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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: October 13, 2019
Posted: October 13, 2019 at 12:48 pm
You can sleep tonight, because we probably wont be assimilated into a colony of cyborgs who are more machine than human and call each other by number instead of their names. No one isturning into the Borg (like Captain Picardabove). The thing is that some transhumanists are willingly getting cyber-implants to fast-forward themselves into a future where man fuses with machine.
Transhumanists believe that we can upgrade ourselves through LED lights, computer chips and other implants that can give different human capacities an assist. Were already seeing this in the plans for Elon Musks Neuralink. Now an interview with BBC Scotlands The Nine has given us some insight into the people who voluntarily got LED lights under their skin for some cosmic sparkle or have chip implants in their hands that can open a car doorand already make keys seem archaic.
After engineer Winter Mraz nearly lost her life in a car accident that sent her to the operating room with a fractured back, ankle and knees, she had no idea how cybernetic enhancements would change her life forever. Her back needed to be bolted together, and one of her kneecap was so busted that she needed a 3D-printed replacement.
It if was not for my cybernetic kneecap I would not be able to walk, Mraz told the news channel. She also didnt know what she would be getting herself into.
It was the nearly fatal accident that convinced Mraz to get personal modifications unrelated to her injuries, like the microchips in her hands that can operate things as if by magic. She has a NFC (near-field communication) chip in her right hand that lets her phone, tablet and other gadgets share data. The RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip in her left hand locks and unlocks her house door kind of like a workplace security card lets you open the door to the office. It also keeps her hand free for the cane she needs to get around.
Microchips are usually injected into the back of the hand like a syringe. When you really think about it, if you have a device like an Apple watch or Fitbit, microchip implants might freak you out right now, but they are (at least according to many transhumanists) the evolution of that technology.
If you want to see a really futuristic view of transhumanism, as in something that takes place in a fictional altverse where the cybernetically enhanced are at odds with the non-enhanced, read Steve Aokis Neon Future comic series. It will blow your mind.
(via BBC Scotland)
Posted: at 12:48 pm
Marvels House of X/Powers of X event is complicated, full of references to the X-Men past and hints at the X-Men future. Jonathan Hickman, R. B Silva, and Pepe Larraz are delivering a beautifully rendered and textually dense reinvention of one of the biggest franchises in comics history.
Thats too much for just one comics editor to dig into, so we reached out to the folks at the Xavier Files, whose in-depth annotations of House of X and Powers of X impressed us, educated us, and entertained us. Now you can enjoy the Xavier Files Hox Pox Tox right here on Polygon so crack open your copy of House of X #4, and read along! (You can find the first three annotations here).
In this oversized finale, Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, and David Curiel reveal the nefarious truth behind all of Moiras lives. Explained by The Librarian in X, mutants are only the next organic step in evolution. Transhuman experimentation through robotics and genetic manipulation pushed human evolution past mutants. Mutants will always lose. Hearing this in her Sixth Life, Moira relays the ugly truth to Xavier back on the park bench of X0, and they begin their mission to beat the odds. In her Krakoan No-Place, Moira clashes with Xavier and Magneto, as she has her whole life. They know mutants may lose, but they wont lose without a fight.
Robert Secundus: I dont know what to say; this is the end. Im excited to dive in one last time.
Chris Eddleman: Rob, were finally at the end. Weve been writing about HoXPoX for twelve weeks now, looking frankly far too closely at this series. Weve talked biology, theoretical physics, philosophy, religion, art, and history. Ive said it many times that its great to see a creative team inspired by a wide range of topics and this might be one of the widest. And to the readers, weve loved your response and your correspondence its been really fun being in the HoXPoX community for the duration of this run. So, we hope youre game for our last go but I figure you are, youve been game for 12 weeks.
[Ed. note: Its a double-sized finale boys, we need to get started.]
CE: Our final epigraph from Xavier (still called Alpha, which after this issue will seem very silly) reminds us that while were at the end of this double miniseries, the journey is really only beginning with this new era of X-Men.
RS: That the title of the final chapter of Powers Of X is House of X really emphasizes the fact that these are two series only in marketing, not in reality. Its also appropriate because, in many ways, this issue concerns recursion and returning to beginnings.
CE: Plus, as X-Men has taught us so often the X can be, and will be, ten. In this case, it refers to House of Ten, meaning the House of Moira. As this issue will go on to state, its really all her plans that have led to this moment, despite setbacks from the other players.
RS: I cant believe that the final twist is It was pronounced House of Ten, actually.
CE: Grant Morrison would be proud.
RS: I expect the flashback sequence to PoX #1 to be fairly controversial, but I really like it. I like that we dont just get a sequel, but we get to see this scene play out again in fuller context. Every single reader, not just those who stop, go back, and pick up the older comics, now experiences that moment again in its full light.
CE: Its interesting to me that the Page 4 has an addition, which just gives us another panel of a very happy Charles Xavier. I guess that hammers home how naive he is prior to meeting Moira in her tenth incarnation. He has a very simple, and to him, achievable dream of mutant coexistence with humanity. This contrasts with Moira, who has seen with her own death, the death of that dream over and over again.
CE: While it could just be the fact that its a jungle, the Preserve to me looks very Krakoan. I wonder if Librarian and friends created this to resemble Krakoa as a sort of comfort to the mutants. Also, of note, its a Preserve of many species. Im guessing the blue folks have done much to the biome of Earth at large that requires extra preservation. I mean, tomorrow its going to be eaten so its a moot point.
RS: Here we start to see that weve misunderstood the nature of the Preserve, the New Eden, from PoX #1 onwards, as those background figures are not those of humans. We approached the Eden from an incorrect paradigm, one that assumed that mutants and humans were a simple dichotomy, and that transhuman individuals belonged to the latter species.
CE: I feel like we were certainly led to believe that. But of course, we X-Men fans like to think of mutants as the evolutionarily superior branch. In fact, in Powers of X #1, Nimrod the Greater says to the Librarian Homo sapiens, so glad to be done with all of that, which cued us to believe those were the ones in the preserve. It was a good swerve. [Ed. note: Though it brings up the question of if post-humans see much difference between Homo sapiens and Homo superior.]
RS: At first, a disembodied voice from the Edenic trees begins to talk about freedom, and raging against ones masters, against the creators of that Eden. Logan is this Edens Miltonic Satan, it seems, and Moira its Lilith, or else they are its Adam and Eve, about to receive knowledge that will lead to their death and expulsion from the garden.
CE: We are reminded how much Wolverine hates to be caged, to be deprived of his freedom in this zoo. [Ed. note: Also how much he loves overthrowing authority figures!]
CE: Its really odd to me after seeing the theoretically benevolent, sometimes childlike Librarian looking like the bad guy, but that was of course more clever storytelling to play with our expectations. Its brilliant.
CE: The Librarian uses the morally kind excuse for incarceration preservation (or protection), when of course he really just cant kill Moira, and wants to know her plans. He is 1000 years of petty, I suppose.
CE: The Librarian reminds us of the entire X storyline- the Ascension of the post-human civilization to godhood, in the convoluted getting eaten and absorbed method. The Librarian dreams of existing outside space and time not immortality exactly, but complete omniscient permanence. [Ed. note: Thankfully, someone understands whats going on in X.]
RS: Two important things to note about intra-singularity aeviternity. If Moiras powers do annihilate the timeline, then mutants are safe, but if her consciousness merely travels back and splits the timeline, the Dominions still know about Moira, and are likely coming for her. Even if they annihilate the timeline, being-in-a-black-hole unsticks you from that timeline, and so Cardinal, Xorn, Dougkoa, and Rasputin may be coming to Life X (Main X-Men continuity), but so may Nimrod and an entire machine Earth. [Ed. note: Of course, they may all be part of a Dominion godhead now, which seems dangerous.]
CE: The Librarian likely wants nothing more than to be rid of Moira, but he absolutely must preserve her until godhood. This very much smacks of bad guy explaining his scheme which as we see carries a purpose. In this Garden of Eden, our zookeeper needs to undergo a confession.
CE: In case you thought that we werent philosophical enough, the Librarian is getting into the meaning of existence. He seems to be implying that existence within the Dominion is merely a simulation, the idea of which puzzles contemporary scientists. [Ed. note: As well as teens who just saw The Matrix for the first time.] Is this nature of existence simply what our senses tell us? Could a manufactured existence be just as real as a material existence? Hes very afraid to find out. I noticed he keeps referring to himself as post-human, which seems to be a coping mechanism to try to escape his very human fear of having his existence compromised.
RS: This gets at older philosophical and theological problems too; how can an immaterial soul in heaven, someones pure essence, their form, without individuating matter, maintain an independent existence in a heaven? How can an individual remain an individual after deification? How can individual humanity retain any identity when it is one human drop among the endless eternal ocean of god?
RS: Homo novissima would be latin for the Last Man. [Ed. note: Not to be confused with the comic book.]
CE: Our robot friend Nimrod spoke quite a bit of his own inevitability. Here we have an argument between Moira, Wolverine, and the Librarian about what existence is truly inevitable, and mutantkinds place in it. This harkens back to the Orchis Protocol, which activated when the inevitability of mutants became a growing concern.
RS: Whats thematically happening here is really interesting in two ways. First of all, PoX is picking up something that was inherent to the original X-Men but quickly dropped. Mutants were, originally, written as the Children of the Atom, as a species that in part resulted from humanitys dominance over nature, over its ability to control even the basic building blocks of our universe. Here its just the post-humans who get to claim that role.
Second of all, its building on the thematic concerns of Morrisons New X-Men. Morrison was primarily interested in using the Mutant Metaphor as a means to explore not oppression but evolution, and not just biological but societal, cultural, and even cosmic evolution. This grand design unites both of those concerns. Humanitys triumph over evolution allows them to oppress mutants, and the evolution of machine intelligences into gods grants them power over the entire universe.
CE: A great deal of this series seems to be dealing with machine intelligence, and the story deceiving us a bit into making them seem like a real threat. I like this reveal that machines are, as always, a tool that humans use in this case to oppress. Also, quite importantly, the vignettes we see are Project: Rebirth (the creation of Captain America) as well as a showcase of the Omega Sentinel. The definition of engineered post-humans includes the rest of the Marvel Universe, which seems to put mutants at odds with other superheroes. But, please, God, no more Avengers vs. X-Men.
RS: Also, if Project: Rebirth is part of trans-human history, then so should be the following Weapon Plus program, which means that a number of mutants guest star in that story.
CE: Weapon Plus was recently featured in a one-shot as well. It would be interesting to see if theres going to be any connection coming up with the Dawn of X titles. [Ed. note: There is an upcoming one-shot tying into Absolute Carnage.]
CE: The Librarian, in all of his post-human intelligence, definitely gives the entire plan of humanity (which doesnt seem to change, timeline to timeline) away here. Very arch of him.
CE: And of course he pays for it here. [Ed. note: You sly dog! You got me monologuing! I cant believe it. The Librarian probably.] Its hard to become a small part of godhood with your head clawed into a tree. Its wild that Moira and Wolverine waited 1000+ years for this conversation, but it sets up her remaining lives. This is the high level plan that Moira needed to know, and she seems to be set on getting the details right as time goes on.
RS: Does he pay for it? I think, given his fears about Ascension, this might be what he really wanted, gruesome as his end is.
CE: That is definitely a distinct possibility. I have an odd feeling this isnt the end of our cerulean friends. But then again, I think that about all the stuff in HoXPoX.
RS: And so we get the major twist of the issue. As was popularly theorized, X is the life of Moira VI. With this blank filled in, we know what she was doing in lives VII and IX: trying to find ways to buy Mutants time, to get back those years and decades that the Librarian believes were key to Post-Humanitys victory. In VII she tries to end all Sentinels and finds them an inevitability; in IX she tries to find a way to keep Nimrod from coming online. She also learned of the nature of the Phalanx and the existence of Dominions in VI, which indicates that both Sinisters experiments in biological hiveminds and singularities in IX as well as Krakoan experiments in archived minds, biotech, and the great machines of society may be attempts to create Mutant Strongholds and Dominions.
CE: Not to mention his delving into chimera creation. This timeline tells us that mutants didnt realize or were too squeamish to delve into their own genomes. As we see in timelines IX (and X for that matter), Sinister breaks that mold.
We get another best there is at what he does reference. Remember, in timeline IX, Moira completes this line. Nice callback.
CE: The Krakoan symbols are M for Mutant in Homo superior, H for Human in Homo sapiens, and P-H for Post-Human in Homo novissima. The note under Homo novissima refers to a self-perpetuating cycle of technological (and in the post-human case, evolutionary) singularities. This shows how easily the post-humans blow past mutants evolutionarily.
RS: Just as House of Xs approach to Society finds antecedents in Hickmans early work (Red Mass for Mars in particular is structured around Bubers ideas), so too does Powers of X. Transhuman focused on an economic war between two rival conceptions of post-humanity, between the biological post-humans and technological post-humans. The former were strongly associated with the X-Men.
CE: I havent read Transhuman but that is completely wild. [Ed. note: Transhuman takes this into a dark direction that may be uncomfortable for some folks. So read at your own risk.]
RS: Poor Charles. I suppose a telepathically induced paradigm shift can be a bit of a Brain Freeze.
CE: Rob, he went from having a delightful day at the fair, thinking about his very nice dream of the future, only to have it blown to pieces. I would feel the same, probably. Love the change in lighting here.
CE: Moira is reminded us, Xaviers dream cannot work, and will never work. This is rather hard for him to grasp.
CE: Doubling down on the naivety of Xavier. Even immediately after seeing the many ways that humanity wins and destroys mutantkind, he thinks little tiny changes can cause a rippling butterfly effect.
CE: And Moira quickly breaks him of that notion. The response of Its not a compliment is fantastic because it shows how frustrated Moira is. The theme of her frustration with partners that dont fully grasp what seems to be at stake continues throughout the issue.
CE: Moira begins her role as the adult in the room as the only one of the triumvirate that seems to really have their eye on the prize. Mind you, this is still Earth-616, which means everything weve seen every schism and failure, is all in canon after this knowledge. This speaks to the unyielding nature of Xavier and Magnetos ideologies. She spends literally her whole tenth life trying to bend them into place.
RS: At this point, is she older than Apocalypse? From her perspective, she may be the only adult on the planet.
CE: I think En Sabah is a bit older but, he spends a ton of time napping. X, as we recall, doesnt literally mean year 1000, just more thousands on a logarithmic scale. She could be incredibly old.
RS: Anyway, I think youre describing her role really nicely there, bending them, and that worries me. The specific way Moira frames the Truth in Entry 5, as a tool to be used given her circumstances, makes me think shes not to be trusted, that she has plans beyond what shes shown to Xavier and Magneto. Truth can be used to deceive, especially when someone has imperfect access to the truth, as she specifically notes that Xavier does here. She has perfect recall. He has limited perception.
CE: Eidetic memory can sometimes be horrifying and inconvenient for people in real life, and I cant imagine how thousands of years of it can affect you, especially in the limited perception of other people. Even after reading her mind, Xavier likely immediately starts forgetting parts of it, and as we know memory is incredibly malleable to most people.
RS: I wonder if Entry 14 is meant to make us think of Onslaught, or else if its meant to make us worry about the state of the present day masked Xavier.
CE: Gosh, it could honestly be both.
RS: Entry 17 mentions Primal Matter. This is the first time that phrase has appeared in HoXPoX and in our discussions, but it should sound familiar to you if youve been following other HoXPoX conversations. The Abyss has appeared several times in HoXPoX, and that is a common translation for (tehom), the primal state of the universe in the book of Genesis before creation.
Genesis abyss isnt pure nothingness, but rather is a kind of primal matter, which in turn may be defined as the most basic form of matter, out of which all materially existing things are composed. If youre picturing fundamental particles or superstrings, go even more basic. Primal matter is entirely undifferentiated. It is materiality itself without any kind of form. This phrase here is important both because it handwaves the metallic nature of Podverine and Archpodgel and because it points toward some kind of connection between Proteus and the Dominions.
CE: I wonder what this redaction is. Speculation though is kind of impossible. Moira alluding to breaking Xavier makes me wonder if were going to see any repercussions later.
RS: Entry 17 also implicitly retcons Moiras relationship with Joseph MacTaggert; his DNA is necessary for her plan. This also implies a retcon that somehow makes Xaviers relationship with his patient Gabriel Haller even less ethical; just as it implies that Moira sought out Joseph to create Proteus, so too it implies that Xavier sought out Haller to create Legion.
CE: Boy oh boy, that has some gross implications though unless the retcon is rather large on Moiras side. In Entry 22, Moira mentions the possibility of strongholds to Magneto, which explains why he makes so many bases and islands the finale of which is Krakoa, of course.
RS: Thats a carefully chosen word, stronghold. Its the name given to Machine Intelligences which have collapsed into a black hole, so here we have Moira connecting the idea of Krakoa to the end of that kind of existence.
CE: We have lost Magneto for sure references Mutant Genesis. This reiterates that all of the conflicts between mutants in the past were completely real, which is extremely good.
[Ed. note: For those of you who havent read the best selling comic of all time, Magneto got turned into a baby once and Moira messed with his genetic code in an attempt to make him less evil. Magento was upset when he found out.]
RS: Its the best kind of retcon. It doesnt eliminate past continuity, but rather it adds significance to it. Entry 57 is extremely troubling. If Moira and Xavier used a prototypical variant of the Pod Process to fake her death, then the process creates copies of the original person rather than restores them and Moira and Xavier killed an innocent sentient individual they created in order to further their plans. [Ed. note: Dont worry, they had a backup.]
CE: I wonder if they just kind of left a body? Moira did seal herself in a room while working on the Legacy Virus, leaving ample opportunity to escape. This retcon might be one of the most clean that I can remember.
RS: Odds on the city which Moiras No-Place opens to? Im guessing New Orleans, and Moira just loves her some gumbo.
CE: Its a little town in like, Ohio, where a cafe makes perfect corned beef hash. Anyway, Magneto bringing tea as an excuse is hilarious. Did Charles and Magneto discuss how they were going to break bad news to her, and settled on tea as an olive branch? These boys are goofs. [Ed. note: Mankinds greatest culinary city is Cincinnati, home of the best chili in the world.]
RS: Before we move on, those final two panels are suggestive, placing Moira in parallel with the masked Xavier, and cutting off her eyes. If anything in this issue frames Moira as sinister, its this depiction here.
CE: Smiling without eyes is a classic in comics for devious intent. I agree with your take here absolutely.
CE: The boys specifically say that they put the bad guys on the council to keep a close eye on them. Theyre well aware of the possibility of them doing something nefarious. Thats a cool detail.
RS: I dont know why Moiras so frustrated; it seems like a great plan, keeping an eye on the evil villains by giving them 50% of the governing power of this nation.
Uncanny X-Men #11 (2019) Matthew Rosenberg, Juanan Ramrez
CE: No precogs on Krakoa is a fascinating rule, and Moira seems to hint that its because Destiny can see Moiras lives. Blindfold, another precognitive mutant, recently died in Rosenberg and Cos Uncanny X-Men. [Ed. note: She fell into a depression and committed suicide after being broken by the inevitability of the mutant cause.]
CE: Magnetos rhyme is an adaptation of a German rhyme about procrastination Tomorrow, tomorrow, not today, all the lazy people say. Moira must be incredibly frustrated with the arrogance of the mutant men in her life. However, to some extent she seems hopelessly pessimistic, even with all her planning.
CE: The boys remind Moira how great she is, as they also undercut her wishes. But even in their praise of her, they also puff themselves up, stating basically that Moira is no longer necessary. This plays interestingly with her Journal Entries, through which we learn the ways she tries to manipulate them. I like that Moira gets to have a complicated, flawed character. Its quite refreshing.
RS: It also plays with the previous version of this scene, which was also set against Xaviers narration. In that scene Xavier acted as though they were all equals and that they were all the dominant powers leading Krakoa forward. But here we see that the Quiet Council is just a set of pawns, and its their secret alliance, the power behind the throne, that actually matters.
CE: I am not ashamed of what I am was the tagline for the last issue. We close on the triumph of these men, and the start of our new status quo. We see a blending of their philosophies in both men, as even Xavier tempts to humans to try to stop them.
CE: Truly, a great ending coda. Mutants arent going away, and they will not be less than again.
RS: That said, Chris, I cant help but think of your observation about the Preserve way back at the start. When I look at this scene, of mutants flying into lively purple, golden trees, I cant help but see a resemblance to X. Our last image of HoXPoX is a very hopeful one, a moment of both celebration and defiance, but that visual parallel adds just a tinge of doubt to the scene for me, makes me worry that theyre still marching to their old doom.
CE: Normally we dont dig too hard into the reading order but, the code at the bottom says Dawn of X 19 and Arakko 20. Perhaps a preview of a comic or event from next year?
CE: Krakoan reads X-Men. Rob, I sight read this one. I have a problem. [Ed. note: Cant remember a thing from three years of Spanish but I can just read this made up language now.]
The rest of the Krakoan reads as the names of our Dawn of X titles, in order: Marauders, Excalibur, X-Force, New Mutants, and Fallen Angels.
RS: I struggled with coming up with the right words for our introduction, and Im struggling again here. How can we sum up this series? It was a wild experience. Never before have I looked forward so much to a weekly release. Never before have I experienced a comics community coming together to read and discuss and theorize about and critique and celebrate one comic.
CE: The sun sets on Krakoa, more darkly than before, and thus does our 12-week journey end. We got a conclusion of sorts, but also an incredibly engaging start on a brand new story and setting. The X-Men have been yet again redefined for the better, in my opinion. I want to see what happens in a world with mutants on top, but with the inevitability of human engineering looming. The possible plot threads abound as we close out this series, and Im sure well have lots to talk about come Dawn of X.
[Ed. note: Thank you for overthinking comic books with us for the last 12 weeks, and thanks to Polygon for bringing us in to talk about X-Men. Lets get a good rest, because Dawn awaits us.]
Chris Eddleman is a biologist and co-host of Chrises On Infinite Earths
Robert Secundus is an amateur angelologist
Zachary Jenkins runs the Xavier Files Media Empire and is a co-host on the podcast Battle of the Atom. Shocking everyone, he has a full and vibrant life outside of X-Men.
Read more from the original source:
The finale issue of House of X/Powers of X: We dig into every detail - Polygon
Could a robot be prime minister? Machines will soon be smart enough to run the world, says futurist – CBC.ca
Posted: at 12:48 pm
Read Story Transcript
Canadians are heading to the polls in two weeks, but one futurist argues that one day we'll be casting our votes for a robot prime minister.
"At some point we're going to create a machine that's better than the human brain, and that machine is going to be better at running the planet and running the world," said Zoltan Istvan.
"You really have an opportunity here to maybe get what we can see as true leadership, for the very first time in perhaps everyone's lifetime."
Istvan ran in the 2016 U.S. presidential election under the banner of the Transhumanist Party, a group that believes in using technology to modify and enhance our intellect and bodies as long as no harm results to anyone else. He is not running in the 2020 campaign.
He said people he met along the campaign trailwere skeptical of the Transhumanist pitch, but argued that people underestimate how quickly technology is advancing.
He told The Current's Laura Lynch that "almost every single action that a human does, a machine can almost certainly do dramatically better."
"When you talk about running a country, you talk about governing for the greatest good," Istvansaid. "Amachine is going to have better algorithms."
He added that one benefit of robot leaders would be that they could improve over time, weeding out idiosyncrasies or issues experienced by previous iterations.
A robotprogrammed to lead wouldn't necessarilybe stuck behind a desk on Parliament Hill it could beartificial intelligence that you could access anywhere, like a smart speaker in your living room.
The implication for democracy would be that "in the future, an AI will be able to keep on millions and millions of close relationships with its voters base," Istvansaid.
It "might be campaigning right in your living room," he added.
"That's where this becomes really interesting, is a really direct relationship with a potential AI political leader."
Kerstin Dautenhahn, Canada 150 research chair in intelligent robotics, said she "would definitely not want political leaders to be robots."
She told Lynch that "we need to maybe be realistic on what machines are good at, and what humans are good at."
"AI is certainly very good [at] enhancing vast amounts of data, so for example, recognizing one face in a million different faces, or collecting data on people's habits and then recognizing patterns," said Dautenhahn, director of the social and intelligentrobotics research lab at the University of Waterloo.
"What machines are not very good at is common sense and general intelligence, so for example machines lack compassion, they lack empathy."
Dautenhahn said those common sense decisions are vital for politicians "because they are dealing with incomplete information, they have to make quick decisions, they have to make predictions."
"That's what people are very good at and it is because we are human beings," she said.
Istvan argued that decisions based on emotion can lead to "total chaos."
"That's why we want pure reason, pure statistical analysis," he said.
He told Lynch that "even if the picture is incomplete, a statistical analysis of that would make a much better decision than something that comes out with emotions."
"Frankly, the last thing I want is [U.S. President Donald] Trump to be emotional as he's making decisions with the military and things like that."
Istvan said the qualities needed for leadership could eventually be programmed into robots, but Dautenhahn warned that the people programming them could unwittingly introduce their own biases.
"I would certainly not vote for a robot because ... there's no such thing as pure rational decision-making," she said.
Dautenhahn acknowledged that humans make mistakes, but perhaps robotics could be used to help us make better-informed decisions, rather than just making them for us.
"I think humans are pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good in what they're doing, and they can certainly be complemented by AI, in areas where the AI is very good."
Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Ben Jamieson.
Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic, Phill Jupitus and Johnny Ball to star in Festival of the Future in Dundee – The Courier
Posted: at 12:48 pm
Scissor Sisters star Ana Matronic, maths whizz Johnny Ball and comedian Phill Jupitus are among the headline acts at this years Festival of the Future.
As part of Dundee Universitys flagship celebration of art, culture and science, venues across the city will host talks, shows and panels for people of all ages across five fascinating days.
The theme of this years festival the second Festival of the Future is social change, and more than 50 events will explore this.
The festival has grown beyond its base at Bonar Hall to include collaborations at V&A Dundee, Dundee Rep Theatre and Dundee Contemporary Arts. Comedy clubs, exclusive film screenings and music and lunchtime concerts are among the arts events taking place.
Best-selling authors Christopher Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste used to dishing up blood and gore in their books will be murdering songs for fun when they appear at Bonar Hall as the Fun Lovin Crime Writers on October 18.
Scissor Sisters frontwoman Ana Matronic is a transhumanism activist. She will be part of a panel examining how robots are shaping the world we live in, challenging prejudices around transhumanism and celebrating the potential of this technology.
Ana is also well known as the host of Radio 2s Disco Devotion and Dance Devotion, and will perform a DJ set at V&A Dundee on October 19.
Veteran stand-up and Never Mind The Buzzcocks fixture Phill Jupitus, who these days lives in the East Neuk of Fife, will be hosting this years Festival of the Future Comedy Club at Bonar Hall on the same night. He will compere a night of stand-up featuring fledgling comedians. Jupitus will also host The Courier Business Awards on October 26.
Legendary TV presenter Johnny Ball will visit Dundee to discuss The Wonder Of Numbers. Johnny has been a champion of mathematics for more than 40 years, opening up the subject for a popular audience with wit and wisdom.
YouTube star James Bruton, whose DIY engineering projects have captivated tens of millions of viewers across the globe, will bring his one-man (and robot) show to the festival on October 17. The former toy designer has an extensive background in robotics and electrical and mechanical engineering.
Journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason believes there is an all-out attack on values that have underpinned Western societies for hundreds of years, eroding humanity like never before. He will ask if the time is right to fight for universal rights, human-centric institutions, and the right to resist control of our lives by algorithms.
Special performances by Scottish Dance Theatre will take place at Dundee Rep, while families can look forward to The Whirlybird by Ecodrama, Slug by Visible Fictions and other events aimed at youngsters.
Dundee Contemporary Arts will play host to exclusive screenings of Schemebirds and Ken Loachs Sorry We Missed You, films that strongly relate to social change.
Programme director Emma Beatt said: This year we have such wonderful performances and music events as part of the festival. We are super-excited to welcome our guests to Dundee for what is going to be a fantastic five days of fun.
Vice-principal Professor John Rowan added: This year, in collaboration with partners including Dundee Science Festival, DCA and Dundee Rep Theatre, we will journey to Mars, discuss robots, act as a jury, create comic strips, learn how to recycle clothes and jewellery and experience cutting-edge dance and film. We have great writers and celebrity visitors.
Posted: at 12:48 pm
Im at a challenging place in my manhood. Im developed enough to know that sports dont really matter, at all. In a world threatened by global warming and profound political corruption, while being transformed by quantum technological advancement, the Super Bowl, for example, is so obviously irrelevant that even having an opinion about who wins is basically absurd.
I know this. I read books. I write plays. I publish essays like this one. Companies hire me to create their communications strategies. Im a thinking person, dammit. But I really wanted the Rams to kick the Patriots asses. And I dont even follow football.
My partner Bernie relieves herself instantly of any potential sports angst by simply switching allegiance to whoevers winning. Even the Dodgers. She has no idea why I object to this. Why do I object to this? Im a transhumanist. I see us using technology to take charge of our destinies, create abundance, and live unlimited lifespans. Why should we be subject to the whims of sports?
It helps that the hometown Phoenix Suns are so hideously, perpetually incompetent that I cant bear to care. But thats a bit like a smoker being too depressed to light up, isnt it? Eventually, things will turn around and then where are you?
Growing up in Washington DC, my oldest brother taught me to play basketball in fifth grade and I loved everything about it. The sounds alone quickened me the thump of dribbling, the sneaker squeak of cutting, the swish of a made shot. And I loved, just as much the movement the full court sprint, the change of direction, and the jumping, always the jumping, filling walls then ceilings all over the house with my fingerprints. I loved the ball itself, its size and heft and subtle texture, which spoke to my fingertips in a language that so exquisitely bypassed my brain.
I poured my solitude into basketball, even when asthma made my lungs feel like sacks of sand. When I wasnt playing at school, I played at the playground in my DC neighborhood. I idolized the lanky high school-aged black kids that played in that smooth style that is DC basketball. They didnt think and then move; they played at the speed of spontaneity, out of their minds. I wanted that freedom.
A little white kid, I looked like the type who worked tirelessly to develop a pure jump shot, his one ticket to be on the court. But I was at my best on the move, driving to the basket. This consistently surprised the black kids, who had their own stereotypes. Plus, who wanted to defend a whirling, wheezing white kid who played as if his very self-worth depended on beating you to the spot?
In high school, I finally outgrew asthma and developed physically. By tenth grade, I was winning trophies. I played in a kind of mental bubble, holding my brain at bay, so that it would not block me from moving freely through the game. I had my best games when I was sick; the weakness forced me to an extreme focus, which shut out thought entirely, and the points came in a seemingly automatic flow.
But one day the schools athletic director made a point of taking me aside to inform me that I wasnt as good as I thought and that I would never play at the next level. I had dreamed of being great. It may have always been just a fantasy, but I had already taken a little boys vision of being a high school star and birthed it whole out of my heart, so who was to say? I had the love and the legs, and I had no other dream.
But his words instantly jarred me out of that reverie. Perhaps Id never really believed in myself. Or maybe I just didnt understand where belief came from, thinking it originated from others who could be relied upon to accurately inform me of what I could and could not be. But now I know better.
Ive had brushes with real sports stars. I worked at the first PF Changs restaurant in Scottsdale, outside of Phoenix, back when it was the hot spot in town, when Charles Barkley brought in Michael Jordan, who walked through the restaurant like a god, as the Saturday night din noticeably lowered, heads turned, the air buzzing with awareness of him.
I brought the food to their table once, putting a dish of Orange Peel Chicken in front of Jordan. But the server whod taken the order had somehow botched it Jordan didnt want Orange Peel Chicken. The poor girl, of course, apologized profusely and offered to bring him what hed like. Everything was wok preparedit would only take moments. But he wouldnt let her correct her error, and sedately ate nothing while the rest dug in. Asshole.
I played basketball with the Hall of Fame Quarterback Kurt Warner at the YMCA when he was working his way back to the Cardinals from an injury. The first time I saw him, he was reading his leather-bound bible, waiting for his game. Kurt competed hard, sometimes dominating games, but he played clean and fair, more so than some of the regulars.
Of course, it doesnt matter who these stars really are; it matters who we are. This came to me recently as I was listening to sports talk radio on the way to a client meeting. I know, what could be dumber than listening to people who are so moronic they not only think and talk about sports all day, they get intense, even self-righteous about their utterly trivial perspectives on events with no inherent significance in the first place.
Ill tell you what could be dumber, its the desire to call in.
But they were talking about the freshman basketball phenom at Duke, Zion Williamson, and comparing him to Charles Barkley and Sean Kemp. No way! Hes like a young Dominique Wilkins, the Human Highlight Film, who played for the Atlanta Hawks in the 80s and early 90s, after a sterling career at the University of Georgia. Dont they know anything?
I didnt call in. The freeway traffic was roiling around me like a rodeo, which demanded my focus, considering my unlimited, tech-enabled future might be at stake. But it did make me reflect. I mean, what if the Suns, as a reward for their heinousness, got the number one overall draft pick again? What if they drafted Williamson and turned it around and became contenders? Would that make me any more of a human being? Would that advance me in any significant way as a man?
I dont know, but that 2001 World Series victory by the Diamondbacks was pretty sweet! But was all the suffering before and after made good by that one season of fulfillment?
While Im asking myself these questions another part of me, my cerebral cortex perhaps, which is supposed to give humans the ability to self-evolve and innovate, is trying to make the point that these questions are really irrelevant because its all joy or suffering by proxy anyway; because Im not actually a player on a winning or a losing team; Im just a guy watching. So emotionally, sports is just a simulation, like the Matrix. Its not really happening, not to me.
I may be overthinking this.
I get to my appointment and present the communications strategy. The client gets it, they love it, were good. Which is important. Because this is how I actually earn a living. Back to sports.
Driving home on the radio, theyre talking about the very scenario Id run in my own mind, with the Suns tanking so they could draft Williamson. Weird. Is this evidence of a simulation in action?
Another thought: maybe the car radio is the trigger. Maybe when we have self-driving cars and I can nap my way to appointments the future is going to be amazing maybe then I can beat this sports thing.
Alternatively, several decades down the road, because Im still alive and well, maybe Ill look back on this moment and be so evolved, so advanced, not just technologically, but emotionally, spiritually even, that the whole thing will seem like some kindergarten drama Ive so far outgrown I cant even grasp now what it was about.
Or maybe, just maybe, a millennium from now, Ill have lived long enough to see the Suns get their act together, and build not just a contender, but a champion, no a repeat champion, and it will all have been worth it.
Excerpted from Outlier Heart by Joe Bardin
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Posted: at 12:47 pm
Sunday, October 13Full Moon officially arrives at 5:08 p.m. EDT, but it will look completely illuminated all night. You can find it rising in the east shortly after sunset and peaking high in the south around 1 a.m. local daylight time. It dips low in the west by the time morning twilight starts to paint the sky. The Moon lies in southeastern Pisces near that constellations border with Cetus. Octobers Full Moon also goes by the name Hunters Moon. In early autumn, the Full Moon rises about half an hour later each night compared with a normal lag close to 50 minutes. The added early evening illumination supposedly helps hunters track down their prey.
Monday, October 14Although autumn began three weeks ago and the stars of winters Orion now rule the morning sky, the Summer Triangle remains prominent on October evenings. Look high in the west after darkness falls and your eyes will fall on the brilliant star Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp. At magnitude 0.0, Vega is the brightest member of the triangle. The second-brightest star, magnitude 0.8 Altair in Aquila the Eagle, lies some 35 southeast of Vega. The asterisms dimmest member, magnitude 1.3 Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, stands about 25 east-northeast of Vega. For observers at mid-northern latitudes, Deneb passes through the zenith around 8 p.m. local daylight time, just as the last vestiges of twilight disappear.
Tuesday, October 15After a three-month hiatus lost in the Suns glare, Venus returns to view after sunset in mid-October. Its not easy to see, however it stands just 2 high in the west-southwest a half-hour after sundown. Luckily, the inner planet shines brilliantly at magnitude 3.8 and should show up if you have a haze-free sky and unobstructed horizon. Despite this pedestrian start to its evening apparition, Venus will be a glorious sight this coming winter and spring.
Wednesday, October 16Uranus reaches opposition in just two weeks, and it is already a tempting evening target. The ice giant world rises during twilight and climbs 30 above the eastern horizon by 9:30 p.m. local daylight time. The magnitude 5.7 planet lurks among the background stars of southern Aries. Use binoculars to find the planet 2.7 south of the similarly bright star 19 Arietis. A telescope reveals Uranus blue-green disk, which spans 3.7". To learn more about viewing Uranus and its outer solar system cousin, Neptune, see Observe the ice giants in Octobers Astronomy.
Thursday, October 17The variable star Algol in Perseus reaches minimum brightness at 5:27 a.m. EDT. If you start watching it late yesterday evening, you can see its brightness diminish by 70 percent (its magnitude drops from 2.1 to 3.4) over the course of about five hours. This eclipsing binary star runs through a cycle from minimum to maximum and back every 2.87 days. Algol appears in the northeast during the evening hours and passes nearly overhead around 2 a.m. local daylight time.
Friday, October 18Saturn remains a glorious sight this week. The ringed planet resides among the background stars of Sagittarius the Archer, a region that appears 25 high in the south-southwest as twilight fades to darkness and doesnt set until close to 11 p.m. local daylight time. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.5 and appears significantly brighter than any of its host constellations stars. Although a naked-eye view of the planet is nice, seeing it through a telescope truly inspires. Even a small instrument shows the distant worlds 16"-diameter disk and spectacular ring system, which spans 37" and tilts 25 to our line of sight.
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Posted: at 12:47 pm
Uncovering martian historyCuriosity is well suited to studying the evolution of Mars environment because of its access to Gale Crater. The crater formed when a meteor hit Mars at least 3.5 billion years ago, leaving a 100-mile-wide hole in the ground. The crater still exposes layers of rock hundreds of yards deep. The deepest rocks are the oldest, and higher rocks make up younger, more recently formed layers. So, Curiosity can analyze the chemical compositions of rocks and, in the process, document Mars history back at least 3.5 billion years. Its a unique opportunity to study how a planets environment can change across billions of years.
Curiositys latest work shows that rocks in Gale Crater between about 3.3 and 3.7 billion years in age had pockets of sulfur-containing salts called sulfates. Older rocks that Curiosity analyzed didnt have such concentrations of these salts. That leads scientists to believe this is evidence that a lake at Gale Crater was particularly salty around this time. The lake may have gotten saltier then because the waters were evaporating, leaving higher concentrations of salt behind. If true, it implies that Mars climate was changing and becoming drier around 3.5 billion years ago.
To William Rapin, a planetary scientist at Caltech and an author of the new study, the project is an exciting way to uncover Mars history and understand more broadly how planets and their environments evolve over time.
Our geology and our understanding of planets climates is very Earth-centric, Rapin says. Mars has had its own fate, potentially very different than the Earth.
Posted: at 12:47 pm
Where in the universe can life evolve? When scientists discuss this question, theyre usually talking about what kinds of planets might support life. But some researchers are thinking bigger.
In recent years, astronomers have been investigating whether some types of galaxies are more hospitable to life than others. Unsurprisingly, most researchers think that large spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way might be good candidates for life. But in a recent paper, one research team proposes that some dwarf galaxies may be another category of habitable galaxies. Though studies of galactic habitability are in their infancy, as the studys authors wrote in their paper, they ask fundamental questions about how life in the universe comes to be.
Its almost [a] completely new field, terra incognita, so to speak, study author Milan irkovi of the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade said via email. Such things are always exciting.
Large spiral galaxies are one galaxy type that researchers think may be good for developing life. Our own planet is the only known example of life arising in such a galaxy, but spirals pack relatively high amounts of the heavy elements needed to form rocky planets.
However, life in a spiral galaxy can have its downsides, too. These galaxies form new stars more actively and have more dangerous cosmic events, like supernova explosions, compared to other galaxies. Those kinds of disasters can spew harmful radiation into nearby space and potentially destroy planets biospheres.
So, perhaps galaxies with less active star formation, and fewer cosmic explosions, might be calmer, safer places that allow planets more time to develop life.
irkovi and his team tested this idea by studying more than 100,000 galaxies that other astronomers created in simulations. They found that small galaxies, or dwarf galaxies, with relatively high amounts of heavy elements may be promising candidates for habitability as well.
For example, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way, is one example of a high-metallicity dwarf galaxy. These galaxies have plenty of heavy elements for creating rocky planets and tend to be calmer environments with fewer explosions to disrupt the formation of life.
Its a kind of sweet spot in the galactic zoo of all the different galaxies, irkovi wrote.
The researchers published their paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. A version of the paper is accessible on the pre-print site arxiv.org.
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Posted: at 12:47 pm
In 1992, astronomers discovered the first exoplanet, or planet outside our solar system. But it didnt come in any form theyd really anticipated.
Neutron stars are the second densest type of object in the universe outside black holes. They form when a giant star dies and explodes outward as a result of the collapse of its core. Put simply, the star becomes too massive to go on and expels all its energy into the surrounding space. The core is a sort of ground zero of this detonation. When that core collapses, depending on the size of the star, it becomes either a neutron star or a black hole.
Some neutron stars are called pulsars, for the regular pulses they give off in radio frequencies. Think of many of them like a drummer fast regular beats. Some pulsars, called millisecond pulsars, drum so fast that it would put Napalm Deaths drummer Danny Herrera to shame.
Those pulses are so regular that if they dont come at the right interval, astronomers know something is off.
A breakthrough in 1992 provided rock-solid evidence of planets. Astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail tuned into the pulsar PSR B1257+12, 2300 light-years away. It should have pulsed every 0.006219 seconds, but every now and then, its pulses were a little off. Yet those off-beats came at regular intervals as well. After intensive study, Wolszczan and Frail came up with an explanation for why that was: it had two planets around it. One was three and the other four times the mass of Earth, and they rotated around every 67 and 98 days, rounded up.
Pulsar planets are somewhere in between a zombie and a chimera. When a star explodes, usually the planets in that system are destroyed or flung out by a shockwave. But after the violence settles down, the gas and dust can recondense. This, in effect, means that the three planets in B1257 may be made out of parts of the planets that came before them. Given the extreme radiation in these systems, almost no one has ever thought that the B1257 system could host life.
So, while the 1992 discovery was major news, it meant astronomers had the first verified planets around another star, but no proof of planets around a main sequence star like the Sun. That kind of confirmation was still a few years away.
Read More: 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Exoplanet Discovery
From the 1980s on, many groups had been on the hunt for the first planet around a Sun-like star. Some candidates came and went. Others required dozens or hundreds of observations to officially confirm.
But an observation in January 1995 proved to be the real deal. Didier Queloz, a grad student at the University of Geneva, was working with his advisor, Michel Mayor, on the search for extrasolar planets via radial velocity, in other words, wobbles.
Reportedly, his find was a chance coincidence. Out of a catalog of radial velocity signatures, he chose an F-type star called 51 Pegasi, roughly 50 light-years distant. He was trying to calibrate his planet finding code, opting for the star as one of a few promising candidates. It fell into place that night, a strong signal roughly every four days.
Measurements placed its minimum mass near Jupiter meaning the object was without a doubt a planet. While astronomers considered it possible to have such periods, it wasnt necessarily expected to find one in such a short period. At this time, I was the only one in the world who knew I had found a planet, Queloz told the BBC in 2016. I was really scared, I can tell you.
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Posted: at 12:47 pm
Some clues suggest that a flare of energetic radiation burst from our galaxys center within the last few million years. Now, in a new study, a team of researchers describes another piece of evidence that the Milky Way burped out such a flare. The research also points to the supermassive black hole in our galaxys center, called Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*, as the responsible party.
The team also estimated when this event occurred. Their data put the outburst at 3.5 million years ago, give or take a million years. That would mean that the Milky Ways center transitioned from an active to a quiet phase pretty recently in Earths history, possibly when early human ancestors were roaming the planet.
The flare would have been visible to the naked eye, shining about 10 times fainter than the Full Moon across a broad spectrum of light wavelengths.
It would look like the cone of light from a movie projector as it passes through a smoky theater, University of Sydney astrophysicist and lead study author Jonathan Bland-Hawthorn said in an email.
The researchers describe their findings in an upcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal.
This new piece of evidence comes from examining a stream of gas that arcs around the Milky Way. This stream of gas is like a trail that two dwarf galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, leave as they orbit the Milky Way. The research team studied ultraviolet (UV) light coming from this gas trail, called the Magellanic Stream.
The characteristics of the UV light indicate that gases in some sections of the stream are in an excited state. Only a very energetic event, like a beam of radiation from an active galactic nucleus, could have done this, according to Bland-Hawthorn. This means that our own home galaxy had an active galactic nucleus phase in the past.
I think AGN flickering is what goes on for all of cosmic time, Bland-Hawthorn said. All galaxies are doing this, he said, like volcanoes that can lie quietly for long stretches of time but suddenly erupt.
Learning more about the central black hole of our galaxy is an exciting area of research, he added.
I think Sgr A* is the future of astrophysics, like searching for life signatures around planets, Bland-Hawthorn said. I am excited by what we will learn over the next 50 years.