Saturday, July 25, 2020

Physics and Technological Revolutions

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Oem Trivedi

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Physics and Technological Revolutions


Global Views 360

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July 25, 2020


IBM Quantum Computer, an innovation based on Quantum Physics | Source: IBM Research via Flickr

As he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of ancient Scripture “Bhagwad Geeta” ran through the mind of Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Oppenheimer, alongside the likes of Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi, George Gamow, was part of the star-studded Physicist squad behind the Manhattan Project.

The biggest implications drawn from the end of WW2 for many might have just been the incoming power Struggle between the US and Soviet Union, but for your average American it went to a great length to show that Physicists form a breed of people who can build dangerously effective technology.

That fact, however, would have been evident to anyone with a brisk walk through Human History itself. Physicists have arguably provided the most significant contributions to the Technological Development of our race. From Archimedes building light reflectors to save the Greek Army from Roman Infiltration to the large-scale Ballistic Missile systems made during WW-II, weaponry technology has been highly influenced by physicists in every generation.

But mere list of armaments cannot do justice to the role played by Physics Research in Technological Developments of our society. To get a feel for that, let’s go back to the fathers of Modern Physics as we know it; Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei. Galileo had his long list of achievements in creating cutting edge technology of the day, ranging from Telescopes to Thermometers & the Magnetic Compass. Sir Isaac for his part was the reason behind the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain!

The simple Atwood Machines which have today become mainstay material taught to College Freshman and High School Seniors worldwide, were actually the kind of mechanical models on which the large-scale Factory Machines were built. Newton’s laws kickstarted the modern Technological Revolution and ever since then, Physics has been a constant source of inspiration behind all Technology.

The great pioneers in the field “Natural Philosophy” (the physics of today) after Newton continued the trend which their illustrious predecessor had started. The seminal works on Thermodynamics by the likes of Lord Kelvin, Ludwig Boltzmann, James Clerk Maxwell etc. played the decisive part in creating automobile engines and really any technology which dealt with heat (Spoiler Alert- There were a lot of them!). Maxwell’s work on the famous equations on Electromagnetism now named after him played the most significant part in the mission of making Electricity available to everyone (a conquest now just famously remembered for the fight between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison).

While one can point out that Theoretical works cannot lead to new Technology on their own, that assertion is only the half-truth. Sure, building technology on the basis of theoretical physics is mostly down to the Engineers, but one cannot underestimate the effect new theoretical developments and their possible uses have on the construction of new technologies. After all, if one was not able to understand the principles of the conversion of mass to energy or Electric & Magnetic Fields are coupled to each other, then expecting the construction of Nuclear Reactors and virtually all Electric Tech today would have been off the table.

So one might ask, what are the new theoretical ideas which can guide the next leap forward technologically? Well, no one can be quite sure of the form which technology will take in even a couple of decades (who would have thought that Server systems designed for efficiently using giant Data in CERN would one day be heavily used for making memes!).

I would go as far as to say that we have not yet completely exhausted the technological possibilities of the Special Theory of Relativity itself, the most prominent example of game changing technology based on that has been GPS Communication systems. One can hence fail to even imagine the kind of technological (and Industrial) progress technologies built on the revealing concepts from General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics can bestow upon us (I’m even refraining to comment on the Quantum Field Theoretic parts!).

Whatever that physics will lead us to is a mystery time will be most suited to answer, but one can see the effects of Quantum Mechanics in the next Computational Revolution itself; Quantum Computing. To put into perspective the extent of development Quantum Computing can bestow upon us, consider the following.

Computational devices today, which are stronger than the computers which put humans to the moon, are fundamentally built upon binary bit systems. From generating Big Bang like Energies in CERN and reaching past Saturn, to making all the knowledge available to everyone has been done in two bits. While Quantum Computers, which are being vividly researched on, can work with virtually infinite bits ! So, hold on tight as exciting new physics promises some large-scale changes on our Civilization as a whole.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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