Options Techtonic with Mark Hurst: Playlist from February 12, 2018 Options

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Conversations with creators and thinkers who are charting the way forward in a tech-saturated society. Tech, community, video games, and whatever else is next.

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Options February 12, 2018: Bob Mankoff and Jamie Brew, co-founders of Botnik

Listen to this show: MP3 - 128K | | Add or read comments

Movie night recap: Thanks to everyone who came out to Monty Hall last Saturday for our meetup and viewing of The Road Movie, a full-length documentary made from Russian dashcam videos. We hope to plan another meetup soon (this time with nametags!).



This evening, a conversation with Bob Mankoff and Jamie Brew, co-founders of Botnik, the AI-based humor-writing service. Previous to Botnik, Bob Mankoff was the longtime cartoon editor of the New Yorker - and Jamie Brew was the former head writer of The Onion's fake-clickbait site, Clickhole.

Botnik uses a predictive algorithm that suggests words based on a large enough text source - like the Harry Potter novels, or Star Trek scripts, or Radiohead lyrics, or Wired product reviews.

Links:

Here's a fake Harry Potter chapter generated by Botnik. (This is also the chapter I read on-air during the special holiday episode of Techtonic, before I came across this better-sounding reading by a professional actor.)

Here's a profile of Botnik's co-founders, Bob and Jamie, in Vice.

Try Botnik yourself by choosing a source text and typing something with the predictive keyboard for that text.

But first...

Recent tech news:


A pollster hired to follow Zuckerberg around has quit Facebook: "I worked there for six months and I realized that even on the inside, I was not going to be able to change the way that the company does business. I couldn’t change the values. I couldn’t change the culture."

Intel has announced smart glasses, another attempt where Google Glass failed a few years ago. (I may cover this more in a future show.) Also in "smart" gadgets, see below...

A report on "smart tech" in the home, from Gizmodo - "Smart coffee was also a world of hell":



• Last Tuesday, Accuweather predicted a tsunami for the Upper West Side of Manhattan:



...followed by the inevitable correction:



(source: West Side Rag)

How Facebook is Killing Comedy: Splitsider's interview with Funny or Die's Matt Klinman is required reading. "There is simply no money in making comedy online anymore. Facebook has completely destroyed independent digital comedy and we need to talk about it. . . . It’s like eating locally or shopping locally. We need to think the same way about the internet. . . . every time you go and scroll through content on Facebook, you’re depriving independent media of a way to exist. . . . Facebook feels like this dingy, disgusting, rapacious place to me. And I want it to feel that way to other people so that when they go to a cool website, they are inspired: They see human beings putting love and care into something."

• Meantime, Brazil's largest newspaper just quit Facebook. Will U.S. and European newspapers start leaving Facebook? Stay tuned...



It's time to break up Big Tech, argues Prof. Scott Galloway in this searing piece in Esquire. "Society is bifurcating into those who are part of the innovation economy (lords) and those who aren’t (serfs). One great idea will make a twenty-something the darling of venture capital, while those who are average, or even just unlucky (most of us), have to work much harder to save for retirement. . . . It’s painfully clear that the invisible hand, for the past three decades, has been screwing the middle class."

Galloway's conclusion: "A key part of a healthy economic cycle is pruning firms when they become invasive, cause premature death, and won’t let other firms emerge. The breakup of big tech should and will happen, because we’re capitalists. It’s time."

- - -

Techtonic friends, here's my suggestion:
- Put down the screen.
- Avoid Google and Facebook.
- Support independent, non-monopolist services like these alternatives and, of course, WFMU.

P.S. Closing song tonight: credit to David Dichelle in Leipzig, Germany for pointing me to this on his most recent show. David hosts the always-excellent Continental Subway on Tuesdays at 4pm - 7pm Eastern on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio.

- - -

Subscribe to the Techtonic podcast to catch up on past episodes.

Artist Track Images Approx. start time
  Bob Mankoff and Jamie Brew talk about Botnik, their new company that creates text tools and remixes bodies of text - like the fake Harry Potter chapter that went viral recently.
Tomaš Dvořák  Game Boy Tune   Options    
  Mark's intro  
Options
0:02:06 (MP3 | )
  Interview with Botnik's Bob Mankoff and Jamie Brew  
Options
0:20:09 (MP3 | )
  Your comments  
Options
0:45:41 (MP3 | )
Osibisa  Right Now   Options   0:58:38 (MP3 | )

Listener comments!

  Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm melinda:

HI all
Avatar Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm TehBadDr:

Bleeps and blips! My favorite kinda thing.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm Michael 98145:

( tomorrow is World Radio Day : www.wincalendar.com... )
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm Fuzzy:

This always sounds good on my bluetooth speakers -- nice bass response.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm Mark Hurst:

Hi everyone! Thanks for tuning in.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:01pm listener james from westwood:

Evening, Mark and all!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:02pm queems:

the road movie was excellent! thanks for putting it together! i had to split, so i didn't get a chance to say hi.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:02pm Dave in Vermont:

Thank you for broadcasting out.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:03pm Webhamster Henry:

Hiya Botnikkers!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:04pm herb.nyc:

hi all. sorry i missed the sat dash cam meet up. i'll bet it was fun. i'm at soho apple store now, listening to the show. if yr nearby, let's meet up.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:05pm queems:

there is some wild shit going on in russia
Avatar Mon. 2/12/18 6:05pm ManhattanMike:

The movie was less violent than I expected
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:06pm joe mulligan:

did they show the guys in mascot costumes who came out of a van and beat up the guy in the car behind them?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:07pm common:

I gotta see that
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:08pm Ken From Hyde Park:

Yay, movie! It was indeed a great meet-up. I want to know what the guy on the car hood ended up.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:11pm herb.nyc:

negative impact on society? for some reason i'm reminded of the old George Carlin news headline: "good humor man slays ten".
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:11pm Greg from ZONE 5:

SO bummed I missed the meetup. Ironically I was at home working on FMU art!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:12pm Ken From Hyde Park:

I read that Gizmodo story. The husband turned the camera off while the wife was in Europe.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:14pm herb.nyc:

bob mankoff makes me think of Roz Chast, and i just read her super "going into town" book about manhattan (tho it's subtitled to be about new york city).
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:14pm Webhamster Henry:

Try the Hawaii alert yourself. jhhl.net...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:15pm Jeff Moore:

Um. I don't think you can say that Google Glass "failed". Glass was a limited-volume product released to a core group of enthusiast tech nerds as a kind of pilot project. I don't think even the evangelists for Glass in Google thought it was poised to become a mainstream thing (yet).

But it did give us the neologism "glassholes", so that's cool.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:16pm joe mulligan:

Google Glass was the new apple Newton.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:19pm queems:

i wish this show were longer than an hour
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:19pm RomanDogBird:

you bet your glass it's glass, you glasshole
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:19pm chris:

hi, all.

and the newton evolved into the iphone. what will glass become? intel's doing something like glass now... www.engadget.com...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:20pm Linda Lee:

great hearing you guys!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:21pm TDK60:

I'm not much of techy, but I am a rebellious radical.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:21pm Michael 98145:

i had heard Google Glass had been used in the medical field, for surgery training, etc.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:22pm chris:

i think boeing used glass to help folks build jet engines, too
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:22pm Linda Lee:

@TDK60 ~ ergo the name :-)
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:24pm Greg from ZONE 5:

LOVE Botnik
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:25pm Webhamster Henry:

I have a Botnik keyboard based on Nigerian scam spam from my personal collection.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:26pm Linda Lee:

brilliant
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:26pm Michael 98145:

Glass in the ER : spectrum.ieee.org...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:28pm chris:

here's that Boeing using glass article - www.theverge.com...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:28pm Webhamster Henry:

The Botnik boffins are coming up with other kinds of AI assisted writing.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:29pm herb.nyc:

woody allen was doing Botnik in "play it again, sam". did he end up with the girl?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:30pm TDK60:

Linda: My WFMU nickname?. Nostalgic, (and oddly the name of a corp!) but my cassette deck still works.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:31pm Jeff Moore:

Oh, dunno if this subject area will come up in the show, but apropos of Mr. Mankoff's mention pre-show that someone he fairly frequently discussed things with / disagreed over things with is Ray Kurzweil...

I wonder if the notion that Kurzweil's anxiously awaited "singularity" seems to have a real similarity, at least culturally and emotionally, to the rapture awaited by some Christian sects gets discussed much.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:31pm Phil with the phone:

From the video game title generator on Botnik:

The king havoc evil 6, volume 4 ; zone warrior

I'd buy it

Also we probably won't be taking calls tonight, but we'll have time to read some comments! Your time to shine!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:31pm Michael 98145:

( the Nigerian Prince isn't pretty : www.washingtonpost.com... )
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:32pm Linda Lee:

@TDK60 ~ yes, your nickname shows me tech isn't of utmost important to you. & you're a rebel because the common choice was always a TDK90 :-)
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:32pm herb.nyc:

if Spotify can make their own bands then Botnik can make their own books, plays...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:33pm Linda Lee:

hey, when reality is virtual, humanity is subversive.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:33pm Webhamster Henry:

There's actually quite a lot of editing at Botnik.
Avatar Mon. 2/12/18 6:33pm Number Six:

A Botnik sitcom couldn't be any worse than what passes for a sitcom today.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:34pm TDK60:

L. Oh I've probably used more 90s than 60s! But a 90 m. mix tape can be a bit too long and a 60 just right.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:35pm Linda Lee:

not for an album per side though! :-D
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:35pm Webhamster Henry:

Botnik can also combine sources so you can get literature crossed with weather reports or recipes.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:35pm ultradamno:

Vice News Daily had a segment recently with an art critic evaluating computer generated art. That he knew it was created by bots and had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about it seemed to color his opinions.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:35pm Jeff Moore:

Primates are well known for their use of tools.

Now we have the hundred monkeys (or their relatives) armed with chains. Markov chains.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:35pm Webhamster Henry:

Botnik does Turing Test joke-offs with Funny Or Die.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:37pm Mark Hurst:

botnik.org...
Avatar Mon. 2/12/18 6:37pm Fox:

I don't understand this notion that human ability will always be able to provide something that computers can't. Im mean, sure, but how does that matter? If it's cost effective for the producers to avoid paying humans for original content and instead just generate soul-less computer-generate crap, what would stop them? Look at what algorithms have done to the industry of music DJs. How far away is that from making music and film and comedy?

The masses have crap taste. That's too easily mined.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:39pm Linda Lee:

standards! what are the standards? according to certain standards it appears human effort wins out. so far. ie, comedy has to be funny.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:39pm Michael 98145:

the stock market is already controlled by computers
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:40pm herb.nyc:

super funny that Fire and Fury, my fellow americans. (i used my voice and a presidential voice)
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:40pm Michael 98145:

speaking of humor
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:40pm Linda Lee:

took the humans to choose what to splice.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:42pm herb.nyc:

oops, i thought mark said "digital data sex".
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:42pm ultradamno:

^www.dailymail.co.uk...
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:43pm Linda Lee:

@herb.nyc ~ another place where human effort might still be superior .. for humans :-)
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:43pm Webhamster Henry:

Jamie and I want to make a text editor that has "effects" similar to Photoshop effects, but using language.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:43pm chris:

<computer voice> mmm... put that 1 in my 0... oh yes
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:43pm Linda Lee:

was that "Fire & Fury' or "Fries & Fury' ..?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:44pm TDK60:

Linda: Oh albums; that depends if it's an older pop album = shorter. Later albums, usually longer. I noticed a few recent brief rock albums.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:44pm herb.nyc:

"...write a book without letter E" - that's Georges Perec. i don't know how he did it (in the 1960s?). he wrote a palindromic book too. i think it was based on sound.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:44pm melinda:

I love this week's photo.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:45pm βrian:

Can you turn up the ambient foreshadowing a bit?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:45pm Linda Lee:

@TDK60 ~ there's something between a conventional pre-digital-era album & an EP?
  Mon. 2/12/18 6:46pm Sean Dunn:

Bob, will Botnik every be able to teach me how to shoot like Steph Curry?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:47pm βrian:

Is Steph Curry a biathlon competitor?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:47pm Webhamster Henry:

The Oulipo book most like the aims of Botnik might be Raymond Queneau's Exercises de Style.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:48pm Michael 98145:

data dada
dada data
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:49pm TDK60:

Linda, let's wait and talk albums/tapes soon. Let the techies talk now. OK?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:50pm Webhamster Henry:

Taking the Botnik results as source for other creative acts is one of the happier side -effects!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:50pm Linda Lee:

algorithm seems like a super sophisticated means of attaining something similar to cut-up or fold-in literature techniques ..
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:50pm Linda Lee:

@TDK60 ~ party pooper :-D
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:51pm βrian:

Someone please give Bob an H.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:53pm Jeff Moore:

I love that Kurzweil came up with an exact year.

It's like audio reviewers saying that one component's sound quality is an 87, and another's is a 92.
Avatar Mon. 2/12/18 6:55pm Number Six:

Shame Douglas Adams isn't here to chime in.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:56pm βrian:

Hey, I grew up in a linoleum store!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:57pm chris:

yes, indeed, #6
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:58pm Linda Lee:

still wondering: what does a 20-something possibly know what to do with a bajillion dollars?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:58pm Michael 98145:

always enjoy this program. thanks.
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:59pm Webhamster Henry:

Hear you next week! Speaking of Fries, Vocal Fry is next up!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:59pm chris:

thanks, all!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 6:59pm Phil with the phone:

@Linda Lee pay off like half of their student loans

@everyone else Thanks for tuning in! See you next week!
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 7:00pm chris:

or buy their soul back?
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 7:00pm Linda Lee:

ah.... hand it over to the bank then ..
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 7:00pm Michael 98145:

let loose the squirrels !
Avatar Swag For Life Member Mon. 2/12/18 7:01pm Linda Lee:

see you next time Mark! thanks gentlemen!
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