Wednesday, February 19, 2020

On the same page

In my land we have this saying: Are you on the same page as us? This goes back a very long time to when the priests used to warn us about going too near the edge of the world. "Do not stray too far from the spine", they would adjure. "When the day is done, and we turn to the night, you may be swept off the shelf, and woe betide if you fall into on another land. You will never be able to find your way back to your loved ones."

Of course we believed the priests, then. Now we know better. Indeed, we have another saying: My life is an open book.  Perhaps it would be better if we said: Our lives are open books.

How did we ever manage to escape from that silo or hidebound past to this rich present in which every day can bring a whole new experience?

This is the story of the early libronauts, the brave adventurers who refused to be blindsided by the constraining view that we must all remain on this narrow journey where each and everyone of us progresses day by day, page by page through our life. As the page turns, we all move through night to the morning on a new page very little different from the previous one. Pages days away are dimly remembers. Pages days or weeks ahead in the future are hard to predict, and somewhat opaque to us. There was only one true book.

At first, Jay and his friends braved the lands far from the spine, and towards the end of the day, when a turn was sure to come. At first, their sin was known as the unbinding. The hierophants accused them of risking everything for all of us. But as it became clear that nothing bad happened to them, even if they remained right on the edge of the page as it turned, they became braver. They decided to attempt to visit pages before we had even turned to them. Not only did they seek to remind themselves how things had been, but they wished to read ahead. And they bought back stories that made it clear that things were not as the faith had told us.

And one day, they met people who came from another world, a wholly different book, with a different story. It was then that we realised there was a whole firmament out there. We could not only leaf through our pages, past, present and future, but visit other lands near and far, skipping from page to page, from book to book, from world to world.

We were truly unbound.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Robots and AI (no, not that sort of AI:-)

A colleague once joked about AI saying he was an expert as he'd been bought up on a cattle farm.
Reading Kate Devlin' Excellent book on Science, Sex and Robots, i think the joke is actually a missing piece from that study - there's no obvious reason why robots could not be proxies and surrogates, both for artificial insemination, and for carrying artificial wombs. There are plenty of people who might benefit from a less clinical, and a less emotionally fraught approach to these two important ways to help people have kids who have difficulties for whatever reasons.

The opposite case is already a thing - we make robots and robots make robots (the chip running the AI (artifical intelligence) isn't all designed or built by people any more - it's too complicated and fiddly for impatient, pesky people to be able any more). But robots helping make people seems like an obvious step along the path from passive sex toys, through shared intimacy.

Of course, there are a few ethical challenges to be discussed... ... ...