A closer look at The Second Machine Age

Reading the new book from Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee was like a breath of fresh air. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, elegantly summarizes the radical economic changes I’ve been trying to describe in blog posts.

In short, The Second Machine Age describes the ways that information age technologies have changed the rules of economics. In many ways the book is a summary of material dealt with in greater depth by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Black Swan), Michael Lewis (The Big Short), James Gleick (Faster) and Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (Why Nations Fail). As such, it’s a fast read that cruises across the surface of dozens of potentially complex topics.

Anecdotes and generalizations substitute for depth, but no truly detailed treatment of this subject could be boiled down to an airplane book. The Second Machine Age is neither the most insightful nor profound book about our time. It is, however, extremely accessible and reliably accurate. As such, the authors have delivered a mass read that can bring these important topics to a broader audience.

Some of the main points from the book:

1) Machines can do more now than we ever imagined they might be capable of. No one can confidently claim that a particular activity or field is comfortably beyond the range of our machines.

2) Information technology is introducing a kind of exponential economic expansion that we did not experience in the Industrial Era or at any time previous. It gives rise to a “superstar” dynamic, concentrating returns on investment in the hands of very few winners.

3) Most of the progress brought by this digital revolution has escaped our notice and passed under the radar of our usual methods of economic measurement.

4) Digital economics is radically more lucrative and unequal than anything we have faced before. The “bounty” and “spread” of the second machine age are shredding our social safety net and weighing us down as we struggle to ride this wave.

5) The second machine age may not drive unemployment overall, but it has already nearly destroyed middle income employment. Our vision of what employment means needs to change.

6) Winners, for the most part, will be the people who find way to successfully augment, not replace, automation. Almost no one has a job which cannot in some respects be automated. Successful workers will be the ones who learn to enhance what computers or machines do.

7) What should we do about it? Recommendations include education reform, streamlining government, infrastructure investment, aggressively recruiting immigration, pollution taxes, and of course, a basic income. Any of these sound familiar?

Brynjolfsson & McAfee’s book is too important to merely summarize. The next few posts will include excerpts and my strong encouragement to give it a read.

An excerpt:

Our generation will likely have the good fortune to experience two of the most amazing events in human history: the creation of a true machine intelligence and the connection of all humans via a common digital network, transforming the planet’s economics. Innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, tinkerers, and many other types of geeks will take advantage of this cornucopia to build technologies that astonish and delight us, and work for us. Over and over again, they’ll show how right Arthur C. Clarke was when he observed that a sufficiently advanced technology can be indistinguishable from magic.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Economics, The Second Machine Age
51 comments on “A closer look at The Second Machine Age
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  4. The coming of the second machine age is every bit as socially disruptive as the original age of industrialization. Rapid advances in automation technology, materials technology, machining and fabrication technology, and information technology are dramatically altering the ways in which we build the things and perform the tasks that keep our civilization running. Increasingly, humans are no longer a required cog in the machine.

    All of this is having a profound effect on how we make our livings, and on what is “valued” in our lives. The transition is proving difficult. Those of us who are invested in the markets are generally doing well; so are many of us with an entrepreneurial and/or creative bent. Those of us working as employees are generally facing tougher times, and the more one’s skills are subject to automation, the tougher it is.

    Hidden in the many challenges we face are tremendous opportunities. Rapid advances in 3D printing technology offer tremendous capabilities for mass customization and the casual manufacture of bespoke articles for consumption. Personalization and customization of just about everything will soon become the norm. Yet even as mass customization of manufactured items becomes ever more prevalent, the value of finely crafted handmade items will increase dramatically.

    Thanks to the democratization of information, the long tail of every market is ever more accessible, and ever more serviceable. For instance, when I was growing up music was dominated by the big record label companies. Popular music was horribly regimented, bland pablum (for the most part). Now, I have fun apps like Pandora and Spotify that make it really easy for me to enjoy music that suits my particular tastes, and even more importantly, makes it easy to discover artists whose product is a potential fit for my tastes. It’s nothing short of magnificent.

    The industrial era, in which most us of work as *employees* for somebody *else*, is coming to an end. While big company patronage (employment) is comfortable, it’s also stunting and stifling. I believe we are gradually returning to an older way of life. Back in the day, most of us were artisans, craftsmen, or small businessmen. Think of Paul Revere – while not gallivanting about raising havoc for King George, Mr. Revere made his living as a silversmith. Increasingly, we are again becoming artisans. The tools are different, for the artisanry is as much of the mind as it is of the hand. My tools are SketchUp and Blender instead of hammer and anvil; I first mold electrons instead of wax and clay. But the requisite dedication, creativity and discipline are *exactly* the same. This is, I believe, a healthier way for humans to live.

    It’s a truly marvelous time to be alive. I only wish that I had several more decades left than my allotted span to watch more of it unfold.

  5. Tuttabella says:

    Sassy, Kabuzz, and Bobo: I have to wonder how original each of us humans truly is in terms or originality and intellect. I notice many of the same ideas and concepts keep cropping up independently of one another, in different parts of the world, and in different points in time.

    For example, I notice people often receive in dreams hints or direct messages as to how to name someone or something — He shall be named Jesus — you shall be Beatles with an A – and I humbly add even my own dream in which the name Tuttabella appeared to me. In the dream it occurred to me that “Tuttabella” would be a good name for my cat, and later I come to find out that many posters on blogs take the name of their pet.

    We all seem to be connected mentally, since time immemorial, and we share some many timeless traits, that artists, writers, and musicians are able to tap into this for content, and I would think machines could replicate this so-called intuition and originality, because even intuition and originality become predictable after a while.

    Even now, I think we could program a machine to think like that valve safety guy Bobo mentioned, if you observe him long enough. After observing each other’s comments here, we know what to expect, from, say Lifer (minimum income), HT (statistics), Crogged (logic), etc, and I would think we could program a machine to act like each of them, or a composite of all of them.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      There’s a Hindu teaching about connectedness:

      Consider a huge net, floating on the ocean. At each knot of the net, there’s a jewel. When one jewel rises on a wave, others near it were uplifted, too.

      When a jewel slides into trough, other jewels moved downward with it.

      The net is all of humanity.

      The individual jewels? That’s each of us.

      • In physics terms, we call the phenomenon quantum entanglement. We typically think about quantum wave mechanics operating over only subatomic distances, but quantum entanglement demonstrates paired particles interacting across large distances. I suspect this is a very specific case of a very fundamental aspect matter interacting with the fabric of space and time.

        It’s all about the entanglement, baby.

    • way2gosassy says:

      I don’t know about that Tutt, My momma used to tell me they broke the mold when they made me! Come to think of it I wonder what she really meant by that…… =)

      • Tuttabella says:

        We’d just make another Sassy Mold and go from there. 🙂

      • CaptSternn says:

        We would have to be careful there, Tutt. We might end up with another Way, or we might end up with another cat like the one my mom had for almost 22 years. I don’t know if the world is ready for another cat like that. 😀

      • way2gosassy says:

        Thanks Tutt, Cap this me sticking my tongue out at you!

  6. way2gosassy says:

    I recently watched a documentary on robotics filmed in Japan on their use of robots in the car industry. It was an interesting piece that examined the pros and cons. The gist of it was that they used robots to perform work on an assembly line that had been identified as the most detrimental to humans. As with most mechanical things they had a tendency to break down over time. Their answer to that problem was to design another computerized robot to repair it, however, the entire system still required humans to monitor and direct it.

    The pros and cons to this piece were summarized in this way;

    Start up costs were extremely high but were offset by lower operating costs by way of eliminating “humans” from the equation.

    Maintenance costs were higher in some cases because of the technology being used and lower in others because of the lack of human involvement. Overall those costs were lower.

    The biggest failing of the use of robotics in the mind of the engineer (whose name I cannot recall) was that critical analysis of failures, while being calculated by computers, was still being input by humans.

    While the use of robotics have reduced the costs of production in significant ways, it has not reduced the costs of those goods to the public.

    • CaptSternn says:

      Robotics on assembly lines make sense because they are always on the job and the work is very consistent. The quality doesn’t suffer because one is distracted, in a foul mood or not feeling well.

      The lower costs are passed on to the consumer in the end. The cars being made today are not the cars that were being made five, ten or 20 years ago. Increasing government regulations on milage, emissions and safety features continue to drive the prices up. Reducing costs by using robotics allows a car company to remain competitive. There are a lot of makes and models available, and each company has to compete with the next company in each range and style of vehicle.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Let me just add a tiny edit: “The highly useful government regulations on milage, emissions and safety features modestly drive the prices up.”

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Oh…just one tiny additional edit: “The highly useful government regulations on mileage, emissions and safety features modestly drive the prices up, but when adjusted for inflation, today’s basic automobiles are the same price or slightly less expensive than their counterparts from the 60s and 70s, while dramatically improving safety, pollution, and comfort.”

      • bubbabobcat says:

        And high mileage and safe cars are what people want when gas is $3-4/gallon. Duh.

        It’s just that the US automakers are as short sighted and short term profit motivated as Cappy.

        Imagine if Ford, GM or Chrysler had come up with the Prius first? Think they would have declared bankruptcy or needed a bailout?

        Imagine what our energy independence and price of oil and gas would be now if Reagan hadn’t gutted Carter’s policy to raise gas mileage standards on US cars and then nothing was done until the latest gas “crisis”?

        Want to buy a Hummer anyone? I think it’s a Chinese company now.

      • CaptSternn says:

        I have never considerd milage when purchasing a vehicle, not even with high gas prices and not even when my dear lady and I take weekend trips that put over 1,000 miles on the old truck. I have always wanted horse power and character in my vehicle.

        The only exception to that is my current pickup, it has a V6 instead of a V8. I almost didn’t buy it for that reason alone, but it was cheap because it was wrecked, and it was only temporary so I could put the Trans Am in the shop and have something to drive.

        Go ahead and make the car companies build things like the Prius or Volt, I won’t buy them. I will just by the old used strong cars. The good thing is that once they are 25 years old, they no longer have to pass the emissions test. The Trans Am was borderline when it went down, but that will not be relevant next year. About time to get it restored and back on the road.

        But it all comes back to control. Y’all feel the need to control others, to force them to buy the vehicles you think they should buy, not want they want.

        We would also have energy independence if it weren’t for the leftists restricting domestic production and putting windfall profit taxes on oil companies and taking leases away. In fact, through private land use, we are producing more now in spite of the democrats and their restriction. Though I don’t doubt the let will keep trying to find a way to stop that. They like having wars to protect foriegn sources so they have something to complain about.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      Well, since Stern has never purchased a car based on gas mileage, we should get rid of mileage standards on cars.

      I mean, driving in stop-and-go Houston traffic on a limited income, horsepower and “character” really should be the deciding factor.

      It must be nice to live a life of such privilege that $1,000 a year is meaningless to you, If people were not so lazy and entitled, maybe they wouldn’t need a high gas mileage car.

      Seatbelts? You pansy. What happened to the good old days when mom just stuck her right arm out across the passenger seat to protect the kids?

      Stern, you elitist snobs just cannot think of anyone other than yourself.

      Seriously, you hear about people who complain about the gov’t having mileage, pollution, and safety standards, but it is always a bit shocking to actually meet one.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Buy what you want, HT. Just don’t restrict or control what others buy. You want a Prius, buy one. I might want a gas hog with more horese power and character. But then you might be one of those “elitist snobs just cannot think of anyone other than yourself”, the need to dictate and control others.

        Oh, right, as a kid I rode in the back of trucks, no child seats. I didn’t wear a child helmet so I wouldn’t bump my head. http://www.onestepahead.com/No-Shock-Baby-and-Toddler-Safety-Helmet.pro?source=c001&code=baby-and-toddler&medium=inhaus&link=103781&cm_mmc=google-_-PLA_Campaign-_-baby-and-toddler-_-103781&CAWELAID=120127260000052071&CAGPSPN=pla&catargetid=120127260000004154&cadevice=c&gclid=CL3_x4mOzb0CFWxp7AodQVYA3Q


      • CaptSternn says:

        HT, you know, the more I think about that slippery slope, the more I understand that you are right. It is all nonsense. It will never happen. The idea that kids would not be alowed to ride in the back of pickups, the joy of riding in the back. The very idea that kids would have to be strapped into “child seats”. Oh my goodness, can you imagine that kind of control, those kind of laws?

        What would be next? Maybe making people by health insurance? What a slippery slope that would be. Why, that would never happen, right? Just the slippery slope argument that has no basis in reality, right? That could never happen, right?

        Tell me those things cannot and will not ever happen, that the “slippery slope” is all wrong. Right?

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Cappy you call it “Libertarianism”, “freedom”, or whatever. I call it Darwinism/evolution.

        It doesn’t really matter to me except for this (and you should appreciate this):

        *I* don’t want to pay for YOUR stupidity in riding in the back of a pickup or with no child safety seats with subsidized “free” ER visits or even higher premiums because they had to spend hundreds of thousands of $$$ stuffing what passes for brains back into your thick (but yet still breakable) skull.

        And yeah you “magically” survived your youthful stupidity. Woo hoo. Apparently that somehow is interpreted as not sheer luck and ended up being detrimental to your logical reasoning and understanding of physics, statistics, and basic finance as a result.

      • Intrigued says:

        Stern you might be surprised that something like a hybrid might entertain you just as much as your need for speed sports car and truck. My sports car enthusiast hubby loves to see how many miles per gallon he can get with his hybrid. Sometimes it’s his only entertainment in stop and go traffic. As for me I drive a 4 door sedan with more HP than my 1989 mustang 5.0 had. Lol

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Stern…bless your heart.

        When I get a little worried about how stupid the Democrats can be and how easily they will dump all over an election cycle or two, I’m always heartened by knowledge that at some point, someone on your side is going to start complaining about the tyranny of car seats and seat belts.

        This does explain so much about the crazy day I had.

        We needed to go to the grocery store, and I was getting ready to put the boys in their car seats in my uber-cool mini-van with super-duper gas mileage. I shouted from the back door, “Come on boys, into your car seats”. They did not come, so I walked into the play room to get them. Much to my surprise, both boys had painted their faces blue and were rocking on their hobby horses shouting “freedom”, and they refused to get into their car seats. So, I disemboweled one of them, and the other was much more compliant after that.

        There are so few things upon which people can agree, and I would have assumed car seats for infants would have been one of those things. But alas…

      • way2gosassy says:

        HT you tickle the bejesus outta me!

      • Tuttabella says:

        Sometimes, when Cap and I are on a road trip, I wistfully tell him I wish I could ride in the back of the truck like when I was a kid, and he always says no. Not fair.

      • way2gosassy says:

        Tutt just yell at him I demand my “FREEDOM”

      • kabuzz61 says:

        HT, The Captain didn’t say anything to you with a snarky attitude. No reason for you to come back at him with snark.

        I have a problem with the seatbelt law for one reason, motorcycles. The riders, of all dangerous vehicles get to decide if they want to wear a helmet or not. When you allow that, but won’t allow someone with a ton of metal around them to go without a seatbelt, then the argument about just wanting us safe goes out the window. They just created another revenue stream for municipalities.

        I also buy my vehicles by looks and profile first. I did have a new Jeep but my job required me to drive 80+ miles a day on average and the 13 MPH was just to wasteful. At least to my wife, which is more or less how I traded it in for an SRX.

        I harken back to a time when men were men before some became metro sexuals. Metro sexuals just don’t understand a man’s relationship to his vehicle.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Yeah buzzy, darn those lousy metrosexuals who value human relationships over a “relationship” with a slab of metal. They just don’t unnerstan’.

      • John Galt says:

        CAFE standards were and are a terrible way to raise gas mileage. They were largely responsible for the SUV craze, because these were counted as “trucks” that for a long time were exempt from them. A better way is to price gasoline correctly, which is to tax it such that it recoups all the externalities associated with its use. Then if Sternn wants a big truck, he’s welcome to it. I’ll put my 3-series up against his Trans Am any day of the week, though.

        I have noticed a dramatic change in the last few years: would you ever have seen a truck commercial bragging about “best-in-class” mileage more than 5-6 years ago? People care about it now (for wallet reasons, if no other) and the car companies (prodded by the government) are delivering.

      • John Galt says:

        Oh, and I don’t give a rat’s behind if someone wants to ride a motorcycle without a helmet (“donorcycles”) or not buckle up. Darwin Awards, any one? But I do think that kids should be protected from their own idiocy or that of their parents. Child seats, bicycle helmet laws, pickup truck beds – these are all things that legitimately protect kids too young to make rational decisions.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Gasoline is already taxed, John. The more a person burns, the more they pay in txaes. Oddly, the states are finding the higher milage vehicles are hurting their road funds, so they are considering taxing by the mile instead of by the gallon.

      • texan5142 says:

        April 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm
        :” I’ll put my 3-series up against his Trans Am any day of the week, though.”

        Yep! Love my 3-series.

  7. CaptSternn says:

    Again with the “basic” or “minimum” income thing? I put the numbers to it based on what the activists for such a thing call for, and nobody would touch that comment with a ten foot pole. Seems to me that people that want such a thing are all starry eyed dreamers of their idea of utopia, but they can’t or won’t process the reality or even consider the consequences of such a thing. It is all “pie in the sky”. It isn’t even the Marx idea of, “From each according his ability, to each according his need.” Nothing is expected “from” the people, just give everybody enough to retire on at 18 years of age and … where does that money come from? Oops, no explanation there other than, “Well, some people will want to work dirty jobs like picking up garbage and cleaning sewers just for the enjoyment while making the same amount or even less than the handouts.”

    Ok, that out of the way, what are we going to create? Data from Star Trek: TNG, or the Terminator? Will it be Ash from Alien, or Bishop from Aliens? Or will it be like David from A.I., or the advanced robots that find him later? Or maybe the infamous HAL from 2001: a Space Odyssey?

    Are we programming in the core principles of Asimov, the Three Laws of Robotics?

    1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    2) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

    3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    I read about artificial intelligence, machines not programmed on how to move, but given the means and allowed to learn. Even machines learning to lie to acheive a goal.

    I work in IT. When will we have machines that can fix machines? What will that mean?

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      Sternn whines, “Well, some people will want to work dirty jobs like picking up garbage and cleaning sewers just for the enjoyment….”

      No, Sternn. Those jobs will be done by robots. Your profound lack of imagination always shows up in discussions like these.

      “When will we have machines that can fix machines?”

      Do you somehow feel that to be an unlikely or unusual prospect? I’m pretty sure it will happen by the time I die, if not much sooner.

      • goplifer says:

        My garbage is already picked up by robots. There is a human driver, but the truck has an automated arm that grabs and dumps the can.

        Someone may want to do that job I suppose, but it doesn’t exist around here. Perhaps there will be openings for artisanal garbage collection soon, conducted by training specialists with a passion for high quality, specialized garbage management.

        Not seeing it, but strange things keep happening.

  8. fiftyohm says:

    OK – I just Kindled the book.

    I do have a question regarding the apparent connection between our current “Information Age”, and “machine intelligence”. Fact is there exists no consensus on the definition of ‘intelligence’.

    The information age, democratized by the internet, has placed a fair fraction of all accumulated human knowledge at the fingertips of the average person. But that’s just a database, albeit a very big one. The database, coupled with instant interactive connectivity has indeed already rendered obsolete, (or nearly so), many professions. Librarians and travel agents come to mind. Real estate agents are probably next. Actually, (and suggesting more than a bit of disdain for profession), ELIZA could have replaced psychotherapists decades ago!

    Couple rudimentary logic and statistics with a massive data base, and I can see where other professions like internal medicine could be on the way out. Add to the mix some really sophisticated math models and machine learning, and meteorology is on that horizon. We could go on here, but is any of this really ‘intelligence’, at least as we seem to understand it?

    I think ‘intelligence’ is mostly about synthesis. It’s about conceptual understanding. It’s about elegance. All we’ve really achieved so far has been through the brute force of huge amounts of data, and very, very fast machines. Deep Blue, (the chess program), is not particularly elegant – though it can learn. But we’ve not achieved even the inkling of real machine intelligence. This leaves open the question how far in the future that first inkling lies, and how much further are real, useful and general implementations. “A generation” seems to me pretty bold.

    • goplifer says:

      I’m glad you mentioned the question of “intelligence.” It’s my suspicion that the exponential growth of computing power may soon expose our understanding of intelligence to be based on a misconception. Lots of people will tell you that human intelligence is all about brain power and that our brains are just high-performing computers. Maybe we’re about to learn otherwise.

      Maybe we’re about to discover something very special about what it means to be a living organism. It wouldn’t surprise me if we find that computers are persistently unable to “think” beyond their inputs, no matter how vast our computing power grows. A computer, after all, is just a very powerful calculator. We might be on the edge of some really interesting insights into the real nature of human intelligence. Maybe.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I agree. The paradigm of brain-as-computer is seriously flawed..”Intelligence” is definitely something else. The discovery of that ‘other’, and the ability to replicate it will absolutely have wonderful, and perhaps terrible, consequences.

      • way2gosassy says:

        I have always believed that the conventional and accepted methods of measuring human intelligence to be flawed in that it measures what a person has already learned and how it applies that knowledge. In my mind I see intelligence as a persons ability to “imagine” a “thing” or a concept and then create it.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        I agree with Way2. Imagination, getting a ‘seed’ of an idea and growing it, or just creating an original story, play, movie, song, etc. can’t be inputted.

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Yup, Chris is correct. A computer is nothing more than a super fast and powerful calculator. It does nothing more than preprogrammed calculations/commands really, really fast to obtain a result that some have somehow equated to human “thinking”.

        All computers have a predetermined outcome based on the inputs. We just don’t know what that outcome is until that really fast calculator spits it out. That is not “intelligence”, artificial or otherwise. As Bobo illustrated.

        So in my opinion, sporting competition will not be “computerized”, not in our lifetimes at least.

        That human unknown, variability, and necessary fallibility is what makes the competitions unpredictable and so entertaining and edge of your seat gripping.

        Any preprogrammed “mistakes” for the sake of fake “unpredictability” is just not the same. Which is probably why I never got into MaddenNFL, gameboys, xboxes, or whatever the latest variation is for “professional” video gaming. Which is probably also why various rotisserie/fantasy league gaming is so popular. Real variability and unpredictability based on real human week to week performance, not some preprogrammed simulation of an athlete’s ability.

        And Bobo paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld is a little too disconcerting. 😉

        “Not sure that humans know what they know.”

      • CaptSternn says:

        Bubba, better think again.


        This isn’t a confrontational comment, either. Being in IT means that I sometimes have a lot of free time during the day. If I have nothing to do, I have done my job and everything is working smoothly. If I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it is either because everything is crashing or because we are in the middle of a major project, which means everything is crashing. I have lots of time to read up on (sometimes) obscure stuff like this.

        I know that most people can’t know everything, which is why I am here to help. 😉

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Well Cappy, it’s great you have the free time. And the willingness to read “that leftist rag” the NYT.

        However, from the article:

        “Designers say the computing style can clear the way for robots that can safely walk and drive in the physical world, though a thinking or conscious computer, a staple of science fiction, is still far off on the digital horizon.”

        In other words, still no “ghost in the machine”. Not even close or anytime soon.

        And “mimicking” the brain and supposed programming like a neural network is all fine and dandy, but it is still a machine following its programming input or “directions” from a human.

        Yes, it may be able to “learn” (not really if you want to speak in pure scientific terms), but as Chris noted, “computers are [still] persistently unable to ‘think’ beyond their inputs”.

        It is fine and dandy that a computer can “learn” to bypass a failed transistor or to “recognize” a cat picture, but they are still instruction sets albeit slightly more sophisticated instruction sets that involve control systems and feedback loops, which were not brand new concepts in my undergraduate engineering and computer classes over 30 years ago. Sophistication and engineering implementation may have improved over the 30 years, but not the concept itself.

        Ever use the Swype software on your cell phone or any handwriting recognition software?

        They are “learning” feedback loop programs that improve its accuracy the more you use it as it collects data on your handwriting style or your writing style to recognize most frequently used words.

        But still not “thinking” or “intelligence”, artificial or otherwise.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      I not sure that humans know what they know.

      I once worked for a computer company that wanted to develop what was then called ‘artificial intelligence’ software.

      They’d sent little teams of computer specialists to follow around people who had jobs that required special skills. For example, they followed a guy who was a safety expert for valve systems that are used in very large installations.

      The company thought that if they followed him and documented his every move and decision they could build a software program that did the same things.

      They found out he didn’t always know why he took the actions he did. One time, for example, he took an action because something sounded a little different to him — not a lot different and maybe on a different day, he wouldn’t have acted on it.

      Turned out, he did uncover a minor issue that could, over time, become a major issue. But it took a long time for him to be able to say what exactly prompted him to act — and maybe he made it up just to get those pesky computer people off his back.

  9. texan5142 says:

    Nice! I do not know what I like better Chris, your postings, or the replies it generates. How is the planting going? Had ten inch of snow on Friday, glad I did not change snow tires yet . Herbs and Winter Onions are poking there heads up. Ahhhhhhh! Spring is in the air.

  10. Bobo Amerigo says:

    Do any of these authors speculate how machine intelligence is or is not gearing up for climate change?

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