Ramblings from a fevered mind

Why do we call it getting over a cold? Why not around, or past, or through?

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Why is science fiction obsessed with the video phone? I just finished a good novel by an award-winning author in which every communication scene involved a video phone. The protagonist had a hand held version. Calls could be transferred from desktops to walls. In one scene a caller was in bed and had to specifically request “voice only” mode from his phone. People stopped walking to take video calls.

None of it leant anything to the plot. I can accept a research station on the moon without video phones.

In a related note, science fiction seems to have mostly missed email and SMS. Video became a “because we can” technology with no respect for need. I will never need a face to face video conversation with my wife to convey, “Can you please pick up milk on the way home?”

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I am not a robot, or at least not an Asimovian one.

In 1942 the great science fiction author Isaac Asimov first posited his Three Laws of Robotics. They were hard-coded into the robots of his fictional universe as a safety feature. They also provided a framework in which his robots could experience their own moral and ethical dilemmas, and in which robopsychologists would be needed to help them.

The First Law of Robotics states: “a robot may not harm a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” I violate it every morning before my iced tea.

Every morning I climb in my car, fasten my seatbelt, start the engine, open the garage door, and leave to start my day. If the remote control failed, or the opener failed, or I got distracted by a text message (not a video call!) and forgot to open the door, carbon monoxide could eventually build up and kill me.

I am not concerned. I can weigh the risks and deal appropriately with any failures. An Asimovian robot, however, could not. It would insist upon opening the door before starting the engine. I am, therefore, not an Asimovian robot.

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There is a point in the progression of a cold when one can suddenly breathe unimpeded again. It's a wonderful feeling. I think I'm finally getting under my cold.

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