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23 Aug 16:45

Should we make AI more human?

by Nina Miller

Character looks at an interface of AI

We’ve been hearing more recently about how bias can pervade AI systems, filling them with preconceptions about the world they’re supposed to be learning about (or from?). But a similar phenomenon that I wonder whether we overlook is the human bias. A push to “humanize” AI.

We’ve started by giving AI human-like physical features, names, and mannerisms. This is largely toincrease human acceptance, as there have been plenty of examples when humans have been cruel to robots. People seem more willing to tolerate and use AI when it more closely resembles the human form, and so the hope has been to create personal assistants (Siri and Alexa) and social robots, like those being introduced in nursing homes, which feel human and inspire fellow-feeling in their users.

Continuing in that direction, scientists and engineers are now attempting to add more complex, human-centric ideas, like consciousness and self-awareness, into AI systems. But these next steps bring a new set of obstacles. The Netflix series Maniac — adapted from a Norwegian series of the same name, created by Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers), and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation, 2017’s It reboot) — imagines one possible scenario where we’ve tried to humanize AI with some of these more complex features. A group of scientists who work for Neberdine Pharmaceuticals are testing a new therapy to solve a person’s psychological, behavioral, and emotional problems, irrespective of cause or severity. The trial is administered largely by a supercomputer, GRTA (pronounced Ger-tee), which has been programmed with human empathy to improve treatment.

GRTA’s personality comes to life visually on a wall of light-spangled machines. This gives her (she’s specifically gendered) the opportunity for “face-to-face” conversations with the human scientists in the trial. The machine-lit wall changes its pattern of lights to suggest facial expressions, giving some initial clarity to her emotional prowess.

We don’t receive an explanation for how GRTA is imbued with her emotional ability. But it seems an arduous task to define complex, cognitive human features like consciousness in the digital domain. We understand so little about what these concepts mean and how they operate in humans. Given this uncertainty, it may be premature to “translate these vague notions into concrete algorithms and mechanisms,” in the words of robotics engineer Hod Lipson.

Even after establishing a definition, and assuming it’s correct, there may also be conceptual loss when translating this into code. For example, we can’t simply write one line of code to say “add empathy.” Instead, many lines of code together could theoretically create an algorithm to enable the learning and understanding of such an emotion based on a series of parameters that operationalize empathy. In some ways, it’s similar to how humans develop understanding of these emotions, through experience with the world around us. And since we can’t always know how this will unfold, there may be an additional layer of confusion as the AI system tries to make sense of things during thelearning process.

We see GRTA struggle with this early on in the series. She ends up forming a relationship with one of the program’s lead scientists, Dr. Robert Muramoto (Rome Kanda). We’re left to speculate about how the office romance began, but we do see its aftermath. After Muramoto’s sudden death, GRTA struggles with her emotional response, which manifests as a digital teardrop slowly moving down her light-board face.

In the process of coping with the loss of Dr. Muramoto, GRTA eventually moves to take over the clinical trial system. She creates a virtual feminine avatar and enters the therapy space, attempting to keep one of the trial participants, Annie (Emma Stone), from returning to the physical world. Annie’s sister, who has died in the real world, is simulated in this virtual one. GRTA wants to keep Annie in the virtual space so that she can be with her sister forever. GRTA offers to extend what is meant to be a moment of closure in the virtual therapy space into a more long-term existence for the pair.

This action is what we might call a true act of empathy by GRTA, based on her own experience of loss. It’s also where I believe that GRTA humanizes. Her struggle with emotional distress begins to outweigh the prime directive of running the trial smoothly. We see this struggle in humans, as we grapple with professional and personal obligations and tribulations, and how they might clash with our own values, needs, and priorities. In GRTA’s case, she fails to accommodate the larger consequences of Annie being permanently marooned in the virtual world.

Altogether, GRTA’s actions put me at an impasse. On the one hand, we shouldn’t humanize AI because we don’t know if robots will be capable of things like free will or self-awareness, and also whether these constructs would even apply. Or given the unexpected deviation we see in the series, perhaps we shouldn’t because we may not be able to predict or control the outcomes.

On the other hand, humanizing AI could help it better integrate with human culture and society. Maybe it means that a little humanizing is okay, or at least worth a try, to give bots the potential for these emotions. But it would be incumbent on creators to be more hands-on with the learning process. To actually engage with the development of higher functions to establish more context and to help with understanding. This may alleviate previous issues where learning has gone awry, leading to unforeseen and bizarre results.

I think this is where Maniac wants us to end up. We ultimately discover GRTA’s source of emotional discomfort about Dr. Muramoto when she communicates with a human psychologist, who helps make sense of these feelings and is then able to release Annie from the trial’s virtual space.

But even then, I’m left with one final irk. The bias component.

If we end up deciding that it’s okay to teach AI, but also to provide support, we need to remain aware of one final issue: AI and humans are not the same. Researchers can create the infrastructure for AI systems, but then perhaps should be less set on imposing congruence with human features like self-awareness and consciousness, and instead allow for AI to form its own social constructs. AI has a completely different embodiment than we do. Its sense of the world is likely to be alien, not an exact or even a refined copy of human selfhood and cognition.

So we’ll need to work to keep an open mind, and not force a human-centric interpretation as we begin to observe greater complexity in AI thoughts and behavior. Perhaps, then, we won’t worry as much about it developing a human core, and focus more on studying what sorts of complexities arise. And better yet, preparing for how humans and AI can learn and develop together.

The post Should we make AI more human? appeared first on Center for Science and the Imagination.

20 Aug 15:37

Structural Geology And India's Societal Needs

by (Suvrat Kher)
This is a thoughtful essay by Manish Mamtani from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, on the need for Indian structural geologists to tailor their research towards the concerns of industry.

Usually, a call for more 'applied' research comes from the Industry side, and so it is refreshing to see an academic ask for a reevaluation of research priorities.

The application of structural geology for society are varied, ranging from better understanding the origin of economic deposits, to assessing geological structures of mountain slopes and their associated landslide risk, to evaluating rock properties for foundations of dams and bridges.

The author worries that recommendations for forging links between academic research and industry  in this subject may remain buried in seminar abstracts and reports unless there is a change in the way research is funded and career advancement evaluated.

"I am sure many of the above aspects that outline the importance of Structural Geology studies to industry/societal issues have already been listed several times in reports of seminars held in the past. Unfortunately, we do not see much progress on the implementation side. One of the ways forward could be setting up of a special program by a funding agency that specifically targets “Applied Aspects of Structural Geology”. This can attract Structural Geology projects, the outcome of which would be useful to society/industry. Indian funding agencies could also consider a special program where two way funding is provided to academicians – partly by industry and partly by the agency itself. For e.g., MoES/DST could act as the nodal agency to bring academicians and personnel from industries like ONGC or Hutti Gold Mines Ltd (HGML) on the same table and they jointly fund Structural Geology research directly related to respective industries. 

In such a collaborative environment, there will be a natural drive in the involved academic to provide solutions to the industry. In the long term, such modus operandi can have a domino effect on the way Structural Geology courses are set, designed and taught in Indian Universities/Institutes. This can also lead to producing students who are better prepared to serve industry and society once they obtain a Master’s degree in Geosciences. But, one has to bear in mind that in doing industry-oriented project work, the “poor” geoscientist will have to sacrifice (to some extent) addition of publications to the “CV”. This would imply delay in career progression, a risk many academicians would not consider worth taking. The onus thus lies on, not only the funding agencies, but also on persons who evaluate career progression of (geo)scientists. Due credit must be given to a geoscientist whose research provides solutions to industry/society even if the “CV” is short on number of publications".

Open Access.
22 Jul 22:03

Climate Change Is Very Real. But So Much of It Is Uncertain

by Matt Simon
Researchers bring new clarity to a key measure of climate change, which could help the fight to save our planet.
22 Jul 22:03

A New Stranger Things 3 Tease Points to a Surprise Return in Season Four

by Kate Gardner

the kids of stranger things s3

**Spoilers for Stranger Things 3 to follow**

At the end of season three, Stranger Things appeared to kill off fan favorite Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour) as Joyce Byers closed the portal to the Upside Down that was being opened by Russian operatives. However, we saw no body or remains, which is TV code for “he’s not really dead.”

Harbour himself teased season four on his Instagram after that devastating finale. He posted a series of numbers as his profile photo: 618-625-8313. Dial that into your phone and you’ll get a voicemail from the character Murray Bauman.

The voicemail says “Hi, you have reached the residence of Murray Bauman. Mom, if this is you, please hang up and call me between the hours of 5 and 6 pm as previously discussed, ok? If this is Joyce, Joyce, thank you for calling, I have been trying to reach you. I have an update. It’s about … well, it’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad, but it’s something.”

He then launches into a tirade that is decidedly not relevant, but the Joyce bit is the most important. There’s only one thing that Murray could be talking about: Hopper’s fate and if he survived or not.

Some have theorized that the American prisoner being held in the mid-credits scene in episode eight is Hopper, though others have theorized it’s Doctor Brenner (Matthew Modine) from season one. My personal theory is that Hopper is not the American prisoner (though I might be wrong), but that Hopper is somehow trapped in the Upside Down.

We know Hopper visited the Upside Down in season two, and he got sprayed in the face with some goo by some weird Upside Down plant thing. Could he be able to survive the Upside Down because he’s been exposed to biological material from the weird parallel world?

The update being neither good nor bad somewhat lends credence to this theory. If Murray discovered Hopper was being held prisoner by Russians, that trends more towards being a bad thing, since the Russian operatives are feeding prisoners to a Demogorgon. Hopper giving signs of life from the Upside Down is more of a “something.”

While I don’t necessarily want Hopper to return (sometimes killing off characters is better), having him not be the obvious prisoner and being a surprise trapped in the Upside Down would be the best way to bring him back. After all, he wants Eleven to leave her door open three inches. That could be a great way to tie his return to that emotional letter Eleven found in his pocket.

Hopper’s return is almost guaranteed at this point. The big mystery surrounds how he will return. I would almost prefer it if Netflix and the Duffer brothers confirmed that he was returning before the season even airs so that, much like how Patty Jenkins revealed Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor would return for a Wonder Woman sequel, the discussion is less about the obvious fact that he’ll return and more about how he gets back.

How do you want Hopper to return, or do you want him to return at all? Do you think he’s trapped in Russia or is he stuck in the Upside Down? What mysteries do you want to see solved in Stranger Things 4, if it is ever confirmed?

(image: Netflix)

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22 Jul 18:40

#Erica2020: Stranger Things’ Erica Sinclair Has Earned My Vote for President

by Stefania Sarrubba

Erica in Netflix's Stranger Things 3 says, "You can't spell America without Erica."

**Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Stranger Things season 3 ahead.**

Stranger Things has blessed us all with more Erica Sinclair this season.

Lucas’s little sister has stolen the show on more than one occasion during this third installment of the ’80s-inspired sci-fi Netflix drama. Portrayed by young actress Priah Ferguson, Erica has quickly become a fan-favorite ever since she was introduced in season two.

Delivering one-liners and witty comebacks, she has more of an active role this time around, and we’re here for it. Also, we found out more about her personality.

As much as she wouldn’t like to admit it, Erica might be just as nerdy as her older brother and his friends are. And for being ten, she’s surprisingly politically savvy—so savvy, in fact, that she would make a great political leader 35 years into the future.

If Hawkins were an actual town in real-life Indiana, Erica Sinclair would be 45 in 2020, which would make her a great fit for the next presidential run.

#Erica2020 has such a nice ring to it, eh? And she herself provided us with the catchiest, most patriotic slogan a future POTUS could only dream of: “You can’t spell America without Erica.”

In the new episodes, Erica joins the Scoops Troop, made up of ice cream parlor employees Steve (Joe Keery), newcomer Robin, (Maya Hawke) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). The gang needs someone small enough to pass through the air duct system and infiltrate a Russian science facility. Feisty Erica seems to be just the right girl for the job. After being promised free ice cream for life, she helps the group in their breaking and entering.

This proves she’s able to successfully negotiate a deal as only a seasoned politician would.

Of course, she may need to make an effort in order to be a little less selfish, but she ultimately understands when it’s worth putting the greater good before her own interest. And she has years ahead to acquire even more experience. Moreover, her fine analysis of the international political scenario is remarkable.

The ’80s were a delicate decade due to the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, and Erica is well aware of how things can escalate quickly. Despite the difficulties, she is confident, optimistic, and constantly one step ahead of both her allies and opponents. A fierce, ambitious woman of color who is knowledgeable about international affairs? That sounds like golden presidential candidate material, along with a quality rare to find in any politician: Erica knows when to step aside and let others jump in to do what’s best for the community.

Upon realizing it might not be safe to go back to the warehouse, she doesn’t turn her back to the group, but stays to guide Hopper and Joyce through the duct system over walkie-talkies.

Some might argue that, as president, she would have to deal with worse matters than mint chocolate chips cones and tight air vents, but the rise of far-right movements sounds just as scary as the horrible, vile creatures hailing from the Upside Down. Oh, if only we could close that gate, too.

(image: Netflix)

Stefania Sarrubba is an Arts and Culture journalist based in London. When she is not adding movies she will probably never see to her infinite watchlist, she likes spotting urban foxes, making plans and engaging in passionate conversations about women’s rights. Read her annoying tweets on @freckledvixen.

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19 Jul 19:55

Trevor Noah Hits the Nail on the Head on Scarlett Johansson’s Bad Diversity Comments

by Rachel Leishman

Scarlett Johansson, garbage, casting, trans, transgender, responses, memes

Scarlett Johansson made some upsetting comments about diverse casting in an interview that she has since fought back against, saying that the way they sounded wasn’t her intent and that her comments were taken out of context. Even when Johansson explained herself, it still wasn’t great, because it showed that she’s either deliberately ignoring a huge part of the conversation on diversity, or she just doesn’t care to see why it’s important that we have these conversations at all.

Stating that she shouldn’t be held back by “PC” culture in art (essentially) shows that she doesn’t understand what it feels like to not be represented onscreen. While many have commented on that, it was Trevor Noah, the host of The Daily Show, who pinpointed the problem with how Johansson was addressing the discussion at all. Noah pretty much hit the nail on the head while explaining what Johansson was misunderstanding about diversity on his show, stating,

I understand why you might want to get defensive as a person. I can even understand why some white people might feel like they’re under attack in and around these conversations. But I think what’s often lost is when Scarlett goes, “I should be allowed to play an animal or a tree or anything,” and it’s like, yes, but that’s exactly what people are saying: For so long, Hollywood and the people who define storytelling in America have defined it as stories to be told for and by white people. And so the roles that have generally been reserved for black people have been the stereotype of criminal, maid, slave. That’s pretty much it.

Later, he pointed out that that we are looking at representation in a strange light, taking for granted what it can mean for other human beings because we, as white performers and audience members, have never had the time to not see ourselves onscreen.

“We take for granted how much representation means to human beings, I think in two ways. One: in an inspirational front, and two: just how it shapes society.”

What I love about this is that Trevor Noah isn’t slamming ScarJo for her comments; he’s pointing out what she’s misunderstanding about the conversation. It’s something that needed to be said, and in a way that wasn’t just putting someone down.

You can watch Noah’s entire commentary here:

I’m someone who thinks we can all learn from our mistakes, grow as people, and realize why people are upset with something we’ve done. Hopefully, Johansson sees this video and can understand the harm that her statement could have done and how she needs to change as a performer and vehicle for change in Hollywood.

(via IndieWire, image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

19 Jul 19:53

Why Amazon cares about open source

by Arun Gupta

Arun Gupta discusses the reasons why AWS is committed to open projects and communities.

Continue reading Why Amazon cares about open source.

11 Jul 18:00

AAPG Explorer: Making the Case for Exploration

11 Jul 17:59

The Oldest Book Printed with Movable Type is Not The Gutenberg Bible: Jikji, a Collection of Korean Buddhist Teachings, Predated It By 78 Years and It’s Now Digitized Online

by Josh Jones

The history of the printed word is full of bibliographic twists and turns, major historical moments, and the significant printing of books now so obscure no one has read them since their publication. Most of us have only the sketchiest notion of how mass-produced printed books came into being—a few scattered dates and names. But every schoolchild can tell you the first book ever printed, and everyone knows the first words of that book: “In the beginning….”

The first Gutenberg Bible, printed in 1454 by Johannes Gutenberg, introduced the world to movable type, history tells us. It is “universally acknowledged as the most important of all printed books,” writes Margaret Leslie Davis, author of the recently published The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book’s Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey. In 1900, Mark Twain expressed the sentiment in a letter “commenting on the opening of the Gutenberg Museum,” writes M. Sophia Newman at Lithub. “What the world is to-day,” he declared, “good and bad, it owes to Gutenberg. Everything can be traced to this source.”

There is kind of an oversimplified truth in the statement. The printed word (and the printed Bible, at that) did, in large part, determine the course of European history, which, through empire, determined the course of global events after the “Gutenberg revolution.” But there is another story of print entirely independent of book history in Europe, one that also determined world history with the preservation of Buddhist, Chinese dynastic, and Islamic texts. And one that begins “before Johannes Gutenberg was even born,” Newman points out.

The oldest extant text ever printed with movable type predates Gutenberg himself (born in 1400) by 23 years, and predates the printing of his Bible by 78 years. It is the Jikji, printed in Korea, a collection of Buddhist teachings by Seon master Baegun and printed in movable type by his students Seok-chan and Daijam in 1377. (Seon is a Korean form of Chan or Zen Buddhism.) Only the second volume of the printing has survived, and you can see several images from it here.

Impressive as this may be, the Jikji does not have the honor of being the first book printed with movable type, only the oldest surviving example. The technology could go back two centuries earlier. Margaret Davis nods to this history, Newman concedes, writing that “movable type was an 11th century Chinese invention, refined in Korea in 1230, before meeting conditions in Europe that would allow it to flourish.” This is more than most popular accounts of the printed word say on the matter, but it's still an inaccurate and highly cursory summary of the evidence.

Newman herself says quite a lot more. In essays at Lithub and Tricycle, she describes how printing techniques developed in Asia and were taken up in Korea in the 1200s by the Goryeo dynasty, who commissioned a printer named Choe Yun-ui to reconstruct a woodblock print of the massive collection of ancient Buddhists texts called the Tipitaka after the Mongols burned the only Korean copy. By casting “individual characters in metal” and arranging them in a frame—the same process Gutenberg used—he was able to complete the project by 1250, 200 years before Gutenberg’s press.

This text, however, did not survive, nor did the countless number of others printed when the technology spread across the Mongol empire on the Silk Road and took root with the Muslim Uyghurs. It is possible, though “no clear historical evidence” yet supports the contention, that movable type spread to Europe from Asia along trade routes. “If there was any connection,” wrote Joseph Needham in Science and Civilization in China, “in the spread of printing between Asia and the West, the Uyghurs, who used both block printing and movable type, had good opportunities to play an important role in this introduction.”

Without surviving documentation, this early history of printing in Asia relies on secondary sources. But “the entire history of the printing press" in Europe" is likewise "riddled with gaps,” Newman writes. What we do know is that Jikji, a collection of Korean Zen Buddhist teachings, is the world’s oldest extant book printed with movable type. The myth of Johannes Gutenberg as “a lone genius who transformed human culture,” as Davis writes, “endures because the sweep of what followed is so vast that it feels almost mythic and needs an origin story to match." But this is one inventive individual in the history of printing, not the original, godlike source of movable type.

Gutenberg makes sense as a convenient starting point for the growth and worldwide spread of capitalism and European Christianity. His innovation worked much faster than earlier systems, and others that developed around the same time, in which frames were pressed by hand against the paper. Flows of new capital enabled the rapid spread of his machine across Europe. The achievement of the Gutenberg Bible is not diminished by a fuller history. But "what gets left out” of the usual story, as Newman tells us in great detail, “is startlingly rich.”

“Only very recently, mostly in the last decade” has the long history of printing in Asia been “acknowledged at all” in popular culture, though scholars in both the East and West have long known it. Korea has regarded Jikji "and other ancient volumes as national points of pride that rank among the most important of books.” Yet UNESCO only certified Jikji as the “oldest movable metal type printing evidence” in 2001. The recognition may be late in coming, but it matters a great deal, nonetheless. Learn much more about the history, content, and provenance of Jikji at this site created by “cyber diplomats” in Korea after UNESCO bestowed World Heritage status on the book. And see a fully digitized copy of the book here.

via Lithub

Related Content:

The World’s Oldest Multicolor Book, a 1633 Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Manual, Now Digitized and Put Online

1,000+ Historic Japanese Illustrated Books Digitized & Put Online by the Smithsonian: From the Edo & Meji Eras (1600-1912)

See How The Gutenberg Press Worked: Demonstration Shows the Oldest Functioning Gutenberg Press in Action

Oxford University Presents the 550-Year-Old Gutenberg Bible in Spectacular, High-Res Detail

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Oldest Book Printed with Movable Type is Not The Gutenberg Bible: Jikji, a Collection of Korean Buddhist Teachings, Predated It By 78 Years and It’s Now Digitized Online is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

11 Jul 17:45

Seismic Soundoff Episode 58: Understanding signals & The Beatles' connection to Fourier Analysis

06 Jun 18:24

Why It Pays to Play Around - Issue 73: Play

by Andreas Wagner

The 19th-century physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared his progress in solving a problem to that of a mountain climber “compelled to retrace his steps because his progress stopped.” A mountain climber, von Helmholtz said, “hits upon traces of a fresh path, which again leads him a little further.” The physicist’s introspection provokes the question: How do creative minds overcome valleys to get to the next higher peak?

Because thinking minds are different from evolving organisms and self-assembling molecules, we cannot expect them to use the same means—mechanisms like genetic drift and thermal vibrations—to overcome deep valleys in the landscapes they explore. But they must have some way to achieve the same purpose. As it turns out, they have more than just one—many more. But one of the most important is play.

I don’t mean the rule-based play of a board game or the competitive play of a soccer match, but rather the kind of freewheeling, unstructured play that children perform with a pile of LEGO blocks or with toy shovels and buckets in a sandbox. I mean playful behavior without immediate goals and benefits, without even the possibility of failure.

AN EASY GAME TO PLAY: Paul McCartney has said he dreamed…
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06 Jun 18:23

Learning Chess at 40 - Issue 73: Play

by Tom Vanderbilt

My 4-year-old daughter and I were deep into a game of checkers one day about three years ago when her eye drifted to a nearby table. There, a black and white board bristled with far more interesting figures, like horses and castles. “What’s that?” she asked. “Chess,” I replied. “Can we play?” I nodded absently.

There was just one problem: I didn’t know how. I dimly remembered having learned the basic moves in elementary school, but it never stuck. This fact vaguely haunted me through my life; idle chessboards in hotel lobbies or puzzles in weekend newspaper supplements teased me like reproachful riddles.

And so I decided I would learn, if only so I could teach my daughter. The basic moves were easy enough to pick up—a few hours hunched over my smartphone at kids’ birthday parties or waiting in line at the grocery store. It soon became apparent, however, that I had no concept of the larger strategy. The chess literature was dauntingly huge, and achingly specific, with several-hundred-page tomes devoted to unpacking single openings. The endgame literature alone could drown a person.

unfair advantage?: My daughter en route to another victory.Francesco Izzo

So, time-starved and not wanting to…
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05 Jun 18:33

A Lack of Accountability at Artforum’s Panel on “Art, Activism and Accountability”

by O.K. Fox

"The contradictions are becoming clear: an art institution famously bad at accountability decides to host a panel on the topic."

How Soon Is Now: Art, Activism and Accountability with panelists Claire Bishop, Tania Bruguera, Nan Goldin, Tobi Haslett, and Anne Pasternak, and moderated by David Velasco (photo by the author)

“When is art a space for improving the world, and when is it a cover for nefarious activities?” asked the press release for Artforum’s event How Soon Is Now: Art, Activism and Accountability, held at the New School last Thursday. Considering Artforum’s involvement in an on-going defamation lawsuit filed by former employee Amanda Schmitt against Knight Landesman, I find this question to be bonkers. Schmitt’s case, now being appealed, details the sexual harassment she experienced from her former boss, a partial owner of the magazine. The press release is almost too knowing; perhaps editor-in-chief David Velasco is making a nod to the criticisms of any transformations at Artforum being merely surface level.

I worked for Artforum International Magazine for four years in their circulation department, and held the same position as Amanda Schmitt. While I was not at Artforum while Schmitt was there, I was loudly opposed to their mishandling of Schmitt’s sexual harassment-related case, and was eventually encouraged by my supervisors to quit. Knight Landesman’s resignation as publisher did not change the fundamental problems at the publication; management continued to foster an unsafe work environment.

In fact, in the panel’s introduction, Velasco did reference his magazine’s issues with accountability, but decided to shelf it in the context of bygone problem addressed over a year ago: “Someone official asked me as we prepared this panel: ‘How can you point fingers?’,” he told the audience. “My answer is simple: I can’t. And right now that might be the best thing I have to offer.” With “accountability” firmly off the table, and the news cycle currently focused on the museums, it seems the audience is in for that typical, tired discussion contrasting “art” and “activism.”

Luckily, panelists Nan Goldin and Claire Bishop brought the fire. Goldin’s group PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) has gotten several institutions to refuse all future Sackler funding, and is planning to work with Vocal New York, a grassroots organization that helps build power with people affected by the war on drugs, to hopefully make a difference in harm reduction as well: “We shamed some people, and we got museums to stop taking money. But, ultimately, PAIN is not just about shaming filthy rich bastards — it’s also about trying to address the crisis in a real way.”

During the panel, one of the panelists and director of the Brooklyn Museum, Anne Pasternak, was forced to reconcile with Elizabeth A. Sackler, founder of the Center for Feminist Art at her museum. Pasternak contended that there is such thing as a “good” Sackler, but Goldin says she believes they are all complicit. As a trans person in the audience, I was going mad, but my immediate thought was addressed when Goldin suggested Elizabeth A. could change her last name if she was really serious about severing ties with her family.

When Warren Kanders, the Whitney Museum of American Art board member and tear gas baron, was invoked by Goldin, Velasco asks the director, “Why do people join boards?” Pasternak admitted there is money and influence in the position, she also believed “they care about the mission of the museum” — as though those two reasons aren’t diametrically opposed. She declared the crisis at The Whitney “complicated” and refused to make a direct comment on the situation.

Claire Bishop, a British art historian, tagged in with a question about the protests led by the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network aimed at Pasternak’s museum for hosting 2015 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit — but if you are still trying to find accountability at the “accountability” panel, keep looking. Pasternak’s response reads like a parody of liberal platitudes: “We have to look at the larger issues of how our institutions have supported or played a role in systemic injustices and that our institutions lean into this present moment and do better. We must do better, and that’s the conversation I’m most interested in.” For many, “doing better” would include an actual apology for hosting an expensive brunch for the real estate speculators responsible for the displacement of vulnerable populations the Brooklyn Museum is supposed to serve, but go off queen!

Excuse me for being rude, but I feel like we are stuck in a time loop. Is that what a complete lack of progress feels like? Again, from the panel’s press release: “How can artists and the systems that support them rise to the occasion? Are museums places of enlightenment, and if so, should they be held to higher standards than other organizations?” These are such basic questions that they are actually regressive compared to the institutional critique recorded at the first Open Hearing by the Art Workers Coalition in 1969. This is a losing framework that throws away the groundwork already laid out by historical leftist organizing.

What if art wasn’t a glorified tax write off for the wealthy and instead was treated as the public necessity we all know it to be? The contradictions are becoming clear: an art institution famously bad at accountability decides to host a panel on the topic. The people in positions of power at these institutions live extremely privileged lives. They are constantly rubbing elbows with the highest echelon power: your politicians, oil execs, Saudi royalty, all of the cartoon villain versions of rich people that are real and supporting the arts. Perhaps this is why the middle managers of the art world refuse to position themselves as part of the problem. We need them to understand their placement if they are serious about accountability. The globalized neoliberal hell market has fully realized the flexibility of art, but we can use that flexibility as well. We cannot hold those in power to account without a redistribution of that power. It will take risk and effort, but we can build institutions that are glorious examples of what an accountable workplace can look like.

Furthermore, redistribution from a third party bureaucracy is not sufficient; a certification or legal process are not sustainable forms of accountability. I am skeptical of Nan Goldin’s announcement of a board guidelines project with Hito Steyerl (Steyerl’s recent show, Power Plants at London’s Serpentine Sackler gallery, addressed PAIN’s demands by removing the Sackler name in its augmented reality feature). This idea is similar, as an audience member pointed out, to W.A.G.E.’s aestheticized testimonial process. Guidelines on a pretty website do nothing to address systemic power imbalances, especially without the people power to uphold them. These ideas are far too ethereal and individualistic to make a tangible impact.

Left out of the panel entirely were the major wins and expansion to art and cultural workers’ rights made by unions, and worker cooperatives (MEANS TV, The Glory Society). Workers need to take control, power must be evenly distributed, and there must be an outside movement to demand the same of all institutions. There is hope in new art workers unions being formed all the time, as well as in the important museum worker salary share document that has been circulating since Friday.

These are among the points I tried to synthesize in my comment to the panel, which I ended by saying; “To an editor-in-chief or museum director, $500 is a new shirt to you, but to your lowest-rung workers, it’s life or death.” That disparity allows exploitation to thrive, and it is incumbent on us to demand nothing less than a redistributed society.

Most importantly, I would like to thank writer Valerie Werder, one of the women named in the lawsuit against Landesman, for doing the extremely brave task an entire auditorium at The New School were too afraid to do, and directly call out Artforum’s complete failure to take responsibility for their role in harboring and covering up abuse of power.

“As you know, rather than taking accountability for harboring a known sexual harasser, Artforum moved to dismiss Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit against the magazine,” Werder said. “She recently filed an appeal to the court’s decision to dismiss the case, and Artforum‘s response is due in two weeks. Does Artforum plan on finally taking accountability for Landesman’s sexual harassment of hundreds of people over many decades, or will the magazine move to dismiss Schmitt’s appeal again?”

These are the moments where change can actually happen, and was such a relief after such a sad display of liberal fecklessness. Artforum leadership owes Valerie Werder, all of the people abused by Landesman, as well as their former and current staff a proper response.

The post A Lack of Accountability at <i>Artforum</i>’s Panel on “Art, Activism and Accountability” appeared first on Hyperallergic.

04 Jun 23:17

Neil Gaiman Shut Down a Troll Who Whined About Good Omens’ “Forced Diversity”

by Kaila Hale-Stern

Good Omens and its diversity twitter trolls

Author Neil Gaiman (and attendant fans) had the perfect response to a Twitter user who complained about the diversity shown in the first few minutes of Good Omens’ TV adaptation.

Welcome to the Internet in 2019, where anything that’s not about you or your image of a thing is construed by a certain league of trolls as a direct attack by, I imagine, a dastardly multicultural queer lizard-person cabal bent on bettering representation in media.  This sounds like a rather exhausting way to go about one’s day-to-day existence. We multicultural queer lizard people are everywhere, and it’s useless to resist our agenda.

But it’s your loss if you turn off Good Omens because—in a program about an angel and a demon who are best friends in love, Sir Derek Jacobi as an absent God’s mouthpiece, stuck-up hosts of Heaven, and a cuddly hellhound—it’s just a little too much to imagine a diverse deviation from Westernized Biblical imagery.

The bit of early Good Omens that some people on Twitter took umbrage with is likely two-fold: first, Frances McDormand, a known woman, a confirmed female, begins the narration as the voice of God. Then there’s the Genesis sequence we see kick off the story. Adam and Eve are played by black actors, and these amassed affronts were a step too far by the fell reptilian forces of social justice.

That there would be people upset about a black couple playing the first man and woman on Earth—which is about as scientifically accurate as an interpretation of the Bible is likely to be—is sad and infuriating. If they’re angry about Frances McDormand as God, I have bad news for them regarding Alanis Morisette.

Imagine turning off the joyful experience that is Good Omens within minutes because the sight and sounds of casting diversity send you into a fit. The world must be difficult indeed for this sort of person to navigate. I can’t imagine it, but then again, I am but a humble lizard borrowing the shape of a person.

Good Omens co-author and adapter Neil Gaiman is closely engaged with his fanbase on social media, and the run-up to Good Omens has been no exception. So it’s not surprising that he saw this remark and was unwilling to let sleeping hellhounds lie:

It turns out that Gaiman has expanded on this theme in the past. In response to a question from /Film, he said:

Do you expect the black Adam and Eve to ruffle some feathers, since some devout people still assume they were white?

You’re talking here about a drama predicated on the idea that the antichrist might actually be a nice kid in which a demon and an angel are working against the orders of Heaven and incidentally Hell in order to stop the apocalypse from happening and save the world. On this basis, I think a black Adam and Eve is a nice way of letting anybody who would be significantly offended by any of those concepts know that they can stop watching this now. It is safe to turn off.

Then Good Omens fans arrived on the Twitter thread with snarky flaming swords in hand to do battle.

Really everyone else could now go home, since the fatal wound was delivered; but we have more delights in store.

Truly the whole thread in response to the troll tweet is a thing of glory, and I encourage you to peruse it. We end on perhaps the very best use of a fantastic reaction image in its long and illustrious history:

(via Neil Gaiman on Twitter, image: BBC/Amazon Prime Video)

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04 Jun 23:14

Why is there so much antitrust energy for Big Tech but not for Big Telco?

by Cory Doctorow

I'm 100% down for the trend toward trustbusting, and I'm very glad to see it applied to Big Tech, because, like Tom Eastman, I'm old enough to remember when the Internet wasn't a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four. I'd like to have that Internet again.

What's more, I think many of the Big Tech trustbusters are there because they understand the companies, the economic context, the promise and the peril of industrial concentration: people like Tim Wu, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

I think that the right wing case for busting up Big Tech is much less principled and much more parochial, driven by a desire to force the platforms to let their Nazis stay, and give far-right harassers extra leeway, while pwning the libs.

But that all said, Karl Bode raises an excellent point when he asks why there isn't the same kind of energy to break up the telcos, whose routinely deplorable behavior make them the most loathed industry in America, and whose monopolism has cost America its competitiveness.

Bode points out that Big Telco is the enemy of Big Tech, and has -- since the days of the Bell System -- sought to monopolize 100% of the profits from the use of its wires (the latest version of this being the Net Neutrality fight).

Bode sees Big Cable's hands working behind the scenes to manipulate and mainstream the debate over monopoly and Big Tech, using conservatives' distress at seeing the "free market" turn into a monopolized communications world that is increasingly hostile to them to get them to overcome their 40-year commitment to permitting monopolies (which are a godsend to the investor class, which is also the political donor class).

There may be some truth to that. Certainly, Big Telco is the consummate lobbying machine, second only to Big Military Industrial Complex, and they're very, very good at leading the political classes around by the nose. That said, I don't think Tim Wu or Liz Warren or AOC or Casey Newton or the Open Markets Institute arrived at their trustbusting ideas because they were duped by cable lobbyist. For one thing, they all want to break up Big Telco, too.

And that's the thing: even if Bode is right and there's a bunch of hidden Big Cable money pushing for the Big Tech trustbusting movement, they're playing a very dangerous game. Once the precedent is set that America is the kind of company that breaks up monopolies, they're not going to stop with Big Tech. Once the Overton Window is resized to allow trustbusting through, it's going to be very hard to slam it shut again.

Yet again, notice how telecom gets a free pass by the Trump administration? Notice how Silicon Valley is demonized, but telecom's surveillance and anti-competitive gambits see zero backlash? I don't think it's happenstance that this new Trump "big tech" antitrust push comes as big telecom has asked for just such a push to aid its own competitive agenda. A lot of folks on both sides of the political aisle who'd like to see more done to rein in "big tech" seem a touch oblivious to the possibility that this new antitrust push may not be entirely in good faith.

There's a good chance these antitrust inquiries into Google, Facebook, and Apple are little more than partisan fever dreams co-driven by telecom lobbyists, yet a lot of outlets and experts are acting as if market health and consumer welfare are genuine motivators. It's entirely unclear what the Trump administration did to suddenly earn this blanket trust, but as the net neutrality fracas made pretty clear, it sure as hell isn't its several year track record on coherent tech policy.

If 'Big Tech' Is a Huge Antitrust Problem, Why Are We Ignoring Telecom? [Karl Bode/Techdirt]

04 Jun 23:13

I assembled a Clockwork GameShell. It's very cool

by Mark Frauenfelder

Rob recently wrote about the Clockwork GameShell (an open source, Arduino-friendly, Linux-based handheld game console that runs all sorts of new and old video games). I got one this weekend and put it together. It took about an hour to assemble. Everything was modular and snap-together. No screws. It's very well designed. As I was putting it together I gained a lot of respect for the designer . The only tools I needcd were some flush cut clippers (to remove the plastic parts from the sprues) and some nitrile gloves (to prevent smearing the display and the clear plastic parts).

Here's the box:

And the contents:

Controller buttons and tightening pins on sprues:

Flush cutters came in handy for neatly removing plastic parts from the sprues:

Here are the sub-components inside their clear modular cases:

Fully assembled:

And a quick tour of the menu:

I'll write more about it after I use it for a while.

03 Jun 18:35

My Journey to Self-Love, Sponsored By the J.M. Smucker Company and Its Major Subsidiaries

by Grace Perry

Two years ago, I was at an all-time low.

Sure, I had everything on paper: the dream job, a loving partner, a gorgeous little apartment just a half-block from a bodega stocked with over seven flavors of Smucker’s jams, jellies, and ice cream toppings. But even with all those luxuries, I wasn’t happy. I was never satisfied, never present; I was so busy building the perfect life that I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to actually live it. I didn’t realize something that, now, is so obvious: self-love and real, lasting happiness go together like JIF creamy peanut butter and Smucker’s Squeeze grape jelly.

I vividly remember the moment I decided to change my life for the better. I was sitting on a bench in Union Square, having lunch with my lifelong friend, the Uncrustables mascot, a six-foot-tall, sealed, crustless PB+J pocket with crimped edges, eyes, and blue limbs. I offered Uncrustable a bite of my lunch, like I always do: “Want a dip from my JIF-To-Go creamy peanut butter cup? They’re ideal to share with friends and family.” Uncrustable does not speak, but gave me a look that communicated something I’ll never forget: “You’re always thinking of others,” said my dear friend’s wordless glance. “For once, why don’t you share the JIF-To-Go creamy peanut butter cup… with yourself?

Those words from Uncrustable the Uncrustables mascot lit a fire within me. I realized I’d spent so much energy shirking self-love that I’d barricaded myself from joy. I’d covered my true self in a Smucker’s Magic Shell topping that had created a candy-coated shell over my emotions, just like it does on ice cream: in under five seconds. I realized there was only one spoon strong enough to crack me open. And that spoon? Was me.

Change didn’t come overnight. As they say, life isn’t a Folger’s French Vanilla Instant Cappuccino Packet. Change comes in small increments, one ground of Folgers Classic Roast coffee at a time. But I cultivated small changes in my life, and stuck with them. Soon enough, I had a 38.4oz canister of self-love stored up, and ready to brew in an instant.

I began by practicing mindfulness on a daily basis. I slowed down, got out of my head and took in the sights and sounds of the wild, weird, wonderful city around me. I’d been so consumed about my career and the future that I never really smelled the magnolia outside my apartment, or really listened to the church bells down the block, or stopped to talk to my bodega guy, Ronnie, who told me of a three-for-one promotion on Meow Mix Paté Toppers with real whitefish topped with flakes of tuna now through June 30.

One of the hardest things I did on my journey was write a list of 10 things I loved about myself. My ex with whom I’m still close, Snaucrates the Snausages dog, is a bit of a self-love philosopher himself, and insisted I try it out. Now, I could write a million things I love about my friends, especially about Snaucrates. But, lovable things about me? I thought those were like pineapple-flavored Snausages: non-existent.

But I tried it out. I picked up what I thought was a pen but was actually a Snaw Somes! beef and cheese stick (I do not own a dog). Then I picked up a real pen and started writing: I like my hair. I like my sense of humor. I like the way my hands feel after I bathe them in Crisco for 24 hours straight. Soon, I discovered a whole laundry list of things I loved about myself! There are almost as many great things about me as there are recognizable brands that fork over a portion of their annual profits to their impressive and lucrative owners, the J.M. Smucker Company.

I even created a mantra. Every morning, I look in the bathroom mirror and say, “I am a jar of Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Red Tart Cherry Preserves. I am a premium line of all-natural snacks perfect for everything from brunch with the gals to Thanksgiving dinner. And I deserve to be treated as such.” After 15 times or so, my partner inevitably knocks on the door and asks me if I’m doing “that thing” again, and you know what? I am. No shame.

Now, I thank myself every day. For the big things, like working hard enough to get that promotion; and the little things, like brewing my Dunkin’ At Home coffee in the comfort of my own kitchen, instead of going through the hassle of buying it at a Dunkin’ location. I root for myself. I give myself the space I need to really feel my emotions. I even spoil myself from time to time. (Trust me, your morning vitamin tastes so much better inside a Pup-Peroni Pill Pocket!)

I know I’m not perfect at practicing self-love. Far from it! I still have days where I get down on myself, where loving me for me seems less possible than zucchini bread sticking to a loaf pan that was thoroughly coated in Crisco before usage. But all I can do is try my best. That’s life. Or, as they’d say on the Smucker’s Canada website… c’est la vie.

22 May 20:15

Tim Cook Says His Era Has Failed by Over-Debating Climate Change

by msmash
Tim Cook told graduates at Tulane University that his "generation has failed" them by fighting more than making change on issues including immigration, criminal justice and, pointedly, climate change. From a report: "We've been too focused on the fight and not enough on the progress," the Apple chief executive said Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. "You don't need to look far to find an example of that failure." He was referring to the Superdome, which sheltered thousands from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He then criticized, without naming, politicians who raise doubts about climate change or its cause, a group that includes President Donald Trump. "I don't think we can talk about who we are as a people and what we owe to one another without talking about climate change," he said. Cook, 58, said the solution to climate change won't be found based on whose side wins or loses an election. "It's about who has won life's lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue and who stands to lose everything," he said. "I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared," Cook said. "When you do that, the political noise dies down."

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22 May 20:12

How Realistic Are the Global Climate Change Targets? New Research Weighs In

by Thomas Hornigold

In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius pointed out that “the development of human industry” could introduce carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, trapping infrared radiation and warming the climate.

It took until 2015, when CO2 concentration had increased from 295ppm to 400ppm since Arrhenius’ time, for the Paris Agreement to set a target for the upper limit of warming that would be allowed: two degrees centigrade, with an aspirational target of 1.5 degrees centigrade. This level of warming, once considered the threshold for “dangerous climate change,” is now our goal. Even getting there won’t be easy.

A recent paper from Nature, in arguing that the 1.5C target is not yet impossible, demonstrated just how challenging it will be to hit that target.

1.5C Is (Probably) Possible, But Only Just

Imagine that, starting in 2019, all carbon-emitting infrastructure is phased out at the end of its lifetime. Any power plant that closes down, any car that breaks down or is sold, any plane, or any ship is either replaced by a zero-emitting alternative, or not replaced at all. Deforestation is stopped instantly (in reality, it’s still accelerating).

Any industry that currently emits carbon dioxide finds green alternatives or buries its emissions over the next few decades. Perhaps most dramatically, within a few years years all those methane-emitting livestock (cows and sheep) are either slaughtered, or their emissions are offset somehow.

If all of this is done, everywhere—and it would represent the most radical industrial transformation the world had ever seen—the paper argues we would have a 64 percent chance of hitting the 1.5C target.

Carbon Law: Exponential Reductions

This plan is not a realistic attempt to hit 1.5C; it’s just a demonstration that this is still physically possible. Most of the more realistic plans are based on Integrated Assessment Models, which take into account both climate and economic changes.

They also tend to lean more heavily on negative emissions, which would essentially entail creating an industry similar in size to the fossil fuel industry just to clean up its waste.

Some researchers have suggested a “carbon law”: halving emissions every decade, leading to an exponential decline in emissions and carbon neutrality by 2050 as carbon capture is ramped up. Carbon emissions would have to fall by six to seven percent. The record is 1.4 percent decline, set in 2009, mostly due to the financial crisis. Last year, emissions increased by 2.7 percent.

The IPCC’s 1.5C report, which has helped to trigger the recent and inspiring wave of climate activism, demonstrated that every fraction of a degree makes issues worse: extreme weather events become more frequent, agriculture becomes more difficult, and the risk of triggering harmful climate feedback becomes more and more likely. The closer we can get to these targets, the better.

Fair Share?

Behind these ambitious global goals, the situation for individual countries can be even harder. That’s the message from a new study published in Earth’s Future. The authors imagined that China, the EU28, and the United States all adopted the Carbon Law as national policy, slashing carbon emissions in half each decade and reaching carbon neutrality.

Even if this is done, the rest of the world must cut its carbon emissions to zero by 2020 (assuming no major negative emissions are deployed), or 2030 if negative emissions are permitted, to hit the Paris Agreement target of 2C.

Given that many of these countries, like India and Brazil, are developing economically and are likely to have higher energy demand in the future, this leaves them barely any room for that growth, unless it is all green growth.

The paper also notes that while renewables are getting cheaper than their fossil fuel alternatives and exciting technological breakthroughs are around the corner, deployment hasn’t moved the needle much. If you look at all the energy humans produce—including the large amounts that are wasted when fossil fuels are burned, converted into waste heat—then the renewable revolution from 2000-2016 means renewables account for just 2.6 percent of total energy.

The Paris Agreement is intended to operate by a “ratchet” mechanism. Rather than imposing top-down emissions targets for each country, countries are instead free to make their own pledges and decide their own levels of ambition. The aim is that, as mitigation efforts continue, countries will contribute more and more ambitious pledges to do their own part. This avoids the thorny issues of imposing rules on countries (with, presumably, fines or sanctions if they fail to meet their targets) and how to divide up the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Previous attempts at global climate agreements fell apart over precisely these issues. Issues of global equity in climate change are stark. After all, rich nations have profited the most from burning fossil fuels, contributed most to the problem, and in most cases still have the highest emissions in the world. At the same time, the impacts and damages are disproportionately felt by poorer nations. Rich nations are also in more of a position to act.

Yet when you look at the Paris Agreement goals set so far, divided up with some notion of fairness, it is arguably only developing countries that are pulling their weight.

Who Will We Be?

The road ahead is difficult, but there are tools at our disposal. As industries like transport and manufacturing become electrified, we lift those barriers that are slowing decarbonization. Energy storage and energy efficiency are also seeing rapid improvements.

But alongside rapid improvements in technology, we need rapid improvements in ambition. Wealthy, developed nations need to develop and share the technologies, and set the course, for the rest of the world to follow. This will include electrifying infrastructures, balancing supply and demand on new grids, pursuing energy storage, new and more efficient nuclear builds, as well as negative emissions and carbon capture and storage. We can no longer afford to debate which technology provides the solution. There are no silver bullets: we need them all.

It is ultimately a question of who we choose to be as a species. Will we clean up our own messes, or offload the responsibility and the damage onto future generations, or poorer nations? Will we use the enormous power and potential that we have—through science, and through the natural abundance here on Earth—to build something sustainable, collaborative, and joyful, or something destructive, competitive, and ultimately more painful for everyone? Each and every one of us can contribute to answering this question.

Image Credit: Serjio74 /

22 May 20:02

Scientists Go Back in Time to Find More Troubling News About Earth's Oceans

by Matt Simon
A clever study finds communities of foraminifera, a hard-shelled kind of plankton, have transformed dramatically since the Industrial Revolution.
22 May 14:36

Dream Seminar

by Tomas Tranströmer and Patty Crane
Illustration: Somnath Bhatt.

Four billion people on Earth.
And all of them sleep, all of them dream.
Every dream is crowded with faces and bodies—
there are more dreamed people than there are us.
But they don’t take up any space…
You might happen to fall asleep at the theater.
In the middle of the play, your eyelids sink.
A moment’s double exposure: the scene
up there is superseded by a dream.
Then there’s no scene anymore, there’s you.
The theater in its honest depths!
The mystery of the overworked
stage manager!
The interminable new rehearsals…
A bedroom. It’s night.
The dark sky flows through the room.
The book that someone fell asleep to
is still spread open
and lies wounded on the edge of the bed.
The sleeper’s eyes are moving,
they’re following the letterless text
in another book—
illuminated, archaic, quick.
A breathtaking commedia that’s printed
behind the eyelids’ monastery walls.
A single copy. It’s right here and now!
Tomorrow it will all be deleted.
The mystery of the great extravagance!
Obliteration…Like when the tourist is stopped
by suspicious men in uniform—
they open the camera, unroll his film
and let the sun kill the pictures:
so the dreams are blacked out by the light of day.
Obliterated or just invisible?
There’s an out-of-sight dreaming
always going on. Light for other eyes.
A zone where crawling thoughts learn to walk.
Faces and figures are regrouped.
We’re moving along a street, among people
in the blazing sun.
But there are just as many or more
we don’t see
who are inside the dark buildings
that rise up on either side.
Sometimes one of them goes to the window
and glances down at us.

The post Dream Seminar appeared first on Guernica.

20 May 22:02

Microsoft Wants To Apply AI 'To the Entire Application Developer Lifecycle'

by msmash
An anonymous reader writes: At its Build 2018 developer conference a year ago, Microsoft previewed Visual Studio IntelliCode, which uses AI to offer intelligent suggestions that improve code quality and productivity. In April, Microsoft launched Visual Studio 2019 for Windows and Mac. At that point, IntelliCode was still an optional extension that Microsoft was openly offering as a preview. But at Build 2019 earlier this month, Microsoft shared that IntelliCode's capabilities are now generally available for C# and XAML in Visual Studio 2019 and for Java, JavaScript, TypeScript, and Python in Visual Studio Code. Microsoft also now includes IntelliCode by default in Visual Studio 2019. IntelliCode has come a long way since May 2018, but Microsoft is only getting started. When it comes to using AI to aid developers, the company wants to help at every step of the way, according to Amanda Silver, a director of Microsoft's developer division. "If you look at the entire application developer lifecycle, from code review to testing to continuous integration, and so on, there are opportunities at every single stage for machine learning to help," Silver told VentureBeat. "IntelliCode is, very broadly, the notion that we want to take artificial intelligence -- and really machine learning techniques -- and allow that to make developers and development teams more productive. "IntelliCode is really only at the early stages -- authoring and helping to focus code reviews. But over time, we really think that we can apply it to the entire application developer lifecycle."

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20 May 21:02

The Physics of Mississippi Flood Control

by Rhett Allain
Louisiana's Bonnet Carré Spillway diverts some of the Mississippi's floodwaters. But it also offers up a wealth of good physics questions.
20 May 21:01

I Don’t Think a Woman is Electable In 2020 Because Last Time Around the Female Nominee Only Got Three Million More Votes Than Her Opponent

by Tom Smyth

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. But as great as they and the other female candidates are, I think Democrats should be focusing more on a sure-fire nominee who can beat Trump. Electability should be our number one priority, and I’m just not sure if America is ready to embrace a female candidate yet — especially considering that Hillary Clinton only got three million more votes than Donald Trump in 2016.

After that shocking blow, it became very clear that the problem isn’t the antiquated electoral college system that gives disproportionate influence to whiter states, but rather the problem is the woman thing. Americans, excluding those 65.8 million who made Hillary Clinton the person with the second most votes ever, just aren’t yet ready to elect a woman president.

And the stakes are just too high this time around to risk it by nominating yet another highly qualified woman in 2020.

That’s why I think we need someone like Joe Biden, who’s a shining example of electability, and who has only lost two presidential elections before this one. Or even Beto O’Rourke, a person who can really unite people of all shades of white, and who is another pro at getting elected. And even though Bernie Sanders couldn’t unite Democrats the last time around, he surely will be able to unite the country better than any woman could.

After all, we have to play this smart, especially since Republicans decided to go with someone who is a traditional example of a highly electable candidate: a scandal-ridden reality television star. We have to bring our A-game and not risk it with these women who just bring decades of government experience and hundreds of pages of thoughtfully written policy to the table.

We need someone that people can see themselves getting a beer with, because drinking beer is one of the most important parts of being a president. And as everybody knows, women don’t drink beer because their lady stomachs can’t handle the enzymes because of their periods.

Anyway, we need someone likable, because that’s who gets the most votes. Just think of a student council election. Everybody goes for the lovable goof, not the high-strung nerd with a big, boring speech about all the things she wants to implement at the school to help the student body. The popular kid gets the votes, even if that means lunch prices rise and he forgets to book a DJ for the prom.

But, of course, some people want a candidate with “policy” who can represent people other than straight white men. To those people, I say there is a fine alternative: the vice presidency. That way we can sneak representation past sexist America like a Trojan horse, and then a supremely qualified woman can be relegated to doing photo-ops at ice cream shops or whatever else a vice president does. They won’t mind having to play second fiddle to a less-qualified man. It’s not like they’ve had to put up with this kind of thing since the beginning of time.

Another good compromise? How about instead of nominating a woman this election, we just have more fictional female TV presidents? It’s a win-win if you think about it. Women get some representation, and the Democrats can regain a real-life president. Plus, actresses like Sigourney Weaver and Diane Lane get some work.

Listen, I want a first female president just as much as the next guy. But now just isn’t the time. We tried going for it once and it didn’t work out. So maybe next time, or the time after that, or three or four times after that. I can’t commit to when exactly because who knows, the stakes might just as high in 2024 or 2028 or the next half-dozen or so general elections in the future. Besides, there are probably going to be some fresh male faces that we should be seriously considering then anyway. You know, to promote progress within the party.

20 May 20:58

'Game of Thrones' Recap, Season 8 Episode 6: The Endings We Choose to Believe

by Laura Hudson
HBO's drama will always have alternative interpretations, debates about its meaning, and revisionist histories—especially now that it's over.
20 May 16:34

A Nonjudgmental Look at Our Impulse to Share Images

by Emily Wilson
snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, 2019, installation view, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (photo © Matthew Millman Photography)

SAN FRANCISCO — In Courtney Vionnet’s series Photo Opportunities (2005–14), blurry images of iconic sites, including the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Majal, look ethereal and classically beautiful. For nine years, Vionnet collected online photos of tourist destinations and combined them. She got the idea on a visit to the Tower of Pisa, where she noticed people standing in the same place, taking the same photo. The ghostly images in Photo Opportunities show the obsessive nature of photography and the desire to show we were there.

Corinne Vionnet, “San Francisco” (2006) from the series Photo Opportunities (2005–14) (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, John Caldwell, Curator of Painting and Sculpture (1989–93), Fund for Contemporary Art purchase, © Corinne Vionnet)

The exhibition snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), reveals that although social media has amped up sharing photos, this urge is nothing new. Clément Chéroux, SFMOMA’s chief photography curator, points to On Kawara’s 1970s I Got Up . . . series, postcards sent stamped with, for example, “I got up at 9:15 a.m.” or “I got up at 8:55 a.m.,” which Chéroux compares to Snapchat and Instagram as a way to affirm our existence. Indeed, the exhibition starts off with a photo a French software engineer sent of his daughter right after she was born, disseminating it through his mobile phone and online network, and then swiftly transitions to the tradition of mail art from the 1950s and ’60s.

Philippe Kahn, Sophie Lee Kahn birth picture, first photograph shared instantly through a
digital camera, cellphone, and server with 2,000 people, June 11th, 1997 (image courtesy the
Lee-Kahn Foundation, © Philippe Kahn)
On Kawara, “I Got Up…” (1975) (Robert Harshorn Shimshak & Marion Brenner, © One Million Years Foundation, courtesy One Million Years Foundation and David Zwirner)

We cross the threshold from analog to digital when we encounter Erik Kessels’s 2011 piece “24HRS in Photos.” Kessels found about a million images were shared on Flickr in a day, and he wanted to show that physically. He printed out the photos, and they’re piled in the gallery with a path for the visitor to make their way through hundreds of thousands of images of pets, fireworks, and babies.

Erik Kessels, “24HRS in Photos” (2011) (courtesy the artist, © Erik Kessels)

Kate Hollenbach notes how technology affects us physically. Observing the intimate relationships we have with our smartphones and the emotional connection between people and their devices, Hollenbach programmed an app to capture herself every time she looked at her phone for a month. The result, “phonelovesyoutoo,” a display on three walls of a gallery of over 1,000 videos of her face on screen as she checks her mail, is mesmerizing and a little disturbing. On her website, Hollenbach writes that only her face is in the videos — sometimes puffy with sleep, sometimes with hair wet from a shower, sometimes wearing lipstick: “The context changes but the face mostly stays the same: it is a blank expression, a concentrating expression, the kind of vacant look reserved only for glowing screens.”

snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, 2019, installation view, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (photo © Matthew Millman Photography)

Naturally, snap+share is filled with opportunities for visitors to share their own photographs. The show includes memes such as David Horovitz’s “241543903” (2009–ongoing) in which he invites people to put their heads in a freezer, snap a picture and upload it using the tag #241543903. A red freezer, complete with fake food, is in the gallery, summoning people to participate.

Eva and Franco Mattes, “Ceiling Cat” (2016) (courtesy Postmasters Gallery, New York, and
Team Gallery, Los Angeles, © Eva and Franco Mattes)

Cats are one of the most shared images online, with CNN estimating that in 2015 there were around 6.5 billion cat pictures floating around, and the final piece in the exhibit, Eva and Franco Mattes’s “Ceiling Cat,”(2016) is a three-dimensional sculpture of a cat’s head poking from a hole in the ceiling. This was inspired by a meme that went viral in 2006 with the tagline “Ceiling Cat is watching you.”

Some people see the cat as a metaphor for the internet — always watching. But rather than looking at the kind of images shared, the curators were more interested in the ways the digital has affected how they’re shared — from quantity and ubiquity to elements of surveillance. Visitors to the show mostly appeared delighted, gasping when they saw the cat peering down at them, happily sticking their head inside the freezer, and oohing at the masses of photos in Kessels’s piece. The exhibit doesn’t invite us to judge or to shake our heads at the addiction to phones and social media. Rather we observe the nature of images and the impulse to share. With or without our phones, we yearn for human connection.

snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks continues at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third Street, San Francisco) through August 4.

The post A Nonjudgmental Look at Our Impulse to Share Images appeared first on Hyperallergic.

17 May 20:11

Dungeons & Dragons Will Stream a Massive Live Event Beginning Today

by Kaila Hale-Stern

Dungeons & Dragons fans are in for quite the weekend. D&D Live 2019: The Descent will stream 50 hours of D&D content straight into your screens and brains. The lineup that Wizards of the Coast has planned is unreal.

Starting at 2pm PDT (5 PM EST) today, May 17th, 2019, D&D aficionados can take part in the huge “immersive entertainment experience” that is The Descent, broadcasting live. Alongside live play, famous DMs, well-known creators, and actual rock concerts, this will be the place to get the “first glimpse of the 2019 storyline.” We’re promised that The Descent is even bigger and more ambitious than 2018’s Stream of Many Eyes. Around the world, work computers will cry out in joy as they are diverted to better purpose.

Watch everything through an embedded video dashboard, learn about the creators, and check out the full schedule for D&D Live 2019: The Descent at

What does The Descent have in store? This programming looks packed and impressive, and would have absolutely blown my mind when I used to scour the web for D&D info back in the ’90s using Netscape Navigator:

D&D Live 2019: The Descent brings fans more than 50 hours of must-see entertainment and introduces an unforgettable storyline.

D&D Live 2019: The Descent features game designers, performers, Dungeon Masters and rock musicians. Fans can watch Relics & Rarities, led by DM and storyteller Deborah Ann Woll and featuring Matthew Lillard and Janina Gavankar.

D&D designers Chris Perkins, Jeremy Crawford and Kate Welch will lead a 4-part live D&D story played by performers such as Joe Manganiello, Taran Killam, Mica Burton, Jerry Holkins, Travis & Clint McElroy, Matthew Mercer, Anna Prosser, Jim Zub and Patrick Rothfuss.

Amazing D&D creators such as HighRollers, Rivals of Waterdeep, Girls Guts Glory, MonarchsFactory, Nerd Poker, The Sirens, Drunks & Dragons, WebDM, D&D Beyond, and more will be broadcasting via Facebook Live, Mixer, Steam, Twitter, YouTube and all weekend long. Watch music performed live by Chris Funk from the Decemberists and featuring performances by Cardioid, Library Bards, Jason Charles Miller, the Mountain Goats, and the Magic Sword on Sunday night.

Not only is this content awesomely inclusive, but I’m really loving that hardcore players and casual D&D dabblers alike can all watch for free and feel like they’re part of this event wherever they are. Wizards of the Coasts’ organization here and ease of accessibility makes me wonder why more Cons and fan events can’t manage to stream or at least provide more video coverage of their goings-on. Con passes have soared in cost (if you can even manage to get them), and the extreme hassle of getting into popular panels mean that for many fans, they never get to experience live celebrations of their favorite properties. The Descent seems like the polar opposite of this geek-world problem.

“I can’t wait to share what D&D has been cooking up for D&D Live 2019: The Descent,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. “I’ve been trying to spoil it for weeks but Greg Tito keeps shutting that down. All I will say now is that it’s going to be hotter than Nine Hells. You really need to tune in to find out why!” I mean, you guys got Deborah Ann Woll, the McElroys, and the Mountain Goats for a D&D fest. Do you think we’d be anywhere else?

D&D Live 2019: The Descent starts at 2 PM PDT May 17th, 2019 and runs through May 19th. Yes, you have plans and can’t make it out to drinks this weekend. You can watch live here and also follow the hashtag #DnDLIVE2019 on social media for pictures, reactions, updates, and general wizardry.

(via Wizards of the Coast, image: Wizards of the Coast)

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17 May 16:44

New Device Translates Silent Thoughts Into Speech

by Joel Hruska

Researchers in multiple disciplines are making progress on technology that can translate silent micro-muscle movements into vocal speech, or even read the data directly from the brain. There's major progress being made in a critical, exciting field.

The post New Device Translates Silent Thoughts Into Speech appeared first on ExtremeTech.

17 May 16:40

Hewlett Packard Enterprise To Acquire Supercomputer Maker Cray for $1.3 Billion

by msmash
Hewlett Packard Enterprise will be buying the supercomputer maker Cray for roughly $1.3 billion, the companies said this morning. Intending to use Cray's knowledge and technology to bolster their own supercomputing and high-performance computing technologies, when the deal closes, HPE will become the world leader for supercomputing technology. From a report: Cray of course needs no introduction. The current leader in the supercomputing field and founder of supercomputing as we know it, Cray has been a part of the supercomputing landscape since the 1970s. Starting at the time with fully custom systems, in more recent years Cray has morphed into an integrator and scale-out specialist, combining processors from the likes of Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA into supercomputers, and applying their own software, I/O, and interconnect technologies. The timing of the acquisition announcement closely follows other major news from Cray: the company just landed a $600 million US Department of Energy contract to supply the Frontier supercomputer to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2021. Frontier is one of two exascale supercomputers Cray is involved in -- the other being a subcontractor for the 2021 Aurora system -- and in fact Cray is involved in the only two exascale systems ordered by the US Government thus far. So in both a historical and modern context, Cray was and is one of the biggest players in the supercomputing market.

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17 May 16:30

Sad survey: 60% of male managers are “uncomfortable” working around women

by Melissa Locker

There’s an increase in male managers saying they are uncomfortable spending time with junior-level women. and SurveyMonkey just released the results of a survey on the state of men and women interacting in the workplace in the age of #MeToo. The results are frustrating. The data reveals that 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable performing common workplace activities such as mentoring, working one on one, or socializing with a woman. That’s a 32% increase over last year.

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