Category Archives: Snake Oil

Technology and the opiate of magical thinking

I’d like to start off this post with a little thought experiment: specifically, what answer will we be expecting when we get to ask the AI’s for the “cure for cancer?”

If we simply pose the question as written, we might get this obvious response – in all caps, of course, because that’s how omniscient machines are supposed to talk – “THE CURE IS TO STOP EXPOSING HUMANS TO CANCER CAUSING CHEMICALS.”
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The truly smart machines will not be like us…

…although, someday, the dumb ones may seem pretty close.

Count me as one who has always considered the Turing test a dubious and misleading examination of machine intelligence. But it does serve as a good launch point for discussing the purpose and relevance of developing intelligent machines.
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Because Sergey Brin can’t remember your name

Remember when the Segway was going to totally revolutionize personal transportation? Neither do I. Seems that most people would rather spend $50 on a pair of shoes than $5000 on a motorized, fair weather scooter. And who could have known? Well, most people, I suspect, except for those inhabiting that microcosmic bubble of the space-time continuum within which daydream the Technorati and their self-reinforcing, multimedia echo chamber.
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Robots are not real

My dog is much more than something that barks and performs tricks. When she greets me at the door, she teaches me the value of companionship. When she’s hungry or wants to go out, she reinforces the responsibility that comes with caring for another living being. When she snuggles up to me on the couch, she is rewarding me for the trust I have earned from her. When she sleeps between me and my wife on the bed, and we are both holding her, she acts as a conduit between us that enhances my feelings of coexistence and connectedness. And when she ultimately moves on to doggie heaven – as all dogs do at some point in time – she will teach me an important lesson about grief and the cycle of life. As all my dogs have.

This, however, will teach me nothing: Robotic ‘Zoomer’ Performs Same Tricks as a Real Dog
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The Slendertone as a parable

My wife recently brought to my attention the fact that ongoing excesses in eating habits and a lack of exercise have predictably caused a corresponding increase in my waist size. So, as this seems to be more or less a yearly event, and because I have had success with this in the past, I dutifully logged onto the Internet, looked at the newest shiny waist-reduction tech out there, weeded out the obvious snake oil, researched the rest, and chose a device that many people seemed to have had good results with. And, voila! The device came in the mail a couple of weeks ago; I’ve been using it regularly; and it feels like it’s working. Problem solved, right?
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