Pixel Scroll 4/11/18 Today’s Pixel Scroll Takes Place In An Alternate Universe Timeline!

(1) CITIZEN ROBOTS. Politico covers the latest legal uproar about robots:

Autonomous robots with humanlike, all-encompassing capabilities might still be decades away, but lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers are already locked in a high-stakes debate about their legal status: whether it’s these machines or human beings who should bear ultimate responsibility for their actions. Last year, Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux kicked a hornets’ nest when the Legal Affairs Committee suggested that self-learning robots could be granted some form of “electronic personality,” so they can be held liable for damage they cause if they go rogue….

No thanks: The opposition has galvanized. In a letter to the European Commission, seen by POLITICO, 156 artificial intelligence experts hailing from 14 European countries, including computer scientists, law professors and CEOs, warn that granting robots legal personhood would be “inappropriate” from a “legal and ethical perspective.” And as each side turns up the volume on its advocacy and lobbying, one thing is clear: Money is pouring into the field of robotics, and the debate is only set to turn louder.

See Janosch Delcker’s full story, “Europe divided over robot ‘personhood’”.

Think lawsuits involving humans are tricky? Try taking an intelligent robot to court.

While autonomous robots with humanlike, all-encompassing capabilities are still decades away, European lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers are already locked in a high-stakes debate about their legal status: whether it’s these machines or human beings who should bear ultimate responsibility for their actions.

The battle goes back to a paragraph of text, buried deep in a European Parliament report from early 2017, which suggests that self-learning robots could be granted “electronic personalities.” Such a status could allow robots to be insured individually and be held liable for damages if they go rogue and start hurting people or damaging property.

Those pushing for such a legal change, including some manufacturers and their affiliates, say the proposal is common sense. Legal personhood would not make robots virtual people who can get married and benefit from human rights, they say; it would merely put them on par with corporations, which already have status as “legal persons,” and are treated as such by courts around the world.

This situation was anticipated decades ago by Alexis Gilliland’s character Corporate Skashkash in the Rosinante series.

(2) TOUGH SPOT. The commercial lives up to AdWeek’s promise: “This Film Festival’s Bleak, Intense Look Into the Future Will Leave You Feeling Frayed”.

As sure as the jacaranda trees bloom every spring in Southern California, the Newport Beach Film Festival launches a quirky, cinematic work of art to promote its weeklong event.

This year is no exception, with a beautiful and brutal 3-minute spot that looks like it could’ve been lifted directly from the mind of Ridley Scott. Instead, it’s the creation of director Jillian Martin, production company Untitled.tv and agency Garage Team Mazda in its first campaign for the festival.

“Quota: Who Made the Cut” centers on two beaten-down miners in space suits dangling by ropes from a massive, alien edifice, mining for crystal with hand drills and bad attitudes.

Are they the future’s exploited working class? Prisoners? They may be both. They’re certainly in competition with one another to find a mother lode of the precious substance and earn their way back home.

Their only respite from the bleak, oppressive scenario are VR memories from home now and again, which don’t so much provide the rest they need as remind them of the life they’re missing. Those vivid images they see in their fitful waking sleep—a lover with whip cream on a taut belly, for one—are both a tease and an incentive.

No wonder things get violent.


(3) SHIMMER PROGRAM. Steven H Silver’s SF Site News was first with the winners of the Shimmer Program’s stipends, Shi Ran (Sharon Shi) and Lin Jiayu (Mackenzie Lin), who each will get RMB 10,000 to attend and help staff Worldcon 76 in San Jose, California. Bios of the winners are available on Facebook at this link.

Mike Willmoth, Facilities DDH of Worldcon 76, and Yang Sumin, winner of Worldcon 75 Attending Funding & Media Event AH of Worldcon 75, worked as judges for the selection.

(4) JAMES PATRICK KELLY. Steven H Silver’s Black Gate series continues with “Birthday Reviews: James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Rat’”.

Kelly won the Hugo Award for his novelettes “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1.” His novella Burn won the Nebula Award as well as the Italia Award. His works have also been nominated for the Seiun Award, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He is the author most published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, with both fiction and a regular column appearing in the magazine.

(5) D’OH. This is the government’s best advice: “FCC On Hawaii’s Bogus Alert: Don’t Say ‘This Is Not A Drill’ During Drills”.

The Federal Communications Commission recommended on Tuesday that emergency workers drop the phrase “This is not a drill” when conducting emergency alert exercises.

A final report on a false missile alert, which left Hawaii residents fearing for their lives for 38 minutes, offered analysis on what went awry within the state’s emergency management agency and guidance on how to avoid more false warnings.

(6) PACIFIC RIMSHOT. The wheels on the jaeger go round and round…. “The World of Pacific Rim Uprising, A 360 Experience.”

(7) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Marvel Cinematic Universe pays tribute to fans:

(8) FAMILY DRAMA. But it’s been a tough decade for Marvel’s iconic Stan Lee says The Hollywood Reporter: “Stan Lee Needs a Hero: Elder Abuse Claims and a Battle Over the Aging Marvel Creator”.

Back in early February, fighting what he later called “a little bout of pneumonia,” 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.

The comic book legend — whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics beginning in New York in the early 1960s spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men and laid the foundation for superhero dominance in Hollywood that continues with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War — sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration.

The Feb. 13 document, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. “It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more,” the document states. It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — “which is often” — she “typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate.”

Lee explains that J.C. will, “from time to time,” demand changes to her trust, including the transfer of properties into her name. He has resisted such changes, he states, because they “would greatly increase the likelihood of her greatest fear: that after my death, she will become homeless and destitute.”

(9) HOUSTON? This may not be what you remember when somebody mentions Apollo 13. Popular Science looks into the question: “Is a hot dog a sandwich? The Apollo 13 astronauts had some thoughts”.

During Apollo 13, Commander Jim Lovell settled the age old question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich in a communication with CAPCOM Joe Kerwin. Lovell did, however, screw up the question of “mustard or catsup” on a hot dog.

Jim Lovell (Commander): Hello Houston, Apollo 13.

Joe Kerwin (CAPCOM & Lead [White Team] Flight Director): Houston. Go ahead.

Lovell: Just a passing comment Joe, we’re having lunch right now and I just made myself a hot dog sandwich with catsup. Very tasty and almost unheard of in the old days.

Kerwin: That’s correct 13. As I recall the flight plan, you’re supposed to put mustard on the hot dogs and not catsup but I guess we’ll overlook that.

Jack Swigert (Command Module Pilot): We blew it.

Lovell: Right.

Kerwin: How’s everything going?

Lovell: About pretty good. We have about 4 different methods of spreading catsup, right now.

…but according to the book Apollo 13, co-written by the astronaut himself, the crew actually got quite a kick out of the frozen hot dogs, bouncing them off the walls of the cockpit.

The article has much more info about space cuisine, with the perhaps sad note that hot dogs are no longer on the menu for the International Space Station.

(10) ITS CUSTOMERS ARE PEOPLE! Gizmodo cheerful headline announces, “Good News, You Will Soon Be Able to Disrupt Eating Actual Food By Buying Soylent At Walmart”.

Per the Verge, Soylent’s maker Rosa Foods announced on Wednesday that it is bringing the signature brand of packaged, flavored sludge—which takes its name from the disheartening 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green, where it’s eventually revealed the product’s key ingredient is uh, “long pig”—to 450 Walmart stores across the country. Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley added in a statement that the move is “a significant step in providing more ways for consumers to get access to our brand,” expanding beyond its current placement in 7-Eleven stores.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

73 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/11/18 Today’s Pixel Scroll Takes Place In An Alternate Universe Timeline!

  1. I won’t say I hate cooking—I can see where it can be enjoyable and even therapeutic—but I won’t do anything that takes more than half an hour. Fortunately, in the year 4519, there are lots of quick skillet recipes that fit the bill.

  2. I’ve always said, were it not for the invention of the microwave, I would have starved to death by now.

    I do have the one pot I cook for my lunches at work (I call it “chili-mac”–it’s ground turkey or chicken, beans cooked in the crock-pot, and macaroni, flavored with various kinds of hot sauce). Otherwise it’s straight frozen/canned. Fortunately my local stores have good selections of frozen veggies and low-fat dinners and the like.

  3. This is the second or third time now that something I said in a comment has been, to my bemusement, used as a scroll title.

    It’s a measure of how sick I am that it took me almost 18 hours to twig to the fact that today’s scroll title originated from me.

  4. I like to cook and I’m a bit of a foodie, so my initial reaction to Soylent was horror. I’ve softened on that considerably, though.

    Since I can’t (sigh) eat gluten any more, it can be a hassle at times to eat food that is safe. So I end up carrying around emergency food (mostly nuts and beef jerky), especially when I travel. Soylent could fit in there. (Although I admit I still don’t find it particularly appealing.)

    @Soon Lee: you’re making me hungry!

  5. I thought that The God Engines was really, really good. It was my first experience of Scalzi’s writing (it was in the Hugo packet). Then I went and found Agent to the Stars and The President’s Brain, which were available for free online, and I was hooked.

  6. /SoylentStalk (too tired to comment on Soylent, which seem like just an amusingly named meal replacement shake??? hardly a new concept, but perhaps better engineered than past products??? no idea)

  7. I love this bit from the ArsTechnica Soylent article:

    But not every meal needs to be a festive life-affirming display of cultural pageantry where we march from kitchen to table bearing the carefully plated masterpieces of locally sourced delicacies while hidden speakers blare the “Circle of Life” song from the Lion King. Sometimes, I need to eat over the keyboard while transcribing an interview, and sometimes I need to eat in the car. Soylent isn’t replacing a culturally significant meal in those instances. As with all things, moderation is the key.

  8. Am I the only person who puts mustard AND ketchup on hot dogs? Chopped onion too if it’s available, and I’ve had them that way since I was a kid. Mustard goes down one side, ketchup down the other, and onion scattered on both.

    I don’t like to cook, although I can if I have to. Fortunately, my partner is a very good cook and he handles keeping us both fed. We also tend to do the big-pot meals and freeze individual servings, because there are days when time to cook just isn’t available. And if I want a liquid meal, I want soup or stew, not sludge. (Although Instant Breakfast is acceptable if we have to leave the house before my stomach wakes up.)

    @ Doctor Science: Not just children, but slaves, with the strong implication that most of them will die young. The owners don’t have to care about their long-term health. But yeah, suddenly moving from that to a diet of mostly solid food would generate Problems.

    @ P J Evans: When I was in the “can’t eat anything” phase of treatment, those nutritional shakes (Ensure, etc.) were the worst. Man, those things taste vile; I tried forcing them once or twice, and the results were Not Pretty. We eventually found one flavor of one brand of sports drink that I could tolerate.

  9. I don’t remember Chambers discussing that particular aspect of the liquid diet in A Closed and Common Orbit, but it fits with other aspects of how those children are being raised: specifically that they’re never going to be integrated with the rest of society. Jubrire vf znxvat gur qrpvfvbaf qbrfa’g whfg pbafvqre gurz gb or rkcraqnoyr fynir ynobe, vg qryvorengryl zheqref gurz orsber gurl ernpu nqhygubbq.

  10. @Bartimaeus
    I found that quote incredibly condescending, like the whole article. Because people who cook don’t treat food like a special life-affirming experience, etc… at all. For me, it’s just a part of everyday routine. I get up from my desk (I’m a freelancer and work from home most days, which makes it much easier), gather all the ingredients I need (I have decided what to make beforehand), prepare the food, eat, put the dishes in the dishwasher and go back to my desk. Most of the time, it takes an hour or so, an hour and a half at most. Sometimes, when I’m busy, it’s less than that. There are meals which are more complicated, but those I only do on weekends and holidays.

    As for the author of the article not knowing how to cook a piece of meat, how much oil to use, etc… , it used to be that you picked this up from your parents and grandparents. However, this seems to have faded in recent times and the schools unfortunately don’t offer cooking classes for everybody (they should). However, most recipes tell you how much oil to use, how long to fry something, etc… Many recipes on the internet have photos, not to mention that there are videos for making almost anything.

    Besides, we always hear how wonderful those tech campusses are? So I can’t imagine that they don’t have a canteen onsite, with a delivery service for people who can’t leave their desks due to deadlines.

  11. @ Cora:

    I guess to what extent schools teach people how to cook really depends on what country you went to school in. I learned how to cook vegetables, how to bake bread, how to make cheese (and butter), how to trim meat, how to wash dishes, clean floors, run washing machines, as well as basic care of a baby in school.

    I don’t know that I’ve seen delivery from “tech campus canteens”, but if nothing else, co-workers are often willing to help fetch something edible.

  12. Amusingly this whole cooking vs tech thing showed up in the most resent episode of Lupin III. Lupin had liberated a young hacker as part of one of his schemes and they were laying low making plans. He and the guys had made Japanese hot pot and he tries to give some to the hacker. She turns it down and explains how much time was wasted cooking and eating while sucking down some kind of liquid food pack.

  13. @Cora: your remarks about who doesn’t like cooking were also condescending. wrt training, Home Economics (as it is ~commonly called in the US) became a bone of contention somewhere around the rise of 2nd-wave feminism, as it was taught almost exclusively to girls while boys took (e.g.) “shop” (mostly useless woodworking — Dave Barry had a good snark on this — but having some idea of how not to hurt oneself with simple tools has some benefit). My last concert’s green room was a Home Ec classroom that appeared to be in daily use — but that was in a conservative exurb, and I don’t know who was taking the course. There have also been less-formal solutions; The Campus Survival Cookbook, which taught principles from 4 weeks’ recipes, came out in 1972, and I was given The Impoverished Student’s Guide to Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery as a semi-gag (in my family, everyone cooked and did housework) when I moved off-campus in 1973.

    @Andrew: Bravo! Now if I can just figure out why that quote popped into my memory, maybe I can lay the mindworm.

  14. @Chip: they had home ec and shop in junior high, back in the 50s, but took it out about 1961, in my school district. It wasn’t required in HS (though I think a semester of each, for everyone, would be an excellent idea).

    @Lee: YMMV, clearly – when needed (during “hell week”), I was using vanilla and chocolate (Walgreen’s vanilla is better-tasting to me than Target’s, though I haven’t compared their chocolate versions). I’ve found that frozen entrees make fine breakfasts, too, and I can add veggies to fix their nutritional balance.

  15. @Cora

    because people who cook don’t treat food like a special life-affirming experience, etc… at all.

    Well considering the reactions I’ve heard from people about Soylent, you would think so. The totally made-up distinction between people who like to cook and people who drink Soylent irks me. Why can’t someone do both? Example: my roommate is a really good cook and even invites people over for cooking parties from time to time, but he prefers to drink Soylent for breakfast… just because he wants to.

  16. @ Cora: Some people who cook do treat it as a special life-affirming experience. The people who run Penzey’s Spices are a prime example; for them, cooking is all about feeding people you love, which would be off-putting to me if I hadn’t just decided to ignore it.

    Re cookbooks and recipes… even knowing the vocabulary of cooking is a variety of privilege not available to everyone. If you’d never been taught anything about cooking at all, would you be able to figure out what “saute” means? How about “blanch”? Cookbooks and recipes start with the assumption of a base level of knowledge — which is not wrong, teaching Cooking For Dummies isn’t their purpose, but we do need both the Cooking 101 analogue and for people who don’t know anything about cooking to be able to find it.

  17. Lee: Some people have already pointed out cookbooks designed for college kids who literally never cooked at home and which include those definitions. I have seen cookbooks handed out as freebies to new moms containing bare bones simple language recipes with very simple directions. Sniffing at the specialized language of cookbooks and saying we need a type of cookbook that already exists implies you never bothered to look for the ones that are out there. (and videos on youtube are often aimed at just this audience too, though of course you get the soufflé makers and fancy stuff too.)

    Even the famed ur-cookbook, as it were, the Joy of Cooking, literally contains instructions on how to cook condensed soup from a can (Ie, the same as the directions on the side). It’s not a perfect thing for a true 101 who doesn’t have time for a lot of reading — while it goes into all the detail you could wish on definitions, finding that stuff requires knowing how to use an index, and reading more than just the one recipe. For instance, they have whole sections discussing certain kinds of recipes or ingredients in general terms before the more specific recipes. Worth it if you have the time and inclination to research a bit; these days it’s a second choice, as people at least feel they don’t have the time.

  18. Lenora – also to your point, WIC (Women’s and Children’s Nutrition program) hands out very basic cookbooks. As do many county extension offices (for those counties that still have them, anyway) and Social Workers, too.

    That doesn’t help people who live in food deserts very much, though. Nor people who have no cooking facilities or are unable to cook for whatever reason. The safety net in the USA is acquiring larger holes almost weekly now. We need to mend the net.

  19. There’s a cookbook, reprinted by Dover, called “Cooking for Absolute Beginners”. The very first recipe is how to boil water, and it goes from there.
    Also: “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!”

    @Lee: I also have some Pedialyte powder, in assorted flavors, which at least has electrolytes. They say to use one packet per 8 ounce serving, but it’s quite strongly flavored at that concentration, and 16 ounces is much better tasting. (Not bad with hot water, either.)

  20. @Chip: As long as the brainworm doesn’t indicate that you’ve been hypnotized by a More than Human Gerry Thompson, you’ll be fine.

    Regarding David Asimov – a few years back I read “Conversations with Isaac Asimov,” which contains transcribed interviews with Asimov.

    In one of the interviews, Asimov says (in response to a question suggesting that Asimov is using writing as a defense mechanism for unresolved feelings of dis-satisfaction with his life). “I receive instant appreciation for my work, I make a good living, my wife and daughter love me, I have good and affectionate friends – I have no reason for unhappiness….” For some reason, the interviewer didn’t remark on the fact, that Asimov didn’t mention David.

  21. @ Lenora Rose: I think you’ve read tone into my comment that isn’t there. I’ve been in several versions of this conversation lately, and I was responding to the “so what if you don’t know how to cook, the recipe will tell you how” argument. This is one of those “fish don’t see the water” things, because for most of us, we did pick up that basic level of understanding by osmosis if not by direct experience, and it’s easy to forget that some people don’t have that option. If there are Cooking For Dummies books already, that’s great; these days I’d probably suggest going the YouTube video tutorial route, if the person has online access.

    IMO we need to revamp and rename Home Ec, and make it mandatory for everyone. Call it Life Skills, and it should cover things like:
    – basic cooking
    – basic budgeting
    – basic clothing care and quick-repair sewing
    – basic household and car maintenance
    – how to write a resume / fill out an application / handle an interview
    and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now.

  22. @Lee,
    Thank you!

    I like food be it fine dining or KFC . I enjoy cooking but can understand if people don’t. Despite enjoying cooking, I don’t want to spend forever in the kitchen. If I can whip up a delicious meal with minimal effort, I prefer to do so. But I’m also not averse to having takeout/takeaways. There are options & choices that are not mutually exclusive, and I don’t see where some people get that idea from.

    Having had to learn to cook myself, I sometimes wish I had been given the option of doing home economics. Then maybe I could have avoided some of the early cooking disasters.

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