Thursday, March 23, 2006

Laugh to the cream of escapes

Not much blogging on this site lately…

I’ve spent the last few days operating in the real world – a few days in Rome and some time spent checking out the property market in New Zealand.

A funny thing, house prices in the part of Christchurch we want to live in have been rising at something like 20% a year. Three or four years ago we could have had our pick of where to live, now our expectations have to be considerably lower. Fair enough, that’s life. The rises appear to be largely attributable to the shed loads of English families who are packing it in here in the UK and migrating.

We are talking more than a handful here and the numbers are rising. I know this anecdotally and also because outfits I know that specialise in foreign exchange trades have been having a bumper few years changing emigres’ money up.

I only mention this because I had real trouble reconciling Gordon Brown’s budget speech yesterday, apparently everything is just fucking peachy, with my own sense of where the UK’s at. Presumably the half million or so people bailing out every year share my sentiments.


Rome was also pretty interesting

One thing that really struck me about Rome is how even more scummy than usual it has become - the mess, the homeless people, the sheer numbers of migrants living on the margins. We were staying near Termini railway station and that area has become a kind of shake and bake China Town. Two or three years ago there were hardly any Chinese around and now the place is full of them. And, unlike the Italians, these guys are working long hours. More evidence to me, if it were needed, that the Italians, and the rest of Europe, are in the process of having the arse ripped out of their complacent, cosy little world


Anyway, there I was sitting in this budget restaurant in Rome, reading the menu and thinking about Artificial Intelligence.

AI is one of those oxymoronic scientific disciplines that tickles me immensely. Astrobiology is another.

Ever since I first sat in front of computer I’ve been hearing about how, one day, machines will be able to speak, comprehend speach, think for themselves and generally replace the human brain in the not too distant future.

All we really needed was more powerful computers

It all goes back to that Darwinian/ Evolutionary view of how things came to be. All living things are merely flesh machines controlled by a series of simple, self-preservatory instincts – eat, drink, sleep, fuck, that sooner or later we’ll be able to replicate virtually.

It’s a very reductionist point of view.

Kind of like counting the number of notes in an opera then claiming you are now a talented composer.

Well, the computers have got more powerful and they are still as thick as pigshit as they ever were.

And that’s why, in spite of all our supposed advances, people are still having to be trained to use computers rather than the other way around. Anyone who has toyed with speech recognition or language translation software over the years may understand where I am coming from.

So, there I was in this Roman restaurant reading the tourist menu and I started laughing

Of course, the chances are that the restaurant owners had used a mini dictionary rather than translation software but the point is that the quality of the final translation would have been the same whatever they used. Yes, after years of extensive research and countless billions spent, Modern Computer AI is now at a level roughly comparable with a Chinese Takeaway menu.

Maybe we need to wait until computers are just a little more powerful. Maybe true AI will be ready in time for those day trips to the Moon in nuclear fusion powered, robot piloted spacecraft I remember reading about 30 years ago.


Daniel said...

Cancelled Scillian?

I to have been waiting over the last decade for these miraculous and heralded advances in AI to arrive, and have they ?

Anonymous said...

Bug-out Blues ;)

350,000 actually according to all things accurate, the Beeb ;)

I might be swimming against the tide here, but I don't think things have changed that much, perhaps things just amplified more by the media these days, either that or I'm thick :D.
I know New Zealand is often described as England in the 50's, but bloody hell have you seen how crappy those 50's based TV programmes are on ITV? ;)

Have fun you two wherever you go.