All of them are working on the most basic fundamental components that are prerequisites to a Primer and every prerequisite is still pretty far off: no one can currently build a useful conversational agent (anything beyond query-and-response of Alexa), no one can really extract useful semantic meaning from text comments with surrounding context, no one can construct good automatic customized lessons for 5th graders based on feedback loops. There is no meaningful version of a primer that can exist without all of those things just being solved problems.
Given the inability to meaningfully execute in any of those areas, the challenges listed in the article seem laughably meaningless to me: the problem of "they won't use it 24/7, so the system wouldn't be able to learn everything it needs to" is meaningless if we can't make something learn something from 24/7 use. Similarly, a system diagram showing that it would be a book with sensors and smarts doesn't really seem to be providing any insight at all.
The article mentions several times the concerns about getting enough user specific data and that it can't be easily bootstrapped by a smaller company that isn't the "big 5" because others don't have enough data. Except the big 5 can't solve related and easier problems yet with the data they have and a ton of engineering effort invested. The article ponders whether a primer for the hardest topics (educated adults) could have enough usage while we can't even do "make something that usefully, intelligently adapts to teach users even trivial topics or targeting a single grade of very young children", or "something that can hold a conversation better than a toddler".
There's a reason why Stephenson had the Primer commissioned by an infinitely rich eccentric and built by a rebel engineer. What I suspect the author is hinting at by talking about data isn't that the data is hard to get, it is that for any company in our society with access to that level of resources to start making machines to mold young minds would be a pretty short road to a pretty boring dystopia.
The Amazon Kindle was also codenamed "Fiona" after another main character, Fiona Hackworth.
The OLPC was actually Nicholas Negroponte's second attempt at getting inexpensive computing to the developed world; I know because I worked for his first attempt at the CMIRH in 1982 & 1983. The Diamond Age wasn't even published until 1995.
This isn't to say that many OLPC folks weren't inspired by the book, but the OLPC's inspiration goes much further back.
Tech advances have made it possible to buy pretty inexpensive laptops but I'm not sure how much credit OLPC deserves for that.
I found it to be a slight turn-off, but if what you say is true, I'm more inclined to give Stephenson's other work more attention.
Is it Gene Wilder doing a front flip in his first scene in Willie Wonka so you never quite trust him again?
You know, speaking for a friend.
1) A clever if superficial name,
2) A dumb name because it's too obvious,
3) A clever name because it's satirizing the dumb choice of an obvious name,
4) A dumb name because the satire is also transparent...
Basically it only works on odd "Yomi layers" (see http://www.sirlin.net/ptw-book/7-spies-of-the-mind).
The rest of the book perfectly straddles the "haha-only-serious" line so I guess it's in keeping.
Isn't that a post-rationalisation? Was anyone saying that at the time?
Bud (Nell's father) is the prototypical cyberpunk character. And he's literally killed off by the events of that chapter. He plays no role in Nell's life, he's never brought up again, it's Stephenson saying this novel is literally post-cyberpunk.
Snow Crash, despite being a train-wreck in terms of narrative cohesion, plotting, and basically every other measure of fiction as a craft, is just about perfect mind-candy. I reread it about two years ago, and it was almost as good as the first time.
Later work like Anathem, I think, starts showing him as a mature author, finally paying as much attention to the craft of writing as the ideas.
Diamond Age... I dunno. Certainly had its moments, and the exploration of 90s-era anarcho-capitalist crypto-anarchy themes was solid, but it really didn't grab me that much. The writing was less uneven than Snow Crash, but a lot of the crazy brilliance was missing.
 Still flunking Fictional Narrative Endings 101, but apparently that's intentional.
How is that intentional, I’m curious?
I love his books but I hate hate hate HATE how he can’t ever finish one properly. I just went through seveneves and decided that maybe I really had enough of his endings.
I don't think I'm ever going to re-read it.
But REAMDE and Seveneves were just terribly disappointing and a huge letdown to me. They both seemed shallow and flat compared to the depth of story in his other books.
I don't think I can think of any other author whose books I both adore and loathe.
Seveneves was pretty good for about half the book. Then illogical events happened that culminated in "and then a miracle (really multiple miracles) happened" which really stretched my suspension of disbelief for the last part.
I don't know. If you are the last remnants of a great civilization, I can see that being elevated to the point of religion or near religion, which can help things persist for quite a long time, since it's longevity is no longer based on logic.
Also we're only getting Kathree's view into things too so who's to say how accurate the strict caricatures actually are?
Realistic or not they had thousands of years more freedom than the Diggers.
For the vast majority of our history, humans have lived far worse off than now. Sure, it's easy to tell yourself they were happy living in a simpler time in and some cases a tropical paradise, but losing most your siblings in early childhood and passing away yourself at the old age of 32 because you scraped your leg and tf got infected doesn't sound all that great to me.
That said, people of the past probably were happy. Happiness at your condition and situation seems to be highly relative. To us, it looks like a horrible punishment, but to them, it's just life, and losing your friends and family to illness and accident was likely as accepted as the fact today that you'll at some point die of old age.
THEY HAD NO SKY. They had no future but theory...
I'm not trying to convince you. I'm just saying: it was traumatizing to me.
nccebkvzngryl n uhaqerq crbcyr yvivat va n pnir sbe 5000 lrnef gur nofbyhgr veba svfg gb fheivir vg. Gur greebe bs nalguvat snvyvat. Gur furne genhzn bs 200 trarengvbaf tebjvat haqre guvf nofbyhgr hadhrfgvbanoyr yvzvgngvba...
Fgrcurafba unf ab vqrn whfg ubj qrrcyl gung jbhyq qrfgebl hf. Tenagrq gung'f cnegyl sbe gur fnxr bs univat n cybg va gur frpbaq unys, fgvyy... Nggrzcgvat gb rzcunfvmr jvgu gurz qrfgeblf zr.
It was, for lack of a better description, a callous novel.
While I admire the author's intentions, this is completely the wrong approach. There are multiple reasons why having actual human tutors is important:
0. The creation of a deep, long-lasting relationship between tutor and tutee
1. The benefits to the tutee: the feeling of pride in helping the younger generation, building empathy and understanding of what the younger generation is doing
2. The tutee is inspired to pass along their knowledge to others later in life; they learn how to tutor by being tutored, thus continuing the cycle
That last point is important. Even if a perfect Primer were created, how would it improve with time? If it truly replaced tutoring, then the art of tutoring would be lost forever, and it'd be up to software engineers to determine the metrics by which to measure the success of the Primer's tutoring algorithm.
Of course, that would never happen. Instead, tutoring by Primer would be reserved for poor people who didn't have tutors in their lives--or who had potential tutors who were scared off by the notion that they were not as effective the Primer. Then, in those communities, organic tutoring--an institution that has existed since literally the beginning of humanity--would be amputated and replaced by whatever tutoring the Primer's developers saw fit.
Real tutoring would, of course, be preserved for the ruling elite. Which I think is what happens in the book, come to think of it.
Of course I could be completely wrong. But this is the peril of MOOCs in general: students who go to first-tier schools like Harvard and Oxford get personalized instruction, while everyone else gets video lectures while glorified TAs proctor exams.
'Professors in the philosophy department at San Jose State University are refusing to teach a philosophy course developed by edX, saying they do not want to enable what they see as a push to "replace professors, dismantle departments, and provide a diminished education for students in public universities."'
For one of the girls, a single actress performed the majority of it, for the another it was whomever was available, the third would be a bit of a spoiler, so I won't say here. This was pointed to as one of the differences, with the single "tutor" being superior (their socio-economic statuses were far different as well).
It is true in the book that scaling it for the masses required pure-CG and was considered significantly inferior. Personalized instruction by an expert in the field has always been the realm of the privileged, so it's not necessarily a fault of a technology that it doesn't change this.
The primers given to the Mouse Army are not just Runcible without a ractor. Hackworth reflexively, even unconsciously proposes something more, he says something about them being made culturally appropriate or something. Doctor X doesn't see this for the threat it really is. All those little girls are being set up by Hackworth to depend on an outside leader, whereas the girls who receive Runcible are completely independent. And the Mouse Army answer not to Doctor X or even to Hackworth but to Nell.
I have spent over a decade in school and this has literally never happened to me. I went to second rate middle/high schools, so maybe teachers in "good" schools have some deep insight which makes interactions with them actually desirable?
In any way, this desperately does not scale, at the current ratios you would require a single teacher having "deep, long-lasting" relationships with ~hundred students at once, which just isn't feasible.
Even if every adult in the society got involved, the proportion drops by just about an order of magnitude. I can't imagine myself tutoring a single child, let alone ten of them!
Great tutors are great. Irreplaceable. There are approximately 900 of them in the world. Good luck hiring one of them for your child.
For an example of what kids can do in highschool, when well tutored - by excellent private tutors, look up:
AYLIP could be the major contribution of the recent boom in AI. Not just in enriching a few scummy FANGs, but actually providing real value to society.
Yes, human tutors are better, but what do you do when human tutors aren't available? Or when they can't teach you something you want to know?
That's exactly the story in The Diamond Age, the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer lands in the hands of a girl with no money and an abusive father.
This should strike even more alarm bells at a time where we are worrying about the pernicious effects of social media and maliciously targeted material (including material targeted to children).
> the Chinese orphan girls, causes them to grow up into educated and skilled robots who need a strong external leader in the form of Nell.
They're capable, skilled individuals with no individuality. At once a positive (work well together) and a negative (seemingly require external leadership to direct their efforts). So a downside to the mass adoption of the book.
The YLIP is shown as something inferior to a true parent (Miranda being Nell's surrogate parent being pointed to as a big reason for her success), but better than nothing (it was a "best availabe" tool Dr X. provided for the orphans).
Honestly, this is all human work. Rather than try to take all the value out of doing it, we really should embrace doing it, and fund those willing to do the work.
Sure, not all of them will be stellar, but some will be. That's worth a lot.
Seems to me the biggest benefit tech has brought us is so much information access that many only need guidance, experience, to be challenged, mentored.
I give back to young people in this way every chance I get. Right now, it's hard, but it's not always hard. Most of those people have come back to say thanks. It helped. They are on a path, chasing after it, whatever it is for them.
Good as it gets right now, IMHO.
(Easier than in a classroom. Typically faced with 2-dozen or more students, the teacher has little idea what curriculum each student has been exposed to. Assessing the group wrongly means having to go back and start all over. And the only possible solution still has to be general, not tailored.)
This has been and remains a wonderful dream application. If it's for all, not just for the privileged, bravo.
> I feel like the article is severely overestimating the state of the art and the current capabilities of the "big 5".
To me this is especially diplomatic!
From the OP
> Obviously we have the Primer,
WHAT?????? What do "we have"? Where is this "Primer" that "we have"?????
What here is "obvious"?
IMHO this might as well been written in Russian, and there I don't even know the alphabet!
For decades we've had multiple choice tests. Is THAT what she's talking about that "we have"?
So, could write a computer program that asks multiple choice questions and for wrong answers displays some background tutorial material. Is THAT what she has in mind?
She keeps saying "AI", that is, "artificial intelligence": Just what more specifically does she have in mind? Curve fitting with networks of sigmoid functions, with regression trees, with versions of regression?
It’s interesting to see an overview of the current state of art. Still, its too bad the conclusion is that only the big 5 have a chance (Google, Facebook, ...)
Stephenson may know his technical stuff, but it does in no way make him able to write interesting books.