ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
I got to talking with some friends about the uncanny valley, and then I found this video of two chatbots talking together.  The imagery is basically two talking heads, with a voiceover. The uncanny valley effect works in audio as well as visual mode, and it is creepy.  For those of you whose impaired vision has left you out of the uncanny valley based on sight, here's a chance to experiment with hearing it instead.  Or anyone else who thinks it's cool.

The conversation runs 6:37.  I didn't last a minute before tapping out.  Other friends variably lasted about two minutes, and less than ten seconds.  How long can you make it?
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
 ... is in progress.  It's a great idea, if you're doing it for a few seconds.  If you're using that as the primary interface, however, most people get tired and sore very quickly.  And if you keep doing it, then you wind up with repetitive stress injuries.  People have found this out by using touchscreens on their desk computers.  Seriously, folks, haptics matter.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
This case is of interest to writers everywhere, because writers often need to research the nefarious things that their characters do.  Or even things that are appalling but actually have a good reason behind them.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
So GamerGate just shot videogames in the crotch

The academics are being stupid.  You do not ignore a part of history because you think it's pointless and some of the people involved are assholes.  You do not ignore it because it is "too new," it is easier to preserve then and your descendants will curse you for being so fucking slow and stupid as to let it fade away.  Ephemera are valuable precisely because  they usually get lost.  You would think more people would have learned this after thousands of years of history.  Apparently not.

But hey, this is what sexism gets: academic careers blocked, research and preservation not done, games therefore probably lost when they degrade because nobody knew how to save them.  Thanks, assholes, you just turned over the thirteenth card and blew up the universe, now everyone loses.


I am sulking at having to share a planet with these two groups of idiots.  The stupid, it burns like hydrogen.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
Because they were never going to pay you for it anyway.  If they were, and this is a category the author left out, they pay you anyway.  Subcategories include people who use free copies to decide if they want to buy a product, people who are reading the freebie while waiting for a paper copy to come out, and crowdfunding where folks read free stuff but have the option to sponsor more/faster/whatever if they wish.

The author is absolutely right that many people will pay for convenience over free stuff, if they have more money than time/energy or if the EROEI is better when paying.  This is why my year-end collections are now spiralbound at Staples instead of hand-punched at home.  Save us a day's backbreaking work?  TAKE MAH MONEY!

Conversely some people will tolerate extra effort for free stuff because they have more time/energy than money.  That's okay too.

The general rule is, make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing.  Reward good behavior, ignore or discourage bad behavior.

In crowdfunding, I have noticed that giving away things is an excellent way to get more money.  It's a little counterintuitive ... in a cash  economy.  But it is the fundamental premise of a gift  economy.  We say, "The gift must move."  You don't just accept the goodies and pocket them.  You give something to someone else, which can be a share of the first or the same kind of thing or something totally different.  The idea is to keep the energy moving.  A lot of folks in crowdfunding route part of their incoming funds back to other projects crowdfunded by someone else.  I can only afford this sporadically but I still do it.

Another consideration is relationship.  When people like a creative person, they will throw money  without even being asked.  But if they feel their money is going to a big corporation instead of the author, they're less enthusiastic about that.  They get downright huffy if they feel like they're getting screwed, not getting their money's worth -- maybe the prices are jacked up or the product isn't very good.  So that's a big reason why some people pirate.  It's not just an economic issue that people can't afford a product or feel it's overpriced.  It's a relationship breakdown between provider and customer.  Consider how very badly the music, movie, publishing, etc. industries have treated their customers.  Well, now the bottlenecks are coming loose and people have other alternatives.  Newsflash: if people hate you and get a chance to leave or hit back, they will TAKE IT.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
 ... are making business and sport reports. Given the evolution of entertainment models, they might pick up formulaic genres such as romance or mystery.  But remember: computers are great at copying, not producing new ideas.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
AI specialists at the University of Maryland have created a robot that can learn by observing.  This one taught itself to cook by watching YouTube.

This is epic.  It's the "monkey see, monkey do" moment.  One of the most crucial steps in creating artificial life is the ability of self-learning instead of programming.  More importantly, learning by observation -- rather than being trained explicitly -- is a feature of higher lifeforms such as humans, cetaceans, and great apes.  It lays a foundation for the "aha!" moment of awakening to self.  A robot might go through the motions and then suddenly understand  what they mean.

Just remember, an AI is like a small child.  They learn what they see.  They mimic what you do, not what you say.  So treat them as you want to be treated.  Teach them well.  Then they'll do great things, instead of going insane and trying to destroy the world.  
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
 Broadband internet access has been declared a utility.  I am pleased, and a little surprised that they actually got something right.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
My partner Doug found this awesome article about 3D printed hands.  I've been following similar advances but this one is different -- the patterns are public domain so anyone can customize, print, and assemble a manual prosthesis.  Awesome!  If you're into model kits or 3D printing, and looking for volunteer opportunities, seriously consider this.  

I am particularly pleased that the people behind the design released it to the public so it could be used freely as needed, instead of holding it hostage for exorbitant amounts of money like conventional prosthetics.  A 3D hand costs $20-50.  Compare that to the cost of conventional prosthetics: $5000 for a merely cosmetic arm, $10,000 for a simplistic hook, and $20,000-$100,000 for a high-performance myoelectric arm.  Granted the high-end model currently does things the 3D one can't, but people are already improving the 3D version, and it's a lot better to have something  than nothing at all.  Regarding cosmetic aspects, children and geeks seem to find the robotic-looking 3D hands cool and appealing.  Instead of hitting the "uncanny valley" they hit the "nifty toy" category.

This is what open source can do when you turn it loose.  :D
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
 ... when stuck in dry ice.  Also, this video marks the second ever use of popups in videos I have seen which is actually useful.  A little bubble pops up that says, "Why?"  :D  It is possible to use these things for good.  People just usually prefer to annoy you with them.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
Pplkpr attempts to manage the user's friendships by tracking how people influence each other in positive or negative ways.  When they are good for each other, it prompts them to spend more time together.  When the results are negative, it pushes them apart.  For most people this is useless or even destructive.  But for some -- people with depression, alexithymia, autism, or any other condition that makes emotional awareness and/or social dynamics cloudy -- it may be a valuable piece of adaptive equipment.  (Of course, you still need the spoons to act on its prompts, which is a bottleneck for some people.)  I don't know how good this early version is, but I suspect that some kind of program for this could be made effective.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
They spy on you.  The potential for abuse is enormous.

Remember that paper books do not track which parts of them you read.  If you read books in a library without checking them out, or buy with cash, there is no way to tell which ones you have read.  This protects sensitive information.

It does not matter if what you are doing is legal.  The police are not obligated to know or follow laws; they can arrest you if they THINK you're breaking a law when you're not.  People have been arrested for reading or even just having books or other learning materials that somebody thought they shouldn't have.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
When a computer program breaks a law, who is considered at fault: the programmer, the program, or the program owner?  The more things people have programs doing, the more of an issue this becomes.

My concern is that it will probably not be decided by justice, but by either convenience or profit.  What would most effectively prevent a recurrence?  Probably holding the programmers responsible.  Likely you'd have to do without certain features of program though.  What would be easiest?  Going after the program owners, most of whom would be ordinary people.  The problem with that is, a lot of these incidents will be mistakes which an ordinary person could not feasibly prevent, because most people aren't programmers and understand little about how computers work.  It's like an accident caused by brake line failure; they step on the pedal expecting the car to stop but it doesn't.  Even more fun: consider how little control people have over their lives now.  I can easily foresee situations where someone in power will decide to use a bot on behalf of many other people, it will do something wrong, and not the decider but the but the downline people will be blamed.  A fundamental principle of justice is that people should not be punished for someone else's actions, but that has been so eroded that it's little defense anymore.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
NASA just emailed a wrench to space.

While everyone else is geeking out over the idea of emailing a wrench, I'm over here thinking, "Damn, that is a great way to save on cargo weight!  Instead of expending  massive effort to send everything astronauts might need, we can instead send a smaller amount of materials to make stuff they need, and they can make exactly what they need when they need it."  That will work for everything that can be made of currently 3D printable materials and isn't needed all the time.  Send basic high-need supplies and stuff we can't just fab up yet.  Use the 3D printer to make the rest.  Even a very small  savings in cargo weight adds up very fast.

Space just got a lot more habitable.  :D
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
So the new Star Wars trailer has a new style of lightsaber, and it didn't take long for people to make fun of it.  Honestly I found that collection of joke images more entertaining than the trailer.  Some thoughts ...

1) That kind of ridiculous weaponry development has actually happened  with polearms and handheld blades such as knives and swords.

2) Even imaginary weapons need to be plausible.  If your audience can glance at the weapon and point out flaws, then you haven't done a very good job of design or portrayal.  Imaginary technology should have consistent rules which shape its development, just as the laws of physics and metallurgy shape historic weapons.

Take that lightsaber.  The horizontal quills make it easier to block an opponent's blow, because one lightsaber blade can stop another; but more importantly, they allow strikes to the side.  A drawback is that they raise the chance of cutting yourself.  If the handle of the weapon is not also invulnerable to the lightsaber blade, then quills raise the damage chance by channeling strikes toward the hilt; but if the handle is invulnerable, that's not a problem.  

Far more interesting is that this is a Force weapon wielded by a Sith or Jedi, which means with a little practice they ought to be able to control  those blades not just by hand and technology, but by will.  Imagine having a hilt that can extend a blade in three directions, or four if you remember the original double-bladed lightsaber with a hilt in the middle, as needed.  This adds a great deal of versatility and danger, although it also raises the amount of time required to become proficient in using the thing without slicing your own limbs off.  I'm serious about the risk factors, though; it's basically a giant laser switchblade.  Guys love to play with switchblades and butterfly knives because they're cool, but 9 out of 10 guys will cut themselves on one.  I've seen it repeatedly.  Like true ninja weapons, they're only useful if you know exactly what you are doing.
ysabetwordsmith: Cats playing with goldfish (Default)
Thanks to a donation from Anthony & Shirley Barrette, the poem "No Mind Without Spirit" is fully sponsored. Find out more about why Percy's idea doesn't work in nether-Earth.
ysabetwordsmith: Maryam Smith in a tophat (steamsmith)
This poem came out of the October 7, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from [livejournal.com profile] marina_bonomi, [livejournal.com profile] wyld_dandelyon, and DW user Dialecticdreamer.  It also fills the "Androids & Robots" square in my 6-10-14 card for the Fanbingo fest.  This poem belongs to The Steamsmith series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate for this series is $1/line, so $5 will reveal 5 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: [livejournal.com profile] marina_bonomi, Anthony & Shirley Barrette

73 lines, Buy It Now = $73
Amount donated = $20
Verses posted = 4 of 20

Amount remaining to fund fully = $53
Amount needed to fund next verse = $2
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $1

Full steam ahead... )


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