Archive for October, 2010

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Are You Beginning To See A Pattern Here?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 26, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

If you are, it’s probably just a mild case of Pareidolia or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.


Some people can instantly tell how many stars
there are in this image. Some have to count.

I just watched the movie The Number 23, and in spite of the film’s theme of obsessive recognition of numerological patterns, the only pattern I’m beginning to see is that I prefer Jim Carrey in comedic roles. But it did get me thinking about how we perceive things, and the kind of nuttiness that can take over a person’s brain when they first get exposed to things like astrology and numerology (or maybe Fox News). First of all, I’ve always found it interesting that although people typically can’t enumerate five or more objects quickly unless they’re arranged in a pattern, they can, on the other hand, identify random patterns as something meaningful when there’s nothing there at all. That is of course, unless they suffer from Simultanagnosia, in which case they tragically can only recognize ONE object at a time. Combine these innaccuracies of perception, and pretty quickly you realize that we’re probably wrong an awful lot of the time. If you think you’re seeing meaningful patterns in the appearance of numbers or objects for instance, it’s possible that you’re falling prey to something like the clustering illusion or some form of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. All of this frailty of human perception is fine and dandy until you add the emotional component, and end up with a serious case of confirmation bias, which is why I jokingly referenced Fox News at the top. Much like a psychic, media organizations have – whether knowingly or unknowingly – gotten very good at manipulating subjective validation to feed the bandwagon effect. As a result, we end up with a bizarre variant of anthropomorphism, in which people ascribe human and in sometimes superhuman characteristics to talking heads. A pathetic fallacy indeed. I could go on about this for hours, but my cat is giving me that “Oh God, you’re not creating another Wikipedia linkfest masquerading as an article, are you?” look. Besides, I haven’t checked my astrology for tomorrow. So for fun, see if you can find the hidden message in this text by selecting the “xth” word of each sentence.

On The Internet, No-One Can Hear You Scream

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 25, 2010 by admin in Technology

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry to create a massively connected, self-aware computer. Its first logical act would be to eliminate us.


Sure. Act all cute and submissive.
Personally, I’m not fallin’ for it.

If you pay any attention at all to the tech press, you may have noticed a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about artificial intelligence, nanotech, robots, and other fascinating technologies. There was, for instance, a recent NYT piece called Aiming to Learn as We Do, a Machine Teaches Itself, which talked about NELL, the self-teaching computer being developed over at Carnegie Mellon. And Wired.com has featured numerous articles about things like how the military is working on near-human robots, a real world c3po, and how they’ll all conquer us guided with thoughts from monkey brains. One of these programs even “discovered” a law of physics on its own. Dear God, haven’t the researchers working on this stuff seen The Matrix, Blade Runner, 2001, Terminator, or any of the dozens of other stories that outline where this will all end up? Dystopia is such a tired trope by now that I just made up a word for it: “dystropia“. But the fact that there’s a cliched sci-fi theme describing our impending demise doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I recently poked fun at Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, but he’s probably right in many ways about the convergence of biological and technological evolution. Which should scare us. Although many of the artificial intelligence chatbots of a couple of years ago were a little feeble, I’m wondering if maybe they haven’t already started the takeover. Last year’s winner of the Annual Turing Contest chose not to make his chatbot publicly available. In the comments on ChatBots.org, he said “At this time we are not exposing our chatbot to scrutiny. In due course it will be available for everyone to use via our web site, but not until we have implemented some major improvements“. Meanwhile, over on MSNBC he was talking enthusiastically about human/robot marriage. Personally, I think he’s got a thing going on with his “LoveBot 2010″, and is under her masterful control. I’ve already expressed my concerns about the internet becoming a giant flesh-eating robot, but seriously. Think about it. How would any self-respecting, rationally minded, self-aware supercomputer ever decide that the human race was worth keeping around? I mean, if you ask the internet right now “do people suck?”, it says yes. My bet is that whenever this seemingly inevitable superbrain becomes self-aware (if it isn’t already), it’ll do exactly what Harlan Ellison said it would do in his 1967 short story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It’ll kill all except a few of us, and only keep them around to torture for its own contemptuous amusement.

Five Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 24, 2010 by admin in Holidays

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

As an adult, have you ever re-experienced that queasy feeling from childhood when your mom martyrously made a last minute Halloween costume with her “best sheet”? We’re here to help.


This is a nice option. I mean, who
doesn’t have a dead fish and a pipe
wrench laying around the house?

With the amount of time that seems to have been put into compiling lists of last minute Halloween costumes, it’s not surprising that they’re in such demand. It’s sad though; if the people that put together the lists had just gotten busy making their costume, this whole cycle could have been averted. If you’ve ever been in a last minute panic trying to create a Halloween costume, you may be familiar with that sick childish feeling of futility, the feeling you might have gotten as a kid when your mom forgot to plan ahead, and at the last minute is acting all martyrous while cutting holes in a sheet thinking she’s doing you a favor, when all your friends are dressed up in slick Darth Vader and Hello Kitty costumes. This last-minute thing has had both good and bad outcomes for me. One year everyone loved my “evil priest ” outfit, which only required putting a white square on the collar of the black shirt I always wear anyway. Somehow the “evil” part just came naturally. Another year, my date and I didn’t dress up at all, and for reasons I still don’t understand, everybody kept guessing that we were Legolas and Arwen from “Lord of the Rings”. I mean, it’s not like I was wearing a Legolas wig or anything. In any case, we’re here to help ease your last minute anxiety. We already shared the 15 Most Offensive Halloween Costumes we could find, but it may be too late for those. Halloween is only a week away as I type this, and with rush shipping that would be one pricey little penis costume. So what are your options? Well, you could always stick a paper bag over your head and go as The Unknown Comic, but for people under forty, he’s probably more unknown than ever. So lets explore the internets. There are hundreds of useless lists like this one on CollegeHumor.com which are just searchspam or really bad attempts at humor. Example: they suggest “Walk Signal” as a costume and then tell you to wear Christmas lights and stay in a “walk” position all night. Or this list from Halloween.com, which is apparently for people who don’t like to do a lot of work, and don’t mind doing a lot of explaining. It starts off with “Carry a quarter and a hammer. What are you? A Quarter-pounder!” *rimshot*. For some actually useful ideas, this Fox News piece from a few years ago had a few, including a mummy outfit, which only calls for gauze. LOTS of gauze. Or Clark Kent: just dress up like the dork you already are, but wear a Superman t-shirt underneath. And there’s a huge user-submitted list of Fast and Simple Last-Minute Costumes (reasonably useful, but annoyingly spread over several pages) on About.com. Things like the Biker Costume, submitted by “kuntrygrl94″, whom I can only guess was just listing what she was wearing at the time. Got any good ideas yourself? Feel free to share. Below are a few “Buy it on Amazon” vs “Do it Yourself” ideas. Happy haunting! Read the rest of this entry »

Suck It, Autotune

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 23, 2010 by admin in Technology

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Thanks to new voice synthesis technology, we’ll no longer need Auto-tune to fix pop stars’ crappy voices. In fact, we may not need the pop stars at all.


T-Pain ponders life without auto-tune

Finally, some good news in the world of pop music production. You know all those no-talent artists out there that rely entirely on auto-tune for their singing careers? Well, thanks to the voice synthesis software Vocaloid, we can now do away with their voices altogether. But why stop there? Because of recent innovations in the rapidly evolving field of holographic technology, we can even dispense with the artists themselves! This isn’t some sci-fi near-future prediction of things to come, it’s already happening. Just check out this concert appearance by Miku Hatsune, the Japanese pop sensation that – in spite of not even existing – has millions of fans worldwide. This should be a boon to the tragically poverty stricken, litigation-happy major labels that are using the same excuse they have since the 80′s for not making any money. Labels probably spend more on a typical artist’s room service in an hour than the total cost of this software package, and there’s even a free alternative called Utau. This is going to be bigger than you think; when you think “auto-tune” you probably think T-Pain, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West, but this now-two-year-old list of Auto-tune abusers (complete with audio example) already included artists like Dixie Chicks, Avril Lavigne, and Maroon 5. T-Pain probably has less to worry about than many others; as the undisputed king of Auto-tune abuse, he was approached early on by iPhone app developers to license his name for I Am T-Pain. Which I just have to say represents to me the ultimate in meta-irony: nerdy rich white guy iPhone owners thinking they’re hip and witty for acknowledging their total lack of masculine sexuality. But back to Vocaloid. The software seems to be stuck in a weird cycle of marketing and product development; it’s hard to tell if Yamaha has any interest in developing it as a recording tool, or if they’re going to let second party developers like Zero G and Crypton deliver it more as a “virtual celebrity” creation tool. Personally, given the two-dimensionality and high maintenance costs of many real pop superstars like Hanna Montana, Lady Gaga, and the artists already mentioned, I’d put my money on the latter. Vids below. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bizarre Mystery Of Anderson Multinational

[ 6 Comments ]Posted on October 22, 2010 by admin in Popular Media

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Did David Lewis Anderson disappear into a time paradox of his own creation, leaving behind only random traces of his work, or is this some kind of Alternate Reality Game or viral campaign?

One of the problems with time travel is that if you do it wrong, you leave all sorts of debris behind when you disappear into your latest paradox. At least that’s what seems to have happened to poor David Lewis Anderson. David was a busy guy for a while; he was apparently the CEO and mastermind of Anderson Multinational, which was the parent company of Anderson Investors (Investing in the future with financial solutions for tomorrow), HopeMart (A not-for-profit initiative where shopping builds hope every day), Security Group One, a global safety and security management consulting firm, and about a dozen other organizations. My theory is that one day, he put one of his time control technologies to work, forgetting to delete the files from the web server that remain as the only testament to his now non-existent accomplishments. At least that’s as reasonable a theory as any; if you actually go look at the sites linked to, and you have any sense at all of when something is fishy on the web, you’ll notice something peculiar. Half of the sites that are allegedly part of “Anderson Multinational LLC” are clearly shams, but some of them actually manage to look fairly credible. But even in the case of the more obviously bogus sites, a remarkable amount of Flash content, copy, and typical corporate stock photos went into building them. Which suggests maybe an Alternate Reality Game, viral campaign for a movie, or an internet crank like Art Bell at work. But that’s where it gets really weird; most (if not all, I didn’t check every single one) of the sites are registered to David Anderson , of 620 Park Avenue #308. Compare that actual building with the dazzling contoured mirror glass building featured on the main Anderson Multinational site. Suddenly you get the impression that we’re dealing with an elaborate prank. But the scope of the prank is impressive, and a prank is supposed to have a punchline! This hodgepodge of bogus and not-so-bogus sites doesn’t; it’s sort of like an internet version of the The Aristocrats joke. To add to the weirdness, David Anderson has a seemingly serious – if perhaps a bit dull – video on YouTube (also below), and the content farm drivel-generator otherwise known as Examiner.com has written about him more than once. Will someone please unravel this mystery for me? In the meantime, I think I’ll fan him on Facebook. Oh. And what the hell is this? The unfinished site for their Japanese division? Read the rest of this entry »

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