Your eyes and ears on the worlds of art, culture, technology, philosophy - whatever stimulates the mind and excites the imagination. We remind you that 20 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.

Let's look first at some of the more intelligent AI links this month. You have certainly heard of the turbulence surrounding AI, Sam Altman, and Microsoft, as well as the lawsuit(s) brought by artists claiming copyright infringement. It appears that there are about 1 billion words on the internet, with perhaps another 100 billion in print publications. In fact ChatGPT was originally trained on roughly 300 billion words. Do you really think any individual artist can find a bit of her/his work being used? Essentially AI involves query and response. By time you get the response the fox is already in the henhouse. The power lies in the query: who is asking what, and for what purpose?

An article in the Guardian newspaper highlights the ego and hubris prominent in some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, embodied in this quote: "We will coup whoever we want".

Followed by another asking, "Where are all the godmothers of AI? Women's Voices are not being heard". Are we to conclude that "Tech Bros" implies "Tech Sis-sies"? Note: The Algorithm from MIT Technology Review tells us that when Altman was rehired at Open AI, the only 2 women on the Board were replaced with white men.

One question that has arisen in the OpenAI chaos is, what does Microsoft really want? According to this article, Microsoft has already made a big gamble with its multi-billion dollar investment in OpenAI. It appears that what's at stake is a pre-emptive strike against Google's dominance in the search engine field. It looks like Microsoft wants to own the world's major control of AGI. It also sounds as though Microsoft will stand to gain financially from its investment. Silicon Valley is obsessed with Zuckerberg's infamous demand to "move fast and break something". Has caution already been rejected in favor of haste and profits? Only time will tell.

Prompt injection attacks have already been identified. They can either be direct, meaning they trick the system into providing sensitive data already stored on the system. Or they can be indirect, trying to manipulate the data before it is stored. In one notorious case called Dolphin attack, it was found that ultrasonic waves, inaudible to humans, could send commands to voice assistants like Siri and Google Now on smartphones, gaining personal information.

A study at Johns Hopkins University revealed that even casual users can bypass safety blocks to generate potentially harmful responses. Another study from Cornell University deals with "SneakyPrompt", some designated NSFW (Not-Safe-for-Work). SneakyPrompt is currently open source and available online.

An article on Axios examines the likelihood of common sense, restraint, and ethical standards being able to control the AI environment. The article concludes that these constraints will probably be overruled by greed, profits, power and prestige. Indeed part of the AI/Altman/Microsoft chaos seems to revolve around the speed with which new AI products are rushed to market versus slower vetting. A new book called "The Coming Wave" begins chapter one with, "Containment is not Possible". The article adds that even if companies can be convinced to slow down and evaluate the consequences of their products, it is highly unlikely that nations like China and Russia will be cautious in exploring superhuman power. Even more dangerous is AGI (artificial general intelligence) which could outhink humans. The rapidity of AI's growth and spread far surpasses any technology previously invented. ChatGPT attracted 100 million users in just a few weeks.

One facet of the problem is that no one can agree on just what artificial general intelligence is. A new report by researchers at Google DeepMind attempts to identify exactly what is being referred to. These researchers have identified 5 levels of expertise within AGI: emerging, competent, expert, virtuoso, and superhuman. Currently nothing beyond "emerging" has appeared. They also point out that not only must AGI do certain tasks, but it must be able to assess its own performance and ask for help when needed. Another issue being discussed is whether future AGI systems will be totally autonomous, outside of any human control, or ultimately under human control. Timnit Gebru, founder of the Distributed AI Research Institute, has said, "Don't attempt to build a god."

Harvard University has developed an AI algorithm that is said to identify new viral variants before they become pandemic. Called EVEscape, it contains biological factors that allow it to predict viral mutations. EVEscape is said to anticipate variations in other diseases as well, like HIV, flu, and 2 other mild viruses that are capable of mutating into widespread pandemics. The new algorithm uses evolutionary genomics to study a virus's ancestry, resulting in longer forecasts and hopefully giving scientists time to plan ahead.

Some researchers are warning that by the year 2026 we could run out of data to train AI. Of importance also is the quality of the data being used. If we include low quality language data, it could run out between 2030 and 2050, while low-quality image data would only last until 2030 - 2060. It is possible that we will eventually be able to use less computing power and less data, as well as get access to texts published behind a paywall. Paying these creative sources might alleviate the tension between AI companies and creatives.

In the search for a new high-tech product to replace the cell phone, Humane has created an AI pin which is integrated with OpenAI and will cost about $700. initially with a $24/month subscription fee. The pin is wearable, has no screen, and clips magnetically to your clothes. It also cotains a battery pack so that you can switch batteries throughout the day. It uses a camera, with depth and motion sensors, and a built-in speaker capable of connecting to Bluetooth. Basically voice-based, it also has a laser-projector that can project data onto your hand.

Additional capabilities for AI seem to appear daily. Newly released features include adding a voice to ChatGPT, so that algorithms like Alexa and Siri appear to be more empathetic and kindly. In another innovation, some messaging apps will now offer personality-based voices based on entertainment stars. Are we then messaging each other or are the intervening not-really-real voices becoming the new semi-social network?

Now on to other December treats:

Interactive art takes on a new meaning in the work of Nicola L. Her "Chambre en Fourrure" from 1969 enveloped the audience in a playful yet eerie costumed environment. That installation forns part of a series called Penetrables in which people inserted parts of their body into the "skin" of the work. She has been known to show men as sofas, knobs as nipples, "unchaste" use of faux fur. For 30 years she lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City abd commented to Vanity Fair in 2013, "Prostitutes and pimps were a part of the package of the Chelsea. And artists—I will not say that they are prostitutes, but they are selling themselves."

Christine Ay Tjoe is showing "Lesser Numerator", a series of abstract paintings, at White Cube in London. Her canvases are energetic, evocative, and mysterious, said to suggest "choosing restraint in a culture of rapacity and limitless appetite".

The restless energy of Nari Ward bursts out of his creations, frequently constructed from objects found in his neighborhood in New York City. Ward is a professor and head of Studio Art at Hunter College. In one installation called "Carpet Angel", Ward used plastic bags and mats, soda bottles and caps, screws and ropes. In another titled "Glory". an oil barrel, fluorescent and ultraviolet tubes, computer parts, DVD, parrot audio, plexiglas, fan, camera casing elements, paint cans, cement, towels, and rubber roofing membrane. Most of his works are infused with a biting political and social commentary with sufficient ambiguity to evoke multiple readings.

Dada Khanyisa is a multi-disciplinary artist from Umzimkhulu, South Africa, whose compelling works intersect their personal life with the fluidity they see in the world around them. The works comment on individuality vs togetherness and suggest broken yet interconnected identities in a shifting world.

Seductive and organic, the kinetic botannical sculptures by William Darrell slither and pulsate in fascinating motions. Darrell has commented, "There are cuttlefish that hypnotise their prey in order to catch them. As an artist, I follow a similar method.". These quasi-animalistic forms give off an air of both charm and evil, bringing the aesthetic and the animal into an insistent presence.

The Middle East has historically produced outstanding architecture. Equally impressive are some of the contempporary stuctures being built, including these 5 landmarks.

A World of Wearable Art was presented in Wellington, New Zealand recently. The examples shown here are extravagant, wildly creative, and truly mind-blowing.

Yinka Shonibare, the British-Nigerian artist, presents works that are playful, energetic, and thoght-provoking. Another view of his works brings us into a colorful pattern-filled world that harkens back to history while being firmly planted in today.

Jenny Saville, one of the YBA (Young British Artists) continues her exploration of the human body. Saville uses thick slabs of paint that almost become skin in their own right. Her time spent with surgeons and medical pathologies led to her fascination with the transformations and dislocations imposed upon human flesh.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2023