Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

two human figures art
hope, freedom, life, different, contrast concept, blue sky human with broken human, surreal and fantasy artwork, conceptual art, painting illustration, sadness and depression idea

Making Art Is Uniquely Human

While the architects of AI "art" tools like to think their technology can replace human creativity, the artistic impulse is uniquely human

In my last post, I wrote about a novelist who used a version of the AI art tool known as Stable Diffusion to gather images for a promotional website. She wanted erotic and violent elements in the artwork and found that other AI art tools included “guardrails” limiting access to graphic results. But if these images are disconnected from a human, imaginative process, can we say AI-generated results qualify as creative works? Artificial intelligence doesn’t only challenge our notions of what it means to be human. It also makes us wonder what it means to make art and whether human beings are the only agents capable of creating it. Walter Kirn addressed this question poignantly in a Substack essay.  Kirn…

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Once more unto the breach / 3D illustration of science fiction scene with robot general holding battle hammer rallying his android troops under a stormy dark sky

Oh, Not This Again: “AI Will Rise Up and Destroy Mankind”

The advances of AI raise a number of issues, yes. But the intelligences behind these advances are not artificial at all

A new paper from researchers at Oxford University and Google’s Deepmind prophesies that “the threat of AI is greater than previously believed. It’s so great, in fact, that artificial intelligence is likely to one day rise up and annihilate humankind … Cohen says the conditions the researchers identified show that the possibility of a threatening conclusion is stronger than in any previous publication.” (MSN, September 15, 2022) How? Why? The research paper predicted life on Earth turning into a zero-sum game between humans and the super-advanced machinery. Michael K. Cohen, a co-author of the study, spoke about their paper during an interview. In a world with infinite resources, I would be extremely uncertain about what would happen. In a world…

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Abandoned railway tracks in the desert, Namibia

The MacGuffin: Big Fuss About Nothing Is Not Good Science Fiction

A MacGuffin creates a lot of action but doesn’t in any way advance the plot

As with Time Travel, the MacGuffin plot risk comes in a variety of flavors. People bicker about the term, but Alfred Hitchcock (1863–1942) summarized the gist of it: A MacGuffin is “the thing the characters on the screen worry about but the audience don’t care.” The MacGuffin creates a lot of action but doesn’t in any way advance the plot. The action is not the problem. If the item contributes to the plot in a significant way — the One Ring from Lord of the Rings or the Dragon Balls from the Dragon Ball Series, for example — then it isn’t a MacGuffin. But if the item is inert and chased mainly because the characters want it, then it is…

futuristid dystopian city
Dystopian futuristic cyberpunk city at night in a neon haze. Blue and purple glowing neon lights. Urban wallpaper. 3D illustration.

AI Art Tool Can Generate Both Beauty and Horror

Making AI image generators mainstream might offer people an interesting new frontier to explore. But the tech has a serious dark side

The capacities of AI art generators have grown much in the past couple of years. Through complex algorithms, AI scans the internet and manages to make artistic composites, some sublime, others grotesque. Today, AI art generators have incredible potential, but their capacities can also be easily abused. According to a Wired article from September 21, Science fiction novelist Elle Simpson-Edin wanted to generate artwork for her newest book. So, she tried AI tools. Her novel unabashedly depicts gore and sex, but most of the AI tools she discovered included “guardrails” that sanctioned explicit content. That is until she found Unstable Diffusion, “a Discord community for people using unrestricted versions of a recently released, open source AI image tool called Stable Diffusion.”…

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Robot Women 2

Science Uprising 10: Asking the Impolite Questions About AI

Specifically about the big AI Takeover. Let's get past the TED talks

In Episode 10 of Science Uprising (September 21, 2022 10:35 min), we get a look at why — despite ultra-fashionable TED Talk-style doomsday claims — computers are not taking over. The short film starts with Sophia the Robot, that some hope will play a big role in health care for seniors: “Hello, world.” (0:13) “What emotion do you feel being awake in life?” “Curious.” Great. (Yikes…!) The film then cuts to the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute’s Nick Bostrom who announces to an enthralled gathering, “Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make. Machines will then be better at inventing than we are now, as superintelligence with such technological maturity would be extremely powerful and…

Smart TV in living room
Video on demand service on smart TV

HBO Max Cuts Cigarette from Iconic Movie Poster

Modern tech gives entertainment companies the power to “retro-edit” material. How far could it go?

Last week, HBO Max, the Warner Bros.-owned TV streaming platform, cut more than just their costs — they’re cutting back on cigarettes too. Disneyland used to Photoshop out cigarettes in portraits of Walt Disney: https://t.co/7n3oBWzMI7 pic.twitter.com/zP58u8xBG5 — PetaPixel (@petapixel) October 12, 2016 Keen observers noticed that HBO Max removed the cigarillo from the iconic movie poster from “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.” Now, McCabe is awkwardly holding up two fingers with no smoking device in hand. They also scrubbed cigarettes from several other film posters, including “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” “There Was a Crooked Man,” “Fallen Angels,” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” HBO hasn’t yet disclosed its reasoning for the cuts. Maybe they thought people…

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liar

Storytelling: The Liar is Revealed! But Does Anyone Still Care?

Stories where the central character lies about something important often waste audience time without building tension

If there was one storytelling device (trope) I would call the bane of all good writing and a general waste of everyone’s time, it’s The Liar Revealed. With that trope, the dramatic tension is driven by the fact that the central character (the protagonist) is not who or what the others suppose. Pretty much every other trope can be made to work properly with the proper setup. But if a writer chooses to go with this cliché, just expect the movie to stop until the trope is finished playing out. Everything is on pause until the truth is revealed. What is the Liar Revealed? Well, as a trope, it’s not just whenever a character lies. The lies are not really…

light in the forest
Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego,Ushuaia

Amazon’s Rings of Power and Where the Conflict Really Lies

If Peter Jackson gave the LOTR cast unnecessary internal conflicts, then the Rings of Power writers have done it on steroids.

The third and fourth episodes of Rings of Power have aired as of September 16th. Thousands of reviews have fountained across the internet over the last couple of weeks, some from rankled fans, others from satisfied enthusiasts, and others with both good and bad things to report. The show, as we all anticipated, has not gone without its fair share of controversy and pushback, but for this review, I want to lay those conversations aside and instead focus on some pros and cons of the recent episodes from my own perspective. To begin on a positive note, I enjoyed these last couple of episodes much more than the first two. The storyline seems to be getting somewhere. Galadriel is being…

dog and human faces
rhodesian ridgeback

Human Exceptionalism is a Central Theme for Novelist Dean Koontz

Bestselling author Dean Koontz talks fiction, human exceptionalism, and transhumanism with Wesley J. Smith in new podcast episode (Part II)

In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at Dean Koontz’s remarks on the purpose of art and the unique role of the novelist in today’s “everything is political” environment. But that’s not all he and Smith discussed on the Humanize Podcast on September 12th. Both had a lot to say about human exceptionalism, authoritarianism, and also…dogs! Koontz spoke about his love for the pups at the end of the episode, but first, discussed how the “animal rights” movement has gone wrong, and how a materialistic worldview can lead to despair.   Smith commented how human exceptionalism is a central theme in Koontz’s novels and asked the reason, to which Koontz responded, “There’s no civilization if we don’t recognize…

Boy running through flying books
boy standing on the opened book and looking at other books floating in the air, digital art style, illustration painting

Art, Propaganda, and the Role of the Novelist

Bestselling author Dean Koontz talks fiction, human exceptionalism, and transhumanism with Wesley J. Smith in new podcast episode (Part I)

Dean Koontz is a renowned novelist, known for books such as Devoted, The Big Dark Sky, and Odd Thomas. His books have topped the charts as New York Times bestsellers, and at age 77, he doesn’t plan on quitting the craft of fiction any time soon. He is also a longtime proponent of intelligent design and human exceptionalism, both of which find their footing in his many writings. On September 12th, Koontz was featured on the Humanize Podcast, where he and Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism, discussed Koontz’s career as a writer as well as some of the central themes that pervade Koontz’s work. For Part I of this two-part discussion on the…

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Big ideas. Illuminated light bulb among the rest of the unlit bulbs.

COSM Speaker Hopes To Put Creativity Within Every Human’s Reach

Jules Urbach, a game developer at 18, has large aspirations but he has the advantage of new software that might help

Jules Urbach, founder and CEO of leading cloud graphics company OTOY, wants to use AI to give every single person the agency to create. He is speaking again at COSM 2022 (November 9–11 in Seattle). Go here to get the Early Adopter rate before September 15. Urbach, who started out in computer gaming at 18, is “a pioneer in computer graphics, streaming, and 3D rendering, with more than 25 years of industry experience. His experience has inspired him to try to help many more people be more creative: Jules Urbach dreams of a world in which anyone can be a creator and anything you imagine can be effortlessly brought to life in fantastic visual detail, without any prior visual graphics…

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Trail through a mysterious dark forest in fog. Autumn morning in Himalaya, Nepal. Magical atmosphere. Fairytale

Amazon’s Rings of Power: Some Warning Signs But Still Hope

The screenwriters had to create dialogue from Tolkien’s notes about the world in which Lord of the Rings is set

The first two episodes of the long-anticipated series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power were released on September 2nd on Amazon Prime. With a budget of over $1 billion, Rings of Power is the costliest TV show ever produced. It makes sense, then, that fans expected a lot from the premiere. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is widely considered a cinematic masterpiece, and millions of avid Tolkien readers are watching vigilantly for violations against the “canon.” The show stars a young Galadriel (Morfydd Clarke) as a stubborn, resilient warrior. For years, she has been tasked with eradicating any trace of evil after the apparent fall of Sauron, the rogue servant of the evil Morgoth.…

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The Butterfly Effect - Big Blue Butterfly appearing to create ripples in pink green water surface with plenty of copy space below

Science Fiction: Time Travel Can Work — If Clear Rules Are Chosen

I despise the Butterfly Effect in time travel stories because there is simply no way to establish what is at stake

Time travel is such a familiar story element (trope) in science fiction that it has a name, the Time Travel Trope. It annoys me — though much less than others — is the Time Travel trope. These story elements can drive classics such as The Terminator (1984) and utter garbage like A Sound of Thunder. (2005). Establishing the rules for time travel The main reason is that there are many different types of Time Travel stories as well as a variety of rules to go with them. The rules depend on which approach to time travel the writer chooses to take. The writer can chooses to go with the idea that the present and future are fixed, and regardless of…

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND  Bobby a Skye Terrier monument

Can Myths About Dogs Give Us a Clue re Their Origins?

A French historian studies the relationship between ancient stories told about dogs and information from genetics and archeology

Just how and when dogs originated has been the subject of much research. In one account, “Dogs originated from wolves domesticated in Europe, 19,000-32,000 years ago,” based on DNA studies (2013). But other research points to many other possibilities: “Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia or Southeast Asia” some time between 10,000 and 38,000 years ago. Some think they were tamed twice. Historian Julien d’Huy of the College of France in Paris suggests another approach, looking at stories about dogs: “With mythology, we can have explanations of archaeology, we can have reasons for domestication, we can test hypotheses,” he says. D’Huy found three core storylines for the earliest myths related to dogs: The first links dogs with the afterlife,…

robotic arm painting
Robotic Arm Painting with Brush Closeup 3d illustration

When Should AI Art Be Protected by Copyright?

Headlines read that AI has recently won an art contest. But what is art?

Damien Hirst cut a cow and calf each lengthwise into two halves and displayed them in four separate baths of formaldehyde in clear display tanks. The title of the creation, “Mother and Child Divided,” is a pun. The cow and calf were cut in two and were displayed physically separated. “Mother and Child Divided” in two ways. Get it? Hee hee. Is this art? Apparently so. The macabre bifurcated bovine creation won top place in the 1995 Turner Prize art competition. This simple example reveals that, like judging the palatability of raw oysters, ranking the quality of art is highly subjective. Jason Allen entered a piece entitled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” and took home the first-place prize at Colorado State Fair’s…

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futuristic workspace with sparkling particles floating out of glowing screen, digital art style, illustration painting

AI Wins a Prize at an Art Show. So Are Human Artists Finished?

A painting generated by a carefully crafted AI prompt won at Colorado’s State Fair digital art competition. Some artists wonder if they still have a job

This painting, generated by artificial intelligence, “using a carefully crafted prompt,” won first prize at the Colorado State Fair’s fine art competition for digital arts: The award, which includes a $300 cash prize, was won by Jason Allen. While other candidates for the award used software like Photoshop and Illustrator to create original digital art by hand or alter photographs, Allen used an AI called Midjourney which can generate artworks or just about any kind of synthetic image from a mere line of text. The AI-generated artwork, which Allen calls “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” depicts a bizarre but intriguing scene from the distant future or some other world in which human figures are in awe as they stare into a huge…

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the rainbow colorful multiverse art background

Madness: Why Sci-Fi Multiverse Stories Often Feel Boring

In a multiverse, every plot development, however implausible, is permitted because we know it won’t affect our return to the expected climax

Filmmakers communicate with audiences using common and accepted story devices (tropes) that viewers identify with — maybe the “average person takes the crown” or “love triangle.” Some tropes are overused or used in ways that undermine the story. In discussing what I think went wrong with Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) and some similar films, I’ll use the word trope to refer to any story element that is used to push the plot. I find four tropes particularly annoying: the Multiverse, Time Travel, the Liar Revealed, and the MacGuffin Chase. Because I’ve just finished reviewing Multiverse of Madness, let’s start with the Multiverse trope. Before reviewing the Dr. Strange sequel, I’d written an essay, “Dr. Strange: Can…

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Futuristic multiverse world concept. Downtown with skyscrapers skyline under and cityscape over. Two parallel worlds. Alternative reality dimension

Multiverse of Madness?: It’s a Letdown for the Marvel Universe

I can’t really recommend it because spectacle trumps any sense of the story hanging together and we can infer nothing from past events

The Multiverse of Madness ends with America Chavez training at Kamar-Taj while Dr. Strange and Wong have a final conversation.All the Characters say their goodbyes and Dr. Strange returns home, prepared to move on with his life. Thing’s are looking pretty chipper — that is until a third eye opens on his forehead. This isn’t a big deal but I did think it was a little ridiculous to have a cliffhanger ending followed by a post-credits scene. At any rate, the post-credits scene includes a mysterious woman played by Charlize Theron show up out of nowhere. She tells Dr. Strange that he’s caused an Incursion — a collision between two universes, possibly as a result of multiverse travel. And together,…

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abstract autumn illustration ai generated art

New Text-to-Art Image Generator Easier to Misuse, Critics Say

Relative to DALL-E 2, it is easier to use to generate pornography, as controversial website 4Chan has recently demonstrated

Stable Diffusion, a new open source text-to-art generator (they’re coming thick and fast), dropped a couple of days ago: It has come under fire for some of its more questionable uses. Most uses have been reasonable, according to Kyle Wiggers at TechCrunch, but the problem uses give us a window into potential headaches to come: On the infamous discussion board 4chan, where the model leaked early, several threads are dedicated to AI-generated art of nude celebrities and other forms of generated pornography. Emad Mostaque, the CEO of Stability AI, called it “unfortunate” that the model leaked on 4chan and stressed that the company was working with “leading ethicists and technologies” on safety and other mechanisms around responsible release. One of…

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Planet  illustration Earth Apocalypse

It’s the End of the Multiverse — And Yet No One Is in a Hurry?

Until close to the end, everyone continues to behave as if previous events and circumstances have no consequences and vital information is optional

Where were we? After the Mouse decided to disappoint the fans and humiliate a large portion of the Marvel Universe, we find Wanda chasing America Chavez, Christine, and Dr. Strange. She’s bloody and limping because she walked on a bunch of broken glass — and yet, our heroes are terrified of her. The scene looks great, and the concept was terrifying, so long as one forgets the fact that Wanda can fly and doesn’t ask why in the world she’d walk on glass when she could just float over it… At any rate, they reach the door leading to the Book of Vishanti, figure out the combination, and hop onto a platform where the book is resting on an odd-looking…