Every now and then someone famous praises or worries about AI. Will it solve all the problems; make war, famine, and disease a thing of the past? Or will it take over and enslave humans, a la The Matrix or Colossus.
No one flies around or stops time in Colossus, but the computer does run the world and it is 30 years earlier. The creator tries to disable Colossus but that proves difficult because it sees and hears everything. So the creator tells it that he needs private time with his mistress when what he really wants to do is plot pulling the plug with his assistant. Too bad, turns out Colossus is a voyeur.
Let’s examine this question using Google Image Search as an example. Here are some of the images identified by Google as being me, or at least identified with my name:
That’s right none of them are me, although one is an image by me and another is an image of someone who shares my name. Can you guess which ones? But why are the other 3 in there? Is that really how well AI works? And what are these people doing trying to masquerade as me?
A long time ago I took a course called 6.034 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence from Patrick Winston, one of the founders of the discipline. He’s still teaching the course according to Wikipedia. Back then the AI community claimed they were going to understand human thought, something philosophers and psychologists and everyone else had failed to do.
They also claimed that computing languages didn’t need things like plus or minus signs. I got an A in the course, but I thought it was all pretty silly. Still do. But computers have gotten a lot faster and have a lot more memory so doing things the hard way is now possible. Plus somewhere along the way the AI community discovered equations.
But they still can’t find an image of me on the Internet. I admit it’s a pretty hard job. Despite my presence on the Internet (and its predecessor) for more than 40 years, as far as I know, there is only one picture of me on the Internet. But it’s right here on this blog and Google know about this blog, so why can’t it find the image?
Last week I read that there is new evidence about the Northwest hijacking from the seventies. D. B. Cooper was never caught because he went to work for the CIA. He retired in Northern Michigan and died a few years ago after telling the author of a new book his story. Buy the book!
Similarly, I have recently shot new photographic evidence of another Northwest legend, Sasquatch. The legend is real; it’s not a hoax. Except he’s a she and she’s not hairy. But like the legend says, she has big feet. Very big feet. Buy the photo!
Last week we had a nude on the dunes by a famous photographer. This week there’s a nude on the dunes by an unfamous photographer. Is that a word?
I took two trips to Oceano to photograph on the dunes. All of the previously shown images are from the second trip. This image is the first image from the first trip which was more difficult.
On the first trip I didn’t know what I was doing, so we stayed in a hotel that I thought was close to the dunes. On the map it looked like it was just a few hundred feet away. I didn’t know about the closed area for bird nesting and the mile and a half walk along the beach, all the while dodging hot rodding off road vehicles, to actually get into the dunes. So we got there a little later, a little tireder, and a little grumpier than planned and the sun was already up and shadows were pretty intense. I wasn’t paying enough attention and most of the images from that trip have obnoxious shadows. Digital retouching to the rescue; it takes more time but those images are starting to appear.
On the second trip, I felt much better prepared. I had noticed that an RV park abutted the backside of the state park. You could walk from the RV park to the middle of the dunes in a minute or two. Really, it’s that close. But the RV park was very aggressive about parking. Meaning, no parking in the RV park and it was two or three miles from any other parking. Looked like another long walk. Except, bright idea, rent an RV space for a day. If it can hold a 40 foot long RV, a car should be easy. So I did.
When we showed up, they were mad that we didn’t have an RV. You can’t stay here with a car, they said, even though I had already paid for the spot. I said, what do you mean, the seats fold down and we can sleep in the back. Ok, they grudgingly agreed. So we took the spot and then went and slept in the motel I had also reserved. Sleep in the back of the car, no way, that sounds uncomfortable. Next morning, we were back before dawn, parked, and walked into the dunes. Perfect. Got there before the sun was up, and the photos were much easier.
I bought a new photograph. Actually, it’s an old photograph that I have been coveting for while. 50 years old. Sea Palms by Wynn Bullock.
Wynn Bullock was the second photographer I really liked back when I was just getting started. Edward Weston was the first, of course. And no, I’ve never really liked the work of their more famous contemporary, Ansel Adams. Loved his instructional books, but was never moved by his work.
The first photography books I owned were “Edward Weston: Photographer” and “Wynn Bullock Photography a Way of Life”. And the first two prints I owned were by Weston and Bullock too. Now I have so many books, I may need to get another house to store them in.
Sea Palms shows an idyllic scene of Palm Trees blowing in a slight breeze above a foggy, coastal canyon. The exposure is long and you can see the trees blowing in the wind. The low lying fog is brilliantly lit by the sun. (The print is far more stunning than the web image up above.) It’s a beautiful scene. Made even more intriguing because all of that description is false. That’s what it looks like, but that’s not what it is. Or maybe I should say more artfully. That’s what it is, but that’s not what it was. Not a recording of the scene, but a transformation. I like that.
Auctions are a funny thing. I’ve been looking for Sea Palms for a long time and it wasn’t really available. There was an auction several years ago in Chicago, but you could tell the print was bad from the online catalog. Then there was a gallery that offered me a print two years ago at a steep discount for only $18,000. They said the print was extremely rare and would sell quickly at that price. I laughed at that. They still have the print. Finally a couple of months ago, a stunning print was up for auction and I bought it. And yes, the gallery’s price is a very, very ridiculous price. Next month a different New York auction house has another print for sale. So if you want one too, …
This is sort of like when Sotheby’s auctioned the “only known print in private hands” of Mapplethorpe’s famous image of the big penis hanging out of a polyester suit a couple years ago. Then the next month, Christie’s sold one too. Oops. Guess Sotheby’s didn’t know much.
Since Sea Palms doesn’t really qualify for this blog, here’s another Bullock image. Sand dunes and a nude woman. Where have we seen that before?