Tag: Stanley Kubrick

A week in AI: Tay goes rogue and HAL revives

Saturday, 26 March, 2016 1 Comment

Less than a day after she joined Twitter, Tay, Microsoft’s colourful Artificial Intelligence bot, was taken down this week for becoming a Hitler-loving, feminist-bashing, racist monster. Machine learning software, clearly, is not ready for prime time.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, at the IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, Helen Bear, a computer scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and her colleague Richard Harvey, presented a lip-reading algorithm that improves a computer’s ability to differentiate between sounds — such as p, b and m — that all look similar on lips. Machine learning software that reliably reads lips could be used to solve crime; it could help people who go deaf later in life, and it could also be used for better film dubbing. What’s not to like? Wait, did someone say HAL?

In Stanley Kubrick’s superb 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000 is an artificial general intelligence computer that manages the Discovery One spacecraft mission, but when astronauts Bowman and Poole realize that it has made a mistake they go into a pod to discuss what to do. They turn off the communications systems and test that HAL doesn’t follow their orders to make sure it isn’t listening to them. HAL is watching through the pod window, however, and reads their lips. The results are fatal and some have come to interpret this as a warning about the potential of AI to go rogue. Like Tay did.


Barry Lyndon

Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 0 Comments

On this day in 1844, the English writer William Makepeace Thackeray completed his novel “Barry Lyndon,” a comic-tragic story about the vertiginous rise and fall of an Irish adventurer in 18th-century Europe.

Synopsis: Redmond Barry of Bally Barry flees to Dublin after a duel with an English officer. He falls in with bad company, loses all his money and, pursued by creditors, enlists in a Royal regiment headed for Germany during the Seven Years’ War. Hilarious complications ensue and the “hero” finds himself in the company of the enemy:

“At our table at the inn there was a Prussian officer who treated me with great civility, and asked me a thousand questions about England; which I answered as best I might. But this best, I am bound to say, was bad enough. I knew nothing about England, and the Court, and the noble families there; but, led away by the vaingloriousness of youth (and a propensity which I possessed in my early days, but of which I have long since corrected myself, to boast and talk in a manner not altogether consonant with truth), I invented a thousand stories which I told him; described the King and the Ministers to him, said the British Ambassador at Berlin was my uncle, and promised my acquaintance a letter of recommendation to him. When the officer asked me my uncle’s name, I was not able to give him the real name, and so said his name was O’Grady: it is as good a name as any other, and those of Kilballyowen, County Cork, are as good a family as any in the world, as I have heard.”

When a stranger travelling under Austrian protection arrives in Berlin, Redmond is asked to spy on him. This older man, Chevalier de Balibari (Bally Barry) is, in fact, his uncle, who disappeared many years ago. He smuggles his nephew out of Prussia and the two Irishmen wander around Europe, gambling and living by their wits.

Thinking that there must be easier ways of making money, Redmond seduces the wealthy and beautiful Countess of Lyndon. He moves into Hackton Castle, which he has completely remodelled at great expense, and spends his new bride’s wealth freely. The novel ends with (Redmond) Barry Lyndon lodged in Fleet Prison, where he spends the last nineteen years of his life, eventually dying of alcoholism-related illness.

Stanley Kubrick’s elegant, elegiac film of the book is a masterpiece and a perfect antidote to most of what passes today as romantic costume drama.


Bartosz Kosowski illustrates

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015 0 Comments

“I am an illustrator working in Lodz, Poland” is the very simple “About” statement of Bartosz Kosowski. Such modesty. The the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles has just awarded him its Gold Medal for his “Lolita” poster, which was created for September’s Spoke Art Stanley Kubrick exhibition in San Francisco.

Talking of last September, on the 24th of that month, Bartosz Kosowski posted the following entry in his blog: “Yesterday I learned that my portrait of Putin was used without my knowledge and permission by a Russian nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom. First, it is a blatant copyright infringement and there is no excuse for that. Second, I would never allow any nationalist media to use my illustration!” When he positioned their website graphic beside his mock-up of a TIME cover, Kosowski added, “Actually they did award him this title a few years back (sic!).”

Person of the Year

Note: The TIME Magazine Person of the Year 2007 was Vladimir Putin: “His final year as Russia’s President has been his most successful yet. At home, he secured his political future. Abroad, he expanded his outsize — if not always benign — influence on global affairs.” Bartosz Kosowski’s mock-up captures perfectly the man behind the mask, at home and abroad.