Monday, October 30, 2006

Fire and Ice

A long discussion on sepia mutiny today about science and religion. Reminded me of this poem.

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Ah, the not so gentle Frost. I wish we saw him more often.

The poem could be an allegory for so many things, but if science is fire and religion is ice, then I'd say it is a tossup between fire and ice.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Constructing HAL

An interesting presentation by Doug Lenat, AI pioneer and founder of cycorp, at google.

Cyc plans to feed all the information in the world into a computer, and then let the computer use first order logic to reason with the information to answer questions. Now before we go all 2001 over this, its interesting that Lenat has been working at it for over twenty years, and the system can now answer questions like 'Is President Bush inhaling or exhaling right now?' correctly, with an 'I don't know'.

To be fair, some of the examples in the presentation are impressive, but is it a victory for AI, or for Moore's law? I am not a great fan of the Deep Blue approach to AI problems. It seems the way to solve an AI problem is to destroy it.

On the other hand, Lenat does point out a very serious problem with gradual learn-by-experience approaches: a Catch-22 situation where the less the system already knows, the harder it is for it to learn further or evolve. So classical AI might be a good bootstrap to give learning systems a headstart. That is actually a very good idea, and I haven't seen anyone doing that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Only connect

Nerd Trivia.

Connect the Unabomber, pornography, Lord Byron, and a concurrent programming language.

Answer: David Gelernter

David Gelernter, professor at Yale, and a target of the Unabomber, invented the concurrent programming language Linda, named after Linda Lovelace (the star of Deep Throat) as a twisted sort of joke, as the only other woman to have a programming language named after her is also a Lovelace: Ada, daughter of Lord Byron.

You can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Some of us just go one God further

"Usually they say they were expecting a man in a wheelchair who can't talk. They confuse me with Stephen Hawking.
Is he going to hell too?
I reckon so...
Ya, maybe so, maybe so...God doesn't like black holes..."
Colbert interviews Richard Dawkins.

I idolized Dawkins as a teen, but he is getting a little repetitive. Still, for nostalgia's sake.