prototypes and diagnostics
A well-educated time traveller from 1914 enters a room divided in half by a curtain. A scientist tells him that his task is to ascertain the intelligence of whoever is on the other side of the curtain by asking whatever questions he pleases.
The traveller’s queries are answered by a voice with an accent that he does not recognize (twenty-first-century American English). The woman on the other side of the curtain has an extraordinary memory. She can, without much delay, recite any passage from the Bible or Shakespeare. Her arithmetic skills are astonishing—difficult problems are solved in seconds. She is also able to speak many foreign languages, though her pronunciation is odd. Most impressive, perhaps, is her ability to describe almost any part of the Earth in great detail, as though she is viewing it from the sky. She is also proficient at connecting seemingly random concepts, and when the traveller asks her a question like “How can God be both good and omnipotent?” she can provide complex theoretical answers.
Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveller would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a “singularity”—a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.
The woman behind the curtain, is, of course, just one of us. That is to say, she is a regular human who has augmented her brain using two tools: her mobile phone and a connection to the Internet and, thus, to Web sites like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora. To us, she is unremarkable, but to the man she is astonishing. With our machines, we are augmented humans and prosthetic gods, though we’re remarkably blasé about that fact, like anything we’re used to. Take away our tools, the argument goes, and we’re likely stupider than our friend from the early twentieth century, who has a longer attention span, may read and write Latin, and does arithmetic faster.
The time-traveller scenario demonstrates that how you answer the question of whether we are getting smarter depends on how you classify “we.” This is why Thompson and Carr reach different results: Thompson is judging the cyborg, while Carr is judging the man underneath." @1 week ago with 2086 notes
mid-atlanticridge your doppleganger is taking a 4th grade admissions test (or your younger doppleganger) and it is really weird / making me miss middle school.
Man, middle school. The thing I remember most (other than our slam books and doing a dance to Christina Aguilera’s “Come on Over” for that mini-talent show) is that I wore wooden clogs all the time and you could fucking hear me coming a mile away.@1 month ago with 3 notes
Anonymous asked: this is probably weird to ask but. Why would you list your full name and location on your tumblr? i never really understand the reasoning for people who do that instead of keeping privacy.
I consider mid-atlantic ridge my art blog, and since I have exhibited at least a few of the pieces on it in real life, I would like for people to be able to look me up by name. I keep personal politics and things like that, for the most part, on a separate blog.@1 month ago with 1 note
The cowbirds are out in this, the first warm spell of the year. They silhouette themselves against the sky and proceed to puff themselves up. They then deflate with a hoarse squawk. It is as if the effort of their entire bodies, all the black feathers and the iridescent head, is required to produce the sound. For whom are they displaying: for females, or for other males? Is it an invitation or a warning?
They are not the only black birds at the feeder. They are joined by starlings, all of whom prefer to pipe and warble. There is a lone red-winged blackbird who makes no noise at all, but flutters back and forth from ground to twig, displaying his bright twin epaulettes.
The sparrows hold periodic disputes in the honeysuckle bush behind the overgrown playset. There will be a flurry of chatter and movement, all but invisible amongst the nondescript tan of the still-bare branches, and then they will all grow silent and take off as one.
Mourning doves twitter as they fly, as if the very act of leaving the ground alarms them. There is a word in Swedish that describes them perfectly, “fånig.” The word has no good translation in English. It means “silly,” generally speaking, but has a broad spectrum of definitions depending on the context. It can mean “oafish” or “childish,” “stupid” or “frivolous.” I think of the word as I watch mourning doves twitter nervously about, taking off in explosions of mauve feathers and frantic intermittent cooing.@1 month ago with 2 notes
[There is a] general principle of internet language these days that the more overwhelmed with emotions you are, the less sensical your sentence structure gets, which I’ve described elsewhere as “stylized verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence” and which leads us to expressions like “feels,” “I can’t even/I’ve lost the ability to can,” and “because reasons.”
Contrast this with first-generation internet language, demonstrated by LOLcat or 1337speak, and in general characterized by abbreviations containing numbers and single letters, often in caps (C U L8R), smilies containing noses, and words containing deliberate misspellings.
We’ve now moved on: broadly speaking, second-generation internet language plays with grammar instead of spelling. If you’re a doomsayer, the innovative syntax is one more thing to throw up your hands about, but compared to a decade or two ago, the spelling has gotten shockingly conventional.
In this sense, doge really is the next generation of LOLcat, in terms of a pet-based snapshot of a certain era in internet language. We’ve kept the idea that animals speak like an exaggerated version of an internet-savvy human, but as our definitions of what it means to be a human on the internet have changed, so too have the voices that we give our animals. Wow."