Jaron Lanier is the father of Virtual Reality, and one of the most respected technology writers in the world. He has appeared in multiple publications, including the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Nature, Wired, Discover, and Forbes. Time magazine chose him as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. Winner of multiple awards and honorary doctorates, he is a computer scientist, musician, and author of “Who Owns the Future?” and “You Are Not a Gadget.” His new book is a biographical reflection on AI, social media, and our connection to VR and the internet of things. “Dawn of the New Everything” is a must-read or must-hear treatise on the loss of humanity in today’s depressed, obsessed culture of online iPhone substitution for life. He says that Gamer Gate elected Trump, and the hatred for women in the gaming community is not total, but nearly so. Anyone perceived as “feminist” is a target. Fake news was created by the “alt-Right” within gaming, where guns solve all problems. (First person shooter games comprise most games. In some you can kill cops, civilians, and women on the street.) The promise of AI is being sidelined in favor of those who use it to spy and manipulate audiences for profit, often without their awareness. He says that creating an “ethical” algorithm is not possible at this point, since programs are about numbers, not feelings. So it is important for people to stop talking about the Terminator, and work to create partnerships with technology to work for good, with transparency. Get out of the bubble they want you inside in order to better sell you products and beliefs, and look around with real human eyes at real problems requiring human creativity to solve.
Saw Blade Runner 2049. Great film. Good story, but mostly a moving tribute to the original classic. Ryan Gosling is superb, and the special effects alone make the movie worth seeing. (Finally, an intelligent film after so much superhero madness and one-liners!) Never boring. Not even for narcissists with low attention span. And I didn’t see it in 3D, just standard screen. Cringed to see the giant Coke ad, but it was probably more irony than product placement. Was it a masterpiece like the director’s cut of the original with Rutger Hauer? No, but I’m not complaining. Is Harrison’s Deckard a replicant? Little chance of that. The book says no, too. There’s a bigger surprise I can’t mention. Go see it, then listen to the audiobook, which is like an audio movie. At TowerReview.com I’ve posted links to a book on how the movie was made, plus a fashion tee shirt and the bomber jacket style worn by Gosling in the film. His image appears on the link. BTW, music? No tunes to sing, but an effective and eerie original score that swells to thunder at just the right moments.
A new book Ripples in Spacetime is an engaging account of the international effort to complete Einstein’s project, capture his elusive ripples, and launch an era of gravitational-wave astronomy that promises to explain, more vividly than ever before, our universe’s structure and origin. The quest for gravitational waves involved years of risky research and many personal and professional struggles that threatened to derail one of the world’s largest scientific endeavors. Govert Schilling takes listeners to sites where these stories unfolded-including Japan’s KAGRA detector, Chile’s Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the South Pole’s BICEP detectors, and the United States’ LIGO labs. He explains the seeming impossibility of developing technologies sensitive enough to detect waves from two colliding black holes in the very distant universe, and describes the astounding precision of the LIGO detectors. Along the way Schilling clarifies concepts such as general relativity, neutron stars, and the big bang using language that listeners with little scientific background can grasp. Govert Schilling (1956) is an internationally acclaimed astronomy writer in the Netherlands. He is a contributing editor of Sky & Telescope, and his articles have appeared in Science, New Scientist and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. He wrote over fifty books (in Dutch) on a wide variety of astronomical topics, some of which have been translated into English, including Evolving Cosmos, Flash! The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe, The Hunt for Planet X, and Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries. In 2007, the International Astronomical Union named asteroid (10986) Govert after him.