Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cybog Spaz

The idea that "Wikipedia is a brain extension" has been around awhile, and XKCD writes about it all the time—

Now a NYTimes editorialist loves offloading mental tasks onto technology:

Memory? I’ve externalized it. I am one of those baby boomers who are making this the “It’s on the Tip of My Tongue Decade.” But now I no longer need to have a memory, for I have Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. Now if I need to know some fact about the world, I tap a few keys and reap the blessings of the external mind.

Personal information? I’ve externalized it. I’m no longer clear on where I end and my BlackBerry begins. When I want to look up my passwords or contact my friends I just hit a name on my directory. I read in a piece by Clive Thompson in Wired that a third of the people under 30 can’t remember their own phone number. Their smartphones are smart, so they don’t need to be. Today’s young people are forgoing memory before they even have a chance to lose it.

This is actually a very old trend. In the early roman republic, messages were sent by telling a story to the messenger, who'd remember it and tell it back at his destination: before writing was common, people had crazy powers of memorization—they could put away megabytes of epic poetry without much effort, etc. Tribes on the northern outskirts of the republic warned their students not to learn to write because it would impair their ability to remember—if you store your thoughts on the outside (on paper), you get worse at storing them on the inside.

About a year ago, Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) said, "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cellphones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it." I took offense at the time, but she has a point: plugging in is a trade-off, like it's always been.

What if a catastrophe had stranded astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on the surface of the Moon? In Event of a Moon Disaster was a speech intended to be read by President Nixon if disaster had struck during the Apollo 11 landing.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

Happy halloween.

The silly AfD is trending almost unanimously toward Keep.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An AI Winter is a collapse in the perception of artificial intelligence research. The term was coined by analogy with the relentless spiral of a nuclear winter: a chain reaction of pessimism in the AI community, followed by pessimism in the press, followed by a severe cutback in funding, followed by the end of serious research.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fatal hilarity is death as a result of laughter.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I've started a discussion forum about wiki-related matters. For now, anyone can post, even if you're not registered.

Typical breakfasts around the world


Mel's Hole is the name given to a geographic anomaly that is said to have been discovered near Ellensburg, Washington, on land belonging to local resident Mel Waters. According to Waters, the hole has paranormal properties, including an infinite depth and the ability to restore dead animals to life.

Like I said, the New York Times is one of a handful of newspapers that get wikipedia right. Now the Times has a blog-style Wikipedia topic page, complete with RSS feed.