Lost In Mystery Boxes / Finding Nemo’s Story


J.J. Abrams and Andrew Stanton are two names that should definitely be added to our “Interesting People; Science Fiction Writers” category.  They aren’t science fiction writers in the purist sense but in a modern sense. Both Abrams and Stanton write science fiction, except instead of publishing their work on paperback they publish their work upon the big screen. I’m going to extrapolate and say that the reason science fiction writers were of interest in the first place is because of their uncanny ability to predict where technology may or may not lead us in the future. Stanton fits this bill, so to speak, his credentials being the creator of Pixar’s WALL-E. Abrams on the other hand has not made any wild predictions about the future when he dips his toe into the science fiction pool, however he is enamored with what technology makes possible as well as being another “Apple Fanatic”.

J.J. Abrams is an artistically and commercially successful writer, producer, and director of science fiction television shows such as Lost and movies such as Star Trek and Super 8. I’d like to start by saying I think he’d be a very successful speaker at Bucknell. His humor, charisma, and wit keep the viewer captivated throughout his speech. J.J. is obsessed with technology and has been since an early age; Out of curiosity, he and his grandfather would take apart widgets and machines and put them back together again. J.J. is so passionate and candid about his curiosity for technology that he can even make the technology behind manufacturing a Kleenex box sound fascinating. He uses technology to enhance story telling in the realest way. J.J. isn’t a director who uses technology in post-production to make his films 3D compatible, but rather he uses technology to innovate within his stories. His piece about reusing his old “Super-8” special effect techniques in an effort to avoid hurting Tom Cruise’s nose is especially entertaining. One possible pitfall that may arise from bringing J.J. to campus is that, although his name is surely household for those interested in entertainment, he might not have the same name recognition amongst Bucknell students.

Andrew Stanton is as well an artistic and commercial success in Hollywood but for writing and directing almost exclusively animated films, such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. I believe Andrew as well would be a huge hit at Bucknell University. Andrew was the first to write and direct a fully computer-generated full-length feature film (Toy Story). His monologue focuses not as much on technology but instead about telling stories. He is humorous but also addresses serious and relevant human issues. Again, Andrew Stanton probably doesn’t ring a bell with most Bucknell students but hopefully the name Toy Story catches their attention.

*Just an update.
JJ Abrams is most likely going to be directing the new Disney owned Star Wars feature  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/

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Droids…Are we Moving Towards Utopia or Dystopia?


As I was surfing great spaces of internet, I came across an interesting video title – “Are droids taking our jobs?” I, as a person liking technology quite a bit and also being a computer science major (in addition to BSBA program), was really curious about the content of the video. This is how I decided to write about Andrew McAfee. McAfee is currently a principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. His research investigates how IT changes the way companies perform, organize themselves and compete. He also investigates how computerization affects competition, society, economy, and the workforce. He is famous for his book Race Against the Machine.

Andrew McAfee, in his TED talk, is talking about the extremely high rates technology growth, which we, humanity, are not keeping up to it. That rapid growth is a phenomenon based on Moore’s Law, which state that computational power doubles every 18 months. Inventions, he claims, have always replaced human labor in some areas, but, at the same time, created new jobs in other areas. However, due to the extremely fast growth nowadays, new areas specifically designed for humans are not being created. Hence, labor force is losing opportunities, whereas new ones have not originated yet.

As technology evolves, it is able to perform tasks that are considered out of computational reach. Andrew McAfee mentions Siri and Watson as examples. One would think that communication and pattern matching would always be an area where a human being has advantage over machine. However, technology surpasses our expectations and, alas, is taking the advantage from us.

I was actually also concerned with this upcoming issue, which is why I abandoned my initially chosen math major and decided to try management and computer science. Management is something technology is not capable of doing yet and is still an area where mankind excels. Computer science is a field of study in which, unsurprisingly, computers are studied. Creation of computation is a basis for all devices we possess today, and therefore understanding fundamentals might also give a clear view on the current situation, described by McAfee. Perhaps, I would learn the limitations of the technology and would apply that knowledge to the resolution of issues, mentioned in the TED talk.

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Aliens do exist at Bucknell


Physics, philosophy, technology, futurification, and media are all names of fields in which Michio Kaku has something to say. Kaku is a protégée who not only has taken on the task of continuing Einstein’s work, but also the task of bringing the dreams of the future to the thoughts of the masses. He has had many different radio shows where he talks about the opportunities which will be present in the future whether due to new technologies or changing how we interact with them. Continue reading

Get Your Username & Password, It’s Time To Log In For War


 

By 2006, there were more than 2,500 IED (improvised explosive device) explosions each month, and were the leading cause of casualty amongst American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.  Wow.  What a way to start off, right?  That’s how PW Singer does it; just slaps you with some knowledge from the get-go.  Who is PW Singer? Mr. Singer is the director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution.  There, he researches what the future of war holds and foreign policy.  As a well-known writer of books and essays, he is able to link modern day events and news and comment on impacts of the future of military.

 

Back to the video.  Singer starts us off with a chilling “scene of war” and was immediately able to capture the attention of the audience.  He goes on to explain the growing importance of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams.  Their ability to diffuse up to 2 IED’s a day puts a $50,000 bounty on their head.  That is incredible.  But seeing how important the enemy views them shows the path of warfare is heading towards less soldiers and more machines.  The idea of machines being in war has always been a staple of sci-fi thrillers and futuristic video games, but it is becoming a reality.  The idea of war is changing as we know it.  More and more drones are being deployed to do a foot soldiers job, and there seems to be a sort of distancing from the realities of war.  Singer seems to believe we are at a revolutionary period in warfare, much like the period of the atom bomb.  The experience and identity of a soldier is changing, and they are being referred to as “cubicle warriors.”  We went from thuggish men with a thirst for blood being the ultimate warrior, to that kid from your freshman hall who dominates Call Of Duty.  But how will this change war?

 

Singer had a chilling quote during his presentation: “When a robot dies, you don’t have to write a letter to its mother.”  That is a really heavy line.  Without soldiers, there are only broken “toys” in the line of duty.  When drones are ordered to carry out attacks, the act of war is way less personal and the mental and emotional toll from the murders carried out by machine is cushioned by the thousands of miles that separate the party.  Singer mentions there will be a new sort of mental and emotional situation that takes place.  Now, soldiers will be expected to “go to war” for 12 hours, and then head home to the wife and kids to eat a meal and talk about what SpongeBob did today.  The constant switch of emotions could lead to problems at home.  The other aspect of robotic warfare that will forever change is the concept of accountability.  Who is accountable for the actions of the machine?  Is it the man who gave the orders?  Is it the dude who controls the thing?  Is it the company that invents the technology?  I would argue all three of these parties feels less accountable for what happens at war than if they were there themselves.  This diffusion of accountability would make it easier to pull the trigger from thousands of miles away.  “You don’t have to convince a robot that they’ll get 72 virgins when they blow up.”  All it takes is one click from a room in Nevada and BOOM!  It seems easy and doesn’t seem like it would have the same effect as blowing something up on your own while you are there.  War will eventually evolve towards technology; it seems inevitable.  But how will it affect the world?  Will there be more or less causalities?  It is hard to say.  What is easy to say is that the US is at the front of technological advancements for warfare, but Singer wisely mentions that there is no real fixed position at the top of technological advancement.  We have to stay on top of technology if we want to maintain our strength as a country.  Not only will warfare change, but so will terrorism, and it is that idea that can get scary.  Strikes from anywhere are possible and it can be done by anyone at any moment.

 

So I leave you with the seemingly inevitable future of technological warfare.  What other aspects of our lives at home or at war do you feel will be affected by this revolutionary change towards technology?  What will the future soldier look like? Will we be able to protect ourselves domestically from foreign threats? Domestic threats?  Let me hear where you think the future of war is going and how we will be changed as a result.

Death by Technology


Ray Kurzweil might be the most interesting man of all-time.  He also might be from the future.  One thing is for certain; give this man twenty minutes of your time and he is guaranteed to blow your mind.  The Wall Street Journal has described him as “the restless genius.”  Forbes magazine called him “the ultimate thinking machine” and ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States.  PBS named him one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America.”  Not to mention honors from three US Presidents, five national best-selling books, nineteen honorary Doctorates, and an induction into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.  How can one mind possess so much knowledge and unrelenting idea creation?  Ray Kurzweil’s mind is truly too big and too powerful for me to fully understand, kind of like Google.  It is truly fitting then that Google recently hired Ray as Director of Engineering, and he is undertaking the ultimate project.

I’ll let Ray summarize the main idea behind it – “I envision in some years that the majority of search queries will be answered without you actually asking,”  Google must believe he is close and capable to reach this goal, as they brought him in as part of Google rather than let Ray build this project independently.  Ray intends on creating a search engine that would “act like a ‘cybernetic friend,’ who knows users better than they know themselves.”  It is quite ironic that Ray is behind this project; much of his work has been devoted to how the acceleration of technology will overcome the biological capability of humans and have severe implications for the future of the human species (or something like that).

While many of his ideas are wild and hard to completely understand, his high level of thinking is unmatched.  He almost makes statements that I did not think human minds would be capable of developing, like he knows more than the rest of us.  Who knows?  Maybe Ray is actually just one of those robots from the future that he claims will be inevitably realistic in the next 10-20 years.  Many of his talks are long, but I attached a few clips below.  There is a lot more information on Ray on the web, so feel free to search other videos if you are interested.

Ric Elias – Enjoying Life


Ric Elias is a CEO of a marketing company, but that’s not why I think he should come to Bucknell.  After browsing videos related to more “academic” topics, I came across Ric’s short talk about his near-death experience on the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in January 2009.  While I haven’t been survived a plane crash, I have experienced something that has changed my outlook on life similar to how Ric’s outlook was changed.  I don’t expect any of you guys to share details in regards to some sort of life-changing experience, but I think it’s fair to assume we’ve all at least been humbled by something in our past that has made us grateful for our lives and the people around us.

 http://www.ted.com/talks/ric_elias.html

Ric says in the video that while he and his wife haven’t fought since his experience, he still isn’t perfect.  The stress of everyday life can make even the most fortunate people lose sight of the gift of life and the people we share it with.  While I still find myself stressed out from time to time, I think that’s human nature.  However, too often I see some of my good friends get way too caught up in silly arguments or school assignments, for that matter.  I don’t believe that it’s OK to just go through the motions in life and not work hard in anything – but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s OK to live your life stressed out all the time and not happy.  In other words, it’s good to find a balance!

At a prestigious university like Bucknell, with a lot of pressure from family and others to perform well in academics and athletics – all while staying out of trouble 😉 – I think a talk from Ric Elias would go a long way.  His insight might be a good change of pace from more traditional “academic” talks and I think his story would be very interesting to listen to.

To wrap things up, I also came across this video below on TED.  I had already seen it, but I feel like it kind of fits in with this whole theme of ‘making the most out of life’.  Not to mention it’s hilarious!

http://www.ted.com/talks/kid_president_i_think_we_all_need_a_pep_talk.html