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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Superintelligence
Posted: March 26, 2020 at 6:47 am
In a press conference yesterday about the coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used notably religious language. He observed (at 33 minutes) that healthcare workers are doing Gods work of caring for people. Was he mistaken in saying so? You might well think so from watching the Cosmos series on Fox and the National Geographic channels.
Episodes 5 and 6 of this newseason of the program, with Neil deGrasse Tyson, aired on Monday. See here for commentary from Evolution News on episode 6. Going a little out of order, here are my thoughts on episode 5, entitled The Cosmic Connectome. This episode gives the impression that ancient medicine, with few exceptions such as the Greek physician Hippocrates and his followers, consisted merely of ritualistic appeasement of the gods. Reliable medicine triumphed only as science conquered religion. Wrong impression! Lets get this right.
In their introduction to the history of medicine, Essential Readings in Medicine and Religion (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), Gary Ferngren and Ekaterina Lomperis write: Healing in the ancient world took a variety of forms, some secular and some religious or magical. Here is their summary of the causal repertoire of ancient medicine (both before and after Hippocrates) in Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and early Christian texts:
Disease was generally attributed to four kinds of causation. In the first, it was said to be caused by gods or divinities and was often considered to be retributive, that is, inflicted in response to an act that had aroused the displeasure of a god or divine force. In the second type, disease was attributed to demons (minor deities or malevolent spirits).In the third, it was said to be caused by the magic of magicians or sorcerers. Finally, disease was seen to be the result of natural causes that could be observed, for example, in wounds and broken bones. While in some societies one or another model of disease causation was dominant, in most ancient cultures all four were seen as potential causes, and a proper diagnosis was necessary to determine which type was the cause and what kind of treatment would be effective in each instance.
Religion and science-based medicine have continued to interact in modern times, up through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Like Governor Cuomo, many people today still see religion and medicine as operating in harmony. They practice social distancing (echoing Old Testament leprosy protocol), accept medical ventilator assistance (if available), and pray. See neurosurgeon Michael Egnors comments, Why Prayer Is Wise During a Pandemic, at Mind Matters.
Prior to the public hospitals created by ancient Christians, very few ancient people had access to physicians. Early Christians proclaimed and practiced the harmony of faith (prayer, not pagan magic) and medical technology. Much of the subsequent humanitarian expansion of medicine, especially for the poor, was inspired and funded by Christianity. Many hospital names still reflect this religious heritage.
Although few medical practices prior to about two hundred years ago significantly resulted in healing, this was not due to religious hindrances to medical progress. Rather, biomedical science, needed to dramatically improve medical practice, took a long time for humanity to discover. This largely occurred in the modern Western world. The Judeo-Christian tradition proved to be a supportive context for such discoveries. See my video that deals with this subject, Three Big Ways Christianity Supported the Rise of Modern Science.
So Cosmos host Neil Tyson is wrong to say that the hallmark of modern science and enlightened medicine is the belief that nothing happens without a natural cause. That is a narrow philosophical belief that is out of touch with the cultural roots of modern science. Discovery of the cause-and-effect structure of the natural world has been best fostered in cultures committed to a belief in a supernatural creator who made a world with discoverable natural laws and discernible natural histories.
Despite Tysons many misguided criticisms of theistic religion, his own materialistic faith is granted a privileged, but undeserved, authority in Cosmos 3.0. Much of the rest of episode 5 is devoted to celebrating the emergence of consciousness from material processes, even though there is no good explanation for how this could have happened by a series of unguided physical events. Echoing Carl Sagan, Tyson defines the universe as everything that ever was, is, or will be. This is a statement of faith. Science, in principle, could not derive such a conclusion.
Finally, Tyson conveys religious awe when he concludes the episode with the hopeful anticipation that, after sharing our digitized brain contents with alien superintelligence, humanity will experience the ultimate realization of emergence, a cosmos interconnected by thoughts and dreams. Salvation by technology! This is an oblique expression of the extraterrestrial enlightenment myth that I debunk in my book Unbelievable. See also, Unbelievable: The Myth of Alien Enlightenment. Be on the lookout for more of this muddled naturalistic Nirvana in the remaining episodes of Cosmos.
Editors note: Find further reviews and commentary on the third season of Cosmos, Possible Worlds, here:
Image credit: Galen and Hippocrates, two ancient physicians, depicted in a fresco from Anagni Cathedral in Italy, by Nina Aldin Thune via Wikimedia Commons.
Originally posted here:
Posted: February 27, 2020 at 1:39 am
Dr. Luis Perez-Breva
Luis Perez-Breva is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor and the faculty director of innovation teams at the MIT School or Engineering. He is also an entrepreneur and part of The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Luis works to see how we can use technology to make our lives better and also on how we can work to get new technology out into the world. On an episode of the AI Today podcast, Professor Perez-Breva managed to get us to think deeply into our understanding of both artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Are we too focused on data?
Anyone who has been following artificial intelligence and machine learning knows the vital centrality of data. Without data, we cant train machine learning models. And without machine learning models, we dont have a way for systems to learn from experience. Surely, data needs to be the center of our attention to make AI systems a reality.
However, Dr. Perez-Breva thinks that we are overly focusing on data and perhaps that extensive focus is causing goals for machine learning and AI to go astray. According to Luis, so much focus is put into obtaining data that we judge how good a machine learning system is by how much data was collected, how large the neural network is, and how much training data was used. When you collect a lot of data you are using that data to build systems that are primarily driven by statistics. Luis says that we latch onto statistics when we feed AI so much data, and that we ascribe to systems intelligence, when in reality, all we have done is created large probabilistic systems that by virtue of large data sets exhibit things we ascribe to intelligence. He says that when our systems arent learning as we want, the primary gut reaction is to give these AI system more data so that we dont have to think as much about the hard parts of generalization and intelligence.
Many would argue that there are some areas where you do need data to help teach AI. Computers are better able to learn image recognition and similar tasks by having more data. The more data, the better the networks, and the more accurate the results. On the podcast, Luis asked whether deep learning is great enough that this works or if we have a big enough data set that image recognition now works. Basically: is it the algorithm or just the sheer quantity of data that is making this work?
Rather, what Luis argues is that if we can find a better way to structure the system as a whole, then the AI system should be able to reason through problems, even with very limited data. Luis compares using machine learning in every application to the retail world. He talks about how physical stores are seeing the success of online stores and trying to copy on that success. One of the ways they are doing this is by using apps to help customers navigate stores. Luis mentioned that he visited a Target where he had to use his phone to navigate the store which was harder than being able to look at signs. Having a human to ask questions and talk to is both faster and also part of the traditional experience of being in a brick and mortar retail location. Luis says he would much rather have a human to interact with at one of these locations than a computer.
Is the problem deep learning?
He compares this to machine learning by saying that machine learning has a very narrow application. If you try to apply machine learning to every aspect of AI then you will end up with issues similar to the ones he experienced at the Target. Basically, looking at neural networks as a hammer and every AI problem as a nail. No one technology or solution works for every application. Perhaps deep learning only works because of vast quantities of data? Maybe theres another algorithm that can generalize better, apply knowledge learned in one domain to another better, and use smaller amounts of data to get much better quality insights.
People have tried recently to automate many of the jobs that people do. Throughout history, Luis says that technology has killed businesses when it tries to replace humans. Technology and businesses are successful when they expand on what humans can do. Attempting to replace humans is a difficult task and one that is going to lead companies down the road to failure. As humans, he points out, we crave human interaction. Even in the age where people are constantly on their technology people desire human interaction greatly.
Luis also makes a point that many people mistakenly confuse automation and AI. Automation is using a computer to carry out specific tasks, and it is not the creation of intelligence. This is something that many are mentioning on several occasions. Indeed, its the fear of automation and the fictional superintelligence that has many people worried about AI. Dr. Perez-Breva makes the point that many ascribe human characteristics to machines. But this should not be the case with AI systems.
Rather, he sees AI systems more akin to a new species with a different mode of intelligence than humans. His opinion is that researchers are very far from creating an AI that is similar to what you will find in books and movies. He blames movies for giving people the impression of robots (AI) killing people and being dangerous technologies. While there are good robots in movies, there are a few of them and they get pushed to the side by bad robots. He points out that we need to move away from this pushing images of bad robots. Our focus needs to be on how artificial intelligence can help humans grow. It would be beneficial if the movie-making industry could help with this. As such, AI should be thought of as a new intelligent species were trying to create, not something that is meant to replace us.
A positive AI future
Despite negative images and talk, Luis is sure that artificial intelligence is here to stay, at least for a while. So many companies have made large investments into AI that it would be difficult for them to just stop using them or to stop the development.
As a final question in the interview, Luis was asked where he sees the industry of artificial intelligence going. Prefacing his answer with the fact that based on the earlier discussion people are investing in machine learning and not true artificial intelligence, Luis said that he is happy in the investment that businesses are making in what they call AI. He believes that these investments will help the development of this technology to stay around for many years.
Once we can stop comparing humans to artificial intelligence, Luis believes that we will see great advancements in what AI can do. He believes that AI has the power to work alongside humans to unlock knowledge and tasks that we werent previously able to do. The point when this happens, he believes, is not that far away. We are getting closer to it every day.
Many of Luiss ideas are contrary to popular beliefs by many people who are interested in the world of artificial intelligence. At the same time, the ideas that he shares are presented in a very logical manner and are very thought-provoking. Time will tell if these ideas are in fact correct.
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Posted: at 1:39 am
By Shakiel Mahjouri.15 hours ago
Melissa McCarthy has made a career out of being herself and she advises others to do the same.
McCarthy, 49, covers this weeks issue ofPeople. The Life of the Party actress celebrates her own unique qualities and discusses life with her daughters.
RELATED: Melissa McCarthy Plays Epic Prank On Unsuspecting Employees
How boring would it be if we were all the same? Were drawn to each other because of all our weird, unexplainable character quirks, the Little Big Shots host says. Life is short. Just be yourself!
McCarthy shares two daughters Vivian, 12, and Georgette, 10 with husband Ben Falcone. A big part of the actresss parenting has been to foster self-confidence.
My oldest has a really good head on her shoulders, but kids that age are always thinking, Does someone think I look silly? I tell them its all silly and were all idiots! she says. The second you embrace that and have realfriends, you realize thats the fun part.
RELATED: Melissa McCarthy Feels A Little Bit Sorry For Trolls
Who is the dumbest and the goofiest? McCarthy asks. Those are the friends youll have all your life.
McCarthy next stars in her husbands films Superintelligence opposite James Corden, and Thunder Force with Octavia Spencer.
Posted: at 1:39 am
Driven by technology, the world is evolving at a rapid rate, with an increase in accessibility to all. Technology has become the fabric of our new reality, and the Australian mining industry is no different.
In Australia, businesses are accelerating the adoption of machines, robotics and artificial intelligence (Al), with 80 per cent of companies reporting AI is starting to make a presence in some form. Weve already seen great strides in mining, with autonomous transport in the form of trucks and trains, as well as self-healing equipment in plants and mining sites which proactively interact and work with technicians.
According to research by the World Economic Forum, 54 per cent of employees will need to be upskilled or reskilled by 2022, and by 2025, machines will be performing more than half of the work tasks, compared with the 29 per cent they do today.
AI gives humans superpowers in the form of amplification, interaction and embodiment. The way work is performed, where it takes place, who is responsible for tasks and how we reward employees is being reimagined.
By 2022, 58 per cent of tasks will be performed by humans and 42 per cent by machines and algorithms. Its predicted by 2021 there will be 7.5 billion active bots working in tandem with humans.
However, it is no longer a matter of Human vs Machines but rather Human + Machines.
Industries have successfully used technology and automation to improve efficiencies for decades. Thats nothing new. But the emergence of human and machine collaboration is.
Humachines (not to be mistaken with cyborgs), is a form of superintelligence which combines the smarts of big data and machine learning with a humans analytical, creative and intuitive mindset. Already, 49 per cent of business leaders believe its going to be the answer to achieving their strategic objectives and push the boundaries of how we work.
In fact, its expected AI enabled human and machine interfaces will replace one third of applications by 2024. Additionally, 49 per cent of business leaders believe the Human + Machine collaboration is important to achieve their strategic priorities. With humachine intelligence set to grow within the next five years, the Western Australian resources and mining industry has much to gain. At a time when the industry is going through unprecedented change, the opportunity to make a positive impact on climate sustainability, safety and the elimination of waste through the collaboration between human and machine is immense. Experts in human and technology collaboration, Accenture, calls this Triple Zero. This includes:
So, what does the future roadmap look like for the human workforce?
Its about redefining roles, exploring new business models and adapting to a more digitally savvy and fluid workforce, where we harness the power of machines to amplify human capabilities on the mine site. Machines are not just technology driven tools anymore, they are the next generation of employees.
Accenture Australia & New Zealand Natural Resources Lead Ann Burns said this wasnt a man versus machine scenario, its about how the two could co-exist and accelerate productivity in tandem.
Business leaders who look to understand and embrace the power of human and machine will find innovation will be rapid, and it will present new opportunities to make things better, easier, faster, smarter, safer and more sustainable.
For the mining industry, it will enable companies to tap into machine and human collaboration as the reality to their future success, unlocking new growth for WA and Australia.
Accentures Perth innovation hub works with global companies from all the resources and energy sectors to drive transformation and real innovation for them to grow at pace and scale. Visit the Perth Innovation Hub website to find out more.
Posted: February 12, 2020 at 9:43 am
In the trending arena of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is worthwhile to understand the pulse of the people towards its need, purpose, hype and reality.
Sometime back, Iinitiated a self-driven survey on LinkedIn comprising of six questions to knowwhat people think about the future of AI, how it is impacting their current workand possibly the future of work due to digital disruption. I have pulled in thesurvey results and shall try to draw some interesting insights with all of you.The intention of this survey is purely for educational purpose and theresponses do not form any general opinion or conclusion on any point.
What do you think the future of AI will be?
70% of the respondents feel that the future of AI is bright because it will become a necessity to keep up with the changing scenario to increase human efficiency and innovation. While 20% of respondents feel that it is an immediate need of the hour and only 10% feel that the future of AI is weak. We cannot ignore this 10% of the people who feel that AI is not going to bring that advantage and it is more of a hype than reality.
The problem with the understanding of AI is that it is treated as simply the system enabling automation engineering which overshadows its highest benefit of human augmentation a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other.
Do you think AI will replace or reduce existing workforce?
80% of the respondents feel that it will impact the existing workforce to some extent, and I believe it is evident from the following press release from Gartner. While only 10% of the respondents feel that it will impact the existing workforce significantly.
According to the following press release in Dec 2017, Gartner predicted that AI will create 2.3 million jobs in 2020, while eliminating 1.8 million.
The above 70% and20% of the respondents to first question who feel that the future of AI is bright,and it is an immediate need of the hour gives a clear reflection of confidence whichcan help in endorsing the human augmentation by removing the fear ofconsequences of elimination of 1.8 million jobs versus creation of 2.3 million.Its important that people stay relevant to obtain these new jobs.
Is your organization sensitized to the disruption created by AI?
60% of the respondents feel that their organizations are sensitized to some extent to the disruption created by AI while only 30% feel that either their organizations are not sensitized or neutral in their attitude and actions towards AI. This is an important segment as they will soon become the laggers as compared to the 10% leaders who are highly sensitized towards the disruption created by AI.
Now, it is not only about how machines can take decisions or do predictions but also about AGI (Artificial General Intelligence- think, understand and learn like humans) which humans can provide when they work cohesively with the machines doing specialized AI only. When we counter superintelligence, which is a state when the hypothetical or virtual agent exceeds human intelligence, we are restricting the human intelligence to grow and unleash its unexplored potential.
Do you think AI is impacting your current work and existence in the organization?
60% of the respondents feel that AI is impacting their current work and existence in the organization to some extent. It becomes important that there is a need to understand the future of work and how will the existing routine work be transformed or transferred to virtual workforce to improve the innovative and critical thinking of human workforce.
As per the aboveGartner report, it is also predicted that In2021, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.
These 6.2billion hours of worker productivity could be utilized in high valued taskssuch as improving the morale of the human workforce, building a cohesive andprogressive environment to retain the talent and, thus, augmenting the humancapital.
According to Karl Marxs theory of alienation, inthe capitalist mode of production, the generation of products (goods andservices) is accomplished with an endless sequence of discrete, repetitivemotions that offer the worker little psychological satisfaction for a jobwell done. By means of commodification, the labor power of the worker isreduced to wages (an exchange value); the psychological estrangement (Entfremdung)of the worker results from the unmediated relation between his productive laborand the wages paid to him for the labor. The worker is alienated from the meansof production via two forms; wage compulsion and the imposed productioncontent. The worker is bound to unwanted labour as a means of survival, labouris not voluntary but coerced (forced labor). [Source:Wikipedia]
The above theory rightly applies to the manual and mundane repetitive tasks being executed by the workforce in an IT business process which gives little psychological satisfaction and does not actually utilize the power of the human brain. Over a period, the worker is alienated from the process; since it becomes a routine activity and no further innovation or productivity gain is envisioned. Hence, this mundane/labour intensive job requiring no expert judgment can be shifted to a virtual workforce making the human workforce spend valuable time on innovation and improving the human-made artificial intelligent systems.
Do you and your organization focus on reskilling and upskilling to deal with the digital disruption?
Only 30% feel that their organizations are highly focused on reskilling and upskilling which creates a huge gap between strategy design and its implementation. Organizations which are partially focused treat AI as their goal or objective which is usually short-term perspective to stay in the business but in order to thrive, they need to treat AI as their strategy which is a long-term initiative.
This also highlights that the organizations which are not focused or neutral towards reskilling and upskilling will add to the global disparity and will create a risk for themselves by letting their customers realign with other vendors/partners.
How many of your existing customers request for building AI and ML enabled systems?
This question has the most fascinating response with 60% of people responding that large number of existing customers request for building AI and ML-enabled systems even though the response to the above question shows that only 30% of people feel that organizations are highly focused on reskilling and upskilling and 40% are partially focused. This clearly shows a gap between demand and supply and hence a need for more skilled people in this area to cater to the in-flight or in-pipeline requirements.
Its an opportunity to sustain, grow, compete, thrive and stay relevant to attain the business agility where teams can build innovative business solutions with high quality not only improving the operational efficiency with cost savings but embarking the new journey for exponential socio-economic growth. Nonetheless, it also obviates the myths and trough of despair towards AI enabling lowering the cost of making predictions and increasing the value of human judgment and supremacy.
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Warner Bros. and HBO Max Team Up on New Label to Produce Movies for the Streaming Service – IndieWire
Posted: February 10, 2020 at 2:42 am
HBO Max and its corporate sibling Warner Bros. announced today theyre teaming up to launch a new label that will produce movies for WarnerMedias HBO Max streaming service. The label, Warner Max, will produce eight to 10 films annually for the service, which launches in May, with the first titles dropping on the platform at some point this year.
The label will deal in mid-budget releases, the kind of films that have increasingly disappeared from theaters in favor of streaming-only distribution. Its a strategy already being employed by Disney with its four-month-old Disney+ service: The studio remains committed to theatrical tentpoles like the upcoming Marvel title Black Widow, while giving a streaming debut to mid-budget fare like the live-action Lady and the Tramp.
Warner Max hasnt yet made its slate public, but its likely some previously announced projects, like the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Superintelligence, will be among the first films to bear the labels name. Director Ben Falcone earlier this year said the film would not get a theatrical release, a wise financial decision given the downward trend in McCarthys box-office grosses, like the most recent Falcone-McCarthy collaboration Life of the Party.
With a $65.85 million gross on an estimated $30 million budget, it was their poorest-performing film to date. While a McCarthy-starring film may not be enough to drive people to theaters in droves, the comedian remains popular and a recognizable name: The film will be an attractive addition to HBO Maxs slate as streamers have doubled down on their commitment to exclusive, high-quality content. Thats a trend thats played out at Netflix, which just extended its deal with Adam Sandler to produce more streaming-only movies.
However, the company says Warners and New Line Cinema will each continue to release mid-budget movies for theatrical distribution, while Warner Max will create a new pipeline for filmmakers looking to make a particular type of film or connect with a specific audience that would be best reached in the streaming environment.
Awards hopefuls were among the mid-budget movies released by Warner Bros. in theaters last year, including Clint Eastwoods Richard Jewell, which earned an Oscar nomination for supporting actress Kathy Bates, and Edward Nortons Motherless Brooklyn, which got a Golden Globe nod for original score.
Day-to-day operations at the label will be handled byJessie Henderson, executive VP of original feature films for HBO Max, who will jointly report to Warner Bros. Pictures COO Carolyn Blackwood and HBO Maxs Head of Original Content Sarah Aubrey. HBO Maxs Chief Content Officer Kevin Reilly and Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich together share greenlight responsibility for Warner Max films.
In the streaming wars, ensuring quality is not sacrificed in the name of quantity is the name of the game. Just Tuesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger highlighted several times on the companys Q1 earnings call that quality original films and series played a big part in making Disney+ such a huge success.
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Quibi Trailers: Kiefer Sutherland Chases a New ‘Fugitive’, Forte and Olsen Get ‘Flipped’, and Idris Takes the Wheel in ‘Elba vs. Block’ – /FILM
Posted: at 2:42 am
We made fun of its name when it was first announced, but it looks like Quibi might get the last laugh.
The mobile-only streaming service, which has over $1 billion to throw around, the support of every single major Hollywood studio, and deals in place with tons of top-tier filmmakers, is going to debut this April, and trailers for its shows are beginning to make their way online. Weve gathered the first few below, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Kiefer Sutherland is back in Jack Bauer mode in a new iteration of The Fugitive, in which hes playing the Tommy Lee Jones-esque authority figure hunting down a man (Boyd Holbrook) who seems to have committed a crime. This isnt a straight remake of the 1960s show or the 1993 Harrison Ford movie, but instead puts a modern spin on that classic innocent man on the run premise. Scorpion creator Nick Santora is behind this version. Heres the shows official synopsis:
When a bomb rips through the Los Angeles subway train hes riding on, blue-collar Mike Ferro (Holbrook) just wants to make sure his wife, Allison, and 10-year-old daughter, Pearl, are safe. But the faulty evidence on the ground and tweet-now, confirm-later journalism paint a nightmarish picture: it looks to all the world that Mike was responsible for the heinous act. Wrongfullyand very publiclyaccused, Mike must prove his innocence by uncovering the real perpetrator, before the legendary cop (Sutherland) heading the investigation can apprehend him.
Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) and Kaitlin Olson (Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia) star in Flipped, which Id never heard of before today. Forte and Olson are incredibly gifted comedic performers, and idea of aspiring reality stars finding a stash of money, making their dreams come true, and having the cartel catch up with them sounds like it has a lot of potential. Flipped is created and written by Damon Jones and Steve Mallory (Superintelligence), and directed by newcomer Ryan Case.
Idris Elba has experience starring in an adventurous reality show (check out 2017s Idris Elba: Fighter), but now hes trying to best professional driver Ken Block in a new series that looks like itll be lots of fun for people who care about the intersection of mainstream actors and precision driving.
And lets not forget about the revival of MTVs Punkd, which was formerly hosted by Ashton Kutcher but is now in the capable hands of Chance the Rapper.
Quibi, which is banking on audiences getting hooked on bite-sized chunks of content that last ten minutes or less, will cost$4.99a month with advertising and$7.99without. The service will feature three distinct sections of programming:
Posted: January 26, 2020 at 11:45 pm
One of the roles of science fiction is to provide readers with a glimpse of how the future could be. Ray Bradbury didnt get everything about the future right. We havent yet seen books and reading made illegal (as in his 1953 Fahrenheit 451), just as we havent yet discovered another planet ready for American colonizers (as in his 1950 The Martian Chronicles). And yet, the themes he explored in those booksmass media and censorship, colonization and environmental changeare more relevant than ever. Even in his lesser-known workssuch as the 1951 sci-fi collection, The Illustrated Man, Bradbury tackles a surprising array of issues that feel as if they were ripped from todays headlines.
Readers today will find in The Illustrated Man a fresh perspective that illuminates global issues like artificial intelligence and climate change. Bradbury also engages with the political and cultural challenges of migration: specifically, the crossing of the U.S.Mexico border, which has since received much attention with the dawn of the so-called Trump Era.
* * *
Theres a story in The Illustrated Man called The Highway, where Bradbury tells a tale about the beginning of an atomic war in the US. The war, however, is experienced through the eyes of a Mexican peasant, Hernando, who lives next to a highway in northern Mexico.
One day, Hernando glimpses a procession of hundreds of American tourists driving north to return to the US. They are heading home, that is, to join the fight in an upcoming atomic war. When the last car stops by Hernando, he sees a group of young Americans crying for help: their car needs water to continue their way back home. Right before they leave, the driver tells Hernandowho doesnt know why all the cars are driving so fast or why these young Americans are so desperatethat the end of the world has finally arrived. Hernando doesnt react to the young mans confession. The car leaves. Hernando goes back to his rural routine, but suddenly stops to wonder: What do they mean the World?
Here, Bradbury highlights the generational and cultural gap between the young Americans and the aging Hernando, who lives with his wife and works their land, recycling the automobile waste that travelers from north of the border leave behind. Its a harrowing scene, but also terrifically realistic: it illustrates not only the clashing of multiple incompatible worldviews, but shows how all such worldseven those seemingly distant from the centers of powerare threatened by contemporary global dangers. Its moments like these that ensure Bradburys relevance, even one hundred years after his birth.
* * *
Bradburys eye for contemporary troubles extends beyond the dangers of global disaster. In the prologue to The Illustrated Man, Bradbury introduces a character who has an existential problem: his torso is covered in living tattoos. Having the tattoos becomes a curse because the illustrations on his body acquire life of their own. The living illustrations unveil an ominous, even prophetic future for the person that looks at them. The Illustrated Man describes his curse:
So people fire me when my pictures move. They dont like it when violent things happen in my illustrations. Each illustration is a little story. If you watch them, in a few minutes they tell you a tale. In three hours of looking you could see eighteen or twenty stories acted right on my body, you could hear voices and think thoughts. Its all here, just waiting for you to look.
Unexpectedly, through this illustrated character, Bradbury highlights the possible dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Today, there are fears that AI will permeate and disrupt the political organization of postmodern societies. For instance, AI can predict the affinities and choices of an individual based on the application of algorithms. What The Illustrated Man shows is the consequence of those predictions once revealed to ordinary people. The Illustrated Man, not without melancholy, says:
If Im with a woman, her picture comes there on my back, in an hour, and shows her whole lifehow shell live, how shell die, what shell look like when shes sixty. And if its a man, an hour later his pictures here on my back. It shows him falling off a cliff, or dying under a train. So Im fired again.
In his article If Planet Death Doesnt Get Us, an AI Superintelligence Most Certainly Will, Bryan Walsh suggests that if a super artificial intelligence becomes able to disregard human valueswhile also increasing its intelligencethen humanity might end up controlled by a nonhuman entity with a vision of the future that does not adhere to the crucial ethical issues that societies are facing today.
The Illustrated Man, as Bradbury formulated him, can be read as a metaphor for the intersection between human values (the jobless fate of the Illustrated Man) and a superintelligence that determines human life through visual representations of the future (the living, prophetic tattoos). Most importantly, Bradburys story doesnt prophesize the invention of this particular machine so much as it examines the ways in which humans would react to such an invention.
The fear that individuals will surrender their ethical compasses to technology is a constant specter in Bradburys stories. In The Illustrated Man, this fear is represented by the refusal of the characters to accept the futures that the illustrations predict for them. Bradburys Illustrated Man, and those around him, represent the ways that humans will struggle againstand violently rejectthe enigmatic directives of any intelligence beyond our own, even if (as Bradbury notes) the intelligence is speaking truthfully.
* * *
Where did Bradburys inspiration for these particular stories in The Illustrated Man come from? The clashes he foresaw in the futurequestions of AI and global catastrophe, atomic war and border crossingcame from his own forays into Mexico in 1945.
In fact, Bradbury himself experienced the traumatic effects of crossing the USMexico border. Between October and November of 1945, Bradbury and his friend Grant Beach traveled from Los Angelesacross southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texasto Mexico City. On their way, they found swarms of locusts and other hardships familiar from news stories today. But what was most shocking and traumatic for Bradbury was that this trip into Mexico surprisingly challenged his own deeply-held, exotic ideas about Mexican people, which he had acquired while growing up in East Los Angeles.
While in Mexico City, Bradbury spent most of his time seeking the murals of Jos Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera. It is possible to suggest that Bradbury found inspiration for The Illustrated Man in these murals. The muralsperhaps what Bradbury saw as informative, or even prophetic, illustrationsrepresent past, present, and future Mexican society from a Marxist perspective, featuring people in motion with plenty of stories, colors, and historical clues (thus bringing to the audience a multilayered experience).
One of the most famous paintings by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Our Present Time, depicts a faceless man reaching with arms wide open to a space ahead of him, embracing an uncertain future. This is the very same fate of the Illustrated Man. Furthermore, many of the catastrophic themes that Bradbury engages with in The Illustrated Man are also present in these Mexican murals.
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What future did Bradbury see for us? And did he embrace it? In The Fox and the Forest, included in The Illustrated Man, Bradbury sets his story explicitly in Mexico. The plot of the story is not complicated: William and Susan Travis are a married couple living in the year 2155.
That year is not a good time to be alive, since there is war, slavery, and a generalized social unhappiness. In order to escape from the apocalyptic 2155, the couple travel in time back to 1938 rural Mexico, where they believe that peace, simplicity, and happiness can be found. When it seems that they have been able to escape from their time, the 2155 police show up to take them back to the future, thus frustrating the couples escapade.
This narrative has a very pessimistic tone, evoking the nostalgia of older and happier times. Those from the future view our present as superior to their own time. Bradburys dark future, it seems, is unavoidableeven in our own present day.
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More than 60 years ago, The Martian Chronicles (1950), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and The Illustrated Man (1951) fascinated the young members of the generation growing up after the darkness of the Second World War, but before the new kinds of wars known to our own era. Now, as the 21st century unravelswith all of its challenges, technological dilemmas, and even proliferation of tattoosBradbury remains a fundamental figure of the sci-fi genre.
Bradbury had certainly not anticipated that by 2020 (like what Hernando does in The Highway) recycling was going to become a mainstream human endeavor, or that the USMexico border was going to catalyze many of the 21stcentury anxieties about global migration and demographic explosion. And yet, his stories seem to rhyme with our own era. Readers will keep finding in Bradburys tales about the future a contemporary interpretation of our everlasting fears about the end of the world, as well as a whisper of hope.
In the epilogue of The Illustrated Man, the narrator sees his own death in one of the living tattoos: it is the Illustrated Man that chokes him to death. The narrator decides to run away from this terrible fate. In this age of global catastrophe, who doesnt recognize the desire to run from such incontrovertible proofs of the worlds doom?
And yet, just like the world today, Bradbury too oscillated between utopia and dystopia. For as many people shown running from their prophesied demises, Bradbury shows young peoplelike those who Hernando couldnt understandcharging home to meet a near-certain death. Bradburys work, ultimately, is for them: those readers who believe that science fiction is an effective tool to illustrate how the worst consequences of todays global political decisions will be faced by future generations.
Young people are approaching an uncertain globalized future with plenty of possible outcomes, both dystopian and utopian. Nothing is simple: the technology that Walsh decries, the kind that the Illustrated Man fears, is even today becoming an effective tool for social mobilizations (lets think about the protests, from Hong Kong to Chile, organized through social media). Meanwhile, today, we know more than ever that any fight for the future will require the work and sacrifice of the whole world: not just car-driving Americans, but people like Hernando, too. Clearly, even Bradbury cant get everything right.
Perhaps, if Bradbury was alive today, he would ask young people: what role will you play, when my future comes crashing into your present?
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Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:33 am
Ramping up its production programme as it prepares to enter the streaming wars, WarnerMedia has signed Steven Soderbergh to a three-year deal to develop content for its upcoming direct-to-consumer service HBO Max as well as sister cable channel HBO.
The deal will be exclusive for television projects and first-look for features and will kick off with HBO Max feature Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest. WarnerMedia said Let Them All Talk will launch on HBO Max sometime this year, but did not say whether the film will also get a theatrical release. The streaming service itself is set to launch this spring.
Asked during the companysTelevision Critics Association (TCA) session whether previously announced Melissa McCarthy comedy Superintelligence and other films made for the service will also get theatrical releases, Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said: Were looking at each movie and talking to each filmmaker.
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly added: Weve just stuck our toe in the water on the feature front and you can expect more details to come on that, in conjunction with Warner Bros, in the coming weeks, as we formulate that business.
Were not going to be in the volume business by any means, but were going to make a really healthy batch of feature films, some of which will be Tiffany and may have an awards limited release and others - most - will go direct to the service.
The Soderbergh deal was announced during WarnerMedias sessions at this weeks TCA press event in Los Angeles, where the company also announced a greenlight for The Uninhabitable Earth, a climate change-themed anthology drama series written by Adam McKay, who recently closed his own five-year, overall TV deal with HBO and HBO Max.
Soderbergh has been making films with Warner Bros Pictures since 2001 and for HBO he has directed limited series Mosaic and Emmy-winning TV movie Behind The Candelabra. For HBO multiplex channel Cinemax he was director and executive producer on period drama series The Knick.
In a statement, Soderbergh said four factors drew him to making the deal: One, I have a history with both HBO and Warner Bros; two, my definition of a good product, a good process, and a good working culture is shared by the WarnerMedia family; three, the wide range of potential outlets aligns with my range of interests, and four: I get to witness and participate in the building of something new at a very large scale. Oh, and there is a financial aspect, so thats probably five.
HBO Max head of original content Sarah Aubrey added: Steven is a groundbreaking filmmaker who not only tells unique, irresistible stories, but is also a master of so many genres. In many ways, he is the anti-algorithm constantly surprising, neverpredictable and his career is living proof that one gifted filmmaker can impact our culture again and again. I cant wait for the projects that were working on together to premiere on HBO Max.
The Uninhabitable Earth, inspired by a book and New York Magazine article by David Wallace-Wells, will tell stand-alone fictional stories covering a range of genres and possible futures that could result from the rapid warming of the planet. As well as writing, McKay will direct the first episode. The series will be produced by Paul Lees company Wiip.
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly described McKay as one of the rare artists who can deliver a pointed, impactful message in a piece of great entertainment. I cant wait to see what he does with this material, as there is no timelier and more relevant message than a wake-up call on climate change and the growing impact on our lives.
McKay added: Ive been chomping at the bit to get this show going. Im very happy that HBO Max stepped up and made the commitment. Theres obviously no subject as vast and daunting.
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Posted: at 10:33 am
The AI method can guide non-experts about laws being violated in any given situation
IIT teams system can also help in minimising legal costs involved
The Supreme Court recently proposed the introduction of AI systems in the judiciary
Artificial Intelligence (AI) may or may not achieve superintelligence in the near future, but it surely is offering effective solutions at micro and macro levels. IIT Kharagpur researchers have recently developed a method to automate the reading of a legal document by using an evolved machine learning (ML) technique.
The AI method can guide non-experts about laws being violated in any given situation, and can also help in broadening the understanding of the law for those who wish to have basic knowledge of it. The technique can read legal judgments and thus tell if a particular situation merits going to court thereby minimising the legal costs involved.
For a country like India, which uses a common law system that prioritises the doctrine of legal precedent over statutory law, and where legal documents are often written in an unstructured way, the difference AI can bring is phenomenal, Saptarshi Ghosh, professor at the department of computer science and engineering, who is leading a team of researchers told ET.
The team has used two deep neural network models to understand the rhetorical roles of sentences in a legal case judgement. The neural methods automatically learn the features to be used across domains. The researchers are also using network and text analysis to understand if two legal documents are similar.
The team has segmented 50 judgements from the Supreme Court of India by labelling sentences using multiple human annotators, performing extensive analysis and later developing a gold standard corpus to train the machine to perform the task.
The Chief Justice (CJ) of India, SA Bobde, had also recently said that the Supreme Court has proposed to introduce a system of AI which would help in better administration of justice delivery and constitution.
We propose to introduce, if possible, a system of artificial intelligence. There are many things which we need to look at before we introduce ourselves. We do not want to give the impression that this is ever going to substitute the judges, Bobde said earlier.
The government, entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts have often reiterated the impact of AI across business and society. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the Indian startup ecosystem stakeholders, teachers and students to build artificial intelligence solutions that can work for India.
The centre allocated more than $480 Mn under the Digital India initiative in the Union Budget 2018. NITI Aayog has planned for 7000 Cr roadmap for AI in India. The plan included setting up five centres of research excellence, 20 institutional centres for transformational AI and a cloud computing platform called AIRAWAT.
Union minister for commerce and industry Piyush Goyal also recently said that use of AI in different forms can help achieve the target of making India a $5 Tn economy in the coming years.
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