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  • 03 Sep 2022
    Jason M. Allen was almost too nervous to enter his first art competition. Now, his award-winning image is sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist. In August, Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the emerging artist division’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition. His winning image, titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” (French for “Space Opera Theater”), was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce detailed images when fed written prompts. A $300 prize accompanied his win. “I’m fascinated by this imagery. I love it. And it think everyone should see it,” Allen, 39, told CNN Business in an interview on Friday.   Allen’s winning image looks like a bright, surreal cross between a Renaissance and steampunk painting. It’s one of three such images he entered in the competition. In total, 11 people entered 18 pieces of art in the same category in the emerging artist division. The definition for the category in which Allen competed states that digital art refers to works that use “digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” Allen stated that Midjourney was used to create his image when he entered the contest, he said. Midjourney is one of a growing number of such AI image generators — others include Google Research’s Imagen and OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. Anyone can use Midjourney via Discord, while DALL-E 2 requires an invitation, and Imagen has not been opened up to users outside Google. The newness of these tools, how they’re used to produce images, and, in some cases, the gatekeeping for access to some of the most powerful ones has led to debates about whether they can truly make art or assist humans in making art. This came into sharp focus for Allen not long after his win. Allen had posted excitedly about his win on Midjourney’s Discord server on August 25, along with pictures of his three entries; it went viral on Twitter days later, with many artists angered by Allen’s win because of his use of AI to create the image, as a story by Vice’s Motherboard reported earlier this week. “This sucks for the exact same reason we don’t let robots participate in the Olympics,” one Twitter user wrote. “This is the literal definition of ‘pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece’,” another Tweeted. “AI artwork is the ‘banana taped to the wall’ of the digital world now.” Yet while Allen didn’t use a paintbrush to create his winning piece, there was plenty of work involved, he said. “It’s not like you’re just smashing words together and winning competitions,” he said. You can feed a phrase like “an oil painting of an angry strawberry” to Midjourney and receive several images from the AI system within seconds, but Allen’s process wasn’t that simple. To get the final three images he entered in the competition, he said, took more than 80 hours. First, he said, he played around with phrasing that led Midjourney to generate images of women in frilly dresses and space helmets — he was trying to mash up Victorian-style costuming with space themes, he said. Over time, with many slight tweaks to his written prompt (such as to adjust lighting and color harmony), he created 900 iterations of what led to his final three images. He cleaned up those three images in Photoshop, such as by giving one of the female figures in his winning image a head with wavy, dark hair after Midjourney had rendered her headless. Then he ran the images through another software program called Gigapixel AI that can improve resolution and had the images printed on canvas at a local print shop. Allen is glad the debate over whether AI can be used to make art is capturing so much attention. “Rather than hating on the technology or the people behind it, we need to recognize that it’s a powerful tool and use it for good so we can all move forward rather than sulking about it,” Allen said. Cal Duran, an artist and art teacher who was one of the judges for the competition, said that while Allen’s piece included a mention of Midjourney, he didn’t realize that it was generated by AI when judging it. Still, he sticks by his decision to award it first place in its category, he said, calling it a “beautiful piece”. “I think there’s a lot involved in this piece and I think the AI technology may give more opportunities to people who may not find themselves artists in the conventional way,” he said. Allen won’t yet say what the text prompt was behind his winning image — he’s planning to keep it a secret until he publishes a larger related work that he hopes will be finished later this year.   Read Full News here
    379 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Jason M. Allen was almost too nervous to enter his first art competition. Now, his award-winning image is sparking controversy about whether art can be generated by a computer, and what, exactly, it means to be an artist. In August, Allen, a game designer who lives in Pueblo West, Colorado, won first place in the emerging artist division’s “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography” category at the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition. His winning image, titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” (French for “Space Opera Theater”), was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce detailed images when fed written prompts. A $300 prize accompanied his win. “I’m fascinated by this imagery. I love it. And it think everyone should see it,” Allen, 39, told CNN Business in an interview on Friday.   Allen’s winning image looks like a bright, surreal cross between a Renaissance and steampunk painting. It’s one of three such images he entered in the competition. In total, 11 people entered 18 pieces of art in the same category in the emerging artist division. The definition for the category in which Allen competed states that digital art refers to works that use “digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” Allen stated that Midjourney was used to create his image when he entered the contest, he said. Midjourney is one of a growing number of such AI image generators — others include Google Research’s Imagen and OpenAI’s DALL-E 2. Anyone can use Midjourney via Discord, while DALL-E 2 requires an invitation, and Imagen has not been opened up to users outside Google. The newness of these tools, how they’re used to produce images, and, in some cases, the gatekeeping for access to some of the most powerful ones has led to debates about whether they can truly make art or assist humans in making art. This came into sharp focus for Allen not long after his win. Allen had posted excitedly about his win on Midjourney’s Discord server on August 25, along with pictures of his three entries; it went viral on Twitter days later, with many artists angered by Allen’s win because of his use of AI to create the image, as a story by Vice’s Motherboard reported earlier this week. “This sucks for the exact same reason we don’t let robots participate in the Olympics,” one Twitter user wrote. “This is the literal definition of ‘pressed a few buttons to make a digital art piece’,” another Tweeted. “AI artwork is the ‘banana taped to the wall’ of the digital world now.” Yet while Allen didn’t use a paintbrush to create his winning piece, there was plenty of work involved, he said. “It’s not like you’re just smashing words together and winning competitions,” he said. You can feed a phrase like “an oil painting of an angry strawberry” to Midjourney and receive several images from the AI system within seconds, but Allen’s process wasn’t that simple. To get the final three images he entered in the competition, he said, took more than 80 hours. First, he said, he played around with phrasing that led Midjourney to generate images of women in frilly dresses and space helmets — he was trying to mash up Victorian-style costuming with space themes, he said. Over time, with many slight tweaks to his written prompt (such as to adjust lighting and color harmony), he created 900 iterations of what led to his final three images. He cleaned up those three images in Photoshop, such as by giving one of the female figures in his winning image a head with wavy, dark hair after Midjourney had rendered her headless. Then he ran the images through another software program called Gigapixel AI that can improve resolution and had the images printed on canvas at a local print shop. Allen is glad the debate over whether AI can be used to make art is capturing so much attention. “Rather than hating on the technology or the people behind it, we need to recognize that it’s a powerful tool and use it for good so we can all move forward rather than sulking about it,” Allen said. Cal Duran, an artist and art teacher who was one of the judges for the competition, said that while Allen’s piece included a mention of Midjourney, he didn’t realize that it was generated by AI when judging it. Still, he sticks by his decision to award it first place in its category, he said, calling it a “beautiful piece”. “I think there’s a lot involved in this piece and I think the AI technology may give more opportunities to people who may not find themselves artists in the conventional way,” he said. Allen won’t yet say what the text prompt was behind his winning image — he’s planning to keep it a secret until he publishes a larger related work that he hopes will be finished later this year.   Read Full News here
    Sep 03, 2022 379
  • 22 Aug 2021
    Seeing Jurassic Park left me gobsmacked, which is not a term I use often. The first dinosaur I remember seeing in 1993 was a brachiosaurus and I remember clutching my popcorn with wide eyes. I shouted with excited jibes as I walked out with my parents: "Can we really make dinosaurs viable again, Dad? Were we able to? Can we?” Reading Natasha Bernal's piece in Wired UK highlighting the growing field of biobanking animal cells brought back memories. Bernal answers the question of whether extinct animals could be brought back with a tentative yes as science has proven, for years, that "frozen cells of extinct animals can be used to revive species" - however, that is not what biobanking is all about. Cloning is intended to prevent further loss of species, rather than to bring back existing species. With a species' decline, its genetic pool shrinks, and frozen cells from extinct animals can potentially be used to prevent extreme inbreeding.  Tullis Mason is one of Bernal's case studies, a guy who wears shorts even while wearing a lab coat. The family farm in Shropshire, England, is home to Matthew's artificial insemination company for racehorses. However, on the side, he is also planning to save the animal kingdom by building the biggest biobank of animal cells in Europe. While Mason uses a device like a condom to hook up an elephant penis, Bernal describes the science and the ethics the article discusses as not always dignified. The dinosaurs may not be coming back to life any time soon, but with the help of biobanking, life may still find a way to thrive on this planet.  
    5672 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Seeing Jurassic Park left me gobsmacked, which is not a term I use often. The first dinosaur I remember seeing in 1993 was a brachiosaurus and I remember clutching my popcorn with wide eyes. I shouted with excited jibes as I walked out with my parents: "Can we really make dinosaurs viable again, Dad? Were we able to? Can we?” Reading Natasha Bernal's piece in Wired UK highlighting the growing field of biobanking animal cells brought back memories. Bernal answers the question of whether extinct animals could be brought back with a tentative yes as science has proven, for years, that "frozen cells of extinct animals can be used to revive species" - however, that is not what biobanking is all about. Cloning is intended to prevent further loss of species, rather than to bring back existing species. With a species' decline, its genetic pool shrinks, and frozen cells from extinct animals can potentially be used to prevent extreme inbreeding.  Tullis Mason is one of Bernal's case studies, a guy who wears shorts even while wearing a lab coat. The family farm in Shropshire, England, is home to Matthew's artificial insemination company for racehorses. However, on the side, he is also planning to save the animal kingdom by building the biggest biobank of animal cells in Europe. While Mason uses a device like a condom to hook up an elephant penis, Bernal describes the science and the ethics the article discusses as not always dignified. The dinosaurs may not be coming back to life any time soon, but with the help of biobanking, life may still find a way to thrive on this planet.  
    Aug 22, 2021 5672
  • 15 Aug 2021
    Chimps and bonobos signal "hello" and "goodbye" to one another when entering and exiting social encounters, a new study finds. In other words, these apes, which share about 99% of humans' DNA, politely greet and bid adieu to each other, just like humans do. Until now, this behavior hasn't been documented outside of the human species, the researchers said. "Our findings show that two species of great apes habitually go through the same process and stages as humans when establishing, executing and terminating joint actions" of hi and bye, the researchers wrote in the study, published online Aug. 11 in the journal iScience. Granted, the apes didn't just give their equivalent of a vocal "What's up?" during social visits. Rather, they had a slew of nonverbal cues. This happens with humans, too. For instance, when people approach to interact, they often orient their bodies toward each other, look at each other and display the intention to touch, hug or kiss before they start talking, the researchers wrote in the study. When leaving an interaction, people often turn their bodies away from each other. These behaviors amount to a "joint commitment," which is partly a feeling of obligation that we feel toward one another, but also a process of setting up a mutual interaction and agreeing when to end it, the researchers said. To determine whether chimpanzees and bonobos practice these behaviors, the researchers analyzed 1,242 interactions of apes at zoos, and they discovered that these primates often communicate with one another — often with gestures that include gazing at and touching each other, holding hands or butting heads — before and after encounters such as grooming or play. Of the two species, however, the bonobos were definitely the more polite ones, greeting each other more often than the chimps did, the researchers found. When beginning a joint interaction, bonobos exchanged entry signals and mutual gazes in 90% of cases, whereas chimps did so 69% of the time, the researchers found. During departures, bonobos also outshined chimps, displaying exit behaviors 92% of the time, whereas chimps showed it in 86% of interactions. The research team also investigated whether these behaviors changed when the apes interacted with close confidants. They found that the closer bonobos were with one another, the shorter the length of their entry and exit behaviors. This isn't so different from human behavior, said study lead researcher Raphaela Heesen, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of psychology at Durham University in the United Kingdom. "When you're interacting with a good friend, you're less likely to put in a lot of effort in communicating politely," Heesen said in a statement. In contrast, the length of the chimps' entry and exit behaviors was "unaffected by social bond strength," the researchers wrote in the study. This might be because in comparison with the hierarchical chimp society, bonobos are largely egalitarian, socially tolerant and emphasize friendships and alliances between females and mother-son relationships, the researchers said. As such, it makes sense that the bonobos' social relationships would have strong effects on their "hellos" and "goodbyes," the researchers wrote in the study. Meanwhile, there was no significant effect of rank difference on the presence of entry or exit phases in either ape species, they noted. The findings suggest that perhaps a common ancestor of apes and humans practiced similar behaviors, the researchers said.  "Behavior doesn't fossilize. You can't dig up bones to look at how behavior has evolved. But you can study our closest living relatives: great apes like chimpanzees and bonobos," Heesen said. "Whether this type of communication is present in other species will also be interesting to study in the future."
    5328 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Chimps and bonobos signal "hello" and "goodbye" to one another when entering and exiting social encounters, a new study finds. In other words, these apes, which share about 99% of humans' DNA, politely greet and bid adieu to each other, just like humans do. Until now, this behavior hasn't been documented outside of the human species, the researchers said. "Our findings show that two species of great apes habitually go through the same process and stages as humans when establishing, executing and terminating joint actions" of hi and bye, the researchers wrote in the study, published online Aug. 11 in the journal iScience. Granted, the apes didn't just give their equivalent of a vocal "What's up?" during social visits. Rather, they had a slew of nonverbal cues. This happens with humans, too. For instance, when people approach to interact, they often orient their bodies toward each other, look at each other and display the intention to touch, hug or kiss before they start talking, the researchers wrote in the study. When leaving an interaction, people often turn their bodies away from each other. These behaviors amount to a "joint commitment," which is partly a feeling of obligation that we feel toward one another, but also a process of setting up a mutual interaction and agreeing when to end it, the researchers said. To determine whether chimpanzees and bonobos practice these behaviors, the researchers analyzed 1,242 interactions of apes at zoos, and they discovered that these primates often communicate with one another — often with gestures that include gazing at and touching each other, holding hands or butting heads — before and after encounters such as grooming or play. Of the two species, however, the bonobos were definitely the more polite ones, greeting each other more often than the chimps did, the researchers found. When beginning a joint interaction, bonobos exchanged entry signals and mutual gazes in 90% of cases, whereas chimps did so 69% of the time, the researchers found. During departures, bonobos also outshined chimps, displaying exit behaviors 92% of the time, whereas chimps showed it in 86% of interactions. The research team also investigated whether these behaviors changed when the apes interacted with close confidants. They found that the closer bonobos were with one another, the shorter the length of their entry and exit behaviors. This isn't so different from human behavior, said study lead researcher Raphaela Heesen, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of psychology at Durham University in the United Kingdom. "When you're interacting with a good friend, you're less likely to put in a lot of effort in communicating politely," Heesen said in a statement. In contrast, the length of the chimps' entry and exit behaviors was "unaffected by social bond strength," the researchers wrote in the study. This might be because in comparison with the hierarchical chimp society, bonobos are largely egalitarian, socially tolerant and emphasize friendships and alliances between females and mother-son relationships, the researchers said. As such, it makes sense that the bonobos' social relationships would have strong effects on their "hellos" and "goodbyes," the researchers wrote in the study. Meanwhile, there was no significant effect of rank difference on the presence of entry or exit phases in either ape species, they noted. The findings suggest that perhaps a common ancestor of apes and humans practiced similar behaviors, the researchers said.  "Behavior doesn't fossilize. You can't dig up bones to look at how behavior has evolved. But you can study our closest living relatives: great apes like chimpanzees and bonobos," Heesen said. "Whether this type of communication is present in other species will also be interesting to study in the future."
    Aug 15, 2021 5328