Saturday, December 13, 2014

HUMANITY AND RISK

http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/risk.html
Risk Gouache on Paper 30 x 42 cm 2010 [SOLD]

EXISTENTIAL RISK
In my last post In Between Things - Interstellar Even I wrote about various issues including existential risk ie: risk associated with the survival of humanity and/or the planet. Yep, so major risks like climate change, nuclear threat, advanced artificial intelligence, biological [natural and human-made] threats, collisions with meteors, aberrant individuals or groups, and lots more.

I am re-reading astronomer and cosmologist Lord Martin Rees's fascinating 2003 book Our Final Century. This book, written nearly 15 years ago, lists and explains many of the risks associated with the potential demise of humanity and/or the planet. Whilst a sombre topic, Rees writes in a manner that does not propel you into the depths of depression! Rather, the reader is informed in a way which enlightens through awareness. Since Rees wrote Our Final Century research centres examining existential risk have been set up at Cambridge UniversityOxford University and in the US [out of MIT]. I wrote about these centres in my last post.

INTERSTELLAR
Also, in my last post In Between Things - Interstellar Even I wrote about the new film Interstellar, suggesting that the underlying theme of the movie, is the fear of existential risk. Briefly...the story...humanity has reached a point where Earth has been depleted so severely that food sources cannot be sustained. It is apparent that to survive, humanity has to leave to find another home. I won't extrapolate here...there's more in my last post. You must see this film...I loved it.


http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/new-world-habitability-vacation-anyone.html
New World Habitability: Vacation Anyone? Oil on linen 70 x 102 cm 2014
 

THE HUNGER GAMES
I have just been on a week's holiday to Noosa; a fabulous beach holiday! On a wet afternoon my youngest daughter and I went to see the new Hunger Games movie Mockingjay Part 1. This is the third instalment of a four part movie set. I saw the first Hunger Games, but not the second. I wrote about the first one on this Blog in August 2013 in a post called Flick Of A Switch: A Post About Two Films The two films I write about are the Hunger Games and Elysium. Both films reveal the desperation of humanity's divide into the haves and have-nots. I felt particularly depressed after seeing The Hunger Games.

Mockingjay Part 1 continues with the theme of the battle between the haves and have-nots. However, it seems the divide is narrowing, with battles won, hidden ammunitions stored, defections from the fashionista 'have' camp to the battle-ready 'have-not' one, plus the agreement of the heroine Katniss to be the Mockingjay! Despite, all this seemingly positive news, I did not enjoy the film. The sinister undercurrent of depravity was still evident. It left me with a feeling that humanity will continue to create divides, thus enabling conflict to flourish. This navel gazing means that existential risk will come from ignorance, game-playing, creating more weapons of destruction in the name of seeking 'peace', making heroes and heroines from war rather than discovery, enlightenment, collaboration.

After seeing the film my daughter and I had a discussion about existential risk.

Ye gads Mum!!!, was the expression on her face!

But, I asked her a question...

'Darling, what do you think is the most severe risk to humanity's survival?'

She answered:

'Humanity.'


http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/all-of-us.html
All Of Us Gouache on paper 15 x 21 cm 2012


  • I encourage you to read this short article Are We Living In The Hunger Games written by Melinda Edwards  [Law Professor and now, Managing Director of MeWise Pty Ltd, an international, conflict-resolution skills training company].
  • My previous post Team Humanity might interest you.
  • And, another earlier post Risky Business
____________________________________________________________________
 

RISK Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm
My painting Risk [top] Here is a quote from my earlier post for this painting.

RISK, gouache on paper ,30 x 42 cm is painted with little $ signs to question 'value'. The underground water, the river depression and the rain falling from the sky are all $ signs. The word RISK is also painted with $ signs. These are red to make an almost SOS or DANGER statement.
Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

IN BETWEEN THINGS - INTERSTELLAR EVEN!


In Between Things Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2014
 
INTERSTELLAR
Those of you are 'up with' current movies will know that interstellar, in this blog's title, is reference to the mega movie Interstellar  I saw it a few days ago and loved it. I had read various commentaries about the film, some expansive in praise and others critical of the science. Why the latter? Well. the criticism was to be expected because prior to the movie's release there was a lot of promotion about the science that informed much of the story and how it was depicted.
 
Well, in my opinion we should not get too up-tight about whether the film portrays science 100% realistically/accurately or not. Why? Because it's a movie created to entertain by telling a story...it is not a documentary! The same kind of criticisms were levelled at the 2013 film Gravity And, as Gravity's director Alphonso Cuaron said, It is not a documentary. It is a piece of fiction. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/07/showbiz/movies/gravity-scientists/  Please read my previous post about the film Gravity Something About Space

Having said we should not get too up tight about the science in Interstellar, there are some very interesting links to science. The most fascinating, to me, is the collaboration with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne . Thorne, the directors, special effects people etc collaborated on creating a visual depiction of a black hole. The resulting simulation has apparently provided real scientific insight into these mysterious cosmic entities. You can read about the collaboration in Wired.com's article Wrinkles In SpaceTime: The Warped Astrophysics Of Interstellar by Adam Rogers.

Various other aspects of the film have scientific links. Examples include theories about time travel, depictions of relativity, theories about worm holes, gravity and more.

BUT

I propose that the overarching scientific element of Interstellar is existential risk. The fear of humanity's demise drives the film, its story, the relationships between people and the introduction of plausible scientific theories, as well as those that may seem more fanciful. This fear is gaining attention from some very smart people who have, in fact, set up research centres to study existential risk. These centres include the Future of Humanity Institute  at Oxford University, The Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk at Cambridge University and the Future of Life Institute in the USA founded by the likes of Physicist Max Tegmark and Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, who is also a founder of the Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk at Cambridge University. The latter research centre proposes a new science of existential risk, to encompass a inter and cross disciplinary approach.

At the beginning of Interstellar the audience is introduced to the characters at some time in the future. It is apparent that feeding people is becoming increasingly problematic. This is due to eroded soils and diseased crops. These are obviously the outcomes of an abused environment and corrosive atmosphere. Both have passed the stage of redemption. Humanity has to leave Earth to survive.

The hero of the movie is introduced to us as a farmer. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is also an engineer and a former astronaut from a past period when space research was funded ie: he is a rare breed! So, we have the farmer figure who represents the provider of food [the last bastion of survival], the engineer who can make and fix things and the astronaut who can possibly save humanity...all rolled into one super hero! Ultimately he is a super... very practical hero!

AND

It is the practical part, coupled with the existential risk, that interests me.

Steve Fuller [Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology Department of Sociology University of Warwick] made some interesting remarks in a podcast Significant Other Beings on Australia's Radio National's Philosopher's Zone. He commented that he thought potentially catastrophic events would not necessarily wipe out everybody or everything. He gave the example of the internet failing. Whilst some would suffer from multiple systems failure etc there would be others whose lives would not be affected at all or to a great degree. These, I imagine, would be those people living in less 'developed' countries and societies. Their practical skills of survival would be the envy of those whose practical dexterities had been eroded by a reliance on technology. So, the lesson is to ensure we are dextrous both technologically as well as in 'hands on' manner. Then, we could be super heros and heroines too...maybe?

In a previous post called Waiting For The Beeps I write about practical skills ie: a young driver backing a car she did not drive often into a wall because she was waiting for the warning beeps...but the car did not have a warning system. The fact that looking out the window did not occur to her is a sign of a worrying trend. There are also links to two other posts that discuss similar themes.

In Between Things Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm

So, to my new painting...another of my cosmic landscapes...the word interstellar means occurring or situated between the stars. So, when a space craft goes interstellar it leaves our solar system to travel beyond into the space of other stars...to travel or go in between things.

In between things could mean anything from travelling between objects of all sizes to the tantalising dimensions of time. And, that's what my painting is!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com




Saturday, November 22, 2014

JUST BECAUSE WE CANNOT PROVE IT EXISTS DOESN'T MEAN I CANNOT PAINT IT

Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm
 
 
You ask:
 
What is she talking about?
Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It
 
I am talking about:
 
THE
 
MULTIVERSE!
 
 
I first read about the theory of a Multiverse a few years ago when I read Prof Martin Rees's fabulous book Just Six Numbers. He wrote, '...the ultimate theory might permit a multiverse whose evolution is punctuated by repeated Big Bangs; the underlying physical laws, applying throughout the multiverse, may then permit diversity in the individual universes.' Rees, M. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Froces That Shape the Universe, Basic Books, NY, 2000 p.174

Since reading Just Six Numbers I've read more and more about the possibility that our Universe is one of many. I love it!

I wrote a post in March this year called COSMOLOGY, BIG BANG AND THE MULTIVERSE There are a number of paintings that attempt to invite the Multiverse to revelation!

Now to my most recent encounter with the Multiverse...

!!!!!!

...I attended the fabulous Journey Through The Cosmos series of events here in Brisbane. I have written about the events, a collaboration between the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Prof Brian Cox and other 'super stars', Darion Marianelli, Jack Liebeck, Prof Brian Foster, in my last couple of posts Lightning and Beyond Yesterday

Brian Cox ended his last event The Physics Of Time with a statement about the possibility that our Universe exists in a Multiverse of simultaneously occurring Big Bangs. He used the term 'a fractal tree of Universes', which he has used before. I love it...and regular readers will know why. My love of the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life has inspired me in many ways, including to paint the idea of a Multiverse using the tree! In fact a recent post with more paintings is UNIVERSES AND TREES

My first Multiverse 'tree' painting in 2010 is called...simply...Multiverse It is below.


http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/multiverse.html
Multiverse Oil on linen 80 x 100 cm 2010

In Multiverse I imagined that each little portal, created by a confluence of branches forming 'holes', was another universe. I imagined it to be like a peacock's feathers. When the bird opens his fantastic plumage you are invited to share secrets.


But what about:

Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It
Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm?
 
 
My new painting [top] is another 'tree of universes'. Each leaf may be a universe? Each branch may represent simultaneously occurring universes? The multi-coloured circle may be a portal, as if each colour is another incubus for more universes? The concentric rings remind me of a cut tree, which is forced to reveal its age and history. The symbol of the tree certainly provides amazing fodder for my imagination!
 
In Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It , like my recent painting Beyond Yesterday [bottom], an underlying 'scape' is revealed beneath the top layer of paint. The 'scape' in Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It is predominantly red, but on closer inspection a blue branching tree-like quality is revealed [see DETAIL photo below]. For me this alludes to a multi-dimensionality. Another horizon, or multi-horizon?
 
 
Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It [DETAIL]
 
 
So, the title Just Because We Cannot Prove It Exists Doesn't Mean I Cannot Paint It is actually self explanatory. Whilst physics provides hints that a Multiverse is possible, scientists cannot prove it...yet...
 
I am not a scientist, so I cannot prove it either, but the theory sure does stimulate my imagination!
 
I am not a science illustrator, nor an artist who paints 'artist impressions'. Rather, I like to use symbols to navigate my way across possibility. The tree-of-life has symbolised life for eons. In the 21st century it still potently holds symbolic meaning...systems, both human-made and naturally occurring, that can be 'read' as large or small or both simultaneously. The tree invites us to dance across the Multiverse!
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/beyond-yesterday.html
Beyond Yesterday Oil on linen 80 x 55 cm
 
 
Cheers,
Kathryn
 
 
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

BEYOND YESTERDAY

Beyond Yesterday Oil on linen 80 x 55 cm 2014
 
 
THROUGH THE COSMOS
 
In my last post Lightning I promised some more details about my experience attending the series of events Through The Cosmos, a fabulous few days of concerts and presentations 6-9 November here in Brisbane at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre [QPAC]. Journey Through The Cosmos was a collaboration of science and art/music hosted by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra [QSO]. The Queensland Government's Super Stars Fund brought famous physicist Prof Brian Cox to the collaboration, along with violinist Jack Leibeck, Prof Brian Foster and composer Dario Marianelli.
 
After writing my last post I attended two more events - Composing For Hollywood, a truly fascinating discussion with composer Dario Marianelli, and a performance/lecture with Brian Cox called The Physics of Time. The inspiring lecture was followed by a performance Quartet for the End of Time written by Messiaen when he was a prisoner in a World War II concentration camp. Messiaen composed the work for himself and three other prisoners who all played musical instruments. The performance I saw/heard included violinist Jack Liebeck, pianist Zubin Kanga, cellist Li Wei Qin and clarinettist Paul Dean.
 
COMPOSING FOR HOLLYWOOD
The discussion with Dario Marianelli and author, composer, musicologist Stephen Johnson really highlighted the complexities of movie production. Whilst Marianelli spoke mainly about his life, composing, performing, recording music for films, it was evident that the interconnectedness of every aspect of production is highly complex with each bit requiring excellence. It was fascinating to hear a man talk about his career with such passion. Johnson was a great person to have as the fellow conversationalist. Marianelli was commissioned by the QSO to compose a piece for Journey Through The Cosmos. His Voyager violin concerto, inspired by spacecraft Voyafer 1 and II, was performed by the QSO, with violinist Jack Leibeck, at the Journey Through The Cosmos concerts.
 
THE PHYSICS OF TIME
The Physics Of Time lecture was delivered by Brian Cox with his trademark conversational style. He explained Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, quantum physics, spoke a bit about time travel, cosmic time, the beginning and end of the Universe, the large Hadron Collider at Cern. He also mentioned a fractal tree of universes [see my previous post Universes and Trees] in the context that our Universe may be just one in a Multiverse characterised by an infinite number of simultaneously occurring Big Bangs. He ended the lecture with a quote:
For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love......Carl Sagan.
 
AND!!! Below is a photo of me with Brian Cox, taken after the Journey Through The Cosmos concert!
 
 
 
https://www.facebook.com/queenslandsymphonyorchestra/photos/a.10152875056510522.1073741846.240820615521/10152875058540522/?type=1&pnref=story
Photo Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox and Prof Brian Cox courtesy Queensland Symphony Orchestra
 
 
 
Now to my new painting Beyond Yesterday [above]
Regular readers will know that I have been interested in the idea of a Multiverse for some time. Please see my earlier 2010 painting simply called Multiverse [below]. So, what was I thinking when I painted Beyond Yesterday, which I had started before going to Journey Through The Cosmos?
 
I wanted to create a cosmic-like landscape ie: an ambiguous one...where the viewer has some trouble orienting him/herself. The background colour [see detail photo below] is textured, as if there is another 'scape' behind the one on the surface, where there are 'landscape'-like contours and perhaps a hazy horizon. Yet the background colour and texture is a constant, suggesting a much larger essence, perhaps the 'reality' that an horizon-less existence is possible? If our Universe exists in a Multiverse, that is characterised by ongoing simultaneous Big Bangs, then our Universal horizon is merely the end point of our Universe, but not of cosmological existence. The red ball, painted like a 'scape' is perhaps another Universe? It shares the same background colour and texture with the other 'landscape', yet it seems to both recede into the distance at the same time as appearing to be propelled forward out of the painting.
 
Beyond Yesterday, as regular readers will identify, is another of my 'landscapes' that attempt to untether notions of landscape from Earth-bound horizons.
 
 
DETAIL Beyond Yesterday Oil on linen 80 x 55 cm 2014
 
 
WHY THE TITLE BEYOND YESTERDAY?
Well, to me at least, it does not immediately suggest a single trajectory of time and existence. 'Beyond yesterday' could mean back into the past, but equally moving into the future, it could be simply an ever present NOW or it could mean some other dimension.
 
Light that we see, or detect, from space comes from a long ago 'yesterday', yet we 'see' it in the present and can deduce things that will or might happen in the future. 'Yesterday' is in some kind of perpetual 'beyond-ness'.
 
AND, then think about all those other potential Universes being created by simultaneous Big Bangs. If we think of time in a Multiverse something seemingly nonsensical as Beyond Yesterday helps us lose grip on the 'safety net', or perhaps 'shackle' of TIME [as we think we perceive it]. 
 
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/multiverse.html
 Multiverse Oil on linen 80 x 100 cm 2010
 
 
 
OOO [Object Oriented Ontology] SYMPOSIUM 
 
 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1514611005446075/?pnref=story
 
 
My proposal for a paper/presentation was accepted and I am one of the speakers at:
 
Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia.
Thursday 20 November 8.30am  - 4.30 am
 
My topic is:
Cosmic Perspectives
 
 
Cheers,
Kathryn
 


Saturday, November 08, 2014

LIGHTNING

http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/storm.html
Storm Oil on linen 85 x 150 cm 2012
 
JOURNEY THROUGH THE COSMOS
 
Before I ramble on about lightning I will fill you in on some recent exciting events I have been to and thoroughly enjoyed. They are part of Journey Through The Cosmos a fabulous series of concerts and presentations 6-9 November here in Brisbane at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre [QPAC]. I bought my package of tickets a year ago!
 
What is Journey Through The Cosmos? It's a collaboration of science and art/music hosted by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra [QSO]. So, you ask, where's the science? Through the Queensland Government's Super Stars Fund Journey Through The Cosmos features famous physicist Prof Brian Cox. During the concert on Thursday night he gave short and fascinating insights into our solar system. The accompanying music included a new piece Voyager, a violin concerto, which was specially commissioned. The 'Super Star' composer Dario Marianelli was inspired by the spacecraft Voyager 1 and 2 and their journeys through, and beyond, the solar system. And, the 'Super Star' violinist was Jack Leibeck...fantastic. Jack also played a number of pieces at Einstein's Universe which was a fabulous presentation by another physicist Prof Brian Foster from Oxford University. This is a 'gig' Jack and the Professor have previously given in other parts of the world. You can read about it on their website Einstein's Universe
 
There are still a couple of events to go. So I shall write about the whole series in my next post.
 
AND......I met Brian Cox!
 
 
LIGHTNING
 
PLANETS
There's lightning on other planets, but not all in our solar system. The planets we are sure about, apart from Earth, are Jupiter and Saturn, plus Venus. But, lightning on Venus is the most different, because it is not related to water clouds, but rather...clouds of sulphuric acid. Brian Cox, when he talked about Venus during the QSO's performance of Gustav Holtz's The Planet Suites at the Journey Through The Cosmos concert, described it as hellish. He said it did not live up to the name of Venus, normally associated with love and beauty. Just imagine what lighting generated from clouds of sulphuric acid might be like?  
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/cosmic-address.html
Cosmic Address Oil on linen 90 x 180 cm 2013
Note the lightning bottom left!
 
 
SYMBOL
Lightning, as a symbol, is normally associated with power and might. Mythological deities who wielded bolts of lightning held enormous prestige and engendered great fear.
 
STORM SEASON
And, in Queensland we are entering Summer storm season. Mother Nature often produces spectacular shows of lightning streaking across night skies, momentarily lighting up landscape or cityscape in majestic silhouette. These storms can be really wild, noisy and not necessarily very wet! These types of storms can be very dangerous, because lightning can spark fires in dry bush and grasslands.
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/night-time-electric-storm.html
 
 
A STORY
And, now to a story. A week ago my 20 year old daughter went to Goondiwindi by bus. It's a five hour journey from Brisbane and she went armed with various devices to keep her occupied...oh and a book! But, after she arrived in Goondiwindi she made a few comments to me that made my heart sing. As night settled the bus was travelling through bush and the sky was dark with storm clouds. The roads are long and fairly straight, and on a bus passengers are quite high off the ground, thus allowing for a more panoramic view. So what did my daughter say?
 
My daughter said, 'Mum, I decided to just look out the windows.' 

My heart starts to flutter!
 
And then she said, 'I watched the lighting. It was so beautiful.'
 
And then she said. 'I looked around at the other passengers and they all had earphones in, and were looking at phones or their computers or iPads. Mum, they missed out on so much!'
 
Yes....I jumped up and down with excitement, with my heart singing.  
 
Regular readers will know why my heart sang....I have previously written about the literal and metaphoric importance of looking out the window. Yes, if life is largely experienced and observed via phone, computer and tv screens what happens to 'experience' if the power goes off ?
 
In my previous post called Looking Out The Windows I wrote:
I tell my children that people have to be careful not to abdicate their brains to technology because come the apocalypse [natural disaster, space debris hitting an important satellite or whatever] when GPS systems, computers etc etc stop working, people won't have the practical skills to survive...OR... even think to simply look out the windows, literally and metaphorically! I get told...Mum you're so weird...!
 
BUT, weird Mum or not, my daughter looked out the windows of the bus!!!!

...and saw beauty!
 
 
http://kathrynbrimblecombeart.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/stormy-weather-where_14.html
Stormy Weather - Where? Oil on linen 120 x 150 cm 2013
 

AND JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED MY EXCITING NEWS

PANDORA WEB ARCHIVE  AND MY BLOGI received an official request from the State Library of Queensland to allow PANDORA [Australia's web archive - National Library of Australia and partners] to archive my Blog...
 
YES this one you are reading now! 
 
PANDORA is an official site for archiving 'online publications and websites of lasting significance' and 'research value' in perpetuity. Check out the State Library of Queensland's selection criteria page and you will see why I am really so very happy that my eight year old Blog has been acknowledged this way. 
 
PLUS
 
OOO SYMPOSIUM 
 
 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1514611005446075/?pnref=story
 
 
My proposal for a paper/presentation was accepted and I am one of the speakers at:
 
Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia.
Thursday 20 November 8.30am  - 4.30 am
 
My topic is:
Cosmic Perspectives
 
Cheers,
Kathryn

Friday, October 31, 2014

EMBRACING THE ACCIDENTAL AND BEING HUMAN

 Newly prepared canvases [linen] This is the first stage.
 
 
EXCITING NEWS
 
PANDORA WEB ARCHIVE
Yesterday I received an official request from the State Library of Queensland to allow PANDORA [Australia's web archive - National Library of Australia and partners] to archive my Blog...
 
YES this one you are reading now! 
 
PANDORA is an official site for archiving 'online publications and websites of lasting significance' and 'research value' in perpetuity. Check out the State Library of Queensland's selection criteria page and you will see why I am really so very happy that my eight year old Blog has been acknowledged this way. 
 
OOO SYMPOSIUM 
 
 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1514611005446075/?pnref=story
 
 
My proposal for a paper/presentation was accepted and I am one of the speakers at:
 
Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia.
Thursday 20 November 8.30am  - 4.30 am
 
My topic is:
Cosmic Perspectives
 
_______________________________
 
 

 Newly prepared canvases [linen] and some pristine blank canvases
 
 
TECHNOLOGY
 
Have you noticed an increase in concern about how technology might negatively affect us in the future? Well, maybe it's what I read, but there has recently been more 'talk' about artificial intelligence [AI] and the potential for it to overtake human intelligence. So, what's the problem in that you might ask? Well, apparently one scenario is that super-genius AI types could ultimately view us as merely ant-like in importance and not think twice about wiping us out!
 
Nick Bostrom [Professor, Faculty of Philosophy and Oxford Martin School Director, Future of Humanity Institute and Director, Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology at the University of Oxford] asks very serious questions about technology generally and specifically AI and super intelligence. He has just published a new book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies which I intend to read. However, I have listened to a one [and a bit] hour presentation he made about the book. You can read more about his thoughts, on a range of topics, at his fascinating website.
 
Ok!
 
There are others cautioning us about AI and technology. These include founder of Skype, the enterprising and thoughtful Jaan Tallinn, as well as Elon Musk a very 21st century entrepreneur. Stephen Hawking also sounds concerns as does cosmologist and astronomer Martin Rees. And there are others. In fact, there seems to be a heightened concern amongst scientists, cosmologists and philosophers about existential risk from a variety of possible human-made and natural circumstances. There are think-tanks and research centres popping up, with very serious thinkers as team members, advisors, founders. This is absolutely fascinating. Why? Because, whilst they speak about being cautious they do not exclude discussion about the benefits of technology, including AI. Also, by thinking critically, across disciplines, about how research and development takes place, risk is analysed with broader brushstrokes. This illuminates risks that may not have been identified with a more narrow focus. And, of course with broader cross disciplinary thinking there is the potential for new ideas about significant risk mitigation!
 
HIGH POWER THINK TANKS
A few examples of these research centres and think tanks are:
Future of Humanity Institute University of Oxford
The Future Of Life Institute in the USA.
Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk at Cambridge University 
 
THANK GOODNESS
Thank goodness for people like the ones mentioned above AND thanks to all of the others involved in seriously thinking and talking about the potential ramifications, good and bad, of technology in the future.

 
Newly prepared canvases [linen] and some blank canvases
 
 
AI AND CREATIVITY
 
THE LION KING
This week I went to the fantastic musical The Lion King at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre [QPAC]. The singing, staging, costumes, puppetry, the music...it was all just fabulous, like many performances I've been to at QPAC.
 
Watching The Lion King I felt a great sense of awe for human endeavour and creativity. Whilst the performance seemed flawless to me, it probably was not...each performance will bring its own set of issues and surprises for the performers and support crew...and that's what makes creativity, exhibition and performance so exhilarating. It's professional practice to deal with surprises [good and bad], 'mistakes', the unintended. But, could artificial intelligence deal with them? With each challenge, could AI improvise? If there was a group of AI beings would there be a divergence amongst them in reaction to surprise and the unintended? If so, how would they choose which improvisation to work with? Above all, would they feel exhilaration in response to what is essentially a intrinsic part of the creative process?

A GRADE 4 ART CLASS
Many years ago I was a guest artist in a grade 4 class. The children were going to paint on paper.  Within the first couple of minutes of starting one young fellow put up his hand to ask if he could have another piece of paper, 'because he had made a mistake.' I said 'No, you cannot, because you have been given an opportunity to problem solve and improvise.' I counselled him that artists do not give up that easily. We reflect upon the unexpected to see how we can develop its potential.

Well...that's what I do...and I am sure others do as well.

And, you can imagine my kids' frustrations with me over the years!

After the class the teacher commented on my approach to a 'mistake'. She said she would have given the young fellow another piece of paper, but my response had really made her think.

How would an AI being cope with paint dropping or smudging? And, think about this question literally and metaphorically.

THE ACCIDENTAL
Maybe if we lose the ability to see the accidental, mistakes, the unintended, surprise and the unexpected as holding creative potential, then we are no longer really human and thus more vulnerable to technological manipulation? We are, in fact, no longer important...

Maybe if this happens technology can stomp on us like we are ants?

PHOTOGRAPHS
So, why the photographs above? Each photo shows newly prepared and stretched canvases. The prepared canvases show my process of embracing accident! What you see is just the first stage. I allow the paint to do its own thing. How will they end up...who knows?!

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com
 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

REMEMBERING JENEPHER

I don't normally write a whole post about other people here on my Blog. But, when someone makes a real difference to life, art and culture, I am compelled to share their story, even if it is only one part of their all-life story.

I write this as a fellow-artist.


JENEPHER WILSON
Recently I returned to a place where I had spent 18 years of my life. This place is a small rural town on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. The town is called Goondiwindi. I had not returned for nearly 15 years and the reason for my visit was to attend a friend's funeral. My friend was Jenepher Wilson. When I met her in 1982, I was a very young bride and Jenepher would have been about the age I am now. She took me under her wing!


Jenepher Wilson


Jenepher was keen to meet me, because I am an artist and she was too. After finishing school in Brisbane, Jenepher won a scholarship to art college at the East Sydney Technical College, which later became the National Art School. She was taught by some of Australia's well known artists and many of her classmates forged very successful careers. She was a talented artist and as you will see, also an extremely talented person.

Jenepher met her husband, Talbot, at a ball in Brisbane and apparently it was love at first sight. They became very successful farmers moving from near Dalby, to between Moree and Goondiwindi and in the late 70s/early 80s they built a beautiful home on the outskirts of Goondiwindi. In 1985 my then-husband and I became the Wilson's neighbours, but it was not as simple as jumping over the fence. We each had large acreage with paddocks of prickly plants, long grass potentially harbouring deadly snakes, and a couple of electrified stock fences to get through.


 
L to R: Genevieve Wilson, Jenepher Wilson, Norman Fox and Lachlan Wilson [his back anyway] on Norman's and my partially constructed verandah.
 
 
Looking towards the Wilson property. Yes, prickly plants, long grass, but thank goodness for the creek. But, it did sometimes dry up!
 

Jenepher loved beauty and she and Talbot worked as a team to collect paintings, decorative arts and sculpture, to adorn their home. Their collection was a serious one and why would it not be, Jenepher had a very good 'eye'. They also developed a magnificent garden which was a dream to wander through. The garden was also a work of art and was a backdrop for sculptures, some created by Talbot and other family members.

Jenepher loved talking about art and was generous in her expansive knowledge and enthusiasm. She was very active in attempting to stimulate and support cultural activities in Goondiwindi. There are really too many of these to mention, but they ranged from providing a teaching studio [aka old woolshed] for Flying Arts tri/quarterly visits, to opening her garden for various open garden activities, including those organised by Open Gardens Australia. She invigorated the Goondiwindi branch of the Queensland Arts Council, supported the local art show and award, pushed forward with a major collaborative community art project Moods Of The Macintyre [see photos below] for the local community/cultural centre. She established a sculpture school, started Greening Goondiwindi and more. When the collaborative art project Moods Of The McIntyre was launched, a lavish event was held. Betty Churcher, then Director of the National Gallery of Australia and an old art school classmate of Jenepher's, unveiled the major wall hanging, designed by local artist Jocelyn Cameron and made by local craftspeople.



A Flying Arts class 1990 in Jenepher and Talbot's old wool shed. Jenepher is standing at the table on the left chatting to tutor Shelagh Morgan

 
ART GALLERY
One of the most significant disappointments for Jenepher was that Goondiwindi never, in her lifetime, had an art gallery of  regional gallery standard that could accommodate not only local exhibitions, but touring ones too. An art gallery was one of the things Jenepher tirelessly advocated for over many years. On my trip to attend her funeral I learnt that an art gallery is currently being constructed in the Regional Council Cultural and Theatre Development due to be completed 2015, 33 years after she conscripted me to assist her with her agitations. Back in 1982, I was keen to help as I was a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Queensland and fresh from my employment as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. For me an art gallery, that could show local and touring exhibitions, was a no-brainer. Like Jenepher I thought it would be a valuable addition to the cultural tapestry of the town. A gallery would provide exposure, even just a little, to the kind of visual arts city people take for granted and have easy access to.

We and others tried to gain support for a Goondiwindi Art Gallery, and at various times, there seemed to be a chance, but to no avail. In the late1980s plans for a cultural centre, with tiered theatre and a room that could be converted to a gallery, with moving walls, gallery standard lighting, hanging facilities etc was to be built. [I know this because I attended meetings with the architects] However, whilst a building was built, it was nothing like the original concept; no tiered theatre and no gallery. There's an intriguing story here...for another time!



 Moods of the McIntyre The upper panel represents the far bank, the centre panel is the river flow and the lower section is the reflections in the water. The wall hanging was designed by local artist Jocelyn Cameron. The creation of the piece included 12 crafts using hand dyed coloured materials. It involved 250 people and took two years to complete.
DETAIL photo below. Photography: Danielle Lancaster




A SHOOTING STAR
Jenepher always had wonderful ideas. Talking with her was like taking a trip on a shooting star. She thought in pictures, like movie pictures. More often than not, she had multiple ones running in her head and it was sometimes difficult to keep up with her. But, rest assured, her visions were always to enhance life in Goondiwindi for everyone, not just herself and family. For example, Greening Goondiwindi was a project where trees were planted around the streets. When I visited to attend Jenepher's funeral, I could not help but think of her contribution to the oasis-like appearance of the town. Her sense of community came naturally and selflessly.

Jenepher was also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Over the last 15 years, when Jenepher [and sometimes Talbot] and I caught up in Brisbane, I'd hear about exciting events in the family, as well as life in Goondiwindi. When we met in the city we'd invariably visit galleries, institutional and commercial. She was always interested in my art, often ringing me to find out how my plans were going. When I lived in Goondiwindi we occasionally painted together. We also attended china painting classes. This was a hoot and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. While the others in the class became very accomplished traditional china painters, Jenepher and I splashed paint around creating colourful very non-traditional pieces. Our teacher would look over our shoulders and say something like. 'Oh you two, I'll just let you do your thing.'

What I have written is just a snippet of Jenepher's life and talent. To explain it all would be impossible, because Jenepher's intellect and creativity, the colourful moving pictures and visions in her head, were far too vibrant and important to ever be contained in explanation.

All I can say is that Goondiwindi was given a very special gift when Jenepher Wilson arrived in town.


Jenepher Wilson at an exhibition of Goondiwindi artists held in Brisbane mid 1980s.

Vale, Jenepher...

Cheers,
Kathryn
www.kathrynbrimblecombe-fox.com