GEB Seminar ; Her

The students of our IEEE CIS chapter, together with our Pos-graduate Student Association have kindly invited me for their first joint Seminar–Coffee. I’ll be talking about Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, and about the forthcoming course I am offering the postgraduates about the book. Here’s a translation of their invitation :

What is the link between Gödel, Escher and Bach and what do the three of them have to do with Artificial Intelligence ?

Those are the questions that motivate our first Seminar–Coffee. We will host Professor Dr. Eduardo Valle, who will talk to us about the course he will give this semester, “35 Years of Gödel, Escher, Bach : Commented and Extended Reading of a Masterpiece of Artificial Intelligence”.

If you are interested in themes related to A.I., or even if you are just curious about it, come spend some time with us. According to Prof. Valle, “this will be an intellectual adventure more engaging than you can imagine !”.

The seminar will take place at the Congregation Room of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (pointer “C” in this map), on Wednesday, February 26 at 17h30.

Besides this “must watch” content, we will offer sandwiches and soft drinks, so we can concurrently eat and philosophize.

N.B. : our room has capacity for about 60 people. Admission will be made on a first-come basis.

The talk and discussion will be in Portuguese.

* * *

I’m not very attuned to Hollywood, my source of mindless entertainment being (should I confess this ?) webcomics, short videoclips and UGC. Therefore I was taken by surprise by all the noise around “Her”, last year’s film by Spike Jonze about a man, an intelligent Operating System who identifies as a women, and a relationship they develop. The film has received a long list of accolades, and widespread critical acclaim.

The film themes are dear to me : the relationship of people with technology, the possibility of hard A.I. happening within our lifetimes, how A.I. would perceive itself and relate to us if it happened. And, of course, the singularity. The film also raises interesting questions about the construction of gender identities.

But I must confess that I was left cold by both of the trailers. Watching the eau de rose scenes they chose for the marketing, all I could think was, “Great : the manic pixie dream girl goes digital. How avant-garde.” Judging by the cover, the film does not dwell very much in any of the interesting issues it raises.

It is possible, however, that the trailers don’t do justice to Samantha’s role. According to TVTropes (my go to resource for criticism and analysis), the MPDG aspect is lampshaded, and then subverted. If it is really so, the movie becomes  more interesting. I am still a bit skeptical, but now there is a chance I might pick “Her” instead of “Frozen” in my next intercontinental flight.

(Okay. Really there isn’t that chance. But there is a chance I might pick “Her” after “Frozen” if I can’t sleep in my next intercontinental flight.)

Update 11/02 : Apparently my seminar will have a live webcast. Stay tuned for details !

Update 26/02 : The talk is available (in Portuguese).

Update 27/02 : The talk slides are available in PPTX (including the short movies) or in PDF (just the images). I’m making the presentation itself available under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 License — but be careful with the 3rd parties copyrights.

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