How much longer can we hide behind the law of unintended consequences?

How much longer can we hide behind the law of unintended consequences?

There was an op-ed piece in the Times this morning bemoaning the current state of Artificial Intelligence research—the author, Gary Marcus, contends that the scale required for the leaps he envisions is beyond the capacity of any of the labs currently conducting the research. He sees a multinational CERN-scale initiative as holding the key to getting us over the next quantum hurdle. His stirring final paragraph: “An international A.I. mission focused on teaching machines to read could genuinely change the world for the better — the more so if it made A.I. a public good, rather than the property of a privileged few.”

Why? Why is teaching machines to read...

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An open letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA

An open letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA

Dear Mr Pruitt,

Congratulations on your confirmation as the head of the EPA. I have no doubt that you’ll labor as hard to work your wondrous ways on the environment of the United States as you did in your home state of Oklahoma, the capital of fracking-induced earthquakes. I’m fascinated to hear — as you so pertinently observed during your confirmation hearing — that “the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner”...

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Paris after the attack

Gallery: Paris >>

Neither of us have been to Paris in over thirty years. We were scheduled to go over Thanksgiving. Paris was attacked a week before we were supposed to leave—after about giving it thirty seconds of consideration, we decided to go anyway.

The week after an attack is fear and panic. The second week is defiance and the assertion of the life force. We were there for the second week. What a magnificent city, a celebration of life, and above all, Liberté, Egualité and Fraternity. Vive la France!

Earth & sky

Earth & sky

Gallery: Stormchasing >>

Few things could dislodge me from watching the World Cup; stormchasing is emphatically one of them. 

Stormchasing. It has multiple meanings. Mostly, of course, we associate it with the semi-crazies who take risks – some greater, some lesser – in their quest to see a tornado. But as a veteran of three chase weekends over the past 7 years (ie not a veteran at all), I have to observe that much time is spent being chased by the storm, and not the other way around...

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Ice

Gallery: Icy Black Brook >>

We went for a walk this afternoon - frozen. I shot some video and a couple of panoramas too. I suppose I’ll get around to them sometime. But I just love these. Not much to say, except that once again they’re shot with the iPhone...

Backyard worlds

©Jon-Marc Seimon 2010

©Jon-Marc Seimon 2010

Gallery: Backyard Worlds >>

Duston always talks about wanting – in her work – to see something she’s never seen before. To see something new. It gets harder as one gets older, and I’m in awe of people who’re able to change their point of view and find the unfamiliar in the familiar. I guess this is one of the reasons that I love traveling – when you travel, you’re literally seeing new things all the time. In this sense I suppose it can be seen as a substitute for imagination...

The picture above, and those in the accompanying gallery, are examples of how a technological intervention has given me the ability to see something new in the familiar. I’ll take help wherever I can get it. In this case, it’s my iPhone - yes, all these pictures were taken with the iPhone. I’m blown away. I’m using an app called Autostitch; it’s phenomenally easy to use - too easy! So the picture above is actually a composite of about 60 individual snaps that I took a couple of days ago during a beautiful little snowstorm, a few steps from the front door. 

I thought I knew this view. I see it every day from the deck of my office. I’ve walked that little path a thousand times, usually hauling stuff in the wheelbarrow down to the vegetable garden. Familiar. But here I’ve had to take it apart, to photograph little patches of it and then let the app put it all back together. And when it does, there’s a great serendipity to some of the decisions it makes. It makes - not me. The app looks for common elements - bit of tree trunk, the edge of the path - and decides how to patch to together, where to stretch and distort, where to darken and lighten. To smooth it out. Math at work. And as I learn it, I shoot to fit into its proclivities. That’s what I love about really simple, limited tools. The choices are basic and finite, but the possibilities are infinite. Hey - look at the lowly pencil!

My favorite bits are we deviate from “reality”. Look at that bright area to the left - I know and understand why it’s bright, but I don’t care! That’s not what it says to me. Rather, I can’t help seeing it as some sort of door, the entry to...to what exactly? I’m not sure. But I want to walk through it. It leads somewhere else, of that I’m convinced.

The same things with the other pictures in the gallery. The ghosting trees distending and extruding at their crowns, the bulging houses. 

Playing in Fundy

Playing in Fundy

Galleries: Grand Manan     :::      Messing around with Peter & Tim

Remember what it was like to have a playdate when you were a kid? The anticipation and excitement, perhaps mixed with a little dread? The warmup period when you were getting all the toys out, and maybe if it was at Marc Lurie’s house Mrs Lurie would bring out the junk food that was forbidden at home. But most of all, the play itself. Immersion, involvement, the suspension of time and that other reality called “real life”. Ah.

I’m fortunate to enjoy that kind of play at pretty regular interludes. For one thing, Duston is a true playmate – there are many episodes of play in our live together, and sometimes it feels like there’s altogether too much of it! And early last year, when Carsten Peter came to visit from Germany for 4days en route to a shoot in Kamchatka or some such (why on earth come via New York?) We both had new cameras, and ran around like maniacs testing them out(I was on the way to Peru a few weeks later). On the third night we sat in the living room turning the lights progressively lower until we were down to one candle, testing the low light capabilities (insane!) of the cameras. We were literally screaming with amazement and delight - I think that that’s when Dus turned to me and said “this has to be one of the longest playdates in history”.

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