By NASA / Bill Anders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In our last episode we looked back at the 2014 year. In this episode, we look ahead, to 2015. From movies to political showdowns, technologies to TV shows, we put on our futurist hats and talk the new year. Recorded 12/27/2014.


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Alpha: Welcome to another episode of Robot Overlordz, episode #134. On the show, we take a look at how society is changing, everything from pop culture reviews to political commentary, technology trends to social norms, all in under 30 minutes, every Tuesday and Thursday.

Mike Johnston: I’m Mike Johnston.

Matt Bolton: And I’m Matt Bolton. And today we wanted to talk about the new year, 2015, and some of the things we’re looking forward to and some of the things we’re not looking forward to as the new year approaches. Mike, what are you looking forward to most coming up?

MJ: Well, we talked last time about some of the things that I’m really paying attention to for 2015 that kind of started in 2014. Obviously there’s the net neutrality issue, which I think is a huge deal, I think it’s going to affect how the internet impacts society for decades to come, so I think that’s really important. The FCC will actually be coming out with their plan for how the internet will be governed hopefully in the first quarter. But I’ll be watching that pretty keenly. There’s also that Trans-Pacific Partnership, which we did not mention last time, but it actually has been an ongoing process through 2013 and 2014 and they’re nearing kind of the end of that process. It’s unfortunately been highly secretive and not a lot is officially known, but there’s quite a bit that’s unofficially known about that treaty. For those who don’t know, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ostensibly a trade agreement, but there’s actually quite a bit that governs copyright and intellectual property in it. For the most part, a lot of that is some fairly bad news for the internet and just the way that people consume entertainment. So, unfortunately it has been a very undercover process. Hopefully there will be a lot more awareness and activity around that and I’m hoping that that will get denied. Every time they try to do something like this, the entertainment industry, where they’re working with the government, it generally results in some really bad things. I’m hoping that some light gets shone on that even more as people get even more interested in these issues, like net neutrality and the Comcast/Time Warner merger, and they start finding out that this is out there too and maybe get involved in this fight as well. So, hopefully that treaty will undergo some massive changes and hopefully some public scrutiny as well.

MB: Yeah, if you followed SOPA and PIPA over the last couple of years, you knew exactly how horrible those were because they weren’t nearly as secretive. This one is very secretive but the pieces of information that have gotten out make it seem like SOPA and PIPA on steroids. The entirety of the TPP isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s only this portion--because it’s really a trade agreement and has nothing to do with copyright--but it’s one of those where they’re going to try and shoehorn everything in. To me, it sounds like this would, more or less, break the internet. So, I’m hoping that when they start dragging this thing out again, that people get as upset about it as they did about SOPA and PIPA, and I think they will once they see exactly how awful this thing is going to be. That should be this year where we find out about that, and it’s going to be another one of those where you’re probably going to have to pick up the phone and call your local representative or your senator or whatever and advise them to vote against this thing.

MJ: Well, on a lighter front, I think there’s some good movies potentially on the horizon.

MB: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously the new Star Wars is coming out. It could be good, it could be bad. I know we’re not going to have George Lucas directing, which is a good thing.

MJ: But you’ve got Jar Jar Abrams and his wonderful lens flares. But I don’t know, I’m really hoping that that doesn’t suck, but I have to be convinced, I guess.

MB: Yeah, that’s one of those ones where I’m going to be waiting for some reviews. That one along with the new Superman/Batman movie, that’s another one I’m going to be waiting for reviews because right now that looks like a giant poo.

MJ: Yeah, I think I’ve already written that one off. I’ll wait for a rental or something.

MB: If the reviews come out and they say “Hey, this is an amazing movie,” then obviously I’m going to go see it. But until I start seeing those reviews, right now I just don’t have a lot of faith.

MJ: I actually like Zack Snyder as a director for the most part, but I didn’t really like Man of Steel particularly, and what I’ve heard about Batman V. Superman, it doesn’t sound that good to me. I’m kind of sour on that. Another one that I’m probably going to wait on the reviews for that, at first, I was a little excited for is Chappie. It’s sort of an AI robot movie and it’s directed by Neill Blomkamp, who did District 9 and Elysium. He’s kind of a hit or miss director for me, I don’t know what it is. I think he’s from South Africa, I would have to look him up to be sure, but culturally, I like the idea of the stuff he talks about, but when I actually go to watch his movies, they don’t really connect to me very well. I know he’s got this South African rap group, it’s a guy and a girl, that are actually going to be in this movie, and Boing Boing is actually big fans of them, and I remember I read something about it on Boing Boing and I was like “Oh, that sounds cool,” and then I listened to it and I did not like it at all. It sounded like it would be something I would like and it so was not. I guess that’s the reaction I have to any of Neill Blomkamp’s movies so far. I did sort of like Elysium, but I kind of liked it despite itself. There were aspects of the story that I just found incredibly problematic. And I didn’t really like District 9 at all.

MB: Yeah, I’m with you. Actually, I didn’t see Elysium but District 9 was not my favorite movie, we’ll just leave it at that.

MJ: But Chappie looked like a cool concept. It looked like a robot learning to be an aware entity and I love stories like that. It’s just the way that it kind of develops this street personality, I kind of rolled by eyes a little bit at the trailer. But the root concept sounds awesome. So, I’m kind of waiting to hear the reviews on that one.

MB: There’s another computer animation movie called Pixels that looks like it could be pretty neat. Then there’s Ant Man and the Avengers is obviously coming out.

MJ: I’m looking forward to both of those. I’m a diehard comic fan, so. I was impressed with last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and if you would have told me that I would have liked that movie in advance, I would have thought you were crazy. Because, you know, a walking tree and a talking raccoon? That sounds idiotic. And yet, the movie I thought was awesome.

MB: Yeah, everybody I knew kept saying “Oh, this is a great movie, this is a great movie,” and I just kept looking at the previews and I was like “I do not want to see it whatsoever,” and then I finally sat down and watched it and it’s a great movie. It’s got just enough humor and action. I really thought it was a fantastic movie.

MJ: So, at this point Marvel has kind of got my trust. It’s going to take them really screwing up badly. Whereas I like Zack Snyder but he does not have my trust after Man of Steel. I liked J.J. Abrams but after Star Trek Into Darkness he doesn’t have my trust either as a director.

MB: Two movies that I’m really not looking forward to are Jupiter Ascending and Terminator Genesys.

MJ: Oh yeah, definitely, I’m with you on both of those. I am actually looking forward to Ex Machina, which is another kind of AI story, which that fits in sort of with the title of our show, Robot Overlordz. But I love stories like that. Comparing Chappie to Ex Machina, I definitely think, of the two, Ex Machina is the one I want to see. It’s directed by the guy who did 28 Days Later, and he also did Sunshine, which I don’t know if you’ve seen that--

MB: I have seen Sunshine, that’s a good movie.

MJ: I thought that was actually really good. There are aspects of it that are a little weird, but overall, I just enjoyed that movie. So, I’m looking forward to Ex Machina. One of the things I’m interested in, and it’s kind of related to entertainment but also touches on politics and how the world is changing, is actually the show Person of Interest. I’ve started watching that; I’ve watched now all of the first three seasons, so I’m actually just starting this current season and I’m about ten episodes behind, but that show talks a lot about surveillance and AI and just all of the kinds of things that are ongoing in society now, and I’m finding the show fascinating. I’m really curious to see where it’s going in this next year and also how reality kind of catches up to some of the issues that the show brings up. Another documentary that I’m actually really looking forward to seeing is that CitizenFour about Edward Snowden, and I think we still haven’t really seen--and 2014 was a big year of revelation--but you haven’t really seen that impact the conversation a whole lot. I mean, it has a little bit, but it hasn’t really impacted policy yet, I think. I’m really curious to see how that plays out within society in the next year. I think there’s a lot more awareness of the kinds of exposures and things you have on the internet with some of the data breaches that happened last year, I think there’s much more awareness that you have to be a little bit more careful, and I think that does connect somewhat to the trend we mentioned I think in the last episode--or maybe did we already talk about it this episode even--about people venturing out on the wild places of the internet. There is somewhat that reaction that because people are worried about their information out there that they do stick to the more “well-lighted” places. But I think there’s a lot of tools you can use now, and the tools are only getting better and more user-friendly, and there’s awareness that you should be using those tools to protect yourself.

MB: Yeah, definitely. Going back to what you were talking about, Person of Interest, I started watch it pretty much from day one. When I first started watching it, I thought you had to suspend your belief quite a bit because “they can’t really do any of this stuff,” and then all the Edward Snowden stuff came out and it actually made the show much more real for me than it had previously. So, I think that actually kind of almost improved the show for me from that perspective. I think it’s a great show. It’s a little strange at times, but I like the characters and I think it brings up some good points.

MJ: Yeah, well, and I wouldn’t say it’s super realistic. There was one scene, I think it was in the second season, I was watching an episode with my parents, and somehow the writer must have Googled some tech terms, I forget the line he said, they had the character, Finch, say something, but it was seriously the technological equivalent of him saying “Put the butter in the Pepsi” and I just kind of busted out laughing because it’s stuff that I actually work with. The problem I see somewhat in entertainment is that these are stories written by writers--they’re not necessarily people who have experience in the area they’re writing about--so a lot of things they’ll just kind of gloss over. If I were to criticize Person of Interest for example, it would be in the areas where it’s just not really connected to reality. But, like you said, there are a lot of areas that it is actually drawing on current events and some of the things that they predict being able to do with big data, where from your metadata they can tell all kinds of things. I just don’t think it’s quite a panacea. I mean, in business they talk about how they need all this data in order to market at you, and I think somewhat that that doesn’t necessarily lead them to find things that you actually like. Famously, I think when TiVo first came out and it was collecting data on people, there was a running joke of “My TiVo thinks I’m gay” because you watch an episode of what was that Bravo show?

MB: Well, originally it was the Comedy Central show, The Man Show, that was triggering people’s TiVos into thinking they were gay because it was called The Man Show, and so it started recording all kinds of other weird stuff.

MJ: Yeah, just because I like a show that you like doesn’t mean that we like all the same shows. There are limits to the things you can extrapolate from data and I think that, unfortunately, if you read some of the hype around big data, I don’t think there’s quite the same awareness among companies and executives on how limited that stuff actually is.

MB: Well, that kind of leads into one of the things I’m looking forward to in this coming year is Apple Pay. It’s just gotten released and there’s this big to do because all of these merchants don’t really want to accept Apple Pay at this point because they don’t get any usable data if you pay that way, it’s no different than if you went in and paid for cash. So, they’ve kind of introduced their own crappy pay system that’s twice as hard as just using a credit card. So, I think it’s going to take time to shake out but I’m really looking forward to Apple pay, I’m really looking forward to just not having to carry a wallet and walk up to a register and being able to use my phone that way to pay for things.

MJ: I’ve used Apple Pay at a couple of places and I have to say that I think it’s amazing. I love that aspect that you mentioned, that they don’t get any data on you for the most part, that it is kind of a single use code. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect necessarily. Obviously with anything, there are always issues. But at the same time, I think it is so much better than anything else anyone has proposed or that anyone is offering, and I really think it’s a pretty neat solution and I really would like to see it hit the big time. Kind of related to that, I am actually really curious to see the Apple watch next year. I think that’s going to be interesting to see how the wearable space plays out.

MB: At this point, I’m not convinced. I’m almost treating it like the new Star Wars movie--I’m not convinced that I’m going to buy one. But I’m waiting for the reviews and to see exactly how it is. I know Samsung has released a watch--there’s been all these different watches, like the Pebble watch, Samsung has the Galaxy watch, and all these things, and none of them seems to have lived up to the hype. Well, it depends on who you are. But Apple seems to always kind of make sure that what they’re releasing is good and works and does what it’s supposed to, so I’m kind of interested to see how that thing is. It’s going to be one of those where I’m going to wait for some reviews, but I could easily see myself wearing one.

MJ: Yeah. Actually, the more I read about it, the more I’m beginning to lean towards actually making the leap on it fairly quickly. Maybe not right away, I might wait to read a review or two. But I’ve experimented some with wearables; we talked way back when we first started trying to do Robot Overlordz about FitBit and some of the self-tracking things, and personally I think some of that stuff can be really powerful, so I’m kind of keen on getting into that space again. Some of the things that Apple does in that space I think could really have possibilities, so I’m definitely eyeing it where it wouldn’t take much to convince me, I guess.

MB: Part of my reluctance is I’ve finally gotten used to not wearing a watch after years and years of wearing one because I always have a phone in my pocket. Now I’m going to be going back to wearing a watch--it’s kind of strange.

MJ: Well, and I have that too. One of the things, and I don’t know about you, but my phone is frequently in a place that’s inconvenient to reach and the idea of some of the notifications, like if someone is calling me, that it would actually go off on my wrist--I’ve read some reviews already of the devices that do that, and you mentioned the Pebble smartwatch, and having that functionality is actually something that you appreciate in a lot of ways, so I’m actually curious to see if that alone would be enough. I’m not 100% convinced but I’m like 90% of the way there, I guess I would say. Also looking ahead at technology that’s non-Apple, I’m really looking forward to Oculus Rift finally coming out because the longer it goes, the more tempted I am to break down and buy a development kit and I don’t want to do that. I so want to try VR though. VR is going to be one of those technologies that I think is going to be amazing. I think it’s just going to totally change the way that we play games and watch movies and even really surf the internet in ways that we are probably not even aware of yet. I’m so anxious for them to do that well and it just looks like Oculus is stumbling slowly in that direction and I just want it to get here. So, I would hope that 2015 is the year that that stuff finally arrives.

MB: I’m totally with you and I think when Oculus does arrive I think it’s going to be a lot bigger than people think that it’s going to be. Just some of the cool things that they’ve already started doing in the anticipation of the Oculus, and software that they’ve already started creating for the Oculus, you can kind of see where it’s going and how cool it’s really going to be when it gets here if it catches on, which I think it will. I think that somebody already created one where you can fly around your stocks and see how your money is doing. I don’t really know how that would work, but somebody has already created one. Being able to go on, more or less, a vacation without leaving your room, seeing some of the things that maybe in life you can’t afford to go see or that you’re limited from doing, things like that I think will be really cool.

MJ: Or things that don’t exist either anymore or yet. I mean, a couple of times there have been exhibits, like at the Field Museum in Chicago that I’ve gone to, and you see the ancient Egyptian stuff. To me, I never enjoy those exhibits because it’s always behind glass and you can’t touch it. It feels like you’re really behind glass, it’s so removed from you. Then you watch a Discovery channel documentary where they go into those places, and again, you’re kind of watching through the glass. It seems like VR has the possibility of removing that barrier, that you could get in and kind of interact--or maybe not interact fully--but you could be in those environments and see the pyramids, for example, or see the symbols in ancient Egypt in the context of ancient Egypt instead of in a dry museum exhibit. I think that VR is going to be almost a deal breaker for a lot of museums because why would you even go to one if you could experience one that is so much more visceral than museum exhibits. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago lately, but I remember we used to go to that quite a bit for junior high field trips and things like that, and the last time I went there was probably ten years ago now but it hadn’t changed significantly and it felt very stale--really the only word I can think of.

MB: Yeah, and maybe it’s just our age or whatever, or the fact that we’ve seen all these things over and over again, but I get your point. I’m looking forward to being able to visit places within time periods. There’s a company that’s actually working on creating the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair in 3D so that you can tour it. I was thinking “You know, if I could put on an Oculus and actually take a tour of the 1893 World’s Fair and see it just the way people saw it back then,” to me, stuff like that would be so cool. Maybe somebody comes up with a way that I can sit on a pirate ship in the middle of the Caribbean in the 1700s or something like that, or tour Civil War battlefields. I don’t know, it seems to me like there’s an endless possibility of things that you can do with this thing.

MJ: Oh yeah, I completely agree. And the other technology area that I’m curious to see play out in 2015 that kind of, to me, relates to VR is the thought control stuff. Right here at the end of 2014, you saw the video that went viral either last week or the week before of the guy, a double amputee, who controls two robotic arms with his thoughts. I think that we’ve seen so much progress in the last couple of years on prosthetics and things like that that you’ll start seeing those interfaces and those technologies carry over into other things in ways that will help people that aren’t disabled. The idea of being able to pop into a VR environment and control it with your thoughts really--I’ve talked a little bit about that MUSE headband that I got for meditation, how it kind of reads your brainwaves, and I know somebody has hacked that already to be like a brain-controlled mouse, where you can control the mouse with the headband. I just think next year is going to be amazing for things like that. Something Mark said one of the times we had him on, about he hasn’t been wow’d by technology lately and he’s waiting for something to come out of left field--I could see something like that, like a brain-sensing technology be that technology that comes out of left field and totally changes how you interact with your smartphone, or your computer, or your game system.

MB: Yeah, I totally agree.

MJ: Anyway, if you’ve got any ideas of things you’re looking forward to in 2015 that you want us to talk about in a future episode, drop us a line. Again, I’m This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MB: And I’m This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A: That’s all for this episode of Robot Overlordz. You can find our show notes, including links from this episode, on our website at RobotOverlordz.FM. That’s it for this radio broadcasting. We would love to hear your thoughts on this episode in our forum, or you can review us on iTunes. We’re Robot Overlordz with a Z.

MJ: Thanks everyone for listening.

MB: Thanks.


Image Credit: By NASA / Bill Anders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons