John Oliver on Net Neutrality

For anyone interested in an “open Internet” (not as the big cable companies and wireless carriers define it), take a look at this entertaining coverage of the new Net Neutrality proposal by the FCC. Please comment on the new proposal at the FCC website.

You can also learn more at the Entertainment Consumers Association website here. Through the ECA website, you can provide your information and it will generate form letters for your local representatives in Congress, the President of the United States, and the FCC.

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Sietch Nevada concept straight from Frank Herbert’s DuneSietch Nevada concept straight from Frank Herbert’s Dune

Dune Book Cover

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Dune. I found my way to this interesting conceptualization, Sietch Nevada, through my regular StumbleUpon clicking. For those not familiar with Dune by Frank Herbert, please check it out! It is an excellent novel, as described in my review. I find it interesting how many ideas are drawn from Sci-Fi. Everyday technology like cell phones, video conferencing, and robots (well maybe not everyday yet), were hinted to by authors long before they were developed. I find the Sietch concept intriguing because I lived in Phoenix, AZ for many years. A few years after I left, I started hearing about how Lake Powell, fed by the Colorado River, might dry up soon. I thought that it meant there would be no more water, but experts are referring to “dry” as unable to generate hydroelectric power. So, not only will water levels be low, but there could be power shortages as well!

IBM’s Watson beats Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad RutterIBM’s Watson beats Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter

For all of you geeks that have had your head in the sand, artificial intelligence has hit a milestone. Yesterday, IBM’s Watson trounced these bags of meat known as Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in Jeopardy. If I ruined the result of the match, I apologize, but I figure posting a day after is enough notice for anyone that was following this from the start. For some more background on Watson and behind the scenes info, check out my original post on this. I have to admit that I was rooting for Watson from the start. I was a bit worried when after the first day in the tournament Watson was only tied for first place. I’m not sure what happened between the first and second matches, but Watson rocketed ahead in the second day and never looked back.

I think IBM might have been in a rush to show off their new creation. It was interesting to see the answer confidence levels during the rounds, often revealing some really wacky possible answers. Watson crashed several times during the second day of filming, nothing a regular viewer would notice while watching the recorded match on TV.  One criticism I’ve heard about the match was that Watson was fed the questions electronically rather than relying on voice and character recognition. I have to agree that the electronic delivery could have been an advantage.  Had voice recognition and OCR  functionality been used in Watson, the victory would be quite a bit more impressive. I could clearly see the two mere mortals struggling to buzz in and shake in frustration when Watson was faster. The producers touted the physical buzzer plunger that Watson had to activate, but I still think that Watson had the advantage.

I would be interested to see a rematch in a year but with only inputs into Watson be voice and video of the Jeopardy board. After all, Deep Blue was given a second chance versus Garry Kasparov, so why not give the humans a second chance on more equal footing? It is quite possible that programming algorithms over the year would improve enough so that Watson still would win, despite the reliance of voice recognition and OCR. In that case, the victory would mean that much more. Even if you know the outcome already, I still recommend watching the matches. I already saw the Nova special, so I skipped through most of the background stuff from the IBM folks. Here is a link to my YouTube  playlist that has the three episodes broken into 6 videos. Check it out! Then you can tell your grandchildren how you watched a computer beat humans in Jeopardy for the first time. Then they’ll ask, “Humans were allowed to play Jeopardy back then?”

Teenager gets a bionic hand that Luke Skywalker would envyTeenager gets a bionic hand that Luke Skywalker would envy

Luke Skywalker's Cyborg Hand

Luke Skywalker's Cyborg Hand

OK, maybe Luke wouldn’t envy this hand, but it looks like we are much closer to the technology in The Empire Strikes Back when he gets his hand lopped off by his father. Matthew James is a boy born with a defect that stopped the growth of his arm at the wrist. He just got a brand new hand with the help of the Mercedes F1 Team. Matthew actually wrote Mercedes, the car maker, to ask for help getting an i-Limb Pulse prosthesis in return for displaying their logo on it.

After receiving the letter in June, Mercedes invited Matthew to their headquarters, where he toured the factory and met racing legend Michael Schumacher.

The company [Mercedes] said they were unable to pay for the hand but agreed to help Matthew raise the money, by asking fans and sponsors to make donations.

Mercedes couldn’t pay for the hand? That seems hard to believe. Anyway, it’s a good read so check it out. There was a follow-up video that I’m embedding below.

Via The Telegraph