What happens when you leave 16 autonomous AI bots alone to play Quake 3 Arena against each other for 4 years? Apparently, they play the ultimate Cold War game and achieve “world peace”.
I don’t know if this story is true or not, but it actually makes sense from a purely logical self-preservation point of view. The bots were programmed to study which strategies were more efficient in guaranteeing their survival. After a few years, they probably realized that the best strategy is actually to not engage each other and they all win.
Check the story thread’s screenshot here.
Bruce Schneier on the Boston bombings and the threat of terrorism:
“Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable — and support leaders who are as well. That’s how to defeat terrorists.”
Read it here.
I’ve never actually been that much into cars but I have a general curiosity on how most things work and this includes the inner workings of vehicles. This golden-oldie video depicts the simple, yet effective, mechanism of differential steering, so if, like me, you didn’t know how this worked…well, now you know. Enjoy:
Christopher Priest – The Prestige
My Review: The jury is still out on my favorite Chris Nolan movie, but The Prestige is definitely up there fighting for first place with Memento. So, it was no surprise that I felt I had to read the book that originated the movie. The book is quite different from the movie but the rivalry between the two performers is still the baseline of the plot. However, the storyline is presented by way of the performers’ grandsons reading their personal diaries, entry by entry and trying to make sense of the long-standing war between their families. I very much enjoyed the book as it presents a quite different story based on the same premise, but the delivery is not as good as in the movie. Nevertheless, it’s still a great read for fans of the movie.
My Rating: 4/5
Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter – The Long Earth
My Review: Imagine that there are multiple (possibly infinite) parallel earths that you can visit (“step”) using a very simple potato-powered device that you can build with rudimentary components. This is what this book is all about: setting the baseline for this kind of universe and how this affects society. The story then revolves around a small set of characters that step all over several different Earths in an attempt to understand and discover everything there is to know about this phenomenon. The idea behind the book is great and it definitely raises some interesting questions but the fact that this is only the first volume of a planned series is evident in the pace and continuity of the plot. I’ll look forward for the next volumes.
My Rating: 4/5
Max Brooks – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
My Review: This book focus on a fake documentary that gathers witnesses’ reports from all around the world regarding the (fictional) Zombie War. It has the same problem as Robopocalypse: in stories based on characters reporting what happened, you already know that those characters didn’t die. And that kind of spoils the story on so many levels. Nevertheless, you still have some interesting twists that can save those story-telling chapters, but that doesn’t always happen and most stories are boring. I think the upcoming movie based on the book may have taken the right approach by focusing on a single character’s point of view (Brad Pitt) and therefore bringing in only the most exciting parts of the book.
My Rating: 3/5
by J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit
My Review: There isn’t much I can say about this book as it is a well-known piece of literature. I quite enjoyed reading it but it would have had a much greater impact on me if I had read it at an earlier age. The Hobbit is definitely a more fantasy/adventure story directed to younger audiences than, say, The Lord of the Rings’ books, which is a lot darker and more dramatic in the fight of good versus evil.
My Rating: 4/5
George R. R. Martin – A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)
My Review: It’s pointless to try and say much about this book without shooting spoilers all around, so I’ll just say this: two thirds in on this book and I was ready to give it a 3/5 rating, mainly because almost all of the characters spend most of their time traveling and not much happens in terms of the initial development present in the first two books. However (and I can’t stress this “however” enough), the last third of the book is priceless. Huge turns, twists and developments make up for the rest of the book and leave you hanging for more developments (which I hope will be address in the next book).
My Rating: 5/5
Imagine that the typical money-for-ransom is traded with a weird request like: “If you want to get your dear princess back, the prime-minister will have to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television.” Will the prime-minister do it? Or more importantly, in a heavily socialized society where viral content dominates the people’s attention span, would they want him to do it and would they watch?
Or imagine that you live in a future where the most common way of making an income is to work on huge energy-production buildings where people pedal specialized stationary bikes to produce the energy that the rest of the world will consume. The alternative of leading this boring and tiresome life is to become a star in worldwide-broadcast reality shows that range from singing or pornography to physical abuse. Is everything better than the bike?
Or imagine instead that everyone has a brain implant that allows recording and reviewing every memory they have ever had and, by using a small external device, people can simply rewind and fast-forward to a particular memory and display it on a nearby TV for everyone to see. Now imagine you suspect your wife is cheating on you and you over-analyse every memory that you have of her with the guy you suspect she’s having the affair with. How long would it take you to go insane?
These stories are the plots of the 3 episodes of the first season of BBC’s wonderful series Black Mirror, a techno-paranoia drama where each episode features a different story, a different cast and a different reality. In a modern-day Twilight Zone-like setting, each story brings us a potential future for our society that, albeit seeming a bit extremist, will definitely leave you thinking if this is really what you want for your future.
I definitely recommend everyone to see it. I dare say it’s mandatory for anyone with any kind of technology enthusiastic view of the society.
Yes, it’s all going according to the plan.
Back in 2007, US researchers have simulated half a virtual brain of a mouse on a supercomputer. Interestingly, Ray Kurzweil, in his 2005 book “The Singularity is Near“, accurately predicted the amount of computing power necessary for that scientific achievement.
What’s really interesting is the prediction that he made for 2013. Check this graphic:
2013 is portrayed as the year where the human race will have enough computing power, according to Kurzweil’s predictions, to simulate an entire virtual human brain.
I still believe that the challenge regarding simulating the human brain is in the software, not in the hardware, but this will sure be an interesting year for artificial intelligence research.
- There’s still too much about the inner works of the human brain that we don’t know [↩]
I know this is old news, but I guess it’s worth the consideration: asteroid 2011 AG5, an asteroid roughly the size of a football stadium, is thought to be in a (albeit improbable) collision course to Earth.
Before you start panicking, let me explain: this asteroid is currently cruising through our Solar System and is orbiting our Sun pretty much the same way as our 8 planets are. It will pass by our planet in 2023 but in a completely safe trajectory. The problem is when it is planned to pay us a visit again in 2040. According to scientists, there is a 1 in 625 chance that the asteroid will hit Earth.
Scientists will know more about the asteroid (and its trajectory) once it comes out of the other side of the Sun, which should be later this year. Future observations will probably reveal that there’s no reason to worry. But… what if? The chances are really slim, but after seeing what an (estimated) 15 meters asteroid did in Russia, I think we should consider what our plan is going to be.