February 2013

Dreaming of planned libertarian communities seems to be all the rage. But perhaps the only place they can succeed is in outer space. Via Smithsonian Magazine, Matt Novak on the 1978 think-tank-produced movie Libra:

Produced and distributed by a free-market group based in San Diego called World Research, Inc., the 40-minute film is set in the year 2003 and gives viewers a look at two vastly different worlds. On Earth, a world government has formed and everything is micromanaged to death, killing private enterprise. But in space, there’s true hope for freedom. Viewers get an interesting peek into what daily life is like when a Libra resident shows off her Abacus computer,  which is a bit like Siri.

The film’s vision for 2003 isn’t very pleasant — at least for those left on Earth. The people of Libra seem happy, while those on Earth cope with the world government’s dystopian top-down management of resources.

In response to recent anti-immigration comments by the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, Romanian newspaper Gandul has launched a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign to promote British tourism to the eastern European country. Featuring the…

Wondering how to make your life a bit more weird? Gilliam explains how to produce strange and wondrous things from household materials on the 1970s how-to series the Do-It-Yourself Animation Show. The rare television show which flips the tables by encouraging engagement, not passive consumption, of media, it was created and curated by British cartooning legend Bob Godfrey, who died this past week. Cartoon Brew explains:

The Do-It-Yourself Animation Show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.

Language in a gun control bill in Washington state has drawn opposition even from gun control supporters, according to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat. “They always say, we’ll never go house to…

Will our machines acquire the ability to convince us that they are in fact alive? An unsettling study at the the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology:

This video shows an experiment in which participants are asked to switch off a robot and thereby killing it. The robot begs for its live and we measured how long the participants hesitated.

The perception of life largely depends on the observation of intelligent behavior. Even abstract geometrical shapes that move on a computer screen are being perceived as being alive… in particular if they change their trajectory nonlinearly or if they seem to interact with their environments.

The robot’s intelligence had a strong effect on the users’ hesitation to switch it off, in particular if the robot acted agreeable. Participants hesitated almost three times as long to switch off an intelligent and agreeable robot (34.5 seconds) compared to an unintelligent and non-agreeable robot (11.8 seconds).