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The Surveillance State

   2019    Technology
Frequent security expos feature companies like Megvii and its facial- recognition technology. They show off cameras with A.I. that can track cars, and identify individuals by face, or just by the way they walk. In China it's been projected that over 600 million cameras will be deployed by 2020. Here, they may be used to discourage jaywalking, but they also serve to remind people that the state is watching. Matching with the most advanced artificial intelligence algorithm, they can actually use this data, real-time data, to pick up a face or pick up a action.
A.I. is a technology that can be used for good and for evil. So, how do governments limit themselves in, on the one hand, using this A.I. technology and the database to maintain a safe environment for its citizens, but not to encroach on a individual's rights and privacies?
Series: In the Age of AI

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie

   1995    Technology
An unsettling yet visually fascinating documentary presenting the history of nuclear weapons development and testing between 1945 until 1963. Narrated by William Shatner, features extremely rare film segments from top secret government archives and startling footage of nuclear bomb tests conducted by Great Britain and China, plus the largest atomic explosion ever created by Russia, and de-classified U.S. footage released to the public as recent as May, 2006. Whether being exploded under the ocean, suspended by a balloon, shot from a cannon or even detonated in space, these weapons are capable of devastating destruction - the quality of these images is as startling as are remarkable.

Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Workingman Death

   2005    Culture
Austrian director Michael Glawogger travels to five countries to focus on some of the worst jobs imaginable: Ukrainian miners crawl into tiny cracks in old coal pits to scratch out a few bags of winter fuel; Indonesian workers trudge long distances carrying baskets with hundreds of pounds of sulfur chunks extracted from a steaming mountain; Pakistanis risk explosions and burial under tons of scrap iron as they dismantle huge carrier ships. The visuals are everything here. Despite the hardships depicted, many sequences have a dreamlike beauty. In addition, the director has a bone-dry sense of irony; during the Ukraine scenes, he frequently cuts away to a statue of Stakhanov, the "hero" lauded by the Soviets for his superhuman work habits. He also shows us an old German smelting works that's been converted into a theme park.
Chef's Table

Chef's Table

2017  Art
Clash of the Gods

Clash of the Gods

2009  History
The Sky at Night

The Sky at Night

2018  Science
The Jinx

The Jinx

Rise of Empires: Ottoman

Rise of Empires: Ottoman

2020  History