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Comment Slashdot AI commentary summary... (Score 5, Insightful) 133

I've decided that this accomplishment -- a dizzying milestone in artificial intelligence that not long ago was though impossible or at least decades away -- is actually meaningless and doesn't prove anything and they should clearly have been working on some other problem. I have no idea how their system works, but I'm confident that their approach is just "brute force" (or something, I clearly have no idea what even that means) and won't generalize to any "real" problem solving (with my definition of "real problem" subject to change without notice).

I will only admit that any progress has been made towards artificial intelligence when computers perform exactly equivalent to humans in all tasks with no human intervention. I mean, I won't really, because I have weird quasi-spiritual hangups about believing computers can be intelligent, but that's where I'm putting the goal posts for now. Digital computers can't think, but I can because reasons. Free will or quantum mechanics or something else that I haven't thought about at all, probably.

Also, cotton gins and blacksmiths, therefore computers will never take our jobs. Amen.

Comment Re:Damore's primary 'crime' (Score 1) 1021

To be clear, I would prefer to live in a world where more people felt free to discuss issues like this, and where unpopular opinions were met with much calmer reason and argument rather than blanket dismissals and insults. But that is not the current state of things; even if this guy's manifesto was much better written and well reasoned than it is, I think it would have met with effectively the same response. That's what I mean when I say this isn't currently a tenable position; just based on the subject matter and the extent to which it varies from the orthodoxy, he had no chance of successfully defending it.

I'm glad that society is advancing on many fronts in terms of equality, but I don't like how difficult/dangerous it is for reasonable people to disagree on and discuss this kind of issue with any kind of openness. I think it slows progress on all sorts of fronts, and drives many people in the "center" people towards worse decisions (like electing Trump). I don't know how to fix or change this state of affairs.

Comment Re:Damore's primary 'crime' (Score 1) 1021

If he was smarter, or thought about it longer, he wouldn't have published it at all - it was clearly going to end with him being either ignored or fired. I don't think it would matter if it was a little better baked, it's just not a tenable basic position right now.

And that's the problem I see here - the only people willing to discuss these kinds of issues are:
1. Those whose opinions lean a certain way, conforming to a narrow current orthodoxy
2. Those in "the middle" who aren't smart enough to see how badly this is going to end for themselves (eg. this guy)
3. Actual bigots, who don't mind being called out as such because they think bigotry is right

I actually don't have much problem with "the orthodoxy" here in terms of position - my own views are left leaning enough that I could safely express them in most forums. But I am bothered at the current impulse to just kind of "make unspeakable" a bunch of possible other positions. It doesn't end well. It drives people to extremes. I think it's how Trump got elected. Media just kept telling a class of people (representing a large percentage of Americans): your concerns aren't real, you're a degenerate if you don't immediately agree with this whole list of things. It's no surprise they listened to a guy who acknowledged them and the things they're worried about (whether your or I might think those things are valid or not).

Now, again, clearly this guy at Google didn't think things out well. But it's also fairly clear he's not alone in his opinions, and it's not like some smarter representative is going to come forward to better articulate that group's position and start some productive dialog. Why would someone thoughtful stick their neck out like that? I don't see it happening. But without some kind of representation for this group - without allowing people to express opinions somewhere in this middle - we're going to lose a lot of these people to actual bigotry, and a lot of problems will go unsolved.

Comment Good political decision, probably. (Score 0) 517

Trump has not been doing well on the current political fronts (hilariously poor speeches, Russia collusion), so it's a good call for him to shift discussion. To be clear, I think the Russia stuff is mostly a matter of stupidity/greed (with a healthy dose of anachronistic RED SCARE) rather than high treason or something, but nonetheless these stories are not going in Trump's favor (and his previous attempts at handling/distraction have been super feeble, eg. Clinton has Russia ties too!) ..so it's a good idea for him to shift the discussion to a more traditional right-left battlefield: a moral panic. Here, his part is much simpler to play: "oh no, the ~new thing~ is going to destroy the foundation of our society/military/families" - and this particular subject is great because the left will respond predictably in a way that will alienate around half the country. From Trump's perspective, much better to focus on a polarizing issue where he has 45% support and a clear game plan, than let focus stay on his bumbling kids and their stupid Russian entanglements.

Comment Re:Zuck is right (this time) (Score 1) 318

Zuckerberg is actually a pretty good programmer. You can still find some of his old submitted code on TopCoder. He wasn't, like, a super serious competitor - and you can't credit Facebook's success to his unworldly programming skills or something - but he has some very reasonable tech background and skills.

Comment Re: New kind of therabpy, equivelent to Anti-bioti (Score 1) 73

Yeah, see I think fruit fails as "medicine" not because it's preventative, but rather because I wouldn't call it a "drug or preparation". If you, say, ground up tree bark and snorted it to prevent a cold, I would have no problem calling that a medicine. I mean, there's foggy areas if you want there to be (oh, this "baked potato" is medicine because it's a "baked preparation" that I use to prevent the disease of "starvation"), but I think that definition is actually pretty solid in terms of matching how people use the word.

And lots of perfectly reasonable medicine is preventative in just the way you seem to be against. I have no qualms with, say, getting vaccinated - even for a disease that I'm very unlikely to encounter. Different preventative medicines will have different pros and cons. And while vaccines might not spring to mind if I was asked to give examples of "medication", I do think it's reasonable to call them that.

Comment Re: New kind of therabpy, equivelent to Anti-bioti (Score 1) 73

I agree that calling antibacterial soap an "antibiotic" doesn't fit how that word is used - but trying to suggest that's because it isn't "medicine" doesn't make sense.

In your own linked dictionary, the relevant definition for medicine is: "A drug or other preparation for the treatment or prevention of disease." That definition would obviously include antibacterial soaps which are preparations used to prevent a disease. I can imagine being prescribed an antibacterial soap and calling it medicine (but, again, on the flipside, I agree that doctors would not call such a treatment an antibiotic - though I can't point to a specific reason they wouldn't).

Comment Re:Well (Score 1) 413

VR isn't perfectly standardized, but SteamVR (and most VR games on Steam) support both the Rift and the Vive, and do so in a way that's mostly transparent as a player. Overall, there isn't really that much difference at this point in features (and many people prefer the Touch controllers to the Vive wands) - so at this price, I think the Oculus is the clear choice (I say this despite buying a Vive on launch and having got a lot of fun out of it).

Comment Re:It's not a thing (Score 1) 418

Encoding something with that method works well enough for very short, well-defined animations.

Sorry, what are you imagining "that method", to be? What I'm suggesting is very high level descriptions of content - the level of a movie shooting script, along with information on cast/etc, but in a form designed by an AI to communicate efficiently with itself. The AI would use this to reconstruct the movie from scratch. To make it match the original as much as possible, it could imagine make ordered lists of each parameter, ordered by some measure of likelihood, and then store only these indexes into that huge multidimensional universe.

Anyway, I don't know on what basis you've decided that would only work for things that are short or well defined. To be clear, none of this is my crazy theory or something; this is the normal sort of thing people talk about when they talk about the frontiers of compression. Like, to compress Wikipedia beyond X, you need a powerful AI that starts doing work in this sort of way, and I'm sure you can find lots of speculative articles about how this might work. None of it is realistic now, but becomes very realistic in a world with AI that greatly surpasses human intelligence.

Even with the ~2000 exabytes of data we currently have "stored" in the world, the pointer to any point in it would be immensely huge

What are you talking about? A pointer to distinguish any bit within that 2000 exabytes of data is still going to be quite small - pointer size is logarithmic to the size of the set. Heck, I could reference any atom in the universe with ~100 bytes of data. But our compressed movie file wouldn't need to be anywhere near that extravagant. There are only so many white tops the actress would likely be wearing, etc...

Comment Re:It's not a thing (Score 1) 418

I'm not sure I understand your complaint here. Are you saying it work well enough (1), that it wouldn't be exactly the same (2), or that it wouldn't operate on all possible inputs (3)?

On 1, there's no reason the output couldn't be much higher quality than the original. 2 seems likely to be true, but also a shallow complaint; the result could be very, very similar (I mean, who knows how much data it would take to encapsulate Michael Bay's directing preferences, but there's no hard reason to believe it's a big number) - or, again, better.

On 3, again you're trivially correct but it's not a fair complaint. If you're working against the set of "all possible arrays of pixels", then any significant compression is impossible. And yet video compression is useful technology, because the set of videos we're interested in compressing is an infinitesimal subset of possible videos.

My point was that for a realistic movie and realistic constraints on performance - ie. the normal parameters we'd expect such software to operate in - it's difficult to set hard limits on possible performance. Information theory doesn't provide us any kind of permanent objection (though, obviously, again, I don't expect that this software actually worked, or that any such software could feasibly work via "fractals", or any kind of pixel/image centric processing... it would need to be amazing, very content aware AI to actually get this performance).

Comment Re:Rotten Tomatoes Is Losing Its Touch on Reality (Score 1) 316

This makes sense as a function of RT getting information from more users and more critics.

When the site was smaller, user reviews came from people who were super into movies, and thus thought more like movie critics. Now it's a broader group of people who are more casual consumers, who think less like movie critics. On the other side, I think they're also casting a broader net on critics. This means a lower percentage of "big market populist" reviews that are trying to meet the needs of broad audiences, and more small market, niche audience "movie buff" reviewers.

Yeah - it's not a surprise that their tastes have diverged, but I don't know how you solve for that without changing their whole concept. Which maybe isn't a bad idea - limiting data to fresh/rotten for each review is going to produce very swingy results. I prefer something like metacritic; even if they can't perfectly translate every review score, I think it still ends up being a more useful score.

Comment Re:OMG! (Score 2) 112

But of course it's fine to bundle a free browser with your OS...

Jebus yeah, I hear you man - I lived through that era! Kids today don't understand why we have to stay watchful. Stay vigilant.

But you watch - one day, one of these unscrupulous banana companies is going to try giving us a free browser again (that's the pattern through history: banana, bears, beats, browser) - but they won't get me. Je me souviens. I'll be there to say NON!

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