Consciousness, Albania, Robert P{irsig, North Korea, Futurology


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We Need Conscious Robots

Ryota Kanai | Nautilus | 27th April 2017

Consciousness must add something useful to thought, otherwise evolution would not have favoured it. So, if we intend to create thinking machines, we should aim to design consciousness into them. True, we have no theory of how to do this, but we can proceed by trial and error; start by giving AIs the ability to say what they are doing. “The engineers of the 18th and 19th centuries did not wait until physicists had sorted out the laws of thermodynamics before they built steam engines” (2,000 words)

Albania, The Future Of Europe

Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei | Berfrois | 22nd April 2017

“For seven years now I have lived in Albania. I have seen ambassadors and foreign representatives come and go. And they all, so they say, share this same ideal: to make Albania a better place. Or, rather, to make Albania more like wherever they came from — the West. Their presence would change Albania, would stabilise Albania. But looking back, it seems that Albania has changed hardly at all. What has changed is the West, and in particular the EU. The EU has become more like Albania” (2,090 words)

On The Road With Aristotle

R.C. Zaehner | Times Literary Supplement | 26th April 2017

How the TLS first reviewed Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, who died on April 24. “Perhaps it would be excessive to say that this is a great book, but it is certainly a powerfully original one – disturbing, deeply moving, full of insights. There is just the right mixture of madness and motorcycle maintenance, of the beauties on the road without and the travail of the mind within, of Pirsig and Phaedrus and Chris. If it is not quite great it is at least wonderful” (2,300 words)

Donald Trump And Kim Jong Un Risk Nuclear War

Mathieu von Rohr et al | Der Spiegel | 26th April 2017

Useful snapshot of the North Korean crisis, arguing that it is already too late for America to attempt pre-emptive airstrikes against North Korea’s nuclear weaponry; the targets are too many and too distributed. But Donald Trump has yet to accept as much, and Japan’s Shinzo Abe is utilising the North Korean threat to rebuild Japan’s armed forces. Escalation is possible. The best compromise would probably be a freezing of North Korea’s nuclear programme negotiated by China (6,500 words)

Ten Year Futures

Benedict Evans | 25th April 2017

Futurology. Yes, we are moving towards a world of autonomous vehicles, virtual reality and artificial intelligence — but that’s ten years away. In the shorter term expect further disruption of vulnerable industries from existing technologies. Television has so far has “not really been touched by the internet”, but is “starting to look unstable” under pressure from Netflix and Amazon. Online retailing, after twenty years of steady growth, is undermining “broad classes” of traditional retail (1,900 words)

Video of the day: It’s No Game

What to expect:

Sci-fi short starring David Hasselhoff, with some dialogue written by an algorithm (7’40”)

Thought for the day

Fiction is life with the dull bits left out
Clive James

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