About ‘ideas’ via Knuth and Keller

29 November 2009

A few days ago I read the following Keller quote on my iGoogle.com homepage.

College isn’t the place to go for ideas. — Helen Keller (01880-01968)

A day later I received a tweet that contained a hyperlink to a Knuth related webpage that included the following quote.

I have always liked the concept of universities as they were
in Ancient Greece, where folks who had something cool to say
would just come and say it. It wasn’t about recognition; the
impetus was the thought that you were resonating with ideas.

— Donald Knuth (01938-)

Does Knuth’s quote lend credence to Keller’s quote?

If modern day universities are places to go for ideas, then why would Knuth reminisce about Acient Greece?

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A catch-22 when it comes to trusting code

26 November 2009

The following quote is from Ken Thompson’s ACM Turing Award Lecture: Reflections on Trusting Trust (1984).

You can’t trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.)

On 15 October 2009, Basil Vandegriend [1] posted an item in which he asked the following.

Would you trust your life to your code?

I pondered Basil’s query and concluded that my answer was “no.” Upon reflection, I’ve never unconditionally trusted the code that I’ve written. Many of my fellow programmers would immediately blame software glitches on hardware (or “stupid” users), but software was always my initial suspect.

A catch-22: Thompson is correct and you don’t trust your own code.

[1] Basil Vandegriend is a “senior software developer and architect specializing in Java and enterprise business software located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.”

Bell-Labs.com::Reflections on Trusting Trust


Killer robots, yuck

24 November 2009

I really don’t want to ponder killer robots, but RealityPod.com reporting on the Samsung Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot it tough to ignore.

The Intelligent Surveillance and Guard Robot is a
stationary unit armed with a 5.5-millimeter K3 machine
gun and a second gun that fires rubber bullets. It can
use its twin optical and infrared sensors to track and
identify targets from up to 2.5 miles away in the daytime
and about half that distance at night.

Stationary today, mobile to tomorrow?

It also has a microphone and speaker system to exchange
passwords with human soldiers. If the password is incorrect,
the robot can either sound an alarm or open fire on the target.

I’d want more than one chance to say the correct password because
I’d probably pull a Ralph Kramden… homina homina homina.

RealityPod.com::Samsung Unveils Fully Automated Sentry Robot
that can Track, Kill Humans


Snoop Dogg, Aristotle, Donald Knuth

21 November 2009

On back-to-back days I mined quotes by Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dogg)
and Aristotle. Dogg’s quote was about math and Aristotle’s quote was about teaching. The combination of math and teaching caused me to recall a quote by Donald Knuth about the importance of computing.

If you stop at general math, you’re only going to make general math money. — Snoop Dogg

I’m curious as to how Dogg defines “general math money.” Minimum wage? Less than six-figure salaries? Less than $1 million per year? I suspect Dogg makes abstract algebra money.

Teaching is the highest form of understanding. — Aristotle

The quotes by Dogg and Aristotle reminded me of the following quote by Donald Knuth.

It has often been said that a person does not really understand something until he teaches it to someone else. Actually a person does not really understand something until he can teach it to a computer, i. e., express it as an algorithm. The attempt to formalize things as algorithms leads to a much deeper understanding than if we simply try to comprehend things in the traditional way. — Donald Knuth [1]

Programming is how a person “teaches” a computer, yet students don’t have to learn about programming in K-12. And, many (majority of?) students get college degrees without ever learning a programming language. We are living in the CSTEM era and 21st century STEM depends on Computing, yet our educational systems seem to ignore this reality.

Aristotle might have been a dude in his day, but he didn’t have supercomputers at his finger tips. Knuth is a grossly unknown modern day polymath who would be quickly whatevered by most young people. But what about Snoop?

Snoop Dogg tells his fans to learn beyond general math. Kudos to Dogg. It would be nice if Mr. Dogg would rap about the importance of learning about the base-2 number system (i.e. the code).

[1] Donald Knuth is a “computer scientist and Professor Emeritus of the Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University.” [Wikipedia]


Augmenting human intelligence

20 November 2009

This was my Facebook posting on 02009.11.20.

It’s all about augmenting human intelligence. What happens if somebody cracks (“hacks into”) a person’s brain implant?

Direct Link Between the Brain and Computers Coming in 2020 [02009.11.20]

“It’s possible now, more than ever, to augment human intellect.” — Bill Joy (from an article about Doug Engelbart titled “The Dream of a Lifetime”)

I tweeted the following two days ago [02009.11.18]

Covered peta-scale computing in class yesterday. Student asked: Why supercomputers? Tomorrow they’ll see http://ow.ly/DkwZ

Nutshell: “IBM has simulated a brain with 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses–about the equivalent of a cat’s cortex, or 4.5% of a human brain.”

The computing roadmap at the end of 02009: 20 petaflops by 02012 and 1,000 petaflops (one exaflops) by 02018-02020.

[extra] While writing this blog entry, the following tweet from @hrheingold was received.

Engelbart’s 1962 “Augmenting Human Intellect” is well worth rereading every year or two.

I retweeted Howard Rheingold’s tweet and added the following bookmark to my Delicious.com account.

AUGMENTING HUMAN INTELLECT: A Conceptual Framework


Promoting long-term thinking

19 November 2009

I posted the following comment in response to an AzCentral.com posting by editorial writer Joanna Allhands titled “The impact of long-term forecasts.

“30-year economic forecast”… Hee-haw.

“Recovery from this recession could take decades”… I don’t know how you define “recovery,” but I keep “seeing” 02013 as being a major breakout year. In other words, the “recovery” will take decades if we assume one-year decades (and one-decade centuries). Note: I use 5-digit years for a reason. [visit LongNow.org and subscribe to the SingularityU YouTube channel]

Want to get majorily depressed? Investigate “lump of labor.” We’re not yet in the Robotics Age; consequently, this recession’s “recovery” is giving us insight into the “lump of labor” problem that is awaiting us. The next recession has the potential to make this recession look like good times. In a nutshell: We need to start electing 21st century leaders rather than 20th century political dinosaurs.


Petaflops processing yottabytes

17 November 2009

I tweeted the following two tweets on 02009.11.16…

  • Jaguar supercomputer hits 1.759 petaflops http://bit.ly/3eInDv

    A supercomputer known as Jaguar has finally bested IBM’s Roadrunner supercomputer in the biannual TOP500 list, but researchers have already begun looking into exascale supercomputers that consist of 100 million cores and run 1,000 times faster than Jaguar.

  • Yottabytes of data via PopSci.com “National Security Agency’s
    Surveillance Data Could Fill Two States by 2015” http://ow.ly/CRGE

    The NSA estimates it will have enough data by 2015 to fill a million datacenters spread across the equivalent combined area of Delaware and Rhode Island. The NSA wants to store yottabytes of data, and one yottabyte comes to 1,000,000,000,000,000 GB.