Asking Computers What Our Ethics Are

In an essay on drone policy, Cyborgology is skeptical of our intuitive approach to ethics and empathy, for many of the same reasons as psychologics Paul Bloom.  In the Cyborgology piece, Robin James takes a critical look at why we prize 'the human factor' and feel unnerved by autonomous drones: In this view, drones are problematic because they don’t possess the “human factor”; they make mistakes because they lack the crucial information provided by “empathy” or “gut feelings” or “common sense”–f … [Read more...]

Requiescat in pace, Magister Rus

In the spirit of Stephen Colbert's eulogy for his mother, I'd like to share some stories today about my high school Latin teacher, Dr. Vladimir Rus, who passed away this past week.  We never called him Dr. Rus; he was always simply Magister.  So it was easy to forget what his usual name and title was.  One day, after another teacher had popped into our classroom to ask him a question, one of my classmates to ask, "Magister, what is your doctorate in?"  He looked a little abashed and told us, "I a … [Read more...]

What comes after Google Reader? (besides weeping)

Sing a dirge today for Google Reader.  Tomorrow, it passes out of existence.I've decided to switch to Feedly, which has an easy one-step import for Google Reader users.  Their interface is nice enough, as is the app, but it was their import that won my heart, because it also pulled in my tags!  I've been using Google Reader as a filing system for a while, and now I'll be able to keep saving my clippings into categories that include:Cyberwar Drones Epidemics Football Human Flesh ( … [Read more...]

Happy Tau Day!

George Box once said "All models are wrong, but some are useful."  As we build up our understanding of the world around us, we find different parts of our maps fall short of the territory.  Sometimes our predictions end up out of joint with reality, but sometimes we just can't stand how inelegant our approximation is.  We're getting the right answers, but we suspect we haven't actually hit on why yet.  And we suspect that missing the beauty of the big picture will eventually lead us astray … [Read more...]

9 Quick Takes (6/28/13)

--- 1 --- Terribly sorry for the lack of posting (and the tardy responses to the Turing Test players).  I took a trip back to the East Coast and promptly got sick when I returned.  On the plus side. a mere four months after I moved to Berkeley, I finally have furniture, so I thought I might give you an updated tour of my room.Or, at least the most important part. --- 2 --- My bookshelf starts off with Sondheim's two volumes of annotated lyrics (Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, bo … [Read more...]

7 Quick Takes (6/21/13)

--- 1 --- The Monsters Inc prequel comes out today, and I've been super-dubious about it for a long time.  Pixar has broken my heart recently (especially with Brave), and the plot of scrappy underdogs bands together with popular enemy and wins college seemed a lot more cliche than the original story.  But then I read this io9 feature on some of the choices the animators made, and now I'm totally enraptured.  For example: "Monsterfication" is the word the design team used to describe the aest … [Read more...]

I’m all verklempt…

The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive And I really appreciated Alyssa Rosenberg's response to the video: [I]n eulogizing his mother on-air, Colbert, acting as himself rather than as his persona, subverted the genre he deconstructs for a living in a different way. Lorna Colbert deserves to be known, he argued, not because she was ludicrous, or a spectacle, or died in some horrendous way, but because she was loving, … [Read more...]