Saturday, April 16, 2011

saturday night reading

"[poet and computer afficienado brian] christian goes on to make the subtler, poetic point that human talk is not just an exchange of axioms, or even of emotionally coded abbreviations, but an activity of compressed communication and the nimbleness with which we compress it--between our knowledge that in everything we say we have to leave out a lot of information for economy's sake and our ability to make that economy itself eloquent and informative. an ideal instance of compression in balance with concision. what sounds to the outsider limited and repetitive is to the knowing listener as nuanced as henry james. when one eleven-year-girl says to another eleven-year-old girl, 'so then, like, the teacher got all, like, all of you, I guess, are, like, going to have to do a, like, I don't know, a makeup test. so! like, yeah,' she means: 'the teacher, becoming heated'--that's why she 'got, like,' rather than 'said, like'--'announced, in effect, that many of us (I suppose, at a first approximation, all) will, at some point in, as it were, the near future, have to take what actually amounts to, when all is said and done, a secondary makeup test. I have indignant feelings about this--as who among us would not?--but I recognize their essential futility.' all of this is completely clear to the knowing listener, but it's been impossible, so far, to teach a machine to, you know, like, really, like, get it."

--from "get smart: how will we know when machines are more intelligent than we are?" by adam gopnik in the april 4, 2011, issue of the new yorker

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