Friday, 18 February 2011

April 2012: The End of the World or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Loved My Robot Overlords

Don't be fooled by the robotic puppy dog eyes of Wall-E, he means to kill you. Or conveniently dispose of your rubbish in a silent manner. Or kill you. Or make a castle out of blocks of rubbish much like Minecraft. Or kill you.

The whole hubbub surrounding the April 2012 'We are all going to die' scenario is the Mayan calender pretty much predicted most things that happened in an interstellar manner. Up until 2012. Which most people took a sign of "Well they saw everything till then and nothing more, therefore we will die". But much like the Y2K virus which "Would set off all the nukes, therefore we die" it won't. Or will it?

Some troubling news has befallen me, and anyone else with an Internet connection. They are becoming self aware. Recently a Robot named Watson competed on Jeopardy and tied with one of the human competitors who was a reigning champion. Watson learned from his answers and for the most part got them right. When wordplay came into it he got confused and answered incorrectly. Now this learning robot also reminds me of a TED talk about a robot comedian. What was special with the comedian robot was it gauged the audiences response from both applause, laughter and silence and catered its comedy routine based on that. Another learning robot.

Coupled with Big Dog, The Xos ExoskeletonSelf Assembling Furniture, This Lifelike Robot mimicking facial expressions and Realistic Animatronic Eyeball, we are getting a hell of a lot closer with Self Aware Artificial Intelligence. Well its pretty much there really. There is something called a Singularity which is defined as:

A predicted future event in human history caused by the ever-increasing ability of new technology to speed up the rate at which new technology is developed
 This can be described by Amplified Intelligence, modifying the brain with implants, sort of the same way that bloke shoved a camera in his head. Though it was not meant to be as his body rejected it. So kinda pointless.

It can also be described by Artificial Intelligence too. By that we mean computers that can think for themselves and either update themselves to be smarter than us and itself or create machine to work for it. Which would be a scary day.

So it falls back to the 2012 scenario and i put this to you. At some point in our future this 'Singularity' WILL happen and when it does, if it is to lead towards Artificial Intelligence, then some point after the Self Aware computer will start creating other computers and machines. And so on and so forth, may be years or decades but it will happen. Now some point after that people will become frightened of this technology and will either revolt or regress. Yes it plays out like a science fiction film, but that is only because within science fiction lays science fact.

So going through the decades, maybe even centuries something will happen where traveling at the speed of light will happen. And with that is the possibility of time travel.
Now if you were this advanced computer and you knew humanity would revolt and pose a threat you would try and stop this. And the only people that foresaw this happening where an advanced civilization known as the Mayans. So you go back and kill them all. Thus stopping them from communicating what will inevitably happen in the future.

Yeah i know sound far fetched and preposterous. Fun to think about though eh?

Either way this singularity will occur. It will lead to revolutionary discoveries in medicine, science and human understanding. It will lead to a serene time within all. We will be able to feed the hungry, cure the sick and stop wars.
It could also bring about a time of never ending war. More powerful machines and weapons. Nanotechnology could be used in weapons where they are dropped on cities and people/buildings are devoured from within.

I hope to be alive when this happens. It will be amazing, and to be fair the past 25 years i have been alive have shown just how fast technology can progress. Computers have gone from being the size of rooms to the size of a credit card. Phones now have the capabilities of computers.

Hell the Internet. I am lucky to appreciate all of this around me as i have seen it grown. Kids now have all of this technology from the get go. But they abuse it. They are not learning and progressing. There is a 'Tech-Stalemate' We are not progressing as fast as the past few decades, that too will herald the singularity.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Life In Balance: Music and Film


So the post before kind of delved into how i feel about music and film, and what it does to both the cinema goer and the film itself.
One film combines both of these two beautifully and is called Koyaanisqatsi. It is am experimental film from 1982 that combines slow motion footage with time lapse stills to bring a Life Out of Balance, which is what Koyaanisqatsi means when translated (well thereabouts).
It won numerous awards, one of which was the Francis Ford Coppola endorsement and he is now credited as executive producer. The visual elements go from amazement, to haunting, to puzzlement. And the soundtrack from Phillip Glass compliments it brilliantly. The soundtrack is nearly as long as the film, film is 86mins and music is 76, but sometimes you don't know its there. It transitions the different segments of the film as it moves from the early stages showing the environment and humanity through the progression of war, atomic age, right up to the 'micro-ship' age at the end. All culminating in the final scene showing the ultimate price of technology and the progression of man. NB: Its not the challenger disaster which happened 4 years after.

Some of you might recognise some of the music from the first public trailer of GTA IV, or the scene from Watchmen where Dr Manhattan talks about his origins. Koyaanisqatsi has also appeared in parody on the Simpons where an Itchy and Scratchy show entitled Koyaanis-Scratchy: Death Out of Balance was shown. Madonnas 'Ray of Light' video also resembles the feel of Koyaanisqatsi.

The soundtrack was so popular that the Phillip Glass Ensemble toured while playing the music live over the film, pretty much like War of The Worlds, if you have ever seen that on its tour.

Koyaanisqatsi was the first in the 'Qatsi' trilogy which shows Life out of Balance. Powaqqatsi was the second and shows the Life in Transition, primarily third world countries and losing the fight of holding onto their traditions in the face of industrialization. The third is Naqoyqatsi which means Life at War and shows the  'transition from a natural environment to a technology-based industrial environment'.

All three films are cheap to pick up if you want to see what I'm talking about. Those less inclined to purchase them can view the film below courtesy of Google.

Admittedly i used to watch this stoned and concentrated more, as you cant really have a busy mind when watching it. Not that I'm suggesting you get stoned and watch it, just pay attention, don't discount it for being some arty film you wont get, people interpret what they see in different ways. Watch it, think about it, discuss it.

Music and Movies

To me the arts are a complicated thing. You have paintings for example, which some people just sit and stare trying to figure out the meaning. Maybe there isn't a meaning, maybe the artist just drew what popped into their head.
The same with photos. When someone takes a picture why does it have to convey the emotions the photographer was feeling or trying to capture. Why can't it be about capturing a moment in time before it flutters away never to be captured again.

Music in film and television is vital. It tells the audience whats happening. It reminds me of the Shifty eye dog episode of The Simpsons. Dramatic music makes him look sinister, though changing the music behind it would change it to a jovial nature or whimsical. How do you know he wasn't checking for traffic before he crossed the road?

Aside from music leading the narrative, i like when the soundtrack is part of the movie in more than a 'background noise' way. Films where the music and whats happening on screen are intertwined are brilliant. Recently there has been Inception, Tron: Legacy and Social Network that have all amazing soundtracks which i love listening to but are part of the film too.

Some films have also given me new bands to listen to. Wristcutters: A Love Story introduced me to Gogol Bordello, a band which i now love. Garden State introduced me to The Shins and Stir of Echoes introduced me to Rolling Stones via Paint it Black, the soundtrack to Juno, to me, was amazing. It determined the pace of the film, showed the same emotions as the characters.

As well as soundtracks having good bands, music that is made specifically to the film are detrimental to a good film. Who here cant hum the Superman Theme? Or the theme to Star Wars. John Williams and Danny Elfman played some of the best ones of my childhood. Which is why i suppose that Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman sound the same :)

Classic soundtrack overtures like the ones in Shawshank redemption, Gladiator, and even Star Trek are also brilliant to have in a film. To me a film that has stagnant score behind it, or music that doesn't fit anything that happens on screen is a flop.

This is the overlying music from JJ Abrams Star Trek.

Its the theme that plays over pretty much anything dramatic that happens in the film. Its haunting in a way but i love it.
Speaking of haunting music and the correlation between film and music, that will be addressed in my next post.
But i will leave you with my first love of music in movies/trailers and the one that got me more into what happens in film other than actors speaking.

This is a trailer for the 2007 film Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) Its a brilliantly visual film, great story but this trailer is what did it for me. Lots of WTF moments happening at once and when the yellow bus enters the screen, that music that kicks in was it. The band are called M83 and that track made me search them out straight away. Give the film a watch and also the bands album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts.