Morning Ed: SciFi {2017.12.11.M}

[SF1] How to construct a wormhole to make backwards time travel possible.

[SF2] This is really going to take us to some weird places. (Might help us prevent idiocracy, though.)

[SF3] A look at farming and time-travel, reviewing relevant books (and adding substantially to my reading list).

[SF4] Isn’t this from an episode of Outer Limits? Except with humans?

[SF5] Long-distance relationships… with touching.

[SF6] Would they face more discrimination or less than people who can’t get laid? Seems to me that would be a really easy thing to stay in the closet about.

[SF7] What monk philosophy can teach AI.

[SF8] I dunno, things didn’t start getting bad on the Matrix until the robots stopped looking like humans.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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39 thoughts on “Morning Ed: SciFi {2017.12.11.M}

  1. SF2: Parents are going to want to design their kids DNA so they grow up to be perfect physical specimens of humanity if they just take a little care of themselves.

    SF5: There should be a movie about a zombie plague starting from somebody eating a salad with fungus in it.

    SF6: My guess is that most people who have sex with robots will be treated as the equivalent of people who can’t get laid. They will be seen as people who do not have the wherewithal to stand the pressures of the dating scene and using robots to relieve frustration will be mocked hard, especially if they are cis-gender heterosexual men. There will be some exceptions who manage to have sex with robots and have this come across as cool and edgy and derive status from it. The latter will be people having sex with biological humans on a regular basis. There will also be people arguing that robots need to be programmed to give and deny consent rather than being used as sex slaves.

    Humans can be miserable sometimes. Robot sex might not offer the real intimacy of a romantic relationship with another human but it can solve at least the sexual frustration problem.


  2. [SF6] I expect this will be treated the same as a mix of masturbation and owning a “waifu” pillowcase. If you keep it secret, no one will care. If you’re weirdly obsessive and take your sex doll out to dinner, people will think you’re odd.

    Myself, I’d totally get a hawt sex bot. After all, I own a Hitachi.


  3. I honestly doubt that 98% of digisexuals will face discrimination.

    That 2%? They’ll be given the third degree. “Why are you so selfish that you’re unwilling to change your lifestyle in order to be in a long-term partnership with another person? You’re bad and you should feel bad!”

    The other 98% will cheerfully be allowed to be the last of their lines in peace and quiet.


    • I’m not sure if your getting the percentages and ratios correct but this seems right. Another percentage of digisexuaks, people who are also biosexuals, are going to be see. As cool and edgy.


  4. A small bomb was detonated in the NYC subway system this morning. Reports are that the bomber and 3 or 4 others were injured, none life-threatening. The suspect is in custody. Reports are a little vague as to whether he intended to detonate the device where he did and whether or not there was a second device on his person. It is being treated as a terrorist incident.

    The city is responding as it so often does in these moments… with resilience and defiance. Folks are rolling into work after 2 hour, delay-filled commutes annoyed that they couldn’t be on time.

    I was commuting at the time, albeit in a different part of the city and via a different transit system (PATH as opposed to MTA Subway). What is interesting is, despite the explosion occurring during my commute and resulting in the closure of the Port Authority Bus Terminal — which is overseen by the same agency that oversees the PATH train (and which is connected with NJTransit, the other train I ride) — there was zero indication that anything was amiss. It was only after arriving at work and settling in — about an hour after the incident — that I heard anything.

    All that said, this is scary. Where the bomb exploded is in a massive underground walkway that connects to major transit points — the Times Square Subway station (serving multiple lines that pretty much feed all parts of the city) and the PABT, the major hub for NJTransit busses as well as private carriers from further out and another major subway line. During peak hours, this walk way is filled shoulder to shoulder with folks walking in both directions. Imagine trying to leave a crowded concert or sporting event… it is similar to that. Thanks to what appears to be the timing (7:20ish) and weak nature of the bomb (possibly owing to an accidental or partial detonation), the human and physical harm done was near minimal. That said, the social, emotional, and political fallout remains to be seen…


      • My familiarity with the area (like, I’ve literally walked that tunnel dozens of times) makes me realize how often we fail to understand an event that we are not connected to. Like, I have a vague sense of where the SoCal wildfires are because Zazzy’s family lives out there. So, like, I know that Ventura County exists and roughly where it is. And even then, I don’t really have any framework or context for making sense of it. Which makes it really easy to misunderstand these situations, one way or another… or possibly in multiple ways. So, happy? Maybe not happy… but glad at least I could offer some perspective in this particular situation.


  5. Sexbots seem to be like fusion power, always on the cusp of being revolutionary.

    But since people have been inventing and using sex toys for millenia, I am not seeing anything really that would alter the dynamic of human relationships.


    • AI (or VI) assisted empathy/sympathy modules would allow a large chunk of people to get a close-enough-for-jazz emotional/tactile experience that mimics a handful of aspects of human interaction without the overhead costs of having to deal with other humans as ends-in-themselves.


      • Maybe.
        I wonder if that the “overhead” is exactly what people want, as an example of the complex contradictions of human nature.

        For instance, the “girlfriend experience” is a premium. As plenty of jokesters have noted, if they really want a true “girlfriend experience” the escort/ sexbot would say things like “Are you wearing that shirt? Why did you leave the toilet seat up?”

        Throughout history free, instantly available sex was provided in the form of slavery.
        In Rome for example, brothels were legal, and it was common to use female slaves in any way a man wished. And sex with sheep was common enough for us to snicker about it to this day.

        Yet people still courted and married, in ways not too different than today.

        I think in order to significantly impact normal human dynamics, sexbots would have to hit an impossible target in uncanny valley, where they are lifelike enough to provide the emotional gratification we need, yet unreal enough to comply with our ever shifting, contradictory demands.

        Because we are trying to design a machine to accomplish something we ourselves can’t even define or understand.

        We want someone challenging, but get angry when we are challenged; We want someone compliant, but get bored by someone dull. We want someone to compliment us, but only a real compliment, not offered too quickly or too profusely.
        And what we wanted in a partner yesterday is different than what we want today, or tomorrow.


      • I’d say there is an enormous difference between a “sex bot” and a “relationship bot.” The first, fine. Just have a selection of behavior choices: “anime girl,” “porn star,” “demure 50s housewife,” etc. That would be fun. In the end, it’s a highly interactive sex toy. I’m cool with that.

        But it is not a relationship bot.

        I don’t really care if people masturbate, so I don’t really care if they get sex bots. That said, there will be people who try to use their sex bots as replacements for relationships. That is probably unhealthy, at least it will be for some people, exactly those who now have stunted emotional lives and a lack of self awareness.


        • I didn’t say that it would be a relationship bot.

          I said that it would provide a close-enough-for-jazz emotional/tactile experience that mimics a handful of aspects of human interaction without the overhead costs of having to deal with other humans as ends-in-themselves.

          I don’t know what a “relationship bot” would even entail.

          As for it being “unhealthy”, well. I imagine that, for some, it will be. I imagine that, for others, it will provide a facsimile of something that, otherwise, they never would have gotten. Sort of like having VR goggles that show the interior of a nice, spacious house.

          I suppose, on one level, it’s “unhealthy” for someone living in a dinky hovel to get the VR experience of living in a nice, spacious house.

          On another… I suppose having the option is better than not having the option for those who live in hovels.


          • It can be unhealthy in the same way that drug addiction can be unhealthy. For many of us, the “relationship drive” is strongly associated with the sex drive. In turn, for many people relationships are indeed measurably healthy.

            (In particular for men, in that married men tend to outlive unmarried men. Furthermore, male loneliness is often cited as a cause of misery and suicide.)

            The big question: will sex bots be that much better than masturbation, waifus, and porn, enough to fill the emotional gap? I doubt it.

            You can argue that a sex bot is better than nothing, but in the same way that an opiate high is better than the hard work of building a life worth living.


            • (In particular for men, in that married men tend to outlive unmarried men. Furthermore, male loneliness is often cited as a cause of misery and suicide.)

              I wonder if an AI (or VI) would be able to close this gap for the unmarried.

              Surely this is testable. (We’ve had a control group for the last few thousand years.)

              You can argue that a sex bot is better than nothing, but in the same way that an opiate high is better than the hard work of building a life worth living.

              Opiates are also used for pain relief for people who are dealing with issues other than laziness.


          • Sorry, I honestly don’t know the difference between a “close-enough-for-jazz emotional/tactile experience that mimics a handful of aspects of human interaction” and a “relationship-bot

            Tactile, I get; there are artificial vaginas and have been since the invention of latex.
            But “emotional experience” separate from a “relationship experience”, I am not grasping.


              • If we reduce the sex part to ever more imaginative toys, we are left with the relationship part. Part of the problem is the AI designation itself. Both Artificial and Intellegence are contestable terms. Much depends on one’s understanding of subjectivity, consciousness etc and the entailments of agency and intention.

                Any human created, arguably aware intelligent entity able to act with even close to the degree of autonomy that we can prove we ourselves possess, will likely exist in a world pervaded by AI of a full spectrum of power and ability, from the most basic to the comparable-to-us varieties.

                Humans will necessarily, in such a world, have a wide spectrum of relationships with these entities. All of this is likely to inform, and change our ideas about our own selfness, agency and emotion.

                Whether this leads to human flourishing in any sense that I recognize, I don’t know.

                BTW I see this related to the monk/trolley car/psychotic link. The reason the monks can have the unusual reaction to the TP is that they have intentionally undertaken training their minds to change the normal mode of moral reasoning that starts with I and mine and proceeds outward, to, in one version of the Prayer of the 4 Immeasurables, “without attachment or aversion to near or far”. That is, they have successfully changed their default understanding of the boundaries and scope of the self.

                Ubiquitous AI could reasonably be thought to do the same thing.


                • Until recently, my first thought when I read “AI” was “complicated program with a nigh-comprehensive amount of ‘if’ statements”.

                  That’s not an Artificial Intelligence as much as a Virtual one.

                  If that sort of thing were what was set up in a sexbot, it would be able to do simple things like ask about emotional states, offer sympathetic statements in response to certain keywords, offer congratulatory statements in response to others, and mimic conversation.

                  Whether this leads to human flourishing in any sense that I recognize, I don’t know.

                  I don’t even know what “human flourishing” would entail.

                  I’m more interested if it would result in unmarried men closing the death gap with married men. You’d think that’d be testable.


                  • Serious question:
                    What if the virtual companion turns out to be a bitch?

                    I mean, lets imagine some perfect form of programming that can replicate human emotional responses perfectly.

                    How would anyone program out the negative aspects of human interactions?

                    If for example, the programming is intended to deliver supportive-yet-challenging statements, how does she not become a manipulative shrew? Reference King Lear, or any soap opera.

                    We are asking programmers to construct something that we ourselves don’t even understand.


  6. Vaguely related to SF6.

    Here’s the sub-hed:

    Someone used an algorithm to paste the face of ‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot onto a porn video, and the implications are terrifying.

    Erm, pretty much not safe for work unless you’re cool with the IT guy. (Oh, also there are a number of potential triggers at the site itself so, watch out.)


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