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Author Topic: EP686/EP377: Real Artists (Flashback Friday)  (Read 15623 times)

chemistryguy

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Reply #50 on: January 11, 2013, 12:24:08 PM
it's not machines taking over more an more things that bothers me, its the limiting of people to passive watchers.

I agree it is this aspect that is most disheartening.  My ears perked up when Sophia spoke of revising the older Semaphore film and uploading it to YouTube.  The battle against passivity is what leads me to mutilate edit existing media and redistribute it. 

It's also why I visit these forums on a regular basis.


Scattercat

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Reply #51 on: January 12, 2013, 06:41:27 PM
This one came through without my input, so I'm allowed to talk.  :-P

I am solidly in the 1B camp, to return to the previous discussion points.  The idea is interesting (and I don't find it particularly frightening in itself).  Movies are communal efforts to start with, and the selection of audience members with refined taste struck me as eminently sensible and likely to produce, if not brilliant and challenging and troubling art, then at least solid and well-constructed stories.  (As the submissions manager, I have perhaps an unusual point of view on why having good taste might be particularly important to an artistic endeavor.  I get a LOT of submissions from people who clearly deeply love... well, something, but just being extremely enthused is no guarantee that you will produce anything but crap.  You have to study, to read with an eye to deconstruction.  Spitting out a variation of all of your favorite things is not likely to produce a good story.)  I'm not overly bothered by the idea of using powerful genetic-algorithm software to enhance a product, though I'm skeptical that something like Pixar would be the result.  (Dreamworks, absolutely, and the references to "The Mezozoic" definitely sent me that direction rather than toward Pixar.)

However, as has been pointed out, the 'story' aspect here is really, really thin.  (A "baked potato" story, if you will; vast and squishy chunks of buttery idea, but only a tiny jacket of what contains the actual vitamins.)  The ambiguous ending fell a little flat because of how little Sophia is involved in anything that happens; if you cut her completely out and just had a short PowerPoint presentation explaining the idea of Big Semi, you'd still generate 90% of the discussion in this thread.  Now, on the one hand, that's a grand old tradition in science fiction, to write a story that is nothing but an excuse for a man in a lab coat to lecture the audience about some idea the author just read about.  But on the other hand, I like to think that SF, as a genre, has developed enough that we can afford to tell proper stories and have Big Ideas.  The snippets of character in this story are well-done and quite impressively subtle for their brevity, which is a testament to Ken Liu's skill, but they're really nothing more than a formality, an excuse for the lecture to happen.

Also, I'd like to third the "OMG WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THE BRAIN DAMAGE!?"  That detail smacks of a last-minute revision; some beta-reader must have asked, "But wouldn't seeing the same movie immediately afterward alter the unconscious reactions and skew the whole process?"  And so we get a quick explanation to forestall that complaint, spackle it on and just walk past it really fast when touring the facility, hoping that no one notices.  But holy crap, there are so many terrifying ways that sort of thing could go wrong that it really eclipsed the rest of the story for me; it was so obviously a meta-fiction device to try and keep me focused on the question of "Can computers make Art?" that I wasn't able to think about anything else.


("So there's a train rushing toward five people on the tracks, but if you push a lever, it will switch to a track with only one person.  Do you push the lever?"

"Of course.  One person dying is less awful than five."

"Aha!  So now you're on a ledge over the train tracks, and the train is rushing toward five people, but this time all you have is one very large, fat man.  If you push him over, the train will hit him and stop, saving the other five.  Can you consign him to death when you have to do the killing yourself instead of just pulling a lever!?"

"But if the train is going fast enough to kill five people and not derail, why would one person stop it?"

"They're very small people."

"Wait, they're children?  So how old is the fat man?"

"That's not the point!"

"What if I just ask him to jump?"

"He won't."

"Why not?  I'd do it.  In fact, can't I just jump myself if the fat man is a dick about it?"

"You're not big enough to stop the train."

"But the fat man is?  I weigh like two hundred pounds.  How fat is he?  How can I even push him if he's that superhumanly fat?"

"Look, just assume that he's big enough, that he won't do it himself, that you can't do it, that the five people will definitely all die, that...")

---
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Gamercow

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Reply #52 on: January 21, 2013, 03:51:38 AM
Here's why I'm not frightened by the idea of a blockbuster-making movie-bot:  It's not art.  Will they be enjoyable movies?  For most people, yes.  Will they make a ton of money?  Assuredly.  But will they be art?  No.  They will be the Applebee's, Olive Garden, TGIF of movies; Generally loved by most, utterly and completely safe, but soulless and unimaginative.  There will still be the art movies out there that need to be made, if for no other reason than the artist needed to get the idea out of their brain.  These art movies may become yet another element in the movie-bot's chemistry set, but they will always be made.  To continue my earlier metaphor, there will always be restaurants that specialize in offal, or spectacular noodle houses that still make the noodles by hand, or exquisite little Italian restaurants that take 9 hours to make their meatballs, just because that is what those people need to do.


The cow says "Mooooooooo"


Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #53 on: January 21, 2013, 11:13:59 AM
...or exquisite little Italian restaurants that take 9 hours to make their meatballs, just because that is what those people need to do.
How... how is that even possible? The longest it ever took me to make meatballs was 2 hours, and I made LOTS of meatballs.

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Scumpup

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Reply #54 on: January 21, 2013, 01:13:54 PM
...or exquisite little Italian restaurants that take 9 hours to make their meatballs, just because that is what those people need to do.
How... how is that even possible? The longest it ever took me to make meatballs was 2 hours, and I made LOTS of meatballs.

First, you have to catch the cow...



matweller

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Reply #55 on: January 21, 2013, 01:40:18 PM
...or exquisite little Italian restaurants that take 9 hours to make their meatballs, just because that is what those people need to do.
How... how is that even possible? The longest it ever took me to make meatballs was 2 hours, and I made LOTS of meatballs.
It only takes an hour to form and half-cook the meatballs, but then it's at least 4 more in the crock pot to really cook them right. You know you're there when the grease separates out of the sauce. Oh man, I'm hungry now...



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #56 on: January 21, 2013, 02:30:45 PM
...or exquisite little Italian restaurants that take 9 hours to make their meatballs, just because that is what those people need to do.
How... how is that even possible? The longest it ever took me to make meatballs was 2 hours, and I made LOTS of meatballs.
It only takes an hour to form and half-cook the meatballs, but then it's at least 4 more in the crock pot to really cook them right. You know you're there when the grease separates out of the sauce. Oh man, I'm hungry now...
I don't count cooking time. I never count cooking time. That time doesn't count because it can be used to do other things. Like washing up or making garlic bread....

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CryptoMe

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Reply #57 on: January 29, 2013, 08:02:27 PM
Inspired by the story, I have compiled other poster's thoughts to create a comment expressing my opinions on this story. Have I made a good comment? You tell me.
(In all fairness, though, I am endeavouring to express my vision of a good comment, not one that has mass appeal, so the analogy may fail here).

I think Sophia would be wasted as a test viewer.  She's already demonstrated that she can take the output of the computerised process and make it better; Semaphone would be more sensible to use her talents in that way, surely. 

When she's "working hard" she is putting all of her intelligence, creativity, and training into action. Importantly, this is a first-level, conscious action. When she's "being a sack of enzymes" they are measuring her base-line, unconscious reactions and all of her qualifications are irrelevant to her ability to do the job.

The scariest aspect of all of this is short term memory modification.  Let's mess with your mind's hard drive every two hours and see where you sit after a month's time.

The problem of course is that this ends up being an art form with no personal statement, rendering it enjoyable but somewhat sterile. I'm not sure what choice Sophia would make, but I'm pretty sure I would have run.




Unblinking

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Reply #58 on: January 31, 2013, 03:05:32 PM
I always thought that was an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters (infinity wouldn't really be necessary, because once you reach Shakespeare, you stop).

I've heard variations of it, but since you're dealing with an infinite timespan it makes little difference if it is infinite monkeys or not, the result is the same.   I suppose the main problem with having only one monkey for infinite time is that eventually the monkey dies, but I'm assuming that's not something that's meant to be part of the thought experiment.  Either way, what really matters is that you're going to need a lot of bananas.  And you're going to have to scoop a lot of monkey poo. 



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Reply #59 on: January 31, 2013, 03:11:00 PM
John Henry was a fool, though, steel drivin' man that he might have been. The story and song as I remember them have him literally working himself to death in a contest with a steam drill.  He won, died, and was replaced with a steam drill anyway.  The only lesson I took away from it was that any job that can be done by more economically by a machine, eventually will be done by a machine.  The railroad's customers never knew whether the steel had been driven by John Henry or a steam drill.  In our story, the movie goers never know whether the movie had been produced by Big Semi or by human beings.  
Been years since I read it, but didn't the government of Oceania in Orwell's 1984 have machine-generated pornography for distribution to the proles?

I completely agree.  I've heard that story many times, mostly from the John Henry song on a Johnny Cash album I listen to fairly regularly.  The story is infuriating.  John Henry does nothing but prove the point of his opposition.  Not only does he literally work himself to death in a single day, but he does so by winning by such a significant margin that he CAN'T EVEN SEE THE DRILL FROM THE FINISH LINE!  If he'd paced himself at some pace somewhat faster than the drill, maybe he could've survived and lived to do that for more than one day and that would've proved his point rather than supporting the opposition.  And at least at the end of the song that I listen to, his dying words on his deathbed are to demand that his wife should take up his own line of work in which he has managed to work himself to death and leave her alone.  "Yes dear, I am dying young because I value my pride more than I value my life with you.  Be a dear and take up the burden of my pride after I'm gone, okay?  Thanks."



Dave

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Reply #60 on: February 02, 2013, 12:51:24 AM

-Dave (aka Nev the Deranged)


CutGlass

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Reply #61 on: February 15, 2013, 12:02:27 PM
I listened to this story a few days ago while commuting, and then this morning came across a news story that's so close that I created an account purely to post it here on the forum (after over 7 years of listening).

I can't post a link, but it's easy to find if you search the BBC News website for an article by Colin Grant entitled "Many Worlds: The movie that watches its audience". Basically, a team at Plymouth University are working to develop a system along the lines of one described in Ken Liu's story.



Just Jeff

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Reply #62 on: February 16, 2013, 12:18:44 AM
CutGlass, I caught the tail end of an NPR segment today on Many Worlds, and yeah, it brought me right back here.

The audio archive is here: http://tinyurl.com/d68byc8

Summary: "Many Worlds is a 15-minute drama from Alexis Kirke, of the Interdisciplinary Center for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University in England. The film, about a bizarre physics experiment cooked up by a depressed girl and unleashed on her friends, 'reads the minds' and the bodies of the audience, and changes its plot while they watch it.



acpracht

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Reply #63 on: February 16, 2013, 12:29:16 AM
CutGlass, I caught the tail end of an NPR segment today on Many Worlds, and yeah, it brought me right back here.

The audio archive is here: http://tinyurl.com/d68byc8

Summary: "Many Worlds is a 15-minute drama from Alexis Kirke, of the Interdisciplinary Center for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University in England. The film, about a bizarre physics experiment cooked up by a depressed girl and unleashed on her friends, 'reads the minds' and the bodies of the audience, and changes its plot while they watch it.
Crap. You beat me to it.
My jaw dropped when I heard this.



childoftyranny

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Reply #64 on: April 11, 2013, 11:23:44 PM
I'm in the camp that would call this terrifying, but not because I'm afraid of computers creating things or replacing people as I already see this as happening with movies and visual media. I see it happening with movies of course, especially the disturbing amount or remakes, but I also see it occurring with memes and youtube media, as well as the remix styles of music. I tend to find these styles pretty "meh" so the idea of more and more of it makes me groan! I didn't really see the reveal coming, but unfortunately other than seeing the connection with things I don't really enjoy I didn't care so much either.

I didn't with this character because I never really fell in love with a movie, I can't recall being blown away by any that I saw, and so far my overall experience has been I still enjoy the movies I enjoyed a while back so I've luckily(?) missed out on a lot of the ruined nostalgia moments of things, a good example being Star Wars.

In the end its sort of interesting that I found the story somewhat thought provoking even if I didn't really care for the story, so that's sort of a success!



Fenrix

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Reply #65 on: June 03, 2013, 12:10:37 AM
I started out at 1A but after reading this you make me consider 1B. Maybe after a few more iterations I'll have a better idea...

Also I think Cryptome had the meta-winner response.

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hardware

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Reply #66 on: June 11, 2013, 12:57:13 PM
Yeah, this one was probably more interesting as a thought experiment than as a story. Now I didn't see the brain manipulation as anything else than a lazy plot device, and therefore it didn't horrify as it would, if taken seriously. What I think is the most interesting question raised here, and one that the story never really adresses, is about the importance of taste in Art versus the importance of the craft. While traditional film making (including the CGI heavy productions of today) puts very high emphasis on craft, the process here seems to completely focus on the possibility to discern good from bad. But what would be lost in that process ? A lot of great art is made struggling against the limitations of the art form, struggling with expressing yourself within the limitations inherent in a medium. It is stated in the story that the greatest asset of a great artist is great taste. But is that really true ?   



CryptoMe

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Reply #67 on: February 02, 2020, 09:50:19 PM
It was interesting to go back and look at what I wrote in response to this story the first time it aired....

I have to agree with my earlier sentiments here and disagree with Alasdairs's summary that this is positive. In the story, for example, they make an analogy to John Henry vs the steam-powered hammers for laying railroads. I feel this analogy fails miserably with respect to art. After all, art is not the same thing as railroad track. The track laying just needs to be adequate, each section of track can be exactly the same as all the others (should actually be the same), and the success of track laying is evaluated simply by quantity completed. This decidedly does not describe good art.  At all.