Futurism – Wikipedia

Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth, violence, and objects such as the car, the airplane, and the industrial city. Its key figures were the Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carr, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, and Luigi Russolo. It glorified modernity and aimed to liberate Italy from the weight of its past.[1] Cubism contributed to the formation of Italian Futurism’s artistic style.[2] Important Futurist works included Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism, Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Balla’s painting Abstract Speed + Sound, and Russolo’s The Art of Noises. Although it was largely an Italian phenomenon, there were parallel movements in Russia, England, Belgium and elsewhere. The Futurists practiced in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture, and even Futurist meals. To some extent Futurism influenced the art movements Art Deco, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and to a greater degree Precisionism, Rayonism, and Vorticism.

Futurism is an avant-garde movement founded in Milan in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.[1] Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto,[3] which he published for the first time on 5 February 1909 in La gazzetta dell’Emilia, an article then reproduced in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro on Saturday 20 February 1909.[4][5][6] He was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carr, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and the composer Luigi Russolo. Marinetti expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition. “We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature, and they were passionate nationalists. They repudiated the cult of the past and all imitation, praised originality, “however daring, however violent”, bore proudly “the smear of madness”, dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of all previous art, and gloried in science.

Publishing manifestos was a feature of Futurism, and the Futurists (usually led or prompted by Marinetti) wrote them on many topics, including painting, architecture, religion, clothing and cooking.[7]

The founding manifesto did not contain a positive artistic programme, which the Futurists attempted to create in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting (1914).[8] This committed them to a “universal dynamism”, which was to be directly represented in painting. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings: “The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places. … The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.”[9]

The Futurist painters were slow to develop a distinctive style and subject matter. In 1910 and 1911 they used the techniques of Divisionism, breaking light and color down into a field of stippled dots and stripes, which had been originally created by Giovanni Segantini and others. Later, Severini, who lived in Paris, attributed their backwardness in style and method at this time to their distance from Paris, the centre of avant-garde art.[10] Severini was the first to come into contact with Cubism and following a visit to Paris in 1911 the Futurist painters adopted the methods of the Cubists. Cubism offered them a means of analysing energy in paintings and expressing dynamism.

They often painted modern urban scenes. Carr’s Funeral of the Anarchist Galli (191011) is a large canvas representing events that the artist had himself been involved in, in 1904. The action of a police attack and riot is rendered energetically with diagonals and broken planes. His Leaving the Theatre (191011) uses a Divisionist technique to render isolated and faceless figures trudging home at night under street lights.

Boccioni’s The City Rises (1910) represents scenes of construction and manual labour with a huge, rearing red horse in the centre foreground, which workmen struggle to control. His States of Mind, in three large panels, The Farewell, Those who Go, and Those Who Stay, “made his first great statement of Futurist painting, bringing his interests in Bergson, Cubism and the individual’s complex experience of the modern world together in what has been described as one of the ‘minor masterpieces’ of early twentieth century painting.”[11] The work attempts to convey feelings and sensations experienced in time, using new means of expression, including “lines of force”, which were intended to convey the directional tendencies of objects through space, “simultaneity”, which combined memories, present impressions and anticipation of future events, and “emotional ambience” in which the artist seeks by intuition to link sympathies between the exterior scene and interior emotion.[11]

Boccioni’s intentions in art were strongly influenced by the ideas of Bergson, including the idea of intuition, which Bergson defined as a simple, indivisible experience of sympathy through which one is moved into the inner being of an object to grasp what is unique and ineffable within it. The Futurists aimed through their art thus to enable the viewer to apprehend the inner being of what they depicted. Boccioni developed these ideas at length in his book, Pittura scultura Futuriste: Dinamismo plastico (Futurist Painting Sculpture: Plastic Dynamism) (1914).[12]

Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) exemplifies the Futurists’ insistence that the perceived world is in constant movement. The painting depicts a dog whose legs, tail and leashand the feet of the woman walking ithave been multiplied to a blur of movement. It illustrates the precepts of the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting that, “On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.”[9] His Rhythm of the Bow (1912) similarly depicts the movements of a violinist’s hand and instrument, rendered in rapid strokes within a triangular frame.

The adoption of Cubism determined the style of much subsequent Futurist painting, which Boccioni and Severini in particular continued to render in the broken colors and short brush-strokes of divisionism. But Futurist painting differed in both subject matter and treatment from the quiet and static Cubism of Picasso, Braque and Gris. Although there were Futurist portraits (e.g. Carr’s Woman with Absinthe (1911), Severini’s Self-Portrait (1912), and Boccioni’s Matter (1912)), it was the urban scene and vehicles in motion that typified Futurist paintinge.g. Boccioni’s The Street Enters the House (1911), Severini’s Dynamic Hieroglyph of the Bal Tabarin (1912), and Russolo’s Automobile at Speed (1913)

In 1912 and 1913, Boccioni turned to sculpture to translate into three dimensions his Futurist ideas. In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) he attempted to realise the relationship between the object and its environment, which was central to his theory of “dynamism”. The sculpture represents a striding figure, cast in bronze posthumously and exhibited in the Tate Modern. (It now appears on the national side of Italian 20 eurocent coins). He explored the theme further in Synthesis of Human Dynamism (1912), Speeding Muscles (1913) and Spiral Expansion of Speeding Muscles (1913). His ideas on sculpture were published in the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture[13] In 1915 Balla also turned to sculpture making abstract “reconstructions”, which were created out of various materials, were apparently moveable and even made noises. He said that, after making twenty pictures in which he had studied the velocity of automobiles, he understood that “the single plane of the canvas did not permit the suggestion of the dynamic volume of speed in depth … I felt the need to construct the first dynamic plastic complex with iron wires, cardboard planes, cloth and tissue paper, etc.”[14]

In 1914, personal quarrels and artistic differences between the Milan group, around Marinetti, Boccioni, and Balla, and the Florence group, around Carr, Ardengo Soffici (18791964) and Giovanni Papini (18811956), created a rift in Italian Futurism. The Florence group resented the dominance of Marinetti and Boccioni, whom they accused of trying to establish “an immobile church with an infallible creed”, and each group dismissed the other as passiste.

Futurism had from the outset admired violence and was intensely patriotic. The Futurist Manifesto had declared, “We will glorify warthe world’s only hygienemilitarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”[6][15] Although it owed much of its character and some of its ideas to radical political movements, it was not much involved in politics until the autumn of 1913.[14] Then, fearing the re-election of Giolitti, Marinetti published a political manifesto. In 1914 the Futurists began to campaign actively against the Austro-Hungarian empire, which still controlled some Italian territories, and Italian neutrality between the major powers. In September, Boccioni, seated in the balcony of the Teatro dal Verme in Milan, tore up an Austrian flag and threw it into the audience, while Marinetti waved an Italian flag. When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, many Futurists enlisted.[16] The experience of the war marked several Futurists, particularly Marinetti, who fought in the mountains of Trentino at the border of Italy and Austria-Hungary, actively engaging in propaganda.[17] The combat experience also influenced Futurist music.[18]

The outbreak of war disguised the fact that Italian Futurism had come to an end. The Florence group had formally acknowledged their withdrawal from the movement by the end of 1914. Boccioni produced only one war picture and was killed in 1916. Severini painted some significant war pictures in 1915 (e.g. War, Armored Train, and Red Cross Train), but in Paris turned towards Cubism and post-war was associated with the Return to Order.

After the war, Marinetti revived the movement. This revival was called il secondo Futurismo (Second Futurism) by writers in the 1960s. The art historian Giovanni Lista has classified Futurism by decades: “Plastic Dynamism” for the first decade, “Mechanical Art” for the 1920s, “Aeroaesthetics” for the 1930s.

Russian Futurism was a movement of literature and the visual arts. The poet Vladimir Mayakovsky was a prominent member of the movement. Visual artists such as David Burlyuk, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova and Kazimir Malevich found inspiration in the imagery of Futurist writings and were poets themselves. It has also a larger impact on the all suprematism movement. Other poets adopting Futurism included Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksey Kruchenykh. Poets and painters collaborated on theatre production such as the Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun, with texts by Kruchenykh and sets by Malevich.

The main style of painting was Cubo-Futurism, adopted in 1913 when Aristarkh Lentulov returned from Paris and exhibited his paintings in Moscow. Cubo-Futurism combines the forms of Cubism with the representation of movement. Like their Italian predecessors the Russian Futurists were fascinated with dynamism, speed and the restlessness of modern urban life.

The Russian Futurists sought controversy by repudiating the art of the past, saying that Pushkin and Dostoevsky should be “heaved overboard from the steamship of modernity”. They acknowledged no authority and professed not to owe anything even to Marinetti, whose principles they had earlier adopted, obstructing him when he came to Russia to proselytize in 1914.

The movement began to decline after the revolution of 1917. Some Futurists died, others emigrated. Mayakovsky and Malevich became part of the Soviet establishment and the Agitprop movement of the 1920s. Khlebnikov and others were persecuted. Mayakovsky committed suicide on April 14, 1930.

The Futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia expressed his ideas of modernity in his drawings for La Citt Nuova (The New City) (19121914). This project was never built and Sant’Elia was killed in the First World War, but his ideas influenced later generations of architects and artists. The city was a backdrop onto which the dynamism of Futurist life is projected. The city had replaced the landscape as the setting for the exciting modern life. Sant’Elia aimed to create a city as an efficient, fast-paced machine. He manipulates light and shape to emphasize the sculptural quality of his projects. Baroque curves and encrustations had been stripped away to reveal the essential lines of forms unprecedented from their simplicity. In the new city, every aspect of life was to be rationalized and centralized into one great powerhouse of energy. The city was not meant to last, and each subsequent generation was expected to build their own city rather than inheriting the architecture of the past.

Futurist architects were sometimes at odds with the Fascist state’s tendency towards Roman imperial-classical aesthetic patterns. Nevertheless, several Futurist buildings were built in the years 19201940, including public buildings such as railway stations, maritime resorts and post offices. Examples of Futurist buildings still in use today are Trento’s railway station, built by Angiolo Mazzoni, and the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. The Florence station was designed in 1932 by the Gruppo Toscano (Tuscan Group) of architects, which included Giovanni Michelucci and Italo Gamberini, with contributions by Mazzoni.

Futurist music rejected tradition and introduced experimental sounds inspired by machinery, and would influence several 20th-century composers.

Francesco Balilla Pratella joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and wrote a Manifesto of Futurist Musicians in which he appealed to the young (as had Marinetti), because only they could understand what he had to say. According to Pratella, Italian music was inferior to music abroad. He praised the “sublime genius” of Wagner and saw some value in the work of other contemporary composers, for example Richard Strauss, Elgar, Mussorgsky, and Sibelius. By contrast, the Italian symphony was dominated by opera in an “absurd and anti-musical form”. The conservatories was said to encourage backwardness and mediocrity. The publishers perpetuated mediocrity and the domination of music by the “rickety and vulgar” operas of Puccini and Umberto Giordano. The only Italian Pratella could praise was his teacher Pietro Mascagni, because he had rebelled against the publishers and attempted innovation in opera, but even Mascagni was too traditional for Pratella’s tastes. In the face of this mediocrity and conservatism, Pratella unfurled “the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice.”

Luigi Russolo (18851947) wrote The Art of Noises (1913),[19][20] an influential text in 20th-century musical aesthetics. Russolo used instruments he called intonarumori, which were acoustic noise generators that permitted the performer to create and control the dynamics and pitch of several different types of noises. Russolo and Marinetti gave the first concert of Futurist music, complete with intonarumori, in 1914. However they were prevented from performing in many major European cities by the outbreak of war.

Futurism was one of several 20th-century movements in art music that paid homage to, included or imitated machines. Ferruccio Busoni has been seen as anticipating some Futurist ideas, though he remained wedded to tradition.[21] Russolo’s intonarumori influenced Stravinsky, Arthur Honegger, George Antheil, Edgar Varse,[11] Stockhausen and John Cage. In Pacific 231, Honegger imitated the sound of a steam locomotive. There are also Futurist elements in Prokofiev’s The Steel Step and in his Second Symphony.

Most notable in this respect, however, is the American George Antheil. His fascination with machinery is evident in his Airplane Sonata, Death of the Machines, and the 30-minute Ballet Mcanique. The Ballet Mcanique was originally intended to accompany an experimental film by Fernand Lger, but the musical score is twice the length of the film and now stands alone. The score calls for a percussion ensemble consisting of three xylophones, four bass drums, a tam-tam, three airplane propellers, seven electric bells, a siren, two “live pianists”, and sixteen synchronized player pianos. Antheil’s piece was the first to synchronize machines with human players and to exploit the difference between what machines and humans can play.

Other composers offered more melodic variants of Futurist music, notably Franco Casavola, who was active with the movement at the invitation of Marinetti between 1924 and 1927, and Arthur-Vincent Louri, the first Russian Futurist musician, and a signatory of the St Petersburg Futurist Manifesto in 1914. His five Synthses offer a form of dodecaphony, while Formes en l’air was dedicated to Picasso and is a Cubo-Futurist concept. Born in Ukraine and raised in New York, Leo Ornstein gave his first recital of ‘Futurist Music’ at the Steinway Hall in London on 27 March 1914. According to the Daily Sketch newspaper “one listened with considerable distress. Nothing so horrible as Mr Ornstein’s music has been heard so far. Sufferers from complete deafness should attend the next recital.”

The Futuristic movement also influenced the concept of dance. Indeed, dancing was interpreted as an alternative way of expressing man’s ultimate fusion with the machine. The altitude of a flying plane, the power of a car’s motor and the roaring loud sounds of complex machinery were all signs of man’s intelligence and excellence which the art of dance had to emphasize and praise. This type of dance is considered futuristic since it disrupts the referential system of traditional, classical dance and introduces a different style, new to the sophisticated bourgeois audience. The dancer no longer performs a story, a clear content, that can be read according to the rules of ballet. One of the most famous futuristic dancers was the Italian Giannina Censi[it]. Trained as a classical ballerina, she is known for her “Aerodanze” and continued to earn her living by performing in classical and popular productions. She describes this innovative form of dance as the result of a deep collaboration with Marinetti and his poetry. Through these words, she explains: ” I launched this idea of the aerial-futurist poetry with Marinetti, he himself declaiming the poetry. A small stage of a few square meters;… I made myself a satin costume with a helmet; everything that the plane did had to be expressed by my body. It flew and, moreover, it gave the impression of these wings that trembled, of the apparatus that trembled,… And the face had to express what the pilot felt.”[22][23]

Futurism as a literary movement made its official debut with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism (1909), as it delineated the various ideals Futurist poetry should strive for. Poetry, the predominate medium of Futurist literature, can be characterized by its unexpected combinations of images and hyper-conciseness (not to be confused with the actual length of the poem). The Futurists called their style of poetry parole in libert (word autonomy) in which all ideas of meter were rejected and the word became the main unit of concern. In this way, the Futurists managed to create a new language free of syntax punctuation, and metrics that allowed for free expression.

Theater also has an important place within the Futurist universe. Works in this genre have scenes that are few sentences long, have an emphasis on nonsensical humor, and attempt to discredit the deep rooted traditions via parody and other devaluation techniques.There are a number of examples of Futurist novels from both the initial period of Futurism and the neo-Futurist period, from Marinetti himself to a number of lesser known Futurists, such as Primo Conti, Ardengo Soffici and Giordano Bruno Sanzin (Zig Zag, Il Romanzo Futurista edited by Alessandro Masi, 1995). They are very diverse in style, with very little recourse to the characteristics of Futurist Poetry, such as ‘parole in libert’. Arnaldo Ginna’s ‘Le locomotive con le calze'(Trains with socks on)plunges into a world of absurd nonsense, childishly crude. His brother Bruno Corra wrote in Sam Dunn morto (Sam Dunn is Dead) a masterpiece of Futurist fiction, in a genre he himself called ‘Synthetic’ characterized by compression, and precision; it is a sophisticated piece that rises above the other novels through the strength and pervasiveness of its irony.

When interviewed about her favorite film of all times,[24] famed movie critic Pauline Kael stated that the director Dimitri Kirsanoff, in his silent experimental film Mnilmontant “developed a technique that suggests the movement known in painting as Futurism”.[25]

Many Italian Futurists supported Fascism in the hope of modernizing a country divided between the industrialising north and the rural, archaic South. Like the Fascists, the Futurists were Italian nationalists, radicals, admirers of violence, and were opposed to parliamentary democracy. Marinetti founded the Futurist Political Party (Partito Politico Futurista) in early 1918, which was absorbed into Benito Mussolini’s Fasci di combattimento in 1919, making Marinetti one of the first members of the National Fascist Party. He opposed Fascism’s later exaltation of existing institutions, calling them “reactionary”, and walked out of the 1920 Fascist party congress in disgust, withdrawing from politics for three years; but he supported Italian Fascism until his death in 1944. The Futurists’ association with Fascism after its triumph in 1922 brought them official acceptance in Italy and the ability to carry out important work, especially in architecture. After the Second World War, many Futurist artists had difficulty in their careers because of their association with a defeated and discredited regime.

Marinetti sought to make Futurism the official state art of Fascist Italy but failed to do so. Mussolini chose to give patronage to numerous styles and movements in order to keep artists loyal to the regime. Opening the exhibition of art by the Novecento Italiano group in 1923, he said, “I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view.”[26] Mussolini’s mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, who was as able a cultural entrepreneur as Marinetti, successfully promoted the rival Novecento group, and even persuaded Marinetti to sit on its board. Although in the early years of Italian Fascism modern art was tolerated and even embraced, towards the end of the 1930s, right-wing Fascists introduced the concept of “degenerate art” from Germany to Italy and condemned Futurism.

Marinetti made numerous moves to ingratiate himself with the regime, becoming less radical and avant-garde with each. He moved from Milan to Rome to be nearer the centre of things. He became an academician despite his condemnation of academies, married despite his condemnation of marriage, promoted religious art after the Lateran Treaty of 1929 and even reconciled himself to the Catholic Church, declaring that Jesus was a Futurist.

Although Futurism mostly became identified with Fascism, it had leftist and anti-Fascist supporters. They tended to oppose Marinetti’s artistic and political direction of the movement, and in 1924 the socialists, communists and anarchists walked out of the Milan Futurist Congress. The anti-Fascist voices in Futurism were not completely silenced until the annexation of Abyssinia and the Italo-German Pact of Steel in 1939.[27] This association of Fascists, socialists and anarchists in the Futurist movement, which may seem odd today, can be understood in terms of the influence of Georges Sorel, whose ideas about the regenerative effect of political violence had adherents right across the political spectrum.

Futurism expanded to encompass many artistic domains and ultimately included painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theatre design, textiles, drama, literature, music and architecture.

Aeropainting (aeropittura) was a major expression of the second generation of Futurism beginning in 1926. The technology and excitement of flight, directly experienced by most aeropainters,[28] offered aeroplanes and aerial landscape as new subject matter. Aeropainting was varied in subject matter and treatment, including realism (especially in works of propaganda), abstraction, dynamism, quiet Umbrian landscapes,[29] portraits of Mussolini (e.g. Dottori’s Portrait of il Duce), devotional religious paintings, decorative art, and pictures of planes.

Aeropainting was launched in a manifesto of 1929, Perspectives of Flight, signed by Benedetta, Depero, Dottori, Filla, Marinetti, Prampolini, Somenzi and Tato (Guglielmo Sansoni). The artists stated that “The changing perspectives of flight constitute an absolutely new reality that has nothing in common with the reality traditionally constituted by a terrestrial perspective” and that “Painting from this new reality requires a profound contempt for detail and a need to synthesise and transfigure everything.” Crispolti identifies three main “positions” in aeropainting: “a vision of cosmic projection, at its most typical in Prampolini’s ‘cosmic idealism’ …; a ‘reverie’ of aerial fantasies sometimes verging on fairy-tale (for example in Dottori …); and a kind of aeronautical documentarism that comes dizzyingly close to direct celebration of machinery (particularly in Crali, but also in Tato and Ambrosi).”[30]

Eventually there were over a hundred aeropainters. Major figures include Fortunato Depero, Enrico Prampolini, Gerardo Dottori and Crali. Crali continued to produce aeropittura up until the 1980s.

Futurism influenced many other twentieth-century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, and much later Neo-Futurism.[31][32] Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti.

Nonetheless, the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Ridley Scott consciously evoked the designs of Sant’Elia in Blade Runner. Echoes of Marinetti’s thought, especially his “dreamt-of metallization of the human body”, are still strongly prevalent in Japanese culture, and surface in manga/anime and the works of artists such as Shinya Tsukamoto, director of the Tetsuo (lit. “Ironman”) films. Futurism has produced several reactions, including the literary genre of cyberpunkin which technology was often treated with a critical eyewhilst artists who came to prominence during the first flush of the Internet, such as Stelarc and Mariko Mori, produce work which comments on Futurist ideals. and the art and architecture movement Neo-Futurism in which technology is considered a driver to a better quality of life and sustainability values.[33][34]

A revival of sorts of the Futurist movement in theatre began in 1988 with the creation of the Neo-Futurist style in Chicago, which utilizes Futurism’s focus on speed and brevity to create a new form of immediate theatre. Currently, there are active Neo-Futurist troupes in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Montreal.[35]

Futurist ideas have been discerned in Western dance music since the 1980s.[36]

Japanese Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 1986 album ‘Futurista’ was inspired by the movement. It features a speech from Tommaso Marinetti in the track ‘Variety Show’.[37]

In 2009, Italian director Marco Bellocchio included Futurist art in his feature film Vincere.[38]

In 2014, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum featured the exhibition “Italian Futurism, 19091944: Reconstructing the Universe”.[39] This was the first comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism to be presented in the United States.[40]

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is a museum in London with a collection centered around Italian futurist artists and their paintings.

Umberto Boccioni, 1911, La rue entre dans la maison; Luigi Russolo, 1911, Souvenir dune nuit. Published in Les Annales politiques et littraires, 1 December 1912

Paintings by Gino Severini, 1911, La Danse du Pan-Pan, and Severini, 1913, Lautobus. Published in Les Annales politiques et littraires, Le Paradoxe Cubiste, 14 March 1920

Paintings by Gino Severini, 1911, Souvenirs de Voyage; Albert Gleizes, 1912, Man on a Balcony, LHomme au balcon; Severini, 191213, Portrait de Mlle Jeanne Paul-Fort; Luigi Russolo, 191112, La Rvolte. Published in Les Annales politiques et littraires, Le Paradoxe Cubiste (continued), n. 1916, 14 March 1920

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Futurism – Wikipedia

Futurism | the arts | Britannica.com

Futurism, Italian Futurismo, Russian Futurizm, early 20th-century artistic movement centred in Italy that emphasized the dynamism, speed, energy, and power of the machine and the vitality, change, and restlessness of modern life. During the second decade of the 20th century, the movements influence radiated outward across most of Europe, most significantly to the Russian avant-garde. The most-significant results of the movement were in the visual arts and poetry.

Futurism was first announced on February 20, 1909, when the Paris newspaper Le Figaro published a manifesto by the Italian poet and editor Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Marinetti coined the word Futurism to reflect his goal of discarding the art of the past and celebrating change, originality, and innovation in culture and society. Marinettis manifesto glorified the new technology of the automobile and the beauty of its speed, power, and movement. Exalting violence and conflict, he called for the sweeping repudiation of traditional values and the destruction of cultural institutions such as museums and libraries. The manifestos rhetoric was passionately bombastic; its aggressive tone was purposely intended to inspire public anger and arouse controversy.

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theatre: Futurism in Italy

Although it produced one major dramatist, Luigi Pirandello, in the period between the two world wars, the Italian theatre contributed very little to staging or theatre production. What was important was the work of the Futurists led by Marinetti. This movement predated

Marinettis manifesto inspired a group of young painters in Milan to apply Futurist ideas to the visual arts. Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carr, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini published several manifestos on painting in 1910. Like Marinetti, they glorified originality and expressed their disdain for inherited artistic traditions.

Although they were not yet working in what was to become the Futurist style, the group called for artists to have an emotional involvement in the dynamics of modern life. They wanted to depict visually the perception of movement, speed, and change. To achieve this, the Futurist painters adopted the Cubist technique of using fragmented and intersecting plane surfaces and outlines to show several simultaneous views of an object. But the Futurists additionally sought to portray the objects movement, so their works typically include rhythmic spatial repetitions of an objects outlines during transit. The effect resembles multiple photographic exposures of a moving object. An example is Ballas painting Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912), in which a trotting dachshunds legs are depicted as a blur of multiple images. The Futurist paintings differed from Cubist work in other important ways. While the Cubists favoured still life and portraiture, the Futurists preferred subjects such as speeding automobiles and trains, racing cyclists, dancers, animals, and urban crowds. Futurist paintings have brighter and more vibrant colours than Cubist works, and they reveal dynamic, agitated compositions in which rhythmically swirling forms reach crescendos of violent movement.

Boccioni also became interested in sculpture, publishing a manifesto on the subject in the spring of 1912. He is considered to have most fully realized his theories in two sculptures, Development of a Bottle in Space (1912), in which he represented both the inner and outer contours of a bottle, and Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), in which a human figure is not portrayed as one solid form but is instead composed of the multiple planes in space through which the figure moves.

Futurist principles extended to architecture as well. Antonio SantElia formulated a Futurist manifesto on architecture in 1914. His visionary drawings of highly mechanized cities and boldly modern skyscrapers prefigure some of the most imaginative 20th-century architectural planning.

Boccioni, who had been the most-talented artist in the group, and SantElia both died during military service in 1916. Boccionis death, combined with expansion of the groups personnel and the sobering realities of the devastation caused by World War I, effectively brought an end to the Futurist movement as an important historical force in the visual arts.

Not content with merely taking over the urban and modernist themes of Futurist painting, the writers who embraced Italian literary Futurism sought to develop a language appropriate for what they perceived to be the speed and ruthlessness of the early 20th century. They established new genres, the most significant being parole in libert (words-in-freedom), also referred to as free-word poetry. It was poetry liberated from the constraints of linear typography and conventional syntax and spelling. A brief extract from Marinettis war poem Battaglia peso + odore (1912; Battle Weight + Smell) was appended to one of the Futurists manifestos as an example of words-in-freedom:

Arterial-roads bulging heat fermenting hair armpits drum blinding blondness breathing + rucksack 18 kilograms common sense = seesaw metal moneybox weakness: 3 shudders commands stones anger enemy magnet lightness glory heroism Vanguards: 100 meters machine guns rifle-fire explosion violins brass pim pum pac pac tim tum machine guns tataratatarata

Designed analogies (pictograms where shape analogically mimics meaning), dipinti paroliberi (literary collages combining graphic elements with free-word poetry), and sintesi (minimalist plays) were among other new genres. New forms of dissemination were favoured, including Futurist evenings, mixed-media events, and the use of manifesto leaflets, poster poems, and broadsheet-format journals containing a mixture of literature, painting, and theoretical pronouncements. Until 1914, however, output fell far short of the movements declared program, and Futurist poetsin contrast to Marinettiremained largely traditionalist in their subject matter and idiom, as was demonstrated by the movements debut anthology I poeti futuristi (1912; The Futurist Poets).

Marinetti was for some time primarily associated with his African Mafarka le futuriste (1910; Mafarka the Futurist), a tale of rape, pillage, and battle set in North Africa. Apart from its misogyny, racism, and glorification of a cult of violence, the novel is remembered for its heros creation of a machine brought to life as a superman destined to inherit the future. Only when Marinetti started grounding his avant-garde poetry in the realities of his combat experiences as a war reporter during World War I, however, did a distinctly innovative Futurist idiom emerge, one that represented a significant break from past poetic practices.

The title of literary Futurisms most important manifesto, Distruzione della sintassiimmaginazione senza filiparole in libert (1913; Destruction of SyntaxWireless ImaginationWords-in-Freedom), represented Marinettis demands for a pared-down elliptical language, stripped of adjectives and adverbs, with verbs in the infinitive and mathematical signs and word pairings used to convey information more economically and more boldly. The resultant telegraphic lyricism is most effective in Marinettis war poetry, especially Zang tumb tumb and Dunes (both 1914). A desire to make language more intensive led to a pronounced use of onomatopoeia in poems dealing with machines and waras in the title of Zang tumb tumb, intended to mimic the sound of artillery fireand to a departure from uniform, horizontal typography. A number of Futurist painter-poets blurred the distinction between literature and visual art, as Severini did in Danza serpentina (1914; Serpentine Dance). While Marinettis poetic experiments revealed an indebtedness to Cubism, he elevated Italian literary collage, often created for the purpose of pro-war propaganda, to a distinctively Futurist art form. The culmination of this tendency came with Carrs Festa patriottica (1914; Patriotic Celebration) and Marinettis Les Mots en libert futuristes (1919; Futurist Words-in-Freedom).

A typographical revolution was also proclaimed in the Futurists 1913 manifesto; it grew out of both a desire to make form visually dynamic and a perceived need for visual effects in type that were capable of reflectingthrough size and boldnessthe noise of modern warfare and urban life. A diverse series of shaped poetic layouts depicted speeding cars, trains, and airplanes, exploding bombs, and the confusions of battle. Apart from Marinettis work, the most accomplished typographical experiments are to be found in the poetry of Francesco Cangiullo and Fortunato Depero.

During its first decade, Italian literary Futurism remained a largely homogeneous movement. By contrast, Russian Futurism was fragmented into a number of splinter groups (Ego-Futurists, Cubo-Futurists, Hylaea [Russian Gileya]) associated with a large number of anthologies representing continually regrouping artistic factions. While there was an urbanist strand to Russian Futurism, especially in the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Yelena Guro, Russian writers were less preoccupied with machines, speed, and violence than their Italian counterparts. The dominant strain of primitivism in Russian Futurism led some to conclude that the two movements have little in common apart from the word Futurism. While there was a shared interest in the renewal of language, the Italians innovations were invariably designed to express an ultramodern sensibility, whereas Russian Futurist poets and playwrights confined their attentions to The Word as Such (the title of one of their most famous manifestos, Slovo kak takovoye, published in 1913). A number of these writers, most impressively Velimir Khlebnikov, explored the archaic roots of language and drew on primitive folk culture for their inspiration.

As was the case in Italy, the main achievements of Russian Futurism lie in poetry and drama. As it did in Italy, neologism played a large role in Russian attempts to renew language, which in turn aimed at the destruction of syntax. The most-famous Futurist poem, Khlebnikovs Zaklyatiye smekhom (1910; Incantation by Laughter), generates a series of permutations built on the root -smekh (laughter) by adding impossible prefixes and suffixes. The result is a typical (for Russian Futurism) concern with etymology and word creation. Khlebnikovs and Alexey Kruchenykhs radical forays into linguistic poetry went hand in hand with an interest in the word as pure sound. Their invented zaumthe largely untranslatable name given to their transrational languagewas intended to take language beyond logical meanings in the direction of a new visionary mysticism. Kruchenykhs opera Pobeda nad solncem (1913; Victory over the Sun) and Khlebnikovs play Zangezi (1922) are two of the most-important examples of the Futurist blend of transrationalism with the cult of the primitive. Mayakovsky, the greatest Russian poet to have gone through a Futurist phase, was coauthor of the manifesto Poshchochina obshchestvennomu vkusu (1912; A Slap in the Face of Public Taste), and his poems figure in many of the movements key anthologies. While sharing an Italian-influenced Futurist sensibility with the Ego-Futurists and belonging more, on account of their concern with verbal innovation, to the body of works by the Cubo-Futurist painter-poets, his poetry and plays are, above all, Futurist in their provocative rejection of the past and their subjectivist approach to the renewal of poetic language.

During the 1920s, Marinetti and those around him gravitated toward fascism, whereas the Soviet communist regime became increasingly intolerant of what it dismissed as avant-garde Formalism. While relations between Italian and Russian Futurism were, on the whole, strained, the Italian Futurists exercised a strong influence on German Expressionism, English Vorticism, and international Dada.

Original post:

Futurism | the arts | Britannica.com

How Machine Learning Could Help California Fight Wildfires

Fire Crisis

Wildfires have torn through nearly hundreds of thousands of acres in California already this year, forcing evacuations and causing dozens of deaths.

A new story by the Bay Area News Group looks at whether a combination of machine learning and new data gathering tools could warn firefighters about fires earlier, help responders evacuate areas more efficiently, and even save lives. The conclusion: Those technologies hold great promise, but none will be a cure-all in the face of worsening fires.

Silver Bullet

Alex Koltunov is a UC Davis researcher who designs algorithms that parse data from weather satellites to flag likely fires. He told the Bay Area News that although tech-powered fire detection methods have made strides in recent years, there’s no “silver bullet.”

“Each method has its limitations,” he said. “How good is the data? Is the fire a barbecue in a backyard, or a campfire?”

Cyborg Firefighters

Ultimately, experts and firefighters agreed that communication is key — the best fire detection systems prioritize sharing data between all the parties involved, be they humans, algorithms, government agencies, or other stakeholders.

And sometimes, a breakthrough is simply a new item of consumer technology. Firefighter Jim Crawford told the news group that one of the state’s most valuable tools for fighting fires is the humble cell phone, which lets ordinary people call emergency services when they spot a fire.

READ MORE: Camp Fire Shows Need for Early Detection: How Tech and Artificial Intelligence Can Help [Mercury News]

More on wildfires: California’s Future Is Dry, Wet, and Scary

See the rest here:
How Machine Learning Could Help California Fight Wildfires

Tesla’s “Bioweapon Defense Mode” Is Helping Californians Breathe

California Catastrophe

Wildfires are currently raging across California, their flames destroying entire cities and claiming dozens of lives.

The fires are also pumping smoke into the sky, causing the air quality in some areas to drop so low that officials are handing out breathing masks.

However, residents who drive Teslas are finding they can eschew these masks as long as they’re safely in their cars — it turns out that an auto feature designed to combat an act of biological warfare is also proving useful against this natural disaster.

Save Your Breath

In 2015, Tesla announced that its Model X would include a “bioweapon defense mode” button. Push the button, and the SUV’s massive air filter would kick into gear, filtering out anything in the air — viruses, bacteria, smog — that could hurt the vehicle’s inhabitants.

The idea was that the system would allow Tesla owners to survive any future attacks involving airborne biological weapons.

Tesla later added bioweapon defense mode to its Model S, and now, California Tesla owners are realizing the system is allowing them to breathe clean air in their cars despite the smoky scene unfolding beyond their windshields.

Not Stunting

Skeptics criticized bioweapon defense mode as a marketing stunt at the time of its unveiling, but it’s clearly proving useful right now — several Tesla owners have tweeted about how the system is helping them breathe and expressed thanks to Tesla for creating it.

On Saturday, CEO Elon Musk offered up Tesla’s vehicles for use transporting people as a part of wildfire relief efforts. But thanks to the three-year-old bioweapon defense mode, Tesla is already doing its part to help Californians make it through the state’s terrifying fires.

READ MORE: Tesla’s ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ Is Proving Invaluable to Owners Affected by CA Wildfires [Teslarati]

More on Tesla: Tesla Just Unveiled the Newest Model S, And It Can Withstand Biological Warfare

Read more:
Tesla’s “Bioweapon Defense Mode” Is Helping Californians Breathe

How Facebook Flags Terrorist Content With Machine Learning

Say No to Terrorism

For years, content that promotes terrorism has thrived on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Fighting it is an uphill battle that has forced tech companies to open war rooms and hire new specialists. One solution that companies including Facebook are now betting on: machine learning. In a recent blog post, the social  giant detailed the way it’s using the technology to identify content that “may signal support for ISIS or al-Qaeda.”

Bot Moderators

Facebook engineered an algorithm that assigns each post a score based on the likelihood that it violates the company’s counterrorism policies. If that score crosses a certain threshold, the post will be removed immediately without human moderation.

The blog post is thin on specific details about how the algorithm’s scoring system actually works. That’s not entirely surprising: it’s a high stakes game of whack-a-mole, and Facebook isn’t likely to reveal all of its secrets to the world.

Unappealing Truth

Facebook is quick to admit there is no perfect system — or at least that it hasn’t found one yet. Luckily, in April it updated its appeals process, in case the algorithms flag false positives.

It’s a step in the right direction — we know that neither human moderation nor machine learning algorithms alone will be enough to remove all terrorism content from social media.

READ MORE: How Facebook uses machine learning to fight ISIS and Al-Qaeda propaganda [MIT Technology Review]

More on terrorism on social media: Facebook Needs Humans *And* Algorithms To Filter Hate Speech

Read the rest here:
How Facebook Flags Terrorist Content With Machine Learning

The UK Is Developing Autonomous Killer Robots

Battle Droids

As recently as April, the United Kingdom tried to position itself as the world leader for artificial intelligence ethics. Now it’s actively developing the ultimate ethical no-no: fully-autonomous weapons systems and fighter drones.

Officially, the U.K. government’s public stance is that it has no interest in developing autonomous weapons — but it refuses to join most other U.N. members and ban the technology outright.

Rule, Britannia

Maybe that’s because, according to a new story in the Guardian, the U.K. government is funding dozens of research programs working to bring together the underlying technology of autonomous drones, decision-making AI, and strategic weapons systems into military killbots.

The Ministry of Defense has suggested that AI-powered autonomous weapons may be feasible to make and effective in combat by 2030. And if the report that The Guardian was covering, titled “Off the Leash: How the UK is developing the technology to build armed autonomous drones” is to be believed, we’d all be better off if they stopped.

Ministry of Skynet

Twelve years is a very short time to put human lives in the hands of an algorithm. Especially one that’s built specifically to end human lives. Facial recognition software used by police are notorious for false positives and can be easily fooled. And algorithms reflect the same biases and prejudices of the people who train them — even the most objective AI systems are subject to whatever axes their programmers have to grind.

Consider those two problems when it comes to an algorithm built by the military specifically to find and kill enemy combatants and other targets. Any misstep could be horrifying  — and given how frequently algorithms game their own rules, there will almost certainly be catastrophic errors if these machines are ever used.

READ MORE: Britain funds research into drones that decide who they kill, says report [The Guardian]

More on unethical artificial intelligence: Five Experts Share What Scares Them the Most About AI

See more here:
The UK Is Developing Autonomous Killer Robots

5 Ways Your Business is Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

Hackers know a prime target when they spot one. Unfortunately, small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) are often those prime targets. A lot of small business owners like to think that malicious attackers don’t have anything to gain by going after “the little guy,” or that they don’t have much to lose.

That’s simply not the case. Sixty-one percent of SMBs have been hit by cyber attacks, and the average cost of those breaches has exceeded $1,000,000. Here are some of the easy ways that hackers barge their way into small business networks.


Malware is malicious software designed to infiltrate computer systems and extract any important information it might find. It comes in several different forms, including viruses, spyware, Trojans, rootkits, and worms.

Without the right protection plans in place, malware can run rampant on devices, collecting all kinds of data without the user even knowing. And those protection plans have to be backed by a security team that understands the fast-paced world of malware – unfortunately, in the first quarter of 2017, a new malware specimen emerged every 4.2 seconds.


A phishing scam occurs when cyber attackers send fraudulent emails pretending to be from a trusted source, but lead people to inadvertently deliver personal or professional information straight to a hacker via a malicious website link.

A lot of people think they’re too smart to get caught up in a phishing scam. By now, for instance, most people know that a Nigerian prince doesn’t really want to share his fortune. But hackers are constantly developing targeted, sophisticated emails that appear official and secure. For example, security experts are currently worried about a phishing attack where victims receive an email that looks like one sent from FedEx. The email instructs the recipient to click on a link that claims to help them manage a package delivery, but instead, clicking on the link gives a hacker access to their device’s system and information.


Like the name implies, ransomware attackers demand a payment in order to stop their attack, making this one of the most frustrating and devastating potential breaches. During a ransomware attack, hackers spread malicious software throughout a device or an entire system. The software shuts down those devices or systems until a payment has been made. In addition to deciding whether or not to fork over money to the people attacking them, SMBs also have to spend money bolstering their security systems and making up for the lost productivity.

One of those most wide-reaching ransomware attacks was the WannaCry worm of 2017, which hit more than 230,000 computers across the globe that were running outdated or vulnerable systems. The attackers demanded $300 in bitcoin from their victims, threatening to delete important files if the ransom wasn’t paid. Most didn’t pay the fee, but they still had to wait days for security fixes to be issued. The attack crippled England’s National Health System, shut down Australian speed cameras, forced a Honda factory in Japan to shut down, and all in all is estimated to have cost victims in the billions.


Spoofing attacks occur when the hacker sends out emails pretending they’re someone they’re not. For instance, attackers send out an email that appears to be from the company’s CEO or HR department requesting info on private company data. An employee would then send that info along to who they believe is their superior, but is actually a cyber attacker.

In a case like that, spoofing emails can harm a SMB directly. But they can also cause devastation via indirect ways, as well. For instance, German banking chain Deutsche Bank recently had to pay a $30 million fine after two of their former traders launched a successful spoofing attack that manipulated the prices of precious metals futures on the commodities market. A banking giant can afford that fee, but small businesses might not be able to afford the losses that could come from believing fraudulent, incorrect information about the markets.


Rootkit is sneaky and clandestine software that allows an outside user to take control of a device without the owner’s knowledge. Like some other cyber attacks, that control gives a hacker access to the device’s secure network and files. But a rootkit is extra dangerous because, in addition to accessing those files, the hacker also has complete control of the device. That means they can alter network configurations, falsify documents, override security mechanisms, and infect the device with more malware. The attacker can also spy on the device’s owner, for example by recording every websites they visit and provided credential information. Unfortunately, rootkits are very difficult to detect and almost always require the work of professionals to remove.

One of the most threatening rootkits is LoJax. Security experts worry that they have only seen the beginning of this rootkit, which is currently spreading. Right now, attackers are using it to modify security systems and then infect devices with even more malware. Since the attackers maintain control of the device, they can be sure that the malicious software is executed, all without detection. Researchers fear that attackers will develop even more sophisticated LoJax breaches in the months and years to come.

Ensuring Total Security

So what can small businesses do? For starters: get a VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it’s a solution that many businesses use to help minimize the chance of a cyber attack. The network is encrypted and often requires multiple authentication methods, making it easier for remote workers and employees in multiple branches to securely access the applications and systems they need to do their jobs.

It’s a great first layer of protection. But in order to ensure total security, small businesses need a security plan in place that will defend that VPN as well as make sure that every device contains several layers of protection. HP provides exactly that. The company knows that each PC decision is a security decision, and it equips each of your business’s devices with the tools they need to stop vulnerabilities from every angle.

Programs like HP Sure Start, HP Sure Recover, and HP Sure Click stop malicious software from spreading to a business’s devices and network, managing all potential threats so a small business can focus on building its business. In the case of an attack like LoJax, HP Sure Start would be able to stay one step ahead of the game by detecting the attack before it can happen. LoJax gets in by attaching itself to the BIOS, which is the first million lines of code that a device runs before being turned on. HP Sure Start recognizes rootkits like LoJax at the BIOS level, and then completely replaces the BIOS to ensure that LoJax doesn’t have a ride into the system.

The danger is real, but hope isn’t lost. With the right understanding of their own vulnerabilities and an HP cyber security plan in place, small business owners can make enterprise-level security decisions that will turn them from a hacker’s prime target to a hacker’s dead end.

Learn More at hp.com

Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with HP, who sponsored this post. They help us keep the lights on. This post does not necessarily reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.

5 Ways Your Business is Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

Watch a Drone Steal a Bicycle

Boosted Bike

Here’s something you don’t see every day.

On November 10, a user uploaded a video to YouTube competitor Rumble in which a drone swoops down and carries off an unattended bicycle. According to the video’s description, the heist occurred on October 26 in the small town of Hustopece in the Czech Republic.

“We were at Lookout Tower close to Hustope with few friends when a drone appeared and tried to steal the bike,” wrote the uploader. “The drone was probably boosted somehow. It dropped the bike after few hundred meters.”

Yeah, Right

As entertaining as the video is, it’s very likely a hoax.

For one thing, the video cuts away at what would likely be the most difficult part of the heist for the drone: actually getting a grip on the bike.

The drone also appears to be a small consumer model — possibly a DJI Inspire 1 — which would only be able to lift less than 10 pounds. Even the lightest production road bike in the world weighs more than that.

And also, the footage of the bike-carrying drone simply looks fake.

Partner In Crime

The video might be a hoax, but it could also be a window into the future of crime. The beefiest of today’s drones can carry a person, and it’s not a far stretch to imagine someone figuring out a way to use one to swoop in and lift a bike. Heck, maybe they could use something as simple as a powerful magnet to attach to it.

Either way, the video is entertaining, and if nothing else, it’s a reminder to lock it where you leave it if you want to find it where you left it. Especially in the drone era.

Additional reporting by Victor Tangermann

READ MORE: Drone’s High-Tech Bike Theft Attempt Caught on Camera [UPI]

More on drone crime: Criminals Are Now Using Swarms of Small Drones to Befuddle Law Enforcement

Watch a Drone Steal a Bicycle

We Should Make Dangerous Robots Look Dangerous, Says Roboticist

What You See…

We put a lot of thought into what robots can do. But maybe we should pay a bit more attention to how the machines look and act.

Madeline Gannon thinks so, anyway. She’s the artist/coder/designer behind Manus, an installation about how we can use body language to communicate with robots. In a recent interview with The Verge, she argues that the appearance and body language of robots could impact how we interact with the machines in the future — and help us stay safe in the process.

Animal Instincts

For Manus, Gannon programmed a row of 10 industrial robot arms to react to passersby at a World Economic Forum tech and science summit in Tianjin, China, in September.

But the bots didn’t react as individual machines — Gannon connected them to a single controller, which essentially gave the bots a “pack mentality,” comparable to what you might see with dogs in the wild.

In the Verge interview, Gannon suggests that thinking about robots as animals in general could help us develop better ways to communicate with them.

“If you go for a walk in the park and see some strange creature cross your path, you will read its body language and try to understand its intentions,” she said. “I think that’s something that can be tapped into.”

Looking Ahead

To that end, Gannon suggests roboticists try to convey a robot’s intentions through its body language and appearance — the same way animals convey their intentions in the wild.

“I think a big industrial robot should look dangerous if it’s about to do something dangerous. It should trigger our instincts when it moves; forcing us to step back and give it our full attention,” she told the Verge. “This is new territory we’re charting, and I want to argue for design patterns that build legibility into the behavior of these machines.”

READ MORE: Teaching Robots Body Language Offers Common Ground for Humans and Machines [The Verge]

More on robot communication: Robots and Humans Need to Learn How to “Talk” to One Another

Read more:
We Should Make Dangerous Robots Look Dangerous, Says Roboticist

British Companies Are Implanting Microchips in Their Employees

Chip’s Challenge

U.K. tech firm BioTeq has carved out an unusual niche for itself: implanting microchips into the hands of other companies’ workers.

According to a new story in the Guardian, BioTeq is one of several firms that companies in the U.K. are hiring to implant RFID microchips into their employees. The employees can then use the chips to access company buildings and store information.

Put the Chip in Me

BioTeq founder Steven Northam told the Guardian that most of the company’s work is for individuals who want to use the the chips to access their own homes and cars. However, it has implanted RFID chips in the hands of workers in the financial and engineering sectors, too — though the procedure is voluntary. It’s also shipped the chips to other countries including Spain, France, Germany, Japan, and China.

Another firm, Biohax of Sweden, may soon start providing similar services in the U.K.

Labor Rights

Workers’ rights groups in the U.K. are up in arms about the trend of implanting workers with microchips, which they worry will give employers new tools to surveil employees.

“Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers,” said Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, in an interview with the Guardian. “There are obvious risks involved, and employers must not brush them aside, or pressure staff into being chipped.”

READ MORE: Alarm Over Talks to Implant UK Employees With Microchips [The Guardian]

More on microchip implants: All the Rage in Sweden: Embedding Microchips Under Your Skin

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British Companies Are Implanting Microchips in Their Employees

Here’s What Samsung’s Foldable Phone Will Probably Cost You

Bend but Don’t Break

Things you fold: clean towels, terrible poker hands, and… your smartphone?

Tech manufacturer Samsung has been teasing a foldable smartphone since 2014, and last week it finally provided the world with its first glimpse of such a device at its annual developers conference. The demonstration didn’t reveal too much about the device, other than the fact that it looks like a typical rectangular smartphone until the user unfolds it like a book, at which point its size is more comparable to a tablet.

It wasn’t until Monday, when South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency shared previously undisclosed details about the device, that we found out its name, price tag, and release date.

Rumor Has It

According to Yonhap‘s sources, Samsung is calling its foldable phone the Galaxy F, and it plans to release the device in March 2019.

As for the price, Yonhap’s sources say the Galaxy F will set consumers back approximately $1,770 — substantially more than any other Samsung smartphone.

Style > Speed

The Galaxy F’s price tag might be a jaw-dropper, but it comes with a head-scratcher: The device will not support 5G, the next generation in wireless connectivity.

This is particularly surprising given that the smartphone manufacturer’s Galaxy S10, which it will release in February, will reportedly include a 5G option. Ultimately, Samsung is asking consumers to pay an awful lot of money for a phone that might end up being slower than cheaper devices that are coming out at roughly the same time.

READ MORE: Samsung Electronics to Release First Foldable Smartphone in March: Sources [Yonhap News Agency]

More on Samsung’s phone: Foldable Smartphones? Samsung Files Patent for Rollable, Folding Phones

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Here’s What Samsung’s Foldable Phone Will Probably Cost You

The Pentagon Needs Help Intercepting “Hypersonic” Nukes

No Dumb Ideas!

By 2020, the Russian military claims it will have nuclear missiles capable of gliding across the upper atmosphere — too low for most satellite detection systems — before plummeting back to Earth at 20 times the speed of sound.

This puts the rest of the world in a pickle because there’s no good way to stop these hypersonic weapons. So last week, according to The National Interest, DARPA put out a call for proposals for Project Glide Breaker — an initiative it hopes will result in an interceptor capable of stopping hypersonic missiles and vehicles.

Space Needle

These plans to build an interceptor capable of stopping a hypersonic weapon seem far-fetched. As Kelsey Atherton wrote for Task & Purpose, there has yet to be a single missile defense system that succeeded without being seriously rigged.

That aligns with The National Interest’s reporting, which suggests that it would cost far too much to effectively shield the U.S. in this way. Rather, the best bet for Project Glide Breaker would be just effective enough to deter attacks by blocking just enough missiles that an adversary wouldn’t be able to reliably count on any one given missile reaching its target.

Use Your Words

All of this is to prepare for an all-out war, nuclear or otherwise, that hasn’t happened yet.

While it’d be nice to have a shield in the event that such a conflict arose, there’s a world of difference between a country maybe someday building a weapon against which it is difficult to defend and ever expecting that weapon to be used. Right now, we’re far away from the latter.

READ MORE: DARPA Is Looking for a Way To Shoot Down Hypersonic Weapons [The National Interest]

More on avoidable warfare: AI Could Start A Nuclear War. But Only If We Let AI Start A Nuclear War

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The Pentagon Needs Help Intercepting “Hypersonic” Nukes

The Two Fastest Supercomputers on Earth Belong to the US

Tag Team

The U.S. just further solidified its place as the world leader in supercomputing.

According to a newly released list of the fastest supercomputers in the world, the U.S. is now home to not just the fastest system — but its runner-up as well.

Silver and Gold

A supercomputer is a computer capable of processing information at incredibly fast speeds. Twice a year since 1993, a team of computing experts from the U.S. and Germany has compiled the TOP500, a list of the 500 fastest computers in the world.

In June, the U.S. claimed the top spot on the list, with its Summit supercomputer knocking China’s Sunway TaihuLight down to second place.

But according to the latest TOP500, released Monday, the U.S. has pushed the Chinese machine down to third place on the list by claiming the number two spot with Sierra, a supercomputer at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Library.

We’re All Winners

The TOP500 ranking is based on how many floating-point operations (flops) a computer can complete in one second. Summit’s speed improved since the release of the last list — it boasts a score of 143.5 petaflops per second on the new list. As for Sierra, it’s capable of computing at a speed of 122.3 petaflops per second.

The U.S. might be home to the two fastest supercomputers, but China definitely has the States beat in terms of quantity, with more than 45 percent of the machines on the list compared to just 22 percent in the U.S.

Regardless of which nation is currently on top or which has the most systems, though, the fact that the TOP500 list changes every time it’s released is a very good sign — it means the world’s computing systems are constantly improving, and that has the potential to help us all, no matter where we live.

READ MORE: The Two Fastest Supercomputers in the World Now Belong to the United States [Popular Mechanics]

More on supercomputers: America Now Has the Fastest Supercomputer in the World. Here’s Why That Actually Matters

The Two Fastest Supercomputers on Earth Belong to the US

A Purple, Photosynthetic Bacteria Can Turn Your Poop Into Power

Sewage Power

The human body doesn’t extract all the energy out of food, so our waste is a great untapped energy source. Now, thanks to purple photosynthetic bacteria, we can convert our poop into hydrogen and carbon energy sources.

In research published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Energy Research, a team of Spanish chemists figured out a way to hijack a bacterium’s ability to turn light into energy — and use it to break down waste into useful fuels.

Modern Alchemy

When the scientists stimulated the bacteria with a weak electric current, it sucked up the hydrogen from some fecal matter. It also extracted the carbon, preventing any greenhouse gas emissions and raising the possibility that the carbon could be used in various materials or other energy sources.

Though this particular study was merely designed to show that the process works, the researchers hope that this bioelectric process could be used to extract clean, usable fuel out of the wastewater treatment process instead of just wiping it all away. Currently, waste water treatment plants typically dry out and dump human waste while freely burning off any gases they emit.

Regular Movements

Other scientists and startups have experimented with poop-to-power technologies.

But this is the first time that these purple bacteria have been set loose to do their dirty business, specifically tweaked to grab up as much carbon as they can. It brings new meaning to the concept of “clean energy.”

READ MORE: Purple bacteria ‘batteries’ turn sewage into clean energy [ScienceDaily]

More on waste management: Bill Gates Wants to Save Lives and Money With High-Tech Toilets

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A Purple, Photosynthetic Bacteria Can Turn Your Poop Into Power

Yep, It’s Real: Your Next Rideshare Could Be Driverless in as Soon as a Month

Game Changer

We may not have to wait much longer to jump in a taxi without a human driver.

According to Bloomberg, Waymo is about to unveil the world’s first driverless ride-hailing service as soon as next month. Waymo has yet to officially announce a new name for the project.

Phoenix Rising

According to Bloomberg‘s sourcethe service will be limited to a handful of authorized cars in a 100 square mile area across a number of Phoenix suburbs.

The Alphabet-owned company has been test driving its modified driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans on the streets of Silicon Valley and Arizona for some time now. Since March of this year, Waymo’s Early Rider Program has allowed test groups — including families — to go for driverless rides around Phoenix. Those Early Riders will be the first to access the new program, according to Bloomberg.

Waymo’ Driverless Miles

It’s very likely Waymo will want to expand the commercial service to different parts of the country, but that might take some time. While its driverless technology is already ahead of the curve, Waymo’s approach is to slowly expand to other areas without incurring major setbacks such as a crash.

Waymo is already planning on adding 62,000 hybrid minivans, and 20,000 electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to its driverless fleet by 2020.

Driverless Nation

Time will tell whether we’ll see Waymo’s driverless minivans give people rides. But opening a fully fledged driverless service to the masses would be bound to give Waymo unprecedented visibility.

The takeaway: It’s starting to look as though it’s no longer a matter of “if,” but “when” Uber and Lyft drivers will be replaced with sophisticated technology.

READ MORE: Waymo to Start First Driverless Car Service Next Month [Bloomberg]

More on autonomous cars: Waymo Plans to Deploy The Largest Fleet of Autonomous Vehicles by 2020

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Yep, It’s Real: Your Next Rideshare Could Be Driverless in as Soon as a Month

A Deodorant Maker is Using Machine Learning to Detect Your B.O.


Unilever — that’s the owner of prominent deodorant makers Axe and Dove — has teamed up with an all-star squad of academics and electronics manufacturers to create a machine learning-powered gadget that’ll tell you if you have body odor.

That’s according to a detailed story in the magazine IEEE Spectrum about Unilever’s work with chipmaker Arm, electronics firm PragmatIC, and researchers at the University of Manchester. They aim to use some of the most advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and sensor technology in the world — to tell you whether you smell bad.


The gadget will take the form of a thin plastic strip, according to IEEE, with a tiny processor and an array of organic semiconductors that detect “gaseous analytes” — chemical signs, apparently, that you’re giving off a nasty pong.

And because those gaseous analytes are complex, the system will employ machine learning to analyze the data and decide whether it’s time for a fresh misting of the “hot chocolate” and “red peppercorn notes” from Axe’s Dark Temptation XL Body Spray.

Food Waste

The technology wouldn’t just provide relief for your family and coworkers. It could also potentially evaluate food freshness, according to IEEE — possibly cutting into the 1.3 billion tons of food that went to waste in 2016.

And, to be fair, it also represents a step forward for AI and sensor technology, which have become adept at recognizing sights and sounds but struggled to categorize smells.

READ MORE: Arm Leads Project to Develop an Armpit-Sniffing Plastic AI Chip [IEEE Spectrum]

More on smell technology: FeelReal Brings Sense of Smell To Virtual Reality

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A Deodorant Maker is Using Machine Learning to Detect Your B.O.

Google’s New AI Can Recognize Voices It’s Never Heard Before

Speak Up

If you’ve ever been on a conference call, you know how important it can be to identify a person just from their voice. After all, how will you know who to deliver that report to if you can’t tell who asked for it?

This skill is even more difficult for an artificial intelligence (AI) to master, but Google thinks it now has a system adept enough at it for real-world applications — and it can operate in real-time.

You Heard

Identifying the voice of a speaker it’s already heard isn’t so hard for an AI — after all, we’re able to train AIs such as Alexa and Siri to recognize our voices. It’s getting an AI to recognize a voice we haven’t trained it to recognize as soon as the voice starts speaking that’s proven difficult.

On Monday, Google AI Research Scientist Chong Wang published a blog post detailing how his team was able to create an AI better at speaker diarization — that’s the process of splitting an audio clip featuring more than one speaker into segments based on the person talking at any given moment — than previous attempts.

Active Listener

Wang’s explanation is highly technical, but the crux of it is this: While most speaker diarization systems rely on clustering — a machine learning technique focused on the grouping of data points — the Google team’s system makes use of recurrent neural networks, which are a type of machine learning model that processes sequences of data points.

Using this method, the Google team was able to create an AI capable of speaker diarization with an error rate of just 7.6 percent. The team is now focused on improving the system themselves, and it’s also posted its algorithms on GitHub, meaning anyone can download the files for their own research.

Eventually, we could end up with an AI capable of near-flawless real-time speaker diarization, which could improve how we caption live eventstranscribe doctor-patient conversations, and more.

READ MORE: Accurate Online Speaker Diarization with Supervised Learning [Google AI Blog]

More on AI: You Have No Idea What Artificial Intelligence Really Does

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Google’s New AI Can Recognize Voices It’s Never Heard Before

The UK is Testing Robots to Deliver Food and Ammo to Soldiers

Picking Teams

The British military is going public with its love for drones and other military robots. On Monday, it began its four-week “Autonomous Warrior” experiment, the largest military exercise to focus on robots in British history.

Primarily, MIT Technology Review reports, the Ministry of Defense hopes to use drones and other autonomous robots to improve reconnaissance work in and around a battlefield and to keep logistical supply chains open, getting resources to soldiers who need them. But, ­because of course it is, the U.K. is also interested in combat-ready drones as well.

Drone Wars

The U.K. called for a set of artificial intelligence ethics guidelines as recently as April, so it’s ironic that the country is now fully embracing weaponized AI.

That’s not lost on activists in the U.K., who recently published a harrowing report of all the dangerous ways that military AI could be misused or glitch with deadly consequences.

Drone on

Still, it’s unlikely that any new protest will make the British government abandon their work towards autonomous drones on the battlefield, whether or not AI is employed in any weapons systems or if the robots just handle recon and deliveries.

As MIT Tech reported, Autonomous Warrior is the next step in a major push in defense research that began back in 2016. So for all the UK’s posturing, it sounds like this has been in the works for a while.

READ MORE: The British Army is carrying out a massive test of military robots and drones [MIT Technology Review]

More on military drones: Five Experts Share What Scares Them the Most About AI

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The UK is Testing Robots to Deliver Food and Ammo to Soldiers

How a Neural Network Runs a Family-Owned Japanese Dry Cleaner

Closed Circuit

In the Japanese prefecture of Tagawa, automation could one day enable dry-cleaning businesses to operate without any employees at all.

At least that’s Daisuke Tahara’s goal, according to WIRED. Already the owner of eight dry cleaners, Tahara taught himself the basics of machine learning and used them to build a system that lets customers create a service ticket by laying all their dirty clothes on a table to be scanned by a computer vision system.

Trickle Down

Tahara’s story is one of four short profiles published by WIRED on Tuesday. The common thread is that each subject decided to tinker around with artificial intelligence, usually teaching themselves to harness an algorithm’s ability to solve an everyday problem or, in Tahara’s case, streamline his family’s business.

AI giants have strong incentives to keep all of their developments to themselves. But they often choose to share some of their research to help foster a stronger research community and, presumably, to boast.

If you Build it

These glimpses into top AI labs can help the tech-savvy get started with their own AI pet projects.

The most impressive AI developments are still likely to come from those tech giants that have an absurd amount of money to throw at engineers and their labs. But in this era in which most AI research is on new uses for algorithms rather than major breakthroughs, more diversity among those who can build AI will only help the technology move forward.


More on the AI community: An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

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How a Neural Network Runs a Family-Owned Japanese Dry Cleaner