Making magical machines

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We live in the age of robots, where machines powered by AI can drive your car, deliver you breakfast in your hotel room, or reorder you diapers on Amazon.

But automata isn’t new. As craftsman François Junod points out in the video, “the oldest known automatons date back to the Egyptians.” They gained popularity as entertainment for royalty in the 18th century.

Obsessed with mechanics and automatons at a younger age, Junod felt compelled to make what he calls ‘animated sculptures’ himself. Today he works out of his studio in Switzerland and ships out all over the world.

“It’s that I’ve always liked automatons because we can create new things…There really isn’t a limit. We can continue and discover new things. We can always go further.”

Find out more about Junod’s work here.

Images courtesy François Junod


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Learning to think again

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Humans are thinking creatures. Otherwise, the only difference between humans and other animals is that we have bigger brains that also allow us to speak.

But we use less brain power every day because we use calculators, Google, and self-driving cars. We’re not lazy, but we prefer to do the things we want so we can carry on with the business of living. What we risk skipping though are the lessons in between, which give neurons a chance to make new synaptic connections.

When we want to recall a statistic or a dig back into our vocabulary, the brain runs past its library of facts and pictures and jogs the mind’s memory.

Thinking is a bicep curl for the mind.

Yet today, we’re more likely to outsource our chance to think, choosing exactitude rather than admitting to our weaknesses and coping with uncertainty.

Nevertheless, what most digital naysayers don’t realize is that new technology, whether it’s the rise of machines via the industrial revolution or smart computers driving artificial intelligence, there will be other things to learn like coding. Coding feeds the machines and tells them what to do. However, we should resist becoming the tools of our tools, as Thoreau admonished.

We’re both and winning losing it at the neurocognitive level while advancing society at the same time. The hard part will be holding on to ambiguity, the space in between the strange things, as the data will always feel the need to identify and fix things. Most importantly, what thinking teaches us is that it’s ok to be wrong.

Beware the Bots

Our worst fear is being replaced by a bunch of machines. But I’m afraid that day is already here. Desultory nods and copy-pasted emails are just the start.

People think there’s a template to life that requires both obedience and automation. Life’s not that easy, unless you want it to be.

There are cogs and then there are people with curiosity and courage that want to make shit happen. These people don’t need to necessarily change the world but they want to be in it. They want to be present and awake so they can see through society’s smoke and mirrors.

Machines don’t know who they are but people should.

Side Projects (Part 2)

Side projects rule the world. They can essentially be defined as anything you enjoy doing in your free time with or without the intention of making money.

This blog started as a side project. It’s my canvass for exploring new ideas and thoughts. Gmail and Nasty Gal also started as passion projects. Both are viable businesses today.

The great thing about side projects is that there’s no pressure to make them work, at least in the beginning. You take a side project on for fun and because you think it’ll add some value to other people, even if it’s just a friend.

But I think everyone needs a side project. Today’s reality requires everyone to be an entrepreneur on the side. The economy is forever unpredictable and machines are taking away human jobs. Start a blog, write a book, sell some art on Etsy, make a rap album, or go to the extreme and build a rocket ship or modern car like Elon Musk.

Creativity can’t be automated. It takes the complexity and effort of the human brain to come up with new ideas that are essentially subjective mashups of interests, experiences, and access.

It turns that if you really love doing something and enriching other people’s lives a career may meet you half-way. But there’s no rush to monetize a side-project, just start because you love it first and then capitalize on the opportunities to grow it even further.

For more, read “Side Projects” part 1

The Robots Are Here

The rise of intelligent machines will spawn new ideologies along with the new economy it is creating. Think of it as a kind of digital social Darwinism, with clear winners and losers: Those with the talent and skills to work seamlessly with technology and compete in the global marketplace are increasingly rewarded, while those whose jobs can just as easily be done by foreigners, robots or a few thousand lines of code suffer accordingly. This split is already evident in the data: The median male salary in the United States was higher in 1969 than it is today. Middle-class manufacturing jobs have been going away due to a mix of automation and trade, and they are not being replaced. The most lucrative college majors are in the technical fields, such as engineering. The winners are doing much better than ever before, but many others are standing still or even seeing wage declines.

Technology, know how to use it or you’ll lose out to it. 

Automation.

Robotic Creativity (Man vs. Machine)

You can’t automate creativity. Mixing and mashing is solely a human production. You can get robots to copy art but connectivity, innovation, and randomness is what makes man made art unpredictable.

Art is long. Everyone and everything that can be programmed is going to have to be more complex to survive.

Unfortunately, many people are already machines, lazy in pursuit of the remarkable. They are satisfied with present needs and myopic of the future. Creativity and change emerges from the combination of heart and mind, two distinct human qualities.  

Which of your skills can’t be pre-programmed? Do that.