6.30.2001

Ghost In The Machine Day

Surely you knew this...

July 3rd is "Ghost In The Machine" Day

   "Ghost In The Machine" Day (GIMday) is the day in the Luddite Calendar that celebrates the potential
    for error that is innate in every machine, personified by Etaoin Shrdlu. He is the mistake with
    a name, the eponym of the mistake in the machine.

MONTIOR TECHNLOGY BLOG

A technology news blog from the Christian Science Monitor...

Link via Rebecca.

6.23.2001

NOTED: USELESS GIFT BOOK

Do You Remember Technology?

Jokey nostalgia for past technologies such as 8-track. [a review]

This book is an example of what a friend calls a "money sink," a product designed
to absorb surplus cash, but with no other redeeming features. Toilet reading.

6.21.2001

...OFF THE OLD BLOCK

From Politechbot.com:
More on Digital Angel, chip implants, and human tracking

Alfred Hitchcock was rumored to have once said, "Actors are cattle."
When asked about this, he replied, "I didn't say that actors are cattle,
I said that actors should be treated like cattle..."

6.20.2001

ROBONOCCHIO

Early reviews of Speilberg's AI, not just another robot-who-wants-to-be-human film...
But don't kid yourself, robotics is about slavery, about who is disposed and who
disposes. A robot is just a worker (or pet or companion or whatever it is designed
for) who is absolutely disposable. And what, AI presents, of a mechanical kid, even
more disposable than children of flesh? We wonder what adoptive kids and foster
children will make of this film (check moviemom.com, for this point of view).

Andrew Sarris review of AI

Stanislaw Lem (our favorite writer about robots) created a robot concentration camp /
crematorium for his 1961 novel "Return From The Stars":

      "Sir!!!" said something; I do not know why I was so sure, but I felt the words were
   directed to me, I did not respond. "Sir, please...a moment of your time. Sir, I --
   am different. I am here by mistake."
      There was a stir
      "Silence! I am living!" This outshouted the rest, "Yes, I was thrown in here,
   they dressed me in metal on purpose, so no one would know, but please, only put
   your ear to me and you will hear a pulse!"
      "I also!" Came a second voice over the first. "I also! Sir! I was ill; during my
   illness I imagined I was a machine, that was my madness, but now I am well! Hallister!
   Mr. Hallister can vouch for me, please ask him, please get me out of here!"
      ...The barracks buzzed and roared with rusty voices...I began to retreat and
   stumbled into the sunlight...I jumped when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was
   Marger, fair-haired, handsome, smiling.
      "I do apologize, Mr. Bregg. It took forever..."
      "What will happen to them...?" I interrupted, almost rudely, indicating the
   solitary barracks with my hand."
      "Ah, you went there? There was no need..."
      "Why no need?"
      "That's scrap."
      "How do you mean?"
      "Scrap for recasting, after selection..."
      "...Why aren't they repaired?"
      "It wouldn't pay," he said slowly, with suprise.
      "And what happens to them?"
      "To the scrap? It goes there," he pointed at the thin, solitary column of the
   furnace...


And still no word on why Jude Law's character is made up to look like a cheap, eastern-european
knock-off of a Ken doll...

Sarris review link found on Follow Me Here from Robot Wisdom.
Another AI review link from Robot Wisdom:Aint-it-cool-news.com.

6.19.2001

FORCE OF HOBBIT

Frodo Luddite?

The Book of the Century from Salon.com

   ...the crux of the matter, it seems to me, lies in Tolkien's wholehearted rejection
   of modernity and modernism. This is what so powerfully attracts some readers, and
   just as powerfully repels others...

   Frodo, the child-size hero, must leave his beloved Shire and travel into Sauron's
   domain of Mordor, with its slag heaps, its permanent pall of smoke, its slave-driven
   industries. When he returns after much danger and difficulty, he discovers that the
   malicious wizard Saruman -- as Shippey points out, a techno-Utopian who began with
   good intentions -- has industrialized the Shire itself, cutting down its trees,
   replacing its hobbit-holes with brick slums and factories and poisoning its rivers.

   In this regard, then, "The Lord of the Rings" belongs to the literature of the
   Industrial Revolution, a lament for the destruction of England's "green and pleasant
   land" that belongs somewhere on the same shelf with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and
   William Blake.


Link found on Arts & Letters Daily.

6.18.2001

CYBER-TATTLE TALE

"Danger, Will Robinson...!"

From the Risks Digest (ACM) via Follow Me Here...

Computer Reports Unreported Wreck

Seems one of those OnStar computers reported an accident the driver did not want reported...

6.16.2001

MEASURE FOR MEASURE

Noted: Damns Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians
and Activists
by Joel Best

   This is a book about bad statistics, where they come from, and why they won't go away.
   Some statistics are born bad--they aren't much good from the start, because they are
   based on nothing more than guesses or dubious data. Other statistics mutate; they become
   bad after being mangled... Either way, bad statistics are potentially important: they can
   be used to stir up public outrage or fear; they can distort our understanding of our world;
   and they can lead us to make poor policy choices.


Publisher's link (University of California Press)

How bad information that is commonly found in the feed troughs of journalism got
that way.

6.13.2001

LUDDESSENCE

A reflection on the meaning of Luddism from Rue Cottage
Books
, the other luddite bookstore...

   But the essence of luddism is not violence - far from it.
   Instead it is a respect for and a confidence in those things
   that make us human, with a related rejection of the
   mechanistic approach to being that devalues that humanity. It
   is a philosophy that respects tradition, intuition, spirituality,
   the senses, human relationships, the work of the hand, and
   the disorderly and unpredictable nature of reality, as
   opposed to a mechanistic or reductionist construct of the
   world. It questions the domination of science and the
   elevation of efficiency to a superior value. It rejects
   materiality...

BOOK BURNING

Discovered: where Barnes and Nobel sales clerks come from...

There's more to Amazon.com than one-click book buying...
It appears that one or more teachers may have assigned their students to
post their book reports as reader reviews online. There are 574
reviews of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." Here's one example:

   Fahrenheight 451 is a book set in the future that every page goes on and on and you find that you
   are still on that same page because you have fallen asleep. This story has some characters that are
   very different from each other. The main character Montag, who is a fireman who burns books instead
   of stopping fires, is very different from his wife Millie. His wife just watches TV all day and they
   call the actors their "cousins". Also their are so many different things that happen that you can't
   really keep up with them and you can't really understand it because you can;t understand what the
   characters do. The plot does not really make sense, it is about people who burn books and let me tell
   you it isn't very fun to read. I think that the the book is creative, but the Author should use
   something else to go with this story. The vocabulary was pretty good and he used good sentence, but
   they got confusing and you find yourself doing nothing with this book. The book just goes on and on
   and then you find yourself wanting to burn it like the fire fighters do. I would say that I recommend
   this book to probably no one because it isn't fun to read, you fall asleep during it and you can
   never feel suspended. People who like Sci-Fi stuff might, but it isn't really Sci-Fi ether.


Repeat after me: Bradley? What else did he write? Is that fiction?

6.12.2001

ABBEYGRAM

Today's epigram on wood_s_lot

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
- Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (1927-1989)

6.09.2001

SCIENCE AT THE MOVIES...

You knew that science did not fare well in Hollywood movies. For more proof,
take a look at Rob Schneider's new comedy, "The Animal," perhaps the first
xenotransplantation comedy...

What you didn't know was that xenotransplantation (the transplantation of
non-human parts into humans) has a history which dates back to 1682. The first
time xenotransplantation was applied was when a portion of dog skull was
implanted into the skull of a Russian nobleman...

More XT links:

Xenotransplantation (see this for the illustration)
A Clinical History of Xenotransplantation
Frontline: Organ Farm
Pig Heart Valve News

Our friend the transgenic pig.
GET ME RETHINK!

From the Sydney Morning Herald via the still viable plastic.com

Robots for editors in future newsrooms

   Hong Kong: News editors will be replaced by robots and stress levels will shoot
   through the roof in the high-tech newspapers of the future, according to
   industry visionaries...

   Computerised "newsbots" will make editorial judgments on day-to-day stories,
   freeing up staff to cope with the complex task of handling breaking news across
   a myriad of media platforms...

   Meanwhile, highly trained e-lancers, coordinated from a virtual newsroom, will
   provide on-the-spot video and text reporting.

   This vision of the newspaper of the future was showcased before editors and
   media executives at the World Association of Newspapers annual conference in
   Hong Kong.


He started out as a spell-checker in the mailroom, then...