January 2011 Archives

Ray Kurzweil Cannot See the Future

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Kurzweil also stands by his claim that computer displays built into eyeglasses would project images into users' eyes because some such systems do exist, and says, "The prediction did not say that all displays would be this way or that it would be the majority, or even common." Similarly, he defends his claim that translation software would be "commonly used" to allow people speaking different languages to communicate by phone by pointing to smartphone apps that emerged at the end of 2009. He allows that one could quibble about how "common" their use is.

"So far, I haven't seen Kurzweil straight-up admit that he was wrong. I think he would benefit from doing so on some of these points," says the blog post by Anissimov, who seems to admire the man but thinks futurists should be accountable for their statements.

Kurzweil's reply asserts that he is all for futurist accountability, "but such reviews need to be free of bias, fair, and not subject to selection bias and myopic interpretations of both the words used and the current reality." Still, it is hard to square his objection to "myopic," literal interpretations with his lawyerly defenses of his predictions that hinge on their precise wording and creative interpretations of the meaning of everyday words.

More at IEEE Spectrum.

Crazy ideas kill

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Everyone seems to think that those wacky cultists who made the film What the #$*! Do We Know!? are harmless. Unfortunately it seems that they are wrong. A couple who belong to the Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (the cult that produced the aforementioned movie) shot and killed a police officer.

Apparently they were concerned about the 2012 phenomenon and they planned to live on a farm in the bush after the apocalypse. When officers came to evict them from the farm they turned violent.

BMW Emergency Stop Assistant

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BMW is testing technology to allow cars to stop themselves safely in the event that the driver falls unconscious.

I have long been of the opinion that the approximately 35,000 people killed in traffic accidents each year is unacceptable. That casualty rate is equivalent to having a terrorist attack of the magnitude of the September 11th attacks (~2,752 deaths) each month.

I commend BMW for this innovation and look forward to the day when our cars can drive us all home without fear for our safety.

Both language and perception. Two of my favorite topics:

[...] the prediction was simple: using color words after nouns should make colors far easier to learn, and should make kids far faster at learning them. To test this, we took a couple dozen two-year olds and gave them some quick training on color words. Either we trained them with prenominal sentences (the standard variety) or postnominal sentences (helpful, we hoped). In both cases, we would simply show them familiar objects and say encouraging things like “This is a blue crayon” or “This crayon is green.” Then we would test them again, with the same standard battery.

We found that the kids who got the postnominal training improved significantly over their baseline test scores, whereas the ones who got the prenominal training still looked just as confused as ever. Given that previous studies hadn’t found much improvement after hundreds of explicit training trials, it was hard to believe that such a simple manipulation could make such a clear difference—and yet, it did!

More at the Scientific Americam Mind Matters Blog.

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