Faculty in the News: Making video game robots like living creatures, and trying to make sense of the Fresno shooting

Faculty in the News: Making video game robots like living creatures, and trying to make sense of the Fresno shooting

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NOTE: Faculty, if you are interviewed and quoted by news media, or if your work has been cited, and you have an online link to the article or video, please let us know. Contact us at news@csusb.edu.

Stuart Sumida, professor of biology at Cal State San Bernardino, was specifically mentioned on a video game news website, Gamasutra.com, as a consultant for PlayStation 4’s “Horizon: Zero Dawn,” which features sophisticated robots, called Machines, that “also exhibit unmistakable animal-like behaviors and movements,” the article said. “These Machines are a key feature of the game’s unique primordial futurist milieu.”

Sumida has done anatomical consulting on myriad projects, including films “The Lion King,” “Dinosaur,” “Hercules,” and “Harry Potter,” and Disney World rides  “Countdown to Extinction” and “Expedition Everest.”

The article was published April 21, 2017, and may be read at “Making ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’s ‘ machines feel like living creatures.”

News media continued to turn to Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice, in the aftermath of the April 18 shooting in Fresno, which is being investigated as a hate crime. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has said the four killings were fueled by Muhammad’s hatred of white people. The suspect, Kori Muhammad is black. All of the murder victims were white.

In an interview with The Fresno Bee, Levin, director of CSUSB’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, called some people’s haste to affiliate the suspected Fresno mass shooter with foreign terrorists “the bumper sticker analysis.”

“His rantings are not part of a violent Jihadist movement. He’s not inspired by ISIS or Al-Qaeda. He’s someone who has crafted his own brand of extremism,” Levin said. “Some of these violent extremists craft their own idiosyncratic ideology from a buffet of often related hatred that exists on social media – and that’s what happened here.”

Levin compared Muhammad to Dylann Roof – a white supremacist who killed nine black church-goers in South Carolina in 2015. Like Roof, Muhammad was likely a loner who became radicalized on the internet, Levin said.

“What we’re seeing is, even movements that may not have large numbers of people can still influence and radicalize unstable, angry individuals,” he said. “Unfortunately, these ticking time bombs exist. We are seeing people who are loners have their anger and violence amplified by an ideology on the internet.”

Fresno Police Chief Dyer called Muhammad a “calloused” racist, but said he is not a terrorist and doesn’t claim to be. Muhammad told police he was not affiliated with any terrorist group.

The article, published April 19, 2017, may be read at  “Experts say shooting rampage is a hate crime – but not an act of terrorism. Here’s why.”

A Newsweek article, also published on April 19, 2017, suggested that the Fresno shooting highlights a disturbing spate of hate crime fatalities. And there is set to be a further increase recorded for 2016, according to preliminary data collected by the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, provided to Newsweek on April 19. That would be the first back-to-back increase since 2004. In California, the same trend is expected to be found, which would be the first time in the state in 20 years.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in the very small number of hate homicides relative to how many hate crimes there are,” Levin said. “But within that small crucible of homicides, the multi-fatality extremist is becoming a significant player in the world of hate homicides, more so than they ever have.”

The Fresno shooting highlighted a growing and disturbing trend — hate crimes that lead to multiple fatalities, Newsweek said. Levin has warned that the country could be “on the cusp of an eruption” in social tensions. And, at a time that President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly set to focus counter-extremism efforts solely on Islamist extremism, Levin said that the threat is as diverse as it has been in some time.

There is something of a perfect storm fueling such extremism, Newsweek said. Americans’ views of race relations in the country are at one of the lowest levels seen since the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Meanwhile, trust in government is at one of its lowest ebbs in more than 40 years, with a president setting record-low approval ratings and attracting regular protests across the country.

“Across the spectrum, people feel disenfranchised and not served by the institutions that used to bind us together,” Levin said. “The civic cohesion is eroding.”

The article may be read at “Fresno shooting highlights a disturbing spate of hate crime fatalities.”

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