New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, and a good deal of research has been done locally to find out why. Recently it appeared that tests run on asthmatics and non-asthmatics show much the same response to specific inflammatory markers, therefore asthma can’t be due to allergy and must … More New Zealand’s asthma rates and immune system problems aren’t ‘psychological’
I spotted some protestors a while back in central Wellington. “Aha,” I said to myself, “the people’s revolution is happening a century too late.” But it wasn’t. It was a group of public servants wanting a pay rise. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the western world was riven by upheaval; the radical … More The illusions of revolution – how Karl Marx misled historians…and the world…
Human reality is a funny thing. Society, as a whole, behaves differently from individuals – yet is made up of them. Understanding people, individually and en masse, is the raison d’etre of the social sciences. And it strikes me that conceptual realities of human nature often emerge in front of our noses, often in microcosm. I … More Learning the dark truth of the human condition
I have always been intrigued by the way we elevate specialists. Anybody prominent in one of half a dozen fields that western society exalts is, we are told, somebody to be looked up to, and who are never wrong. That’s particularly true of medical specialists particularly, where – certainly here in New Zealand – their … More When specialists fail – spectacularly
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.