Rationalizing the God Complex

**Note that this post is duplicated on Going Boldly as it seemed appropriate for both blogs.

I am currently writing a paper for my Law and Technology class on the legal personality of artificial intelligence.  Though certainly not a new area in science fiction, it is relatively new in terms of the law.  The section I am including below (blissfully not full of legal mumbo-jumbo for you non-lawyer types) is in regards to an issue I’ve been thinking a great deal about.  I’m not sure whether this section will make it into the final draft of my paper.  To be honest, it’s sort of a philosophical debate that may or may not lend insight to the rest of my paper (once I get around to finishing it).  For that reason I thought I would post it here.  Offer it up to you for comments and discussion.

The God Complex

Proponents against human cloning, genetic engineering, and A.I. often describe scientists and theorists who work in these various fields as “playing God.”  This negative description seems to capture a fundamental belief by some members of society that creation and alteration of intelligent beings should be off limits, or limited to God.  Is this true?  What does it mean to be God, or a god?  In the Christian faith, God created man in his image.  Similarly, the character of the Doctor on Star Trek Voyager was a holographic computer program that looked exactly like a human.  Were the Doctors creators, albeit fictional, playing god?  Is it indicative of a god complex to create something in your image, in this case the image being a replica of our species, human?  Japan, currently engaged in the most aggressive robot program today, already includes humanoid robots in various aspects of their society.  For whatever reason, there does seem to be a clear goal of creating robots capable of mimicking humans.  This humanity can be in appearance (two arms, two legs, eyes, a mouth, etc.) or in personality (such as giving a computer program a voice and emotion).

Though not important directly to the legal personality or robots and A.I. it is interesting to consider the motivations for creating technology in the image of humanity and what this might say about us.  What does it mean to be a god?  The Goa’ould, a technologically advanced race depicted on Stargate SG-1, repeatedly stated that they were deserving of the status of god because for all intents and purposes they were.  Their technological superiority often made them impervious to weapons, they lived for thousands of years (again thanks to technology), and were followed and worshiped by millions of people.  They were, in many ways exactly what they said, gods.

Is this ability to play god a problem?  Does the court have a right to step in and declare that there are some things that ought not be created?  Can the courts or legislature limit some forms of technological advancement because it crosses some moral line in the sand reserved only for god– if not god, then simply a crude game of chance?  Cells coming together and choosing each other, for reasons unknown, which produce a result we as humans can wash our hands of.  Do we have the right to go beyond our role of dealing with the consequences of creations in which we had no part, or should we have the right to not only deal with the outcome, but also serve as creational architects?

Contemplation on this issue is crucial to the topic of robot rights because this is an area of the law that is currently being formed.  As we consider and construct the system from which we analyze the legal rights of robots we should also consider whether our role, as humans and creators has changed.  At the same time robots are being granted rights (if only to exist), will our rights be limited in regards to what we can create?  Should they be limited?  What is the difference between a god and a creator?  What does it mean when the created can mimic the creator?  Outdo him?  Most importantly, how will this issue resolve itself in the marble floors, wooden benches, and black robes of our justice system?

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The X-Files Returns July 25, 2008! Get. Excited.

 
 
I knew it was happening.  I had read the articles.  I even wandered over to Imdb.com a few times to check the production status.  Then they posted set photos and I could no longer contain my excitement.
 
The X-Files is returning to the silver screen this summer!
 
Agents Mulder and Scully lead the way for a story-line that is supposed to stem from the 9th season series finale.  Where are agents Doggett and Reyes?  You know, those two people (who I did come to love) that stepped in when David Duchovny had  had enough of the series in 2000.  They aren’t in the movie, but I don’t care.  My favorite paranormal tag team are back in action.  I want to see Mulder fight for the “truth is out there” notion while Scully looks on, mouth slightly agape, muttering something about scientific plausibility.  The X-Files was a huge part of my high school and college days.  I’ve missed it, and I couldn’t be happier.
So blog readers, remember…
 
The X-Files 2 (working title)
Current Status: post-production
Release Date: July 25, 2008
Preble Preparation:  Systematically reviewing the latter seasons to make sure “I get it all” by the time I slip into my seat, popcorn and coke slushie in hand, to again pursue the truth from would be conspirators with my all time favorite feds.
 
Ready.  Set.  Go.

Like she said…

Star Wars Episode IV through the eyes of a 3 year-old. Amazing-superb-awesomeness!

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10,000 b.c.

10000bc

For months now I have been excited to see 10,000 b.c.  History.  Action.  Adventure.  My type of film, really.  Like any good movie fan I dutifully donned my coat, gathered two friends, threw the Jeep in to 4 wheel-drive, and braved the snowy weather to watch it on Friday night.

The verdict?  It was decent.  I liked it.  I mean, it’s not 300 or Apocalypto, but not every movie can be that good.  10,000 b.c. borrowed the abs of 300 and the general story line from Apocalypto (members of the tribe are taken, lone warrior sets out to free his people) yet it threw in enough wooly mammoths and other extinct animals to set itself apart.  I also felt that the narrator could have been better.  Not really a sticking point but if your only job is to narrate a movie (and you are not acting in it) you better have a fantastic voice.  This fella did not.

My favorite part of 10,000 b.c. had nothing to do with the substance of the movie at all.  If you enjoy ancient history, as I do, then watching 10,000 b.c. can be a “Where’s Waldo?” of ancient civilizations.  Let me demonstrate.

The movie begins with a Native American like tribe living in the “white mountains” (Himalayas).  Bad people (modeled after the Mongol’s) come and take tribe members to use as slaves.  Our hero (a white man) along with a few others (an Indian man and an Asian boy…all from the same tribe mind you) set out over the white mountains to rescue their people.  After the mountains they end up in the rainforest (don’t even try stretching your mind on this geography…I’ll get to that in a moment) under constant attack from crazy giant-ostrich-dinosaurs(?).

Safely through the rainforest they find themselves in the African savannahA close brush with a saber-tooth tiger leads our heroes to a Maasai villageThey make friends and join forces with other tribes of the area, including the pygmies.  To continue pursuing the bad guys (who have escaped down a Nile like river) our hero and his army must now cross the Sahara desert.

After arriving in Giza(?) we see the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids (which were not constructed until 3,000 b.c.) morphed with Aztec and Incan temples by millions of slaves and trained wooly mammoths (?) for the hard stuff.  All of this construction is done to please the “almighty.”  A god who’s people were “swallowed by the sea.”  Finally, a reference to Atlantis!

The cultural potpourri is really quite ridiculous.  I couldn’t help but giggle many points throughout the film.  I mean, come on!  It’s just silly the way they threw concepts, races, architecture, etc. together.

As for the geographic discrepancies I mentioned I would tackle earlier…  I spent a good part of the film trying to orient myself on our fair planet.  We started in the “white mountains” with attacking Mongol’s so I reckoned we were in Asia.  Next, came the rainforest, which could have put us in India…except for the fact that next we entered the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa.  Then we moseyed on up to Egypt.

I’m fine with the white-mountains and the rainforest.  I’m even fine with the African savannah and Egypt.  I am not fine with them mushed together as a geographic plausibility.  I think I would have been less indignant and amused with the historical liberties taken if I would have been watching 10,000 b.c. on a Planet Similar to but Not Earth.

Now I feel bad for ragging on the film so much.  It wasn’t really that bad.  Go.  Take your friends and family to a matinee.  Be amused by the historical silliness and the groovy CGI beasts of years past.   Feed the box-office monster.  I did.

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How to View the Tudors

As an fan of history, I always enjoy a TV series or movie that attempts a portrayal of the past.  Particularly, if it is a time period I like, a historical figure I find interesting, or just a great story (Rome, Braveheart, Troy, Alexander, Dr. Zhivago, etc.)  In my mind, few things beat a good epic.

This fall brought a second film to complete the Elizabeth saga.  It was wonderful.  Cate Blanchette is Elizabeth I, at least to me.  Elizabeth is not only a great character, she has a great story.  Arguably the most powerful ruler of England, creator of the Church of England, and the last royal from the house of Tudor.  Stepping back to her parentage reveals King Henry VIII and his many wives.   Yet another great story.

henry

Over winter break I spent some time ignoring the weather and watching Showtime’s new series, The Tudors.  It was no Rome, but it was good.  Quite good actually.  Jonathan Rhys Myers, who I extolled the virtues of in a previous post, is a tormented, powerful, manipulated, and believable Henry VIII.  The Tudor’s creator, Michael Hirst, is the same man who brought Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age to the silver screen.  His foray into the small screen is seamless.
 

This past Sunday I went to see, yet another, film that dealt with the Tudor family.  The Other Boleyn Girl is a different portrayal on the life of Henry VIII and his love affair with Anne Boleyn (Elizabeth I’s mother).  This time our Henry was Eric Banna.  As Henry he was adequate…I much preferred him as Hector in Troy.  Natalie Portman was Anne and her sister Mary (the “other” girl of the title) was played by Scarlett Johansson.  The entire cast was sort of fine in a rather unremarkable way.  Somewhat redeemingly, The Other Boleyn Girl is historically fascinating because it deals with lesser known (or recorded) details about the Boleyn’s life.  Essentially it makes a story out of hearsay and theory.

otherboleyn

But what if you had to choose?  How do you view the Tudor’s?In my opinion the answer is quite simple.  Watch Showtime’s series.  The acting is better.  It’s sexier.  It is also ridiculously more in depth than The Other Boleyn Girl.  The film glosses over Cardinal Woolsely and the Duke of Norfolk, two key players in Henry’s reign.  So much of the story was lost in the film, it would be good if the movie was lost to your Netflix queue as well.The only area where the film outshines the series is in the portrayal of Queen Catherine (Henry’s first wife) and in the death of Anne Boleyn.   Showtime teases us that “heads will roll” in the soon coming second season of The Tudors, in the film Natalie Portman is beheaded without all of the pomp and circumstance.

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10 Best Sci-Fi Films…According to Me

Today is Monday and I felt like making a list.  I’ve managed to stumble across some various “Top Sci-Fi Movie” lists recently and it got me thinking.  What are my favorites?  I mean this is my favorite genre and all…how could I not have a list?  To end this internal debate with myself I am making one such list.  All of these films (which are in order of preference) are my favorites.  I have not seen every sci-fi movie…  Bearing this in mind, see what I came up with…  Concurrence?  Dissent?  I love feedback!

10.  Men in Black  – The movies are hysterical!  “Edgar, your skin is hanging off your bones.”  nuf said.

9.  The Matrix  –  W-O-W.  I love the trilogy, start to finish.

8.  Minority Report – Retinal scanning.  Cars on auto-pilot.  Pre-cogs.  Cool.

7.  Aliens – All of them.  My favorite is the second film, but they all are just generally superb.

6.  Independence Day – Great sci-fi all around.  Oh, the speech Bill Pullman gives at the end to rally the troops is probably my favorite patriotic-movie speech of all time.

5.  Stargate – The film from which one of my favorite TV series is based.  *sigh.  And, there are folks who really believe the Pyramids are landing pads for spaceships.  Go to Egypt and ask a tour guide.  They will laugh at you…a lot.

4.  Serenity – Because I wish Mal was my captain, Jane was my bodyguard, and Reevers are crazy  freaky.

3.  The Fifth Element –  Mull-Tee-Pass and orange hair.  Yeah.

2.  Starship Troopers –  Almost #1 in my book.  Loved this film from the first viewing.  Made me want to join the gender equal military and kill some bugs.   Which is no easy feat.

…and the winner is….

1.  Galaxy Quest – Because it makes fun of me and all that I love in the most witty and hilarious way.  “Never give up.  Never surrender.”  🙂

GalaxyQuest

Honorable Mentions:  Star Wars, Contact, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Waterworld, Tank Girl,  The HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy, Gattaca, Blade, A.I., Red Planet, Sphere, Event Horizon, Resident Evil

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The Funniest Call…Ever

So, I am driving home from class this morning and my phone rings.  I look to see who is calling and my phone registers “no caller ID.”  Hmmm.  It’s interesting because I have noticed a missed call each day this week from a “no caller ID” number.  Apparently I was in class, or running, or engaged in some other nonsense when they phoned before.  I don’t think I have ever had a “no caller ID” call before…I totally wondered what it was about.

I had no idea what I was in store for…

Supplemental aside: I collect/own several seasons of various TV series on DVD.  It makes me happy…totally my vice.  Some folks buy clothes, I buy DVD’s.  Last time I counted I think I have about 35 various seasons of shows on DVD and over 130 movies.  It’s my thing.

Back to the phone call.

It was a very nice woman from a company called “Highlander” who wanted to know which TV shows I watched out of this list: Xena, Hercules, and Highlander.  Having profound appreciation for all things Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, I naturally said Xena and Hercules.  Which is absolutely true.  I love those shows, but why is it important to this phone call?

The woman thinks this is wonderful and proceeds to attempt to sell me prop replicas and swords from the shows.  W-O-W.  She was super excited about it all… Went on and on about how the replica of Xena’s second chakram actually came apart and became two weapons…just like in the series.  That’s just wonderful…especially considering that the chakram, though very cool on Xena, is about as real to an actual weapon as Bullwinkle is to a real moose.

Chakram1  Quite a versatile, albeit fictional weapon…Chakram2

I tried to let her down gently.  “I’m just not into props and swords.  I mean I have the series on DVD and that’s great, but I am SO not into expanding…”

She did not want to let me go.  She fought for me.  But in the end, I claimed a late lunch meeting and cut her off.  Mostly so I could proceed to laugh hysterically and come to my computer so I could blog about it for all of you.

In conclusion, be open to “no caller ID” calls.  They have the potential to be very entertaining.   I cannot imagine where they got my number???  Weird.  Funny, but weird.

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Blog Attention Divided

Dire Mirth has been suffering these past few weeks due to a new hobby-blog I started.  I apologize for my divided attention.  Dire Mirth has grumpily twiddled her thumbs while I helped my other blog up on its wee little legs.  From this point forward I believe there will be no more detrimental blog division.

Why the other blog I seem to hear you ask from my speakers?  Well, its a novelty blog.

nov·el·ty [nov-uhl-tee] noun, adjective –noun

an article of trade whose value is chiefly decorative, comic, or the like and whose appeal is often transitory

I have seen friends of mine write novelty blogs over the past few years.  Some focus on World of Warcraft, others on law school, some on photography, one is even so nifty as to detail model rocketry.  All of them are very cool.  Dire Mirth is great as my general blog.  I have been very happy writing it.  Still, something was missing and it was easily filled with a specialty blog.

Admittedly, I struggled a bit with whether to post or link my new blog to this one, but after a few chats with some friends “why not?” seemed to be the best answer.

Not all of you will enjoy my novelty blog.  That is completely fine and absolutely understandable.  Feel free to even do what my buddy Becky did when she heard what my other blog was about, which was giggle hysterically for approximately 30 seconds.

Without further delay, and only if you feel like it, here is the link to Going Boldly.  It is currently all about Star Trek (as I just began my foray into watching all of the series’…yes, that’s plural), but will eventually be about all things sci-fi.   I absolutely love science fiction!  Going Boldly is a lot of fun for me to write.  It also keeps Dire Mirth from getting too geeky!

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Falconcity of Wonders

fc1

While reading the New York Times Magazine two Sunday’s ago I found an advertisement for a place called Falconcity.  In the shape of the falcon crest of the United Arab Emirates the city will contain ancient and modern wonders of the world.  Just outside of Dubai, Falcon City will boast replicas of the hanging gardens of Babylon, the pyramids at Giza, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China to name only a few.  Falconcity of Wonders, as the project has been named, will also be a place of business (with office space currently for sale), a resort, and small part of the recreational park called Dubailand.  What a neat idea!  I look forward to the progress of this project over the next several years.

fc2

fc3

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Not Everyone Thinks Spreadsheets are Pretty

I was familiar with this simple truth when I worked as a data analyst a few years ago.  I would go into the far reaches of Excel creating spreadsheets with thousands of lines of data.   Maybe I would even create auto-refresh reports that pulled data from Access databases into Excel to suit my needs.  It was awesome.

Though a data analyst no-longer, I still use Excel and data compilation for both of my jobs.  As someone who appreciates the urgency of an impending deadline (a delicate way of saying a procrastinator by choice), I often find myself staring at an Excel database for hours on end.  This causes what I like to think of as the “Excel Effect.”   A little known medical phenomena where the cells of an Excel document have been burned onto the retina causing you to see the cells in the world around you.  *Note: This is similar to the medical condition that occurs when playing too much WoW.  Sitting in a meeting, frustrated with the outcome, and reaching for the hot-key to blast your colleague with your moonfire/wrath/firebolts/etc.

Anyway, I usually get to keep to my Excel-ness for work these days as no one really needs to see printed out reports.  I mind a database.  I don’t have to run queries off of it or furnish the higher-ups with reports, I am in charge of the data.  That’s it.  Last week, however, I needed to give some of the raw data I was compiling to a professor for whom I am working.  I had a great idea (I thought): I’ll send him my database.  Everything he could possibly want to know is in there.  Each row contains all of the data to every question for each institution.  I thought it was fabulous.  He did not.  The next day I got an email that he could not “print out the information I sent.”  And, that is a very true statement.

I didn’t think he would want to print it.  In fact, I think I mentioned in the email that it was best to use the spreadsheet as a quick reference.  But, that was not what he wanted.  He did not appreciate the simple beauty that was my master database.  So, I spent 3 1/2 hours that evening printing out all of the individual responses for our data set.  It was time consuming and boring, but it was what he needed.

At our meeting the next day, he flipped through all of the printed responses and was able to pull out all kinds of interesting things.  He liked to see the data in front of him.  To hold it.  We had a very productive meeting when he was able to have the data in a form he understood.  The Excel spreadsheet was not what he needed to be productive and make decisions.  It might be all pretty and together to me, but to some folks it is just a bunch of lines and squares.

I had forgotten that.

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