Science Fiction Roundup: Computers Making Things and Inspirational Cybernetics

Hello everyone, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Seeing as this is after Christmas and Dr. Williams already covered this holiday with a lot more class than I’m sure I could muster, I’m just going to stick with my bread and butter and dish out some sci-fi related content. Today, I’ve found some cool articles about technologies present that reflect potential directions for the future. Without further ado, here’s this week’s Science Fiction Roundup.

I Suppose Now, After They Conquer Humans, They Can Entertain Themselves

A Puzzling Present banner image

Part I of the “Computers Making Things” category comes in the form of ANGELINA, aka “A Novel Game-Evolving Labrat I’ve Named ANGELINA.” Michael Cook has devised this program in the spirit of Computational Creativity, a branch of research in Artificial Intelligence that focuses on teaching computers to be creative in their designs, in this specific case, in creating a platforming video game featuring Santa Claus. Given that the levels and powers were created by a computer, the feat is rather impressive. It’s pretty fun, in fact, so give it a try for free! For more information about Cook’s project and its place in the development of Artificial Intelligence, take a look at the full article on 33rd Square.

Source: 33rd Square

Apparently Computers Can Also Write Books, But They’re Really Boring

The second article of the “Computers Making Things” category is Professor Philip M. Parker‘s patented “Authorship Title Material Authorship” program which for some reason does not appear to have a snappy acronym (for shame, Mr. Parker). The system utilizes massive databases of information on specific topics such as huge archives of reports on global pinto beans production or many other horrifically dull topics, using this raw data to meticulously organized documents that exhaustively discuss the subject. So, no novels or anything yet (although apparently he’s working on that, starting with the Romance genre) but if you ever need The 2007-2012 Outlook for Grapes, you can get it on for the low, low price of $795.00! Don’t get too exited, though. For this particular item, one apparently dissatisfied but snarky customer gave it a 1 Star rating, saying:

Is $795 too much to spend on a “fake book” that consists of nonsensical computer generated charts and tables? If you are dying to know the hidden, mysterious truth behind the latent demand for grapes between the years 2007-2012, then go for it. Otherwise, caveat emptor, baby!

Realistically, maybe one firm or company, total, will buy a book like this. However, most of the other 106,476 titles created by the system which include everything from dictionaries to sudokus in Polish are priced closer to $11.99. You can imagine that even if very few people ever touch any one book, this has got to be making some decent money for this guy for practically no effort. I for one welcome this odd form of artificial intelligence, if anything because it means no human being will actually ever be forced to compile such brain-implodingly boring materials into book form.

Source: Singularity Hub

Quadriplegic Woman Feeds Herself Chocolate Via Robotic Arm

It seems that I have been chronicalling this technology over the last few years, measuring the progress of Brain-Computer Interfacing as it develops into a reality that science fiction writers have only dreamed of. Some day we may be able to give people back their sight, or their limbs, or their livelihood through the technology demonstrated here. Jan Scheuermann lost the use of her arms and legs to spinocerebellar degeneration, a once vital and prolific murder mystery writer reduced to an electric wheelchair. Her story is tragic, but hopeful, as she is also a participant in the University of Pittsburgh Pitt School of Medicine’s research. By implanting two 96-prong electrodes in her motor cortex, researchers have enabled Scheuermann to control a robotic hand to perform several tests, as well as feeding herself a chocolate bar- something she hasn’t been able to do for 10 years. The translation of neural activity to motor control of a limb is a maddeningly difficult task, working from a backwards and frustratingly primitive method of reading the brain’s command signals. But these scientists have made enormous strides, creating a smooth connection that comes close to actual limb movement. Scheuermann thinks about moving the candybar to her mouth, and the limb responds just like her own would have. We’re still really far away from being able to replace missing or non-functional limbs with equivalent prosthetics, but we’ve come a long way even since I’ve been watching.

Source: Singularity Hub

That’s it for today! I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had this week, and have a happy New Year too. I have next month off, but I’ll be back in February. For now, what do you think of this trend of teaching computers how to do things like write books and make video games? Do you think computers could ever be considered “creative?” Let me know in the comments below!


About erikthereddest

I'm a Masters student in English, and I love technology and Science Fiction. I am refining and enhancing my (admittedly novice) writing talents under the sage advice of my friends here at Lantern Hollow Press, and with the great many books I am reading from the best authors I can find.

Posted on December 27, 2012, in Artificial Intelligence, Erik Marsh, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Roundup, Technology, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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