I bless and approve Star Trek V a thousand times more than this…..

….effort to destroy a most beloved American cultural treasure. Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry at the helm was perennially hilarious, campy and fun, but it was also intellectual and philosophical. It cannot be completely forgiven that Star Trek was always highly decadent, but without it and the cultural media cravings of the 1960s and 1980s, Star Trek arguably never would have come to exist in the first place.

The best parts of Trek were never the expensive “space battle” scenes with all the special effects. (* see below). No, the best parts were human. Kirk’s brilliant acumen for survival. Spock’s fountain of wisdom. McCoy’s wit as salve on dramatic moments. And their relationship with each other.

None of that survives here. It’s all just contextual for explaining what character performs what action. The actors themselves could be CGI, because they’re mere additional cast members on the roster of virtual superheroes. A franchise such as Star Trek cannot be treated purely as a vehicle for brand expansion and revenue. The result is a rendering of farcical nonsense.

* That’s Star Wars. I like Star Wars too, and it has its place. Specifically, forever at #2, directly beneath Star Trek (pre J.J. Abrams et al.).

Advertisements

And Now (due to “Synod Fatigue”) Something Completely Different

To quote C-3PO, “I can’t bear to watch.” So, instead, a roundup of fun “technology” links:

  • According to this article from Reuters, Apple has argued to a New York federal court in a written brief that it is “impossible” to unlock iPhones without a user’s passcode, due to improvements to encryption for iOS version 8 and later.
  • The new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”, continues to trend, with the release of the latest theatrical trailer during halftime on last night’s “Monday Night Football” program (and millions of geeks are forced to watch football on TV). Of course, you could just wait a couple more minutes and see it nearly anywhere on-line. Hopefully geeks were smart enough to realize that.
  • Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 4.29.54 PMWe won’t know until we are much nearer to December 18 whether the latest Star Wars movie incarnation is any good or not, but one thing we can agree upon is that Disney’s purchase of LucasFilm has raised merchandising to completely new and stratospheric levels. You want Christmas gift ideas for the Quartermaster and his family of wookies? Look no further than this, or this, or:
  • Speaking of the Power of the Force (of advertising), (this is truly one of the slickest ad pieces EVURRRR), along with the movie media blitz, a new Star Wars Battlefront game drops on November 17 for Xbox One, PS4, or PC.
  • Shifting franchises slightly, astronomers theorize that they may have discovered a real life example of a Dyson Sphere (no, not one of those vacuum thingies).

Astronomer 1: That star (billions of light years away)….. Has a strange flashing thing going on….. 
Astronomer 2: Magnify.
Astronomer 1: Inconclusive. 

Astronomer 2: I bet it’s a Dyson sphere, just like in Episode 130 of ST:TNG!
Astronomer 1: I’ll notify the press!

A Round-Up of Articles I’ve been Meaning to Blog About

Things have been a little extra frenetic lately, and I haven’t had a chance to cover some of these items that I found of interest:

Apple’s co-founder: We’re all going to be robots’ pets one day – From Fortune Magazine. Somehow, the Woz isn’t too worried about it.

Historic meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox head ‘getting closer’ – From The Independent (UK). For a millennia-long schism, “getting closer” could still mean decades (or centuries) before actual movement.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.11.41 PMSpaceships That Could Eat Star Destroyers for Breakfast – From Slate.com; someone took every sci-fi ship from every television and movie series and drew them to scale in one giant diagram. So you can see how the various incarnations of the U.S.S. Enterprise would look in a confrontation against say, the Battlestar Galactica.

From Shea’s Blog, The Prophet GKC on the Culture of Polymorphous Perversity – In case you were thinking that there is something novel or surprising about recent events:

“THE next great heresy is going to be simply an attack on morality; and especially on sexual morality. And it is coming, not from a few Socialists surviving from the Fabian Society, but from the living exultant energy of the rich resolved to enjoy themselves at last, with neither Popery nor Puritanism nor Socialism to hold them back… The roots of the new heresy, God knows, are as deep as nature itself, whose flower is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life. I say that the man who cannot see this cannot see the signs of the times; cannot see even the skysigns in the street that are the new sort of signs in heaven. The madness of tomorrow is not in Moscow but much more in Manhattan — but most of what was in Broadway is already in Piccadilly.” ~G.K. Chesterton: “G.K.’s Weekly,” June 19, 1926.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot…..

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 1.17.50 PMOf course, a lot of people already have a machine that can do that. However, another technological convenience is on its way: Israeli technology company invents the precursor to the Replicator from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It uses “pods”, similar to a Keurig for coffee, except instead of coffee there are freeze-dried food ingredients. You use your smartphone to control it. Looks like it’s capable of making a lot of different items and may be available for purchase “for several hundred dollars” next year.

Live long and prosper…..

Sad news. A childhood hero, a character who exemplified rationality and logical thought, has died. Mr. Spock — Leonard Nimoy — was a very human person, in the best possible way. He was an inspiration. Almost twenty years ago, I had a chance to see him along with William Shatner and DeForest Kelly in person. It was a very exciting moment. May God grant him mercy, and eternal peace. Say a prayer for him. 

Three-Parent Babies: “light at the end of a very dark tunnel”??!

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons has voted — 382 Members of Parliament “in favour” and 128 against — to introduce laws permitting “the creation of babies from three people.”

During the Commons debate, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told the House “…this is light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”

Speaking of “dark tunnels”, from Dante’s Inferno:

THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,
THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS
WERE MADE, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.

The Narrator’s guide explains:

“For we have reached the place of which I spoke,
where you will see the miserable people,
those who have lost the good of the intellect.”

Christ have mercy.
IMG_1319(source: Wikimedia Commons; author: Robin & Bazylek)

How Many “Bio-Ethicists” Does it Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?

Probably just one. But wouldn’t it be fun to see what would happen if there were two? And if two is fun, maybe three would be even funner. And heck, if our goal is fun and adventure, can a fourth bioethicist contribute anything to installing that lightbulb? No idea. Maybe. Who knows? Let’s try it with four anyway just to see. That would be a blast. Sometimes it’s good to do things “just because”. Because since it’s possible, we should do it. That’s what ethics teaches us. Do what’s possible. Once you find any reason (excuse) for doing a stupid thing, then it becomes an ethical action. If you repeat this mantra, possibly while doing yoga, in the blooming lotus or stretching dog position, it will sounds very ethical indeed. Dooooo whatttttt’ssss posssssible. Bio-Ethics!

“Hello, Computer!”

Our little 20-month-old daughter, Lucy, already knows that if she gets her paws on mommy or daddy’s phone, she can hold down the button on the front and make it talk. She knows that if she talks to it, it will talk back to her.

One wonders if little Gutenberg, sitting at the feet of his father, received lectures on the cumbersome nature of immovable type in printing, and resolved to change things when he got a little older. It would be appropriate, because every generation has its own “in our day” stories.

But in the Information Age, technological development is an exponential growth curve, so that in future generations, comparisons will become nearly impossible; common reference points will be rendered irrelevant by obsolescence. Think of attempts to describe vacuum tubes, LPs or 8-track cassettes in contrast to today’s technology, squared or cubed to a higher order. 

When I wasn’t much older than daughter Lucy, I was fascinated by technology. A “nerd”, I watched reruns of the original Star Trek series after school, and absolutely loved the idea of an “intelligent” computer that could receive input in the form of voice commands and respond in kind, as portrayed in science fiction — as opposed to then’s “cutting edge”: monochromatic green glowing tubes with their ASCII text set, floppy disks storing kilobytes, and single-tone beeps.

Science fiction is suddenly just science. And we get to be here for the ride.

Within just two or three generations, the wonders wrought by the minds of humans have taken members of our species into space and onto other celestial bodies. These revolutionary steps began in our own time, in the infancy of computers. There were machines that cost millions of dollars and filled entire rooms, but provided computing power that is now dwarfed by a basic smartphone.

That’s right. Your phone is more powerful than the computers used for the Apollo missions. Just sit and ponder that for a minute! Your PHONE!

Children born today — from their very earliest memory — will expect computers to talk, and listen. It won’t be long before we will be fooled into believing that we are interacting with actual humans when it is an artificially-created computer intelligence that responds. We already have — a la Skynet and courtesy of Google — self-programming computers.

In 1986, Montgomery Scott — who traveled back in time from 2286, alighted from a cloaked Klingon ship parked in Golden Gate Park. He visited an engineer and encountered a personal computer in the engineer’s office.

The computer — an Apple Macintosh — was one of the most “advanced” PC of the time, because it was equipped with a mouse. I remember those machines; our school received a grant for a Mac computer lab, and they were so cool compared the boring Tandy TRS-80 that my parents owned, and my Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. If you recall, most IBM personal computers still relied upon the text-based MS-DOS, when the mouse (and graphics) was still something of a novelty. Personal computers were only in less than 10% of homes then, in part because they not affordable and couldn’t do very much.

IMG_0241Mr. Scott was handed the computer’s mouse, which he used like a microphone, saying: “Hello, Computer!” Confusion swept across his face at receiving no response. Were he addressing the Enterprise computer, the dulcet tones of Gene Roddenberry’s wife would personalize the shipboard intelligence. When it was suggested that Mr. Scott “Just use the keyboard,” he replied, “How quaint,” before he cracked his knuckles and got to work inputing the formula for transparent aluminum, and potentially altering his own future.

How quaint indeed! The anachronism is already here, 270 years early.

 

“Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek

While the only anticipation I have for the pending “Singularity” (actual date TBD) is really more in the nature of dread, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be excited when this nifty technology finally gives us freestanding three-dimensional holographic images. On such date I shall finally paint a metal garbage can in hues of blue and silver a la R2-D2, and take all phone calls via droid (not the lame kind). Viva the Rebel Alliance!