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Sci-Fi

Ray Kurzweil Wonders, Can Machines Ever Have Souls? 630

Celery writes "There's an interview with Ray Kurzweil on silicon.com talking up the prospects of gene therapy as a means to reverse human aging, discussing different approaches to developing artificial intelligence, and giving his take on whether super intelligent machines could ever have souls. From the interview: 'The soul is a synonym for consciousness ... and if we were to consider where consciousness comes from we would have to consider it an emerging property. Brain science is instructive there as we look inside the brain, and we've now looked at it in exquisite detail, you don't see anything that can be identified as a soul — there's just a lot of neurons and they're complicated but there's no consciousness to be seen. Therefore it's an emerging property of a very complex system that can reflect on itself. And if you were to create a system that had similar properties, similar level of complexity it would therefore have the same emerging property.'"
Biotech

Oldest Nuclear Family Found Murdered In Germany 186

Pickens writes "The oldest genetically identifiable nuclear family met a violent death, according to analysis of remains from 4,600-year-old burials in Germany where the broken bones of these stone age people show they were killed in a struggle. Comparisons of DNA from one grave confirm it contained a mother, father, and their two children. 'We're really sure, based on hard biological facts not just supposing or assuming,' says Dr. Wolfgang Haak, from The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. The stone-age people are thought to belong to a group known as the Corded Ware Culture, signified by their pots decorated with impressions from twisted cords. The children and adult males had the same type of strontium in their teeth — which was also found locally, but the nearest match to the women's teeth was at least 50km away, suggesting they had moved to the area. 'They were definitely murdered, there are big holes in their heads, fingers and wrists are broken,' says Dr. Alistair Pike from Bristol University. He noted that one victim even had the tip of a stone weapon embedded in a vertebra. 'You feel some kind of sympathy for them, it's a human thing, somebody must have really cared for them. ... We don't know how hard daily life was back there and if there was any space for love,' added Dr. Haak."
Games

The Importance of Procedural Content Generation In Games 160

Gamasutra reports on a talk by Far Cry 2 developer Dominic Guay in which he discussed why procedural content generation is becoming more and more important as games get bigger and more complex. He also talks about some of the related difficulties, such as the amount of work required for the tools and the times when it's hard to retain control of the art direction. Quoting: "Initially, the team created a procedural sky rendering approach based on algorithms — which led to a totally unconvincing skybox that was clearly inferior to what a hand-authored skybox would be. 'We considered it to be a total failure,' he said. He explained that a great deal of focus must be put on the tools that surround the algorithms, to allow the systems to be properly harnessed. In the end, the game shipped with a revamped procedural sky system that ended up much more effective than the first attempt."
The Almighty Buck

Should You Get Paid While Your Computer Boots? 794

An anonymous reader notes a posting up at a law blog with the provocative title Does Your Boss Have to Pay You While You Wait for Vista to Boot Up?. (Provocative because Vista doesn't boot more slowly than anything else, necessarily, as one commenter points out.) The National Law Journal article behind the post requires subscription. Quoting: "Lawyers are noting a new type of lawsuit, in which employees are suing over time spent booting [up] their computers. ... During the past year, several companies, including AT&T Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Cigna Corp., have been hit with lawsuits in which employees claimed that they were not paid for the 15- to 30-minute task of booting their computers at the start of each day and logging out at the end. Add those minutes up over a week, and hourly employees are losing some serious pay, argues plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Thierman, a Las Vegas solo practitioner who has filed a handful of computer-booting lawsuits in recent years. ... [A] management-side attorney... who is defending a half-dozen employers in computer-booting lawsuits... believes that, in most cases, computer booting does not warrant being called work."

Comment Re:Why Porn Mode? (Score 1) 326

Actually there is at least one good use for a privacy mode. When you are travelling or just out without access to the intertubes, you can go to a computer store (like an Apple store) and use it to check your mail. If the privacy mode is on, all you need to do is quit the browser (or close the tab, depending on the implementation) and all your cookies are gone. I've used safari's privacy mode on many occasions for this very reason.

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