Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On Ownership

NASA doesn't get sued, but when it does, it's over property rights.

Tl;dr - 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong gives a 10-yr old a vial of moon dust. Today, 60-yr old 10-yr old girl pre-emptively sues NASA in case she gets charged by NASA for ownership of said dust.

Hmmm, you wonder. Where was I when Neil Armstrong was handing out moon dust? Then you ask, wait a minute, who owns the moon?

NASA owns the moon. Actually not NASA, but the USA owns the moon.

Apparently there's a little black market for space paraphernalia (10's of millions at least), and the SWAT team have been known to work real hard to bust up that market and return such otherworldly items to their rightful owners.

There's a grey area in that little black market, however, which says that 1. Astronauts should be able to do whatever they want with the stuff they bring home, and that 2. There isn't a specific law saying that private persons can't own moon dust.

I don't know enough about property rights to keep this conversation going. But I do harken back to the distant Native Americans' puzzlement about fences and property, and wonder what they would think about this.

Woman sues Nasa over ownership of moon dust vial
June 2018, BBC News

Sticks and Stones

Language software for recruitment technology helps businesses to hire the right people. The right software will know which words to use in the recruitment process to get targeted results.

First of all, what the hell am I talking about? You know when you've been looking for a job for the last three months and your life savings is running out and you're really thinking what it would be like to wake up in your car and shower at the YMCA and how it might not be "as bad as they make it out to be" and then you see a job opening that you're qualified for and you're like, nah, too much hidden hostility in my semantic analysis of this job posting?

Me neither. But if you're the kind of person who already has a great job making lots of money and a huge difference in the way people live in the world together and you're trying to propel your future even further, then this is for you:

We might not realize it, but the terminology used in job descriptions turns some people off, subconsciously or not. And if you're trying to be a good business, you need to get everybody on board, not just the typical Mr. Obvious, or Ms. Obvious as the case may be.

Women don't like 'coding ninja' as it represents hostility in the workplace. 'Stakeholders' means non-white people need not apply. 'Competitive' and 'leader' are discouraging terms for females, according to one textmaster recruiter optimizer, whereas 'support' and 'interpersonal' are inviting to female candidates.

Businesses care because the more balanced your workforce, the more profitable your work. This would explain why there are so many of these text-analysis for job-posting services out there, and enough for me to find an article on it in the national news.

Here's an example of why we need to think more about inclusionary language in our tech-driven, text-based world:
Man is to computer scientist what woman is to homemaker

Why some job adverts put women off applying
July 2018, BBC News

Post Script:
Since we're getting all semantimaniacal here, can I just point out that the word 'inclusionary' shows up as a misspell on my autocorrect, with 'exclusionary' the suggested replacement. Just saying. (And no, semantimaniac isn't in there either...).

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Post Script

Max Ernst and the rest of the Surrealists experimented with 'automatic generation' a hundred years ago.

I'm reading an article here about how we're now using 'robot-generated script' to make things funny. Because, you know, robots are stupid, and we like to laugh at stupid things.

You give a script-writing robot a thousand Seinfeld episodes and ask it to make a Seinfeld episode. And when it messes up, we laugh.

I'm saying all this half tongue-in-cheek. Don't get me wrong, a lot of this stuff is funny. Maybe these smarty pants experimenting with neural  nets can give you plenty of examples of what I'm talking about.

It's funny when a computer screws up. It's funny when anyone screws up. I had a classmate in third grade who wore yellow-tinted stonewash jeans, and I remember making fun of him and getting in trouble for it. The stonewash was right on for that time in the world of fashion, but the yellow not so much. Things have to be messed up to be funny, but not too messed up. 

There's a good formula for funny (and a good graph too) which says the level of funniness in a joke is a function of the probability of the punchline. Researchers exploring 'creative AI' look at the novelty vs the quality, because to be creative we have to be new, novel, unexpected, but not completely out of the ballpark.

My friend in 3rd grade got the stonewash right, but not the yellow dye. A trained neural net (I call them all robots for short) gets most of the material right, but once in a while it throws in there something crazy (something wrong) and we laugh.

The part where things get tricky is when we stop to consider what  we're laughing at - is it the abstracted novelty of the output, or is it that we've assigned agency to the network and are now making fun of it for messing up.

I'm just saying, we might not want to get into the habit of poking fun at these things - not because they will one day retaliate and destroy us, but because they are a reflection of ourselves.

image source: Max Ernst 1937 L'Ange du Foyer - Engel des Kamins

Was That Script Written By A Human Or An AI? Here’s How To Spot The Difference
Jun 2018, Futurism

Anatomy of a Joke
2012, Network Address

Botnik is a community of writers, artists and developers using machines to create things on and off the internet.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Seeing Through

When I read someone call it the Google Maps of the Human Body, I was hooked.

I totally inadvertently found this while searching for cool-looking body images for another post. I'll remind folks that it is NOT because of Google's intellectual property nudging practices that I follow my selected images back to their source. Nonetheless, in this case, I was glad I did.

BioDigital: 3D Human Visualization Platform for Anatomy and Disease
is an endless source of awesome images of the body and everything in it, as seen through the eyes of an x-ray visionary. WIRED calls it a digital revolution of how we study anatomy.

It's a cloud based virtual body that you can explore. Granted, it's primarily for medical applications, but that doesn't mean the average person with a body can't poke around and see what's inside themselves.

Post Script

Let's not forget, however, the OG see-thru pioneer: Alex Grey

Upgrading the Wetware

Gene therapy reverses rat's paralysis
June 2018, BBC News
Scientists say they have taken a significant step towards the goal of giving paralysed people control of their hands again. [...] 
The researchers were trying to dissolve components of the scar tissue in the rats' spinal cord. 
They needed to give cells in the cord a new set of genetic instructions - a gene - for breaking down the scar. [...] 
"We also found a dramatic increase in activity in the spinal cord of the rats, suggesting that new connections had been made in the networks of nerve cells."

image source: https://www.turbosquid.com/3d-models/3d-spinal-cord/1002530

Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant
Oct 2014, BBC News

In Honor of Christina Symanski
Network Address, 2015

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Human Usurper Blurbs

Bringing a few headlines from the world beyond human capability:

Uber applies for patent to spot drunk passengers
Jun 2018, BBC News
Taxi app company Uber has applied for a patent to use artificial intelligence to determine how drunk potential passengers might be. 
The app used to summon rides could also feed other information to the driver, including a passenger's location, how accurately they are typing and even the angle they are holding their phone at. [...] 
Critics expressed concern that an app that could predict user behaviour could be used by drivers wishing to prey on vulnerable passengers. 

Cyan colour hidden ingredient in sleep
Jun 2018, BBC News
The colour cyan - between green and blue - is a hidden factor in encouraging or preventing sleep, according to biologists. 
University of Manchester researchers say higher levels of cyan keep people awake, while reducing cyan is associated with helping sleep. 
The impact was felt even if colour changes were not visible to the eye. [...]
When people were exposed to more or less cyan, researchers were able to measure different levels of the sleep hormone melatonin in people's saliva.
Prof Rob Lucas said that it was not necessary for someone to be able to see the difference in colours, as the body reacted to the change even if it was not visible to the naked eye.

Adobe says it can identify manipulated images using AI
July 2018, BBC News
The company behind the photo-editing program Photoshop says it has developed a tool that can detect if an image has been tampered with. [...] 
Existing verification tools can scan an image file's metadata - which contains information on when and where a photo was taken - for signs of mischief, and look for things like inconsistent lighting. 
But such tests are easily defeated. [...] 
"Each of these [manipulation] techniques tend to leave certain artefacts, such as strong contrast edges, deliberately smoothed areas, or different noise patterns," he notes. [Vlad Morariu, Adobe researcher]

image source: https://www.biosciencetechnology.com/article/2015/05/biodigital-human-exploring-health-3d

Thursday, July 5, 2018

We Repeat - Do Not Believe

First you thought America was the only place where social media really f***ed things up, but then you realize the same things happened to Britain. And then, one day, sometime between hearing that Oprah will run for president and that people in your neighborhood are making thousands of dollars a day by doing this one simple thing from their own home, you realize that the same technology that has wreaked absolute havoc on your world, has done things you can't even imagine to others.

So we are comparing here America and India. Two very different countries, two very different cultures, one super duper hysteria machine.

India WhatsApp 'child kidnap' rumours claim two more victims
Jun 2018, BBC

Rumours of child kidnappings are spreading across India over WhatsApp, and have already led to the deaths of seven other people in the past month.

Officials elsewhere in India have urged people not to believe messages linked to child abductions.

Post Script

A little reminder of where we are in this battle for your mind:

Cambridge scientists consider fake news 'vaccine'
Jan 2017, BBC

Researchers suggest "pre-emptively exposing" readers to a small "dose" of the misinformation can help organisations cancel out bogus claims. ...like a virus...contagion...

Not to mention, Jaron Larnier reminding us that social media is addictive on purpose, and that the Big Data Brothers are a mass-population behavior-modification machine:

Jaron Lanier: How Can We Repair The Mistakes Of The Digital Era?
May 2018, NPR's TED Radio Hour

Post Post Script

Clickbait: The changing face of online journalism
Sep 2015, BBC News

Opponents [of a 'pay writers for clicks' business model] argue it means journalists will dumb down stories in order to get more clicks in order to earn a living. 
There are fears it could curtail a cornerstone of journalism - holding those in office and power to account - in favour of appealing to the lowest common denominator.