Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Caprica's tech consultant Malcolm MacIver on moral challenges of creating sentient robots

Discover Magazine has an excellent new article from Caprica's science consultant Malcolm MacIver.This time, he writes about military robots, advances in information processing in artificial intelligence, and moral challenges and responsibilities that come with creating robots capable of making informed decisions on their own.

You can read the complete article here.

Here, I’d like to push the idea that as interesting as the technical challenges in making sentient robots like those on Caprica are, an equally interesting area is the moral challenges of making such machines. But “interesting” is too dispassionate—I believe that we need to begin the conversation on these moral challenges. Roboticist Ron Arkin has been making this point for some time, and has written a book on how we may integrate ethical decision making into autonomous robots.

Given that we are hardly at the threshold of building sentient robots, it may seem overly dramatic to characterize this as an urgent concern, but new developments in the way we wage war should make you think otherwise. I heard a telling sign of how things are changing when I recently tuned in to the live feed of the most popular radio station in Washington DC, WTOP. The station had commercial after commercial from iRobot (of Roomba fame), a leading builder of unmanned military robots, clearly targeting military listeners. These commercials reflect how the use of unmanned robots in the military has gone from close to zero in 2001 to over ten thousand now, with the pace of acquisition still accelerating. For more details on this, see Peter Singer’s ‘Wired for War’, or the March 23 2010 congressional hearing on The Rise of the Drones here.

While we are all aware of these trends to some extent, it’s hardly become a significant issue of concern. We are comforted by the knowledge that the final kill decision is still made by a human. But is this comfort warranted? -- Keep reading

Caprica panel at the Toronto Comic Con - longer clip

Verbalbrew.com has uploaded a longer video with Magda Apanowicz and Luciana Carro from the Toronto Comic Con to YouTube. All three parts embedded below:

Monday, 26 April 2010

New interview with Scott Porter (Anaheim Comic Con)

IESB.net has posted a recent interview with Scott Porter, who was at the Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con last week. He shared some interesting spoilers about Caprica season 1.5:

IESB: Scott, tell us about some of your upcoming projects.

Scott: There's the second season of Caprica, which is being very mysterious about what is going to be aired. It should be coming up in the fall. For Caprica, a lot of people think it’s been a bit slow, but the second half of the season will be phenomenal.

IESB: Really? Would you elaborate on Caprica?

Scott: We start to see the terrorist cells start to flex their muscles. They will now give a clear vision on what they want to be. They start forming away to get everyone to subscribe to the one god line of thinking. With the Graystones, finding Zoe and trying to retrieve her back, everything comes to end towards the end of the first season and set up nicely for the war to actually start.

IESB: What about your role on Caprica?

Scott: Up until now, it's been an assistant role for Clarice and kind of a computer geek. He's a strong believer and like most villains, he thinks what he is doing is right. You’ll see more of this in the second half of the season. I’m in over half of the episodes for the second season. [IESB.net]

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Happy birthday, toddler robots! Caprica turns one today.

The pilot premiered on DVD exactly a year ago. :)

Caprica, the highly anticipated prequel to "Battlestar Galactica," will enjoy its world premiere exclusively on DVD on April 21, 2009 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. In a groundbreaking move sure to delight fans of the long-running television phenomenon, the feature-length prequel will be available on DVD as a limited-edition uncut and unrated version before the series' broadcast premiere on the SCI FI Channel in 2010.

As "Battlestar Galactica" wraps its gripping final season on SCI FI on March 20, 2009, Caprica begins a brand new epic saga that continues the franchise's commitment to thought-provoking storytelling and extraordinary characters. Set over 50 years before the events of "Battlestar Galactica," Caprica is a world at the peak of its power, grappling with new science and technologies and the issues they create.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Interview with Magda Apanowicz (Toronto Comic Con)

A video interview with Magda Apanowicz from the Toronto Comic Con showed up on YouTube a few weeks ago. No major spoilers in it, but it's definitely an interesting listen.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

SyFy to move Caprica, Sanctuary and Stargate Universe to Tuesdays

USA Today writes that SyFy will move its three Friday shows - Caprica, Stargate Universe and Sanctuary - to Tuesday nights in the fall to make room for the Friday Night Smackdown. No word yet on which Tuesday Caprica will return, but here is the report:

World Wrestling Entertainment is moving its Friday Night SmackDown series to cable: Syfy will air the series starting Oct. 1 because its current home, MyNetworkTV, decided to end its contract. Syfy also is moving original series such as Stargate Universe, Sanctuary and Caprica from Fridays to Tuesdays, when viewing levels are higher, and in turn will drop WWE's new NXT series, now being shopped to other cable outlets. SmackDown, a top Friday draw among young men, premiered in 1999 on UPN; Syfy sibling USA airs WWE's Raw. -- USA Today via SpoilerTV

Monday, 12 April 2010

Caprica mid-season finale ratings hit series high with key demo

Press release, from SyFy:


Culminating a premiere season of ratings growth, the Friday, March 26 season finale of Caprica set a series record by delivering 1.1 million Adults 18-49 (including Live + 7 DVR playback data). The episode, airing from 9-10pm, also scored 1.7 million total viewers, 1.16 million Adults 25-54 and a 1.3 Household rating.

These achievements capped off a successful end to Caprica’s first nine episodes. Compared to the first five episodes, the final four averaged 1.0 million Adults 18-49 (+21%) and 1.15 million Adults 25-54 (+12%). These programs were also Caprica’s top individual telecasts in both Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54.

For the first season including all DVR playback, Caprica averaged a 1.3 HH Rating and 1.8 million total viewers, including 906,000 Adults 18-49 and 1.1 million Adults 25-54.

The fate of humanity takes a sudden twist when tragedy upsets the lives of the citizens of Caprica, a vibrant world recognizably close to our own. This original series features the passion, intrigue, political backbiting, and family conflict in an omnipotent society that is at the height of its blind power and glory…and, unknowingly, on the brink of its fall.

Caprica stars Eric Stoltz (Daniel Graystone), Paula Malcomson (Amanda Graystone), Esai Morales (Joseph Adama), Polly Walker (Sister Clarice Willow), Alessandra Torresani (Zoe Graystone), Magda Apanowicz (Lacy) and Sasha Roiz (Sam Adama).

The series is from Universal Cable Productions, and the first half of season one is executive produced by Ronald D. Moore, David Eick and Jane Espenson. Jonas Pate serves as co-executive producer and director. Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights) directed the pilot.

Universal Cable Productions creates quality content across multiple media platforms for USA, Syfy and other networks. A leader in innovative and critically acclaimed programming, UCP is the studio behind USA’s Royal Pains, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Psych, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs and Facing Kate, along with Syfy’s Eureka, Warehouse 13 and Caprica. The studio also produced both long-running series Monk and Battlestar Galactica. UCP is a division of NBC Universal.

Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent business (Syfy Ventures),Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities. Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in 95 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies.

Source: SyFy via TVbytheNumbers

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Cast updates & interviews

Okay, an overdue round of updates.

First, a reminder that, this week, you can catch Polly Walker in Clash of the Titans in theatres and John Pyper-Ferguson in tonight's episode of CSI, which was written by Battlestar's David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and directed by Michael Nankin. The ep airs at 9. The preview is here. And not to forget, Patton Oswalt has a recurring role on United States of Tara, which airs on Mondays at 10 on Showtime.

Ron Moore and Esai Morales will make an appearance at a Caprica panel at the London MCM Expo in May. More information here.

Steppin' Out Magazine has a nice, long interview with Alessandra Torresani this week. You can read it on Alessandra's official site.

Esai was interviewed at the Creative Coalition / National Lab Day dinner in Brentwood last week. Clip:

He also shared this vague spoiler with Fancast:

I have a question about the ‘Caprica‘ season finale: Is Joseph Adama’s search for his daughter over just like that?
I had the same reaction, but Esai Morales promises, “Oh, that story is definitely not over. Definitely not over. We like to put hooks in you and rip them out!” He scared me a bit with that last part.

Capricast.com has uploaded a video with Magda Apanowicz and Luciana Carro from the Toronto Comic Con.

Den of Geek has an interview with Ron Moore here.
Is there a connection between the Daniel mentioned toward the end of Galactica and Daniel Graystone?

No, that was a complete coincidence of name. I didn't realise how much people would glom onto that coincidence and start to read all kinds of things into it. There's really nothing there. (...)

I've read that you went into Battlestar without a plan as to who was a Cylon and so forth. Did you approach Caprica in the same way, or did you have to take Battlestar's history into consideration?

It was slightly different. The field was wide open when we approached Battlestar. There was literally nothing that we couldn't do and we had tons that we could make up and invent, an entire history.

Caprica is a little different, some of these things have now been set in place and we know generally what the outline of colonial history is, so we have sort of a general guideline, but still there's really no preconceived plan about how long the show will run, how far into the future the show will go, or what the last episode is or anything like that. (...)

What are the chances of seeing more Battlestar Galactica content?

I don't think so. You never say never but there's really no plans for more Battlestar. The sets are gone, [but] we did digitally archive all the sets and props and costumes in case we wanted to do something, but at the moment there are no talks of any more Battlestar projects.

Is there any chance that more characters from Battlestar will turn up in Caprica?

I don't think so. We do talk every once in a while about seeing someone else's ancestor because no-one else from Battlestar are really old enough to be present at the time of Caprica. If we do that, it may just be once or twice, but probably not any time soon.

Is the re-using of actors from Battlestar in Caprica, is it a direct reference to ancestry?

We're kind of being vague about that. We're not really specifically saying that those are the actual ancestors of the characters they played, but if the audience would like to think that, there's really no reason why they can't. (...)

When you were picking actors for Caprica, what made you go with people like James Marsters? And will we be seeing his character a lot more in the future?

A lot of that came from within. Jane Espenson had worked on Buffy and was a huge fan of James Marsters and she suggested him for the role, and the network was very excited to have him. We definitely will [see him more]. His character has a multi-episode arc in the show. (...)

How important was it to capture a real sense of reality within the Tauron back-story and culture?

We wanted to show Caprican society had problems, people coming to the planet and the city who were facing the classic immigrant questions of assimilation and cultural identity, and the different colonies are our stand-in for racial and national tensions of our own. So, we did want that element in the show, to see cultures and races colliding in different ways, so we decided that Adama was going to be from Tauron and that he wasn't really a native of Caprica and that his story was part of an immigrant's tale. (...)

I want to just touch briefly on Tamara and Zoe caught up in the virtual world. Will that feature heavily in the series or will it branch out into the real world? Will they interact with other people in the real world?

We'll do both. We'll go back into the virtual world with more Tamara and Zoe stories, but their stories will also cross into the real world as well. It's kind of hard to answer, but there will be answers to those questions in this season. (...)

What does the rest of the season have in store for us?

There are a lot of twists and turns. There are more revelations about characters that you don't expect. I think you're going to be surprised at some of the directions that Graystone Industries takes and the relationship between Daniel and Joseph will shift and change as the season goes on, and certainly the life of Sister Clarice will change quite a bit as well.

And James Marsters talked to Courier Mail before heading off to Australia for the Supanova pop culture expo.
Marsters has a pivotal role in Caprica. "I play a man who is living in a society that's becoming unhinged – much like ancient Rome did – where the morality is just completely breaking apart, and people are having fun with human sacrifice and mass orgies, ritualistic death and execution, and just shooting each other for fun," he says.

"In Rome it was all real, it was called the Coliseum, but in Caprica it's a virtual world people can escape into. But it's just as frightening – or it is for my character."

Marsters' character, Barnabas Greeley, decides that a new religion with just one god, and laws of right and wrong, is the only salvation for society.

"I'm a character who's decided that if you have to crack the egg, so be it. To make the omelette, eggs have to be broken, and that's OK. That's a revolution, that's a war," he says.

"So you could say that my character is a terrorist. Or you could also say he's a religious revolutionary. It depends on whose perspective, I guess."

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Interviews: Alessandra Torresani, Magda Apanowicz, Sasha Roiz, Esai Morales

Another round of interviews this week.

Newsarama has posted video interviews with the cast at the Paley Center. Follow these links to watch them: Alessandra Torresani, Magda Apanowicz, Sasha Roiz, Esai Morales.

Magda also gave an interview at the Toronto Comic Con last weekend. The article is here.

"It's not a simple show that you can sum up in a sentence, which I think is a good thing. I could say that it's the origin story of a Cylon, but I truly don't think that's the only thing the show's about," said Apanowicz in an interview at last week's Comic Con convention in Toronto.

"It's about the rise and fall of a nation … It's saying, 'Hey, this is a possibility if you take a look at our world and our lives.' If you take the similarities, we have the possibility of imploding ourselves, and maybe sometimes we should stop and take a look."

Caprica deals with frightening social issues, she said, that are directly related to our real world. The depiction of sexuality in the V worlds, where teenagers congregate in mass orgies at nightclubs, is perhaps the show's strongest reflection of the real world. The plethora of freely available pornographic content on our internet, coupled with ubiquitous advanced communications technology, is redefining how young people view sexuality, and not necessarily in a good way, Apanowicz said. (...)

As with many robot morality tales before it, Caprica also raises questions about humans playing god, and whether we've properly considered the implications of doing so.

On the show, the consequences of failing to do that are implied by the very nature of the prequel — the destruction seen in BSG. On that show, it's ironically the robots that eventually try to help the humans recapture their lost spirituality. Apanowicz is just one of many fans who ultimately ended up rooting for the Cylons because of that.

"Cylons are the ones that are trying to help humanity find its way," she said. "Humans are the ones who are so lost and it's the artificial life that is trying to help, although obviously not in the best way." -- CBC News

And another interview with Alessandra showed up here.

JA: Have you gotten into Battlestar Galactica since you've started Caprica?

AT: I'm into it, I love it. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm kinda obsessed with Caprica. Everyone's story line is so unreal to me, it's amazing. The whole Esai and Tamara situation is so heartbreaking, I cry every time I watch it.

JA: Do you have a fondest memory so far of being on the set of Caprica?

AT: We have a bunch of sing-a-longs. I have a You Tube channel that I am about to premiere about how to make it in the business, I will post those videos that I recorded on my flip cam. It focuses on how to make a resume and getting an agent. I have a lot of fans asking me every day "how did you do it?" They think that I just suddenly made it, but I have been doing it since I was eight years old.