📚 Finished reading The Road to Conscious Machines by Michael Wooldridge. This is the second AI-focused book that I’ve read in recent weeks; it covers a lot of similar ground to Melanie Mitchell’s Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, but felt much more of a chronological whistle-stop tour of the history than an education on how the technology works. The two definitely compliment each other, which I guess is how Pelican Books, the publishers of both, felt as well. Both are very good. Once again I’m wondering what parts of the book would need to be updated to reflect the generative AI world we have been living in for the past year or so.

I loved the idea that our consciousness as a species may have evolved from the need to be able to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes. If I can think about how you will feel if I do something, it may influence whether I do the thing or not. Absolutely fascinating.

📚 Finished reading Futility by William Gerhardie. What started out as a typically wry and amusing Russian farcical comedy became a drag towards the end when I realised that it wasn’t going anywhere. Unlovable characters that I didn’t care for. The of-its-time casual racism in the book felt particularly jarring, possibly because the novel wasn’t redeemed by its other features. Not good.

📚 Finished reading Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell. This is an excellent introduction to the field that doesn’t get too technical. Having read it, I’m much less concerned about the near-term possibility of artificial general intelligence, but much more concerned about ‘narrow’ and ‘brittle’ AI systems being applied too broadly and failing in unexpected ways. For me, the most fascinating insight of the book was how all of our mental concepts as humans are based on analogies; the problems and exercises presented by the author had me smiling as she explained how people think about them.

🎙️ Strong Songs’ Bohemian Rhapsody episode gave me goosebumps from the sheer joy in which host Kirk Hamilton breaks down and explores the song. I’ve heard the tune a million times but there was so much I hadn’t noticed before — how long it is until Brian May’s guitar enters the fray (“strategic Brian May deployment”, something Queen did to great effect across a number of songs) and the echoes of the opening piano in the ‘opera’ section. This whole podcast series is so incredible that I had to become a Patreon, and I’m only a few episodes in.

From the Tortoise Daily Sensemaker email. I absolutely love learning about things like this, where an assumption I have about something working the same everywhere in the world is revealed to be false. (In this case, at least until Wednesday.)

Screenshot of news from the Tortoise Media Daily Sensemaker newsletter for 27 June 2023 that reads:

Fifty, turning 48

On Wednesday, everyone in South Korea will get one or two years younger. A new law is switching how the country calculates age to the international norm of starting the clock at zero from birth. For centuries, South Korea has counted time inside the womb towards a person's age, with babies born aged one, and everyone turning a year older together on 1 January. A New Year's Eve baby turns two within hours. For some, the change is a gift, says the WSJ — Park Jeong-yeon, an office worker turning 28 from 30, is freed — for now — from parental pressure to get married. For others, it's a mixed blessing. Kim Hae-yeon will have to face turning 50 twice.

Interesting video showing some of the ‘failure modes’ of large language models such as ChatGPT. On the one hand it is comforting to recognise that these tools can reveal themselves to be fallible machines. On the other, I fear that despite this, people won’t heed these flaws and they will integrate them into everything anyway.

Another webinar. I don’t think I’ve yet been to one where all participants completely understand the difference between the ‘chat’ and ‘Q&A’ tabs. Maybe the answer is to just have a chat tab, ideally with threaded responses and a clear indicator where a response comes from one of the hosts?

🎶 Stumbled across this wonderful live, al fresco cover of The Kinks’ Alcohol by Amanda Mabro. The three musicians completely nail it. There must be so many incredible undiscovered musical performances on YouTube.