Life of the Author plus 70 by Kenneth Schneyer

Whole Truth Witness and Life of the Author plus 70 by Kenneth Schneyer

Whole Truth Witness and Life of the Author plus 70 by Kenneth Schneyer

The short story “Life of the Author plus 70″ by Kenneth Schneyer was published for the first time in 2013.

Eric Weiss is a writer who had no success. He’s the only person to have borrowed his own novel from the local library after he suggested buying it. Eventually, he had to adapt to working for a creative department of cartoons. By signing his contract he noticed the curious clause that includes the possibility for him to get hibernated in case of life threats.

Things to improve for Weiss but after ten years he gets warned that he never returned the book he borrowed. The fine to be paid is $102,400 and Weiss’ attempts to amicably solve the situation only make it worse. His case is handled by an artificial intelligence and it’s impossible to talk to a human being. Weiss is forced to try every loophole to try not to pay an awful lot of money.

Ending up in the gears of bureaucracy is terrible because it’s an inhumane system but what happens when a bureaucratic problem is handled by an artificial intelligence, thus eliminating any human involvement? That’s what happens to Eric Weiss, a writer forced to wage a battle to the last loophole to avoid paying a disproportionate fine for not returning a copy of the book he wrote to a library.

Eric Weiss had little success as a writer and his novel might cost him a lot. He’s the only one to have borrowed it in the library where it’s available but he forgets to return it. The consequence is that after ten years he’s asked to pay a huge fine. Unfortunately for him, his case is handled by an artificial intelligence that is far from perfect despite the progress achieved at the beginning of the 22nd century.

Kenneth Schneyer worked as a lawyer in the course of his life so he knows the problems conncted to contracts, clauses and caveats. The story “Life of the Author plus 70″ is developed exactly on the interpretation of the laws and contracts and their possible developments throughout the 22nd century.

The availability of artificial intelligence that can follow a case indefinitely but don’t always understand the situation completely can generate a terrible bureaucracy. Eric Weiss tries to use cryogenic suspension to escape it but this gives rise to new legal developments he hadn’t foreseen.

“Life of the Author plus 70″ has a light-hearted tone but tells the disturbing story of the fight between Eric Weiss and the increasingly advanced artificial intelligences following his case. It’s narrated in the first person by the protagonist, who tells us about his moods and his frustrations in dealing with inhuman contacts.

It’s a plot-driven story where Eric Weiss is the only significant character, also because the story goes on for more than a century with various leaps forward when the protagonist enters hibernation. For this reason, the pace is very fast despite the very long period of time covered in theory.

The result is a story really well done that will give you many laughs but often bitter. I recommend reading “Life of the Author plus 70″, also taking advantage of the fact that it’s available in an ebook together with “Whole Truth Witness” on Amazon USA, Amazon UK and Amazon Canada.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Google+ will change with the split in Photos, Streams and Hangouts

Bradley Horowitz with his wife Irene Au

Bradley Horowitz with his wife Irene Au

Bradley Horowitz (photo ©Joi) is the new head of Google+ and announced various changes to Google’s social network. The platform will be split into separate areas where the Photos service will be devoted to image management, Streams will keep Google+ core and Hangouts while the service that should be devoted to audio / video communications and the classic text messaging.

Google+ polarized users opinions in a manner very different from Facebook. The social network created by Mark Zuckerberg is loved or hated but is used regularly by many people who hate it. Google’s social network is loved by those seeking new interesting people and is considered a ghost town by the ones who can’t go beyond Facebook’s patterns.

Another element that Google+ fans appreciate compared to Facebook is the higher average quality of the posts. However, in today’s social world success is measured by millions of users and from this point of view undoubtedly Google+ is far behind Facebook but also other competitors such as Twitter. The consequence is that Google now has new plans to develop its social network.

Since its start, Google+ has been put at the center of Google’s ecosystem, interconnected in a deeper and deeper way with the other company’s services. This was just confirmed by Google senior vice president of products Sundar Pichai at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) being held this week in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

In fact, Pichai stated that for the company Google+ represents two things: the stream and the social layer. He then stressed that social sharing works across Google’s products and services and this is the most important element.

The evolution of social media is rewarding some of them devoted to images and some devoted to communications. Google+ is a mix of these elements, built around the stream. It’s for this reason that the company decided to change its social network focusing more on the different areas separately.

For the moment there are no details on the development of new areas of Google+ so we’ll have to wait and see the actual changes. However, it seems that the path is to allow users to use the services separately, with fewer restrictions than in the past.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Google is developing an artificial intelligence that learned how to play classic Atari arcades

An Atari 2600 console

An Atari 2600 console

DeepMind Technologies, a company that develops artificial intelligence acquired by Google a little over a year ago, is developing a machine that can play with 49 classic video games of the Atari 2600 console. This system, called Deep Q-network (DQN), achieved a great ability to play, even exceeding the capacity of human beings. So far nothing strange since by now computers can beat humans in complex games but the important fact is that this artificial intelligence learned to on its own.

Demis Hassabis, one of the DeepMind founders, is a known name in the field of video games. In the development of this new artificial intelligence, he decided to make it play with 49 classic Atari arcades such as BreakOut. Normally, the systems used to play are programmed with the rules and strategies they need, instead DQN began without having any knowledge of the Atari games.

DQN was created inspired by the natural learning mechanisms. In the case of video games, it found itself in the same situation as a human player who is for the first time in front of a new arcade with no help and tries to figure out how it works on his own.

The Q in the artificial intelligence system name developed by DeepMind means Q-learning. It’s a reinforcement learning technique algorithm based on the awards that are given for a correct behavior. In the case of video games, those are the right strategies, which lead to scoring points.

The Atari 2600 console video games were classics in the ’80s. They’re very simple by today’s standards but becoming experts is still difficult even for humans. Strategies to get many points in Space Invaders or BreakOut are quite complex and a player takes time to discover them if he isn’t tought them by anyone.

DQN had to learn to play on its own and slowly, attempt after attempt, it succeeded. Its game strategies improved slowly but became more and more sophisticated. For example, in the case of BreakOut, DQN discovered on its own the strategy known by experienced players to dig a hole on the wall side to send the ball to its back side.

The results of this DQN training was published the journal “Nature” in recent days. ​​Google’s idea is to apply this type of learning to other tasks that have a practical use. The interest can be in various technologies developed by the company directly or through its subsidiaries, including some of those acquired in recent years. Robots and self-driving cars are among the candidates for the use of these learning techniques.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy in 2010

Leonard Nimoy in 2010

News just arrived of the passing of the actor Leonard Nimoy (Photo ©Kelly Walker).He’d been suffering for some time from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a chronic disease that restricts the flow of air into the lungs. In this case, the disease had reached its final stage and a few days ago Nimoy was rushed to the hospital for severe chest pains.

I already wrote an article about Leonard Nimoy to celebrate his 80th birthday and in it you can find information about his life. Although he had decided to retire from acting, he was persuaded to reprise the role of Spock in the Star Trek reboot movies and to keep on playing William Bell in the television series “Fringe”.

In recent years, Leonard Nimoy mostly offered voice performances, also in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, whose protagonists are Star Trek fans. Sheldon Cooper and his friends will be very sad and we can expect some tribute to their idol.

About a year ago, Leonard Nimoy was photographed while he was on a wheelchair and was using an oxygen mask. The actor revealed that he had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, attributing it to the fact that he’d been a smoker. He had quit smoking many years ago but the long-term damage was already made.

The news of the death of Leonard Nimoy sparked an incredible amount of reactions on the Internet. The net hasn’t been a meeting place for nerds for a long time yet the presence of Star Trek fans on social media is still huge. The condolences expressed by the fans, from ordinary people to astronauts, shows how much he was loved and how many people he inspired.

Leonard Nimoy had a contrasted relationship with the character of Spock and the Star Trek saga. However, if this character has become so iconic and has contributed so much to the saga’s success is also thanks to him. Nimoy added a lot in playing Spock’s alien eye and for this we’ll be eternally grateful.

Posted in Cinema, Television | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The new version of the Net Neutrality has been approved making the Internet a public utility

The FCC chairman Tom Wheeler

The FCC chairman Tom Wheeler

Yesterday, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has approved the new version of Net Neutrality. The result is that now in the USA Internet connections, including mobile ones, are seen as a public utility, such as electricity and water. The new rules, approved by a 3-2 majority, have the purpose of preventing the emergence of a double speed Internet. Internet service providers can’t block or even selectively slow down traffic and web applications to those who don’t pay.

As expected, the FCC commissioners voted according to their political affiliation. The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other two Democrats commissioners voted in favor while the two Republican commissioners voted against it. The new rules have reclassified the Internet by including it among telecommunications services, which are part of public utilities such as electricity and water. They are governed by rules that prevent offering preferential services for a fee.

When the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the previous version of Net Neutrality, at the beginning of 2014, a fight started to decide the new rules on the Internet. Providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T wanted broadband to become a service to be freely sold at the conditions decided by them. Other giants of the field of technology, supported by the US President Barack Obama, were calling for a new form of Net Neutrality.

The economic interests are huge and got intertwined with the political ones. The providers who opposed Net Neutrality used the typical rhetoric of the Republicans, which appeals to free market and oppose any regulation. They are the same people who are happy when the rules allow them to find loopholes to pay very little taxes.

The FCC vote was greeted with joy by consumers organizations because a double speed Internet would lead to higher costs for users. Organizations such es the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), which defends civil liberties in the digital world, welcomed the new Net Neutrality as well.

With the new rules, companies such as Google and Netflix won’t have to pay providers to prevent their streaming services from getting filtered. However, the battle is not over yet because it’s possible that at least some operators decide to resort again to legal action. The situation of the Internet in the USA has a strong influence on the rest of the world so there’s will still be a global interest for future developments.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment