Categories
Romance Science Fiction

Read Dark Class + Bonus Epilogue

Read Dark Class (Class 5, #5)

Waking up alone . . . Ellie Masters comes out of a coma to find herself the only inhabitant of an eerily empty moon station. She’s not on Earth any more, she’s not even in the right solar system. So when someone reaches out to her, tells her he’s her friend, she’s happy to believe it. The alternative is to be stuck alone with an enemy.

The hunt of his career . . . Grih Battle Center captain, Renn Sorvihn, has been chasing a rogue Tecran ship for over a month, convinced its captain is simply trying to delay his inevitable surrender and punishment. But when Renn follows the Tecran ship into an unchartered sector, and realises the Tecran have been working their way to a secret moon base for weeks, he suddenly understands things are most definitely not as they seem.

Caught in the crossfire . . . When the Tecran arrive, with the Grih hot on their heels, Ellie finds herself the catalyst for heightened danger to everyone. The Tecran see her as evidence of their military’s crimes, the Grih see her as a massive diplomatic complication, and her presence brings the whole confrontation up several thousand notches.

But Ellie isn’t alone, and her new friend has ways to help her. Time to outclass them all . . .

This was fun and fast-paced, and just what I was hoping for after a streak of bad reading picks. I also liked this better than book 4.

I loved Ellie and the little droids. I thought Diener did a good job conveying all the AIs as somewhat childlike but also capable, so their participation in the action didn’t feel inappropriate.

The romance was light in this one, more of a building attraction that they commit to following through on.

I really liked Ellie’s handling of the ending.

The bonus epilogue was a neat little addition, which I appreciated was from Ellie’s POV, but also thought was wise not to include in the main book. It was meatier than I expected, and gave a nice round-off to the series, tying up political loose ends, bringing all the couples together, and setting up the future for them.

Categories
Culture Technology

The aesthetics of the imaginary

Bookmarked Worshipping At The Altar of Artificial Intelligence by Jessica DeFino (The Unpublishable)

Lensa AI portraits are a modern iteration of an ancient drive: emulating our God(s) through beauty.

The immediate thing that came to mind is … this idea that modern “beauty” means being as divorced from your humanity as possible. Like, a complete separation from all that is human about you.

Beauty standards have always been about pursuing an impossible look by doing terrible things to our bodies.

My issue is this: As virtual avatars become blueprints for physical beauty … many people feel pressured to partake in physically and psychologically damaging products and procedures in order to adhere to that blueprint…

“Beauty” — in the standardized sense — is always a fantasy; it’s a fantasy of the future.

While AI art is popular, impossible, fantastical smoothness will be desirable, like HDR photos were hot shit for a while. Then it’ll overwhelm the market, and the look will be considered too fake and cheap, and we’ll have a resurgence of analog art (or at least the look of it). I already find art that’s too perfect unmoving. I like a touch of humanity visible in the work.

Read an article recently about how photography sparked the rise of abstract art, using Turner as an example, evolving from hyper realistic to emotive landscapes — but must’ve closed that tab 🤷‍♀️

Categories
Mental Health Society Technology

I don’t want this to be the future

Bookmarked HUMAN_FALLBACK | Laura Preston (n+1)

I WAS ONE OF ABOUT SIXTY operators. Most of us were poets and writers with MFAs, but there were also PhDs in performance studies and comparative literature, as well as a number of opera singers, another demographic evidently well suited for chatbot impersonation—or, I suppose, for impersonating a chatbot that’s impersonating a person.

Let alone the present.

Each day when we reported for work one of them would hail us with a camp counselor’s greeting. “Top of the morning, my lovely Brendas!” they would say. Below their message, a garden of reaction emojis would bloom.

I am tired of the exploitation and undervaluation of emotional labor.

In the same way that algorithms tell us what they think we want, and do so with such tenacity that the imagined wants become actual, these buildings seemed intent on shaping a tenant’s aspirations. They seemed to tell the tenant they should not care about regional particularities or the idea of a neighborhood. The tenant should not even desire a home in the traditional sense, with hand-me-down furniture, hand-built improvements, and layers of multigenerational memory. This tenant was a renter for life, whose workplace was their primary address, and who would nevertheless be unable to afford property for as long as they lived.

See also: Neutralizing reality to sell

Brenda, they claimed, said the same thing to everyone, which meant that she was incapable of bias. And yet she was awfully good at repelling certain people: people without smartphones or reliable internet, people unaccustomed to texting, people who couldn’t read or write in English, and people who needed to figure out if they could access a property before showing up for a tour. Brenda deflected them all with polite violence. She was not a concierge but a bouncer, one made all the more sinister for her congeniality and sparkle.

 

See also:

OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic (TIME)

But the working conditions of data labelers reveal a darker part of that picture: that for all its glamor, AI often relies on hidden human labor in the Global South that can often be damaging and exploitative.

The work’s traumatic nature eventually led Sama to cancel all its work for OpenAI in February 2022, eight months earlier than planned.

An OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement that the company did not issue any productivity targets, and that Sama was responsible for managing the payment and mental health provisions for employees.

🙄 Of course they’re not responsible for the work they hired out.

Conditions for vendors are so much worse than employees, so of course that’s the direction companies want to move: cheaper labor that they aren’t liable for. Ethics has no part in corporatism.

“They’re impressive, but ChatGPT and other generative models are not magic – they rely on massive supply chains of human labor and scraped data, much of which is unattributed and used without consent,” Andrew Strait, an AI ethicist, recently wrote on Twitter. “These are serious, foundational problems that I do not see OpenAI addressing.”

Categories
Art and Design House Technology

Neutralizing reality to sell

Liked this house may or may not be real (Tumblr)

In my travels as McMansion Hell, I’ve increasingly been confronted with houses full of furniture that isn’t real. This is known as virtual staging and it is to house staging as ChatGPT is to press release writing or DALL-E is to illustration.

The better this rendering technology gets, the more it will rely on these totally neutral spaces because everything matches and nothing is difficult. You are picking from a catalog of greige furniture to decorate greige rooms.

This is where things are heading: artifice on top of artifice on top of artifice. It’s cheap, it’s easy. But something about it feels like a violation.

If neutrality makes a house sell, then personality – at all – can only be seen as a detriment.

So who’s doing this? The answer is real estate itself aided by their allies in mass media who in turn are aided by the home renovation industry. In other words, it’s the people who sell home as a commodity. That desire to sell has for some time overpowered all other elements that make up a home or an apartment’s interiority to the point where we’ve ended up in a colorless slurry of real and unreal.

Emphasis mine.

Categories
Technology Writing

Bias is baked into the current state of AI fiction writing

Bookmarked Wordcraft Writers Workshop (g.co)

The Wordcraft Writers Workshop is a collaboration between Google’s PAIR and Magenta teams, and 13 professional writers. Together we explore the limits of co-writing with AI.

Interesting assessment of co-writing with an AI — it’s limited by its inability to perceive / remember context, a very generic, stereotyped and mainstream understanding of genre and stories, and mediocre prose without voice.

Allison Parrish described this as AI being inherently conservative. Because the training data is captured at a particular moment in time, and trained on language scraped from the internet, these models have a static representation of the world and no innate capacity to progress past the data’s biases, blind spots, and shortcomings.

The computer trying to insert a man into a lesbian love story 😬 We see time and again technology incorporating and reflecting real world biases. It feels like they think preventing bias is an afterthought, something that can be fixed after the fact. These tools will likely become quite important in the future.  Can someone integrate people of color and queer people into their design process upfront?

I am intrigued by co-design, and feel like this project could benefit from it: learning upfront from writers what their biggest struggles are and where they wish they could have assistance. This feels a bit like, “we made a thing that makes words, let’s have some actual writers try it out and see what they do with it 🤷‍♀️”

One thing that writers often need is bit part characters. With existing biases, will the AI suggest all straight white men to fill these roles? When they create characters of color will they be caricatures?

Again, the training set proves itself essential to the tool — and behind many of its failings.

I read Robin Sloan’s short story, which was a clever little work that capitalized on the program’s strengths while critiquing reliance on shortcuts (and maybe poking a bit of fun at GRRM).

Categories
Cool Science

Identifying whale individuals by their tail with machine learning

Watched
Categories
Art and Design The Internet

Want to listen: the ethics of AI podcast

Bookmarked Cortex #133: The Ethics of AI Art – Relay FM (Relay FM)

Grey explores collaboration again, Myke is getting ready for the Podcastathon. and they both discuss the ethics of AI art.

Categories
Art and Design

Directly comparing AI engines

Bookmarked

Categories
Society

Darth Vader’s voice immortal

Bookmarked An AI program voiced Darth Vader in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ so James Earl Jones could finally retire by Igor Bonifacic (engadget.com)

After 45 years of voicing one of the most iconic characters in cinema history, James Earl Jones has said goodbye to Darth Vader…That forced the company to ask itself how do you even replace Jones? The answer Disney eventually settled on, with the actor’s consent, involved an AI program.

Tally another one for “makes sense in this instance but ohhhhh the repercussions of this technology in unfettered capitalism” — ripe for exploitation of voice actors.

(Story idea: Little Mermaid cyberpunk retelling where she sells the license to her voice 🫠)

Categories
Art and Design Business

Link pairing: AI trained on stolen art

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HaveIBeenTrained.com to see if your work has been used to train an AI