News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

At 2:47 P.M. on September 20, 2020, I received what appeared to be an innocuous e-mail from my literary agent, Chris. Could I send over the latest version of my unsold novel-in-progress as a Microsoft Word file? “I just realized,” the e-mail read, “that I only have it as a PDF.” It wasn’t like Chris to misplace things, but the situation didn’t seem implausible. People switch computers. In-boxes get gnarly. I found an old e-mail with the Word file attached and forwarded it along.

At 3:44 P.M., another e-mail arrived: “Strange, I haven’t received anything now . . . can you resend please?” I re-forwarded the old e-mail with the Word file. At 4:03 P.M., I got another e-mail, which explained that Chris’s agency was in the process of switching servers, and perhaps this explained why my e-mails weren’t coming through. Could I try again, this time working around the problem by changing the .com suffix in Chris’s normal e-mail to .co?

Looking back, this is the part where I can’t quite understand my actions. Why didn’t I just call Chris and ask him what was going on? Here’s my best attempt at a defense. The night before, I’d been up several times, tending to my nine-week-old son, and never finding my way back to true sleep. I started on coffee sometime around dawn. When these e-mails came, I was a quivering zombie, incapable of real thought, looking only to move forward, dealing with whatever came up until the next time my son slept, when I could try sleeping, too. I was in no condition to think, only to do.

Not long after I sent the Word manuscript to the .co address, my phone rang. It was Chris. He’d been offline for a few hours, he said, so he was just now seeing that I’d sent him my manuscript twice that morning. Why, he asked, sounding more than a little bit stressed, had I done that, when he hadn’t asked me to?

I’d been scammed.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

What would it take for artificial intelligence to make real progress?

Let me start by saying a few things that seem obvious,” Geoffrey Hinton, “Godfather” of deep learning, and one of the most celebrated scientists of our time, told a leading AI conference in Toronto in 2016. “If you work as a radiologist you’re like the coyote that’s already over the edge of the cliff but hasn’t looked down.” Deep learning is so well-suited to reading images from MRIs and CT scans, he reasoned, that people should “stop training radiologists now” and that it’s “just completely obvious within five years deep learning is going to do better.”

Fast forward to 2022, and not a single radiologist has been replaced. Rather, the consensus view nowadays is that machine learning for radiology is harder than it looks1; at least for now, humans and machines complement each other’s strengths.2

Few fields have been more filled with hype and bravado than artificial intelligence. It has flitted from fad to fad decade by decade, always promising the moon, and only occasionally delivering. One minute it was expert systems, next it was Bayesian networks, and then Support Vector Machines. In 2011, it was IBM’s Watson, once pitched as a revolution in medicine, more recently sold for parts.3 Nowadays, and in fact ever since 2012, the flavor of choice has been deep learning, the multibillion-dollar technique that drives so much of contemporary AI and which Hinton helped pioneer: He’s been cited an astonishing half-million times and won, with Yoshua Bengio and Yann LeCun, the 2018 Turing Award.

Like AI pioneers before him, Hinton frequently heralds the Great Revolution that is coming. Radiology is just part of it. In 2015, shortly after Hinton joined Google, The Guardian reported that the company was on the verge of “developing algorithms with the capacity for logic, natural conversation and even flirtation.” In November 2020, Hinton told MIT Technology Review that “deep learning is going to be able to do everything.”4

I seriously doubt it. In truth, we are still a long way from machines that can genuinely understand human language, and nowhere near the ordinary day-to-day intelligence of Rosey the Robot, a science-fiction housekeeper that could not only interpret a wide variety of human requests but safely act on them in real time. Sure, Elon Musk recently said that the new humanoid robot he was hoping to build, Optimus, would someday be bigger than the vehicle industry, but as of Tesla’s AI Demo Day 2021, in which the robot was announced, Optimus was nothing more than a human in a costume. Google’s latest contribution to language is a system (Lamda) that is so flighty that one of its own authors recently acknowledged it is prone to producing “bullshit.”5 Turning the tide, and getting to AI we can really trust, ain’t going to be easy.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

The Balmoral in Chestnut

Shop the Balmoral in Chestnut
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In the summer of 1970, TV-Ontario filmed Tom Wolfe in conversation with Marshall McLuhan on the lawn of McLuhan’s home in Toronto’s Wychwood Park. Towards the end of their amicable chat, Wolfe complimented his friend on the uncanny accuracy of his predictions from the early 1960s. In response, McLuhan joked: “I’ve always been very careful not to predict anything that had not already happened.” This was not false modesty, since one of McLuhan’s intellectual strengths was his ability to identify significant cultural developments in their most incipient, germinal form. And from our 21st-century perspective, it is clear that Wolfe shared this talent, for the tentative trends and tendencies he described in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s are now reaching fruition.

We are approaching the first anniversary of a landmark event in the art world. Although it seemed shockingly new last year, it represents the culmination of a trajectory described by Wolfe half a century ago: the de-materialization of art. On March 11th, 2021, a momentous auction was held by Christie’s. It was a dramatic departure from precedent, partly because its realized price was a record-breaking $69,346,250, but mostly because the lot that commanded this fortune was not a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, or even a sculpture by Jeff Koons, but a purely digital artwork by an artist with no prior auction record. Everydays: The First 5000 Days exemplified a brand-new aesthetic genre: it was a Non-Fungible Token (NFT), created by Mike Winkelmann, who works under the pseudonym “Beeple.” Neither of these names meant a thing to the fine art world a year ago. They do now.

Read the rest of this article at: Quillette

News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For three months everyone argued about whether there would be a war, whether Vladimir Putin was bluffing or serious. Some of the Russia experts who had long told people to take it easy were now telling people to get worried. Others, who had long criticised Putin, said that he was just trying to draw attention to himself, that it was all for show. Among the analysts, there was a debate between the troop watchers and the TV watchers. The troop watchers saw the massive concentration of Russian forces at the border and in Crimea and warned of invasion. The TV watchers said that Russian TV was not ramping up war hysteria, as it usually does before a Russian invasion, and that this meant there would be no war.

The question was settled, for ever, on the night of 24 February, when Russian missiles hit military installations and civilian targets inside Ukraine, and Russian armoured convoys crossed the border. Then everyone began arguing about why. Was Putin crazy? Was he genuinely concerned about Nato expansion? Was he thinking in amoral categories – as longtime Putin scholar Fiona Hill suggested – that were fundamentally historical, along timescales that made no sense to ordinary mortals? Was he trying, bit by bit, to reconstruct the Russian Empire? Was Estonia next?

I had travelled to Moscow in January to see what I could learn. The city looked beautiful. Snow lay on the ground and everyone was very calm. Yes, repressions were ramping up, the space for political expression was narrowing, and many more people had died of Covid-19 than was officially acknowledged. And yes, speaking of Covid, Putin was paranoid about it, forcing anyone who wanted to see him in person to quarantine for one week in advance in a hotel the Kremlin had for that purpose. No one thought things were going in anything like the right direction, but none of the people I spoke to, some of them fairly well connected, thought an invasion was actually going to happen.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 14.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

KYIV, Ukraine—It’s been 19 days since Russia started the unprovoked war in Ukraine. I have changed my location three times, but I am staying in Kyiv to take care of my elderly parents. Every day I see Russians getting closer to my city from the northwest. I have been sleeping on the floor since February 24, when Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade my country. I am lucky. Others have lost their homes, or have no water, food, or heating. Russian troops have already killed several thousands of Ukrainians, including more than 80 children.

Every night I close my eyes thinking I might be next on Putin’s death-toll list. Nowadays you never know where the Russians will drop their bombs—onto a residential building, a kindergarten classroom, a monastery, or a maternity hospital.

Every day Russians commit more and more atrocities in my country. Only after Putin unleashed hell on our lands did the West finally unite in support of Ukraine, providing more weapons. Finally, the collective democratic world squeezed Russia with unprecedented sanctions.

However, this has not stopped Putin from bombing and destroying Ukraine. If anything, his resolve has only strengthened. The Kremlin knows that Russians will feel the full impact of sanctions in a month or so. It also knows that Europe is so dependent on Russian fossil fuels that such harsh sanctions likely won’t last long. I already see more and more tweets sympathizing with Russians, saying those people do not deserve the limitations imposed against their nation for Putin’s war.

This is the same nation where 58 percent of people support Putin’s actions in Ukraine, according to the latest polls. Putin doesn’t kill anyone in Ukraine with his own hands; other Russians are doing that. The Kremlin has been planning to invade and destroy the identity of my country, and to do it quickly, and the Russian people are backing it. Russians are making this calculation because they believe they can afford to. The Kremlin knows that the West, despite its public admiration for Ukrainian courage, has left Ukraine alone on the actual battlefield. Westerners would rather help Ukraine with weapons and money but stand aside.

People in these countries are scared of World War III. I understand the fear—but don’t you understand that World War III may have already arrived? Ukraine has been begging NATO to establish a no-fly zone, to protect us from Russian bombs, or at least give us fighter jets so we can better protect our skies. So far, the answer on both is “no.”

Meanwhile, more than 2,187 people have died because of Russian attacks in Mariupol alone, according to officials there. Russian attacks from the air have almost destroyed Volnovakha, Kharkiv, and many other towns in Ukraine. Ukraine’s authorities, who first pressured world powers to impose preventive sanctions, then pushed them to cut Russia from the SWIFT international-payment system, then pushed them to cut Russia from the rest of the world, have been asking how many more people should die for the skies to be closed over Ukraine.

What I see from NATO is a version of this message: The war in Ukraine is not our war. We will come forward only if Russia attacks an alliance member or bombs our convoy to Ukraine.

People of Europe and the U.S. have been pressing their governments to take a proactive position. They sent donations. They sent thoughts and prayers. The governments, especially in Europe, are still very cautious when it comes to making any move that might provoke Russia. Leaders such as Emmanuel Macron still seem to believe that dialogue can persuade Putin to stop his atrocities. For many in Europe, Russia’s petroleum and gas are more valuable than Ukrainian lives.

I understand the Western governments’ position.

I also used to say “This is not my war” while watching Russia’s atrocities in Aleppo. I also sent my thoughts and prayers to the people of Syria, also destroyed with the help of Putin. And back in 2008, I was so young that I did not even care to think about Georgians, whose land was also devastated and divided by Putin. And before that Moldova, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Libya, and other African countries.

Those were not my wars. But in 2014 the war came to my country. Back then, the world continued to cooperate with the aggressor Russia, deepening its dependence on Russia’s fossil fuels. Western leaders were willing to turn their back on the war, certain that Putin would never dare to attack the powerful collective West.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.