Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

5Aug/18

16th Century Needed a #MeToo Movement, Too

Pictured is Galileo. We learned in history class how he was banished for his heretical scientific discoveries. What we did not learn was that other men, and women, were executed for such beliefs. What we did not learn was that because he was a devout Catholic, with important Church ties, he only received house arrest, and that his house arrest was the ability to live out his life on his estate, not in some hovel.

What we did not learn was that Galileo was a married man with three children who abandoned his wife and children when he began to achieve scientific prominence.

What we did not learn was that Galileo managed to obtain an imperial pension for his abandoned son so that the son was able to live a pretty normal life. What we did not learn was that Galileo wound up having his two daughters committed to a convent at ages 11 and 12. What we did not learn was that the younger daughter had a nervous breakdown as soon as she was banished to the convent, from which she never recovered. What we did not learn was that the elder daughter spent her life writing letters to her father, begging him to get permission for her to leave the convent just to pay him a visit - something he never did for her.

What we did not learn was whatever happened to his wife.

The abuse and subjugation of women takes many forms and has done so since year one. Literally.

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28Jul/18

Microsoft & ACLU argue facial-recognition tech could violate your rights

From Yahoo Finance News:

On Thursday [July 26, 2018] the American Civil Liberties Union provided a good reason for us to think carefully about the evolution of facial-recognition technology. In a study, the group used Amazon’s (AMZN) Rekognition service to compare portraits of members of Congress to 25,000 arrest mugshots. The result: 28 members were mistakenly matched with 28 suspects.

The ACLU isn’t the only group raising the alarm about the technology. Earlier this month, Microsoft (MSFT) president Brad Smith posted an unusual plea on the company’s blog asking that the development of facial-recognition systems not be left up to tech companies.

Saying that the tech “raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression,” Smith called for “a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology, informed first by a bipartisan and expert commission.”

But we may not get new laws anytime soon. The nuances are complex, while Congress remains as reluctant as ever to regulate privacy. We may find ourselves stuck struggling to agree on norms well after the technology has redefined everything from policing to marketing. 

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15Jul/18

We Predict Oursleves Into Consciousness

and why AI will never replicate the human mind and being.

TED Talk by Anil Seth of Sussex University. http://www.anilseth.com

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21Jun/18

Yet Another Cautionary Tale About AI

The man who was fired by a machine

BBC News

Once the artificial intelligence (AI) "mis-firing" is caught and corrected, the employee leaves his job anyway due to the trauma the experience put him through. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44561838

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22Dec/17

Happy Holidays!

 
One of my holiday traditions is a trip to the old-fashioned 
Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena each year 
to have a hot fudge sundae with peppermint ice-cream. 
Sadly the last two years, they've had no peppermint ice-cream! 
A similar absence of my favorite ice-cream has been encountered 
when I search the local supermarkets.
When people talk about making America great again,
I am thinking, “Bring Back Peppermint Ice-Cream!”
rather than the myths of things many people want returned.
Things that never actually existed.
In point of fact, women, people of color, working people,
poor people,
our healthcare system, the environment, the workplace, 
our schools, our government, the economy -
none have been the pillars of greatness, fairness, justice or equality
that all but a few (relatively speaking) of us would wish for.
But this year, I do have hope. 
Because I see so many more women and men and even children
standing up and beginning to fight for what is right,
beginning to see that it does, indeed, take a village. 
Waking up to the fact that 
this world, its people and this planet 
are our responsibility,
not our resources.
Seeing that there are always options and alternatives.
That we are not stuck, 
that we have the potential to evolve in a positive direction.
And, to that end, Happy HolidayusI did not let the absence of a peppermint ice-cream sundae
weigh too heavily on me.
I painted one! 
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays of Whatever Ilk
To all my dear friends, students and family!
 
Terry
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29Jun/17

AI Challenges: Image Recognition Patterns

AI Image Pattern Recognition Animation

AI Image Pattern Recognition Animation

Artificial Intelligence and Image Recognition Challenges

Everything's Coming Up Roses!

One of the methods used by image recognition algorithms is to "see" things by noting patterns in an image. This can be very effective, but can also create challenges.

In the tea animation here, watch how the AI software sees the numerous roses in the bouquet, and, making a note of that rose pattern, then assumes there must be other roses in the image - when there are not!

So, the end of the folded napkin becomes a rose. Rose patterns are seen in the blank back wall. And even the lavender bouquet decoration on the tea pot becomes a rose!

While this might make an interesting surrealist work of art, we certainly would not want our autonomous car seeing roses where, in fact, there is a dog, or other vehicle, or fallen tree - or nothing!

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1Apr/17

An Emperor’s New Clothes Tale about Uber and Their Autonomous Cars, Or, When I Began Driving Autonomously at Sixteen Years of Age

photo Uber's March 2015 "Not At Fault" Crash

Uber's March 2015 "Not At Fault" Crash

When I began driving autonomously at sixteen years of age (i.e. without my father in the passenger seat guiding me and keeping me in compliance with the California driving laws for teens), Dad came home one night from work incredulous at the words of one of his business associates, who also had a new to driving kid.

Removing his tie, Dad shared with my mom, "So, Mike says to me: 'My son at seventeen only driving eight months and already has six accidents. Six. But, none of them his fault.' "

My mother shook her head as my sisters and I listened in.

"Can you imagine?" my father was laughing incredulously now. "Six accidents! None of them his fault!"

 

I could not help but remember my father's dinnertime story as I read about Uber's latest auto-driving accident. Last week a car in Tempe Arizona and an automated Uber SUV collided in an intersection, and the Uber vehicle wound up on its side (photo above). Within hours all Uber cars on the roads in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Arizona were pulled from the streets until the accident could be reviewed.

But within just a few days all those Uber vehicles were back on the roadways, because it was determined that the other driver failed to yield to Auto-Uber. The driver of the human driven vehicle was also cited for causing the accident.

I'm sure that the Uber owners are dancing gleefully at having been vindicated and proven innocent of any auto car mishap.

It wasn't Uber's fault.

 

How many more "none of them his fault" accidents will Uber endure before the Naked Emperor is unmasked?

Because all American drivers know the way probable scenario that actually occurred here:

On US roads, we human drivers are called on to yield to other drivers by little obscure right of way laws and by ubiquitous red (sometimes yellow) "YIELD" road signs. We human drivers know that, more often than not, even if we are the Yieldee, the Yielder is not actually going to yield to us. YIELD signs and laws are a nice sentiment, but Yieldees all basically ignore them, since we know that most Yielders will – in favor of avoiding crashes.

Uber can build all the actual traffic laws it wants into its autonomous vehicles, but it will never catch up with the unwritten laws, and law nuances, that all us humans know. Nor will it ever properly assimilate all the cultural laws specific to any city in the US. Those variations make it very difficult for even humans to drive safely - or without annoying the heck out of other drivers - when they attempt to drive in a new city.

Take for example, the Los Angeles rule of two cars waiting in the intersection and making their  left turn move on the yellow light. When a car sits behind the white line waiting for on-coming traffic to somehow miraculously disappear, we honk, knowing they must be "a damn LA foreigner."

Some years back one of my nieces was driving down a country road in northern California when another car pulled up to a stop sign at a small crossroad. My niece continued on knowing that she had the "right of way." Unfortunately, my niece was a young driver and had not yet assimilated the wisdom of her grandfather, who had warned all his descendants to always assume that every other driver on the road is stupid and about to do the unexpected. Sure, enough, the other driver made the incomprehensible decision to  pull onto the highway just as my niece's car reached the crossroad; my niece and her car ended up in a tree (she was, miraculously, not injured). Can Uber and other auto-car makers build Other Driver Stupidity and Illogic into their computer code?

 

Okay, so back to Auto-Uber. Just about any American driver who read the news story about "not our fault" Uber was shaking her/his head afterward. We all know that one of the primary ways we avoid accidents on our roads is by knowing that few if any drivers will ever actually yield to us when they have a YIELD sign and/or the right of way. Get real! We all know that we must be prepared to yield to the yielder - even if we are legally the yieldee.

Auto-Uber may be in his legal rights. He may be dancing right now (can autonomous cars dance yet?), knowing he was let off the hook. But how many Auto-Uber  "not his fault" accidents need to occur before we wake up to realize how truly far away we are from safely sharing our human designed roadways and laws, and cultural nuances, with artificially intelligent vehicles?

 

 

 

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25Feb/17

What Zebrafish Teach Us About Sleep

Understand Sleep - Caltech Lecture 2-22-17

Using Fish to Understand Sleep - Caltech Lecture 2-22-17

Usually the lectures I attend at Caltech and JPL are about landing on asteroids, black holes and the composition of Jupiter’s Moons, but this month, they had a biologist who discussed sleep.

Years ago many scientists concluded that melatonin was the mechanism that causes people to sleep. Subsequently, many companies began manufacturing melatonin supplements. Later, science realized that melatonin was not actually helping their rat models sleep, so they pulled back on the claim of its value in sleep inducing.

Today scientists have stopped comparing our brains to rats, and, instead are using fish. Yes, turns out our brains are more similar to baby zebra fish brains that to rats!

Insomnia is a huge problem. Although science still does not know exactly what function(s) sleep exists for, they do know that all animals and bugs sleep. Some, like cats, sleep a lot. Others, like giraffes, not much (only 2 hours per day!). Whales and dolphins actually put 1/2 their brains to sleep at a time since they live in the predatory ocean and cannot afford to be asleep ever!

When humans are deprived of too much sleep it can cause or exacerbate depression, diabetes, bone loss, heart disease, all kinds of illnesses.

One of the functions we now know of the asleep brain is an act of pruning the new knowledge we put into it just that very day. A brain has 20% fewer neurons in the morning than it did when we fell asleep. The brain gets rid of extraneous material while we sleep.

The greatest problem we have with sleeping pills is that they all work by actually shutting our brains down. This, of course, is dangerous since we know that whatever the brain does at night under natural sleeping conditions is very important to our physical and mental well being. If we just shut it down with a sleeping pill, we may sleep, but our brain does not do the work it is supposed to do at night.

Studies of the zebra fish and sleep taught the scientists that melatonin actually is the trigger for sleep. It did not trigger it in nocturnal rats during the day or night, because their brains are not like human brains. In zebra fish it does trigger sleep.

The biologist said he is not a doctor and cannot recommend melatonin for sleep, but he did go ahead and explain that “if you do take it to help yourself sleep,” you only need 1/2 to 1 milligram of it. Part of the concern he has about the supplement industry, is that they sell it in 5mg to 20mg doses, which can actually be harmful and cause side effects.

He also recommended people with sleep problems first consult a doctor because, while lack of enough melatonin may be the main cause of insomnia, there are other possible causes, including brain lesions in the most serious cases.

Someone asked if there were natural forms of melatonin and he mentioned milk.

The next morning, I researched natural sources of melatonin, and learned something quite curious. I wish I had known this before his lecture, for I would have inquired about it of him.

The foods listed as having the highest and significant amounts of melatonin were milk and cheese (calcium), pineapple, oranges, bananas and oats (other cereals, too, but oats the most).

Does anyone reading here spot what is curious about these foods???

They are all foods we typically eat for breakfast!

I am not a biologist or a doctor, but this certainly gives me pause to learn that foods I frequently eat for breakfast are foods that will help me sleep. Do we have our meals backwards or what??  If I run into any more information regarding the specifics of this, I will write again.

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29Dec/16

From My Cultural Landscape Series

So this morning I was looking for the vintage car rally event held in Pasadena every year the day before the Rose Parade, and this is what I discovered under "Events." In 2008 a few of my female college students "explained" to me that it is not like back in the day when their moms and I were growing up; they told me that they had equality. I wept a little inside at their words. What might help awaken a new generation of girls and women? "Maybe a Cultural Landscape Series," I thought this morning.

art: Sexism in My Environment, from my Cultural Landscape Series - Terry Bailey

Sexism in My Environment, from my Cultural Landscape Series - Terry Bailey

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4Dec/16

My Review of Merlin Snider’s New Album – “One Light Many Windows”

image of Merlin Snider's "One Light Many Windows" CD, released November 2016

this essay was first published on November 29  in Folkworks Magazine

 

TITLE: One Light Many Windows

ARTIST: Merlin Snider

LABEL: Barking Dog Music

RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2016

By Terry Bailey

Years ago I visited painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser in his Venice (Italy) studio. I was surprised to see canvases lining the walls in all sorts of styles – not just the colorful spiral and raindrop paintings he was well known for at the time.

“My gallery owner prefers that I stick to one style. He believes that is what art buyers want from artists: a consistent identity,” he explained to me. “Sadly, I cannot even bring these other works of mine into the gallery.”

This marketing identity demand bleeds over to all art forms: too often writers, filmmakers, composers, songwriters – all creators – are pressured to create in one style and stick to it.

When Merlin and I first chatted about his new album, One Light Many Windows, our conversation began with his expressed concern about the diversity of song styles on this his third CD. But Merlin has transcended the need to write folk music in one style with a traditional song structure. That transcendence is who Merlin is. And we can be thankful that he has the courage to display his many canvases.

“I think that good music is at once familiar and original,” he shared with me.

As long as Merlin writes music, he will continue to move his audiences into new musical realms – and we will travel with him safely and happily.

With One Light Many Windows, Merlin has built a musical safe-house for his fans. A sanctuary from which we all can commune, looking inward and outward through the mirrored views and communal vistas of his windows.

Fresh Dirt is a reflective window, from which Merlin the builder shares the wonder of turning a shovelful of dirt into a place to shelter us from the storm, a place where one day tears and laughter will make the place a home. And Merlin the poet follows his house as shelter with an ironic metaphor: what’s to shelter us from the storm inside?

One window, Cold Rain, calls us to feel our world, like the cold rain pounding on our nerves, and to witness, in sacred Thoreau-like fashion, the poem of creation. Another window, Fly Away Sail Away, finds us singing along, stomping our feet and clapping our hands as we peer out at all the people who leave to find their home, and acknowledge that, indeed, everybody wants to feel at home.

Near Merlin’s musical home rooftop is a window of Memory. It looks over everything that has come and gone before. The listener at that window may find herself weeping at first listen, and experiencing the greatest of joy the next time around on the dance floor with it. The song is a waltz.

Merlin shares that some of his favorite writers, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, and the early Randy Newman, have the ability to be both melancholic and joyful, sentimental without resorting to saccharin. He admits it is a difficult trick to pull off, but something he strives for. With Memory, he accomplishes it to the moon and back.

Many of Merlin’s windows open to, in his own words, “a search for transcendence.” Unlike so many songwriters, Merlin’s songs are not about his personal bouts with the intricacies of living, but a way to get out of himself and into our shared existence, “to connect with something much larger.”

“Can I forgive?” (Sea of Forgetfulness). “Can I get out of myself and create something that allows others to see and laugh at themselves, ourselves, together?” (Procrastination Blues). Each of Merlin’s songs reveals a fresh perspective on transcendent possibility. This is true of his previous albums as well. And it is the key to why those of us who have discovered his music relish it, and flock to commune with him and each other at his concerts. Merlin’s musical home encourages us to come together to reflect, grieve, share, laugh at our foibles, forgive, throw off our regrets, love, be with our true feelings and then cast them aside to dance, sing and celebrate in the warmth and safety of our oneness.

All the music of One Light Many Windows is memorable, beautifully produced and performed. Merlin has assembled a first-class cadre of musicians and singers. Ed Tree has co-produced and engineered recordings that are of the highest professional caliber. Merlin and Ed have arranged each song lovingly and to musical perfection. Each track is “just right.”

One song deserves special note, and that is Abraham’s Light. We are transported to Lincoln’s era with a masterful arrangement that includes only instruments that existed during Abraham Lincoln’s time. Our eras are especially bridged with the consistent sound of cornet horns and a marching drum beat throughout. And with lyrics that bridge generations: a hateful virus is multiplied, I say bounce it back with Abraham’s Light.

Merlin says of the song: “I am very moved by the way Lincoln stood courageously (out of an empathy born from tragedy and depression) for preserving the Union as a place where all people are equal in their right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and yet at the same time he saw the humanity of his enemies enough to leave the door open to reconciliation. Lincoln lived in a time when our country was even more divided than it is now, and I think we could stand to be instructed by his life and words.”

Another great poet-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, departed our planet the day before our infamous November 8, 2016 US election, gifting us with his last song, You Want it Darker. The following day we got it darker, and Cohen’s masterpiece calls on us to face that darkness. But we must not get mired in it. Merlin’s One Light Many Windows will surely be a tool to help us transcend the darkness, to guide us in remembering that for all our diversity, we share one light. As we gather together in Merlin and friends’ musical home, “in this night, may we read by Abraham’s light.”

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