Monday, 22 October 2018

Sci-Fi Future Is Here & Now (Part 3)

Look, Up in The Sky! It's A Bird? It's A Plane! No, It’s A…..Drone!

For now, we’ll set aside what many people consider to be the vile use of military drone technology by governments for the purposes of violating other nations’ sovereignty to carry out state-sanctioned extra-judicial assassinations that often result in “collateral” damage.



For the purposes of this post, consider a scenario that was presented in a sci-fi film called, Runaway (1984) starring Tom Selleck who plays a police officer who specializes in malfunctioning robots. He soon finds himself uncovering a plot involving the programming of robots to kill. In one scene he investigates a suburban home where the domestic robot has become homicidal. One of his tools is a small drone which he sends into the house to provide him with video surveillance of what is taking place. Don’t forget that what is commonplace today was being depicted (predicted?) 34 years ago as part of the police force’s arsenal of surveillance tools.


"Floater" camera drone in Runaway


Fast forward to 2018 and we have reports of a “leading defense expert” proclaiming that the use of artificially intelligent drones to monitor crowds at major events and report "irregular behaviour" to authorities will become widespread.

Meanwhile in Australia, Victoria Police have disclosed plans to use such drones as part of its new counter-terrorism strategy. The drones possess biometric features within their cameras that look for patterns of behaviour and can detect "unusual behaviour" in a crowd. The drones will then report findings back to officers, who can then investigate the potential threat.


The question to consider is whether such a course of action will simply add yet another layer to the ever-expanding reach of the cctv saturated "surveillance state?" Not to mention the fact that the simple private and domestic use of drones has raised concerns about the abuse of this technology by those who try to clandestinely pry into other people’s lives and invade their privacy!

It is difficult to argue against the use of drone surveillance technology when the stated intention of its deployment is to protect the community. However, that does not mean that it should not be questioned and even prevented from being implemented should the use of such technology diminish people’s right to privacy and their personal freedoms.

Take for instance the notion of “irregular behaviour.” What constitutes unusual behaviour? Who determines what is unusual, abnormal or irregular behaviour? Should such determinations be left to artificial intelligence? Would such monitoring lead to perfectly innocent people being identified and singled out? Would people fall into the habit of constantly self-monitoring their movements, actions and interactions with others? Could this behaviour identification eventually be extended to profiling of individuals and groups?

It is certainly true and not surprising that terrorist and militia groups have begun to employ weaponized drone technology. It has been reported that certain groups in Iraq have used drones equipped with grenades during battles. We can also not forget the apparent assassination attempt by means of a drone of the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during a speech at a military parade on Aug. 4. 2018 


Drones are becoming more cost-effective for governments and the military but the same also applies for terrorist groups. Before we know it, we’ll end up having a world living in constant fear of death raining down from the sky at any time and place!

Added to that scenario, is the ever increasing reliance on artificial intelligence to make decisions, extending even as far as one day making ethical and moral decisions.


It is a worrying fact that the community has been somewhat lulled into a degree of complacency when it comes to the increasing use of surveillance by CCTV cameras. Playing on our concerns about our security and safety could also lead us to become more accepting of the use of drone surveillance technology as well. Will we also be prepared to live our lives nervously looking over our shoulders and up at the skies in between being transfixed by our screens?



©Chris Christopoulos 2018

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sci-Fi Future Is Here And Now (Part 2)


A Brave New Weird & 
Worrisome 
World




In 2012, Mitinori Saitou at Kyoto University and his colleagues reported that they had produced mature mouse eggs and sperm from stem cells and had used them to breed healthy mouse pups.

Six years on from that development, it has recently been reported that immature human eggs were created by Japanese researchers using stem cells that were derived from blood cells, thereby bringing us a step closer toward creating human eggs in a lab dish.

The Japanese scientists turned adult human blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells possessing the ability to become any cell in the body and which the scientists then transformed into very immature human eggs.

This was achieved by placing the induced human pluripotent stem cells into miniature ovaries that were created from mouse embryonic cells. The scientists created a tiny artificial ovary inside of which were very immature human egg cells. It is significant to note that the experiment occurred entirely within an incubator within a laboratory.



Such research of course may hold the promise of helping millions of people around the world who suffer from infertility for a variety of reasons. It could also enable gay couples to have babies with sperm and eggs made from their own skin cells.

For better or for worse, it may also ultimately be a major step towards the time when humanity eventually takes control of its own evolution.

Humanity is now faced with the prospect of being able to mass-produce human eggs in labs. This capability would no doubt raise the kinds of societal, moral and ethical concerns that have featured in many science fiction stories such as Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World (1932) and in films such as, Gattaca (1997) and The Island (2005).

For instance, what if babies could in the future be made from the blood, hair or skin cells of children, grandmothers or even deceased people? What if babies were made from cells stolen from people who have simply had samples of their hair obtained by some underhanded means? Would any of us wish to have our offspring brought into this world without our consent? And what of the legal status of such offspring?

If we can make human eggs and sperm from our skin cells, what implications does this have for how humans reproduce, how we relate to each other and what it in fact means to be human.

Of particular concern is the possibility this research opens up for genetic testing and screening of embryos before a baby is “born.” It may beneficial when it comes to identifying abnormalities, which means the discarding of embryos possessing such abnormalities. We must also consider the likely implications of having parents, medical professionals or indeed governments determining which embryos go on to become babies. Would we wish to condone a process which amounts to a form of back door eugenics?

We knew this was coming! It is coming! Now that it’s just about to arrive on our doorstep, can our ethical, moral, legal, social, political and other institutional bodies and frameworks put in place the necessary principles and guidelines that will enable us to retain our human dignity?



By The original uploader was GoldenBear at German Wikipedia. - Life Issues Institute, 1721W Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45239, 513.729.3600, www.lifeissues.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22862400





©Chris Christopoulos 2018


Thursday, 11 October 2018

Sci-Fi Future Is Here & Now


Bendable & Flexible Technology


By Superdiddly - PhotographyPreviously published: www.hml.queensu.ca/paperphone, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27732010

Science fiction films and TV series have often presented a world of the future in which digital screens come in various forms such as ultra-thin tablets that roll up into the shape of a tube, curved billboards and even foldable newspapers containing video images

Up until now we are accustomed to living in a largely flat-screen world. However, we are fast approaching a time in which that world will be replaced by one in which any surface can become a screen capable of displaying moving high-resolution images.

The technology powering flexible, bendable displays is developing apace, and it won’t be that long before we will be taking up display technology that has shed the confines of a case and which is flexible, bendable and curved.

A Chinese firm called Royole have had their phones’ ultra-thin, flexible, full-colour screens incorporated into apparel such as top hats and T-shirts. The ability to watch video footage playing on someone’s chest, although at first sight is rather gimmicky, could be made use of by corporations to advertise their products. In effect we could become effective walking advertising billboards. If people trip over and crash into things while walking and using their phones now, imagine the carnage resulting from being distracted by watching video images on other peoples’ clothing! 
 

One person’s corporate or even aesthetic opportunity could also be another person’s idea of hell in which we are forced to live in a world where every surface around us has been turned into a screen that constantly spews out OLED visual pollution.

OLEDs or organic light-emitting diodes emit their own light, and don’t require a backlight which means they can be affixed to thin, lightweight materials such as plastic. Flexible OLEDs have been around for a few years and LG has even demonstrated a 65-inch TV that can be rolled up. The challenge has been not just to have a display that can flex but to also ensure that the other components such as batteries can flex too.
 





In addition, we have learned recently that engineers at ANU (Australian National University) have invented a semiconductor with organic and inorganic materials that can efficiently convert electricity into light. It is also thin and flexible enough to help make devices such as mobile phones bendable. Not only that, but devices made with such organic materials will be biodegradable, recyclable and will therefore help to reduce e-waste. 

One can only hope that we don’t become a society in which technology is increasingly seen as just being a readily consumable and disposable commodity and that information itself isn’t reduced to something that is merely consumed and discarded at will.

The organic component of the newly invented semiconductor has the thickness of just one atom - made from carbon and hydrogen while the inorganic component has the thickness of around two atoms.

The development of such ultra-thin and flexible electronics components possessing organic-inorganic hybrid structures will make possible the creation of bendable mobile phones and display screens. The computer-like characteristics of mobile phones today will be dwarfed by the potential supercomputer performance of mobile phones of the future. 


It also seems that such technological developments are presaging a time not far from now when organics and non-organics are fused together and we all have computer and communications technologies incorporated within our bodies.

Will we be ready to realize the full potential of these new technologies and venture beyond the need to take pouty-lipped selfies, share Instagram pictures of our food or update our status on Facebook? Will the development of such technologies present us with further social dilemmas by which we find ourselves shackled in some kind of virtual techno-prison overseen and manipulated by corporate and political overlords?




©Chris Christopoulos 2018

Monday, 1 October 2018

4D MAN (1959) (THE FOURTH DIMENSIONAL MAN)


An imaginative low budget sci-fi film that strives to break the mould



Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
Produced by Jack H. Harris and Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
Written by Theodore Simonson and Cy Chermak
Cinematographer: Theodore J. Pahle
Art Direction: William Jersey
Makeup Dean Newman
Special Effects: Bart Sloane
Music: Ralph Carmichael




Cast



Robert Lansing as Dr. Scott Nelson
Lee Meriwether as Linda Davis
James Congdon as Dr. Tony Nelson
Robert Strauss as Roy Parker
Edgar Stehli as Dr. Theodore W. Carson
Patty Duke as Marjorie Sutherland
Guy Raymond as Fred
Chic James as B-girl
Elbert Smith as Capt. Rogers
George Karas as Sgt. Todaman
Jasper Deeter as Dr. Welles
Dean Newman as Dr. Brian Schwartz
John Benson as reporter


"A man, an idea, the equipment and a place to work in secret!"
A man possessed with the ability to walk through solid matter!
A man motivated by greed and jealousy!
A man using his powers for his own personal gain!

Ah, but at what cost to himself and to others?



Sneak peak

Read on for more……