- Website: http://www.rubendaas.nl
- A graphic design student from the Willem de Kooning academy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Currently being an intern at Next Nature, working on the Next Nature book and the Nano Supermarket
Steven Levy writes in Wired on the unexpected turn of the Artificial Intelligence revolution: rather than whole artificial minds, it consists of a rich bestiary of digital fauna, which few would dispute possess something approaching intelligence.
Diapers.com warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence—except maybe a random number generator—had a hand in determining what went where.
But the warehouses aren’t meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might—by placing like products next to one another, for instance—Diapers.com’s robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.
The Kiva bots may not seem very smart. They don’t possess anything like human intelligence and certainly couldn’t pass a Turing test. But they represent a new forefront in the field of artificial intelligence. Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks. Examples can be found everywhere: The Google global machine uses AI to interpret cryptic human queries. Credit card companies use it to track fraud. Netflix uses it to recommend movies to subscribers. And the financial system uses it to handle billions of trades (with only the occasional meltdown).
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After making the successful and popular movie Avatar (2009), James Cameron started the Avatar Home Tree Initiative. This initiative consists of building “Avatar” forests on 17 places on Earth in collaboration with local organizations. Among these places are the USA, Sweden, Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands and the UK. Totally there will be 1 million trees planted.
With this initiative the line between nature and fiction becomes increasingly vague. Of course we aren’t new to the recreation of nature. Like in the Dutch Oostvaardersplassen, where we recreated a 3000 year old landscape. But rather than recreating an ecology we believe existed some thousand years ago, the Avatar woods are about creating an environment after images rendered in a science fiction movie.
In The Netherlands the initiative is an collaboration between Twentieth Century Fox, the Dutch National Forestry Commission and the foundation wAarde (Worth Earth). The main objective of this particular project is to give nature back to today’s youth, as otherwise it wouldn’t be part of their lives anymore, except through video games and movies like Avatar. In the Avatar forests, the youth will experience nature as they know it from the movie and might be tangled by it. It will be a strange paradox of reality.
Of course the idea of creating new forests to create a more healthy environment is never a bad idea, and by using a popular movie to get attention for it, is just logical. But what will be next? Maybe Blizzard Entertainment could start creating World of Warcraft like area’s, to get their players to go outside and experience ‘nature’.