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
It must be about twenty years since I encountered a CD burner labelled (wait for it) “Smart and friendly”. Back then the art of burning CD’s was sufficiently arcane and difficult that even the hardware manufacturers had to pitch their wares as “smart”. It wasn’t, of course – it was a dumb piece of hardware … More True AI and why it’ll ignore us
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.
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
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
It’s funny how food fads change. After a generation and a half of being told fat is bad for us, now we’re told it’s not (probably), and instead the Evil Food de Jour is sugar. There’s a good deal of science behind that. Sugar, in the quantities we eat it today, wasn’t part of our … More Who profits from food fads?
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