Saturday, August 20, 2011

Indistinguishable From Magic Part 1

IBM has recently sent out a press release ( about 2 cognitive computing chips they’ve designed. These chips represent a drastic departure from traditional computational architecture and programming; they also represent a more extensive approximation of the level of interconnectivity displayed in the mammalian brain.

…from the press release: “The goal of SyNAPSE is to create a system that not only analyzes complex information from multiple sensory modalities at once, but also dynamically rewires itself as it interacts with its environment – all while rivaling the brain’s compact size and low power usage. The IBM team has already successfully completed Phases 0 and 1….. While they contain no biological elements, IBM’s first cognitive computing prototype chips use digital silicon circuits inspired by neurobiology to make up what is referred to as a “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons)….. IBM’s overarching cognitive computing architecture is an on-chip network of light-weight cores, creating a single integrated system of hardware and software. This architecture represents a critical shift away from traditional von Neumann computing to a potentially more power-efficient architecture that has no set programming, integrates memory with processor, and mimics the brain’s event-driven, distributed and parallel processing.”

What is not clear from the press release, but will hopefully be revealed soon, is if the developed chips are running all functions and control operations or subsets. The release states: “IBM has two working prototype designs. Both cores were fabricated in 45 nm SOI-CMOS and contain 256 neurons. One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. The IBM team has successfully demonstrated simple applications like navigation, machine vision, pattern recognition, associative memory and classification.” Under current understanding biological cognition can be generalized with the “form follows function” maxim. But in mammals, the cognitive processes that input visual signals do not control (other than simple reflex actions) the majority of the other biological functions of which an animal is capable. It is difficult to envision IBM capable of integrating the information input, decision-making, and motion control processes on a chip design with so few connections.

Subset processing is still a remarkable achievement, but does not equal the real-world environmental applications hypothesized as possible in the press release. It is my contention that a true cognitive computing system needs to meet 3 minimum criterion: 1)Be able to intake system-relevant input; 2)Be able to process that input and make rational decisions that; 3)qualitatively or quantitatively effect the system-relevant input it receives. A simple example of this would be a light sensor that measures the intensity of a particular wavelengths of light, the initiates a shutter to close-off the sensor when the light is intense enough to damage the sensor circuitry.

I believe part of the difficulty in developing a complex, real-world capable artificial cognitive system will ultimately be how to create synergistic subset cognitive systems. To bring that example to a mammal analogue; mammals can narrow the iris, close the eye, turn the head, or even move away from the light source. Each of those actions progressively uses more and more cognitive subsets, and the latter two actions have little direct linkage to the initial sensor (i.e. the eye) that received the information.

Part 2 of this post will delve more into the psychological, philosophical, and moral-ethical ramifications of this type of artificial programming.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Late but still relevant

Breast Cancer Awareness Ad MockUp

Today's image is from some work I shot several months ago. Unfortunately, I didn't finish the post-production in time for Breast Cancer awareness month (October), but I'm still proud of the finished product and think it is relevant.  Many thanks to the model who was willing to trust me to paint and photograph her. The paints are latex paints from Aside from the expense, the product is superb.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A World of Change

Gina Barros
     I remember hearing a question back when I was a child in elementary school asking if I thought I was going up in the right
period of history. I cannot clearly recall what the question stemmed from, but I have been asked either that or related questions multiple times throughout my life. With the nature of current events—Egyptian protests, Libyan revolts & slaughter, Japan’s earthquakes & tsunami, the question has recently entered

my ponderings again.
    The most recent renewal of the time period query occurred to me when I realized that even given me having the exact same
personality, my question today might vary greatly dependent upon where in the world I was located. As I consider the broader implications to people at large, I wonder if the Japanese hit by the dual disasters of earthquakes & tsunami might be asking themselves that question.  Given the advances in earthquake-proofing construction, the country has suffered remarkable little damage from the major and less-major quakes that have
been rattling the area for the last week or so. A 9+ magnitude quake would have been a city-killer in 1911 Japan. But when photographs of tsunami damge are
viewed, it leads one to wonder how much has advanced since that time.
  For the most part, I tend to take the long view on natural disasters. The planet is much more complex, beautiful, and dangerous place than it seems to someone who spend the majority of life in 1st world cities. Every so often, nature reminds us of that. Though some disasters have roots in the workings of man (i.e. the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina), there are a small subset of disasters that fill me with awe, because there is little man can do to prepare or counteract nature on that scale.  The subset is:
Hurricanes – once you get up past Category 4, there is little that can be built (short of a bunker) that can withstand the storm without taking damage.
Krystine Garcia
Tornados – again past Category 4, you are pretty much looking at whatever is hit being wiped out.
Tsunamis – like taking a giant eraser to the affected coastline, these events tend to wipe out most structures along coasts, particularly since the majority of structures are designed for asthetic, commercial, or industrial function and not designed for wave-damage resistance.
Volcanic eruptions – these are dual-threat problems: in addition to the potential for magma/lava damage, the eruption tosses pollutants into the air that can suffocate, block sunlight access, and the ash can contaminate soil & groundwater.
    Today’s images come from a group photoshoot event I participated in May of last year. These images are outtakes that have been directly formatted for web without any post-processing. As each year passes and the number of images in the virtual stockpile increases, I have now implemented the outtake strategy for images I think are interesting, but not critical nor recent enough to spend the precious hours of time to edit. This blog gives an opportunity for the images to be presented and not forgotten.
    The shoot was organized by a model I had wanted to work with for quite some time and the venue was a large event hall arranged in the architectural style of a castle-palace. This was a free-for-all type shoot where the photographer could pick whatever models they wanted to work with, the models brought whatever wardrobe they felt met the fashion theme, and the equipment & lighting was whatever the individual photographers brought.  As I’ve discussed group shoot events in previous posts, I’ll broach my biggest disappointment from the shoot instead. As a free-for-all, I never had the opportunity to work with the organizer, a then 19yr-old female model whom I had been trying to work with for months and had based attendance for the event upon her emailed confirmation that we’d have an opportunity to work together. For the more experienced models, group events are often the only times the models have low enough rates for individuals on student-budgets to be able to work with them.
Sammie M

  The organizer had brought in some photographer she had previously worked with to the event and she spent about half of the little time she had free shooting nude work with them, for free. This was after announcing at the opening of the event that she would be charging for any nude work.  So not only did these particular photographers basically steal away the opportunity I or other individuals would have had to work with the organizer, they exploited an existing relationship to undervalue whatever an unfamiliar
individual would have paid the model to shoot nude work.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Group Photoshoots 2: Skill Builder, Networking Mecca, or Time Waster?

Cat Moone

    In continuation from the last post, the question of the worth of group photoshoot events should be addressed. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives in the areas of skill building, networking, and efficient use of time?

Cat Moone

  The first area—skill building—is a complex one to address because how photographers and models learn can vary. I breakdown photographers into 3 basic groupings: theoretical actualizers, spur experimentalists, and task-dependants. 
Theoretical actualizers set up—via diagram or mental images—the shoot concepts, lighting, wardrobe, and potentially even the poses they desire. 
They then take this vision and attempt to make it reality in the actual photoshoot. Actualizers find pleasure in taking the concept to execution and may even enjoy the post-production work as much or more than the setup process. Spur experimentalists may have an initial shoot concept but work primarily from the idea that the best product comes from a collaborative flow of ideas as the shoot is going rather than a rigid plan of shooting: this creative process runs throughout all aspects including lighting, wardrobe, poses, etc. Task-dependants keep a relatively stable process that only varies in the dimensions required of the shoot. While they may not be the most intuitively creative photographers, they do produce a product of consistent quality.
Kimm Davies

   The issue then becomes which type benefits more from a group photoshoot endeavor and how does this benefit play out? Novice theoretical actualizers can benefit from a group photoshoot, but need to receive information about the shoot, lighting arrangement, wardrobe, etc. for them to utilize the shoot experience in planning the next solo photoshoot. In other words, the shoot done today helps improve the shoot done tomorrow.  The multiple model nature of most group photoshoots allows the novice spur experimentalist an opportunity to try setups, lighting, poses that haven’t been done before. 

However, the novice task-dependant is tends to benefit less in skill building than the other types in group photoshoots.

Kimm Davies

 If the photographer doesn’t have the resources to duplicate the shoot variables (environment, lighting, wardrobe, model, etc.), the novice task-dependant doesn’t really understand how to innovate beyond the groupshoot.  Thus, the type of photographer who benefits most from a group photoshoot is probably the spur expirementalist.

Natalie Angela
  When it comes to networking—the utilization of exposure, building of social capital, and the expansion of brand/product recognition—all three types of photographers can benefit from a group photoshoot. This is because the benefit has little to do with the type of photographer and more to do with the personality & likeability of the shoot participants, and the socializing opportunities available at the shoot. It is the same principle behind the success of meet & greet events.

 The last question about time efficiency is multilayered because ultimately efficiency depends not just upon the photographer but also the type of shoot and how many other individuals are involved in the shoot. Assuming all the non-photographer variables are equal, a novice theoretical actualizer can benefits if he/she has foreknowledge of the photoshoot variables. Thus the actualizer has the potential to cram many more high-quality photographs in than the average photographer. 

Kimm Davies
The spur experimentalist is also capable of obtaining more high-quality photographs than the average photographer. However, the spur experimentalist is also capable of ending up with more junk as well. Not everything tried will succeed, but when success is obtained it will yield wonderful product. So unlike the actualizer whose product is directly related to how much forthought is put into the group photoshoot, the experimentalist will—on average—benefit from the shoot, but there is no guarantee. The task-dependant is least likely to benefit from a group photoshoot, because the benefit garnered comes completely from the quality and organization of photoshoot organizer. A free-for-all shoot is the least efficient, a small, meticulously detailed shoot is more efficient.

Natalie Angela
   Today’s images are from a themed bodypaint shoot. The goal was to have the models painted in water-resistant paints in designs reminiscent to mermaids. Unfortunately the bodypainter really dropped the ball on this shoot, showing up late and neglecting to bring the proper type of airbrush paints. Consequently, once the models got wet paints wet, the paint flecked off rapidly and the designs became unusable within about 4 minutes. Overall the models were a pleasure to work with.  
Natalie Angela

      The father of one of the models had been diagnosed with a myocardial infarction the prior evening and was hospitalized. It was clearly weighing on the model (you can see in the images the progression of unhappiness) and she left the shoot early to go be with her family. Since that day, I don’t think she has modeled again, I’ve been unable to ever contact her, and she hasn’t logged onto to her MM account. I always wonder what happens to models that drop of the face of the modeling earth. Another model from that day has ceased to model and discontinued her MM account. I sometimes wonder if it is life, discontent, or familial/social pressures that lead once enthusiastic models to completely cease modeling. For women in their late teens and early twenties, I know from discussion that it is hard for them to forsee all the future consequences from modeling. But I’ve also witnessed individuals in their late twenties and early thirties summarily drop out so I’m unsure if unforeseen consequences is the only reason.
Cat Moone
Natalie Angela