Black Mirror creator Charlie Booker made headlines earlier this year when he stated that the world was bleak enough without a new season of the infamously dark Netflix series. During the Trump and Covid years, many commentators have observed that reality seems to have matched and even outpaced the dire predictions of the world’s science fiction authors.
However, Black Mirror brought an especially sharp edge to the genre, so closely mirroring our own society’s disintegration into techno-dystopian chaos that at times it felt like a real-time satire that was a bit too on the nose.
Now, in a move that eerily invokes a number of Black Mirror plot arcs, reality seems to be trying to reclaim its monopoly on dystopia. The tech giant Microsoft has filed a patent for software that can “revive” a version of a person who has died and use that version as the basis for a conversational chatbot.
The patent describes harvesting “social data,” which includes images, voice data, emails, text messages, social media posts, written letters, user profile and behavioral data, transactional data, geo-location data and more, in order to “modify a personalized chat index in the theme of certain person’s personality. This personality may resemble anyone for whom enough social data can be found and could also be a historical figure, a fictional character, or a celebrity.
In other words, Microsoft plans to take the concept of data mining even further, imagining that even after we die it can continue to collect the digital breadcrumbs we’ve left behind online and on our computer devices. It further fancies reassembling those relics to construct lifelike character-versions of our personalities, mannerisms, and behaviors.
Obviously, not every patent leads to a finished product and many corporations, especially the Big Tech behemoths, file rafts of moonshot patents every year in the anticipation of future developments. But the very fact that Microsoft would see potential here strikes some as haunting, especially given our recent experience with the first generation of celebrity holograms.
It begs the question: would the average person want a chatbot themed off them guiding consumers through a user interface? Would consumers even want that? A chatbot themed on Elvis or Groucho Marx makes more sense, but a deceased friend or family member?
As noted by RT, Black Mirror‘s creative synergy has been oddly prescient, depicting the “social credit score” scenario before it was firmly on the public radar. There is also an episode in which a pop singer, played by Miley Cyrus, is algorithmically simulated by her record label so that when the real-life singer dies they can continue making money off her likeness forever.
Clearly, Microsoft is willing to invest in the R&D needed to explore the idea of chatbots themed off our personalities, but would such an idea fly? Even if they are able to elude the uncanny valley associated with machine simulations of humans, would the average person want to interact with a digital recreation of a dead loved one?
FBI Seizes Capitol Building LEGO Set From Alleged Rioter’s House
Many of us know, either from our childhood or even our adulthood, that building and collecting LEGO can be a fun hobby that allows us to tap into our creativity in a relaxing, stress-free way.
But what if someone’s LEGO hobby is something much more nefarious – or even seditious in the eyes of the government?
Such may have been the case when special agents with the FBI confiscated a fully completed LEGO set of the U.S. Capitol Building from the home of Robert Morss, 27, whom they allege participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to court documents published by The Smoking Gun.
The large LEGO set is comprised of 1,032 pieces and was released in 2016 and is no longer available for retail. The agents seized the finished set along with other items matching those they believe Morss had in his possession when he allegedly stormed the building – including a neck gaiter, a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a military-style satchel, a black tourniquet, and military battle dress uniforms.
The documents also note that he “had three different firearms including a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle” in his possession.
According to LEGO, the United States Capitol Building set “focuses on the structure’s neoclassical style facade, steps and lawns” and is “finished with a decorative ‘US Capitol’ nameplate.” In 2019, the product was “retired” – which has less to do with politics and more to do with the limited availability of the company’s unique product lines.
Morss, who is from Pennsylvania, was arrested last month on a range of federal charges. According to the Department of Justice, his alleged crimes “include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; civil disorder; and robbery of personal property of the United States.”
An FBI investigator’s affidavit notes that Morss joined rioters in direct confrontations with officers guarding the Lower West Terrace doors of the Capital in “an intense and prolonged clash between rioters and law enforcement.”
Law enforcement officers claim that they also found a notebook in Morss car that had instructions on a “Step by Step to Create Hometown Militia” that included a list of names, equipment, and sections on “ambush,” “battle drills,” and “formations.” The notebook also contained notes that said “bring assault rifle,” “4 magazines,” and “bring kit/body armor.”
However, the court documents do not indicate whether the LEGO set was deployed in tactical drills prior to the botched uprising.
The DOJ says that roughly 465 individuals have been arrested on charges related the events of Jan. 6.
Neptune, the Roman God of Water, ‘Emerges’ From Waves in Photo During UK Storm
If we were to believe our eyes, it would seem that the ancient Roman god of water himself made an appearance on the shores of New Haven, England, on a day of especially rough surf.
What appears to be the “face” of Neptune was captured on Tuesday when photographer Jeff Overs of the BBC was taking photos of waves crashing over the harbor wall in the port city.
Of course, one is free to believe that the ferocious deity emanated from the depths of the sea to remind us puny humans of his wrath.
But alas, it was likely a simple example of pareidolia – the phenomenon of seeing faces and figures in otherwise random or ambiguous everyday objects.
The photographer snapped the shot amid high tide and winds exceeding 50 miles per hour (80km/h), namely because of the violent nature of the shore.
“It’s become a popular location for photographers because the sea ‘boils’ in high wind against the sea wall,” Overs explained.
“The waves splash into the high wind and when blown back occasionally make patterns that look like ghoulish faces.”
Overs added that one of the small foreground waves even resembles a hand – albeit a pareidolic one.
“It’s a straight shot and I haven’t manipulated the image at all,” he added.
Lunar New Deal: GOP Lawmaker Suggests Altering Moon & Earth’s Orbit to Stop Climate Change
Texas Republican Congressman Louise Gohmert raised the eyebrows of his Congressional colleagues on Tuesday after seemingly suggesting that climate change could be combatted by changing the orbit of the moon, or even altering “Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
Gohmert, who has been decried as the “dumbest member of Congress” for his past absurdly anti-scientific comments regarding the ongoing pandemic and a number of other issues, has been a vocal opponent of progressive legislators’ attempts to put a “Green New Deal” on the government’s agenda.
However, his apparent suggestion of a “Lunar New Deal” to mitigate global warming could take the cake as his most hare-brained idea yet.
The comments came during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four pending bills while questioning Jennifer Eberlien of the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, reports NBC.
“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the B.L.M. [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” the Texas congressman began.
“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” he continued.
“We know there’s been significant solar flare activity,” Gohmert said. “And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or B.L.M. can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?”
“Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate,” the lawmaker added.
Responding, Eberlein said with a smile: “I would have to follow up with on you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”
“If you figure out there’s a way in the forest service you could make that change, I’d like to know,” Gohmert responded, without any trace of irony.
Longtime critics of the conservative legislator were besides themselves with bewilderment and mockery over the out-of-this-world suggestion.
On the opposite side of the aisle California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu suggested that perhaps Marvel Comics superheroine Captain Marvel was up to the task.
“She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I’m going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help,” Lieu wrote on Twitter.
According to NASA, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history for various reasons, including small variations in the planet’s orbit.
However, the agency’s website notes that this doesn’t discount the fact that anthropogenic or human-caused activities are the culprit of the current warming.
“The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia,” the site says.