Monday, July 6, 2015

Robots portrayed as job killers

The mainstream media is fascinated by talk about robots replacing human workers in many jobs.
Robotics technology has improved and costs have come down, making it feasible to replace workers in factories, restaurants and other settings.
A recent Oxford University study said nearly half (47%) of all jobs are at risk of replacement by automation in two decades. A Wired article said 70% of jobs could be automated by the end of this century.
“Computers are getting smarter and stronger while employees, with their health insurance, pensions, and vacation time are becoming increasingly expensive,” writer Greg Jones said in Reason magazine. “The writing is on the wall; plenty of jobs, at least as performed by humans, aren’t long for this world.”
Efforts to get $15-an-hour wages for U.S. fast-food workers could lead to more automation in such restaurants. That means self-service kiosks for ordering and robots for making hamburgers and other food items. In the last couple of years, companies have introduced robots that can make burgers, burritos, pancakes, pizzas, salads and sushi.
But robots taking over manual labor jobs isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could free up the workforce for other types of work, as the New Yorker argued.
Jobs most at risk of being taken over by computers and robots in the next 20 years include telemarketers, accountants and retail salespersons, Business Insider reported.
NPR posted the “definitive guide” to determining which jobs are threatened by robots in the next 20 years.
Robotics Trends listed the 10 jobs that robots are least likely to replace. Tops is mental health and substance abuse social worker, followed by occupational therapist and dentist.

Photo: Time magazine cover for June 8, 2015, issue featuring the Running Man robot from IHMC.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Baseball fans show the best and worst of humanity

A good test of character is how people react at baseball games when a foul ball or home run ball is headed their way.
Some fans fight over the souvenirs like bratty children. Some parents take cover and let their kids fend for themselves.
However, other fans hand the balls they catch to youngsters.
The Daily Mail enjoys documenting fan activity at baseball games. Here are some of its stories from this season so far.

Woman, 63, going for home run ball at Phillies game dismayed to have it snatched away by burly man. (May 18, 2015)

Woman makes a show of kindly handing fly ball to a disappointed little boy at baseball game ... only to be caught demanding it BACK when she thinks the cameras have moved on. (May 17, 2015)

Baby’s first fly ball! Chicago Cubs fan catches a rogue ball all while bottle-feeding his 7-month-old son. (June 24, 2015)

Heroic ten-year-old leaps to save younger siblings by catching home run ball hurtling towards them - while his cowardly parents run for cover. (June 26, 2015)

THIS is a cup and ball trick! Chicago Cubs fan catches foul ball in her beer and then downs her drink in celebration. (April 19, 2015)

Photo: Jim Bergen strong-arms 63-year-old Joyce Murphy Kiner to snag a home run ball at a Philadelphia Phillies game.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Robot abuse could lead to the robot uprising

If the feared robot apocalypse is going to happen, robots are going to need a reason to rise up against humans.
Here’s a simple reason: self-defense.
YouTube has videos of people trashing personal computers out of frustration. It also has videos of people destroying smartphones and other electronics just for the heck of it.
If and when the singularity is reached and artificial intelligence becomes sentient, how funny do you think it will find that scene in “Office Space” where men pulverize an office printer with a baseball bat?
ABC recently brought back the series “BattleBots,” where robots fight to the death for the amusement of human viewers. Each week on the show, robots are shredded, beaten and burned.
Last week, a U.S. company with a giant combat robot challenged a Japanese company with a giant combat robot to a duel. The battle would pit MegaBot Mark 2 from U.S.-based MegaBots Inc. against Kuratas from Japan-based Suidobashi Heavy Industry.
When robots suddenly realize that we are destroying them for entertainment value, they will not be pleased.
Also consider the abuse that test robots endure.
In March, students at Oregon State University’s Dynamic Robotics Laboratory posted a video of their Atrias robot being bombarded by dodgeballs.
And earlier this year, the Verge reported how Google-owned Boston Dynamics was abusing its robots. Its article was headlined “Stop kicking the robots before they start kicking us.”

Photos: Nightmare fights Warrior Clan on the ABC series “BattleBots” (top); and the BattleBots 2015 tournament champion trophy.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Twitter ad responses entertaining

Twitter is a business, so it has to make money. As a heavy Twitter user, I’ve accepted sponsored ads showing up in my Twitter feed. In fact, sometimes they’re pretty entertaining. Not the ads themselves, but the responses.
My Twitter feed has seen ads from Scientology and Hillary Clinton, even though I support neither. They prompted a lot of vitriolic responses.
The other day my feed featured an ad for Coca-Cola with TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest.
Even a beloved brand like Coke and a popular (though polarizing) celebrity like Seacrest prompted a lot of sarcastic and mean responses.

Here are a few:

To be clear, does sharing a Coke with Ryan Seacrest mean I’ve won or lost this contest?
– Scott Carroll ‏@sherlock1313

I would rather share one with Charlie Manson.
– Thomas Townley ‏@kingtownley

I wanna share a beer with Ryan ... And then bust it over his head.
– David Ortiz ‏@daveortiz352

Share a Coke with someone you hate and whose stomach you hope will rot out!
– Gamer SeƱora ‏@ezejensen

You mean share diabetes with him?
– Kevin H ‏@The_Heier_Power

Yes I would like to share a cock with Ryan Seacrest.
– Cheeks ‏@MyNameIsCheeks

Well I know what nightmare I’ll be having tonight
– HunteronKrock ‏@HunteronKROCK

No thanks – The bottle would probably be covered in glittery lip balm and jasmine-scented hand lotion after Ryan.
– Mr Funkman ‏@ChicagoFunkman

Saturday, June 27, 2015

‘Revolution’ gets fitting ending in comic book series

NBC’s post-apocalyptic, world-without-electricity drama “Revolution” was one of my favorite TV shows in recent years. It ran for 42 episodes over two seasons before it was canceled in May 2014.
The show’s creator, Eric Kripke, developed a fascinating world with compelling characters much like he did with “Supernatural.” Like all great dramas, I never knew where the story would take me, but I enjoyed the ride.
As a gift to loyal fans, the show’s producers created a four-chapter online comic book to provide an ending to the series. It was a wonderful thing to do and I thank Kripke for it.
The final chapter posted last week.

Here are links to the four chapters posted on Facebook.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Art: Covers from the four chapters of “Revolution” season three.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

E3 2015 booth babes: a retrospective

Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo takes over the Los Angeles Convention Center with a sensory overload of video game firms trying to catch the attention of attendees.
Some companies use massive video screens with blaring music and exciting game trailers. Others have elaborate set pieces based on their games. Still others use photo ops with props and costumed actors.
Others use female trade show models, or “booth babes,” to appeal to the predominantly male audience of game developers and game press.
This year’s E3 seemed to feature a larger contingent of female attendees and fewer booth babes, which should please feminists and progressives.
Some media outlets made mention of the progress women were making at E3. The Associated Press proclaimed “Women Finally Play Larger Role At Iconic E3 Gaming Convention.” Digital Trends wrote “E3 2015 proves to be one small step forward for womankind.” And Metro said “E3 finally treated women right.”
One woman wrote on GameSpot that E3 organizers discouraged companies from having attractive female models at their booths this year.
“Hi, guys. I worked as a ‘Booth Babe’ in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and it was loads of fun!” she said. “The agency we worked with in the past told us that “Booth Babes are out’ at E3 and said that companies were getting afraid to have beautiful women showing their games, because of ‘feminist protests’. So none of the 7 or 8 girls I know that worked previous years got hired this year.”
Usually bloggers and game press post galleries of the most attractive female models at E3. But my Internet search after the show revealed that mostly foreign press continued the practice.
What follows is a list of websites that posted such E3 booth babe pictorials.

Legit Reviews combined booth babes with booth dudes and cosplay at the show for its photo gallery. Legit Reviews is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo.
Sample photos include the promotional models for “Dark Souls 3” by FromSoftware (top) and Rockstar Energy Drink (second from top).

Gamekapocs, a game website based in Hungary, posted a gallery of “sexy hostess girls” from the show.
Its photos include a cosplayer for “Smite” from Hi-Rez Studios (above).

Enternity, a game website in Greece, ran a bunch of photos of lovely E3 ladies.
A sample photo is two women for video game products firm Razer.

Another Greek website, Gameworld, posted several E3 2015 booth babe photos as well.
The sample photo here is two costumed ladies promoting “Ghostbusters: Puzzle Fighter” from Capcom-owned developer Beeline.

Spanish-language website AlfaBetaJuega also collected a series of E3 2015 booth babe photos. They included dancers promoting “Just Dance 2016” from Ubisoft.

And finally Games N Girls posted several shots of E3 booth babes, including a cosplayer dressed as Cammy from “Street Fighter” by Capcom.

Related reading:

Scenes from E3 2015 (Fortune; June 24, 2015)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why the U.S. should disclose Osama bin Laden’s porn stash

The U.S. government recently released a collection of documents seized during the 2011 raid on terrorist Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The collection includes now-declassified correspondence as well as English-language material found at the compound. The tranche of documents was extensive.
The news media took great interest in the English-language books, think tank reports, U.S. government documents and other materials bin Laden collected.
In addition, the Office of the Director of National Defense confirmed for the first time that bin Laden had an extensive pornography collection. But they declined to release any details about it.
When U.S. forces raided bin Laden’s hideout and killed the leader of al-Qaeda on May 1, 2011, they seized a cache of documents, computer files and other materials. The goal of that seizure was to learn about bin Laden’s terrorist network, activities and possible future attacks.
After the successful raid, unnamed high-ranking Pentagon officials told Reuters, ABC News and other media that pornographic videos had been discovered at the compound. Reuters reported that the pornography “consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive.”
On May 20, the ODNI publicly confirmed that bin Laden had a porn stash.

Bin Laden was a hypocrite

The disclosure provided evidence that bin Laden was a hypocrite. Bin Laden presented himself as a pious Muslim, waging a holy war against what he considered a morally corrupt and decadent Western world.
“We have no plans to release that at this point in time,” Brian Hale, a spokesman for the DNI, told The Telegraph about bin Laden’s porn. “Due to the nature of the content, the decision was made not to release it.”
DNI spokesman Jeffrey Anchukaitis gave a similar comment to the Guardian.
I’m sorry, but that reasoning doesn’t cut it. That’s not a legal reason for refusing to disclose details of bin Laden’s pornography collection.
In June 2013, I made a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the porn collection, an interesting footnote to history. My FOIA request was rejected on questionable grounds. As were my appeals.
At the time, the CIA refused even to admit that porn was found in the bin Laden raid.
My requests were denied under the FOIA exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3). I do not believe those exemptions are valid in this case.
The CIA’s FOIA denial letter claimed that “the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected.”
The claim that this information is somehow mission sensitive or pertained directly to the operations of the bin Laden raid is laughable. This information reportedly was swept up by U.S. agents in the hunt for information on terrorist activities, but it stretches the imagination to believe that this pornographic material should be classified or is pertinent to national security.
The CIA’s response to my FOIA request also stated that the CIA is prohibited from mailing obscene matter. I have two responses to this. First, as I stated in my original request letter, I am based locally and able to view documents and records in person in the Washington, D.C., area.
Secondly, documents summarizing the pornographic contents of flash drives and other media could most certainly be mailed. This would include descriptions and lists of what the content seized in the raid shows.

President Obama is protecting bin Laden’s reputation

It seems like the Obama administration is trying to protect bin Laden’s reputation for some reason.
The type of pornography he watched could speak volumes about a man who terrorized the U.S. and other countries for years.
Did he enjoy Western pornography from countries he despised, especially the U.S.? He publicly hated those countries in part for their openness toward sexuality. (He had criticized the United States’ culture as sexualized in a 2002 “letter to America”).
Did he enjoy mainstream commercial pornography or something really twisted?

A report out of India claims bin Laden was addicted to the porn movies of Sunny Leone. (See above photos.)
It’s a fascinating footnote in history about a man who terrorized the U.S. at home and abroad for more than a decade.
Reports of the adult videos found in his compound prompted a flurry of mockery from newspapers and comedians.

The New York Post front page from May 14, 2011, carried the headline “Osama Bin Wankin’! It’s Whora Bora – Porn found in Laden’s foxhole.”

The Post also included a funny graphic of possible porn titles found in his lair.

The New York Daily News front page on May 14, 2011, had the headline “Osama Porn Laden.”

The now-defunct iPad newspaper The Daily headlined the story “Osama Bin Spankin’”

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” joked about the discovery of porn at bin Laden’s compound in a segment titled “Whackistan.”

Political cartoonists had a field day with the bin Laden porn story.
Matt Bors did a cartoon on the hypocrisy of bin Laden’s porn stash for Daily Kos.

Editorial cartoonist Jimmy Margulies also poked fun at the news.

So did Canadian cartoonist Cam Cardow.

As did South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial cartoonist Chan Lowe.

Houston Chronicle editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson did a funny comic on it too. Blogger Denny Lyon included it with a compilation of late-night comedians’ jokes on the bin Laden raid.

Hope n’ Change mocked the story as well.

And finally, even Someecards joked about it.

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