This was intended to be a movie review about “The Creator,” although I have been thinking a lot about robots, so this post will be more about robots in general than that movie. Therefore, I will say up front, “The Creator” is interesting but flawed, and I would recommend waiting to see it until it is on a service you can see for free. Then you can view it and argue about it, as I’ve been doing all week. It doesn’t work because the plot and character actions don’t make sense, but it may leave you thoughtful.
But what does it mean that we make these movies about robots which are sought after then destroyed in the movies? I spent the week watching other movies on the same theme: “Blade Runner 2049” and “A.I.” in particular. And, of course, there’s always “Terminator.”
The problem in these futuristic visions is that machines are created to perform complex tasks, with some level of artificial intelligence. Scientists who create the machines make them humanoid, with some degree of human likeness. They may or may not give them the ability to learn and change. Other humans enjoy them but also continue to treat them as disposable machines, and therein is the conflict.
Sam Bankman-Fried is on trial this week for fraud in cryptocurrency, which seems like the perfect time to analyze why crypto is neither necessary nor sufficient for life in 2023. In other words, I don’t like it.
I’m supporting a couple of online investing classes that each had a whole module all about crypto, so I may have to “teach it.” One of my beefs is that explanation about a new payments process should not obsess about the technical aspects of how it works. If you start the discussion of “what is digital currency” by using the word “blockchain” and a set of Rubik’s cubes, then I know it’s already gone off the rails. Hope I don’t have to grade any assignments touting this nonsense er… technology still underdeveloped.
For those of you who don’t know the difference between proof of stake and proof of work or which Marvel movie featured the Scarlet Witch or how many points a ranger adds to their acrobatics D20 roll… in other words, if you’re not mesmerized by geekery over this stuff, let me see if I can detangle why digital currency’s time has not come. It has to do with 1) technological vulnerability; 2) lack of standardization; 3) volatility; 4) diffusion of purpose. Allow me to expound.
There’s actually a joke about crypto in the mystery series “After Party II.” The murdered guy made his fortune in crypto, and when one person asks what exactly he was doing, the official nerdy character jump in with, “Let me explain what blockchain is…” That’s how we know this is all silly. If you are explaining either an investment or a way to pay for a sandwich by talking about how the currency is built, we’re in trouble. Do I need to know what kind of special ink is used to make a twenty dollar bill or how they put the hologram on in order to know that it’s not counterfeit? If you ask me how a bank works, do I start by explaining what kind of reinforced concrete they use for the vaults?
Blockchain may indeed be quite secure. Encryption is pretty secure. Fort Knox, I suspect, is quite secure. The question of how digital currency works should not begin with whether or not it’s secure or how it’s secure. It should begin with how you use it. To my mind, there is vulnerability there. Why? Because digital currency can only be used from within a program.
Say I want to buy a soda at my local mini-mart with crypto. I need my phone, my password to the phone, my password to the app. And the phone needs service and to be fully charged. The mini-mart needs technology, too, as well as working access, service, etc. All of a sudden, this “so easy” process has several layers. Not convinced? One of the first folks to pay with crypto at Subway, which touted its willingness to accept payment, described this incredibly easy process as:
Once our subs were made the employee took out an iPad and opened Coinbase. She punched our total in the register and then in the iPad, which immediately generated a custom QR code linked to the store’s Coinbase account which was preloaded with our exact total calculated. I took out my iPhone, opened my Coinbase app, and scanned the QR code. Instantly the total popped up on my screen and gave me the option to leave a note about my purchase.
I’ll stop you right there. The employee took out an iPad? A separate piece of technology, disconnected to the register? That has to coordinate with the store’s accounting system? Who do you think is making these sandwiches at Subway? It’s not Chat GPT, I’ll tell you that much.
By the way, googling this topic about Subway also led to story #1: Subway has just been sold to a giant conglomerate private equity firm that also owns a dozen other food service chains. Story #2: Subway-themed trading bot makes millions using ‘sandwich’ attacks! That means a digital pirate stole millions digitally using Subway as his villain name. And that whatever Subway wanted to do with digital currency acceptance may soon go out the window with the new ownership. Let’s see if crypto stays on Subway’s menu.
I don’t know why more people writing about the Barbie and Oppenheimer double feature don’t mention Aristotle.
That probably sounds pretentious. However, since the New York Times just featured an op ed criticizing the new football kickoff rules by invoking the Greek sensation of ataraxia (sublime contentedness), I probably have license to Go Greek in my little blog post. (Plus I ranted about it the other day, and my people said “go for it!”) I saw Oppenheimer last week, and all I could think about was Aristotle: Pity and Terror, the essence of tragedy. Barbie is about the world turned upside-down in a different way, where the absurd takes center stage, and the Lord of Misrule becomes in charge: comedy at its core.
So let’s go back to high school, basic Aristotle, basic Shakespeare, too, and talk about these movies in terms of how they fit the definitions. Plus, this is a double-movie review. A twofer!
Quantum Storytelling from Christopher Nolen
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the subject of this tale of pity and terror, was the physicist whose pioneering research at Berkeley led him to be chosen to spearhead the Manhattan Project that developed of the atomic bomb. After World War II, he parted ways with some of his colleagues on whether to use atomic power and diplomacy or whether to develop the hydrogen bomb. He ended up losing his security clearance during the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s, in part, because of political maneuvering by the head of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss. Strauss was later turned down for a cabinet post. That’s the history; that’s the story.