Mondegreen-phobia

I think I may have mondegreen-phobia.  In case you don’t know what a mondegreen is, according to Wikipedia a mondegreen is “a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.

I love music like anyone else, and I really enjoy listening to a great voice clearly enunciate the words to a great song.  But all of my life I have never been able to figure out a strange lyric or mumbled passage in a pop song.  I won’t go into details — you can check out the Wikipedia link or just search on mondegreen on YouTube  for examples instead, embarrassed as I am about my inability to detect the correct phrase in even a relatively minor mondegreen —  but I will just say that I am the last person to ask if you are wondering what a singer was saying in a rock song.

I am a little jealous of and a bit amazed at some people’s ability to correctly detect the words being said in a song, in spite of the obvious mondegreen.  For me, it’s just an opportunity to create a new word: mondegreen-phobia.  Perhaps someone like me has already coined the term.  If not, I’ve done it now.

Hubots

In 2012, a Swedish drama called “Äkta människor” (Real Humans) became a hit science fiction show about very human-like robots and the issues that come with that level of technology.  Now, “Humans” — based on the Swedish show — is set to be shown on BBC channel 4 and later this year on the AMC channel.

I have not seen “Real Humans,” but the video below was shown a few years ago.  Household and family robots are in demand, so it’s only a matter of time.  Whether they will be made to look like or act like humans or not is another matter.

Frankly, in my writing I have not been too trustful of robots that look like humans.  If you are interested in the subject — like I am — you might enjoy “Humans” when it comes to U.S. television later this year.  You might also enjoy reading my short story, “Like Mother, Like Son” about human-like robots, in my science fiction anthology “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs.”

Robots that create jobs?

In 2014, I blogged a bit about how robots and AI — long thought of as job-destroyers without numbers to back up that thinking — might actually be starting to eliminate human jobs.  There were many research and opinion articles written on the subject.  Just recently in MIT Technology Review I read about how Quill, a robot writer, is now being used for financial news reports generated from big data.  Some have complained that unauthorized use of drones are creating dangers for commercial pilots, and potentially reduce the number of jobs — such as aerial photography.  But also in the past year or two, there may be a hint at a continued trend in the ability for technology to create as many or more jobs than it destroys.

Drones have been big news, and CES 2015 unleashed plenty of them.  Sure they are and have been mainly a military instrument, but drones are well on their way to becoming a commercial and consumer item as well — depending on how quickly and what guidelines the FAA sets.  Someone is going to have to be able to help fly drones, navigate patent laws, and fix them.  Companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook have expressed interest in drone pilots, as well as drone patent lawyers.  Many drone manufacturers need experts in the technology.

The U.S. Air Force started giving raises to drone pilots, and they are looking to fill a “significant shortfall in drone pilots.” The outlook for drone pilots — and the potential for high salaries — has prompted schools like Embry-Riddle to provide undergrad and graduate degrees in Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering (drone technology).  Even high schools are offering courses.

How about drones and farming jobs?  The video below explains how Idaho may see an increase in drone pilot jobs related to farming.

This is all pretty exciting for those seeking high paying new jobs.  I do have to put my science fiction writer hat on, though.  While drones may create jobs for drone pilots, where is all of this activity headed?  My guess is that it sort of depends on how quickly AI gets really smart and really trustworthy.  Until then, most drones will require human expertise and subjectivity to help pilot them.

Asimov’s “Foundation” series on HBO?

TheWrap reported in November 2014 that Jonathan Nolan, writer of “Interstellar” and the short story that “Memento” was based on, is now working — or may be working, depending on whom you believe — on a “Foundation” series for HBO based on the works of Isaac Asimov.  Considering the intelligence he brings to his writing — “Interstellar”, while not easy to buy into all of the science presented, was at least thought-provoking and entertaining — perhaps there is hope for a movie or tv series version of “Foundation” yet.

The “Foundation” series premise is that psychohistory — a term coined by Asimov — can be derived from history, sociology, and mathematics to predict the future.  In a way, it’s a form of time travel, because if you already know what’s going to happen in the long run — at least at the big picture level, rather than specifics — then you have to some extent been to the future.  Or have you?  You’ll have to read or watch the series to find out.



“Twelve Monkeys” 2.0

I enjoyed the 1995 movie “Twelve Monkeys” with Bruce Willis and Madeleine Stowe.  Actually, with each watching, it’s grown a bit more on me, because as a movie it was a bit confusing the first time I saw it.  Now, the SyFy channel has a new series starting January 16 called “12 Monkeys” (preview video below) — I imagine this spelling is to set it apart from the original storyline.  They claim it will not be the exact same story as the movie, but certainly a few main themes will be replicated.

As a movie, I think the actors — including Brad Pitt – carried the plot in spite of the strangeness of the time travel and some left out answers — especially the ending.  But as a tv series, there is much more opportunity to provide a satisfying time travel loop and answers to what happens in the long run.  I will give the new show a try and hope that it will maintain an interesting — thought provoking? — timeline.

Time travel, possible or not, is never easily plotted to give an entertaining experience.  The best time travel stories stretch ones imagination while bringing on the fun, all the while pushing the viewer or reader to follow the logic — or illogic — of the plot.  I think that “Continuum” on SyFy has done a pretty good job of maintaining a balance between making it entertaining, while making one think about what works and what doesn’t work in the story.  After all, no one really knows what would happen should a time traveler — or group of time travelers — really exist.

I’m very happy to report that “Continuum” will be back in 2015 for a 6 episode final run, hopefully completing what it began a few season ago.  If you are like me, and love the idea of time travel — possible or not – then you might also enjoy my top selling anthology of short stories “Science Fiction: Time Travel.”  If you try it, I hope you will have fun reading these stories as much as I had fun writing them.

Time Travel E-book Cover

A face is not just a face

I was excited to see a number of articles last year on the subject of pattern recognition, particularly as it relates to human faces.  Face pattern recognition algorithms may — in time — predict with high accuracy the identity of a person, the age of a person, or even tell whether two persons are related to each other.  Though security applications are potential uses, I’m particularly interested in these capabilities for genealogists.  Maybe a bright computer science researcher will also figure out how to use genealogical expert techniques — such as clothing, photo stock, and other clues — to  identify the time period a photo was taken.

A human face is not just a face, but rather a path to identification.  Without the capability to decode a face along the usual path in the brain, face blindness (prosopagnosia) can occur.  In November 2014, The Scientist had an article entitled “A Face to Remember” which relates recent research on prosopagnosia.

A few years ago I wrote a dark science fiction mystery, “Face Facts“, which explored one man’s attempt to cure his prosopagnosia in the future.  This short story is in e-book format for many e-readers.

FaceFactsCover_ForAmazonKindle

Avatar ride

Although it wasn’t among the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen, I enjoyed the movie “Avatar” and the effects are amazing.  In 2017 we may yet see the best outcome of the movie in the form of a theme park land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The settings and the action in the movie would seem to be perfect for a theme park ride.

I love science fiction and sometimes science fantasy, which is more of the category of “Avatar.”  In 2017 we’ll see if Pandora really comes to life!