The Twonky: 1st Artificial-Intelligence Movie

DATELINE:  Non-conformist Weirdo Stuff !

twonky To Twonk or Not to Twonk?

When the protagonist of your movie is a pedantic philosophy professor (the ubiquitous Hans Conreid) in 1952, you likely had a bomb of a movie on your hands. When star Conreid said this to director Arch Oboler, the temperamental auteur noted he needed a tax write-off for the year anyhow.

The Twonky was based on a Lewis Padgett short story, one of the earliest visionaries to see computers and AI as the controlling force of the future.

Robbie the Robot and Gort were the mechanical men of the age (though a primitive slave robot was at work in Gene Autry’s Phantom Empire in 1935). It was the Twonky, a creature from the future who took up life in a modern TV set.

As eggheads decried television as a wasteland back in the 1950s, it is all the more ironic that the future visitor and time traveler would end up as an animated TV set.

Though Professor Conreid finds it distasteful to be at the mercy of a trained computer that tries to fulfill every wish, it would today make for a great weekly series on TV. The Twonky is there to make life easier for humans—and to monitor them, depriving privacy and free choice.

Its comedic elements are frightful, and the man who sees it all to clearly is the college football coach, an old geyser played by Billy Lynn. He drops pearls of insight and knocks the hero for not knowing his science fiction.

Arch Oboler’s weird film is decades ahead of its time, criticized for its humor and poor technical effects, the movie is actually on the marvelous side. We enjoyed watching the Twonky climb stairs, throttle a TV repairman, and strip a bill collector down to the birthday suit.

The best moment for us, as former college professor, was when the doctor offered Professor Conreid a sedative. He demurred as he had to write his college class lecture that night—to which the doctor noted, “Oh, well, then you don’t need a sedative.”

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Next World is Your Next Stop

DATELINE: The Futurist Bible

Kaku Bird

 Kookoo Clocked?

Machio Kaku hosts a re-tooled Japanese series about the future, all done in English, called Next World from the CuriosityStream.

The five episodes are short and artificially sweetened, purporting to tell us what life will be like in 2045, just around the corner.

Machio Kaku is more like Mucho KooKoo as the futurist host with his introductions spliced into the show. He sits or stands in a white room with Internet screens to segue to a morose narrator who does the heavy lifting. He may be a virtual entity.

What we learn about the future is that computer chips will be implanted in our brains, eyes, and bloodstream. We will be hooked into a great Artificial Intelligence. Heaven help you if you receive wrong info or have some political dictator hack into your head.

They don’t discuss that possibility in this series, filmed mostly at Harvard and MIT in their labs.

There is a great deal of optimism that hospitals will become obsolete, owing to chemical/computer implants that will hunt out disease and keep us young.

You will face a lifespan of 100 years, adding five hours every day, until we reach the Singularity.

Yes, that ugly word crops up repeatedly, meaning a time of major cultural and human shift, like the introduction of agriculture or writing. AI will change everything, as we will make political allies of robots and androids, even marrying them.

The most intriguing possibility is that there will be recreated lives online of famous historical personages, or even less vaunted ancestors, to whom we may converse and seek counsel (sort of like crying “Fire” on the Internet).

To transcend death, you may be able to put your consciousness into an android and live forever.

All this is predicted by 2045 when you can live on Mars or in a tower of Babel, now an island in the rising oceans.

It almost makes you want to go back to the caves.