In which the Greatest Living Briton says some very silly things, and then loses his temper
So there we were. In a room devoted to Engineering, the man voted the Greatest Living Briton had exploded in front of me.
Sir Tim Berners Lee, co-inventor of the World Wide Web, was at Southampton University to deliver an inaugural lecture for School of Electronics and Computer Science, and promote his latest initiative.
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“It looks like you’re trying to have a conversation with a computer – can I help?
In the early 1970s, no science show was complete without predictions of HAL-like intelligent autonomous computers by the turn of the century.
The Japanese, fearing their industrial base would collapse without a response to this omniscient technology, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into their own AI project, called Fifth Generation. They may as well have buried the money in the Pacific Ocean. Two decades later there are no intelligent robots, and “intelligent” computers are a pipe-dream.
(It was an academic coup for MIT’s Professor Marvin Minsky, a fixture on the AI slots. Minsky’s own preferred, linguistics-based approach to AI, symbolic AI, triumphed in the grants lotteries over an approach which preferred to investigate and mimic the neural functions of the brain. Minsky’s non-stop publicity campaign helped ensure his AI lab at MIT was well-rewarded while neural networks starved.)
For the past week reports have again confidently predicted intelligent computers are just around the corner. Rollo Carpenter, whose chatbot Joan won an annual AI prize for creating software that most resembles a human, predicts that computers will pass the ‘Turing Test’ by 2016. In this test, computer software fools a human interrogator by passing off as a human.
(You can spot the flaw already: to sound human isn’t a sign of intelligence. And what a pity it is that Turing is remembered more for his muddle-headed metaphysics than for his landmark work in building computational machines. It’s a bit like lauding Einstein for opposition to the theory of plate tectonics, rather than his work on relativity, or remembering Newton for his alchemy, not his theory of gravity).
But let’s have a look. A moment’s glance at the conversation of Joan, or George, is enough to show us there is no intelligence here.
Continue reading “The Emperor's New AI”
Technology vendors have long viewed the state of Arizona as rich pickings. In addition to the Federal pork barrel, state tax payers have found over $60m dollars for IT investment.
Now a high school in Tuscon is abandoning textbooks entirely, at the urging of the school district’s technology evangelist, who appears to have caught the religion big time.
Instead of spending $600 per head on textbooks, Vail High School in Tucson will buy each of its 350 sophomores an $850 laptop. That shouldn’t be too difficult – the school itself is located in a science park. But the Tucson school district’s superinterindent, an enthusiastic technology evangelist called Calvin Baker, candidly admits he doesn’t know quite how it will all work.
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Modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs, according to a psychiatric study conducted at King’s College, London. And the curse of ‘messaging’ is to blame.
Email users suffered a 10 per cent drop in IQ scores, more than twice the fall recorded by marijuana users, in a clinical trial of over a thousand participants. Doziness, lethargy and an inability to focus are classic characteristics of a spliffhead, but email users exhibited these particular symptoms to a “startling” degree, according to Dr Glenn Wilson.
The deterioration in mental capacity was the direct result of the trialists’ addiction to technology, researchers discovered.
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A study of 100,000 pupils in 31 countries around the world has concluded that using computers makes kids dumb. Avoiding PCs in the classroom and at home improved the literacy and numeracy of the children studied. The UK’s Royal Economic Society finds no ground for the correlation that politicans make between IT use and education.
The authors, Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University, used the PISAtests to measure the skills of 100,000 15 year-olds. When social factors were taken into account, PC literacy was no more valuable than ability to use a telephone or the internet, the study discovered.
“Holding other family characteristics constant, students perform significantly worse if they have computers at home,” the authors conclude. By contrast, children with access to 500 books in their homes performed better. The negative correlation, the researchers explain, is because children with computers neglect their homework more.
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