Tag: machine learning

AI and the Flimflam Man


Courtesy of NightCafe. An AI-drawn mentalist, though more fantastical than I had in mind.

“Did you know that any one of you might have talent as a telepath?” shouts the mentalist as he excitedly paces around the stage. “I’ll prove it to you. I’ll think of a number between 1 and 50, two digits, both of them odd. All of you try and read my mind. Ready? How many of you were thinking of 37?”

To the amazement of the crowd nearly one third of them stand up. “I knew it!” shouts the mentalist, “but I almost didn’t pick 37; I thought of 39 at first. How many of you picked 39?” Over half the audience is now standing, to wild applause.

I think I pulled that example from Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, but it’s been so long since I’ve read the book that I’m no longer sure. Let’s figure out the trick. If I asked you to guess a number between one and 50, fair odds say you’d get it right 2% of the time. The mentalist does a great deal better than that. How? He isn’t asking for a number between one and fifty.

Quote of the Day: Father Brown on Skepticism


‘It’s what I call common sense, properly understood,’ replied Father Brown. ’It really is more natural to believe a preternatural story, that deals with things we don’t understand, than a natural story that contradicts things we do understand. Tell me that the great Mr Gladstone, in his last hours, was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, and I will be agnostic about it. But tell me that Mr Gladstone, when first presented to Queen Victoria, wore his hat in her drawing-room and slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, and I am not agnostic at all. That is not impossible; it’s only incredible. But I’m much more certain it didn’t happen than that Parnell’s ghost didn’t appear; because it violates the laws of the world I do understand.

Much as I enjoy reading G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, perhaps they’re best taken one at a time. There’s a certain uniformity to them, and I don’t just mean that the murderer never turns out to be Catholic. There are always sound, practical, men of the world who are deceived by some sort of supernatural occurrence, and Father Brown solves the mystery by disbelieving in old curses or modern magicians. While allowing for the vagaries of fiction there are things well worth learning in those stories.

How to Automate a Job Out of Existence


This is an elaboration of a comment I made in @indymb ‘s post “Is there any point in writing to a Congressperson?” and I’m indebted to him and @Misthiocracy (who has experience working for a Canadian Member of Parliament, I understand) for the details on how all this works. Briefly, we’ll look at a simple task done every day in the houses of government and at how we’d train a computer to do it better.

Briefly, as you may have expected, the letter to your Senator isn’t so much read as processed for the minimum amount of information and interaction required. I’ll quote the meat of his description of the process and then describe how I’d go about automating it. You’re encouraged to go back and read his post (and it should go without saying on Ricochet but the comments too).

Member Post


Most of medicine is about information, not tools. Consider, for example, that getting the diagnosis right is the single most critical element in the vast majority of medical situations, which means that expertise, not toys are the critical piece. And enormous broadband capacity is making it possible to eliminate the gap between patient and expert […]

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