Centralization & Censorship: Performance As A Socially Symbolic Act

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In the Live Art Performance ‘The Anomaly” artist Tom Estes explores the complex place and function of  internet censorship within culture. The performance will be at this year’s prestigious Venice Biennale as part of AVBIV and in Hong Kong at The Affordable Art Fair. The costume for the performance is a fusion of characters from The Terminator and The Matrix and so is reflective of our on-going relationship to the cybersphere.

We don’t have an open internet. We haven’t had an open internet for a long time. Many of us often see the Internet as impossible to control based on its very structure, as it gives everyone access to a democratic form of communication free of government control. The Great Firewall of China shows us that it isn’t quite that simple — the Internet has its bottlenecks where censorship can be instituted and technologies abused to aid in censorship. From China’s blocking and filtering system, Singapore’s class license system, and the United States’ government-private partnership model we are dealing with ideological thing: extreme centralization of power. A common ground for censorship is maintenance of an orderly state, whereas, the underlying motive is to keep public ignorant of the information that can potentially threaten authorities. The danger of any kind of censorship is it’s substantial harm to free speech, a cornerstone of democracy. The most chilling effect of Internet censorship however, is not just it’s substantial harm to free speech, the real danger is, we are losing privileges and rights all of the time and we don’t even notice it.

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The Great Firewall of China shows us the Internet has its bottlenecks where censorship can be instituted and technologies abused to aid in censorship. Image: Still from video projection as part of the performance The Anomaly

For example you don’t see someone spying on you, you don’t see something censored, you don’t see when someone deletes things out of the search results in Google. The biggest problem, therefore is to get people to pay attention to the problem. If you don’t see the problems, you don’t feel connected to it. So perhaps that is something that needs to be focused on. Most people think of the internet like a new kind of Wild West as if things are not in chains yet, but that is not really the case. We have never seen this amount of centralization, in any system before.  That has big implications for our society because the more oppressed the internet is, the more oppressed society is.

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Live Art Performance ‘The Anomaly” by Tom Estes outside the Co-Cathedral of St. John, Valletta. The Anomaly was first staged during Notte Bianca on the streets of Valletta and at City Lights in Malta back in 2014. In the performance Estes rings a bell. The performance was inspired by the practice made famous in a scene from Cinema Paradiso in which a priest rings a bell in order that the projectionist cuts certain images from the film before public viewing.

So, we can’t really talk about the open internet because it does not exist anymore but the situation is not going to change because apparently it is something people are not interested in fixing.  The internet, however, is just a part of a bigger puzzle. Cyberspace, by kind of pretending to be something which will connect the whole world, actually has an agenda- a perfect tool of mass surveillance and thought control. We are dealing with an ideological apparatus almost perfectly seemless for the centralization of power while negating any criticism. The trend is just going in one direction: a more closed and more controlled internet. We are not gaining anything anywhere and nobody is stopping it from happening.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lincoln Center Presents New Restoration Of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Film- Stalker

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Tarkovsky’s works Andrei Rublev, Mirror, and Stalker are regularly listed among the greatest films of all time. His contribution to cinema was so influential that works done in a similar way are described as ‘Tarkovskian.

Ingmar Bergman said of him:

“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest (director), the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

The Criterion Collection is to release a new digital restoration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s science fiction masterpiece “Stalker” this May, restored by Mosfilm from a 2k scan of the original negative.  Film Society of Lincoln Center, had this to say about the exciting re-release:

“This May at the Film Society, experience the mysteries and revelations of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction masterpiece in a new digital restoration. Twenty years ago a falling object decimated a provincial Russian town, and those who later went near the crash site — now known as The Zone — disappeared. Access is strictly prohibited, but outsiders can still get in with the help of a “stalker.” Inside The Zone is The Room, within which secret wishes can be granted. Based on the novel “Roadside Picnic” by the Strugatsky brothers, “Stalker” is a visually extraordinary and philosophically provocative fable about the limits of knowledge — personal, scientific, and spiritual. New digital restoration by Mosfilm. A Janus Films release.”

In a 1962 interview, Tarkovsky argued, “All art, of course, is intellectual, but for me, all the arts, and cinema even more so, must above all be emotional and act upon the heart.”His films are characterized by metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and images often considered by critics to be of exceptional beauty. Recurring motifs are dreams, memory, childhood, running water accompanied by fire, rain indoors, reflections, levitation, and characters re-appearing in the foreground of long panning movements of the camera. He once said,

“Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.”

For Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s adapted a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky,  creating an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings.

 

Along with a chance to catch it on the big screen in a theatrical run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Janus Films and Cinetic released a shiny new trailer for the classic via The Playlist. One of the most immersive and rarefied experiences in the history of cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky’s STALKER embarks on a metaphysical journey through an enigmatic post-apocalyptic landscape. A hired guide – the “Stalker” of the title – leads a writer and a scientist into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and making what would be his final Soviet feature, Tarkovsky created a challenging and visually stunning work, his painstaking attention to material detail and sense of organic atmosphere further enriched by this vivid new restoration. At once a religious allegory, a reflection of contemporary political anxieties, and a meditation on film itself-among many other interpretations – Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings.

“Stalker” (1979) –  is available July 18. Summer 2017 is shaping up to be quite the exciting season for The Criterion Collection. In May, the library will welcome cult favorite “Ghost World” and recent Palme d’or winner “Dheepan,” while June finds Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Ugetsu,” Hitchcock’s silent classic “The Lodger” and Sam Peckinpah’s controversial “Straw Dogs” joining the club. Criterion has now added its July 2017 additions to their summer slate, and they include movies from auteurs like Tarkovsky, Rossellini and Bresson. Below is the complete list of July additions, with descriptions provided by Criterion.

Source: http://www.indiewire.com/2017/04/the-stalker-trailer-criterion-re-release-andrei-tarkovsky-sci-fi-classic-watch-1201806940/

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Automation Nightmare: Scientists, Artists And Philosophers Warn We Are Creating A World Without Consciousness

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With the potential of an Artificial Intelligence to rival our own consciousness and the proliferation of robots in the workforce Abstract Expressionism created with robotics rather than the human hand is an interesting metaphor for our times. Image- Tom Estes – The Ideal Robot Home Show: A Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance at Nottingham Contemporary for InDialogue. Estes’ work ‘The Ideal Robot Home Show’ incorporates the use of biomorphic robotics to create an Abstract Expressionist painting.

We have technology to thank for all the ways in which today is better than the stone age, and technology is likely to keep improving at an accelerating pace. With less powerful technologies such as fire, we learned to minimize risks largely by learning from mistakes. With more powerful technologies such as nuclear weapons, synthetic biology and future strong artificial intelligence, planning ahead is a better strategy than learning from mistakes, so we support research and other efforts aimed at avoiding problems in the first place. The teleological Identity of Capitalism and artificial intelligence conceives of machines in terms of human use-value, thinking of them as temporarily troublesome tools with which humanity is ultimately destined to be reconciled. But how do you think of a form of capital that is already thinking of you? Technological progress has accelerated to the point that the future is happening to us far faster than we could ever have anticipated. This new world is what art curator, critic and historian of art, Hans Ulrich Obrist calls “extreme present,” a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, warned that artificial intelligence could become “masters of the universe,” taking over high-level decision-making at companies, with potentially frightening consequences. Berners-Lee’s comments came at a Global Finance Summit on Monday, according to a TechWorld report. Giving AI actual decision-making authority has huge implications for our economic systems and societal norms, he said.

“So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that’s a big one. Or which companies to acquire, and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies,” he said at the event

The Future of Life Institute are a charity and outreach organization working to ensure that tomorrow’s most powerful technologies are beneficial for humanity. Recently, a conference on artificial intelligence, tantalizingly titled “Superintelligence: Science or Fiction?”, was hosted by the Future of Life Institute, which works to promote “optimistic visions of the future”. The conference offered a range of opinions on the subject from a variety of experts, including Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, futurist Ray Kurzweil, Demis Hassabis of Google’s DeepMind, neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, philosopher Nick Bostrom, philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, as well as computer scientists Stuart Russell and Bart Selman. The discussion was led by MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark.

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Action painting, sometimes called “gestural abstraction”, is a style of painting which often emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist.

The conversation’s topics centered on the future benefits and risks of artificial superintelligence, with everyone generally agreeing that it’s only a matter of time before AI becomes paramount in our lives. Eventually, AI will surpass human intelligence, with the ensuing risks and transformations. And Elon Musk, for one, thinks it’s rather pointless to be concerned as we are already cyborgs, considering all the technological extensions of ourselves that we depend on a daily basis.

A worry for Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers is creating a world devoid of consciousness. He sees the discussion of future superintelligences often presume that eventually AIs will become conscious. But what if that kind of sci-fi possibility that we will create completely artificial humans is not going to come to fruition? Instead, we could be creating a world endowed with artificial intelligence but not actual consciousness. Here’s how Chalmers describes this vision starting at 22:27 in Youtube video below:

“For me, that raising the possibility of a massive failure mode in the future, the possibility that we create human or super human level AGI and we’ve got a whole world populated by super human level AGIs, none of whom is conscious. And that would be a world, could potentially be a world of great intelligence, no consciousness no subjective experience at all. Now, I think many many people, with a wide variety of views, take the view that basically subjective experience or consciousness is required in order to have any meaning or value in your life at all. So therefore, a world without consciousness could not possibly a positive outcome. maybe it wouldn’t be a terribly negative outcome, it would just be a 0 outcome, and among the worst possible outcomes.”

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Abstract Expressionism is the term applied to abstract art characterized by humans making gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation.

Chalmers is known for his work on the philosophy of mind and has delved particularly into the nature of consciousness. He famously formulated the idea of a “hard problem of consciousness” which he describes in his 1995 paper “Facing up to the problem of consciousness” as the question of ”why does the feeling which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?”

His solution to this issue of an AI-run world without consciousness? Create a world of AIs with human-like consciousness:

“I mean, one thing we ought to at least consider doing there is making, given that we don’t understand consciousness, we don’t have a complete theory of consciousness, maybe we can be most confident about consciousness when it’s similar to the case that we know about the best, namely human human consciousness… So, therefore maybe there is an imperative to create human-like AGI in order that we can be maximally confident that there is going to be consciousness,” says Chalmers (starting at 23:51).

By making it our clear goal to fully recreate ourselves in all of our human characteristics, we may be able to avoid a soulless world of machines becoming our destiny.  A warning and an objective worth considering while we can. Yet it sounds from Chalmers’s words that as we don’t understand consciousness, perhaps this is a goal doomed to failure.

IndialogueRobotPaintingPerformance

The internet is changing the structure of our brains and the structure of our planet in extraordinary ways, so quickly that we haven’t yet developed a proper vocabulary for it. And we are on the cusp of a wide-spread introduction of robots replacing humans in all areas. You can watch Estes’ performance here at 2:55

The computational age which is is dominated by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is comprised of the idea that there are clean slates in the unconscious. New media forms have not only lifted the lid previous cultural eras had put on the unconscious. They have become the new infrastructures of the unconscious. Yesterday, human sociality consisted of keeping tabs on the unconscious. For the social to thrive meant exercising vigilance on ourselves, or delegating to specific authorities the right to enforce such vigilance. This was called repression.

Achille Mbembe, based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research believes that at its core, liberal democracy is not compatible with the inner logic of finance capitalism. The clash between these two ideas and principles is likely to be the most signifying event of the first half of a 21st-century political landscape — a landscape shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect. According to Mbembe:

“In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth. As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic. Instead of people with body, history and flesh, statistical inferences will be all that count. Statistics and other big data will mostly be derived from computation.  As a result of the conflation of knowledge, technology and markets, contempt will be extended to anyone who has nothing to sell. The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer.”

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Already in the making, a new kind of human will triumph.  This will not be the liberal individual who, not so long ago, we believed could be the subject of democracy. The new human being will be constituted through and within digital technologies and computational media. Image: Tom Estes performance for The Internet Yami Ich at Tate Modern

They say that we have found ourselves in a world lost to emotion, irrationality, and a weakening grasp on reality. That lies don’t faze us, and knowledge doesn’t impress us. That we are post-truth, post-fact. Achille Mbembe, believes Repression’s main function was to set the conditions for sublimation. Not all desires could be fulfilled. Not everything could be said or enacted. The capacity to limit oneself was the essence of one’s freedom and the freedom of all. Partly thanks to new media forms and the post-repressive era it has unleashed, the unconscious can now roam free. Sublimation is no longer necessary. Language has been dislocated. The content is in the form and the form is beyond, or in excess of, the content.

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In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth. The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer. Memories-to Download-Knowledge-to-your-Brain-For-Sale. Performance by Tom Estes at The Internet Yami-Ichi (Black Market) at Tate Modern

We are now led to believe that mediation is no longer necessary. This explains the growing anti-humanist stance that now goes hand in hand with a general contempt for democracy.  Calling this phase of our history fascist might be misleading unless by fascism we mean the normalisation of a social state of warfare.  Such a state would in itself be a paradox because, if anything, warfare leads to the dissolution of the social. And yet under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, politics will become a barely sublimated warfare. This will be a class warfare that denies its very nature — a war against the poor, a race war against minorities, a gender war against women, a religious war against Muslims, a war against the disabled.

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative? Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat. They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become. And yet so pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

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As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic. Meanwhile the political landscape will shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect.  EMOTICON by Tom Estes @ The Encyclopedic Palace, Venice Biennale 2013 for The Biennial Project

The liberal class now prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements—the communists, socialists and anarchists—have left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. The liberal class now refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values. The pillars of the liberal establishment all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence.

In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities. In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment. Under such conditions, the future of progressive and future-oriented mass politics of the left is very uncertain. In a world set on objectifying everybody and every living thing in the name of profit, the erasure of the political by capital is the real threat. The transformation of the political into business raises the risk of the elimination of the very possibility of politics.Whether civilisation can give rise at all to any form of political life is the problem of the 21st century.

Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth.In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws. Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.

Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions. The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right. With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.

Please check out the excellent conference Superintelligence: Science or Fiction? in full here:

 

You can watch Estes’ performance at InDialogue here at 2:55

 

Source: http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/automation-nightmare-we-might-be-headed-for-a-world-without-consciousness

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/11/sir-tim-berners-lee-on-artificial-intelligence-worries.html

Photos of Tom Estes’  Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance by Tom Kilby

 

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Noam Chomsky: Prospects for Survival

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To inaugurate the opening of Crotty Hall at University of Massachusetts Amherst, Professor Noam Chomsky of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the world-renown linguist and public intellectual, will deliver two lectures at UMass on Thursday, April 13, 2017.

You can watch the live streaming of the lecture at https://www.peri.umass.edu/noam-chomsky-mullins

An American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist, Professor Noam Chomsky is sometimes described as “the father of modern linguistics”.

One of the most cited scholars in history, Chomsky has influenced a broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as a paradigm shifter who helped spark a major revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarly research, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. His ideas have proved highly significant within the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements.

Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy, and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has worked since 1955, and is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

Professor Chomsky will discuss “Prospects for Survival” at the Mullins Center at 7:30 pm. Doors open at 6:30pm. Seating is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Professor Chomsky will also deliver a private, invitation only lecture on “Neoliberalism: An Accounting.” This will be held at Crotty Hall itself, 412 North Pleasant Street, at 4:00 pm.

Crotty Hall honors Professor James Crotty and Pamela Crotty. Jim Crotty was an esteemed member of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Economics Department faculty from 1974 – 2010. He has continued to make important contributions through both his research and teaching during his formal “retirement” years. His research is renowned for its fundamental contributions to macroeconomics within the broad heterodox tradition for which UMass Amherst is known worldwide. Pam Crotty worked as a dedicated and highly skilled Registered Nurse from 1960- 2002, making important professional contributions within Amherst and the greater community. Pam received her BS degree from UMass Amherst in 1987 with a major in gerontology, and was a gerontology specialist during her nursing career. She also served as a member of Amherst Town Meeting from 2006 – 2011.

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Crotty Hall was designed by Sigrid Miller Pollin, Professor of Architecture at UMass Amherst. Professor Miller Pollin has received widespread recognition for her beautiful and innovative design work, as well as for her commitment to environmental sustainability. Crotty Hall is the first structure at UMass Amherst that is “net zero”—i.e. the overall net amount of greenhouse emissions generated by the operation Crotty Hall is zero. The Crotty Hall inaugural lectures by Professor Chomsky are being presented by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at UMass Amherst. For further information, please contact PERI Communications Director Kim Weinstein, at

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A Single Ancient African Language Resulted In Human Civilization

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The oldest tools ever found were discovered in Gona, Ethiopia and are 2.5–2.6 million years old. Not only does this make them the oldest tools, they are the oldest human artifacts in the world to date. The tools are referred to as Oldowan, after the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzanio, and consist of pieces of sharp-edged rock pounded off of cores. They are used to chop and to scrape meat from animal bones.

New research, published in the journal Science, suggests this single ancient language resulted in human civilization — a Diaspora — as well as advances in art and hunting tool technology, and laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures.

A trio of genomic studies, the first to analyze many full genomes from Australia and New Guinea conclude that, like most other living Eurasians, Aborigines descend from a single group of modern humans who swept out of Africa 50,000 to 60,000 years ago and then spread in different directions. The papers “are really important,” says population geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, Seattle, offering powerful testimony that “the vast majority of non-Africans [alive today] trace their ancestry back to a single out-of-Africa event.”

Australian Aborigines have long been cast as a people apart. Although Australia is halfway around the world from our species’s accepted birthplace in Africa, the continent is nevertheless home to some of the earliest undisputed signs of modern humans outside Africa, and Aborigines have unique languages and cultural adaptations. Some researchers have posited that the ancestors of the Aborigines were the first modern humans to surge out of Africa, spreading swiftly eastward along the coasts of southern Asia thousands of years before a second wave of migrants populated Eurasia.

A team led by evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen zeroed in on Australia and New Guinea in what Akey calls a “landmark” paper detailing the colonization of Australia. By comparing Aboriginal genomes to other groups, they conclude that Aborigines diverged from Eurasians between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, after the whole group had already split from Africans. That means Aborigines and all other non-African people descend from the same out-of-Africa sweep, and that Australia was initially settled only once, rather than twice as some earlier evidence had suggested. Patterns in the Aboriginal DNA also point to a genetic bottleneck about 50,000 years ago: the lasting legacy of the small group that first colonized the ancient continent.

boneflutesIn 2012, Professor Nick Conard, the Tuebingen University  discovered the world’s oldest musical instruments, these bone flutes. One was fashioned from mammoth ivory, the other from a bird’s bone. They were found in the Geissenkloesterle Cave in the Upper Danube region of southern Germany and are between 42,000–43,000 years old. 

The study shows Aborigines’ ties to other Eurasians but also reinforce Australia’s relatively early settlement and long isolation. As such, they reaffirm its unique place in the human story. The continent holds “deep, deep divisions and roots that we don’t see anywhere else except Africa,” Willerslev says. That echoes the views of Aborigines themselves. “The majority of Aboriginal people here in Australia believe that we have been here in this land for many thousands of years,” Colleen Wall, a co-author on the Willerslev paper and elder of the Aboriginal Dauwa Kau’bvai Nation in Wynnum, Australia, wrote in an email to Science. “I am ‘over the moon’ with the findings.”

Yet the case isn’t closed. One study argues that an earlier wave of modern humans contributed traces to the genomes of living people from Papua New Guinea. And perhaps both sides are right, says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, a co-author on that paper who has long argued for an early expansion out of Africa. “We’re converging on a model where later dispersals swamped the earlier ones,” he says.

In another paper, a team led by population geneticist David Reich of Harvard University comes to a similar conclusion after examining 300 genomes from 142 populations. “The take-home message is that modern human people today outside of Africa are descended from a single founding population almost completely,” Reich says. “You can exclude and rule out an earlier migration; the southern route.”

But the third paper, by a team led by Mait Metspalu of the Estonian Biocentre in Tartu, makes a different claim. Analyzing 379 new genomes from 125 populations worldwide, the group concludes that at least 2% of the genomes of people from Papua New Guinea comes from an early dispersal of modern humans, who left Africa perhaps 120,000 years ago. Their paper proposes that Homo sapiens left Africa in at least two waves.

Reich questions that result, but says that his and Willerslev’s studies can’t rule out a contribution of only 1% or 2% from an earlier H. sapiens migration. Akey says: “As population geneticists, we could spend the next decade arguing about that 2%, but in practical terms it doesn’t matter.” The most recent migration “explains more than 90% of the ancestry of living people.”

Aboriginal_rock_art_on_the_Barnett_River,_Mount_Elizabeth_StationAboriginal rock art has been around for a long period of time, with the oldest examples, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and the Olary district of South Australia, estimated to be up to around 40,000 years old.

Still, changes in climate and sea level would have favored earlier migrations, according to a fourth Nature paper. Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, in Honolulu reconstructed conditions in northeastern Africa and the Middle East, based on the astronomical cycles that drove the ice ages. They find that a wetter climate and lower sea levels could have enticed humans to cross from Africa into the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East during four periods, roughly around 100,000, 80,000, 55,000, and 37,000 years ago. “I’m very happy,” Petraglia says. His and others’ discoveries of early stone tools in India and Arabia suggest that moderns did expand out of Africa during the early migration windows. But those lineages mostly died out. The major migration, with more people and reaching all the way to Australia, came later. “Demographically, after 60,000 years ago something happens, with larger waves of moderns across Eurasia,” Petraglia says. “All three papers agree with that.”

A decade ago, some researchers proposed the controversial idea that an early wave of modern humans left Africa more than 60,000 years ago via a so-called coastal or southern route. These people would have launched their migration from Ethiopia, crossing the Red Sea at its narrowest point to the Arabian Peninsula, then rapidly pushing east along the south Asian coastline all the way to Australia. Some genetic studies, many on mitochondrial DNA of living people, supported this picture by indicating a relatively early split between Aborigines and other non-Africans. But analysis of whole genomes— the gold standard for population studies— was scanty for many key parts of the world.

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The tower of Babel. 17th.century. Flemish. artist unknown

Source:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/almost-all-living-people-outside-africa-trace-back-single-migration-more-50000-years

http://listverse.com/2014/12/28/10-of-the-oldest-artifacts-in-the-world/

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The Guggenheim: PSAD Synthetic Desert III

Doug Wheeler

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim, is an art museum located at 1071 Fifth Avenue on the corner of East 89th Street in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.

Tucked away on the Guggenheim’s seventh floor, in a tiny room accessible only to visitors who pass through a red stanchion and three heavy doors bearing industrial locks, lies one of the museum’s most mind-bending shows in recent memory.

It’s not imposing or loud like some of the big, buzzy exhibitions that have occupied the museum’s spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda in the past. Doug Wheeler’s “PSAD Synthetic Desert III,” up through August 2nd, is a different kind of sensory experience: one decidedly quieter and altogether more transportive.

For PSAD Synthetic Desert III (1971), Doug Wheeler has altered the structure and configuration of a museum gallery in order to control optical and acoustic experience. He has transformed the room into a hermetic realm, a “semi-anechoic chamber” designed to minimize noise and induce a sensate impression of infinite space. Wheeler likens this sensation of light and sound to the perception of vast space in the deserts of northern Arizona. While Synthetic Desert is deeply grounded in the artist’s experience of the natural world, the work does not describe the landscape. Its form is strictly abstract.

Because Synthetic Desert is best experienced with as few extraneous sounds and distractions as possible, each visitation group is limited to five people. Timed tickets are required. Reserve tickets in advance. Walk-in tickets are available for select times.

Wheeler’s work is often associated with West Coast art after 1960, particularly a tendency referred to as Light and Space. The development of Light and Space coincides with Minimalism and shares with it a spare visual language of geometric form. During the early 1960s, Wheeler produced large white abstract paintings that explore pure optical experience. In the middle of the decade, he developed various techniques combining acrylic sheets, lacquer, and neon light, and used these methods in the fabrication of painting-like objects, including a series called “light encasements.” When installed in modified all-white rooms, the encasements emit a hazy luminosity that causes the planar surface of each work to appear fused with the wall. Wheeler abandoned object making altogether in the late 1960s to create immersive environments such as Synthetic Desert, using architectural volume, light, and sound as his primary mediums. The Guggenheim’s production of Synthetic Desert, based on early drawings and completed in close collaboration with the artist, is the first realization of this work.

The Guggenheim is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. The museum was established by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, under the guidance of its first director, the artist Hilla von Rebay. It adopted its current name after the death of its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim, in 1952.

This presentation of PSAD Synthetic Desert III is organized by Jeffrey Weiss, Senior Curator, and Francesca Esmay, Conservator, Panza Collection, with Melanie Taylor, Director, Exhibition Design. The Guggenheim is also working closely with Raj Patel and Joseph Digerness from Arup, a design firm that specializes in the acoustic properties of built space.

 

Source:

https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/doug-wheeler-psad-synthetic-desert-iii-1971

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-hidden-room-guggenheim-will-transport-soundless-sublime

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Alvederzane Pet: Robots Set To Replace Human Jobs In The U.S. And U.K.

IndialogueRobotPaintingPerformance

Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance by Tom Estes at Nottingham Contemporary, in which a supervised robot takes over the  manual job of the artist

The McDonald’s on the corner of Third Avenue and 58th Street in New York City doesn’t look all that different from any of the fast-food chain’s other locations across the country. Inside, however, hungry patrons are welcomed not by a cashier waiting to take their order, but by a “Create Your Taste” kiosk – an automated touch-screen system that allows customers to create their own burgers without interacting with another human being. It’s impossible to say exactly how many jobs have been lost by the deployment of the automated kiosks – McDonald’s has been predictably reluctant to release numbers – but such innovations will be an increasingly familiar sight in Trump’s America.

Back in 2011 researchers in Switzerland invented a robot bricklayer which they predicted would be commonplace on building sites within 10 years.  And it already seems to be happening. Meet Robo-Hod the hi-tech robot brickie-it doesn’t need a tea break and will not wolf-whistle at women walking by. The In-situ Fabricator is a giant mechanical arm on a mobile base and can even be programmed to lay bricks in complex designs. It can also move around a building site using laser-guided range-finders to navigate. The In-Situ Fabricator can build the walls of a typical house in two days – or 20 times faster than a traditional brickie.

According to Matthias Kohler, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich, the In-Situ model is “the first machine that can actually go on construction sites and build non-standard designs, meaning designs which can vary and adapt to the local conditions directly in the building site”. In-Situ’s 2D laser range-finder, together with computer algorithms, help to build up a 3D map of a building site linked to structural plans. The map allows the robot to know its location at all times and – uniquely in the growing field of construction robotics – to move around a building site unaided. It can also adapt autonomously to minor design variations.

Professor Kohler said: “The benefit from an architectural point of view is that you can really design the construction directly, so you can plan for how it is built instead of designing your plan and then that plan afterwards being converted on the construction site. So it actually changes the paradigm of how you design and build quite fundamentally.”

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Your greatest competition in a few decades probably will not be human. Instead, job applicants will most likely have to compete with tireless and efficient robots, which are aggressively transforming the labour force.   Image:  ‘Night Cleaning’ performance by Artist Tom Estes  at the exhibition BIG DEAL in London

New York-based firm Construction Robotics has developed a robot called SAM (short for Semi-Automated Mason), which can lay 3,000 bricks a day. Robots that can lay six times as many bricks a day as human builders are set to turn the construction industry on its head. The devices have already started replacing humans on a handful of sites in America, and Construction Robotics is hoping to introduce the robots in Britain within the next two years.

According to their website, Construction Robotics (CR) was established with the goal of advancing construction through the use of robotics, automation and the same principles used in manufacturing. CR aims to develop world leading robotics and automation equipment for the construction industry, starting with SAM100. Construction Robotics is focused on advancing construction through the use of new technology and the same manufacturing principles used for decades in other industries. By leveraging new technology CR believes there can be significant improvements to the way the construction industry operates.

Construction Robotics isn’t the only company working on bricklaying robots. Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has also developed a proof of concept for a commercial bricklaying machine called Hadrian X. From the computer aided design of a house structure, the Hadrian X robotic bricklayer will be able to handle the automatic loading, cutting, routing and placement of all bricks to build a complete structure. Delivery of the first commercial prototype of Hadrian X is due later this year.Meanwhile, technology is being developed to protect builders from some of the more dangerous side effects of working on a construction site.

“We are going to be going over to the UK in the coming months to meet with some companies and see if we can find a home for Sam there,” Scott Peters, the company’s president, told The Times .

Sme of Britain’s biggest construction firms have warned that the automation of the industry is likely to result in mass layoffs.

“Five years ago I’d have smiled wryly if somebody had said to me that robots would be able to put up buildings in the City of London,” said Alison Carnwath, chairwoman of Land Securities, at the the Institute of Directors’ annual convention.

“I tell you we’re not that far off, and that has huge implications.”

However, while SAM has the ability to pick up bricks, apply mortar and lay them, the robot needs to be heavily supervised. Human workers still need to set up the robot, supervise health and safety and assist with laying bricks at difficult angles, as well as clearing up, according to Construction Robotics. So while human brickies might be worried by the idea of a robot doing their job faster and better, but Professor Kohler insisted: “This will be a game-changer in construction.

“I think that in the next five to 10 years, we are going to see mobile robots on the construction site, but they are not going to replace humans. They will actually collaborate with humans, so the best of each kind of skills come together.”

Emoticon

Live Art Performance EMOTICON by Tom Estes for Communication Futures DRHA 2014 at The Old Royal Naval College.

Many of us recognize robotic automation as an inevitably disruptive force. However, in a classic example of optimism bias, while approximately two-thirds of Americans believe that robots will inevitably perform most of the work currently done by human beings during the next 50 years, about 80% also believe their current jobs will either “definitely” or “probably” exist in their current form within the same timeframe. Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They’re not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years.

Once confined to the pages of futuristic dystopian fictions, the field of robotics promises to be the most profoundly disruptive technological shift since the industrial revolution. Two centuries ago this year, 64 men were brought to trial in York, England. Their crime? They were skilled weavers who fought back against the rising tide of power looms they feared would put them out of work. The Luddites spent two years burning mills and destroying factory machinery, and the British government was not amused. Of the 64 men charged in 1813, 25 were transported to Australia and 17 were led to the gallows.

Since then, Luddite has become a derisive term for anyone afraid of new technology. After all, the weavers turned out to be wrong. Power looms put them out of work, but in the long run automation made the entire workforce more productive. Everyone still had jobs—just different ones. Some ran the new power looms, others found work no one could have imagined just a few decades before, in steel mills, automobile factories, and railroad lines. In the end, this produced wealth for everyone, because, after all, someone still had to make, run, and maintain the machines. But that was then. During the Industrial Revolution, machines were limited to performing physical tasks. The Digital Revolution is different because computers can perform cognitive tasks too, and that means machines will eventually be able to run themselves. When that happens, they won’t just put individuals out of work temporarily. Entire classes of workers will be out of work permanently. In other words, the Luddites weren’t wrong. They were just 200 years too early. And as large swaths of the population lose their jobs, the only viable solution might be for the government to institute a universal basic income, which would mean paying every resident a fixed amount of money to cover their needs.

A 2013 study by Oxford University’s Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots, according to the report. In less developed countries, the potential for job loss is more severe. A2016 analysis from the World Bank estimated that roughly two-thirds of all jobs in developing nations around the globe are susceptible to replacement by automation. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX, recently declared that a universal basic income was a reasonable next step for the U.S. “There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,”Musk told CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

This idea of giving people money for nothing is a real adjustment for people. It goes against our basic values, a Protestant work ethic and all. That said, there is currently one privately-funded, short-term pilot program being run by the Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator, in California. The goal is to see how people react in the U.S., says Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Group. The program gives “unconditional” payments to selected residents of Oakland. The administrators write, “we hope basic income promotes freedom, and we want to see how people experience that freedom.” If it is successful, the plan is to follow up the pilot with a larger, longer-term program.

“I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of this at a national scale,” says Altman, in a blog post about the project. “50 years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people.”

 

Source:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/meet-robot-bricklayer-20-times-6709333

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3186505/bricklaying-robot-that-works-faster-and-harder-than-humans-could-put-thousands-of-brit-builders-out-of-work/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/11/robots-jobs-employees-artificial-intelligence

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/18/elon-musk-says-robots-will-push-us-to-a-universal-basic-income-heres-how-it-would-work.html

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