LGBT history? Thoughts

July 17, 2011

California governor signs bill requiring schools to teach gay history – CNN

I was rather taken aback by finding out about this. Not because I resent LGBT history, not because I think that “no factual materials would be allowed to be presented” (Rev. Louis Sheldon), or because it would be by nature discriminatory – something that it definitely has potential to be.

Bill Clinton created a campaign that resonates very strongly with my pragmatist-but-idealist-when-things-are-going-well stance – “It’s the economy, stupid.” And stupid indeed is what we can call politicians who focus their energies on the subject matter of THAT^ article rather than that of THIS one. “It’s the economy, stupid” is something I wish could be repeated more often nowadays, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it right now.

For I am no lawmaker. My center-left position may have eroded completely under destructive partisanship, with one third of the country swinging far right, another third going far left, leaving us with an uncertain center which can just look to both ends and wonder what the hell is going on.

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Computer Science and Philosophy: The Most Human Human

July 8, 2011

I recently finished a fascinating book by Brian Christian, The Most Human Human. Christian took part in the 2009 “Loebner Prize,” an annual “official” Turing Test, in which prizes are given to the program which is able to fool the most human judges (or elicit, on average, the lowest confidence of its non-personhood in the judges’ assessments). Christian did in fact win the “Most Human Human award,” and to sum up some of his insights on how far artificial intelligence has come in terms of holding a conversation, I crafted a short Citizen’s Guide to Judging whether it is a Computer or Not:

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What is it that computers CAN’T do? A simple introduction to Turing’s Halting Problem

May 29, 2011

(This is the first in a series about computationally insolvable problems, with a focus on Turing machines and the halting problem)

As a modern society, we rely on faster and more powerful computers in greater and more diverse areas of our life with every successive generation. In fact, some people believe in (and are working hard towards) the possibility of a technological “Singularity” by the 2030’s, when artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence sufficiently to recursively self-improve (eg. A slightly smarter-than-human AI will make an AI slightly smarter than itself, which will in turn improve its own design, etc) and when the future will become extremely difficult to predict.

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