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A little more than a decade from now, one of the world’s great arid plains will become a bustling intersection of high-resolution astronomy and high-powered computing. Scrub land in either South Africa or Australia will host the biggest telescope ever, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), designed to listen to the oldest birth pangs of the universe. And the brains of the operation will likely be the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

The next generation of major scientific instruments will require a whole new information architecture, both for processing and data transfer and for storage. So the future of astronomy is closely tied to the future of computing.

To interlace these futures even more tightly, IBM today announced a new $43 million (€32 million) center connected to its research base in Zurich, where computer scientists hope to design and build the first low-power exascale computer systems.

The Square Kilometer Array will consist of thousands of radio antennas spread across an area the size of a continent, with a collecting area equivalent to one square kilometer. It will study dark energy, search for black holes, look for complex organic molecules in interstellar space, and look back to the cosmic Dark Ages — the time before the formation of the first stars. Along with a massive virtual field of view, all this work requires lots of computing power.

Take the current global daily Internet traffic and multiply it by two, and you start to approach the stupendous scales of data the Square Kilometre Array will churn out daily — about an exabyte per day. This vastly outpaces the state of the art in computing, notes Ton Engbersen of IBM Research in Zurich. “The area you would need for PCs is larger than the SKA,” he said.

Depending on how the SKA is designed and how data transfer questions are solved, it will require between two and 30 exaflops, he said. The design parameters are still being hammered out, but the first phases of construction are scheduled to start in 2023. The site in either Australia or Africa (with most of the dishes in South Africa, and others scattered in different countries from Botswana to Zambia) is expected to be announced later this month. The $2 billion project is not planned to be completed until 2024.

Australian SKA Concept

Artist’s impression of dishes that would make up the SKA radio telescope if it is built in Australia.

Data from something as enormous as SKA is a challenge on several levels, and aside from industry efforts, researchers like Andreas Wicenec are trying to figure it out in pieces. Wicenec is head of computing at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in the state of Western Australia and part of his job is figuring out how to store all of the SKA’s data. It’s equivalent to 15 million iPods a day, he noted.

“You have to plan for the whole thing in one go. What is currently called exascale computing is not just an exaflop computer; that is the storage flow, too,” he said. “They have to be built up in parallel.”

He is researching how to increase bandwidth among GPUs to transfer data more quickly, and how to keep these monstrous computers cool to lower power needs. This will be especially important in the deserts of South Africa or Western Australia.

“We have to decrease power consumption by a factor of 10 to 100 to be able to pay the power bill for such a machine,” he said.

IBM researchers have some ideas, according to Engbersen. The company wants to build on its prior research using phase-change memory, which you can read more about here, and its work on 3-D chip architectures, which can transfer data more efficiently and keep things cool. He envisions a stack of 100 chips, nestled one on top of each other — with such an architecture, the SKA could theoretically have supercomputers the size of sugar cubes.

IBM’s research center will be located in the Netherlands, in collaboration with ASTRON, which is planning the SKA, and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

New system designs stemming from the SKA effort could translate to other Big Data fields, Engbersen said. But the real payoff will be huge for astronomy.

With SKA, astronomers will have a constant, real-time all-sky radio survey, which could help uncover some of the strangest phenomena in the cosmos. Current radio astronomy is powerful, but a full-sky survey is still limited to about 10 arc seconds. That’s a tiny slice of sky — for comparison, this month the planet Venus, at its super-bright huge disc, is between 25 and 37 arc seconds in diameter. Optical sky surveys, which started in the early 20th century with photographic plates, are fairly high-resolution, more like 1 arc second. “If you want a similar resolution with radio telescopes, you have to go to the SKA scale,” Wicenec said.

The SKA’s lengthy construction timeframe will help the telescopes, computers and storage facilities grow together, Wicenec said.

“It is really relying on the fact that technology is improving at a certain rate,” he said.

South Africa Karoo Array Telescope

South Africa is currently building the Karoo Array Telescope, also known as MeerKAT, a mid-frequency demonstrator radio telescope, alongside the proposed SKA core site. The first seven dishes of the local precursor instrument, known as KAT-7, were completed in December 2010.

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From The Archive Why Babe Ruth Is The Greatest Home

In this piece from 1921, PopSci subjects the Sultan of Swat to a battery of scientific tests hoping to discover the secret behind his superhuman swing.

Why Babe Ruth is the greatest home-run hitter

The game was over. Babe, who had made one of his famous drives that day, was tired and wanted to go home. “Not tonight, Babe,” I said. “Tonight you go to college with me. You’re going to take scientific tests which will reveal your secret.”

“Who wants to know it?” asked Babe.

“I want to know it,” I replied, “and so do several hundred thousand fans. We want to know why it is that one man has achieved a unique batting skill like yours — just why you can slam the ball as nobody else in the world can.”

So away we went. Babe in his baseball uniform, not home to his armchair, but out to Columbia University to take his first college examination.

Babe went at the test with the zeal of a schoolboy, and the tests revealed why his rise to fame followed suddenly after years of playing during which he was known as an erratic although a powerful hitter. How he abruptly gained his unparalleled skill has been one of baseball’s mysteries.

Albert Johanson, M.A., and Joseph Holmes, M.A., of the research laboratory of Columbia University’s psychological department, who, in all probability, never saw Ruth hit a baseball, and who neither know or care if his batting average is .007 or .450, are .500 hitters in the psychology game. They led Babe Ruth into the great laboratory of the university, figuratively took him apart, watched the wheels go round; analyzed his brain, his eye, his ear, his muscles; studied how these worked together; reassembled him, and announced the exact reasons for his supremacy as a batter and a ball-player.

Baseball employs scores of scouts to explore the country and discover baseball talent. These scouts are known as “Ivory hunters,” and if baseball-club owners take the hint from the Ruth experiments, they can organize a clinic, submit candidates to the comprehensive tests undergone by Ruth, and discover whether or not other Ruths exist. By these tests it would be possible for the club owners to discover — during the winter, perhaps — whether the ball-players are liable to be good, bad, or mediocre; and, to carry the [p. 20] practical results of the experiments to the limit, then may be able to eliminate the possibility, or probability, of some player “pulling a boner” in mid-season by discovering, before the season starts, how liable he is to do so.

The scientific ivory hunters of Columbia University discovered that the secret of Babe Ruth’s batting, reduced to non-scientific terms, is that his eyes and ears function more rapidly than those of other players; that his brain records sensations more quickly and transmits its orders to the muscles much faster than does that of the average man. The tests proved that the coordination of eye, brain, nerve system, and muscle is practically perfect, and that the reason he did not acquire his great batting power before the sudden burst at the beginning of the baseball season of 1920, was because, prior to that time, pitching and studying batters disturbed his almost perfect coordination.

**Ruth the Superman

**The tests revealed the fact that Ruth is 90 per cent efficient compared with a human average of 60 per cent.

That his eyes are about 12 per cent faster than those of the average human being.

That his ears function at least 10 per cent faster than those of the ordinary man. That his nerves are steadier than those of 499 out of 500 persons.

That in attention and quickness of perception he rated one and a half times above the human average.

That in intelligence, as demonstrated by the quickness and accuracy of understanding, he is approximately 10 per cent above normal.

It must not be forgotten that the night on which the tests were made was an extremely warm one, and that in the afternoon he had played a hard, exhausting game of baseball before a large crowd, in the course of which he had made one of those home-run hits which we at Columbia were so eager to understand and account for. Under such circumstances, one would think that some signs of nerve exhaustion would be revealed. The instigation lasted more than three hours, during which Ruth stood for most of the time, walked up and down stairs five times, and underwent the tests in a close warm room. At the end of that time I was tired and nervous, and, although Ruth showed no symptoms of weariness, it is probable that under more favorable conditions his showing would have been even better.

The tests used were ones that primarily test motor functions and give a measure of the integrity of the psychophysical organism. Babe Ruth was posed first in an apparatus created to determine the strength, quickness, and approximate power of the swing of his bat against his ball. A plane covered with electrically charges wires, strung horizontally, was placed behind him and a ball was hung over the theoretical plate, so that it could be suspended at any desired height.

I learned something then which, perhaps, will interest the American League pitchers more than it will the scientists. This was that the ball Ruth likes best to hit, and can hit hardest, is a low ball pitched just above his knees on the outside corner of the plate. The scientists did not consider this of extreme importance in their calculations, but the pitchers will probably find it of great scientific interest.

**Science Discovers the Secret

**The ball was adjusted at the right height, and, taking up a bat that was electrically wired, Ruth was told to get into position and to swing his bat exactly as if striking the ball for a home run, to make the end of it touch one of the transverse wires on the plate behind him, then swing it through its natural arc and hit the ball lightly. The bat, weighing fifty-four ounces (exactly the weight of the bats Ruth uses on the diamond), was swung as directed, touched the ball, and the secret of his power — or, rather, the amount of force with which the strikes the ball — was calculated. At least, the basis of the problem was secured: The bat, weighing fifty-four ounces, swinging at a rate of 110 feet a second, hits a ball travelling at the rate of, say, sixty feet a second, the ball weighing four and a quarter ounces, and striking the bat at a point four inches from the end. How far will it travel? There are other elements [p. 21] entering into the problem, such as the resilience of the ball, the “English” placed on it by the pitcher’s hand, and a few minor details. But the answer, as proved by the measurements, is somewhere between 450 and 500 feet. This problem cannot be worked down to exact figures because of the unknown quantities.

The experimenters, however, were not so much interested in the problem in physics as they were in the problems in psychology. The thing they wanted to know was what made Ruth superior to all other ball-players in hitting power, rather than to measure that power.

Babe Could Beat His own Record!

Before proceeding to the psychological tests, however, we tried another in physics to satisfy my curiosity. A harness composed of rubber tubing was strapped around Ruth’s chest and shoulders and attached by hollow tubes to a recording cylinder. By this means his breathing was recorded on a revolving disk. He was then placed in position to bat, an imaginary pitcher pitched an imaginary ball, and he went through the motions of hitting a home run. The test proved that, as a ball is pitched to him, Babe draws in his breath sharply as he makes the back-swing with his bat, and really “holds his breath” or suspends the operation of his breathing until after the ball is hit. But for that fact, he would hit the ball much harder and more effectively than he now does. It has been discovered that the act of drawing in the breath and holding it results in a sharp tension of the muscles and a consequent loss of striking power. If Ruth expelled his breath before striking the ball, the muscles would not become tense and his swing would have greater strength and rhythm.

The first test to discover the efficiency of his psychophysical organism was one designed to try his coordination; a simple little test. The scientists set up a triangular board, looking some thing like a ouija-board, with a small round hole at each angle. At the bottom of each hole was an electrified plate that registered every time it was touched. Ruth was presented with a little instrument that looked like a doll-sized curling iron, the end of which just fitted into the holes. Then he was told to take the instrument in his right hand and jab it into the holes successively, as often as he could in one minute, going around the board from left to right.

He grew interested at once. Here was something at which he could play. The professor “shushed” me, fearing that I would disturb Ruth or distract his attention as he started around the board, jabbing the curling-iron into the holes with great rapidity. He would put it into the holes twelve to sixteen times so perfectly that the instrument barely touched the sides. Then he would lose control and touch the sides, slowing down. Only twice did he pass the hole without getting the end of the iron into it. With his right hand he made a score of 122. Not unnaturally, his wrist was tired and Babe shook it and grinned ruefully.

Then he tried it with his left hand, scored 132 with it, proving himself a bit more left- than right-handed — at least in some activities. The significance of the experiment, however, lies in the fact that the average of hundreds of persons who have taken that test is 82 to the minute, which shows how much swifter in the coordination of hand, brain, and eye Ruth is than the average.

**Every Test but Another Triumph

**In a sequel to this test that followed, Babe tapped an electrified plate with an electrically charged stylus with the speed of a drum-roll, scoring 193 taps per minute with his right hand and 176 with his left hand. The average score for right-handed persons undergoing this wrist-wracking experiment is 180, and, while there is no data covering right-handed persons using the left hand, it is certain that Ruth’s record is much above the average, as he is highly efficient with the left hand.

But steadiness must accompany speed and so they tested the home-run king for his steadiness of nerve and muscle by having [p. 110] him thrust the useful little curling-iron stylus in different-sized holes pierced through an electrified plate which registered contacts between the stylus and the side of the hole. These measured respectively sixteen, eleven, nine, eight, and seven sixty-fourths of an inch; small enough, but not too small for Babe, for he made a score that showed him better than 499 persons out of 500.

The tests that interested me most were those to determine how quickly Ruth’s eye acts and how quickly its signals are flashed through the brain to the muscles. Showing an amazingly quick reaction time, they interpreted what happens on the ball-field when the stands rock under the cheering that greets another of Ruth’s smashes to the fence, proved an eye so quick that it sees the ball make an erratic curve and guides the bat to follow.

The scientists discovered exactly how quickly Ruth’s eye functions by placing him in a dark cabinet, setting into operation a series of rapidly flashing bulbs and listening to the tick of an electric key by which he acknowledged the flashes.

The average man responds to the stimulus of the light in 180 one thousandths of a second. Babe Ruth needs only 160 one thousandths of a second. There is the same significance in the fact that Babe’s response to the stimulus of sound comes 140 one thousandths of a second as against the averages man’s 150 thousandths.

Human beings differ very slightly in these sight and sound tests, or rather the fractions are so small that they seem inexpressive; yet a difference of 20 or 10 one thousandths of a second indicates a superiority of the highest importance.

Translate the findings of the sight test into baseball if you want to see what they mean in Babe Ruth’s case. They mean that a pitcher must throw a ball 20 one thousandths of a second faster to “fool” Babe than to “fool” the average person.

If the results of these tests at Columbia are a revelation to us, who know Ruth as a fast thinking player, they must be infinitely more amazing to the person who only comes into contact with the big fellow off the diamond and finds him unresponsive and even slow when some non-professional topic in under discussion.

The scientific “ivory hunters” up at Columbia demonstrated that Babe Ruth would have been the “home-run king” in almost any line of activity he chose to follow; that his brain would have won equal success for him had he drilled it for as long a time on some line entirely foreign to the national game. They did it, just as they proved his speed and his steadiness — by simple laboratory tests.

For instance, they had an apparatus with a sort of a camera shutter arrangement that opened, winked, and closed at any desired speed. Cards with letters of the alphabet on them were placed behind this shutter and exposed to view for one fifty-thousandth of a second. Ruth read them as they flashed into view, calling almost instantly the units of groups of three, four, five, and six letters. With eight shown he got the first six, and was uncertain of the others. The average person can see four and one half letters on the same test.

When cards marked with black dots were used, Ruth was even faster. He called up the number of dots on every card up to twelve without one mistake, The average person can see eight.

To test him for quickness of perception and understanding, he was given a card showing five different symbols — a star, a cross, and three other shapes — many times repeated, and was told to select a number — one, two, three, four, or five — for each symbol, then to mark the selected number under each one as rapidly as he could go over the card. He scored 103 hits on that test, which his the average of all who have tried it. But when given a card covered with printed matter and told to cross out all the a’s, he made a score of sixty, which is one and a half times the average.

The secret of Babe Ruth’s ability to hit is clearly revealed in these tests, His eye, his ear, his brain, his nerves all function more rapidly than do those of the average person. Further the coordination between eye, ear, brain, and muscle is much nearer perfection than that of the normal healthy man.

The scientific “ivory hunters” dissecting the “home-run king” discovered brain instead of bone, and showed how little mere luck, or even mere hitting strength, has to do with Ruth’s phenomenal record.

The Truffol Durasound Offers Big Sound With Small Footprint

There is an assortment of Bluetooth speakers on the market and almost any accessory maker thinks they should enter the flooded marketplace. With that attitude, your product should bring something a little different to the crowd. Truffol’s DuraSound exists somewhere between business professional and outdoor appropriate.

DuraSound has a very conservative, simple, rectangular design, with a flat matte finished front and back grill. This simple design with clean edges and finishes makes it suitable for the office. In contrast, the color-matched silicon bumper allows the device to be toted around for after hour drinks.

Specs and sound

Boasting 8 hours of playback time, the 1200mAh battery charges in four hours. I really like the inclusion of a charging indicator light inside the on/off switch. Verbal communication through the speaker provides the user with audio feedback about power status, and connection information. Similarly, the unit’s Bluetooth connection shows a small battery indicator on your iOS device status bar. Dual stereo 40mm speakers provide a frequency response between 130Hz to 20,000Hz.

With a frequency response of that range, there is not a lot of low-end base. However, the sound will really fill a room, if you place the unit around chest height. As the speakers project forward, you will gain a little extra volume boost by placing the unit an an angle toward the listening level. The silicone bumper, which is included, unlike other competing units, will keep DuraSound from rattling on a table while playing. It does attract dust from surfaces, however.

Playback controls are onboard with track changing, volume and play/pause. The play/pause button is also the answer/end call button. Thanks to the included mic, you can make wireless calls using DuraSound. My frustration with the playback controls is activation choice. Pressing the left/right button once, will change the song, instead of the volume. It would make operability a little more intuitive for one depression to change volume level, instead of changing the song. Alternatively, to change the volume, depress the left/right and hold. This will gradually change the onboard volume. The user can still modify the volume from the connected device.


This production model preview is a great little companion for your Bluetooth-enabled hardware. It is small enough to fit into any room of your home or office, but loud enough not to go unnoticed when it really matters. The bumper adds a nice texture, even if it tends to collect a little dust. If necessary, you can take it off to rinse.

Details are down to the packaging, which really sets some companies apart. The retail box includes a custom cut foam pad to nestle the device precisely against damage. Additionally, the included 3.5mm auxiliary and charging microUSB cables are flat to prevent tangling. It is little details like that, making Truffol’s DuraSound standout.

At $35, I think this device is precisely priced. It is on the higher end of on-point, but it is not overly priced like some competing devices. The little details definitely make it worth the price. You can jump over to Amazon to grab one.

Meet The 209 Mph Bentley Continental Supersports, Its Fastest Car Ever

Meet the 209 mph Bentley Continental Supersports, its fastest car ever

The Detroit Auto Show may be next week, but Bentley is fast out of the gate with its newest model and indeed the world’s fastest production four-seater, the Bentley Continental Supersports. Dubbed “the pinnacle grand tourer”, the car is the British automaker’s latest attempt to coax even more power out of its Continental coupe. With a 209 mph top speed, and a 0-60 mph time of 3.4 seconds, it’s succeeded.

Those numbers make it the fastest-accelerating Bentley ever, not to mention 0.3 seconds faster to 60 mph than its Continental Supersports Convertible sibling. That’s the fastest four-seat drop-top in the world, incidentally, with a 205 mph top speed. Both share the same W12 engine.

That’s 6-liters and twin-turbocharged, and pushes out 700 HP at 6,000 rpm, and 750 lb-ft. of torque between 2,050 and 4,500 rpm. It’s paired with a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that supports block-shifting, and a new torque converter uprated to better handle all that power. Like its cousins in the range, there’s permanent all-wheel drive, with a typical 40:60 rear-wheel bias.

Those wheels, incidentally, are 21-inch forged alloy, shed in beefy 275/35 ZR2 I rubber. The suspension uses four link double wishbones with self-leveling air suspension and an anti-roll bar at the front, and multi-link, self-leveling air suspension and an anti-roll bar at the back. Bentley borrowed the torque vectoring technology from its Continental GT3-R, upgraded it for the Supersports, and uses it to brake the inside rear wheel on turn-in for faster pivots, and any of the four wheels when accelerating out of corners to keep stability.

Compared to other Continental models, the Supersports has what Bentley describes as “less intrusive” calibration of its stability control. It also has a redesigned exhaust system, to “breathe more freely” as well as mustering some serious sound effects on the downshifts. Carbon ceramic brakes with enhanced cooling are fitted as standard.

Outside, there are new sculpts to the front and rear bumpers, including a carbon-fiber splitter and diffuser, together with new side sill extensions and hood vents in the same lightweight material. Gloss-black is the color of choice for the front wing vents, tailpipes, and other areas, along with dark tint lamps front and rear, and black-finished grilles and other chrome work. An optional rear spoiler and front splitter combination can be fitted, as can an optional, gloss-finished and Supersports-branded carbon-fiber engine cover.

NOW READ: 2023 Bentley Mulsanne Speed Review

Inside, there’s a tri-tone interior with diamond quilted Alcantara in the seats and door panels and special, checkered Supersports carbon-fiber trim for the dash, if the usual wood and metal aren’t to your tastes. A special Supersports wheel and gear-shifter are included too. If you want to go even further, the bespoke team at Mulliner will go to town assuming your budget is big enough.

And the price? Bentley isn’t saying yet, with more details promised for later in the year. The Continental Supersports will make its official debut at the North American International Auto Show 2023 in Detroit, which kicks off this weekend.

Analysts Say Youtube Tv Is The Television Service Apple Should Have Built

AllianceBernstein analysts have suggested that the on-demand streaming subscription service YouTube TV is the television service Apple should have built.

They point to how YouTube has persuaded many to become cord-cutters, using the service to replace their cable subscription – and they present an interesting theory about why Apple has made such little progress with its own TV plans …

Business Insider has seen the report.

On Monday, the analysts released a witty and persuasive report applauding YouTube TV, Google’s challenger to cable television, for creating the kind of simplified and inexpensive service that viewers have long sought. One of their main conclusions though is that Apple positioned itself years ago to beat Google to market — Apple’s cofounder Steve Jobs promised not long before his death in 2011 that the company was near to remaking the TV experience. But while Apple sat idle, Google leapt ahead.

They note that Apple was reportedly close to launching its own 25+ channel service back in 2023, but three years later, that service still doesn’t exist, and very little visible progress has been made. So far, Apple has simply toyed with a few TV shows and documentaries as a bonus for Apple Music subscribers.

While Apple reportedly struggled to sign deals with networks, YouTube apparently had no difficulty in doing so.

YouTube TV debuted in February 2023 and over time has acquired all the top TV networks and many of the largest cable news and entertainment channels, including CNBC, CNN, AMC and FX. When it comes to sports, YouTube TV features ESPN, the MLB Network and NBC Sports.

AllianceBernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi based some of his research on his own cord-cutting habits and YouTube TV subscription. He argues that YouTube TV now offers as many channels as some cable providers. According to him, YouTube TV wins in any kind of bang-for-the-buck contest.

He suggests that Apple may have felt the service wouldn’t be sufficiently profitable, or may have played hardball with networks and failed to do deals, but he thinks part of the issue may be the Cupertino company’s culture. In particular, that its famed perfectionism may be a hindrance in this case.

The suggestion is that kind of perfectionism is good when building consumer hardware, but bad for creating consumer services.

“YouTube TV was not hardware,” Sacconaghi wrote. “It was a service, and that meant it could be remotely updated, iterated upon, and constantly improved. And that’s exactly what Google did… so now they have the lead. The takeaway here? If Apple truly wishes to become a ‘services’ company someday, it might have to think differently about its product design philosophy and culture.”

Several 9to5Mac writers are big fans of YouTube TV, one saying that it’s ‘by far the best’ TV experience.

If AllianceBernstein is right, it would be ironic at a time when many feel that Apple is adopting the ‘start somewhere then iterate’ approach with both hardware like HomePod and services like Siri (the latter perhaps somewhat lacking in the iteration department).

If you’ve tried YouTube TV yourself, let us know what you think – along with your take on AllianceBernstein’s theory.

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The Next Big Thing In Nfts? Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has come a long way since games like Akinator started terrifying people on the internet in the mid-2000s. Thankfully, AI’s progression hasn’t gone in a direction that would see a real-world equivalent to the Geth rising up. Today, AI is used in many practical settings — like in our virtual assistants and in our cars — as well as in more creative settings, such as music production, writing, and yes, even NFTs.

In the NFT space, AI-adjacent technologies have been used in generative art projects like Art Blocks. Herein, users can browse the site’s marketplace for styles they like, purchase them, and receive generative art derived from that style in return. But what of NFT art billed specifically as created by an AI?

Is an AI an artist or a tool?

In the past few months, one specific creative application of AI technology has gone viral: image creation. Training AI models to turn text-based prompts into images is nothing new. But we’ve recently seen images generated via OpenAI’s DALL-E program flood our feeds as such AI-based tools become more user-friendly.

According to OpenAI’s website, DALL-E works by using its vast language database to turn text-based inputs from users into easily recognizable images matching or approximating the text input. This allows DALL-E to recognize parameters within the text-based input, such as the spatial relationships of the objects specified in the input as well as the individual properties of objects included in the prompt. Interestingly enough, nearly every pop culture character you can think of is included in DALL-E’s data banks.

Source: DALL-E mini

Many NFT collections (particularly PFP NFT collections) include thousands of unique images. As such, generating NFTs via AI tools like DALL-E seems like a no-brainer with regard to maximizing efficiency. However, as compelling as it may seem to feed absurd prompts into DALL-E and transform the output into NFTs, the platform raises some ownership-related questions for those hoping to utilize this technology to create an NFT collection.

Despite the fact DALL-E grants users a creative commons license to use images generated via the AI “however they please,” copyright law on works generated by non-human entities is still rather murky. Let’s take a look at the famous “monkey selfies” copyright dispute as an example.

In 2011, wildlife photographer David Slater engineered a situation where a community of crested macaques in Indonesia was able to take “selfies” with his camera equipment. While Slater claims ownership of the photos, the U.S. Copyright Office states that works by non-humans are not eligible to be copyrighted. Thus, the photos ended up in the public domain.

Source: David Slater via Wikimedia Commons

So where does this leave work created by AI? AI-created work seems to be more or less in the same boat as animal-made art, as it lacks the “human authorship” needed to bestow rights intended to protect the artist.

Humans in the loop

Does this mean that any art generated by an AI would prove to be an unsellable product? Far from it. It all depends on how the human creators of a project package it.

For example, Untitled Frontier utilized AI and machine learning models to build out pieces for its NFT collections, but these tools supplemented work wholly made by humans. With this technology at their disposal, Untitled Frontier was able to create a way for writers to sell NFT merchandise of their work by creating pieces of art inspired by short stories in their ongoing series.

“At the end of the day, the ‘machine’ still has to be guided by a human: whether that’s for specific outputs, or for inspiration,” said founder Simon de la Rouviere in an interview with nft now. “Ultimately, the creator still has to choose what eventually goes onto the proverbial canvas or manuscript.

Source: Botto

Keeping humans actively involved in these AI-driven projects seems to be a re-occurring theme within the space. This is evidenced by projects like Botto, which relies on consensus — as well as Botto’s built-in capacity for learning and self-improvement — to steer the direction of the AI artist’s output via community feedback. This culminates in the minting and sale of a single NFT that’s gone through considerable amounts of scrutiny by the very human members of the Botto community.

Despite the massive strides AI-powered projects have made in the art world, particularly in the NFT space some members of the AI enthusiast community speculate whether the AIs are actually creating anything in the first place. “AI agents are not creating art; rather, they are replicating art,” wrote Will Chambers in an article on Towards Data Science. Herein, he detailed how researchers were able to develop a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), “a type of artificial intelligence algorithm in which two neural nets play off against each other to […] generate works of art,” Chambers said.

These GANs, also known as Creative Adversarial Networks (CANs), Chambers argues, don’t make capital-A “Art” in the way that humans do. They may be able to learn and create, but the resulting work lacks the essential human component that separates craft from art. “When a CAN agent generates a new image, it is not drawing upon its personal or collective experiences, neither conscious nor unconscious,” he said. “Its generated images are predicated on human experiences, as manifest in the symbols and archetypes captured in our human artwork on which the CAN agent is conditioned and trained.”

The future of AI in NFTs

But is art the only application of AI we could be seeing in the NFT landscape moving forward? Just as NFTs encompass far more than art, so too does the use of AI within the NFT sphere.

For example, we have projects like Alethea and Altered State Machine that allow users to embed their existing NFTs with an AI. According to their respective websites, doing so grants a user’s NFT the capacity to learn and grow over time, as well as providing users with more meaningful ways to interact with their NFT via the metaverse. Additionally, these AI-embedded NFTs are touted as appreciating in value not just in response to the market, but also thanks to how far along said NFT is in its journey of evolution, learning, and self-amendment.

With AI, budding artists, creators, and anyone else hoping to make a dent in the NFT space and beyond don’t have access to a tool that’s simply just going to work for them, but with them. As de la Rouviere put it in a post on his blog, “The dream of an autonomous artist is exciting because it mediates a conversation between us and technology. To make art, autonomous, feels like creating life: a machine in the aether that is trying to tell us something. We become symbiotic, like bacteria in our biological bodies, in creating a form of life that talks to itself, and to us through art.”

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