December 10, 2017

"Most phrases of affirmation sound hot during sex, saying "yep" during sex would be awkward, however."
--/r/showerthoughts

December 9, 2017

Intriguing multi-sgment digit displays from the Soviet Union...







via and via

December 8, 2017

So I volunteered as a helper at my local elementary school "Hour of Code" day. Kids K-2 ran little programming games (generally "give step by step instructions to this little robot-y thing to make it to the goal") on iPads, and the 3-5 kids did similar on netbooks.

Some random thoughts:

December 7, 2017

Is it just me or are conservatives a lot more likely to use a term like "wonderful" non-ironically than liberals? And is Trump leading that or just part of a trend or larger reason for that?
AI AlphaGo Zero started from scratch to become best at Chess, Go and Japanese Chess within hours - This is pretty incredible stuff, and damn near my idea that "I'll be impressed when the same program that wins at Go wins at Chess, and for the same reasons."

I remember hearing about the core idea (setting a game-playing AI against a copy of itself to improve) used in Arthur Samuel's checker playing program back in the late-50s.

All the games AlphaGo Zero plays are "perfect information" games. I wonder how it would do with games of ambiguity and bluff and randomness, like Poker (or Stratego, even.) I suspect when you have a computer play a version of itself, you're vulnerable to the "hill climbing" problem (i.e. if you always head towards the highest ground NEAR you, you might end up stranded on a local high peak, but not the highest in the land) - that you get a certain type of genius at playing another certain type of genius, but vulnerable when playing a more wildcard player, and that vulnerability is increased if you don't know the full state of the game.

Of course, my favorite emergent chess program behavior remains the stories around Atari 2600 Video Chess; the screen would blank as the computer was "thinking", and sometimes when the board returned you'd find some pieces weren't quite where they were before...

UPDATE: better summary The future is here – AlphaZero learns chess

December 6, 2017

Rant at work: "@##!@# Somehow I used some magic gesture on my touchpad, and now Slack is zoomed in - but its not the normal zoom I can adjust with cmd-+ and cmd-- and cmd-0 ; instead it's just decided that slack should be in a magic window that I can pan back and forth with two finger swiping, but I have no idea of how to make everything fit" (restarting Slack seemed to fix it though it felt like I had to do so twice.)

Gestures where an errant side of a finger creates radical behaviors violates this part of Tao of Programming: `A program should follow the "Law of Least Astonishment". What is this law? It is simply that the program should always respond to the user in the way that astonishes him least.`

BTW, the Tao of Programming is brilliant - it's weirdly authentic, like I've seen other things that parody the form of the Tao Te Ching but they generally don't also say smart things about their subject matter....
Get your cinema nerd on about technicolor and the Wizard of Oz
Last night in a dream I had a very specific wine recommendation:
keenan spruce ronan wine (white)
I... don't think that's a thing?

December 5, 2017

"The GOP is basically GoFundMe for corporations, rich people and the morally corrupt."
--http://twitter.com/SeoulBrother
The Last of the Iron Lungs Hate to admit it but reading about these reminds me of how stupid my love of Weird Al's "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung" was, it was like my goto goofy a cappella song as a young teenager. (Yeah, I know it's goofy to pick on a novelty song, but man, that's just not how the contraptions work...)

I guess for it work, there has to be a subtext of A. Mr Frump is also in a coma (otherwise he could talk on the outbreath) and B. Mr Frump's iron lung has a terrible mechanial breakdown (I suspect if you die in an iron lung, you just keep being "breathed for", the whole point is that it keeps things steady no matter what heart-attacky thing your body might be doing...)
A big part of managing our fear of mortality is getting a grip on what regrets we might have. Travis Bradberry's answer to "What are the most common regrets that people have once they grow old?" is worth reading. A summary of it is:
1. They wish they hadn't made decisions based on what other people think. (Especially about their careers and moral decisions)
2. They wish they hadn't worked so hard.
3. They wish they had expressed their feelings.
4. They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.
5. They wish they had let themselves be happy.
Good stuff. How are you dealing with your future regrets?
Artificially Intelligent Robot Predicts Its Own Future by Learning Like a Baby In "On Intelligence", Jeff Hawkins (he made the Palm Pilot but his other love is neuroscience) argues that intelligence and consciousness is a big game of "predict and test" - that relatively few researchers back then had noticed that we have about as many connections down the hierarchy of abstraction as up - so we don't just see light and dark, resolved into a border, resolved into a line, resolved in a face, that a higher system probably remembers there's a face there, and tells the lower systems to look for face-ish parts, and only report back if there's something surprising... i.e. predict and test, predict and test, all the time. (This failure to really "take in" the world as it is appears at a low level explains a lot things, like why it's hard to draw realistically vs based on your expectations of what the object looks like, and many other illusions and also political misthinks - tons of confirmation bias sneaks in there.

Anyway, it sounds like this robot is design to really live out that kind of theory, predicting what the scene should look in X seconds if it does action Y - like a baby exploring the world.

My hunch is that this style of learning - and safe sandboxes to foster it - will critical if we ever get true thinking AI, something with the ability to shape its own thinking at macro level, vs algorithms that kind of "learn" but only in the meta-patterns that are programmed into it at the outset. (Another theory says certain types of squid seem to have the same level horsepower humans do, but maybe it will never reach fruition because A. the undersea environment of objects isn't as rich and B. there are predators enough that a prolonged period of protected, learning, experimental childhood isn't possible.

December 4, 2017

On Art and Sesame Street.