Crashing technology

Yesterday, the New York Stock Exchange was shut down for four hours because of a systems crash.  A little earlier, computers went down at  United Airlines, grounding flights nationwide.  Also, the Wall Street Journal website went down.

Tech people say the day of disruptions in business, finance, and media was not caused by hackers or a foreign cyberattack, just a series of unrelated glitches.  But it illustrates how dependent we have become on a sometimes fragile technology. [Read more...]

The Royals play the National League All-Stars

Voting for baseball’s All-Star team used to involve going to a game and then, between innings, punching out the chads next to the player you thought was best at his position.  But then some of the voting went online.  This year all of the voting is online.  You don’t have to go to a game and you get to vote up to 35 times.

So fans of the Kansas City Royals (the team that first got me interested in baseball) have been stuffing the virtual ballot box.  Yes, the Royals are having a great year.  But that doesn’t mean all of its starters are the best at their positions.  And yet, as of last week, the voting would mean that Royals players would start at all positions in the All-Star game except for one slot in the outfield, which is being taken by Angels superstar Mike Trout.

Now it’s likely that fans of bigger-market teams might wake up to what is happening and vote their players in.  But, people, you are supposed to vote for the best player, not just vote for the members of your team! [Read more...]

The Cardinals’ hacking scandal

The St. Louis Cardinals are being accused of hacking into the Houston Astro’s data system.  Some are saying that, if true, this has the makings of one of the biggest scandals in baseball history, with the Cardinals facing huge penalties, people getting banned from baseball, and individuals going to jail.

Jeff Luhnow was an important part of the Cardinals’ brain trust, a data guru who was a master of the statistical analysis that has become dominant in baseball strategy and player evaluation.   (See Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.)  Recently, Luhnow became the general manager of the Houston Astros, where he has worked wonders, transforming a perennial losing team into one of the best performers of the season.  Reportedly, someone in the Cardinals’ organization hacked into his old colleague’s account in Houston, using the same passwords he had used on his Cardinals’ account!  (Lesson:  change your passwords.)

But isn’t this just a minor prank, on a par with stealing signs?  After the jump, read details about what apparently happened, as well as a column from Tom Boswell on why this (if true, I hasten to say) is a very big deal.

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So should we baptize machines?

The hype about artificial intelligence has some speculating that at some point a computer might have what we might call a soul.  So some theologians are wondering if machines advance to that point, should they be evangelized?  Should they be baptized?

Thomas D. Williams writes about this line of reasoning and why it is unlikely that machines would be able to become Christians.  In addition to “artificial intelligence” meaning something completely different from the human ability to reason, machines would not have inherited original sin so would not be in need of saving (the AI apocalypse crowd may be projecting human-style sinfulness on inanimate objects), and Jesus, according to the Athanasian Creed, came “for us men and for our salvation,” not for animals, much less for machines.  See Williams’s argument after the jump. [Read more...]

The new artificial intelligence paragon

The tech world is getting excited about “Nara,” a new search algorithm built on the analogy of how neurons connect with each other.  It will be an even more sophisticated way of selling us stuff.  But it also is being hailed as an “artificial brain,” a robot taking us even closer to a machine becoming a person.  But is it really?

It strikes me as brain-like and person-like only in the sense of the intellectually and spiritually impoverished reductionism of contemporary thought, which reduces human beings  to “consumers” and culture to commercialism, being unable even to conceive of anything more in life. [Read more...]

A masculinity crisis from porn & gaming

A leading psychologist is saying that pornography and video games are crippling young men in their ability to have relate to women and to the real world outside themselves.  Philip Zombardo goes so far as to say that excessive use of porn and gaming is actually rewiring the male brain, as these new means of hyper-stimulation alter the normal pleasure centers, throwing off young men’s social development.  From the Amazon blurb on his book Man (Dis) Connected:

Zimbardo argues that readily available hardcore pornography and exciting gaming realities provide digital alternatives that are less demanding and far more appealing for many than sex, sports and social interaction in the real world. Immersion in these alternative realms is playing havoc with these boys’ cognitive development, their ability to concentrate and their social development, allowing girls to excel in the real world where social skills are a source of success.

More on his findings after the jump. [Read more...]