Schroedinger’s Gift

This is for Advent Ghost’s 2018 at I Saw Lightning Fall. Short snippets of 100 words.

Once upon a time a troll gave me a gift.

“The day you die, you will open this box,” she said.

I cast it into a nearby stream and watched it float away.

It was waiting for me the next morning in my childhood closet.

I nearly opened it at University the night of my first true heartbreak.

…and after our first real fight (it met the wood-burning stove that night).

…and when I lost my job.

…and when I lost her.

My lonely, arthritic hands tremble as I chuck into the bin on this cold Christmas morn.

Not today.

The Mystery of the Creepiest Television Hack – Motherboard

The Mystery of the Creepiest Television Hack

It was like any other Sunday night at Chicago’s WGN-TV. And then the signal flickered into darkness.

Source: The Mystery of the Creepiest Television Hack – Motherboard

I hadn’t heard about this creepy real-life story today and I thought I’d share because it is bizarre and unsolved. And it would have freaked me out had I seen it in the 1980s.

The Punch Escrow

So, a month or so ago I came across this book, The Punch Escrow, that seemed right up my alley. I had also come across this really excellent book-review blog, Avalinah’s Books around the same time.  I discovered the writer there, Evelina and I share similar tastes in books. And she suggested we read the book and then ask each other questions about the book. These are my answers to her questions.

To see her answers to my questions, click here. She’s way more deep and smart with her reviews than I am, so I bet you will enjoy her take on The Punch Escrow.

First, a brief synopsis:

It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport―the world’s most powerful corporation, in a world controlled by corporations.

Joel Byram spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. He’s pretty much an everyday twenty-second century guy with everyday problems―until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

 Now, on to my answers:

1. So what did you think of salting? (In the book the main character, Joel, is a Salter. Salters spent their days enriching the cognitive algorithms of artificially intelligent things (tricking them to help them learn to be more human-like).

I love the idea of Salting. I think that would be such a fun job.

2. How did you like the witty main character?

I liked the main character Joel. I think he approached most things with a logical frame of mind, something I can much relate to. I’m a computer programmer as a profession and although that isn’t the same as Joel’s “Salting” I think both use a form of problem solving in their application.

One gripe I had with the book that was minor but still there was I wasn’t sure why the protagonist cared about 1980s music though. Certainly by the year 2147 popular culture has come up with an answer to 80’s pop. That was depressing to me.

3. What do you think about the government situation, where corporations have taken over the rule of state?

I think this is eerily close to where we already are in the United States. I mean, I can draw a very short and straight line from where we are now to where the book is.

We have a for-profit “healthcare” system here as well as a growing for-profit prison system. And those corporations that benefit from these systems heavily influence laws that effect their industries.

 So yeah, this is not far-fetched for me at all.

4. In the book, the author often offers snippets that explain a certain scientific aspect of the world in the book. How did you love the science, invented and real, and how those meshed?

The science bits were probably my favorite part. I’ve always been fascinated by teleportation but have realized that the type in Star Trek for example “kills” the traveler only to reassemble them on the other side (how else can they de-materialize then re-materialize on the other side?)

I could spend all day talking about the tech. It’s my favorite part of the book, even more-so than the plot.

 In fact, I very much enjoyed the idea of the pee-ing mosquitoes that convert CO2 to water, saving us from global warming. Because, governments and corporations aren’t going to save us here. It will be up to science and human ingenuity again.

Okay, one more piece of tech. I particularly bookmarked a page in the book where they talked about deep-space travel and how they could just store all of the “astronauts” on a hard drive, send that somewhere, and when they got there they could just “print” the “astronauts” out. No need to bring along food for the trip, get rid of human waste, or deal with any of that human stuff on the trip. Of course, they would have to “kill” the originals before they traveled. Or would they?

Spoilers beyond this point:

5. The villains in the book – yay or nay?

I thought the main villain of the book was not the obvious choice at first and there were a few entities that were possible main antagonists. I thought the main dude at the end was a little one-dimensional and comic book villain-y, but this didn’t ruin the book for me.

6. Spoiler section. Which of the Mona Lisas would you deem real?

 Define “real” 🙂 . Actually, I would have to say that the “real” Mona Lisa was destroyed.

7. Spoiler section as well – would you say that the people die when they are teleported, or do you think that’s a bit far-fetched? It is kind of philosophical at that point.

I would say they absolutely die. Now, if you believe in a soul I would say they die and then a copy is made. But does that copy share a “soul”? That wouldn’t make sense because then the “soul” is just data. But even if you don’t believe in an idea of a soul you must admit the traveler dies, for a moment at least, before being reassembled.

Actually this is one other small part that bugged me about the book. I wasn’t sure how anybody in that universe could have ever thought they weren’t “dying” for a moment then being reconstructed. Or maybe most people knew this deep down but were fine with it because who wouldn’t want instant travel to any point in the world?

Thanks Evelina for this wonderful exercise. Seriously everybody, go check out her blog Avalinah’s Books. And go read The Punch Escrow.

Goodreads Profile

Anybody else out there on Goodreads? I use it mainly as a tool for my old-man brain to keep track of what I’ve read.

I’ve given most of the books I’ve listed a four or five star rating because I only rate books I finish, and I only  finish books I like.

Anyway, for the curious, here’s a link to my profile on goodreads. Maybe you’ll find a book on there you’ve never read, but is the book for you. If that happens, let me know because stuff like that helps my Grinch-heart grow.

The Good Things

 

This happened in my back yard last Friday as we were having a little back yard camp fire. Double rainbows. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that live in all my life, or if I did but didn’t have the maturity to care.

So, I’m not dead. Just wanted to put that out there. I haven’t posted in a long while though. Because there really isn’t much to say. But maybe I’ll start to post again. I have been writing a little bit here and there. Maybe I’ll post some of that too.

Interesting article: Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars by Rodney Brooks

This is an interesting article about the unexpected consequences of self-driving cars. I’m still unconvinced that 100% self-driving cars will happen in my lifetime.  I’m not even sure I’d want it, though I do understand there is probably a significant safety argument to be made to get humans away from the steering wheel (many of us are quite dumb and reckless).

But I come at this from a rural-ish part of the USA where I don’t see everybody being able to afford, let alone want or trust a fully autonomous vehicle. But who knows.

In this post I will explore two possible consequences of having self driving cars, two consequences that I have not seen being discussed, while various car companies, non-traditional players, and startups debate what level of autonomy we might expect in our cars and when. These potential consequences are self-driving cars as social outcasts and anti-social behavior of owners. Both may have tremendous and unexpected influence on the uptake of self-driving cars. Both are more about the social realm than the technical realm, which is perhaps why technologists have not addressed them. And then I’ll finish, however, by dissing a non-technical aspect of self driving cars that has been overdone by technologists and other amateur philosophers with an all out flame. And yes, I am at best an amateur philosopher too. That’s why it is a flame.

Source: Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars – Rodney Brooks