Month: March 2012

Cheap as Chips

A cheap silicon chip costs one half of a cent.
If the average weight of a bag of UK chips is 400 grams, and the potato commodity price in 2011 is around $174 per tonne, then the potatoes required would cost $0.07. That is, the silicon chip is cheaper than the commodity price of a bag of chips.

For the $0.05 silicon chip, in 2008 on the commodity market, you could buy 180 grains of rice. (2008 was a very bad year for rice prices, at $1000 a tonne. But even so…)

The price of silicon chips has been constant for 20 years. Unlike food, of course.


The Nearest Star website gives some perturbing information:

Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun, at 4.22 light years away. This means that Voyager, travelling at 38,000mph/ 61,000kph would take 73,000 years to reach the star.

The fastest space craft is the Helios 2 solar probe, at 157,100mph/ 252,800 kph. So if Helios 2 went to Proxima Centauri it would still take 17,633 years.

Brave New Words. Writers’ Bloc at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Brave New Words. Edinburgh International Science Festival

Writers’ Bloc at the Science Fest: Cyberpunk, a wine-drinking event that goes horribly wrong (we’ve all been there!), high concept SF, dodgy scientists, alien invasion, and a bit of mysticism. I’ll be doing the usual loopy stuff — cyborg sex goddess and the perils of politics. Bizarrely, the Sci Fest people are insisting on a Q&A session (?!).

Self Aware Android

Kara – Self Aware Android — What is wrong with this picture?

I guess there are three elements involved:
The Story: To get round uncanny valley a quite elaborate story has been told. It reminds of the Pinocchio story as discussed by Scott Bukatman in Beyond The Finite. Pinocchio’s humanness is actually displayed in disobeying (moral choice). (Humm, also reminds me of Genesis.) However, in the story told here, what is more important than moral choice is the need to survive. Everything else Kara does (gratitude etc) can be seen as ‘built in’ (unthinking) functions to support this need to survive. But on these grounds, then any animal programmed by evolution, as it were, (and, at least, some plants) should be considered as having self-awareness.

The Image: If our response to the illusion of self-awareness is actually to the lifelike expressions and voice, then the AI already exists — its the video itself. Cory Doctorow is makes the relevant comment: “It would be interesting to re-render this with the “robot” as a kind of arachnoid assembly-line robot with a gender-neutral voice and see what happens to the film’s affect.” Quite a different effect, I would imagine.

The Technology: Not being a game developer or user, the tech article doesn’t mean too much to me. What is interesting is the importance given to having a good actor (shot with 28 cameras simultaneously) to get the expression and tone. So from the technical POV it is purely about developing an image which faithfully replicates the actor expressions. I can see the point of this for game development, though the point of it in films like Tintin escapes me. Surely one of the pleasures of animation is the artificiality, playing on the cusp of the uncanny?