Thursday, June 30, 2005

Blade Runner Welcomes You

Paul Harnden sent me a very thoughtful e-mail about technology in relation to the picture I just posted below this story. Here’s what he wrote:

I remember as a kid my grandfather telling stories of being in a barber shop in England when he first heard the news of the Titanic disaster. He told me of the first time he saw an airplane and how he ran and hid. He talked about the zeppelin raids on London and the fear that England was no longer "Virgo Intacta". The horrors of the War to End all Wars, and after the war the fear of Ellis Island and the coming to a new world. The automobile, jet aircraft and a man walking on the moon. A life that saw so much innovation, it is staggering to think of.

It seems at the rate science and technology is progressing the older generation is finding it difficult to keep up. When I read for fun, it sometimes includes good science fiction, and I credit this source as a reason why few innovations surprise me, since I read about them 30 years ago. Nevertheless, my father's generation 84.3, just shake their heads in disbelief, unable to get a handle on the new wave of thinking. Many new advancements seem to them to be heralding the loss of moral values, discipline, and the simple common sense that tells the difference between right and wrong.

The latest is the advancement in artificial intelligence and robots, or “robutts” as Eli 3.10 might say.

I thought this was an interesting article from the National Geographic web site ( and wondered if you had any comments on the subject.

I do. The first word that came to mind when I saw the photo was replicant. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a robot and realized that Blade Runner’s version of the future would be realized someday. I used to wonder if I would be alive when truly lifelike robots were produced. Well, if I can live ten more years, I think I’ll see them. Sure, we can quibble about what “lifelike” really means, but in another decade I think we will all be astonished.

Change threatens people. It's particularly threatening if it's something they can't imagine. It's always been that way and it always will be. It's not about morals, even though that's always been the false front. It's about imagination.

I can already see the first real application for "real" robots: as companions for the elderly in Japan. This kind of technology always seems to be adopted in Japan first, and it’s absolutely fixed in my mind that robots will be used as companions.

Don’t send me any e-mails about porn. Get away from that keyboard.

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