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The AI fanfare continues unabated. Here are a few of the more informative sites:

In addition to Artficial Intelligence, we are now hearing about Artificial Vision. Just as humans use their eyes to comprehend the world around them, Artificial Vision tries to get machines to understand in the same way. Human vision enables us to know if objects are large or small, moving rapidly or slowly, dark or light. We use this knowledge to make quick decisions and act upon them. Machines with Artificial Vision use hardware and software as a guide to act based upon image capture and processing. It should, for example, detect faults during production or identify defective products, verify packaging problems, detect hazardous materials, ensure fill levels.

AI assistants are rapidly becoming a familiar part of our everyday lives. This paper studies the ethical, moral, and technical questions that must be answered as these assistants become more advanced and ubiquitous. How are human goals impacted by using these assistants? How can misuse of data be prevented, like cyber warfare? How do we safeguard privacy and maintain the user's autonomy? How will these assistants interact with both humans and nonhumans? How do we create them in order to build the future that we want?

In this vein, how did the term "user" come into being? Apparently it began in the 1950's to apply to employees who were trained to maintain hugely complex and expensive commercial computers. Eventually it was applied to anyone who interacted with a computer, with the underlying assumption that people were "sort-of" like machines: ie, both people and machines were components of a larger system controlled by major tech companies. The term then became more "slippery" when it was extended to unexamined growth for its own sake rather than based on utility. Adding words like bots further dehumanized the meaning. Some experts became concerned and suggested using "customers" and "humans", but the latter seemed to make people uneasy. Soon we had "conversational buddies", further blurring the boundaries between human and nonhuman. (See our comment on mutterings this month for more on boundaries.) Essentially, if AI is a partner, this article asks, what are we?

An AI algorithm has found an unexpected inconsistency in a Raphael masterpiece. The AI neural network claims that the figure of St. Joseph in the top left of the painting was not painted by Raphael himself. The AI algorithm used here is called ResNet50, which had previously attained a 98% accuracy rate when looking at other Raphael paintings.

Microsoft has introduced a powerful new tool called VASA-1 that appears to surpass any other AGI algorithm yet seen. The new tool is being described as "a deepfake nightmare machine". Its capabilities are based on a single image: per Microsoft, "The core innovations include a holistic facial dynamics and head movement generation model that works in a face latent space, and the development of such an expressive and disentangled face latent space using videos.... It paves the way for real-time engagements with lifelike avatars that emulate human conversational behaviours."

All current AI algorithms seem to be based on their massive use of electricity. Now a group from Tsingua University in China says it has developed a neural network chip based on light instead. The new process needs a fraction of the energy required for current chips. The new chip, called Taichi, employs 2 kinds of light-based methods. It is composed of multiple bits (chiplets) which work like the human brain, creating calculations in parallel and then combining them all. Taichi achieved a 92% success rate when given the task of separating images over 1,000 categories.

"Grokking" is the term being used to describe how Large Language Models (LLMs) learn. The problem seems to be that no one can quite figure out exactly how they learn. It seems they take more time than expected, but in that case researchers are asking how we know when they stop learning? This suggests that no one really knows how or why AI works. Answering that question can be essential to understanding its risks and dangers. Grokking suggests the ability to generalize from specifics, frustrating scientists when it happens unexpectedly. For example, an algorithm succeeds in learning math problems in English, reads some French literature, then solves the math problems in French.

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new 4-legged robot that can run, jump, and crawl through obstacle courses. Previously these canine-inspired robots could monitor sports stadiums remotely, guide the blind, and inspect potentially hazadous sites, but they could not engage in what humans call "parkour". Now a company called ANYbotics has taught a 100-pound quadriped to imitate what human "freerunners" do - ie, get from one point to another in the fastest way possible by crawling and leaping past obstacles. The skill involves both athletic ability and quick decision making. ANYmal was able to move 6 feet per second to complete the basic parkour course it was presented with.

Google has announced an AI app called Vids. Presumably Google Vids is able to make collaborative work videos that can quickly and easily be shared. You can, if you wish, ask the AI to make a first draft of a video for you, build a storyboard, write a script, read it aloud, and select from its stock images. Vids is expected to be available this summer.

A study by the Associated Press reveals that as many as 70% of newsroom staff is already using content created by AI. Few newsrooms, however, seem to have guidelines in place for the use of AGI. Some broadcasters use their gut instinct to decide what is appropriate. Other small companies don't have the financial resources to train their staff.

Synthesia has been producing AI-created avatars for several years. Their new version uses generative AI to make hyper-realistic doubles that are said to be remarkably expressive. The new release, while not yet available to the public, was demonstrated on a journalist, with the results shown here. The rendition is so real that it raises serious questions about our ability in the near future to tell the real from the unreal.

Noema Magazine introduces a discussion of differing ethical, cultural, and political viewpoints between nations, especially China and the U.S. The author's conclusion seems to be that one universal idea of "the good life" may be unattainable.

Now on to other April treats:

Subtle, evocative, organic and fluid. These are some of the words that come to mind when viewing the works of Zoe Longfield. The artist herself uses the phrase "modern biomorphic". A critic describes them as "purely ectoplasmic".

Another subtly erotic painter, viviangreven, uses abstraction to look closely at intimacy. Her bodies seem tantalizingly just out of reach, both alluring and untouchable. Muted tones add to the air of mystery surrounding these figures.

Peter Huyghe has attracted attention with his sculptural collaboration between a female nude and a living beehive. The beehive as a living entity progresses across the head of the woman, redefining sculpture as a living environment to be experienced rather than an inanimate object. Shown at MOMA, this piece exemplifies Huyghe's fascination with living beings, both animal and human, while he investigates the concept of beings without life. Another interesting piece, The Host and the Cloud, deals with the "breakdown of ritual". Essentially he seems to be saying that flux is the essence of living and that "all beings exist beyond the perceivable realm of human senses and knowledge."

Visions of the huge Oklahoma sky and river form the inspiration for these LED illuminated sculptures at the Event Center of the Oklahoma State Fair. Created by Cliff Garten, the pieces enliven the institutional setting with sinuous organic forms.

One of the more colorful displays at the US Pavilion in the Venice Biennale was created by Jeffrey Gibson. Gibson is the first Native American to have a solo show for the US at the Biennnale. He belongs to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and is of Cherokee descent. Heritage and found objects combine to offer an exhibit described as "celebratory and defiant, disquieting and full of righteous rage."

The Huni Kuin Artists Movement MAHKU has painted a huge mural on the facade of the Central Pavilion of the Brazilian exhibit at this year's Frieze. MAHKU's mural is meant to give visual life to the ritual chants of the culture. The Huni Kuin live on the border of Peru and Brazil, using dialects of both hatxa and official Portuguese. Their mural pays tribute to spiritual and linguistic exchange and the beauty of complex chants.

Vibrant flowing abstractions characterize the paintings of Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. The artist treats us to masked deities, androgynous lovers and majestic animals as they dance across his canvases, reflecting a West African iconography along with respect for the natural world.

The Art Institute of Chicago is featuring "Radical Clay: Contemporary Women Artists from Japan". The works date from 1970 forward, paying tribute to the contributions of women ceramicists in a male-centered environment. These artists push the boundaries of clay, and of the expectations laid upon what subjects women should be addressing.

Christie's brings us an informative presentation on the Art of Islamic Calligraphy, which they describe as "revered above painting". Calligraphy in the Islamic world was used almost everywhere, from architecture to religious texts. Its dual significance as both spiritual and beautiful adds to the complexity that surrounds it. The article goes on to suggest how collectors can identify the best works, notice rhythms, and find signatures.

The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle was designed by Frank Gehry between 1995 - 2000. Initiated by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, it combines music, technology, media and activities. Seattle's Monorail passes right through the structure. The extraordinary architecture is not to be missed if you are anywhere near Seattle.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2024

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