Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dennett's Turing Test Example

When people imagine what a Turing Test conversation would look like, they frequently underestimate the conversation. I find Dennet's example of an imaginary Turing Test from Consciousness Explained to be a good counterexample:
Judge: Did you hear about the Irishman who found a magic lamp? When he rubbed it a genie appeared and granted him three wishes. “I’ll have a pint of Guiness!” the Irishman replied and immediately it appeared. The Irishman eagerly set to sipping and then gulping, but the level of Guiness in the glass was always magically restored. After a while the genie became impatient. “Well, what about your second wish?” he asked. Replied the Irishman between gulps, “Oh well, I guess I’ll have another one of these.”

CHINESE ROOM: Very funny. No, I hadn’t heard it– but you know I find ethnic jokes in bad taste. I laughed in spite of myself, but really, I think you should find other topics for us to discuss.

J: Fair enough but I told you the joke because I want you to explain it to me.

CR: Boring! You should never explain jokes.

J: Nevertheless, this is my test question. Can you explain to me how and why the joke “works”?

CR: If you insist. You see, it depends on the assumption that the magically refilling glass will go on refilling forever, so the Irishman has all the stout he can ever drink. So he hardly has a reason for wanting a duplicate but he is so stupid (that’s the part I object to) or so besotted by the alcohol that he doesn’t recognize this, and so, unthinkingly endorsing his delight with his first wish come true, he asks for seconds. These background assumptions aren’t true, of course, but just part of the ambient lore of joke-telling, in which we suspend our disbelief in magic and so forth. By the way we could imagine a somewhat labored continuation in which the Irishman turned out to be “right” in his second wish after all, perhaps he’s planning to throw a big party and one glass won’t refill fast enough to satisfy all his thirsty guests (and it’s no use saving it up in advance– we all know how stale stout loses its taste). We tend not to think of such complications which is part of the explanation of why jokes work. Is that enough?
Dennett: “The fact is that any program that could actually hold up its end in the conversation depicted would have to be an extraordinary supple, sophisticated, and multilayered system, brimming with “world knowledge” and meta-knowledge and meta-meta-knowledge about its own responses, the likely responses of its interlocutor, and much, much more…. Maybe the billions of actions of all those highly structured parts produce genuine understanding in the system after all.”

Sunday, 15 September 2013

160 chars: Surplus

"Too many musicians = healthy for culture, not so much for aesthetics, and shit for musicians" - via Rocknerd

Sunday, 14 April 2013

160 chars: Praise

Old days: people praised the powerful.
Nowadays: mixed feelings about power, praise reserved for pets.
Organised religions please note.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

160 chars: For Iain Banks

call me highway call me conduit call me lightning rod scout catalyst observer call me what you will i was there when i was required #toiain

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Internet since 1995

re: The Internet in 1995

The internet has done things that few people imagined back in 1995. The internet is now about 7000 days old, its already completely changed media and commerce, how we socialise is being transformed, the next big shift is probably in education (which thus far has been based on the idea that you need to get people into a room together if you want to disseminate knowledge efficiently). Ultimately, I think its going to change the way we think as well.

In 1995 I was literally wasting hours of my life debating things with people that could be largely settled these days with 5 minutes of googling. I'm starting to realise that most of the pre-internet thinking I did was akin to stumbling around in the dark.

(originally a comment on this metafilter thread)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

In our hands

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Left, Right, and how they see each other

(originally from a comment on this metafilter thread)

... I believe it is possible for some people on the right to genuinely believe their way is better for everyone in the long run (rather than just being self-interested etc, which is the usual way the left views the right), and such a hypothetical honest good-intentioned right-winger would argue thus:

"The left wing aim of redistributing wealth to help people in need is well intentioned, and I would allow some of that for the most needy cases. In general though, such hand-outs engender dependency and yes, lets admit it, possibly lazyness and lack of motivation in some cases. Also redistribution by the state is always inefficient and clumsy and slow. Its better for most people to have to fend for themselves to a large degree (excepting some extreme cases) and a country of people standing up for themselves will be dynamic and productive. Redistribution if left unchecked would grow to cover more and more cases and dampen the whole economy and although it would hurt the rich first, it would eventually hurt everybody. Thus (in corb's wording) voting for the left eventually fucks everybody"

I don't agree with that position, but I do admit the possibility that some people honestly think like that, and that they honestly believe their way is for the ultimate good of everybody.