Ant-facial recognition tech at the Hong Kong protests was an art project

There have been some tweets going around about a "wearable face projector" being employed at the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

It's essentially the same as the scramble suits from Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly—instead of disguising yourself as someone else, it disguises you as everyone else, projecting a constantly shifting visage that drives the facial recognition AI crazy. It certainly makes sense that someone would try to use something like this in Hong Kong, where the mere act of protecting one's identity in public is now punishable by a USD3,200 fine.

Except… it's not from the Hong Kong protests. It's actually an art project by Jing-Cai Liu, an industrial design student at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Liu had come up with the concept of a wearable face projector as an undergrad at the University of the Arts in Utrecht. "In the future, the advertisement could call your name when you walk along the streets," she writes on her website:

Mega databanks and high-resolution cameras in the streets stock hundreds of exabytes a year. But who has access to this data? It is possible that it could have commercial use, hence not only retail companies but also the advertisement industry could be very interested in this data in the coming future. They would hope to gain these personal data and information as much as they can.

[…]

The companies would know your personal interests and may set different retail strategies for you.

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The Blot: correspondence between Jonathan Lethem and Laurence A. Rickels about Philip K Dick

A Gambler's Anatomy is the latest novel from Copyfighting certified genius Jonathan Lethem (previously) -- a book about an international backgammon hustler who believes he is psychic -- and who sports a huge tumor growing from his face. Read the rest

Is this "base reality"? Probably not, say some

The Westworld reboot and Elon Musk recently renewed interest in "base reality," the concept that one true reality exists, and everything else, including possibly this reality, is a simulation of some sort. Now some billionaires are funding the search for an escape. Read the rest

Philip K. Dick Conference 4/29-4/30 in So Cal

On April 29-30 at Cal State Fullerton, fans, scholars, authors, and artists will celebrate surrealist science fiction author Philip K. Dick with an extravaganza of talks, panels, and exhibits! Special guests include Dr. Ursula Heise, Jonathan Lethem, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock.

Philip K. Dick Conference 2016 Read the rest

Philip K. Dick was right: we are becoming androids

The deep problem, for Dick, wasn't that mechanisms might become more manlike. It's that men might be reduced to mechanisms.

600 Philip K. Dick book covers to keep you awake at night

If there's ever been a writer whose covers should not be used to judge their books, it's Philip K. Dick. His works are usually classified as a science fiction, but to me, he's a cyberpunk physicist, a time-traveling gnostic, and a prescient speed freak. He's also responsible for a slew of Hollywood films like Bladerunner and Total Recall, and the list goes on. I'm a fan of his, and that, of course, makes me a Dickhead. Read the rest

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection, by David F. Dufty

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection, by David F. Dufty is about the creation of the Philip K. Dick android head, and how it vanished.

Two people are chiefly responsible for making the Philip K. Dick android head: David Hanson, a sculptor/animatronic artist who makes lifelike rubber heads, and Andrew Olney, a software engineer who worked on natural language tutorial software. They teamed up at the University of Memphis, and with barebones funding, they built a robot head that looked like the late science fiction writer. The head had a plastic skull (made on a 3D printer). Motors, pulleys, and wires were attached to the skull, and to a special rubber that Hanson had formulated called "frubber," which mimicked the elastic properties of human skin. Face recognition software and a camera mounted on the robot gave the PKD android the ability to lock eyes with humans it conversed with.

To give the android the gift of gab, Olney uploaded a massive database of PKD's novels and interviews into a databased, which indexed the content. When a person spoke with the android, one of its multiple computers translated the speech into text. Another computer queried the database and synthesized something for the PKD android to say. Another computer controlled the android's frubber face as it recited the words.

Dufty does fine job of on-the-ground storytelling, presenting the late night coding and soldering sessions, mad-scrambles to meet deadlines, small and major victories, and petty bureaucratic hassles that Hanson, Olnet, and their colleagues experienced over the course of a couple of years. Read the rest

Enthralling Books: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

I’ve been a pretty serious Dick-head ever since a roommate gave me a copy of A Scanner Darkly 20 years ago. The drugs and dystopian SF hooked me. But it wasn’t until a few years later, in college at the University of Hawaii, that I discovered Philip K. Dick’s literary merit, a discovery that forever altered the course of my life.

I was buying books for an American Lit class: Frederick Douglass, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, nothing I was particularly excited about reading, but then, in the next shelf over, with the books for another section of the very same class, I see Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- as assigned reading. You know, the book Blade Runner is based on?

Like the movie, the novel features Rick Deckard (ever notice how his name sounds like the philosopher Rene Descartes?) who’s been recruited to ‘retire’ six androids in a single day. Read the rest