A Digital Supermodel

Cameron-James Wilson, 31, founded an agency for digital models in London in 2019, The Diigitals. He is the creator of the digital supermodel Shudu. “Since baffling the fashion and modeling world at large, he’s added virtuals Galaxia, Brenn, Dagny, Koffi, Margot, and Zhi to the Gram family.” (Virtual Humans, 4 May 2020) Galaxia is an alien model and has long, pointed ears and a long neck. Koffi is a male virtual influencer with a muscle-rich body, which he likes to show in sparse clothing. Shudu is the most famous avatar of the agency. At this year’s digital fashion shows in Paris and Milan, a number of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) models and avatars presented the new looks. Shudu was not there, which the creator explains in a SPIEGEL interview by the fact that it is still difficult to animate her to move like a real person. At the end Barbara Markert asks him what Shudu means to him. He answers: “It may sound crazy, but I feel a responsibility for this woman and the community she represents.” (SPIEGEL, 9 December 2020, own translation)

Young Girls could Kill Autonomous Driving

On behalf of Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, M. Hashem Birahjakli investigated possible attacks on self-driving cars as part of his final thesis in 2020. The supervisor was Safak Korkut. In the chapter “Attacking Scenarios on Sensors” the student divided into invasive attacks and non-invasive attacks. In the section on invasive attacks he dealt with different sensors and examined possible attacks based on scenarios: vision-based cameras (chewing gum, lipstick, and nail polish; spraying paint; transparent colored foil; concave lenses), radar (chaff, countermeasure), lidar (mirror and reflective objects; dust; face powder), inertial measuring unit (magnet), and sonar (carrot and stick; duct tape). In the section on non-invasive attacks he dealt with fake traffic signs, invisible or fake obstacles, and roadside attacks. The results of the work suggest that every 14-year-old girl could disable a self-driving car. So far, hacking has been seen as the greatest threat to autonomous driving. But while not everyone can hack, almost everyone carries chewing gum or lipstick. The automotive industry should consider this threat seriously.

Gates and Jones Ask Big Questions

Bill Gates will start his own series of podcasts on 16 November 2020. The title is “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions”. In a YouTube video (as well as in a description of the video) he and his partner explain what it’s all about. According to the description, the podcasts pair “Bill Gates with actress and writer Rashida Jones to tackle some of the biggest questions facing us today”: “Is it too late to solve climate change? Does everybody lie? Is inequality inevitable? Join them for deep dives into these questions” (YouTube, 12 November 2020). The podcasts will be available on Apple Podcasts and other services. Gates plans to give an overview on his own blog GatesNotes of all the episodes that have run so far, not to forget a transcript of each episode. Certainly there will also be statements on robotics and artificial intelligence – at least some episodes will deal with the modern workplace. Can one hope to get big answers to big questions? The future will show.

From 2D to 3D Codes

3D codes have been researched for over 15 years. Even 2D codes can store short texts or other information. However, codes that use color as a third dimension are far superior in this respect. They open up numerous fields of application and raise technical, economic and ethical questions. According to a press release, the JAB Code of the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT – JAB stands for “Just Another Barcode” – is on its way to becoming an international ISO standard. “Job references, training certificates and wills, but also proof of authenticity for products can be secured with JAB Code.” (Press release Fraunhofer SIT, 26 June 2020) Furthermore, longer texts can be stored. Already in 2010 Oliver Bendel has published a book with QR codes from which haikus could be read offline. In the same and the following year he scientifically dealt with 2D and 3D codes. A longer article on the topic from 2011 can be found here – the teaser and the link are included in in this 3D code, which can be scanned via www.jabcode.org. A 2D code also manages a text like that, but already has an enormous complexity. Waldemar Berchtold from Fraunhofer SIT explains: “With eight colours, readability is robust, with the smartphones available on the market. Whereas with more than eight colours, reliable readability with older smartphones cannot be guaranteed across the board.” More about the Fraunhofer Institute project at www.sit.fraunhofer.de/de/presse/details/news-article/show/bunter-barcode-wird-iso-standard/.


AI as a Secret Weapon Against COVID-19?

Artificial intelligence is underestimated in some aspects, but overestimated in many. It is currently seen as a secret weapon against COVID-19. But it most probably is not. The statement of Alex Engler, a David M. Rubenstein Fellow, is clear: “Although corporate press releases and some media coverage sing its praises, AI will play only a marginal role in our fight against Covid-19. While there are undoubtedly ways in which it will be helpful – and even more so in future pandemics – at the current moment, technologies like data reporting, telemedicine, and conventional diagnostic tools are far more impactful.” (Wired, 26 April 2020) Above all, however, it is social distancing that interrupts the transmission paths and thus curbs the spread of the virus. And it’s drugs that will solve the problem this year or next. So there is a need for behavioural adjustment and medical research. Artificial intelligence is not really needed. Alex Engler identified the necessary heuristics for a healthy skepticism of AI claims around Covid-19 and explained them in Wired magazine.

Bodyhacking at Salon Suisse

“Bodily Encounters” is the title of the Salon Suisse at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice. On Thursday, 26 November 2020, a lecture by Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel on bio- and bodyhacking will take place in Palazzo Trevisan, followed by a discussion with Mike Schaffner and Prof. Dr. Georg Vrachliotis. Biohacking can be defined as the use of biological, chemical or technical means to penetrate organisms or their components in order to change and improve them. The combination of organisms is also possible, creating real-life chimeras. A subsection of biohacking is bodyhacking, in which one intervenes in the animal or human body with biological and chemical, but above all technical means (computer chips, magnets, devices of all kinds, exoskeletons and prostheses), often with the aim of animal or human enhancement and sometimes with a transhumanist mentality. Oliver Bendel is an information and machine ethicist and has been working on human enhancement and animal enhancement for years. Georg Vrachliotis is a professor of architecture, Mike Schaffner is a transhumanist. The Salon Suisse program is available here.

Considerations on Bodyhacking

In the case of bodyhacking one intervenes invasively or non-invasively in the animal or human body, often in the sense of animal or human enhancement and sometimes with the ideology of transhumanism. It is about physical and psychological transformation, and it can result in the animal or human cyborg. Oliver Bendel wrote an article on bio- and bodyhacking for Bosch-Zünder, the legendary associate magazine that has been around since 1919. It was published in March 2020 in ten languages, in German, but also in English, Chinese, and Japanese. Some time ago, Oliver Bendel had already emphasized: “From the perspective of bio-, medical, technical, and information ethics, bodyhacking can be seen as an attempt to shape and improve one’s own or others’ lives and experiences. It becomes problematic as soon as social, political or economic pressure arises, for example when the wearing of a chip for storing data and for identification becomes the norm, which hardly anyone can avoid.” (Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon) He has recently published a scientific paper on the subject in the German Journal HMD. More about Bosch-Zünder at www.bosch.com/de/stories/bosch-zuender-mitarbeiterzeitung/.

Holograms that You can Feel and Hear

A hologram is a three-dimensional image produced with holographic techniques, which has a physical presence in real space. The term “holography” is used to describe procedures that exploit the wave character of light to achieve a realistic representation. Interference and coherence play an important role here. Colloquially, certain three-dimensional projections are also referred to as holograms. According to Gizmodo, researchers at the University of Sussex have created animated 3D holograms that can not only be seen from any angle, they can also be touched. “The researchers took an approach that was similar to one pioneered by engineers at Utah’s Brigham Young University who used invisible lasers to levitate and manipulate a small particle in mid-air, which was illuminated with RGB lights as it zipped around to create the effect of a 3D image. What’s different with the University of Sussex’s holograms is that instead of lasers, two arrays of ultrasonic transducers generating soundwaves are used to float and control a lightweight polystyrene bead just two millimeters in size.” (Gizmodo, 14 November 2019) A video of the Guardian shows quite impressive examples. Further information is available on the Gizmodo website.

Canton of Geneva Bans Uber

According to SRF, Tages-Anzeiger and swissinfo.ch, the canton of Geneva prohibits Uber from continuing its activities in the canton. It now classifies the transportation intermediary as an employer, hence obliging it to pay social benefits to its drivers to continue operating. “Speaking to Swiss public television SRF, the head of the cantonal government Mauro Poggia said that the ride-hailing service was subject to the applicable taxi and transport law. This means Uber is currently not fulfilling its legal obligations and will have to hire its drivers and pay their social benefits, such as pensions, like other taxi companies. According to checks carried out by the canton of Geneva, criteria such as fares, invoices and even an evaluation system for drivers are used at Uber. For this reason, the authorities rejected the arguments of Uber’s lawyers that their drivers were self-employed.” (swissinfo.ch, 1 November 2019) One may be curious whether Uber will hire its drivers and pay social benefits or go to a Swiss court to appeal against the decision.

Interpretable AI for Well-Being

The papers of the AAAI 2019 Spring Symposium “Interpretable AI for Well-Being: Understanding Cognitive Bias and Social Embeddedness symposium” were published in October 2019. The participants had met at Stanford University at the end of March 2019 to present and discuss their findings. Session 5 (“Social Embeddedness”) includes the following publications: “Are Robot Tax, Basic Income or Basic Property Solutions to the Social Problems of Automation?” (Oliver Bendel), “Context-based Network Analysis of Structured Knowledge for Data Utilization” (Teruaki Hayashi, Yukio Ohsawa), “Extended Mind, Embedded AI, and ‘the Barrier of Meaning'” (Sadeq Rahimi), “Concept of Future Prototyping Methodology to Enhance Value Creation within Future Contexts” (Miwa Nishinaka, Yusuke Kishita, Hisashi Masuda, Kunio Shirahada), and “Maintaining Knowledge Distribution System’s Sustainability Using Common Value Auctions” (Anas Al-Tirawi, Robert G. Reynolds). The papers can be downloaded via ceur-ws.org/Vol-2448/.