The Dawn of delivery drone 6-wheelers?

Is 2019 the year delivery drones will finally take off? Or at least, roll out (pun intended)?

After we saw Amazon’s flying drones capable of delivering parcels in the air, we now have a glimpse of what that might look like on land: cute autonomous 6-wheeler robots delivering food and possibly other small parcels to specified location. The idea was first started by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis back in 2014, when they founded the robotics firm called Starship Technologies (I know, we love the name too). In the UK you can already find these fun autonomous bots wheeling around Milton Keynes, fulfilling grocery deliveries. Just this week, Starship just announced a partnership with George Mason University to allow their robots to deliver food anywhere on campus as well.

And it’s not hard to understand the appeal. Not only do the robots look cool and futuristic, but it’s also very practical for those who are stuck in the library or on campus without much time to spare, or simply for those students who have the munchies and don’t want to venture far from their dorm room. In the age of Uber, why not have an app for food delivery to your door as well? Not to mention it’s 100% eco-friendly.

Not to be outdone, Amazon has created its own 6-wheeler system as well, called “scout”. Able to accommodate small and medium-sized parcels, scout would only work with Amazon Prime accounts, of course, and is currently still being tested at Washington State University. However, sources indicate it looks considerably less cute, and is surprisingly quite late to the party, all things considered.

Revolution in Progress as National Assembly Leader Proclaims Himself President

venezuela protests

This is truly a revolution of the people happening in real time.

Due to the hyperinflation, rampant homicides and countless food and medical shortages wracking the country, the 35-year-old head of the national assembly declared himself de-facto president on Wednesday, claiming the current president illegitimate due to the questionable nature of his electoral win last year. Guaido is trying to create a transitional government to help reshape Venezuela’s government, in the process painting himself a target as he attempts to save Venezuela from itself and Maduro.

Surprisingly, Donald Trump was the first to recognize the new leader, along with Mike Pence. Many other countries then followed suit, such as Brazil, Chile, Peru, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and Western Europe. As a response, Maduro decided to cut ties with the US, giving US diplomats 72 hours to get out of Venezuela. However, the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo refuted the statement, claiming Maduro doesn’t have the authority to break diplomatic relations. Mexico and Bolivia, however, still support Maduro, along with Russia, China, and Cuba. Some are denouncing the interference from the US and other countries in Venezuela’s affairs.

Many are worried about a potential disaster if the military support Maduro instead of Guaido, such as civil war. Internet watchdogs have also noticed that Maduro seems to be limiting social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in order to try to contain the rampant protests against his government.

Why are thousands and millions of people taking to the streets to protest Maduro’s government, you ask? Simply because after Maduro took power, Venezuela has become a country with rampant hyperinflation. Shortages for everything from food and medical supplies to basic necessities like toilet paper and diapers have crippled the entire country, along with the highest homicide rate in Latin America due to all the corruption. The ‘Maduro diet’ has led to hundreds of thousands starving, with some resorting to killing animals in zoos in order to eat, and many avoiding hospitals because the facilities are more disease-prone than simply staying at home.

As a result, three million Venezuelans have left the country since 2014 in a mass exodus.

This story is developing and is surely a turning point for the country, as leaders around the world are deciding which side to support. We have yet to see how this will affect the world stage, with countries taking different sides in the economic and humanitarian crisis.

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 2 of 4)

This post is a continuation of the series called “A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk”. For today’s post, we will be talking about the C-1 Era of Cyberpunk, or the early first two decades. More on why I divided Cyberpunk into these sections can be found in the first post here.

The C-1 Era

The first era covers the birth of Cyberpunk, which began with Neuromancer and Blade Runner, as I mentioned in Part 1. Neuromancer is currently only in book format, although a movie production of the book has been in the works for decades. Perhaps with the revival of the Cyberpunk genre, producers will finally get around to making it happen. As for Blade Runner, a sequel was just released in 2017, but I will be covering that in the C-3 era.

So you’ve watched Blade Runner and then read Neuromancer. What next? You’ll want to read Phillip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, as your second Cyberpunk novel and an introduction into the very influential works of PKD, whose novels include The Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale, The Minority Report, and Adjustment Team (all of which were adapted or inspired films or tv series). PKD was a prolific writer with a dark and intriguing life, such as having paranormal experiences, five wives, drug abuse and a suicide attempt. His work often included his own life experiences and featured themes such as monopolistic corporations, authoritarian regimes, alternate universes, and altered states of consciousness. In 2005 Time named one of his novels, Ubik, as one of the 100 greatest novels published since 1923. In fact, the field of science fiction now has a pretty prestigious Phillip K. Dick award, funded by his trust fund and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

After this? Another movie, this time an anime movie called Akira. This movie inspired a lot of future cyberpunk media, including The Matrix, and its visual style is on par with the C-1 era. In fact, Akira was fairly advanced for the anime of the time, and set a new standard for what anime could do. It stands the test of time pretty well, I would say, but also I think I should warn you: Akira is not only cyberpunk, but what we call “bio-punk” as well. Biopunk is like cyberpunk but instead of mixing futuristic technology with punk elements, there is biological manipulations of bodies present (whether engineered or alien by origin).

Akira then would be a good segue into Total Recall, which also has biopunk elements in its cyberpunk style. Total Recall is a gory, over the top, and silly cyberpunk movie based on PKD’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale featuring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, you heard right. The Terminator star is a big Cyberpunk style. But is that really surprising?

Anyways, after watching Total Recall, you’ll also want to watch Robocop. Robocop is also over the top gory and dramatic, directed by the same Paul Verhoeven, but without the biopunk elements. While Total Recall focuses more on reality and altered states of consciousness, Robocop focuses more on the distinction of identity between human and robot/AI. If you like action and funny one-liners, and can stand the 90s style gore, I think you might enjoy both movies, as they stand the test of time as well.

For another influential movie still in the C-1 era, I would strongly recommend watching Johnny Mnemonic–if you can get through the entire movie. Sadly, unlike the two Verhoeven films I mentioned above, this one did not age well at all. Starring Keanu Reeves as the titular Mnemonic, this movie is based on a short story by William Gibson of the same name. While based on a solid premise (Johnny is a data courrier, using his own brain as a vault to ferry information in the black market) this film is heavily based on virtual reality, something that relies heavily on special effects that might have been decent in the 90s but by our standards today are terribly outdated. Still, if you can get through it all, read Gibson’s excellent short story and see how the two compare. Also of note is that Molly Millions, the second main character from Neuromancer, is present both in the film and in Gibson’s short story.

Finally, to see virtual reality mixed with film noir, finish on a strong note with another amazing anime film: Ghost in the Shell. Released in 1995, this film still comes from the C-1 era, but has also had multiple series come from it in the C-2 era as well as a live-action remake in the C-3 era.

Once you get through all that, you’ve completed the C-1 era! If you want even more, some honorable mentions would be Hackers and Strange days. You may also want to consider the original Tron, Terminator, Lawnmower Man, and Judge Dredd.

So to recap, this is the order I would suggest:

  1. Blade Runner
  2. Neuromancer
  3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
  4. Akira
  5. Total Recall
  6. Robocop
  7. Johnny Mnemonic
  8. Ghost in the Shell

Seen any of the movies above? What did you think?

Agree/disagree with the ranking? Comment below!

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 1 of 4)

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk

The intention of this article is not to rehash the origins of cyberpunk, or what the word means. To do that, I would direct you to our excellent What Is Cyberpunk? Article in the menu. However, After discovering the Cyberpunk term, I was eager to go to a beginner’s guide to figure out what media I should read first. I was disappointed to find I could not find such a beginner’s guide, which is what led me to publishing this post.

This article is meant to guide you and give suggestions on what media to consume first, second, third, and so on in their different forms to begin your Cyberpunk adventure.

First off, it’s important to determine what kind of media you prefer, and to make sure you are aware of all the different forms of media in which Cyberpunk manifests itself. The main ones are TV shows, Movies, Books and Graphic Novels/Comics, and Video Games. So keep in mind which ones you prefer, hopefully a combination of all the above.

Next, to not get lost and start at the beginning of your adventure, I recommend breaking it down to three separate eras of Cyberpunk.

See, you basically have 3 different eras of Cyberpunk media which should really be consumed separately.

Why, you ask? Because media invariably is a product of the times from which it comes. Different time periods come with different fads, concerns, and economic, political, and social trends. So to consume them out of order, when each piece had wildly different styles and focuses, would just be plain confusing.

So what are the 3 different eras exactly?

C-1 would be from the 1980s to end 1990s, starting with Blade Runner in 1982 and Neuromancer in 1984 and ending with, but not including, The Matrix in 1999.

Then you have Neo-Cyberpunk (pun intended) with C-2 starting with the Matrix in 1999 and ending with media from the late 2000s. Finally,  C-3 would be 2010 until now, starting with Tron: Legacy up until today.

“All paths must have a first step. All stories have a beginning.”

In terms of getting to know the genre itself, I would recommend reading Neuromancer and watching Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade runner. This will be a good introduction into the genre, since these two pieces of work are considered the founding material for the whole genre. However, although there are countless die-hard Blade Runner and Neuromancer fans, these works may not be for everyone. Neuromancer is definitely hard to read and follow if you are unfamiliar with cyberpunk lingo (which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this guide) and even if you are, it’s still quite challenging. The dialogue is what shines in Gibson’s novels with stylistic genius, but half of the time spent reading it, you probably won’t understand what’s happening. I would actually recommend reading a brief synopsis of the story as you’re reading along, so you don’t get lost. That’s what I did.

Unless if you like getting lost. Then by all means, go right ahead.

The issue I had with Blade Runner is that it’s slow, it’s long, and I personally didn’t like the discordant chords prevalent in the movie’s soundtrack by Vangelis. Tell any cyberpunk fan you don’t like the soundtrack and they’ll probably tell you it’s heresy, though. But perhaps I fit right along in the punk elements of fighting the powers that be to tell me that I have to like Blade Runner or its soundtrack. So there.

After trying out your first movie and first book, I would recommend moving on to the book that inspired the movie blade runner, called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. For the next movie, there are a couple different paths you could take. You could either take your time and go through the most important movies from the older days until now, easing into the more modern movies, or you could jump straight to the most iconic cyberpunk films, which will definitely feel very different in style and special effects but will get you to the classics faster.

I would also recommend a parallel/intertwined track of anime movies/tv series. Anime can present the genre in a way that basic movies can’t, and the genre has been heavily affected by the medium.

If you want to take your time, however, I would recommend a duo of Paul Verhoeven movies: Total Recall and Robocop. These 2 over the top, gory, and silly movies have a lot of underlying cyberpunk themes, and they also lay the groundwork for more cyberpunk media that would come later.

For anime, you will want to start by watching the anime movie Akira, which was a big inspiration for some of the elements in The Matrix and other big cyberpunk films later on. Ironically, Akira is set in 2019, so this year is a great year to start. So is Blade Runner.

I’ll be posting more details of what to check out in each era soon, so follow along, and let me know your thoughts on any of this content as well!

2018: A Year in Review for Cyberpunk

I am grateful for the time afforded to me from Christmas through New Year’s to reflect on what the year has given me, and this year has been particularly giving as far as Cyberpunk is concerned, because it’s the year that I discovered the term. If you take a quick look at the posting history of this blog, you can see that it was born on March 20th, 2018. But my discovery of the term dated slightly before that, right near the beginning of the new year, in February when the legendary Altered Carbon series came out on Netflix. While binge-watching the series I discovered something within myself recognizing a passion that had been born long before that fateful cold afternoon–back when I saw The Matrix for the first time, in the blissful days of my childhood.

My, what a journey 2018 has been since then. After discovering that there was a name for the genre, linking The Matrix to Altered Carbon and then to Ghost in the Shell from the previous year, I dove headfirst into the genre. It was really those three movies that I loved so dearly that created the click in my head, that there was something here that linked them all. After some quick research I found my favorite Cyberpunk blog, Neon Dystopia, from which I found the most comprehensive definition for the term. I then looked up the “founding fathers” of the genre, having a bit of a hard time but finding some common denominators that the entire movement could be traced to. The two main ones that I found were the novel Neuromancer and the 1982 movie Blade Runner.  So I read the book, re-watched the movie, and then read the novel that was the loose inspiration of the movie, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I then moved on to more modern Cyberpunk, Snowcrash, while at the same time devouring any tv shows or movies I could get my hands on for the genre. Meanwhile, I read Ready Player One twice, and then went to see it in theaters during opening week. I created a reference book for all the media I was consuming, to help me keep track of what happened in them and the interesting ideas I discovered in each one. I created this blog as a way to post some of these reviews and ideas online, as well. It was also this year that I discovered synthwave, and some of my new favorite synthwave artists like Le Matos and Carpenter Brut.

I wrote to my favorite Cyberpunk blog, and then after months of waiting, I was happily rewarded by joining the writing team for Neon Dystopia, contributing to their weekly Last Week In Cyberpunk (LWIC) but also having my first review of cyberpunk media published, a review for Killtopia. It even inspired me to write my own Cyberpunk novel, for which I’ve already written an outline and have written the first couple chapters.

I wonder what 2019 will bring, but one thing I know for sure is that my love for everything Cyberpunk will continue. I will carry on consuming and writing about cyberpunk media, starting off with this new year with watching the newly released Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, and then hopefully from watching Replicas and then Battle Angel: Alita. I’m also excited to read the newest addition to my cyberpunk library, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, as well as learning more about Philip K Dick–his life, his writing, and his philosophy.

What about you, dear reader? When did you discover Cyberpunk, how, and will you be consuming more Cyberpunk media in 2019? What movies, books, TV shows, or music are you excited for?

Happy 2019!