To create one of those 3-D holographic images, you record how countless beams of light bounce off an object and then you store these little bits of information across a vast database. While still in high school, back in 1960s Britain, Hinton was fascinated by the idea that the brain stores memories in much the same way. Rather than keeping them in a single location, it spreads them across its enormous network of neurons.
‘I get very excited when we discover a way of making neural networks better — and when that’s closely related to how the brain works.’
This may seem like a small revelation, but it was a key moment for Hinton — “I got very excited about that idea,” he remembers. “That was the first time I got really into how the brain might work” — and it would have enormous consequences. Inspired by that high school conversation, Hinton went on to explore neural networks at Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and by the early ’80s, he helped launch a wildly ambitious crusade to mimic the brain using computer hardware and software, to create a purer form of artificial intelligence we now call “deep learning.”
Jim Goad writes: As someone who’s offended by nothing but annoyed by everyone, I found no shortage of people this past year to stoke the angry embers of my irascible soul. Try as I may to shield my eyes from the countless blinding petty indignities and massive vexations of everyday existence, each sunrise seemed to drop a new human being on my doorstep to annoy me.
I tend to focus on the negative at the expense of everything else, so when I looked back over the past year, I immediately began thinking of people who annoyed me. It was hard to winnow down my list to only 13 selections. They are ranked in ascending levels of annoyance. Although I bear no personal ill will toward any of these people, nor do I engage in any violent fantasies about them, it would not be untrue to say that I would not cry if, say, any of them were to be struck dead by a train in the coming New Year.
If you understand the basic principles behind the butterfly effect, you would be forced to agree with me that these are all people who, each in their own way, have made life a little harder for all of us this year. Through their very existence, they force you and I to suffer. Damn them. Damn them all to hell!
13. UNNAMED 64-YEAR-OLD SOUTH CAROLINIAN STABBING VICTIM AND FAN OF EAGLES MUSIC
In September a rough, beaten-up-looking South Carolina woman named Vernett Bader was arrested after allegedly slashing her housemate with a 14-inch serrated bread knife. Her victim, an unnamed 64-year-old man, had allegedly told her to “shut up” after she complained that he’d been playing too much music by the classic rock band Eagles. (It can never be repeated enough, if only to ratchet up the annoyance factor, that the band is not called The Eagles—they are simply random, unspecified Eagles.) And refusing to quit blasting your stupid, overplayed Eagles music when your torn-and-frayed female housemate requests that you do so qualifies as annoying enough to warrant being stabbed. He should be grateful she didn’t kill him.
12. UNNAMED SHRIEKING CANADIAN FEMINIST
Back in April, a group of typically sincere and comically misguided men’s-rights activists was trying to peaceably air its views at the University of Toronto when a chanting pack of progressive albino twat-monkeys pulled the fire alarm and disrupted the event. Outside the building, a plump harpy with her hair dyed the color of menstrual blood that had been exposed to nuclear radiation barked and howled and belittled the persistently peaceable and earnest MRAs in a breathtakingly hostile videotaped rant that singlehandedly managed to justify every misogynist stereotype throughout world history. After the video became viral, she was apparently harassed and threatened into hiding, and I can only hope that wherever she’s hiding, there’s no man there for her to yell at.
11. DAVID OLANDER
Would any sane person think that a dry batch of asparagus is evidence of systemic racism? Of course not, but we’re living in racially insane times. The award for the year’s pettiest racial complaint goes to David Olander, a member of the human relations commission in University City, MO. After espying a relatively desiccated bunch of asparagus at a Schnucks grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood, Olander says he remembered that the asparagus at a Schnucks in a mostly white neighborhood was much fresher, moister, and more vibrant. Olander fired off a letter of racial grievance to Scott Schnuck of Schnucks, which I only mention so I can repeat the phrase “Scott Schnuck of Schnucks.”
The internet’s welcome transformation of public debate
Nelson Wiseman writes: Last December, my colleague at the Ottawa Citizen, a Parliament Hill reporter named Glen McGregor, wrote a blogpost entitled “Toward a Dogme95 of Political Reporting.” It was a trim little call for a return to journalism’s basics: pick up the phone, work sources, get stories. It asked reporters to stop filing easy stories skimmed from the froth of partisan posturing or from social media, and to be more judicious about quoting the always-voluble “senior party sources.” It was fine advice. But the first bullet point of McGregor’s manifesto caught a lot of people off guard:
No more quoting political scientists: It’s lazy and signals the reporter couldn’t find any other apparently neutral or objective source to talk. These people work in academics, not politics, so I’m not interested in their opinions on anything but their own research.
This caused quite a ruckus in the cosy Canadian politics neighbourhood of the Twittersphere. A number of professors took the comment as a raised middle finger to their presence in Canadian journalism. It probably does not matter that McGregor’s intention was to criticize journalists, not academics, and was less about telling professors to stay out of journalism than it was about telling reporters to stop relying on professors to pad out their stories and launder their political views. Like most serious misunderstandings, it served the useful function of shedding some light on the relationship between journalism and academic work, and how -technology-driven shifts in our conception of status, influence and research itself called that relationship into question.
More importantly, what McGregor’s post did was call the bluff of the entire social animal known as the “public intellectual.”