Monday, November 23, 2015

News today: robot cat; ultrasociety; yum-yum

Marginal Revolution highlights Hasbro's new 'companion for the elderly', the 'Joy for All' pet.

The linked Yahoo tech article continues:
“Joy for All” pets are robotic cats that “look, feel, and sound like real cats,” Hasbro claims on its website, which allows customers to choose from one of three varietals — orange tabby, silver, and creamy white. Noting that these pretend pets are “so much more than soft fur, soothing purrs, and pleasant meows,” the toy company claims that the robots “respond to petting, hugging, and motion much like the cats you know and love. This two-way give-and-take helps create a personally rich experience that can bring fun, joy, and friendship to you and your loved ones ages 5 to 105.”
Here's a gruesome YouTube video of the US$99 toy ...



... but it doesn't seem to do much more than Cindy and Daisy.

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In other news I bought "Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth" by Peter Turchin (h/t Razib Khan).


Peter Turchin writes:
"We organize ourselves into communities of hundreds of millions of individuals, inhabit every continent, and send people into space. Human beings are nature’s greatest team players. And the truly astounding thing is, we only started our steep climb to the top of the rankings–overtaking wasps, bees, termites and ants–in the last 10,000 years. Genetic evolution can’t explain this anomaly. Something else is going on. How did we become the ultrasocial animal?

In his latest book, the evolutionary scientist Peter Turchin (War and Peace and War) solves the puzzle using some astonishing results in the new science of Cultural Evolution. The story of humanity, from the first scattered bands of Homo Sapiens right through to the greatest empires in history, turns out to be driven by a remorseless logic. Our apparently miraculous powers of cooperation were forged in the fires of war. Only conflict, escalating in scale and severity, can explain the extraordinary shifts in human society–and society is the greatest military technology of all."
You've got to have a soft spot for such refreshing enthusiasm for unremitting combat.

Peter has self-published this on Kindle and pleads for reviews to help it sell (rather as Linda Nagata did for her 'Red' Trilogy). I intend to help him along once I've finished the Great Collider book (about the Chinese proposal to build a successor to the LHC).

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As Alex is visiting, we have had to initiate a parallel dietary thread of junk food. To this end we bought, this morning in Waitrose, a packet of yum-yums - the ultimate empty-calorie bomb ... .



Observing its unerring trajectory from fridge to mouth, I quip that we have here the world's first laser-targeted yum-yum ...


PS. Zena Skinner's Christmas Cake recipe has now been accessed 141 times.

... (update: Tuesday Nov 24th - 160 times).

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