Are We One Step Closer to A.I.?

This video has been circulating the interwebs for a couple of weeks now and is really catching people’s attention now though it was posted over a year ago. A brilliant team at Aldebaran Robotics has created a sophisticated set of robots that can be programmed to perform various tasks, including dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

They do a a pretty good job, don’t you think? Their movements are surprisingly fluid. These robots can’t think for themselves or act of their own will, (if they could, we’d have viable replacements for pop stars), but they do seem to be a physical improvement on Honda’s Asimo.  And, while we tend to focus on  intelligence when we think of computers/robots in science fiction and how they might overtake us, there’s something to be said about whether or not they have the physical ability to do so. The simple of act of walking and being able to move around with ease does give us an advantage.

So until we reach the point where cylons– the human-like A.I. from Battlestar Galactica— rule over us, I say we embrace the technology. I personally would like a Nao robot, (the ones in the video above), as a pet. That way when do they take over, I’m on good terms with at least one of them.

3D Printers: When Fiction Becomes Reality and Mixes With Awesome

Science fiction TV shows, movies, and books have always dangled futuristic technology in front of us, teasing us the way one teases squirrels by eating delicious handfuls of walnuts in front of them while laughing maniacally, (and accidentally choking because that’s what happens when you eat and laugh at the same time). We’ve all been there, am I right? Wait…what do you mean no?

Anyways…one of the futuristic technologies we often see in fiction are replicators or machines that can create something out of nothing. If you’ve heard of 3D printers, then you know that we’re close to making that fictional dream a reality.

These printers do exactly what the name suggest: they let you print out 3-dimensional objects, complete with moving parts and colors — objects that are just as good as they would be if we manufactured them. You could print out a guitar and play it just like a normal guitar. Want a toy dinosaur? Why not print one in chocolate? Or how about a car?

Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

Other than the fact that it is an incredible technology that will change everything, (EVERYTHING!), why am I writing about 3D printers? Because they’ll play a role in the 2nd book of the The Dark Matter Chronicles, but probably not how you think…

I’m not going to give anything away, but this technology has a use that will have a profound impact on us; something that’s about 20-50 years out. And I plan to use it in a way I don’t think anyone else has thought of yet. Am I being a tease? Yes. Am I also laughing about it? Of course. Now, if only I could get my hands on a ridiculously fluffy cat, a secret lair, and a 3D printer to complete my evil-genius persona, then I could really show those squirrels…

These 3D printers cannot get here fast enough.

Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries (and Great Novels?)

We’ve all heard the expression that the simplest idea/solution is usually the correct one. I think that definitely applies to the field of science but it also applies to writing. I find that the best stories, (even the ones that are very intricate), are simple at their core. *On a side note: I’ve touched upon this topic in my post about The Simpsons and Writing (see below).*

I’ll use one of my favorite series as an example: Harry Potter. *Spoiler Alert*: skip this paragraph if you haven’t read the book but want to! If you’ve read the series then you know that each of the 7 books has its own plot line with many twists, characters, Chekhov guns, and plot details. J.K. Rowling has created a very elaborate world with a million little parts that all add up into something that’s magical yet tangible–a world you’d actually want to be a part of. Who would pass up on a chance to go to Hogwarts, am I right? At the same time, it has an underlying plot line that permeates the entire story; one goal that all 7 books work towards. I think the entire story can be summed up with 2 statements: ‘Boy learns he’s a wizard and goes to wizarding school’ and ‘Hallows vs Horcruxes’. Interesting fact: J.K. Rowling has said that idea came to her as ‘boy who’s a wizard that doesn’t know he’s a wizard’. That one simple idea launched one of the most beloved and successful series of all time.

As with science, it’s important to remember that when it comes to writing, the simplest ideas are often the most powerful. That’s not to say that story can’t have depth and layers. It should. But it should also convey simple truths and revolve around one central idea. That one idea then becomes the foundation that the story and all its details rest upon. And anything that isn’t consistent or relevant to it should be cut out in the editing process.

I highly recommend this short and interesting TED Talk that elaborates on this topic wonderfully. Take a look and enjoy!