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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hanson

Magic

What was the first thing that came to mind when you read the title of this blog? Fairies and unicorns, or simply something so unique to daily life that its unexpected appearance brought a smile to your face and lightness in your step? For me, it's the latter.


I was just talking to a member of our writer's group yesterday about "artificial intelligence" and its role in our daily life. In specific, we were talking about natural language algorithms versus Boolean search terms, though we didn't use those exact words. I spent my entire working life in technology of some sort and so to me, "artificial intelligence" is no more artificial or intelligent than a hammer. It's just a tool. What makes any tool powerful is the user. And, what makes any tool look like something from an alien planet is its newness and application to our daily lives, and our lack knowledge of how to use it.


I used hammers as an example there, but as you all probably know, there's not just one type of hammer. I was in an antique store the other day and came across a beautifully restored small hand axe...something the size and weight that would be perfect for me to use to cut kindling for the fireplace. One end of the head had a smallish semicircular blade, the other had a blunt protrusion that looked for all the world like a hammer. Looking at the tag, I learned this was a "carpenter's hammer." Brilliant...a two-fer.


Carpenters in the early 1900s often needed to trim a piece before they nailed it into place and so combining two tools (an axe and a hammer) into one tool was the perfect solution. Of course, this was a specialty tool without the weight and size to be either a good axe or a good hammer, yet perfect for a hip-pocket solution. Having never seen such a thing, the "ah ha!" I experienced as my mind started racing with ways I could use the tool in my little shop was nothing short of magic, but let's get back to our discussion of artificial intellegence...in walks YouTube.


In short, natural language algorithms sort through data and return a probability of the greatest number of matches based on your search criteria. This action is only artificial in that electrical impulses are doing the work versus human fingers flipping through a card catalogue in a 1930s era library. And this action, or the result of this action, is only intelligent if you're using good search criteria. When you do, sometimes what you get are unexpected gems of information which can transport you back in time, or move you forward into a potential future. I searched YouTube for NewYork+history+1930 and found this beauty. The author even described his "AI restoration process" as follows:


Archival footage supplied by Internet Archive (at archive.org) in association with Prelinger Archives. The original B&W film has been motion-stabilized, enhanced, upscaled and colourized by means of state-of-the-art video software. AI Restoration Process:

1. DeNoise and removed artifacts.

2. Increased motion interpolation to 60 fps, using a deep learning open source program Dainapp.

3. Upscaled using AI to 4K resolution

4. Added color using Deoldify

5. Added sound and join the various film fragments by means of a sophisticated editor.


The "magic" in his production was in his ability to understand and use tools to launch the viewer back in time to New York in the 1930s. The dress, the way people moved, the transition from horse-drawn transportation to automobiles...so much has changed and yet in many ways it's still New York. And I'll bet I can get a pretzel from the cart on the corner for lunch. That unexpected sameness, for me at least, is the magic.


Thanks, @vintagestories9612, for this beauty.



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