April 25, 2017 § Leave a comment
For our project, Mollie and I developed a strategy board game called “Topia” that incorporates many of the characters from books and movies we discussed this semester. Below you’ll find the rule set and examples of game cards we created.
W have a short promo video that will give you a rundown of the rules and shows a few of our friends testing out the game! Click here to check it out
— Megan & Mollie
September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Room 0023 read the white numbers etched into the grey door in front of me. I looked down at the note that The Professor had written me, Today’s Assignment: Room 0023. Knock first, Helen likes to answer the door. I raised my hand and tapped on the door.
Helen answered. She stood in front of me, smiling and smelling like apple cobbler. Not only was she the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, but she had a certain life in her eyes that begged me to stick around and get acquainted.
“Hello,” she said warmly, “Come on in.”
I entered Room 0023 to find a small kitchen with a table just big enough for three. At the table sat a man wearing what appeared to be rec specs from outer space. He held his hands out in front of him like he was reading the newspaper, casually flipping through pages and occasionally stopping to glance an article up and down.
Helen motioned for me to sit, and immediately set down a cup of tea upon my obliging. The man looked up; his eyes were a little glazed over, as if he had either gotten too much sleep or none at all.
“Do you like my glasses?” he grinned.
I nodded and asked what they did. He proceeded to spend the next ten minutes explaining the science behind interactive virtual reality goggles. He told me about the world of options that he had in front of his fingertips, completely invisible to everyone else in the room. Helen moved around the kitchen, frequently grabbing my attention and pulling it away from the lecture. She had a certain grace to her movements; everything she did, she did with precision.
At the end of my lesson, I asked if I could try them on. He said no, because they were only in the prototype phase.
I finished my tea and Helen lightly touched my shoulder as she bent over to take it from me. We exchanged a look and my heart jumped. I looked at the man that this siren was so devoted to. I guess scientists do get all the girls.
He told me it was time to go, and to send The Professor “Dave’s Regards.” I left the room and went to the elevator, exiting Stevenson from the main lobby of the chemistry building. Back in my dorm, I quickly wrote an overview for The Professor about the possibilities of interactive virtual reality goggles. Right before I sent him the email, I saw he had already left a note in my mailbox. It was only one line long:
How did you like your first encounter with a robot? –The Professor
It took me a second to realize what had happened. A chill ran down my spine as reality sunk in; I might be in love with an android…
September 4, 2015 § 2 Comments
The trees and fields of the fruit ranch came into view as I drove along in the rental car. I had taken a rocket that morning after the strange text communication I received from Dave the day before.
Help. Held prisoner by Helen. Imp. Bring EMP device – Dave
I didn’t understand what Dave meant by prisoner, maybe Helen had grow a little more attached and Dave was getting cold feet about living with her; I wasn’t too worried after the weeks I had been able to spend with Helen. I wasn’t sure what EMP meant either; all had seemed fine with them in the months since Helen left to be with Dave at the ranch. I video called them often and had even been to the ranch once a few months back to check up on them in person.
I came to the end of the long dirt driveway, rising up a small hill to the front of the ranch house. I saw Helen sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, eyes closed as if she were enjoying the evening quiet. I parked the car and got out, walking to the steps going up to the porch.
“I’m so glad you’re here Phil, I need your help with Dave,” she said as she rose and walked lightly over to me, her eyes looking sad and strangely more human than I ever remembered. “I hope his little note didn’t worry you, all the same, it’s best you came.”
“What’s going on Helen, I didn’t understand at all. He said he’s your prisoner, and something about an EMP device…”
Helen winced at the words, “oh yes, some silly device from his old machine shop. You didn’t bring it did you? Good. Anyways it would be best if you just got to talk to him.”
She ushered me to the door, and all of a sudden I felt a great deal of unease. Looking around one last time before entering the house I noticed the ground below the apple trees nearby the house, littered with apples no one had collected. Inside was dark, there wasn’t any light on and the curtains on all the windows were drawn.
“Helen, why is everything such a mess in here” I said as my eyes adjusted. I felt Helen’s hand on my arm. A small hand but…firm, crushing actually. “Helen stop grabbing my arm that hurts!” She held on, forcing me to a door under the staircase.
“Just let Dave explain everything,” she said, her voice sweet and kind, seeming disembodied from the vice-grip she had on my arm. She undid a few bolt locks on the door, opened it, and before I could protest, threw me inside to tumble down a short flight of stairs and slammed the door behind me.
“Phil?…” I heard as I lay on the ground, still reeling from the fall. It was Dave’s voice. I looked up and around the room, dizzy. I saw…what looking like robots, but still being built. It was like the machine shop Dave worked at before, but instead of servant robots like Lena being built these ones looked menacing, and had what looked like guns! My vision stilled and I noticed people…other men Dave had worked with…an old couple who I knew worked at the ranch…and Dave. He was unshaven and dirty.
“Did you bring the EMP device? Oh please tell me you did Phil. We have to stop her.”
“What do you mean Dave?” I sputtered, “no, what is an EMP? And what the hell just happened with Helen?”
Dave frowned. He looked tired, defeated. “Oh no. An EMP. Electromagnetic pulse device. We could have used it…to stop her.”
“I don’t understand, stop Helen? From what? I’m sure we could just talk with her…”
“No,” he cut me off, “we had no idea, Phil. The psychological capacity we gave her… it is much more complex than we thought…much more human. She isn’t just capable of sadness and affection like you saw… also anger, hate, resentment…. And a thirst for power.”
“But what… but why?” I stammered, really scared for the first time. “Even if that were true, all she did was watch love story emoters. Where would she have gotten those data inputs?
“Wrong. I was wrong. She didn’t only watch emoters that day I was away. She watched a movie too… she… “
All of a sudden the door at the top of the basement stairs opened, I looked up and saw Helen peering in from the door.
“Back to work, all of you, “ she said commandingly. “You too Phil. My robot army won’t build itself. And if you slack off…well even if I’m gone for a moment just remember…” she looked straight at me with a wry smile, her voice changing suddenly to a deep, masculine tone, a perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger impression… “I’ll be back.”
November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Imagine a future reminiscent of the future featured in Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague”, in which the entirety of the labor needed to provide for humanity’s needs and wants is performed by machines that operate automatically–by robots.
This is hardly a new idea; a century and a half ago, many people were convinced that the ever-increasing mechanization and industrialization of production would soon relegate labor as it was then known to the dustbin of history. To a certain extent, this is exactly what came to pass; the kind of work that the majority of people perform in postindustrial societies today is markedly different from the kind that the majority of people performed a hundred and fifty years ago. And yet, there have been–and there will continue to be–growing pains.
As production grows increasingly automatized, the participation of human beings in various sectors of the economy becomes obsolete. Over two hundred years ago, the growth of textile mills took over the market niche previously occupied by textile artisans; in recent decades, robots employed by the automobile manufacture industry similarly took over much of the niche previously occupied by automobile workers. Of course, new professions are also created in the process; someone, after all, must direct and design the robots that build cars. However, it is not at all clear that the number of jobs automatization creates is greater than the number it renders obsolete; rather, the opposite seems to be intuitively true, since a single design can can be replicated in a manner limited only by the available resources. Population growth serves to compound this problem. And what happens when even the direction, design, and production of automata themselves becomes automatized?
Even as the capacity for production increases, then, the rate of unemployment increases, the portion of the population that is able to afford the product in question decreases, and prices consequently plummet, along with profits. In fact, it is precisely this sort of crisis of overproduction (or, perhaps more accurately, underconsumption) that is classically held to have been the primary cause of the Great Depression. Keynesian economics proposed to remedy this problem through government spending programs that would put people to work in public-works projects and thus provide them with sufficient funds to resume consumption. Yet this solution has a fairly ridiculous air to it; if private-sector work can be automated, can’t public-sector work be as well? If so, human labor in public-works projects is labor for the sole sake of distributing funds to the people performing the labor, which seems a fairly irrational solution to an equally irrational problem.
All this seems to imply one of three possibilities with regards to the notion of a fully-automatized society. First, it is possible that an endless sequence of crises of overproduction/underconsumption will so impede economic growth as to render such a society an unreachable goal. Second, it is possible that such a society is in our future, and we will cope with it by employing close to the whole of the population in public-works projects that could be performed more efficiently by machines, for the sole purpose of providing people with the funds needed to consume the products of the machines. Finally, it is possible that such a society is in our future, and we will cope with it in a rational manner by revising our economic system, particularly with regards to the ownership of property. In a future in which goods are no longer scarce and require no labor on the part of humans to produce, ownership (in the modern sense of the word) of such goods would make as little sense as ownership of air does today.
November 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
For many people, an earth-shattering technological breakthrough, and one that I believe will happen in the next fifty years, would be a closet that arranges outfits on its own. One would simply put an item into the closet, and the closet would, perhaps through some kind of scanner system, identify the type, style, color, fabric, cut, and other characteristics of that item, and match it up with other items with which it would make a coherent outfit. When you went to an event, such as a nice dinner, dance, concert, or just a day at school, you would just tell the closet, or type into a keypad, what event you were going to, and the closet would present a suitable outfit for the occasion, complete with accessories.
Such a development would have a number of significant repercussions. Many girls spend countless of hours putting together outfits in the morning; this new and improved closet would greatly reduce the amount of time required to get ready each day, thus allowing girls worldwide to enjoy more free hours of sleep, pleasure, and/or productivity. Additionally, since the closets would all be similarly programmed, there would be greater uniformity of apparel, with many people wearing similarly arranged outfits, resulting in a decrease in the expression of individuality through clothing. Clothing morons everywhere would rejoice; those deemed “losers” because of poor outfit assemblage skills would finally have an escape and a chance to climb the social ladder.
However, the widespread use of these closets could also bolster the trend of humans making less decisions for themselves. Already we have music stations (like Pandora) and websites (like stumbleupon) that provide music and information that we have shown through past behavior to be likely to enjoy, thus reducing the role of our own effort and thought process in the matter; these advanced closets would be another step in that direction. They could, as part of a larger trend, promote mental stagnation. Humans would become more mechanized and robotic, passively and mechanically accepting information provided to us by our machines. We would eventually become, in the words of Thoreau, “the tools of our tools.” But at least we would be well-dressed tools.