March 25, 2009
SILICON VALLEY — Next week, artificial intelligence researchers from the Turing Institute for Computer Science will publish the results of a monumental six-year study describing the creation and subsequent testing of the world’s first fully viable, self-sustaining simulation of a human personality.
By integrating cutting-edge neural network modeling, a first-principles approach to behavioral psychology, and a linguistic repertoire specialized for written communication within online social networks, researchers developed an artificially intelligent construct with highly interactive capabilities.
“The primary protocol we used was a Target-Optimized Reactive Intelligence (T.O.R.I.), so we named our artificial personality Tory,” said Dr. S. Viswanathan, the assistant director of the research group.
“That’s a homonym,” he added.
Researchers programmed “Tory” to represent a friendly, well-adjusted teenage female with excellent mandolin playing skills and a deep but believable enthusiasm for acoustic music. According to her programming, Tori claimed to reside in a remote Appalachian region that few were likely to ever visit.
“The reduced complexity of online conversation made comprehension and outcome selection much more manageable, but even so we needed an entire building full of supercomputers running at all times,” said project spokesman Dr. Nicholas Rivington.
“We optimized her intelligence to include knowledge and opinions about bluegrass and folk music, but we didn’t have the computing power to make her freely conversant on other subjects,” said Dr. S. Viswanathan, the assistant director of the research group.
“Luckily, online acoustic music enthusiasts converse about non-bluegrass topics less than 0.1% of the time, so that didn’t affect our data in a statistically significant fashion,” said Dr. Viswanathan.
The Tory construct was released into the online community, where for 24-hours a day, every single day for over four years, it interacted with human bluegrass musicians and enthusiasts via social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and AOL Instant Messenger.
Tory’s online interactions, which were recorded and studied by researchers, were typically conducted through a profile page supplemented with massive numbers of very believable digitally generated images supposedly depicting Tori in various musical situations.
“There were a few glitches here and there, mostly involving duplication of various queries to the online community, but nobody seemed to notice that anything was amiss. Overall, our construct was a tremendous success for the whole AI field, and most of the bluegrass community is still under the impression that T.O.R.I. is an actual person,” said Dr. Rivington.
OAKLAND, CA — Fiddler Jeremy Kittel, long renowned for the intellectual rigor of his compositions and his impressive, idea-driven improvisational style, has now radically enhanced his live performances with a state-of-the-art microphone apparatus that amplifies the musician’s own thoughts as well as the sound of his actual instrument.
“With this new microphone, Kittel is unstoppable,” said guitarist Kyle Sanna of the Jeremy Kittel World Band.
The microphone, whose active element is only slightly bigger than a pea, is unobtrusively mounted to Kittel’s head where it receives dual signals from his fiddle and brain.
This takes the listener closer than ever before to the pure sounds that the Kittel is hearing in his own head.
A small cable transmits the input from hundreds of thousands of intracranial nanoelectrodes that simultaneously measure neural spikes within both the auditory and rostromedial prefrontal cortices.
A microprocessor then converts these signals to an amplified musical output based on complex algorithms developed by Jeremy Kittel’s brother Jonathan in his spare time.
The result is a preternatural perfection of concept and execution that is earning critical praise throughout the country.
“Does this mean Jeremy Kittel is actually a cyborg? Cool,” said Z. Voytek, a high school student from Fort Myers, FL.
However, some of Kittel’s musical competitors have alleged that Kittel’s technology gives him an unfair advantage.
“At first I thought he’d just been practicing a lot. I couldn’t believe how good he sounded. But then I saw the microphone mounted to his head and I knew he was up to something,” said rival Scottish-style fiddle player Hanneke Cassel.
ATLANTA — Doctors and biologists are struggling to explain how an apparent junk food overdose has resulted in the first-ever partial hydrogenation of an entire human being.
“His body’s fat deposits, typically liquid at physiological temperature, have congealed into a semi-solid gel very similar in appearance to Crisco,” said Dr. Frederic Broussard, a leading international fat cell researcher heading the effort to explain Kellen Zakula’s condition.
“Spectroscopic analyses of numerous samples from the subject’s adipose tissue have confirmed our suspicions. The lipids in his body are partially hydrogenated.”
“This s—t is straight out of the X-Files,” said one postdoctoral fellow on the Zakula research team.
Kellen Zakula, 22, a promising young fiddler and singer, was riding in a van in central Colorado when he began to complain of diffuse physical pain radiating from his stomach and breasts. Within minutes, most of his body had stiffened, rendering him completely immobile and nonresponsive.
“It was insane. Corey DiMario and I were in the front seat, and Kellen was in the back, sort of offhandedly complaining about some kind of pain, but we didn’t think much of it. Next thing I know, I turn around and it looks like he’s got rigor mortis,” said Greg Liszt.
“And he was covered in peanut butter,” added DiMario.
“That was when we noticed the empty bag of peanut butter M&M’s next to him,” said an anonymous British girl who happened to be in the van at the time for unknown reasons.
“Not a small bag, either. I think it was one of those two pound Halloween party bags,” said Liszt.
“I can’t believe he ate the whole thing. That makes me so mad,” said DiMario.
Zakula was taken to the hospital and promptly airlifted to a CDC facility in Atlanta, GA, where experts pronounced him partially hydrogenated, but alive.
Partial hydrogenation typically occurs by an industrial process requiring high heat, a metal catalyst, and hydrogen gas.
This process chemically alters unsaturated fats such as those found in vegetable oil, increasing overall solidity and textural homogeneity at room temperature. These attributes, along with enhanced shelf life, have made partially hydrogenated vegetable oils very popular in mass-produced baked goods.
Many common brands of peanut butter also contain partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil as an additive to enhance spreadability and prevent the peanut butter from separating into distinct layers over time.
Public health officials have long warned against excessive consumption of foods containing partially-hydrogenated oils, as they contain unnatural isomers of fats that pose several long-term health risks including heart disease and stroke.
But this case marks the first instance of an immediate acute health trauma resulting from trans-fat ingestion.
“Our working model is that the vast quantity of partially hydrogenated fats from the peanut butter M&M’s so totally overwhelmed the patient’s system that they fundamentally altered the equilibrium of fat in his body, almost entirely replacing the natural isomers with their partially-hydrogenated counterparts,” said Dr. Broussard.
“To reverse this process, we have put the patient on a new diet consisting entirely of natural peanut butter, free of partially hydrogenated oils. His body seems to be coming back to normal very gradually,” said a nutritional specialist on Zakula’s treatment team.
Added Dr. Picard, “It is truly amazing that one human being was capable of eating that many peanut butter M&M’s so quickly.”
After near-misses, imminent success seen for human cloning milestone
LEIPZIG, GERMANY — An international consortium of scientific experts in the field of mammalian cloning is on the cusp of achieving the world’s first successful Chris Thile clone, according to recent findings published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.
The group has been struggling for almost twenty years to overcome various experimental setbacks, including developmental defects in physiological as well as musical growth resulting from misregulation of so-called imprinted genes in the clones.
NEW YORK — Driven by rampant speculation, supply shortages, and growing demand from the developing world, oil prices climbed again this week, reaching a record height of $115 a barrel before stabilizing at the end of trading on Wednesday.
The travel sector has struggled to cope with rising fuel expenses, with most major airlines dramatically raising prices. And with gasoline expected to reach $5 per gallon by the end of the year, touring bands in low-paying musical sectors such as folk and bluegrass have begun to seek alternatives to traditional automotive touring.
For regional touring, several bands including Ollabelle (NY) and Old School Freight Train (VA) have adopted the horse-drawn carriage.
“People think we’re doing this shit to be folksy or something. No way. This is actually the only way we can afford to tour,” said Corey DiMario of Crooked Still, who recently traded his Toyota minivan in for a covered wagon and two mules.
But as the energy crisis worsens, even fertilizer and feed prices may become prohibitively expensive for these struggling musicians.
“I might have to quit the violin and go back to work on an oil rig,” said Scottish fiddle legend Alasdair Fraser, whose former employer, petroleum giant BP, has reportedly contacted him with a job offer.
Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas currently tour together by land in a rickshaw drawn by a Highland Cow. The two make trans-Atlantic voyages in a 25-foot motorless sailboat to save money on airline costs and fuel.
“To be living like this in the new millennium is absolutely f—ing ridiculous,” said Greg Liszt, who was forced to trade his 2005 Honda motorscooter for a donkey.
Greg Liszt shits brick
KENTUCKY — Jaden Pratt, 14, from Knob Lick, KY, has just invented a totally novel five-finger banjo picking style that strikingly advances the entire art of banjo playing.
“I am so f—cked,” said Gregory Liszt, whose musical career is founded on his use of a four-finger style previously considered innovative.