Machine Learns Death

We have discussed the idea of death and its many interpretations through the lense of today and technology. I would like to discuss a machine learning algorithm that can predict our premature death (

This algorithm was originally designed to help predict premature deaths to help with preventative healthcare in the future.  They used a model called “random forest” with “deep learning” trained on health data from over 500,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69.  The resulting model was able to predict red flags of serious diseases better than expert models and regressions. As these models can also be further “tuned” with more data, the accuracy of predictions can improve and increase in reliability.  Researchers believe that AI models like these will play essential parts within the treatment of individuals due to their manner of personalized treatment based on the lifestyle choices of the individual. This brings forth images of visits to the doctor including a questionnaire on one’s current eating and exercise habits to further add data points to their models for future predictions.  A somewhat constant exposure to the idea of death just slowly pushing it back through the model with a healthy diet and rigorou exercise.

It is interesting to see how predictors of serious and fatal diseases can be modeled and used to our advantage using the technology of today.  This technology can only improve and more sophisticated algorithms can spring forth in the future. It is strange and somewhat empowering to have gained another avenue in life through technology that can ward off the eventuality of our demise.

Virtual Reality Gaming Fizzling Out

We’ve discussed video-games and their representations of death as a gameplay mechanic or theme, but I would like to discuss the death of a gameplay platform.  Many of us have heard of the virtual reality (VR) revolution brought about by Oculus and HTC in 2016 and have even had the pleasure of being immersed within their virtual worlds. Many, including me, were hopeful and excited about what that would mean for the state of gaming.  However, the platforms are very expensive, complicated, and have several issues that have not been worked out yet (

Platforms work out to be about $349 for the Oculus and $499 for the HTC Vive. This also does not include the price of a decently powered PC run the VR programs and games on. As one can guess, sale figures do not look the greatest because of this, which would give poor incentive for developers to build programs for such a small audience.

This does not bode well for the gaming industry, but the professional world has taken large investments into VR. This is due to the endless potential of training that can be done through VR. This area of development was one of the original target audiences but the adoption rate for it has been insane compared to the lack luster turnouts for gaming. We have essentially witnessed the shift and end of a technological movement caused by lack of interest and logistical difficulties.

Death of Traditional Driving

We’ve discussed the end of traditional driving as we know it in class with the rise of autonomous vehicles, but recently, one of the industry’s leading figures, Elon Musk, has been receiving criticisms over his plan for the future (

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has completely taken lidar technology out of his plans for autonomous cars, claiming that multiple cameras and AI recognition would be the way of the future. Lidar technology involves multiple sensors that sense light waves that bounce from it to “see” what is around it. Musk states that the use of this technology is too expensive and a “fool’s errand”. Waymo, one of the companies that pioneered lidar technology, called this approach “very, very risky”, arguing that one would need the very best camera systems to handle autonomous driving and that a combination of both lidar and cameras would provide the safest experience. Waymo brings up one of the biggest strengths of lidar is that it is great at still managing to detect objects in inclement weather and worse light Conditions. These are of course fundamentally different approaches towards achieving the end of traditional driving as we know it. Musk is also promising 1 million autonomous taxis by 2020, while being tight lipped about details. The other companies have been comparatively tight-lipped about their projection plans asserting that “deployments are gated by safety”.  Witnessing the plans for the death of traditional driving and how the success of private companies will decide the future of how cars will avoid hitting each other.

Ironically Mending the Physical Using Digital Tech

We’ve discussed human death, death of digital media, and the death of physical artifacts. What’s interesting is exploring the intersection of using the digital to mend the destruction and death of physical things.

April 16, 2019, one of the world’s great ancient landmarks, the Notre Dame Cathedral, suffered “colossal damages” following a fire that spread through the roof. Ironically, the tragic accident may in fact have technological advancement to blame.

Having survived many wars, natural disasters, etc, it’s rather ironic that it meets its demise following the installation of electronic technology. In fact, it was reported by the cathedral’s rector that a “computer glitch” may be to blame. From reports, it sounds as though the elevator system in the Cathedral may have suffered a short-circuit, sparking the fire. 

It’s not the end of the landmark, though. Thankfully.

Ubisoft, makers of the historical video game “Assassin’s Creed”, have announced they’ve pledged over $500,000 to contribute to the rebuilding of the monument.

That’s not all – during the 14 month creation of Assassin’s Creed unity, they digitally reconstructed the Notre Dame to scale. As a result, many people who own the video game have gotten to digitally relive the experience of visiting the location in a virtual space.

The similarity is incredible! Even for a 4+ year old game. In an interesting change of events, the use of computers might just help rebuild that which was destroyed by a computer. It’s possible that the cathedrals future construction might be guided by the 3d scans of the video game.

It’s quite encouraging to hear of such a positive use of digital technology. Will the cathedral ever be the same, though? And what would you make of having only the digital version to relive exactly how it was? In another one of my attempts of being hopeful for future technology, I think that eventually, using technology like VR, we may be able to experience digitally what is otherwise lost or damaged in our physical world.

ruin bars and the case for a purposeful afterlife

To be clear, I’m not exactly sure how this might work–I’ll leave that to scientists and entrepreneurs–but I have an idea. It begins with religion, hops around Budapest, and ends with a purposeful afterlife. As I write this post, I have our discussions of what happens when we abandon our cities or technology, how we treat historical sites, and what we do with our digital afterlives in mind, I’m attempting to reconcile those into one vision for our future.

Specifically, religion is trending down while agnosticism and  atheism are trending up. But regardless of our beliefs, we’re  human and, therefore, hardwired to search for purpose. That’s all well and good if we all live what we feel are meaningful lives, but what happens when something gets in the way and we realize we serve no greater purpose and are unable to achieve the full meaning we sought? Often, some sort of mid-life crisis that ends in pursuit of another meaning, nostalgia, or nihilism. I think that’s a waste.

Last semester, I studied in Prague. The city is steeped in history and handles it in a fairly standard manner; leaning into it, thriving off of tourism, and preserving and remembering both the good and the bad. But that also means it’s fairly hands-off. You can go into all the buildings, but most of the historical ones have exhibits and are roped off and often very solemn. And that’s appropriate. But, on a weekend trip to Budapest, I saw a different approach. There were still memorials and historical areas, but the buildings tended not to be museums or tourist traps. Instead, they still served their original functions or had undergone serious transformations. Common to the latter category were ruin bars, which are abandoned buildings (often Soviet or Nazi–aka from bad parts of their history) that have been decorated with people’s unwanted things and now function as markets by day, bars by night. If you think about the life stories of those buildings, they’re on their redemption tours, with no end in sight. They’re finding purpose (and a far better one) after their intended lives.

Ruin Bar from my iPhone

That got me thinking; what if we could do the same for humans? Obviously, we wouldn’t be altering our legacies, but what if we could have a concrete purpose in death, contribute to something greater than ourselves? As I said earlier, I don’t know how that would work. Maybe we should look into some less-palatable, environmentally-friendly ideas like composting ourselves. Then again, maybe the solution is something a little nicer like allowing public access (unless limited by ourselves or our families) to the entirety of our digital histories so that others might learn from or make use of the things we’ve done. Whatever the answer, I think giving everyone a guaranteed purposeful afterlife (or even the choice of many, so long as they aren’t wasteful) would greatly benefit all of society.

Product Death: The Death of Consumer Goods in Today’s Society

This morning in a text conversation with my friends, the trailer for EA Sports Madden 20 video game was shared with me.

A group of me and three of my friends are consistent players of the game as we have purchased it every year for the past 7 years. While the release of the new game is quite exciting for us it does mark the end of the previous year’s edition which is sometimes bittersweet however in the context of some of the conversations we have had in class, struck a different nerve with me. In thinking about the coming of this year’s new game I hearkened back to our class discussion on the literal death of technology and product lifespans.

The life span of my video games are relatively unique due to the nature of the types that I play. I prefer sports games or shooters such as Call of Duty but they all fall under the brand of a large franchise. As such each year there is always a new edition and thus every game that I buy has an intended lifespan of a single year. This means that I devote about $180 each year across three games and this is a cycle I am very locked into. At first glance, this is an extremely startling statistic and I am not pleased with it, but this is the capitalistic society under which we live with regards to objects especially in the technology field.

The digital and technological age of today has rendered the lifespan of products down to a few years at best. Gone are the days where you did not always have to be worried about the latest and greatest technology but instead could hold onto a computer for 6-7 years with no issue. In today’s world we expect new updates constantly and with these upgrades comes the denigration of our products as they get close and close to becoming obsolete. The rapid evolution of technology coupled with our capitalistic natures has rendered our products to mere years rather than substantial investments that last for lifetimes.

We are in the age of product death where most of our commercially purchased goods have some semblance of technology within them and thus have dramatically shortened life cycles. Sooner or later we will reach the points where product relevance and importance could last mere months or weeks. For the emotional attachment often equated to technological purchases, it is concerning to think that humans will soon be forced to confront death more frequently on the scale of our physical property. I worry that this idea of shortened relevance in terms of products will start to take shape in other areas of our lives such as the relevance of people or relationships and that is just a terrifying notion.

contextualizing postmodern horror from shaun of the dead to sinister

When we think of postmodern horror, we tend to think about distinguishing characteristics, whether we enjoy it, etc. I think we should consider it in a broader context, asking where it exists, why it’s popular, and what those things reflect about us. I’ll attempt to kickstart that discussion, examining two categories of postmodern horror and assuming Isabel Pinedo’s five characteristics of the genre. Those are: 1) a violent disruption of the everyday world; 2) a transgression and violation of boundaries; 3) the validity of rationality being thrown into question; 4) no narrative closure; and 5) a bounded experience of fear, (Pinedo, 20).

Postmodern horror unquestionably falls into postmodernism, which I’ll loosely define as an ongoing artistic resignation to chaos. But rather than attempting to live in harmony with chaos, as much of postmodernism tries to do, it emphasizes how–in a chaotic world–horrific things can happen to anybody, and we can’t control what happens. Postmodern horror doesn’t have a uniform take on this; it can be gripping, funny, both, or neither, but regardless, it exists in the bleakest corner of postmodernism.

And it’s advertised as entertainment. Entertainment can feed our impulses, teach us things, make us work, or provide an escape for relaxation, depending on what it is, but it can also numb us and stimulate our fight-or-flight fear responses, and these are postmodern horror’s functions. On the one hand that can mean creating a truly horrific piece, like Sinister, where children kill families as they sleep (I would put a demonstrative photo here, but we don’t really need that image), which functions to–what? Help us not be alarmed by the prospect of children killing their families? Put us on guard against our siblings and children? All because we wanted an adrenaline rush? I think there are less harmful ways to achieve that. On the other hand postmodern horror can delve into dark comedy, like Shaun of the Dead, where it’s still exciting and everyone still dies, but humorously this time. And what does this help us do? Embrace the inevitability of death and the possibility of it coming unnaturally to ourselves or others we know?

(see citation)

Are those things we really need to preoccupy ourselves thinking about while they aren’t the immediate reality? And do we really want to be numb to them if they happen? I don’t. The horrific and humorous aspects of postmodern horror are two sides of the same coin and it isn’t a happy one.

Postmodern horror thrives off of only the worst parts of the human experience, portraying our existence to be one of futility, promoting emptiness and nihilism, and I think we’re better off without it.


Derrickson, Scott, et al. Sinister. Summit Entertainment, 2012.


“Shaun of the Dead Reaction Zombie GIF.” GIFER,

Wright, Edgar, director. Shaun of the Dead. Universal Pictures, 2004.

Big Brother: Controlling Life Through Tech Around the World

 After participating in several international exchanges/programs growing up, I find myself with way too many apps downloaded onto my phone to keep in touch with the friends I made. Different countries have different approaches to technology; I’m interested in how national legislations and ethoses shape civilian lifestyles and psychologies.

     Foremostly, large scale attention paid to technology seems to be motivated by security and by people in power wanting to preserve that power. People are much less likely to use media/tech they know as corrupted or corruptible. Given the recent phenomenon of “fake news”, those around the world have rushed to confirm the veracity of the sources they use to stay connected to what’s happening around them:

An explanation of fake news in media and its effects

I recall North Korean leader Kim Jong Un being reported to have discovered unicorns a few years ago. This discovery was obviously fake, but underscores the power of media in North Korea. Citizens must believe or present belief in whatever these parties tell them or else risk suffering or death. So technological news functions as a mechanism of control; authorities can control others through controlling their exposure, and they can test the functionality of this measure through looking at how well the can convince others of even the bizarre.

Mass control through technology is not only attempted by governments, but it does happen to various extents among nations. A stark example exists between the United States of America and mainland China. Americans have (as far as the public knows) currently unfettered access to knowledge and connectivity online. Some are tracked rather insidiously, though, according to cases like that broken by Edward Snowden in 2013. In China, meanwhile, censorship is more overt. Unlike elsewhere, Chinese citizens cannot access sites like Facebook and Instagram, among the world’s most popular by far, in their country. There are myriad wonderful Chinese people, as there are in any grouping of people– it is only the mechanism of controlling lives through technology that shines forth here.

To keep this post to an appropriate length, I will only mention surveillance and psychology concerns (I’m reminded of course of George Orwell’s 1984 as well as of Cory’s Doctorow’s Homeland) to address these in extremity). It is often confusing and awkward to delve into limited medias, but such must be accomplished for humans to achieve their fullest potentials and be as fully educated as each deserves.


Quinn, B. (2012). Unicorn lair ‘discovered’ in North Korea. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2019]. (2015). Web extra: Edward Snowden, the US, Taliban and China. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2019]. (2019). América Latina | Observatorio de Medios UCA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2019].

The Repair Monopoly and Humanity’s Loss of Basic Skills

This past Tuesday I ordered a new laptop to replace a device that just broke due to my negligence. When I received the new device, I noted that the RAM (Random Access Memory) was constructed at only 4GB whereas I am used to minimal 8GB but prefer much larger. I was not discouraged however as I simply planned on removing my old RAM sticks from the now broken laptop to the new one which would increase the capacity and speed of my new computer.


As I began this process however, I was searching through the manual and noted instructions that indicated any opening of the back of my computer to do self-repair would nullify my warranty. I immediately was reminded of the reading from Steven Jackson titled Rethinking Repair.

In the reading as well as our class discussion we talked about how society has moved away from repairing our broken items in favor of simply buying new ones. In the same way that Lenovo has designed their products so consumers such as myself cannot alter their products, society has completely embraced this idea in the name of capitalism. It is much more economically beneficial for companies to privatize their own products but this is highly detrimental to the consumer experience. The amount of money that we are forced to put into our devices is exponentially increased by corporation’s domination of the repair market. Beyond the financial losses that we as consumers suffer due to this lack of a repair abilities is significant, I believe that this mentality of not fixing our problems when capable has more dire consequences.

I feel that this reliance upon “certified experts” to fix our problems, which is especially obvious in technology, has caused us in general to lose some of the skills that helped us get to this place of innovation. Gone are the days where the everyday man knows how to fix a flat tire and complete basic home repair. Now we tend to call AAA or hire out a contractor out to paint rooms in our homes or trim the bushes. These are all things we have the capability to do and really ought to be doing but society (helped along by capitalist greed) has relegated us to points where we do not feel comfortable and would much rather spend money and allow a trained professional to do the work.

Something that seems peculiar about this current state of affairs in my opinion is the fact that the internet makes the spread of knowledge greater than ever in human history. Anybody can go into google and search any issue and google will bring up thousands of results in an instant whether its video tutorials or instructions designed to help anybody walk through problems in any field. Why we have a fear of searching and finding the answers but will spend hundreds of dollars is truly mind-boggling. As a student technician at Technology and Innovation I can attest to this fear in so many ways.

A mere three hours ago when I arrived for my shift, I came across somebody having an issue with page breaks on her Google Docs. I have absolutely no experience with page breaks in Google Docs, but I simply clicked around and explored the page for a minute or two and discovered the solution. It is not some form of training or great technical skill I possess but rather my willingness to explore and engage with the faith that I will find the answer and will not mess anything up. I feel like society as aided by consumer capitalism has driven us to fear tinkering and learning about our own products and I find this to be a sad thing. As I take apart my own computer prepared to insert a new RAM drive into it, I take pride in my ability to repair my own products and I hope that one day this will become the norm again.

TIM Sighting

Recently I came across this article which announces the release of a new Avicii album. Avicii, an EDM musician and DJ who passed away after a battle with mental health problems. The interesting part about this new album is the fact that the songs are being put together and released posthumously. While the songs were nearly finished, the record company used emails and notes that he had written to try and create an album that would be as close to what he would have wanted as possible. This reminded me of several different themes we have discussed in class.

The photo of Avicii that went along with the  album announcement.

The main theme that jumped out at me was celebrity death and the afterlife. We spoke about making money off of dead celebrities and “resurrecting the dead” in ways such as having shows preformed by holograms. A lot of the discussion on those topics showed the negative side, such as problematic celeb tries still earning money and notoriety after they are dead. I feel as if this “resurrection” of Avicii will showcase the more positive side. All the proceeds of this album will go to The Tim Bergling Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps prevent mental illness and suicide. Avicii was not a notably problematic celebrity and all this album brings is help to those who need it and with this album Avicii’s legacy will continue to evolve even after his death.

This article also made me think of our reading “Dial-a-Ghost on Thomas Edison’s Least Successful Invention: the Spirit Phone”, and how Avicii’s songs (along with the notes and emails) could almost be seen as the physical remains of his personality. It creates a feeling of being able to communicate with the deceased even though they are not there.