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The result is systems that can produce text that is very compelling when we as humans make sense of it. But the systems do not have any understanding of what they are producing, any communicative intent, any model of the world, or any ability to be accountable for the truth of what they are saying. … When people seek information, we might think we have a question and we are looking for the answer, but more often than not, we benefit more from engaging in sense-making: refining our question, looking at possible answers, understanding the sources those answers come from and what perspectives they represent, etc. Consider the difference between the queries: “What is 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Celcius?” and “Given current COVID conditions and my own risk factors, what precautions should I be taking?”

From All-knowing machines are a fantasy by Emily M. Bender and Chriag Shah.

#area #AI

Hacker News published a link to an opinion piece by Paul Krugman on blockchain. In it Krugman writes:

A blockchain is a digital ledger associated with an asset, recording the history of transactions in that asset — who bought it from whom and so on. The asset could be a digital token like a Bitcoin, but it could also be a stock or even a physical thing like a shipping container. Ledgers, of course, are nothing new. What’s distinctive about blockchains is that the ledgers are supposed to be decentralized: They aren’t sitting on the computers of a single bank or other company; they’re in the public domain, sustained by protocols that induce many people to maintain records on many servers.

These protocols are, everyone tells me, extremely clever. I’ll take their word for it. The question I’ve never heard or seen satisfactorily answered, however, is, “What’s the point?” Why go to the trouble and expense of maintaining a ledger in many places, and basically carrying that ledger around every time a transaction takes place?

Krugman’s answer and the Hacker News comment consensus is: Nothing. At best, it’s a solution is search of a problem.

I don’t agree. I think it’s a solution in search of a user interface. The first people grokked, if it all, is bitcoin. Because, money. But that’s not all:

Can these problems be solved in other ways? Of course. Is blockchain and interesting way to solve these: yes.

In a world where billionaires can disrupt social communications by buying a platform, war and its crimes continue to be perpetrated, and government records are removed from public view, decentralized tools using a ledger can help us maintain the past, understand the present, and collaborate into the future.

#area #technology #blockchain

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