Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Have Morning Off Work, Here's Stuff From Internet

We're getting our driveway chopped up this morning, so I'm hanging around here for the morning.


  • If you get tired of conversations with people and would rather converse with your computer, this looks promising: For instance, if you're talking about the movie Star Wars and ask what the plot is, the system refers to earlier pieces of the conversation to retrieve an explanation of the movie's plot instead of giving a general definition of plot, or the plot of some other movie or book that was discussed before Star Wars. The other key aspect of SILVIA that makes it different, says Spring, is its ability to comprehend concepts that are worded in a variety of ways and produce uniquely worded responses. "You can speak to SILVIA using whatever phrase you want," says Spring, "and it extracts meaning. And on the reverse end, we have algorithms that can put [responses] back into human language. Sometimes we're surprised at the way SILVIA creates these things."
  • Another defense of Wikipedia (one with which I wholeheartedly agree): The implicit assumption, here and in all discussions of Wikipedia -- which nobody bothers to make explicit because everybody knows it -- is that if you get your information from a non-Wikipedia source (the Encyclopedia Brittanica, say, or Eric Blair's immensely illuminating New York Times articles), you don't need to "tell" if the information is true. It just is, because it comes out of a book or a BBC documentary or a professor's mouth. In that assumpion, I smell more than just the Chupacabra's spoor; the idea that books are right by virtue of being books and Wikipedia might be wrong because anyone can edit it -- that just may be the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. In fact, it is a truly dangerous load of crap, because it asserts that the writing of books is different than the act of editing a Wikipedia article; that creating books is some mystical act conducted by holy creatures whose ideas are never spurious, unsupported or just plain crazy. Since when?
  • Sometime around 1981 or 82 I said to myself "Self, if they ever make an Iron Man movie, they totally should use the Black Sabbath song in the movie." All things come to those who wait.

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