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Your Paracast Newsletter — February 25, 2024


Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
The Paracast Newsletter
February 25, 2024

www.theparacast.com


Paranormal Researcher Joshua Cutchin Explores Many of the Amazing Mysteries that Surround Us on The Paracast!

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This Week's Episode: Gene and cohost Tim Swartz present a return visit from the one and only Joshua Cutchin, a long-time favorite of listeners to The Paracast. He is an author, musician, husband, father, who has appeared on a wide variety of paranormal programs discussing his work, including the hit History Channel television show “Ancient Aliens.” He is the author of seven critically-acclaimed books: 2015’s “A Trojan Feast: The Food and Drink Offerings of Aliens, Faeries, and Sasquatch” (translated into Spanish as “Banquete Troyano”); 2016’s “The Brimstone Deceit: An In-Depth Examination of Supernatural Scents, Otherworldly Odors, & Monstrous Miasmas”; 2018’s “Thieves in the Night: A Brief History of Supernatural Child Abductions”; and 2020’s “Where the Footprints End: High Strangeness and the Bigfoot Phenomenon,” Volumes I & II, with Timothy Renner. In 2022, he released his two-part masterwork: “Ecology of Souls: A New Mythology of Death & the Paranormal.” 2023 marked the release of his first fictional novel, “Them Old Ways Never Died,” as well as his curated collection of essays, “Fairy Films: Wee Folk on the Big Screen.”

After The Paracast — Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on February 25: Paranormal researcher Joshua Cutchin returns to join with Gene and cohost Tim Swartz to explore such legends and mysteries as fairy lore, the dream state, the power of instinct; also science exploring the new rules of reality and the possible implications of those new studies. He'll also give an inside look at his first novel, "Them Old Ways Never Died," along with what inspired him to write the book. Cutchin is an author, musician, husband, father, who has appeared on a wide variety of paranormal programs discussing his work, including Coast to Coast AM and the hit History Channel television show, Ancient Aliens." He is also the author of a number of critically-acclaimed books that include his first fictional novel, "Them Old Ways Never Died," as well as his curated collection of essays, "Fairy Films: Wee Folk on the Big Screen." In March 2024, Joshua will be teaching a nine-class course through the Kosmos Institute where he will be presenting a look at Near Death Experiences through a comparative, archetypal lens.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Visit our new online shop for great branded merchandise at: https://www.theparacast.shop.


It’s Not Real, It’s Memor….Er….AI
By Gene Steinberg

Over the years, talk of artificial intelligence (AI) has been fairly common in sci-fi stories. But it didn’t come in the form of apps for personal computers, smartphones and tablets as it does today. Usually they were in the form of a robot, a mechanical gadget with its own onboard intelligence.

Perhaps one of the most famous was Robby the Robot, first featured in the 1956 sci-fi classic, “Forbidden Planet.”

His purported technology was primitive in some ways by modern standards. You’d hear machines whirring with something akin to an adding machine tallying numbers when he — or it — spoke. But I always thought of Robby as male.

Indeed, Robby was probably the most popular character in the movie, making appearances in other films and TV shows over the years. I thought the total amounted to a few here and there, but it was many dozens according to the Wikipedia listing. They were as diverse as the campy “Lost in Space,” where it was one of the cast regulars, not to mention episodes of such programs as “Mork & Mindy.”

At least Robby had a fancy look for a 1950s creation.

Other conceptions included the typical tin suit design, suitable for cheap fare, such as an episode of the original “Adventures of Superman.”

Hollywood was always slow to catch up with published fiction in magazines and books. So some robots were almost indistinguishable from humans, A very typical example was the android, an artificial being designed to resemble a human. One of the most famous is, perhaps, the Terminator.

No folks, I won’t get into the use of the name for an operating system for smartphones.

But androids are persistent, and really good candidates for film fare, because special effects are minimal. Except, perhaps, for some curiously spastic movements seen from time to time, they can act totally human and are thus portrayed by human actors wearing normal clothing. You can always add some cheap special effects, to show their electronic innards in the event their artificial skin is torn.

It is thought that some of the beings seen in connection with UFO sightings might not be living beings but androids of some sort. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent. Indeed, I read a story decades ago about a character that would download their consciousness into an android or a clone before they travel to other planets. Upon their return, the experiences would be downloaded to the character’s own brain, as if they experienced everything.

I’d prefer the real thing, but I can see the value, especially if someone is disabled and unable to get around without using appliances to facilitate motion. That said, one expects that an advanced civilization could easily repair broken spinal cords, and replace lost limbs with something far closer in appearance and function to the physical thing.

Now in cases where AI is involved, it can be employed technology that replaces all or most of the functions of the brain of a physical creature.

These days, however, AI has also come to represent an intelligence that resides in the cloud, a vast network of computers that are installed in datacenters around the world. More and more AI features are being incorporated into modern day technology. Some may represent onboard intelligence on the devices themselves, while others share that cloud-based network.

In addition to the silly games of having an AI app respond to questions, tell jokes, write novels, feature articles and even create screenplays, they can do some other impressive things.

Consider the “last” Beatles record released in 2023, “Now and Then.” It started out as a cassette demo recording from the 1970s featuring John Lennon in a noisy environment singing and playing piano. It also had one of those irritating 60Hz hums.

In brief here’s the story:

The then three surviving Beatles got together with master composer, musician and producer Jeff Lynne in the 1990s to “complete” three songs that Lennon recorded as demos. From those sessions came “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” To accomplish this task, the original cassettes were digitized and cleaned up; the finished product was almost presentable except for Lennon’s thin vocal sound compared to the elaborate production values of the backup music from his bandmates.

One of the songs they worked on was “Now and Then.” They tried, but the poor condition of the original made it impossible to get a usable vocal. It was cast aside.

Segue to 2022.

Using technology developed by director Peter Jackson and his crew for the sprawling “The Beatles; Get Back” documentary, it was possible to completely isolate Lennon’s vocal from the background, clean it up and make it presentable for a new recording. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, assisted by producer Giles Martin (son of the late George Martin), string players and studio engineers, the track was completed.

When McCartney announced that the song was being completed, some misunderstood him and thought that Lennon’s voice was AI; in other words a simulation.

But comparisons with what was presented as the original cassette, it does appear that AI was used strictly as a clean up tool, not as a replacement. In turn, “Now and Then” became a hit recording.

So far it’s a good thing.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t dangers, serious dangers afoot. You can, for example, use AI to take someone’s real voice from recordings and have them say anything you want, even confessing to a serious crime, such as murder. One of the key issues that resulted in months of strikes by actors and screenwriters in 2023 was how the entertainment industry would use AI.

Couldn’t they, for example, just replace real actors and screenwriters and create artificial and quite acceptable replacements? Why pay Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson tens of millions of dollars to do a film when they can be replaced by AI-generated voices and likenesses?

You can install AI software on your smartphone to clean up your own music. The cloud versions have far more power. Either way, they are still quite buggy, and are apt to behave unpredictably. Worse, the technology has a serious and dangerous potential, and it’s not just replacing entertainers.

It takes us to the core question: Just what is life? Can a computer program take on total independence and become a sentient being? Would it be ethical to, as some sci-fi stories depict, decide it has a better idea of how to run society. So it mights devise fake politicians, fake campaigns, and fake the votes to take over a city, a country, planet Earth.

I don’t wish to sound paranoid. AI technology is still in its early stages, but will there be standards to direct the advancements that had the potential to give it an independent existence?

Don’t forget Skynet, the fictional artificial neural network that takes over the world in the Terminator franchise. In those stories, real live humans were able to, with difficulty, fight and conquer the evil cloud-based AI.

Could a real-life, so to speak, counterpart of Skynet come into existence in the present day? Or will the AI developers design constraints, such as the famous “laws of robotics” devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov?

So:

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”

Sounds good in practice, but what about unknown flaws where the AI still takes on a life of its own?

Then again, considering the state of our planet in the third decade of the 21st century, perhaps putting an AI in charge might actually be a good thing. Well, not to me, but still…

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