Four reasons we love sad songs, when we like machines (too) much, and art by algorithm (#WIC)

By October 31, 2014 Week in Context No Comments

This week we ponder if technology can become too human(-like), have a look at the Microsoft Band and DeepMind’s “Neural Turing Machine”, and four reasons why we love ourselves a sad song.

This Week in Context

Your Weekly Update on All Things Context, October 31 2014


“We should be wary of technology that makes us too sentimental. “It can lead us to hang onto technology for longer than is necessary,” Waytz says, “just like we won’t euthanise an animal that we are attached to.” 

Adam Waytz
quoted by David Robson

Five Must-Reads

1. Google’s Secretive DeepMind Startup Unveils a “Neural Turing Machine”

DeepMind unveiled a prototype computer that attempts to mimic some of the properties of the human brain’s short-term working memory. It is a type of neural network that has been adapted to work with an external memory. The result is a computer that learns as it stores memories and can later retrieve them to perform logical tasks beyond those it has been trained to do.

2. Microsoft’s Wearable: A $199 Fitness Band & Cloud Platform

Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band, a $199 device that comes equipped with build-in GPS and sensors to track heart rate, galvanic skin response, .. but also more novel data such as UV. It works through Bluetooth connectivity with IOS, Android and Windows Phones, and plugs in to the new Microsoft Health fitness tracking service. The device takes Cortana voice commands. (Handy to know: its battery will last you about 48 hours before it needs a recharge, whilst the FitBit Charge HR will probably last you double that.)

3. Do we want charismatic human-like machines?

David Robson writes about the rise of human-like robots, cars and drones; a breed of machines designed to make us love them. Giving them a ‘sense of humor’ (or at least witty responses) is one of the ways designers hope to make ‘smart’ devices more likeable and less annoying. Research shows that we are more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a car that has human-like characteristics. A self-driving car that crashes is more easily forgiving if it has a human voice.

The emotional bond we form with machines make that we have a hard time being “cruel” to them, or decommissioning old editions. Should we add more humour and humanity to our gadgets, or is that a dangerous path to take?

4. How does Artificial Neural Network (ANN) algorithm work?

Tavish Srivastava explains the framework of the ANN algorithm, the time it consumes in relation to the volume of data, and for which situations the algorithms is a good fit.

5. Four reasons we love sad songs

Why do we find pleasure in sad music? A recently published study found that sad music can evoke positive emotions, like peacefulness and tenderness. There are fur distinct rewards for choosing to listen to a weepy ballad: feeling sadness without its ‘real-life’ implications, emotion regulation, imagination and empathy. (Hattip to Koen)

A Work of Art & Tech: Art by Algorithm

The MIT Media Lab has a new logo. Whilst it at first looks rather dull, space invaders done minimalistic, it becomes rather fascinating when you take the flexibility build-in into account. As UnderConsideration describes it, the new logo is a gateway into a world of twisted, nerd-encoded acronyms that future generations will puzzle over as artifacts of past civilizations. Or something.

Variations of a single character on the 7×7 grid will allow for almost every possible letter combination, and an algorithm will generate all the possible solutions for any given group acronyms in the future, as well as plenty of icons.

When your logos are designed/generated by algorithms, then the art sits in the design of the algorithms?

Papers, Talks and Research

  • Big Data and Privacy: Isn’t it really a debate about trust? (privacy, big data, regulation, transparency, talk)
  • Daily Stress Recognition from Mobile Phone Data, Weather Conditions and Individual Traits (stress recognition, mobile sensing, pervasive computing, paper)
  • The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey (emotion, music, paper)
  • Step Up Life: A Context Aware Health Assistant (sensors, context-aware, mhealth, paper)
  • On Cultural, Textual and Experiential Aspects of Music Mood (mood, music, context, paper)

Happy Halloween!
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