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Science Fiction: AI-Alerts

Machine writing is becoming more human–all too human, in some cases

Fast Company

Where writing is concerned, the best of today's AIs can be very, very good. A few years ago, a text generator called GPT-2 analyzed a sample of writing by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, then produced an imitation that hardly anyone could distinguish from the real thing. A more recent AI called Copilot, which has been customized for programming uses, is speeding up the work of practiced coders–it sometimes knows more than they do. A sample from a writing assistant called Jasper (formerly known as Jarvis) struck an editor as better than the work of some professional writers. The machines seem to have a particular knack for conversations. This may not be writing per se, but it's a language challenge that leaves some humans floundering.

Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan


When Chen Qiufan took a trip to the southwest Chinese province of Yunnan 15 years ago, he noticed that time seemed to slow down as he reached the city of Lijiang. Chen was a recent college graduate with a soul-sucking real estate job in the pressure-cooker metropolis of Shenzhen, and Lijiang was a backpacker's refuge. Wandering through the small city, he was enchanted by the serrated rows of snow-capped mountains on the horizon and the schools of fish swimming through meandering canals. But he was also unnerved by the throngs of city dwellers like himself--burned out, spiritually lost, adrift. He wove his observations together into a short story called " The Fish of Lijiang," about a depressed office worker who travels to a vacation town, only to discover that everything is artificially engineered--from the blue sky to the fish in the streams to the experience of time itself.

Netflix's 'Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein' Is a Fun Mess


David Harbour, best known for playing supernaturally beleaguered small-town cop Jim Hopper, is now on to even stranger things. In the mockumentary Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein, he plays a puffed-up version of himself, investigating the life of his father, David Harbour Junior, after he unearths footage of his dad's televised stage play while killing rats in his mother's attic. What Harbour discovers--the bizarre artifact that is the play Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein and lots more scandal besides--challenges everything he thinks he knows about his father in just about 30 minutes. Stranger Things' Noah Schnapp Has a Crush on Zendaya What Stranger Things' High Viewership Numbers Actually Mean What he finds is also bizarrely funny. In real life, Harbour's dad's name is Ken and he's in real estate.

Sci-Fi Author Robert Heinlein Was Basically MacGyver


Robert Heinlein is the legendary author of such classic works as Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Stranger in a Strange Land. His books have influenced generations of artists and scientists, including physicist and science fiction writer Gregory Benford. "He was one of the people who propelled me forward to go into the sciences," Benford says in Episode 348 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "Because his depiction of the prospect of the future of science, engineering--everything--was so enticing. He was my favorite science fiction writer."

What Asimov Predicted For 2019: Computerization And Lunar Life

NPR Technology

Computer scientist and professor Eugene Fiume talks about what science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov got right and wrong in his predictions of 2019.

Hunting for Frankenstein Amid Switzerland's Melting Glaciers and Nuclear Bunkers


Most people visit the Swiss Alps to ski or hike, maybe to launder money. British photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews went to find Frankenstein. Mathews, a fan, brought along her old copy to read, letting the text guide her journey through the landscape. "My eyes scanned the barren white lands for Frankenstein's creature, crossing the glacier at'super-human speed'," she writes in the introduction to her new photo book, In Search of Frankenstein - Mary Shelley's Nightmare. "I imagined catching a darting figure in my peripheral vision or coming across a makeshift cabin that had sheltered the fugitive for the night."

Annihilation Is the Latest Example of How Women Are Taking Over Science-Fiction Movies

Slate - Articles

Annihilation deals in bountiful hallucinogenic imagery, but the image from Alex Garland's sci-fi horror that may prove most remarkable to audiences is one that really ought to be mundane: a poster featuring the film's five female leads. It's an uncommon setup, and not just for a generously budgeted studio picture.

Sci-fi film 'Black Hollow Cage' will leave you uncomfortably numb

Los Angeles Times

Writer-director Sadrac González puts an austere, arty spin on a solid science-fiction premise in "Black Hollow Cage," a time-travel movie more in the mold of Andrei Tarkovsky than "Back to the Future." The film looks stunning and presents some provocative ideas, but González's quietly contemplative approach is numbing.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

NYT > U.S.

Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like "The Left Hand of Darkness" and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. Her son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in poor health for several months. Ms. Le Guin embraced the standard themes of her chosen genres: sorcery and dragons, spaceships and planetary conflict. But even when her protagonists are male, they avoid the macho posturing of so many science fiction and fantasy heroes.

The future of computing as predicted by nine science-fiction machines

The Guardian

Science fiction has an uncanny ability to predict the future of technology, from Star Trek's Padd, essentially an iPad, to the Jetsons' robot vacuum, basically a Roomba. Now that the voice assistant is here, that's another checklist off the sci-fi predictor, but while our Alexas, Siris, Cortanas and Google Assistants are pretty basic right now, if sci-fi continues its great prelude to the future, what will the computers of the future really be like? According to Amazon's head of devices, Dave Limp, the next phase in computing is less about the physical thing and more about how and where you access it. He says: "We think of it as ambient computing, which is computer access that's less dedicated personally to you but more ubiquitous. "Our vision is to create that Star Trek computer and work backwards from that.