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Film Review: The Singularity

Will humans and machines merge?

2 min read
photo of Ray Kurzweil
Photo: Mark Woloschuk

Will technology so radically alter human existence that it is literally impossible to imagine what life will be like in the 22nd century? Ray Kurzweil and a contingent of like-minded thinkers believe so, and that beyond the so-called singularity lie advances in nanotechnology and biotechnology that will reengineer our environment and ourselves at a fundamental level, and perhaps even eliminate death.

Then there are those who believe that this vision is little more than wish fulfillment. Doug Wolens's latest documentary, released 1 November, captures the argument between the two sides. The Singularity takes the form of a series of intercut interviews, with animations illustrating various points (intentionally or not, they're a little reminiscent of how entries in the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were depicted in the classic BBC television adaptation).

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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