Personal Avatars…Today!

Share

I just recently read a fascinating article about the progress of true augmented reality through the invention of personal avatars.  These personal avatars are robots that are controlled by a user through motion capture technology. What is truly amazing about these personal avatars are how they can be controlled from any point around the world, as long as there is an established connection between the user and the device. The BBC article I linked to demonstrates this via a video, showing a scientist in Spain controlling a robot in London with one-to-one movement.

The article focuses heavily on what could be the legal ramifications of this technology, saying how no countries have in place laws for dealing with sexual assault by a robot. While this is a fair point,  I can’t help but feel it is some sort of extrepersonal avatarsmely dark joke. I can just imagine a headline like this on the Onion “Vice-Presidential Candidate Violated by Personal Avatar – Changes Stance on Abortion.”

Instead of focusing on the possible awful ramifications of a few people having exploitative technology, it would be nice if people could instead focus on the amazing possibilities of this science instead.

For instance, personal avatars – if they reach a high enough level of precision – could be used by medical professionals. Say you have a critical heart condition requiring surgery but there are no qualified doctors in your area. Instead of wasting valuable time trying to airlift the patient to a different hospital, a doctor could just take control of their personal avatar and perform the operation from a different hospital.

Another major use of personal avatars could be in wish fulfillment. Imagine for a second that you are, tragically, paralyzed from the waste down but you have always had dreams of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (you were highly adventurous). Most likely, this goal would be impossible; however, via a personal avatar you could still have the experience of climbing the mountain with a few slight alterations to the sensors on your legs.

Essentially, there are innumerable ways that this technology could benefit humanity as a whole. Global businessmen could plug into avatars to cut down on travel time allowing on more time with their families, while simultaneously lessening the dangers of  prolonged air travel; politicians could use avatars to appear at different functions and conferences worldwide; people without the money to travel could even partake in virtual getaways.

Basically, if you can’t tell, I am extremely excited about this technology… and not just because it’s the same technology from the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates

The Dark Side of Human Exceptionalism

Share

I’m going to start this post off by very clearly stating that I am a spiritual person, and a general belief in some sort of encompassing deity – whether it be some sort of life force or clock maker, it doesn’t matter – is extremely important to my everyday way of thinking; however, having said that, I see no reason why a belief in religion needs to be tied into the general belief of human exceptionalism.

Maybe this is just a tad nihilistic, but the idea of a deep rooted belief in human exceptionalism seems likes a waste to me. Simply, it seems to perpetuate a belief that we, as a species, are able to do whatever we wish with our lives and everything will work out fine. This human exceptionalism makes us incredibly self-centered. It makes us entitled, and selfish, and lazy.

For a large part of human history, people have been spoon fed a belief that this world, this universe, was created solely for ourselves. People have been made to believe, speaking from a viewpoint of Western religions, that this idea of human exceptionalism should be the norm. I will not deny that many things have been accomplished thanks to this view. As this blog points out, in rebuttal to an argument against human exceptionalism, the world in many ways did adapt to us instead of vice-versa. Cats, for example, seemingly did this.

I too have mentioned, in this earlier post, how the world we know is totally built upon the thousands of small – and not so small – advancements set forth by the billions of people who came before us. People are definitely capable of amazing things. We have changed the entire world around ourselves, to suit our needs and our belief of human exceptionalism. We have changed the world so that now, when we look out on it, there is really no possible way in which someone could not believe in human exceptionalism.

That, then, is the problem. Human exceptionalism shouldn’t be a pre-determined and accepted way of life. By accepting, right off the bat, that humans are the best beings in the universe we become completely complacent. We longer strive to reach the heights we are capable of. Instead, looking around, it seems that this belief of human exceptionalism becomes more and more mythic.

Of course, there are still scads of people alive who are doing their best to improve the world; there are also untold amounts of people who look at this belief in human exceptionalism as a self-fulfilling prophecy. That worries me. That general belief that just by existing we are entitled to something, to being exceptional, is perhaps one of the worst things to believe.

 

A Corporate Walk

Share
Corporate Walk
 Image from online.wsj.com

I started my first real job yesterday at an internet start-up, and I am already amazed at how awkwardly I fit into corporate culture. Although the business I work in could barely be construed as corporate – there was a total of two other people in my temporary office with me today – I do work now officially in a corporate park.

Being in an isolated corporate structure – and I do mean isolated, there is nothing else around here within walking distance – I expected to be surrounded either by people from Office Space or Haiku Tunnel. So, when it came time for me to have my lunch, I decided I wanted to get away from my desk and eat outside; it is just so beautiful outside.

As I ate my leftover pad thai underneath a gigantic statue of nothingness at the lone park bench at the corporate center, I decided it would be a waste of both the date and my lunch break to go immediately back inside. So, I settled on strolling around the massive parking lot surrounding the complex. A walk in any other location would be as sweet, right?

During my first lap around the park, I felt incredibly isolated and out of place. What other corporate person walks around a car-park during their lunch break in a desperate bid to be outdoors? Well, as it turns out, plenty do.

Towards the end of my first lap I saw a man and woman, maybe each separated by 100 feet, power walking towards me. Maybe they’re just walking into the office, I pondered; however, as they slowly caught up on me and lapped me, I realized that they too were doing exactly as I was. They too were trying to desperately grab what small part of they day they could to fully experience, and not be dumbly placated by the flickering of their computer screens.

I could tell they were even as anxious as I was to be outside, judging from their awkward hand arm pumpings and uncomfortable gaits, most likely earned from a lifetime of power-walking in business shoes and sitting at corporate cubicles.

I thought I was unique at first, daring to go for a walk during my small lunch break around the parking lot. Turned out I had accidentally stumbled upon a fairly common lunch-time culture. I guess it’s just like the rest of corporate life – difficult to be unique.

Image from: online.wsj.com.

Your Culture (On Drugs)

Share
Your Culture (On Drugs)
Image Credit: funnyjunk.com

The other day I was talking to a friend about Spongebob Squarepants. Specifically, we were discussing how sad the character Sandy Cheeks is. For those who don’t know, Sandy is a squirrel from Texas who set up an underwater observatory and the closest thing she has to a love interest is Spongebob. Think about that, isn’t that a little depressing? The closest thing Sandy has to a life-partner is a, by definition, asexual sea sponge?

Well, we were talking about how unfortunate this was for Sandy until we suddenly realized… we were discussing the romantic involvement of a squirrel and a sponge. What did that say about us? Now, what does it say about our culture that you can find forums discussing this same topic – not to mention the vast amounts of user created porn dedicated to this relationship (I imagine, I’m not going to search for that or link to it).

I don’t think it says anything bad about our culture. It is just interesting to consider how weird the things we accept as normal are. So, how could our culture have reached a point where two young adults discussing the intricacies of this relationship is the norm?

Most likely through drugs – specifically, whatever drugs the creators of the show had taken. Now, I’m not saying that every specific triumph of culture has been made because every creative person has done drugs. That is not even close to true; however, it is generally accepted that artists and creative people are more prone to consume drugs and alcohol. It is also true that these people then do much more to shape the overall culture and shape of society.

One only needs to think of the culture of the ’60s to see how much drug use influenced it. Of course, poets and authors are also stereotyped as drug users and long term crafters of the culture we hold around ourselves. It might be hard to believe, but even Francis Crick, the scientist who first theorized the double-helix shape of DNA, was known to have experimented with LSD.

So, what is the point that I am trying to make? Mainly, if so much of our culture has been shaped by people who have done drugs, where does that leave people who stay sober? For instance, if everyone is raised today watching Spongebob, or listening to music, or reading the works of authors inspired by drug use doesn’t that mean everyone is, in some small degree, partaking in intoxicants?

Essentially, everyone is seemingly growing old in a culture shaped by recreational intoxication. Of course, this is not unique to current-day America at all. Drugs have long been part of religious rituals across the world, and so have always shaped culture to some degree.

It just seems interesting that, no matter what people might assert, the societal base-line is always seemingly slightly intoxicated. So, uh, make sure to drive safe.

Dressed for the Moment

Share

I was walking through New Brunswick last night with a good friend after having attended a Seniors’ Formal Night and, as such, we were both dressed in our best – suit and tie and swanky dress. As a general rule of thumb, no one ever dresses that nice here unless there is a specific reason: a formal, a career fair, an award ceremony, etc.

It was interesting, as such, to realize that the majority of people we passed on the street could at least vaguely figure out what we were up to. Then, it struck me. Like most cities, New Brunswick has a diverse crowd of people, all of whom have their own tastes in fashion; it’s not at all uncommon to see very differently dressed people right next to each other.

How New Brunswick differs from, say, New York is that the streets are rarely thronged with people so you really have time to fully be aware of what each person is wearing. Since the Brunz only also really has only so many locations to go to at night, it’s easy to get a pretty decent idea of where people are heading depending on how they’re dressed.

If, for instance, you see a guy dressed as a hipster, more likely than not he is going to one of the smaller, less crowded, bars. Likewise, if you see a girl dressed for clubbing she is likely going to Golden Rail or Knight Club. Anyone dressed normally and walking around at night is probably grabbing some pizza or going to a house party (since no one walks around New Brunswick just for the thrill of walking).

This really isn’t anything new, being able to slightly determine what people are doing based on how they’re dressed; nor is it anywhere close to 100% accurate. I just thought it was interesting how you can guess at what people are doing, and where that’s happening, by how they present themselves to society.

Yeah…

[media-credit name=”© Vladacanon www.stockfreeimages.com www.dreamstime.com” align=”alignleft” width=”199″][/media-credit]

The Evolution of the Internet

Share

I’m sure that I’m like most people when I say that, when I really think about it, the internet astounds and mesmerizes me. Even though I can barely remember a time in my life before the internet existed, it’s existence is still purely fantastical. The idea that this interconnection amongst all people can fascilitate so much knowledge and help bridge so many divides is almost beyond comprehension; it is still something I have trouble wrapping my head around.

What interests me more than the overall goodness of the internet, though, is how the internet has evolved during its relatively short existance – specifically, how this evolution seemingly mirrors the evolution of human society.

Evolution of the Internet
photo cred @ 2.bp.blogspot.com

Take, for instance, how the internet started off. It was a collection of sites without any real central hub, or even spokes. All the sites were primarily self-contained and independent. Internet users at the start had a different alias for each site, and they were probably a member of a multitude of different sites, each catering towards a differing interest.

Those were the early years. Now, the internet is collapsing – it is becoming much more centralized. Take, for instance, a simple truth. The majority of your homepages are overwhelmingly likely to be either the Google startscreen or Facebook. Both of these sites are major internet hubs.

For example, almost any site now can be logged onto via your Facebook ID. Likewise, for any independent site to want to have a chance to succeed and flourish, they will need to be constantly updating their sitemap and sending it to Google so others can find it. Most likely, that independent site will also need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, etc – basically, the whole social media shabang.

So, a few sites are becoming the more of the internet. How does that represent society? Well, think about it. Society, too, has a strong and constant drive to constantly coalesce and centralize. This is an apparent fact for any civilization or any government. No matter how decentralized something may start off as, slowly everything starts to cluster.

You can see this with cities; you can see this with centralizations of government power; you can see this with websites. I am not making a value judgement by any means as to whether this internet centralization is a good or a bad thing – indeed, maybe it is wonderful as now anyone who wants to create their own site knows how to easily market it.

What I am saying, though, is how this is fascinating for what it represents. To me, the fact that the internet evolved this way demonstrates two very important points.

  1. This evolution of the internet shows that, at least the majority of, humans are drawn to a sort of centralization.
  2. The internet can truly be thought of as a sort of fast-forming micro-society unto itself, as it so quickly adapts to fit the current way we think of the world.

BMX Jousting: An Ultimate Murder-Suicide Pact

Share

For some reason, my friends and I have a fascination with murder-suicide pacts. What type of horrible dark desires are pointed to in the recesses of our brains by this I have no idea – all I know is that, generally, these jokes are graphically over the top and hilariously dark. We generally find ways to try to top ourselves.

The other day my friend Steve, also known for being the creative c0-force behind the Pope game, and I were talking about how cool it would be if jousting was brought back as an extreme sport; however, it wasn’t enough.

BMX jousting
bikeportland.org

Sure, watching jousting at the Olympics would be the pinnacle of human civilization, but, still, we could do better. After all, horses are really old technology (unless if they are of the robotic unicorn kind) so there is a lot to be improved upon there.

So, we very quickly realized that horses should be completely leveraged out of the equation and should instead be replaced by BMX bikes. After all, if the joy of watching jousting comes from the inherent danger of the activity, then the excitement would surely be rocketed to a whole new plain of extremeness by having the jousters be able to go close to a hundred miles per hour each.

Following from this logic, Steve and I decided that the best place to have these BMX jousting competetions would naturally be in the bottom of valleys. That way, the two contestants could start at opposite ends and really build up as much speed and momentum before clashing into each other.

How does this relate to murder-suicide pacts?, you may be miserably asking yourself. Well, obviously this entire sport is tailored specifically for people looking to kill themselves and someone else as brutally as possible. It is fully likely – Steve and I assume, from our knowledge of video game physics – that the person hit by the lance in the jousting would explode on the spot. The successful jouster would then be thrown off their bike by the extreme recoil, effectively also killing them. And voila! An effective murder-suicide pact method – that could also be turned into an immensely entertaining gladitorial sport – is born.

Of course, Steve and I also considered the futuristic problem of what if being impaled by a lance just doesn’t kill the jouster – you know, in case the person is a cyborg, or something. In that case, we rightly assumed – medically – that the jouster would only live as long as the lance was left inside them. So, really, they still only have as long to live as they choose.

It makes jousting sound fun again, doesn’t it?

Huoratron – The Ideal Music for Your Torture Dungeon

Share

How often have you been sitting in your torture shed – or, if you are particularly affluent, your torture dungeon – just to think: “Well, sure, this dungeon is pretty good, but I just feel like it’s missing a little something. It’s missing a soundtrack to match exactly what is going on here.” And sure, you’ve probably thought of all the typical soundtracks, such as playing Epic Sax Man on loop for eternity, but that just doesn’t quite fit…

Sure, maybe there’s nothing as existentially terrifying as hearing this over and over and over, but, I don’t know, it just doesn’t suit the chains and saws the way you would want it to, does it? “So, what else can I use?” you think loudly to yourself. “I’ve already considered Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Nickelback but none of them has that certain something – that pizzazz – that you know you need to help separate your dungeon from all the others popping up on your block.”

Well, luckily for you – and all of us, really – I have the music suggestion that will undeniably separate your 5-star dungeon from everyone elses. Huoratron. Say it with me, now, Huor-a-tron. Very good.

“But, who is Huoratron?” you might ask. Great question! He’s the newest, coolest, grittiest and most badass electronic artist I’ve ever heard; however, to say that he is electronic wouldn’t be fair to him. Huoratron is special. It takes a special type of man to start of his career by creating music through two gameboys plugged into a mixer. He really should be given his own genre…something like Huor-step, or Huor-core. It’s hard to illustrate exactly what his music sounds like without listening to it – it is almost beyond words.

Unfortunately, two of his songs from his new album, Cryptocracy, that are most fitting for use in your dungeon are not yet on YouTube: the songs are called “Dungeons and Dungeons” and “Sea of Meat.” In light of this, I fully recommend buying his album here.  There is really no time to waste. Your dungeon must be improved.

If, however, my review doesn’t quite convince, then by all means watch the video to his single – Cryptocracy.

It’ll work doubly well if your victim…I mean, guest…is also epileptic. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

However, if your torture dungeon is less about the torture and more about master-slave relationships, I also fully recommend “Male Bonding.” Just something about the sharp electronic soundscapes and the rough beats just yells sex dungeon to me. I hope you agree…

Doesn’t that song just remind you of your full-body leather gimp suit in your closet, and your door-frame hand cuffs?

Huoratron’s music really is something unique. I just can’t get enough of his glitchy sounds, rough beats, and extremely intense – though very sparse – vocal samples. His music is dark and gritty and is a nice contrast to all the other bro-step artists out there. He does Finland proud.

Favorite quote from his music: “Choke!”

Hip Grandma

Share
grandma
Photo credit: sundaybrunch.me

A few times a week I work as a security guard at my university’s museum in a desperate bid to help scrounge together enough money to cover my rent. The work is never that interesting and I’m awful at my job (mostly by choice), but I like the people I work with so I have been at the museum for almost two years now.

In general, I try to avoid interacting with the patrons in the museum as much as possible. Not because this is the professional thing to do – guards should, after all, seem as much like a fly on the wall as possible so as not to distract people from the art – but rather because the presence of visitors makes it necessary for me to at least seem like I am doing my job; all I really want to do is avoid people as much as possible and hide in a corner.

So, imagine my surprise when I was working last September, trying to ignore all the guests around me, when I suddenly hear a voice call out to me.

“Young man, stop! What’s going on with your hair?”

I came to a halt, and turned around to see nothing. Lowering my head, I suddenly noticed a tiny old grandma – she was less than five feet tall if she was an inch.

“My hair?” I reply.

“Yes, your hair! Is that a mohawk?”

“Oh, my hair! Yeah, it is…” I mumbled embarassedly, as I scratched the back of my head.

“Well, where’s your feather!”

“My what?”

“Your feather!”

“I, uh, I don’t understand.” Who was this old grandma, I thought. Was she really old enough to be making racial cracks about Native Americans, wondering why I didn’t have feathers in my hair? How was I supposed to respond to her?

“You don’t understand? Seriously, kid, you need to get with it,” she snapped. “Everyone has feathers today! Yesterday my granddaughter helped me get one too.” At this the old woman pulled at her hair and suddenly produced a purple feather from behind her ear. It was one of those tie in feathers that was all the rage for a few months before being compeltely forgotten.

How could I not be wearing a feather? They were so cool!

“Yeah, I, uh, I guess I just didn’t think of getting one,” I said.

“Well, you should if you want to look cool,” the grandma replied. “Now, where’s the elevator? I can’t walk up all those stairs anymore.”

I hope to one day be as hip as that woman – rocking out, being cool, and harassing kids even though I might be too old to climb a flight of stairs. Here’s to you, grandma.

Speaker Bras

Share
speaker bra
Photo credit at ilovemybra.com and instructables.com

Few things get people as excited in this world as music and breasts. Try and argue all you like, at the end of the day everyone – regardless of gender – will always love to rock out to their favorite tunes, whatever they may be. As for boobs, I always assumed that only guys really ever paid attention to them, but, much to my amazement, I was told on Monday that girls can have boob envy just as much – if not more – than guys.

So, both genders enjoy – or at least spend a lot of time thinking about – music and breasts. If only there was someway in which these things could be combined…

Well, fret no more! With Speaker Bras all your dreams can come true!

How often have you been enjoying a romantic moment with the date of your dreams, only to wish that you could pipe in your favorite mood music? Ever felt the need to spontaneously dance, only to have a lack of music keep you down? Or maybe you’re trying to find the perfect gift for your kinky girlfriend, but edible panties just seem so boring!

Speaker Bras fill all these needs, and more! With these amazing items, your favorite music will never be far from your chest. These can also be doubled, for the more adventurous of you, as tension relievers! Just put on your favorite dubstep song, turn up the bass, and enjoy the amazing release provided by your own Speaker Bras.

Gentlemen, watch out! Coming soon – Speaker Jocks  – for the man who has nothing to hide.

Speaker Bras – because music is best when it comes from the heart.

Trip-hop: Great or Greatest Genre

Share

I’m a big fan of dreams, and dreaming is definitely one of my favorite past-times. For a long time I used to keep a quasi-dream journal when I was younger, and I still remember some of my most vivid dreams all the way from elementary school – they really stuck with me, even though they had no reason to do so. There is just something about dreaming – it’s ethereal nature, sudden shifts, and the double-edged sword of extreme wish fulfillment and absolute terror – that inspires so much…

Just like this song:

Although not soley trip-hop, although what trip-hop truly is is up to debate anyway, this song captures both what is amazing about dreams and the genre. The sampled computer generated vocals, strong beats, and switching melodies are so beautifully enchanting and mesmerizing, they can only be compared to dreaming; which, as it happens, works out perfectly since Paprika (a must see movie too, by the way) is all about the intersection of waking and dreaming life anyway.

Trip-hop can do more than just function as the soundtrack for a fantastic movie. Whenever I feel contemplative and emotional, but in a way I cannot truly comprehend, I know DJ Shadow fits the mood perfectly. This song, Midnight in a Perfect World, for instance conjures up feelings and emotions I can’t describe. Unlike Afterhours, which makes me just want to fuck and rage, this song’s emotional response is deeper… it just makes me feel human.

I could go on and on, listing songs and how they make me feel and the reasons why trip-hop is my favorite genre even though I listen to it no where nearly as much as I do to other types of music. Really, just like dreaming, or really anything else for that matter, trip-hop is something that needs to be experienced to enjoy. So, I would recommend to everyone to just sit down, share this post with as many people as you know, and enjoy whatever emotions and dreams trip-hop elicits from you.

Also, I’ve realized that up until now there has not been much ‘trip’ in my trip-hop examples. This song will rectify that.

Crouching Cougar, Hidden Poontang

Share

It was 4:30 in the morning, and my friend Rosh and myself were standing outside McCormick’s (maybe) Irish Pub in SoBe. The weather was balmy and fresh and a temperate breeze was slowly idling it’s way down the streets from the ocean. Although bars were open until 5 am, the bouncer made us wait outside because of the cups of water we were holding.

“Where you kids from? Here for Spring Break?” the bouncer casually asked us, ready for the night to be over.

“Yeah, we’re from Jersey.”

“Oh? I heard you kids have a nice shore up there” he smirked.

“Yeah…yeah, we do.”

As the conversation petered out, the bouncer turned his attention to a woman standing next to him that I had failed to notice before. She looked exactly as how you would imagine a modern party girl to look – except Time had taken a sledgehammer to her. Hard. Her face was a leathery husk over a body tanned hundreds too many times.

“Look at these youngins,” she said to the bouncer in a voice like gravel scraping over asphalt. “Tryna act like they know how to party.”

“Hell, not everyone’s got the experience you got,” he playfully chided her.

“Not like they’d know what to do anyway, I bet” she responded. The two of them laughed and she punched the bouncer in the arm. Old friends are adorable.

“Yo, Rosh!” I tried to say nonchalantly, “check it, your favorite. MILF!”

“Nah, she’s not a MILF. Definitely a cougar…yup, cougar!”

I looked back at her – definitely a cougar, and on the prowl.

Suddenly, both the bouncer and the cougar were looking at us.

“So,” she said, “you guys looking for weed or a good time? You could come back and smoke with me, I got plenty” she rasped. A chill descended over us.

“Nah, uhh, we’re good” Rosh and I said in unison.

“Hah! See, I told you, these kids wouldn’t know what to do with me.”

“You guys

missing out,” said the bouncer. “This cougars got claws.” The two of them roared with laughter as Rosh and I slowly sidled away.

I ended up seeing the cougar again two nights later, at a different dive bar in SoBe. Somehow, out of the four nights I spent there for Spring Break, I managed to see her twice.  It must have been a sign…

I never said this was worthwhile

%d bloggers like this: