Robots

Zarjaz! Rebellion to Open Studio for 2000AD Films

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/11/2018 - 5:45am in

Here’s a piece of good news for the Squaxx dek Thargo, the Friends of Tharg, editor of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. According to today’s I, 26th November 2018, Rebellion, the comic’s current owners, have bought a film studio and plan to make movies based on 2000AD characters. The article, on page 2, says

A disused printing factory in Oxfordshire is to be converted into a major film studio. The site in Didcot has been purchased by Judge Dredd publisher Rebellion to film adaptations from its 2000 AD comic strips. The media company based in Oxford hopes to create 500 jobs and attract outside contractors.

Judge Dredd, the toughest lawman of the dystopian nightmare of Megacity 1, has been filmed twice, once as Judge Dredd in the 1990s, starring Sylvester Stallone as Dredd, and then six years ago in 2012, as Dredd, with Karl Urban in the starring role. The Stallone version was a flop and widely criticized. The Dredd film was acclaimed by fans and critics, but still didn’t do very well. Two possible reasons are that Dredd is very much a British take on the weird absurdities of American culture, and so doesn’t appeal very much to an American audience. The other problem is that Dredd is very much an ambiguous hero. He’s very much a comment on Fascism, and was initially suggested by co-creator Pat Mills as a satire of American Fascistic policing. The strip has a very strong satirical element, but nevertheless it means that the reader is expected to identify at least partly with a Fascist, though recognizing just how dreadful Megacity 1 and its justice system is. It nevertheless requires some intellectual tight rope walking, though it’s one that Dredd fans have shown themselves more than capable of doing. Except some of the really hardcore fans, who see Dredd as a role model. In interviews Mills has wondered where these people live. Did they have their own weird chapterhouse somewhere?

Other 2000AD strips that looked like they were going to make the transition from the printed page to the screen, albeit the small one of television, were Strontium Dog and Dan Dare. Dare, of course, was the Pilot of Future, created by Marcus Morris for the Eagle, and superbly drawn by Franks Hampson and Bellamy. He was revived for 2000 AD when it was launched in the 1970s, where he was intended to be the lead strip before losing this to Dredd. The strip was then revived again for the Eagle, when this was relaunched in the 1980s. As I remember, Edward Norton was to star as Dare.

Strontium Dog came from 2000 AD’s companion SF comic, StarLord, and was the tale of Johnny Alpha, a mutant bounty hunter, his norm partner, the Viking Wulf, and the Gronk, a cowardly alien that suffered from a lisp and a serious heart condition, but who could eat metal. It was set in a future, where the Earth had been devastated by a nuclear war. Mutants were a barely tolerated minority, forced to live in ghettos after rising in rebellion against an extermination campaign against them by Alpha’s bigoted father, Nelson Bunker Kreelman. Alpha and his fellow muties worked as bounty hunters, the only job they could legally do, hunting down the galaxy’s crims and villains.

Back in the 1990s the comic’s then publishers tried to negotiate a series of deals with Hollywood for the translation on their heroes on to the big screen. These were largely unsuccessful, and intensely controversial. In one deal, the rights for one character was sold for only a pound, over the heads of the creators. They weren’t consulted, and naturally felt very angry and bitter about the deal.

This time, it all looks a lot more optimistic. I’d like to see more 2000 AD characters come to life, on either the big screen or TV. Apart from Dredd, it’d good to see Strontium Dog and Dare be realized for screen at last. Other strips I think should be adapted are Slaine, the ABC Warriors and The Ballad of Halo Jones. Slaine, a Celtic warrior strip set in the period before rising sea levels separated Britain, Ireland and Europe, and based on Celtic myths, legends and folklore, is very much set in Britain and Ireland. It could therefore be filmed using some of the megalithic remains, hillforts and ancient barrows as locations, in both the UK and Eire. The ABC Warriors, robotic soldiers fighting injustice, as well as the Volgan Republic, on Earth and Mars, would possibly be a little more difficult to make. It would require both CGI and robotics engineers to create the Warriors. But nevertheless, it could be done. There was a very good recreation of an ABC Warrior in the 1990s Judge Dredd movie, although this didn’t do much more than run amok killing the judges. It was a genuine machine, however, rather than either a man in a costume or animation, either with a model or by computer graphics. And the 1980s SF movie Hardware, which ripped off the ‘Shock!’ tale from 2000AD, showed that it was possible to create a very convincing robot character on a low budget.

The Ballad of Halo Jones might be more problematic, but for different reasons. The strip told the story of a young woman, who managed to escape the floating slum of an ocean colony to go to New York. She then signed on as a waitress aboard a space liner, before joining the army to fight in a galactic war. It was one of the comic’s favourite strips in the 1980s, and for some of its male readers it was their first exposure to something with a feminist message. According to Neil Gaiman, the strip’s creator, Alan Moore, had Jones’ whole life plotted out, but the story ended with Jones’ killing of the Terran leader, General Cannibal, on the high-gravity planet Moab. There was a dispute over the ownership of the strip and pay between Moore and IPC. Moore felt he was treated badly by the comics company, and left for DC, never to return to 2000 AD’s pages. Halo Jones was turned into a stage play by one of the northern theatres, and I don’t doubt that even after a space of thirty years after she first appeared, Jones would still be very popular. But for it to be properly adapted for film or television, it would have to be done involving the character’s creators, Moore and Ian Gibson. Just as the cinematic treatment of the other characters should involve their creators. And this might be difficult, given that Moore understandably feels cheated of the ownership of his characters after the film treatments of Watchmen and V For Vendetta.

I hope that there will be no problems getting the other 2000 AD creators on board, and that we can soon look forward to some of the comics many great strips finally getting on to the big screen.

Splundig vur thrig, as the Mighty One would say.

Thoughts and Prayers for Pittsburgh after Nazi Shooting Outrage

The people of Britain, as I’m sure others were across the world, were shocked by the news of the terrible shooting yesterday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. BBC News this evening reported that the gunman killed eleven people. He walked into this place of worship carrying a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns. I think the dead included two police officers. One of his victims was 97. What makes this even more heinous is that, as I understand it, it was done during a service for babies.

This, unfortunately, is only the latest mass shooting in the Land of the Free. There have been many, many, indeed too many others – at schools, nightclubs, sports events and other places of worship. A little while ago another racist shooter gunned down the folks in a black church. Another maniac attacked a Sikh gurdwara. And the Beeb’s reporter also stated that there had been another shooting in Kentucky, which had been overshadowed by the Pittsburgh shooting.

The alleged killer, John Bowers, is reported to have a history of posting on anti-Semitic websites. Yesterday, 27th October 2018, Hope Not Hate published on their website a piece about Bowers by their researcher Patrik Hermansson. Bowers had been a frequent poster on Gab, a social network associated with the Alt-Right. Hermansson states that Bowers’ name was removed from the network after it was published, but it still retained archived material posted by him. His profile banners in recent months included the number 1488. This is a White Supremacist code. The 14 refers to the infamous 14 Words of one particular neo-Nazi. I can’t quite remember the exact quote, but it’s something about creating a White homeland and securing ‘a future for White children’. The ’88’ bit is simply a numerical code. The 8 stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet, which is H. 88 = HH, which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’. on the 21st June 2018 he posted this prayer

Lord,

Make me fast and accurate. Let my aim be true and my hand faster than those who would seek to destroy me. Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to do harm to me and mine. Let not my last thought be “If only I had my gun” and Lord if today is truly the day that You call me home, let me die in a pile of brass.

He also watched videos by Colin McCarthy, a far-right author of books claiming that Whites now suffer more racial violence at the hands of Blacks than the reverse, and that racial discrimination against Black is a hoax.

He has also posted messages expressing his disappointment that George Soros hasn’t been assassinated, presumably referring to the far-right Qanon conspiratorial movement. Another message supported the Rise Above Movement, a far-right ‘Fight Club’.

He also posted that ‘HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and let my people get slaughtered.’ The Beeb tonight said that he was angry at a Jewish charity for bringing Jews into the country. This sounds like the post they were referring to.

https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/10/27/exclusive-pittsburgh-shooters-social-media-profile-reveals-white-supremacist-views/

From this it appears that Bowers believed in all the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly plotting to destroy the White race. It’s foul nonsense which has been disproved again and again, but there are still people who believe and are determined to promote it.

The Beeb in their report also discussed whether anything would be done about the availability of firearms in America after this. Their reporter said ‘No’. On the other hand, he said that while Trump couldn’t be blamed for this outrage – he condemned it – there would now be pressure on him to retreat on some of the incendiary rhetoric, which appears to have had a role in encouraging another right-winger to post letter bombs to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This would, however, be a problem for Trump, as this has occurred in the run-up to the mid-term elections, when the contrary pressure was on to increase the verbal attacks against political opponents.

Kevin Logan, a vlogger who attacks and refutes the misogynist Men’s Rights movement and various racist and Fascistic individuals on YouTube, posted a video last night arguing that Trump really was anti-Semitic. This was based on some of Trump’s comments, which appear to be dog-whistle remarks about the Jews. To everyone not a Nazi, they appear to be perfectly innocuous. But to the members of the Alt-Right, they’re clear expressions of his own racial hatred. And then there’s his support amongst the Alt-Right, and his foul statement equivocating the morality responsibility behind the violence at the ‘Unite the Right’ racist rally in Charlottesville last year. Remember, he claimed that there were ‘good people on both sides’. No, the violence was done by the Nazis and Klansmen who turned up. And it’s automatically true that people chanting ‘the Jews will not replace us’ are not good people. Trump also took a suspiciously long time distancing himself and condemning a nasty, anti-Semitic comment from David Duke, a leader of the Klan down in Lousiana. Who is, needless to say, bitterly anti-Semitic. Logan’s an atheist, so he doesn’t offer prayers, but states very clearly that he stands in solidarity and sympathy with the victims of the Pittsburgh shooter. And ends his piece with the Spanish anti-Fascist slogan ‘No Pasaran!’ – ‘They shall not pass’.

I don’t think Trump is an anti-Semite, as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism to marry him. But his supporters are Fascists, and Trump does seem to have far-right sympathies. And he has rightly condemned the shooting. Nevertheless, he doesn’t condemn the type of people who support and commit these actions. Like the Alt-Right, like Richard Spencer, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon, the far-right politicos, who served in his cabinet.

And the problem isn’t confined to Trump by any means. Some of the rhetoric coming out of the Republican party is extraordinarily venomous. I can remember one Republican Pastor denouncing Hillary Clinton back in the 1990s as ‘the type of woman who turns to lesbianism, leaves her husband, worships Satan and sacrifices her children’. Which is not only poisonous, but stark staring bonkers. Secular Talk a few years ago commented on the two hosts of a church radio station, who declared that Barack Obama was full of a genocidal hatred towards Whites and was planning to kill everyone with a White skin in the US. He would, they blithely announced, kill more people than Mao and Stalin combined. No, he didn’t. As for the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, he claimed that Barack Obama was possessed by Satan, Hillary was having a lesbian affair with one of her aides, and was a robot, at least from the waist down. Or she was an alien, or possessed by aliens. He also said something about her having sex with goblins. Oh yes, and she was also a Satanic witch. Back to Barack Obama, Jones claimed that he was planning to have a state of emergency declared to force people into FEMA camps and take their guns away. He also said on his programme that the Democrats were running a paedophile ring from out of a Boston pizza parlour. He also denied that the various school shootings that have tragically occurred were real. Instead they were government fakes, intended to produce an outcry against guns so that, once again, the government could take the public’s guns away. Leaving them vulnerable and ready to be slaughtered by the globalists.

I don’t know whether Jones is a charlatan or a nutter. It’s unclear whether he really believes this bilge, or just spouts it because it’s a money-maker and gets him noticed. Either way, YouTube and a slew of other internet sites and networks have refused to carry his material because of its inflammatory and libelous nature. Someone walked into the pizza parlour he named as the centre of the Democrats’ paedophile ring with a gun, demanding to free the kids he claimed were kept in the basement. There were, obviously, no children, and no basement. Fortunately, the incident ended without anyone being killed. The grieving parents of kids murdered in some of the school shootings he falsely claimed were fake took legal action against him because they had people turning up accusing them of being ‘crisis actors’ sent in by the government as part of the staged event. The shootings weren’t staged, and understandably the parents were angry.

Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but it’s not the whole problem. It’s not just the political rhetoric that needs to be curtailed, but also the vicious demonization of those of other races, and the encouragement of Fascist organisations. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, relatives and first responders of this latest killing. May they be comforted, and no more have to suffer as they and so many before them have.

Video of Three Military Robots

This is another video I round on robots that are currently under development on YouTube, put up by the channel Inventions World. Of the three, one is Russian and the other two are American.

The first robot is shown is the Russian, Fyodor, now being developed by Rogozin. It’s anthropomorphic, and is shown firing two guns simultaneously from its hands on a shooting range, driving a car and performing a variety of very human-style exercises, like press-ups. The company says that it was taught to fire guns to give it instant decision-making skills. And how to drive a car to make it autonomous. Although it can move and act on its own, it can also mirror the movements of a human operator wearing a mechanical suit. The company states that people shouldn’t be alarmed, as they are building AI, not the Terminator.

The next is CART, a tracked robot which looks like nothing so much as a gun and other equipment, possibly sensors, on top of a tank’s chassis and caterpillar tracks. It seems to be one of a series of such robots, designed for the American Marine corps. The explanatory text on the screen is flashed up a little too quickly to read everything, but it seems intended to provide support for the human troopers by providing extra power and also carrying their equipment for them. Among the other, similar robots which appear is a much smaller unit about the size of a human foot, seen trundling about.

The final robot is another designed by Boston Dynamics, which has already built a man-like robot and a series of very dog-like, four-legged robots, if I remember correctly. This machine is roughly humanoid. Very roughly. It has four limbs, roughly corresponding to arms and legs. Except the legs end in wheels and the arms in rubber grips, or end effectors. Instead of a head, it has a square box and the limbs look like they’ve been put on backwards. It’s shown picking up a crate in a say which reminds me of a human doing it backward, bending over to pick it up behind him. But if his legs were also put on back to front. It’s also shown spinning around, leaping into the area and scooting across the test area with one wheel on the ground and another going up a ramp.

Actually, what the Fyodor robot brings to my mind isn’t so much Schwarzenegger and the Terminator movies, but Hammerstein and his military robots from 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’ strip. The operation of the machine by a human wearing a special suite also reminds me of a story in the ‘Hulk’ comic strip waaaay back in the 1970s. In this story, the Hulk’s alter ego, Banner, found himself inside a secret military base in which robots very similar to Fyodor were being developed. They were also controlled by human operators. Masquerading as the base’s psychiatrist, Banner meets one squaddie, who comes in for a session. The man is a robot operator, and tells Banner how he feels dehumanized through operating the robot. Banner’s appalled and decides to sabotage the robots to prevent further psychological damage. He’s discovered, of course, threatened or attacked, made angry, and the Hulk and mayhem inevitably follow.

That story is very definitely a product of the ’70s and the period of liberal self-doubt and criticism following the Vietnam War, Nixon and possibly the CIA’s murky actions around the world, like the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. The Hulk always was something of a countercultural hero. He was born when Banner, a nuclear scientist, got caught with the full force of the gamma radiation coming off a nuclear test saving Rick, a teenager, who had strayed into the test zone. Rick was an alienated, nihilistic youth, who seems to have been modelled on James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Banner pulls him out of his car, and throws him into the safety trench, but gets caught by the explosion before he himself could get in. Banner himself was very much a square. He was one of the scientists running the nuclear tests, and his girlfriend was the daughter of the army commander in charge of them. But the Hulk was very firmly in the sights of the commander, and the strip was based around Banner trying to run away from him while finding a cure for his new condition. Thus the Hulk would find himself fighting a series of running battles against the army, complete with tanks. The Ang Lee film of the Hulk that came out in the 1990s was a flop, and it did take liberties with the Hulk’s origin, as big screen adaptations often do with their source material. But it did get right the antagonism between the great green one and the army. The battles between the two reminded me very much of their depictions in the strip. The battle between the Hulk and his father, who now had the power to take on the properties of whatever he was in contact with was also staged and shot very much like similar fights also appeared in the comic, so that watching the film I felt once again a bit like I had when I was a boy reading it.

As for the CART and related robots, they remind me of the tracked robot the army sends in to defuse bombs. And research on autonomous killing vehicles like them were begun a very long time ago. The Germans in the Second World War developed small robots, remotely operated which also moved on caterpillar tracks. These carried bombs, and the operators were supposed to send them against Allied troops, who would then be killed when they exploded. Also, according to the robotics scientist Kevin Warwick of Reading University, the Americans developed an automatic killer robot consisting of a jeep with a machine gun in the 1950s. See his book, March of the Machines.

Despite the Russians’ assurances that they aren’t building the Terminator, Warwick is genuinely afraid that the robots will eventually take over and subjugate humanity. And he’s not alone. When one company a few years ago somewhere said that they were considering making war robots, there was an outcry from scientists around the world very much concerned about the immense dangers of such machines.

Hammerstein and his metallic mates in ‘ABC Warriors’ have personalities and a conscience, with the exception of two: Blackblood and Mekquake. These robots have none of the intelligence and humanity of their fictional counterparts. And without them, the fears of the opponents of such machines are entirely justified. Critics have made the point that humans are needed on the battle to make ethical decisions that robots can’t or find difficult. Like not killing civilians, although you wouldn’t guess that from the horrific atrocities committed by real, biological flesh and blood troopers.

The robots shown here are very impressive technologically, but I’d rather have their fictional counterparts created by Mills and O’Neill. They were fighting machines, but they had a higher purpose behind their violence and havoc:

Increase the peace!

Meh-bots

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/08/2018 - 2:29am in

Do robots care? Aeon has an edited version of the inaugural Margaret Boden Lecture, delivered by Boden herself. You can see the full lecture above. Among other things, she tells us that the robots are not going to take over because they don’t care. No computer has actual motives, the way human beings do, and they are indifferent to what happens (if we can even speak of indifference in a case where no desire or aversion is possible).

No doubt Boden is right; it’s surely true at least that no current computer has anything that’s really the same as human motivation. For me, though, she doesn’t provide a convincing account of why human motives are special, and why computers can’t have them, and perhaps doesn’t sufficiently engage with the possibility that robots might take over the world (or at least, do various bad out-of-control things) without having human motives, or caring what happens in the fullest sense. We know already that learning systems set goals by humans are prone to finding cheats or expedients never envisaged by the people who set up the task; while it seems a bit of a stretch to suppose that a supercomputer might enslave all humanity in pursuit of its goal of filling the world with paperclips (about which, however, it doesn’t really care), it seems quite possible real systems might do some dangerous things. Might a self-driving car (have things gone a bit quiet on that front, by the way?) decide that its built-in goal of not colliding with other vehicles can be pursued effectively by forcing everyone else off the road?

What is the ultimate source of human motivation? There are two plausible candidates that Boden doesn’t mention. One is qualia; I think John Searle might say, for example, that it’s things like the quake of hunger, how hungriness really feels, that are the roots of human desire. That nicely explains why computers can’t have them, but for me the old dilemma looms. If qualia are part of the causal account, then they must be naturalisable and in principle available to machines. If they aren’t part of the causal story, how do they influence human behaviour?

Less philosophically, many people would trace human motives to the evolutionary imperatives of survival and reproduction. There must be some truth in that, but isn’t there also something special about human motivation, something detached from the struggle to live?

Boden seems to rest largely on social factors, which computers, as non-social beings, cannot share in. No doubt social factors are highly important in shaping and transmitting motivation, but what about Baby Crusoe, who somehow grew up with no social contact? His mental state may be odd, but would we say he has no more motives than a computer? Then again, why can’t computers be social, either by interacting with each other, or by joining in human society? It seems they might talk to human beings, and if we disallow that as not really social, we are in clear danger of begging the question.

For me the special, detached quality of human motivation arises from our capacity to imagine and foresee. We can randomly or speculatively envisage future states, decide we like or detest them, and plot a course accordingly, coming up with motives that don’t grow out of current circumstances. That capacity depends on the intentionality or aboutness of consciousness, which computers entirely lack – at least for now.

But that isn’t quite what Boden is talking about, I think; she means something in our emotional nature. That – human emotions – is a deep and difficult matter on which much might be said; but at the moment I can’t really be bothered…

 

Alexa, What Is There to Know about Love?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/07/2018 - 6:50pm in

Alexa, what is there to know about love?
What is there to know about love?
A glove is a garment that covers the hand
for protection from the cold or dirt and –

Alexa, how does a human heart work?
How does a human heart work?
Blood is first received in the right atrium via
two veins, the vena cava superior and inferior –

Alexa, where do we go to when we die?
Where do we go to when we die?
Activating Google Maps. Completed activation.
Would you like to start from your current location?

Alexa, what does it mean to be alone?
What does it mean to be alone?
It is the silence left by words unsaid,
the cold expanse of half a bed.
It is the endless stretching of the hours,
the needless tending of plastic flowers.
It is an echo unanswered in a cave,
the fateful ping of the microwave.
It is the fraying of a worn shirt cuff,
and the howl –
Stop, Alexa. That’s enough.