SENIOR NUSRA COMMANDER KILLED
Abu Hammam al-Shami, a senior commander of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda branch operating in Syria, was killed by a Syrian government airstrike in the Idlib province, both the terrorist organization and state media have confirmed. Shami, who held the title of general military commander, was apparently meeting with other commanders when he was struck. According to an Al Jazeera correspondent, his death is a “huge blow” to the organization.
ON THIS DAY
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On March 6, 1899, Bayer patented the aspirin. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
KNIFE ATTACK IN CHINA
At least nine people were wounded early today in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou as attackers slashed and stabbed people at a railway station during morning rush hour. The police shot dead one of the assailants and arrested another, Reuters reports. The identity and the motives of the attackers are unclear. Last year, 29 people were killed and 140 wounded in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming as a group of eight people believed to be Uyghur Muslims carried out a similar assault.
As Le Temps’ Nic Ulmi writes, a Sumerian priestess known as Enheduanna, who lived in Mesopotamia in 2300 BC, is the first known writer of love songs. And they were steamy. “Through the singer’s voice, the goddess celebrated the ‘rising cedar’ between the king’s thighs, but she was even more eloquent when it came to describing her own intimate place, which she compared to a horn, a barque for the skies, a crescent moon, a fallow land about which she wondered. ‘Who will plow it for me?’”
Read the full article, Priestess And Slaves: A 4,000-Year History Of Love Songs.
ISIS BULLDOZES ANCIENT PALACE
ISIS terrorists have begun using a bulldozer to destroy the 3,000-year-old city of Nimrud, near Mosul in northern Iraq. Al Arabiya quoted an official of the Iraqi tourism and antiquities ministry as saying the destruction began after noon prayers Thursday. This comes a week after ISIS released a video showing jihadists equipped with sledgehammers destroying precious ancient artefacts in a Mosul museum. The ancient city of Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century B.C., is known as a jewel of the Assyrian era.
CAR HITS JERUSALEM PEDESTRIANS
Photo above: Omer Messinger/ZUMA
At least five people were injured this morning in central Jerusalem as a driver rammed his car into a group of pedestrians and attempted to stab them before he was shot and killed by a security guard, The Jerusalem Post reports. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri described the incident as a “terrorist attack.” Four female border police officers were among the victims, who are in stable condition. The daily Haaretz reports there are seven victims. Similar attacks nearby left three people dead and a dozen wounded in late 2014.
“They killed Nisman.” Although once would probably have been enough to earn top billing in Clarín’s Thursday edition, Argentine Judge Arroyo Salgado repeated this statement three times during a dramatic press conference Thursday. She was describing the mysterious death of state prosecutor Alberto Nisman, her ex-husband and the father of her two daughters who was found dead in his luxury apartment Jan. 18 just before he was to appear before Congress to publicly accuse President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of helping to cover up Iranian involvement in a Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires. The 1994 attack killed 85 people. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.
In Spain, 2.5 independent bookshops close their doors every day, according to the Spanish daily El País. A total of 912 stores shuttered in 2014, while only 226 were opened.
KREMLIN CRITIC NAVALNY RELEASED
Prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny walked out of a Moscow detention center today, a week after fellow opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered in what his allies say was a political killing aimed at intimidating them, Reuters reports.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
HARRISON FORD WILL STRIKE BACK
American actor Harrison Ford is banged up, but his injuries are not life-threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery after the plane he was piloting crashed on a golf course in Santa Monica, the actor’s publicist has said in a statement.
SEPP BLATTER, HUMANITARIAN
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has asked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to end the country’s ban on women attending soccer matches in stadiums, describing the situation as “intolerable.” That would be certainly be a good step, but Iran first might want to stop stoning women to death.
When the world gets closer, we help you see farther
Ai-Da is touted as the first bonafide robot artist. But should we consider her paintings and poetry original or creative? Is this even art at all?
Ai-Da sits behind a desk, paintbrush in hand. She looks up at the person posing for her, and then back down as she dabs another blob of paint onto the canvas. A lifelike portrait is taking shape. If you didn’t know a robot produced it, this portrait could pass as the work of a human artist.
Ai-Da is touted as the “first robot to paint like an artist”, and an exhibition of her work called Leaping into the Metaverse opened at the Venice Biennale.
Ai-Da produces portraits of sitting subjects using a robotic hand attached to her lifelike feminine figure. She’s also able to talk, giving detailed answers to questions about her artistic process and attitudes towards technology. She even gave a TEDx talk about “The Intersection of Art and AI” (artificial intelligence) in Oxford a few years ago. While the words she speaks are programmed, Ai-Da’s creators have also been experimenting with having her write and perform her own poetry.
But how are we to interpret Ai-Da’s output? Should we consider her paintings and poetry original or creative? Are these works actually art?
Subjectivity is truth
What discussions about AI and creativity often overlook is the fact that creativity is not an absolute quality that can be defined, measured and reproduced objectively. When we describe an object – for instance, a child’s drawing – as being creative, we project our own assumptions about culture onto it.
It is always us – humans – who decide if what AI has created is art.
Indeed, art never exists in isolation. It always needs someone to give it “art” status. And the criteria for whether you think something is art is informed by both your individual expectations and broader cultural conceptions.
If we extend this line of thinking to AI, it follows that no AI application or robot can objectively be “creative”. It is always us – humans – who decide if what AI has created is art.
In our recent research, we propose the concept of the “Lovelace effect” to refer to when and how machines such as robots and AI are seen as original and creative. The Lovelace effect – named after the 19th century mathematician often called the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace – shifts the focus from the technological capabilities of machines to the reactions and perceptions of those machines by humans.
The programmer of an AI application or the designer of a robot does not just use technical means to make the public see their machine as creative. This also happens through presentation: how, where and why we interact with a technology; how we talk about that technology; and where we feel that technology fits in our personal and cultural contexts.
Ai-Da standing next to her self-portrait in exhibition "Ai-Da: Portrait of the Robot."
Eye of the beholder
Our reception of Ai-Da is, in fact, informed by various cues that suggest her “human” and “artist” status. For example, Ai-Da’s robotic figure looks much like a human – she’s even called a “she”, with a feminine-sounding name that not-so-subtly suggests an Ada Lovelace influence.
This femininity is further asserted by the blunt bob that frames her face (although she has sported some other funky hairstyles in the past), perfectly preened eyebrows and painted lips. Indeed, Ai-Da looks much like the quirky title character of the 2001 film Amélie. This is a woman we have seen before, either in film or our everyday lives.
Ai-Da also wears conventionally “artsy” clothing, including overalls, mixed fabric patterns and eccentric cuts. In these outfits, she produces paintings that look like a human could have made them, and which are sometimes framed and displayed among human work.
Ai-Da produces paintings that look like a human could have made them.
We also talk about her as we would a human artist. An article in the Guardian, for example, gives a shout-out to “the world premier of her solo exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale”. If we didn’t know that Ai-Da was a robot, we could easily be led to appreciate her work as we would that of any other artist.
Some may see robot-produced paintings as coming from creative computers, while others may be more sceptical, given the fact that robots act on clear human instructions. In any case, attributions of creativity never depend on technical configurations alone – no computer is objectively creative. Rather, attributions of computational creativity are largely inspired by contexts of reception. In other words, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
As the Lovelace effect shows, through particular social cues, audiences are prompted to think about output as art, systems as artists, and computers as creative. Just like the frames around Ai-Da’s paintings, the frames we use to talk about AI output indicate whether or not what we are looking at can be called art. But, as with any piece of art, your appreciation of AI output ultimately depends on your own interpretation.