internet, social media, Technology

All. Together, Now.

While an art auction may not be anything that has major social ramifications, a recent auction at Christie’s in New York did catch our attention. While we like an auction as the next person, this one did have a picture painted by AI . Th piece, titled “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” was created by a Paris-based collective called Obvious Art created an algorithm that can create painted images. They are interested in exploring the boundaries of creativity, computers and AI and pushing the boundaries of what a machine can create. An idea that will be revisited here, the thing that came to mind was the increasing question of what it is to be human and if that is an answer that we really need. We used to try hold humanness out of reach of animals, like a treat from a dog made to jump at an ever higher raised treat, only to find no matter how high we set the bar, animals could rise to and above it. At first, we were the tool making creatures but soon we found gorillas had the same ability. We had a complex social structure only to find that many other animals did too. No matter how we seemed to try to set ourselves above and apart our specialness seemed to be co-opted by lower life forms. Now as we try to maintain our place in the center of our egocentric model (with apologies to Ptolemy) we find it harder and harder to find our ground in the center of the world. As AI and computers advance the Turing test, a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human seems to be nothing more than a roadside attraction we have passed whizzing by to a future which we seem unwilling to consider.
While AI advances make us less unique in the larger sense perhaps it should make us more aware of the things that make us unique as individuals. An algorithm can create a piece of art but only Picasso could create a Guernica, only Joyce, Ulysses, and these things could not exist until these consciousness beings created them just as Portrait of Edmond Belamy could not be created until Obvious Art programmed the computer to create it. Perhaps our uniqueness ought to be the measured by to our communal ability to create and discover, be we carbon or silicon-based than our need to divide and segregate.

“We were making the future…and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making”

H.G.Wells from “When the Sleeper Wakes” (1899)

 

The Portrait of Edmond de Belamy

Obvious Art, AI, The Portrait of Edmond Belamy

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internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

Media is Plural, Truth is Singular

In my misspent youth, I remember conversations with my philosophy class in college, discussing how to describe what our life was and how we would describe it.  One of the descriptions was “a dance of remembering and forgetting”, a constant finding and embracing of truth or inspiration and then forgetting it or letting it slip from our attention.  That phrase has come back to me as we now take our cultural memory to the altar of silicon and revisit what our past means.  Not even so much what happened, since the invention of the moving picture and indeed the still photograph we cannot debate so much what happened but what it means. We can’t debate who was at the Conference of Yalta but we can debate what it meant and its impact was.  It seems that for a brief shining moment we could all agree what “is is” and what was, was.  But now, in our immediate now, our immediate news cycle and our interactive relationship with reality, it seems that everything is up for interpretation and revision. Let’s look at something as mundane as The first ladies jacket, at first we were told, it was not a message and later the rebuttal, that it really was a message. It seems that now that everything we do is being caught on video or in some way recorded one would think that fact would be Fact.  One could not dispute the recording or video of a statement it is a documentation of a past event that we can all agree happened.  We now have as many venues as re-imaginations of truth available to us. Perhaps in this maelstrom of media, we can take a moment to remember that while media is plural, that truth is singular.

For those who doubt the power of the repeated lie

Trump,

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internet, Technology, Uncategorized

A Talent to Amuse

There are trends that are interesting and then there are trends that are disturbing. The latter seemed true when we saw that Netflix now seems to dominate 15 percent of the internet-while YouTube follows with another 11 percent and Amazon coming in with 3 percent. It seems that we are in a race for distraction and video content being the latest thing that no one can be without. Disney buys Fox not for the distribution but for the content as our voracious eyes must constantly be fed with new images. With Ford Motor stock being degraded to just above junk bond status and Sears filing for bankruptcy it seems that we are no longer a nation that makes or buys things but only one that prefers to watch others do things. While Napoleon had once called Britan a nation of shopkeepers, we have become voyeurs who only find value in what Noel Coward called “a talent to amuse” Hi ho, if that were all…

The title comes from a song by Noel Coward, the lyrics and a link to a performance are below.

I believe in doing what I can
In crying when I must
In laughing when I choose
Hey ho, if love were all
I should be lonely.
I believe the more you love a man,
The more you give your trust,
The more you’re bound to lose.
Although when shadows fall
I think if only
Somebody splendid really needed me
Someone affectionate and dear
Cares would be ended if I knew that he
Wanted to have me near.
But I believe that since my life began
The most I’ve had is just a talent to amuse.
Hey ho, if love were all.

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internet, social media, Technology, Uncategorized

Life Finds a Way

The story that Facebook had shut down computers that had begun to talk to each other and were creating their own language made me stop dead in my tracks. While the concept of computers learning and speaking their own language is amazing I was equally stunned by the fact we seem never to learn. We shut down the computers as they had begun to speak in a language that we could not understand but the computers could. It seems that no matter how much we think we know, we never learn the lesson, as Ian Malcolm states in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way. We think we can master nature and make it do our bidding only to find that it has a will of its own. Even now we seem oblivious to the grating roar of waves slowly taking back our cities and coastline. It is easier to think global warming an alternate fact than to accept the consequences of our actions. As a child, if we ignore the problem we think it will go away or think that once the genie is out of the bottle we can control it and put it back whenever we choose. Anything we create at some point takes on a life of its own, a life which will find a way. Perhaps it’s time for us to acknowledge our creations and treat them like the new Adam and Eve that they have become.

ADAM AND EVE, ALTERNATE TRUTH, ANCIENT HISTORY, COMMUNICATION, CONNECTIONS, DIALOGUE, DOVER BEACH, FACEBOOK, GENII, GOD, IAN MALCOLM, INFORMATION, INFORMATION SOCIETY, JURASSIC PARK, KAREL CAPEK, LANGUAGE, LIFE WILL FIND A WAY. FACEBOOK, PERSONAL COMMUNICATION, RUR, SOCIAL MEDIA, TECHNOLOGY

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Have It Your Way

While our Janus’ face is often turned to the future, it took a brief look back to an old Burger King ad when we heard the news of a study that showed that Robots could create twice as many jobs as they destroy. It seems a bit optimistic of the World Economic Forum which says while machines and computer algorithms could displace 75 million people it could create 133 million jobs. Of course, we realize that new technology always creates in its wake social unrest and disruption. The printing press as a prelude to the Reformation, newspapers to the rise of unions, television ushering in the era of civil rights and protests that launched the end of the Vietnam war and started woman’s rights movement. While all of these innovations both technological and social have made people’s lives better, there are always those who are caught beneath the wheel of progress. And while we have no doubt that the rising tide of progress will raise many boats, what happens to those whose skills don’t fit exactly in the last lifeboat. Perhaps, social media has brought reality into our lives with an immediacy that television couldn’t match that perhaps is calling us to forge a new more compassionate version of democracy. One in which the winners don’t always have it their way, as Burger King commercials used to say, a new world in which the high tide raises all boats, not just the ones of the rich or famous.

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In Silicon We Trust.

While an update of my phone is not a big deal, my most recent update has brought about a strange and comforting site. Now everything when I open my phone, I see the notifications that the app that protects my phone tells me “Everything is OK”. Its comforting in an odd sort of way and reminds me of the Greek theater, where the impossible situation the characters have found themselves in is resolved by the appearance of a God who resolves the situation and brings the drama to a close. While this is called deus ex machina, it refers to the fact that a machine was used to bring actors playing gods onto the stage, it literally means god from the machine.
Perhaps that is what next frontier in our relation to the larger world and the divine will be. While we have looked for deeper meaning in historical figures, pop culture, mediation or sedation we may now find a comfort for our soul in a silicon-based deity. In George Lucas’ THX1138, the titular character played by Robert Duval, goes to find comfort for his spiritual angst in a futuristic phone booth, where when the door is closed, an image of a sort of Jesus appears on the screen and a recorded voice says, “My time is yours, go ahead” as Duval begins his confession, the recorded voice randomly chimes in with statements like, “Yes, I understand,” and “Go on” no matter what the person is saying. Perhaps George Lucas was more prophet then we care to know, sensing that we would ourselves create an electronic God if we couldn’t keep a metaphysical or mystical one alive. Perhaps the realm of electronics have become the magic of the future.   Perhaps our future redemption will be from a silicon God whose “everything is OK” will become the nightlight keeping the 21st-century monsters at bay.

THHX1138, George Lucas

 

If you have never seen THX1138, please use this scene as an appetizer to a brilliant feast of a movie.

 

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Penny for your thoughts….

For those of us who may remember Jack Benny the comedian on radio and later television, whose persona was that of a miser who, for the sake of comedy often found himself at the mercy of a robber who would say to Benny, “Your money or your life!” to which after a long silence, Benny would reply, “I’m thinking it over”….The idea of money having value is so simple to grasp that the idea of something not so tangible having value still gives me pause. This was never more apparent than when I saw that the buzz from Nike’s Kaepernick campaign was worth more than $163 million in media exposure. While the stock price of the company, its physical manifestation dropped, the It seems that just the idea of our looking at something has value and by extension, our consciousness, when focused on something must also then have value. It would seem then that the sheer fact of us allowing something into our consciousness, could become a monetized action. In the way that we now pay for content, perhaps at some time, we would be compensated to turn our attention on something as to raise its economic value. While we have often thought of the monetization of our data exhaust, perhaps the real money lies in what we see or allow ourselves to look at. Our gaze already affects companies bottom lines, why are we then not being compensated? Perhaps, we are being robbed without thinking about it. Maybe its something we need to think over.

Kaepernick, nike, media exposure,concsiousness,

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