Tag Archives: Stephen Hawking

No Robots!

I wonder if the people at this year’s SXSW tech conference who were protesting against continuing advancements in artificial intelligence understand that A.I. and robots are not the same thing.

I understand their concerns; we have seen rapid advancements lately in artificial intelligence thanks to significant investments in the field, especially deep learning, by Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and Google. Couple that with warnings from people who know what they are talking about, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking and it sounds like things could get out of hand.

Meet your new daddy

Meet your new daddy

Stephen Hawking’s speech system gets an upgrade, comes with dire warning

This week there are two important stories, both relating to Stephen Hawking and to topics we have discussed previously in class. The first involves an upgrade to the system he uses to communicate, and the second is a dire warning from the man himself.

First, regarding the system he uses to communicate. For the first time in twenty years, it has received a major overhaul in how it operates. The story was all over the place, however none of the articles about it did a very good job in discussing how it actually works. Instead, they all mentioned a cheek-operated switch attaches to an infrared sensor on his glasses that lets him use the system. That’s a non-explanation, and even the person involved directly with the process did a terrible job of explaining it as you can see in the video on this USA Today page, so hopefully I can add some additional detail that will help explain how it operates.

It’s true that because of his affliction he only has relative control over the muscles in his cheek, and that is how he interacts with his PC. Via an infrared switch on his cheek, which communicates with an infrared receiver on his glasses that then sends a signal to a USB key on the bottom of his wheelchair that then communicates the choice to the PC, he can make selections on a screen. You can see the sensor in his picture below, and it works like this:


Google raises Turing Award prize to $1 million

So much comes together with this announcement. The Turing Award, created by the Association for Computing Machinery (of which I’m a member, full disclosure) is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for computer science. Founded in 1966 and valued at $250,000, it has been awarded for advancements and developments in all areas of computer science, from programming achievements to hardware to OS design and development, although it tends to skew towards methodologies and programming, which is understandable; it is a computer science award after all.

Previously jointly-funded by Intel and Google at a value of $250,000, Google has taken over the award funding after Intel ceased involvement and raised the value to $1 million. Considering the impact technology and computer science have in our lives (and the Alan Turing-based Google Doodle they created for his 100th birthday; do those numbers look familiar?), I think it’s about time, and it puts the Turing Award in league with the Nobel Prize, although the financial award for that fluctuates.

Watch Stephen Hawking Be Hilarious

Just a quick post to highlight the below clip of Stephen Hawking’s appearance on John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight.” Although there is some science talk, it is more an example of Dr. Hawking’s exceptional sense of humor, which is to be expected of the smartest man on earth who has also appeared in multiple episodes of both The Simpsons and Futurama (Did I mention his appearances on Futurama?). He also is involved in science, apparently.

The video is below, enjoy it in all its glory.