Five Questions for David Patterson

1. The Turing Award is often called the Nobel Prize of Computing. Counting faculty and alumni, Berkeley claims more Turing laureates than almost any other university in the world. That surprises a lot of people. Should it?

Let’s just say our competitors aren’t burdened with an overdeveloped case of humility.

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Forget the Robot Apocalypse. Order Lunch.

The robot and I met at the southwest corner of Center and Shattuck. It was 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the streets were bustling. The robot was small and boxy, something like a cooler on wheels. I knelt down at what I presumed was the robot’s front end. It winked a pixilated eye.

Following instructions I’d received in advance, I raised a hand and flashed an “okay” sign. The robot emitted a pleasant dinging sound and a hatch on top slowly opened. I reached in and removed a grease-stained paper bag. Inside were two slices of warm pizza.

Super Curious Mario: Teaching AI to Keep Asking Questions

In the ongoing quest to build artificial intelligence (AI) that more closely mimics the human brain, some computer scientists at Berkeley are focusing on one crucial piece of the puzzle: curiosity.

For the last three years Deepak Pathak and Pulkit Agrawal, Ph.D. students in the Berkeley computer science department, have worked to create software that can learn on its own. Now the team is looking at creating systems that can not only learn, but keep asking questions.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

Should We Be Worried About Rogue AI? We Ask the Experts.

Technoscenti titans Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have gotten into a bit of a tiff lately, with Musk repeating warnings that rapidly developing artificial intelligence (AI) poses an existential threat to humanity, and Zuckerberg countering that such concerns are much ado about not much.

Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged

As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

The Good, The Bad and The Robot: Experts Are Trying to Make Machines Be “Moral”

Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. Human beings begin to learn the difference before we learn to speak—and thankfully so. We owe much of our success as a species to our capacity for moral reasoning. It’s the glue that holds human social groups together, the key to our fraught but effective ability to cooperate. We are (most believe) the lone moral agents on planet Earth—but this may not last. The day may come soon when we are forced to share this status with a new kind of being, one whose intelligence is of our own design.

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