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Comment Dial M for Mystery (Score 1) 215

Everyone has probably heard stories (urban legends) about gaslighting high-strung couch potatoes with adjustable rabbit ears who are too addicted to sports or sitcoms for their own good.

(I once tried this on my younger siblings using an antique frequency generator wired to a small yagi under my bed—we lived on an isolated hilltop acreage—but it only caused minor snow and zigzag patterns, despite being just one room away; we generally had bad reception anyway, and they found the effect unremarkable.)

To be certain an effect is localized, you need to measure it in many places at the same time.

Otherwise, quite possibly, some asshole or algorithm merely has his/her/its hand on the dial.

Comment bicycle vs. the moon (Score 2, Interesting) 175

Because we still can't define what intelligence is.

Just imagine what the human mind's distributed representation of the "intelligence" concept would look like. Clever animate entities (and most associations therewith) are way off in their own private corner of vector space compared to just about everything else.

When the gap is this large, the enormous void in between somehow becomes a non-object (to superficial cognition) and so people just begin to presume that we need to jump the gap, rather than slowly filling the gap in.

It's almost like the travelling moon illusion when you're driving in a car and the moon is low in the sky, off to the side (which children find amazing, but adults have learned to ignore).

I was thinking about the sun this morning and about relative illumination at different latitudes. The correct physical model is parallel rays, which immediately suggests that for a perfect sphere, the poles get no direct radiation at all during equinox, the eternal kiss of sunrise=sunset.

Then I looked outside through the window, and realized that the human brain—which knows the sun is far away—still doesn't think it's as far away as the earth is wide (very wide, if you believe in a flat earth model) or even a few multiples (but it's actually thousands), and so the intuition from our eyes never says parallel rays.

We've been nibbling away at the giant AI void quite successfully, but the travelling moon illusion still makes us think we need to jump.

The reason we keep reclassifying our victories as "not really AI" is because we know for a moon fact that the void never actually changes size. But it does, and it has, and it will continue to shrink, and I really don't think we're going to spring generalized intelligence all at once out of scary clown box.

First we must learn to perceive the void as a continuum of many way points, mapped out by many generations of technical improvement, like Vancouver and Cook or Lewis and Clark.

For me, recent results with LSTMs have made the void seem just a little bit smaller than it was before. I'm now at the very beginning of an ability to perceive the moon as being at a great, yet finite distance.

With something so thoroughly hived off in its own corner of distributed-representation hyperspace as intelligence, what's to define, anyway? Definitions are street signs erected in conurbia, which one resorts to after Toronto and Hamilton and Niagara Falls have all become built-structure indistinguishable as you skirt the horseshoe.

There are many conurbations in distributed-representation vector space where definitions are the last gasp at forestalling cognitive Gangs of New York. Definitions are less important under open skies of Boise, Idaho or Butte, Montana; even less important still when you've wandered out into the green grid-lines of the entirely unpainted Matrix.

Here's a quick test: if your frontier town's "population #,### sign" (there is only one sign) and it has at most one comma, definitions are premature.

Comment Re:I wish they'd change terminology (Score 0) 175

"Strong AI" is always 5 years off.

I get so tired of this meme parading as fresh insight.

$silver_bullet is always five years off.

See, if you say ten years, no-one pays attention because ten years is a long ways away and you've already lost the attention war.

If you say two years, some well-informed wise ass will probably start to make irritating (and accurate) observations based on proximate data.

But five years is the Goldilocks condition: just right.

Most of the time you can cut to the chase and simply s/silver_bullet/juvenile_wish_fulfillment/g FTW.

Comment addendum (Score 2) 144

The reason I wanted Kay to give an explicit answer about what Engelbart got right that HTML didn't is that I'm wary about these judgements in hindsight.

I was reading Rob Pike this morning.

Go at Google: Language Design in the Service of Software Engineering — 2012

When Go launched, some claimed it was missing particular features or methodologies that were regarded as de rigueur for a modern language.

How could Go be worthwhile in the absence of these facilities?

Our answer to that is that the properties Go does have address the issues that make large-scale software development difficult.

Would s/Go/HTML/g be a correct map for Kay's opinion? Because HTML really was designed more for engineering at scale than anything else.

And this always draws a chorus of criticism from the conceptual purity boo birds.

Kay is a pretty smart guy, but did he ever learn his billion times tables really? I rather suspect that was never native to his cognitive style.

Comment undo (Score 1) 144

The article disappoints because the interviewer doesn't force Kay to explain what he thinks Engelbart got right that HTML didn't.

But it did have a few gems along the way.

Do you know how to do an undo on an iPhone? Let me ask you that question. I'll just test you out a little. Suppose you do something on the iPhone and you don't like it, how do you undo it?
So, in theory, you're supposed to shake the iPhone and that means undo. Did you ever, did anybody ever tell you that? It's not on the website. It turns out almost no app responds to a shake. And there's no other provision. In fact, you can't even find out how to use the iPhone on the iPhone. You ever notice that?
So, this is like less than what people got with Mac in 1984. Mac had a really good undo. It allowed you to explore things. Mac had multitasking. The iPhone is basically giving one little keyhole and if you do something wrong, you actually go back out and start the app over again.

Think about this. How stupid is this? It's about as stupid as you can get. But how successful is the iPhone? It's about as successful as you can get, so that matches you up with something that is the logical equivalent of television in our time.

Comment hacking on humbug (Score 1) 82

As I read it, Turing's paper was entirely about hacking on humbug human attitudes: if flesh and metal both give the same answers (or similar enough that you can't tell the difference) isn't it a just distinction without a difference to describe one as alive and conscious and the other inanimate and unconscious?

This paper really had very little to do with computers at all.

Comment in no particular order (Score 1) 312

  • The Stuff of Thought (2007) by Steven Pinker
  • Algorithms to Live By (2016) by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
  • Bread Baker's Apprentice (2001) by Peter Reinhart
  • Fat Chance (2013) by Robert Lustig
  • The Hacking of the American Mind (2017) by Robert Lustig (on order)
  • Democracy to Live By (2016) by Christopher H. Achen
  • Taste of Persia (2016) by Naomi Duguid

Democracy is a textbook in drag, but has some worthwhile chapters near the end.

Taste of Persia is interesting, but this isn't the easiest cuisine to crack into. Managed a reasonable tahdig on my first attempt. I will probably try a flatbread, then call it a day for this pass. But the weird thing is, I'll probably use Reinhart's recipe, because his book has a good one, too.

Bread Baker's Apprentice is awesome. He adapted his Pain a l'Ancienne in a later book (the recipe is online), and I'm already getting amazing results (but I had been making high-hydration pizza dough for several years, so it wasn't the biggest stretch, har har).

Lustig has some interviews on YouTube. I like the guy, but he can lay it on a bit thick at times. He recently took time off from his medical research to pick up a law degree. Honestly not sure what to expect from his newest book.

I've long had a love/hate relationship with Pinker, but eventually I read everything he writes.

Algorithms to Live By would be a great book if they weren't so busy shooting down their own strawmen.

What's the real value of an "optimal" solution, as N races upward in a combinatorial space? First, it ends argument. Second, well, there is no second. So many good solutions are almost identical in many of these problem spaces at scale. Pssst—that's why there's no fucking gradient inside the good solution disk for your clever algorithm to exploit. Man that was getting on my nerves at various points. Then they get half of another chapter explaining that many optimum isn't necessary at the end of the day after all. Oh, sheesh. Why didn't you say this long before I threw the book at the wall for the third time?

A fairly typical random cross section, though a bit heavy on cooking lately.

Comment Re:Restroom Break (Score 1) 98

And this is well in line with my going to the restroom to jack off once or twice an hour to "release stress"

Regular pipe maintenance is also associated with a decrease in all-cause male mortality.

Way up in the sky /
Puzzling to my tiny eye /
Ablation of my risk to die.
Only now I ponder why /
Lofting spunk lifeboats spry.

Also, be sure to order the self-winding activity tracker rather than the regular coin cell job—unless you're a dab hand with small tools.

Comment Re:We covered the dosing morons in an earlier arti (Score 1) 306

The modern age of coffee-fueled offices is entirely a product of Maxwell House's 1950s advertising with the slogan, "Take a coffee break."

Folklore is a giant wax museum of intrepid historical figures flipping the bird to the domed dinosaur diorama while cracking open a champagne magnum against the nearest tree (do forgive my small anachronism) or throwing a giant streaming parade minutes before the world changed of its own accord by a rapid cascade of barely perceptible degrees (perspective: sweltering NBA reptile with small, sticky fingers) in the inexorable march of exploration, exploitation, and delinquency (subtypes: fungus, resin, coca, cocoa, coffee, erbium, tantalum, palladium, niobium).

Comment Re:Sadly he became a Trumpist in his last days (Score 1) 221

Pournelle was extraordinarily intelligent. Many extraordinarily intelligent people learn early on that people who disagree with them are usually wrong, and for the sake of efficiency should be ignored or their arguments discarded without due consideration.

Mind blowing.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
        — Mark Twain

To begin with, I wouldn't bet my life that this quote originated from Twain (for that matter, I would be hard pressed to bet my life Twain ever said "Twain, Mark Twain") but let's ignore the ironic recursion.

The smarter you are, the more exposed you become to the final sliver of error.

And then, if you shut down the feedback loop of last resort in the name of efficiency then the final score is Hubris: 1, IQ: 0 for any value of IQ (which is anyway a set of measure zero, despite here and there a flirtation with numbers—180, 190, 200—that might almost boil water by sheer mental exertion).

How about we set Pournelle beside Pournelle squared?

According to E. Wigner and S. Ulam, von Neumann was an extremely open person. He was ready to help anyone who needed advice. His good sense of humor and remarkable gift of storytelling made him being adored even by strangers. He was never pompous, always driven by his flawless logic and very profound understanding of morality.

Despite his acknowledged outstanding intellectual capabilities, he was free from arrogance and he was very interested in other people.

According to Norbert Weiner:

Neumann is one of the two or three top mathematicians in the world, is totally without national or race prejudice, and has an enormously great gift for inspiring younger men and getting them to do research ... Neumann is not high-hat in any way, and is most accessible to young students

I got that impression originally from a David Hoffman documentary (since taken down from YouTube), the above are similar sentiments recounted on Quora.

I was never a huge fan of Pournelle's fiction. Had it not been that Niven's Ringworld was somewhat thinly plotted—plot was always Niven's weak underbelly—I doubt their collaboration would have ever happened.

Niven with a thin plot was still ten times better mind food than anything Pournelle ever wrote.

For anyone mentioning that Ellison also had a prick gear, check out the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008). He comes across as a bristly guy with a prick gear, but mostly tolerable the rest of the time.

If I had to choose one or the other to be stuck with on a destroyed island paradise, it would be prophetic Ellison over Pournelle all the way (though definitely Pournelle over oracular Ellison). At the end of the day, I did continue to read Pournelle's columns, something that can't be said for John C. Dvorak.

Comment credential theft (Score 5, Insightful) 401

It will be very hard to top this. In this case we have half of a population with personal info detailed enough to effectively steal identity in multiple ways ...

Hackers aren't stealing identity, they are stealing credentials (so as so assume an identity, if the world makes this easy for them to pull off).

Institutions want to pretend that credentials = identity, so that if they give your money to the wrong person, it's your fault (your identity was stolen, what else could we do?) rather than their fault (their chosen system of credentials sprung a leak, causing them to misidentify some loser as the real customer).

Finally, a big enough leak that maybe some people will begin to comprehend the distinction here.

Comment Re:urgent: mouse wanted to baby bell the word "new (Score 1) 71

Slashdot mainly serves to keep my severed finger wet.


Somewhere inside I just knew I was one word away from the perfect ending. I stared and stared at the video replay until I finally got it. Damn. Two beautiful bumps from Chomsky and Harris, and then I flubbed the spike.

And no, it wasn't an accident that team Chomsky, Harris and Will were lined up against Hannity, Limbaugh, and Carlson—those shrill wind-up drawls that blow nobody good—(Frum Jr. must then, perforce, be the odd-man-out stripe-swapping zebra).

You can bet team CHILL has a frostier bench—true meteorology is rarely a pleasant lark on a bark through a park (Houston, we're short of birch slabs).

Comment urgent: mouse wanted to baby bell the word "news" (Score 1) 71

There are many places on the Internet where I stick a wet finger in the air, to assess weather conditions.

Where I "get" my meteorology is from professionals over a broad spectrum (I actually prefer Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith over Joe and Mika when Chris and Shep are taking their jobs seriously). And then I often cross-check the professionals against Wikipedia (mostly for leaving important shit out) and Google Scholar (for careful treatment of what they chose to include).

Where it comes to meteorology, half of these social media bumpkins couldn't even write down the ideal gas law (though for many, it's surely Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson in a perfect storm of Hurricane Beangeflato).

For me, the continental divide—between swamp and non-swamp—is approximately George Will: I find myself on board with exactly half of what he says. David Frum is also a fairly reliable coin flip: I just never know if I'm going to agree or not, sentence by sentence.

By way of contrast, I only agree with about 1/3 of what Chomsky says, though it's a pretty important one third. From time to time I nail myself to a cross and drink his vinegar (no, I'm not self-aggrandising—this was, for the most part, a thoroughly plebeian pastime in ancient Rome).

By way of contrast again, I agree with Sam Harris 75% of the time, but it's the least important 75%, so I pretty much stopped tuning him in.

Slashdot mainly serves to keep my finger wet.

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