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Monday, June 12, 2017

Neil Young Research and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

ANALYSIS: Neil Young Fan Demographics
Male, Married, Middle Aged

A few years back, we posted some research findings on the demographics of Neil Young fans.

The research was unsurprising in many ways, yet still yielded a few unique insights. However, what was most interesting to us was the availability of raw data on Neil Young fans, their interests and behaviors. And -- more importantly -- what this trend in social media meant for the future.

Well, the future is here (and has been for sometime now) and it continues to get more and more troublesome as the reality of data driven decision making becomes ever more pervasive.

Which brings us to the topic of Neil Young Research and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

We're not going to attempt to make any sweeping pronouncements about trends in technology, music, data and A.I. Not because we don't have an opinion here but because we've already made our future forecasts and they still seem to be right on track as predicted and even maybe a bit ahead of schedule.

So what does this mean: "Neil Young Research and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)?" Probably the best way to explain is to show by example. Below you will see a number of Neil Young "facts" generated by A.I. via the site Tropes Wiki | Neil Young. Take a look:

  • Age Progression Song: "Sugar Mountain".
  • Answer Song:
    • Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" was written to complement "Sugar Mountain".
    • Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" is a Take That! to "Alabama" and "Southern Man". Despite this, the band members were friends with Young and were even planning to collaborate before the band's unfortunate plane crash. Young has performed the song on occasion, including the night after the aforementioned plane crash.
  • Author Avatar: Grandpa and Sun Green both have elements of this in parts of Greendale.
  • Bookends: Several of his albums open and close with the same song. Examples include Tonight's the Night, Rust Never Sleeps, and Freedom. In the latter two cases, the opening rendition is acoustic and the closing one is electric.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Neil wore them while he was in the Buffalo Springfield, but insists he has no Native American ancestry that he knows of. He has written many songs about Native Americans and is an official member of the Muckleshoot tribe in Washington state. In September 2014 he and Willie Nelson were invested with sacred buffalo robes by elders of the Lakotah, Ponca and Omaha nations for, among other things, their help in stopping the Keystone Pipeline.
  • Car Song:
    • "Long May You Run", performed in collaboration with Stephen Stills, an elegy for his first car, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster that broke down in 1956 in Blind River, Ontario. He performed it again during the last episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on January 22, 2010, and a few days later, at the closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, as the Olympic Flame was being extinguished.
    • Fork in the Road, released in 2009, is a whole album of Car Songs.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Averted in Greendale, where the FBI harass Sun, kill her cat, and (it's implied) set her up on drug charges. The CIA are not mentioned at any point in the story.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Fuckin' Up". Neil says he wrote it as an attempt to get a Parental Advisory sticker, but the attempt failed.
  • Drugs Are Bad / Ode To Sobriety: "The Needle and the Damage Done", about heroin.
    • Neil wasn't against all drugs, but he had a particularly strong loathing for heroin because two of his close friends died due to overdoses. On the other hand, most of Tonight's the Night was recorded in various states of intoxication on marijuana and alcohol.
  • Epic Rocking: Half the reason he gives concerts at all. Pretty much any song can go beyond 10 minutes if he feels like it. Frequent examples include "Cowgirl in the Sand", "Like a Hurricane", "Down by the River", "Spirit Road", "Cortez the Killer"...
    Neil: Okay, here's another one, just like the last one.
    Audience: It all sounds the same!
    Neil: It's all one song!
    • "It's all one song" was a running gag on the Rust mailing list, which Neil was known to read.
    • Several tracks on his studio albums invoke this trope as well, especially when Crazy Horse is his backing band:
      • 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere has the well-known examples of "Down by the River" (9:13) and "Cowgirl in the Sand" (10:06).
      • 1989's essentially live in the studio album Ragged Glory has two tracks that exceed 10 minutes ("Love to Burn" and "Love and Only Love") and an additional two that exceed 7.
      • 1975's Zuma has "Danger Bird" (6:54) and "Cortez the Killer" (7:29, which was even longer in the studio performance).
      • 1994's Sleeps with Angels has the nearly 15-minute "Change Your Mind", and two additional songs that exceed six minutes ("Blue Eden" and "Safeway Cart").
      • 2003's Greendale has three songs that top ten minutes ("Carmichael", "Grandpa's Interview", "Sun Green") and an additional three that top seven ("Falling from Above", "Leave the Driving", "Be the Rain").
      • 2012's Psychedelic Pill is an eight-song double CD with three songs topping 16 minutes. The opening number, "Driftin' Back", clocks in at 27:37. (The other two monster tracks are "Ramada Inn", 16:49, and "Walk Like a Giant", 16:27 for the record). Also note that the Blu-Ray Audio version of the album features the absolutely monstrous "Horse Back" as a bonus track; this runs for 37:05. However, it is a medley of previous Neil Young & Crazy Horse tracks, hence the name - there is an 18:50 vamp on a riff from "Fuckin' Up" and an 18:15 version of "Cortez the Killer". You may hear it here. Young actually released this video on Youtube months before Psychedelic Pill was even announced.
    • Even when Crazy Horse isn't involved, he can still get pretty long-winded:
      • 1974's On the Beach has one song that approaches seven minutes (the title track) and one that approaches nine ("Ambulance Blues").
      • 1977's American Stars 'n Bars has "Will to Love" (7:11) and "Like a Hurricane" (8:20, performed with Crazy Horse).
      • Two of the songs on 2007's Chrome Dreams II ("Ordinary People", 18:13, and "No Hidden Path", 14:31) surpass the fourteen minute mark with ease.
    • This is still far from an exhaustive list.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: In his live acoustic performances of Greendale, Neil notes that the Devil's sense of humour is rather mean.
  • Gainax Ending: Greendale. The Devil spikes Earth Brown's drink with devil dust, which evidently will cause him to be thirsty for the rest of his life. In the midst of a trip with Sun Green to Alaska, he leaves the camper during the middle of the night, and Sun has a bizarre dream involving most of the characters in the story (several of whom are now dead). The next morning, Sun finds Earth in the midst of a standoff with industrial machinery, and then "the green army rose". What happens next is left to the listener's imagination. This is likely done deliberately on Young's part.
  • Genre Adultery: When he signed with Geffen Records in 1982, he released Trans (a synthesizer based album) followed in the same year by Everybody's Rockin' (a rockabilly album). He was ready to release Old Ways (a country album) before Geffen filed a lawsuit against him for making music "unrepresentative" of his previous work.
  • Green Aesop: Some of his music has environmentalist themes. Examples include "After the Gold Rush", "Vampire Blues" (which, as mentioned below, is a metaphor for the oil industry), and the entire albums Greendale and Fork in the Road, though there are others. Some examples are quite subtle, others less so.
  • Handicapped Badass: Neil suffers from epilepsy, and in his Buffalo Springfield days would often have fits on stage, earning him the nickname "Shakey". He's since learned to control it, but his eccentric guitar playing style and tendency to almost go into trance during Epic Rocking often come across as barely controlled seizures.
    • He's also a polio survivor, diabetic (type 1) and in 2005 nearly bled to death from complications following (successful) surgery for a deadly brain aneurysm. In 1970 he ruptured a disk while working on his house, and spent most of the next year in a brace -– but this led to his writing numerous soft acoustic songs, including the #1 hit single, "Heart of Gold", because he could sit down to play them. Surgery helped, but he's been plagued with back pain throughout his life. As if that weren't enough, he has scoliosis and osteoporosis. And he still gets up onstage and rocks his (and YOUR) ass off.
  • I Call It "Vera": Young has a tendency to name his guitars. Some in his collection include "Old Black" and "Hank," the latter of which was named after its previous owner, Hank Williams.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Rockin' in the Free World" is not proud or patriotic.
    • It may take a few listens to the Native American themed "Pocahontas" to register just how awful the events in it are.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Devil definitely has some supernatural powers in Greendale, but it's left ambiguous as to how far they extend. Questions such as whether he influenced Jed to kill Officer Carmichael are left unanswered, but there is definitely a connection between them, since Jed sees the Devil before his crime, Earl paints the Devil shortly after it, and Jed and the Devil are noted to share similarities in their appearances. Earth Brown qualifies, too. It's not clear whether he's the literal manifestation of the Earth or just a particularly passionate defender of it.
  • Misogyny Song: "A Man Needs a Maid" is sometimes interpreted as one. "Stupid Girl" probably also qualifies, though it's also probably worth noting that Neil was in the midst of a rather tumultuous breakup when he wrote it. His material in more recent years has generally been pretty good about avoiding this.
  • Murder Ballad: "Down by the River" (..."I shot my baby").
  • Old Media Are Evil: The local media in Greendale are not given a particularly flattering portrayal. In fact, they're implied to be responsible for Grandpa's death - it's not specifically said what causes it, but it's strongly implied to be a heart attack due to his rage at their continued intrusions into his family's life. This could be considered to border on Strawman News Media. Later in the album when they cover Sun Green's protest, they're given a more flattering portrayal, though.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "Vampire Blues" is a metaphor for the oil industry.
  • Perfume Commercial: Spoofed in his video for "This Note's for You".
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Young's distinctive voice has been imitated by some Alternative Rock singers, like Wayne Coyne and J Mascis.
  • Pun-Based Title: Le Noise was produced by Daniel Lanois, and Young's guitar tone on most of the album could be described as "noisy" note .
  • Protest Song: So, so many.
    • "Ohio" — Written / performed during his time with CSNY about the famous Kent State shootings in 1970 within two weeks of the tragedy itself.
    • "Southern Man" and "Alabama" were tied to the mistreatment of African-Americans.
    • "Rockin' in the Free World" is a a general protest against the George H.W. Bush administration and the effects of Reaganomics.
    • Living with War is an entire album about Neil's thoughts on George W. Bush. Including one cheery sing-along called "Let's Impeach the President"!
      • Parodied on Saturday Night Live (where he was played by Kevin Spacey) as a "subtle, understated" album called "I Do Not Agree with Many of This Administration's Policies".
  • Rail Enthusiast: Some people buy model trains. Young bought a model train manufacturer. Young's son Ben has severe cerebral palsy, and is especially into model trains -– so he started getting into trains to have something he and Ben could enjoy together. Young also invented a new kind of control for the train set allowing everything to be run from what he called "The Big Red Button", so that Ben, a nonspeaking paraplegic, could run the whole set himself. He's also the inventor of the CAB-1 remote control device, the Trainmaster Command Control that lets you run multiple trains from one controller, and Rail Sounds, which provides the authentic sounds of each train in your setup.
  • Self-Deprecation: In Live at Vicar St., Neil makes a remark to the effect that when he was writing Greendale, he had "absolutely no idea what I was doing, as usual".
  • '70s Hair: Neil originally wore his hair in a modified Beatle style, with enormous sideburns.
  • Shout-Out: Greendale has one to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and one to The Beatles' "Come Together". There's also a reference to environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill.
  • Sincerest Form of Flattery: Neil's musical styles, particularly his heavy rock style, have inspired a number of musicians to create closely detailed copies, as a tribute to him. Drive by Truckers' "A Blessing and a Curse" makes you expect to hear his voice. Dawes' rock version of "If I Wanted Someone" is another; it even references "A Man Needs a Maid". And Fox manage to capture the Horse in High Tide Rising in a beautifully crunchy, screaming, howling, loving tribute.
  • Song of Song Titles: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" contains many references to Young's songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man", mostly in the form of a Take That!, though not as much as you might think. note 
  • The Stoner: In his autobiography, Neil admits to having spent the last 40 years smoking marijuana "like other people smoke tobacco".
  • Stylistic Suck: The musicianship on "Roll Another Number" is atrocious because they were completely trashed when they recorded it. Somehow it just makes the song even more effective.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Invoked with "Borrowed Tune", which outright admits it's lifted from The Rolling Stones' "Lady Jane".
  • Take That!: "Alabama" and "Southern Man" are attacks on the racism of the southern United States.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Young's 2006 release Living With War was an experimental album detailing all the ways in which he disapproved of George W. Bush.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: This seems to be his relationship with Crosby, Stills, & Nash.

So those are just a few example of Neil Young "facts" generated by A.I.

Just as we said five years ago, who cares? Why does this matter? Here's what we said:
Lastly -- and really this is the point here -- many folks are quite oblivious to the amount of information that is gathered about them constantly. Data that is crunched, analyzed, bought, sold and profited upon.
You -- our dear TW reader -- are the product. You and who you are is what has value and is being sold to the highest bidder for a profit. And your share is exactly zero.

Who said numbers add up to nothing? Or maybe numbers really do add up to SOMEthing?

Maybe, just, maybe we R in control... or beware of the "singularity".

Labels: ,


At 6/14/2017 12:57:00 PM, Blogger Hounds That Howl said...

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange predicts an impending dystopic world where human perception is no match for Artificial Intelligence-controlled propaganda and the consequences of AI are lost on its creators, who envision a nirvana-like future.
Assange spoke of the threat of AI-controlled social media via video link at rapper and activist M.I.A.’s Meltdown Festival in the Southbank Centre, London.

Speaking about the future of AI, Assange told a panel including Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek that there will be a time when AI will be used to adjust perception.

“Imagine a Daily Mail run by essentially Artificial Intelligence, what does that look like when there’s only the Daily Mail worldwide? That's what Facebook and Twitter will shift into,” he said.

Assange referenced the apparent intense pressure Facebook and Google were under to ensure Emmanuel Macron, and not Marine Le Pen, won last month’s French presidential election runoff.

When asked by M.I.A. if AI and VR technology will make society more vulnerable to becoming apolitical, Assange replied: “Yes, of course we can be influenced, but I don’t see that as the main problem.”

"Human beings have always been influenced by sophisticated systems of production, information and experience, [such as the] BBC for example.”

The technologies “just amplify the power of the ability to project into the mind,” he added.

The main concern in Assange’s eyes centers around how AI can be used to advance propaganda.

“The most important development as far as the fate of human beings are concerned is that we are getting close to the threshold where the traditional propaganda function that is employed by BBC, The Daily Mail, and cultures also, can be encapsulated by AI processes,” Assange said.

“When you have AI programs harvesting all the search queries and YouTube videos someone uploads it starts to lay out perceptual influence campaigns, twenty to thirty moves ahead. This starts to become totally beneath the level of human perception.”

Admitting his vision was dystopian, he suggested that he could be wrong.

“Maybe there will be a new band of technologically empowered human beings that can see this [rueful] fate coming towards us, [which] will be able to extract value or diminish it by directly engaging with it – that's also possible.”

Another insight offered by the WikiLeaks founder was his opinion that engineers involved in AI lack perception about what they’re doing.

“I know from our sources deep inside the Silicon Valley institution[s] that they genuinely believe that they are going to produce AI that's so powerful, relatively soon, that people will have their brains digitized, uploaded to these AIs and live forever in simulation, therefore have eternal life.”

“It's like a religion for atheists,” he added. “And given you’re in a simulation, why not program the simulation to have endless drug and sex orgy parties around you.”

Assange said this vision makes them work harder and the dystopian consequences of their work is overshadowed by cultural and industrial bias to not perceiving it.

He concluded that the normal perception someone would have regarding their work has been supplanted with “this ridiculous quasi-religious model that's it all going to lead to nirvana.”

At 6/14/2017 05:46:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Hounds That Howl!

Many are put off by anything sourced to Julian Assange. Whatever folks think about JA, he's got this nailed.

But he's not the 1st on the topic or outlier. Most Science Fiction has always been focused on the very issue of technology getting out of the hands of their masters Go back to Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and back even further.

It is a guarantee that no matter what, the technology escapes into the hands of evil and used on the creator and innocents.

Such is the fate of the internet as the days of open sourced, shared code rapidly recedes into the fog of intellectual property and state control.

As always, we've been warned. As always, we ignore and carry on our merry way.

Nirvana ... careful what you wish for.


At 8/12/2017 02:05:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

ps - not to repeat ourselves, but we will...

Maybe, just, maybe we R in control... or beware of the "singularity".

kid u not


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