Could Machines Make Art?

Fascinating study out of the University of Trento on using Machine Vision algorithms to learn how people respond emotionally to abstract art.

Link : Computers identify what makes abstract art move us

Abstract art might be easier to replicate automatically since you don’t need to worry about as much symbolism and meaning as much. Is this going to put artists out of a job? Well no, people create art because they want to, or need to. If computers can generate abstract patterns and images that are emotionally evocative on demand then that would surely hurt artists who rely on selling their images or the rights to reproduce them in other media.

So, something for artists to be aware of.

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Announcing the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance « Computing Education Blog

Announcing the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance « Computing Education Blog

The future of education requires Computer Science. This is an important acknowledgement by the NSF in the US. Hopefully we can get a similar buy-in at some point in Canada. In many schools Computer Science enrollment is going down at the same time that more and more fields require some form of programming skills. I think Computer Science education needs to be transformed into a broader service approach as with Mathematics where everyone is required to take some basic programming in university and college. But this will only work if courses are tailored to non-majors and to different fields who have different needs for how they use computers. It’s an exciting time for CS education.

Should Live Tweeting Be Protected Like Broadcast Rights?

Interesting question here about tweeting sporting events: Should Live Tweeting Be Protected Like Broadcast Rights?

I think what is happening is that as technology moves forward the nature of Speech changes. Posting your thoughts on a social network is essentially now a normal type of speech and you should no more be able to restrict it than you can restrict people talking during or after a sporting event or calling a friend and telling them what is going on. The difference of course is that it’s broadcast, not an individual conversation. But when everyone has the ability to broadcast how can you restrict that ability just for topics that are marketed as products like sporting events or movies? Could a movie studio restrict my ability to talk about the plot of the latest James Bond movie on Twitter? How is a sporting event different than that?

The problem here is different than the one the movie and music industries face with people pirating a packaged product.  They want to control discussion of a live event that people have paid to watch.  This kind of business model is based upon the assumption that the ability to broadcast is scarce and expensive. This is no longer true anymore. Long ago their must have been business models based on the fact that long distance transportation was expensive, but with the arrival of trains, planes and cars this was no longer true and those businesses would have to adapt.

They’ll just have to adapt to the changes. 

The Consequences of Machine Intelligence – Moshe Y. Vardi – The Atlantic

The Consequences of Machine Intelligence – Moshe Y. Vardi – The Atlantic

I just started reading this, but it’s right along the lines of what I’m talking about with people being aware of how advancing technology could affect their career plans. I’ll read it and write more later. Do you have any thoughts on it? It would be an interesting group discussion topic here or on G+.

Machines Want Your Job

I’ve been planning for a while to write a series of posts on this blog about how advances in science and technology have the potential to make certain current jobs carried out by people unnecessary. This topic gets some thoughtful coverage in the media from time to time but usually it’s just short throw away stories on some funny looking robot (ahem…see below). But the bigger picture for people’s careers and the economiy are important to think about as well. That is because if you know technology is being developed which could make your current job disappear in 5 or 10 years you may have time to consider a new career. Or imagine you see on the horizon that 20 years from now we may not need human bus drivers in cities because of self-driving cars. Then you wouldn’t encourage your children or any young person to get into that job for the long term, even if the benefits are great, because it’s fundamentally unstable in the long run due to technology.

So as a public service, and to give me a theme to write about, I’m going to try to regularly post here to raise awareness about advances in science and technology that have the potential to do away with entire careers completely. Or to give it a pithy Twitter hashtag:  #MachinesWantYourJob.

What to do about it

Some of these trends are obvious to a lot of people, such as repetitive factory work jobs being replaced by robotics. But a lot of cases aren’t so obvious. Personally, I think people are underestimating how disruptive self-driving cars will be on many jobs once the technological, safety and regulatory kinks are worked out. This may take a long time, but it’s progressing faster than some expected. Also, there is a lot of scientific research and technology development that is not so widely covered or understood by the media, so people don’t realize that some jobs could be just doomed in the long run. Another example is grocery checkouts, the current clumsy self-checkout lines in supermarkets are only a first step.  It is perfectly feasible with existing technology to build a supermarket or big box store with no checkout lines at all by using RFID tagged merchandise, QR code printouts from scales and object recognition on digital cameras. No cashiers would be needed, just pillars near the exits to confirm your purchase and pay.  It’s seems to be just a matter of time before it’s cheap enough that some store will implement it and do away with those cashier jobs.

Just to be clear, the intention in pointing out these trends is not to necessarily stop them in order to save existing, 20th century style jobs. The intention is to raise awareness about what may be coming and encourage people to prepare themselves for the future, to retool, to consider new careers while working in old ones so that when the hammers falls, they are prepared. Because it is unlikely anything going to stop these changes, and if you want to know you certainly can’t stop them if you don’t see them coming.

A more positive and inspiring way to think about this future as an opportunity to have many careers over your life is summed up much more eloquently than I ever could by this comic on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, take a look.

Ok, Show us the Funny Robots

Entry number one – I hope you weren’t banking on being a noodle cutting chef in a Chinese restaurant, because the robots are all over that:

The best thing about this is how he felt the need to make it look like a 1970s stereotype of a robot. It’s actually really simple, barely a robot at all, anymore than the windshield wipers on your car are.

Now I’m hungry…noodles. mmmm.

See you next time, if you have any ideas for topics on this theme reply in the comments or tweet me @compthink.

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