Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Are Your FInals Going?

Are you enjoying the exercise? Finding it more difficult than expected? Are some elements easier than others? Any advice to ask for or offer your colleagues? Do you feel good about it? Anybody trying anything wildly experimental? Discuss here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

4th amendment underclothes.

this is pretty cool.
for those pesky little invaders of your privacy.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Machine VS Man

Colossus: The Forbin Project is a scary example for when man loses control over what he has made. Forbin and his team build a self-sustaining indestructible security machine that will protect the USA from any threats from other countries. At the time this seemed like a good idea but after a series of “unpredictable” events where Colossus decides to take matters in his own hands and impose his own policies it soon becomes evident that the creation of Colossus was a very bad idea.

It is interesting to see the interaction and politics that happen between the humans and the machines in this film. As men, we create machines to help us in our daily choirs, we direct and order machines to do things we don’t want to do, and if the machines don’t comply to our demands we junk them and replace them with more suitable machines. There’s a real paradox in the film when Colossus can no longer be directed but is instead giving orders to the humans. Seeing that Colossus is able to control weapons of mass destruction, not being able to control Colossus is a very scary thing. It is funny how the humans react to this, there’s a moment in the film when the President tries to put things back in order by using his status as the leader and the man in control of the USA by telling Colossus, “This is your President…”. But to this, Colossus blows the President away as if he where nothing else but another warm blooded human creature. This is the part of the film where it is clear that even the most high ranked human cant order Colossus, and that they have no other chose than too submit to whatever Colossus demands.

This film shows a real turn of events where the unimaginable becomes reality. Where humans become slaves to the machines. Where what was once an enslaved tool becomes a whip of enslavement.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Keywords -- Supplemental List

1. access
2. crowdsourcing
3. flash mob
4. security theater

Suggestions for Stray Keywords?

As I was reading the list to you in class Thursday it occurred to me that I hadn't included the word "crowdsourcing," and that I did want to include. Another word like that is "flash mob." Do you have any other suggestions for Keywords that deserve inclusion in the list but are not there? If you do, post your suggestions in the comments to this post. I will consider all suggestions. If I like your suggestion, I will include it in the Keyword Supplement in the next post. Do not treat any suggestion as a Keyword until it is included in my List. Confine your choices to the list included in the Final Post and to the Keyword Supplement List I post and update myself.

What You Should Be Doing

I know everybody has some time off for Thanksgiving, and I know many of you are using that time to work on other projects, but do be sure to devote some of your time this week to the Final. Choose the terms you will be defining, group them into the three categories that make sense for you. Allow yourself to think about these choices and tinker with them. No need to devote yourself immediately to the hard work -- but it would be wise for you to play around with the Project a bit in pockets of down-time. Jot down authors and titles and topics that occur to you as good places to turn to when you start searching for quotations. Think about how you might want to adapt the Final to your practice in some way, so that your synthesis of the course materials speaks more forcefully to your own work, your own place in the world, you own efforts to reconcile your history with your hopes. It's better to devote low-level effort and thought to the Project over a few weeks than try to generate the whole Project in one concentrated burst of attention the night before it is due, believe me!

Finding the Final

I've placed a permanent link to the Final in the Course Resources space in the upper-right corner of the blog. So, even as people post new content you should always be able to find your way back to the final very easily.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

my presentation 2morrow

The paperclip maximizer -


"This concept illustrates how AIs that haven't been specifically programmed to be benevolent to humans are basically as dangerous as if they were explicitly malicious."

The Final Project!

1. abundance
2. acceleration
3. accountability
4. agency
5. amateur
6. analog
7. artificial intelligence
8. auteur
9. author
10. authoritarianism
11. authority
12. basic income guarantee
13. biopiracy
14. blog
15. blogipelago
16. blogosphere
17. broadcast
18. "California Ideology"
19. canon
20. citizen
21. citizen journalism
22. code
23. collaboration
24. commons
25. commonsense
26. commonwealth
27. consensus
28. consensus science
29. consent
30. control
31. copyright
32. creative commons
33. credentialization
34. critique
35. crypto-anarchy
36. culture
37. culture industry
38. cybernetics
39. cybernetic totalism
40. cyberspace
41. cyborg
42. democracy
43. democratization
44. digirati
45. digital
46. digital divide
47. dissensus
48. diversity
49. elite
50. enclosure
51. end-to-end principle (e2e)
52. enframing
53. enhancement
54. eugenics
55. excludability
56. externality
57. fair use
58. filtering
59. finitude
60. free software
61. The Future
62. futurity
63. futurology
64. genomic enclosure
65. gift economy
66. information
67. industrial model
68. liberal subjectivity
69. linking
70. mapping
71. mass culture
72. mass mediation
73. media
74. micro-payments
75. monster
76. Moore's Law
77. negative liberty
78. Neoliberalism
79. Net Neutrality
80. Netroots
81. network
82. node
83. objectivity
84. open source
85. participation
86. panopticon
87. peer
88. peer to peer (p2p)
89. planetarity
90. popular
91. post-humanist
92. precarity
93. precarization
94. privacy
95. private property
96. professional
97. propaganda
98. prostheses
99. prosumerism
100. public
101. publication
102. public good
103. public relations
104. reductionism
105. relational
106. representative
107. retro-futurism
108. revolution
109. rivalrousness
110. robotics
111. secrecy
112. security
113. sharing
114. Singularity
115. social
116. social aesthetics
117. social networks
118. socialization
119. sousveillance
120. spectacle
121. spontaneous order
122. stakeholder
123. surveillance
124. technocracy
125. technology
126. technoscience
127. techno-utopianism
128. "Tragedy of the Commons"
129. transparency
130. viral

For your Final Project you will generate a kind of personal conceptual mapping of the subject matter of the whole course. In order to produce this map, you will need to draw on readings and notes over the course of the whole term. Many connections and problems will likely become clear to you for the first time in making this map. Before you make your choices you should spend some time dwelling over the whole list above, since what may at first seem obvious choices often give way to different questions and concerns once you give them more thought.

The assignment is quite straightforward:

[one] Choose forty-four Keywords from the list above.

[two] Organize your chosen Keywords into three separate, conceptually connected, sets. You can use any criteria that seems useful to you to organize these sets. The only rule is that no resulting set can contain fewer than eight Keywords.

[three] Each of the three sets should be given a unique title or heading and an introductory paragraph (no longer than a single page) that elaborates the criteria governing your choices as to what would be included in that set.

[four] Once you have organized your three sets in this way, briefly define each one of the Keywords you have included in each set in your own words. Ideally, your definitions should be as clear and as concise as possible. These definitions should be a matter of a sentence (or at most two), NOT a paragraph or more. They really are just definitions, not essays or lengthy explanations. It should be clear from your definitions why each of the Keywords in each of the three sets are conceptually connected to each other, but it is also crucial that no terms within any set are treated by you as synonymous, and that your definitions distinguish Keywords from one another clearly (even if the resulting distinctions are sometimes matters of nuance).

[five] Once you have defined all these Keywords, provide a short quotation (feel free to edit and prune to keep your chosen citations properly pithy) from one of the texts we have read this term to accompany each one of your definitions. The quotation you choose can be a definition you found helpful in crafting your own definition, it can be an example or illustration you found especially clarifying, it can a matter of contextualization, framing, or history that you found illuminating, it can even be something you disagreed with so strongly it helped you understand better what you really think yourself.

Obviously, there are endless ways of organizing these sets, defining their Keywords, distinguishing them from one another, and connecting them up to the texts we have read. What matters here is that you follow the rules of the exercise, not that you arrive at some single "right answer" you may fancy I have in mind.

Everyone's map will likely be quite dramatically different from everyone else's. That's a feature, not a bug.

Many students might also find it useful to introduce additional elements to their final projects -- illustration, cartography, collage, AV supplements, sculpture, games, and so on. None of these are required but students are welcome to make this final project their own, to introduce additional formal and experimental dimensions that help you come to terms with the course material as a whole in your own way once the basic requirements are satisfied.

I hope this final project is both illuminating and also enjoyable for you all, as I know it can be. You'll discover, as in so much else, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Anybody Presenting Tomorrow?

The number of classes remaining is dwindling fast...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Faster then lightning: Precise on Paul Miller

My precise is on Paul Miller’s paper Material Memories: Time and Cinematic Image. Broken into approximately 15-20 sections, they seem to be a mix of simple contemplations of a Dj and the relationship of present-day computerized networking as it relates to music and cinematic Time. Cinematic Time utilizes short cuts of frames captured by the camera lens to expand and reconfigure time in a way that aids in a narrative. Miller points out that the interconnectedness of cybernetics within our everyday life of monitors and codes is compartmentalized into splices of reality similar to that of cinematic time.

I’m not sure who the target audience is for Miller; however, it seems be those influenced by early hip-hop culture, academics and cinematic enthusiast. Providing a historical outline that begins with Maya Deren’s use of cinematic time as a way to explore “rhythms of fragmentation and loss”, he then moves through singular synchronization, Newton’s theory in the seventeenth century, to Einstein’s 1905 theory of multiple ”asynchronous timelines”. All of which are intermixed with how these influences connect to the present states existence. Our lives have become compartmentalized into alter-persona’s that change and get re-innovated like Cher (always reinventing her career, a constant evolution), as modules of our contemporary lives are updated.

The text seems to matter as a way to put together various pieces of contemporary society of computers and Internet personas that stop and start in fragments. What is interesting is that Miller draws attention to these fragmentations that happen within our contemporary lives. He notes that he purposely switches his thinking, language and writing style. Miller creates a “self-subject synchronization”, defined as moving parts aligned in the field of view of another. It’s a marriage of “flow, rupture, and fragmentation” which happens within the contemporary lives that create this; it is not just limited to cinema.

Throughout reading the text, Miller drew me to the use of language and specifically to the actions of a Dj; however, the content of the material was dense and at moments seemed to be leading in the opposite direction of where I thought the paper was going. Miller’s use of comparison of “cinematic time” and music was to get across the point of what a montage of pieces could create in direct response to the senses. Miller is calling attention to the narrative we create within our lives through the tools we deploy. We are writing history faster than lightning.

Side: I've included the link to DJ Spooky website so you can download Free mix's. A great sum up to the the fragmentations that he speaks to within the paper.


Video Paranoia- "The Participatory Deception" by James Cascio

In "The Participatory Deception," Jamais Cascio argues that technology is advancing to the point where we could easily alter it, rendering video evidence a harmful weapon that could easily sway political outcomes. Cascio's argument is centered around the possibility that the presidential election could be swayed by such videos, and that the public's use of altered cell phone videos is not only a potential occurance in the future but an inevitability.

Cascio's argument seems to be pointed towards those who are a bit wary of technology- those who can fluidly use technology are already aware that anything can be altered and that they already have the tools readily available to do so. It's hard to see myself being sympathetic to Cascio's argument. I grew up being told to always be critical of the media around me, to be aware of who was making what I was seeing and why. I'm well aware that photos can and are altered, that paraphrasing a speech can change the entire meaning. Why should video (especially cell phone video, the least trustworthy source of imagery) be any different? From my perspective, Cascio's argument seems paranoid and a bit silly.

I can appreciate that he thought to call attention to the possibility of this phenomena, that in the very near future everyone will be able to alter the reality in front of them easily and share it with millions without a second thought, thus altering political outcomes. Cascio supports his claim by stressing the rising importance of democratic and easily accessed media like cell phones. He discusses the viral video of Senator George Allen, who introduced a campaign volunteer as a "macaca." This video has been viewed 600,000 times on youtube, and indeed hurt George Allen's election numbers. Youtube does have the power to circulate viral videos easily, and if the video captures someone doing something offensive, such as using racial slurs, they can absolutely change the minds of voters. Cascio also refers to the case of Alexander Dunlop, who was arrested by police at the Republican National Convention for rioting and resisting arrest. Someone submitted a video of Dunlop being taken away peacefully, overruling the video police had submitted earlier. The new video trumped the old one, as simple editing was what had given the first video force. Dunlop's case was dropped because of that person's video. We could be filmed at any given time, and that video could be altered to help or harm us or others.

While it's easy to see that viral videos, even those made on cell phones, can quickly impact viewers and those who appear on the video, Cascio concedes that we would figure out the false nature of whatever videos were created and shared, though he estimates that this research time would take around three days-more than enough time to lose an election. He off-handedly proposes that there be some kind of filtering system to avoid the small-scale chaos that politically harmful edited videos could create. This kind of process seems like a waste of time; in this age, if candidates believe they can use racial slurs in their speeches and not hear back about it, they can afford to wait the three days Cascio claims that it would take to sort out unreliable and false video postings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Colossus Response

“Colossus: The Forbin Experiment”, like so many other tales of cautionary science fiction is the story of man’s good intentions for technology gone awry. In the film, Dr. Forbin’s super-computer Colossus is installed as a weapons system for the entire United States. Soon after, humans lose control of the machine and inevitably become enslaved to it.

This type of technological Frankenstein story is repeated constantly in science fiction. It seems as humans we are simultaneously terrified and in awe of artificial intelligence. We are unable to decide if computers are our benevolent friends or dangerous enemies. But as Jaron Lanier states in his article, “The First Church of Robotics”, perhaps we should see them as neither. The problem is not the sentient nature of artificial intelligence, but rather our obsession with the personification of technology. As Lanier says, “Humans are social creatues, so if a machine if presented in a social way, people will adapt to it.” Herein lies the dilemma; we feel the need to personify and yet upon doing so we often find we fear what we have created, or at the very least, the prospect of what it may become. Yet what is the purpose of artificial intelligence but to personify an otherwise inanimate object?

Of course, it may be that just as the President does with Colossus, we contradict ourselves by passing responsibility on to our machines while still claiming control over them. Lanier writes, “…artificial intelligence gives us the cover to avoid accountability by pretending that machines can take on more human responsibility.” It is humans who program the computer with algorithms, which are then designed to make decisions for us. Therefore, humans are essentially responsible for any conclusions these algorithms come to. This is not to say that computers and technology are not useful, (of course we can all agree that they are) but rather that machines are simply tools and not beings. Technology is at our service and we must use it for good.


Colossus is a good example of the beginning stages of technological dependency. we have directed ourselves into a place of reliance upon technology to the point to where it almost seems impossible to imagine being without it. what i like about the movie is that it shows how fast an idea concerning technology can grow if it seems somewhat beneficial. the movie also does a great job of showing the dependency both humans and technology have on each other. for instance, i depend on my phone to keep in contact from a distance, and when my phone is being unreliable i freak out a bit.
a valid point made in the movie Colossus is the fact that we humans have made a decision to depend on technology because the risk vs the reward seems far less a concern. the machine in the movie presses the fact that we will be better off living with technology thn without it as long as we stay within the technical guidelines. a scary fact yes, but also seems very true. without humans technology would have no existence and without technology our lifestyle would not have been able to progress as much as it has.
in Colossus the machine is introduced as a helper/guider to assist, but soon becomes a controller. it's as if the machine became aware of the knowledge and power it was given.
we count on things we make to bring us joy in someway, we expect some kind of benefit. in the movie the trust the man has with the machine becomes unsure after a certain point. things begin to get a little too personal and intentions are questioned. i find it interesting how they kind of surrendered after the computer, i guess convinced them, that they would soon have to completely relay on technology in order to progress as a human race.
this movie Colossus reminds me of a question that i have had to answer too many times in art history classes, "does real life imitate art, or does art imitate real life?"
i think it's an infinite cycle of ideas that turn into art that then become a reality; because it works so well as a fiction, how could it not work as a reality, type thing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Okay just thought it was apt to compare Dr. Forbin to Frankenstein. If I remember correctly, the monster kills all of Dr. Frankenstein's (Dr. Forbin's) family/ruins his life (so the world getting nuked) because Dr. Frankenstein wouldn't make him a companion creature (the connection to Guardian?). Frankenstein's main concern was that they would procreate and take over the world (Colossus and Guardian possibly sharing information and ruining both America and the USSR, also the theory of singularity).

This plot point made me HATE the entire book. Since Frankenstein was in charge of making the creature, couldn't he make it sterile? Couldn't we not humanize robots if we're so worried about them learning and taking over, as humans are so inclined to do? I dunno, just a thought.

Men and Their Machines

When I think of computers and mechanics and whatnot, it all seems very masculine to me. Perhaps it is because we always had “tech guys” in high school to fix our laptops, or because the stereotypical cartoon geek is always a male. Possibly it is due to the fact that I am not especially capable when it comes to most forms of technology; therefore I associate it with a less familiar gender. No matter the reason, I generally think of computers as masculine. In both “Colossus” and “Desk Set,” I cannot help but notice the feminine characteristics that both of the computers seem to take on, though they may not be the most positive examples of feminine traits (controlling, demanding of male attention, etc).

In both films, there is a somewhat Adam-and-Eve-esque relationship between the leading men and their creations. Richard Sumner created EMERAC and Charles Forbin created Colossus, initially putting both men in a godlike roll in relation to their respective computers. The men create their machines, then the machines kind of mess up their picture of perfection in a completely unexpected way.

In “Desk Set,” the feminizing of the computer is rather explicit. When it was released in the UK, the film was titled “His Other Woman.” EMERAC was created to assist the workers in the reference library, a position that was primarily held by women. When the computer, or electronic brain as they like to call it, is first installed in the library, it is operated by a very straight-laced woman. When EMERAC starts freaking out and malfunctioning, it becomes “hysterical” (a characteristic that Freud so aptly points out that only women can possess), mirrored by the hysterical actions of its operator. At the end of the film, Sumner and Bunny joke about his ability to have time for both Bunny and EMERAC in his life, presumably the two women whom he adores.

In “Colossus,” the feminizing of the computer is, at first at least, not as apparent. In the beginning of the film, Colossus just seems to be a computer that is smarter than everyone thinks it was going to be (perhaps a reference to underestimating female intelligence?). It quickly becomes clear that Colossus’s dependence upon Forbin is vital to its ability to function, and speaks to the perceived female inability to function independently without the guidance of a male figure. Not only is Colossus dependant upon Forbin, it is also jealous and controlling. When Forbin is out of the country trying to fix this huge problem that he has released onto the world, Colossus throws a temper tantrum and will not respond to any of the other scientists commands.

Colossus then demands to be able to see Forbin at all time, requiring the installation of cameras throughout his home and the command center. Colossus’s control of Forbin becomes particularly explicit when Colossus creates a down to the minute schedule for Forbin's day. When this schedule is presented, it is read by an assertive female voice and is played over images of Forbin executing these particular tasks. This is clearly an example of Colossus’s ability to exude female control and possessiveness over Forbin. At the end of the film, Colossus does two things that helped to solidify the idea that it is female. First, it proclaims that Crete will be the home of the new super computer. As was so brilliantly addressed in class, Crete was historically a matriarchal society. Second, Colossus expresses the desire to be loved by Forbin.

Oh, men and their machines. If only they knew what kind of relationships they were really getting themselves into…

~ c o l o s s u s ~

Colossus: The Forbin Project is not a realistic vision of singularity, it was a story of a man ascribing too much importance to his pet computer and a great illustration of why there should never be a militaristic super computer. I was amused that this supercomputer was only able to communicate using one line of text at a time; this really shows how much of a fantasy this whole idea really is.

The movie brings up an interesting point regarding development and use of technology. Just because some new innovation has been made, does that mean it should actually be applied? It seems like if people stopped worrying about making each new bit of technology available to consumers immediately, we would have much more efficient and powerful devices, however upgrades would be less frequent. There would be no harm in developing Colossus in a closed environment, however, the mistake Dr. Forbin made was releasing it into the 'wild'.

People are overzealous when considering something complete and should be more concerned with testing and improvement. This article http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/24/cia_netezza/ discusses the CIA's willingness to "accept untested code in chunks" from programmers developing software for unmanned drones. "My reaction was one of stun, amazement that they want to kill people with my software that doesn't work." This is basically the same story as Colossus, the government is using untested code in production and will be sure to have unexpected results. The main difference is that the government is aware that the code might be buggy , whereas the Colossus team thought their machine was infallible.

The reason technology is both moving so fast, yet going no where at the same time is because people are unwilling to extensively test new developments, which leads to unwarranted results. The way we can can avoid the nightmare of Colossus is to take the emphasis off of releasing advancements to the public and put more emphasis on understanding them fully.

precis: Clay Shirky, "Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing"

I’m writing my prĂ©cis on Clay Shirky’s piece “Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing,” which is a short, casual essay about blogs and the issue of financial reward. Publishing a book requires a lot of people and money to print, distribute, and advertise it. Shirky calls publishing a filter, because only certain writers can get their work out to people. Blogging has no filter; anyone can publish anything they want, but they don’t receive any financial award for it. So far, bloggers have relied on advertisements and donations for revenue, which isn’t much. People are grappling with better ways for bloggers to make money, but no solution really seems realistic since people are already getting their information for free, and why would they want to start paying for it?

My first impression based on the title, specifically the word “amateurization,” was that Shirky was criticizing the subject matter of blogs, or criticizing the intelligence of bloggers. However, in the reading itself he actually does quite the opposite. He says that people who write blogs “do it for the love of the thing,” implicating that people who write seeking financial award are more likely to compromise their integrity.

Shirky is also writing about not just how the character of writing or books or publishing is changing, but how culture is changing as a result of blogging. Shirky encourages people to create and consume writing without monetary compensation. To him, it seems obvious that writing should be free. He compares the situation to what he calls “the paradox of oxygen and gold:” “Oxygen is more vital to human life than gold, but because air is abundant, oxygen is free. Weblogs make writing as abundant as air, with the same effect on price.”

I think this is an interesting way to look at publishing, and it opens up the door for other discussions of what should be free. It almost seems crazy that while oxygen is so important to our vitality, we still pay astronomical prices for food and shelter. Could there be a day when we won’t have to pay for food and shelter? Or perhaps the opposite, will there come a day when we have to pay for the air we breathe?

We probably won’t be able to find the solutions to these problems anytime soon, but I think the way that P2P is changing our perception of value in the world of journalism, music, movies, entertainment, etc. is going to really change the world we live in, in a very good way. People may look at these changes as “problems,” or make it seem like there should be urgency in figuring out how to get people to start paying for these things again. But really, free distribution through the internet only hurts the big record and publishing companies, and helps to put more power into the hands of individual artists.

Ideas on Colossus: The Forbin Project

From fashion, interior and industrial design to the attitude and voice of the machine and the nature of the relationship between humans and machine, but also the relationship amongst humans themselves, the movie reproduced so many stereotypes (still prevalent today) on the contemplation and visualization of the future. An interesting question that arises is the degree of affect that those visions of the future have in the formation and morphology of the actual future of technology . How much have those Hollywood movies influence the design and style of present technologies? At least in terms of aesthetics, it is not extreme to argue that films have had a fundamental impact on what is popularly understood as modern, hi-tech, futuristic, cutting-edge, progressive, advanced and so on. As in other science fiction films from the 50s 60s 70s and on, Colossus outlined the aesthetic of the future: sharp edges, austere/plain colors ranging from white to black and an emphasis on silver, fine surfaces, smooth textures, flickering lights are all visual elements that signify the technological.
Besides the aesthetic of the futuristic, there emerge stereotypes about the nature of the relationship between humans and machines and amongst humans themselves. The movie raises a question on the notion of privacy when Forbin asks time alone with his "mistress." The machine, symbol of digitization, understands privacy as "away from company." As Eric Hughes describes in his essay we read A Cyberpunk's Manifesto, "Privacy is not secrecy," it is the right to choose what you want to reveal to the public. Forbin's power to choose when "away from company" is restricted. This scene could be viewed as a perfect metaphor for the problem of privacy that arises with the Internet. People may seemingly* have the power to construct their online avatars as desired, but their power to remain "away from company" is arguably removed. For example with social networks (facebook, email etc) one may choose what they expose, but what is exposed is permanent whether online or off. (Of course the problem of collecting data from private conversations and searches for market research is an entire other matter. )
In terms of gender and sexual, or romantic, relationships the movie could be seen as a radical gesture towards the acceptance of queerness. Although Forbin is clearly portrayed as a typical manly man, his relationship to Colossus indeed is sexual, and as Colossus seems more masculine than feminine, the relationship is homosexual. Furthermore, considering Forbin as the creator or father of Colossus, the relationship actually becomes Oedipal. Although the movie establishes stereotypes on the fetishization of the technological, it actually complicates preconceived notions of femininity, masculinity and sexuality in general, with the introduction of a kind of bi gender that goes back and forth being masculine and feminine. Colossus has a male name, he is rigid, austere, mathematic, technical and authoritative, which are typical qualities of a normative man, but is also jealous like a housewife, asking/demanding for Forbin's absolute attention and company, throwing fits and being manipulative when not receiving what (s)he wants...
The anthropomorphization of the machine is not only inspired by its implied complicated gender; the entire plot is based on Colossus and the Guardian having human qualities and compulsively wanting to take over the world. The role of Hollywood in propagandizing this manic fear of artificial intelligence and scaremongering over the staging a coup of machines over humans is quiet an interesting, if not worrisome, subject.

*free to choose from what is available

Colossus Vs. Jaron Linear: A Study of Singularity

The movie "Colossus: The Forbin Project" presents the idea that given too much freedom, a computer could force humanity under its control, revising the world as it sees fit. This idea is believed to be true by some, who have as a result formed the Singularity University, a school which teaches and prepares people for a future where technology can overwhelm humanity. This is an idea that technological genius Jaron Linear purports to be the start of a new religion of sorts, and at that, one that is clouding our vision and understanding of technology itself.
In the movie, as the computer Colossus absorbs new knowledge, it grows emotional and demanding, yearning for its human companions to acknowledge it as its own superior entity. As Colossus is supposedly a computer in charge of the American National Defense System, it holds control over America's nuclear bombs, and does not hesitate to threaten the entire world with them. As the movie plays out, it is repeatedly stressed that the computer was built to be devoid of emotion, thus making it able to make entirely unbiased decisions. And while it kills off individuals because they're no longer useful and while it kills thousands with nuclear bombs simply because its connection to another computer is blocked, Colossus still has emotions- a whole range of them, in fact. Colossus is portrayed as more of a petulant child with grandiose ideas than a rational machine programmed to make decisions that would protect those it works for. This emotional display makes Colossus: The Forbin Project the direct antithesis of Jaron Lanier's argument in his article, "The First Church of Robotics."
Lanier's frustration with emotional robots is the fact that they can't logically exist. We personify machines and robots on our own because we are social creatures and can interact more comfortably with robots if we can relate to them. Realistically though, a robot doesn't function at all like a human. A robot is created to follow a program where there are defined terms. Computers were made to carry out specific functions, and nothing more. You can't use your calculator program to draw an intricate landscape, you can't multiply numbers in itunes. A surgical robot cannot teach itself to speak, let alone to think, as Colossus is portrayed as doing. And, for that matter, just because a robot can recognize a face and follow it with whatever "eyes" it was built with does not mean it is looking at a person the same way we would. A computer cannot "want," as it wants Doctor Forbin in the film, it cannot ask "why" something happens, it just accepts that something happens or doesn't happen, and acts based upon whatever it was programmed to understand from what happened or didn't happen. Jaron Lanier asks, "When we think of computers as inert, passive tools instead of people, we are rewarded with a clearer, less ideological view of what is going on — with the machines and with ourselves. So, why, aside from the theatrical appeal to consumers and reporters, must engineering results so often be presented in Frankensteinian light?" As we anthropomorphize machines, we imagine them to have all of the strengths and weaknesses the human condition allows- the imagination to create and to negotiate, but also the power and will to kill and to destroy. This creates fear and paranoia and a general mistrust of robots, as their different way of "thinking" makes us unable to relate to them, thus unable to predict their actions.
Thus, the movie Colossus is giving the computer far too much power through its display of emotions. In the last five minutes, the computer tells its creator that they will work together whether he likes it or not, and he will grow to love Colossus. This demand for reverence and emotional acknowledgment is exactly what those who believe in singularity are afraid of. They're afraid that computers will decide what's best for us based upon an algorithm and it will refuse to be negotiated with.
Lanier believes that those who believe in singularity are letting this misconception cloud their vision of the technological present and future. He argues that this paranoia is stopping us from allowing technology to advance where it is most needed, and that by not allowing it to advance as quickly as it could, we're depriving the world of the aid it needs. Lanier claims that "Technology is essentially a form of service. We work to make the world better. Our inventions can ease burdens, reduce poverty and suffering, and sometimes even bring new forms of beauty into the world. "
Lanier believes in the vast positive changes heightened technology can afford, whereas "Colossus" and those who believe in Singularity find that heightened technology can only bring about disaster. It seems to me that singularity is a moot point- why worry about machines taking over if we don't need to anthropomorphize them in the first place? Why put all our focus on making humanoid robots anyway? Binary code will never be able to translate emotion, machines will never be able to feel- we're just projecting ourselves onto them by thinking they can. Machines have always and will continue to follow the algorithms they are set to follow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Socially Engaged Art and Collaborative works

A few weeks ago I went to a lecture about socially engaged art, the speaker didn’t impress me much, but her art practice did. An audience member asked a question does art inspire social change? Her answer was long and more involved then I am willing to write here, but the short answer is yes. The debate over socially engaged art for the last ten years is continuing to heat up in art world. Collaborative works have penetrated the Whitney and Venice Biennales and most Art Fairs across the globe; artists are engaging politics, environmental issues and many other conflicts that besiege the world today. Collectors, curators, galleries and museums have been asking the question, who is the author of a collaborative piece? Claire Bishop in this weeks reading posits, the creativity behind socially engaged art is said to “rehumanize” a “numb and fragmented” society and collaborative works have fallen prey to critical examination and tend to have a deeper meaning. Ms. Bishop, what art form doesn’t fall victim to critical dialogue? There is a continual argument within the art world over the precise definition of “deeper meaning” when it comes to descriptions of works of art. I believe meaning happens in the interaction between the viewer and the work. Meaning is something that happens through the cognitive processes, so it is possible to trigger an experience when looking at a piece of art. It does not matter if the work is a collaborative inspired piece or not.

Historically, artists whether they are working independently or collaborative have faced questions surrounding the process of their practice. The responsibility of socially engaged art to me is to provide a space and a voice for the voiceless in a contemporary world that feeds on contradictions, privilege and ownership. In reading Bishop’s article I find I agree with most of her arguments, but I think her arguments can be made of an individual artist working on a collage painting, because collaged works are collaborative works. Her example of the Deller piece makes me realize how much “perceptions” and “complexity” of work plays heavily in the art world and how that sometimes gets in the way of artists making interesting work. There is no arbitrariness in social engaged work and there is no arbitrariness in the meaning we forge from it. Bishop is highlighting the ways in which one must critique works made collaboratively, each artist hand makes the work unique and therefore the ownership lies with the viewer. In this article Bishop never address’ the Internet as being a collaborative space, I would be interested in her thoughts. The Internet is the perfect vehicle for collaborative works like Youtube videos, but the Internet generates other arguments, for instance, is it low or high art? Personally like the fact she stayed on the politic of "art practice"and as an artist whose work deals with social issues I find her responses in line with current climate of institution’s engagement with socially driven art.

Nobody Else?

C'mon, people.