Reflections on the Robocalypse
August 12, 2009

So, I’m sitting here in a Marietta Starbucks, missing New York and hopped up on way too much caffeine–provided by mine and Benji’s favorite barista, Shmason–and passing the time by cackling not-so-quietly to Benji’s latest witticisms.  His last post, with its mention of the possibility that YouTube’s intuitive recommendations may be a sign of the coming Robot Apocalypse, got me thinking.  Personally, I’ve always found the evolution of artificial intelligence fascinating and frightening.  I have also long believed that the tech geeks at Google (which is truly becoming the repository of all knowledge…) are one wrong algorithm away from creating Skynet, or worse, Brainiac.

Google Brainiac

While I have previously asserted that I look forward to the Zombie Apocalypse with considerable enthusiasm, I do not have similar enthusiasm for the robotic equivalent.  And news stories like this, and this, do not reassure me in the least.  My reasons for my Robocalyptic Trepidation are myriad, but for the purposes of this post, I will restrict them to the top three:

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The Virtuality Catastrophe: A Failure to Launch
July 2, 2009

A post by Shmathan…

It is a matter of public record that I have a frightening obsession with deep affection for Battlestar Galactica.  The word “frak” entered my vocabulary with such regularity that my exasperated friends had to forbid its use.  I approached every situation by asking myself, “What would Starbuck do?”  I prayed every so fervently to the Lords of Kobol that I would be revealed as the Final Cylon.  When group plans are made, I always end with “So say we all.”  Consequently, my anticipation for Ron Moore’s next creative project, Virtuality, was understandably great…and he did not disappoint.

Virtuality was intended to be the pilot episode of a full series, following the lives of 12 crewmen on Earth’s first starship, the Phaeton.  The ship is on scientific mission of exploration to that takes on epic importance when it became known that Earth faces an imminent ecological disaster; suddenly, the ship’s mission to explore a new solar system offers the only hope finding a new home for humanity.  The show’s title is derived from two interesting aspects.  The first is the presence of a sophisticated virtual reality system, controlled by an 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque AI, meant to give the crew some relief from their ten-year incarceration in a rotating tin-can.  The second is the fact that the entire journey is being broadcast back to Earth as a reality tv show (complete with confessionals!).  As the show opens, we are introduced to the cast-crew of the Phaeton.  As it progresses, we watch things go terribly wrong as the moment nears in which they must choose to “Go, or no go”; to launch themselves into the void, or return home.   As a pilot it was engaging and compelling, with moments of sheer awesomeness (of near Battlestar proportions) as it offered the most tantalizing glimpses into a far-out space odyssey/psychological thriller that would have challenged the very notions of reality and perception.  Unfortunately, it is all for naught, as Fox failed to pick it up as a series; yet another example of the network’s failure to appreciate and support quality science fiction.

Spoilers, and a rant against the Fox network’s horrid priorities, ahead! (more…)

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