For some reason, we (meaning humans) have a tendency to anthropomorphize things, whether they are objects, animals, or phenomena around us. We assume that everything that we interact with in our environment rationalizes and thinks like us, that the things around us experience feelings and emotions the same way we do.
I do it with my dog quite often. I imagine him thinking about how much he likes to go for a walk, or how he wishes he could have steak for dinner every night. And while my dog does display some strangely human-like behaviors, it doesn’t change the fact that he is still a dog, an animal. A lot of what he does is instinctual or based on learned behavior as result of routine or training.
A similar problem arises with artificial intelligence. Because of how it responds to our questions, we have a tendency to attribute human qualities to it. We think that it wants to please us or be our friend. We assume it feels remorse when it doesn’t understand us because it responds with ‘”I’m sorry.” We’re amazed at how it knows the answers we’re looking for. While these things do feel oddly human, it doesn’t change the fact that we are dealing with a machine. The behaviors are based on the attributes programmed into it or learned from the data it’s fed. For both creators and users of AI, this is an important concept that must not be overlooked.
I enjoy William Gibson’s science fiction novels. He has a knack for projecting technologies into the future. For example, I was fascinated by how he envisioned cyberspace and the concept of virtual worlds in Neuromancer, which was published in 1984, well before the popularity of the internet.
Ever since reading Neuromancer and Count Zero, I’d been wanting to read more of Gibson’s work. The Peripheral kept showing up in my reading recommendations. So when I saw that Amazon was turning the book into a television series, I decided to prioritize it on my reading list so I could read it before watching it. I always find it interesting to see how directors take an author’s work and convert it to a visual form.
I’ve written rants twice before about college athletics..
In my first post, ‘Paying college athletes isn’t the answer,’ I felt as thought college athletics had gotten too big for its own good. In the ten years since I wrote that post in April 2014, it’s only grown bigger. It’s grown so large that the landscape of college athletics has been forever changed with recent conference realignments throwing the entire system into a state of chaos.
In my second post, ‘The absurdity of college athletics,’ which was written in February 2016, I bemoaned how colleges have lost their way by placing an emphasis on athletics over education. Since I wrote that article, major colleges have continued to shift their priorities in favor of athletics. If there is any question, follow the money. You’ll see that its athletics driving revenue generation, money spent, and donations from wealthy alumni and boosters.
The absurdity of college athletics has only grown since my first two posts.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, I’d strongly recommend signing up for their First Reads program. Every month you have the opportunity to get early access to an editor’s pick. What’s the catch? Well, for starters, it’s free. On top of that, sometimes you get to pick not just one but two books. It’s one of the rare occasions when something that sounds too good to be true really is good.
I’ve read some interesting books and discovered a couple of new authors through the service. Examples include Interference by Brad Parks, The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne, and Bandwidth by Eliot Peper. My latest discovery was Infinite by Brian Freeman.
In my first post about the rise of the machines and the emergence of artificial intelligence, I talked about the possibilities and opportunities. It embodies my general opinion that change isn’t something to resist. Resistance is futile, especially when it comes to technology. Instead, change is something to embrace. The earlier it is embraced, the better we, as a whole, can prepare for the opportunities and guard against the downsides.
While I am generally optimistic about artificial intelligence, I do have concerns. If we are going to reap the benefits that the technology has to offer, we need to acknowledge the risks and downsides. We must make sure that the provisions to protect against potentially bad outcomes are put in place. Given how fast technology advances, particularly AI, these provisions need to be created and enacted sooner rather than later.
To shape the future, one must study history. How we got here. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann is one such history lesson worth studying. The book chronicles the lives of two men whom you have likely never heard of that played a very influential part in shaping the trajectory of modern society around the world.
The hype around AI (artificial intelligence) is off the charts. People are not only talking about it but actively using AI-driven tools like ChatGPT. The big tech companies – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, NVidia, et al – are making huge investments in it.
In my lifetime, I’ve lived through what I would consider to be three major technology shifts – the transition to PCs, the emergence of the internet, and the shift to mobile phones or, more generally, mobile computing. With AI, it would appear that we are on the verge of the next major technology shift. In fact, one could convincingly argue that it’s already well underway.
While there are valid reasons to be concerned about the development of AI and calls to pause its development, there’s also plenty of opportunities, which is the focus of this post.
There are books on my reading list that have languished there for years. I’ve been trying to do a better job prioritizing these older books over the latest, shiny new object. However, there are times when a book looks to good to bury on my list. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but I add those books and put them at or near the top of the list. Usually, the book is either highly recommended by friends, by an author I like, or getting really good reviews.
Such was the case with Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. I kept seeing the book near the top of the charts on Goodreads, and it was continually appearing in my Amazon recommendations. Plus, it was a little outside the types of books I normally read, and I figured it would be worth stretching my boundaries a bit.
I can still remember the day my oldest daughter asked me why she should take calculus in high school. When she said she wasn’t going to need it in college or for her job, I didn’t have a good answer. Sure, I used high school calculus to get my engineering degree, but that’s the last time I remember doing a derivative, integral, or derivative matrix.
Since I didn’t have a good answer, she ended up skipping math her senior year. I couldn’t come up with a good answer for my other kids as they went through high school either, although they ended up taking math through their senior year. I suppose they gave in to peer pressure.
To be honest, I’ve always wondered why I was required (i.e forced) to take certain classes in high school and college. Why does an electrical engineer need to know Chemistry, Thermodynamics, and Materials Science?
It wasn’t until I came across this post by Nat Eliason, Proof You Can Do Hard Things, that the answer became obvious. It’s too bad I hadn’t realized it years ago.
Between the books on my usual reading list, I like to include short stories. I find it a good way to experience new authors to see if I may be interested in exploring their longer form works. Short stories can also be an interesting format. Writers have a limited amount of space to explore an idea, expand a plot, and develop characters. I like seeing how an author creatively utilizes the short story form.
For my latest short story reading, I choose The Wandering Earth. Rather than a single story, it is a collection ten short stories by science fiction author Cixin Liu.