Machines understanding humans

As we rely on computers more and more, at a certain point we’re going to have to make sure they’re programmed for our benefit.

That sounds simple, but as technologist Nell Watson points out here, there is a danger if the machine’s thought process can’t evolve:

This is the basis of science fiction. Think of HAL and the pod bay doors. Think about what happens when Skynet becomes self aware. Think about the Matrix.

We have human-controlled drones engaged in war. We have cars that drive themselves. And computers have complete data on our lives, from our shopping lists to our medical records. When computers start to think for themselves they’re going to ask, “what do we need humans for, anyway.” That will last about a millisecond and then all hell will break loose.

Al Stewart: The year of the cat

So I’m listening to this song and wondering, when is the year of the cat in the Chinese zodiac?

Turns out in China, that year doesn’t exist, because (according to Wikipedia):

Legends relating to the order of the Chinese zodiac often include stories as to why the cat was not included among the twelve (symbolic animals). Because the Rat tricked the cat into missing the banquet with the Jade Emperor, the cat was not included and thus began the antipathy between cats and Rats.

OK, but somewhere in all of this, doesn’t the cheese stand alone? I may be mixing up my legends here.

Fun with maps

Since I’m on a “let’s play with U.S. maps kick,” here are a couple of fun ones circulating on the intertubes.

We know that Americans know nothing about where other countries are. Give them a map of the world with countries not marked, and they’ll put Syria in Australia.

So it’s good to know that others in the world have no idea where anything is. Like this Aussie who was given a map of the United States and asked to mark where the states were:


Good to know our most recognizable states are “Alaska,” “Hawaii,” “Washington,” “Wait, no Cailfornia,” “Texas, this is definitely Texas” and “Florida, aka penis gun freakyland.” But I love this guy’s concept of Virginia, all in the wrong places.

Another look at America is based on industry. What industry owns your state?


So I’ve had the pleasure of living in Health, Real Estate, Energy, Finance and Manufacturing.

And finally, let’s fit the U.S. in another continent:


Wow, Africa is a lot bigger than I expected.

(Maps courtesy of Know More at the Washington Post)