miscellaneous, drivel

…speaking in tongues…


I think I’m probably a really awful teacher. I’ve been cogitating on various subjects lately and as always, my mind tries to string them together in some parallel fashion.

I’ve been reading a book called ‘The Prisoners Dilemma’, which is so far about the life of Johnny von Neumann, but eventually supposed to be about game theory – a theory of strategy and conduct that people resort to, or might whether conscious or not, to gain maximum benefit in competition and cooperation. A peer of Einstein, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Fermi, and Feynman, von Neumann was considered to be one of the smartest of them all. So far the book has been mostly biographical, but interestingly talks a bit about artificial intelligence, patterns of thought and how one might make a thinking machine.

I’ve always found the concept of artificial intelligence fascinating. Aside from the question of why we need machines to think for or along side us, I wonder if their intelligence will be anything we recognize. Based on how our brains evolved, from basic life sustaining ‘routines’ into the ability for feelings and reasoning, can one skip past all of that? What motivation has a machine to learn and know more when it cannot desire, dream, lust, wish to live more fully? Because those are the parts which always motivate us. And they’re driven by irrational or at least not fully reasonable thoughts. In order to make something that thinks and learns, it must be able to imagine, I think, first and foremost…

In my morning read today, I came across an article pointing out an interesting fact. Pennies have an amount of copper in them that is worth, amazingly, 3 cents. The article was about a new federal law making it illegal for citizens to melt down pennies for copper, but said little about how on earth that sort of parity comes into being. That is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to know. I imagine it has much to do with the fact that we’re no longer on the gold standard, or any sort of standard, and that the amount of money a government prints and circulates is up to them. It’s funny to think that the ‘greatest minds’ in economics can devalue something like copper simply by stamping a profile of Lincoln’s face on it and circulating it…

There is a disconnect between the world of the experts and the laypeople, and I think it’s something that I find more than a little frightening. I sometimes get the sense that higher and further learning, being ‘intelligent’, often means developing a keen sense of myopia, missing out on the most elemental and common sense notions.

I come to thinking about this because at the back of it all I’m still working on my cookbook. Part of what I get caught up on is something that is the most difficult thing of all; actually trying to present information in a way that other people might understand it. I wonder if this alone makes me an awful teacher. I want people to have something that allows – even begs them – to think. Something that is, hopefully, even inspiring and sparks others to go about exploring, perhaps understanding or seeing things in new ways for themselves. Cooking is unique, in that it grounds yet expands the world in a way that few things can. Maybe I’m inspired more by the thought of Euclidean geometry and basic axioms – tools for figuring stuff out – even if they’re imperfect at some level, then I am about artificial intelligence or current economic theory, or simply giving someone ingredients for making cassoulet…



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