Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Self Replication


Faces From the Nightmare Machine

Let's for a moment take these two headlines:

A Virtual Playground Lets AI Practice Complex Tasks And Chores
Jun 2018, Futurism.org

MIT Researchers Send AI to Reddit To Make a Psychopath
Jun 2018, Reddit

One is about a virtual world where potential chorebot programs get trained to be better robots in the real world, and the other is about a program designed intentionally to be psychopathic by training it on the 'darkest parts of the web.'

One makes you think about a future where we all live in that virtual world, distributing our virtual selves to live many lives all at once, and then picking and choosing among the best ones. The other makes you think we can train those selves to be whatever we want, depending on the training material we give it. Oh, that is unless you weren't thinking about making a total virtual hell-prison to wrap people up into for eternal punishment. Or maybe you were just thinking "who the hell would ever do that on purpose?"

MIT researchers would do that on purpose, that's who. Their April Fool's joke this year was to make an intelligentity (IE?) with "chronic hallucinatory disorder."

Handstyle


Edbert Aquino's award-winning handwriting. (Andre Malok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
I still wonder if the rise and climax of graffiti circa 2010 had anything to do with the death of handwriting. Also Twitter/SMS messaging and people getting text-based tattoos are happening at this time as well. I also think I can tell where you're from by your handwriting. But then I tried to look up some info right now on "handwriting accents," about which you can find some stuff, but the final verdict is that computers are making all of our handwriting look the same.

N.J. 9-year-old's award-winning handwriting will put your cursive to shame
May 2018, NJ.com

Drones and Dreams of the Future


958 drones create a 400-foot tall Time cover in lights instead of pixels

First it happened at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Pyongyang, and then for the cover of TIME magazine. Drones are here, and we haven't even seen anything yet.

Let's take a walk down memory lane. An organization working on behalf of drone manufacturers try to influence all major journalism outfits to use the term "unmanned aerial vehicle" (UAV) instead of "drone" because America was making a bad name for drones by using them to kill civilians by mistake. (Obviously that didn't work.) Then at the 2010 Hackers on Planet Earth conference we learn how to jam drones to make them think they're flying forward when they're really speeding right into the ground (and then find out Iran has been doing this to US drones for a while already). Don't forget inmates getting contraband flown over the barbed-wire fence in the yard. Fast forward to people in Nordic countries combining snowboarding and kiteboarding to do droneboarding. And then comes the holy grail - synchronized drones.

As if the concept of a drone wasn't enough, you combine that sh** with a centralized brain that knows where every drone is and where it's going, and has a grand plan in its head about what they should all be doing together, and you get this - they can build bridges. They can make a computer monitor in the sky where the pixels are individual drones.

I had a dream a few years ago, you know how at times dreams can have this deep foreboding sense to them, like something ultimately omniscient is happening. I felt like I had really been transported to the future, seeing into a crystal ball. There were drones everywhere, everywhere. The further I looked to the horizon, the more I saw, all sizes, shapes, speeds, all doing different things. And there, just over the edge of my field of vision, like a flock of birds, I saw a scrolling ribbon of text, it was The Government (my dreams trying hard to create "omniscience") and they were talking to me via these drone-ribbon-text-messages-in-the-sky. Today as I write it, it doesn't sound too crazy, but at the time I was speechless, breathless, and scared, a feeling omniscience tends to elicit. I thought I was seeing the distant future. And yet, here we are.

Let's put things in perspective with some caveats from a paraglider photographer [based in NJ] who wrote an article on drones for TIME: "In the U.S., they can’t legally be flown over 400 ft. or out of the pilot’s line of sight, and their batteries are typically only good for about twenty minutes of flight time."

Notes

TIME's Drones Issue: Go Behind the Cover
May 2018, TIME

Drones Are Changing How We See the World
May 2018, Author, Paraglider and Photographer George Steinmetz for TIME

Monday, June 4, 2018

The True Limits of Believability



Not a bad problem to have. Robot voices have become so good that we can't tell they're robots anymore. But this is against our unspoken code of ethics; we as humans have to know when we're dealing with something that is indistinguishable from a human when it's not. (Unless it's a dating website of course.)

Notes

What happens when the robots sound too much like humans?
May 2018, phys.org

The assistant added pauses, "ums" and "mmm-hmms" to its speech in order to sound more human as it spoke with real employees at a hair salon and a restaurant.

Radiation Photography and Energy Art


Peter Shellenberger's Radiation Art comes without a hazard warning.

What we call light is really just one kind of energy, the "visible" kind. This means it's an energy that falls within a range the electrical nerve circuits of our eyebrains are receptive to. There's other kinds of light, like infrared and ultraviolet light; you've heard of those. There are other kinds of energy that we don't even call light, like sound, and like nuclear radiation.

We definitely can't see nuclear radiation, which is only one of the reasons it's scary. It will literally smash your DNA to pieces until you are a lump of inert molecules. Then again, because we humans are so good at extending our sensory appendages, we can make special "eyes" to see this stuff.

Here's this artist, Peter Shellenberger, who lets a piece of radiating material do its thing in a box for over a month, recording the whole process on camera. He's actually using Fiestaware with uranium oxide.

Aside, Fiestaware, besides being "the most collected brand of china in the United States" (NYTimes) is also well-known for being radioactive, although it isn't anymore; I mean the radioactive kind is no longer sold on the market (although it's obviously still available, which is how Mr. Shellenberger got it for his artwork). The red-orange glaze is made of uranium oxide. Anything made with that red-orange color, at that time (let's say 1940's-ish), is probably made with the same radioactive material.

In fact, as a former ceramicist and art teacher, I was taught to avoid all red glazes, but mostly for lead not radioactivity. Radioactive material is so locked down nowadays that you're not likely to come in contact with it (unless you're getting cancer treatment). Then again, it depends on where you buy it. I can tell you from firsthand experience using a lead detector crayon on a bunch of different dinnerware products - you better think twice and check for yourself before you use anything on a daily basis, especially if it's hot or acidic, and especially if you have kids (who are more susceptible to the negative effects of lead, or anything for that matter).

Cloudlabs helps us visualize cosmic energy.

Personally, I think this next one is way cooler. It's called informally a cloud chamber, and it is a way to show us all kinds of particles that are whizzing through the air around us. 

Here's a description of how it works from the youtube page:
A sealed glass container contains liquid alcohol at the top. Emanating alcohol vapors fill the whole volume of the container until they reach the bottom of the chamber maintained to a very cold temperature (-40°C).

Most of the vapour condenses on the glass surface creating a mist, but a small fraction of it stays in vapour form above the cold condenser. This creates a layer of unstable sursaturated vapour which can condense at any moment. When a charged particle crosses this vapor, it can knock electrons off the molecules forming ions. It causes the unstable alcohol vapor to condense around ions left behind by the travelling ionizing particle : the path of the particle in the matter is then revealed by a track composed of thousands droplets of alcohol.

Any charged particle is visible in a cloud chamber. The most common ones are alphas, electrons, positons, protons, nuclear charged fragment, muons (...). Theses particles come from natural cosmic and telluric background radiations or from close radioactive sources. They will all leave tracks of different shapes in the chamber, based on their charge, mass and speed. Electrons are the lightest particles and will be easily deflected by magnetic fields. Alphas and protons are much heavier and slower and will thus ionize more, causing denser track of droplets. Interactions of neutral particles like gamma rays or neutrons can be seen thanks to the charged particles they create in matter.

check out their lab here - cloudylabs.fr
check out the video here

Notes

Peter Shellenberger
Moberg Gallery, 2018

**Still can't find my blowdryer picture...anyone that knows of someone using an IR camera to capture blowdryer drawings on canvas, help me out.

Musicology Again


Lone Wolf is a one man band; he can do everything; too bad he's also not a woman

Science now says that  hit songs are sung by women and more danceable, although I'm not sure what that means. Also, despite this, sad songs have increased in the past 30 years. Granted, the research database was for 500,000 songs released in Britain 1985-2015. So at first glance, I wonder how much of the world's hip hop, which is the dominant musical form, comes from Britain.

And don't forget this - "A previous study covering 1980-2007 found that music lyrics have become more self-centred, with increased use of the words "me" and "I", fewer social words such as "we", and more anti-social ones such as "hate" and "kill"."

Notes

Happiness makes hit songs: study
May 2018, phys.org

Musical trends and predictability of success in contemporary songs on and off the top charts, Royal Society Open Science, doi

Other Posts About Music

More Musicological Synchronicity

Musical Memetics

Justify My Heart - The Readymade Mashup

On the Depths of Cultural Appropriation


An influential person from Sweden spent a lot of time in Turkey, got real into their meatballs, and brought them home to his otherwise culinary wasteland (jk) where they got immediately culturally appropriated. (And we're just learning about this now.)

Hundreds of years later, after America culturally appropriated the shit out of Sweden via IKEA, we all totally forgot about Turkey's meatballs, and gave Sweden all the credit. After all, why wouldn't the meatballs be theirs? They came up with the idea of assemmling furniture for f's sake. (Yes, I made 'assembling' look like a Swedish word on purpose.)

There was this thing happening in 2017-2018 where cultural identity became so fractured that we couldn't tell who was allowed to do what anymore. I think it's still happening.

When I go to a Black Panther movie, I'm not allowed to wear a dashiki unless I am from Africa; I mean unless my family is from Africa. Or unless I am white but adopted by parents of African heritage, in which case I identify as black (although since mostly nobody else identifies me that way because of the color of my skin it doesn't matter what I think).

Or unless my adopted child is from Africa which gives me right by association (I'm not even sure this counts). Unless you can't tell that I adopted my child from Africa because I didn't bring them with me to the movies because I was afraid people would think I culturally appropriated their kids.

What if you visited Africa and were given that dashiki from an artisan in the family with which you stayed while you lived there for three months building a school for the local community? Still no dashiki? What if you married the daughter of that artisan and had children with her? Still?

What if the movie was inspired, produced, promulgated and viewed (i.e. financially supported) by a culture other than the one being represented? Is Hollywood culture, or Superhero culture being inappropriately appropriated in this case? Or are these not cultures but only cultural byproducts, cultural artifacts?

Cultural artifacts are protected under intellectual property law, as long as they aren't fashion or fragrance (with the exception of Play-Doh, true, and maybe Vibrams but I doubt anyone is approriating that...Crocs too). But these protections are held by individuals, not populations.

Can an entire population own a cultural product, like Superman or the Iliad?

I am pretty sure it has to do with the unequal distribution of power and who is appropriating who. Anyone can rip off the Iliad because it is a cornerstone of Westen culture, which is a cornerstone of Global culture (if there is such a thing).

And the main question is - how does Africa eventually take over the world if people aren't allowed to consume and participate in its culture?

Notes

'My whole life has been a lie': Sweden admits meatballs are Turkish
May 2018, The Guardian

Post Script

I had a dream once, and do still, that as the Arab world (or at least Saudi Arabia) begins to diversify its economy to incorporate entertainment, it begins to absorb hip hop artists from the West. The affinity between some hip hop artists who may be Muslim (more likey than country singer pop stars) and the uber-duper rich Saudis create a new class of global elite men and women of African heritage x America x Islam, who eventually take over the world in ways today's Western folks can't even imagine.

Post Post Script

In a way not much at all related, we wonder if this is really about identity theft-anxiety in the aftermath of a post-Equifax, post-Ashley Madison world where everyone has had their personal identity (not their cultural identity) stolen.

Also this, let's not forget.