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

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 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 for us. YIELD signs and laws are a nice sentiment, but we all basically ignore them – 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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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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7Aug/16

I’m opposed to fracking – but I don’t really know what it is. Does this resonate with you?

Fracking Information Graphic

Fracking Information Graphic

Want to know about fracking beyond the word? This link will take to to a book purchase and $9 of your cost will support progressive news site Truthout.org :

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is perilous to human health and terrible for the environment, and we have the ability to stop it. Mark Ruffalo calls Wenonah Hauter's Frackopoly "the definitive story on how big oil and gas corporations captured our political system and schemed to frack America—and the growing grassroots movement to retake our democracy and protect our planet."

https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6694/t/17304/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=661&t=&store_item_KEY=3322

and here is an article and interview of Wenonah Hauter, author of Frackopoly, on Truthout.org:

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37118-yes-there-is-a-way-forward-in-reining-in-fracking

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17Jul/16

Why Women in Tech and Science Know Well About Pulling off the Impossible!

Dr. Mark Ryman lecturing on the Dawn Mission at JPL, July 14, 2016

Dr. Mark Rayman lecturing on the Dawn Mission at JPL, Thursday July 14, 2016

Dr. Marc Rayman, Chief Engineer and Mission Director of NASA's Dawn Mission told an audience at JPL last Thursday night: "NASA's motto is  'If it isn't impossible, it isn't worth doing.' "

I think this will be my new motto, too. It seems to be a pretty good description of my life!

I remember one of the first space scientist lectures I attended after moving to Pasadena. It was at Caltech, and it was celebrating all the scientists who worked on the various missions over the many years leading up to the Curiosity Mission to Mars. One of the speakers explained to us about the earliest space scientists: "You need to remember that they had no mentors, no role models! There was no such thing a a spaceship or space travel before they built the first one."  Turns out many of them had been driven and "ideaized" by sci-fi! I love it!

When I finish my Light 2.0 interactive multimedia novel, I really want to write something that draws the parallels between these scientist starting off to invent space travel, and the life of a woman in tech and science - who typically has no role models or mentors simply by the fact of her gender. I'm starting here.

In college (BA Film Undergraduate) I was once hired to record the live performance of a 300 voice choir, with soloists and musicians and a pianist, in San Francisco's Civic Center Auditorium. Before that the most I had ever recorded on location was a band and a small school choir with a Nagra recorder hooked up to a film camera.

There were no mentors or advisors for me to turn to. On concert day, the director of the project simply pointed to a box of gear and told me where to set up my mixing station and whom to talk to if I wanted to tap into the auditorium's PA. When I opened the very large crate, I had no idea what half the items in it even were. I skipped the PA tap because, truthfully, I didn't  know what that meant. I will save the details for some essay in the future, but, I will share here that somehow with the help of my little sister whom I had dragged along with me and who was furious because she knew that neither of us knew what we were doing, I pulled it off.

I put all that equipment together, remembered pictures in my sound books about mic placement, circumvented the PA, taught myself how to solder, mixed a 16-channel recording of a live performance, and a few weeks later got a call from the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in San Francisco (the performance I recorded was of a choir composed of choirs of every religion from all over San Francisco) thanking me for the outstanding recording I had created of the day's performance. To this day I can't believe I pulled it off!

For years when people asked me how I learned so much about sound in college (I wound up building an Academy Award winning sound post-production studio for producer Saul Zaentz after I completed my undergraduate degree in film), I used to tell them how I apprenticed with the staff engineer at my university. For years I did not know why I gave that as my standard answer. For it was a lie. I am going to speculate today, because I am thinking more deeply about these things now, that I said it because I figured it would give me more credibility than telling people I taught myself. Especially because I was a girl, and was always struggling to be taken seriously. That and the fact that the truth somehow embarrassed and humiliated (and hurt?) me.

The truth being that when I asked him if he would mentor me, he said no. Not only that, but when I went back to him, after learning he had a daughter, and posed the question to him differently, persuasively: "How would you feel if you knew your daughter, like me, some day went to some man and asked for help so she could get a leg up in the world and he said no?" - Unmoved, he still said no.

And yet for years I told people that I went to him with that question, and he agreed to mentor me and that was how I came to know all about sound engineering. When in truth I learned by doing my Workstudy in the sound lab of the university for 20 hours a week. And by engineering and mixing the soundtracks of all my peer's college movies. And by reading every sound recording and physics of sound book I could get my hands on. And by listening to sound. Everywhere.

So, yeah, I kinda know what it has been like for these scientists, inventing things that have never existed before, pulling off feats and expeditions of great complexity - each usually for the first time. But one big difference is that they have each other. Maybe no mentors of people who have gone before, but each other. Most of us women who have been raised in this patriarchal society have pulled off the things we have done for the most part on our own. I hope that will change one day.

 

P.S. If you would like to learn about the Dawn Mission to Vespa and Ceres (exoplanets in our solar system that were thought to be actual planets until the mid 1800s, but which are actually planetary bodies whose growth was stunted by other solar system happenings before they could become full-fledged planets), check out the video of Dr. Rayman's wonderful, and curiously amusing, lecture here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures_archive.php?year=2016&month=7

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2Jul/16

Terry Bailey Lecture on Texture and Texture Mapping for Architecture Students at Glendale College, May 2016

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31Jan/16

Terry Bailey to Lecture on Convergence of Art-Science-Technology at Glendale, CA, Community College Feb 23, 2016

Terry Bailey Science-Art Lecture at Glendale College

Terry Bailey Science-Art-Technology Lecture at Glendale College, Glendale, CA February 23, 2016

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25Oct/15

Digital Painting – A Tale of Digital Artist Bert Monroy and Me

October 2015 - iPhone and Coffee. Digital painting by Terry Bailey

October 2015 - iPhone and Coffee. Digital painting by Terry Bailey

A couple of weeks ago I attended a presentation by Digital Painter Bert Monroy. Bert wrote the first book I ever saw and used about computer art. It was a tips and tricks book for Photoshop 1.0! I loved that book. Bert demonstrated how to paint photo-realistically in Photoshop. I devoured every tutorial (how to paint glass, metal, chrome, etc.) and his book set me off with a thirst for experimenting with painting in the computer. I was still in college - art grad school - at the time and already knew that I had the computer bug and would somehow be a computer artist and digital storyteller. This was around 1990!

25 years have gone by and it was fascinating to see the different paths our art has taken. Like Bert, I was originally fascinated by how I could create all the objects in a digital painting on a separate layer - this allowed me to move things around and change / edit objects very easily because everything was always a separate piece on its own layer in the master file. I did not flatten (meld all the layers) the file until I was ready to make a print version, and always kept the master file with its layers intact, too. But, over the years, I grew tired of having such huge files as layers went from a few to a few hundred in a painting (the more advanced computers became, the more layers - larger file size - we could work with). I also began to notice that once a painting was finished, I never went back to its layered file like I had thought I would. Eventually, I gave up that layering technique. Really the last painting I painted all on layers was Digital Olympia (which I will link to here when I have a minute). That was a 60 inch wide digital painting printed on a huge piece of water color paper and displayed so far only once at the Digital Eclectic group show at the Art Institute of Hollywood around 2010. It was very high resolution, and had to be printed that large to see the details I had painted into it - like all the facets on the stones in the model's ruby necklace.

I still use layers - but for different purposes now: for instance, I might paint the shadow of a face on a layer above it, or I might apply an effect to one layer and then meld that layer with another. But today, I have developed different digital techniques, and I treat my digital canvas more as a canvas: I commit most of my art moves to one layer, and if I don't like it, I undo it or start again.

Bert Monroy, meanwhile, demonstrated the other night how he has taken layer work to the ultimate. His files are HUGE, he still paints every object on a separate layer, and he showed us one painting that had 70,000 layers. Ayee! What he now has to do, just to keep track of everything, and to make the size manageable even with our way more powerful computers, is to create each object in a separate file. So, for instance, in a city scene, one lamppost will be in its own file, and contain hundreds or thousands of layers. Rather than flattening one big layered file at the end, when he is ready to print, he actually has to assemble a printer version from all the separate files. Wow. Yes, our process paths have definitely diverged.

I admire his work still - but I see it as more "constructivist" to my "painterly." If you go to his website, you will see billboard sized paintings at extremely high resolution. Zoom into them and you realize that what he has done is to capture all the minute detail of his objects thanks to the ability to paint at such high resolution today. He builds a digital painting like an architect and contractor construct an elaborate building. I, on the other hand, have abandoned that construction aspect of creating digital paintings and turned to a more painterly approach - one that makes use of all the digital options that are not available when painting in oil on canvas. For me now the purpose of painting is more about the meaning, the feeling, the ambience, the composition, than the construction.

This is not to demean Bert's constructivist technique at all - what strikes me is that the world of digital art has actually grown quite sophisticated over the last 20-30 years, yet the public and art critics still think of it as a new thing! There is an entire history of style, technique, evolution that really should be documented - but I don't think much of that is being done. Bert is touring for Adobe Software, not the Metropolitan Museum. Most of us working in this world have been so passionate about our working that we have spent little time making it public; there is also, of course, the fact that there was so much prejudice about digital (computer) art in the early days that many of us kinda pulled out of the mainstream art world - they didn't want us in their club, so some of us retreated and just worked making art (an in my case, writing interactive multimedia books and composing music, too). I am posting this art and story so at least I have made an effort to document more of digital art's history.

You can find Bert's amazing work at bertmonroy.com.

The painting I am posting here is one I painted this month for my Calendar Month Series in Bert's honor (it's on one layer): October 2015 - iPhone and Coffee.

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30Jun/15

New Theory: Consciousness has less control than we believed

Consciousness

Consciousness

Pretty cool theory to ponder: consciousness is just a conduit, not an actor. Link.

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18Jun/15

Teaching Coding in U.S Public Schools

computer science image

 

For the last many months, I have been working on ways in which we can get coding / programming into our public schools. I gotta confess: the outlook is dire. I had no idea when I started my research just how dire.

We see all these catchy headlines about the need to get more girls interested in computer science and coding. Well, that is really just the tip of the iceberg! It turns out only 10% of US high schools even offer computer science (to boys or girls), and, in case you are not aware, coding is just a small chunk of computer science.

As a matter of fact, as I made my way through research and interviews I discovered that our first problem is not how little coding girls are getting, or even how little all our kids are getting. The problem is that most people in our society don't even know what coding is! Worse, most people lump all technology into one bucket. To them, technology is just technology, and they want nothing to do with it for the most part.

Coding (also referred to as programming) is the set of instructions that someone has to write in order to make just about everything in the modern world work. Coding is not done in English. We have dozens and dozens of programming languages that are used to write the instructions for creating different things. Languages used to code / program web sites, mobile apps, your automobile's various systems, your baby monitor, your home security system, the software you use on your computer, those electric signs on the freeway . . . .

Remember all the discussions we've had (for decades) about how girls are discouraged from math, messaged with the fact that girls are no good at math from the time they are born? Well, turns out we are doing the same thing with technology. And we are doing it for girls and boys. We give lip service to the fact that we are falling behind in the tech world, that we are not training enough tech workers, that not enough students are enrolling in tech. But, the fact is we have a societal aversion to tech, a wink and a nod attitude that tech is in the realm of a few geeky guys and the rest of us don't need to bother with it, a lack of understanding about how many different kinds of tech there are, and a frightening lack of technology education of any kind in our K-12 school system.

Looking only at the coding / programming niche of technology: There is no curriculum requirement to teach coding to kids in our US K-12 schools. None.

And if that doesn't startle you, how about this? In China kids all start learning to code / program at the age of 5. And by age 11, they are required to know at least 2 coding / programming languages.

I will be tackling this subject here in bite size pieces over the next months.

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18Jun/15

The Sad Fate of Professional Musicians in U.S. : Outsourced to London, Part III – On Treaties

I will be starting this post and updating it later. I have held off on writing more because there is someone I need to interview, and we have not been able to get in time sync to do so. Apparently there is a trade treaty the U.S. has that makes it illegal for London to undercut our musicians with less expensive pay and subsidized benefits. I will get back to this as soon as I have more information.

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