Excursions by Amit Gawande

Reads I Liked (13-Aug)

Here’s a list of articles I liked throughout the day.

1. I do not think there is any debate on whether Artificial Intelligence will have some unplanned consequences. There would be. It is as good as a new species. And when two new species start communicating with one another, there would be hiccups and miscommunication. I guess the only fear is this time the other species might actually be smarter. Wired has some interesting real life examples covered.

Given a clear goal, an algorithm can master complex tasks, such as beating a world champion at Go. But even with logical parameters, it turns out that mathematical optimization empowers bots to develop shortcuts humans didn’t think to deem off-­limits. Teach a learning algorithm to fish, and it might just drain the lake.

2. I had no idea there were multiple theories for the reason behind Dinosaurs’ extinction. I always believed the a fairy tale: Big rock from sky hits the dinosaurs, and boom they go.’” Well, that may not be the case. Bianca Bosker has a fascinating coverage.

Before the asteroid hypothesis took hold, researchers had proposed other, similarly bizarre explanations for the dinosaurs’ demise: gluttony, protracted food poisoning, terminal chastity, acute stupidity, even Paleo-weltschmerz—death by boredom. These theories fell by the wayside when, in 1980, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Luis Alvarez and three colleagues from UC Berkeley announced a discovery in the journal Science

3. Being ethical is not black and white. It is almost impossible to lead a life which you claim has been ethical and to make everyone agree. However, figuring out how to live the good life is fun” - a great essay by Ephrat Livni.

By virtue of accidents of birth, we find ourselves unfairly profiting from all kinds of inequalities, depending on where we are born, who our parents are, our racial or ethnic backgrounds, and more. Your passport determines more than just access—it means you are the beneficiary, albeit abstractly, of actions you may not approve. Most of us, wherever we live, are funding wars or policies we disagree with. We can’t help but do wrong.

4. A much-needed account from a non-profit group that reunites refugees around the world with families”. Another reminder that we humans have heart beating incessantly within. Some may have painted it black, but as a species, we will keep fighting back.

While hundreds of families separated at the US–Mexico border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance” policy remain apart, a Michigan woman has inspired people to help reunite loved ones by donating their frequent flyer miles.”

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