Dare mighty things!

These are the latest articles and videos I found most interesting.

  1. The Autonomous Future
  2. Conversation with Noam Chomsky and Howard Gardner
  3. Spawning Mandarinfish
  4. The nature of matter
  5. What Is a Semiconductor?

The Autonomous Future

Milken Institute – 2016 CA Summit

Dare mighty things!

California is the center of American innovation. In this session, we will highlight the work of some of the state’s most forward-thinking visionaries who are pushing the limits in industries ranging from transportation to climate change. How quickly will self-driving cars become the norm? Will automation and drones solve the labor needs of the future? Why have they chosen California as the incubator for their ideas and how the state’s decision makers can help bring their designs from the blueprint to the marketplace?

  • Introduction By: Kevin Klowden, Executive Director, California Center, and Managing Economist, Milken Institute
  • Host: Jane Wells, Special Correspondent, CNBC


  • Timothy Burr Jr., Senior Public Policy Manager, Lyft
  • Bruce Upbin, Vice President, Strategic Communications, Hyperloop One
  • Dave Gallagher, Associate Director for Strategy, Technology and Formulation, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Conversation with Noam Chomsky and Howard Gardner

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Gutman Library

at ~1 hour 5 minutes

Q: The work of researchers like Mary Lou Jackson, Polina Anikeeva, Giorgio Ganness and Jack Galon seems to suggest that advances in artificial intelligence and nanomaterials may one day bring us to a point when brain-computer interfaces reach extremely high fidelity, essentially reading people’s minds, uploading information directly into their brains, etc. How do you see language evolving when humans can share information while bypassing traditional sensory modality?
NC: I think one should be fairly skeptical about a lot of this, frankly. There is a lot of hype around artificial intelligence. There are certainly interesting things of course happening, there are usual developments that are nice to have like Google translator, these things that people carry around that do lots of things that they could not do before, but I think that increments are nowhere near as great as they are claimed to be. There is talk about singularity: We’ll have computers so smart, actually programs, not the computers, we’ll have programs so smart they will be able to do things that humans can’t do. Well, that’s true. It’s already true. Your hand calculator, it can multiply numbers way faster than you can and more accurately. It’s also true that a bulldozer can move dirt faster than you can. But the intellectual content is much thinner. The achievements of AI are mostly true through massive data collection and data analysis. So it’s true, the computers are good at storing data and going through it fast. Take a look at how the translation works for example. Back in 1950s, it was thought that we could understand language well enough to program computers to literally translate. I thought that it was complete nonsense at the time. And it was a long time to realize that it was not the way to do machine translation. The way to do it, and the way your Google translator works, is to take, say, Canadian parliamentary records which happen to be in French and English in parallel, and just take millions of pages of this stuff and try to do a statistical analysis which says that if this sequence of words appears in English, this sequence of words is likely to appear in French with some reasonable probability. And you work all this out – you get a Google translator. Intellectually it is worthless, but it is useful.

Q: But is it true that your work was initially funded because military did want to take what you were doing and use it for translation?
NC: That’s actually a widespread illusion. Military did not care what you were doing. Our project at MIT for example, some of the main work was on American Indian languages. We had people translating Humboldt great 19th century grammar. The military did not care. What the military was doing was surveying kind of a funnel by which taxpayer money was being used to create a high-tech economy of the future. So what was being done was just develop the high-tech economy.

NC: ARPA came a little bit later but it came out of early efforts to develop the internet in 1960, which the military has funded them but nobody had any military purpose.

Q: But we have not found out whether it was a predecessor to Justice Powel who was writing at that time.
NC: No, this is just US industrial policy. The way you develop economy of the future was by taxpayer funding of research and ultimately handing it over to private corporations for profit. You can see it very easily right around Cambridge. Take a walk around MIT and take a look at the buildings. What do you see? You see pharmaceutical corporations, genetic engineering, and so on. Why are they there? Because they are ripping off the research that is under public funding at the university. And if you were here in 1960s, you would see private electronic firms ripping off the work that has been done at the electronics research lab at MIT and at Harvard computer lab. The cutting edge of the economy has shifted from electronic-based to biology-based so therefore funding has shifted and the so-called private enterprise system follows along to try to cannibalize what’s been done at public’s expense. The basic way the economy works is public subsidy – private profit. And Pentagon happened to be a natural way of funding electronics based research and development.

Spawning Mandarinfish

Jonathan Bird’s Blue World

Even experienced divers rarely get to see the Mandarinfish, a colorful reef fish that is so shy, it only comes out of hiding for a half-hour a day. Jonathan travels to the south Pacific to film spawning Mandarinfish and witnesses an incredible secret ritual. HD re-release of a season 2 segment.

The nature of matter


If there’s one thing that we think we understand, it’s matter. After all, matter makes up everything around us; it even makes up you. However, all is not as it seems. Over the last century, scientists have learned about the building blocks of matter, starting with atoms. It turns out that matter is very different than you think. In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln will give you an entirely new way to think about the world around us. You will never think of the universe in the same way again.

What Is a Semiconductor?

MIT K12 Videos

Semiconductors are in everything from your cell phone to rockets. But what exactly are they, and what makes them so special? Find out from Jamie, a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

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