Friday, May 23, 2008

Video: Simon @ AGI 2008

From our Shameless Self-Promotion Department, here's a video of Simon Levy presenting a paper he co-authored with Ross Gayler, at the First Artificial General Intelligence Conference in Memphis, 01-03 March 2008. As in the previous post on this conference, note the industry logos: Auto Zone in the background, and FedEx on the dais.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Civilization and its discontents

I think that it would be good to have a little change of pace in the IS reading materials, and would like to propose a bold step, based on a couple of suggestions from IS members. I suggest that for the next meeting the topic be something about civilization and its discontents and that the readings include both "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" by Charles C. Mann and "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond. This is ambitious. These are both long books. However, they should be easy to read and it will probably be a long time before the next IS meeting.

I also like the idea of a field trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We could go early on a Saturday, hang out in Brooklyn for a while, and then return to my place (or elsewhere) in the evening for the IS meeting.

About all of this, one of our members has commented: "I really liked 1491. Mann's a pretty pedestrian writer, but his subject material is great -- basically a thorough updating of everything I thought I knew about the archaeology of the Americas. I also liked Collapse, though Diamond as a writer occasionally comes off to me as a bit too smugly certain of himself. Still, they are both easy and fairly quick reads, and would make a good bundle together with some apocalyptic sci-fi. BTW, thanks to Elliot for the suggestion and Philip for his copy I have been enjoying Box Nine: a kind of twisted Ellroy take on a Tim Burton style Metropolis, complete with a neurolinguist named Woo and a psychotropic drug that whacks both the speech and pleasure centers. Definite I.S. material!"

Simon sez: "I received 1491 as an unexpected gift last year, and it turned to be one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. The Diamond book (Collapse) also looks brilliant. Ditto Box Nine, and even the crazy Williamsburg trip. Sounds like we have a winning lineup!"

It looks like a go, so we will next work on possible dates for early fall and then will post an announcement. In the meantime, get reading and have a nice summer!!

Laurie Santos and cognitive dissonance

Laurie R. Santos, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University, was the final guest for the semester at Yale's Mind, Brain, Culture and Consciouness working group at the Whitney Humanities Center. Laurie's research provides an interface between evolutionary biology, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. She indicates that " ... my current work explores what primates understand about physical objects and their motions, how primates spontaneously reason about different kinds of things (foods, artifacts, and animals), and whether or not non-human primates possess precursors to a theory of mind." During her elegant and entertaining presentation, she briefly discussed the recent controversy, raised in a column on April 8, 2008 by John Tierney of the New York Times, regarding a "sneaky logical fallacy in some of the most famous experiments in psychology." This concern regarding research related to cognitive dissonance was raised by M. Keith Chen, an economist at Yale University, and a co-author of Laurie. The following day, Science Blog, provided a challenge to Chen's concerns. We will keep you posted on the academic acrobatics in this area.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Grand Triumph Auto IV

With all the to-do over the horrific misogyny in the recent Grand Theft Auto IV video (NSFW), one vital question remains unanswered: why does the accent of the evil (anti-)hero make him sound so eerily similar to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog?