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Friday, October 04, 2019

Hitting the Books: Teaching AI to sing slime mold serenades | Tomorrow - Engadget

Welcome to Hitting the Books. With less than one in five Americans reading just for fun these days, we've done the hard work for you by scouring the internet for the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find and delivering an easily digestible nugget of their stories.

Excerpted from The Artist in the Machine: The World of AI-Powered Creativity by Arthur I. Miller (The MIT Press, 2019).  

Get ready for Mozart on a microchip, continues Engadget.

What will be the central processing unit of the future? —Eduardo Miranda

Eduardo Miranda wants to shake up musical composition. At the moment, he is interested in central processing units (CPUs). In today's computers, CPUs are silicon chips with circuitry that enables them to perform arithmetical, logical, and control operations. But supposing we go beyond silicon, beyond digital, beyond even a quantum computer? What about, for example, a bioprocessor that powers a biocomputer? Or a hybrid computer, powered by silicon plus a bioprocessor?

A bioprocessor processes biological material. Miranda's chosen bioprocessor is a slime mold called Physarum polycephalum, the "many-headed slime," a huge, yellow, single-cell organism packed with millions of nuclei. It is a mass of creeping, jelly-like protoplasm that is sensitive to light and spreads out over forest floors, eating fungal spores, bacteria, and microbes...

Miranda grew up in Brazil and discovered computers as a teenager when his father brought home a Sinclair. He also studied the piano from the age of seven. He found it hard to juggle these two interests, AI and music. One hot and humid summer day, he visited the cool confines of the campus library and came across an article by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, in which music was embedded in Venn diagrams, set theory, and logic, familiar to him from his studies in computer science. This, he realized, was the way to combine his interests in music and computers.

For his early research, he studied the way cellular automata behave in the Game of Life, a cellular automata system invented by the English mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970. In this game, a mathematical grid of cells follows simple rules about when a cell is "alive" or "dead." The result is a riot of patterns. Besides its mesmerizing powers, the Game of Life turned out to have multiple unexpected uses—as a tool for exploring the evolution of spiral galaxies; calculating pi; investigating how ordered systems emerge from complex systems; and looking into why, in a multiverse scenario, only certain universes are capable of supporting life. Conway had hit on something universal.
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Recommended Reading

The Artist in the Machine:
The World of AI-Powered Creativity
Source: Engadget