🎧 Episode 077 Exploring Artificial Intelligence with Melanie Mitchell | HumanCurrent

Listened to Episode 077: Exploring Artificial Intelligence with Melanie Mitchell by Haley Campbell-GrossHaley Campbell-Gross from HumanCurrent

What is artificial intelligence? Could unintended consequences arise from increased use of this technology? How will the role of humans change with AI? How will AI evolve in the next 10 years?

In this episode, Haley interviews leading Complex Systems Scientist, Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, and external professor at the Santa Fe InstituteMelanie Mitchell. Professor Mitchell answers many profound questions about the field of artificial intelligence and gives specific examples of how this technology is being used today. She also provides some insights to help us navigate our relationship with AI as it becomes more popular in the coming years.

I knew Dr. Mitchell was working on a book during her hiatus, but didn’t know it was potentially coming out so soon! I loved her last book and can’t wait to get this one. Sadly, there’s no pre-order copies available at any of the usual suspects yet.

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🎧 “Risen” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Risen | Our Daily Bread 15 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

August 15th is Ferragosto, a big-time holiday in Italy that harks back to the Emperor Augustus and represents a well-earned rest after the harvest. It is also the Feast Day of the Assumption, the day on which, Catholics believe, the Virgin Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven.

Is there a connection between them? And what does it have do with wheat?

Apologies to listeners in the southern hemisphere; this may not reflect your experience.

I love the thesis given here and it most certainly fits.

It hasn’t gotten past me how much brilliance and thought went into the wonderful dense rich crumb that is the title of this episode. The audio is excellent as always, but I also notice there’s some fantastically overlaid background music that some may miss because it’s so subtly done. This is my favorite episode of the series so far.

The more I think about these episodes, which I like to listen to when I can devote my full attention rather than as background noise while I’m commuting or doing something else, I think they could be easily strung together to make a fantastic documentary.

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🎧 “The daily grind” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to The daily grind | Our Daily Bread 14 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

It has been a long time since anyone who wanted to eat bread had to first grind their wheat. Grinding, however, was absolutely fundamental to agricultural societies, and still is for some. Archaeologists can see how the work left its mark on the skeletons of the women who ground the corn in the valley of the Euphrates. Then, about 2500 years ago, in the area now called Catalonia, an unknown genius invented the first labour-saving device.

Photo from the Mills Archive.

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🎧 “Bread from the Dead” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Bread from the Dead | Our Daily Bread 13 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

It’s a good thing the Egyptians believed strongly in an afterlife and wanted to make sure their dead had an ample supply of bread. The bread and the tomb inscriptions tell us something about how grain was grown and bread baked. To really understand the process, however, you need to be a practical-minded archaeologist like Delwen Samuel, who first set out to replicate Egyptian bread.

Photo of a model from the tomb of Meketre, Metropolitan Musdeum of Art, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1920.

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🎧 “The inside story” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to The inside story | Our Daily Bread 12 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

That kernel of wheat isn’t actually a seed or a berry, at least not to a botanist. I have no intention of getting into the whole pointless is it a fruit or a vegetable debate, so lets just agree that no matter what you call it, the wheat thing is made up of three major parts: bran, endosperm and germ. In this episode, a little about each of those parts and what they do for wheat.

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🎧 “It’s not natural” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to It’s not natural | Our Daily Bread 11 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Wheat has a hugely diverse genetic background, being made up of three different species, and genetic diversity is what allows breeders to find the traits they need to produce wheats that can cope with changing conditions. But because the accidents that created wheat might have happened just the once, plenty of diversity that is missing from modern wheats is still in wheat’s ancestors. Trouble is, crossing a wild wheat with a modern wheat is almost impossible. Solution: remake modern wheat.

Photo shows a commercial variety, wilted and collapsing, while behind it a synthetic derivative copes just fine with the drought. By Maarten van Ginkel, who headed the Bread Wheat Program at CIMMYT. Thanks Maarten.

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🎧 “Dwarf wheat: On the shoulders of a giant” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Dwarf wheat: On the shoulders of a giant | Our Daily Bread 10 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Norman Borlaug created the wheats that created the Green Revolution. They had short stems that could carry heavy ears of wheat, engorged by loads of fertiliser. They were resistant to devastating rust diseases. And they were insensitive to daylength, meaning they could be grown almost anywhere.

All three traits had been bred into wheat 40 years before Borlaug got going, by the Italian pioneer Nazareno Strampelli.

Photo is a 1933 medal to honour Nazareno Strampelli.

I’d never heard the quote from the episode, but it is a painful, but wonderful, concept to contemplate. Here’s an alternate, but somewhat more flowery translation:

History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the ploughed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of king’s bastards, but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. That is the way of human folly.

Jean Henri Fabre in Les Merveilles de l’Instinct Chez les Insectes: Morceaux Choisis (The Wonders of Instinct in Insects: Selected Pieces) (1913), page 242.

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🎧 Tech Was Supposed to Be Society’s Great Equalizer. What Happened? | Crazy/Genius | The Atlantic

Listened to Tech Was Supposed to Be Society’s Great Equalizer. What Happened? by Derek ThompsonDerek Thompson from The Atlantic
In a special bonus episode of the podcast Crazy/Genius, the computer scientist and data journalist Meredith Broussard explains how “technochauvinism” derailed the dream of the digital revolution.

I was excited to hear Dr. Meredith Broussard, a brilliant colleague I’ve met via the Dodging the Memory Hole series of conferences, on this podcast from The Atlantic. I would recommend this special episode (one of their very best) to just about anyone. In particular there’s something to be gained in the people side of what the IndieWeb movement is doing as well as for their efforts towards inclusion.

From a broader perspective, I think there’s certainly something to be learned from not over-sensationalizing artificial intelligence. Looking at the history of the automobile as a new technology over a century ago is a pretty good parallel example. While it’s generally done a lot of good, the automobile has also brought along a lot of additional  societal problems, ills, and costs with it as well.

I hadn’t yet heard about her new book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World which I’m ordering a copy of today. I suspect that it’s in the realm of great books like Cathy O’Neill’s Weapons of Math Distraction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy  which was also relevant to some of the topics within this podcast.

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🎧 The Story of Human Language | The Great Courses

Listened to The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics
Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct. Now you can explore all of these questions and more in an in-depth series of 36 lectures from one of America's leading linguists. You'll be witness to the development of human language, learning how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today and gaining an appreciation of the remarkable ways in which one language sheds light on another. The many fascinating topics you examine in these lectures include: the intriguing evidence that links a specific gene to the ability to use language; the specific mechanisms responsible for language change; language families and the heated debate over the first language; the phenomenon of language mixture; why some languages develop more grammatical machinery than they actually need; the famous hypothesis that says our grammars channel how we think; artificial languages, including Esperanto and sign languages for the deaf; and how word histories reflect the phenomena of language change and mixture worldwide.

I had started this some time in the past, but starting over again from the beginning.

Listened to the first 15 minutes tonight.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: How the Opioid Crisis Started | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: How the Opioid Crisis Started from New York Times
As prosecutors go after doctors, drug dealers and users, those who made billions of dollars from sales of a painkiller at the center of the epidemic have gone largely unpunished.

This is such a massive public health care issue, I’m shocked we haven’t gone to heavier regulation of the direct source.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: A High School Assault | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: A High School Assault from New York Times
The allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh prompted Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, to share her own story.

What a great story this is with a fantastic moral. This gives me some hope for the world.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: Assigning Blame in the Opioid Epidemic | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: Assigning Blame in the Opioid Epidemic from New York Times
U.S. prosecutors are looking to hold people criminally accountable for overdose deaths. They’re settling on unexpected targets: other users.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: Susan Collins on Roe v. Wade and the Next Justice | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: Susan Collins on Roe v. Wade and the Next Justice from New York Times
The Republican from Maine is among few senators willing to break from their parties on major issues — and who may decide the makeup of the Supreme Court.\

She’s usually pretty sound and logical, but I don’t suspect she’s actually going to stand up given the current political climate.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: The F.B.I.’s Kavanaugh Investigation | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: The F.B.I.’s Kavanaugh Investigation from New York Times
How the agency’s findings could affect the confirmation vote on the Supreme Court nominee, and why the tone of the controversy has shifted.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: Kavanaugh’s Classmates Speak Out | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: Kavanaugh’s Classmates Speak Out from New York Times
Former acquaintances of the Supreme Court nominee say that the image he’s been presenting doesn’t quite match the Brett Kavanaugh they knew in school.

It would certainly seem that Kavanaugh has deliberately lied and misled the Senate on his background and drinking. As a job interview he has failed spectacularly and can’t possibly be the best person for this job regardless of his other qualifications.

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