Oct 232010

I have been interested nanotechnology, or nanoscience as this video refers to it, for a very long time. If you have heard about nanotech, but haven’t seen any visuals, I highly recommend this video. It touches on properties at the nano scale both in nature and how we are developing our own new materials. They also touch on the development of nano machines. What worries me is for nanotech to become useful, they will probably have to develop self-replicating machines.

In one of my reviews a few years ago for The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, he writes about Matter Compilers, usually referred to as an M.C. for short. That’s great right? We can just make whatever we want, any time we want! There are also little battles between autonomous nanobots called mites that break out. If I remember correctly, these massive battles on the nano scale result in a type of dust that pollutes the air and causes respiratory problems. That’s no good! There is a little excerpt on Google books that doesn’t really have any spoilers. It begins on the end of page 59 through page 61. Click through this link for the full text.

I can certainly see something like what Stephenson describes happening within our lifetimes. What do you think?

Posted by Stettin
Aug 282010

Book Cover

I remember sometime this year seeing Moon (2009) in a list of “must see” Sci-Fi films that were recently released. I had never heard of it, yet it seems to have had excellent reviews. The premise is that there are moon bases that harvest hydrogen energy and send it back to Earth to provide for 75% of the planet. Most of the operations are automated, however one person is needed to manage a base. I was worried at first because the story started out rather slow. Soon after I started to worry, the mysteries began to unfold and I was hooked. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Jul 312010

There have been quite a few companies that have explored letting employees work from home part time or even full time. Trevor Blackwell, founder of Anybots, is working on a technology that can make interacting with workers still physically at a building much easier. This seems to me to be an early step to a world like I saw in Surrogates. I’m always fascinated when I see science catching up with Sci-Fi. Check out the company’s promo video at the Anybots homepage.

Posted by Stettin
Mar 162010

Surrogates DVD

I wasn’t really expecting much when I heard about Surrogates, so waited to watch it until it came out on DVD. From the previews it looked like many other science fiction action films that seem to be pumped out by Hollywood. The main premise of the movie is that humans live their lives through “surrogate” (robot) bodies. I’m a huge fan of Asimov and his robot novels, so this was enough to catch my attention. The human interface is kind of like how control worked in Avatar, but instead of an organic body as the host, it is robotic. I would definitely not classify the surrogates as the cyborgs that Ray Kurzweil thinks we will eventually become.  One of the main advantages to using a surrogate is that the owner is always protected, so in some ways they are better than cyborgs. There was no way for any harm to come to a user, until now.

Tom Greer, played by Bruce Willis, is in charge of investigating the destruction of a couple of surrogates. This is usually not that big of a deal, but one of the owners is found dead. Whoever wrote the script really wasn’t trying anything new as far as the murder/mystery approach is concerned. I was expecting a lot more action based on the previews that I saw. It felt like I was watching for 40 minutes before things started to get moving. This move was all around average in most respects. Nothing really stood out. It wasn’t bad, but not great.

One completely unrelated observation is that I found Bruce Willis’ upper lip (stash zone) alarmingly long. It looked almost twice the size I’d normally expect. I think of most of the roles I’ve seen him in, he’s got a beard of some sort, so that kind of hides that feature of his face. Am I alone here? Check out the pic on IMDB

Posted by Stettin
Feb 122010

Remember at the end of The Empire Strikes Back where Luke gets his hand chopped off by Vader? During one of the closing scenes, a robot doctor finishes up installing a replacement hand for Luke.

Luke Skywalker's Cyborg Hand

Luke Skywalker's Cyborg Hand

Kevin Warwick did something similar as an experiment, but without the whole getting his hand chopped off step. Instead he put an electrode in his hand that could transmit commands to a robotic hand through radio waves. This was done back in 2002, and somehow I never heard of it. I’m sure Ray Kurzweil would be proud. Check out the video below for more information about how he did this, and some other advances like using rat brain cells to power robots. If you are at all interested in robotics, cyborgs, or AI, you’ll be in for a treat.

Posted by Stettin
Jan 022010

Nobody is sure when exactly Isaac Asimov was born due to poor record keeping. January 2nd, 1920 was the day Isaac Asimov decided to celebrate his birthday. Along with creating the Three Laws of Robotics, Asimov also unintentionally coined the term robotics. It was first used in print when his short story “Liar!” was published in 1941. He was constantly writing in just about every area of literature. I have primarily read his Science Fiction, but he has done textbooks, humor, mystery, non-fiction, and more.

My first exposure to Asimov’s writing was when my father gave me an old worn out copy of I, Robot. I tucked the book away for a few years and eventually got around to reading it. I was so enthralled with the robots that I eventually read every robot book by him and other authors. This naturally led me to read the Foundation series which I also enjoyed, but I’ve always preferred the robot series. The Robot and Foundation books make up the biggest reading project I have ever completed. Aside from those, I’ve read a bit of his autobiography and plan on sampling some of his other writing in the near future.

By the time I discovered Asimov, he had already died. I wonder how much more he could have written had he not contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart surgery. He died of myocardial and renal complications on April 6, 1992, but the true cause of his death wasn’t publicized due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS at the time. His work has greatly influenced my love of Science Fiction, and for that I am thankful.

For more information on the life of Isaac Asimov, please visit the official Wikipedia post

Posted by Stettin
Sep 282009

How would you like to control your own personal robot to do your bidding? The new movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, takes this concept to extremes. In the movie, humans link their minds to a robot and control them directly. This is a bit different than being converted to a cyborg like Ray Kurzweil predicts.

As CNN reports:

“Surrogates” director Jonathan Mostow, whose film credits include 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” said he was drawn to the concept of surrogate robots as an extension of current technology. And, he said, as he met with scientists, he became convinced that something approaching the concept could one day be a reality.

It seems like the concept of “old fashioned” humanoid robots is  finally becoming outdated. I wonder how Isaac Asimov would feel? It is one thing to boss around a robot using the Second Law of Robotics, but actually mind-melding with one, or becoming one is completely different. The main dilemma in Surrogates is that someone found a way to fry someone’s brain before they were able to jack out of the robot they were controlling. This concept is very old, dating back to the old Virtual Reality plots. I was very interested in the movie when I first saw the trailer, but after reading some lackluster reviews, I think I might just wait for DVD.

The critics could be wrong though. Do any of you think I should give it a chance?

Check out the full article via CNN for more information. I found it to be an interesting read.

Posted by Stettin
Sep 272009

Book Cover

In 1992, the year of his death, Isaac Asimov was awarded the Hugo Award for best novella for writing Gold. This story, along with many others was published in 1995. Along with 14 other short stories, there are collections of essays called “On Science Fiction,” and “Writing Science Fiction.” Interestingly enough, I found the essays much more interesting than the stories themselves. I think this is partly because I have read a TON of his fiction, but haven’t got around to reading his non-fiction.  I’ll give a brief overview of the essays, saving the stories for later. Continue reading »

Posted by Stettin
Sep 242009

Dune Book Cover

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Dune. I found my way to this interesting conceptualization, Sietch Nevada, through my regular StumbleUpon clicking. For those not familiar with Dune by Frank Herbert, please check it out! It is an excellent novel, as described in my review. I find it interesting how many ideas are drawn from Sci-Fi. Everyday technology like cell phones, video conferencing, and robots (well maybe not everyday yet), were hinted to by authors long before they were developed. I find the Sietch concept intriguing because I lived in Phoenix, AZ for many years. A few years after I left, I started hearing about how Lake Powell, fed by the Colorado River, might dry up soon. I thought that it meant there would be no more water, but experts are referring to “dry” as unable to generate hydroelectric power. So, not only will water levels be low, but there could be power shortages as well!

Posted by Stettin
Sep 222009

About a year an a half ago, I reviewed The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. I never did get around to reading his slightly newer book, The Singularity is Near. I just ran across an article that quotes him as saying

I and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogram our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, aging. Then nanotechnology will let us live for ever.

He goes on to describe a number of medical advancements that seem unbelievable.  He doesn’t really expand on how many people, or rather WHO will have access to this technology.  We can’t very well have billions of immortal cyborgs running around for eternity, now can we? I think that those denied immortality, or at least extended life-spans, would wage war against those that would keep the technology for themselves.

Credit: Telegraph via Geekologie

Note: For those of you not familiar with Geekolgie, be sure to check that blog out.  I added it to my newsreader about 2 months ago and it keeps me entertained every day!

Posted by Stettin

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