From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (33)
Subject: in touch again
The failure of a major router, a communications device on the
Internet somewhere outside of King's College but in this country, put
us out of regular touch from 27 December until about noon yesterday.
Thus the problem I complained about in my improperly dressed note
from the APA conference site in New York has apparently been fixed.
We are reminded meanwhile that we have a long way to go until our
shared virtual nervous system can reliably sustain our virtual life
even in those small patches of the world to which it extends.
Meanwhile as well the birthday of HAL has been celebrated, and
according to yesterday's Guardian, in the useful Online section, a
commemorative volume is being issued with contributions from the
likes of Marvin Minsky and Roger Shank, as I recall. The article
about all this announces that the AI folks have given up on
attempting to realise the more difficult parts of HAL, which I hope
is not true because we can continue to learn important things about
ourselves from the continuing failure of AI. I was greatly encouraged
by the observation of the author of the Guardian piece that the
primary contribution of AI has been precisely this sort of increased
self-knowledge. Forgive me for a brief ride on my favourite
hobby-horse, but it does seem to me that humanities computing needs
to absorb this lesson of the enlightening failures of applied
computing. Which is not to say that even in retrospect I am happy
about the failure of that router. If our toys don't work we cannot
make them fail in interesting ways!
Happy New Year.
King's College London / Strand / London WC2R 2LS
+44 0171 873-2784 / Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk