Archive for February 15th, 2011

Got a Secret? About PLL’s “Je Suis Un Ami” and “The New Normal”

Does the reduced frequency of my Pretty Little Liars’ reviews reflect perhaps a taming of my zeal for the show or a latent unhappiness with the second half of the first season?

I want to quell such worries now. Sure, the last few episodes — including the last two — have not been as transcendent as I came to expect each week’s offering to be. But I’ve grown to appreciate the subtle genius on a week-to-week basis. It’s kind of like watching Tim Duncan in 2011.

I, for one, was nothing short of stunned to see that last night’s episode wasn’t Valentine’s Day themed. In fact, there wasn’t a single mention of V-Day. I suppose they didn’t know the air dates when filming, but these days, every show seems to put out a Valentine’s Day special. Part of me was happy to see PLL buck that trend, and part of me wanted to see what it would have looked like.

Let’s look back on “Je Suis Un Ami” and “The New Normal”:

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How Does Watson Know What Watson Knows?

Watson, the IBM supercomputer designed to play Jeopardy!, made his television debut yesterday, and while the game may not be over, it was a very auspicious start. Watson is currently tied with one of Jeopardy’s most successful champions, Brad Rutter, and is currently leading the most famous contestant ever, Ken Jennings.

This is pretty amazing on a lot of levels. Computers have been “smart” for a very long time (dating back to at least whenever we started teaching them chess), but Watson takes it to another level. For one, it’s worth pointing out that Watson is not connected to the Internet. In other words, Watson is storing all of the information it has for itself. More impressive, the computer can understand the intricacies of human language better than any other machine, since it has to not only generate information, but also generate the specific piece of information that the clue is looking for. Not to mention the fact that Jeopardy! clues are known for being full of wordplay and allusions that seem particularly troubling for a computer to digest.

While all this is impressive and important to the world of artificial intelligence, I’m more interested in another epistemological component of Watson’s thought process: How does Watson know what it knows? Continue reading

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