Thursday, January 12, 2017

Additional Seemingly Random Amazon Suggestions

I appreciate Amazon's "suggestion" algorithm, but sometimes it seems rather desperate in trying to interest me in other wares.  Amazon's suggestions are based on "items you own" and other criteria. 

Occasionally, what makes a suggestion amusing is the "item I own," which supposedly prompted the proposal.

Some examples:

Above -- because I bought a boombox (for work), I need a car seat?

Above -- because I own the Get Smart TV series, I should buy a specialized ratchet-wrench socket?  (Maybe because I'm a nut with a screw loose ...)

Above -- because I own The Addams Family TV series, I need a special cookbook?

Above -- another headscratcher based on owning Get Smart.  Perhaps this desk lamp was specifically designed for use in the Cone of Silence.

One never knows, do one?

See you Monday, fellow bemused observers of humanity!


Monday, January 09, 2017

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!
Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized. 

          We’re not talking about a Roomba or Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons.  These things would be so “human” you’d need a scorecard (or a voltmeter).  Usually the rationale for making robots indistinguishable from humans is to use them as servants.

           However, for every “nice” humanikin (TNG’s Data or The Twilight Zone’s electric grandmother), there seem to be TWO bad ones, such as robot Maria in Metropolis; the replicants of Blade Runner; Yul Brynner in Westworld; the Alien series; and the Terminators.  It’s probably easier to pitch a movie outline about a scary android than a nice one. What would be the audience demographic for  a robot that behaved?

In a 2011 article for WIRED about government research into robot soldiers, a researcher said, “Robots don’t need to look like people to get the job done ... it’s better if they don’t.”  

          DARPA projects and Chinese sexbots aside, it’s doubtful that any foreseeable tech could shoehorn all of the required mechanisms into a package whose appearance and weight are sufficiently human.  

Until we can reproduce Vejur’s “micro-miniature hydraulics, sensors, molecule-sized multi-processor chips .... an osmotic micro-pump,” we’ll have to settle for creating humanlike servants the old-fashioned way: “Hey, kid!  Mow the yard!”
          Another observation: If science creates the perfect human robot, won’t imperfect organisms like us look awfully bad in comparison?


          Dune’s stillsuits conserved a human body’s water. Writers like Gordon Dickson, George RR Martin, and William Gibson wrote about adaptive suits that could change your appearance. But more than these, more than present-day camo battle gear or bullet-proof clothing, a personal force field would enclose you in “your own little island of comfort” (tagline from 1960s air conditioner ad).  The familiar space suits of NASA and SF are too confining and low-tech for those who advocate this concept.

          The animated Star Trek one-upped the space suit when it posited “life support belts” that generated just such a personal force field, which provided oxygen and protection.  While it’s a fun idea, doubters point out that this sort of energy shield would have to be awfully picky to let in sound and visible light but not dangerous radiation (for instance).  For that matter, there's no guarantee that the person inside it wouldn't be fried or crushed by the thing; for, how could you make the force field project in only one direction?  It would be sort of embarrassing, but only momentarily, to switch on your energy belt and be instantly squeezed into jelly.

See you Thursday!
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© by Mark Alfred