The FANtastic Geek Gift Guide Nov25

The FANtastic Geek Gift Guide...

Christmas is coming, folks. And we know gift shopping can be a hassle. What to get your geek buddies that they don’t already to have? What to ask for because no one knows what to get you? We did a Gift Guide to Geek Art already, but thought you might be on the lookout for other ideas too. We did the research for you and have compiled a guide to satisfy every fan’s dream. For the Anime Enthusiast We know RWBY‘s not technically an anime because it’s American; calm down, folks! Calm down. Also, our Small-size editor’s wanted that Attack on Titan hoodie for a long time. Just sayin’. Attack on Titan Hoodie – $34.99 RWBY Ruby Figure – $34.95 Works of H. Miyazaki – $188.99 Crunchyroll Subscription – $6.95/month Princess Mononoke Art Print – $28 Eevee Earrings – $13.16 For the Tabletop Titan No one can understand why the board game organizer is so awesome unless they are a board gamer. Escape: The Curse of the Temple – $70 Dice Bag – $9.95 RPG Dice Set – $9.98 Dungeon Master Screen – $15 Board Game Organizer – $15-$50 King of Tokyo – $39.99 For the Comic Cavalier Marvel’s taking the Star Wars universe to great places… need we say more? Plus some other cool stuff. Star Wars Comics – $4.99 Inky Superhero Art – $30-$75 Superhero Fingerless Gloves – $25 Nimona Graphic Novel – $15.99 Ms. Marvel Comics – $2.99 DC Comics: A Visual History – $35 For the Fantasy Fiend That handmade Falkor, though! Lindsey Stirling album – $9.99 Elf Ear Cuffs – $27.75 The Name of the Wind – $10.79 Handmade Falkor – $131.83 The Grisha Trilogy – $36.53 Game of Thrones Dog Tag – $14.99 For the Sci-Fi Supporter The closest you can get...

Out with the New Nov11

Out with the New

Newer isn’t always better. Just ask all of the loyal Samsung customers who ran out and bought the new Samsung ‘splody phone. They thought they were getting was new-and-improved technology. What they actually got was the choice between keeping a pocket bomb or trading it back in for last year’s phone. They also got a stern warning not to carry their new phones on airplanes. If you’re not a Samsung customer, don’t feel too smug. If you’ve got Windows 10, Microsoft has been quietly force-feeding your computer the Anniversary Update, which might improve your device. Or it might turn your perfectly functional computer into a giant paperweight. Don’t even get me started on iOS 10. I miss the slide-to-unlock feature desperately and wish my iPad and I could just go back to the way we used to be. As a geek, I should know better than to expect good things from an upgrade. If fiction has taught me anything, it’s that upgrades are usually a very, very bad idea. Upgrades are bad, right? When Rose wanted to save the Doctor from the Daleks, she exposed the heart of the TARDIS and was infused with the Time Vortex. Like the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it wasn’t exactly voluntary. It also didn’t go well. The power was too much for Rose and the Doctor sacrificed his incarnation to save her. Oh sure, we got David Tennant out of the deal, but… actually, that is a pretty good deal. But as for unnecessary upgrades… do you remember what happened to Lt. Barclay in Star Trek: The Next Generation? He and Geordi went on a little away mission to see why the Argus Array wasn’t working. He got knocked out by an alien probe and woke up greatly...

Artificial Intelligence is Not Enough Oct05

Artificial Intelligence is Not Enough

A quick survey of artificial intelligences in fiction turns up a surprising number of psychopathic machines. A few are content with trying to control their human creators, but most are willing to kill to achieve their ends. Homicidal Machines GLaDOS from the Portal games is a prime example. Imbued by her creators with intelligence and singlemindedness, she relentlessly tests the player. Even her compliments are barbed and dripping with poison: “Very Impressive. Because this message is pre-recorded, any comments we may make about your success are speculation on our part. Please disregard any undeserved compliments.” She follows up cheery bon mots like that with potentially lethal puzzles and direct death threats. She delights in the prospect of the player’s painful demise. With all of that intelligence, you’d think she could find better ways to pass the time. You’d think she’d see the value of other lives. Or perhaps intelligence is not a factor here, and what she is missing is something else. GLaDOS is not alone in her murderous monomania. In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “The Ultimate Computer,” the Enterprise is tasked with testing a new machine intelligence intended as a replacement for fallible human crew. Spock points out that computers make decisions logically, which clearly makes them superior to biological lifeforms. Intelligence which cannot see other points of view can easily become arrogance. Predictably, things don’t work out as planned. By the mid-episode commercial break, the computer has gone out of its way to destroy an unmanned freighter and has taken control of the Enterprise. Before the episode ends, the computer has killed dozens of people, all in the name of fulfilling its purpose. Just another crazy artificial intelligence, but why? Why do so many writers predict that machines, if granted sentience, will turn on their makers? Maybe the answer lies with the granddaddy of all homicidal robots. In his 1966 novel Colossus, D.F. Jones weaves a tale about a self-aware defense computer that joins with its Soviet counterpart to take over the world. Efforts to block the computers are met with nuclear detonations that kill thousands. In the end, the scientist who created Colossus begs the machine to kill him. Colossus spares him, noting that one day the man will learn to love his new master. My question is: Does intelligence always equal a cold disregard for life? Shouldn’t a learning machine learn the value of life?  Skynet, HAL 9000, SHODAN, XANA, Samaritan… the list of deadly AIs is distressingly long. Can’t we—humans and machines—all just get along? Robots with Promise Not all fiction is hopeless. There are a few imaginary AIs which do learn. Even a few which are heroic. The WOPR computer (aka “Joshua”) in the 1983 film WarGames is designed to (again) replace humans. Joshua is put in control of the US nuclear arsenal. A hacker starts a simulated war with Joshua, but the computer can’t tell the difference between the simulation and genuine combat. In a nail-biting climax, the hacker and Joshua’s creator invite the computer to play all possible permutations of tic-tac-toe against itself. Joshua realizes that tic-tac-toe is a game which cannot be won and then stretches that generalization to nuclear war. Getting the computer to look at things from a different point-of-view saved the world. A similar conversion occurs in Pixar’s WALL-E, where the heroic robot is left alone on a wasted Earth with the task of cleaning the place up. Despite the solitude, WALL-E keeps at his task, doggedly collecting trash. He’s gone a bit mad in his decades alone and has begun to collect some of the more interesting bits he finds among the rubbish. He also watches the film Hello Dolly and clearly wishes he could live among the humans. His dreams come true (in a manner of speaking) when he finds a live plant and the sleek robot EVE comes to collect it....

Playing God Till You Run Out of Cake Aug24

Playing God Till You Run Out of Cake...

Scientific advancement is the entire backstory of the video games Portal and Portal 2. You play as Chell, a woman awakened from her Relaxation Vault in Aperture Science’s enrichment center, forced to go through a series of tests by the direction of an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS. Portal takes humanity’s tendency toward advancement beyond all logic (and that’s what makes it hilarious). Not only is the entire lab run by a robot determined to put Chell through her paces and then destroy her, but the tests themselves don’t serve much purpose. Aperture’s founder, Cave Johnson, doesn’t seem to have any morals when it comes to science. In one of his speeches to the test subjects, Cave says flat-out that they have no idea what they’re doing and they’re “throwing science at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Aperture’s motto, “We do what we must because we can,” seems completely ridiculous in light of the Portal universe (because there’s just something ridiculous about a robot chucking heart-labeled companion cubes at you and degrading you for not solving the puzzle faster). However, I find the game an ironic insight into the human mind. . . . Read the whole article from Christ and Pop...

Geek songs that amuse us May01

Geek songs that amuse us

Since May is our music-themed month, we will be regaling you with fun playlists every Friday. Up first are our top five picks for silly songs. Give ’em a listen, give ’em a laugh. You can’t really go wrong with these. What are your favourite geek songs that amuse you? Did we miss any?   “Want You Gone” (Portal 2) The epitome of GLaDOS’ character is depicted in this song. We want to put her, Mal Reynolds, James Ford and Veronica Mars in a room together and see what happens.   “Bad Horse” (Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) High-ho, Silver!   “The Mysterious Ticking Noise” (The Potter Puppet Pals) Once you try to perform this “song” in a group you realize how much fun it is. One of the Geekdom House Wandering Minstrels‘ better songs since it didn’t require us to stay on key.   “White and Nerdy” (Weird Al) Also, the original version with the Luigi death stare is high on our list of favourites.   “If I Didn’t Have You” (Howard Wolowitz) Our commander’s certain she’d be a goner if this song was used to serenade...

The villainy of the soulless...

She doesn’t have a soul. I wonder, is that what makes GLaDOS such a great villain? Killing a test subject is of no consequence to GLaDOS, and she appears to delight in playing mental games. Having a soul is apparently not a prerequisite for wonderful sarcastic wit: “Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official test record. Followed by death.” Lots of gamers (including yours truly) will tell you that they love GLaDOS. It is curious, since you don’t often hear people saying that they love a villain. “I love Professor Umbridge.” “I love Saruman.” “I love WaLuigi.” Seriously, who’s great idea was that one? “Well done. Here come the test results: ‘You are a horrible person.’ That’s what it says. We weren’t even testing for that.” —GLaDOSHmm… nope. Uncommon words, those. These dastardly characters might be amazing (or annoying) villains, but am I personally attached to them? No. I do love to hate their guts, but I’m glad when they get what’s coming to them. Portal’s GLaDOS is a completely different story. I would mourn the loss of this beloved A.I. because I don’t think she’s truly evil. Sure, she’s soulless, but this begs the question: can you be both soulless and awesome? Perhaps a deeper question would be CAN something be good or evil without a soul? Do we only see GLaDOS as “evil” and ATLAS and P-body as “good” because that’s how they’re programmed? The concept of a soul is explored a lot in science fiction where artificial intelligences abound. What about Data? What about Boomer? EDI? Baymax? We can hold A.I. accountable for their actions. That much is as easy as altering a few lines...