In a famous episode in the "I Love Lucy" television series--"Job Switching," better known as the chocolate factory episode--Lucy and her best-friend coworker Ethel are tasked to wrap chocolates flowing by on a conveyor belt in front of them. Each time they get better at the task, the conveyor belt speeds up. Eventually they cannot keep up and the whole scene collapses into chaos. The threshold between order and chaos seems thin. A small perturbation--such as a slight increase in the speed of Lucy's conveyor belt--can either do nothing or it can trigger an avalanche of disorder. The speed of events within an avalanche overwhelms us, sweeps away structures that preserve order, and robs our ability to function.
On a warm day in April 2013, I was sitting in a friend's kitchen in Paris, trying to engineer serendipity. I was trying to get my computer to write music on its own. I wanted to be able to turn it on and have it spit out not just any goofy little algorithmic tune but beautiful, compelling, mysterious music; something I'd be proud to have written myself. The kitchen window was open, and as I listened to the sounds of children playing in the courtyard below, I thought about how the melodies of their voices made serendipitous counterpoint with the songs of nearby birds and the intermittent drone of traffic on the rue d'Alésia. In response to these daydreams, I was making a few tweaks to my software--a chaotic, seat-of-the-pants affair that betrayed my intuitive, self-taught approach to programming--when I saw that Bill Seaman had just uploaded a new batch of audio files to our shared Dropbox folder. I had been collaborating with Bill, a media artist, on various aspects of computational creativity over the past few years.
Ross Goodwin has had an extraordinary career. After playing about with computers as a child, he studied economics, then became a speech writer for President Obama, writing presidential proclamations, then took a variety of freelance writing jobs. One of these involved churning out business letters--he calls it freelance ghostwriting. The letters were all pretty much the same, so he figured out an algorithm that would generate form letters, using a few samples as a database. The algorithm jumbled up paragraphs and lines following certain templates, then reassembled them to produce business letters, similar but each varying in style, saving him the job of starting anew each time.
Subscribe to this episode via iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, and Spotify, or stream it and connect with hundreds of AI startups and influencers from our chatbot. A full text transcript can also be found at the end of this post. Over the last few years, we've seen the trade and supply of data increase, with more and more of it being generated and leveraged by all industries and organizations. Particularly in this era of innovation, data is essential, and as usage continues to skyrocket, the consideration of how it's being collected and how its being used is more important than ever. Everyone is talking about transforming their organization with artificial intelligence.