ancient rome

The future is nigh! Some notes on tech

New learning today: the pointy thing on a sundial is called a gnomon. Who would’ve thought? It sounds so delightful for some reason. Maybe it’s just how it sounds.


What is mind-boggling is that the guy running the virtual futurelearn.com Rome class, Professor Matthew Nicholls built the entire ancient city by himself, kind of like a gigantic Lego City, only computerised. Or, perhaps, a Minecraft City, only less blocky. It’s geographically accurate – based on archaeological and historical archives and took him five years to do. He had no formal training in graphic design. Hats off to his efforts.

Here is a 38-second screen recording* of me interacting with a digital Porticus Octaviae. Jerky movements are from me awkwardly navigating on a touchscreen, sorry.

The real structure was built possibly in 146BC by a Q. Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, with the two temples honouring the Roman gods Jupiter and Juno.

*Hopefully this video does not breach copyright laws. I figured the course and the information is free and they are getting some free press. Anyway I will leave this here for as long as I am not being sued by the University of Reading.

If I am sued and have to take that down, there are several videos on YouTube about this computerised city of Rome.


It does look like the future of Archaeology is, well, futuristic. Going through some e-newsletters, I found that the University of Auckland has been given $1mil to put together a digital library of Māori stone tools.

It appears that Artificial Intelligence will then be used to look at unearthed fragments, cross-reference the object against the repository, and then spit out all the information it can tell us about what the item likely was and where/when it came from.

It’s almost spooky how clever technology is now.

I once read about the “Black Box” effect about machine learning, which is that we present the neural networks with a problem (input), and as it becomes more intelligent, it will become less and less clear to us humans how the output/solution was reached.

Another creepy thought is that we will never know the exact moment in history when a computer becomes what you might describe “self aware” / “sentient”. Machines are very likely to outsmart us one day and I am just not ready to change my lifestyle for when a cold robot despot determines the most logical solution to all problems is to enslave Planet Earth and all its biological creatures. Hopefully it never does.

🤖🤖🤖

Ooh! One last futuristic thing: following the last dig on genealogy, I am thinking of doing one of those genetic tests that puts your different ethnicities in a pie. Apparently the results are often surprising. Wonder what would come back?

Image: pixels.com. The only socially acceptable human pie, probably.
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12 thoughts on “The future is nigh! Some notes on tech

    • Right? They worshiped Jupiter on one side (sky god) and Juno (goddess of fertility) on the other, although I’m not sure which was which. Then they added the outside portico/walls later. The online students are discussing if it was also a house of knowledge!

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