Friday, April 22, 2011

Comfort of Silence and Company

To this day I still haven't decided which of the two comforts is more, well, comforting: the comfort of silence and solitude or the comfort of company. Both have their advantages but, more often than not, I find myself torn between the two and which to settle for.

The comfort of silence allows one to examine their troubles deeper, letting the thoughts rage, drawing connections and conclusions only the chaos of one's mind would draw. While it is a dangerous path to take (for who knows what chaos may lead to?) wisdom comes from this and, to those who are good at controlling their emotions, the drawn conclusions may very well lead to order of the mind. But for those whose emotions get the best of them more often than not, as is the case with me, there is always the risk of that chaos of thought leading to destruction on a deeper level. Think of it as something perpetually clawing chunks of your mind off. Again, while this is a dangerous path to take, it allows you to face your feelings rather than storing them in various recesses of your brain.

While it may not sound like a "comfort," per se, with that description, I find it is.

I'm not looking for pity with this post but rather trying to examine the options of dealing with issues. With that said, let's look at the comfort of company.

The comfort of company is somewhat opposite. Having someone or a group of people around eases your mind, taking the thoughts off the troubles and just changing the topic. It provides temporary comfort, but once that group disperses and you are once again left alone, only your emotional control ultimately decides whether the troubles will resurface or not. The troubles may seem trivial after the fact or you may decided that it is no longer care about it. The risk of it all is going back to square one after the group disperses. There is a chance that it may simply end up as a temporary escape. Besides, there is always an off-chance of the issues re-surfacing and ruining everyone's night along with yours.

The issue with me, especially after a few past events, is not knowing whether to seek the comfort of company or remain face to face with this onslaught of emotion. Mind you, the troubles at hand have been resurfacing for almost four years now. The comfort of company provides me with escape for a while, but then something happens, and I'm back where I started with just about every negative feeling present. 

Both comforts are desired and craved by everyone. There are times when we wish to simply be left alone and times, when we are alone, when we wish for someone to be by our side. The problem is deciding which to go for when both are equal options. That is a puzzle I am still trying to decipher.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On Perfection

Sorry for the lack of an update lately. Assignments are piling up and I'm trying to keep as best as I can. With that said, here's something I've been thinking of lately.
-ITW- said...
"If something is perfect, then there is nothing left for us to do. There is no room for imagination, no way to gain additional knowledge or grow." - Le Trung

There is something left to do... CORRUPT IT!! well that's what usually happens anyway. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-ITW-'s comment got me thinking about that topic. What is perfection? We, as humans, continuously strive for perfection. However, no matter whom you ask, everyone will have a different outlook on what perfection is. Some can't even say for sure what makes something perfect. Is it, perhaps, something infallible? If so, how can it be corrupted or questioned? Perhaps that is why some chose to create and believe in God; to assure themselves that something out there does, indeed, maintain the image and concept of perfection.

Humanity is a
naïve race. But, amidst the naïvety, perhaps we, as a race, are perfect after all. The level of technology that we have achieved in no way adds to our level of "perfection." Are we, then, striving for something that we can’t truly achieve?

Look around; observe every movement; examine every muscle in the body; explore the functions of any organism on a molecular level; see the bigger picture. We live on a rock floating in space. If the Earth suffered the slightest shift in its position, we would cease to exist. If our process of reproduction was altered, would humanity still exist now? Now question your view of perfection. The mundane details we view as "off" don’t matter when you consider the minuscule details that control the very existence of our race.

We will never agree on everything, but that is what only contributes to reinforcing the perfection of our population. Our ability to think for ourselves and defend our beliefs (or subdue to others') defines us as humans. The concept of duality is what keeps humans from becoming drones: smiling, happy, monotonous. How would we know what happiness or satisfaction is if we forgot what sadness and displeasure is? What would we consider good if we had no evil to contrast it to? Would we, then, know the grand feeling of fulfillment, or would we continuously crave more?


Going back to –ITW-‘s comment, nothing may ever be infallible except for that which we imagine. Something will always be corrupted or improved in some way with time. We insist that nothing is perfect, yet we, on occasion, find ourselves thinking “that is perfect” or “she/he is perfect,” only to contradict ourselves by saying that nothing is perfect. We accept the small details that make someone or something imperfect because they only contribute the characterization of it – making it three-dimensional, so to speak. Can we then come to the conclusion that perfection is in the eye of the beholder? Or that our imperfection may essentially be viewed as perfection?

Our striving to build on what we have – our perseverance – is what makes our existence worthwhile. That is what makes us, as humans, perfect.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dating Robots

"In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race."- Samuel Butler

Artificial Intelligence, or ‘AI’, is a topic often found in science fiction books and films. Today, it has become an essential part of the technological industry. While the concept may seem modern, it has been addressed by myths, fiction and philosophy since antiquity. Here are two examples:
  • In the Greek mythology, Talos was a giant man of bronze who protected Crete. He was assembled by Zeus himself or, in other versions of the myth, by Hephaestus. This is the first recorded reference to a robot in history.
  • In a 3rd century BC text of Leizi, a mechanical engineer Yan Shi presents King Mu of the Zhou dynasty with a mechanical man, which could be taken for a real human being.
On June 13, 1863, The Press newspaper published a letter written by Samuel Butler entitled “Darwin among the machines”. The letter raised the possibility that machines could evolve “mechanical consciousness” by means of Darwinian natural selection. Looking back at that statement today, perhaps he was not as wrong as people claimed him to be.  Numerous “revolutionary” technologies failed to make an impression and faded away as swiftly as they had emerged. However, similar technologies took their place and succeeded in “surviving.”

We have obviously come a long way since 1863. Technology has evolved faster than any animal and plant species. How long do we have until robots start evolving? Wait...robots?
Sony developed a robot a few years ago the features of which included a unique motion sensor that could recognize human gestures, such as waving, and respond in an appropriate fashion. Here is a video of similar robots that were programmed to dance:

A unique piece of technology indeed. While on the topic of robots, I’d like to tackle another recent invention. In 1993, Douglas Hines designed the first sex robot, “Trudy.” However, customers’ main concern was that it was not “user friendly.” The robot had no speech or movement capabilities. After losing a close friend in the 9/11 tragedy, Douglas Hines asked himself, “wouldn’t it be great if I could create a robot with artificial intelligence and have it hold someone’s personality and preferences – this way, we could talk to the robotic version of that person and ask it questions whenever we wanted?” The project was undertaken.

The concept was implemented into the creation of the new, revolutionary, life-size sex robot. Roxxxy comes with pre-programmed personalities that the user can choose from based on his preferences, such as S&M Susan, Wild Wendy, Frigid Farah, and others. On top of that, the user will have the ability to program personalities that fit his specific needs simply by connecting to the internet on the laptop that comes with Roxxxy. Once the personality is programmed, the robot is capable of carrying on conversations. Hines, being a fan of soccer, demonstrated the robot discussing Manchester United. The user be able to talk about whatever topics interest him.

Intelligence aside, when purchasing this robot, the buyer will have the opportunity to specify its physical features, such as hair, skin and eye colour, breast size and others. The “skin” contains motion sensors in specific areas of the robot’s body that cause the robot to respond appropriately when contact is made with specific contact points. The robot is also equipped with a mechanical heart and an articulated skeleton that can move like a real person, though unable to walk.

Such an ‘interchangeable” girlfriend costs $6,500, which includes the laptop that comes with the robot. Perhaps my thoughts are a little farfetched, but I foresee a grim future. With robots that can express “love” for you, carry on conversations and participate in bedroom activities, I see humans changing their preferences in companionship. While the price is steep, people will do much to find the “perfect” companion. Imagine what these Roxxxy robots would be like with the intelligence of the Aiko fem-bot!

Such intelligence in a robot may threaten human interactions in the future and, suddenly, Butler’s statement is much more foreboding. The very concept of robot lovers seems rather absurd and, when its technology advances further, it will threaten not only interactions, but also procreation. As more people start preferring perfect mechanical companions that are programmed specifically for them, the threat to the very existence of humanity will start to grow, especially with the male version of Roxxxy in development.
That sounds to me like an amazing premise for a dystopian novel.

As an additional reference, here is the site that shows every customizable feature of the robot and the choices:

http://www.truecompanion.com/shop/products/Roxxxy_With_Subscription-2-2.html

Sunday, October 3, 2010

B.R.A.I.N.S. - A Man's Dream

"If something is perfect, then there is nothing left for us to do. There is no room for imagination, no way to gain additional knowledge or grow." - Le Trung

"It actually starts back in the 70s during my childhood where I spent a lot of time watching Japanese anime which often featured robot themes. I remember saying to myself as a child, 'I will build one of those when I grow up,'" says Le Trung on his website. While most reviewers and bloggers bash his creation and dub him a pervert for this, the 33-year-old inventor is still going strong on perfecting his fem-bot.
Aiko fem-bot (Source: Project Aiko)
Aiko, which means "beloved one" in Japanese, is a robot that Le began building in August 2007. Having spent approximately $21,000 of his own money on the project so far, he is looking to further develop Aiko, giving her even more abilities than it has now.
While it may not seem very different from other androids that are being developed today by prestigious, well-funded organizations, Aiko is very unique in its artificial intelligence. The B.R.A.I.N.S. software (Bio Robot Artificial Intelligence Neural System) that Trung himself developed is capable of object and voice recognition, as well as actually learning new 3-D objects that are not already in its database simply by observing them and listening to what they are.
 

 
Here is how it works:
"The main vision system (main left) recognizes the person’s face and facial expressions. It also identifies 3D objects. The system tracing human motion (top right) identifies any movement in light blue. Unfortunately it is difficult to see here as I inadvertently wore blue, but if examined closely, there is a light blue area around my right hand as I wave it and the right side of my body which moves with my hand. The third system (bottom right) detects the point of interest. Notice that the AI ignores the chair and anything else in the background. The AI focuses on the most important “object” in the room, in this case, me."
B.R.A.I.N.S. software. (Source: Project Aiko)
The robot can currently speak and understand over 13,000 sentences. When Aiko is connected to the Internet, it also has the capability of telling the current time, as well as local and international weather and temperature.
Aside from the abilities already mentioned above, Aiko has another very neat feature. It is capable of reading and doing math. The AI system is capable of character recognition, which is then converted to speech. As far as math goes, it will solve any complex equation written on paper, along with the used variables with their values below. The reading and math demonstration can be seen 1:50 into the video linked at the end of the blog.
Aside from the innovative AI, Aiko also has sensors all over its body, allowing the robot to respond to physical contact to the point where she can detect pain and respond accordingly. In one of the video demonstrations, Le asks Aiko to give him its hand and to tell him when it starts feeling pain. As he increases the tightness of his grip, Aiko moves its hand away from him and says, "Please let go of my arm. You are hurting me. What did you do that for?" As Le asks Aiko to give him the arm again, Aiko replies, "No. I don't want to play that game anymore. It hurts my arm."
Trung has a bright future planned for Aiko. In later versions, he plans on implementing facial expressions and ability to move around, as Aiko is currently confined to a wheelchair.
One man's dedication and imagination can go far when he puts effort into his creation. While I am critical of humanity's potential future when Artificial Intelligence is taken a step too far, I cannot help but admire the science behind Aiko and Le's unyielding dedication.

The 6 minute demonstration of Aiko's abilities can be found below.


 References

1. Trung, Le, "Project Aiko," October 3, 2010,
    <http://projectaiko.com>.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Nanotechnology and Food Replacements

"Nanotechnology", as first defined in 1974 by Tokyo Science University Professor Norio Taniguchi, mainly consists of the separation, consolidation, deformation and processing of materials by one atom or by one molecule.

Rice University recently developed a nano-car, which was a single molecule "car" that uses fullerenes (molecules composed entirely of carbon) as wheels to determine how they move about on metal surfaces; specifically, whether they roll or slide. 
Chemical Structure of a nanocar. (Source: Wikipedia)
The concept of nanorobotics extended the topic of nanotechnology. Nanorobotics deals with creating working robots at the nanometer scale. One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10−9, of a meter. To put that into perspective, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth, or the amount a man's beard grows in the time it takes him to raise a razor to his face.

The scale is, indeed, microscopic. As such, scientists still had not developed a nanobot that functions on an entirely mechanical basis. Most of the prototypes are functional, but they are mostly or partially biological in nature. Speculative nanobots already have their possible future planned out for them. Since nanobots work on a molecular level, doctors and researches expect them to have a significant effect on brain research, cancer research and finding cures for difficult diseases. Their size would also assist greatly with such delicate procedures as repairing vein tissue and heart surgeries. Undoubtedly, such technology would prove extremely useful and help save millions of lives each year.

Robert Freitas, a pioneer in the field of nanomedicine, created a speculative design of a nanobot that would act as food replacement. The Futurist magazine spoke with him about his design:
"Here’s how these would work: the only reason people eat is to replace the energy they expend walking around, breathing, living life, etc. Like all creatures, we take energy stored in plant or animal matter. Freitas points out that the isotope gadolinium-148 could provide much of the fuel the body needs."
Gadolinium, as a free ion, is highly toxic but is regarded as safe when administered as a chelated (detoxified) compound.
"But a person can’t just eat a radioactive chemical and hope to be healthy, instead he or she would ingest the gadolinium in the form of nanorobots. The gadolinium-powered robots would make sure that the person’s body was absorbing the energy safely and consistently. Freitas says the person might still have to take some vitamin or protein supplements but because gadolinium has a half life of 75 years, the person might be able to go for a century or longer without a square meal."
Such an invention would make a significant impact on human evolution if it were to ever be administered, not to mention that it would take generations of gradual adaptation for this to work as Freitas imagines it. In Walter Miller Jr.'s science fiction story Crucifixus Etiam, the workers on Mars have surgically implanted tubes and valves that allow them to control their oxygen intake, allowing them to "breathe" outside without a mask. However, after years of adaptation, this resulted in them unlearning to breathe, and led to manual control of the oxygen intake. I can see a similar issue arising with this design.

Let's suppose we decide to adapt to this. In order for these nanobots to work as food replacement on that scale, the digestive system cannot be functional. Otherwise, the lack of food intake will result in ulcers and inevitable death.Granted, nanobots such as these may help supply nutrients to those who are allergic to certain products.While the nanobots may provide the energy and nutrients needed, they simply cannot replace food - not unless the biological structure of humans is completely revamped.
 
Are we willing to take this step towards placing our lives even more into the hands of technology?

With that in mind, perhaps medicine is where nanorobots belong and where they should stay.
That is your food for thought for now. Stay tuned!

 References

1. Source: 2010 Solutions for a Better Future
                 by Patrick Tucker on December 30, 2009
2. Source: How Nanorobots Are Made
                 by clare on July 9, 2009

In the Beginning...

Hello, visitors, and welcome to my blog! To start off my blogging extravaganza, here is the obligatory introductory post. My name is Alex. I am a 21-year-old, Ottawa-dwelling male. I was born in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and moved to Canada in the early March of 2001. I am currently a student at Algonquin College in the second year of the Professional Writing program. I enjoy a variety of music ranging from Classical to Death Metal and enjoy going to concerts when I have a chance. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing poetry and short stories, and online gaming.

I do not believe in generalizations or "judging the book by its cover". As with most people, I went through my fair share of phases. I'm often criticized for my tastes in music and film. Luckily, my literature choices are not yet on that list. I am also very critical of the mainstream media and most of what is considered socially acceptable.

I'm creating this blog to share my musings, insights, and some of my work with the vast crowd of the Internet. As I come across interesting topics, I will post my views on the mater.

Any constructive criticism, opinions, and/or comments are appreciated.

Cheers!