Wednesday, 17 January 2018

the picture of dorian gray

Despite being available for the past year and half and having genuine educational merits aside from the tout that propelled it popularity, I found myself enthralled with the idea of finding my own digital Doppelgรคnger, having not been one of those privileged museum-goers to be instantly paired with their portrait gallery twin-strangers, but felt quite inept when I wasn’t able to find the feature as advertised.
Seeing the fun echoed, I wondered at my apparent technical difficulties until I learned that the selfie-comparison was only available in (most) of the United States, due to potential concerns over privacy and the ability to steal one’s digital soul via a willing relinquishing. By hook or by crook, a VPN (virtual private network) is needed for now to access the feature and to  convince the app-emporium otherwise. While I believe that the company behind the application does not have nefarious intentions, I am also grateful that I live in a jurisdiction that will fault on protecting us from ourselves, even if all the cool kids are doing it.

Monday, 30 October 2017

beyond the uncanny valley of the dolls or playable-character

Neural networks have trained themselves, dreaming themselves from an age of nightmare to a liminal, lucid slumber, to produce absolutely convincing, authentic-looking images of people that only exist in the machine’s circuitry.
Second generation applications of learning software are already outpacing human engineering by crafting their own versions and this visage-generator works as good as it does by bouncing ideas off of a parallel, adversarial programme constantly critiquing its choices and adjusting accordingly. Visit Sploid at the link up top for a video demonstration which includes entire computer-created environments—although not uncanny like a mannequin any longer, the results and transformations are still eerie and different than the transitional figures of the face-morphing sequence of Michael Jackson’s 1991 single “Black or White,” who had a warmth in their slipping away.  There’s something a touch dejected, I think and it’s different that the impermanence of a dream since one dreams of those one knows or remembers, in watching these characters glide past that seem surpassingly real yet are a chance configuration that may never be grounded as existing in any sense.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

sexy sexy dombie sexy cat

For those still undecided on a Halloween costume, one can always repair to a neural network, we discover via Fancy Notions, for last-minute consultation.
Naturally robots were not prepared for this highly idiosyncratic task but soon became more authoritarian. Ranging from Sexy DVORAK keyboard to suggesting in later iterations that one aspire to be a Starfleet Shark or Mario Lander or the Statue of Pizza or the Twin Spider Mermaid the sub-routine seems to be learning. Check out more recommendations at the links above and see if you find your inspiration.

Friday, 27 October 2017


yลkainoshima: Charles Frรฉger photographs the monsters of Japanese folklore (more yลkai here, here and here)

arm + bend = elbow: more clever word sums from Futility Closet

oะบั‚ั́ะฑั€ัŒัะบะฐั ั€ะตะฒะพะปัŽ́ั†ะธั: to mark the centenary since the start of the Russian revolution curators at

the Hermitage ceremoniously re-started the clocks stopped the moment Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace

tessellation: gorgeous drawing game inspired by Islamic art and architectural forms, via Waxy

zeroth law: Saudi Arabia confers citizenship on an android plus plans to build a robot pleasure megacity

moment factory: Montreal’s basilica transformed into an immersive multi-media experience in hopes to renew appreciation for the landmark

monsterpiece theatre: a nice appreciation of Cookie Monster, the academic muppet

Monday, 23 October 2017


pinch and dash: these images of recipes resolved into their component parts by Mikkel Jul Hvilshรธj are fun and reminded us of another Nordic creative food display

papillons de jour: graffiti artist Mantra using a trick of perspective has created gigantic butterfly specimen cases on multi-storey builds in Metz, via Nag on the Lake

good design for a bad world: a look at ten Dutch Design Week innovations that take to task global issues

apollo-soyuz: artist Maciej Rebisz’ illustrations explore how far we might have gotten had the space race continued

hanfu: the human stylists who do the hair and makeup and dress intelligent robots and what message those fashion choices send

Friday, 20 October 2017

give me a bouncy c

Taking a cue from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a major internet retailer, we learn via Marginal Revolution, has developed a sort of tonal pass-key that admits or restricts users from collaborative projects on the basis of being in tune, with those discordant or cacophonous ones being identified as inauthentic members.
Although I like to keep my computing time quiet and on mute, I think I might prefer this sort of harmonious CAPTCHA (which is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, which I think the machines have out smarted long ago) to the usual tests of humanity. Many of the firm’s ideas reportedly have not progressed beyond the sandbox of claims jumping but it’s nonetheless intriguing that being able to sculpt mashed potatoes into Devil’s Tower or that subterranean subterfuge might be indicative of alien visitations is certainly worthy of examination.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

minority report or criterion theatre

Piccadilly Circus is being transformed into an experimental panopticon, Gizmodo reports, with hundreds of cameras embedded in LED billboards to inform the advertising canvas what it suspects the passer-by what might take an interest in.
Algorithms have a reputation for being either judgy or tone-deaf by turns and of course one can ignore the ploys and constant pelting—up to a certain limit—but to be forever mischaracterised in public and in private and to have false assumptions made about oneself would probably quickly grow intolerable. How would omnipresent network of consumer surveillance see you? Though the zealous marketing-managers behind this digital street experience will probably never have to confront the abject horror of a colossal erectile-dysfunction commercial or an exercise-campaign was meant specifically for them and the rest of us are made to adopt and accept this latest form of oppression, perhaps that discomfort for prejudice will resonate with a broader demographic and will engineer empathy for the marginalised who face racism and discrimination all the time.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

sic transit gloria mundi

Humanity may indeed be caught aware by the Singularity—assuming that it’s not already occurred—and not wanting to spread the bombast of street preachers but this inevitable development, as Wired! magazine reports, of learning software writing its own, improved (in novel and unexpected ways) learning software makes me think that we are lurching ever closer to that reality.
Presently the machine is learning to build neural networks that optimise search results and targeted marketing across one relatively knowable, shared plane of existence, but should human programmers by side-lined into a sine cure, directorial role will greatly accelerate the pace of transformation—which with too much human intervention could really turn into an experience fraught with the tantalisingly tremolo-fulfilling and the unchallenging. What do you think? Not only will the way we interact online change in exponential ways, fully-automated and autonomous, self-generating learning software will also spread into the real world much faster and take helm not only in transit but also in legal, financial and health services and be accorded a role in civil and corporate governance, making it not only more difficult to justify wealth disparity but also calling into question our economic models and priorities to begin with.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


For any of you humans brave or fool-hearty enough to tread into heretofore uncharted neural network territory, Waxy presents AI Spy, an absurdist version of the game meant to impart a sense of patience in children during prolonged travel and in waiting rooms where one is pitted against machine-learning in a sort of augmented reality setting, the computer asking the user to limn its surroundings in photos and selecting interesting artefacts to tease out. Part of an on-going series of weekly projects, playing requires some suspension of disbelief and asks humans to think like machines


Over-sharing (indeed the utopian oblige of it all) and the way we’ve filled in the gaps of celebrity as a crisis of character and of history through nostalgia and an endless series of hails, salutes and remembrances has made a parallel world in our own image that’s apparently of more consequence than the real physical world—without even venturing into the myriad ways we’ve disrupted Nature with unnatural selection—where we’re held hostage to those who know (that is have to incontrovertible, time-stamped evidence) those things that we are not the most proud of and would never want to promote as part of our on-line and public persona.
Even if the forces that be are not malevolent spirits and have no intention of betraying one’s secrets, it’s still a regime of unease and blackmail that really mentally challenging to endure and as a result—whether we’d admit to this revolt and backlash or not since complacency and the status quo have been accorded higher sanctities—people seemed instead of dealing with this aggregated dossier without alibi to turn pre-emptively confessional and willing to excuse past indiscretions no matter what they were nor whom the peccadilloes belonged to, either out of unrelenting fear or mistaking empathy for whataboutery—the sophistry of appealing to one’s opponents’ apparent past hypocrisy as relevant to the present situation. Perhaps it’s a very American trait to ignore a very large problem like the concentration of data and having no control over how its interpreted and shared or stolen because it would be complex to solve and require a lot of sacrifice to deny there’s a problem at all and instead excuse the symptomatic being caught red-handed or being made to eat one’s words as some sort of shared consolation-prize that exculpates any bad behaviour.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

hms semaphore

One automobile manufacturer recently outfitted a test-pilot as an empty driver’s seat in order to gauge public, man-on-the-street reaction to autonomous vehicles, not so much for the rubbernecking effect that driverless car illicit but rather a means to study how such cars might signal their intentions and how quickly traditional vehicles and pedestrians sharing the road might pick up on that newly minted language. Presently drivers get a lot of mileage out of a tap of the horn or flashing high-beams but apparently a more sophisticated system is needed to interact with human controlled traffic. While some useful data was gleaned off of the stunt, the methodology reportedly was not the best.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


demon-haunted world: the inscrutable internet of things conspires to keep us from knowing its secrets

box car: the machine-readable bar-code had its origins with freight trains

forge and foundry: the creation and destruction of one of the world’s loveliest typefaces, Doves Press

mechnotherapie: gym-culture in the late nineteenth century

Friday, 25 August 2017


universal translator: what is this dog’s urgent message?

cirque du toile: a fun appreciation of the printed fabric through history up to the present

equestria: a neural network is trained to name new Ponies—previously here 

regret avoidance: lottery mania illustrates how people make economically disadvantageous choices

jลkotล: cutlery company designs delux scissors styled as the iconic katana blades of samurai

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

algorithmic engagement

We’ve previously explored numerous times how fraught social media is with manipulative and inscrutable sets of instructions that determine what content one is presented—or confronted with—that has led to people bemoaning the changes in myriad ways. We ought not be so obsessed with what’s hot off the presses but missives can grow stale and many times pledges and opinion do not age well—and it’s a psychological distressing struggle that a billion denizens charge towards daily and mostly fail by the hour.  People rate what comes across as an asynchronous jumble from a nuisance when they’d just care to experience events chronologically without some strange dream sequences or unbidden flashbacks to something more sinister when something from weeks and months past is unearthed.
Considering the geopolitical climate of the present, however, it seems that the war for our attention is going far beyond the vaguely menacing to the patently terrorising insofar as the figurative war is being translated into very real ones in the name of optimising revenue and we lose on both fronts. Online engagement is perhaps its own apotheosis in reality, but sensationalism distorts our perception of threats and given that our experience across all demographics is necessarily either dogmatic and doctrinaire or impressionable because of the limits of what we can know and can take part in have suddenly been made rather unlimited and the propagandists were the first on the scene.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

surplus to needs

Writing for McSweeney’s Ben Kronengold (via Waxy) delivers the perfect point for point lambasting of that misogynistic screed circulated through the offices of one internet giant, which got the author summarily dismissed by advocating that women don’t belong in the tech industry and arguments to the contrary were harmful to morale and workplace cohesion, by suggesting from the point of view of a robot that believes humans are biologically unfit to have jobs in the sector.
…Furthermore, just when we started to catch on to Captcha codes, we had to face new tests: the “check-this-box-to-prove-you’re-not-a-robot”—talk about hurtful language—and the “click-all-the-boxes-that-contain-street-signs.” The latter recently cost my friend a job in Ad Sales when he bet it all on “Yield” being a type of tree…

Be sure to visit McSweeney’s at the link up top to read the diatribe in its entirety and discover more humorous, pitch-perfect articles.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Geoff Manaugh’s latest speculative piece in BLDGBlog that turns over the aesthetics of civil engineering to an algorithm that has demonstrated a knack for the scenic initially made me think of another trail of a neural network plucking idyllic postcards from vast collections of unprocessed data, but the examination went deeper to question what these heralded breakthroughs in artificial intelligence might mean when the gauge of their success is our hazy ideal.
Humans own sense of taste and proportion are in turn thought to be informed, like our myths and oral traditions, by surveying the plains of Africa and learning that certain configurations of contour and shading invite prey and shelter—and are in tour reflected in the art and landscaping that we find unconsciously resonant. Advertisers exploit these sort of backdrops all the time to draw us in—or at least not to offend by choosing something anodyne and universal. What do you think? I do admit that in a moment of laziness recently that has since proven quite serendipitous and worth repeating I have turned to a PfRC site-specific image search to try to pick illustrations to go with some posts that I don’t have a specific for. With over four thousand articles and more photographs (mostly confusingly captioned or labelled), I’d prefer to recycle one of my own—especially pictures I’ve taken myself rather than accumulating more, I restrict the search criteria to this site and tell the search engine a few topics in the post, and I’ll get results like the one pictured—which is exactly what I had in mind. If our digital amanuensis and analyst is only rewarded for being a feed-back loop that draws on our oldest comforts neither side is challenged and the process seems like atrophy rather than growth.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

home improvement

An omnipotent electronic, on-demand retail empire has had its furtive plans to use its fleet of delivery drones (previously) to survey and assess the state of the customer’s abode and garden and recommend fixes—or at least subtly advertise suggested products or services that one might be interested investing in, as Super Punch informs, receive official endorsement in the form of letters patent and the sole intellectual-heir to such fly-bys.
Not only would this buzzing and strafing let one know that the roof over one’s head might be in need of repairs, collusion between marketers and insurance providers might also inflate one’s rates and liabilities accordingly. What do you think? It might also spot dangers early so that catastrophes might be prevented. Convenience has its costs in any case and this development, which seems far more fraught with potential for abuse and manipulation, is following right after the maker of autonomous vacuum cleaners made a pledge not to sell on data the units had gleaned in respect to the layout and manifest of owners’ living spaces.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

that’s kind of a downer

Via Waxy, we’re acquainted with Inspirobot, whose purpose is to supply “unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for the endless enrichment of otherwise pointless human existence,” and while the de-motivational posters the algorithm generates are not that dark—at least from a cursory interaction—I think we are privileged witnesses to the moment when the robots just took away the jobs of those seemingly employed to disseminate similarly snarky (or well-intended) content on social media. I’m guessing that the genuinely inspiring might present more of a challenge to construct but possibly not. Hang in there, baby!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Researchers have trained a neural network to scour Google Street View (which of course is not limited to urban environs) and frame what it believes to be รฆsthetic scenes, applying algorithms on cropping, lighting and composition that its acquired in the learning process. The coda to this experiment was to subject the photographs to a sort of human-juried “Turing test.” The judges were not told that a machine had selected and perfected the images and rated nearly half of them to be the work of a professional. Chew more of the scenery over at Twisted Sifter at the link up top and learn more about the exercise in deep learning and wonder about its implications.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

dustbin, doxbin

Though generally only perceived as a vaguely threatening presence by pets, it turns out that for the past few years robotic vacuums, in their quest to optimise navigating the terrain of one’s home, have also been collecting that telemetry and reporting back to the mother-ship in order for those maps to be sold on to marketers to formulate better-focused furniture advertisements (or scare families into investing in security services) and model virtual smart-houses. Or simply to judge our taste in dรฉcor. These domestic double-agents that we welcome into our lives highlights one way that technologies are no longer ours to exploit and benefit from as tools, but rather the merchants of attention undermine our relationship with computers and machines by supplanting it with some Pavlovian bond of button-mashing and push-notifications. What do you think? Albeit arguably robot vacuums are a time-saving convenience but coordination and connectedness come with a cost and perhaps the autonomous appliance market is reaching its true economical zenith—again, not as an instrument or amusement but as pusher, staking out its beat, like that craze with augmented reality games which helped plot out previously uncharted demographics.