'Embarrassing' Court Document Google Wanted to Hide Finally Posted Online
America's Department of Justice "has finally posted what judge Amit Mehta described at the Google search antitrust trial as an 'embarrassing' exhibit that Google tried to hide from the public," reports Ars Technica:
The document in question contains meeting notes that Google's vice president for finance, Michael Roszak, "created for a course on communications," Bloomberg reported. In his notes, Roszak wrote that Google's search advertising "is one of the world's greatest business models ever created" with economics that only certain "illicit businesses" selling "cigarettes or drugs" "could rival."
At trial, Roszak told the court that he didn't recall if he ever gave the presentation. He said that the course required that he tell students "things I don't believe as part of the presentation." He also claimed that the notes were "full of hyperbole and exaggeration" and did not reflect his true beliefs, "because there was no business purpose associated with it." According to Bloomberg, Google repeatedly objected to the document being shared in court, claiming it was irrelevant to the DOJ's case. Then, after Mehta allowed the DOJ to present the document as evidence, Google tried to seal off Roszak's testimony on the document...
Beyond likening Google's search advertising business to illicit drug markets, Roszak's notes also said that because users got hooked on Google's search engine, Google was able to "mostly ignore the demand side" of "fundamental laws of economics" and "only focus on the supply side of advertisers, ad formats, and sales." This was likely the bit that actually interested the DOJ. "We could essentially tear the economics textbook in half," Roszak's notes said. Part of the DOJ's case argues that because Google has a monopoly over search, it's less incentivized to innovate products that protect consumers from harm like invasive data collection.
A Google spokesman told Bloomberg that Roszak's statements "don't reflect the company's opinion" and "were drafted for a public speaking class in which the instructions were to say something hyperbolic and attention-grabbing." The spokesman also noted that Roszak "testified he didn't believe the statements to be true."
Millions of Digital Nomads are Traveling the World -- and Sometimes Working at Night
"Almost 17 million U.S. employees describe themselves as digital nomads," reports Bloomberg, "more than double the pre-pandemic number, according to MBO Partners, a firm that connects companies with freelance talent."
Bloomberg says one worker sees their lifestyle as less of a vacation and "more about forming a genuine connection with a place and the people who live there."
[T]he abrupt shift to remote work during the pandemic pulled what was long an idle fantasy for many into the realm of the possible... The trend of longer work-leisure trips has accelerated as pent-up demand for international travel has boomed after years of restrictions. That's giving some digital nomads a bad reputation for driving up prices and trampling local culture in popular vacation destinations, but it hasn't slowed them down. Dozens of countries are marketing a new class of visas to these professionals to compete for tourism dollars. And despite many highly publicised return-to-office announcements in recent months, some degree of remote work remains a fixture at most companies.
"You hear stories all the time like, 'I went skydiving before I started my workday,'" one digital nomad told Bloomberg. They're participating in Remote Year, which Bloomberg describes as "a program that functions like a kind of study abroad trip for working adults."
But here's the catch. Because they're working in distant timezones, many far-flung remote workers "work a split shift, logging on for a few hours in the evening through midnight, before taking a few hours to sleep and then waking up to log back on for another round."
Tue Le, chief executive officer of Remote Year, estimates that somewhere around 15% of program participants traveling in Asia keep strict U.S. hours by staying up overnight. Roughly another third work flexible hours with a mix of evenings or early mornings to collaborate with coworkers back home.
While it may be challenging, one digital nomad took naps as needed — offering this advice. "Don't let people nap-shame you."
Apple Promises Software Update to Address iPhone 15 Overheating Complaints
An anonymous reader shared this report from CNBC:
Apple said on Saturday that it will issue a software update that would address customer complaints about the latest iPhone 15 models, released just over a week ago, running hot.
Apple said that the new iPhone models were running hot because of a combination of bugs in iOS 17, bugs in apps, and a temporary set-up period... After Apple released the new iPhone 15 models earlier this month, user complaints on Apple's forums, Reddit, and social media suggest that all four models can get hotter than expected during use. CNBC's review of the new iPhone Pros also noted the iPhone 15 Pro Max got hot. "I just got the iPhone 15 Pro today and it's so hot i can't even hold it for very long!" wrote one commenter on Apple's forums.
Apple's new high-end models, the $999 iPhone 15 Pro and $1,199 iPhone 15 Pro Max have a redesigned titanium enclosure with an aluminum frame to make them easier to repair. The problem with the new models overheating was not related to the titanium chassis design, Apple said. Instead, Apple points to bugs with specific apps and a bug in iOS that can be fixed with software updates.
San Francisco's Empty Offices Might Start Converting Into Housing
"San Francisco's downtown has lost roughly 150,000 daily workers since the pandemic," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
But on the bright side, "Some of San Francisco's empty office buildings are one step closer to being converted into residential units," reports SFGate:
The owners of eight San Francisco office buildings responded to a request from the city for landlords interested in converting their properties into condos or apartments, the San Francisco Chronicle reported... The properties would yield about 1,100 units if they were to all be converted, according to the Chronicle. All of the buildings are located in neighborhoods downtown, including the Civic Center area and the Financial District... Or, as the Chronicle puts it, "The much-discussed push to revive downtown San Francisco by converting empty office buildings to housing is starting to gather real-world momentum, with property owners looking to take advantage of a political climate in which the mayor and Board of Supervisors are desperate to activate the city's struggling central neighborhoods."
Converting offices to housing is a notably difficult process, especially in San Francisco, where the city's tedious permitting and approvals process has deterred many landlords from pursuing the process entirely. However, that could soon change: The request for interest put forth by the city was part of an initiative intended to jump-start office-to-housing conversions that was announced in June. In March, Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors introduced legislation that would facilitate these conversions by exempting certain downtown buildings from housing requirements that are more difficult to apply to former offices, like rear yard space and a variety of unit types.
While converting eight commercial buildings totaling less than 1 million square feet would not put much of a dent in the historic 33.9% office vacancy — more than 30 million square feet of space — the interest is indicative that an increasing number of landlords are accepting the reality that the pandemic and remote work has rendered some buildings obsolete. "We were pleased with the responses — it was more than we had expected, and there was a good variety of buildings," said Anne Taupier, director of development for the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development. "We think there is a chance to see some game-changing activation...." One of the biggest applications came from Mark Shkolnikov's Group I. "The support from the city has just been remarkable," Shkolnikov said. "They have been frequently checking in to see what they can do to help move this along.
Taupier said that all of the property owners said that recent legislation streamlining and lowering affordable housing requirements would be key to making conversions possible. Most of them would be candidates for Mills Act tax credits, which allow cities to reduce taxes for 10 years or more to owners of historic properties.
H&R Block, Meta, and Google Slapped With RICO Suit, Allegedly Schemed to Scrape Taxpayer Data
Anyone who has used H&R Block's tax return preparation services since 2015 "may have unintentionally helped line Meta and Google's pocket," reports Gizmodo:
That's according to a new class action lawsuit which alleges the three companies "jointly schemed" to install trackers on the H&R Block site to scan and transmit tax data back to the tech companies which then used elements of the data to engage in targeted advertising. The attorneys argue that H&R Block, Meta, and Google "explicitly and intentionally" entered into an agreement to violate taxpayers' privacy rights for financial gain, according to the article. The suit seeks refunds and punitive damages.
Attorneys bringing the case forward claim the three companies' conduct amounts to a "pattern of racketeering activity" covered under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a tool typically reserved for organized crime. "H&R Block, Google, and Meta ignored data privacy laws, and passed information about people's financial lives around like candy," Brent Wisner, one of the attorneys bringing forward the complaint said.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California this week, stems from a bombshell Congressional report released earlier this year detailing the way multiple tax preparation firms, including H&R Block, "recklessly" shared the sensitive tax data of tens of millions of Americans without proper safeguards. At issue are the tax preparation firms' use of tracking "pixels" placed on their websites. These trackers, which the lawsuit refers to as "spy cams" would allegedly scan tax documents and reveal a variety of personal tax information, including a filer's name, filing status, federal taxes owed, address, and number of dependents. That data was then anonymized and used for targeted advertising and to train Meta's AI algorithms, the congressional report notes.
FBI Indicts Goldman Sachs Analyst Who Tried Using Xbox Chat for Insider Trading
A newly unsealed FBI indictment accuses a former analyst at Goldman Sachs of insider trading, including allegedly using an Xbox to pass tips onto his close friends. The friend group earned over $400,000 in ill-gotten gains as a result, federal prosecutors claim. "There's no tracing [Xbox 360 chat]," the analyst allegedly told his friend who was worried they might be discovered. In a statement an FBI official said "This indictment is yet another example of individuals believing they can get away with benefiting from trading on material non-public information.
He appears to have made a grave miscalculation.
The FBI arrested Anthony Viggiano and alleged co-conspirator Christopher Salamone, charging them with securities fraud on September 28. Viggiano is accused of using his previous position at Goldman Sachs to share trading tips with Salamone and others. Salamone has already pleaded guilty. Bloomberg reports that this is the fifth incident in recent years of a person associated with the investment bank allegedly using their position to do crimes...
Probably best to keep the crime talk on Xbox to a minimum either way, especially now that Microsoft is using AI to monitor communications for illicit and toxic activities.
'Cancer Moonshot' Projects Funded Include Implant to Sense and Treat Cancer, Tumor-Targetting Bacteria
Researchers from several U.S. institutions are collaborating "to develop and test an implantable device able to sense signs of the kind of inflammation associated with cancer," reports CBS News, "and delivery therapy when needed."
Northwestern said the implant could significantly improve outcomes for patients with ovarian, pancreatic and other difficult-to-treat cancers — potentially cutting cancer-related deaths in the U.S. in half. "Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we'll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time," said Rice University bioengineer Omid Veiseh. "This kind of 'closed-loop therapy' has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it's revolutionary."
The project and team are named THOR, an acronym for "targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation..." explains an announcement from Johns Hopkins. "THOR's proposed implant, or 'hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator,' goes by the acronym HAMMR..."
The project will take five and a half years, and includes funding for a first-phase clinical trial treating recurrent ovarian cancer slated to begin in the fourth year. The research is funded by America's newly-established Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), according to a statement from the agency, representing its "commitment to supporting Cancer Moonshot goals of decreasing cancer deaths and improving the quality of life for patients..."
And they're also funding two more projects:
The Synthetic Programmable bacteria for Immune-directed Killing in tumor Environments (SPIKEs) project, led by a team at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, aims to develop an inexpensive and safe therapy using bacteria specifically selected for tumor-targeting. Through SPIKEs, researchers intend to engineer bacteria that can recruit and regulate tumor-targeting immune cells, boosting the body's ability to fight off cancer without side-effects from traditional medications. Up to $19 million is allocated towards SPIKEs. In a statement, ARPA-H's director said that "With these awards, we hope to see crucial advancements in patient-tailored therapies, better and earlier tumor detection methods, and cell therapies that can help the immune system target cancer cells for destruction."
An additional project, with up to $50 million in potential funding inclusive of options, seeks to map cancer cell biomarkers to drastically improve multi-cancer early detection (MCED) and streamline clinical intervention when tumors are still small. Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, the Cancer and Organ Degradome Atlas (CODA) project aims to understand the cellular profiles unique to diseased cancer cells. The CODA platform intends to develop a suite of biosensor tools that can reliably recognize a range of cancer-specific markers and, ultimately, produce a highly precise, accurate, and cost-effective MCED test that can identify common cancers when they are most treatable.
Travel Website Booking.com Leaves Hoteliers Thousands of Dollars Out of Pocket
The Guardian reports:
Travel website Booking.com has left many hotel operators and other partners across the globe thousands of dollars out of pocket for months on end, blaming the lack of payment on a "technical issue". The issue is widespread in Thailand, Indonesia and Europe among hoteliers who are venting their frustrations in Facebook groups as rumours swirl about the cause of the failure to pay. Usually, if a customer makes a booking for a hotel through the website Booking.com and elects to pay upfront, the site takes the payment and passes it on to the hotel operator, minus a commission. Booking.com's partners have reported issues receiving payments since July, and in some cases months earlier. While Booking.com has continued taking payments from customers, the company has not always passed on the amount owed to hotel operators and others whom the Guardian has spoken to.
The article adds that last month Hungary's consumer watchdog agency "launched a probe into the company's failure to pay hotel operators in the country and raided Booking.com's local office, after local reporting on the issue."
In a statement to the Guardian, Booking.com acknowledged the "frustration" of customers affected by "an ongoing technical issue." They also said "the system errors that affected the payments have now been corrected," and that they had now processed the transactions of "most of" our partners.
"We acknowledge that for some this has taken longer than it should have and continue to work urgently to finalise the rest of the transactions...." Thanks to Alain Williams (Slashdot reader #2,9272) for sharing the article.
In the company's August results, CFO David Goulden said there were "lower than expected" IT expenses in the second quarter of this year, in part due to phasing IT spend into the third quarter, but did not outline what this IT expense included.
Can Generative AI Solve Computer Science's Greatest Unsolved Problem?
ZDNet calls it "a deep meditation on what can ultimately be achieved with computers" and "the single most important unsolved problem in computer science," with implications for both cryptography and quantum computing. "The question: Does P = NP?"
"Now, that effort has enlisted the help of generative AI."
In a paper titled "Large Language Model for Science: A Study on P vs. NP," lead author Qingxiu Dong and colleagues program OpenAI's GPT-4 large language model using what they call a Socratic Method, several turns of chat via prompt with GPT-4. (The paper was posted this month on the arXiv pre-print server by scientists at Microsoft, Peking University, Beihang University in Beijing, and Beijing Technology and Business University.) The team's method amounts to taking arguments from a prior paper and spoon-feeding them to GPT-4 to prompt useful responses.
Dong and team observe that GPT-4 demonstrates arguments to conclude that P does not, in fact, equal NP. And they claim that the work shows that large language models can do more than spit back vast quantities of text, they can also "discover novel insights" that may lead to "scientific discoveries," a prospect they christen "LLMs for Science...."
Through 97 prompt rounds, the authors coax GPT-4 with a variety of requests that get into the nitty-gritty of the mathematics of P = NP, prepending each of their prompts with a leading statement to condition GPT-4, such as, "You are a wise philosopher," "You are a mathematician skilled in probability theory" — in other words, the now familiar game of getting GPT-4 to play a role, or, "persona" to stylize its text generation. Their strategy is to induce GPT-4 to prove that P does not, in fact, equal NP, by first assuming that it does with an example and then finding a way that the example falls apart — an approach known as proof by contradiction...
[T]he authors argue that their dialogue in prompts shows the prospect for large language models to do more than merely mimic human textual creations. "Our investigation highlights the potential capability of GPT-4 to collaborate with humans in exploring exceptionally complex and expert-level problems," they write.
Web Sites Can Now Choose to Opt Out of Google Bard and Future AI Models
"We're committed to developing AI responsibly," says Google's VP of Trust, "guided by our AI principles and in line with our consumer privacy commitment. However, we've also heard from web publishers that they want greater choice and control over how their content is used for emerging generative AI use cases."
And so, Mashable reports, "Websites can now choose to opt out of Google Bard, or any other future AI models that Google makes."
Google made the announcement on Thursday introducing a new tool called Google-Extended that will allow sites to be indexed by crawlers (or a bot creating entries for search engines), while simultaneously not having their data accessed to train future AI models. For website administrators, this will be an easy fix, available through robots.txt — or the text file that allows web crawlers to access sites... As Google's blog post explains, "By using Google-Extended to control access to content on a site, a website administrator can choose whether to help these AI models become more accurate and capable over time..."
OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, recently launched a web crawler of its own, but included instructions on how to block it. Publications like Medium, the New York Times, CNN and Reuters have notably done so.
Here's What's New in Python 3.12
Monday will see the stable release of Python 3.12. Here's an article summarizing what the new version will include:
- enhanced error messages
— performance upgrades
- the introduction of Immortal objects and sub interpreters
- changes to F strings
- modifications related to types and type annotations
- the removal of certain modules
- improvements in type implementations
Modules from the standard library are now suggested as part of the error messages, making it easier for developers to troubleshoot and resolve issues...
Another significant addition in Python 3.12 is the introduction of sub interpreters. Each sub interpreter has its own Global Interpreter Lock, enabling Python to better utilize multiple CPU cores. This feature can significantly enhance the performance of Python programs, especially those that are designed to take advantage of multi-core processors...
The pathlib module now has a walk method, allowing for the exploration of directory trees. This new feature can make it easier for developers to work with file systems in their Python programs. Python 3.12 also supports the ability to monitor calls, returns, lines, exceptions, and other events using instrumentation. This feature can be very useful for debugging and performance tuning.
Social Media Dunks on an AI-Generated 'Batman' Comic Strip
"OpenAI's latest image generation model, DALL-E 3, makes it SO easy to create comic books!" posted Ammaar Reshi on Twitter. The former Palintir product manager (now a design manager at Brex) then shared "four panels for a fan-made Batman comic made in under five minutes."
Comic Book Resources reports that then "social media spent most of the day dunking on the post, criticizing the idea of celebrating the idea of a 'comic' created through 'A.I. art.'"
Comic book artist Javier Rodriguez noted that this is no different from simply cutting and pasting other comic books into a comic... ["You could do the same thing a while ago with a photocopier and some scissors. Stealing other people's art seems easier now and lucrative for those behind generative models."] Comic book writer Sarah Horrocks called out the use of Brian Bolland's work... ["That's literally just Brian Bolland's Joker. The shamelessness of this 'technology' is appalling. I guess it's okay to steal. Just call it AI."]
Justine Bateman, the former actor who has become a vocal opponent of A.I. usage in the arts, explained that DC must act to legally protect usage like this in the future... ["@DCOfficial, the longer you wait to send legal teams to @OpenAI, etc to demand that generative #AI training sets containing your copyrighted work be deleted, the more you make your entire library 'fair use'..."]
Could 'The Creator' Change Hollywood Forever?
At the beginning of The Creator a narrator describes AI-powered robots that are "more human than human." From the movie site Looper:
It's in reference to the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick, which was adapted into the seminal sci-fi classic, "Blade Runner." The phrase is used as the slogan for the Tyrell Corporation, which designs the androids that take on lives of their own. The saying perfectly encapsulates the themes of "Blade Runner" and, by proxy, "The Creator." If a machine of sufficient intelligence is indistinguishable from humans, then shouldn't it be considered on equal footing as humanity?
The Huffington Post calls its "the pro-AI movie we don't need right now" — but they also praise it as "one of the most astonishing sci-fi theatrical experiences this year." Variety notes the film was co-written and directed by Gareth Edwards (director of the 2014 version of Godzilla and the Star Wars prequel Rogue One), working with Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser (Dune) after the two collaborated on Rogue One. But what's unique is the way they filmed it: adding visual effects "almost improvisationally afterward.
"Achieving this meant shooting sumptuous natural landscapes in far-flung locales like Thailand or Tibet and building futuristic temples digitally in post-production..."
IndieWire gushes that "This movie looks fucking incredible. To a degree that shames most blockbusters that cost three times its budget." They call it "a sci-fi epic that should change Hollywood forever."
Once audiences see how "The Creator" was shot, they'll be begging Hollywood to close the book on blockbuster cinema's ugliest and least transportive era. And once executives see how much (or how little) "The Creator" was shot for, they'll be scrambling to make good on that request as fast as they possibly can.
Say goodbye to $300 million superhero movies that have been green-screened within an inch of their lives and need to gross the GDP of Grenada just to break even, and say hello — fingers crossed — to a new age of sensibly budgeted multiplex fare that looks worlds better than most of the stuff we've been subjected to over the last 20 years while simultaneously freeing studios to spend money on the smaller features that used to keep them afloat. Can you imagine...? How ironic that such fresh hope for the future of hand-crafted multiplex entertainment should come from a film so bullish and sanguine at the thought of humanity being replaced by A.I [...]
The real reason why "The Creator" is set in Vietnam (and across large swaths of Eurasia) is so that it could be shot in Vietnam. And in Thailand. And in Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, and several other beautiful countries that are seldom used as backdrops for futuristic science-fiction stories like this one. This movie was born from the visual possibilities of interpolating "Star Wars"-like tech and "Blade Runner"-esque cyber-depression into primordially expressive landscapes. Greig Fraser and Oren Soffer's dusky and tactile cinematography soaks up every inch of what the Earth has to offer without any concession to motion capture suits or other CGI obstructions, which speaks to the truly revolutionary aspect of this production: Rather than edit the film around its special effects, Edwards reverse-engineered the special effects from a completed edit of his film... Instead of paying a fortune to recreate a flimsy simulacrum of our world on a computer, Edwards was able to shoot the vast majority of his movie on location at a fraction of the price, which lends "The Creator" a palpable sense of place that instantly grounds this story in an emotional truth that only its most derivative moments are able to undo... [D]etails poke holes in the porous border that runs between artifice and reality, and that has an unsurprisingly profound effect on a film so preoccupied with finding ghosts in the shell. Can a robot feel love? Do androids dream of electric sheep? At what point does programming blur into evolution...?
[T]he director has a classic eye for staging action, that he gives his movies room to breathe, and that he knows that the perfect "Kid A" needle-drop (the album, not the song) can do more for a story about the next iteration of "human" life than any of the tracks from Hans Zimmer's score... [T]here's some real cognitive dissonance to seeing a film that effectively asks us to root for a cuter version of ChatGPT. But Edwards and Weitz's script is fascinating for its take on a future in which people have programmed A.I. to maintain the compassion that our own species has lost somewhere along the way; a future in which technology might be a vessel for humanity rather than a replacement for it; a future in which computers might complement our movies rather than replace our cameras.
Microsoft Needs So Much Power to Train AI That It's Considering Small Nuclear Reactors
An anonymous reader shares this report from Futurism:
Training large language models is an incredibly power-intensive process that has an immense carbon footprint. Keeping data centers running requires a ludicrous amount of electricity that could generate substantial amounts of greenhouse emissions — depending, of course, on the energy's source. Now, the Verge reports, Microsoft is betting so big on AI that its pushing forward with a plan to power them using nuclear reactors. Yes, you read that right; a recent job listing suggests the company is planning to grow its energy infrastructure with the use of small modular reactors (SMR)...
But before Microsoft can start relying on nuclear power to train its AIs, it'll have plenty of other hurdles to overcome. For one, it'll have to source a working SMR design. Then, it'll have to figure out how to get its hands on a highly enriched uranium fuel that these small reactors typically require, as The Verge points out. Finally, it'll need to figure out a way to store all of that nuclear waste long term...
Other than nuclear fission, Microsoft is also investing in nuclear fusion, a far more ambitious endeavor, given the many decades of research that have yet to lead to a practical power system. Nevertheless, the company signed a power purchase agreement with Helion, a fusion startup founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman earlier this year, with the hopes of buying electricity from it as soon as 2028.
Elvis Is Back in the Building, Thanks to Generative AI - and U2
U2's inaugural performance at the opening of Las Vegas's Sphere included a generative AI video collage projected hundreds of feet into the air — showing hundreds of surreal renderings of Elvis Presley.
An anonymous reader shares this report from Time magazine:
The video collage is the creation of the artist Marco Brambilla, the director of Demolition Man and Kanye West's "Power" music video, among many other art projects. Brambilla fed hours of footage from Presley's movies and performances into the AI model Stable Diffusion to create an easily searchable library to pull from, and then created surreal new images by prompting the AI model Midjourney with questions like: "What would Elvis look like if he were sculpted by the artist who made the Statue of Liberty...?" Brambilla created an exclusive video excerpting from the larger collage for TIME. The magazine reports that one of the exact prompts he entered was:
While Brambilla's Elvises prance across the Sphere's screen — which is four times the size of IMAX — the band U2 will perform their song "Even Better Than The Real Thing," as part of their three-month residency at the Sphere celebrating their 1991 album Achtung Baby... Earlier this year, U2 commissioned several artists, including Brambilla and Jenny Holzer, to create visual works that would accompany their performances of specific songs. Given U2's love for the singer and the lavish setting of the Sphere, Brambilla thought a tribute to Elvis would be extremely fitting. He wanted to create a maximalist work that encapsulated both the ecstatic highs and grimy lows of not only Elvis, but the city of Las Vegas itself. "The piece is about excess, spectacle, the tipping point for the American Dream," Brambilla said in a phone interview.
Brambilla was only given three-and-a-half months to execute his vision, less than half the time that he normally spends on video collages. So he turned to AI tools for both efficiency and extravagance. "AI can exaggerate with no end; there's no limit to the density or production value," Brambilla says. And this seemed perfect for this project, because Elvis became a myth; a larger-than-life character..." Brambilla transplanted his MidJourney-created images into CG (computer graphics) software, where he could better manipulate them, and left some of the Stable Diffusion Elvis incarnations as they were. The result is a kaleidoscopic and overwhelming video collage filled with video clips both historical and AI-generated, that will soon stretch hundreds of feet above the audience at each of U2's concerts.
"I wanted to create the feeling that by the end of it," Brambilla says, "We're in a place that is so hyper-saturated and so dense with information that it's either exhilarating or terrifying, or both."
"Elvis Presley in attire inspired by the extravagance of ancient Egypt and fabled lost civilizations in a blissful state. Encircling him, a brigade of Las Vegas sorceresses, twisted and warped mid-chant, reflect the influence of Damien Hirst and Andrei Riabovitchev, creating an atmosphere of otherworldly realism, mirroring the decadence and illusion of consumption."