to get more complex, such as feeding patients who cannot feed themselves. Its just another example of how baby boomers not millennials are the target demographic for the next era of AI. Read more on OZY.
The Robot Is In.With chatbots getting more advanced, AI is increasingly becoming more involved in your mental health. Apps like Youper can engage with you on a human level with a friendly chat anytime, anywhere that can provide a critical mental lift. Read more on OZY.
Would you rather spill your guts to a bot or a real-life therapist? Tag us on Instagram and let us know.
Robot Prejudice.It may be easier than we thought for autonomous machines to develop one of humanitys less attractive features: prejudice. Why? New research using computational simulation models suggests that prejudice requires only limited intelligence and cognitive ability to develop and spread in populations of artificially intelligent machines. Are we consigned to a future of robot Archie Bunkers? What happens if the outsiders theyre biased against turn out to be us? Read more on OZY.
In Living Color. AI has a well-documented race problem: It struggles to recognize Black faces, among myriad other problems stemming from the fact that there are too few Black faces in the industry itself. Given the newfound enthusiasm for people investing in historically Black colleges and universities in the wake of racial justice protests, how about a woke Silicon Valley type offers up $50 million or so to seed AI research and development at Howard University to help offer balance.
All Rise for Chief Justice Robot!Judges are like umpires, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declared at his 2005 confirmation hearings. But if being an appellate judge is really just a matter of calling balls and strikes, then isnt that a job that could be performed more thoroughly and precisely by a computer, and without political or personal bias, age or infirmity, or ugly confirmation battles? If justice is blind, does it still need to have eyes? Read more on OZY.
AI for the Defense. Overworked and underfunded public defenders in the U.S. have enormous caseloads, which makes competent legal representation difficult. But thanks to initiatives like the Tubman Project, AI is being deployed to help public defenders keep up by doing things like auto-filling forms and reviewing hours of police body-camera footage. How long before AI is also helping negotiate plea deals and more?
Electoral Disruption. Upstart political candidates are turning to AI tools to take on electoral machines and theyre winning. Companies on the left and right are using advanced tech to streamline fundraising and better scale targeted ads, or uncover granular details about how messaging campaigns can best influence voters based on their foundational beliefs. Can a bot make you change your vote? Read more on OZY.
Reining Them In. Part of the problem is that AI powers cant agree on the rules of the road. Last month, Chinese search giant Baidu left the Partnership on AI, an American-led consortium of tech companies, nonprofits, research groups and more, designed to develop ethical guidelines around AI. Baidu was the groups only Chinese member and its departure comes amid a worsening relationship with the U.S. For now, AI governance remains inconsistent across and even within countries: California, for example, has banned facial recognition technology for local law enforcement, while its commonplace in Florida.
Quiz Answer: Iran released images in October of miniature robots that can slide under enemy tanks.
See the article here:
What No One Will Tell You About Robots - OZY
2021 Frontrunner for the VA GOP’s Gubernatorial Nomination Rallies in Honor of Far-Right Paramilitary Group Member; As Del. Jay Jones Points Out, the…
Posted: July 5, 2020 at 10:42 am
How did you spend *your* fourth of July holiday? Probably not like the frontrunner for the Virginia GOPs 2021 gubernatorial nomination, Amanda Chase, who was hanging out in Richmond yesterday with her buddies including right-wing extremist groups, a gun club and white supremacists. Chase was also busy opining that Confederate monuments despite all historical evidence to the contrary are NOT symbols of hate. By the way, since the media didnt report this key information, for whatever reason(s), Chases rally yesterday was as she herself posted on Facebook in honor of Duncan Lemp. Who was Duncan Lemp, you ask? Heres the Wikipedia entry on his fatal shooting by police:
On March 12, 2020, Duncan Socrates Lempwas fatally shot at his home inPotomac, Maryland, during ano-knockpolice raidby the Montgomery County Police DepartmentsSWATteam.Lemp was astudentand asoftware developerwho associated himself with the3 Percenters, a far-right paramilitary militia group
Lemp associated himself with the3 Percenters, a far-right paramilitary militia group, and set up websites for other such organizations.He also frequented the4chanandRedditmessage boards, sites popular withinternet trolls.He was a member of theUnited States Transhumanist Party, having joined on September 6, 2019.A week before the raid, Lemp posted a picture of two people armed with rifles onInstagram, with text referring to boogaloo, a term used by theboogaloo movementas coded language for an anticipated war against the government or liberals.
Thats a pretty important piece of information youd think the media would have reported, by the way, butnope, that might take a minute or two of using Google or whatever. And god forbid they actually give their readers the full context of whats going on. Ugh.
Anyway, so what was the reaction from the Virginia GOP to State Senator Chases rally with white supremacists in honor of a former member of a far-right paramilitary militia group? So far, as Del. Jay Jones (D) pointed out a few minutes ago the silence is deafening here. And its not like Virginia Republicans werent tweeting yesterday; see the Virginia GOP Twitter feed, which has tweets on their U.S. Senate candidate, handing out Trump yard signs, etc. But anything on Chase and her white supremacists rally in Richmond yesterday. Nope, nada. Theres also nothing from the VA Senate GOP Twitter feed either on Chases Fourth of July festivities. Cat got the Virginia GOPs tongue? Do these folks actually *approve* of Chases behavior, are they just terrified of her, or both? Or, ultimately, do they realize that if they condemn Chase, theyd have to also condemn Trump and others in their own party, and thats something they cant bring themselves to do?
Posted: at 10:42 am
For any new parent, sleep is very important. Not just for themselves but even for their newborn. Studies suggest thata good nights sleepis extremely important for the cognitive growth of infants. And to get a good nights sleep, the mattress plays an important role.
To address this problem, Sameer Agarwal, Swapnil Rao, Aneesha Pillai, and Deepak Gupta founded NapNap in 2017. The Mumbai-based startup is an end-to-end consumer products company, focussed on the global mothercare and baby care segment.
The NapNap Team
According to the founders, its flagship product,NapNap Mat, is a portable baby mattress that mimics a mothers womb using a precise combination of vibrations and white noise to soothe infants and lull them to sleep within minutes.
Based on clinical trials conducted by Harvard Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston, USA), NapNap Mat regularises infant breathing and treats apnea among preterm babies by 50 percent.
Sameer comes with over 12 years of experience in Sales and Business Development, Operations and Finance. Before founding NapNap Mat, he co-founded Art Should Tempt and ClassHopr. Swapnil has over 12 years of experience in product development, brand building, and marketing. Before founding NapNap Mat, Swapnil co-founded Mobizon Media and Transhuman Collective.
Deepak has over 12 years of experience in Quality and Systems Engineering. He earlier founded Future Foundry a product design firm. Aneesha brings over eight years in Engineering, Leadership, and General Management. She has an MBA from JBIMS and has previously worked with JP Morgan.
Sameer and Swapnil got the initial idea to start up in the space after one of their friend had a preterm baby. The baby was in distress due to lack of sleep.
Once they had the idea, they reached out to Deepak Gupta and Aneesha Pillai, who were their engineering classmates. The team had been dabbling with product design and they got together and decided to engineer the product based on the scientific data.
The four of us built the first few prototypes and did the initial round of testing in the market before hiring our first employee. Once we had the market acceptance and the product was flying off the shelf, we didn't need to try hard to attract great talent, says Sameer. They are now a team of 16.
While there are a number of mattress brands in the country, the concept of a vibration-therapy-based baby bed is new in the Indian ecosystem.
So, creating a new category and educating the masses about the benefits of using a NapNap Mat was one of the biggest hurdles faced by the team in the initial months.
Apart from this, consumer product companies require high capital infusion and its even higher when someone creates something totally new and deploys resources towards R&D as theres no reference point. So, managing capital initially to create an MVP in the market was quite a challenge and required lot of planning, says Sameer.
When the baby is still in the womb, it gets accustomed to the sounds and vibrations of the mothers body processes, and when the baby is born, it is suddenly in an unfamiliar territory.
Any little change in temperature, movement, and unfamiliar sound makes the infant feel extremely uncomfortable, and the baby reacts by crying due to distress, and hence finds it difficult to fall asleep.
The product works best for babies up to one year old. The startup claims the mat improves breathing, boosts sleep, reduces crying, reduces colic, it is travel friendly, and safe. It can be used in strollers, car seats, cribs, activity mats, bassinets, etc.
The NapNap mat
Indias mattress market is estimated to be worth Rs 10,000 crore, according to media reports. Startups like Cuddl,SleepyCat, Wink&Nod, and Sunday Mattress are all taking sleep seriously and are using advanced tech and raw materials to build their products. There is also The Sleep Company and Sequoia-backed Wakefit operating in the space.
Horizontal marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and ShopClues also offer branded and unbranded mattresses.
With an ecosystem of smart, inter-connected products, NapNap is redefining how technology and data will enable parenting in the future. NapNap is leading this change by solving one parenting problem at a time. It works with single mothers and gives them a platform to generate wealth in all forms (not just money), says Sameer.
The NapNap Mat is ISO 9001-2015 certified and is also certified by a CPSC-approved lab, and considered safe for 0-2 year old babies. It also meets British safety standards for babies.
The startup claims to have scaled 10X in the first year of its launch. Its average order value is Rs 2,000, and its ARR is Rs 2 crore, with gross margin of 66 percent.
NapNap, which has six products in the pipeline, is available on all online marketplaces in India, including Amazon and FirstCry. It has also expanded its presence to markets outside India, such as Dubai and Australia, and soon plans to start operations in the UK.
Since we go direct-to-customer, we can manage to keep the MRP fairly lower and still deliver a very high quality product by offsetting channel margins, says Sameer.
NapNap has raised a pre seed round led by ThinQbate Ventures LLP and Hatcher Plus. It is currently looking to raise a seed round.
The team aims to become the biggest baby mattress company in the world in the next few years.It aims to pacify babies across the globe using technology, design, and innovation. It also aims to scale and consolidate the Indian market for NapNap Mat and NapNap Nursing cover.
We aim to push traction in the UAE, the UK, and Australia market, launch version 2.0 of the NapNap Mat, launch Shusher + (white noise device), and also launch peripheral products (swaddle, feeding bottle, and pacifier), says Sameer.
Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.
Posted: June 13, 2020 at 2:56 pm
Read: Your professional decline is coming (much) sooner than you think
The good news is that its possible to work on extinguishing the terror of this virtual death by borrowing from techniques used to vanquish the fear of physical death.
The fear of literal nonexistence through death is addressed by many philosophical and religious traditions. Many Buddhist monasteries in Southeast Asia, for example, display photos of corpses in various states of decomposition. This body, too, Buddhist monks learn in the Satipatthana Sutta to say about themselves as they look at the photos, such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.
Some monks engage in a meditation called maranasati (mindfulness of death), which consists of imagining nine states of ones own dead body:
At first, this seems strange and morbid. The objective, however, is to make death vivid in the mind of the meditator, and, through repetition, familiar. Psychologists call this process desensitization, in which repeated exposure to something repellent or frightening makes it seem ordinary, prosaic, and less scary.
Read: How happiness changes with age
Western research has tested the idea of death desensitization. In 2017, a team of researchers recruited volunteers to imagine that they were terminally ill or on death row, and then to write about the feelings they imagined they would have. The researchers then compared these thoughts with writings by those who were actually terminally ill or facing execution. The results, published in Psychological Science under the title Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive, were astounding: People imagining their deaths were three times as negative as those actually facing it. Death, it seems, is scarier when it is theoretical than when it is real.
Contemplating death can also inspire courage. There is an ancient Japanese story about a band of lawless samurai warriors notorious for terrorizing the local people. Every place they went, they brought destruction. One day they come to a Zen Buddhist monastery, intent on violence and plunder. The monks ran away in fear for their lives--all except the abbot, a man who had completely mastered the fear of his own death. He sat quietly in the lotus position as the warriors burst in. Approaching the abbot with his sword drawn, the samurai leader said, Dont you see that I am the sort of man who could run you through without batting an eye? Calmly, the master answered, Dont you see that I am a man who could be run through without batting an eye?
Originally posted here:
The Best Way to Handle Your Decline Is to Confront It Head On - The Atlantic
Posted: at 2:56 pm
Scientists at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology make artificial eye far better than anything current.
The biological eye is a highly complex organ, and people have spent decades trying to replicate this most delicate organ through technology. Existing prosthetic eyes fall short with low-resolutions and 2D flat image sensors.
Now, an international team of researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the University of California, Berkley, have overcome this shortcoming by making, for the first time, a biomimetic prosthetic eye using a nanowire array that creates a hemispherical artifical retina. I.e., a 3D image sensor.
Publishing in Nature, (paywall) the team at HKUST showcase their Electrochemical Eye (EC-Eye). Whilst holding great promise in the field of robotics and for people with visual impairments, in perhaps more tantalizing future applications, the team believes their EC-Eye may actually offer sharper vision than a natural human eye, and include extra functions such as the ability to detect infrared radiation in darkness. This of course is stepping into the realm of transhumanism, and the ethical quagmire this entails. But apart from exciting fans of science fiction, the EC-Eye most certainly has more immediate promise for those whose natural vision is severely impaired.
The key to this new artificial eye is the nanowire array mentioned above. These nanowires are derived from perovskite solar cell technology, and are essentially individual nano-solar cells, and can therefore mimic biological photoreceptors found in the retina. These nanowires were then connected to a bundle of liquid-metal wires, serving as artificial nerves, which successfully channeled the light signals to a computer screen which showed what the nanowire array could see.
With electronic-to-nerve interfaces research already well under way, it is hoped that one day these nanowire retinas could be directly implanted and attached to the optic nerves of visually impaired patients. More astonishing still, is that this artificial retina is superior to a natural retina when it comes to the shortcomings that have arisen out of the evolution of the natural retina. All retinas have a blind spot, caused by the fact the bundles of optic nerves have to connect somewhere on the retina to transport information to the brain. This connection point on the retina has no space for photoreceptor cells, and is therefore a blind spot on the retina. Thankfully, your brain fills in the blanks of this blind spot so that people with healthy vision dont see it. However, the effects of this blind spot can be seen if you like to look up at the stars at night. Find a very dim star, and try to look at it directly; it becomes hard to see, but its easier to see if you instead look directly around it.
The EC-Eye does not have such a blind spot.
Furthermore, the nanowires are higher in density than the photoreceptor cells in the human retina. Therefore, in theory, the artificial retina can detect more light signals and therefore produce a higher image resolution than even the most healthy retinas of a human with twenty-twenty vision.
The advantages of an EC-Eye over a natural eye are also the fact that using different materials can enable the detection of a higher spectral range, potentially allowing people with such EC-Eye implants to see in the dark, if their artificial retina can detect infrared light.
However, the authors caution that this technology is still in its early stages.
I have always been a big fan of science fiction, said Prof. Zhiyong Fan of HKUST in a press release, and lead author of the study, and I believe many technologies featured in stories such as those of intergalactic travel, will one day become reality. However, regardless of image resolution, angle of views or user-friendliness, the current bionic eyes are still of no match to their natural human counterpart. A new technology to address these problems is in urgent need, and it gives me a strong motivation to start this unconventional project.
Posted: at 2:56 pm
Jun 12th 2020
by MARK O'CONNELL
This piece is from 1843, our sister magazine of ideas, lifestyle and culture.
IN APRIL I was supposed to be in New York for the American launch of my new book, whose subject, you may be amused to learn, is apocalyptic anxiety. Obviously I didnt go to New York. But I did have a book launch of sorts, in the form of a Zoom webinar hosted by the bookstore where the irl event had been scheduled to take place.
So one evening I sat in my living room in Dublin, while an editor I work with at an American magazine sat in his living room in Brooklyn, and we both drank our beers while having as free-flowing a conversation as the situation permitted. The event was deemed a success, given the circumstances. But it was hard not to experience a Zoom webinar as a somewhat flat and dispiriting substitute for a real gathering, in just the same way that everything these days seems a flat and dispiriting substitute for real life.
After the live-stream ended, I was sitting in front of my laptop with most of a beer to finish. I felt a nervous energy coursing through me but had nowhere to go. So I went onto Google Maps and parachuted into the exact location I should have been that evening using the little yellow flailing man that summons up Street View, Googles immersive photographic panoramas of the worlds roads.
All of a sudden I was on Flatbush Avenue. It was a bright summers day and there was traffic on the street school buses and delivery trucks, vans and yellow cabs. I could almost feel the heat coming off the pavement as I drifted insubstantially northward towards Prospect Park, ghosting through oncoming cars and ups trucks, idly looking out for a bar where we might have gone for drinks once the launch wound down.
I opened another beer, and as the night deepened into early morning I found myself returning to places I remembered from previous trips to New York, places I would have revisited had I been there now. I wandered around the Meatpacking District, trying to find the spot where, on my first trip to the city 20 years ago, a friend and I, after leaving a party, happened across an abandoned sofa on a pier, which we sat on while smoking a joint and looking out over the Hudson river as the sun came up. I made my way towards Chelsea, but couldnt find the pier, and wasnt sure I would have recognised the place anyway, not without the abandoned sofa.
In the following days, I found myself returning to Google Street View, haunting the digitised landscape of my memory. It was an exercise in nostalgia, obviously, but it was something else too. I was entering a kind of crude, 3d rendering of the way the world used to be, open and accessible and alive. All those people out in their shirt sleeves, their faces algorithmically blurred but unmasked, all those cars and vans and trucks hustling people and goods from one place to another. In the next few days, when I should have been in New York, I kept returning at odd moments to the Street View version of the city, re-enacting walks I had once taken, exploring neighbourhoods I half-remembered from previous trips, wandering through the mists of memory.
It struck me that I was engaged in a pale online imitation of a habit I have cultivated when travelling. Whenever I return to somewhere I havent been to in years, it has long been my custom to return to places I have visited before and whose memory persists. Like all the best pleasures, my satisfaction is elevated by an element of shame. Isnt travel supposed to be about new things, new places, about annexing unexplored realms to the empire of personal experience? What a ridiculous thing to do, when you think about it, to return to Amsterdam or Los Angeles or Berlin or Milan and, instead of finding fresh parts of the city to encounter, to set a course straight for the one place you remember from the last time you were there.
YOU ARE NOT VISITING A PLACE YOU REMEMBER FROM YOUR PAST; YOU ARE VISITING THE PAST ITSELF AND A YOUNGER INCARNATION OF YOURSELF
When I was writing my first book, a non-fiction account of the transhumanist movement in Silicon Valley, I made a number of trips to San Francisco. I had spent some time there in my late teens and early 20s my grandmother was from there and I still had family in the city. Whenever I had time free from researching my book, I would hunt down the places I remembered from previous visits. Amoeba Records on Haight Street, the City Lights bookstore in Chinatown and the nearby Old Saint Marys Cathedral, which has a clock tower inscribed with a biblical quotation that had always haunted me: Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil.
The appeal of this has, in one sense, less to do with any special quality of the location per se than with the vertiginous thrill of time folding in on itself. You are not visiting a place you remember from your past; you are visiting the past itself and a younger incarnation of yourself. In another sense, though, the impulse to loiter in old haunts feeds off a tension inherent in travel between the desire to discover unpredictable and exciting things and the desire to take some ownership over a place to forge a connection between the foreign and the familiar.
One of the strangest aspects of life in our new viral reality is the relentless sameness of every day. Hardly a day goes by when I dont think at least once of Estragons line in Samuel Becketts Waiting for Godot: Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, its awful! In life, as in theatre, things happen in the form of people coming and going, and one of the great pleasures of travel is that it creates a sense of plot. Right now, like most of us, I am going nowhere. Not only can I not go to New York, I cant even go to the other side of Dublin. There is no coming, no going, no event of any kind.
But there is a sense in which I have, in fact, been able to travel. Within the five-kilometre radius around my home, to which I was confined for a number of weeks, I began consciously to explore an area I have lived in for most of my life. Taking advantage of the reduced traffic on Dublins roads, I cycled around the quietened landscape of the city.
I live close to Phoenix Park, a huge inner-city park with long tree-lined avenues, large wooded areas, lakes and wild deer. Before the virus struck, I had never ventured very far into it. I had gone there mostly to visit the zoo or one of the playgrounds with my kids, or for a brief run on one of its peripheral pathways. Now, almost every day, I cycle around the park, discovering regions of its sprawling interior Id previously left untouched. There are ponds and streams I had never seen before, paths I never knew existed, a large but unremarkable house I had not known Winston Churchill lived in as a child.
Recently, having read in the Irish Times about a small dolmen, a stone tomb that had been hidden away on the far side of the park since the Bronze Age, my family and I went in search of it and eventually found it in an area whose existence we were previously unaware of. Granted, it wasnt exactly the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. It was small enough for my children to sit on like a bench, and unremarkable enough that we would have passed by without noticing it had we not been looking out for it. But it was worth seeing, and the pleasure, in any case, was in finding it.
This strikes me as a strange inversion of my old compulsion, when travelling, to return to places remembered from previous visits. I have become something like a tourist in my own neighbourhood, finding the unexpected in the familiar. The place I live in feels uncannily new, the streets and buildings different now, as though I am seeing them for the first time. Sometimes it feels as though I am in a city I remember from a dream I thought Id forgotten. Maybe Ill miss that strangeness too, when the bustle returns.
I do miss the world beyond my radius: the old world, where I could visit foreign cities and retrace my steps to familiar places. But I have learned, in the meantime, to look for the foreign in the familiar. And I have learned that you dont have to go very far in order to find it. You dont even have to leave your neighbourhood.
Mark O'Connell is the author of Notes from an Apocalypse
Read the original:
How to go on holiday in a pandemic - The Economist
Posted: May 29, 2020 at 1:12 am
University of Oxford
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Oxford and Cambridge, the oldest universities in Britain and two of the oldest in the world, are keeping a watchful eye on the buzzy field of artificial intelligence (AI), which has been hailed as a technology that will bring about a new industrial revolution and change the world as we know it.
Over the last few years, each of the centuries-old institutions have pumped millions of pounds into researching the possible risks associated with machines of the future.
Clever algorithms can already outperform humans at certain tasks. For example, they can beat the best human players in the world at incredibly complex games like chess and Go, and they're able to spot cancerous tumors in a mammogram far quicker than a human clinician can. Machines can also tell the difference between a cat and a dog, or determine a random person's identity just by looking at a photo of their face. They can also translate languages, drive cars, and keep your home at the right temperature. But generally speaking, they're still nowhere near as smart as the average 7-year-old.
The main issue is that AI can't multitask. For example, a game-playing AI can't yet paint a picture. In other words, AI today is very "narrow" in its intelligence. However, computer scientists at the the likes of Google and Facebook are aiming to make AI more "general" in the years ahead, and that's got some big thinkers deeply concerned.
Nick Bostrom, a 47-year-old Swedish born philosopher and polymath, founded the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at the University of Oxford in 2005 to assess how dangerous AI and other potential threats might be to the human species.
In the main foyer of the institute, complex equations beyond most people's comprehension are scribbled on whiteboards next to words like "AI safety" and "AI governance." Pensive students from other departments pop in and out as they go about daily routines.
It's rare to get an interview with Bostrom, a transhumanist who believes that we can and should augment our bodies with technology to help eliminate ageing as a cause of death.
"I'm quite protective about research and thinking time so I'm kind of semi-allergic to scheduling too many meetings," he says.
Tall, skinny and clean shaven, Bostrom has riled some AI researchers with his openness to entertain the idea that one day in the not so distant future, machines will be the top dog on Earth. He doesn't go as far as to say when that day will be, but he thinks that it's potentially close enough for us to be worrying about it.
Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom is a polymath and the author of "Superintelligence."
The Future of Humanity Institute
If and when machines possess human-level artificial general intelligence, Bostrom thinks they could quickly go on to make themselves even smarter and become superintelligent. At this point, it's anyone's guess what happens next.
The optimist says the superintelligent machines will free up humans from work and allow them to live in some sort of utopia where there's an abundance of everything they could ever desire. The pessimist says they'll decide humans are no longer necessary and wipe them all out.Billionare Elon Musk, who has a complex relationship with AI researchers, recommended Bostrom's book "Superintelligence" on Twitter.
Bostrom's institute has been backed with roughly $20 million since its inception. Around $14 million of that coming from the Open Philanthropy Project, a San Francisco-headquartered research and grant-making foundation. The rest of the money has come from the likes of Musk and the European Research Council.
Located in an unassuming building down a winding road off Oxford's main shopping street, the institute is full of mathematicians, computer scientists, physicians, neuroscientists, philosophers, engineers and political scientists.
Eccentric thinkers from all over the world come here to have conversations over cups of tea about what might lie ahead. "A lot of people have some kind of polymath and they are often interested in more than one field," says Bostrom.
The FHI team has scaled from four people to about 60 people over the years. "In a year, or a year and a half, we will be approaching 100 (people)," says Bostrom. The culture at the institute is a blend of academia, start-up and NGO, according to Bostrom, who says it results in an "interesting creative space of possibilities" where there is "a sense of mission and urgency."
If AI somehow became much more powerful, there are three main ways in which it could end up causing harm, according to Bostrom. They are:
"Each of these categories is a plausible place where things could go wrong," says Bostrom.
With regards to machines turning against humans, Bostrom says that if AI becomes really powerful then "there's a potential risk from the AI itself that it does something different than anybody intended that could then be detrimental."
In terms of humans doing bad things to other humans with AI, there's already a precedent there as humans have used other technological discoveries for the purpose of war or oppression. Just look at the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example. Figuring out how to reduce the risk of this happening with AI is worthwhile, Bostrom says, adding that it's easier said than done.
I think there is now less need to emphasize primarily the downsides of AI.
Asked if he is more or less worried about the arrival of superintelligent machines than he was when his book was published in 2014, Bostrom says the timelines have contracted.
"I think progress has been faster than expected over the last six years with the whole deep learning revolution and everything," he says.
When Bostrom wrote the book, there weren't many people in the world seriously researching the potential dangers of AI. "Now there is this thriving small, but thriving field of AI safety work with a number of groups," he says.
While there's potential for things to go wrong, Bostrom says it's important to remember that there are exciting upsides to AI and he doesn't want to be viewed as the person predicting the end of the world.
"I think there is now less need to emphasize primarily the downsides of AI," he says, stressing that his views on AI are complex and multifaceted.
Bostrom says the aim of FHI is "to apply careful thinking to big picture questions for humanity." The institute is not just looking at the next year or the next 10 years, it's looking at everything in perpetuity.
"AI has been an interest since the beginning and for me, I mean, all the way back to the 90s," says Bostrom. "It is a big focus, you could say obsession almost."
The rise of technology is one of several plausible ways that could cause the "human condition" to change in Bostrom's view. AI is one of those technologies but there are groups at the FHI looking at biosecurity (viruses etc), molecular nanotechnology, surveillance tech, genetics, and biotech (human enhancement).
A scene from 'Ex Machina.'
Source: Universal Pictures | YouTube
When it comes to AI, the FHI has two groups; one does technical work on the AI alignment problem and the other looks at governance issuesthat will arise as machine intelligence becomes increasingly powerful.
The AI alignment group is developing algorithms and trying to figure out how to ensure complex intelligent systems behave as we intend them to behave. That involves aligning them with "human preferences," says Bostrom.
Roughly 66 miles away at the University of Cambridge, academics are also looking at threats to human existence, albeit through a slightly different lens.
Researchers at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) are assessing biological weapons, pandemics, and, of course, AI.
We are dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilization collapse.
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER)
"One of the most active areas of activities has been on AI," said CSER co-founder Lord Martin Rees from his sizable quarters at Trinity College in an earlier interview.
Rees, a renowned cosmologist and astrophysicist who was the president of the prestigious Royal Society from 2005 to 2010, is retired so his CSER role is voluntary, but he remains highly involved.
It's important that any algorithm deciding the fate of human beings can be explained to human beings, according to Rees. "If you are put in prison or deprived of your credit by some algorithm then you are entitled to have an explanation so you can understand. Of course, that's the problem at the moment because the remarkable thing about these algorithms like AlphaGo (Google DeepMind's Go-playing algorithm) is that the creators of the program don't understand how it actually operates. This is a genuine dilemma and they're aware of this."
The idea for CSER was conceived in the summer of 2011 during a conversation in the back of a Copenhagen cab between Cambridge academic Huw Price and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, whose donations account for 7-8% of the center's overall funding and equate to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
"I shared a taxi with a man who thought his chance of dying in an artificial intelligence-related accident was as high as that of heart disease or cancer," Price wrote of his taxi ride with Tallinn. "I'd never met anyone who regarded it as such a pressing cause for concern let alone anyone with their feet so firmly on the ground in the software business."
University of Cambridge
Geography Photos/UIG via Getty Images
CSER is studying how AI could be used in warfare, as well as analyzing some of the longer term concerns that people like Bostrom have written about. It is also looking at how AI can turbocharge climate science and agricultural food supply chains.
"We try to look at both the positives and negatives of the technology because our real aim is making the world more secure," says Sen higeartaigh, executive director at CSER and a former colleague of Bostrom's. higeartaigh, who holds a PhD in genomics from Trinity College Dublin, says CSER currently has three joint projects on the go with FHI.
External advisors include Bostrom and Musk, as well as other AI experts like Stuart Russell and DeepMind's Murray Shanahan. The late Stephen Hawking was also an advisor when he was alive.
The Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) was opened at Cambridge in 2016 and today it sits in the same building as CSER, a stone's throw from the punting boats on the River Cam. The building isn't the only thing the centers share staff overlap too and there's a lot of research that spans both departments.
Backed with over 10 million from the grant-making Leverhulme Foundation, the center is designed to support "innovative blue skies thinking," according to higeartaigh, its co-developer.
Was there really a need for another one of these research centers? higeartaigh thinks so. "It was becoming clear that there would be, as well as the technical opportunities and challenges, legal topics to explore, economic topics, social science topics," he says.
"How do we make sure that artificial intelligence benefits everyone in a global society? You look at issues like who's involved in the development process? Who is consulted? How does the governance work? How do we make sure that marginalized communities have a voice?"
The aim of CFI is to get computer scientists and machine-learning experts working hand in hand with people from policy, social science, risk and governance, ethics, culture, critical theory and so on. As a result, the center should be able to take a broad view of the range of opportunities and challenges that AI poses to societies.
"By bringing together people who think about these things from different angles, we're able to figure out what might be properly plausible scenarios that are worth trying to mitigate against," said higeartaigh.
Posted: at 1:11 am
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.By Alison Foreman2020-05-28 11:00:00 UTC
HBO Max may have just hit the market, but we already know what it's bringing next month.
In June 2020, the streaming service will offer tons of new movie titles like Titanic, Ad Astra, Doctor Sleep, Bridget Jones's Baby, A Cinderella Story, Speed Racer, The Bucket List, The Neverending Story, The Good Liar, Uncle Buck, When Harry Met Sally, and more.
As for TV, HBO Max will debut new seasons of Search Party, Doom Patrol, and Summer Camp Island alongside the series premieres of Perry Mason, Karma, I May Destroy You, and I'll Be Gone in the Dark. Plus, we'll get Seasons 1-24 of South Park and a standup special from Yvonne Orji.
Check out everything coming to HBO Max in June 2020.
After three painful years, Search Party is finally back. The dark comedy from Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter originally premiered on TBS in 2016 with its spectacular second season arriving in 2017. Now, it has been picked up for its third and fourth seasons at HBO Max so if you're new to the search party, now's the perfect time to catch up.
This satirical joyride follows Dory (Alia Shawkat) and her gaggle of entitled friends as they seek to solve the mysterious disappearance of Chantal Witherbottom. Stupidly funny and surprisingly tense, this series checks all the boxes and escalates in ways you can't imagine.
How to watch: Search Party Season 3 premieres June 25 on HBO Max.
A Cinderella Story (6/1)A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (6/1)A Monster Calls (6/1)A Perfect World (6/1)Ad Astra (6/6)Adventures In Babysitting (6/1)Amelie (6/1)An American Werewolf in London (6/1)Another Cinderella Story (6/1)Bajo el mismo techo (aka Under the Same Roof) (6/19)Beautiful Girls (6/1)Black Beauty (6/1)Bridget Jones's Baby (6/1)Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (6/19)Cabaret (6/1)Chicago (6/1)Clash Of The Titans (6/1)Cornfield Shipwreck (6/16)Cradle 2 the Grave (6/1)Crash (6/1)David Attenborough's Ant Mountain (6/16)David Attenbouroughs Light on Earth (6/16)DeBugged (6/16)Doctor Sleep (Directors Cut) (6/27)Doubt (6/1)Dragons & Damsels (6/16)Dreaming Of Joseph Lees (6/1)Drop Dead Gorgeous (6/1)Dune (6/1)Ebony: The Last Years of The Atlantic Slave Trade (6/16)El asesino de los caprichos (aka The Goya Murders) (6/12)Elf (6/1)Enter The Dragon (6/1)Entre Nos: The Winners (6/19)Far and Away (6/1)Final Destination (6/1)Final Destination 2 (6/1)Final Destination 3 (6/1)The Final Destination (6/1)Firewall (6/1)First Man (6/16)Flipped (6/1)Forces of Nature (6/1)Ford V. Ferrari (6/20)Frantic (6/1)From Dusk Til Dawn (6/1)Full Metal Jacket (6/1)Gente De Zona: En Letra De Otro (6/1)Going Nuts: Tales from Squirrel World (6/16)Hack the Moon: Unsung Heroes of Apollo (6/16)Hanna (6/1)Havana (6/1)He Got Game (6/1)Heaven Can Wait (6/1)Heidi (6/1)Hello Again (6/1)Hormigas (aka The Awakening of the Ants) (6/26)In Her Shoes (6/1)In Like Flint (6/1)Into the Lost Crystal Caves (6/16)It Takes Two (6/1)Jason Silva: Transhumanism (6/16)Juice (6/1)Knuckleball! (6/16)Leonardo: The Mystery of The Lost Portrait (6/16)License To Wed (6/1)Life (6/1)Lifeforce (6/1)Lights Out (6/1)Like Water For Chocolate (6/1)Looney Tunes: Back in Action (6/1)Love Jones (6/1)Lucy (6/1)Magic Mike (6/1)Mans First Friend (6/16)McCabe and Mrs. Miller (6/1)Misery (6/1)Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (6/1)Mr. Wonderful (6/1)Must Love Dogs (6/1)My Dog Skip (6/1)Mystic River (6/1)New York Minute (6/1)Nights In Rodanthe (6/1)No Reservations (6/1)Ordinary People (6/1)Our Man Flint (6/1)Patch Adams (6/1)Pedro Capo: En Letra Otro (6/1)Penguin Central (6/16)Personal Best (6/1)Pompeii: Disaster Street (6/16)Presumed Innocent (6/1)Pyramids Builders: New Clues (6/16)Ray (6/1)Richie Rich (6/1)Rosewood (6/1)Rugrats Go Wild (6/1)Running on Empty (6/1)Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer (6/16)Scanning the Pyramids (6/16)Secondhand Lions (6/1)She's The Man (6/1)Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (6/1)Space Cowboys (6/1)Speed Racer (6/1)Splendor in the Grass (6/1)Summer Catch (6/1)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (6/1)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (6/1)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (6/1)Tess (6/1)The American (6/1)The Bucket List (6/1)The Champ (6/1)The Daunting Fortress of Richard the Lionheart (6/16)The Fountain (6/1)The Good Liar (6/13)The Good Son (6/1)The Goonies (6/1)The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (6/1)The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (6/1)The Hunger (6/1)The Iron Giant (6/1)The Last Mimzy (6/1)The Losers (6/1)The Neverending Story (6/1)The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter (6/1)The Parallax View (6/1)The Stepfather (6/1)The Time Traveler's Wife (6/1)The Woodstock Bus (6/16)Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (6/1)Titanic (6/1)TMNT (6/1)Torch Song Trilogy (6/1)Transhood (6/24)Tsunamis: Facing a Global Threat (6/16)Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (6/1)Tweety's High-Flying Adventures (6/1)U-571 (6/1)U.S. Marshals (6/1)Unaccompanied Minors (6/1)Uncle Buck (6/1)Veronica Mars (6/1)Versailles Rediscovered: The Sun Kings Vanished Palace (6/16)Vitamania (6/16)Walking and Talking (6/1)We Are Marshall (6/1)Weird Science (6/1)Welcome to Chechnya (6/30)Whale Wisdom (6/16)When Harry Met Sally (6/1)Wild Wild West (6/1)Wonder (6/1)X-Men: First Class (6/1)Youve Got Mail (6/1)
4th & Forever: Muck City: Season 1 (6/1)Adventure Time Distant Lands: BMO (6/25)Age of Big Cats: Season 1 (6/16)Ancient Earth: Season 1 (6/16)Apocalypse: WWI: Season 1 (6/16)Big World in A Small Garden (6/16)Digits: Season 1 (6/16)Doom Patrol: Season 2 Premiere (6/25)Esme & Roy: Season 2A Premiere (6/25)Expedition: Black Sea Wrecks: Season 1 (6/16)#GeorgeWashington (6/16)HBO First Look: The King of Staten Island (6/4)Hurricane the Anatomy: Season 1 (6/16)I May Destroy You: Series Premiere (6/7)Ill Be Gone in the Dark: Docuseries Premiere (6/28)Infinity Train: Season 2 Premiere (6/10)Inside Carbonaro: Season 1 (6/2)Karma: Series Premiere (6/18)King: A Filmed Record Montgomery to Memphis (Part 1 & Part 2): Season 1 (6/16)Looney Tunes (Batch 2): Season 1 (6/16)Perry Mason: Limited Series Premiere (6/21)Popeye (Batch 2): Season 1 (6/16)Realm of the Volga: Season 1 (6/16)Sacred Spaces: Season 1 (6/16)Science vs. Terrorism: Season 1 (6/16)Search Party: Season 3 Premiere (6/25)Secret Life of Lakes: Season 1 (6/16)Secret Life Underground: Season 1 (6/16)Secrets of the Solar System: Season 1 (6/16)South Park: Seasons 1 - 23 (6/24)Space Probes!: Season 1 (6/16)Speed: Season 1 (6/16)Spies of War: Season 1 (6/16)Summer Camp Island: Season 2 Premiere (6/18)Tales of Nature: Season 1 (6/16)The Celts: Blood, Iron & Sacrifice: Season 1 (6/16)The History of Food: Season 1 (6/16)The Secret Lives of Big Cats: Season 1 (6/16)Viking Women: Season 1 (6/16)Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It! (6/6)
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Everything coming to HBO Max in June 2020 - Mashable
In a fitting finale, "The Good Fight" makes the case for nipping Jeffrey Epstein whodunit in the bud – Salon
Posted: at 1:11 am
Call it kismet, if you like. Usually the circumstances inspiring that term's invocation are poetic and positive. Colored thusly, it might not seem right to apply the world to the circumstances surrounding the unintentional fourth season finale of "The Good Fight" because roduction had to halt on the drama when the pandemic sped up its nasty sweep across the country and the globe. In a pre-COVID-19 world, creators and showrunners Robert and Michelle King had scripted three more episodes that did not get shot.
But ending a conspiracy-driven season with "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein," its seventh episode, is apt if not ideal. Circumstances forced this episode to transform from one of the series' fictionalized departures into a stranger-than-fiction real story into if not the last word on this arc a cliffhanger at least. And the coincidental timing of its debut is remarkable, arriving in the same week as the debut of "Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich" on Netflixand the"Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?" special on ID.
The producers acknowledge these strange days and the crimes born from corrupt leadership in other ways, too. They replaced the drama's operatic theme with John Prine's "My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight" to open the finale. They did the same with the sixth episode, featuring Fountains of Wayne's "Hey Julie." Both were tributes since Prine and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger both died of complications linked to COVID-19.
Remember, though, that Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart partner Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) ushered us into this latest round of fictionalized adventures through the gateway of a nightmare her nightmare. The premiere dropped us into her dream of an alternate timeline in which Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, but #MeToo never happened. Diane, in her dream, was assigned to lead the firm's defense of Harvey Weinstein which, understandably, made her apoplectic.
Capping off this round, "The Good Fight" going down the conspiracy water slide surrounding Epstein's deathcreates a convenient if coincidental bookend. Two of the biggest stories within this era of women shedding light on the sexual abuses inflicted by powerful men are acknowledged in this fourth season.
The "gang's" services are retained by U.S. Attorney Wilbur Dincon (Adam Heller), who tasks the firm with hunting down the truth of how Epstein died in his jail cell last August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges, promising more work if they solve the case. The financier's official cause of death is suicide by hanging, but some believe he was killed.
Commence a wild airing of multiple conspiracy theories by way of a firm-wide tumble down some of the same conspiracy worm holes torn open on Reddit and 4chan, spearheaded by Liz (Audra McDonald). Some of them, and the evidence supporting them, were ginned up by the writers. But the kookiest details are connected to true stories.
One draws a connection between Epstein and Attorney General William Barr by way of a book written by Barr's father Donald titled "Space Relations," which is about child sexual slavery in space. The book actually exists.
Another branch of the path opens up by way of breaking down Epstein's obsession with transhumanism and seeding women with his DNA to create a "superior" breed of human, which also happens to be true.
The point of all this craziness, though, is to illustrate how efficiently evil works to distract the average person. While Liz and the associates are neck deep in digging through evidence, decoding odd messages ,and constructing an impressive crazy wall in the company's conference room, the other two name partners, Diane and Adrian (Delroy Lindo) are informed by their icy-blooded overlord Gavin Firth (John Larroquette) that they need to cut a fifth of their staff.
As for the season's core mystery, concerning a secret directive known as Memo 618 that renders the rich and powerful legally bulletproof, we don't get to the bottom of what the memo is or which entities are behind it. That will have to wait until the fifth season, whenever that airs. And when it does, the conspiracy's relevance and accompanying subtext will probably hold.
Part of the "to be continued" aspect of this storyline shows Julius Cain (Michael Boatman), a newly seated federal judge, being arrested on cooked-up charges after going to the Office of the Inspector General, hoping to blow the whistle on the memo's existence. Nearly everyone else is so glued to figuring out what really happened to Epstein that they barely notice the figurative guillotine being constructed in their midst, let alone dream their own heads might roll.
The episode title itself, "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein," is intentionally misleading the gang doesn't get to the bottom of that mystery but not for lack of extreme effort. They do, however, come close to a shocking discovery when the firm's investigators Marissa (Sarah Steele) and Jay (Nyambi Nyambi) journeying by boat out to Epstein's exclusive island seeking the answer to who, or what a clue identified as "BUD" might be.
The answer, revealed after the duo gains entry to a locked room, is in part a "Citizen Kane" reference but in larger portion a shocking visual commentary on the extreme hubris of the excessively wealthy: "BUD" is the codename for the organ Epstein prized most, kept in cryogenic storage alongside his brain, making for one hell of a season-closing last look.
Amazing, and yet credible. Epstein was a pedophile and, by most accounts, an otherwise unremarkable human save for his connections, libertine privilege, bacchanals, and displays of opulence.
Whatwere we talking about again? Ah yes: distraction. These seven episode of "The Good Fight" illustrate the two tiers of the justice system as it truly exists. Memo 618 is a fictional device made to helpfully explain why men like Epstein and Weinstein and Donald Trump can shred legal norms and do as they please without consequence.
It's much handier for dramatic purposes to give systemic injustice a device to blame as opposed to simply showing the good guys losing over and over again for no other reason beyond the understanding that the judicial branch of government is too thoroughly corrupted for the little guy, or even the relatively well-off, to get a fair shot. And the problem is, the people who have access to power and a sizable bank account are generally fine with this arrangement.
Adrian, a man with a hush-hush invitation to run for president in his back pocket, drops in on attorney's team whirlwind to urge his people to not get caught up conspiracy theories. Law enforcement's failure to hold Epstein's accountable for his crimes, including allowing him to ignore his court-ordered 90-day check-ins like every other sexual predator must do, may simply be an example of government incompetence, he says.
Diane sees it differently. "We all have to obey the law," she says. "If we're told we have to check in with the police every 90 days, we do it. But certain people don't have to. They get special treatment."
She angrily adds, "That is America. That is not incompetence. It's a special f**king off-ramp for the well-connected."
Smartly the writers don't make Memo 618 the season's sole tension, which goes against the established case-of-the-week format; "The Good Fight" is still a CBS-branded procedural at the end of the day. Instead, the sinister Memo is a corporeal representation of the invisible forces whose knees are on our necks and the enabling structures keeping them in place. The season premiere presented itself as a lark and a diversionary ride into an alternate reality but beneath the cynical humor of Diane's twisted dreaming is an indictment of white feminism's enabling of predatory, exploitative patriarchal structures. As long as some people reap the rewards of appearing to achieve parity, that's enough.
But as the plot progresses, the fourth season demonstrates how the various levels of privilege granted to some Americans can be exploited to the detriment of all but the 1%. And this structural decay is made possible by the fact that, like so many in Epstein's inner circle, many of us choose to look the other way.
A desperate Diane asks Dincon, point-blank, what Memo 618 is. He asks her why, and she says, "Jeffrey Epstein's life was built on it."
"Then you have your answer," the U.S. Attorney replies before walking away.
Marissa observes in the finale's closing moments that in all the obsessing over what happened to Epstein, the team (and the audience by proxy) has lost perspective on what really matters in his story, the teenage girls he violated and the justice they're owed but may never receive. "We're chasing a whodunit in the middle of a tragedy," she says.
"The Good Fight" rages at this unfairness as its lights temporarily turn off, leaving its viewers much to contemplate about our part in this imbalance of society's scales. Hopefully that's what will stick with us as opposed to its diversionary tactic of a flashing a dead rapist's BUD.
All episodes of "The Good Fight" are currently streaming on CBS All Access.