Am pleased to announce a new Bandcamp release titled Crude Essence.
Noisy samples from field recordings, made in and out of the studio, are the heart of this release. Street voices, slamming gates, plastic bag dispensers at the deli, crackly vinyl "ghosts of the past," "sounds of the internet," old songs of mine cut up and granularized. Several voltage-controlled low res samplers were used. The songs are very short and structured. Strings also figure prominently -- synthesized and found.
Your support in the form of buying the LPs or songs is very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed. A cassette version is available!
It wouldn't be surprising if the movie Ex Machina were funded by an industrial consortium seeking to "normalize" replacement of human labor. The movie's propaganda message is: AIs are coming, they'll look so good we'll want to sleep with them, and they'll outsmart us in the short run. Whoa, Nelly! Put down that Koolaid.™
The Uncanny Valley is still an obstacle to robot sex toys. Anything short of perfectly human (too-plastic skin, unusual joint movement, glassy eyes) looks freaky to the non-fetish majority. Ex Machina uses CGI sleight of hand to convince us the male characters are reacting to "hot" (skinny) fashion models. If that failed the film would fall apart in the first half hour.
There's no point in critiquing the movie's other implausibilities. It's film noir, meaning we watch helplessly as the patsy makes one blunder after another in a clockwork mechanism of predestined doom. Elements of the Stepford Wives, Terminator 3, etc.
So we look for other agendas this movie's cranking. Hollywood lifestyle (swanky modern home in picturesque wilderness); adolescent libido (disposable, elfin hotties that keep pushing those male gaze buttons); Silicon Valley as the new Rockefellers (bad guy invents a search engine called "Bluebook" -- note Bluebeard reference -- that 90% of the world uses); sadism as entertainment (women are chopped up but hey they're just robots). Watching it, you are subtly re-programmed to value the things it purports to be critiquing.
Journalists are treating self-driving vehicles as a given and pundits are already chin-scratching about the social implications. Whoa, Nelly! Put down that Koolaid.™
Here's a hypothetical. Big Mack the Robot Truck is barreling down the Nevada freeway. Bubba the driver is curled up asleep behind the seats.
Several minutes before, a station wagon with a family of seven lost control on a soft shoulder, flipped over, and crashed in an arroyo several hundred yards from the highway. Everyone in the car was killed except a baby, who was thrown out the window, landed in a thicket of Johnson Grass, and is now crawling back towards the road.
If Bubba had been driving he might have spotted the smoke from the crash and gone into alert mode for possible freeway consequences up ahead. Big Mack's sensors note the plume of smoke but its response algorithms "disregard it" because it is well off the highway. Bubba might have recognized that little white smudge up ahead as a crawling human; Big Mack "disregards it" as blowing trash or a desert rodent that would cause no harm to the truck. Thus, braking procedures are not implemented and...
The grandparents of the deceased infant sue the driver, the manufacturer, and the trucking company. A jury, happy to punish a "mere robot" and driver dumb enough to trust one, awards $20 million in damages.
The parties hoping to profit from driverless vehicles will have to factor in the business costs of one or two "freak accidents" such as the above. Is it worth the ethical and PR risk? Or, they'll have to bribe legislators to pass laws limiting liability for robot vehicle accidents; again, risky if discovered, PR-wise.
Is the above scenario plausible? Are robotic detection-and-judgment algorithms "smart" enough to handle all crazy situations at or near the speed limit? So many articles of the "driverless cars are here" persuasion seem to assume so.
If we think of Twitter as a Borg or hive mind, it would have to be described as self-lobotomizing. The 140-character limit and imperfect threading make it difficult to express complex thoughts or have rational discussions. Yet this diseased organism is increasingly harvested for sound bites by journalists.
Writers who express their thoughts well in long form sound like dolts in clipped twitter-speech. Critic Katha Pollitt, discussing who deserved to be on the 10 dollar bill, writes "Hamilton by far the better man," which sounds vaguely Cro-Magnon. (I forget what the rest of the 140 characters said, possibly "me no like Jackson.")
My point, difficult to shoehorn into a single tweet, is that what happens in the hive mind mainly makes sense in the context of the hive mind. To pluck out a single "neuron" often requires grabbing four or five surrounding neurons, and quoting this mess as a series of screenshots is an inelegant and ugly form of writing. Yet so many writers are being forced to do this to stay relevant.
Twitter has gotten so ugly lately. Seven years ago it was a fun, quirky, relaxed environment where you could trade droll non sequiturs with a small group of internet friends. But that wasn't making anyone any money so it needed to be constantly, incrementally "improved." Now it's jammed with text, autoplay ads, and ceaseless admonitions to grow your followers (what, like houseplants?). Statistics cling to every utterance: your droll non sequitur now has a statistical analysis of the number of "Impressions," "Total engagements," "Detail expands," "Profile clicks," and "Favorites" it has received. This is beyond pathological: no one needs that much information for "me right now" or "all roads lead to your boy." On the sidebar you had "trends" (100% uninteresting); now each trend has a line of descriptive text. Text and numbers grow on other text and numbers, like proliferating fractal barnacles. This doesn't even cover the mass echo chamber effects, where any jejune thought can be amplified through the faving and retweeting of the like-minded.
A local park had a "Freedom & Fireworks Festival" on July 4. Many food trucks were allowed to park on the grass. Near the bandshell a portable LED sign announced in blinking capitals:
BAGS COOLERS SUBJECT TO POLICE SEARCH.
The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says that:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Missing is the part about cops being able to rifle through your cooler whenever they feel like it. The July 4th event should have been called "Police State & Fireworks Festival." So I celebrated freedom (the part that includes the Fourth Amendment) -- elsewhere.
One of those specimens of impromptu public art where a knife is used to cut a section out of a subway poster to reveal another poster underneath.