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Ron Obvious

Profile Information

Name: Ron
Gender: Male
Home country: Middle Earth
Current location: Seattle
Member since: Tue Dec 13, 2011, 10:37 PM
Number of posts: 6,065

About Me

I got the nickname Ron Obvious because -- in addition to being a huge Python fan -- my name really is Ron and I used to start sentences with \"Obviously\" a lot. Obviously, that\'s no longer a problem.

Journal Archives

Grandpa was always proud to show his large erections to anyone.

Like this one, for example:

That's the water tower in the town of Eibergen in the Netherlands, right on the border with Germany. During the early 1930's, my grandfather was an itinerant bricklayer who left his family and travelled the continent on his motorcycle looking for work. This water tower was one of his jobs, and I just passed it today. It seems to be in excellent condition, which is more than you can say for my grandfather who's been dead for decades.

It was nice to see and touch a link with the past like that.

So the doc prescribed these fancy 'suppository' pills...

So the doc gave me these fancy 'suppository pills' for my complaint. I don't know what 'suppository' means, but they tasted terrible and for all the good they did me I might as well have shoved them up my arse.

Modern medicine, pfffft!

Memories of Napster...

While backing up some files from an old hard drive recently, I came across some mp3 files I had downloaded off Napster back in the day. Since they were all timestamped, it was amusing to look at them in chronological order.

I embarked on my life of crime by downloading music I already owned on 45's or LP's, and which I couldn't find on CD anywhere. I justified these act of profound villainy to my then unhardened conscience by reminding it that I had already paid for the rights to listen to that music, and weren't the record companies telling us it was all about rights and not physical property?

I still recall the thrill of finding these, often poorly transcoded, songs through my 56Kb dial-up connection to the internet. It's almost as much fun to see these filenames and timestamps now as finding them itself was back then. It's like looking at diary entries.

On August 6, 2000, I must have risen early because at 6:20 AM, I downloaded the Sparks' "This Town Aint Big Enough for the Both of US":

Later that day, I picked up "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Chicken Shack.

And then Slade's "Look wot you dun":

At the end of the day (10:37 PM), by now thoroughly steeped in sin and bound for perdition, I finally picked up Queen's "Killer Queen", which I easily could have bought legitimately, but I told myself that I already owned it on a scratchy LP after all, so why did I have to? Ah, the road to Hell and all that:

All music from the early seventies, which must have been where my head was that day in August, 2000. Those were good times -- both of them.

Why computers and AI will probably never be able to fully understand human communications

I have a friend who is a bit of a Yoga Berra in that he says things in an odd way sometimes, but you usually know exactly what he means.

Yesterday he told me: "I'm really upset with my girlfriend because she deceived me. Last week she told me she'd cheated on me. <pause> Now I find out that that wasn't true".

OK, you know what he means, right? But how would a computer parse that sentence? What's he upset about exactly? Understanding human communications requires up-to-date cultural knowledge, and not just an understanding of grammar and vocabulary because it's so ambiguous.

Compare these two sentences:

Yesterday I saw a movie with my neighbour Fred.
Yesterday I saw a movie with Bruce Willis.

Grammatically, these sentences are the same but they probably mean different things, right? Now, it is just possible that Bruce Willis is a pal of mine I go to the pictures with, and it is also just possible that my neighbour Fred is a movie star. If I were a celeb myself, you might consider either of those statements as likely, but as I'm Joe Ordinary, they're highly unlikely.

Think of how much a computer or robot would have to know to parse those two ordinary sentences correctly. Now what if I'd said:

Yesterday I saw a movie with Marilyn Monroe. This time there's only one way to parse that sentence because Marilyn Monroe is dead. But what if the statement had been made in 1960? Or in 1944 before she was famous? Each such factor that influences the interpretation of the sentence is easy for humans to interpret, but very difficult for computers who don't even know what questions to ask.

For some reason this was something I was thinking about while I lay awake last night.
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