IBM’s New Program Would Like to Have a Debate with You

“Understanding natural language is such a complex and difficult task, systems like IBM Debater lean on a wide range of systems, each handling a different part of the problem. One system will identify information that helps fuel an argument on one side of the debate. Another will generate the text of the argument. And so on.”

“But understanding language is far more complex. That means systems that perform fairly complex language tasks – like writing a Wikipedia article, let alone engaging in a serious debate on a random topic – may still be light years away.”

Let the debates begin – man vs. machine!

Ray Myers

P.S. Sorry about the late posting today.

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Daydreaming While Driving – Not a Technological Problem

The biggest distraction in your car might not be the smartphone in your hand. It could be the biochemical circuitry between your ears. On Wednesday I know I talked about the dangers of too many technological diversions that lead to distracted driving and its often deadly consequences. Your brain, however, may be one more thing that you have to keep in check or under control. The brain’s habit of drifting off into daydreams is still the biggest cause of distracted driving crashes, according to an insurance company’s recent analysis of federal traffic safety data.

Yet one of the best ways to keep the mind on task is to find it something else to do that offers some stimulation — but just not too much, said Paul Atchley, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Simple word games can help, and tuning into a radio program or a podcast is better than nothing — but both are much less distracting than a telephone conversation, even with a hands-free device, he said. Some researchers say the phone itself — all that entertainment and connectedness in a single tool in one’s fist — is to blame. Others wonder whether the ubiquitous cellphone and the Web have even shaped the way we think, making a whole generation intolerant of boredom and ever in search of distraction.

Talking with someone on a phone is much more distracting to a driver than even talking to someone in the car. When conversing inside the vehicle, a passenger will generally vary the conversation’s level of intensity and engagement in sync with traffic conditions the driver faces. Carpools, anyone?

Ray Myers

Don’t Google It, Strawman – Use Your Brain

Outsourcing knowledge to Google keeps you away from learning things the right way.  Don’t take my word for it.  Psychological researchers have been studying the effects on internet dependence on the human learning process.  Take your ability to remember, or learn things the right way so that you can recall them at will.  And on a personal note, this seems to get harder as you get older.  So if you want to stay younger mentally, using Google may be a handy tool, but still keep using your own mental faculties if you want to have people think you really know what you are talking about.  How old is Donald Trump?  Seventy?  He seems to like Twitter better than Google, but he still might like to use it if he wants to fact-check something.  I just don’t think he worries about those bothersome facts that much.  He does use the TV to watch FOX news, right?

“Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not.  Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time.  That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes.  That parades the right ideas before the mind, but it doesn’t make them stick in the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time (NY Times, 5/21/17).

“But why do I worry about all this?  And why does Donald Trump come creeping back into my mind.  Maybe it is the fact that he is not the “fake President.”

Ray Myers






Universal Basic Income (U.B.I.) for Everyone – Thank a Robot

Don’t start counting on receiving monthly checks from the government quite yet.  The basic idea here seems to be that  as robots begin doing more of the work traditionally done by humans in our economy and jobs dry up, we should ensure that American workers’ wages will not be negatively impacted.  How about $1,000 a month?  And on top of that, we would all be free to become artists, scholars, entrepreneurs or otherwise engage our passions in a society no longer centered on the drudgery of daily labor.  What a concept!

Blame it all on artificial intelligence, if you are really looking for someone or something to blame.  So I guess it’s all about the intersection of artificial and human intelligence (just made that up).  We will be increasingly living in a world where we can use as much of either as we may want.  But I still think we need to exercise our natural intelligence on a regular basis to keep its “moving parts” working.  I don’t think artificial intelligence works on this same principle?

So excuse me as I go back to reading my daily papers, and drinking my coffee to fuel my brain’s synapses, and try to figure out how to escape the “drudgery of daily labor.”  I don’t think robots have to worry about that.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be taking an early spring break next week, but will return on March 21st.  Thanks for reading my posts, or scanning them if you are a robot?