chase martyn

Turing test passed? ⇒

On first glance, this announcement sounded like a true revolution for humanity. The Turing test is about as big a deal in artificial intelligence as anything I can remember learning about. Once we can pass it, it's basically next stop: singularity.

I was less certain of the importance of this announcement by the time I read to the end.

"Eugene was 'born' in 2001. Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn't know everything. We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality. This year we improved the 'dialog controller' which makes the conversation far more human-like when compared to programs that just answer questions. Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as 'conversation logic'."

Among the judges tasked with separating the human and computer participants were the actor Robert Llewellyn, who played robot Kryten in the sci-fi comedy TV series Red Dwarf, and Lord Sharkey, who led the successful campaign for Alan Turing's posthumous pardon last year.

The basic strategy of the creators of the machine that they claim passed the Turing test was to identify it as a 13-year-old boy, which effectively lowered the judges' expectations. (13-year-old boys can be pretty bad at written communication.)

And at least some of the judges were apparently chosen for their celebrity. So they weren't all average humans with no stake in whether the test makes the news.

Maybe I'm moving the goalposts, or maybe 'Eugene' truly would have fooled me, but I think the spirit of the Turing test is that a computer has to convince a reasonable adult human that it is also a reasonable adult human.

I also feel a little funny about the idea that the weighty task of trying to pass the Turing test is now the domain of chatbots. There may well be serious people doing serious and impressive work on this, but those people have to work in a niche best known for spam, obtrusive customer service widgets, telemarketing, and pornography.

This is progress, but it still seems pretty far from the grand vision of artificial intelligence.

09 June 2014, 1:03 am ⸭ Permalink

Client feedback on the creation of the earth ⇒

Hi God,

Thanks so much for the latest round of work. Really coming together. Few points of feedback:

1 – Really liking the whole light thing but not totally sure about the naming system. “Day” and “night” are OK but we feel like there’s more we can do here. Thoughts? Definitely need to nail this down ASAP.

05 June 2014, 7:48 pm ⸭ Permalink

Buzzfeed as anti-Oedipus ⇒

Apparently Jonah Peretti, the founder of Buzzfeed, dabbled in critical theory and neo-Marxism as an undergraduate.

So I'm not the only one who sees Buzzfeed (and sites like it) and thinks "capitalism and schizophrenia."

"Nobody wants to be a shill for your brand," former Buzzfeed chief creative officer Jeff Greenspan once told New York Magazine for a profile of the company's founder, Jonah Peretti. "But they are happy to share information and content that helps them promote their own identity."

So where did Peretti get that idea? Peretti's academic writings offer one clue. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1996, Peretti published an article in the cultural theory journal Negations entitled "Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution." After the paper was mentioned in New York's Peretti profile,'s Eugene Wolters read through it, and found that it more or less lays out (and critiques) Buzzfeed's entire business model—a full decade before the company was founded.

In brief, the paper argues that, going forward, capitalism will need to be constantly producing identities for people to adopt at an ever-increasing rate. And now Peetti's at the helm of a firm that's doing exactly that.

20 May 2014, 10:19 am ⸭ Permalink

Precious bodily fluids at 50 years ⇒

David Denby's commemoration of Dr. Strangelove's semicentennial has inspired me to watch the film again. I'm not sure if I knew this:

It may be hard to believe now, but Kubrick’s original intention was to do a straight, serious movie. In the late fifties, he became obsessed with the possibility of an accidental nuclear war (he even thought of leaving New York for the greater safety of Australia)...

Kubrick did enormous amounts of research. He read forty-six books on nuclear strategy; he conferred with experts, including the dread Herman Kahn; he studied military magazines to get an idea of how the cockpit of a B-52 might look. As he began working on the screenplay with Peter George, however, he gagged on the idea of a straight version of the material.

15 May 2014, 12:57 am ⸭ Permalink

WWI technology in photos ⇒

It has been a century since World War I began, marking the end of 1800s-style conventional warfare and the beginning of an arms race towards more modern methods for humans to kill each other. Engineers, scientists, and military strategists were faced with many of the same problems that armies on battlefields face today, but they had to solve them without many of the core technologies that we take for granted today, like radar. As Alan Taylor points out for The Atlantic in a collection of WWI photos:

When Europe's armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy.

12 May 2014, 10:25 am ⸭ Permalink

‘Let slip the dolphins of war’ ⇒

Fifty years ago, at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, the science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke spoke of things to come. He foresaw a 21st century that would witness “the development of intelligent and useful servants among the other animals on this planet, particularly the great apes and, in the oceans, the dolphins and whales.” Clarke saw this as a way of solving “the servant problem,” although he also imagined that the animals would form labor unions, “and we’d be right back where we started.”

I thought of Clarke when I read recent reports of the military employment of dolphins in a Cold War-style face-off of cetaceans near Crimea.

06 May 2014, 11:42 am ⸭ Permalink

Programming sucks ⇒

Websites that are glorified shopping carts with maybe three dynamic pages are maintained by teams of people around the clock, because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone. Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There's a team at a Google office that hasn't slept in three days. Somewhere there's a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she's dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don't even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn't make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

02 May 2014, 12:20 am ⸭ Permalink

Laser Eagle Saves America! ⇒

When an apparently never-ending army of vehicles is heading our way, America has no choice but to turn to Laser Eagle.

Laser Eagle Saves America! is a realistic game in which a bald eagle shoots laser beams at oncoming invaders.

I'm proud to say that this is currently the #1 app in the App Store when you search for "Laser Eagle." Please consider buying it and, if you like it, rating it.

11 April 2014, 12:46 am ⸭ Permalink

iOS and Android usage reflects socioeconomics ⇒

Note the recurring theme: Android users are less lucrative than iPhone users, and designers are iPhone users. It’s a socioeconomic split along class lines, in favor of iPhone over Android.

Mobile traffic data to e-commerce sites bears this out. Every quarter, a mobile market research company called Monetate publishes data on mobile shoppers and how much they spend online. By almost every metric, Apple users come out ahead as spenders.

Previously: this tweet.

07 April 2014, 4:07 pm ⸭ Permalink

Pangolins: Obscure, enigmatic, and hunted close to extinction ⇒

This piece is long and a little choppy in places (when did CNN start doing longform [written] journalism?), but I learned a lot about a fascinating endangered species:

I figured pangolins, like chicken or whatever, would already be dead in a meat freezer in the kitchen. Consequently, I figured I could argue (to myself and to you) that I hadn't actually killed a pangolin by ordering it. It was already dead.

See! Not my fault!

But that's not how it works.

As the waitress explained, with the poise of a "Downton Abbey" cast member, the staff would bring the pangolin out to the table live -- and slit its throat.

Right in front of us.

Think of it as a quality assurance measure, designed to prove to us that we indeed were eating real, endangered pangolin. Not a substitute.

Won't the blood get everywhere? I asked, realizing that's probably not a question a genuine pangolin eater would actually be concerned with. No, she said, giggling. Of course it wouldn't. And we'll serve the blood to you with wine if you'd like.

06 April 2014, 12:13 am ⸭ Permalink
Chase Martyn Chase Martyn is a political consultant, web developer, and (former) journalist. He currently lives in Chicago, and his opinions are purely his own.