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Director of Research at Google and AI genius
March 6, 2010 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)
posted by kliuless (13 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
That last link - interesting, but there's one curious inconsistency in what he says. He describes 'Western civilisation' as a label the Enlightenment came up with to distance us from Christianity - but then he quotes failure to understand symbols from Christianity as a key sign that there's been a real break in continuity of our civilisation. On that basis, 'Western' ought to be the right label for what we're getting into ever more seriously now - what he ought to be saying is that we're not living in Christendom anymore, which seems much less surprising.
posted by Phanx at 10:50 AM on March 6, 2010


Norvig literally "wrote the book" on modern AI. I saw that video earlier. It was an interesting interview.

(but what was going on with that shirt?)

I'm watching the western civ video right now, interesting, but I wish there was a transcript to read. I find TED to be pretty pretentious, but their 'smart transcripts' (where you can click on a sentence and zip to it in the videos) are pretty awesome.
posted by delmoi at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2010


Hahah, I love the reference to the movie Alien to describe the growth and "bursting out" of modern civilization from what he's calling 'western civilization'
posted by delmoi at 1:28 PM on March 6, 2010


I think that sooner or later Google will manage to break their search engine from my point of view. ("is it broken for everyone or just for me?") It's really worked great so far, so I'm pretty skeptical that they can make it a lot better, except perhaps by cleaning out all the link dumps that are not helpful. Those have grown in prevalence and amount in their search results since the beginning, which possibly only reflects the amount of those pages on the net.

But sometimes when I go searching I'm looking for the obvious thing, like they discuss in that article linked above. Either hot dogs or pictures of puppies. But other times I'm looking for the needle in the haystack--a good recipe for dog sausages. I can imagine that at some point I will be flipping the engine back and forth between two high probability nodes and not managing to hit the space outside of them.
posted by nervousfritz at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2010


About Stephen Davies video again, His criticisms of meritocracy at the end of the video are interesting.
posted by delmoi at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2010


Peter Norvig?
posted by geoff. at 3:29 PM on March 6, 2010


Excellent links, especially the Stephen Davies lecture. Thank you kliuless.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:37 PM on March 6, 2010


His criticisms of meritocracy

I think he exaggerates and over-simplifies a bit, though, here as elsewhere. He says the idea of meritocracy was virtually unheard of in the UK until the 1960s - so how come civil service posts were opened up to impartial competition by exam in 1870? How was it they stopped selling commissions in the Army and began giving them on merit at about the same time?

I don't really believe that even medieval peasants truly accepted that the aristos had a God-given right to rule irrespective of merit, though obviously most of the time they would have been ill-advised to question it.
posted by Phanx at 2:39 AM on March 7, 2010


I think he exaggerates and over-simplifies a bit, though, here as elsewhere. He says the idea of meritocracy was virtually unheard of in the UK until the 1960s - so how come civil service posts were opened up to impartial competition by exam in 1870?

Well, for over a thousand years China used an examination system for civil servants. I don't think anyone would call ancient China a meritocracy.

I think his idea of "Meritocracy" is one where people believe (incorrectly in his view) that society is structured with "the best and brightest" at the top, all the way up to the president and leaders of business, etc.
posted by delmoi at 5:19 AM on March 7, 2010


Love the short, love the "8" floating over his head, and really, really love his amazing chapter in the book Beautiful Data.
posted by e.e. coli at 6:54 PM on March 7, 2010


Shirt. That's what I love. Not "short". Shirt.
posted by e.e. coli at 6:54 PM on March 7, 2010


also btw...
What Have We Learned from Market Design & Economics of Combinatorial Auctions (via) cf. The Future of Money: It's Flexible, Frictionless and (Almost) Free, viz. Threat Finance

oh and check out OCP IBM's smarter city :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 6:54 AM on March 8, 2010


I don't think anyone would call ancient China a meritocracy.

No, I don't think there's ever been a society you could call a meritocracy with a straight face; but the question is whether the idea of meritocracy was virtually unknown. I'd say no in ancient China for the very reason you mention; and I'd say no in pre-1960s Britain for the reasons I mentioned.

I think it's particularly odd to pick on the 1960s and after as a time when, by implication, the tide turned in favour of meritocracy; it seems to me that that was a time of egalitarianism in the UK, when meritocratic institutions like the 11-plus (like it or hate it, it was certainly meritocratic) were actually in retreat.

Possibly it's a bit unfair to subject off-the-cuff remarks to this kind of scrutiny, but you expect nuanced judgements with a good evidence base from professional academics.
posted by Phanx at 5:00 AM on March 10, 2010


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