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Harō Navi...

I was watching a film the other day, and it occurred to me that there is quite a divide between the future vision of computer technology as seen in the West, and that more often depicted in Japan.

By the way, the pictures in this section were sourced on-line. Twenty seconds of Google ought to find them all. The only changes are resizings of the HAL eye and Lain.

Western future vision
While there are exceptions (R2D2 etc), the general inclination is that computers are to be feared. This is most prominently displayed in the Terminator films. Not only does SkyNet become self-aware and wage war on humanity, but it then sends a machine back in time to wage war before war has even begun.
We see a bit of this in The Matrix where the reality everybody knows is a computer simulation. The character Agent Smith likens humans to "a cancer upon the Earth", so it is logical to assume this is how the computer itself views us, especially as we (humans) "scorched the sky" first.

Scene from 'The Matrix', stopping bullets. [sourced from Google image search]
Speaking of simulations, the WOPR in WarGames was not exactly malevolent. It just wanted to learn the game and understand game theory, even if that meant going through the motions of initiating nuclear war.
HAL eye [sourced from Google image search]But it is good to have a nasty computer, for the nicer and more polite it is, the more murderous its intent - perhaps the best example being HAL in... well... need I say? ☺ The bizarre black and white film Alphaville had a computer that absolutely outlawed emotions. Anybody displaying emotion (for emotional responses are non-logical responses) was rounded up and executed.
We can help set the balance right with Number Five or Johnny Five in the Short Circuit films, but the balance takes a slamming into the FEAR side of the scale with a self-aware computer called Proteus that hijacks a smart-home and effectively commits an act of rape to impregnate a woman with modified sperm in the film Demon Seed. In Dark Star the computer is a sentient bomb. Let that be a lesson not to try to make bombs too smart.
I, Robot pretty much explains itself.

In addition to this, there have been a number of clone B-movies and television episodes featuring smart buildings that turn homicidal, though the reasons are often either "stardust" or "because it felt like it" or, worse, it is taking its security programming far too literally. Nothing matches HAL.

In general, however, the feeling is that when computers are able to think for themselves, they would be unable to co-exist with humans. Such non-compatibility usually involves wiping us out in some form or other.


Japanese future vision
[note: we do not count Transformers, most mecha, and anything else with "alien" origins; only computers and robots of earthbound origin please...]

(Serial Experiments) Lain [sourced from Google image search]While there are exceptions, the general inclination is that computers will transition from being a mere tool to being perhaps the electronic equivalent of a friend, but still there to aid the user. It would appear that the actual technology within the machine is rather less important than its impact. Thus, the epic granddaddy of all cyberpunk animé (and manga) Ghost in the Shell features this theme extensively. Equipment ranges from "fairly simple AI units" (secretaries, receptionists...) to full AI "think tanks". These are complex killing machines that can think for themselves, and have a group personality not unlike a bunch of giggling young schoolgirls, and a mischievous inquisitiveness. It is, dammit, the closest thing to a "cute" tank that has ever graced a television screen.
Armitage III portrays an humanoid AI as not a vengeful killer intent on replacing humanity, but rather a victim. Created by humans, and then hated by humans.
In Serial Experiments Lain, Lain addresses her computer with "hello navi" (a sample of which is my Windows startup sound!) and she then proceeds to talk to it, and it responding. Not in a cold informal way, but "properly". I won't list other examples right now, as I'd need to look them up and translate the titles into the English version, but it's 5am. :-)


In the West, science fiction warns us that if we make computers too smart, they will see us as an enemy or a waste of resources, and we'll be 'removed'.
Though, there is probably a spookily high degree of social commentary here. We have a long history of fearing what we do not understand, from witches to sentient computers; and we live in a corrupted sector^Wsociety conditioned by fear (of Islamic fundamentalists, of Chinese hackers, of Russians, of anybody "different"). We also live in a very violent society where rapes and muggings are depressingly common, as are random and not-so-random shootings. We are told we must behave and not drive faster than the speed limits lest we murder children, while our role-model leaders profiteer shamelessly, lie, steal, cheat, and wage illegal conflicts in the name of providing civil liberties to the oppressed, all the while oppressing us by stealing our liberties on behalf of the highest bidder.
Is it any wonder our Western vision of a sentient computer wants to wipe us out? If you spend too long deconstructing Western society, you'd be saying "dammit SkyNet, hurry up and become self-aware already!".

In Japan, the smart computer will integrate and augment daily life. It won't want to kill you because it will be your friend, and you will reciprocate. The technology is not something to be feared. It is, in fact, rather like the fact that home PCs are less common than you might expect over in the land of the rising sun, because the venerable mobile phone is capable of doing those things. You could argue that the UIs are sometimes icky because it is a lot of form over function, but that is exactly the point. In a country where robot nursing assistants are being trialled, it is important to understand that - from the ground up - techie things are designed to assist and augment. To merge into daily life and make the owner happier and more productive. Whether that goal is reached or not is a subject for another day, but they are trying. And as such, go Lain, the lone-hacker-as-a-hero metaphor, and a chick too. Awesome.

That decides it, I'm moving to Japan...

...but I might think twice before asking a girl for her number! <giggle>

Three Japanese girls, ten mobile phones! [sourced from Google image search]


WiFi weirdness

A bug in my driver? A bug in the Livebox? A bug in reality?

Sometimes (and pretty rarely, like one in fifty (if that...)) when I open Azumi's lid to take her out of standby, the WiFi will connect, but the Internet will not be there. This is because she has connected as...

Windows XP WiFi connection failure - Automatic Private Address

Thankfully the "Repair" option kills and restarts the WiFi adapter, which forces a reconnect, so the correct working information will appear:

Windows XP WiFi connected correctly


YouTube, what's up?

Copy of message posted in their forum:
YouTube has been behaving very strangely tonight.

1. Numerous times, when using links either to videos or things like "My playlist", my browser (Firefox 3.6) pops up the "save as" dialogue, with the content called "watch" or "my_playlist" or whatever, classed as an octet stream.

2. If I do it the fancier way, the window turns blue with the little spinny-widget and reports an invalid server response. It usually freezes at that point with the spinny-widget going around. I left it for several minutes "just in case" but no joy.

3. This may provide something of a clue. Signing in/signing out frequently reports:
HTTP/1.1 303 See Other
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2010 04:44:43 GMT
Server: Apache
X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff
Set-Cookie: LOGIN_INFO=; path=/;; expires=Thu, 01-Jan-1970 00:00:00 GMT
Set-Cookie: dkv=; path=/;; expires=Thu, 01-Jan-1970 00:00:00 GMT
Expires: Tue, 27 Apr 1971 19:44:06 EST
Content-Length: 0
X-YouTube-MID: xxxx-long-complicated-bunch-of-characters-here-:-)-xxxx
Cache-Control: no-cache
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
X-XSS-Protection: 0

The obvious question is what is that '0' doing before the HTTP response?

The above issues occur regardless of whether or not I am logged in, and whether or not "feather" mode is active.
At any rate, it is making YouTube fairly unusable, so given it's 5h55 (am) right now, I think I'll call it a night... :)

Here's a picture of this:
Screenshot of YouTube weirdness


Your comments:

Please note that while I check this page every so often, I am not able to control what users write; therefore I disclaim all liability for unpleasant and/or infringing and/or defamatory material. Undesired content will be removed as soon as it is noticed. By leaving a comment, you agree not to post material that is illegal or in bad taste, and you should be aware that the time and your IP address are both recorded, should it be necessary to find out who you are. Oh, and don't bother trying to inline HTML. I'm not that stupid! ☺ ADDING COMMENTS DOES NOT WORK IF READING TRANSLATED VERSIONS.
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Rob, 11th March 2010, 21:07
"I, Robot" was a dreadful film. Take a premise written by a famous author, the three laws of robotics, and do what only hollywood can: ignore the dozens of books that deal with the implications of them and run off in another direction entirely. Have you read the books yet? 
As for friendly computers.. I'd have Chi (Chobits) please.  
169.254 addresses are a sure sign that it couldn't find the DHCP server at the appropriate time. It's a special range, where the machine will pick a random address in the range 169.254.x.x in the hope it won't clash with every other machine on the LAN doing the same.. if you see it, just do what you are doing.  
As for youtube .. whenever a server does that, I save, and see what it's given me. Sometimes I've had the source code for an app sent me instead of it being run on the server..
Rick, 12th March 2010, 01:58
I didn't say I recommend "I, Robot", it was just a pretty good example of "smart computer goes homicidal". 
As for the printed vs film version, I think of them as entirely separate. I mean, it's like taking Tom Browns Schooldays and filming it as something like Glee! But, then, how many times has the book and the film differed? Or rather, how few times has the film been truthful to the book? 
I don't know Chobits. I'll have to look it up. 
Thanks for the information re. 169.254 addresses. I wonder if there's a way to tell XP "don't make assumptions, just try again"? 
UPDATE: YouTube works again. Dunno what's new. They probably blogged it, but pretty much the only other (video) blog I make time for is Natalie Tran (communitychannel). Hey, if I've missed your blog - drop me a line. 
Wow - my last reader was from Miranda (Venezuela), or somewhere near. I ought to see if I can convert my reader IP addresses into pins on a map, or something...
Rob, 12th March 2010, 23:21
There's probably some obscure registry setting for XP... 
and hello from Norway..

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