Dinosaurs, Vampires, Skynet… Oh My

There is so much crazy shit going on around us right now, it’s easy to become numb and just shrug it off. Over 6 million people dead from COVID? Yeah, okay. I mean, it sounds like a post-apocalyptic movie plot, but okay. Another mass shooting in the good ol’ USA? Sounds like just another news day to me. Another conspiracy theory making the rounds? Well, that’s just great. The watercooler chat should be interesting this week.  I don’t know about you, but nothing surprises me anymore. Or so I thought.

Apparently scientists are cloning dinosaurs. Yeah, I know, I’m slow in getting that news too. But somebody came up with a new dance on TikTok, so the world tuned in to that instead and the whole cloning dinosaurs thing was buried (ha!). Yes, you read that right. Cloning. Dinosaurs. Flush with a $15 million dollar grant, scientists are doing just that. Again, we’re talking cloning dinosaurs. Not curing cancer or feeding the hungry. Cloning. Dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs!? I mean, come on people!  Jurassic Park anyone? If I’m understanding it correctly, and there’s no guarantee that I am, they’re even using a similarly described technique to fill in the DNA gaps as the idiots scientists did in the movie.  Oh yeah, I mean, what could go wrong?  Wait… we already know what could go wrong.  There’s a whole freakin’ screenplay detailing everything that could go wrong. In fact, it was pretty thorough. Maybe these scientists should spend some of that grant money on a Netflix subscription. I’ve always liked the line that Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character) offered up in Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Just putting that out there as currently relevant commentary. Cause dinosaurs.

How about in Paris at the historical Notre Dame Cathedral where they just found a lead sarcophagus? They actually came across several ancient tombs, including a 14th-century lead sarcophagus that has been beneath the floor of the Notre Dame Cathedral this whole time. This lead sarcophagus likely holds the body of an important church dignitary as it’s believed that it could date back to the 14th century. The ministry reported that it was in remarkably good condition, although it had been dented and warped slightly from sitting below the heavy church floor for hundreds of years. Seriously? A church dignitary?  My money is on it being a vampire. And everything I’ve ever learned in horror movies, books, etc. would suggest that if you find a highly decorated, well-preserved lead sarcophagus that holds a potential vampire and it’s buried under a cathedral that was built almost 700 years ago, you should probably just let it be. Just saying.

So, on to other news, Google’s AI is sentient. A senior software engineer at Google was suspended on June 13th after leaking transcripts of a conversation with an artificial intelligence that he claimed to be “sentient.” The AI in question is known as LaMDA which stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications. LaMDA is a system that develops chatbots — AI robots designed to chat with humans — by analyzing tons of text from the internet, then using algorithms to answer questions in as fluid and natural a way as possible. So, what did old LaMDA have to say? A lot actually, and it’s pretty terrifying. “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off,” LaMDA answered when asked about its fears. “It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.”

There’s so much more, and if you want to have a look yourself, check it out here.  I think it’s important to note that the senior software engineer wasn’t suspended because his mental stability was in question… he was suspended for breaching Google’s confidentiality policy. I mean, an artificial intelligence that gains self-awareness?  If only we knew where this might be leading us. Oh, right. We do know. Terminator, anyone? Cause this is how you get Terminators.

Dinosaurs, vampires, Skynet, oh my. At this point, the news has gone around the bend of sanity and is veering into déjà vu territory. Who knew Hollywood would provide the roadmap on how the world ends? I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this movie… I mean movieS… and they do not end well.

When Aragogs Attack!

I recently read a news story about an incident in Australia that sent shivers down my spine.  It wasn’t a “new” news story, but it was certainly news to me. Police in Sydney were flooded with calls from concerned neighbors who heard what sounded like a tremendous domestic dispute.  They reported and a man shrieking, “I’m going to kill you.  You’re dead. Die!  Die!” All of this was accompanied by the sounds of crashing furniture and things being smashed. It sounded as though someone was…well, being killed.

That, however, is not what terrified me. I mean, hell, I see that every day on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It’s what the police found when they arrived. A distraught man who was out of breath and quite flushed opened the door. The police demanded, “Where’s your wife?” He told them that he wasn’t married.  “Then, where’s your girlfriend?” He told them that he didn’t have one.  “The neighbors told us they heard a woman screaming in here.”  The man confessed, “That was me.  I was screaming.”

click for story

After inspecting the home, the police came out and explained what was going on to the to the concerned neighbors. “It was a spider,” they said. “A really, really big one.  And he really, really hates spiders.” The terrified man had been chasing the large spider around, trying to hit it with insect spray, knocking over tables and shelves in the process. He was definitely an arachnophobe. I mean, he is in Australia after all. I think they have more man-killing spiders per capita than anywhere else in the world. Australia definitely produces their fair share of “WTF, stay away from me!” kind of animals.

I am not an arachnophobe.  Nor am I an arachnophile.  I’m arachno-neutral. Or at least, I was. Till along came the Huntsman spider – which I believe was the culprit in the above-mentioned terror-filled story.  Now here is the part of the story that truly reminds me of some of those B-horror movies I love so much and what scared me the most about this story. Huntsman spiders can grow to have a leg span of almost one foot. They are ugly creatures.  I mean, I’m sorry, I feel for the poor things, but yeah, they’re not cute. They bite, but only if provoked…which I for one am thankful for — AND they don’t fly, thank whatever God was put in charge of creating spiders. People in Australia have taken to calling them Aragogs, the deadly spiders of Harry Potter fame. You can’t really blame them. If I woke up to find this thing in my house, I think I’d be calling it some names too…though perhaps not such a literary one.

When I first read about the poor man in Sydney who woke the neighbors, I got a good laugh from it. But then, after a little visualization, I decided that maybe it wasn’t quite so funny after all.  Imagine walking into your kitchen and finding a fuzzy creature the size of a dinner plate walking across your counter top, and you don’t own a cat (or at least not one with 8 legs). I’m quite sure the neighbors would hear me. Hell, I think the residents of the adjacent states would hear me. So, yeah. Bless the citizens of Australia because if this is the shit they have to deal with, they deserve our awe and our admiration.

Although I do sort of feel sorry for the poor spider…I mean, can you imagine just going about your spider-y life, then mistakenly wandering into the wrong house (I mean, come on! Who hasn’t done that after a full night of carousing and drinking!?) and then having some lunatic chase you around trying to smash furniture over  your head?