Friday 3 November, 2023

Now, what shall I play?

Kettle’s Yard, some years ago.

Quote of the Day

”Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much”.

  • Oscar Wilde

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

The Beatles | Here Comes The Sun


One of the fab-four’s loveliest songs. I still remember the first time I heard it — on a crude stereo kit I had rigged up the front room of our College flat.

Long Read of the Day

Artificial General Intelligence Is Already Here

Striking Noema essay by Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Peter Norvig.

Early AI systems exhibited artificial narrow intelligence, concentrating on a single task and sometimes performing it at near or above human level. MYCIN, a program developed by Ted Shortliffe at Stanford in the 1970s, only diagnosed and recommended treatment for bacterial infections. SYSTRAN only did machine translation. IBM’s Deep Blue only played chess.

Later deep neural network models trained with supervised learning such as AlexNet and AlphaGo successfully took on a number of tasks in machine perception and judgment that had long eluded earlier heuristic, rule-based or knowledge-based systems.

Most recently, we have seen frontier models that can perform a wide variety of tasks without being explicitly trained on each one. These models have achieved artificial general intelligence in five important ways…

These authors are a formidable pair. Blaise works in Google on basic research, product development and infrastructure for AI. Peter is a computer scientist and Distinguished Education Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and co-author with Stuart Russell of the most popular AI textbook —Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach*. I first encountered him via his wonderful satire on how Abraham Lincoln would have presented his Gettysburg Address if he’d had Powerpoint.

Their argument is that so-called ‘Frontier’ LLMs have achieved a significant level of general intelligence, according to the everyday meanings of those two words. But most commentators have been reluctant to concede that for “four main reasons”, when they then proceed to explore.

Interesting throughout.

Thanks to Seb Schmoller for pointing me to it.

Books, etc.

Because of something a friend said at breakfast the other morning, I dug out Noel Annan’s book about his wartime career from the library and am riveted by it. Among other things, it’s fascinating about his time in Whitehall, when he worked as an intelligence officer at the heart of the British war machine in close proximity to Churchill. It’s also fascinating on his role in the Control Commission which ran the British sector of the defeated Germany after the war.

His picture of Churchill as wartime leader is particularly interesting, not least because some of the time he was as exasperating as Boris Johnson was during his brief premiership. Churchill had about fifty ideas a minute on how to conduct the war, many of them impractical, and his military chiefs and officials spent a lot of time trying to make him see logistical sense.


Apple’s 1999 ad for the PowerMac G4


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