Friday, May 04, 2018

Second Thoughts about Robotics

It has been reported that Donald Trump "is working with a group of people to defeat an automated intelligence computer program set on destroying humanity."

If you've ever read the Terms of Service for Amazon, Apple, or Facebook, you know it's true.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Underwater Robotics Competition

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is the local sponsor of a national underwater robotics competition, and some students I know were participants yesterday.

The premise of the competition is that an airplane has gone down in the ocean. The robotics team must locate and retrieve the black box, as well as perform several other exercises in the wreckage.

Locating the black box is a math problem, and one of the team members here was entrusted with that. The math was flawless, as it had to be, because the robot can only be directed by the folks sitting at the monitors, who cannot see the robot itself. The team members who put the robot in the water are not allowed to speak to or signal the pilot. The robot had three cameras, though, and you can see their monitors in some of the pictures.

This was the first time this team had participated in the competition, and though they did not win or place, they did very well, considering. And since the entire team consists of freshmen and sophomores, the future looks good!

Update: Our favorite team came in fifth in a field of sixteen. WAY better than was expected for a first-time competitor.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Best Tweet of the Week

"Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I needed one. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect them. I am not a toilet seat addict. No matter how temptingly you email me, I'm not going to think, oh go on then, just one more toilet seat, I'll treat myself."

-- Jac Rayner @GirlFromBlupo

Who also says that her "opinions [are] those of the the last person I spoke to who was quite persuasive."

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Time To Take a Hard Look at Social Media

A YouTube app called YouTube Kids linked kids to wacko conspiracy videos that claim reptile-human hybrids rule the world. YouTube was apparently not aware of it.

Here's what they said:
The YouTube Kids app is home to a wide variety of content that includes enriching and entertaining videos for families. This content is screened using human trained systems. That being said, no system is perfect and sometimes we miss the mark. When we do, we take immediate action to block the videos or, as necessary, channels from appearing in the app. We will continue to work to improve the YouTube Kids app experience.
My favorite part: "This content is screened using human trained systems." How's that for gobbeldygook? For how many kids is it too late, and they've turned to FoxNews?


 Pay attention to this Cambridge Analytica story. Cambridge Analytica is owned by dark money billionaires. Nobody associated with it (Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Wikileaks, Jared Kushner, the Trumps) is noted for personal integrity.

Two points:

Our computerized world has grown faster than our ability understand its dangers.

The problem with a STEM education is that you reach adulthood without understanding concepts like right and wrong, personal character, charity, etc.


Did a run around the cable news shows to assess coverage of the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

MSNBC had its hair on fire, especially because Trump's tweet is sure to be evidence in an obstruction of justice case. CNN was very upset. FauxNews reported it, then moved on.

Some of my favorite Twitter comments. David Axelrod's comment is related directly to Trump's tweet about it (see "A Cry for Help?"  below).

A former CIA director:

Boy, That John Kelly Is Some Classy Guy!

From The Daily Beast:
Reporters gathered at the White House on Friday were stunned when Chief of Staff John Kelly shared a very embarrassing story about outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The reporters were there with senior White House officials for an off-the-record meeting with Kelly, who was attempting to tamp down speculation about an impending administration staff purge. The Daily Beast was not invited, but was briefed on its contents by three sources with knowledge of the meeting.

According to those sources, Kelly recounted a very awkward conversation with Tillerson during which he informed the secretary that President Donald Trump would very likely soon fire him. The awkwardness was less a result of the contents of the conversation than its setting.

Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.

A Cry for Help?

... or another psychotic episode.

The firings will continue until morale improves.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bring in the Clowns

I'm sure everyone will find this surprising.