Last week I attended the CIFAR and Amii Summer Institute on AI and Society. This brought together a group of faculty and new scholars to workshop ideas about AI, Ethics and Society. You can see conference notes here on philosophi.ca. Some of the interventions that struck me included:
- Rich Sutton talked about how AI is a way of trying to understand what it is to be human. He defined intelligence as the ability to achieve goals in the world. Reinforcement learning is a form of machine learning configured to achieve autonomous AI and is therefore more ambitious and harder, but also will get us closer to intelligence. RL uses value functions to map states to values; bots then try to maximize rewards (states that have value). It is a simplistic, but powerful idea about intelligence.
- Jason Millar talked about autonomous vehicles and how right now mobility systems like Google Maps have only one criteria for planning a route for you, namely time to get there. He asked what it would look like to have other criteria like how difficult the driving would be, or the best view, or the least bumps. He wants the mobility systems being developed to be open to different values. These systems will become part of our mobility infrastructure.
After a day of talks, during which I gave a talk about the history of discussions about autonomy, we had a day and a half of workshops where groups formed and developed things. I was part of a team that developed a critique of the EU Guidelines for Trustworthy AI.
I am back home after two conferences, first the CHCI conference in Dublin and then DH 2019 in Utrecht.
The CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes) had its annual conference in Dublin, Ireland. The Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (which I direct) is a member. The conference was held at Trinity College and featured some extraordinary talks including a Silent Shakespeare performance talk by Judith Buchanan. My (flawed) conference notes are here.
Next I was in Utrecht, Holland for DH 2019. As always, my typo-ridden conference notes are at philosophi.ca : DH 2019. This was the biggest DH ever with over 1000 participants. There was a real feel of the explosion of the field and all its directions. Before the conference proper I attended a workshop on DLS (Digital Literary Stylistics) Tool Criticism: Use Cases. I was asked to give a paper at the workshop and presented on Zombies as Tools: Revivification in Computer Assisted Interpretation. Revivification was my variant on replication as inspired by the Silents Shakespeare performances reviving silent movies. I also gave a short paper in a panel organized by Micki Kaufman on XR in DH: Extended Reality in the Digital Humanities. My short paper looked at Campus Mysteries: Playing with Serious Augmented Reality Games.
The conference was closed by a great keynote by Johanna Drucker on Complexity and Sustainability.
hug + hack = infinity
At one of the talks at CGSA 2019 I learned about WINDOWS93. It is an emulation of a non-existant early version of Windows that looks a bit like Windows 95, but has all sorts of joke applications in it.
This and other examples of interactive games that mimic everyday software was presented by Benjamin Unterman in a paper titled, “Games Imitating Life.” Unterman theorized that there are three types of such games:
- Realistic interface designs where a game pretends to be a real interface like that of a cell phone, but you end up messaging fictional people.
- Complicit designs use realistic interfaces to bring people into a satire or joke interactive. I think Windows93 would be such an example.
- Antagonistic designs pretend to be some productivity tool, but they subvert the interface as you play.
My conference notes for Congress 2019 are here.
Last week we held a conference on AI, Ethics and Society at the University of Alberta. As I often do, I kept conference notes at: philosophi.ca : AI Ethics And Society.
The conference was opened by Reuben Quinn whose grandfather signed Treaty 6. He challenged us to think about what labels and labelling mean. Later Kim Tallbear challenged us to think about how we want the encounter with other intelligences to go. We don’t have a good track record of encountering the other and respecting intelligence. Now is the time to think about our positionality and to develop protocols for encounters. We should also be open to different forms of intelligence, not just ours.
The Literature Club is full of cute girls! Will you write the way into their heart?
Dr. Ensslin gave a great short survey of digital fiction includ the Doki Doki Literature Club! (DDLC) at the Dyscorpia symposium. DDLC is a visual novel created in Ren’Py by Team Salvato that plays with the genre. As you play the game, which starts as a fairly typical dating game, it first turns into a horror game and then begins to get hacked by one of the characters who wants your attention. The character, it turns out, has both encouraged some of the other girls (in the Literature Club) to commit suicide, but they edits them out of the game itself. At the end of the game she has a lengthy face-to-face with you breaking the fourth wall of the screen.
Like most visual novels, it can be excruciating advancing through lots of text to get to the point where things change, but eventually you will notice glitches which makes things more interesting. I found myself paying attention to the text more as the glitches drew attention to the script. (The script itself is even mentioned in the game.)
DDLC initially mimics the Japanese visual novel genre, down to the graphics, but eventually the script veers off. It was well received in game circles winning a number of prizes.
Isabelle Van Grimde gave the opening talk at Dyscorpia on her work, including projects like The Body in Question(s). In another project Les Gestes, she collaborated with the McGill IDMIL lab who developed digital musical instruments for the dancers to wear and dance/play.
Van Grimde’s company Corps Secrets has the challenge of creating dances that can travel which means that the technologies/instruments have to . They use intergenerational casts (the elderly or children.) They are now working with sensors more than instruments so the dancers are free of equipment.
The Unpredictability of Gameplay explores the many forms of unpredictability in games and proposes a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding and categorizing non-deterministic game mechanics.
Today we celebrated the publication by Bloomsbury of Mark R. Johnson’s The Unpredictability of Gameplay.Johnson proposes a typology of unpredictability:
- Randomness (initial conditions of the game)
- Chance (during play)
- Luck (in/ability for player to affect final outcome)
- Instability (outside the game)
Mark’s book nicely connects gaming and gambling. It helps us understand the way microgames in larger videogames can become a form of gambling. He looks at loot boxes where players are encouraged to spend small amounts of money over and over to get virtual goods inside a larger game. In Japan Kompu Gacha (or complete gacha) was eventually discouraged by the government because too many people were effectively gambling in their attempts to collect complete sets of virtual goods by paying over and over to open loot boxes. Compu gacha and other forms of loot boxes in videogames are a way for developers to monetize a game, but they also create metagae contexts that are, in effect, gambling. What is interesting, is that people don’t think of videogames as sites for gambling. One wants to say that this is another (micro) form of casino capitalism.
Halloween Costume Names Generated by a Weird AI
Jingwei, a bright digital humanities student working as a research assistant, has been playing with generative AI approaches from aiweirdness.com – Letting neural networks be weird. Janelle Shane has made neural networks funny by using the to generate things like New My Little Ponies. Jingwei scraped titles of digital humanities conferences from various conference sites and trained and generated new titles just waiting to be proposed as papers:
The Catalogue of the Cultural Heritage Parts
Automatic European Pathworks and Indexte Corpus and Mullisian Descriptions
Minimal Intellectual tools and Actorical Normiels: The Case study of the Digital Humanities Classics
Automatic European Periodical Mexico: The Case of the Digital Hour
TEIviv Industics – Representation dans le perfect textbook
Conceptions of the Digital Homer Centre
Preserving Critical Computational App thinking in DH Languages
DH Potential Works: US Work Film Translation Science
Translation Text Mining and GiS 2.0
DH Facilitating the RIATI of the Digital Scholar
Shape Comparing Data Creating and Scholarly Edition
DH Federation of the Digital Humanities: The Network in the Halleni building and Web Study of Digital Humanities in the Hid-Cloudy
The First Web Study of Build: A “Digitie-Game as the Moreliency of the Digital Humanities: The Case study of the Digital Hour: The Scale Text Story Minimalism: the Case of Public Australian Recognition Translation and Puradopase
The Computational Text of Contemporary Corpora
The Social Network of Linguosation in Data Washingtone
Designing formation of Data visualization
The Computational Text of Context: The Case of the World War and Athngr across Theory
The Film Translation Text Center: The Context of the Cultural Hermental Peripherents
The Social Infrastructure PPA: Artificial Data In a Digital Harl to Mexquise (1950-1936)
EMO Artificial Contributions of the Hauth Past Works of Warla Management Infriction
DAARRhK Platform for Data
Automatic Digital Harlocator and Scholar
Complex Networks of Computational Corpus
IMPArative Mining Trail with DH Portal
Pursour Auchese of the Social Flowchart of European Nation
The Stefanopology: The Digital Humanities
Today I am attending a conference on Russian Policy and the War in Ukraine’s Donbas – Options for the Future and Canadian Responses. The Kule Institute for Advanced Study is a co-sponsor of the conference as is the Defence Engagement Program of the Department of National Defence. The conference is looking closely at what happened in Donbas how different sides have presented the conflict which has been woven into memorialization of WWW II and before. I was struck by how Russian propaganda continues to delegitimize Ukrainian independence by painting Ukrainian nationalism as an extension of the fascism they fought in WWW II. History is being used and reused on both sides.
Update: We have now put up a video archive of the talks of the conference. Enjoy!
Eric Hayot at the Novel Worlds conference showed a slide with an image of Debbie Harry of Blondie painted on the Amiga by Andy Warhol. There is a video of Warhol painting on the Amiga at the premiere of the Commodore Amiga.
This is discussed in a documentary The Invisible Photograph: Part 2 (Trapped). The documentary also talks about recovering other images from Warhol’s original Amiga that was preserved by the The Andy Warhol Museum.
Technologizer has a nice retrospective on the Amiga, Amiga: 25 Years Later. I remember when it came out in 1985. I had a Mac by then, but was intrigued by the colour Amiga and the video work people were doing with it.