‘Why We Needn’t Fear the Machines’ is a feel-good piece by science writer Christopher Mims in 1dec14 WSJ. I have no idea what the man’s educational credentials are, but from his article it is safe to say they are not much (his Facebook page omits his education). Mims' piece looks like a promo for the current movie ‘Imitation Game’ about computer pioneer Alan Turing. In the piece he makes some wild claims about what Turing taught and thought, while completely missing what is going on in the field of computer science.
His flagship proposition, what he calls “a basic truth”, is that “the machines we create are not, indeed cannot be, one-for-one replacements for humans”. In a sense that he no doubt misses, machines have already become one-for-many replacements for humans in more fields than we can count.
But where he really blows a tire is by claiming that Turing himself gave rise to the notion that machines “indeed cannot be” replacements for humans. Turing made no such claim, and Mims seems to confirm his claim by having interviewed “mathematicians, philosophers, physicists, and even neuroscientists”. Somehow computer scientists were not worthy to be included in the list. Mims also considers that the only kind of computers that man is limited to is the so-called ‘Turing Machine’ which can functionally mimic almost all the computers that now exist. But for some reason the notion of accelerating technology is totally missed, Mims’ concept of the art of the possible is limited to the current state of our knowledge frozen in time (without even so much as look back at how rapidly we have arrived here).
I have no idea what is the purpose of this one-sided and flawed piece, and why the WSJ decided to include it. The layman will walk away from it with the comfort that, as a human worker, he is safe; no machine will be able to take his job. He should only talk to the millions already so displaced.
ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, it “controls the root zone of domain names and addresses on the Internet.” This has been a non-profit American enterprise located in California that has done a wonderful job of managing the Internet ever since America invented that technology. Now the America Last crowd in Washington, led by Team Obama, is planning next year to give up American control that has kept the Internet facile and free of politics. Once we give it up, ICANN will come under international control with its board members coming from some of the biggest autocracies on earth. Even Bill Clinton opposed Obama when the messiah introduced that as his latest bad idea (where does he get that garbage for public policy, can we blame it all on Valerie Jarrett?). Clinton said, “A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the US want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on internet freedom.”
A Republican Congress should do all that it can to put a stop to this travesty. As Gordon Crovitz writes in ‘Halfway to Wrecking Internet Freedom’, “The Obama administration is so uncomfortable with Ametrican exceptionalism that it violated the cardinal rule of good government: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
[3dec14 update] The other day I was perusing RR comments over the past years, and was struck by how frequently and vehemently our leftwing readers continued to expound their views and analyses concluding the imminent demise and/or shrinking into insignificance of the Republican Party. As with the climateers, they seem to have become quite sanguine about the passing reality since issuing those dire predictions. Today, in addition to blithely ignoring their manifest and manifold errors, they also seem to overlook what such ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ prognostications indicate about their understanding of the national political scene, its history and dynamics. Nevertheless, the best policy, it seems, is to just soldier on unphased, letting bygones be bygones, and remaining as certain as ever about their capabilities in the arena.