artificial intelligence

Reading Roundup: Facebook, Fires, Fashion, and More

Freaky Fires

While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.

It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.

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.

The Tipping Point: Can American Institutions Be Saved?

Depending on how you spin it, the recent government shutdown was either an example of the Republicans cynically rolling the Democrats, or the Democrats electing to strategically fold their tents and fight for the Dreamers another day. Either way, nobody was playing chess; it was more like 52 pickup. So even though President Donald Trump contributed little to the process, other than reneging on an early compromise agreement, he somehow came out looking a trifle less inept than everyone else.

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.

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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