No spoilers this week! Just looking at all the scientific discoveries of the past decade and how that has or hasn’t played into the scifi we’ve covered.
1. Privacy & Cyberpunk
… and the illusion thereof. Snowden and the shattering of the illusion of privacy in the digital age. The world becoming the less awesome-looking irl version of cyberpunk. Workers as a resources. Torture toilets.
2. Machine learning
The biggest huge development in the pats decade which underlies every other things. Wowzers. Realizing the importance of the data going in, so you don’t get racist policing or image recognition. The availability of open tools, compute time, and learning resources.
3. Genetic editing
CRISPR! What will eventually result from this one?
Water on Mars! So much more water than we thought. Greater accuracy in portrayals of space settlement. Increasing private industry in space.
Hey, an update on Einstein: still correct! Also… Gravity waves! Higgs-Boson! Imaging a black hole. The contributions of computing and storage technologies.
39. Human history
Confirmation of Sapiens and Neanderthal interbreeding in remaining modern humans. Discovering more extinct human varieties.
What happened to AR glasses!? The state of wearables. Recognizing that there are senses to augment other than our visual system.
It gets a bit weird! And we have a bit of a time summarizing it.
Adventure stories. Social allegory. The power of science fiction in particular to force you to reframe your perception by believably breaking your assumptions. HG Wells and Moreau. Science fiction tropes and the subversion thereof. Christopher is bad at human things.
Languages, dialect, and speaking to your audience. “Not having to think about it.”
Mass media vs indie communities. The lowest common denominator. Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
A lament for the concentration on cow’s milk. Mare milk. Fermented milk products from cows and horses.
Naive vs machine-intelligent image enhancement. “Photorealistic hallucination” and honest technical names. Reconsidering the absurdity of fictional image enhancement in the age of clever neural nets. Creative, artistic “enhancement” vs rigor.
Well, breaking your spinal chord sure seems to suck. Spinal breaks and the autonomic nervous system. Bodily control via brain-machine interface.
Extension of human functionality by implanted technology! Increasing neural communication speed, or shortening signal distance. Gun arms. Gun arms! Vocal device command by subvocalization.
The AI “box test”
Self-serving artificial intelligence. Yudkowsky’s AI box test. Callback to Ex Machina. Additional stipulations. The true power of a goon with a wrench. How easy are humans to fool? Very.
Memories of the arcade and the Sega Game Gear. Introduction of Larry the Rat in the Atari Lynx port. How to pick from current social fears for your lazy game plot.
Genetics research in spaaaaaace. CRISPR. Bremen Drop Tower.
Gorilla sign language
Koko the gorilla. Gorilla sign language. Credulity and confirmation bias. Impressive gorilla lexicons. Adventures in signing portmanteus. Yogurt aka “milkfruitcandy food.”
Comparing the gorilla to the grizzly bear. Relative animal size. Grizzly bears as killing machine. Gorilla conflict-avoidance techniques.
The square-cube law! Relative scaling and the race between volume and surface area (volume always wins!). The creation of a bio antenna. The relatively low energy of radio waves.
Mutations, mutations, mutations
Gorilla turns into giant gorilla. Lizard turns into mega lizard. Wolf, though, turns into a wolf… with patagia and throwable quills! Possibly resembling the urticating hairs of a tarantula.
How to Make an Elephant Explode with Science by Kurtzgesagt: YouTube
Zero-G Experiments on Earth: The Bremen Drop Tower by Tom Scott: YouTube
Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday by The Onion: YouTube
Anatomically modern humans vs socially modern humans. The evolutionary advantage of controlled fire and beginning to cook food. Getting away from all-day mastication and looooooooong intestines in favor of the big brain on Brad.
Getting boy without modern technology. The earliest evidence for humans cooking with fire. Differentiating human-controlled fire from millennia ago from other sources (like iguanas, or wildfires).
Life expectancies over time. Appreciation for antibiotics. Life expectancy vs lifespan. Evolving into a centauranarian.
Less-than-generous portrayals of religious characters. Third-act surprises. Jesus vs the antichrist.