AI and Liberalism

I stumpled upon a German languge article in the NZZ by Slavoj Žižek that deals with the topics of liberalism, humanism and digitalization. It is declared as a translation but I didn't find the source, so I can only provide you with the German text. While searching for the translation I found a greater number of text by the slowenian philosopher dealing with similar topics, so I guess this is more of a general reading recommendation. 

Eben weil die Maschine, die uns liest, als mechanischer Algorithmus blind und bewusstseinslos ist, kann sie Entscheidungen treffen, die nicht nur der äusseren Wirklichkeit angemessener sind als unsere eigenen Entscheidungen. Sie sind es vor allem auch in Bezug auf unsere eigenen Wünsche und Bedürfnisse. Die Maschine kann alle Widersprüche eruieren, Inkohärenzen messen und mit ihnen auf weitaus rationalere Weise umgehen, als unser fiktives Selbst dies vermag.

NZZ: Digitalisierung und künstliche Intelligenz: Das Ende der Menschlichkeit

Image: Zizek in Liverpool By Original photographer: Andy Miah , cropped by User:Michalis Famelis

The Parthenon of Books

parthenon of books

The documenta 14, the most important exhibition of contemporary art in the world, is taking place in Kassel again (every 5 years). The most prominent piece of art is the Parthenon Of Books by Marta Minujín (Argentina), located on the central Friedrichsplatz, the largest sqaure in Kassel. The Parthenon of Books is a huge scaffold installation with the dimensions and appearance of the Parthenon in Athena, Greece, one of the central symbols of democracy. It is covered by foiled-up books. The books have been donated by publishing companies and by citizens, so everybody can be part of this art installation. The books have one thing in common: they are or have been prohibited somewhere. There is a handy short list and a not so handy more complete list of prohibited books that has been compiled by the students of the department of German philological studies of the Universität Kassel. I donated more or less 15 books including my beautiful edition of "Don Quijote" that I bought back in 2003 in Quito / Ecuador at the book fair in the El Ejido park, as I have a very similar one that was a birthday gift from my friends from my Erasmus semester in Palma / Spain. Nevertheless this was a donation that was not easy for me as I in general don't like to give away books. But I feel quite satisfied to see my beloved Don Quijote on a very prominet position at eye level at one of the central pillar at the outside when coming from south. When documenta is ended in some days, the books shall be given as gifts for the visitors. Standing inside of the Parthenon has its own thrill: The installation is huge and impressive, the idea all those books, pages, paragraphs, sentences, words and thoughts have been prohibited by a government is oppresive. Its location, the Friedrichsplatz, has its own story to tell: When the Nazis were burning books in Germany, in Kassel they did it right here. In the palace located at the Friedrichsplatz which is today known as Museum Fridericianum was a huge library once, but it lost all its books to the fires that destroyed large parts of Kassel after the allied bombing in 1943. And Jacob Grimm, the elder of the two famous Brothers Grimm worked in this very library for the censorship administration of King Jérôme Bonaparte, the brother of Napoelon Bonaparte. So, in many ways, the Parthenon of Book gives visitors a lot of good reasons to contemplate about censorship

Grimms Märchen auf Nordhessisch

Cover of Grimms Märchen auf Nordhessisch

English below
 

Ein kleiner Hinweis in eigener Sache: Ich bin Mitherausgeber des Buchs "Grimms Märchen auf Nordhessisch". Der Sammelband präsentiert erstmalig eine Auswahl von Grimms Märchen, von verschiedenen Autoren aus der Region in Mundarten aus Kassel und Nordhessen übertragen. Darunter zum Beispiel "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten" übersetzt von dem allseits geschätzten Dark Vatter oder auch "Die Sterntaler" aus meiner Feder.

Wir stellen das hübsche Hardcover-Buch am kommenden Mittwoch, den 9.8., um 19 Uhr am Brüder Grimm Platz 4 in den Räumen der Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft vor. Dazu möchte ich Euch herzlich einladen. Wer nicht kommen kann, kann sein Exemplar gerne jetzt schon im Shop der Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft vorbestellen.

English

On Wednesday, 09-08-2017, at 7 pm we will present our new book "Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm in the Dialect of Northern Hessia" in the premises of the Association of the Brothers Grimm in Kassel, Germany. Although the Brothers Grimm lived most of their live in Kassel and collected the fairy tales while living here, there was never a collection of the fairy tales in the regional dialect before. One of the authors/translators is the well known dialect rock singer Dark Vatter (Bremen Town Musicians), I by myself wrote a translation aswell (The Star Talers). In case you are in town - at least there is still the documenta 14 going on, you are kindly invited to join us. If you cannot make it but are interested, here is the link to the shop of the Association of the Brothers Grimm.

Pronouncing English

Not only for foreigns speakers, it is impossible to guess the correct pronounciation (i.e. a pronounciation that is considered correct by a group of native speakers) of a given English word just by its spelling. This is a fact and if you don't believe me read the following poem by Gerard Nolst Trenitéout loud:

The Chaos

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

And if you have no clue how to pronounce some of the words, take advise from this video: 

A new kind of knowledge

In an article on Google Translate I mentioned that there is evidence, that the Google Translate artifical intelligence developed an "Interlingua" to translate between languages, i.e. a language not spoken by anybody that serves as a bridge between different langauges - by saving natural language information in a way never done before and impossible to be defined or understood my humans. This is a pretty good example of the new kind of knowledge that appears already and will appear more often on all areas, artifical intelligence is applied on. This is due to the approach, modern AI is using to understand and elaborate on topics: Neural networks. Another popular case was the Go game first one by an AI: It was impossible for human players to predict or even understand in retrospective the "winning move". It was made by an alien intelligence not working similar to our own. The article "Our Machines Have Knowledge We'll Never Understand" by David Weinberger is an inspiring musing on this topic.

"We are increasingly relying on machines that derive conclusions from models that they themselves have created, models that are often beyond human comprehension, models that “think” about the world differently than we do.

But this comes with a price. This infusion of alien intelligence is bringing into question the assumptions embedded in our long Western tradition. We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it." - David Weinberger

What happens in the mind stays in the mind? New evidence on video games and violence

A study by a team around Dr Gregor Szycik from the Hannover Medical School in Germany analyzed possible long term effects of playing violent video games regarding the desensitization hypothesis (mainly based on observes short time effects).

The money quote of the paper is: “We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”

The original paper: Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. Münte and Bert T. te Wildt: Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study

And an article on the topic: iflscience: Study Finds No Long-Term Effects Of Violent Video Games On Empathy

 

Image: By Nick Stirling - "IF 12: Cultivate"

Beautiful Atari Box Art

I was trying to write a story about my first days of gaming and our low level graphic quality discussions as children ("Mario has a MOUSTACHE and DOTS IN THE EYES, it IS BETTER") but the text went nowhere. So, here is just the link I originally wanted to share: An article with a beautiful gallery of Atari box cover art. 

 

AVClub: How fantastical Atari box art taught the world what makes video games special

 

Image: By Mark Hillary - Atari Flashback 5

How many Jedi is or are the last Jedi

On behalf of the German language, I dare to say to my favourite all things sci fi blog io9: You are welcome. 

[...] another Star Wars: Episode VIII mystery has been answered—namely, whether The Last Jedi refers to a single Jedi or a group of Jedi, since both the singular and the plural form are “Jedi.” The solution comes to us via the release of several foreign-language titles for the film.

[...]

StarWars: Die letzten Jedi

[...]

Thank you, other languages who modify their adjectives to distinguish the quantity (and gender) of the nouns they’re modifying!

Indeed: Otherwise it would be: "Star Wars: Der letzte Jedi", or, if female: "Die letzte Jedi"; unfortunately we do not further separate male and female in groups, so "die letzten Jedi" may be a group of only men, only women or a mixed one. Spanish is e.g. helpful here, as the correct title would be "Las últimas Jedi" in the case there would be only women-Jedi left. As in other european languages, the male form is used as a generic form aswell, so they may only be men but also a mixed group according to the Spanish title. But this, I think, we knew already after seeing Rey and Luke in Episode VII.

Neurosciencing a microprocessor

Now this is a topic that is rather fascinating to me: The scientists Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording are applying the methods of neuroscience to a simulated microprocessor (a MOS-6502-Chip similar to the one used in the Commodore C64) in order to describe the observed behavior. Is it possible to get an idea of functionality? Apperantly, in 2002 there was a former study "Can a biologist fix a radio" (by Juri Lazebnik) with a very similar topic.

Here we will examine three different “behaviors”, that is, three different games: Donkey Kong (1981), Space Invaders (1978), and Pitfall (1981). Obviously these “behaviors” are qualitatively different from those of animals and may seem more complicated. However, even the simple behaviors that are studied in neuroscience still involve a plethora of components, typically including the allocation of attention, cognitive processing, and multiple modalities of inputs and outputs. As such, the breadth of ongoing computation in the processor may actually be simpler than those in the brain.

As it turns out in both cases: No, the methods of neuroscience/biology are not sufficient to understand or describe the behavior of the respective system. Does this mean anything? Yes and no. They are not designed to understand technology. Vice versa, an expert in reverse engineering probably would not understand a specified lifeform by the application of his methods aswell. But on the other hand the study reveals that we do not know for sure if the methods and the results they generate are useful for the purpose of understanding e.g. the brain. Do we have language centers in the brain or is this comparable to the misconception of space invaders centers in the micro processor?

Eric Jonas, Konrad Paul Kording: Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?

Golem: Könnten Hirnforscher einen C64 verstehen?

 

Image: Image of the circuit board of a Commodore 64 showing some important MOS Technology circuits: the 6510 CPU (long chip, lower left) and the 6581 SID (right). The production week/year (WWYY) of each chip is given below its name. Found on Wikipedia by Jef-Infojef

DeepMind can play it hard aswell

Googles AI DeepMind is an impressive system that was able to master hard tasks as playing Go or generating humand language in the recent time. In a new article, Google scientists describe the way, DeepMind reacts on challenges as competing or cooperating with another player for success in computer games. DeepMind plays those games and learns by doing so. In the end, it shows that it plays aggressive when competing and cooperative when cooperating. This is no surprise and the term aggressive is only used as the game describes colored pixels that are competing for green pixels (apples) that appear randomly on the screen. In order to prevent the other player from reaching an apple, they are able to "fire" "laser beams" to let them skip a round - which could also be dubbed as "send" "love messages" but whatever. I am still in awe about DeepMind and its abilities and long for every new detail - but after playing the apple gathering game it is a bit early for the Terminator references.

Business Insider: Google's new AI has learned to become 'highly aggressive' in stressful situations

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