Artificial Creativity

Computer scientists are closing in on the next frontier in artificial intelligence — machines that can create. So, what is the Future of Creativity. While the ability of AI to create art of any kind and be creative is still in its nascency, the gap between the art created by most people and the art created by AI is rapidly closing.  Can AI supersede humans even in this stronghold of humanity?
Software designers and computer scientists in this episode argue that we need to think about our own creative process and maybe incorporate certain elements of AI creativity within our creative process. Just like AI aided chess player teams trump just AI teams or just human teams, the art created by the combination of AI and human creativity might surpass art created by AI’s or purely humans. Artists who have worked with the current implementations of AI are not too impressed with the result.
Some useful tips on how to write a bestseller novel. Provided to you by AI “Bestseller Code”.
Photo: Charlotte Moorman performing in 1971. Credit Takahiko Iimura

To the Best of Our Knowledge | 15th January 2017

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The Kansas Experiment

What happens when a state drastically cuts taxes. Sam Brownback did it in Kansas. As a Republican governor of a Republican state, he was going to enact the dream. Taxes on small businesses went down to zero. Personal income taxes went down. The tax rate on the highest income bracket went down about 25 percent. Brownback promised prosperous times for the state once government got out of the way. One goal of the tax cuts was to get more money to flow back into the pockets of hard-working, job-creating Kansans. The other was to trim back government spending.
After these tax cuts, Kansas had $600 million less revenue than before. So, to balance the budget, the government tapped into the highway budget. Towns and cities trimmed back, too. Marquette, Kansas saw its only school close in 2014. Now, the 65 kids who once attended Marquette Elementary travel 10 to 20 miles out of town every day to go to class.
Sam Brownback has said that he’s sticking to his tax plan. But the state legislature has recently introduced a bill to roll back some of his tax cuts.

Planet Money | 11th January 2017

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I’m Just Not Myself

Buddhist thought holds that at core there is no real self. This strikes the western ear as thoroughly counterintuitive—after all, we have memories, bodies, thoughts and other forms of self continuity. Scottish sage David Hume had no qualms about such a radical thought, and his work points to the real possibility of integrating eastern and western insights. The Philosopher’s Zone talks with two philosophers at the intersection of self and mind.
Illustration: Hotei watching a cock fighting : God of Good Fortune : Miyamoto Musashi, (1504-1645)

The Philosopher’s Zone | 15th January 2017

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Keith Frankish on Conscious Thought

Consciousness, as usually conceived, is illusory, argues Keith Frankish. He calls this view illusionism. Humans have learned a variety of subtle but powerful tricks — strategies of self-control, self-manipulation, and extended problem-solving — which vastly extend the power of our biological brains and give us the sense of having a unified, conscious mind. It is a virtual system, constituted by these activities — a trick of the biological mind.
According to illusionists, our sense that it is like something to undergo conscious experiences is due to the fact that we systematically misrepresent them (or, on some versions, their objects) as having phenomenal properties.
Daniel Dennett is supposedly nodding his approval.

Philosophy Bites | 14th January 2017

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Water Wars

Fresh water, the most precious resource, is disappearing. The world’s largest food company describes the lack of water as a looming catastrophe that is expected to play out in the coming decades. In this episode, we look at what’s happening in places that already are running out of water.
First we go the Middle East, where water shortages have led to fighting in Yemen. The country is locked in a civil war that’s killed more than 10,000 people. From the outside, it looks like a sectarian conflict, but we explore the root causes of what may be the world’s first water war.
Closer to home, we check out what’s going on in California, where farmers are pumping up enormous amounts of groundwater to keep their crops alive. This is taking a serious toll on the land, which has been deflating steadily – like a leaky air mattress. Reporter Nathan Halverson takes us to the fastest-sinking town in America and talks with scientists, farmers and residents about what this means for some of the nation’s most productive farmland.
One of the biggest consumers of water is meat production. It takes a staggering amount of water to produce just a single hamburger patty. But what if there were a way to re-create the burger using a fraction of the water? We go inside the new world of lab-made alternative meats, where cutting-edge science is trying to create a less-thirsty hamburger without sacrificing taste.
Photo by Quinn Kelley

Reveal | 14th January 2017

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How and why trees ‘talk’ to each other and recognize their offspring. What if traffic flowed through our streets as smoothly and efficiently as blood flows through our veins? How can someone hack your pacemaker, compromise cars, smartphones and medical devices? Whats the number of people you can have meaningful relationships with?
Four topics, four experts tackle an aspect of connectivity.
“Mother trees colonize their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings,” tells Suzanne Simard
Transportation geek Wanis Kabbaj thinks we can find inspiration in the genius of our biology to design the transit systems of the future. Furthermore, concepts like modular, detachable buses, flying taxis and networks of suspended magnetic pods could help make the dream of a dynamic, driverless world into a reality.
All your devices can be hacked, and we are living in the honeymoon phase of the internet, claims Avi Rubin, a computer science professor. In a very near future massive internet hacks and blackouts might happen more and more often. Online security guys are not going to run out of wholes to patch any time soon.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes the evolutionary structure of social networks limits us to 150 meaningful relationships at a time, the size of an English village from the times of William the Conqueror – Facebook or no Facebook. He himself prefers a chat and a pint in the pub.
Photo: The Convair Model 118 ConvAirCar (also known as the Hall Flying Automobile) was a prototype flying car of which two were built, 1947

TED Radio Hour | 13th January 2017

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The Man Who Sued Iran

One day in the Gaza Strip a suicide bomber blew a bus up. Steve Flatow’s daughter, twenty-year-old Alisa Flatow, who was studying abroad in Israel, died in the attack. The bomber was part of a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. State Department believed was funded by Iran. Flatow decided to sue Iran for monetary damages. But under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, U.S. citizens couldn’t sue countries. That didn’t stop Flatow. He called up Steve Perles, an international reparations lawyer. The two knocked on hundreds of doors on Capitol Hill, pitching the idea that if Flatow won his suit, and won it big, maybe they could make it too expensive for Iran to sponsor terror groups.
It worked. And in 1996, President Bill Clinton changed the law to say that an American could sue certain countries in terrorism cases. So they sued.
Today on the show, how Steve Flatow’s quest for justice put him up against both Iran and his own government—and how he shook up assumptions about international diplomacy.
Photo: Banksy’s artwork at the separation wall, Bethlehem

Planet Money | 13th January 2017

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Is Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives?

The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age. And yet more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have. The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. You’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads | 13th January 2017

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Anil Dash on Tech’s Moral Reckoning

“We fancy ourselves outlaws while we shape laws, and consider ourselves disruptive without sufficient consideration for the people and institutions we disrupt,” writes Anil Dash, tech entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley influencer, about the industry he helped create. “I think we’re really going to face a reckoning as the economic impacts of that get stronger, as the cultural impacts of that get stronger. The idea that the halo around tech as “the good guys” is gonna sustain seems increasingly unlikely,” and other thoughtful observations in this episode.

On Being with Krista Tippett | 12th january 2017

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Didn’t We Solve This One?

Sarah, a former Iraqi housewife, worked with US forces in Baghdad. She gathered key information that became intel for the Alpha Company 177. At the time, it was a confusing churn of different militias who were trying to control the area. And the only way for the Americans to fight was to get tips from informants, ordinary local people who were frightened of the militias, of the Americans. Sarah’s job was to try to convince these frightened people to talk, and she was good at it.
Fast forward, Sarah and her two sons are trapped in Jordan. Her husband has been killed by militias in retribution for her collaboration with the foreign invaders. Furthermore, she had been accused, anonymously, by another Iraqi of betraying the Americans she was working with, and has spent months in prisons. All her savings have been stolen from a camp where she’d worked with the Americans.
Even though the case against her had been dismissed and Sarah had an exemplary work record, she had been blacklisted. The anonymous accusations that a judge had thrown out for lack of evidence and that she herself has never seen to this day became part of her US Defense Department file. It outweighed all the letters of praise and support signed by US military people who had worked and lived with Sarah for months. So she is no longer allowed to work for the US, and her visa to America has been denied.
“The moment happened when Sarah was interpreting for us during an interview with a former Sons of Iraq fighter. He pulled a tissue from a box next to him to make a point. Sarah: “[CRYING] I’m sorry. He says the American forces use us like a tissue. I feel the same thing. I’m sorry.””
Photo by Hadi Mizban: Iraqi children look at a U.S. Army soldier during a routine patrol in Baghdad

This American Life | 6th January 2017

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