via and via
Some random thoughts:
- I was surprised that kids seem to prefer mice to touchpads
- especially in this particular class (4th grade) I was aware of how noisy and attention seeking some of the kids were, and saying things mostly just to look smart or similar - probably more aware because I'm pretty sure I was like that as a kid. And it was mostly just boys, which might be problematic.
- I was happy to see the enthusiasm for checking out books. (the lessons were in the library, serving as a computer lab of sorts)
- "The Paper Bag Princess" seems like it would be a bad story to read to folks living near the wildfires right now.
- Kids are more enthused by Pokemon / Digimon type stuff as a programming lesson theme than Wonder Woman or Star Wars (even though "Code Monsters" seemed buggier and more arbitrary than the other stuff)
- Most of these programming exercises focus on breaking tasks into step by step instructions - which is admittedly a critical part of programming - but I wish more were about ... like, making stuff? I.e. drawing on some kind of canvas vs programming a robot-ish thing. I'm not sure if it's inherently a more complex thing to teach (I guess "Logo" is the mix of those two) A "Star Wars" Hour of Code thing came closest, where rather than telling R2D2 what steps to take you learned event-driven programming and made a game of sorts, setting up a program that then let you drive R2D2 via the cursor keys.
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
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?
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. On Art and Sesame Street.