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The AI Apocalypse: Warning No. 702

Monday, 17 July, 2017 0 Comments

Elon Musk has said it before and now he’s saying it again. We need to wise up to the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). Speaking at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island at the weekend, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX said that AI will threaten all human jobs and could even start a war.

“It is the biggest risk that we face as a civilization,” he said.

Musk helped create OpenAI, a non-profit group dedicated to the safe development of the technology and he’s now urging that a regulatory agency be formed that will monitor AI developments and then put regulations in place. Fans of AI say such concerns are hasty, given its evolving state.

Note: Open AI and Google’s DeepMind released three papers last week — “Producing flexible behaviours in simulated environments” — highlighting an experimental machine learning system that used human teamwork to help an AI decide the best way to learn a new task. For one experiment, humans provided feedback to help a simulated robot learn how to do a backflip. The human input resulted in a successful backflip with under an hour of feedback, compared to the two hours of coding time an OpenAI researcher needed which, by the way, produced an inferior backflip to the human-trained one.

Is this important? Yes, because evidence is emerging that an AI can do some tasks better with human instruction — from cleaning someone’s home to learning a patient’s unique care needs. OpenAI hopes that if we can “train” AI to work closely with humans, we’ll be able to moderate some of the potential downsides of the technology. Like replacing journalists or starting a war.


Light and darkness

Sunday, 16 July, 2017 0 Comments

“There were a billion lights out there on the horizon and I knew that all of them put together weren’t enough to light the darkness in the hearts of some men.” — Michael Connelly, The Scarecrow.

Evil and evil


Fionn Regan meets Thomas Moore in Wicklow

Saturday, 15 July, 2017 0 Comments

Inspired by a visit to the Vale of Avoca in County Wicklow some 200 years ago, the bard Thomas Moore wrote a song called The Meeting of the Waters. Snippet:

“Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best
Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease
And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.”

The Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan was born and raised in Wicklow and he released his debut album, The End of History, in 2006. Now, more than a decade later, he’s back with The Meetings of the Waters and the video is enhanced with the sculpted features of the actor Cillian Murphy of Peaky Blinders fame.


Vive la France!

Friday, 14 July, 2017 0 Comments

It’s the #jourdebastille and there are many reasons to celebrate it. For example, the 13th stage of the Tour de France from Saint-Girons to Foix. It’s being described as “brutal”, which should add to the enjoyment. Then we’ve got the Trump, l’« ami » américain de Macron bonding in Paris, and there’s always that classic scene from Casablanca when Rick Blaine, owner of the Café Américain, asks the house band to play La Marseillaise.


Gin: Blackwater No.5

Thursday, 13 July, 2017 1 Comment

Famed for its salmon runs, the Blackwater River rises on the Cork-Kerry border and flows east into Waterford before entering the Celtic Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean at Youghal. Along its meander, it passes by the town of Cappoquin, home of the Blackwater Distillery, which produces Blackwater No. 5, a recent addition to the Irish gin spectrum.

Before the botanicals, the optics. The elegant rectangular bottle comes with an embedded map of the region. This attractive detail is an argument for repurposing the bottle as a paperweight or a container for a sprig of juniper. And talking of juniper, it’s very up-front here, along with hints of lemon balm, lavender and lots of other delicate botanicals. The result is a subtle, serious gin that rewards regular tasting. Those looking for a refreshing twist on the traditional G&T might consider a decent measure of Blackwater No. 5 with a slice of pink grapefruit and a top-up of Poacher’s Well tonic water from nearby Wexford. Now we’re hurlin’, as they say in the sunny South-East.

Blackwater No.5


Low carbs at the Fish & Chip Bar in Cardiff

Wednesday, 12 July, 2017 0 Comments

The do like their bars in Wales. And not just for pints of Brains and Tiny Rebel. At the Fish & Chip Bar in Cardiff the emphasis is on low carbs. Just one chip!

Cardiff


Apple and the War of the Ems and the Ens

Tuesday, 11 July, 2017 0 Comments

In short: Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 will replace the convention of typing two hyphens to obtain a “long dash”, the so-called em dash —. So today, if you type – – it’s turned into —. With iOS 11, however, two hyphens become the shorter en dash: –. And to get an em dash, you’ll have to type three hyphens - - -.

Is this important? Glenn Fleishman thinks it is and he has devoted a detailed post to the matter. His conclusion: This change appears in the beta release of iOS 11, so it may not end up in the final version later this year.

By the way, the most famous em dash user was Emily Dickinson, who employed it in her poetry to emphasize emotion and punctuation —

Luck is not chance

Luck is not chance—
It’s Toil—
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned—
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned—

Emily Dickinson (1830 — 1886)


A sense of place

Monday, 10 July, 2017 0 Comments

Landscape is a mirror that reflects life. Those fields, woods, rivers and mountains reveal the soul of a place. The English filmmaker Max Smith began his “Sense of Place” series of videos in the Argyll Forest Park on the Cowal peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, and he’s just added the Cairngorms, a mountain range in the eastern Highlands that forms part of the Grampians. The two clips offer a combined seven minutes of sublime place.


In the world of the cloud-capped peaks

Sunday, 9 July, 2017 0 Comments

The poet Yu Xuanji was not permitted to be a candidate for the all-important imperial service examinations in mid-ninth-century China, but she lived a full life outside the privileged world of the court bureaucrats, nevertheless. She became a concubine, lived a scandalously promiscuous short life and was executed for allegedly beating her maid to death. In the midst of all this, she wrote poetry that continues to enthral.

“In a gauze dress / I read among my disordered / Piles of books,” she says in Living in the Summer Mountains. And then there’s the famous On a Visit to Ch’ung Chen Taoist Temple I See In The South Hall The List of Successful Candidates in The Imperial Examinations. The “Cloud-capped peaks” in the first line are, of course, those candidates who were successful in the civil-service exams.

On a Visit to Ch’ung Chen Taoist Temple I See In The South Hall The List of Successful Candidates in The Imperial Examinations

Cloud-capped peaks fill the eyes
In the Spring sunshine.
Their names are written in beautiful characters
And posted in order of merit.
How I hate this silk dress
That conceals a poet.
I lift my head and read their names
In a powerless envy.

Yu Xuanji (844 – 868)

Wang Hui


The smug face of Left-wing nihilism

Saturday, 8 July, 2017 1 Comment

The thug here caught snapping a selfie during last night’s so-called “anti-capitalism” riot in Hamburg is using an iPhone 7 Plus, which costs a cool €899. Priceless!

Hamburg thug

Described by the liberal press as “activists”, these spoiled brats and ruffians spent the night looting shops run by hard-working locals, immigrants and families who are trying to make decent living. What is truly appalling, however, is that the gangsters were encouraged by the likes of the leftist (!) millionaire (!) German publisher Jakob Augstein who, on Thursday night, tweeted: “The price has to be pushed so high that no one will want to organize such a conference. G20 like the Olympics is for dictatorships”

The looting, the burning, the injured police officers are a high price to pay for the satisfaction of well-fed smoked-salmon socialists.


Fortitude in a time of suffering and Twitter

Friday, 7 July, 2017 0 Comments

Our thoughts go out today to our favourite Benedictine nun, Sister Catherine Wybourne, the Prioress of Howton Grove Priory in Herefordshire. In her ongoing battle with cancer, she has shown grace, dignity, wit and humanity. Here’s an example of her thinking and writing that offers an insight all cancer suffers will appreciate:

“Anyone with small children or a debilitating illness such as cancer will understand when I say there is a kind of tiredness so complete that any effort seems impossible. One wakes tired; one goes to bed tired; and in between times one just is tired. In my own case, I have more or less given up pretending it can ever be otherwise. I have even stopped snarling when people tell me to rest! Because, of course, the reason one is tired is that one cannot rest or rest itself is no longer restful. I refuse, however, to allow this state of apparently perpetual tiredness to be entirely negative. I bumble along quite happily until I simply flop — a sudden loss of energy, an overwhelming desire to close my eyes for a few minutes, you know what I mean. One doesn’t have to have children or be ill to know such moments, but they are probably more frequent if one does/is. At such times one can moan and groan a little, lament what one can’t do, or one can learn — painfully slowly in my case — that they are a moment of grace, to be treasured rather than railed against.

When one is very tired, life becomes much simpler. There is no need to pretend, no need to argue, no need to worry about what others think. What one cannot do, one cannot do — and that’s an end of the matter. One cannot plan ahead and one’s memory of the past is defective, so one is forced to live in the present moment. Jean de Caussade wrote beautifully of the sacrament of the present moment, but I must admit that until I became ill myself, I had never really appreciated the richness of meaning behind the phrase.”

No day here is complete with a tweet from @Digitalnun. Each one is a gem. The juxtaposition of faith and charity, the local and the global, is unique:

#Praying for all tweeps on the feast of St Irenaeus, esp all who love scripture, & for those battling the latest global ransomware attack.

Praying for all tweeps, esp those killed/injured outside #FinsburyParkMosque last night, and those involved in #Brexit negotiations. #prayer

Praying for all tweeps, esp those affected by the floods in Uruguay, and those who are moving house. #prayer

The Digital Nun