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Science, Math, and The Inevitable Ascendancy Of Our New Cat Overlords: What We Learned At Nerdist This Week

You may have read this week that IBM and DARPA announced how they’ve reached another milestone in the march towards creating, in essence, an artificial brain. That’s the program in which they’re trying to develop cognitive computing chips that mimic the way real brains work, with synapses and everything, and the goal is to have machines that perceive and recognize and learn and can control and do things heretofore reserved for human intervention.

In other words, they’re building Skynet.

And that’s an interesting thing that you can read all about here or here or lots of other places where the people writing about it, unlike me, did not end their science education with an inability to grasp second-semester freshman-year organic chemistry in college. (What made me a political science major? Organic chem, no doubt about it) But I’m still interested in stuff like this, and something about the project that’s been part of it from the beginning was quite shocking to me. The program, in case you were unaware, has been using one particular type of brain as a model for the early stages, a brain that, I assume, they believe to be simple enough in its operation and ability to perceive and learn that a computer chip could catch up to that level in reasonable time.

A cat’s brain.

Skynet. Cats.

Uh oh.

I don’t have to explain to any cat owner why this might be trouble. We happen to own a cat, name of Ella the World’s Most Famous Cat (her full name, bestowed in a stab at humor with the idea that someday, someone Googling “world’s most famous cat” would come upon her). If computers begin to think like her….

And here’s where amateur comedians can have a field day. Take artificial intelligence and plug in any of these traits: Waking you up at 3 am for food. Running around like a maniac all night. Sleeping all day. Expecting treats and head rubs on command. Licking self clean. Hairballs. Litter box. See? Instant hack comedy.

Even so, the prospect is chilling. Maybe they should have chosen another creature for the model, something with enough intelligence to learn but with a friendlier disposition. A St. Bernard, maybe. Cats will not make good overlords. Consider yourself warned.

And while you’re laying in plenty of Fresh Step and Friskies for our cold, dark future, let’s look back at what happened around here this week:

1. Before the week started, we got a couple of late podcast entries, the latest Hostful Podcast with much ado about cottage cheese and the debut of Todd Glass‘ new show with Tom Martin and Daniel Kinno guesting and our podcast producer Katie chiming in, too.

2. The Intrepid Girlbot caught herself a raccoon in episode 3 of Diana Nock’s Sunday comic.

3, Chris posted a cool picture of two galaxies forming an exclamation point. Or an upside-down, lower-case “i.” Your choice.

4. Kyle reviewed the latest Torchwood: Miracle Day episode, and he’s clearly having a few problems with the execution. But Ernie Hudson showed up, and any show with a little Ghostbusters injection can’t be totally unwatchable, can it?

5. Two words: TARDIS corset. Whether you found it sexy or odd depends on exactly what kind of Whovian you are.

6. Classic clip: Eddie Izzard trying to buy a cow using Old English. And hand gestures. It wasn’t 100% clear if he’d succeeded, but it was more fun than ordering one from Amazon.

7. Jake didn’t like the trailer for A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas. That touched off a spirited debate amongst the populace. If the movie itself generates as much passion, it’ll be a hit.

8. Chris posted the podcast for the Walking Dead panel at Comic-Con, and we got to have nostalgia for the good old days of Darabont.

9. Anjeanette had the video of a marriage proposal with a special appearance by Patrick Stewart. Much “awwwww”-ing commenced.

10. We got a preview of Muppets: The Green Album, on which several musical performers of note perform tunes from the musical catalog of Hensonland. Lots of you liked it.

11. Matthew B. had an item about scientists getting involved with mosquito sperm, and… they have sperm? Anyway, it’s another attempt to stop the spread of malaria.

12. You got to see Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill mime a scene from the next six episodes of Doctor Who. Was it among the preview clips Kyle posted from Doctor Who Season 6.5’s premiere, “Let’s Kill Hitler“? We may never know. Kyle caught BBC America’s two-minute prequel of sorts, too.

Google's doodle August 17, 2011

This means something, right?

13. A Google doodle celebrated Fermat’s Last Theorem. I admitted that it flew way over my head. I believe in honesty.

14. More Podcasts!: Kumail and Ali hosted gaming voice actor Carlos Ferro, Riki welcomed actress Diora Baird to Making It, while Sex Nerd Sandra celebrated the G-Spot, with frequent use of the word “vagina,” which I suppose is unavoidable in that case, isn’t it? The Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast had a stellar lineup of Dan Harmon, Javier Grillo Marxuach, Aaron Ginsburg, and Wade McIntyre. If you’re even remotely interested in what it’s like to write for TV, you HAVE to listen. And Todd Glass welcomed Rory Scovel and a return visit from Daniel Kinno on his second episode.

15. Kyle kinda liked the trailer for Tower Heist until it turned into a Brett Ratner/Eddie Murphy thing. “Promising” can turn to “Please, Lord, Make It Stop” in no time at all.

16. HP’s decision to stop making WebOS devices made me wax nostalgic about the tech flops I’ve owned. Betamax! Zip drive! You had yours, too.

17. Mindy wants you to go see Attack the Block and wait on Fright Night. Can’t we see both?

18. Stephen Malkmus is back, and Matthew G. picked his new one as Music Geek Track of the Week.

Keep checking in over the weekend, because, like last week, you never know when we’ll have some surprises for you. In the meantime, I gotta go, because Ella the World’s Most Famous Cat wants food. She always wants her food. They don’t have burritos for cats, but if they did, she’d be getting one filled with Fancy Feast and I’m sure she’d enjoy it. Enjoy yours.

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  1. eric says:

    I’ve always stated that cats were next on the evolutionary ladder. Once they develop opposable thumbs, we’re toast.

  2. Alicia says:

    Is that Ella the World’s Most Famous Cat in the photo? Because if so, Ella looks almost exactly like my baby! If you’re nice to her maybe she’ll continue to let you live when the cat overlords take over. 🙂

  3. Michael says:

    It already exists. This is the elaborate plan of cat controlled Skynet to make us think that we are coming up the technology, when in fact we are well into the script of this story.