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Mining movies

Mining Movies- The magazine column

January, 2015

Electronic-age prophet Marshall McLuhan claimed we should be listening to artists if we want to know where we're headed, because it's their job to use the technology of the day to paint pictures of tomorrow. In this Viewpoint series, "Mining Movies," I look for hints of what's to come in technology by examining one of the most popular forms of modern artistry: futuristic movies. From Star Wars to Minority Report to I Robot, movie artists -- or "movicians" -- have been spinning fantastic, inspirational, and sometimes frightening tales that can nevertheless serve as excellent sources of information about what lies ahead for us as citizens, workers, and, above all, learners. Mining Movies ran during 2005. These were originally created for Technology and Learning magazine, which is no longer in publication.

I Robot, You Student

September 15, 2005

For many people, the future lasts only as long as they do. So, if you are 50 and figure you have a few decades to go, then the future begins to peter out somewhere around 2025. That's the only explanation I have for why people still refuse to believe that one day holographic friends will be commonplace and robots that look like us will be doing our housework. If you think in terms of 20 years, it seems impossible. If you think in terms of 100 years - a very conservative estimate of the future - it seems inevitable...

Minority Report and th New Body Language

August 15, 2005

Once you get past the duck pond filled with floating psychics, Minority Report gets under your skin the way a good movie should. Like most movies that deal with the future, Minority Report is ultimately about fate vs. free will, centralized control vs. civil rights, but above all, really cool tech, like the ubiquitous eye scanning technology that recognizes people wherever they go...

HAL and Artificial Intelligence

May 15, 2005

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of those truly visionary movies that sticks with us because it was bold, challenging, and provided a stereotype of everything that could go wrong with a computer: HAL. HAL gets such a bad rap that we forget the opportunity he offers education: truly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) that can help students in many areas, from chess to drawing to speech. A full grown HAL may be far off, but infant versions are already used to "understand" and mentor students in many areas. HAL could turn out to be one hal of a teacher...

Space-Age Speakeasy in Dune

April 15, 2005

Dune is one of those sprawling, bloated, over-decorated epic movies that everyone saw, but very few seemed to like. I think it's worth renting just to watch how it handles interplanetary communication between a human and a "Third Stage Navigator," who looks like a rutabaga with age spots. Instead of the typical Hollywood fix (everyone magically speaks colloquial English), the characters use a translating device that looks like one of those large microphones from the early days of radio. They speak into the "voice wand" and their translated words emerge on the other side, more or less in their own voice. In our multi-cultural, multi-lingual world, technology like this is inevitable...

Photo Surfing in Blade Runner

March 15, 2005

Runner is Ridley Scott's film noir set in the year 2019, a sad time for Earth, which is in the throes of environmental degradation so severe that other planets are being prepared for colonization by fake humans, called "replicants." A "blade runner" is a cop who specializes in being able to distinguish between the replicants and the humans. Computer technology appears in Blade Runner as many futurists of today predict it will: invisibly. It is implied, but rarely overtly shown, except for one particular piece of technology that looks like a 1990s TV/VCR combination unit and behaves like an extraordinarily powerful photo scanner that responds to voice commands and is capable of resolution that is unbelievable by today's standards. Science teachers would love it...

The Force of Holography in Star Wars

February 15, 2005

In Star Wars, the youthful Luke Skywalker meets with seasoned rebel Obi-Wan Kenobi to retrieve a message sent from the endangered Princess Leia. The message, delivered by the dutiful droid R2-D2, is in the form of a hologram set up atop a table. The holographic image is viewable from any angle, effectively with them in the room in much the same way another person might be. One day this technology will be in the classroom...

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