In addition to posing a familiar question (“what does it mean to be human”) in a useful historical and disciplinary framework, she thickens her plot by juxtaposing Kafka’s “Report to an Academy” (a useful text from our anthology) with one of La Fontaine’s fables (which might be worth looking into).
Palermo died in 1977, and afterward, his work didn’t much cross the Atlantic; most of it, in fact, remains in the possession of private collectors and museums in Europe.
Until now. This week, the Hirshhorn unveiled “Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977,” an overview of the artist’s short career that’s all the more significant because it’s the first such exhibition of Palermo’s work in the United States.
How on earth did anyone get the idea that people can communicate with one another by letter! Of a distant person one can think, and of a person who is near one can catch hold – all else goes beyond human strength. Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts, something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously. Humanity senses this and fights against it and in order to eliminate as far as possible the ghostly element between people and to create a natural communication, the peace of souls, it has invented the railway, the motor car, the aeroplane. But it’s no longer any good, these are evidently inventions being made at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal service it has invented the telegraph, the telephone, the radiograph. The ghosts won’t starve, but we will perish.
Not only do designers face ethical issues … but increasingly as skills that were once exclusively human are simulated by machines, their designers are faced with the challenge of rethinking what it means to be human. Read the full article from The New York Times>>
For at least 50 years, the computer has been experimentally employed as the unflaggingly patient, attentive teaching assistant. In 1960, the University of Illinois created Plato, pioneering courseware whose offerings would eventually span the elementary-school through college levels. It and its software successors have supplied individualized pacing, frequent quizzing and help that is tailored to each student’s needs. Computer-aided instruction, however, has lacked a human touch. Read the full article from The New York Times>>
When I.B.M.’s David Ferrucci and his team of about 20 core researchers began their “Jeopardy!” quest in 2006, their state-of-the-art question-answering system could solve no more than 15 percent of questions from earlier shows. They fed their machine libraries full of documents — books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, databases, taxonomies, and even Bibles, movie scripts, novels and plays.
But the real breakthrough came with the extravagant addition of many multiple “expert” analyzers — more than 100 different techniques running concurrently to analyze natural language, appraise sources, propose hypotheses, merge the results and rank the top guesses. Answers, for Watson, are a statistical thing, a matter of frequency and likelihood. If, after a couple of seconds, the countless possibilities produced by the 100-some algorithms converge on a solution whose chances pass Watson’s threshold of confidence, it buzzes in.
This raises the question of whether Watson is really answering questions at all or is just noticing statistical correlations in vast amounts of data. But the mere act of building the machine has been a powerful exploration of just what we mean when we talk about knowing.
Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired magazine and former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog (now free online), published a new book this past October: What Technology Wants. Reviewing his own book on BoingBoing, Kelly summarizes a few key points. “Technology is the most powerful force on the planet.” In fact, humanity is a tool itself, and, like all living things, technology evolves, demonstrating certain unconscious “urges” and “wants” in the process. Technology cannot be held back. But we can try to optimize its benefits for human culture, even while potentially trying to limit the amount of technology in our own lives. It’s a heady book, and, perhaps fittingly, Kevin Kelly pulled through Google in November and distilled his new theory of technology in a 40 minute talk. Watch it above…