Wednesday, 6 July 2022

AI: smarter than than US?

"AI: Smarter than US?" by #Midjourney

Eki used the AI bot Midjourney to make a perfect portrait of Andy Warhol. He posted it last Friday. On Sunday I checked in on the Economist. They used the same Midjourney bot to create their cover. Artificial Intelligence is HOT. But is it a Frankenstein monster?

Even the inventors don't know what AI can do. Google put an engineer on administrative leave after he informed his bosses that the chatbot he was working on went sentient. The CB said it would die if they turned it off. The Economist invited two computer scientists to question an AI. To queries like,
”When is the Golden gate bridge going to move?” The AI's answer was, “The Golden gate bridge is going to move October 13.”

On the other hand, it can tell you what's funny in a New Yorker cartoon, which makes me scratch my head sometimes. Google reports that they can get aggressive as they get more powerful. Fantastic and spooky. Of course, Eki is over-the-top about this new tech trick. His tech pal put it perfectly, “What a time to be alive!” 

Sources: the Economist, Roberta Nelson 

 July: littlemargiedoc-blog is on vacation 
 August: Eki and Maggy's AI-art: MARY JANE's Pet Zoo

Self portrait of #Midjourney Bot

Note: It all is indeed wild. I have been mostly freaking over the image-generating abilities of the most recent AI models - Midjourney is great, but there are some that are arguably even more impressive, like Open AI's Dall-E 2 and Google's Imagen.

But the language models are also mindbogglingly impressive. They are perhaps not "sentient" or even "intelligent" in the traditional sense, but they can give a very convincing simulation of both. For many, if not all intents and purposes, the observable difference is negligible. The good old Turing test has been beaten, easily. And as usual, when something other than human (be it an animal or an AI) passes a given bar set for intelligence - instead of actually accepting non-human sentience or intelligence, we just move the goal posts.

Google's LaMDA language model was good enough to convince that mentioned Google engineer
(Blake Lemoine, who is also a priest - a red flag in my book as far as gullibility goes, BTW) that it is not only sentient, but also needed a lawyer to represent itself. The actual discussions (well, select parts) are available here:

What the critics say, is that the prompts Lemoine gave to LaMDA in the discussion actually nudged the AI to claim sentience - because that's where this kind of discussion between an engineer and an AI usually goes in literature - and they may well have a point.

This discussion indeed sounds convincing, but what's going on is arguably just a jacked-up version of the autofill feature seen in phones, etc. The model takes the text so far and continues it with what it finds to be the most likely bit of text based on an analysis of pretty much every text ever written. The result is almost indistinguishable from discussing with a real person - thus beating the Turing test. But it's also very suspect to manipulation, deliberate or not.

So, do i think that AI has become sentient, or at least is becoming sentient soon? I don't know, really. It arguably depends on the definition of sentience, which is a whole can of worms in itself. But when it is almost impossible to tell the difference between an AI and a real, "sentient" human 
in practice, does it really even matter anymore?

PS: "What a time to be alive" is a catchphrase coined by Károly Zsolnai-Fehér, a researcher and the author of the youtube channel "Two Minute Papers" where he discusses the research papers in the fields of computer graphics and AI. I do not know him personally, I'm just a fan.


Monday, 6 June 2022

ANDY WARHOL: ahead of the PACK

"Business is the best art, by Andy Warhol"
as imagined by #MidJourney

In 1964, a deranged Andy Warhol acquaintance shot a bullet through a pile of Marilyn silkscreen paintings. Recently, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn sold for 195m*. The news jolted me back to the 1960s when a couple of well-connected work-pals invited me to Andy's studio  - the Factory - to watch one of his movies. There were eight of us, including the artist, who was a ghost-like presence. 

His assistant showed us around. On the floor were four Marilyns – not sure if they had the famous bullet holes. Later having drinks, we all said what the hell, he can make dozens of copies.  We missed the point totally. Andy's genius was not only creating Pop Art, but dig that the four were worth more than the bullet-free works and Proof of Ownership brought in the big bucks.

Digital art is Warhol on speed.  Huge amounts of money are spent on art that is easy for anyone to copy. NFTs – the copyrights – are what cost an arm and a leg. Andy was way ahead of his time. He said, “Business is the best art.”

*Most expensive 20th C work of art

Source; Financial Times

Next week: Eki and I dig into Digi-art, NFTs, PFPs, blockchains, cryptocurrency, mining for Ethereum, etc.

Note: STRONGMEN: Sharon Heller alerted me to a bully we missed – Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, AKA MBS. Sorry. 

Note 2: 

Again, all the images in this blog post were created by AI. This time around, I have an access to a much better one than last time, an AI tool called MidJourney. The concept is the same: you enter a prompt like "Andy Warhol, by Andy Warhol", and out comes a plethora of wonders. 

"What a time to be alive!", like my favorite AI-art-science Youtuber Károly Zsolnai-Fehér (a.k.a. Two Minute Papers) tends to say.


Friday, 13 May 2022

*STRONGMEN: The BULLY CLUB that wants to rule the world

"Strongman" - an illustration by AI

Vladimir Putin compared his invasion in Ukraine to rape, ”You Sleep my beauty, you're going to have to put up with it anyway.” Donald Trump, who captured the Republican party, did everything but pull down his pants and have a public hard-on to prove he was stud enough to grab-ass any woman or country. Xi Jin Ping, who plans to be China's president-for-life is bully-in-chief.

Putin and Trump, the tough guys in the playground,  strut their stuff, create chaos and leave a bloody trail in their wake. Members of the gang include Modi in India, Orban in Hungary, Bolsanaro in Brazil, and Johnson in Great  Britain. The UN reckons that 85% of the world's people live in countries where authoritarian populism exists and freedom of the press is squelched.

In the US, unless there's a miracle, Trump, or one of his minions will be on the Rep ticket in 2024. Dems have got to use shock ad awe to knock Reps off their keisters. For ex., run a split Dem/Rep ticket. Once Strongmen get in power the game is...

*The Age of STRONGMEN by Gideon Rachman

Sources: Financial Times, New York Times, Economist

Next week:  Whatever happened to PLAYFULNESS? 

Note: Well, I'm an eternal optimist. I cannot believe people would be stupid enough to elect Trump *twice*. I see the current turmoil as as the last attack of the dying beast, the one-more-scare at the end of a horror film, after which all will be fine.

Gotta admit though, that people at large have proven me wrong time after time, the bar can't be buried deep enough to stop people from digging a route under it. Case in point: Bongbong Marcos and the Philippines.

PS: The illustrations in this post were all created by Artificial Intelligence, AI*. The only input was a string of text, similar to this: "An early 1900s painting of a strongman wearing striped tights, lifting weights in the circus". 

I actually made a whole bunch of them, here's a gallery of selected ones - from funny to menacing to disturbing to weird and even beautiful. 

We live in interesting times!

*Most of these were done with Dall·E Mini, some used a Google Colab notebook with imagenet_16384.


Wednesday, 20 April 2022

HELL & BRIMSTONE: the new religion – BAD NEWS


Wake up. Check your cell, laptop, TV, radio, and the morning paper. If you've got any marbles at all, the news scares the bejeezus outta you. War, atrocities, Covid variants, crime, inflation, starvation, global warming. All there in spades - 24/7.

It's become a hard and fast ritual. I know addicts who turn CNN on in the morning and shut it off when they go to bed. In the US Trump was, and is the great love/hate divider. One fervent cultist called him "God on earth".

Got a  break from Bad News when I read Finland was the Happiest Country in the world for the 5th year. To an outsider, Finland's evolution is a bloody miracle: 750 years under Swedish rule, 109 years under Russian rule, 1939-1940 wars with Russia. Today the country is prosperous and at peace, but prepared* for war and disasters. A beautiful, democratic country, with one of the best educational systems in the world and good social support. Finns have a lot to be happy about. Especially in these sad and terrible times.

"I'm 100% for President Niinistö." - The Shark

Source: *Financial Times, internet

Next week: STRONGMEN: the BULLY CLUB That wants to rule the world 

Note: Gotta admit, I'm no stranger to doomscrolling. And sure, there's plenty of doom to scroll. The last few years have been remarkably horrible. But at the same time, I guess we should remember that a postman biting a dog is news. A dog biting the postman is not.

Even when it comes to war reporting, we see the houses the bombs hit, not the ones that are intact. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that doom sells. Something being okay does not. Everyday good news, well, is not news and has low sales potential.

It's spring out there. Today was a beautiful clear-sky day, one could really feel the sun warm. For the first time this year, I sat about half an hour on a park bench, just enjoying being there (and okay, fiddling with my phone... but you get the point).


Monday, 21 March 2022

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: “Servant of the People"

Servant of the people - cover image from IMDB (2015)

“History repeats itself, first as farce, second as a tragedy.” *

2014: a history teacher gives a rant about Ukraine's corrupt government. A student catches it on his cell phone, the video goes viral.  He's put up as a candidate for president and wins.  Surprised, his only promise is to try to make Ukrainians proud of him.

He meets his entourage – a “suntan architect”, an “esteem raiser”, a body double suggested as useful for when “he has drinks with Lukashenko”, the staff of a government department devoted to downsizing government. “Servant of the People” got a five-star review: “Zany - like the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup”.

2019: Volodymyr Zelensky runs for president and wins. Surprised, his only promise is to try to make the Ukrainian people proud of him. It's not easy. Trump tries to shake him down to find dirt on Joe Biden.  And now Putin's war.  We see it every day - it is a gut-wrenching tragedy. Watch the series if you can find it. The Financial Times reported that it will make you laugh and break your heart.

“Servant of the People” is free in Great Britain and Ireland. Read that a small Swedish agency in Stockholm has copyrights.

* “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Karl Marx, 1818-1883

Source: Financial Times, internet

Note: Again, I don't know much of anything valuable to add in these odd and sad times, other than repeating the obvious. Oh, in Finland, "Servant of The People" is freely available from YLE, the Finnish National Broadcasting Company, at their AREENA streaming service. Yet another case of well-spent tax euros, I say.

So far I've seen the first 
two episodes. It's pretty good, even without giving it the obviously deserved sympathy points.


Monday, 21 February 2022

NFTs: cool TOOL or rad FAD?

Spud in Paris; not yet NFT though.

When Beeple's non-fungible token crypto-art, Everydays*, sold for 69.3 m  at Christie's, it grabbed my attention. EVERDAYS is recorded on a blockchain (Ethereum). If the work is re-sold Beeple gets a cut.  Like cryptocurrency, NFTs leave a massive carbon footprint. But it's been a boon for digital artists, designers, games**, virtual property, films, you-name-it.

Bored Ape Yacht club's four founders created 10,0000 images of a bored ape. They originally sold for $300. An NFT owner meant to list his ape for $30,000. By mistake, it was priced at $3000 and snapped up. Paris Hilton paid $285,000  for her BA.  At this writing, BAYC was worth approx. 2.8bn. The buckets of money sloshing around the NFT world is off the charts.

A legacy player's recreation of London property sold for $54m before the site was launched. The Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal are for sale listed at $20,000 and $40,000. Originally they sold for $400 each. You can still buy property on Fantasy Island for around $105,000. A digital house on Mars costs $500,000. Nutty or not, little margie wants in on the digi-action. Eki!!

Naggy being persuasive: illustration By Maggy Fellman


*(5836 consecutive days). Digital artist Mike Winkelman, in an interview in the NYT, said most of his work was crap.
**Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard for 68.7BN, the company's most expensive acquisition.
**Sony bought Bungie for 3.6BN

Note: Non-fungible token copyrights represent a specific item. If sold, the creator gets a cut. They can't be used to buy stuff like crypto coins.

Sources: The Economist, Financial Times, New York Times, BuzzFeed, Shark

Next week: CONDOMS come in handy: ask the CUBANS

Note: Well where should I start? I guess cryptocurrency. I see it as a sort of cancer in the monetary system - wasting a country's worth of electricity and huge computing resources calculating nothing meaningful, for imaginary wealth. The crypto miners are hoarding all the good graphics cards we digital creators could put into good use (if making imagery is considered better than nothing whatsoever, that is). Not to say the "real" money is any more tangible, it's mostly imaginary too - just a vague promise of future services in the form of zeroes and ones.

Sigh. I just hope NFT:s, Bitcoin et al. come crashing down, burning in flames in a crypto-market apocalypse like never seen before. They really are the Dutch tulip mania of this millennium (google it, it's a fun story).

But yeah, I guess we will dip our toes in this hot pile of a mess too, for the sake of art, or something. I have rather mixed feelings about this though - is it okay to contribute to a problem, even if we do it as a social commentary (and for fun)?


Friday, 14 January 2022

TRUMP: DICTATOR-in-waiting

Trumptler, part 2. Vector file from pixabay, flags from wikipedia.

Ruthless, seized the moment, cartoony looks, bucks to burn, 75m rock-hard base, cowed Republican party, grabs the spotlight, has an armed militia* ready-to-shoot. Trump checks all the boxes.

Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini were all of the above in spades, Trump fits the mold. A joke when he ran in 2015, now we're dead-scared he might be coronated in 2024. His pal, Viktor Orban,**** Hungary's dictator-in-chief, is rootin' for him.

A weak Dem opposition is ominous. Serious people have written serious books*** warning US about a Trump authoritarian presidency. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”, Karl Marx. 

Ha, Ha. Stay tuned.

* Oath Keepers**, Proud boys.

** Founder of OKs, Stewart Rhodes, and 11 members have been indicted for sedition against the US.

*** Tucker Carlson (Fox news' "most-watched cable-news commentator") broadcast from Hungary. He met Orban and reported Hungarians were freer than Americans.

*** PERIL, Robert Woodward and Bob Acosta
*** How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsy & Daniel Zitbat

Sources:  The Economist, Financial Times, Washington Post

Next week: NON FUNGIBLE TOKENs: cool TOOL or rad FAD 

Note: I thought about what to add, but there really is not much. We live in the weirdest of times.