Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

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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…

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Theater, drama and comedy masks with curtains, box office and posters in the background. AI-generated digital painting.

AI vs. Artists?: Here’s What DALL-E 2 Just Can’t Do

Artificial intelligence may be able to create generic images of particular items, but it can’t grasp and convey general concepts, says engineering prof Karl Stephan

(This article by engineering prof Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (August 14, 2022) under the title “AI Illustrator Still Looking for Work: The Shortcomings of DALL-E 2,” and is reprinted with permission.) The field of artificial intelligence has made great strides in the last couple of decades, and any time a new AI breakthrough is announced, critics voice concerns that yet another field of human endeavor has fallen victim to automation and will disappear from the earth when machines replace the people who do it now.  Until recently, the occupation of art illustrator seemed reasonably safe from assault by AI innovations.  Only a human, it seemed, can start with a set of verbal ordinary-language instructions and come…

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cozy domestic christmas interior with window, bed, candles and fireplace - neural network generated art, picture produced with ai in 2022

What Can AI Text-to-Image Generators Do for Artists?

Developer David Holz discusses his Midjourney generator in terms of the communities that grow up around art generated from words or phrases

In an interview with David Holz, founder of Midjourney, Verge senior reporter James Vincent asks about the new text-to-art AI image generators that are shaking up the illustration market: Generally, the “few dozen” current versions — which rely on combining materials from across the internet — work reasonably well but here are the drawbacks Vincent notes: They’re tricky and expensive to create, requiring access to millions of images used to train the system (it looks for patterns in the pictures and copies them) and a great deal of computational grunt (for which costs vary, but a million-dollar price tag isn’t out of the question). James Vincent, “‘An engine for the imagination’: The rise of AI image generators” at The Verge…

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First person perspective shot from a hiker sitting at the edge of a cliff at Angel's Landing in Zion National Park.

Multiverse of Madness Skirts the Edges of Story Collapse

Oh well, it IS a multiverse, so maybe, in this reality, all the heroes stink

Just as Wanda Maximoff is about to catch America Chavez, she is met by the Illuminati, a team of superheroes which comprises Captain Carter, Captain Marvel, Black Bolt, Reed Richards, Mordo, and Professor X. Mordo and Professor X are not present, but Wanda must still face four heroes at once. There is only phrase which can describe the ensuing scene and that is missed opportunity. To understand why, we must first look at two major factors at play. First, the actor chosen to play Reed Richards is none other than Jared Krasinski, who is famous for his roles in the TV series (2005–2013) The Office and the film A Quiet Place (2018). Now, anyone remotely familiar with comic book films…

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Black hole bending the event horizon 3d

Dr. Strange Finds a Universe Almost Like the One He Left…

But, like Schrödinger’s famous Cat, he is alive in one universe and dead in another

In the Multiverse of Madness, where were we? Ah yes, Dr. Strange and America Chavez finally find themselves in the multiverse. They teleport through several universes until they land in a reality similar to their own. The first thing Strange wants to do is return to their reality, so he can save Wong, who is still trapped in the temple. However, America reminds him that she cannot control her powers, so they decide to visit the Dr. Strange of this world to see if they can find a way to help America. When they arrive at Strange’s home, they discover that the Dr. Strange of this world is dead. A monument to the fallen hero says he died defeating Thanos.…

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rock-paper-scissors

Marvel Universe: Being All Powerful, It Turns Out, Is Very Boring

The Mirror Dimension in Multiverse of Madness dispenses with sharp intellectual conflict, opting for unexplained power plays instead

Last time, we talked abut the absurdity of the way the conflict between Wanda Maximoff and Dr. Strange is set up. That’s the conflict which leads us to the attack on the ultimate fortress of the Sorcerer Supreme, Kamar-Taj. Considering what we’ve been told, the temple and its defenses are lackluster, to say the least. Wanda breaks through them with ease but there is a more fundamental problem with the struggle as a whole: The writers appear to lack a proper of the understanding of how the magical characters in the Marvel Universe operate. Marvel’s original genius in developing superheroes included giving every character different strengths and weaknesses. The game is somewhat like Rock–Paper–Scissors where Superhero A can beat Superhero…

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

Can a Computer Write Your novel? Well, What Do You Want To Say?

These tools are sure to become a staple in the hot and time-sensitive market for boutique formula fiction

Jennifer Lepp was behind schedule with her latest detective novel, Bring Your Beach Owl (2022), featuring a detective witch in central Florida. Through Kindle Direct, under the pen name of Leanne Leeds, Lepp independently publishes what she calls “potato chip books”, making over US$100k annually. Amazon creates “microclimates” for readers so that genre writers can tailor their work precisely to a market, as she does: “paranormal cozy mystery.” But it’s a business where deadlines matter. Readers have many other choices. As Josh Dzieza tells it at The Verge, Lepp begged developers for a beta test of Sudowrite, aimed at fiction writers. It’s one of the programs created from OpenAI’s language generator GPT-3: Authors paste what they’ve written into a soothing…

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Fantasy landscape with fog, water and stone.

The Only Mad People In Dr. Strange’s Multiverse Are The Writers

We don’t know why Wanda has morphed into a villain or why good and evil have become morally equivalent

On our last delve into the Multiverse of Madness (2022), we followed Dr. Strange to Wanda Maximoff’s house. As the scene opens, it is clear that, controversially, Wanda has faced no repercussions for the events depicted in WandaVision. (2021). Tragically, Wanda has chosen to follow the words of the Dark hold — and those of us who watched WandaVision on Disney Plus will never get to see her struggle. So we don’t understand why she chose to listen to the words of the book. Nothing is accounted for. Wanda is just bad now, and we must accept it. Except — this is and isn’t true at the same time. On the one hand, the writers want us to understand that…

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Cheerful attractive young female graphic designer smiling and working at her desk in modern office

New OpenAI Art Program Does NOT Claim Copyright for AI

As DALL-E 2, which generates blended images in response to key words, moves into the art world, a key question has just been settled

A case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals must decide if artificial intelligences should have patent rights on processes they were used to design. Throwing a wrench into the works, OpenAI has announced that artists using its new DALL-E beta software can sell the work: “Starting today, users get full usage rights to commercialize the images they create with DALL·E, including the right to reprint, sell, and merchandise. This includes images they generated during the research preview.” (July 20, 2022) First, here’s what DALL-E can do: Some worry about its impact on jobs in the arts: OpenAI’s press release for DALL-E 2 markets the advanced tech as a “powerful creative tool” that will speed up and inspire the creative…

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image on the wall of the cave painted by an ancient man. ancient world history. era, era.

Why Is Neanderthal Art Considered Controversial?

It makes sense that whenever humans started to wonder about life, we started to create art that helps us think about it.

Science writer Michael Marshall, author of The Genesis Quest (2020), tells us that many paleontologists resist the idea that early humans called Neanderthals created any artworks. They prefer to attributed all such works to groups that arrived on the scene later. The trouble is, the dates are often hard to determine and the reasoning is sometimes circular. As Marshall puts it, “People had assumed that they could tell the age of cave paintings by the style in which it was depicted,” says [Alistair] Pike. Ever since the first prehistoric art was found in the late 1800s, there has been a sense that art should evolve linearly: the oldest pieces should be extremely simple and abstract, with later ones becoming more…

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Doctor Strange is Coming

Do Life History or Moral Choices Matter in a Multiverse?

In this third part of my extended review of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I look at how characters suddenly alter with no accounting

Last week we covered the first scene of Multiverse of Madness (2022). This week, we’ll try to move a little faster. After a travesty of an opening scene, Doctor Strange wakes up from his dream about the multiverse just in time for his former girlfriend Christine’s wedding. Strange tries to be happy for her but it’s clear he’s not in a good humor. However, he doesn’t get to brood for long because a sudden attack from a random monster occurs in the city, and he flies off to save the day. During this fight, he discovers America Chavez. With some help from Wong, they manage to slay the monster and lead her to safety at a local restaurant… because, apparently,…

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3D render beautiful woman computer generated photo realistic to to illustrate the uncanny valley effect

AI: The Shadow of Frankenstein Lurks in the Uncanny Valley

The fifth and final excerpt from Non-Computable You (2022), from Chapter 6, focuses on the scarier AI hype

Wrapping AI in an impressive physical package can magnify the perceived impact of new technology. Doing so uses seductive optics. The confusing of AI packaging with AI content was evident in media excitement about a Buddhist robot who delivers messages to the faithful. “The world’s first sutra-chanting android deity, modeled after Kannon the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, was introduced to the public last week,” the report reads. The robot can “move its eyes, hands, and torso, make human-like gestures during its speech, and brings its hands together in prayer. A camera implanted in the left eye to focus on a subject gives the impression of eye contact.”1 Technologically speaking, nothing special is happening here. The messages from the Buddhist robot…

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multiverse conceptual illustration

Dr. Strange’s Multiverse of Madness Features Infinite Problems

The extensive edits to Sam Rami’s work as a director have left it riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies

In my review last week, I ranted about the multiverse as a concept in storytelling, and how the Mouse has used it an excuse to turn Wanda Maximoff into a sorry shadow of her former self. If I could describe the problems overall with the movie in one word, that word would be laziness. The multiverse is used as an excuse for all kinds of incoherent nonsense. Before going into detail, it is important to note that Multiverse of Madness (2022) went through massive reshoots before its release. Film aficionados have said that, while there are hints of Sam Rami’s directing style, they were very few in number and it is evident that the edits to the film were extensive.…

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Face in multiverse

Dr. Strange: Can the Multiverse Really Work as a Plot Device?

That’s a question Disney's Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness begs us to ask — though but the screenwriters’ answer might be disturbing

Before reviewing the movie in detail, I wound up writing this little prelude regarding the problem with the multiverse plot device in general. It spilled onto the page before I could stop it but then other viewers might be asking some of these same questions. Disney, or as I like to refer to this hell-spawn of a company, the Mouse, is at it again. Where is the Pied Piper when you need him? There are many bad movies in the world, but very rarely does one deserve the term, cinematic abomination. The last time I used that loathsome title, I was watching Luke Skywalker suck green milk from an alien walrus. What is the common factor between The Last Jedi…

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Ruins of Ancient Alien City

Serenity Review Part 3: Final Thoughts on the Movie and TV Series

Despite some lapses that made me wonder if the same crew was doing the writing, they are on a par with Star Wars and Star Trek

In Part 2 of my review last week, we talked about the events of the film Serenity (2005) and the impact of the deaths of two major characters during the movie. This time, we’ll finish the review of the film, and I will give my thoughts on the story as a whole. After Wash’s death, the crew finds a hallway in which to make their last stand against the Reavers while Malcolm Reynolds goes to meet with Mr. Universe so he can relay a transmission from one of the last survivors of the planet Miranda. But Mal finds Mr. Universe dead in his chamber, with his equipment destroyed. Thankfully, Mr. Universe had a robot wife through which Mal records that…

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spaceships battle

Serenity Review Part 2: Great Scenes Dogged by Bad Plot Choices

We meet fresh villains and finally learn River’s secret: She knows the origin of the malevolent Reavers and it is not neat or pretty

Last time, I began my (now) three-part review of the film Serenity (2005) with a defense of creator and director Joss Whedon’s character development choices. I have issues with some of his plot choices, however, so let me pick up where the first review left off. In order to get more information on River, Wash suggests speaking with a galactic hacker known as Mr. Universe. Mr. Universe tells them that the Alliance had indeed used a subliminal signal to activate River’s programming. He also points out that River mentions the word “ Miranda”. At the same time, Simon checks on River and, as he speaks with her, she tells him that “Miranda” is a memory, but it isn’t hers. In…

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Time and space travel concept abstract background

What Would Happen If We Traveled at 2x the Speed of Light?

We can’t reach the speed of light just by speeding things up, let alone exceed it. But are there other ways?

Recently, a 13-year-old in Mumbai asked philosopher of mathematics Sam Baron what would happen if someone were to move — hypothetically — at twice the speed of light. Baron replied, As far as we know, it’s not possible for a person to move at twice the speed of light. In fact, it’s not possible for any object with the kind of mass you or I have to move faster than the speed of light. Sam Baron, “Curious Kids: what would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The Conversation (May 24, 2022) He explains why not as follows, To accelerate an object with mass, we have to add energy. The faster we want the object to…