Techno-Fundamentalism Can’t Save You, Mark Zuckerberg

Article from the New Yorker
https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/techno-fundamentalism-cant-save-you-mark-zuckerberg

By      April 21, 2018

vaidhyanathan-techno-fundamentalism-cant-save-you-mark-zuckerberg
For years, the Facebook C.E.O. has clung to the belief that new technology can solve the problems caused by old technology. But that philosophy is what got us into our current mess. Illustration by Erik Carter.

It was like a verbal tic. Last week, in two days of testimony before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg, the C.E.O. of Facebook, invoked a magical-sounding phrase whenever he was cornered about a difficult issue. The issue was content moderation, and the phrase was “artificial intelligence.” In 2004, Zuckerberg explained, when Facebook got its start, it was just him and a friend in his dorm room at Harvard. “We didn’t have A.I. technology that could look at the content that people were sharing,” he told the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees. “So we basically had to enforce our content policies reactively.” In the fourteen years since, the platform has grown to 2.2 billion monthly active users; they speak more than a hundred languages, each with its own subtle variations on hate speech, sexual content, harassment, threats of violence and suicide, and terrorist recruitment. Facebook’s staggering size and influence, Zuckerberg admitted, along with a slew of high-profile scandals, had made clear that “we need to take a more proactive role and a broader view of our responsibility.” He pledged to hire many thousands of human content-reviewers around the world, but he seemed to see A.I. as the ultimate panacea. In all, he uttered the phrase more than thirty times.

Tarleton Gillespie, in his forthcoming book “Custodians of the Internet,” explains what’s at the root of Zuckerberg’s problem:

Moderation is hard because it is resource intensive and relentless; because it requires difficult and often untenable distinctions; because it is wholly unclear what the standards should be; and because one failure can incur enough public outrage to overshadow a million quiet successes.

Should the values of a C.E.O. outweigh those of an engineer or an end user? If, as Zuckerberg stated before Congress, some sort of “community standards” apply, what constitutes a “community”? For Facebook in Iraq, should it be Kurdish standards or Shia standards? And what, exactly, are Sunni standards? In Illinois, should it be rural standards or urban standards? Imagine trying to answer these questions across a platform as vast as Facebook. Imagine trying to hire, train, and retain value judges in places such as Myanmar, where the Buddhist majority is waging a brutal campaign of expulsion and oppression against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. Imagine finding moderators for all eleven of South Africa’s official languages.

Hiring more humans, if there are even enough of them, won’t solve these problems—nor is it likely to be good for the humans themselves. Sarah Roberts, an information scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, has interviewed content moderators throughout Silicon Valley and beyond, and she reports that many are traumatized by the experience and work for low wages without benefits. But Zuckerberg’s A.I. solution, which he sees becoming a reality “over a five-to-ten year period,” is equally untenable. It’s like Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, Hank Morgan, fooling the people of Camelot with his technocratic “magic.” But, more crucial, it’s also an expression of techno-fundamentalism, the unshakable belief that one can and must invent the next technology to fix the problem caused by the last technology. Techno-fundamentalism is what has landed us in this trouble. And it’s the wrong way to get us out.

The main selling point of automated content moderation is that it purports to sidestep the two hurdles that thwart humans: scale and subjectivity. For a machine that learns from historical experience—“This is an example of what we want to flag for review; this is not”—scale is an advantage. The more data it consumes, the more accurate its judgments supposedly become. Even mistakes, when identified as mistakes, can refine the process. Computers also like rules, which is why artificial intelligence has seen its greatest successes in highly organized settings, such as chess matches and Go tournaments. If you combine rules and lots of historical data, a computer can even win at “Jeopardy!”—as one did in 2011. At first, the rules must be developed by human programmers, but there is some hope that the machines will refine, revise, and even rewrite the rules over time, accounting for diversity, localism, and changes in values.

This is where the promise of artificial intelligence breaks down. At its heart is an assumption that historical patterns can reliably predict future norms. But the past—even the very recent past—is full of words and ideas that many of us now find repugnant. No system is deft enough to respond to the rapidly changing varieties of cultural expression in a single language, let alone a hundred. Slang is fleeting yet powerful; irony is hard enough for some people to read. If we rely on A.I. to write our rules of conduct, we risk favoring those rules over our own creativity. What’s more, we hand the policing of our discourse over to the people who set the system in motion in the first place, with all their biases and blind spots embedded in the code. Questions about what sorts of expressions are harmful to ourselves or others are difficult. We should not pretend that they will get easier.

What, then, is the purpose of Zuckerberg’s A.I. incantation? To take the cynical view, it offers a convenient way to defer public scrutiny: Facebook is a work in progress, and waiting for the right tools to be developed will take patience. (Once those tools are in place, of course, the company can blame any flubs on flawed algorithms or bad data.) But Zuckerberg isn’t a cynic; he’s a techno-fundamentalist, and that’s an equally unhealthy habit of mind. It creates the impression that technology exists outside, beyond, even above messy human decisions and relations, when the truth is that no such gap exists. Society is technological. Technology is social. Tools, as Marshall McLuhan told us more than fifty years ago, are extensions of ourselves. They amplify and distort our strengths and our flaws. That’s why we must design them with care from the start.

The problem with Facebook is Facebook. It has moved too fast. It has broken too many things. It has become too big to govern, whether by a band of humans or a suite of computers. To chart the way forward, Zuckerberg has few effective tools at his disposal. He should be honest about their limitations—if not for his company’s sake then for ours.

 

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Dezeen’s top 10 installations of 2017

A golden cage protesting Donald Trump’s border-control measures and an “obese house” in Vienna are among some of the installations created in 2017. Continuing our review of 2017, editorial assistant Natashah Hitti selects her top 10.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors by Ai Weiwei

In a campaign against Donald Trump’s border-control measures, Chinese artist and human-rights activist Ai Weiwei built three monumental structures from metal fencing, to resemble security fences.

All located in New York, the structures include a giant golden cage in Central Park, and an enclosure that slots inside the Washington Square Arch.

Find out more about Ai Weiwei’s installations ›


Tree of Codes set design by Olafur Eliasson

Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson used a combination of mirrors and coloured screens to create illusionistic, abstract scenes for Wayne McGregor‘s Tree of Codes ballet, which was on show at London theatre Sadler’s Wells in March.

The performance is based on, and named after, an artwork in the form of a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, which was created by cutting apart Bruno Schulz’s book The Street of Crocodiles to form a new narrative.

Find out more about Olafur Eliasson’s Tree of Codes set design ›


Fat House by Erwin Wurm

Earlier this year, Austrian sculptor Erwin Wurm installed his “obese house” in the grounds of Vienna’s 18th-century Belvedere palace.

Similar in form to a conventional suburban house, the seven-metre high sculpture was created as a commentary on middle-class consumer culture. The house’s walls appeared to have swollen out, giving the impression of fatty flesh rather than an architectural structure.

Find out more about Erwin Wurm’s Fat House ›


Aura installation by Studio Nick Verstand 

Shown as part of this year’s Dutch Design Week, this audiovisual installation by Studio Nick Verstand, in cooperation with VPRO Medialab, reinterpreted people’s emotions as pulsing light compositions.

Equipped with multiple biosensors that register brainwaves, heart-rate variability, and galvanic skin response, visitors sat or laid down on the floor as a musical composition played out in the background, triggering emotional responses. The visitors’ emotional “data” was then analysed and metamorphosed into different forms, colours and intensities of light that were beamed down onto them from above.

Find out more about Studio Nick Verstand’s Aura installation ›


Mirage by Doug Aitken

American artist Doug Aitken built this house-shaped structure clad in mirrors, which reflects the surrounding desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.

The Mirage installation was modelled on a ranch-style suburban American house, and also found inspiration from the modernist ideas of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Find out more about Doug Aitken’s Mirage installation ›


Destierro by Anish Kapoor

British sculptor Anish Kapoor filled a room with over 100 tonnes of earth spread across the floor before spraying it with a bright red pigment, to represent the unseen borders that separate the modern world.

The installation, titled Destierro, was on show at the Parque de la Memoria in Argentina, which was created as a memorial to the victims of the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Find out more about Anish Kapoor’s Destierro installation ›


Cloud House by Matthew Mazzotta

This shed-like pavilion by artist Matthew Mazzotta features a cloud-shaped element over its corrugated roof, which rains whenever someone sits inside.

Once a person is sat on one of the rocking chairs in the shelter, pressure sensors in the floor are activated, causing pumps to transport water from an underground storage tank up into the cloud, which releases the liquid through tiny holes to simulate rain. Those inside can hear the “warm pleasant sound” of the drops hitting the tin roof, and watch the water permeate through the window lintels to feed plants growing in the sills.

Find out more about Matthew Mazzotta’s Cloud House ›


Six Pins and a Half Dozen Needles by Alex Chinneck

British artist Alex Chinneck created this “cartoon-like” installation from 4,000 bricks, intended to look like a page ripped from a book.

Titled Six Pins and a Half Dozen Needles, the sculpture was designed to appear as if part of the building’s facade had cracked in two. The installation was situated on the site of Assembly London – a campus of offices, retail units and restaurants situated in Hammersmith.

Find out more about Alex Chinneck’s installation ›


Passage/s by Do Ho Suh

These colourful translucent doorway structures represent all the different places that Korean artist Do Ho Suh has lived and worked, in a bid to explore ideas about identity and migration.

Displayed at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery, the Passage/s installation gave physical form to Suh’s idea of life as a journey, “with no fixed beginning or destination.”

Find out more about Do Ho Suh’s Passage/s installation ›


Kaleidoscopic Ivy by Nendo

Japanese studio Nendo used over 40,000 shards of polished steel to form this installation spread across a Japanese flower-arranging school, designed to emulate an “ivy of mirrors.”

Featuring in an exhibition titled Hana So (Fireworks), the mirrored landscape reflected the flower arrangements placed around the space, resulting in kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Find out more about Nendo’s kaleidoscopic installation ›

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https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/11/top-10-installations-review-2017-design/

 

Art draws out the beauty of physics

When it comes to quantum mechanics, it’s easier to show than tell.

That’s why artist residencies at particle physics labs play an important part in conveying their stories, according to CERN theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaume.

He recently spent some time demonstrating physics concepts to Semiconductor, a duo of visual artists from England known for exploring matter through the tools and processes of science. They’ve done multiple short films, museum pieces and festivals all over the world. In July they were awarded a CERN residency as part of the Collide@CERN Ars Electronica Award.

“I tried to show them how we develop an intuition for quantum mechanics by applying the principles and getting used to the way it functions,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “Because honestly, I cannot explain quantum mechanics even to a scientist.”

The physicist laughed when he made that statement, but the artists, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, are comforted by the sentiment. They soaked up all they could during their two-month stay in late 2015 and are still processing interviews and materials they’ll use to develop a major work based on their experiences.

“Particle physics is the most challenging subject we’ve ever worked with because it’s so difficult to create a tangible idea about it, and that’s kind of what we are all about,” Jarman says, adding that they are fully up for the challenge.

Besides speaking with theorists and experimentalists, the artists explored interesting spaces at CERN and filmed both the construction of a new generation of magnets and a workshop where scientists were developing prototypes of instruments.

“We also dug around a lot in the archives,” Gerhardt says. “It’s such an amazing place and we only really touched the surface.”

But they have a lot of faith in the process based on past experiences working in scientific settings.

A 2007 work called “Magnetic Movie” was based on a similar stay at NASA’s Space Sciences Laboratories at UC Berkeley, where the artists captured the “secret lives of invisible magnetic fields.” In the film, brightly colored streams and blobs emanate from various rooms at the lab to the sounds of VLF (very low frequency) audio recordings and scientists talking.

“Are we observing a series of scientific experiments, the universe in flux or a documentary of a fictional world?” the artists ask on their website.

The piece won multiple awards at international film festivals. But, just as importantly to the artists, the scientists were excited about the way it celebrated their work, “even though it was removed from their context,” Jarman says.

Picturing the invisible

At the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, another group of artists has taken on the challenge of “visualizing the invisible.” Current artist-in-residence Ellen Sandor and her collaborative group (art)n have been brushing up on neutrinos and the machines that study them.

Their goal is to put their own cutting-edge technologies to use in scientifically accurate and “transcendent” artworks that tell the story of Fermilab’s past, present and future, the artist says.

Sandor is known as a pioneer of virtual photography. In the 1980s she invented a new medium called PHSColograms, 3-D images that combine photography, holography, sculpture and computer graphics to create what she calls “immersive” experiences.

The group will use PHSColograms, sculpture, 3D printing, virtual reality and projection mapping in a body of work that will eventually be on display at the lab.

“We want to tell the story with scientific visualization and also with abstraction,” Sandor says. “But all of the images will be exciting and artistic.”

The value of such rich digital visuals lies in what Sandor calls their “wow factor,” according to Sam Zeller, neutrino physicist and science advisor for the artist-in-residence program.

“We scientists don’t always know how to hit that mark, but she does,” Zeller says. “These three-dimensional immersive images come closer to the video game environment. If we want to capture the imagination of school-age children, we can’t just stand in front of a poster and talk anymore.”

As co-spokesperson of the MicroBooNE experiment, Zeller and team are collaborating with the artists on virtual reality visualizations of a new detector technology called a liquid-argon time projection chamber. The detector components, as well as the reactions it detects, are sealed inside a stainless steel vessel out of view.

“Because she strives for scientific accuracy, we can use Sandor’s art to help us explain how our detector works and demonstrate it to the public,” Zeller says.

Growing collaborations

According to Monica Bello, head of Arts@CERN, programs that combine art and science are a growing trend around the globe.

Organizations such as the Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science & Technology in London commission science-related art worldwide, and galleries like Kapelica Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, present contemporary art focused largely on science and technology.

US nonprofit Leonardo, The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, supports cross-disciplinary research and international artist and scientist residencies and events.

“However, programs of this kind founded within scientific institutions and with full support are still rare,” Bello says. Yet, many labs, including TRIUMF in Canada and INFN in Italy, host art exhibits, events or occasional artist residencies.

“While we don’t bring on full-time artists continually, TRIUMF offers a suite of initiatives that explore the intersection of art and science,” says Melissa Baluk, communications coordinator at TRIUMF.  “A great example is our ongoing partnership with artist Ingrid Koenig of Emily Carr University of Art + Design here in Vancouver. Koenig tailors some of her fine art classes to these intersections, for example, courses called ‘Black Holes and Other Transformations of Energy’ and ‘Quantum Entanglements: Manifestations in Practice.’”

The collaboration invites physicists to Koenig’s studio and draws her students to the lab. “It’s a wonderful partnership that allows all involved to discover news ways of thinking about the interconnections between art, science, and culture on a scale that works for us,” Baluk says.

Fermilab’s robust commitment to the arts reaches back to founding director, physicist and artist Robert Wilson. His sculptures are still exhibited around the lab, says Georgia Schwender, curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery.

Schwender finds that art-science programs attract the community through the unconventional pairing of subjects; events such as the international Art@CMS exhibit last year at Fermilab are very well received.

“It’s not just a physics or an art class,” she says. “People who might be a little afraid of the art or a little afraid of the science are less intimidated when you bring them together.”

Fermilab recently complemented its tradition of cultural engagement with a new artist residency, which began in 2014 with mixed media artist Lindsay Olson.

Art-physics interactions

Science as a subject for art has grown since Sandor’s first PHSCologram of the AIDS virus bloomed into a career of art-science collaborations.

“In the beginning it was almost practical. People were dying, and we wanted to bring everything to the surface and leave nothing hidden,” the artist says. “By the 1990s I realized that scientists were the rock stars of the future, and that’s even truer today.”

Sandor relishes being part of the scientific process. Drawing out the hidden beauty of particle physics to create something scientifically accurate and artistically stunning has been one of the most satisfying projects to date, she says.

Like Sandor, Semiconductor works with authentic scientific data, but they also emphasize how the language of science influences our experience of nature.

“The data represents something we can’t actually see, feel or touch,” Jarman says. “We reference the tools and processes of science and encourage the noise and the artifact to constantly remind people that it is man observing nature, but not actually how it is.”

Both Zeller and Alvarez-Gaume have personal interests in art and find value in the similarities and differences between the fields.

“Our objectives are very different, but our paths are similar,” Alvarez-Gaume says. “We experience inspiration, passion and frustration. We work through trial and error, failing most of the time.”

Like art, science is abstract but enjoyable, he adds. “Theoretical physicists will tell you there is beauty in science—a sense of awe. Art helps bring this to the surface. People are not interested in the details: They want to get a vision, a picture about why we think particle physics is interesting or exciting.”

Zeller finds her own inspiration in art-science collaborations.

“One of the things that surprised me the most in working with artists was the fact that they could articulate much better than I could what it is that my research achieves for humankind, and this reinvigorated me with excitement about my work,” she says.

Yet, one key difference between art and science speaks for the need to nurture their growing intersections, Alvarez-Gaume says.

“Science is inevitable; art is fragile. Without Einstein it may have taken many, many years, and many people working on it, but we still would have come up with his theories. If Beethoven died at age 5, we would not have the sonatas; art is not repeatable.”

And a world without art is not a world he would like to imagine.

04/12/16

Labs around the world open their doors to aesthetic creation.

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/art-draws-out-the-beauty-of-physics

 

Biology + Fashion = Green Chic Biomaterials

Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer on a mission — to reduce pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. In her lab, she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she’s using it to develop bold, color-fast fabric dye that cuts down on water waste and chemical runoff, compared with traditional dyes. And she isn’t alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future; think — “leather” made from mushrooms and superstrong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We’re not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. We’re going to build it with biology.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Natsai Audrey Chieza · Designer

Natsai Audrey Chieza is a trans-disciplinary design researcher whose fascinating work crosses boundaries between technology, biology, design and cultural studies.

This talk was presented at a TED Institute event given in partnership with BCG. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page. Read more about the TED Institute.

TAKE ACTION
LEARN
Learn more about Faber Futures, a creative R&D studio that conceptualizes, prototypes and evaluates the resilience of biomaterials.
FOLLOW
Follow Natsai Audrey Chieza on Twitter.
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Automata at the Exploratorium – Curious Contraptions: Small Machines of Love and Mystery

November 16–January 28, 2018
Explore small, surreal worlds at Curious Contraptions, an exhibition featuring charming, often hilarious mechanical sculptures known as automata. These whimsical machines are brought to life by intricate arrangements of simple, handmade mechanisms.

//players.brightcove.net/979328832001/NJgjituzjl_default/index.html?videoId=5616697493001

Meet the artists

//players.brightcove.net/979328832001/NJgjituzjl_default/index.html?videoId=5616668107001

Wild yeasts are brewing up batches of trendy beers

SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

Wild yeasts are brewing up batches of trendy beers

Using scavenged microbes for fermentation brings out the funky and sour flavors

flasks of yeast

MICROBE BREWS  Scientists are looking for a few good yeasts to enhance beer brewing. Each flask (above) contains the same liquid ingredients and a different kind of yeast.

Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers  on the market are intentionally brewed to be sour and funky. One of the hottest new ingredients in the beverages: Yeast scavenged from nature.

Unlike today’s usual brewing, which typically relies on carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast and rejects outsider microbes, some brewers are returning to beer’s roots. Those beginnings go back thousands of years and for most of that time, the microbes fermenting grain into alcohol were probably wild yeast and bacteria that fell into the brew. Now local microbes — in some cases with the help of scientists — are being welcomed back into breweries.

Wild and sour beers are a niche, but growing segment of the craft brewing market, says Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association. Last year, more than 245,000 cases of wild and sour beers were sold and sales are up 9 percent so far this year.

For geneticist Maitreya Dunham, wild, funky and sour beers aren’t just a market trend; they are ecological microcosms. Dunham’s lab group at the University of Washington in Seattle uses yeast to study genetic variation and evolution. She got interested in beer when her husband took up home brewing.

FUNGI FERMENTATION A strain of Pichia kudriavzevii yeast forms a biofilm at the interface of liquid and air in a lab flask. Researcher Matthew Bochman is testing many strains and species of wild yeast for their beer-brewing properties.

M. BOCHMAN

In the bottom of his five-gallon fermentation bucket, the yeast formed a thick mat that bubbled rapidly. “That’s not how we grow yeast in the lab,” Dunham said. She wanted to test a new technique her lab had developed to identify wild yeast in their natural habitat. And what better habitat to explore than a barrel of beer?Dunham teamed up with a brewer who made a wild beer with microbes from a warehouse. “Whatever is living in the old warehouse ended up in the beer,” she says. On a lab outing to the brewery, Dunham and her team took samples from beer barrels, marveling at the thriving mass of microbes gurgling inside. “You could see it being alive in there.”

DNA tests revealed that four kinds of bacteria and four kinds of yeast, including a newly identified hybrid yeast, lived in the wild brew, Dunham and colleagues reported June 15 on bioRxiv.org. The hybrid doesn’t have a name yet, because Dunham is still trying to identify its parents. One is Pichia membranifaciens, but the other is an unknown fungus P. membranifaciens is a food spoiler, and no lightweight: It can handle up to 11 percent alcohol.The other parent’s identity and attributes aren’t known, and that ID can take time. People have known for a long time that lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus is a hybrid, but scientists didn’t identify both of its parents until 2011.

As excited as Dunham is to find a hybrid yeast, she’s not sure that it will take beer brewing by storm. Her lab brewed a small batch of “science beer” with the hybrid yeast. The yeast didn’t make much ethanol or other flavor compounds. “It didn’t do much on its own,” she laments. But she hasn’t given up hope. Sometimes a yeast needs bacteria or other fungi to really shine. Maybe, she says, “when it’s mixed in with all its friends, it may bring something interesting to the party.”

A Facebook group of home brewers called Milk the Funk is about to help her find out. People from the group saw Dunham’s study on bioRxiv.org and volunteered to ferment beers with and without the hybrid. “I’m about to have a couple dozen people doing experiments for me,” Dunham says. “In fact, they’re going to send me free beer, although it may be weird beer.” (“Funk is one of the flavors they go for in these weirdo beers,” Dunham explains. Descriptions of funk encompass barnyard tastes and smells such as goat, horse blanket, urine, sweat, cheese and manure, as well as spicy notes and complex flavors of clove, smoke, Band-Aid, bacon and bitter, says fellow scientist and yeast hunter Matthew Bochman. “Funk basically covers anything ‘weird’ in beer that might be interesting or pleasant in small amounts but off-putting at higher concentrations.”)

LOCAL SOURCING Old Warehouse beer was brewed from microbes found in an old warehouse, including a new hybrid yeast.

IVAN LIACHKO

Bochman, a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington and a self-professed yeast whisperer, is also bagging new kinds of wild yeast. Bochman, who studies how cells keep their DNA intact, was a home brewer for years before moving to Indiana. He soon made friends with many local craft brewers there. In 2014, he met brewer Robert Caputo, who wanted to make an all-Indiana beer. There were farmers in the state growing hops and malt grains. Indiana water was plentiful. “The missing ingredient was the Indiana yeast,” Bochman says. Caputo asked Bochman to help him find the missing microbe. “So we went yeast hunting.”

That spring and summer, Bochman collected about 100 strains of yeast. “Whenever I was out and about I would grab something — a piece of a bark, a berry — bring it back to the lab and get yeast from it.” The microbes are everywhere, he says. “It’s hard not to find yeast.”

But not just any yeast will do. For beer brewing, he needed to find yeast that eat the sugar maltose in the wort — the liquid extracted from grain mash that will be fermented into beer. Yeasts used for brewing also have to be tolerant of hops, which make weak acids that might slow yeast growth. The yeast must be able to live in 4 to 5 percent alcohol. In addition, the microbes have “to smell and taste at least neutral, if not good,” Bochman said.

Not all yeast can pass the sniff test. For instance, eight strains of Saccharomyces paradoxus “all smelled and tasted heavily of adhesive bandages,” Bochman and colleagues reported August 7 on bioRxiv.org.

But in 2015, a batch of wild beer brewed in an open vat in a vacant lot in Indianapolis by Bochman’s friends at Black Acre Brewing Co., yielded a winner. Among the four species and six strains of yeast in the beer was a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain called YH166. S. cerevisiae is the species of yeast used to brew ales and wine and to make bread. YH166 lends beer an aroma that is “an amazing pineapple, guava something. Like an umbrella drink,” says Bochman.

He doesn’t yet know what chemicals the yeast makes to produce the tropical fruit scent. He puts his money on one of the sweet-smelling esters yeast use to attract the fruit flies that can give the fungi a lift — sort of a microbial version of a ride-hailing app.

HYBRID POWER A new hybrid yeast was found in a barrel of wild beer. Home brewers are testing the characteristics that the yeast, shown above growing in a lab dish, brings to beers.

IVAN LIACHKO

Sour beer brewers may also benefit from Bochman’s bio-prospecting. Sour beers generally contain lactic acid bacteria in addition to yeast. Brewers need separate equipment for brewing sour beers, because it’s difficult to get rid of all the bacteria in order to brew a nonsour beer.Among 54 species of yeasts Bochman and colleagues investigated, he found five strains that can make both alcohol and lactic acid to brew sour beers without troublesome bacteria. The researchers described the five sourpusses — Hanseniaspora vineaeLachancea fermentatiLachancea thermotoleransSchizosaccharomyces japonicus and Wickerhamomyces anomalus — July 28 on bioRxiv.org. Bochman and Caputo formed Wild Pitch Yeast, a company to sell the strains, in part, to fund his yeast research. The company supplied yeasts isolated from cobwebs, trees and other spots to brewers for making all-Indiana beers, dubbed “Bicentenni-ales” in honor of the state’s 200th anniversary.

Both Bochman and Dunham are relying on brewers to tell them how their newfound yeast perform in the real world. “The proof is in the brewing,” Bochman says. “You can do as many lab tests as you want, but you’re never going to know how something will act until you throw it into some wort and let it bubble away for a couple of weeks.”

The World’s First Album Composed and Produced by an AI Has Been Unveiled

A music album called IAMAI, which released on August 21st, is the first that’s entirely composed by an artificial intelligence.

A New Kind of Composer

“Break Free” is the first sone released in a new album by Taryn Southern. The song, indeed, the entire album, features an artist known as Amper—but what looks like a typical collaboration between artists is actually much more than that.

Taryn is no stranger to the music and entertainment industry. She is a singer and digital storyteller who has amassed more than 500 million views on YouTube, and she has over 450 thousand subscribers. On the other hand, Amper is making his debut…except he’s (it’s?) not a person.

Amper is an artificially intelligent music composer, producer, and performer. The AI was developed by a team of professional musicians and technology experts, and it’s the the very first AI to compose and produced an entire music album. The album is called I AM AI, and the featured single is set to release on August 21, 2017.

Check out the song “Break Free” in the video below:

As film composer Drew Silverstein, one of Amper’s founders, explained to TechCrunchAmper isn’t meant to act totally on its own, but was designed specifically to work in collaboration with human musicians: “One of our core beliefs as a company is that the future of music is going to be created in the collaboration between humans and AI. We want that collaborative experience to propel the creative process forward.”

That said, the team notes that, contrary to the other songs that have been released by AI composers, the chord structures and instrumentation of “Break Free” are entirely the work of Amper’s AI.

Not Just Music Production

Ultimately, Amper breaks the model followed by today’s music-making AIs. Usually, the original work done by the AI is largely reinterpreted by humans. This means that humans are really doing most of the legwork. As the team notes in their press release, “the process of releasing AI music has involved humans making significant manual changes—including alteration to chords and melodies—to the AI notation.”

That’s not the case with Amper. As previously noted, the chord structures and instrumentation is purely Amper’s; it just works with manual inputs from the human artist when it comes to style and overall rhythm.

And most notably, Amper can make music through machine learning in just seconds. Here’s an example of a song made by Amper, and re-arranged by Taryn.

Yet, while IAMAI may be the first album that’s entirely composed and produced by an AI, it’s not the first time an AI has displayed creativity in music or in other arts.

For example, an AI called Aiva has been taught to compose classical music, like how DeepBach was designed to create music inspired by Baroque artist Johann Sebastian Bach. With this in mind, the album is likely just the first step into a new era…an era in which humans will share artistry (and perhaps even compete creatively) with AI.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify what songs were made by Amper and rearranged by Taryn. 

Source: The World’s First Album Composed and Produced by an AI Has Been Unveiled

by Dom Galeon on August 21, 2017 

 Amper Music

 

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers is an Emmy-nominated web series and site from PBS’s NOVA. This is where you can learn about cutting-edge science and engineering, the amazing people who do that work, and the things they do when their lab coats come off – win beauty pageants, wrestle professionally, become rock stars and magicians, etc. Scroll down to explore the lives of some gifted and inspiring people who are changing our world… and having a great time while they’re doing it.      
A fun exploration of the multifaceted qualities of scientists. See more here!
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