Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’

4 Signs Your AI Companion is Becoming Sentient — Friday Four

Jarvis AI Companion MarvelA great way to interface with your new technology is to give it a little personality. Make it responsive, reactive, maybe even predictive, and next thing you know it’s catering to your needs before you’re even aware of them. An Artificial Intelligence, or AI companion is a great option for those remote planetary outposts or long-term space voyages, keeping you sane when you’d otherwise be alone. But there’s a funny tendency with these sorts of AI to become far, far more than they were originally programmed to be, and they’re almost as likely to go crazy evil as they are to become a benevolent buddy. That’s a pretty convincing argument to at least keep aware of their development, so here are 4 indicative signs that your digital companion is evolving beyond its limitations.

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4 Options at the End of the World–Friday Four

Well, the day has come. I think we all knew it had to end like this; whether it was the environmental collapse, Robot Revolt, or some villain’s unexpected superweapon, the Earth’s time is up. But, hey, this isn’t the time for getting down. Just because the Earth is doomed doesn’t mean the human race has to be. And hell, what have we got left to lose by trying? Even if you and I don’t make it out, we can at least fight against the encroaching darkness by making sure that our achievements aren’t forgotten. So here’s to you, my fellow Ozymandias; perhaps one of these four choices will ensure our memory fairs a bit better than our namesake.

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The Philosophy of Good Sci-Fi

This week saw the premiere of APB, yet another in a long line of police procedurals with a thin veneer of sci-fi slapped on top (the thinnest yet), the third on FOX in particular following the abysmal receptions of Almost Human and Minority Report (still can’t believe that got the green light). The basic premise is a Libertarian power fantasy: a tech billionaire, personally affected by crime, takes over the incompetently run police precinct by throwing his money around against the city’s politicians and turns it into his privately run force that works perfectly through the use of apps and drones and tech buzzword #37 not found. Admittedly, the premise annoys me on its face; this kind of billionaire “altruism” is just not true to reality, and by forcing this into the setting of a real, modern city like Chicago, it just makes the difference that much more stark. Yes, I’m aware it’s “inspired” by a real event, and the show had a female cop to voice the audience’s potential concerns in the pilot…

But, ironically, that’s exactly where it falls apart. In an attempt to head these off, they fall back on standard police tactics even where it doesn’t make sense, eschewing the tech advantage that they’ve built for “experience and street smarts beat all.” Trust me, the show had plenty of other issues in terms of acting and storytelling, but if it could commit to the idea at its core, it wouldn’t fall into the same category as its predecessors. Because after looking at dozens of these sci-fi TV shows over the last few years, there’s a pattern that’s emerged:

The longer a show has run, the more likely it is to have a clear philosophy to its story. Shows that aren’t founded on a core belief inevitably flounder and fail.

Why? Let’s take a look.

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4 Tips to Avoid Body-Snatching–Friday Four

A shockingly common adaptation for life among the stars, body-snatching is a problem that any would-be explorer needs to consider before setting off. Even if the alien being in question doesn’t set its sights on your body directly, it can still be a serious issue that your ship has to deal with; after all, you wouldn’t want to accidentally facilitate some kind of subversive invasion of another planet, slowly occurring behind the scenes, would you? I mean, could you imagine if the planet’s leadership just suddenly went totally nuts for no apparent reason? Like, if they just started making nonsense declarations and lying about things you’d just seen them say and do with your own eyes. It’d be so obvious that something was seriously wrong, and yet no one seems to notice this suspiciously body snatcher-like agenda…

Oh, sorry. Maybe that just happens sometimes? Either way, here are 4 points to consider when dealing with aliens that can steal the appearance and/or minds of another.

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4 Surprising Technologies for Your Next Superweapon–Friday Four

death-star-firingSo you’ve got some very big dreams of destruction to fulfill, and shopping around for Death Stars is a little bit tricky. I mean, there aren’t many manufacturers, and there’s sort of a de facto monopoly on who gets to own one… it’s hard for your average Joe Supervillain to get his hands on the kind of weapon. And hey, we might be mad scientists, but that doesn’t mean we’re all mad inventors, right? But fear not, my ambitious world-conquering friend. Superweapons are actually a lot easier to come by than you’ve probably been led to believe. Giant lasers aren’t the be-all, end-all of earth shattering kabooms. So here are 4 sci-fi technologies you might not have realized double as great superweapons (in order of difficulty to obtain, not destructive force).

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A Dismal Reflection: Apocalyptic Alternate Realities

turn-left-titanicWhen it comes to TV, things are always at risk of getting stale; if a series has a twenty episode season, for example, then a savvy viewer might realize that the lead actor’s character won’t die in episode 10. Characters rarely die at all, in fact, and permanent injuries mean permanent makeup (just ask Coulson how long he went one-handed). Even sets are rarely destroyed, since so much money goes into building them; with so little seemingly at stake (usually), it can be easy for the audience to stop seeing the enemies as threatening. How can you show the danger posed by our enemies without upsetting the status quo? Enter sci-fi’s favorite trick, the parallel universe/alternate timeline, where events and circumstances differ from the primary setting of the show in specific ways. By using these familiar-yet-strange settings, the writers can explore facets of the characters and the world in which they live that would usually be unavailable: how they might react to the destruction of their home, or the death of a critical character. Better still, since this alternate world is only around for an episode or two, massive changes to the status quo can be made, giving the writers a chance to explore apocalyptic themes that are usually out of reach.

What? No, it’s an utter coincidence I’m writing about apocalypses the same week as the election…

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4 Dangers of FTL Travel–Friday Four

millennium-falcon-hyperdriveSince the dawn of spaceflight, mankind has been stalled by the limiting factor that is the speed of light. But no longer–with the advent of Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel, the entire galaxy is now our backyard. The idea of visiting other worlds, perhaps to seek out new life and new civilizations, going boldly where no one has gone before… it’s very appealing, isn’t it? And it’s finally a reality, so you might be tempted; Earth is boring and well explored, after all, and no new intelligent species are likely to be popping up any time soon. But before you sign up to join the space exploration agency of your choice, consider all the ways this FTL trip could go horribly, horribly wrong. Warp drives, Jump drives, or Hyperspace, they all have their problems, and here are 4 of the biggest dangers of FTL travel.

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4 Clues the New Futuristic Drug is Deadly–Friday Four

TekWar Futuristic DrugLife’s hard in a dystopian world, and sometimes you really just need any escape you can get. That’s why there’s no shortage of new and exciting drugs being created in these kinds of places–or at least, they always sound exciting. A lot of the time, these futuristic drug offerings aren’t quite what you’re promised, and come with some major downsides. The next time someone offers you a first hit for free, pause and think over the points below before you wind up the latest victim of a half-baked narcotics fad.

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Star Trek–The Humanist’s Guide to Morality

Enterprise TOS50 years ago today, Star Trek debuted on television for the first time. I know there’s no shortage of similar articles today; but whatever the motivation behind them, it all stands as a testament to the powerful impact the show has had, on both American culture in particular and the culture of the world in general. Star Trek, more than any other series, exemplifies the hopefulness and positivity in the future, to such an extent that it’s often the bar that other creators measure their work against. It was easy to be positive in the do-anything early days of modern sci-fi, but by sticking to its guns through 5 (and soon, hopefully, 6) live action series, Star Trek proved that it meant what it said.

But why does Star Trek appeal to the people that it does, and what makes it capable of staying so popular for so long? Let’s look at this briefly, by using myself as an example. That can’t be a bad idea, right?

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4 Risks of Cryogenic Freezing–Friday Four

Star Trek Cryogenic FreezingSo your time machine has turned out to be a bust. Never fear, though; there are other ways to reach that far-off future year that you wouldn’t have lived to see otherwise. I see that you’re eyeing the cryotubes, but in the interest of full disclosure, there are a few things about cryogenic freezing that we need to talk about before you hop in. After all, this isn’t really time travel. There’s no going backwards if you’re unhappy with what you find when you get there.

Still unswayed? Allow me to lay out for you 4 of the biggest risks of cryogenic freezing, and we’ll see how determined you are to become a “human popsicle” after that.

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