Just right

I felt better today than I have for a few days. I think the secret is not trying to do too much and having enough rest. Like the last bowl of porridge, just right.

TMI alert in the following. We went on an extremely exciting and successful mission to buy another set of towels. (The reason? When I dry myself after a shower, there’s more dripping onto the bathmat than water! I’m still socking down plenty of fluids, so it’s more water than anything else, but still.) I had a coffee and a little tart while Der Fisch looked at clothes and shoes. Then I went to the bathroom and swapped over to the spare pad that I had brought (memo DJs: you need a waste-paper basket in your men’s loos). Joined herself in the ladies’ shoes, a quick look at slippers for my beloved’s dainty foot, then home. Just a perfect length outing.

I am nearly 50 pages into Godel, Escher, Bach, something I have been nibbling away at mostly in the small hours (note I delicately avoid saying “wee small hours”). Anyway, I will be able to post some initial thoughts about it soon. Meanwhile, there was an interesting aside, which I will reproduce below:

” … it is possible to program a machine to do a routine task in such a way that the machine will never notice even the most obvious facts about what it is doing: but it is inherent in human consciousness to notice some facts about the things one is doing. [ … ] If you punch ‘1’ into an adding machine, then add 1 to it, and then add 1 again, and again, and continue doing so for hours and hours, the machine will never learn to anticipate you, and do it itself, although any person would pick up the repetitive behaviour very quickly. Or, to take a silly example, a car will never pick up the idea, no matter how much or how well it is driven, that it is supposed to avoid other cars and obstacles on the road; and it will never learn the most frequently traveled routes of its owner.” (p. 36-37)

I know this is from a book published nearly thirty years ago. However, I guess this indicates how even a phenomenally smart guy like Douglas Hofstadter can be overtaken by technology. Anyone with an Android phone has gotten used to the slightly creepy things it asks you, unbidden, like “Are you interested in the travel time between home and RMIT City Campus?”. And it seems very likely that autonomous vehicles will be on our roads within five years. Of course this quote is getting into the vexed question of machine learning (something for which there does not seem to be an entry in the index). Is he for, against, or an agnostic? Stay tuned.

One thought on “Just right

  1. Yes how technololgy has an idea of who we are by analysing our online movement is quite breathtaking but scary! Also an interesting self-analysis tool – from looking at what pops up on my feed, seems I am a bit of a Chardonnay leftist! (Aka pretty privileged middle class person too tired to really do anything for the causes that are important to me!)


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