#969 – Westworld

I knew I was going to like HBO’s Westworld.  A sci-fi Western?  Um, yes please!  Throw in showrunners J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and Lisa Joy, a huge budget, a phenomenal group of actors led by Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Even Wood, and James Marsden and you’ve got yourself the makings of a Game of Thrones sized hit.  But at the same time I wasn’t sure if I was going to love it.  The plot seemed too obvious.  The theme park’s androids would eventually gain consciousness, rise up, and feud with the humans running the park.  It would be just like Jurassic Park all over again, which makes sense since Michael Chrichton conceived of both ideas.  Would it still be enjoyable even if it was predictable?  Probably.  There would still be random acts of violence, gratuitous nudity, slick dialogue, and food for thought regarding artificial intelligence, how consciousness works, the nature of dreams, and what it means to be human.  A no doubt hit if done properly.

But boy, was I ever wrong.  The show is anything but predictable and has quickly become my new obsession.  Sure, it’s inevitable that the androids will rise up but before we get to that point there are a million other things that could happen.  That is, if we can make sense of what is happening.  For starters, when you first meet a character you don’t know if they’re a guest (real person) or host (android).  And so you don’t know what rules apply to them.  Like any good show you also don’t know who has good intentions or bad.  Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and mysterious past.  But more importantly than all that, since this is a Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams production, we don’t know if what we’re watching is even real.  When we see something on screen is it happening in real time or as a flashback or as part of an android’s memory that’s just slightly ahead of reality since almost everything that’s happening to them has already happened to them at least once before.  And is everything we’re seeing in real time actually even happening in real time?  Could it be that two different characters are actually the same person thirty years apart?!?!

I told you it was anything but predictable.  But, wait.  There’s more! As the plot thickens we come to realize that when we see a host do something we don’t know why they did it.  Are their actions scripted or are they starting to improvise as they make their way up the bicameral mind pyramid?  If they are still acting on script, which script are they even following?  Their current story arc or an older version from a different character that they used to play?  And if they are starting to improvise are they just malfunctioning randomly like a crazed lunatic hearing the voice of God in their head for the first time or are they consciously making their own choices, realizing that the voice inside their head isn’t a God’s but their own?

In Westworld left is right.  Up is down.  It’s hard to make heads or tails of what’s going on.  And I haven’t even gotten to the mysterious person or persons from the park’s past who may have found a way to control the androids.  And who may or may not now be androids themselves.  Or the “incident” that took place in the park thirty years ago.  Or who the saboteur is that’s been planting clues around the park.  Or what the new main attraction is going to be.  Or what the point of the maze is, how you find it, and where it’s located.  Come to think of it where is the park even located?  And is it even the only park that there is?  If it’s not, how many other parks are there?  What’s going on outside the park in the real world anyway?  Why do so many people want to come to Westworld in the first place?  What’s the point of it all?  Better yet, is anyone else aware of the deeper game that the Man in Black refers to?  Who is that guy anyway?  Oh wait, I may have already told you that!

Suffice it to say Westworld is one of a kind.  Ironically, a show based on a movie, starring robots that mimic human behavior, is as unique as it gets.  It’s the rare show in today’s day and age that really makes you think.  You have to hang on every word of dialogue hoping for the tiniest morsel of a clue.  Easter eggs hide in plain sight in the background of each frame.  Every detail from the color of ink used in a wanted poster to the type face of a logo on a worker’s jacket has meaning.  Watching this show requires absolute silence, an uncanny attention to detail, access to a CSI lab, and infinite time to peruse bat shit crazy internet fan theories.  It’s a Redditor’s wet dream.

So, if you haven’t already done so, please, please, please stop everything you doing and binge watch the first three episodes in short order.  Then get ready for a wild ride for the next seven seasons.  That’s right.  Westworld isn’t messing around.  The greatest show of all time is going to be here for a while.

**Spoiler Alert**  –  Do not read on past this part if you haven’t watch the first three episodes yet.  Theories and spoilers abound.

Since I’m officially obsessed with Westworld here’s a look at some of my own bat shit crazy theories:

  • The Man in Black is one in the same as first time park guest William.  I can’t take credit for this theory but there is plenty of compelling evidence starting with the fact that his signature white hat and shy demeanor makes for the perfect contrast to the Man in Black’s present day persona.  There’s also the fact that the Man in Black has been coming to the park for thirty years, has a history with Delores, considers Lawrence a friend, and seems to know more than your average guest.  But more compelling than all of that are all of the little clues that suggest we’re seeing a different timeline.  From different corporate logos in the background to hosts acting in different roles peddling different side quests to different people appearing on the wanted posters.  Something is definitely up with this. Don’t believe me?  Then riddle me this.  Why is it that when William gets shot the bullet stings him but when everyone else gets shot including the Man in Black there’s no effect at all?  Has the bullet technology improved over the course of thirty years?
  • One Man in Black theory that I do have on my own is that he’s the one who left that old picture of that girl in Times Square that Delores’ father found which set off Delores’ pursuit of freedom.  Except that he did so inadvertently thirty years earlier.  That girl is the girl that William has waiting for him back home.   And since he’s now befriending Delores it makes sense that the picture would wind up buried on Delores’ family farm.
  • Teddy’s new story line takes him and his merry band of bounty hunters out into the wilderness to look for the villainous Wyatt.  But we don’t see Teddy die when surrounded by the savage hoard which is odd because Teddy dies all the time.  I think he’s kept alive this time for a reason.  Perhaps because he is actually Wyatt as it will turn out.
  • What’s the point of turning Teddy into Wyatt though?  I think it’s because Ford is trying to create a new narrative, one based in truth i.e. the actual backstory of the park and its founders.  This new narrative would take place near Red River which is allegedly where the entrance to the secretive maze is located and just so happens to also be the same location where that mysterious Church steeple was buried.  By holding the narrative here Ford could have a cover story to hide his movements thereby allowing him to excavate the site where the park was originally located in order to unearth the truth about what happened to his former partner Arnold.  This explains why he nixed the other new story line that was set to take place on Red River.
  • As for Arnold, the mysterious former co-founder of Westworld who allegedly died in the park before it opened, I think we’re going to see a major twist here.  Namely that he’s still alive and has been living inside the park this whole time…as an android.
  • Speaking of androids in a Battlestar Galactica style twist I think it’s likely that someone that we think is human is going to turn out to be an android.  My money is on the latest Hemsworth brother as I think that the throwaway lines used to make fun of him aren’t throw away lines at all.  You’re supposed to think he’s a dumb jock who can’t be trusted with a weapon but the trust issues actually refer to him literally being an android.  Besides, if he’s not an android how do you explain how the stray was able to hurt him?  After all, hosts aren’t supposed to be able to hurt real people.
  • Finally, I’d like to share a pretty juicy rumor that I just heard about the future of the show.  Fans of the original movie will know that Westworld isn’t the only world that there is.  There’s supposed to be a Medieval times world for starters.  But what if instead of a Medieval world they opt for a HBO tie-in and create a Game of Thrones world?!?! One in which Ned Stark is still alive as an android!  Apparently this is an actual consideration.

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Is Westworld the Greatest Idea Ever?

The other day I received a comment on Instagram that piqued my interest in a big way.  It read: “Based on your profile I’d say that we are kindred spirits.”

Why did that comment get my attention?  Because it came from, I kid you not, an actual real life super model. Granted, she wasn’t reaching out because she was attracted to me.  My Instagram account is dedicated to sunsets and barely features any pictures of me at all.  It’s likely that at the time she wrote that she had no idea what I looked like.  She was purely expressing her opinion that we were one in the same based on the types of pictures that I took and liked.  But I’m not going to let a tiny detail like reality discourage me.  If she really believes that we’re kindred spirits and took the time to reach out perhaps I have a chance.

To make a long story short, kindred spirit does not mean soulmate.  This alleged love of my life happened to already be married.  But her fandom got me thinking.  What if dating sites were more about aligning interests than analyzing assets?  What if people were drawn to each other instead of immediately drawing conclusions about one another?

What I’m envisioning is a new kind of online dating.  A modern age take on the concept of blind dating.  Instead of swiping through meaningless profiles filled with shirtless bathroom selfies users would instead peruse hand crafted collections of images that best define their potential love interests.  See someone who posted a bunch of nifty nature pictures and you’re likely to surmise that this is a person who likes the outdoors as much as you do.  Come across a photo of a wine bottle, Love Actually DVD, and box of pizza and you know that you just found a fellow hopeless romantic.  And so on and so forth.  It’ll be as if Tinder and Pinterest had a baby and it would be the best thing ever.

At first glance this idea may seem ridiculous but dive a little deeper and it begins to make sense.  Hinge, for example, has decided to do away with swiping citing data that suggests daters feel more lonely after swipe sessions.  What are they offering instead?  A new approach that emphasizes, yep, you guessed it, a person’s interests.  What I want to do then isn’t so far fetched after all.  It’s really just taking the trend that Hinge identified and amplifying it.  Making a feature the product.

Is it likely to work for everyone?  Nope.  Not at all.  People who hate taking the time to fill out surveys on Eharmony are going to hate this no picture approach.  But for everyone else?  For the people who allegedly value personality more than just looks?  Well, we might just have something.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go post some more pictures on Instagram.  You never know what kindred spirits or even soulmates it may attract.

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Is a kindred spirits dating app the Greatest Idea Ever?


With the changing colors of leaves in the autumn comes a whole different type of change to my life: the addition of a new suite of fall TV shows to watch.  This year there was the likes of McGyver, Frequency, and Timeless.  All of which I’ve already stopped watching since there just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with them.  Especially when I’d rather be outside hiking and attending Arizona Fall League games during this time of year.

Despite my reluctance to sit at home and watch TV I may soon find myself doing exactly that thanks to a new offering from John Hendricks, creator of the Discovery Channel, known as Curiosity Stream.  This $2.99 a month on demand subscription service is available to you on Apple TV, Roku and the like and will allow you to watch documentaries and other exclusive content about a variety of topics designed to pique your curiosity.

For example, you’ll be able to do deep dives and learn more about the Universe, our National Parks, or extreme weather.  Anything and everything you can think of from the worlds of science and technology will be covered with thousands of offerings to chose from. With scientific heavyweights such as Stephen Hawking, Vint Cerf and Michio Kaku headlining some of the offerings to boot.  No wonder Mashable has referred to it as the Netflix for non-fiction.

The Los Angeles Times adds that, “Curiosity Stream is expected to feature a mix of content acquired from BBC, NHK and other producers as well as original programming. Aimed at the ‘curious’ population, the programming should be understandable, Hendricks says, to everyone from 13-year-olds who enjoy building soda-bottle rockets to retirees looking for deep commentary on the latest scientific breakthroughs.”

Now I know what you’re thinking and while it is true that Netflix already has quite a few documentaries available and that services like the Wall Street Journal and CNET already offer streaming video clips aimed at technology nerds, Curiosity Stream still seems like it would be worth the investment.  Especially when you consider who is making the content and how well done it is.  The only real downside to the Curiosity Stream is that you’ll now have less time to play outside.

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Is Curiosity Stream the Greatest Idea Ever?

Here’s a quick look at everything that caught my eye this past week:

Facebook VR: When Oculus Rift was acquired Mark Zuckerberg quickly made it clear that he thought the future of communication was inherently tied to virtual reality.  Now we get out first glimpse into that future.

Popular Science reports that:

“The reasons behind the acquisition of Oculus in 2014 become much clearer when seeing Facebook VR in action. During the demo, we see a Justin Timberlake-looking Mark Zuckerberg joined by friends Lucy and Michael sharing videos and playing games. The social networking service will allow users to view 360 videos by surrounding the VR user with a video–and also make panning available simply by looking. Your friends will appear in the video as well as via their digital avatars.

The Oculus Rift Facebook VR demo also showed a scene where the three friends played a game of cards then switched to the beginnings of a sword fight. Users are able to (literally) draw their sword and use it to go up against other Facebook VR users. Towards the end of the demo, Zuck took part in a video call using Facebook Messenger to talk to Priscilla Chan on his wrist, inside virtual reality. Those within VR are able to choose their setting, whether it be one’s home, office or ‘virtually’ anywhere.”

Facebook VR

Cirque Theme Park: I’m always a sucker for new theme parks and the Cirque du Soleil park in Mexico isn’t any different.  Especially since it looks mind-blowingly awesome with its fusion of Mayan ruins, jungle decor, and Cirque’s signature extravagance.

According to Thrillist:

 “For now, Vidanta is tight-lipped about what the park will include. But what we do know:

  • The Park will fuse Cirque’s immersive entertainment with Vidanta’s luxury vacationing, creating a fantasyland where families can explore and get away from it all.
  • It will have three hotels feature a range of components — a mix of interactive theater with water features, VIP hydrotherapy circuit for adults, experiential and interactive entertainment experiences, and embedded CDS actors.
  • The park is meant to look like it sprouted up from the ground and will be overwhelmingly lush and green. What you won’t find: plastic tubing, slides, stanchions, etc.

We’ll have to wait and see what this theme park winds up looking like but the early returns look and sound very promising.

Cirque du Soliel Theme Park

Yard Work Robot: The days of paying a neighborhood kid twenty bucks to shovel your driveway during a snowstorm will soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new robot capable of doing all the heavy lifting around the yard for you.

According to Forbes:

“Do you enjoy doing yard work? If so, this article is not for you. However, if mowing the grass, raking the leaves and especially shoveling snow aren’t leisure-time activities you look forward to, relief is on the horizon. A robot named Kobi will do all of these things for you because yard work is so last year.

Kobi is an autonomous electric-powered robot that comes with attachments for grass cutting, leaf blowing and snow shoveling. The grass module cuts to a depth of less than an inch, mulches the clippings and returns them to the lawn. The leaf module mulches the leaves and piles them wherever you’d like. The snow module will dump the snow where you want it and can blow snow up to 40 feet depending on weather conditions.”

Sorry kids, the future just arrived.

Mini Wind Turbines: When it comes to clean energy nothing beats wind power.  Yet we don’t have wind mills and wind turbines on every street corner.  That might soon change though thanks to a new invention.

As Business Insider puts it:

“Wind turbines’ potential to create energy has been widely demonstrated. If fact, theAmerican Wind Energy Association suggests that 583,000 onshore turbines could power the entire United States.  But turbines are rarely colorful or aesthetically pleasing — and they’re certainly not something many people would want in their front yard. A new kind of fake tree comprised of leaf-shaped mini turbines could change that.”

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

#965 – Asgardia

This may be sacrilegious to say but I don’t really feel a strong connection with being an American.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love America.  Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  Have never even traveled outside the country.  It’s just that there’s no real emotional attachment.  Watching Michael Phelps win gold after gold at the Olympics does nothing for me.  Chalk it up to my apathetic nature if you must.  I don’t have a strong connection to my Jewish heritage either.  I don’t even have a single favorite sports team that I care that deeply about. Rather the only group that I really self-identify with are futurists.  Forward thinking individuals driven to making the world a better place through innovation.  People who set out to actually invent the future that they want to see.  Unfortunately, there’s no physical manifestation of this group.  There’s no church of futurism.  It’s not a political party.  A physical location akin to Disney’s Tomorrowland doesn’t actually exist.  There’s no real way for someone like myself to feel included.  Until now that is.  Say hello to Asgardia, a newly created nation dedicated to outer space!

That’s right.  We’re talking about the creation of an entirely new country, one free from national pride, regional entanglements, and other Earthly constraints.  A group of people dedicated to one thing and one thing only: ensuring access to outer space for the entire world.  As of now only thirteen countries have space programs lead by the likes of the U.S., Russia, China and India.  But what about everyone else?  Free from the regulatory and political shackles that currently throttle innovation on Earth this new space faring nation would be able to innovate at a much quicker pace and do so for the benefit of the entire planet.

The concept of creating a new nation to avoid regulatory wrangling isn’t new.  For example, seasteading refers to the practice of creating permanent dwellings at sea.  Located in international waters these collectives can skirt the law and innovate freely.  There are also dozens of micro-nations that spring up from time to time for similar reasons.  The difference is that these micro-nations aren’t recognize by real countries.  Asgardia on the other hand is actually aiming to join the United Nations.

Asgardia isn’t a space based hippie commune though.  There won’t even be a physical space station for people to live on.  Rather what we’re talking about is a serious entity that would aim to tackle some of the gravest threats facing the planet.  Their #1 priority?  Building a planetary defense system capable of protecting Earth from asteroids, decommissioned satellites, and any other trash hurdling through space that could push a risk to anyone on Earth.  They’d also conduct scientific research in a gravity free environment and provide access to space to the billions of people around the world who hail from countries without space programs.

Best of all Asgardia is actually offering up citizenships to the people of Earth.  100,000 of them to start.  What would citizenship entail?  That part isn’t clear yet.  What is clear is that I desperately want to become an Asgardian.  Instead of being constrained to the country that I was randomly born into I could instead represent the entire planet.  Helping my new nation to protect the world and all of its inhabitants.  I’m starting to swell with pride just thinking about it.  Asgardia here I come!

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Is Asgardia the Greatest Idea Ever?

When it comes to gaining access to secure locations, there are no shortage of ideas, either from science fiction or even real life.  Seemingly, any unique part of a person’s body from their fingerprints to their irises to their heartbeat can and will be used as a means of granting access securely.  Now it may be that the entire human body itself can be used to transmit passwords using our bodies’ natural ability to conduct electricity.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it, “passwords sent through the air via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth can be intercepted, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Passwords are also a hassle to remember, which is why we tend to opt for simpler ones—but that, too, creates big security risks.  Now researchers at the University of Washington have found a way to eliminate the airtime and the hassle—by using the human body as a conduit for passing security codes from one device to another. By holding a smartphone in one hand, for example, and touching a doorknob with the other, a person could securely and instantly transmit the code that unlocks the door.”

But how does this amazing parlor trick actually work?!  According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The new technique cleverly exploits the way touchpads and fingerprint readers do their jobs. To function, these devices put out low-frequency electromagnetic signals, either to detect your finger’s position (on a touchpad) or read its ridges and grooves (on a fingerprint reader). These electromagnetic signals are in a frequency range low enough to be well conducted by a human body. They’re harmless, the researchers say, and already passing through your body. So the scientists created software to make these devices emit a series of electronic pulses corresponding to a password—pulses that move securely through the human body. In the lab, the scientists attached a receiver to a locked door; a human volunteer could pass the code to the receiver via touch, unlocking the door just as if he’d used a combination to open a padlock.”

Considering the propensity (as of now) for smart homes to be hacked it may turn out that in the near future we’ll be using our bodies to enter our homes instead of using keypads, smartphones, or fingerprint scanners.  Or, you know, a plain, old key.

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Is using your body as a password the Greatest Idea Ever?

When you think of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) you probably think of top-secret military grade advancements for our soldiers whether that’s a smart bullet that changes course on its own or a Harry Potter like invisibility cloak.  And while they may be working on those projects (among many others) the fruits of their labor also sometimes pay off for the private sector.  Just look at GPS for example.  Well, we may soon have another real world innovation that we could thank DARPA for: living houses capable of repairing themselves!

As Popular Mechanics puts it:

“Current building materials are difficult to produce, transport, and assemble, and they eventually wear out or break down. DARPA’s big idea is to replace those current building materials with new materials that can grow into predetermined shapes, repair themselves if damaged, and even adapt or alter themselves to the environment. Its new mission to create them is called the Engineering Living Materials program.”

This concept will be a familiar one to fans of Battlestar Galactica who will note that the futuristic spaceships on the show were very much living organisms in of themselves.  Soon our houses may be as well.  But how exactly will this happen?  What kind of materials are we talking about?

As Futurism explains, “Other than 3D printing of living tissue, there has also been self-repairing concrete, biologically sourced structural materials made from inexpensive feed stocks, packing materials derived from fungal mycelium, and building blocks made from bacteria and sand.”

On a seemingly daily basis there are new materials and metamaterials being discovered and created.  In fact, I just read the other day about furniture made from recycled newspaper that is stronger than brick and finished like marble.  And we’ll soon have 4D printing, objects that can change their appearance over time, to add to the mix as well.  At this rate there’s no telling what we’ll wind up with.  Especially now that DARPA with all their ingenuity and financial might is square in the middle of things. Living houses here we come!

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Is DARPA’s living house the Greatest Idea Ever?