March 6, 2014

The Most Awesome Moment in Science Fiction

The most awesome moment in science fiction: the scene in JJ Abrams's Star Trek when Kirk drives his motorcycle up to the Star Fleet ship yard, witnessing the Enterprise under construction.

It was a great moment of optimism, purpose and awe. In this future, the earth is beautiful and plentiful; the family farm seems to be alive and well; and the world's most advanced technology appears nestled within a vast, open and productive countryside. All is well.

It is thanks to the landscape that the hardware seems so awesome.

January 30, 2014

A Different Kind of Death

According to this new MIT startup, we may soon be able to hold conversations with people who have passed away.

I would say cue the Terminator music, but this is something different. This is about non-termination. Robot ancestors. Different kinds of death. A mystic future. I always thought this would happen and I used to think this was a cool idea, but now I'm really inclined to think that adjectives fail. "Cool" is entirely overused.

This seems like something out of Futurama -- still one of the best TV shows out there. This invention fits right into the chaotic backdrop of that show.

This idea has cropped up before. First, as an art project in 2006:

Then, as a design project in 2007:

I think as technology progresses, we are going to need to continue developing stronger abilities to disconnect and live minimally. To consciously use technology (instead of being used by technology) is going to require ongoing and creative determination.

As important as it is to remember loved ones, it's also important to let ourselves forget. The mind does an amazing job of pruning memories on its own. Forgetting is healthy and healing.

The motivation behind inventions like these is to engineer memories. We are offloading cognitive work to increasingly powerful apps and machines. I'm starting to fear the side-effects of innovation-mania. What will these technologies do to our individual sense of agency? How will technologies like this affect our minds and our relationships?

Are scrapbooks forever gone? Is dreaming obsolete?

January 27, 2014

December 29, 2013

Academic Hilarity

I love academia. By and large, being an academic is a deeply creative, meaningful way of existing in the world. Academia shows the breadth and diversity of the human mind and it has the capacity to enrich the lives of many. But academia does tend to take itself pretty seriously most of the time.

These are a couple of satirical projects that take a fun jab at the Ivory Tower.

The Journal of Universal Rejection -- All papers rejected, no matter how good.

LOL My Thesis -- A bunch of people summarizing their PhD dissertations in one sentence.