Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ray Kurzweil may be the equal opposite of Woody Allen

If Woody Allen had exactly the opposite worldveiw, he might be Ray Kurzweil.
I get a kick out of Kurzweil's calm, confident optimism. His response to critics seems to follow a comical pattern; "well, actually I Have taken that objection into account, and here's this body of overwhelming evidence that really aught to satisfy any more empirically motivated objections." Must get frustrating having to respond that way so often.

I decided to respond with "artist" when someone asked me what I'm all about at dinner. That's the first time I've ever applied that as a primary label, and it was interesting to see how that colored the listeners' reception as I described my ambigrams and sculpture project. Followed by "I'm also a quantitative analysis grad student. And I work at Toyota." ha, maybe someday I'll be cool.

Speaking of artistry, I made my first-ever sales this weekend. One was a t-shirt sold to my cousin, (thanks Amanda! (she picked the coolest one by far)), the other was more of an award... I won a sandwich for having one of the three best decorated pumpkins at work, LOL. Thx Becky for letting me spoil your son's pumpkin!

I may need to move to San Jose immediately. I was stuck by the youthful energy the whole place has, so many enthusiastic, brilliant kids with radical ideas. I spoke with a guy whose spending a very nice chunk of cash on a sea-steading project (he left Google to pursue this), and a guy who's running a startup that uses custom ontologies to enrich text-data mining software... Meaning that it gives a context for a program to uses as a structure to glean meaning from documents. Very cool.

Also met a couple other former google engineers, all doing interesting stuff. One guy (my age) writes a genetics blog, and one of his readers gave him a stipend so that he can live comfortably while he gets his phd. How cool is that! Btw a blog reader was also the source of the funding for the sea-steading project; so consider this an open invitation to give me a grant/fellowship to pursue any of the ideas I write about.

Another very cool character is Anna from the singularity institute. An excerpt from our conversation:

Me: ah, so you aim to be humanity's savior then, Eh?
Anna: No no, just to reduce the chance that humanity drives itself to extinction with careless AI projects. There's a significant difference.

Her casual conversation was interestingly inflected with her math background, as the comment above subtly hints at. I especially liked her because in response to my sculpture project she said "Thats very Hofstaderian, have you showed it to him?" I was pleased with the casual assumption that it could be as simple as that, that I could just go Show him. Perhaps I'll give you a ring one of these days, Doug.

On that subject, I also had the interesting experience of being able to ask: "are you familiar with the guts of Copycat?" and actually get an affirmative answer. I suspect that can't be Too uncommon, considering that Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies is not an uncommon book (not to mention GEB), but it's certainly the first time I've brought it up in a conversation and had the reference immediately understood by Two other parties in the conversation.

San Jose itself is quite lively and beautiful. I saw quite a lot of dance clubs, I would be interested to see if the more chill sort of music scene thrives there also.