Filed under: Science Fiction, Connections, MetaFilter, Science, YouTube, Humor | Tags: jim downey, blogging, travel, Science Fiction, video, www youtube, science, humor, MetaFilter, movies, Sploid Short Film Festival, One-Minute Time Machine
(Um, NSFW due to language. But very funny, in a delightfully twisted sort of way.)
Filed under: tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, Paleo-Future, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, MetaFilter, YouTube, Travel | Tags: augmented reality, blogging, jetpack, jim downey, MetaFilter, predictions, Science Fiction, Sean O'Kane, technology, The Verge, travel, video, www youtube, Yves Rossy
Excerpt, which I whole-heartedly agree with:
Let’s be clear — if you haven’t clicked the play button by now, you’ve made a mistake. Seriously. This video is probably the closest you’ll ever get to flying your own jetpack, so watch it now. Just make sure you go with the full screen option and — if you want to feel like you’re riding right along with Rossy and Reffet — switch the video to 4K. The resulting noise from your computer will make you feel like you’re right there with them.
Filed under: Predictions, Society, Government, Constitution, Book Conservation, MetaFilter, Terrorism, Civil Rights | Tags: jim downey, blogging, predictions, MetaFilter, civil liberties, society, Constitution, Nazism, The Guardian, Chicago
I said this recently:
But while that is the case, I also believe that the horror which is/was Nazism cannot be easily dismissed as aberrant. If one of the most humane and enlightened societies known — one which gave birth to brilliant scientists, philosophers, and artists — can turn into the Third Reich, then any society can. That is a lesson which we cannot afford to forget.
This isn’t that, but it is a sobering revelation:
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
* * *
“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.
Again, I want to emphasize: this is not Nazism. This is not equivalent to the Third Reich, and all the horrors which it spawned. But as someone said on one of the sites which has covered this:
I remember when the KGB were the bad guys.
Back in the ’80s, we used to ask how a populace could tolerate people being disappeared, and so much happening extrajudicially. Now we know.
A lesson which we cannot afford to forget, indeed.
Filed under: General Musings, Feedback, Writing stuff, Science Fiction, Art, Connections, Brave New World, New Horizons, MetaFilter, Publishing, Discover, YouTube, Amazon, Kindle, Travel | Tags: jim downey, literature, writing, blogging, direct publishing, travel, Science Fiction, Amazon, Kindle, video, www youtube, art, MetaFilter, feedback, reviews, memoir, Communion of Dreams, St. Cybi's Well, Her Final Year, André Aciman
Hard to believe this is a first novel…, January 3, 2015
By Paula Jean
Well plotted with disparate characterizations. Avoids science fiction cliches by and large. An interesting yarn with lots of good new ideas, thought provoking, and moves right along. Makes you want more. Bravo, Mr. Downey.
If you look through many of the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, this is a fairly common comment: people are surprised that this is my first novel. I suppose that makes sense, since that information is right there on the ‘About the author’ section on Amazon and at the end of the book.
But the thing is, I’m not at all new to writing. And I’m not a young man. I’m 56, and have been writing fairly steadily since at least middle school. Essays. Short stories. Criticism. Advertising copy. Opinion pieces. Reviews. Memoir. Travelogues. Meditations. Instruction. Easily more than a million words — hell, I’ve written almost that many for this blog alone. So, probably a couple million words. As André Aciman says in this video (about the 2:00 mark):
I’ve written in all kinds of genres. And I’d like to think that most everything I do is governed by one idea, which is that you are after something that is quite difficult to articulate. And so most of the writing process is sort of prowling around this center, that you don’t see, but that the writing process will unveil and unearth for you.
It’s a way of discovering things. About the world. About people. About yourself.
And nowhere is this more obvious than in longform fiction. Communion helped me uncover a lot. St Cybi’s Well is helping me discover a lot more. I think that is why both books have taken such a long time to write, to work through. That process of unveiling (which is a major metaphor throughout Communion) is difficult, demanding, and never entirely done. You keep digging, keep whittling away, looking for a glimpse of the truth.
Speaking of whittling away, here’s the second review from this weekend:
Pleasant surprise, January 4, 2015
By Amazon Customer
Excellent story. Well written, well-plotted. The dialogue and scene-setting is sparse, almost minimal, but that allows one to appreciate the plot that much more.
Happy New Year. Time for me to get back to work digging, digging, digging this Well.
Filed under: Predictions, Carl Sagan, Science Fiction, Space, Art, Society, Saturn, Connections, Flu, Pandemic, Brave New World, MetaFilter, Science, Astronomy, J. K. Rowling, Music, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, Man Conquers Space, Survival, Travel | Tags: jim downey, writing, blogging, technology, travel, Science Fiction, video, space, science, music, predictions, art, MetaFilter, Carl Sagan, Moon, pandemic, Communion of Dreams, St. Cybi's Well, Saturn, fire-flu, Bad Astronomy, Vimeo, Phil Plait, Wanderers, Chernobyl, Quiddich, Danny Cooke, Postcards from Pripyat, Erik Wernquist
Wanderers is a vision of humanity’s expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.
A somewhat more … cautionary … vision of what the future could hold can be found in this:
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down in 1986, creating a 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone that has been almost completely devoid of human interference for decades. Now you can take a tour, courtesy of a camera-carrying drone.
Mutually exclusive? Apocalypse versus brave new worlds?
I think not. In fact, the Communion of Dreams/St Cybi’s Well ‘universe’ contains both. If I ever decide to write them, I have books set in the 2020s, about 15 years following the fire-flu pandemic, and in the 2030s in the Israeli colonies on the Moon. In the first the world will feel much like what’s seen in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. And in the second I’ve envisioned how the 1/6th Earth-normal gravity would allow for playing something very much like Quiddich on small personal flyers in large domed stadiums.
It’s important to remember that the future isn’t either/or. It’s even more important to remember that we will have a role in creating that future, for good or ill.
Filed under: Feedback, Promotion, tech, Alzheimer's, Science Fiction, Health, Space, NASA, Marketing, Brave New World, MetaFilter, Science, Astronomy, Hospice, Amazon, Kindle, Mars | Tags: jim downey, blogging, technology, travel, Science Fiction, Amazon, NASA, space, science, free, John Bourke, care-giving, feedback, reviews, hospice, astronomy, promotion, Mars, Curiosity, Communion of Dreams, Her Final Year, JPL, Mars Science Laboratory, Lincoln-head penny, MAHLI, Seth Jarvis
Well, a single penny, anyway. And it’s on Mars. But you know what I mean.
It’s true. At this moment there is a rare coin on Mars. Specifically, the coin is a 1909 ”V.D.B.” Lincoln-head American penny.
The question is, why is this penny on Mars?
Go read it and find out.
‘Penny on Mars’ story via MetaFilter.
Filed under: General Musings, tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, Artificial Intelligence, Connections, Expert systems, Quantum mechanics, Augmented Reality, MetaFilter, Science | Tags: jim downey, blogging, technology, Science Fiction, science, augmented reality, predictions, Communion of Dreams, physics, Expert, artificial intelligence, metaphysics, quantum mechanics, MIT, Max Tegmark, consciousness
From page six of Communion of Dreams:
His expert was one of best, one of only a few hundred based on the new semifluid CPU technology that surpassed the best thin-film computers made by the Israelis. But it was a quirky technology, just a few years old, subject to problems that conventional computers didn’t have, and still not entirely understood. Even less settled was whether the experts based on this technology could finally be considered to be true AI. The superconducting gel that was the basis of the semifluid CPU was more alive than not, and the computer was largely self-determining once the projected energy matrix surrounding the gel was initiated by another computer. Building on the initial subsistence program, the computer would learn how to refine and control the matrix to improve its own ‘thinking’. The thin-film computers had long since passed the Turing test, and these semifluid systems seemed to be almost human. But did that constitute sentience? Jon considered it to be a moot point, of interest only to philosophers and ethicists.
And, perhaps, physicists:
And while the problem of consciousness is far from being solved, it is finally being formulated mathematically as a set of problems that researchers can understand, explore and discuss.
Today, Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, sets out the fundamental problems that this new way of thinking raises. He shows how these problems can be formulated in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. And he explains how thinking about consciousness in this way leads to precise questions about the nature of reality that the scientific process of experiment might help to tease apart.
Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. “I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,” he says.
Good article. Read the whole thing.