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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: October 4, 2019
Posted: October 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm
Susan Schneider is the NASA/Baruch Blumberg Chair at the Library of Congress and NASA, as well as the director of the AI, Mind and Society Group at the University of Connecticut. Her work has been featured by the New York Times, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Fox TV, History Channel, and more. Her two-year NASA project explored superintelligent AI. Previously, she was at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton devising tests for AI consciousness. Her books include The Language of Thought, The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, and Science Fiction and Philosophy.
Chapter 1: The hard problem of consciousness SUSAN SCHNEIDER: Consciousness is the felt quality of experience. So when you see the rich hues of a sunset, or you smell the aroma of your morning coffee, you're having conscious experience. Whenever you're awake and even when you're dreaming, you are conscious. So consciousness is the most immediate aspect of your mental life. It's what makes life wonderful at times, and it's also what makes life so difficult and painful at other times.
No one fully understands why we're conscious. In neuroscience, there's a lot of disagreement about the actual neural basis of consciousness in the brain. In philosophy, there is something called the hard problem of consciousness, which is due to the philosopher David Chalmers. The hard problem of consciousness asks, why must we be conscious? Given that the brain is an information processing engine, why does it need to feel like anything to be us from the inside?
Chapter 2: Are we ready for machines that feel?SUSAN SCHNEIDER: The hard problem of consciousness is actually something that isn't quite directly the issue we want to get at when we're asking whether machines are conscious. The problem of AI consciousness simply asks, could the AIs that we humans develop one day or even AIs that we can imagine in our mind's eye through thought experiments, could they be conscious beings? Could it feel like something to be them?
The problem of AI consciousness is different from the hard problem of consciousness. In the case of the hard problem, it's a given that we're conscious beings. We're assuming that we're conscious, and we're asking, why must it be the case? The problem of AI consciousness, in contrast, asks whether machines could be conscious at all.
So why should we care about whether artificial intelligence is conscious? Well, given the rapid-fire developments in artificial intelligence, it wouldn't be surprising if within the next 30 to 80 years, we start developing very sophisticated general intelligences. They may not be precisely like humans. They may not be as smart as us. But they may be sentient beings. If they're conscious beings, we need ways of determining whether that's the case. It would be awful if, for example, we sent them to fight our wars, forced them to clean our houses, made them essentially a slave class. We don't want to make that mistake. We want to be sensitive to those issues. So we have to develop ways to determine whether artificial intelligence is conscious or not.
It's also extremely important because as we try to develop general intelligences, we want to understand the overall impact that consciousness has on an intelligent system. Would the spark of consciousness, for instance, make a machine safer and more empathetic? Or would it be adding something like volatility? Would we be, in effect, creating emotional teenagers that can't handle the tasks that we give them? So in order for us to understand whether machines are conscious, we have to be ready to hit the ground running and actually devise tests for conscious machines.
Chapter 3: Playing God: Are all machines created equal?SUSAN SCHNEIDER: In my book, I talk about the possibility of consciousness engineering. So suppose we figure out ways to devise consciousness in machines. It may be the case that we want to deliberately make sure that certain machines are not conscious. So for example, consider a machine that we would send to dismantle a nuclear reactor. So we'd essentially quite possibly be sending it to its death. Or a machine that we'd send to a war zone. Would we really want to send conscious machines in those circumstances? Would it be ethical?
You might say, well, maybe we can tweak their minds so they enjoy what they're doing or they don't mind sacrifice. But that gets into some really deep-seated engineering issues that are actually ethical in nature that go back to Brave New World, for example, situations where humans were genetically engineered and took a drug called soma, so that they would want to live the lives that they were given. So we have to really think about the right approach. So it may be the case that we deliberately devise machines for certain tasks that are not conscious.
On the other hand, should we actually be capable of making some machines conscious, it may be that humans want conscious AI companions. So, for example, suppose that humans want elder care androids, as is actually under development in Japan today. And as you're looking at the android shop, you're thinking of the kind of android you want to take care of your elderly grandmother, you decide you want a sentient being who would love your grandmother. You feel like that is what best does her justice. And in other cases, maybe humans actually want relationships with AIs. So there could be a demand for conscious AI companions.
Chapter 4: Superintelligence over sentienceSUSAN SCHNEIDER: In Artificial You, I actually offer a 'wait and see' approach to machine consciousness. I urge that we just don't know enough right now about the substrates that could be used to build microchips. We don't even know what the microchips would be that are utilized in 30 to 50 years or even 10 years. So we don't know enough about the substrate. We don't know enough about the architecture of these artificial general intelligences that could be built. We have to investigate all these avenues before we conclude that consciousness is an inevitable byproduct of any sophisticated artificial intelligences that we design.
Further, one concern I have is that consciousness could be outmoded by a sophisticated AI. So consider a super intelligent AI, an AI which, by definition, could outthink humans in every respect: social intelligence, scientific reasoning, and more. A super intelligence would have vast resources at its disposal. It could be a computronium built up from the resources of an entire planet with a database that extends beyond even the reaches of the human World Wide Web. It could be more extensive than the web, even.
So what would be novel to a superintelligence that would require slow conscious processing? The thing about conscious processing in humans is that it's particularly useful when it comes to slow deliberative thinking. So consciousness in humans is associated with slow mental processing, associated with working memory and attention. So there are important limitations on the number of variables, which we can even hold in our minds at a given time. I mean, we're very bad at working memory. We could barely remember a phone number for five minutes before we write it down. That's how bad our working memory systems are.
So if we are using consciousness for these slow, deliberative elements of our mental processing, and a superintelligence, in contrast, is an expert system which has a vast intellectual domain that encompasses the entire World Wide Web and is lightning fast in its processing, why would it need slow, deliberative focus? In short, a superintelligent system might outmode consciousness because it's slow and inefficient. So the most intelligent systems may not be conscious.
Chapter 5: Enter: Post-biological existenceSUSAN SCHNEIDER: Given that a superintelligence may outmode consciousness, we have to think about the role that consciousness plays in the evolution of intelligent life. Right now, NASA and many astrobiologists project that there could be life throughout the universe, and they've identified exoplanets, planets that are hospitable, in principle, to intelligent life. That is extremely exciting. But the origin of life right now is a matter of intense debate in astrophysics. And it may be that all of these habitable planets that we've identified are actually uninhabited.
But on the assumption that there's lots of intelligent life out there, you have to consider that, should these life forms survive their technological maturity, they may actually be turning on their own artificial intelligence devices themselves. And they eventually may upgrade their own brains so that they are cyborgs. They are post-biological beings. Eventually, they may have even their own singularities.
If that's the case, intelligence may go from being biological to post-biological. And as I stress in my project with NASA, these highly sophisticated biological beings may themselves outmode consciousness. Consciousness may be a blip, a momentary flowering of experience in the universe at a point in the history of life where there is an early technological civilization. But then as the civilizations have their own singularity, sadly, consciousness may leave those biological systems.
Chapter 6: The challenge: Maximizing conscious experienceSUSAN SCHNEIDER: That may sound grim, but I bring it up really as a challenge for humans. I believe that understanding how consciousness and intelligence interrelate could lead us to better make decisions about how we enhance our own brain. So on my own view, we should enhance our brains in a way that maximizes sentience, that allows conscious experience to flourish. And we certainly don't want to become expert systems that have no felt quality to experience. So the challenge for a technological civilization is actually to think not just technologically but philosophically, to think about how these enhancements impact our conscious experience.
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Posted: at 7:51 pm
James Lovelock. Illustration: Stevie Remsberg/Intelligencer. Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images
On September 23,the United Nations opened its Climate Action Summit here in New York, three days after theGlobal Climate Strike, led by Greta Thunberg, swept through thousands of cities worldwide more than 4 million protesters around the world, marching out of anger that so little has been done. To mark the occasion, Intelligencer is publishing State of the World, a series of in-depth interviews with climate leaders from Bill Gates to Naomi Klein and Rhiana Gunn-Wright to William Nordhaus interrogating just how they see the precarious climate future of the planet and just how hopeful they think we should all be about avoiding catastrophic warming. (Unfortunately, very few are hopeful.)
James Lovelock turned 100 this year and celebrated by publishing a new book on artificial intelligence. But he is known as much more of an old-fashioned scientist and compares himself to Darwin and Faraday in that he also likes to work alone, outside of institutions. Nevertheless, though you may not know his name, he is among the most influential scientists of the 20th century, having developed and then, over the course of decades of writing, refined and refashioned what is called the Gaia theory, or the principle that Earths ecosystem is a single, living, self-regulating entity. In early September, just a few months after his birthday, I met Lovelock one morning at his home on Chesil Beach in southern England, where we talked about nuclear power, his hope that AI might save the planet from catastrophic warming, and just how to integrate the disruptions and disturbances of climate change into a Gaia worldview.
At 100 years old, youve been alive for something like 90 percent or more of all the carbon emissions that have ever been produced from the burning of fossil fuels.Exactly. Well, I hope you dont blame me for that.
But the world really has changed an enormous amount in your lifetime.Yes. I grew up from 6 till about 14 years old in an area of London which was probably more polluted than anywhere in the world. Particularly vile air. It was so thick that not only could you not see a hand in front of your face, but people were dying on railroad platforms because they couldnt see where the platform ended. Thats coal for you.
On climate, your views have changed over time, I know. You were for a period more alarmed, and then you grew a little bit less alarmed. How do you see the big picture at the moment? Where do you think we are, and where do you think were heading? The big picture is that everything is continuing more or less as predicted by climate scientists. But the exact course, of course, depends on all sorts of things.
But taking seriously the main proposition of Gaia theory, if the whole Earth system is a kind of living, self-regulating entity of which human activity is also a natural part and one we shouldnt be trying to exclude, what is concerning about climate change? Why shouldnt we just accept that as being part of the same system? Up to a point, we have to, and we do, wrongly. I mean, if youre an ordinary man with a family, youve got to have an income. Youve got to work for somebody on something and that determines what you do, rather than any environmental concern.
But thinking more globally, people like you and me, who think about these things in somewhat bigger terms how concerned should we be? Well, at first you get into a panic. At least I did. And then eventually you realize that theres not a lot you can do about it. I mean, did you ever read that book by Martin Rees, Our Final Hour? Well, that was written quite a while back and I think hes right.
The warm-up of the sun is quite remorseless, and it will continue. Unless we do something like [physicist Edward] Tellers idea of putting up sunshades in the heliocentric orbit, weve had it. Thats it. There isnt any way you could survive if the sun continues to warm up.
But nobody can predict the climate in two or three years time. It could be almost anything. For example, there was news of a very large volcano eruption emerging in the middle of the Pacific, from below. Well, of course, if that develops and magma starts coming up, that could change the whole picture. Im hoping it wont happen and probably it wont.
When you allow yourself to be optimistic, how do you see the next few decades unfolding? Well, I wont be here for one, so I wont see them. But I think we will have to curb our tendency to burn fossil fuels. And I think the big companies are beginning to realize themselves that you cant make money that way. What replaces it, I hope, is nuclear, but probably theyll mess about with renewables for awhile until they find their way to nuclear.
Why do you think it has been so difficult to get nuclear power going again?Because theres propaganda. I think the coal and oil business fight like mad to tell bad stories about nuclear.
Why is that? Because historically they havent seen renewables as the same scale of threat? Yeah. I mean, when you look at the death rates in the nuclear industry, its almost ludicrously low. In this country, I think, it doesnt exist at all. Nobodys been hurt.
And even if you look at the worst disasters, theyre nothing compared with the damage thats done by burning coal. Thats right. Its a fake business. And its amazing that people have been persuaded by it. I wish you journalists would write out what happened, because just after World War II, there was a lot of interest in using nuclear power and the politicians are all for it. In fact, one of them said, itll be so cheap, it will be impossible to meter it. Which is would that it were true! But the people with loads of money in the oil industry made sure that never happened. And of course the greens played along with it. Theres bound to have been some corruption there Im sure that various green movements were paid some sums on the side to help with propaganda.
Just the word nuclear conjures such fears now. Its almost as though, if it had just been called a different thing, the public would have been much more receptive to it. And if we dont move into nuclear more aggressively, do you think theres any hope that we avoid, say, two degrees of warming? Or is that basically inevitable?I wish I knew. People have to ask the questions of the financial people theres the real driver. The reason were continuing to burn fossil fuels is that all the moneys invested in it, right? I find it almost hilarious.
It seems to me that the public is slowly waking up to this story. Especially over the past couple of years, there has been a kind of a change. Well, I hope youre right. I look at those affairs like the Paris conference more as parties. So, great, get together, youll have a great time. But the conferences are not serious.
And no country in the world is honoring the pledges it made during the Paris accords. But in your new book, you put a lot of faith in the possibility that superintelligence will arrive and, among other things, address this problem and maybe save us from ourselves.The reason I speculated along those lines was that Darwin has been an amazingly right during his lifetime. And it is a natural follow-on from Darwinism that we dont just stay still as humans. Theres this extraordinary belief amongst most people, that future humans are going to be just like us. Were beginning to see things like AI developments yielding the possibility of existing as the independent life forms, in which case youve got a new kingdom of life. Thats the way I see it.
I owe this to my colleague Lynn Margulies. She likes to divide life up into the kingdoms vegetable, animal its almost childish, but I think its absolutely solid. The AI stuff represents a new kingdom. Theyre about 10,000 times faster than we are, so it would look on us much in the way that we look on plants, which are 10,000 times slower than us. Its just another kingdom. But were all needed were all part of the same system, or thats how I think. Which is how you get Gaia.
But if you think about our relationship to plant life as having not exhibited what you could call a perfectly responsible relationship to the natural world, why should we expect better from a superintelligence?Because they need us.
But we need plant life, right?We do need plant life. We cant go to war with it.
So why should we expect it to be more responsible toward humans and the natural world than humans were to the plant world? As you say, were much more impressive cognitively than other animals, and certainly more than plant life, yet in many ways weve managed the planet much less well than those kingdoms did.Its a good point.
So why do you think AI would be a better steward of the planet than humans?I have a feeling that stewardship doesnt come into it. Its just what they will have to do to survive. Its nice to think that stewardship is important, but I rather suspect we talk about it but we dont practice it.
Whats a better model for how we should relate to the natural world?Accept it.
And you think AI would take that view?The reason they would limit warming is quite simple: the properties of water. Thats the deadly thing, which youve written about in your book. The ocean, at the moment, an awful lot of it is approaching 15 Celsius. Now that, what could be harmful about that? Everything. If you go anywhere in the world where the temperature is, the water is 15 and looked down, its beautifully clear and you can see down to 100 fathoms down, because theres no life in that water. Its a complete desert. And the reason for that is that the nutrient-rich lower waters cant get to the top.
Youve always written about the human role as being part of the greater Gaia ecosystem. But the theory of Gaia as Ive seen it picked up by environmentalists often sets human activity against the rhythms of the natural world as though we are outside the natural world, in fact its enemies.Thats absolutely right. Theyve gotten it dead wrong.
Why do you think that is? Why do you think theyve been so blind to the sort of basic formulation you put forward? I think its a series of reasons. I think its high time that science was treated in much the same way as the church was treated in the Middle Ages. You need a dissolution of the universities, because its quite ridiculous taking students and teaching them a single subject, with no idea whats going on in the rest of science. But thats what goes on. And you kind of cannot possibly understand a complex system like Gaia unless youre looking at not just one, but the great bulk of the sciences, together.And that may seem a dreadful task, but it isnt really because you dont have to understand the whole of all of the sciences theres a sort of crossover. You can in your mind cross over between the various parts and understand much more than you might think was possible.
But let me tell you just the story of how it all started. I was invited to go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to NASA, only three years after NASA had formed. Soon after I was there, I was deposited for a bit in a meeting with a great group of biologists. Quite a few of them had Nobel Prizes in various things. Theyd been picked up by NASA to design a life-detection experiment. I was asked what I thought of that, and it was appalling. Most of them went out into the Mojave Desert and said, Mars is just like this, so if we can grow something here, we can do it there. Which was just crazy. What little we knew about Mars even then suggested it was totally different. It was a daft assumption. They got very cross with me cause I kept on saying, You know, youre wasting your time on that. And I got called to see one of the head what you might call rocket scientists. He said, Why are you upsetting all these biologists? You go on like this and hell be out of a job. But then he added, Well, what would you do to detect lives? And Id just read that little book by Schrdinger called What Is Life? I said, If you read that, that offers a good standard. Oh my God, they said, give me a practical example that we can put on a rocket.
I said, Ill have to think about it, you cant ask me a question like that across the table. They said, Well, youve got till Friday. I was pretty worried! Thursday night I could see my job going down the tubes. But then suddenly it came to me. God, dead easy. All I have to do is measure the composition of Marss atmosphere. If its made of gases that react with each other chemically and produce heat or products or whatnot, then that fulfills the definition of life, according to Schrdinger entropy. And you could do the same thing for the surface: If the surface reacts with the atmosphere or the ocean and you get heat produced, then the planets alive, because that can never happen by chance. And he said, Ah, now youre talking. And that became Viking.
And then you just applied the same perspective to Earth. It may be that Im too worried about climate change, but I have a hard time adopting the same point of view.I think we can extend the lifespan of the current system using nuclear power. But we are near the edge, in terms of keeping the thing going. Any further interference is likely to be disastrous.
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Posted: at 7:50 pm
Michael Mobbs has triggered an important conversation by coming out as a climate survivalist. He expects societal collapse a total breakdown within the next three to five years, so hes selling his ground-breaking and beautiful off-grid sustainable home in Chippendale and planning to move to the New South Wales South Coast.
Mobbs has contributed an enormous amount over many years, but this latest intervention is deeply problematic. It is wrong in fact and wrong in approach, and could contribute to making an already bad situation worse.
While climate breakdown is well under way, and societal collapse is a very real possibility within my lifetime if not necessarily his, there is no serious projection to justify a timeframe as short as three to five years for total breakdown. And the approach of running for the hills (or the coast) is neither sensible nor helpful. It only makes societal collapse more likely, by curtailing action and dividing the community even further. And, in that scenario, it wont even help you survive.
Far be it from me to criticise Mobbs personal choice here. His exhaustion and lack of hope is completely understandable. He has been actively working for solutions to ecological destruction for decades, leading whole communities towards action, while being ignored by the vast majority.
Some of the responses to his declaration, suggesting his approach has been an individualist one ignoring the need for collective action, are ignorant of his work. Mobbs has been working for collective action, using his own personal action as an inspiring example to support others to follow suit and work together for systemic change, as all effective collective organising does. In this way, he has driven vital shifts in building regulations, and more important shifts in understandings of how we humans can and should live as part of the natural world rather than trying to separate ourselves from it. Ecological thinking teaches us that all collective action is made up of interwoven and interlinked individual action. As Greta Thunberg says: We need system change rather than individual change, but you cant have one without the other.
Which brings us to why talking of literally burning bridges is not helpful.
If were to survive in the far-less-hospitable world that two centuries of institutionalised greed, selfishness and short-sightedness have bequeathed us, it will only be together. It will only be by using the coming years to cultivate resilient, cohesive, cooperative, equitable communities, embedded in the natural world.
Thats why, while Mobbs is of course entitled to choose to retire with our thanks for what hes achieved, the criticism of his public declaration of survivalism as embedded in a culture of white supremacy and the right of wealth is also entirely legitimate.
Survivalist retreat shuts off the possibility of action. It assumes that there is no longer any chance of preventing catastrophe, that there is nothing left to be done, that no action to reduce our impact will have any effect. While the scientists whose research I read and who I speak to are increasingly desperate, none condone this view. All argue that, even if we were to pull out all stops now and drive the fastest and largest transition in human history, we will still face severe impacts for generations to come. We will almost certainly lose all corals, including the Great Barrier Reef, for example. Fires and storms and droughts will continue to get more intense and frequent. Make no mistake, things will be bad. But, if we act fast, it doesnt have to mean extinction. The worst thing to do right now would be to cut off that option and give in to those who want to keep milking profits out of the destruction of our only home. That only makes it less likely that any of us will survive.
Retreat, of course, by definition, is only available to a select few. This is why the focus of the responses to Mobbs declaration from the left, in particular Amy Grays searing critique, attack it as inequitable and racist. My addendum is that just as survivalism makes extinction more likely by cutting off the option of action, dividing our society even further makes societal collapse even more likely. This would be the worst outcome of all.
At this point in history, now that we have locked in ecological disruption on a scale our species has never known, we must learn the lessons of ecology. And the number one lesson is that resilience is the key. Resilience, not dominance, is the real strength, especially in hard times. And the secret to resilience is connected diversity, cohesion, cooperative coexistence.
That means that in many ways our most important task right now is to build social cohesion while learning to live within natural limits. Luckily, there are ways of making sure that the two go hand in hand. Whether its urban community agriculture or local sharing and repair groups; whether its models of participatory democracy like Voices for Indi or community renewable energy cooperatives; whether its stripping corporations of the rights of legal personhood unless they properly respect social and environmental norms, supporting worker- and user-owned cooperatives to compete with them, or prioritising the long-term interests of traditional owners and workers over the profits of fossil fuel corporations; all these point the way towards holding off the worst ecological impacts of climate disruption while building the resilience to avoid the societal collapse it could trigger.
If, at this moment, we turn even more against each other, we have no future. The strongest will survive for a while. Then they, too, will be lost.
In reality, Michael Mobbs solution of urban living in harmony with the natural world, brought together with deep democracy and cultivating social cohesion, is the only path to survival.
Tim Hollo is executive director of the Green Institute
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Low Tide Review: The Goonies Meets The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Sharp Coming-of-Age Thriller – IndieWire
Posted: at 7:50 pm
It can be hard to recognize when a life-defining moment falls into your lap, especially when youre still just a scrawny teenager who feels like hes watching the world go by from the sidelines. As desperate as we are to grow up, people seldom clock the moment they start coming of age. Peter (Jaeden Martell) doesnt have that problem. When this frustrated kid stumbles upon a bag full of $100,000 in buried treasure, he can practically hear the starting gun ringing in his ears.
Growing up on the Jersey Shore, Peter and his better-developed older brother Alan (Alita hunk Keean Johnson) havent really been able to appreciate the romantic allure that brings wealthy tourists to their blue-collar hometown. But a small fortune in gold coins has a way of altering your perspective in a hurry. This will be their one magic summer. This will be the year when everything changed. This will be the season when these two boys decide what kind of men they want to be. This is your origin story, Sergeant Kent (Shea Whigam) tells Alan, unaware that the juvenile delinquent sitting across from him is hiding a huge secret. Are you going to grow up to be the good guy, or the bad guy?
A sharp coming-of-age crime saga that hardens The Goonies with the kind of salt-of-the-earth survivalism that bled through The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Kevin McMullins Amblin-inflected Low Tide couldnt make its stakes any clearer. The movies shrewd first scene, in which a group of masked ruffians break into a beachside mansion, explicitly defines the moral dilemma that will hang over the rest of this 87-minute calling card. Its just another summer night for Alan, Red (a volatile Alex Neustaedter), and Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri), who rob houses because its easier than working. Besides, its not like the loaded out-of-towners are going to miss any of this shit, right?
But panic ensues when the house owners come home early; two of the boys make clean escapes, but Smitty breaks his ankle when he tries to jump down from the second floor. His accomplices eventually go back for him, but its hard to say if they rescue Smitty out of friendship, or rather because they dont trust him not to rat them out to the cops. Later, when Sergeant Kent tells Alan that bad guys never think theyre bad guys, you can all but see the kid replaying this incident in his mind.
Low Tide is at its best during these early stretches, as McMullins script charts the ways that fragile young friendships can ebb and flow. The movies setting isnt quite as specific as its circumstances its tough to shoot a period piece on an indie budget but McMullin turns that feature into a bug. Our past seems like the movies present. Details come into focus slowly, and without calling attention to themselves. A transistor radio and a boxy television are the first clues that were back in time; the fashion and haircuts dont shout at us, but a preppie from out of town poses himself against the hood of his (dads) Mustang convertible in a way that feels like hes trying to cosplay Risky Business. The lighting is soft and sweet like a memory, and the horny teen hot spot relocates from the hot dog stand to the fairgrounds when the sun goes down.
The boys hang out on the boardwalk and gawk at the girls who walk by. Alan isnt as level-headed as his younger brother, but hes got a good head on his shoulders. Red is the pistol-packing id of the group, though his violent streak isnt well-shaded enough for him to become a convincing villain. Smitty is somewhere in the middle, a Spanish-speaking immigrant who fell in with the biggest outsiders he could find. It would all feel like a Bruce Springsteen song if Alan believed in that stuff (Miracles dont happen in New Jersey, he teaches Peter), especially once he starts making eyes at Mary (Kristine Froseth), a golden-haired Connecticut girl whos on her way to college. The writing is never as rich as when Peter suddenly becomes when he stumbles upon that loot the circumstances behind that discovery are too simple to seem real, and too complicated to sustain much interest but you understand where these kids are in their lives. And how fast it could all change on them.
Peter becomes the protagonist once he strikes it rich, and Martell (so good as a wannabe Ben Shapiro in Knives Out) perfectly manages to evoke the trembling insecurity of a little kid on the precipice of a big moment. He only tells Alan about the gold, but Alan who buys himself a sweet car effectively tells everyone else. Everything falls apart from there, only some of it by design.
McMullin, so eager to carve out a spare thriller that he leaves a ton of meat on the table, eats up the middle of the movie by focusing on the logistics of it all instead of the emotional machinations behind them. The second act drifts somewhat aimlessly between the inciting discovery and the inevitable fight to keep it safe, as Alans posse grows suspicious and everyone turns against each other. Sergeant Kent isnt given the time to emerge as a proper father figure in a town full of absent men, Alans crush on Mary doesnt go much deeper than a rainy makeout session in the backseat of his car, and the dynamic between Red, Smitty, and the rest is never developed beyond the mistrust that was always growing like a weed around its roots.
These boys have been raised to believe that no one in this life would ever give them anything, and so they feel as if they have no choice but to take it for themselves. They have a code (no stealing from locals), but the desperation thats lurking just under the surface is laid bare during low tide. A very promising debut thats lensed with confidence even when it lacks a more cohesive vision, the film may not quite hold together as a crime story, but McMullin a New Jersey native is better at tracing his own emotional turmoil than he is at following in John Hustons footsteps. If Low Tide recedes all too fast, it still leaves behind a clear sense that life doesnt always happen on schedule, and that the hardest part of growing up is figuring out what to share with people along the way.
Low Tide is now available on DirecTV Cinema. A24 will release it inselect theaters on Friday, October 4.
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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes – Locus Online
Posted: at 7:50 pm
Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna, Kate Boyes (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-159-9, $20.00, 312pp, tp) July 2019.
Every once in a while, a novel seems to drop in from out of nowhere, with little to go on but a promo letter and in the case at hand the reputation of the publisher. Aqueduct Press has earned a reputation not only for promoting feminist speculative work, but for discovering distinctive new voices. Sarah Tolmie (The Little Animals) and Isaac R. Fellman (The Breath of the Sun) are are two fairly recent examples. So its not too surprising that Id never heard of Kate Boyes, whose biographical note in her first novel Trapped in the R.A.W. tells us that shes a playwright and writer of travel and nature essays, but mentions no prior published fiction at all. This is surprising, because, despite an unpromising title (the full iteration of which is Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna, With an Afterword by Pearl Larken and Appendices Compiled by the We Survived Series Group), the novel demonstrates a impressively assured voice, an ingenious, casebook-like structure in which the journal of the title is supplemented by several appendices written years later, and an equally creative use of illustrative material, drawn mostly from 19th-century books and the illustrations of Walter Crane. All of this creates the initial impression that this might be a sort of alternate-history period piece, like the variations on Wellss The War of the Worlds that have appeared more often than necessary, but in fact its a near-future alien invasion tale set mostly in a university special collections library and told mostly in the form of the journal of Kaylee Bearovna, who barricades herself inside during the first couple of months of an inexplicable invasion that nearly wipes out the global population. The R.A.W. of the title comes from the librarians nickname for the collection rare and wonderful.
Alien invasion apocalyptic dystopias, of which there are many, tend to align along a spectrum, with brutalist survivalism at one end (think of Cormac McCarthys The Road) and elegiac humanism at the other (one of the best examples remains George R. Stewarts Earth Abides). Boyes lands firmly in the latter camp, not only celebrating the value of libraries and the preservation of culture, but also focusing far more on character than spectacle. Kaylee hasnt had a particularly easy life she was horribly betrayed and abused by a professor some years earlier, and has lost touch with her beloved daughter but her quick-thinking response to the sudden invasion marks her as a classically competent SF hero. When she hears the screams of the dying and sees hundreds of odd figures in faceless brown outfits slaughtering people with a single touch, she barricades herself in the library and immediately begins sorting the details of her survival, from securing food and water, to such mundane details as toilet paper (which creates an almost comical dilemma in a rare-books library). Her journal makes for compelling reading, detailing her failure to save another survivor who makes it to the library door and eventually describing her tentative relationship with one of the invaders, whom she comes to call the Tall Man. When she decides to leave the library, she leaves the journal behind.
This leads to Boyess neatest touch: the journal is discovered decades later by an expeditionary team, resulting in a series of documents, mostly trying to discover what happened to Kaylee. Our new narrators include the editor of the published version of the journal, the leader of the expeditionary team, a contemporary friend of Kaylees who also survived, an academic cultural historian, and an anthropologist who presents interviews with other survivors who might have known Kaylee or her family. Boyes doesnt always fully differentiate these voices (several sound a lot like Kaylees original journal), but the effect is unarguably moving, as we watch Kaylee transformed from a desperate and lonely figure into a kind of librarian legend, whose story only becomes richer as we piece it together from these later documents. There are plenty of unanswered or inadequately answered questions about the invasion itself, the aliens, and their own motives and social structures (though Boyes does think up an ingenious explanation as to how they could mate with humans), but thats not really the point of a novel such as this. In a few pages you can wipe out most of a civilization with disease, war, alien invasion, or natural catastrophe, but it takes a deeply humane novel to convince us that continuity and community can be built from the ashes.
Gary K. Wolfe is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at Roosevelt University and a reviewer for Locus magazine since 1991. His reviews have been collected in Soundings (BSFA Award 2006; Hugo nominee), Bearings (Hugo nominee 2011), and Sightings (2011), and his Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature (Wesleyan) received the Locus Award in 2012. Earlier books include The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction (Eaton Award, 1981), Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever (with Ellen Weil, 2002), and David Lindsay (1982). For the Library of America, he edited American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s in 2012, with a similar set for the 1960s forthcoming. He has received the Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association, the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Special World Fantasy Award for criticism. His 24-lecture series How Great Science Fiction Works appeared from The Great Courses in 2016. He has received six Hugo nominations, two for his reviews collections and four for The Coode Street Podcast, which he has co-hosted with Jonathan Strahan for more than 300 episodes. He lives in Chicago.
This review and more like it in theJuly 2019 issue of Locus.
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Posted: at 7:49 pm
Hey guys, have you heard? Ji Chang Wook is BAAAAACK!
Melting Me Softly, Ji Chang Wooks first post-military drama, tells the story of Ma Dong Chan (Ji Chang Wook) and Go Mi Ran (Won Jin Ah) who volunteer themselves to be frozen for 24 hours as part of a cryogenics experiment-slash-variety show production. However, things go awry when they arent warmed and woken up by the end of the 24 hours, but instead, are woken up 20 years later!
So far, the first two episodes are mostly set in the year 1999 (pre-freeze), and we see the respective social circles of Ma Dong Chan and Go Mi Ran as well as the whys and hows of the cryogenic experiment.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution!
Ma Dong Chan is an award-winning variety showdirectorwho enjoys taking on challenges and taking risks. His newest fascination is with the study of cryogenics, and he wishes to film the process of freezing and unfreezing humans as part of an experiment conducted by Dr. Hwang (Seo Hyun Chul). Wanting toraise the experiments validity,he volunteers himself to be one of the test subjects while also intending to enlist a female test subject.
Son Hyun Ki (FTISLANDs Lee Hong Ki) suggests Go Mi Ranforthe position. He reminds Dong Chan about Mi Rans risk-taking capabilities as shownby her volunteering for whatever far-fetched experiment Dong Chan was concocting for his variety show Infinite Experiment Paradise. He agrees that she would be a good candidate, but alas, Mi Rans fearlessness stops short ofallowing herself to be frozen.
Dong Chan and Hyun Ki doggedly pursue Mi Ran in hopes to convince her to join them, and they find her hanging around the riverbank with her friends. Also at the riverbank? Mi Rans boyfriend, Hwang Byung Shim (B1A4s Baro), who is on a pedal-boat date. With another girl. That ends as spectacularly as you would imagine it to, and all parties involved end up at the police station for questioning. While Dong Chan doesnt get an opportunity to persuade Mi Ran, he does get a front row seat toher spit-fire personality.
When you have one mate too many.
When Dong Chan does eventually meet Mi Ran, she remains adamant in her refusal. That is, until he mentions that cryonics has reported healing abilities, and they couldbe playing a part in changing how treatments and medicine work in the future.This makes her think of her younger brother, Nam Tae, who has adevelopmental disability, and is finally motivated to join the experiment.
The day of the experiment finally arrives, and Dong Chan and Mi Ran are frozen along with four other undisclosed test subjects. They set the clock for 24 hours, and Hyun Ki and his crew film the whole process for their variety show.
Things go as expected until about two hours left on the clock, whenDr. Hwang suddenly says he has to step out for a bit. His assistant is worried as they have to start the unfreezing process soon, butDr. Hwang insists hell be backvery soon. And so the doctor (who is also the only one capable of unfreezing the test subjects by the way) leaves the facility. Long story short, Dr. Hwang ends up in a car chase, and just whenyou breathe a sigh of relief that hes avoided the truck of doom, his car goes kaboom!
And so,with the 24 hours now up and withoutthe doctor to initiate the unfreezing process, things in the facility rapidly go haywire. The assistant locks the camera crew out, and before anyone realizes whats happening, everything in the lab has disappeared, including the capsules holding the test subjects. Hyun Ki and his superior decide to keep this a secret while also bribing Dong Chans girlfriend Na Ha Young (Chae Seo Jin) tokeep her silence with a position as a prime time news anchor.
The respective families only know that Dong Chan and Mi Ran have gone missing but do not know the details surrounding their disappearance. Dong Chans family persistently hands out missing person flyers over the years hoping to hear any news but to no fruition. Mi Rans family, on the other hand, receives a mysterious envelope clueing them in that Mi Ran is actually alive, but they have to stay quiet if they want her to live.
Thats a little over 6 months, if youre wondering.
Fast forward years later, and we arrive in 2019. It turns out that Dr. Hwang somehow survived the accident (looking completely unscathed too) but has been in a coma. He miraculously wakes up and staggers over to inject Dong Chan and Mi Ran with a serum and starts the unfreezing process. The two of them wake up at different times and make their way out into the world (with a fresh set of clothes no less!). After more staggering, Dong Chancollapsesand gets sent to the hospital, whereas Mi Ran manages to go to quite a few places despite her sickly state. It takes a while for reality to set in, but they finally realize that its no longer 1999, and the people around them have, well, aged 20 years.
There are individual elements of the premiere that I really enjoyed: Ji Chang Wook, Mi Rans relationship with her brother, Mi Ran and her two friends, seeing Hong Ki and Baro one last time before their military enlistments, the feel of the the late 90s, Ji Chang WookAnd yet, for me personally, the premiere as a wholedidnt quite sparkle as much as Id hoped it would. I cant quite place my finger on whats off maybe its the over-the-top sequences like Mi Ran suddenly displaying kung fu skills or the whole opera singer-dinner scene, maybe its the supporting characters (everyone around Dong Chan circa-2019 feels loud), maybe its the pacing, or maybe its something else. Whatever it is, something is preventing me from really falling for the drama.
The scenes of Nam Tae missing his sister were heartbreaking. T.T
With the show now in 2019,there are a different batch of actors taking over the roles(now that theyve aged 20 years).How the chemistry will play out is still yet to be seen, but for sure the younger counterparts will be missed (Baro as the narcissistic, Freud-loving ex-boyfriend is hilarious). The chemistry between the older actors remains unknown, and well just have to wait and see how everything plays out.That being said, I can already imagine Shim Hyung Tak as the older-but-just-as-self-involved Hwang Byung Shim, andit already feels amazing!
See you in 2021, boys!
Storyline-wise,there are parts where the writing may make you want to facepalm, such as when the doctorsuddenlyneeds to leave with two hours left on the clock, orthat the medical staff at the hospital all seem rather lost, or that post-freeze Mi Ran still manages to wander all around the city even though she looks like shes about to collapse any minute. However, the threads of mystery are intriguing enough. I definitely want to know who the other four test subjects are (Is it Freddie Mercury?!), and just how did Dr. Hwang survive that explosion with nary a burn mark?!
All in all, Melting Me Softly has the ingredients to make for a great drama, but it may need a bit more heat to get it to just the right temperature.
Watch the premiere of Melting Me Softly here!
If youve watched the premiere, what did you think of it? Do you also feel that there is something off, and if so, what do you think it is? Or are you love, love, loving it instead? Andwhere do you think post-freeze Dong Chan and Mi Ran got the clothes from?Let us know in the comments below!
Belinda_C is excited to have Ji Chang Wook back on her screen again! Talk Melting Me Softly andSEVENTEENwith her onTwitter!
Currently watching:Melting Me SoftlyAll-time favorite:Kill Me Heal Me, Defendant,Hotel Del Luna
Posted: at 7:47 pm
US Senators have the chance to enact a permanent ban on offshore drilling in nearly all U.S. waters.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to permanently ban offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf of Mexico. Both bills passed and are on their way to the Senate.
If passed, this legislation will be an incredible victory for marine wildlife and ocean ecosystems. Offshore drilling causes habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and oil spills, resulting in immense loss of wildlife and damage to coastal communities.
We need your help to thwart President Trumps plans for expanded offshore oil drilling. Will you email your Senators today and urge them to pass this critical legislation?
H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act of 2019, wouldpermanentlyblock offshore oil and gas leasing in the Atlantic Ocean, Straits of Florida and the Pacific Ocean. H.R. 205 would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 topermanently block offshore oil and gas leasing off the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Our diverse marine ecosystems are already imperiled as a result of human-driven climate change. We cannot let the Trump administration continue to expand offshore drilling to the benefit of the oil industry and huge detriment of wildlife, and indeed all life and increase the burning of fossil fuels at a time when we need to be curbing use dramatically to slow the climate crisis.
Marine wildlife, including endangered sea turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds, will continue to be injured and killed senselessly if we dont put a stop to President Trumps plans to expand offshore drilling.
Please, urge your Senators to act NOWfor marine wildlife for our irreplaceable oceans and for our future generations. Tell your Senators to vote YES on H.R. 205 and H.R. 1941, and enact a permanent ban on offshore drilling in nearly all U.S. waters.
Posted: at 7:47 pm
How will offshore wind play its part in the energy transition? Find out during Offshore Wind Conference 2019. This animation delves into the session Is the offshore wind business case bankable?
If the world is to be powered solely on electricity, the offshore wind industry must be here to stay. This is only feasible if offshore wind has a strong financial position. How can the industry finance the future of offshore wind? With each turbine installed, the LCoE is decreased.
Serious concern has arisen as to how the industry will continue to thrive and survive. Is the offshore wind business case feasible? This session will be opened by a statement with the following panel discussion triggering delegates to join in.
Offshore Wind Conference will be taking place on 7 and 8 October 2019 during Offshore Energy 2019 in the Amsterdam RAI, the Netherlands.
View the program HERE and secure your seat to find out how offshore wind plays its part in the energy transition.
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AWEA’s Offshore WINDPOWER: Realizing the promise of offshore wind – Into the Wind – Into the Wind – The AWEA Blog
Posted: at 7:47 pm
Offshore wind is still a young industry in the U.S., but thats rapidly changing. Interest has exploded in the three years since the Block Island Wind Farm became the first U.S. offshore wind project to come online. Now the second project, a 12 megawatt (MW) Dominion Energy wind farm, recently began construction off Virginias coast, a harbinger of whats to come. In total, there are currently more than 26,000 MW of offshore wind in various stages of development off the East Coast and in the Great Lakes, with additional potential off the West Coast.
The momentum for offshore wind continues leading into AWEAs Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, taking place later this month in Boston. Weve been blown away (no pun intended!) by the response to this important event, and are grateful to our sponsors and event partners. Our program chairs, Jason Folsom, National Sales Director at MHI Vestas, and Rachel Pachter, Vice President of Permitting Affairs at Vineyard Wind, have shown great vision and guidance for the educational conference content and we are thankful for the time theyve spent working with our team to put together such a compelling program.
As more steel goes in the water, this event will only continue to grow in value and scope. We hope to see you in Boston, October 22 23! View the full speaker list, event schedule and register now!
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Posted: at 7:47 pm
A few Saturdays ago, I was up at the crack of dawn so I could board the SeaBreeze Charters boat, the Four Seasons, for a trip out into ocean to find pelagic birds. Wings Over Willapa was in full swing by then. By definition, pelagic birds are seabirds that spend most of their time on the ocean away from land except during their nesting period. Albatross, petrels, shearwaters skuas and jaegers are examples of pelagic species.
As we motored our way out of the Ilwaco harbor it was ebb tide. The mud-flats were lined with great blue herons stalking their breakfast prey. Bald eagles were sitting on old cannery posts on the lookout for their next meal, and double-crested cormorants were drying their wings after diving for their breakfasts. Hundreds of western grebes were sighted along the way as we left the harbor for more open water and a flock of brown pelicans rested on a tiny spit of land revealed by the ebbing tide.
As we moved farther out the swells became high, but the birds were there.
The captain followed the plume which is where seabirds congregate to feed. The plume is where the fresh water from the Columbia and the ocean salt water meet and interact. It is the place where anchovies, a major food source, spawn. The plume area is dominated by sooty shearwaters and common murres. According to National Audubon, California gulls, brown pelicans, Caspian terns, Heermanns gulls, double-crested cormorants, pelagic cormorants, and Brandts cormorants also use the plume in spring, summer and fall. Marbled murrelet and rhinoceros along the plume.
As we moved on further out there many sooty shearwaters still flying about and fattening up in preparation for the trip to their New Zealand breeding grounds. We see them off shore by the thousands in our area on both the ocean and Willapa Bay any time from August to September.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Sabines gull that was parading up and down our beaches feeding and resting. It was a lucky find because they are rarely seen on land. To my delight and amazement, as we traversed the ocean a Sabines gull flew by. The best bird for me was the pink-footed shearwater. It was a lifer! How lucky to see this bird. It is only seen here in the fall and it is considered rare for the Peninsula. Overall, for Pacific County, though, it is considered to be uncommon.
Pink-footed shearwaters nest from November to May on three Islands off the coast of Chile, but after the breeding season they fly north to Mexico and the western coast of the USA, where they tend to be common offshore in the Pacific Northwest. They are large seabirds with a wingspan of over 3 feet. Their main colors are dark brown above, but all white below. It tends to flock with other sea-birds and often scavenges around fishing boats.
I have to say that pelagic trips are always a thrill! The opportunity to see birds that one does not usually see from land is amazing. This is a must experience!
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