Sunday, October 14, 2018

Bob Doran - R.I.P.

I'm really sad to have just learned that my colleague Bob Doran has died. He had been fighting cancer for many years and has finally succumbed. He was a founder of my Computer Science department in 1982 and in recent years was the curator of our excellent computer history museum, a passion that I shared with him. Though, I have to say I wasn't as interested in the history of the New Zealand Tote as he was. He was a regular contributor to this blog on all aspects of computing history and I will miss him dearly. My sincere condolences to his wife, Joyce, and his family.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

'The discourse is unhinged': how the media gets AI alarmingly wrong

In June of last year, five researchers at Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research unit published an article showing how chatbots can simulate negotiation-like conversations. They also showed that the chatbots sometimes talked with each other in a non-standard form of English they seemed to have invented. The media jumped on this and started likening the event to the rise of Skynet in the Terminator movie. Zachary Lipton, an assistant professor at the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, watched with frustration as this story transformed from “interesting-ish research” to “sensationalized crap”. The Guardian has an interesting article on how AI is commonly reported.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Welcome to the Myra Cohen Department of Computer Science

As New Zealand celebrates it's historic decision, 125 years ago, to give women the vote my department has renamed itself, for one week, the Myra Cohen Department of Computer Science after an illustrious female graduate, Myra Cohen a friend of mine. Women have always played an important role in the development of Computer Science. Two of my favourite heroines would be Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Māori and Machine Learning

Māori and Machine Learning, might not seem like a natural pairing. However, for Māori Language Week Spark have released Kupu, an app for your smartphone that will help you improve your vocabulary. Take a photograph of an object and the app will use Google's object recognition system to recognise it and then tell you what it is in Māori. It will speak the word as well so you can hear the correct pronunciation. Kupu is available for iOS and Android.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Memo That Allowed IBM's Women to Get Married

My colleague, Bob Doran, brought this piece of computing history to my attention. Imagine a time when women employed by IBM had to quit when they got married! This article in The Atlantic recounts one woman's experience of, what now seems, a bizarre situation. Thankfully times have moved on.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Use your library

I'm a huge fan of my local library and am really puzzled that people will spend their money on buying books they will probably only read once when they can read the same books for free from the library. I travel a lot and I love my e-book reader on my iPad; being able to travel with a dozen books that weigh nothing and take up no space is just great. Auckland Council Library has for several years provided e-books that you can download to your device and read for free, but the service wasn't easy to use. However, this has all changed with their new app, Libby, available on Android and iOS. The app makes browsing and searching for books simple and then you can download and read them directly, "easy as", as they say in New Zealand. Moreover, they have another app, RBDigital, that provides you free access to 100s of magazines. So go and join your local library, read more and save money!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The 2018 Top Programming Languages

IEEE Spectrum has published its fifth annual interactive ranking of the top programming languages. As they point out: "because no one can peer over the shoulders of every coder out there, anyone attempting to measure the popularity of computer languages must rely on proxy measures of relative popularity." Auckland University's very own R language is in 7th place reflecting the growing popularity of data science and analytics.