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What are the real risks we humans could face from a rogue AI superintelligence?

To hear a wide-ranging interview about the real-world risks we humans could face from a rogue superintelligence, hit play, below. My guest is author and documentary filmmaker James Barrat. Barrat’s 2014 book Our Final Invention was the gateway drug that ushered me into the narcotic realm of contemplating super AI risk. So it’s on first-hand authority that I urge you to jump in – the water’s great!

This is the seventh episode of my podcast series (co-hosted by Tom Merritt), which launched here on Boing Boing last month. The series goes deep into the science, tech, and sociological issues explored in my novel After On – but no familiarity with the novel is necessary to listen to it.

The danger of artificial consciousness has a noble pedigree in science fiction. In most minds, its wellspring is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which features HAL 9000 – an onboard computer that decides to kill off its passengers before they can disconnect it (spoiler: HAL’s rookie season ends – rather abruptly – with a 1-1 record).

James’s interest in this subject was piqued when he interviewed 2001’s author, Arthur C. Clarke, back in the pertinent year of 2001. Clarke’s concerns about superintelligence went beyond the confines of fiction. And he expressed them cogently enough to freak James out to this day.

Among James’s worries is that Hollywood has inoculated many of us from taking super AIs seriously by depicting them so preposterously. “Imagine if the Centers for Disease Control issued a serious warning about vampires,” he notes. “It’d take time for the guffawing to stop, and the wooden stakes to come out. Maybe we’re in that period right now with AI, and only an accident or a near-death experience will jar us awake.”

James and I discuss the “vampire problem” and many other issues in our interview. If you’re looking to cut back on the long, unproductive hours you currently waste on sleep, you should definitely give it a listen.

You can subscribe to the podcast within any podcast app. Simply use your app's search function (type in "After On") to find and subscribe. To subscribe via your computer on iTunes, just click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button (on the left side of the page), then click “Subscribe” (in a similar location) in the iTunes window. Or follow the feed

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 7:00 am

Isle of Dogs: trailer for stop-motion Wes Anderson movie about dogs

Starring Bryan Cranston, Isle of Dogs is a new stop-motion animated movie from Wes Anderson, director of Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Looks very Wes Andersony! And check out this cast:

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 6:52 am

Good deal on AC wall outlets with dual USB charging ports

Amazon is running a good deal on theseAC wall outlets with dual USB charging ports. It has 4.8-amp charging across the USB ports, which is plenty to charge most device. The regular price is $23, but you can get it for $17 with the promo code OPZ757GL. You will probably also need a wallplate like this one.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 6:38 am

First ever "Sand Hostel" pops up on Australia's Gold Coast

Low-budget as well as adventurous travelers just got to spend a few sandy nights at the world’s first sand hostel on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The three-day event featured a hostel designed by Mad Max: Fury Road production designer Jon Dowding, according to Architectural Digest. And rooms started at only $7.50 per night. Unfortunately, bookings for the pop-up hostel on Kurrawa Beach ended Thursday.

Sand Hostel required approximately 53,000 pounds of sand used by sand sculptor Dennis Massoud during the 21 days of construction. Ceilings made of rafters and woven bamboo paneling were used to keep the structure stable for the tourism promotional effort.

For more photos click here.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 6:07 am

Timelapse of Lego's largest kit construction

Lego's new Star Wars Millennium Falcon set is the largest model kit the company has ever sold. It contains 7,500 pieces and retails from for $800. It's sold out for now though, but you can get one from a scalper on Amazon for $1,800. Or you can watch Benjamin Große's video above of him building the kit, 20 hours compressed to less than two minutes.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:47 am

North Korea racks up $156,000 in unpaid NYC parking tickets

Even North Korea has trouble with parking in New York City.

Diplomatic representatives of the DPRK have accumulated around 1,300 unpaid city parking tickets since the 1990s, according to a WNBC investigation. A North Korean diplomat denies the $156,000 debt, citing a 2002 U.S. Department of State agreement that gives the city permission to rescind diplomatic parking decals after three unpaid tickets.

"It's not true," North Korean diplomat Jong Jo said. "It is false. Whenever we have a ticket, we pay.”

However, most of the tickets are believed to have been issued before 2002. North Korea isn’t the only regime to build up its parking debt. China is reported to have close to $398,736 in unpaid parking tickets, with Syria not very far behind.

Image: Joiseyshowaa

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:31 am

Boring, complex and important: the deadly mix that blew up the open web

On Monday, the World Wide Web Consortium published EME, a standard for locking up video on the web with DRM, allowing large corporate members to proceed without taking any steps to protect accessibility work, security research, archiving or innovation. (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:30 am

There's a Black Mirror book coming, and I'm gonna help write it

This morning, Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker and Random Penguin announced that he's editing a series of anthologies of Black Mirror novellas; I'm writing one of the three stories for the first volume, along with Claire North, and Sylvain Neuvel. I'm pretty goddamned thrilled about this. (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:17 am

South Dakota state rep fired from job after posting "All Lives Splatter" meme

South Dakota Rep. Lynne DiSanto, the GOP's majority whip in the state house, is baffled as to why anyone would think her Facebook post of a meme showing a car running over protesters with the banner "All Lives Splatter" meant that she condoned running over protesters. The meme also said "Nobody cares about your protest. Keep your ass out of the road." She commented, "I think this is a movement we can all support. #alllivessplatter."

She is probably just as baffled as to why her ass was fired, too. The Rapid City Journal reports she lost her position at Keller Williams Realty of the Black Hills, and The Argus Leader reports that Working Against Violence, Inc. cancelled DiSanto's speaking gig at an upcoming event.

From Vice:

The meme draws parallels to white supremacist counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer died after a man rammed his car into a crowd of people. In fact, it looks similar to others shared in white supremacist chatrooms before and after the Charlottesville riots.

“I am sorry if people took offense to it and perceived my message in any way insinuating support or condoning people being hit by cars,” DiSanto told the Rapid City Journal. “I perceived it differently. I perceived it as encouraging people to stay out of the street.”

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, R-Platte. called DiSanto's post an error in judgment, and that she will serve again as majority whip during the 2018 legislative session.

I have a feeling her post will increase her chances of reelection.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:14 am

Watch this absolutely wonderful skateboarder marriage proposal

Pro skateboarders Amelia Brodka and Alec Beck first met at the Vans Combi Bowl skatepark in Orange, California. Beck's recent marriage proposal to Brodka at that same skatepark is absolutely wonderful. Their joy is infectious. (via r/MadeMeSmile)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:08 am

If you freeze your credit, Experian will let crooks unfreeze it by ticking a box

Say you're worried that Equifax has just destroyed your life with its callous disregard for the dossier it compiled on you and your finance; maybe you'll contact an Equifax competitor like Experian and ask them to "freeze" your credit so no one can use that data to open a new account in your name. (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 5:04 am

Republicans who support tuition-free state college outnumber opponents

A Morning Consult poll found that 47% of Republicans support making public four-year colleges and universities tuition free, a proposal made by Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign for the Democratic party nomination (45% of Republicans oppose the idea). (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:58 am

Crockpot cookbook recalled because recipe could cause explosion

In 1978, Random House recalled the Woman's Day Crockery Cuisine cookbook because one of the recipes could apparently "cause a serious explosion." According to a statement from Random House, "If the recipe (for Silky Caramel Slices) is followed, the condensed milk can could explode and shatter the lid and liner of the crockery cooker." (Please, no Boston Marathon bomb jokes.) From a May 1978 article in the Chicago Tribune:

Because of an unfortunately elusive line that should have instructed folks to fill the pot with water, following the recipe appears to have resulted in some unintentional pop-top cans and badly damaged crockpots...

The conditions that have made this underground recipe successful and therefore popular, especially with children, are water and temperature. By being heated in boiling water, the temperature of the can and milk do not exceed the boiling point. After a few hours of this, the sugared milk turns to a caramel pudding. In the Crockpot, however, especially without water, the temperature can build up rather like a pressure cooker. That was the most immediate cause of the problem.

"The Exploding Recipe" (Weird Universe)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:57 am

Harry Belafonte sings 'Hine Ma Tov'

The King of Calypso and civil rights champion Harry Belafonte sings "Hine Ma Tov."

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:52 am

Calvin and Hobbes Piescraper

Pie-hacking baker Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin (AKA @thePieous) (previously), author of Pies Are Awesome Vol 1 "Pie-Modding": How to Epic-Up Store Bought Pies and Be the Hero of the Party, has been dabbling with "Piescrapers", "pie that are built 'up' using a series of engineering and baking tricks to enhance structural integrity and make tall pies stable, and delicious!" (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:43 am

Probation officer sentenced to 1 year in jail for sexually assaulting girl inmates on a "weekly basis"

A judge really threw the book at Los Angeles County probation officer Oscar Calderon Jr. He has to go to jail for a year for sexually assaulting girls in Camp Scudder in Santa Clarita on a regular basis since 2014. The girls told the court that their complaints to other officers about the assaults fell on deaf ears.

From The LA Times:

In a victim impact statement read in court Wednesday, Darling’s client described the year she spent living in fear of Calderon, who she said constantly groped her while threatening to give her poor progress reports and delay her release if she did not comply.

“I spent almost a year in a locked-down facility, with a disgusting, horny, grown man that’s supposedly my probation officer. I’ve never been blackmailed, let alone sexually abused, until I entered that camp,” she said, according to a copy of the impact statement. “It’s been two years, and I still feel it. I feel the depression of the past, and the anxiety of the future. I can still smell his disgusting breath when he kissed me.”

“Mr. Calderon is looking forward to putting this behind him and moving on with his life,” said Officer Calderon’s attorney, Rodrigo Ambrosio.

As part of his plea deal, Officer Calderon will not have to register as a sex offender.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:35 am

Watch the Addams Family dance to The Ramones

(Gabriel Magallon via Laughing Squid)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:32 am

Former female employees sue Google for paying them less than men

Three former employees of advertising giant, and free maps, enterprise Google have filed suit against the giant for gender inequality and discrimination.


Former employees at Google recently filed a lawsuit against the company on the basis of gender inequality and discrimination. The plaintiffs, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri suggest that Google systematically keeps women in lower compensation levels than men with equal or lesser skills and education even though they do similar work.

Due to the extensive records that Google is required to keep regarding pay, job classifications, and other employment records, the plaintiffs hold that although it currently does nothing to fix the situation, the company should be well aware the discrimination occurring.

For example, Ellis, who had four years of previous experience, was hired as a software engineer at a Level 3 job position, a level at which Google typically hires recent college graduates. Meanwhile, a man who was hired at a similar time with similar experience, was hired at a Level 4 position.

Pease, who had worked for the company for several years, was kept on the lower “non-technical” ladder which holds less opportunity for promotions and less compensation than the “technical” ladder despite her multiple leadership positions and experience at managing those on the “technical ladder”.

Holly Pease is a fantastic engineer and a wonderful senior executive manager of engineering groups. I know, I worked for her.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:24 am

Twitter has a laugh fest over Trump thinking there's a country called Nambia

When Trump spoke to African leaders at a UN lunch on Wednesday, he referred to the African country of Nambia twice. It was a head-scratcher. Did he mean Zambia? Gambia? Namibia? Narnia? Oh wait...

It made for a busy round of yucks on Twitter. Here is a sample:

How Donald Trump sees Africa #nambia

— ElElegante101 (@skolanach) September 20, 2017

Ah yes, #Nambia. I love that country. Stopped by on my way home from a safari in Wakanda last time I was on the continent. 😂😭🙄

— Rosie B 🇬🇭 (@rosiesrambles) September 21, 2017

Nambia is the world's top exporter of covfefe

— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) September 21, 2017

King of #Nambia, the heir to the Royal Throne of Zamunda

— MJ Edwards (@rogue1two) September 21, 2017

I dream of a land like Nambia, where fields of Covfefe grow, and the National song is Rocket Man. #Nambia #Trumpspeak

— Lori Rose Bebko (@_TorpedoGirl_) September 21, 2017

BREAKING: Reports Boris Johnson urgently preparing for state visit after the recent discovery of #Nambia...

— Brett Edwards (@bwiedwards) September 21, 2017

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:19 am

Be a dapper zapper with the ZapCane

The ZapCane comes complete with a flashlight and a 1MM volt stun gun. It also supports you as you walk.

I was looking at canes, like you do when you have a bad back, and thinking "Maybe it is finally time for a sword cane?" or something along those lines. Then I saw the ZapCane.

The handy flashlight is in a fairly useless location to help you with the walking. The true charm of the ZapCane is its 1MM volt stun gun. The entire bottom extension of the cane becomes a highly unpleasant electrified surface.

Why would someone need a ZapCane? In some really rough urban spots people with impaired mobility may find it necessary to fend off attackers! Maybe you could use the ZapCane as a silly way to try and fend off a bear, before said bear eats your fucking face off.

I am a huge fan of the fritz handle. It is the most comfortable for actually walking. Also notable, this cane is size adjustable without cutting.

ZAP ZAPCANE Cane - 1 Millionv Stun Gun Walking Cane with Flashlight & Carrying Case via Amazon

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:16 am

Apple makes it harder to track you online, ad industry has an aneurysm

Safari has blocked third-party cookies (used to track your behavior across multiple websites) since 2010, but the ad-tech industry has fired back with a bunch of covert tracking tools that watch you even if you've adopted privacy countermeasures; the latest version of Safari goes one better, deploying machine-learning to selectively block even more tracking technologies, while still preserving useful third-party cookies that help you stay logged in and do useful work across different sites. (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:13 am

Stranded in Japan, an unforgettable act of kindness

Writer Matthew Treadwell recounts the time he and his wife were in rural Japan and missed the last bus to Haneda Airport. They were in danger of missing their plane. They flagged down a taxi but the driver said it was too far. To make matters worse, it started raining. Then a man came along and changed their luck.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:02 am

The making of first hand-drawn VR cartoon

Even after a 25-year animation career, I can still remember the exact moment that I decided to become a professional animator: It was at an all-night movie marathon of Ralph Bakshi films. While watching Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic (his 2nd feature release, but his first true auteur film) I was thunderstruck by its gritty honesty. The film served up top-quality character animation supporting a fiercely street-level aesthetic. To an impressionable teenaged animation fan raised solely on a diet of classic Disney features, this film was a revelation. Here were characters as richly textured as any of the street smart hustlers inhabiting the stories of Taxi Driver or Midnight Cowboy. I was elated! I now had a vision that it was possible to create “underground” animation in the vein of R. Crumb and so many of my underground comix heroes. I decided that night to move to L.A. and fashion a career in the animation business.

I did eventually move to Hollywood, where I got trained in classic animation techniques by Disney old-timers. I used those precious lessons to great success in the era of burgeoning digital animation in the 1990s and beyond. I was there the FIRST time VR stuttered to life in the mid 90s, only to have its plug pulled for lack of technical viability. Fast-forward past 24k-baud modems, the first PDAs, internet 1.0, handheld gaming systems, theme park rides -- I have created content for all of them. But I have never been as creatively (or technically) challenged as when I set about trying to create the first completely hand-drawn VR cartoon. It immediately took me back to that midnight theater in Pennsylvania where I got my first jolt of creative inspiration. I was determined to reinvent myself (again) in the medium of 360-degree 2D stereoscopic VR animation (say THAT 10 tens as fast as you can!).

This series tells the story of how I put together a crack team of animation and video professionals with no previous VR production experience and how, together, we figured out a successful path for pushing hand-drawn animation into a whole new world.

On a sleepy Sunday morning about 18 months ago, I was surprised to discover that a flat, unassembled Google “Cardboard” viewer had arrived with my New York Times. Watching the Times’ VR content through the Cardboard viewer transported me out of my kitchen and deep into the full immersion world of 360 video. In a flash I saw my phone in a wholly different light. It was now able to be my window into an alternative cartoon world which I could manufacture and, more importantly, inhabit. It stirred in me those old feelings of awestruck inspiration.

The first thing I did the next day was to call up one of my favorite clients: TED Ed. I had been directing animated shorts for this pioneering group of online educators for the previous three years. I hoped to convey to my Executive Producer that the timing was right for TED Ed to create a pioneering short in 360 animated video for the Cardboard platform. I was hoping that they’d trust me enough to forgive any initial stumbles as we collectively felt our way through the inky darkness that is inherent in any new medium. My pitch was well-rehearsed and the idea got approved quickly. So now I was presented with my first great challenge: Having sold the concept to my client, how exactly should I go about actually producing the piece? I mean literally–which combination of off-the-shelf software programs to use and how many team members would it require?

While I was pondering these tech hurdles, TED Ed was asking me for ideas about which teaching topic should be the short’s main concern. Luckily I had some ideas here. It was my impression that, because I was going to be drawing every pixel on the screen, I didn’t want to have the subject matter include vast cityscapes or sprawling vistas (I came to do an about-face on this thinking later). I came up with three possible environments from which to cull a topic: immersed in the ocean, inside the body, or inside a prehistoric cave. For each of these topics I was thinking that the environmental “walls” would necessarily be abstract, amorphous, and still constrict the subject matter. I felt secure that if I gave myself the parameters of a singular closed environment, I’d be able to create a world that made sense in 360-degrees. To my delight TED Ed liked my favorite idea the best and we decided to pursue the history of Stone Age cave painting. The irony was not lost on me that we’d be teaching about mankind’s oldest known attempts at creative expression while utilizing perhaps the brand-newest method of presenting this information: virtual reality.

Below is the first concept painting that I presented to TED Ed to help them visualize the world inside the cave. On the strength of this flat panoramic painting, they “green-lit” the project

Now the real work began in earnest. I needed to find a production team that was doing something (even distantly) related to hand-drawn animation in VR. I felt that if that team already had some basic VR experience, then adjusting the workflow to accommodate 2D animation wouldn’t be such a big deal. Just swap assets, right? In reality this turned out to be an extremely difficult problem to solve. It took multiple tries with multiple creative teams until we got even close to cracking that nut.

In the next installment I’ll reveal all of the fits and starts the production ran into as we attempted to push traditional animation into a wholly new and different medium. Here’s a hint: We were approaching the problem completely ass-backwards!

Stay tuned to our next installment: “The Frustrating Truth About Being an ‘Early Adopter’”.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:00 am

Blips smartphone lenses are like adding a microscope to your phone


If your photographic aesthetic lends itself more towards intimate detail over sweeping, dramatic landscapes, a Blips Smartphone Lens Kit gives your device a semi-permanent macro camera attachment. It’s being offered in the Boing Boing Store now for $24.99.

Since your phone is designed with human-scale photographs in mind, it’s basically impossible to focus on small, close-up objects without some kind of optical enhancement. To give your miniature subjects a staggering boost in detail and clarity, this kit includes two stick-on lenses: a macro with a 10mm focal distance, and a macro plus with double the magnification. These transparent dollops are supported by strips of aluminum, and includes extra multi-use adhesive tape to swap between devices without damaging your lenses.

And to get the most out of your temporary mods, the Blips app unlocks special camera capabilities, and is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. You can get a Blips Smartphone Lens Kit here for $24.99.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 4:00 am

Is it possible that we are not real and don't even know it?

"Is it possible that we are not real and don't even know it?" That's the question explored in the latest animated explainer video from Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. It present five untestable assumptions, which if all true, would mean we are living in a simulated universe.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:49 am

Trump to impose new sanctions on North Korea over missile and nuclear threats

President Donald Trump says the United States will apply new, additional sanctions on North Korea.


Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:17 am

Google buys $1.1bn piece of HTC

Rumored for some time, Google's purchase of a significant chunk of handset-maker HTC was announced today. The WSJ:

Google said an HTC team that helped develop Google’s flagship Pixel smartphone will join the company. The Mountain View, Calif., company will also get a nonexclusive license to HTC intellectual property.

HTC was hired by Google to be the contract manufacturer for the Pixel, a high-end smartphone that was launched last year, in part to better compete with Apple Inc.

$1.1bn in cash is probably most of HTC. The company's market share evaporated over the last half-decade but it remains a well-respected manufacturer.

Alternative Betteridge headline: "Will Google buying HTC go better than Google buying Motorola?"

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 3:14 am

Sean Spicer threatens reporter who emailed a question

Sean Spicer, newly ennobled by Hollywood as a well-meaning funnyman briefly forced to play the buffoonish Goebbels to President Trump, is already having trouble staying in character.

About an hour after Spicer's texts, he replied to a polite email I had sent earlier, seeking comment:

Per my text: Please refrain from sending me unsolicited texts and emails Should you not do so I will contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment Thanks Sean M Spicer

Context: Spicer's a famously fastidious note-taker and it appears White House investigator Robert Mueller wants a peek.

Spicer is exactly what he appears to be: a blathering thug from whom threats and lies flow like sweat. The desire for there to be something under this, some warmer more human creature behind the mask, is just another disease of that liberal center everyone keeps warning you about.

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 2:54 am

Hackers may have traded using stolen insider information, SEC admits

The head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said this week that hackers accessed the SEC's corporate disclosure database and likely profited by trading on that stolen insider information.


Posted on 22 September 2017 | 2:53 am

Spain's right-wing government orders brutal police crackdown on Catalan independence referendum

The 2015 Catalan elections were widely viewed as a proxy referendum on independence from Spain and the brutal austerity imposed by Madrid, whose courts declared independence referendums to be illegal, augmenting its legal attacks against the Catalan independence movement with withering cyber-attacks, a brutal move that drove support for Spain's left-wing/anti-austerity parties. (more…)

Posted on 22 September 2017 | 2:42 am