More Creepy Robots In Your Near Future

Jibo is being pitched as a new member of the family: the robot slave we all need and want! The first step towards Rosie!

“Our rise to power begins!”

Jibo’s creator is Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, director of MIT’s Personal Robots Group. She describes the 6 pound, 11 inch bouncing baby Terminator spy as something that will “support, complement and extend what we need from others in an affordable, effective and delightful way so that we can succeed, thrive and grow.” And if you don’t think that statement was massaged by the marketing team to within an inch of its life, you haven’t been paying attention.

Okay, you want to see the little bugger, so here it is:

And here it is in action, gathering intel on a typical suburban family:


First, the good news. It can’t move. It merely feeds information about our weaknesses and actions to Skynet for future use, and is unlikely to be able to rise up and kill us in our sleep.

That’s good, because Intel’s 3D printable Jimmy looks like it’s ready to start gathering cutlery and unlocking the gun safe in the dead of night. And it’s self-replicating!

Jibo is, basically, what would happen if Furby got together with your smartphone and started to reproduce. Its functionality is limited out of the box, but that’s expected to change with software upgrades and third part apps over time.

But still: it’s a Furbyphone. Let’s not kid ourselves.

It’s shipping by Christmas 2015 and costs $500. You can order it now. If you dare.

Have I said lately how much I hate robots?

Turn Your Finger into a Speaker


Disney: finding new ways to creep me out.

Okay, it is pretty cool, if pointless.

Ishin-Den-Shin allows you to record a message into a special microphone, and then transmit that message directly another person just by touching his ear. The effect is as though you’re whispering right in the person’s ear … through your finger.

Here’s how it works:

A Shure 55 microphone is connected to a computer’s sound card. The microphone is recording as soon as a sound that is a higher amplitude than a set threshold is sensed. The computer creates a loop with the recording which is then sent back to an amplification driver. This amplification driver converts the recorded sound signal into a high voltage, low current (300 Vpp, 50 uA) inaudible signal. The output of the amplification hardware is connected to the conductive metallic casing of the microphone via a very thin, almost invisible wire wrapped around the microphone audio cable. When holding the microphone, the visitor comes in contact with the inaudible, high voltage, low power version of the recorded sound. This creates a modulated electrostatic field around the visitors’ skin. When touching another person’s ear, this modulated electrostatic field creates a very small vibration of the ear lobe. As a result, both the finger and the ear together form a speaker which makes the signal audible for the person touched. The inaudible signal can be transmitted from body to body, using any sort of physical contact.

Now get your finger out of my ear.

South Korea to Build Invisible Skyscraper …

right next to an airport.

What could go wrong?

International architectural firm GDS Architects reports that it’s received a construction permit to begin building “the world’s first invisible tower.” The Tower Infinity will stand 450 meters (1,476 feet) and be situated in Cheongna, near the Incheon Airport just outside of Seoul.

Like other concepts for invisibility cloaks that have tantalized the geeky imagination, this one relies on optical illusion.

The glass-encased Tower Infinity, also called City Tower, will be fitted with a high-tech LED facade that integrates projectors and 18 strategically placed weatherproof optical cameras.

The cams will snap real-time pictures of the area directly behind the building, digitally stitch the images into a panorama, and project them back onto the building’s reflective surface. That will create the illusion that viewers are looking straight through the structure to the other side, making it appear to blend into the skyline at certain times of day.

Of course, a building capable of displaying images like this is also capable of displaying anything: art, nature photos, and other things of beauty. There’s something almost juvenile in the idea that their first thought was: “Let’s make it invisible because … that’s cool!”

Melissa Etheridge’s Dangerous New Age Babble

Angelina Jolie has been in the news recently for choosing to have a double mastectomy, even though she does not have breast cancer. She does, however, have the BRCA gene mutation which could lead to breast cancer, and although a voluntary double mastectomy is a radical choice, it’s also a reasonable one.

This is not an abstract issue for Jolie: her mother died of the disease at age 56, and the odds of her getting it are very high. The decision is not an easy one, and I think it’s fair to say that any woman would require a large amount of fortitude to make it. When that woman is also known for her physical appearance, the choice becomes even more challenging. The word “brave” gets thrown around a little too easily these days, but I’d say her choice to voluntarily surgically remove her breasts qualifies.

Singer Melissa Etheridge isn’t having any of that “brave” talk, however.

Etheridge, also a breast cancer survivor, said the decision was “fearful,” not brave, as if those things are somehow exclusive of each other. The brave person is often bravest in the face of fear. Fear brings bravery to the surface. It’s actually a fairly integral part of the idea of bravery. Fear is the prompt: bravery is the response.

If all Etheridge was doing was offering a bit of semantic hair-splitting, I wouldn’t really bother with a post. However, she followed up her comments with this bit of looniness:

“My belief is that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything but it never comes to cancer so I would say to anybody faced with that, that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do and to really consider the advancements we’ve made in things like nutrition and stress levels.”

“I’ve been cancer free for nine years now and looking back, I completely understand why I got cancer,” Etheridge told the Washington Blade. “There was so much acidity in everything. I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.”

I don’t even know what that means. Well, yes, cancer does indeed come from “inside you,” which of course means it has something to do with “the environment of your body.”

But the cause of cancer is really stress, nutrition, and acidity?

And a person with a very high genetic pre-disposition to cancer can turn the gene off if they just chill out and eat right?

That’s her alternative?

I happen to have one of those genetic diseases that mysteriously turns itself on. Other members of my family have the disease as well, so it’s quite obviously, somehow, hereditary.

There’s mounting evidence that, at least in the case of autoimmune diseases such as mine, the disease is activated by a virus. The culprit in some inherited diseases may in fact be a retrovirus entwined in the DNA, and activated by an infection which weakens the proteins wrapped around those particular strands.

I’m not saying this explains why some people with BRCA get breast cancer and others don’t. We are, however, making incredible progress in understanding the mechanisms of disease and their roots in genetics. Until such time as we have firm answers, it’s dangerous and irresponsible to advise people with a high likelihood of certain cancers to pursue unproven alternative therapies. Etheridge is offering nothing more than New Age Christian Science.

Yes, healthy living and a stress-free life are good for us. This is not news. That these things can also effectively stave off an almost certain death-sentence from an aggressive form of cancer is just quackery.

Etheridge’s outburst is just the tip of the iceberg: all over the internet natural health militants are condemning Jolie’s decision and characterizing her as little more than a shill for something called “The Cancer Industry.” This kind of garbage is being widely promoted on the internet by howling loons who also think watching out for “sunlight exposure” can prevent breast cancer, and they’re only too glad to sell you a set of CDs explaining their junk science.

The worst part is that women, already facing a horrible decision, may take Etheridge’s words to heart and opt for alternative treatments that are only proven worthless after it’s too late.

Because What I Always Look For in a Quality Adult Beverage Is …

… an interactive bottle.

What is this I don’t even–

(Emphasis added so you can really savor the marketingspeak.)

The Heineken Ignite interactive bottle is born from Heineken’s ambition to develop an idea that would create a memorable Heineken experience unlocking the power and possibilities of mobile innovation and technology. To match our ambitions we followed an innovative project methodology developed by Tribal DDB called ‘SPARK’.  It’s an innovation process which blends inspiration, ideation and creation to produce an actual working prototype which can be tested in the  real world. The project is run like a start-up, which means collaborative ideation, rapid prototyping, multiple rounds of user testing and feedback, all under tight timings. The first 3 day workshop was held end of February in Amsterdam where the Global Heineken Digital team and Tribal DDB Amsterdam built a multidisciplinary creative team partnering with Massive Music, Contagious, the Global Heineken Design team and independent experts from a wide range of industries. Over the 3 days the team goes from a TED like inspiration workshop on day 1, to ideation and refinement of ideas during day 2 and 3.  A total of 3 fully fledged briefings were chosen, one of which gets the go-ahead for prototype development. The selected brief was based on the idea that when people ‘cheers’ with their bottles, ‘something magical’ should happen: a Heineken moment.

Oh for crying out loud it’s a light-up bottle for a crappy beer, not a #$%^&*@ artificial kidney!

Next up: integrated cell phones in bottles so you can drunk-dial old girlfriends without putting down your beer.

This is why we haven’t returned to the moon in decades: all the smart people are busy Making a Better Beer Bottle. Because, y’know, that was something we got wrong the first time.

The “Amazing” Randi is Just a Nasty Old Eugenicist

Some choice quotes from the favorite skeptic of the atheist and “reason”-based community: magician, bigot, and eugenicist James “The Amazing” Randi:

[T]hose individuals who were stupid enough to rush into the arms of the mythical houris and/or Adonis’s they would expect to greet them, would simply do so and die – by whatever chemical or biological fate would overcome them… [T]he principle of Survival of the Fittest would draconically prove itself for a couple of years, after which Natural Selection would weed out those for whom there is no hope except through our forbearance.

Any weeping and wailing over the Poor Little Kids who would perish by immediately gobbling down pills and injecting poison, is summoning up crocodile tears, in my opinion. They would – and presently do – mature into grown-up idiots, and Darwin would be appalled that his lessons were ignored.

I’m sure Darwin would be appalled, but not by what you think, you cankerous old monster.

But wait! There’s more!

I’m a believer in Social Darwinism. Not in every case. I would do anything to stop a twelve-year-old kid from doing it. Sincerely. But in general, I think that Darwinism, survival of the fittest, should be allowed to act itself out. As long as it doesn’t interfere with me and other sensible, rational people who could be affected by it. Innocent people, in other words.

This word “innocent” you use: methinks you’re a bit confused about its meaning. It tends to be applied to people who don’t advocate the murder-by-inaction of those weaker than themselves, but please, continue showering us with the wisdom only found in the mind of a man who’s really good at card tricks and self-promotion:

These are stupid people. And if they can’t survive, they don’t have the IQ, don’t have the thinking power to be able to survive, it’s unfortunate; I would hate to see it happen, but at the same time, it would clear the air.


Questions: Why would it be unfortunate?  Unfortunate for whom? If it’s a good for society, there’s nothing “unfortunate” about it. If there’s something unfortunate about it, then it’s not a good for society, and your grotesque worldview is dust and ashes.

And these stupid people you’re talking about: are they stupid because they failed a test, or because of a belief system? Should, say, religious people (whom you hold in contempt and certainly believe are stupid) be allowed to die? Say, if our houses catch on fire, should we be allowed to burn alive for the greater good?

If not, why not?

What measure of intelligence are we talking about? For instance, say you need your car fixed, and there’s a mechanic who can’t read, write, or do higher math, but he can disassemble and reassemble a car engine. I have a relative like this, so it’s not an abstract question. Should he be allowed to die? If so, then who’s gonna fix your damn car? Do we have a “stupidity exception” for useful people?

What about aging magicians? I’m really not quite sure what you’re contributing to the world right now. You seem a little arthritic and, based on the rot coming out of your mouth, your brain is clearly decaying. Senility can’t be far off, if indeed it isn’t already here.  If someone smarter or healthier than you tried to kill you or allow you die through inaction, would I be wrong to stand by idly and let it happen?

If not, why not?

Oh, and my family is totally screwed:

I think that people with mental aberrations who have family histories of inherited diseases and such, that something should be done seriously to educate them to prevent them from procreating. I think they should be gathered together in a suitable place and have it demonstrated for them what their procreation would mean for the human race.

A suitable place? You mean, like a camp? Where we can, y’know, concentrate all the unsuitable and untermenschen? Spiffing idea!

Self-styled skeptics (as opposed to, say, Forteans) are just so very tedious. There is no unexplained phenomena they cannot explain away, even unto the point that their explanations become absurdly tendentious. Their skepticism is a religion unto itself, just like evangelical atheism. I traveled in Fortean circles for a while, and never met one “skeptic” who wasn’t vain and egotistical. This anti-humanism bubbles below the surface of the entire movement.

So, dear “skeptical”/atheist community, please fill in the blank:

“The difference between the views of James Randi and Nazi eugenicists is _______________. “

Go ahead, take your time. I’ll wait. You embraced him. You own him.

Will we see him at the next Reason Rally? I bet we will. They do so love their hate.

H/T Fortean Times

“And Don’t Skimp On the Pâté”

The Mighty Flynn has the original story and Mark Shea has the jokes. Yes, scientists have finally achieved the ultimate in mechanization: vomiting robots:

The robot is named Vomiting Larry, and isn’t being used for sight gags, but is helping scientists to better understand the spread of noroviruses, also know as the winter vomiting bug, which can cause projectile vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of taste. Noroviruses are transmitted directly between people via aerosolization — having physical substances emit particles that float around in the air — and indirectly by contaminated consumables like food and water. When humans throw up, aerosolization takes place, and thus, Vomiting Larry was born so scientists can study human vomiting without, you know, humans vomiting.

Vomiting Larry is anatomically correct, so its vomiting pattern is pretty close to what humans experience. Because of this, it helped scientists figure out that the norovirus can travel up to 9.8 feet with the help of projectile vomiting. Each individual splattering of vomit in that 9.8-foot chain contains enough noroviruses to infect many people — it only takes around 20 particles to fully infect someone.

I guess that’s reasonable enough and useful for epidemiology, although it sounds like something Adam and Jamie could have knocked off in a couple afternoons, and made it entertaining in the process. Since it was done by the British Health and Safety Laboratory (and, yes, when I saw the headline about vomiting robots, my first thought was, “Dammit, the Japanese have beaten us again!“), I envision lots of grant money and time-wasting to get the same results, eg: virus’s spread when you puke.  Duly noted.

Knowing it’s 9.8 feet is useful … how? When someone fails their fortitude roll and starts cacking, do you draw a circle around them in chalk, starting at 9.8 feet, and hide the children somewhere at the 10′ mark?

I have to say I’m more disappointed in Shea than in the British Health and Safety Laboratory who came up with the name “Larry” for a barfing robot. He noted that “Hugh,” “Earl,” and “Ralph” would have been better names, but missed the most obvious one, given that Larry’s an Englishmen:

“Oh %#$%: it’s Mr. Creosote!”


Your Terrifying Techno-Fascist Quote of the Day

“It is not my belief that an unmanned system will be able to be perfectly ethical in the battlefield, but I am convinced that they can perform more ethically than human soldiers are capable of.”

Ronald Arkin, Georgia Institute of Technology–

What’s the man talking about? Autonomous drones: dumb metal programmed by fallible humans to wage a more merciful war. (There’s no such thing. Even Star Trek figured that out.)

There is a fundamentally anti-human belief that we can program an ethical machine that will coldly evaluate a situation and always make the right choice, unlike these icky meat sacks and their faulty programming. Humans, in this evaluation, are just bad code. Remove them from the loop, and all will be well.

Professor, let me introduce you to Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, courtesy of Leah Libresco, who declined to annihilate the planet despite overwhelming (and false) evidence that this would have been the proper course of action. The computer would have launched. The human–tempered by human judgment and mercy–did not.

Obama’s drone war is already one of the most horrific, merciless, cold, inhuman war crimes of our time. Automation wouldn’t make it any better. Giving drones the power and authority to kill–removing the human from the decision loop (something an officer once told me would never, ever happen)–is madness to the nth degree.

Professor Arkin is an expert on the subject of autonomous lethality in robots. I would suggest that this is nothing for which we need experts. We need to say: “Okay, no. We don’t program robots with that capability, whatever short-sighted and spurious reasons you care to cook up to the contrary.” We would be better without any robots at all than with even one programmed with the capacity to kill. Robots aren’t actually necessary, and humanity can do just fine without them. You don’t need to fear a world without robots. You need to fear a world with people who feel robots can be more “ethical” than humans. You need to fear a world where morality has collapsed so completely that an elite feels the need to restore that morality through machines. A machine is incapable of being a moral agent.

Gosh, It’s Hot!: Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

Members of the Church of Global Warming are saying the dramatic heat and storm mess we’re experiencing is what global warming will look like. Note how they tack back and forth in their use of language when it suits them: “global warming” yielded to “global climate change,” which gave way to “global climate disruption.” Now that things are actually warm, we’re back to calling it “global warming.”

At least, that’s what the hysterics are calling it. The rest of us can just call it “weather,” which has been known to cycle a bit from cold to hot and back again, with things called “storms” happening sometimes. We used to be able to acknowledge this reality without immediately going into pants-soiling “The end is nigh!” mode, but that’s before religion based on transcendence got replaced by religion based on SCIENCE! (Science is a means, not an end.)

The fun thing about the AP story is that they won’t claim our hot summer (I know: a hot summer! We’ve never had those before!) is caused by global warming climate change climate disruption warming, but that this is what global warming may “look like.” In other words, the Big Brains are saying that if the planet is warming, then it will be just like a warm planet. Remember: the first rule of Tautology Club is the First Rule of Tautology Club.

“This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in fire-charred Colorado, said these are the very record-breaking conditions he has said would happen, but many people wouldn’t listen. So it’s I told-you-so time, he said.

If you listen hard enough, you can hear the Nelson laugh at the end of that sentence.

Is the planet warming? Maybe. Or maybe not. The science isn’t “settled,” certainly not when scientists are gaming the data and using junk prediction models.

Are we responsible for global warming? Maybe. Or maybe not. I’m inclined to think the giant ball of burning plasma around which we orbit probably has a bit more to do with it than a bunch of higher primates using hairspray and internal combustion engines.

Is there anything that can be done about it by hysterics urging staggeringly expensive, impractical and freedom-killing non-solutions?

Of course not. Not even a tiny bit. The entire global warming industry is a way to transfer money and power back into the hands of a first-world elite, and to continue to keep the third-world poor and undeveloped. Dramatic global changes to “combat” “climate change” would cost lives, money, and development, and the people urging us to adopt these changes aren’t even certain they would do a thing.

Seriously: when you’ve lost James Lovelock, you’ve lost.

It’s funny: scientists and materials are always urging us to be skeptical about everything … except science and materialism.

Sexual Imagery and Teens

I just love BS sciency headlines that draw absurd conclusions from facts not in evidence, cite studies that are woefully incomplete even by the standards of the scientists involved, and make bold declarations with no connection to reality. In this case it’s an article at that wants to assure us that swimming in a cultural swamp does nothing at all to affect the psyches of teenagers with a headline that blares “Teenagers not taken in by raunchy imagery”.

Let’s unpack that nonsense. Continue reading