Weekend Thoughts - 10.1.16

Image  by  Rafael Vianna Croffi , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Rafael Vianna Croffi, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. In honor of Banned Books Week (September 25 to October 1), here is an article showing the most-challenged books of 2001 and 2015 and some commentary on what that means about our society's greatest fears. Interestingly, 15 years ago our banned books focused on strong language, sexual content, and drugs, whereas nowadays the concerns are more about transgender issues, homosexuality and religious reasons. It's an interesting list of books, including the fact that the Harry Potter books were most-challenged in 2001 (they were believed to be involved with cults and Satanism, apparently), although they have been accepted as normal now. It's worth perusing the list to see if your next favorite book may currently be (or formerly been) a commonly-banned book!

2. One of the techniques that was used during World War I was to paint military vessels with dazzle camouflage, which made it challenging for the enemies to obtain an accurate read on the vessel's distance, speed, and direction of travel. An artist created a disorienting psychedelic dazzle camouflage room that blurs the boundaries between the dazzle camouflaged-person and the room. It's pretty trippy; I'd like to experience it in person.

3. Apple announced some new products a few weeks ago during their September 2016 Keynote, and among the new goodies that were introduced were AirPods, a pair of wireless headphones built with a proprietary wireless "W1" chip. One of the primary methods of interacting with the AirPods is to speak to them using the Siri assistant technology. This article argues that AirPods are precisely the best place to use Siri, comparing the combination of technologies to the movie Her, in which the main character (and the rest of society) begins interacting with in-ear virtual assistants on a near-constant basis. It's a well-written, thought-provoking article that also references Jane, the artificial sentience in the Ender's Game series book Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card. Seriously, this article combines a lot of my favorite things—Apple, Her, and the Ender's Game books. Well done, and an excellent sneak peek into our likely future personal (and societal) relationships with artificial intelligences.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.