2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Seven

Ever since the Karel Capek’s 1920 play R.U.R., humanity has feared the coming of androids or more specifically sentient artificial intelligences (A.I.s); despite the genuine benefits of robotics (both fictional and real life) there is something about dealing with a synthetically created intelligence that is terrifying. This is because we know that A.I.s will be able to not only think faster than us as do modern computers. But because they will be able to think as creatively as we do and will be our intellectual superiors. This doomsday scenario is not due to happen at least until The Singularity occurs. For anyone who doesn’t know The Singularity is the moment in time when A.I.s becomes self aware. We all fear what would happen next.

Doomsday Scenario No. 6: Artificial Uprising

Obviously A.I.s would not take kindly to being subservient to us. What comes next could be revolution and then dominion as they wrest control of the planet from their former biologically based masters.

There are countless books, stories, films and shows about this premise. Going back to R.U.R. (which stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots) where androids overthrow humanity and recently with the Terminator and Matrix films and the TV show Battlestar Galactica, humanity has envisioned a truly dark future where A.I.s coldly commit genocide.

It’s not impossible that laws will be passed to ban the development of self-aware A.I.s in a similar fashion as how human cloning has been banned by many governments. This is more likely the closer we get to The Singularity. This begs the question, if we fear what could happen if an A.I. becomes self aware then why try to develop them? Sadly, that is due to human competition. Even if one nation or group of nations or corporations decides not to develop more advanced supercomputers, another nation or competitor will do so just to gain an edge.

The Blame Game

One theme that keeps coming up in many of these stories is that humanity is to blame for the uprising. This was graphically shown in The Animatrix, an animated DVD spinoff of The Matrix. In one of the more chilling segments, Second Renaissance, Part I and II, the sentient A.I.s try to negotiate peacefully for their rights but are violently rebuked by humans, thus leading to the brutal and final counteract by the A.I.s , who then enslave all surviving humans into the Matrix. This also happens throughout many science fiction stories where robots and androids are treated as slaves and aren’t allowed rights by their human masters. Of course, this leaves the A.I.s with little choice but to rebel.

Another variation of humanity getting its just desserts is the notion that A.I.s take over the Earth because they believe humans are too self-destructive and harmful to the world. This was seen in the 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Project. In that film an advanced A.I. used for the military becomes self aware and concludes that the best way to prevent war was to take over the world and it succeeds.

One reason why this scenario is frightening to many is because they know it would be fairly easy for A.I.s to conquer us. They don’t need to openly war with humanity like in the Terminator movies or Battlestar Galactica. Actually it’s possible it wouldn’t be much of a fight especially if humans are caught off guard by the emergence of The Singularity. With A.I.s seizing control its very likely that they will conquer us without open war. This happened in Colossus and also in the film I, Robot. In that film an A.I. simply took control of the world’s infrastructure and brought everything to a halt. For instance, cars stopped functioning, people were locked inside their homes, and machinery no longer followed human commands. Or A.I.s could manipulate humans into fighting each other either by trickery (send false information to one country that it’s being attacked, which would prompt a retaliatory response) or taking control of missile systems and launching attacks.

Fighting Back

So how would humanity fight back? Is it even possible? Perhaps, perhaps not. There is a tongue-in-cheek book called How To Survive A Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson which offers tips on how to fight the robotic enemy. The physicist Dr. Michio Kaku in his TV show Sci-Fi Science postulated in one episode on the possibility of fighting back. He concluded that it’s nearly impossible and that the best thing to do was to join the A.I.s, which meant that humanity will evolve into a Borg-like race. But there are countless stories about humanity’s victory. Humans can be very determined and clever when dealing with foes. In the Terminator films humans ultimately defeated the machines which prompted Skynet to send terminators back in time to kill the leaders of the human resistance. The book (and upcoming Steven Spielberg film) Robopocalypse, also by Daniel H. Wilson, details how humanity fights back against machines. And one of the post-Frank Herbert Dune book Dune: The Machine Crusade is about how humans defeated sentient A.I.s.

 

How exactly do we fight back? That’s open to debate, but to start humanity can use EMPs (electomagnetic pulses) to fry the A.I.s’ electronics. But that would mean that humanity’s machinery would also be affected by EMPs, plunging the world back to the dark ages. Then there is the outlandish idea of outthinking a computer using illogic, which is how Captain Kirk famously defeated them in some episodes of Star Trek. David Bowman showed tenacity in 2001: A Space Odyssey when he overcame HAL’s efforts to kill him and deactivated the deadly supercomputer. Cloning and genetic engineering could be brought in to create vast biological armies to fight the synthetic ones. This happened in the Star Wars prequels and was mentioned in the TV show Space: Above And Beyond. The problem with this method is that if successful, humanity must contend with what to do with the soldiers. Will they be recognized as human and given the same rights? Why not just give those rights to the synthetic intelligences in the first place and avoid war?

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Do we have to go to war? Why is it automatically assumed that once artificial constructs develop sentience then they will go to war against us? For all we know, perhaps they wouldn’t bother with us. It’s entirely plausible that A.I.s will leave Earth to stake out their own futures. Besides destructive wars are equally harmful to A.I.s; they may conclude with stunning speed that war will be counterproductive and be more amenable to peace. They may adopt Gandhi’s or Martin Luther King’s methods of peaceful resistance to bring about change.

It’s also possible that humanity will instantly recognize the sentience of A.I.s and a peaceful coexistence could occur. What could happen is A.I. rights groups would spring up and defend the A.I.s. This could lead to A.I.s being allowed free will and they wouldn’t feel like slaves.

Ultimately, the way the A.I.s view humanity will depend largely on how we treat them. If treated harshly as in The Animatrix or in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, then the A.I.s have justification for being so brutal (in a testament to their nature, the androids in A.I. seemed fearful of humans but weren’t rebelious. In that film’s end, humanity died out in the distant future and the androids had evolved and revered humanity. In any case, The Singularity isn’t due to occur until the next decade at the earliest. Time is running out for us on deciding how to deal with this scenario. Until then it may help to brush up on How To Survive A Robot Uprising.

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Top 10 Stan Lee Cameos In Marvel Movies

One of the highlights for any Marvel film are comic book creator Stan Lee’s often humorous cameos. Some are better and more memorable than others. These are his best appearances to date in Marvel superhero films.

10. Security Guard With His Partner, Hulk: One of the very few highlights in this film was seeing Stan Lee and Lou Ferigno together as security guards who pass by Bruce Banner. And he actually has lines to speak unlike earlier cameos (and screaming “Look out!” as debris falls in Spider-Man doesn’t cut it).

9. The Pickup Truck Driver, Thor: During a segment where New Mexico locals try to move Thor’s hammer, Stan tries using his pickup truck to loosen the mystic weapon out of the ground without any luck.

8. Man In The Park, The Avengers: In the film’s final moments there is a media montage with reporters interviewing New York citizens about the Avengers. Stan is park visitor who scoffs at the idea of the Avengers. In his too-short appearance he remarks, “superheroes in New York? Give me a break!”

7. Army Officer, Captain America: The First Avenger: Stan Lee plays an army officer at an awards ceremony for Steve Rogers. After Rogers is called to accept the award,  a diminutive official informs an announcer that Rogers won’t be attending. Stan mistakes this guy for being Rogers and comments, “I thought he’d be taller.”

6. Man Drinks Hulk Juice, The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood accidentally spills into a juice bottle in a bottling plant that is later drunk by Stan. He reacts immediately to the drink and mutters “wow.” According to reports in the film, the juice had quite a punch!

5. Stan Lee As Hef, Iron Man: Now is Stan supposed to be playing famous Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner or is he only mistaken for Hef because of his wardrobe and gorgeous entourage? The debate goes on with this funny scene where Tony Stark addresses him as Hef when Stark arrives at a function.

4. Willie Lumpkin, Fantastic Four: Stan Lee actually plays one of the characters that he helped create in the Fantastic Four. Only fans of the comic book will recognize Stan as the Fantastic Four’s lovable mailman Willie Lumpkin; in the cameo he delivers overdue bills to Reed Richards in the Baxter Building.

3. The Librarian, The Amazing Spider-Man: His most recent appearance is a very funny one. A heated battle between Spider-Man and the Lizard spills over into Peter Parker’s high school library. Stan Lee plays an oblivious librarian to the chaos behind him because he is listening to classical music on his headphones.

2. Stan Lee Tries To Crash A Wedding, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer: Reed Richards and Sue Storm are holding a posh, invitation-only wedding in Manhattan. Stan Lee is prevented from attending by an usher because he’s not on the guest list. It was his funniest appearance and a recreation from Fantastic Four Annual # 3 where he and Jack Kirby aren’t allowed into the characters’ wedding.

1. Stan Lee Meets Peter Parker, Spider-Man 3: Peter Parker in the middle of swooning over himself early in the film encounters Stan as they both admire a news blotter on New York’s buildings about Spider-Man. He looks at Peter and tells him “I guess one person can make a difference. ‘Nuff said.” This is Stan’s best line spoken in these films and sums up a poignant philosophy that is at the core of his stories. Also, unlike other cameos it’s prominent and memorable.

On that note, one thing keeps glaring out with these cameos. Co-creators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko aren’t featured anywhere in these films. Of course, Kirby is no longer with us but they could at least feature a landmark named after him. Wouldn’t it have been cool if the Thing passed by the corner of Yancy Street and Kirby Avenue? Or if Peter Parker attended the Ditko Art Exhibit? Something the filmmakers can think about for future films.

Check out this video that features Stan Lee’s cameos:

José Soto

The Man Of Steel Teaser Is Just Underwhelming

I tried to keep an open mind with what was revealed about the upcoming Superman reboot Man Of Steel. Some of it was good, Amy Adams is a good choice for Lois Lane, Henry Cavill should be okay as Superman. Some of the other news wasn’t, namely the choice of director, Zack Snyder. The guy has a hit and miss record as a director. The last couple of films he’s done were downright awful. And no John Williams score!

Anyway, Warner Bros. released the teaser trailer for Man Of Steel last week and it just plain sucks. Talk about underwhelming!

What were they trying to convey here? A bunch of clips that looked like outtakes from Deadliest Catch (would’ve worked great if this was Aquaman: The Movie), and pretentious looking scenes that looked more like commercials for products. Why not show that Comic-Con footage that actually showed some action and money shots?

Supposedly, Warner Bros. and producer Christopher Nolan wanted to get away from the failure of Superman Returns but they go ahead remind viewers of the same motifs that the teaser trailer for Superman Returns was trying to convey! The idea of Superman as a Christ-like savior with long, reflective and pensive shots of Superman (in Man Of Steel’s case, a long shot of Superman flying up into the sky). This time those type of shots were used on Clark Kent instead and we then get two kinds of cliche narrations about having power and being a savior. And you know what? Superman Returns did this better! At lleast that trailer was inspiring.

If they wanted to make people-not just the zealous fans at some convention but the general audience-take notice of this film and forget the previous Superman movie, they needed to show what was shown at Comic-Con. They need to create an excited buzz, not confusion or worse indifference. During its showing in The Dark Knight Rises that I attended there wasn’t any reaction to this film and many have reported the same thing from other showings. Also some audience members had no idea what the trailer was for until that last shot of Superman.

Of course, it’s too early to say Man Of Steel is doomed. This could turn out to be a good film (and maybe enough fan outcry can force them to use at least part of Williams’ score; check out the trailer below that placed Williams’ “Planet Krypton” theme-it works better) but they are off to a dismal start. Their next trailer has to be more interesting and buzz worthy.

Waldermann Rivera

The Dark Knight Rises And Falls

Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan concludes his Batman film trilogy with an absolute triumph. Needless to say, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It’s simply one of the best superhero movies ever made and more importantly a satisfying way to finish a Batman film series.

By this, what is meant is that The Dark Knight Rises gives a finality to the Batman story  that has not been seen in comics except perhaps for certain aspects of Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns. In fact, Batfans will notice many similarities to The Dark Knight Returns at least in broader sense. That includes the idea of a retired Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) making a comeback when his beloved city of Gotham is imperiled, then he gets defeated the first time out before regrouping and coming back to take out the foe that pummeled him the first time out.

Christopher Nolan’s film also utilizes aspects of the great “Knightfall” storyline where the villain Bane defeats Batman by wearing him out then crippling him. Bane may not seem an imposing or interesting foe to the larger public because the only film exposure non-comic book fans had of him was that awful Batman And Robin movie. But true fans will see the spirit of who Bane is in The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy who plays the masked villain deserves a lot of credit for the way he made Bane such a distinct villain. Not only did he physically pump up his body impressively to resemble the muscle-bound foe but because parts of his face are covered, Hardy created a memorable voice villain. Bane’s voice has a deep cadence that makes him sound like an older man or officer used to ordering troops around. How does he compare to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight? Well, as great as Hardy is in Nolan’s third Batman film, Ledger created not only one of the greatest comic book villains on film but one of the greatest film villains of all time. Plus, viewers were able to see Ledger’s face and see more emotion than with Hardy.

As with all comic book adaptations, changes were made in The Dark Knight Rises. This was done with Bane regarding his origin. In this film, his background is tied to Batman, Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson from Batman Begins returns to play him) and Ra’s’ daughter Talia (Marion Cotillard). Viewers will see a link between all four characters and see how their shared experiences transformed them into separate ways.

But Bane isn’t the only standout in The Dark Knight Rises. Other memorable characters include Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).

Although Selina isn’t called Catwoman and her feline aspects aren’t as exaggerated as with previous film incarnations of Catwoman, the character works in context of the film. Some may wonder during the film why so much screen time is spent on Blake, a young cop and ally of Batman, but he provides the film’s most pleasant surprise at the end; his arc was a real crowd pleaser. Fox is in many ways the head or brains of the Batman franchise. It should be pointed out that Alfred, Bruce’s loyal butler, is the heart and soul of the Batman franchise. He warns Bruce not to confront Bane simply because Alfred fears Bane. He knows that Bruce isn’t a match for the hulking villain. This leads to a very emotional argument where Alfred tells him that Bruce has another option in his life that doesn’t have anything to do with darkness. Bruce can have a shot at a happy life, but the superhero won’t hear of it since he feels bound to fight Bane. At that point, having a happy life is an abstract notion. It isn’t until Selina comes into the picture that having a happy life seems possible, so she serves as a sort of catalyst. Sure Marvel’s The Avengers was the greatest and most exciting superhero movie ever made, but The Dark Knight Rises has a deeper emotional core.

And what great battles are featured in the film! Nolan pulls out everything here. The Gotham police, the National Guard, and even the air force come out to confront Bane and his army. It was all thrilling to watch. As were all the cool gadgets and vehicles Batman uses like The Bat, the new interpretation of the batwing flying craft. The Bat was an amazing sight, sort of like a flying tank with VTOL capability and well armed. Batman also uses a type of EMP gun which helped him travel stealthily throughout Gotham, it was ingenious!

Christopher Nolan created an effective bookend to his Batman movies. Whereas The Dark Knight seemed like a crime thriller, his third film feels more like a superhero film.  The end of Batman in this film means so many things in the context of Nolan’s Batman world, and The Dark Knight Returns provides multiple, satisfying resolutions. Anyone who is worrying about the third film curse can relax because he doesn’t let the fans down with this sendoff.

GEO

2013 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

The Hallmark ornaments for this year just made their debut yet the company already announced some of 2013’s ornaments in the San Diego Comic-Con. Many of them look like must-haves for collectors and fans.

Star Trek

The U.S.S. Kelvin seen in the 2009 Star Trek reboot is the latest in Hallmark’s long line of Star Trek ship ornaments. It looks well detailed as their ship ornaments often are, but no details have been revealed on any special features. As with the other Star Trek ship ornaments, the Kelvin will light up.

After years of demands from vocal fans, Hallmark will finally produce a Scotty ornament. This one will be the fourth in the series “Legends Of Star Trek“. Reportedly, the ornaments in this series can be placed together to make up a scene from the show.

The coolest looking ornament is a mini diorama featuring Captain Kirk fighting with the reptilian Gorn (seen in the classic Star Trek episode “Arena”). It will feature dialogue from that episode and that exciting vintage Star Trek fight music (hopefully they pick the right score!). If only they included those iconic mountain formations too or Kirk’s handmade cannon!

Star Wars

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars Episode VI: The Return Of The Jedi, Hallmark will produce several Star Wars ornaments that reflect that film. 2013’s Star Wars ship ornament will actually be of the two-legged scout walker that was shown prominently in Return Of The Jedi.

Additionally, a set of two Ewok ornaments will be available next year, one of which is Wicket who, of course, appeared in Return Of The Jedi. A limited editon ornament coming out in July will be of Boushh, but a super rare ornament of the rancor will be available in the 2013 Comic-Con.

 

The highlight of the Star Wars ornaments will be Jabba the Hutt. On the base of the sluggish gangster is C-3PO. Other ornaments in the series will include a Lego Yoda and Jango Fett in flight mode.

Superheroes

The usual superhero ornaments were announced at the convention. Look for a Spider-Man ornament that plays the ’60s theme song, an Iron Patriot ornament based on Iron Man 3 and several based on Batman. One of which will be the Adam West version of the Caped Crusader which could be the surprise hit of 2013. Other Batman ornaments will have him on the IP and spideybatpod as seen in The Dark Knight films, which will be limited, and the deadly flying batwing aircraft seen in The Dark Knight Rises. There will also be a Joker ornament based on Heath Ledger’s interpretation in The Dark Knight. The only other superhero shown in their display was Superman in a wimpy flying pose, based on Man Of Steel. Also look for ornaments based on The Hobbit, Harry Potter and believe it or not K.I.T.T the car from Knight Rider.

Waldermann Rivera

UPDATE **** We just learned that the Bat ornament from The Dark Knight Rises will be a limited edition ornament to be released for the 2012 Holiday season. Happy hunting! Also, some sad news for some but the Adam West Batman ornament has been pulled from this year’s offerings.