A Machine That Learns By Reading

“Narrowing that cognitive gap between humans and machines — creating a computer that can read and learn at a sophisticated level — is a big goal of artificial intelligence researchers. The Pentagon has granted a contract worth at least $400,000 last fall to two Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professors who are trying to build a machine that can learn by reading. The academics hope to create a machine that can read sections of textbooks and answer questions based on the material. Down the road, professor Selmer Bringsjord believes such artificial intelligence, or A.I., machines might be able to read military plans or manuals and adjust on the fly in the heat of battle.”

Time For Another Death-Of-Movies Theory?

“The cinema, like the novel, is always dying. The movies were killed by sequels; they were killed by conglomerates; they were killed by special effects. “Heaven’s Gate” was the end; “Star Wars” was the end; “Jaws” did it. It was the ratings system, profit participation, television, the blacklist, the collapse of the studio system, the Production Code. The movies should never have gone to color; they should never have gone to sound. The movies have been declared dead so many times that it is almost surprising that they were born, and, as every history of the cinema makes a point of noting, the first announcement of their demise practically coincided with the announcement of their birth.”

Those Dangerous Hollywood Movies

“Movies have long been a magnet for scrutiny, hysteria or moral panics, though obviously television now draws much of that dubious attention. Still, nothing can get commentators and even politicians going like a Hollywood movie. Consider Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, made mostly with Gibson’s money but also with funds from investors, and released by a large theatrical distributor–thus, like many so-called “indies,” a Hollywood movie in all but name. The Passion of the Christ represents a strange historical irony, because it was precisely the type of Catholic conservatism animating Gibson’s controversial blockbuster that inspired Joseph McCarthy’s tirades against Hollywood movies.”

Sprucing Up London’s “Intellectual Highway”

Plans have been announced to spend £35 million to redo an urban corridor in London that is home to one of the biggest concentrations of cultural institutions in the world. “On and around the road are institutions including the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums, Imperial College, the Royal Colleges of Art and Music, the Goethe Institute and Institut Français, the English National Ballet, and the Royal Geographical Society.” The street needs to be made more accessible, turning it into “the most significant intellectual highway in Britain”.

Chicago Museum Attendance Declines Fourth Straight Year

“Attendance at Chicago’s top 10 museums fell for the fourth year in a row, although the pace of the declined slowed enough that museum officials expect a turnaround this year. In 2004, 7.48 million people visited at least one of the museums, down 1% from 7.57 million in 2003, according to a report released today from the Museums in the Park.”

Bernstein Partner Wins Suit Against NYU Medical Center

Mark Taylor, Leonard Bernstein’s former partner, has won a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal from New York University Medical Center. “Taylor met Bernstein in 1989. When the composer fell ill it was Taylor who cared for him. Bernstein died in 1990. All the time Taylor remained closeted at work. But, in 1994 he was publicly outed as Bernstein’s lover in a biography. The book also mentioned Farber, who was Bernstein’s doctor. It circulated around the office, with references to Taylor highlighted.”

Another Down Year For Ontario’s Shaw Festival

“Despite an increase in ticket sales over last season, the Shaw Festival has announced a significant deficit for the second consecutive season. At the festival’s annual meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on Friday, organizers revealed that the 2004 season ended with a deficit of $2.37 million, resulting in an accumulated deficit of $4.4 million.”

Enough With The Book Clubs!

Book clubs, book clubs, everywhere. But so what, writes Li Robbins. Why do you need or want a club in which to read? “Reading is the greatest of great escapes. Reading is permission to simply be, to exist in another world, the world of the book. But you can’t maintain that Zen state when someone is wittering away about plot, tone and setting as though they are the new holy trinity.”

A Hirst “Chapel” In Rome?

American collector Carlo Bilotti is working on setting up a centre for contemporary art which will display works by Damien Hirst and other artists from his collection in a former chapel in Rome. “Mr Bilotti says he aims to create a “modern meditative environment” in the chapel which will be modelled on the Rothko chapel in Houston, Texas.”