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Showing posts from September, 2017

Been reading, Q3 2017

Young Stalin reading (1949) by Viktor Golitseva
the following treatise investigate[s] the fundamental laws of those operations of the mind by which reasoning is performed; to give expression to them in the symbolical language of a Calculus... and to collect some probable intimations concerning the nature and constitution of the human mind.~ Boole, epitomising the ambition and naivete of GOFAI,
100 years before it

1/5: Do not read.4/5: Read with care.2/5: Do not finish.4*/5: Read agape.3/5: Skim.5/5: Read again3*/5: Devour with a grin.


The Master Algorithm (2015) by Pedro Domingos.

Overambitious pop science from a lively and charming expert, trying to sketch all of machine learning in a couple hundred pages. The warmth of his teaching voice comes through the page: As you read the book, feel free to skim or skip any parts you find troublesome; it’s the big picture that matters, and you’ll probably get more out of those parts if you revisit them after the puzzle is assembled.…

notable no-no-no-notorious

infra dig. (Latin / U adj.): infra dignitatem; incredibly posh way of saying the already posh "beneath one".
shakeout (business n.): The collapse of a competitive industry into oligopoly. Wall Street word: you can hear the salivation.
ranch (computing n.): cluster. (Archaic.)
shell account (computing n.): a remote userspace. Remarkably, you can buy one of these for accessing your casual-but-nerdy forum (it's giving randos an arbitrary-execution place on your server, after all). These are how Unix-inclined programmers survived in a Microsoft world.
malocclusion (dentistry n.): misalignment of teeth between your two jaws.
ULEZ (London n.): Ultra Low Emission Zone. Tiny central circle of London that you have to pay extra to drive polluting vehicles in. Overlaps the existing Congestion Charge Zone perfectly, which makes for an interesting ontology of tax.
workforce-planned area (corporate n.): a physical area of a company where everything is highly timed and regimented, like a fac…

Highlighted passages in Hodge's Alan Turing: the Enigma (1983)


"Is a mind a complicated kind of abstract pattern that develops in an underlying physical substrate, such as a vast network of nerve cells? If so... could something else be substituted for the tiny nerve cells, such as millions of small computational units made of arrays of transistors, giving rise to an artificial neural network with a conscious mind?... In short, can thinking and feeling emerge from patterns of activity in different sorts of substrate − organic, electronic, or otherwise?

...Could a language-using machine give the appearance of understanding sentences and coming up with ideas while in truth being as devoid of thought and as empty inside as a nineteenth-century adding machine or a twentieth-century word processor? ...Are understanding and reasoning incompatible with a materialistic, mechanistic view of living beings?

Could a machine ever be said to have made its own decisions? Could a machine have beliefs? Could a machine believe it made its own d…

notable intermittent explosions

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (medical n.): behavioral disorder involving sudden irrational rage. Children under 6 are never considered to display IED: their explosive disorder is instead due to being under 6. Very possibly the reason for that unbelievably petty outburst you saw in Morrison's the other day.
sport one's oak (Oxbridge v.): to signal a desire for solitude by closing one's (outer) door.
fatberg (n.): a congealed mass of cooking fat, nappies and condoms, blocking a sewer. This one is 130 tonnes.
Vouched Mozillian: A trusted volunteer for the Mozilla Foundation. Sounds like a clan from Dune.
monocoque (engineering adj.): of frames which use the external chassis to support weight, lacking an internal load-bearing frame; 'structural skin'.

Underwater basket weaving (US n.): snarky metonym for any useless university course. Decried as racist, as all things must be.
survivors movement (internet n.): People who hate the psychiatric treatment they've had. Pre…

The Dune Trilogy (1965-76) by Frank Herbert

Dune (1965), Dune Messiah (1969), and Children of Dune (1976)
by Frank Herbert.

The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better [to] rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes– Frank Herbert
'Didn't you learn the difference between Harkonnen and Atreides so that you could smell a Harkonnen trick by the stink they left on it. Didn't you learn that Atreides loyalty is bought with love, while the Harkonnen coin is hate?– also Frank Herbert
Dune shouldn't work: there's a lot of the worst of fantasy fiction in it. The spurious black and white morality, above; cod-medieval dialogue; noble-savagery and bizarro Orientalism; its spoilers for itself (through its constant first-person precognition); and the po-faced chapter epigrams about how great the main character is... *

But it does work. It works because of the loveable setting and its thrilling ecosystem; the sharp, rapid dialogue; its sheer, smushy pastiche of human history (American enviro…

The Great Influenza (2004) by John M Barry

A rousing history of one of the worstthings that has ever happened: the 1918 outbreak of H1N1 flu.* It focusses particularly on the great scientists who tried to fight it, none of whom I'd ever heard of, to my shame. It's also a meditation on epistemology, the modern mind, and the redemptive meaning of science for beasts like us.

Barry senses that the headline result - one-third of the entire world infected, with 25-100 million dead - doesn't produce the right reaction in us. The numbers are numbing. So he couches it in modern shocking terms:

It killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.
Or, ten thousand 9/11s. It's worth belabouring this, because we have a weird habit of paying far more attention to human threats than natural ones, even when natural ones are far worse. (Witness our terrorism prevention budgets compared to our infectious disease control budgets,…