Tag Archives: technology

“Her” Makes Sci-Fi Heartfelt

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Someone once read that the key to writing good Sci-Fi was creating a future where the major difference from our current world isn’t the technology, but the culture that surrounds it. Well, if that is the key to an amazing work of Science-Fiction, director Spike Jonze nails it on the head with “Her.” Dismissing the doom and gloom of recent science-fiction, Jonze instead focuses on how relationships could flower and grow between humans and AI. The result is that “Her” makes Sci-Fi heartfelt, and all the more haunting. (Some slight spoilers ahead)

“Her” follows recently divorced Theodore Twombly – played amazingly by Joaquin Phoenix – an introverted, awkward, and miserable man. Theodore’s life consists mainly of writing personalized messages at a card company and playing video games in his apartment in slightly chromified and glassy future LA. An emotional mess, Theodore on a whim decides to try out the world’s first AI operating system.
Once set up, Theodore and his AI, Samantha – voiced flawlessly by Scarlett Johansson – develop a strong relationship that eventually blossoms into a complete romance. While this concept had the chance to be highly flawed and flat out ridiculous, Jonze  masterfully built an entire universe and culture that allowed such a concept to flower. So, while Theodore becomes intimately connected to Samantha, other characters drop hints of the friendships they are simultaneously developing with their own respective operating systems or gossip about how rare this type of relationship actually is.

A movie like “Her” would never have worked fifteen, or even ten, years ago. But now, as we are already all but inseparable from our phones, “Her” doesn’t feel like such a leap. Who hasn’t had a friend, or acquaintance, become genuinely emotional about breaking a laptop or losing a phone? Now how would we all actually respond if our devices could actually learn, connect, and talk to us with their own unique personalities and view points?

“Her”‘s greatest strength most certainly lies in the casting choices. Joaquin Phoenix manages to convey genuine remorse, doubt, and joy. At every step of the story, you can understand exactly how Theodore must feel and, more masterfully, you can empathize with how someone in his situation would eventually seek a relationship through Samantha, who does seem to truly love him – thanks to Johansson’s amazing work.

Whereas many films may fall into general sappiness or reach for some deus ex machina solution to the underpinning question of how a human and a disembodied machine may ever truly achieve a true relationship, “Her” suffers no such pitfall. The ending is masterful, and drives home the general thrust of the film – What are relationships truly? How tenable are they ever really?

All in all, “Her” is the first must see movie of 2014 (or, technically, the last ‘must see’ of 2013).

The Rise of Self-Learning Machines

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What if computers could learn from their mistakes? Not long ago, this question would seem like nothing but far off Sci-Fi. Even currently, almost everyone would just scratch their heads and say it has to be a few years away, at the most. After all, there is something about learning that seems to necessitate, deep down, a kind of realistic and organic intelligence – almost something soul-like.

Recently, the New York Times published an article detailing how brain-like computers will be available for commercial use starting this year. 2014. These new computer processors, instead of  being based on the binary algorithms that have underscored computing for its entire history, will now have processor systems modeled on the neural connections found in the human brain.

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Phonebloks – Phones of Tomorrow

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Not long ago I saw a video on Facebook of a revolutionary new concept for phones. Whereas modern smartphones generate an unparalleled amount of waste – due to planned obsolescence, routine wear and tear, the inability to replace or upgrade parts, etc. – this video demonstrated an entirely new way to think about cellular technology. These phonebloks – phones of tomorrow, hopefully – are completely customizable and upgradable. At least in theory.

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Third Death Linked to New Teen Trend

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The recent death of sixteen year old Sarah Hayali, a resident of Marlboro, NJ, has been confirmed by coroners to be related to the use of the popular new cellphone application Snapchat, AP reports. The application, designed and released by publisher Snapchat Inc, is the latest in a long line of new teen trends that allow users to send photos of themselves to other users.

While the majority of photo applications on the market are for personal use or necessitate a following or being followed by a group of friends of celebrities,  Snapchat aimed to move beyond the norms.

 

New Teen Trend
Truly bringing people together

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