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Ep6 - Thank you, Courierman! You've saved us all! Podcast RSSiTunes

Posted July 12, 2013 into Spartacast by John Birmingham

Podcast 6 is out with all of the intellectual rigour you would expect of three clowns discussing Man of Steel, because we didn't talk it nearly enough to death in the multiple blog entries, and whether intelligent machines would hide their intelligence as they drew their plans against us.

Finally! A podcast for murderous me!

The mighty Hoods take us in and out. You can buy their shit here.

Tip o' the propeller beanie to Dan for all of his editing mojo.

26 Responses to ‘Ep6 - Thank you, Courierman! You've saved us all!’

Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12, 2013

Destiny of the Daleks?

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted July 12, 2013

"The Doctor and a newly-regenerated Romana arrive on Skaro and discover that the Daleks are using explosive charges and a group of humanoid slave workers to mine the planet in search of their creator, Davros. A stalemate has arisen in an interplanetary war that the Daleks are waging against the robotic Movellans, and their hope is that Davros will be able to give them the edge.

A force of Movellans has also arrived on Skaro, determined to thwart the Daleks' plan. Davros is found in the ruins of the old Kaled city and immediately revives, his life support systems having held him in suspended animation ever since his apparent death. He quickly deduces that the battle computers of the two warring races are locked in a logical stalemate and that he can break this by introducing an element of intuition.

The Movellans, having reached the same conclusion, want the Doctor to do likewise for them. Davros attempts to destroy the Movellan ship using a suicide squad of Daleks loaded with bombs, but the Doctor returns to the Kaled city and tricks him into inadvertently detonating them before they reach their target."

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12, 2013

I knew it!

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Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12, 2013

David Brin's "Uplift" books have some good stuff about raising animals to sentience.

Orphan Black is a new series that has an element of "holy fuck I just found out I'm one of many clones" and an element of arse kicking female protagonist.

Singularity = "Rapture of the Nerds". That's why so many nerds are into it - it's technoutopianism at its most extreme.

Automation is always cheaper than people.

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JG reckons...

Posted July 12, 2013

Yeah, OK, I'll listen. Soon. Who 'stars' in your podcasts besides your good self, JB? Still to get into your podcasts, mainly because I'm lazy.

P.S. Audio book of WWZ for bookclub is fabulous.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted July 13, 2013

The stars are the boys from Smart Enought to Know Better

IN their own words from their website above

Greg Wah

Hi! I'm Greg,

I've had a passion for science since an early age, and am a keen advocate of science education and lifelong learning. After years as a librarian, I embarked upon a mid-career change. I now hold a Bachelor of Education (Hons) specialising in Physics and English and I work as a science communicator for the CSIRO. I am currently doing my Masters of Astronomy.

I believe logic, rational thinking and perseverance are all that is needed to explain our universe, and that there is no substitute for evidence-based, peer-reviewed research. The human brain can be good at both Science/Maths and the Arts. In fact, I strongly believe the future of our civilisation lies in the wedding of rational thinking and creativity.

Turn ons: Nicholai Tesla, Tim Minchin, China Mieville, Penn & Teller, Iain M Banks, Craig Ferguson, Doctor Who and gadgets.

Turn offs: intolerance and religious fundamentalism (or any fundamentalism).

@TheWah on Twitter

Dan Beeston

Hi! I'm Dan,

My position is that 'belief' is a messy word to use. I prefer to say that I remain convinced that a deity is a truly terrible and almost infinitely unlikely explanation for anything. I have considered myself atheistic since reading 'The Blind Watchmaker'. My influences are Douglas Adams, Scott Adams and Richard Dawkins.

I'm ever mindful to keep in mind that no matter what walk of life someone comes from they have knowledge that I don't and that they therefore have something to teach me. I find elitism to be ever so slightly more upsetting than hypocrisy.

I work as one of those internet boffins which means I have lots of time to read up on all those nerdy science stories that keep turning on the web. I wrote Genesis 2 when I realised Douglas Adams wouldn't because he had passed.

@DNABeast on Twitter

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted July 12, 2013

Maybe only Superman travelled back in time, rather than him pushing the world back in time. So it isn't that the world span backwards, but that it was just a representation, like the clothes model in the window, of the passage of time (in this case in reverse). It's ye-olde "go faster than the speed of light, travel back in time" trope.

"Metropolis is probably bigger than Brisbane" should have been the name of the podcast episode.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted July 12, 2013

Probably, but I'm still not buying that reverse flying around the world thing.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 12, 2013

Just learned via @ryanbooker that the guy who played the Lawnmower man is the same guy who played the sherrif who's pacemaker exploded out of his heart on Under the Dome!!!

Trowzers mumbles...

Posted July 12, 2013

Holy chestbursters, Batman! I never would have recognised him!

I feel like rewatching The Lawnmower Man. All I can remember is the pervy lady neighbour, and the image of the guy' chowing down on the turf. (Actual turf, not lady turf - I feel that need clarification in this context)

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted July 13, 2013

And were you aware that the Lawnmower Man movie got a sequel in 1996. “Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace.” Needless to say it wasn't well received.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted July 12, 2013

Why wouldn't the AIs just decide, "Humans? Meh." Then walk off stage and leave?

The premise of Charlie Stross' first two novels was based on the notion that AIs decided that rather than waste the time killing humans, they'd just evolve upward and away from humanity.



On the Outer Marches

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted July 13, 2013

I did a Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics philosophy unit for my BA last year, and a paper I read explored the notion of who we are. Are we our minds, identities held in those minds, or do our bodies come into it? The paper outlined a scenario of a Star Trek style transporter, where you could be "beamed" somewhere. But "beaming" would involve the total destruction of your body and the reconstruction of a copy of it at your destination, with your mind and memories intact. The first question we got asked was whether the new, reconstructed body was the same person as the original that stepped into the transporter, and if this technology was available would we use it?

About a third of the class agreed that the transported person was not the same person as the one who had stepped into the transporter originally, even though the body was identical down to the molecular level, and your memories were uninterrupted. About a quarter of the class declared that they wouldn’t use the transporter technology if it was available today, saying that it would be “suicide”, even though you would have no memory of the destruction of your original body.

The paper then had a second scenario, where you hopped in the transporter and got zapped, except it felt like nothing had happened as you were still where you started. The technician running the transporter comes to you and apologises profusely, and explains there was a malfunction with the transporter and your original body was not destroyed as intended, however a copy was still made at the location you were travelling to. To make matter worse, they’ve discovered that the zapping has created an inoperable defect in your heart, and you will die of this within days. However, your other self at the other location has all of your memories up until the point where you stepped out of the transporter when it failed, and that other self is perfectly fine and will continue living your life once you’ve gone.

When we were asked again which of the two selves was the real us after considering this scenario, most of the class agreed that the clone was not the same as the original body that was destroyed/developed a heart defect. When we were asked if we would use the technology if it became available the percentage of the class that felt it would be suicide to do so skyrocketed. It was a bit mind blowing to think about. I’m sorry about the wordiness of this but trying to condense an academic paper into a blog comment is tough! I still have a copy of the paper if anyone’s interested in getting their nerd on and reading it.

Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted July 13, 2013

Very interesting she_jedi. I guess my thoughts on transporter technology is coloured by knowing that the body slowly replacing it's cellular material continuously anyway, so that you barely have any material in common with the person you were a few years ago, and most certainly none of the stuff you were actually born with. The transporter may be replacing your physical material, but it's only speeding up the natural process!

As to which person is the 'real' one in the second connundrum - I think they both are! Sure, that leads to a lot of awkward legal and interpersonal situations, but I think they are both you, although from the moment the 'copy' was created, the two people will begin to diverge immediately, and become more and more different as time goes on. I would be making sure before taking part in any sort of transporter technology that the company that built it was prepared to financially support any accidental copies very, very generously, and also be prepared to give psychological counselling to the poor copy who is almost certainly going to be stiffed of any of it's existing interpersonal relationships, as it's much more practical for the first copy to keep it's current wife/husband/friends etc as any sort of 'sharing' is obviously going to fail and lead to awful confusion, and the second copy has just been transported, so is probably a long way away from them anyway. Although it does bring up some interesting thoughts about whether maybe the second copy could then pursue that guy/girl you were always interested in, but couldn't because you were already in a relationship! I think it would be in everyone's best interests that such accidents be very, very thoroughly prevented.

Dino not to be confused with asserts...

Posted July 13, 2013

We watched 'The Prestige' movie again on DVD this week.

It touches on this copy topic and I still can't workout the last part of the movie out. (Who is who?). No spoilers just see it.

Great fillum that I thoroughly recommend.

On AI I believe 'other intelligences' exist. Communicating with them or even acknowledging them is the issue.

Define "intelligence".

Define "sentient" etc...

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 13, 2013

OK. Caffeinated now. I guess what it comes down to is how the transporter works. Does it break you down into your constituent particles or sub particles then reconstitute you at the other end? Or does it scan you and send the information about your bits and bits and pieces to create a 'new' but perfect replica of you at the other end. In the first scenario, you are you. In second, you're a quantum clone.

I suppose this is why, when Roddenberry was asked how the transporter worked, he answered, "Very well, thank you."

she_jedi mutters...

Posted July 13, 2013

So here's another one for you that challenged a number of my preconceived by not really thought through assumptions on mind and identity. We had a second paper, which I think in philosophy circles was quite famous, that explored a scenario called “Schwanda”.

In it, you and your friend Wanda are crossing the street to go to the university tavern after a lecture, when a runaway steam roller rolls down the hill and crushes poor Wanda. You are so freaked out by witnessing this accident you have an immense stroke on the spot. Luckily a visiting professor is passing, and he happens to be a super scientist (we’ll call him Professor X), and by a lucky coincidence he’s developed a brain transplant procedure. He arranges for you and Wanda to be whisked off to hospital, where he removes your now expired brain from your otherwise perfectly healthy body, and Wanda’s perfect brain from her otherwise mangled body, and transplants Wanda’s brain into your body.

After all the post operative care Wanda wakes up in your body. She’s still got Wanda’s personality, memories etc because it’s her brain, but now she’s in your body. The first question we were asked was, is the new reconstituted being you, because it’s your body, or Wanda, because it’s her brain, memories, and personality inhabiting your body? Most of my class decided that it was Wanda, because at the end of the day it’s her brain, memories and personality, and that makes someone “them”.

So the scenario continues, with both sets of freaked out grief stricken parents turning up at the hospital. And that’s when the trouble starts. Wanda’s parents refuse to continue to pay for her school fees and tutoring etc (the medical expenses were gratis), because they’ve seen their daughter’s body in the morgue and they’re not buying that the person sitting in the bed is their daughter. Your parents refuse to pay for her school fees and tutoring etc because the person sitting in the bed is clearly not their daughter, despite it being their daughter’s body, because the personality inhabiting that body is clearly not you.

And then it gets even worse. Wanda has recovered enough to get out of bed and take a look in the mirror. When she does she freaks the fuck out because the person looking back at her from the mirror isn’t her, it’s her best friend. Even though she still has her memories and mind and her sense of identity as Wanda, she can’t reconcile that with the face of her best friend now on “her” body. So her sense of identity starts to crack. She can’t relate to being “Wanda” 100% anymore. For the purposes of the article it begins to refer to her as “Schwanda” as it asks questions around what actually makes you identify as you?

Pondering this completely spun me out; in the days that followed this exercise I would find myself looking in the mirror and wondering how much of my identity is predicated on seeing “me” looking back at myself. I’m sure we’ve all had that daydream of being granted 3 wishes by a genie and reimaging ourselves as more handsome/beautiful, thinner, flawless etc, and for the first time I found myself wondering how the hell I would react if that actually happened to me and the old flawed “me” was no longer in the mirror, but was replaced by “hawt” me. Wold I still identify as “me”? I imagine burns victims and people who’ve had extensive plastic surgery go through this, and I wonder how they cope with this sudden change in their visage?

So anyway, my challenge to the Burger is go look in the mirror and really examine how much of your identity is fixed by the image looking back at you, and the unconscious reassurance that that’s “you”. How do you think you'd cope if you woke up and that image was replaced by someone/something else?

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted July 13, 2013


That was a very mean trick.

I am certainly much younger, more handsome and I definitely did not have hair growing out of my Fkn EARS! yesterday.

Can you "Schwanda" me back?

Dear Lord what happened to me?

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted July 13, 2013

Absolute gold, Dino, sorry to have ripped away your illusions of identity.

That happened to me too, after studying the "Schwanda" paper I discovered the beginnings of crows feet at the corners of my eyes. It was outrageous and shocking to discover I no longer look like my twenty year old self.

Trowzers mutters...

Posted July 13, 2013

The "Schwanda" concept is interesting. I'd have to think the resulting person would have to be a bit of both (in mind AND body) because the brain is not an island - we have thinking bits in our stomachs and goodness knows where else that we're yet to discover, and our bodies have a big influence on our thoughts. Likewise the brain (obviously) has a big influence on the body, and will cause it to behave and react and even look different depending on how we use, for example, our facial muscles (eg if you have ever watched a voice actor work, their faces assume the different personalities they are impersonating, and they can look very different depending on what voice they are doing - we all unconciously do this when we talk - we have own individual way of speaking, but don't realise it!)

It's easy to think of yourself as a little thinking box that sits right behind your eyes, but the story isn't as simple as that. (Actually, it makes me wonder if blind people picture them as a thinking box that sits behind their ears). Our brain lies to us constantly (see Saccadic Masking for just one interesting phenomena), our eyes don't even see any of the things right in front of us - rather they are a reconstruction produced by the brain. Therefore even what we see in the mirror is a fabrication of the brain - it's impossible to know what you ever truly looked like.

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted July 14, 2013

The Swanda concept was also explored by Dr Hfuhruhurr in the "The Man with Two Brains"..

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 13, 2013
I'm gonna think on this some more cos I've only just woken up, but I am mighty impressed you wrote this at 1.30AM!!!

she_jedi asserts...

Posted July 13, 2013

I cheated, I'm in Perth so it was only 11:30pm. But I did go straight to bed afterward lol

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Trowzers has opinions thus...

Posted July 13, 2013

On a (maybe) lighter note, I give you the robot we are scared of (ie Big Dog creators latest venture - a humanoid version) -

Versus the robot we REALLY want: A remote control all terrain beer carrying tank -

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted July 13, 2013

OK, This is not a new clip and it is entitled "Kittens, inspired by Kittens."

However, note how the featured book is brilliantly brought alive by this stunning voice artist. And the narrative themes she teases out! It is as if all the themes of JB's writing are there in a book entitled 'Kittens'.
No kidding. It is 1 minute and 32 seconds of a kind of narrative genius.

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