A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: October 2005

Machine evolution and consciousness (circa 1872)

From Samuel Butler’s The Book of the Machines in Erewhon:

Complex now, but how much simpler and more intelligibly organised may [a machine] not become in another hundred thousand years? or in twenty thousand? For man at present believes that his interest lies in that direction; he spends an incalculable amount of labour and time and thought in making machines breed always better and better; he has already succeeded in effecting much that at one time appeared impossible, and there seem no limits to the results of accumulated improvements if they are allowed to descend with modification from generation to generation. It must always be remembered that man’s body is what it is through having been moulded into its present shape by the chances and changes of many millions of years, but that his organisation never advanced with anything like the rapidity with which that of the machines is advancing. This is the most alarming feature in the case, and I must be pardoned for insisting on it so frequently.

Butler’s protagonist, Higgs, is reporting the theory behind the Erewhonians’ decision to limit technologoical development.

Fieger running for state attorney general

Something Michigan Democrats and Republicans can probably agree on: Michigan doesn’t trust Geoffrey Fieger.

(Sandy Lipsey, who has announced for the AG position, is my brother-in-law).

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be Saunders Mac Lane’s Categories for the Working Mathematician.

I provide an array of general ideas useful in a wide variety of fields. Starting from foundations, I illuminate the concepts of category, functor, natural transformation, and duality. I then turn to adjoint functors, which provide a description of universal constructions, an analysis of the representation of functors by sets of morphisms, and a means of manipulating direct and inverse limits.

Which Springer GTM would you be?
The Springer GTM Test

(Thanks, Natalia!)


VERBATIM: Knock-knock

Who’s there?

Objective case.

Lemonodor: Stanford Wins Grand Challenge

Lemonodor: Stanford Wins Grand Challenge Great pix from John and Lori — follow the Flickr links.

Doing the Martin Shuffle

Fun Peter Norvig post on using randomized techniques to listen to a particular song on an iPod shuffle: Doing the Martin Shuffle (with your iPod). The ‘Martin’ of the ‘Martin Shuffle’ is Charles Martin. Charles was the 2nd grad student of Chris Riesbeck‘s to graduate; I was the 3rd. We both did NLP research, and Charles was my boss for two days (if I remember correctly) when I joined “Intell/Agent Systems,” which now seems like a long time ago.

Borges: a whale of an error

I received an email from Justin Bur that says (quoting with permission):

Your English version of Borges’ celebrated essay http://www.entish.org/essays/Wilkins.html contains a rather spectacular mistranslation based presumably on a typo in the original Spanish. Section 16 of Wilkins’ taxonomy classifies the *whale*, not beauty, as a viviparous oblong fish. There is a complete text online at http://reliant.teknowledge.com/Wilkins, and the relevant passage is on page 132.

The confusion seems to arise from the graphic similarity between “ballena” (whale) and “belleza” (beauty) in Spanish. I cannot imagine that Borges himself did not know the difference, but I have no idea where the error first arose.

Hmm. I based my translation on the Spanish original at http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/wilkins.html. It has belleza/beauty. Douglas Crockford’s Spanish version and translation has ballena/whale. I looked for other online copies of the Spanish original: a comp lit site has “belleza.” Another Language and Literacy post (one has to scroll down quite a bit) has “belleza/beauty.” This Finnish site has “belleza.” I don’t have a Spanish print edition of Otras Inquisiciones to check.

Perhaps Borges was using a Babelfish translation. Seriously, I’m curious whether Borges was using a bad translation, or just had an eye for ‘beauty.’ This might mean I have to actually go to a physical library to find out …

Predator-B UAV to Patrol US Borders

Sweet Narnia preview

Answers to Questions on Unstructured Data

Answers to Questions on Unstructured Data asked by my friend Daniel Lemire for a course he’s teaching on IR and unstructured data. (I should have referenced Tim Converse‘s ‘Are you still working on that?’ essay, but it was unavailable today…)

Update:Tim says (writing from Seoul) that his weblog is available again, so his essay You still working on that?, which he wrote at Excite before it eventually became part of Yahoo, is, too.