From Here to Human-Level Artificial General Intelligence in Four (Not All That) Simple Steps

Ben Goertzel, the man who introduced the term of “artificial general intelligence” looks at the current landscape of AI and how it’s narrow tools have not reached the general purposes that he and many others have envisioned…

'Star Wars' Has a Problem With Its Past

Patrick Gilger and Eric Sundrup examine the newest embark on the galactic journey of Star Wars and observe how it struggles with the ideologies of past films and the continuity errors that have been made…

Where Are They? Why I Hope the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Finds Nothing

Nick Bostrom observes the modern day obsession for the search for extraterrestrial lifeforms with an existential outlook. This troubling and comforting piece bring to light the fact that the Fermi Paradox is a necessary worry that needs to be considered by humanity in order to put our eager eyes and ears in check…

Backpack Research

By: Alexander Mervar

Backpacks are beautiful things. Without them, many of these blog posts, my adventures in life, and schoolwork would never be realized and completed. In theory, backpacks are easy to understand and the science behind them seems impish in comparison to other noble pursuits. But, do not be fooled by such simple-minded notions. Backpacks are essential to the modern life within the 21st century and their implementation into society has increased societal productivity at an exponential level. In light of this, I’ve devoted the first week of my summer to researching different types of backpacks for individuals. I get it, many of you are leaving school and thus, you don’t want to start thinking of this endeavor before you have to. But, you must realize that backpacks are going to be a tool that you use almost every day. Without proper research and careful attention to detail, you could be making a grave mistake and setting yourself up for failure long before you even step foot into a school, workplace, or any other place a backpack is necessary. Here, I have place a file that is a compilation of all the research I have done thus far. Currently, I’ve only selected backpacks that I know and love and they range from multiple price points. Each column is specifically designed to make it as easy as possible for you to choose what option is best for you. Price points are colored based on where they lie in cost. There is a column for built-in portable batteries for many different gadgets and mobile devices. There is even a couple different color selections to get a feel at what you’d like to see in your bag. As an addendum, I’ve also added a YouTube video and the link for each item at the end of each row, which holds a respective backpack. I hope you all are having a wonderful summer.

P.S. If you would like to help with this backpack research, please tweet at me. Maybe, we can work on something much more than just a couple backpacks. ;)

Digital Intimacy and the Facade of Electronic Connection

By: Alexander Mervar


Over the course of the past twenty-nine years, the world-wide web has revolutionized the way humans interact and exchange information. The introduction to the “internet of things,” which is the idea of increased connectivity between devices and other pieces of hardware, created many options that allow Americans to remain constantly connected to one another and be virtually always with one another., Moore’s Law, an interpretation on the increased amount of processors within circuits, states that there will be an increase in computational capabilities at an exponential rate over time., Gordon Moore shared and predicted that over the course of time, the ability to have multiple sources of data storage would become a possibility. The rate of technological advancement has also mirrored his conclusions at advancing at an exponential rate as well as decreasing in cost at an exponential rate. This correlates to show an increase in electronic sensors’ capabilities to read and process information. Gershon Dublon, a new media artist, electrical engineer, and PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, and Joseph A. Paradiso, a professor and Associate Academic Head at the Program of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, explain in their paper, “Extra Sensory Perception,” that the theoretical process proposed within Moore’s law created the ability for “increased connectivity” to constantly progress and grow throughout American society and thus, change the way Americans percieve relationships and act with one another., , This increase in computational capabilities and increased integration with other electronic sensors has shaped the way Americans perceive and carry out romantic relationships. Due to this implementation of technologies within the general population of America, the idea of the American romantic relationship has been reformed into something that could possibly create a more self-centered and less fulfilling lifestyle.

Preference of a Computer over a Human

Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, and the founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, shares that her observations of humans with objects such as Zhu Zhu Pets (robotic pet hamsters), Paro (a robotic pet seal designed for the elderly), and students interacting with early forms of bots (AI that can simulate the responses and interactions of a human) all point toward a psychological development within humans to create manufactured relationships with our machines and the facades that we create on the internet. By using a social network, humans are able to shape and mold the way the world views them. A girl who is shy, can be virtually outgoing. A Chinese man can be British. The list of possibilities is endless and continuously expanding. This ability to create the perfect lifestyle that an individual desires, intrigues humans and draws them to spend more time with machines than other people. Thus, this ultimately leads to a degradation of face-to-face interaction.

The Degradation of Face-to-Face Interaction

With the constant expansion of ways that humans are able to virtually interact with one another (e.g. massively-multiplayer online video games, sms text messages, video calling, etc.), several different preferences for communication, that are seen throughout American society, have formed. Within today’s society, many Americans have a physical device that tethers them to work, media, current events, and to other people. This impedes on the ability for individuals to obtain moments of true seclusion and disconnectivity, which Sherry Turkle shares is vital for mental health. At a moments notice, anyone who has access to the internet through a computational device has the capability of reaching out to any individual or group of people and being able to consume media to bring about the idea of being “alone together.” Sherry Turkle states in her work, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, that the American preference toward constant communication through sms (short message service) text messaging and other forms of instantaneous communication that do not require full attention create a degradation of fulfillment within communication participants., Turkle explains that a common complaint within her observations of human interaction over the course of her many years of research is the idea that, “sometimes you don’t have time for your friends except if they’re online.” The idea of a facade of numerous friends and utilization of time with digital connectivity in replacement for physical connectivity shows the social irony when observing the average romantic relationship within the United States and how this implementation of technology has forced Americans to mutilate or drastically evolve and adapt the characteristics of the modern romance due to a self-imposed emphasis on electronic communication when physical communication is required. With the continuation of more and more people adopting technology, the increased amount of technologically connected relationships will only grow and the physically connected relationships will diminish.

The Destructive and Constructive Power of Social Media

Relationships are constantly and continuously communicating between individuals. With an increase in electronic communication, this relational maintenance of communicating and making sure the relationship is furthering and prospering has shifted to being developed and voiced electronically. According to Amanda Lenhart, Monica Anderson, and Aaron Smith from Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, 50% of teens have expressed their interest in a potential romantic partner through a social media site. This strong use of social media in a romantic context has led to many using social media as a platform for relational maintenance. When displacing some of the work that would typically come in the form of one-on-one interaction with a person in a physical face-to-face conversation or a voice or video call, it destroys the efficiency of the relational maintenance taking place, which increases relationship satisfaction for both partners. Without this conversation between the two parties in a non-attentive setting, direct interaction is no longer necessary and an individual can go without knowledge of the other wanting to know how he or she is doing or what current events happened in their life, which belittles the attention that an individual typically receives within a romantic relationship.

This change in perception of the relationship creates an environment where individuals would act differently under different circumstances. A physical representation of individuals acting differently due to perspective is the worldy alterations that is created in 3D pavement art by Joe Hills. Due to the physical location of a viewer, the world and the art can appear much differently than it actually is perceived at different angles. These attributes are reflective of people and their online social media presence. Due to the capability to put up a facade, this electronic connection subconsciously encourages users to become jealous and have feelings for the portrayal of a person instead of the person themselves. This jealousy can catalyze from a partner adding an unknown member of the opposite sex on a social network site. This can ultimately cause relational discourse and destroy the relationship entirely.

Inverse to this, SNS (social network sites) can also increase relational happiness. Sonja Utz and Camiel Beukeboom state in their paper, “The Role of Social Network Sites in Romantic Relationships: Effects on Jealousy and Relationship Happiness,” that grooming, which involves browsing of the profiles of friends and the partner, can determine if an individual experiences SNS jealousy or relational happiness. The results of this SNS interaction is due to what is witnessed within the SNS platform. If an individual witnesses a partner sharing their relationship, relational happiness can grow. This juxtaposes the idea that SNS interaction exclusively creates jealousy within a romantic relationship in the United States.

Sexual Exploration Through Electronic Means

Over the years, there has been a gradual increase in the amount of Americans who own cell phones and smartphones. Pew Research Center provides that in January of 2018, 95% of all US adults own a cellphone and 77% of US adults had smartphones. In addition, 73% have reported owning a desktop or laptop computer; 53% of US adults have reported a tablet computer; finally, 22% of American adults own an e-reader. These physical devices have mirrored the exponential growth of Moore’s Law in the amount of people who own these devices. Thus, more and more people have the capability to share digital information with one another. With all of this increase in digital information, the ability to share different types of information has also materialized into the American romance. Due to this, the participation in what is commonly known as “sexting”, sending and receiving of sexually suggestive images, has become a main facet of the online presence within the American electronic romance. Amanda Lenhart states in her piece on sexting, that 31% of adults and 15% of teens have reported receiving sexts. By devaluing the relationship and pushing toward an increased amount of electronic sexual activity, the device is subconsciously seen as the bearer of the relationship and devalues the sexual interaction. These types of messages have also been seen to be a strong signal for increased connection and dependence on technology within a person. This increased dependence and ability to send these kinds of messages show that the structure of romantic relationships within the United States is rapidly changing and becoming more reclusive and technologically reliant through social electronic interfaces.

Nationally Addressing Increased Implementation of Technology

With the increased implementation of technology within American society, there have been growing divides between romantic partners. Over the course of twenty-nine years, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of processors within our technologies and there has also been an exponential increase in the amount of physical devices that are present within our society due to Moore’s Law. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher and researcher of AI at Oxford, states that society in the past has always been exponentially decreasing the amount of time it takes to reach the next level of technological advancement. If, hypothetically, it takes 100 years to reach a technological achievement, mankind has consistently reached the next level of progression within a shorter period of time. In today’s modern society, STEM fields are pushed within major corporations. But, these fields are pushing for progress that we may not be ready to handle as a human collective. This kind of technological development is also appearing within our relationships. With every new technological innovation and new product, an increasing amount of humans are relying on inanimate and two-dimensional objects to sustain and satisfy their needs for personal relationships. Acting as a middle-man, these devices operate as a social duality and separate while also joining us together. By granting the ability to constantly share information, relationships are oversaturated with unnecessary and frivolous information that overwhelms romantic partners. This information can also catalyze into relational jealousy if individuals are seen to be with other humans of the opposite gender.

Another facet of the increase in societal technological abilities is the devalued nature of sexual interactions due to different forms of communication. Sexting, for instance, creates an environment where individuals are presented as bits of information and objects instead of human beings who are providing an intimate connection. Technology is subconsciously perceived to be a middle man and thus, devalues the interactions between two individuals. This type of communication between individuals furthers Sherry Turkle’s idea of being “alone together.”

The Lake Hylia Theme from “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Sung as a Multitrack Acapella

By: Alexander Mervar

I’m a huge video game fan. But, since I’ve been away from my Xbox and gaming PC this year, I haven’t been playing many video games. Some of my love for video games is created by the beautiful music that can be found within. So, in my studying playlist on Spotify, it’s no surprise it’s filled with video game music.

Once I stumbled upon this video of Smooth McGroove singing his rendition of the Lake Hylia theme, I immediately fell in love. Please, for your own sake, give this a listen. Talent like this cannot be ignored.

An Economic and Political Analysis of Increasing Autonomy and Electrification in the Automotive Industry

By: Alexander Mervar


The current state of the American automotive industry is rapidly approaching increased technological progression and integration. Developments have led to an economic environment that Joseph Schumpeter, an American-Austrian economist who served as the financial minister of Austria in 1919 and as a professor at Harvard University, calls “creative destruction.” He uses this term to describe the commonality of a disruptive nature that many current and future businesses obtain due to the capitalist nature of the American economy. This economic destruction or disruption may be seen in major economic industries and undertakings in the American past and present. Industries such as oil, personal electronics, and automotives have been radically transformed by highly influential companies like Standard Oil, Apple, and Ford, which have innovated the shape of American progressive industries like gasoline, mobile cellular phones, as well as the look of the modern assembly line. Creative destruction is evident within the automotive industry in correlation to the recent undertaking and growing popularity of increased autonomy and electrification of vehicles. This electrification and autonomy is leading to an increasingly software-based and specialized system that is transforming the state of the automotive industry. Developing systems of increased technological integration drives an irreversible progression of automotives. This constant push and continuous progression toward full autonomy and electrification should not be ignored, due to its displacing and destructive effect within the economy and its innate political possibilities and incentives. Daniel Howard and Danielle Dai, members of the department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, expand on this idea stating, “self-driving vehicles offer an alternative form of individualized transportation that can be adapted to reduce such rising carbon emissions, increasing traffic congestion, and high traffic accident rates negative impacts.” The economic effects and political incentives for the increased electrification and autonomy of automobiles has created a necessity for a cautious outlook on the future of automobile technological progression.

Political Analysis

Policymaker discussions have increased with particular interest around the ramifications of continuous development of vehicular technologies. Autonomous vehicles, also called “autos”, are increasing in popularity due to recent technological progression from private industries such as Tesla, Google, and others. This has led to an increase in popular mainstream media coverage, social opinion, and education on topics of climate change and vehicular autonomy. Development and understanding of this technology aided many different analyses of what the integration of electric and driverless vehicles could have on the American society. For instance, many constituents and policymakers are interested in the capabilities of driverless vehicles of reduce the amount of car-related fatalities. The amount of sensors that a driverless car would necessitate provides a system in which the vehicle is able to simulate superhuman driving capabilities. The increased operational capabilities that these vehicles provide will subsequently decrease the amount of car-related fatalities. This is achieved through continued public interest and adoption of driverless vehicles. Removing the human error in driving will cause less cases of distracted, drunk, and other forms of impaired driving, which ultimately attributed to around 35,000 fatalities in 2010. There is also a political incentive for reaching environmentalist constituents. The increased usage of the electric vehicle reduce the nation’s dependability on traditional fossil fuels, which are major catalysts of climate change. Climate change adds to the already heavy political incentive for policymakers to encourage the adoption and implementation of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Economic Analysis

The effects of these advancements hold value in political discussion, but their merit can not be ignored when observing the economic correlation within the American economy. Currently, the United States is highly dependent on the importation and development of fossil fuels. The American Energy Information Administration shares that the United States is the largest producer and importer of petroleum and natural gas, which are both vital in the continuous development of non-electric automobiles. For the sustainability of the American power and transportation infrastructure, converting a large portion of the automotive industry to electric vehicles decreases the dependence that the United States has on oil and other traditional fuel sources. A negative effect of increased electrification is observed through the lower-class nature and dependency on low-skill and non-academically required work that the automobile industry currently supports. Marc Andreessen, a technological analyst and founder of the venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz, shares insight into this reality by stating, “The days when a car aficionado could repair his or her own car are long past, due primarily to the high software content. The trend toward hybrid and electric vehicles will only accelerate the software shift—electric cars are completely computer controlled.” The lack of technical skill will result in many displacing economic shifts that can be found within the American past. Like the Industrial Revolution, many people will lose their jobs to more educated and autonomous machinery. This will result in many qualified humans becoming unemployable due to no fault of their own. This dependency will cause a major displacement of workers if an educational solution is not provided to educate these workers as their job becomes victim to computerisation through advancements in autonomous software. Of course, these effects are long term. Thus, analysis of these problems and solutions must be created to solve these problems now. Todd Litman, a member of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute shares:

The analysis indicates that some benefits, such as independent mobility for affluent non-drivers, may begin in the 2020s or 2030s, but most impacts, including reduced traffic and parking congestion (and therefore road and parking facility supply requirements), independent mobility for low-income people (and therefore reduced need to subsidize transit), increased safety, energy conservation and pollution reductions, will only be significant when autonomous vehicles become common and affordable, probably in the 2040s to 2060s, and some benefits may require prohibiting human-driven vehicles on certain roadways, which could take longer.

The conversation in economic and political fields are essential to understanding the causes and effects of increased rates of electric and autonomous automobiles.


The American automobile industry could radically change due to the political incentive and economic benefits that electric and autonomous vehicles provide. By increasing the number of driverless vehicles on the road, the superhuman driving capabilities of the sensors will allow for safer transportation. The increased diversification of the American economy would also put the nation in a better economic position in this globalized economy. With an economy that is not solely dependent on the production of oil and gasoline for most of its power production, the United States can better prepare itself for a possible future without gasoline or oil production.


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Benedikt Frey, Carl, and Michael A. Osborne. 2013. “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 114 (2017): 254-280.

Briggs, Helen. “50 years on: The Keeling Curve legacy.” BBC News. 2007.

Clements, Lewis M., and Kara M. Kockelman. "Economic Effects of Automated Vehicles." Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2017.

“Elon Musk - CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX | Entrepreneurship | Khan Academy”. YouTube video, 48:41. April 22, 2013, posted by “Khan Academy,”

“Elon Musk | SXSW Live 2013 | SXSW ON”. YouTube video, 54:43. March 10, 2015, posted by “SXSW,”

“Elon Musk - the Future of Energy & Transport”. YouTube video, 1:26:18. November 22, 2012, posted by “Oxford Martin School,”

Howard, Daniel, and Danielle Dai. "Public perceptions of self-driving cars: The case of Berkeley, California." In Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting, vol. 14, no. 4502. 2014.

Hornigold, Thomas. “How Fast Is AI Progressing? Stanford’s New Report Card for Artificial Intelligence.” Singularity Hub. 2018.

“Humans Need Not Apply,”. YouTube video, 15:00. August 13, 2014, posted by “CGP Grey,”

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Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Harper & Brothers Publishing, 1942.

Staudt, Amanda C. 2008. "Recent Evolution of the Climate Change Dialogue in the United States." Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society 89, no. 7: 975-985.

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Urban, Tim. “How Tesla will Change the World.” Wait But Why.

A New Trailer for Deadpool 2 Has Dropped!

The news of a new Deadpool film should not have come as a surprise. The amazing film was an instantaneous hit and went above and beyond my personal expectations. Now, with a larger (and more worthy) budget I believe that this film is gonna be absolutely HUGE! I can’t wait to see it and see how this next installment will address the future of the Deadpool franchise.

Goodfellas: The Insatiable Thirst to Become the Despicable

By: Alexander Mervar

Hello readers! As you can tell, I’ve been away for awhile. School and being sick has really weighed down on me. But, the absence of reading for enjoyment and writing for the blog has led to a downgrade in my mental health, which was not appreciated. So, I have returned now due to the initiation of my spring break.

This post is different than what I’ve done in the past. It’s a combination of the video essay format that I’ve learned to love on YouTube and inspiration that I’ve taken from great blogs like MacStories, Kottke, and Wait But Why. I would like to increase the number of posts on this blog while maintaining (or even improving) the quality of posts. I’m thinking along the lines of a couple of “link sharing” posts where I share things from different facets of the internet as well as posting longer form “essays” like the one below. I hope you enjoy. It’s good to be back.


WARNING: Spoilers for the film Goodfellas

Goodfellas, which is directed by Martin Scorsese, was an impactful movie during the early 90s when it was released. Following great films like The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), Scarface (1983), and The Untouchables (1987), Goodfellas had a lot to prove when submitting itself as another entry into the great American collection of mob movies. But the tremendous cast, directing, editing, and truly profound and raw story of Henry Hill, which the film is based upon, joins together to create a filmmaking masterpiece.

Within the first 3 minutes of the film’s incredibly well paced 2 hours and 28 minutes runtime, I knew it was going to be a spectacle and marvel. The beginning of the film has no music. Instead, the sounds of a highway are heard as the names of the opening credits literally race by on screen and line up with the sounds of oncoming and passing cars within the audio. This attention to detail and stylistic choice by the editors mirrors the constant progression through Henry’s (the protagonist of the film) life. (Obviously, we can’t stop the progression of time. This is just like the fact that you can’t stop an oncoming car with just your will power.)

The film takes advantage of the stylistic choice of an in medias res beginning, which throws the audience into the middle of the action after the killing (“whacking”) of Billy Batts. Showing something so despicable in front of the audience just a few minutes into the film shows the audience just what kind of film this will be, an action-filled drama that progresses through the biography of Henry Hill. In my opinion, this film takes everything good about The Godfather and shifts the focus to mobsters that haven’t been “made”.

A point to highlight in the film is the introduction of Henry in his early years. Every short anecdote ends with a freeze frame, which highlights the scene and signifies that these moments are what Henry values most and shapes him into the man that he will become in his later years. This backdrop draws the audience to recognize their insatiable lust for the lifestyle of the mob. Everyone who watches this film wants to have a piece of the wealth of Jimmy, the masculinity of Tommy, the “living the dream” nature of Henry, and the control of Paulie. This creates a movie that isn’t just about killing; it’s a film about family, friendship, and protection. Showing the movie through the mobsters’ eyes makes the audience realize that the mob isn’t stereotypical and instead, it has many complexities the viewer must recognize to understand the depth that this movie provides.

This film is incredibly quotable. One of my favorites comes from Jimmy after Henry’s first court hearing,

Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.

Although Henry lives by this creed, by the end of the film the independence he gains pushes him to juxtapose Jimmy’s philosophy and do the exact opposite. This adds another area of analysis for the viewer as the thematic idea of independence is brought up.

Robert De Niro as Jimmy is terrific. It’s a performance you have to see to believe.

Scorsese utilizes his masterful abilities as a filmmaker to provide long and unbroken shots that I absolutely adore.

Finally, I want to touch on the subject of Karen. Karen provides a necessary outside and feminine voice that the audience can immediately connect with. Her normal lifestyle and being seduced by the lifestyle of Henry acts as a portrayal and mirror of the audience and their own reaction to Henry’s lifestyle. Without Karen, who I’d argue is the most important character in the film, the film Goodfellas would be just that, a good film with a bunch of fellas.

iPhone 8

By Joseph Hock

If you read one of my previous blogs, you would know I struggled with “Ghost Storage.”  Well,
I went to AT&T and they told me to just restart everything and get rid of all my notes and
everything in my phone. I thought this would take a lot of work and it was too much of a hassle.  So, I took the next step and payed the 30 extra dollars to get the iPhone 8. I have now owned the phone for a day and have noticed considerable differences. Here are some things I’ve noticed are the same and some that are different.

First, the phone is so much faster. But the physical style is just slightly different from the iPhone 6, that in my new case, you can’t tell the difference.  The software is also much like the 6 and only offers new screen and camera upgrades. While exterior upgrades are less noticeable, interior is a different story. The battery lasts twice as long and apple redesigned the way their camera works. These improvements make the phone run much better and it will last longer than the 6. In terms of buying the phone for full price, I wouldn’t recommend it since the phone only offers a few new things and is just an updated version of the iPhone 6. If the price is halfed or less, than this phone is unbelievably worth it. It offers small new features for ease of access in almost everything and is much more enjoyable with a smallest size of 64G. As I explore the phone, I notice more things like the volume being much louder and the new “raise to wake” feature. The phone looks
the same is my old case, giving a “sleeper” look (car term for more on the inside than the outside).  Some people may like new and different phones, but I prefer the look of something old
with a new twist when it comes to phones.

Besides the small new features and advance usage of the phone, I believe the iPhone 8 is the last phone in a series of iPhones with certain features. The iPhone X is the start of the new line, bringing new features, but if you are looking for an amazing phone with better quality than any other before it, then this is your best option for its price range. 

After the week that I have owned this device, My thoughts have settled and I can truly
state facts. The iPhone is very similar to previous models and I personally adjusted to the small
features quickly, making the new device feel as if it is old. Do I regret my purchase in any way?
No. Do I agree with all my old points? I believe I still do. All I am saying is that this device
won’t feel new after a week and you will feel as if you have had it forever.