5 Intriguing Things: Wednesday, 2/26

Big Ag Data, the birth of the rave, uncanny empathy, two flavors of sublime, and a history of Detroit in glass.

1. Monsanto, DuPont, and Deere are stoked about big data.

"I see it as another potential transformation of the company," says Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto, based in St. Louis. He helped develop Monsanto's first genetically modified seeds in the early 1980s. In November, Monsanto paid $930 million to acquire Climate Corp., a weather-data-mining company in San Francisco launched by former Google executives. Agricultural cooperative Land O'Lakes Inc. bought satellite-imaging specialist Geosys in December for an undisclosed amount.

"DuPont announced earlier this month a collaboration with a weather-and-market analysis firm, DTN/The Progressive Farmer, to provide real-time climate and market information to DuPont's data-services users.

"Late last year, Deere & Co. agreed to beam data from the Moline, Ill., company's green tractors, combines and other machinery to computer servers where DuPont and Dow Chemical Co. can formulate specialized seed-planting recommendations...

"DuPont and Monsanto are excited about their data-driven services, partly because they can be rolled out to farmers much faster than new seeds, which often must endure a decade of development and regulatory review."


2. The birth of the rave.

"Pickering saw it all from his vantage point in the DJ booth above the dancefloor: 'It was like a tidal wave across the club from their alcove. Suddenly everyone was on ecstasy. I could stop a record and put my hands in the air, and the place would erupt.' Ecstasy also affected what people wore. 'It's quite endearing looking back now,' says DJ Dave Haslam, 'but no one knew how to dress. People were thinking, 'Do we wear shoes or trainers with this music? Do I wear a T-shirt?' In early 1988, there were still people coming to the Haçienda in suits with shoulder pads, then all of a sudden they were in dungarees.' Nude was the Haçienda's pioneering night, and was followed in the summer of 1988 by the insane Hot, with Pickering joined in the DJ booth by Jon DaSilva and a swimming pool installed on the dancefloor."


3. A new theory about the Uncanny Valley: the problem is that bots don't give us facial cues that suggest they get what we're going through

"Recent empirical evidence suggests that the potential adverse effect of a  perceived lack of empathy from a realistic, human-like, virtual character may have greater uncanny consequences for the viewer. A study was conducted in which movement was disabled in the upper face region (including the eyelids, brows, and forehead) of realistic, human-like characters, limiting the amount of affective signals and the character's ability to indicate empathetic social interaction. The results showed that viewers rated these virtual characters as most uncanny compared to humans and fully animated, virtual characters. A meta-analysis of this empirical evidence on perception of the uncanny and emotional response in virtual characters, combined with psychoanalytic literature and findings in neuroscience, provides a new standpoint on the  Uncanny Valley theory and suggests a conceptual shift. 

"One's ability to empathize with others and understand the cognitive and emotive processes of another has been claimed as the unique quality that defines one as human. As such, I propose that the essence or cause of the Uncanny Valley lies in the perception of a lack of empathy in another. I discuss how the social brain interprets perceptual cues provided via facial expression and how a perceived lack of facial cues may cause the Uncanny Valley effect in synthetic agents."

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