Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?
Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich

Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears likely. Overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich and poor choices of technologies are major drivers; dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity.

via {I fucking love science }.

Please read.

But is a Virtual Artist Interesting?

Yesterday at Google’s Creative Sandbox, Ed Ulbrich of { Digital Domain } talked about the process of bringing Tupac Shakur back to life as a hologram { Pepper’s Ghost }.

Initially, Digital Domain (here on in, “DD”) was approached by Dr. Dre with the idea of creating a “virtual artist”. The rapper-cum-entrepreneur was inspired by some of DD’s work for film, involving 3D human mapping/simulation.

A series of serendipitous events later, Dre’s spark became Tupac and performed at April 2012’s Coachella. The response was massive — “Tupac Hologram” soared on Google’s search trends. People were absolutely dumbfounded and excited by an age-old effect. Pepper’s Ghost was magical again.

Since then, DD hasn’t given up on the idea of developing a computer generated star. Ulbrich prompted the Sandbox audience to "Imagine a virtual artist — one who can perform at any time, anywhere, and doesn’t have to go to rehab!”

But, to be honest, I think we want our artists to go to rehab

Ulbrich himself analyzed why Tupac was interesting: he appeared real. It seemed, for a moment, as though he had to have been “brought back” because the body was his, the voice was his, and yet, Tupac had never done a Coachella concert before. This wasn’t prerecorded. How could he be interacting with the audience and his friends on stage? The mystery made “him” something to talk about.

So how can one expect audiences to be just as wooed by an artificial being? Something created just for performance, without the real back story and struggles of a human artist? Knowing that any story or personality present are implanted to incite customers into buying into this spectacle? The show alone can’t be enough — we’re not truly interested in Lady Gaga or Bieber for their talent. We’re there for the idiosyncrasies: to see how and why these humans made the decisions they did in convincing everyone, themselves even, of their image, and to see how they’ll progress. We “want [them] to go to rehab” because we want to see how a human reacts to those decisions — to fame. We’re there for the vulnerability, because we can all relate to that.

There is one extremely successful performer I can think of who has no story, no struggle, and no reaction: Japan’s { Hatsune Miku }. Miku is essentially a bit of software with a huge world-wide following. She’s even had live tours. She has no biography nor personality, but that happens to work for a cute anime girl: her fans create their owns stories, spin-offs, etc. She’s an open-source collaboration for some, and a personal fantasy for others. And luckily for her creators, the customers keep buying into it.

But can Miku’s formula be effective in the West, particularly for something more “human”? As stated, no personality is fine for someone who’s already imaginary, with no pretense of trying to be like us. We’re able to go along with the fiction, knowing it’s just that. Yet if Miku was made to look realistically human, we’d probably have to be lied to to be OK with it. (And how long can you keep that up? Pepper’s Ghosts and holograms only work in certain conditions.) She would be a creepy, empty shell with a pretty face and a nice singing voice. After 5 minutes, the audience for that is much more limited. How can one relate to, and thus be interested in, some”one” created to be famous and comparatively perfect? Someone who never fails because they don’t actually produce anything, are backed from the beginning, and even when a wrong move is made by their strategists, it doesn’t matter because the virtual star can have no real reaction to a failure. 

Despite these problems and doubts — due to a fascination with sci-fi and futurism, and because I have no qualms about { artificiality } — I’m all for this and can readily imagine this type of entertainer in our future. I just wonder what the right concoction will be. Will we have to leave them in the realm of the fantastic in order to avoid the Uncanny Valley, both aesthetically and in terms of personality? Or perhaps { creative AI } will be a solution…?

[Artificial Intelligence] may well be the most vital of all commodities, surpassing water, food, heat and light. Without it, we will certainly not survive as a species.

One of our problems is data - masses of it. A few hundred years of scientific inquiry and the invention of the data-generating and sharing mechanism that is the internet has left reams of crucial information unused and unanalysed.

AI is not about sentient robots, but machines that mimic our organic intelligence by adapting to, as well as recognising, patterns in data. AI is about making machines understand.
Jamie Carter / Peter Cochrane, { South China Morning Post }
inthenoosphere
Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

Lenoardo da Vinci (via inthenoosphere)

••••••

OS:

And when Nature does lack, she simple eats the thing doing the lacking. Problem solved.

Love you Leo, but so pre-Darwin.

[In] common table salt, or NaCl[,] one of the elements is a metal, and the other is a poisonous gas.

Karl F. Kuhn, Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide

••••••

That is a simple example of why it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of chemical compositions, if not simply the scientific literacy and common sense to research them when it matters —

For example, prior to using the word “chemicals” as if they’re all equally poisonous, and not the constituents of everything in our reality,

And, prior to touting “Natural” and Organic products without understanding that a “natural” formula may be no better than an artificially-created one,

And, prior to eschewing all types of a compound (for example, sulphates in hair products) without really grasping that [sulphate] compounds are different from one-another, and that if one type is hazardous to your health, it does not mean that all types are. [I actually don’t know whether all sulphate-based additions are or not, but it’s important to research.]

wildcat2030
One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it. So much of science and technology has been about pursuing efficiency, scale and “exponential growth” at the expense of our environment and our resources. We have rewarded those who invent technologies that control our triumph over nature in some way. This is clearly not sustainable. We must understand that we live in a complex system where everything is interrelated and interdependent and that everything we design impacts a larger system. My dream is that 100 years from now, we will be learning from nature, integrating with nature and using science and technology to bring nature into our lives to make human beings and our artifacts not only zero impact but a positive impact to the natural system that we live in.

Hank Pellissier { writes }:

Metaphorically, for me, the “nakedness” of mental transparency is identical to physical nudity. The complex data of our yearning craniums won’t be shrouded any longer, won’t be buried and disguised under fabricated obstacles and artifice.

But, naked isn’t free.

Can I climb mountains, naked? Can I travel to outer space, naked? Can I “be myself”, naked? Definitely not, definitely not, and no, I don’t think so.

Whatever { appendages } we choose to attach to ourselves daily or permanently, whatever artifice we handle and live with and use and surround ourselves with… it’s our costume, our armor, our shelter, our extremities, our transformation into what we are and everything we’re capable of being, would like to be, or are becoming.

I want to be buried, { disguised }, fabricated, obfuscated, clarified, extended through artifice.

inthenoosphere
The best way to understand the manufactured world is not to see it as a work of human imagination only, but to see it as an extension of the biological world. Most of us walk around with a strict mental dichotomy between the natural world of genes and the artificial world of concrete and code. When we actually look at how evolution works, the distinction begins to break down. The defining force behind life is not energy but information. Evolution is a process of information transmission, and so is technology, which is why it too reflects a biological transcendence.
Kevin Kelly (via inthenoosphere)
wildcat2030

wildcat2030:

Ronald van Tienhoven - Techno Animism

Once upon a time animism ruled people’s beliefs: both organisms and objects were imbued with a conscience. Artist Ronald van Tienhoven states that as technology closes the gap between organisms and objects, a new form of techno-animism arises.

(by nextnature)

…we developed a Formal Theory of Fun and Creativity that formally explains science & art & music & humor, to the extent that we can begin to build artificial scientists and artists.

Jürgen Schmidhuber

{ When creative machines overtake man }
March 31, 2012

••••••

Schmidhuber’s { Formal Theory of Creativity }.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but can’t wait. It sounds like deep, murky, dangerous waters he’s treading into… full of horrifying art theories and theorists :(

And yet, { I think it’s an excellent pursuit }.

{ When creative machines overtake man }March 31, 2012 by Jürgen Schmidhuber

When I was a boy, I wanted to become a physicist like my hero Einstein until I realized as a teenager the much bigger impact of building a scientist smarter than myself (my colleagues claim that should be easy), letting him do the remaining work.
…
Let me show you this pattern of exponential acceleration of the most important events in human history, which started 40,000 years ago with the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens from Africa.
[an excellent timeline that you should click on the link to read about, but a bit long to re-post]
…
Now you say: OK, maybe computers will be faster and better pattern recognizers, but they will never be creative! But that’s too pessimistic. In my group at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA, we developed a Formal Theory of Fun and Creativity that formally explains science & art & music & humor, to the extent that we can begin to build artificial scientists and artists. …

••••••
Do read on — it’s a really good piece: interesting, funny, & vastly informative.
Also watch Jürgen Schmidhuber’s lecture about { The Algorithmic Principe Behind Curiosity and Creativity }.

{ When creative machines overtake man }
March 31, 2012 by Jürgen Schmidhuber

When I was a boy, I wanted to become a physicist like my hero Einstein until I realized as a teenager the much bigger impact of building a scientist smarter than myself (my colleagues claim that should be easy), letting him do the remaining work.

Let me show you this pattern of exponential acceleration of the most important events in human history, which started 40,000 years ago with the emergence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens from Africa.

[an excellent timeline that you should click on the link to read about, but a bit long to re-post]

Now you say: OK, maybe computers will be faster and better pattern recognizers, but they will never be creative! But that’s too pessimistic. In my group at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA, we developed a Formal Theory of Fun and Creativity that formally explains science & art & music & humor, to the extent that we can begin to build artificial scientists and artists. …

••••••

Do read on — it’s a really good piece: interesting, funny, & vastly informative.

Also watch Jürgen Schmidhuber’s lecture about { The Algorithmic Principe Behind Curiosity and Creativity }.