Category: Tech / Science

Captain Kirk vs AI – Couple Commenters on Artificial Intelligence

A.I. has been oversold for years. It’s mostly fantasy—movie stuff. Look at the car industry, promising autonomous vehicles that would save lives by never having accidents. And yet that’s precisely what shut them down. The sensors on robot cars cannot possibly duplicate the eyes, brains, and knowledge of even your average driver, especially not on twisty roads in poor weather. Autonomous cars will never happen, except perhaps in very controlled circumstances, in which case they’ll be more like trains. Life is messy, and computers do not like messes. Watson can play chess and Jeopardy because they’re rule-based. The rules of life, or cancer, or anything with infinite variations, will send computers into overheated illogic. That’s how Captain Kirk always defeated them.

Cheer up Watson, there’s still hope for you in music. Now that Bob Dylan’s songs have been sold over you can now sing them for him and for the first time we can finally hear the words. What good is genius when it’s unintelligible so that’s where you come in.

Don’t believe the misinformation (Propaganda.) The Original Watson is alive and well and in the hands of the CIA. It worked too well but no one told you the truth.

From the comments:
What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson?
IBM’s artificial intelligence was supposed to transform industries and generate riches for the company. Neither has panned out. Now, IBM has settled on a humbler vision for Watson.

Hereditary Trauma in Mice

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
The fact that anxiety generated by a specific traumatic event can be transmitted to descendants generations later, and even more interestingly, this is true whether the original trauma happened to a male or a female. I learned this from Maud Newton’s book on my night stand* so it’s fresh in my mind, though I’ll probably mangle the facts anyway. It seems that in the study a male mouse was repeatedly shocked whenever he was exposed to a certain fragrance. His sperm carried something that had been altered in his DNA by the trauma and his children and even his grandchildren reacted anxiously to the fragrance though they’d never smelled it before.

Ann Leary Likes Scary Stories
“I’m not choosy, as long as there’s a psychopath,” says the novelist, whose new book is “The Foundling.”

* “Maud Newton’s wonderful new book, Ancestor Trouble”

3 Ways to Manipulate Ideas – John Locke

The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three:

1. Combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made.

2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations.

3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
John Locke (1690)
(Found in epigraph to the book Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs )

In Book II of the Essay, Locke gives his positive account of how we acquire the materials of knowledge. Locke distinguishes a variety of different kinds of ideas in Book II. Locke holds that the mind is a tabula rasa or blank sheet until experience in the form of sensation and reflection provide the basic materials—simple ideas—out of which most of our more complex knowledge is constructed. While the mind may be a blank slate in regard to content, it is plain that Locke thinks we are born with a variety of faculties to receive and abilities to manipulate or process the content once we acquire it. Thus, for example, the mind can engage in three different types of action in putting simple ideas together. The first of these kinds of action is to combine them into complex ideas. Complex ideas are of two kinds, ideas of substances and ideas of modes. Substances are independent existences. Beings that count as substances include God, angels, humans, animals, plants and a variety of constructed things. Modes are dependent existences. These include mathematical and moral ideas, and all the conventional language of religion, politics and culture. The second action which the mind performs is the bringing of two ideas, whether simple or complex, by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them. This gives us our ideas of relations (II.12.1, N: 163). The third act of the mind is the production of our general ideas by abstraction from particulars, leaving out the particular circumstances of time and place, which would limit the application of an idea to a particular individual. In addition to these abilities, there are such faculties as memory which allow for the storing of ideas.

New Jersey Shutting Down Last Coal Plants

The era of power plants using coal to generate electricity is ending in New Jersey.

The last two remaining coal-fired plants in the Garden State — both in South Jersey — are preparing to cease operation within months, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced last week.

Murphy called the move a “very good step in the right direction” as the state continues to shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable, or greener, energy sources. The Democratic governor has set a goal of using only carbon-free — or “clean” — energy sources by 2050.

N.J.’s last two coal plants set to close. ‘A world without coal’ is cleaner, safer, Murphy says.
Brent Johnson

Covid and Alcohol Related Deaths

Almost a million people in the United States have died of Covid-19 in the past two years, but the full impact of the pandemic’s collateral damage is still being tallied. Now a new study reports that the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed and treatment was delayed.

The startling report comes amid a growing realization that Covid’s toll extends beyond the number of lives claimed directly by the disease to the excess deaths caused by illnesses left untreated and a surge in drug overdoses, as well as to social costs like educational setbacks and the loss of parents and caregivers.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows
The deaths were up 25 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, amid heightened stress factors and delayed treatment, according to a new report.
Roni Caryn Rabin

Chess Game Trying to Win Gracefully

Took a look into the source code of Apple’s home-made chess program and wasn’t disappointed from ProgrammerHumor

What are they doing? Did they make the ai unable to en pessant?

It’s slowing down response. So basically after you make your move, the computer already has it’s next move figured out in a few miliseonds, but if it actually moves instantly, the user unconsciously thinks it was too fast to be good. So the program delays it for a second, making it look like the computer has to think hard to beat you.

Same principle applies to all kinds of ui design. If your credit card for example gets accepted in a blink you get suspicious even when it’s fine.

“Your flesh is a relic, a mere vessel” – the chess game

Chemistry vs Alchemy – Essential Difference

Yet it was taking place alongside the altogether more ancient practice of alchemy, the quest to find a way to turn base metals into gold and to produce an elixir of eternal life. These goals are, as far as we know, as near to impossible as makes no difference* – but if alchemy had been conducted using scientific methods, one might still have expected all the alchemical research to produce a rich seam of informative failures, and a gradual evolution into modern chemistry.

That’s not what happened. Alchemy did not evolve into chemistry. It stagnated, and in due course science elbowed it to one side. For a while the two disciplines existed in parallel. So what distinguished them?

Of course, modern science uses the experimental method, so clearly demonstrated by Pascal’s hardworking brother-in-law, by Torricelli, Boyle, and others. But so did alchemy. The alchemists were unrelenting experimenters. It’s just that their experiments yielded no information that advanced the field as a whole. The use of experiments does not explain why chemistry flourished and alchemy died.

Perhaps, then, it was down to the characters involved? Perhaps the great early scientists such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were sharper, wiser, more creative men than the alchemists they replaced? This is a spectacularly unpersuasive explanation. Two of the leading alchemists of the 1600s were Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. They were energetic, even fervent, practitioners of alchemy, which thankfully did not prevent their enormous contributions to modern science.

No, the alchemists were often the very same people using the same experimental methods to try to understand the world around them. What accounts for the difference, says David Wootton, a historian of science, is that alchemy was pursued in secret, while science depended on open debate. In the late 1640s, a small network of experimenters across France, including Pascal, worked simultaneously on vacuum experiments. At least a hundred people are known to have performed these experiments between Torricelli’s in 1643 and the formulation of Boyle’s Law in 1662. “These hundred people are the first dispersed community of experimental scientists,” says Wootton.

The Data Detective
Tim Harford