TalkCast 71 – InkBot

Glee Zombies!

  • Still time to vote for Illustrator X at Talenthouse.
  • Zombies on Glee. Thriller/Heads Will Roll Mashup.
  • Bar Karma – What if Spider Robinson did TV?
  • Tom Cruse lobbies for Mountains of Madness
  • Nathan Fillion as the voice of Green Lantern, what will Ryan Reynolds do?
  • Watson will kick Human Butt on Jeopardy.
  • Was is “Series Fatigue” or poor execution that killed Star Trek: Enterprise?
  • Will Lex be in the end of Smallville?  Oh yeah, somebody should care, right?

After the spin of the Wheel of Cephalopods, Our guest Christian Rubiano talks about his Online Comic Showcase, Inkbot. Discussion ensues on digital delivery and format for the new twist on comic “books” and what it means for the future.


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4 Responses to “TalkCast 71 – InkBot”

  1. RDaneelOlivaw

    Time for this week’s Masters thesis. 🙂 I wanted to weigh in on the rather spirited discussion on “skills being lost because of computer dependence” (meaning, for the sake of this post, readin’, writin’ ‘rithmatic, and face-to-face socializing) from perhaps a couple of slightly different angles than were voiced on the podcast.

    I agree that there have been, and probably always will be, neo-Luddites who inappropriately rail against any technological advance simply because it is an advance. However, I can’t agree with the proposition that category includes those who insist that people should know how to do things they can just look up on the computer. Up until the last two decades or so technological advances have, for the most part, made living life easier or more enjoyable–they haven’t sought to or had the potential to replace or subvert the human race’s innate curiosity and drive to master his environment. We’re now reaching a point where that has become a possibility. As Dome pointed out in the podcast, Asimov foresaw a society where all interactions were done via computer (Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun), with significant consequences if humans were actually forced to be near one another. A second element that Asimov introduced in those societies (Aurora in particular, which was the most robot-centric of the spacer worlds) was that behavior in the cyber-presence of another that would be appalling or unacceptable (either socially or legally) in person was considered okay. Without going into a long drawn out discussion (I’ll save that for my second point), I believe it’s fair to be concerned that potentially dangerous implications for real life interactions will arise should people socially develop primarily in cyberspace. As those who interact with others primarily in cyberspace learn coping skills and “societal norms” based on cyber-societies–where squelching a chatter whose viewpoints you don’t agree with in a chatroom is acceptable but could lead to the unacceptably more physical shutting up of someone in person, or at the extreme where deleting a tormentor in a cyber-community (acceptable)leads to actual murder in person (not acceptable to most!)–the ability to recognize the difference in acceptable norms will diminish. Acting out is a much more condoned behavior pattern in much of cyberspace–the transference of that condoned cyber-behavior to “real” society is a cause for concern.

    My deeper concern is when a dependence on computers and/or artificial intelligence (AI) eliminates the ability of humans to create, whether it be something physical, or more importantly, something more conceptual (new ideas). Your guest touched on this point when he said he felt the inability to read and do basic mathematics impaired the development of cognitive skills. Even the impressive win by Watson on Jeopardy this week was merely the result of some humans developing algorithms that allowed Watson to more closely mimic the thought processes of people in dealing with existing information and data. The ability to question, to create new frameworks to explain some aspect of the universe, still remains firmly in the province of Man. I firmly believe that the ability to think creatively, to understand why an answer is what it is rather than thinking it must be right because a computer told you so, is essential to the cognitive development needed to formulate ideas. Otherwise the human race will stagnate, perhaps becoming the two-edged Wellsian society of gentle Elois and predatory Morlocks, both lacking curiosity (or, to take something said on the podcast one step further, gentle Elois living at the behest of a predatory computer or AI Morlock “society”). Or it may simply enable an Orwellian society ala 1984 (also a stagnant society, in my opinion), where it’s even easier to control what people believe because they see the computer as the font of all knowledge–he who controls the computer controls the facts (and don’t we already see some of that today, where anyone can put up a blog or website and have it endowed with instant credibility simply because it’s on the net?). At best we perhaps become the society Asimov postulated in his short story “The Evitable Conflict”, where the Machines become benign (or perhaps not so benign in the eyes of some) overseers of humanity, providing data that keeps humanity “in line”–sometimes at the cost of harming individuals. (As an aside, I just realized that this short story was probably the first instance of the “Zeroth Law of Robotics, later explicitly stated by R Daneel himself–cool!) And even then–if there are no “creators” to advance the Machines (or computers, or AI)–there’s a stagnation point. As such I can’t accept that it’s okay for students to depend on the computer to do their thinking for them; knowledge without understanding is not self-sustaining.

    So, am I advocating a neo-Luddite position after all? No! As your guest Christian Rubiano said, it’s a matter of balance. Let technology be a tool, one that we understand the basis for–not a replacement for the human mind. Don’t let people lose basic skills; ensure that cognitive abilities are developed. To draw on Asimov again, from his short story “Profession”, “somewhere there has to be an end. Somewhere there must be men and women with capacity for original thought.”

  2. mrwashy

    Chiming in as another teacher (we’re everywhere dammit!), and a science one for that matter, I’ve got to say that both sides of the tech discussion argument you’re having are interesting. I’ve got to side with technology though here.

    It’s not that tech is making the kids dumber or less able to communicate. In point of fact it has been shown that texting helps reading ability ( Just because *you* can’t read it doesn’t mean that it lacks meaning. I’m not saying that to be insulting but as a fact.

    What I hear from many people over the age of 30 (you know, those that grew up with a VCR that was probably flashing 12:00) is that they ‘don’t get’ new technology. They are slow to adopt it and use it infrequently when they do. That is like someone who doesn’t follow football giving commentary on the Super Bowl.

    Technology can, and frequently does, impact live positively. Have a glance at Egypt. The ability to communicate with a lot of people, easily and succinctly, was an asset. The revolution was not televised. It was tweeted, facebooked, and youtubed. Even when Egypt had shut down their connections, it was still possible to get messages out and in. (“Can’t stop the signal, Mal”) By that point it was too far gone and the movement was in full swing: the protests, the voices, the images, even the news. You’re looking at the overthrow of a 30 year dictatorship by people who grabbed their phones and texted.

    Technology doesn’t limit communication it expands it. This post is a perfect example. Is language changing? Yep. Is that bad? Nope. It happens all the time.

    As for kids being unknowing, like who the Nazi’s were, or how to write a complete sentence, those are things that it falls to parents and schools to take care of. Yes, as a science teacher I will correct spelling and grammar. You get a paper written like a text message? Hand it back while saying, “redo this”. Kids are not dumber for using technology, maybe we just need to communicate with them better, using their own tools.

    Technology does not mean that we need to lower expectations. In fact it means we can raise them. But that is a long ass post for another day…

  3. I’ll agree with Olivaw (and Christian) that there should be a balance between our technological use, and keeping hold of our basic communication skills.

    I’ll agree with Mr. Washy to an extent. Being a 33 year old (who’s VCRs were always at the correct time, because I was geek-like-that) I love technology and how it’s changed communication.

    However, I also can’t help but consider how technology has changed things such as the workplace, both in communication and workflow. I couldn’t do my job without the use of e-mail. At the same time, I couldn’t speak ill of my co-workers or my job on a public forum without some sort of consequence.

    Take a look at the teacher from eastern PA who was suspended for writing a blog post that berated her students. She might lose her job over actions, even though she didn’t name the school or students in her post.

    I’m not turning this into a free speech debate (although some discussion on this would be nice, I know it’s not scifi, but still). My point is because this technology was available to her, she decided to use it to write a post she knew was going to appear in public. Common sense tells you NOT to do that (I have a very strict no blogging/Facebooking/Tweeting about work policy.) Now she may lose her job, or alter her chances at future employment, because the technology allowed it.

    Link to a news article about the woman in question here:

  4. Oh, and since there’s already a Masters thesis in place, I won’t go into the answer as to what killed Star Trek: Enterprise, but I will say that it’s a topic I feel very strongly about. I’ll definitely say “poor execution” among other things.

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