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Google’s AI could probably beat you at Atari

What’s significant in this story is not that a computer can perform tasks more efficiently than a human, but that the computer in question is not deploying a pre-programmed strategy; it is instead teaching itself how to win. When IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, and the artificially intelligent Watson computer won the quiz show “Jeopardy!” in 2011, these were considered impressive technical feats, but…

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Reflections on Flannery O’Connor’s “The River”

I’m teaching “The River” today in an “Introduction to Literary Study” course. Demonstrating that we know what to do if we ever encounter such a little boy in real life won’t help us to understand O’Connor’s literary accomplishment. From a Catholic perspective, the mysteries of God are beyond anyone’s understanding. Anyone who prays for God to help them win the ball game (“listen to my prayers, not the prayers of…

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FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules For ‘Open Internet’

Verizon and Comcast lobbyists hang their heads. Technolibertarians rejoice… within reason. The full text of the policy has not been released, so we’re not sure exactly what the policy means for supporters of keeping the Internet open and weird. The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one…

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What do students need to know about rhetoric?

I love giving the “what is rhetoric” lecture in my freshman writing seminar. Most students have at least heard of a rhetorical question, but most don’t know what “rhetoric” means, nor have they heard of logos, pathos and ethos. The first thing that students need to know about rhetoric, then, is that it’s all around us in conversation, in movies, in advertisements and books, in body language, and in art.…

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Lincoln’s last play; or, the continuing fascination with “Our American Cousin”

E. A. Sothern as the foppish and silly Lord Dundreary stole the show. His part was originally small, but his ad libs were received so well by the audience that his part was expanded. Our American Cousin wasn’t just the last play President Lincoln saw.  It  was one of the great commercial successes of its day.  It made a star our of E. A. Sothern and cemented the reputation of…

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The dark future of American space exploration: NASA’s golden age is about to come to a thudding halt

I remember, as a kid, being thrilled by the images that came in from the Voyager flybys in the late 70s and 80s. I wrote a fan letter to NASA when I was about 11, and received a big stack of glossy publications on the Space Shuttle and commercial technologies spun off from NASA inventions. If NASAs New Horizons mission to Pluto is extended beyond 2017, the entire active human presence at…

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Police respond to Twitter bot sending death threat to another Twitter bot

Jeffry built himself a harmless little Twitter bot. His intent was to create something that remixed his previous tweets into new — and hopefully coherent — sentences. No big deal, right? Except that when his bot happened to pick up on a tweet from another Twitter bot and made mention of a specific event, the resulting output looked a bit too much like a death threat. Whoops! –Geek.com.