Science Fiction Tropes: Destroy the Queen!

‘…the odds are overwhelming, the [insert name] have us out numbered a million to one, but if can just [insert action] all of the others will be destroyed.’  – random movie speech.

This is a reasonably standard trope in science fiction and it is one that I detest. Most of the time these stories are build up and knock down, repeated several times, and then the aha moment comes for the characters and the viewing audience groans; its pathetic.

I love science fiction movies and the more we have the better, but endings such as these just rob the audience of any gratification, because it is a story that has been seen a hundred times before, and honestly it has no real world application. I would challenge anyone to give an example of a conflict in which one particular part of an army was targeted and all the other soldiers just gave up. Most soldiers are fighting for a cause – be it the need to prove something right or otherwise and you can’t destroy an idea in such a short amount of time.

Some examples of movies that use this trope are:

  • The Fifth Element (1997) – Corben Dallas is fighting the Mangalores, they are pinned down and clearly out numbered. Dallas states that taking out the leader and the other will give up fighting. This works because the Mangalores intelligence or lack of had already been established, so the audience understands why they stopped fighting.
  • The Phantom Menace (1999) – Young Anakin is fighting the droid ships in space. The mission, they must destroy the control ship and the droids will cease to function. This doesn’t work, as the Star Wars universe has been established as having sentient droids – even where the soldier robots make jokes with each other. Are we really expected to believe that someone was controlling their ability to make jokes and complain?
  • Independence Day (1996) – All of the opponents have force fields on their ship, that are controlled by a mother ship. They destroy the ship and the force fields fail and suddenly the tide has been turned. Ignoring the absurdity of the plot, this doesn’t work because there are still millions of ships, and soldiers available to the aliens.

The trope exists as nothing more than a short cut to an obstacles, it is almost as if there was a writer to get them to one point, and then another to write the solution. It is flat out lazy story telling.

The title image for this post is from Star Trek: Beyond, where they do use this trope, however they changed it into a much more entertaining one. I didn’t mind its use in Star Trek: Beyond because the fighters moved as one central unit other than individuals, like in Independence Day and Star Wars, and the explanation of how they operated and the way they were defeated was well developed; it went beyond the destruction of one man, ship or queen.

For this trope to be used properly writers need to establish ground rules, how things work and why they do. You can’t build a wall and then smash out a door when it becomes a necessity – that shit gets messy – you need to build the door frame first and the wall around it, for that smooth exit from the building.

Title Image: Star Trek: Beyond (screenshot)

(558 words)

Using Memes in the Workplace

pity the fool
R. Williams – 2016 (created at imgflip.com)

The above image is one I created and put in a farewell card for my boss. When I did it I was really unsure how he would take it. Confidence is not my thing. I asked a few of my colleagues and they thought it was perfect. So I stuck it in, and it tuned out he thought it was hilarious. I still think it was a risky move as he is a serious about work, but chilled about social aspects of work – be on time, but a bit of a ‘havachat’ is cool.

It got me thinking about how something that is largely present online has started to creep into real life. Are they appropriate, and would you send one in an email to a colleague that you may not know very well or at all?

Recently my workplace was the recipient of large inter-store transfers of old and deleted stock, that we were going to clear out. The workload was going to be immense and create functionality problems for the store. When one store sent me their transfer list I replied with a meme:

barney
R. Williams – 2017 (created at imgflip.com)

Maybe a little context is needed… a part of the transfer consisted of eight replacement covers for an outdoor dog bed that we no longer sell, or have sold in over a year. I thought the meme was funny, and I still do. Although I never heard back from the person I sent it to so I have no idea if they thought it was or even understood it. That is one problem with memes, for it to work you need to know the character in the picture and the reference that it is alluding to:

The meaning is essentially – when an apparent impossible task is meet with unrelenting optimism. Which is how I started to view the task at hand – besides getting bothered doesn’t achieve anything.

I think that using memes in the workplace can add tone to an email, or a workplace sign. Take a look at the Mr T one again, it is not negative in any way, it’s humorous but it also conveys an important message without being preachy. The Barney one I sent was to demonstrate that there were ‘no hard feelings’ about my store being dumped with left over stock from another. If these were typed out without the image reference how would they sound then? The Mr T one would come of as threatening and the Barney one could be interpreted in many different ways, from smug to anger, it all depends on the reader.

Using memes in the workplace, as long as it doesn’t take too much time to create, is perfectly fine. I would probably think twice about sending one to a manager that I wasn’t that familiar with, but for everyday communication and if it is a part of your personality then go for it. We all need a laugh every now and then at work. They’re also a great deal of fun to create.

I’d love to hear stories about memes in your workplace, feel free to comment below.

Title Image: R. Williams – 2017 (created at imgflip.com)

Eternal Digital Living

When questioned about eternal life something that keeps surfacing is the idea that we could digitally map our brains and upload it to a cloud style server and live on in an electronic reality.

While there is nothing new about this concept, as it has been a staple of science fiction for a while, The Matrix is probably the most well known for a negative view and Black Mirror – San Junipero, for a more positive spin.

There are many other examples, such as Star Trek – Voyager where large portions of the show are dedicated to the Doctor whom is arguably a sentient digital being. On the show he is treated as an object, but as it progresses he develops a personality beyond his ‘programming’. Another example would be from Red Dwarf, where the entire crew has been digitally mind mapped and stored as back up copies in case of accident or emergency. The difference between these two is that Rimmer, from Red Dwarf, is a fully formed replica of an actual person, where the Doctor is not. Have a look at both of them – one is intelligent and insightful, and the other has fancy buttons.

This idea is well established in popular culture, almost to a point where it is an agreed upon state and we are just waiting for the technology to catch up. The point is would you do it? In the Black Mirror episode you can pick between several rooms or worlds to live in, could you see yourself living in a stylized version of a decade? Even though the world would be a total fabrication and all the things that happen to you would be the creation of a programmer just to keep you happy. Interestingly this is exactly what phone developers and gaming companies are doing right at this minute. Stimulating your brain to make you happy in order to keep signing in; one day you may go in never to come back.

As technology moves faster and faster toward artificial intelligence, surely it would become easier to digitally map our minds. Researchers would start to see the connections and how things work in order to recreate it. There is the brain in the jar thinking that because everything is a creation of our minds it is possible that we are not here at all. With that style of thinking would living in a digital reality be any different, you would still have the same wants and desires, and the same fears and phobias, but isn’t that what makes us what we are? Could I be on a space ship filled with multiple data banks sailing thought the endless void right now? I doubt it, but it’s something to think about. Knowing that there is no ‘life after death’ and if the technology could recreate the world so there appears to be no difference, I think I would sign up.

Title Image: Clever Clogs! by Piyushgiri Revagar (2016)

Attack of the Drones

Like it or not, drones are going to be standard operating equipment for many businesses in the next twenty years. Once approval is met for self-driving vehicles how soon would it be for a rival for ride sharing services to appear? As with any new technology it will take time before people are willing to accept it.

The industry is poised for a boom, with drones being investigated to complete many different tasks. In the US, retailing giant Wal-Mart is testing out the use of drones for stock inventory control. The impact of this could do many things:

  • Job losses and creation
  • Possible lower prices
  • Increase productivity
  • Safer work environment
  • Higher skilled workforce

There are many positives and negatives, however if tests prove that it will not be beneficial to the company then it most likely will not proceed. But then it seems relatively unlikely that it won’t. When you look at the unmanned checkout populating the major retailers now, these are a drone of sorts – accept that the customer is doing the work; I wonder if some sort of discount should be applied when I scan my own items? The tests completed before these were brought into operation was, will the money we save on wages override the increase in theft (intentional or otherwise)?

When drones become an accepted part of society, the job sector that will have the highest attrition rate will be the transport industry. Being a delivery driver may become a thing of the past. The first to depart would be small parcel deliveries. Imagine this, letters are delivered by hand, our streets have been mapped and global positioning satellites are near pinpoint. It wouldn’t be that hard to take posties off their bikes and into a warehouse flying drones to deliver the mail. The jobs would still be there, up until the work becomes automated and a program takes over. If this all seems a bit far fetched – sorting of mail used to be done by hand, now a machine does most of the work.

I think it will be a few years away, when we see drones delivering the mail, sorting stock inventory or acting as cab drivers – for flying drones the noise would need to be sorted out. But if I could save $20 I know I’d be the first one to jump into the driver-less car, after all that is exactly how ride sharing services are crushing the taxi industry.

Title Image: Google Self Driving Car by Ben (2013)

How to Geocache

Geocaching is a global game of hide and seek. A geocache is a hidden container with a logbook that can be found using GPS coordinates. What I find most fascinating is that many geocaches have been ‘in the wild’ for up to seventeen years, and geocaching often leads to discovering interesting places that you never knew existed!

Cement Lounge – R.Williams 2017

Geocachers generally play the game the way they want to, but there are three main rules:

  • Don’t let anyone see you retrieve the cache
  • Put it back exactly where you found it
  • Sign the logbook and log it online

That is basically it, however there are many etiquette rules with geocaching. Some of these include:

  • Practice cache in trash out (CITO)
  • The container should suit the environment
  • There should be a reason that a cache is placed in a certain location
  • Respect the environment – generally you wont need to trample anything
  • Caches are to be maintained by the cache owner (CO)
  • Cachers should report damaged or missing caches to the CO
  • If swag swaps are made, trade up and not down
  • Respect each other and have fun!

These are more guidelines rather than rules, but the more you play the more you will learn, and hopefully discover what makes it enjoyable for you. Treat caches as if they were your own. Attending an ‘event cache’ (a gathering of cachers) is another way to learn more about how to follow the hidden rules of geocaching.

Caches are ranked according to difficulty and terrain. While again there are no solid rules, generally a terrain of one is wheelchair accessible and a five requires specialist equipment, such as SCUBA gear or, for the really keen, a ticket on the next space shuttle. In difficulty ratings a one is hidden in a standard hide, such as a road side guard rail (known as a park and grab cache) and a five could be a nano (a cache about the size of ten stacked five cent pieces) hidden among a rock pile. When it comes to finding them some people search for hours, and some set themselves a time limit, its best to stick to what your most comfortable with, but generally about fifteen minutes is enough. The more you find the easier it gets, and eventually you will have what they call the ‘geocachers eye’, which means being able to spot a likely hide from a distance.

There are many different types of cache, but the three main types are:

  • Traditional – Cache located at the given coordinates
  • Multi – Information available only at the coordinates is needed to find the cache
  • Unknown – A puzzle that needs to be solved before the coordinates are available

For the others visit – Geocache types

The physical caches come in many shapes and sizes, and everyone has their nemesis and favorites. I prefer gadget caches – these are puzzle boxes that require you to solve before you can sign the logbook. I don’t dislike any cache – park and grab mint tins are my least favorite especially if there is no story or reason to take me to the location.

That’s about it – 3 simple rules, and a few guidelines just to get started. Like any hobby the more involved you get the more you will learn. The application from Groundspeak is free to find non-premium caches (CO’s decide this) and about $45 a year subscription if you want to find any cache. So grab your phone and a pen (or two) and see what is closest, with three million hidden worldwide there is bound to be one nearby.

 

Repaying the Uni Debt

I have a university debt and I work full-time. With the current cost of living, I need to work full time or I can not help support my family. I am lucky that my partner works in a well paying job. However with the lowering of the threshold to repay a HECS debt from $55000 to $42000 I will have to start paying back the government. But my university education has nothing to do with the work that I am doing, in fact I don’t even need it for my current role, but I do need it to get a better position. Why is this not taken into consideration? Why is the payback system not for after study and only when working within the field of study?

In this country, being university educated is expected by many employers, and I’d argue not as a mark of intelligence but more as a sign of dedication and willingness to achieve. Even basic jobs are being advertised as needing to have a university education. There was a time when you could work for a few years before earning over the threshold, but now it seems that the government wants to get it hands on ‘its’ money as soon as a graduate starts to work. How is this fair? It’s like life giving you a break, you can finally let out that breath that was held tight as you lived with six others in a two bedroom unit and now you have some money in he bank and along comes the government to kick you back into place! Why are we not rewarding people who pass and graduate? Do they not pay a higher tax because they earn more already? You can’t keep handing out tax cuts without getting it back somewhere, but this is looking in the wrong part of the room.

Any cuts to funding, can be seen as a sign to lower the university attendance rate. If someone does not attend then there is no debt, the government is just trying to force the vulnerable population, those on lower income, into submission. You will go out and work! No study for you!

I feel that having an education is fast becoming a privilege rather than a right. We need an educated population it is the only way to avoid our own destruction, political and environmental. Just look at what is happening in the current political climate. Don’t let Australia become a country full of mushrooms! Education doesn’t need to be free, but give us a chance!