Norman Mailer, Machine Intelligence, Good Losers, Bayes' Theorem, Bob Dylan, Robot Workers, Head Tra


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The Fault

Rachel Monroe | Gawker | 25th February 2015

Norman Mailer's ill-founded infatuation with robber and killer Gary Gilmore produced a book, The Executioner's Song, which is still "absolutely astonishing" 35 years later. "What I didn't expect is that the book's most potent voices, the ones that stick in your head long after Gary's bluster has faded, are those of women: Gary's defeated mother, his deeply moral aunt, and Nicole, his damaged, hopeful girlfriend. All of Mailer's admiration for Gilmore's outlaw romance is balanced against the pain and disappointment of these women" (3,640 words)

Machine Intelligence, Part One

Sam Altman | 25th February 2015

"Because we don’t understand how human intelligence works in any meaningful way, it’s difficult to make strong statements about how close or far away from emulating it we really are. We could be completely off track, or we could be one algorithm away ... It’s possible that creativity and what we think of us as human intelligence are just an emergent property of a small number of algorithms operating with a lot of compute power" (1,030 words)

The Thrill Of Defeat

Bob Goldstein | Nautilus | 26th February 2015

How science works, at its best. Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick, "two of the 20th century’s most brilliant geneticists", spent ten years trying to decipher the language of DNA, only to find themselves scooped by a little-known biochemist who unveiled his breakthrough to an almost empty room at a conference in Moscow. Their reaction? They were delighted. The problem was solved. "We could get on with more important problems" (2,730 words)

Bayes’ Theorem With Lego

Count Baysie | 19th February 2015

Bayes' Theorem defines conditional probability — "how information about one event can give us understanding of another"; as such it offers a great improvement over the intuition or guesswork on which most of us tend to rely when relating one thing to another. The basic equation is a fairly easy one for mathematicians; others may need a helping hand. This explainer uses Lego bricks to get the idea across nicely (850 words)

Life With Bob Dylan 1989-2006

Daniel Lanois et al | Uncut | 25th February 2015

Conversations with the producers, engineers and musicians who worked with Bob Dylan on his six albums from Oh Mercy to Modern Times. "As we walked in to hear the playback, Dylan was in front of me, and he said, ‘Well, we’ve done everything on that one except call the symphony orchestra.' If it had been my session, I would have got on the phone at that point and called the fucking symphony orchestra. But the cut was amazing" (8,000 words)

The Robots Are Coming

John Lanchester | London Review Of Books | 25th February 2015

What if smart robots take all the jobs? The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, and Average Is Over by Tyler Cowen, discuss that possibility. But the triumph of robots is to be feared only if we also assume the triumph of capitalism, whereby the robots enrich their owners while others starve. There is an alternative: Robots build a socialist paradise for all of us. Why don't we talk about that instead? (6,230 words)

First Human Head Transplant In Two Years

Helen Thomson | New Scientist | 25th February 2015

Imagine the excitement among experimental philosophers if this comes off. A neurosurgeon says the techniques are pretty much in place to perform a successful human head transplant. He wants to assemble an expert team to do a first one in 2017. "When the recipient wakes up they would be able to move and feel their face and would speak with the same voice. Several people have already volunteered to get a new body" (1,470 words)

Video of the day: Philosophie & Pornographie: Kant (mildly NSFW)

What to expect: Slighty NSFW. A short lecture on Kant, in German, with subtitles, delivered in a boudoir (3'37")

Thought for the day

In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposing team
Jean-Paul Sartre

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