My adventures at Tamatea High School with a fishy maths teacher

It sounds funny, all these years later, but when I went to Tamatea High School my maths teacher, universally known to classes (but not to his face) as ‘Cod’, tried to teach calculus without revealing either how it worked or what it was for. Cod’s lessons were typically: ‘if you have these letters, which stand … More My adventures at Tamatea High School with a fishy maths teacher

Why the singularity won’t happen any time soon. Or at all.

I have long been intrigued by the way we imagine ‘artificial general intelligence’ as some kind of inevitable future. One, perhaps, where humans – too – can be transferred into machines. You’ll notice I used ‘general’ in that phrase. We throw plain ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) around with reckless glee these days, meaning things like chatbots. … More Why the singularity won’t happen any time soon. Or at all.

What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

A significant hallmark of an authoritarian government is the way it uses the power of the state to bully people. The spectre was raised a century ago by Franz Kafka, whose unfinished novel The Trial summed up the whole problem. In the story, Kafka’s narrator was arrested and put on trial – all without even … More What Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ tells us about authoritarian bullying

The flaws of twentieth century thinking

One of the flaws of twentieth century thinking was that a lot of it was geared towards systematising the human universe around us. Everything had to be reduced to mechanisms, often simplistic, often single-cause. This was certainly true academically, particularly in the humanities which were styling themselves as ‘scientific’ on the basis of that systematisation. … More The flaws of twentieth century thinking

Big brother is watching us because we asked for it – Huxley style

I have to admit to a certain cynicism about the age of big data – the age of online convenience where we can shop from home, buy stuff with the click of a button, and have it sent to us. Books, among other things. But there’s a down-side. ‘They’ know what you bought – and … More Big brother is watching us because we asked for it – Huxley style