How Do We Stop a Bad AI from Hurting Us?

I just published a review of Nick Bostrom’s book “Superintelligence: Paths, Danger, Strategies”.

Pdf of the review: Gordon – Superintelligence Book Review (Spring 2015 IST)

My basic thesis?  AIs need a Freudian superego to keep them from getting uppity.

The review appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Issues, the thought magazine of the National Academies of Science

Let me know what you think.

Two Philosophies About “The Room”

For whatever reason, our metaphor for interaction in business life is “The Room.”

“Working the room.”  “Every eye in the room was on him.”  “She had the room eating out of her hand.”

I just finished teaching a group of business-school students, and a good chunk of their grade was their participation in class and on their teams.

I found myself distinguishing two philosophies about participation, about “the room”, and I found myself appreciating one philosophy much more than the other.

Philosophy #1: “Be the smartest person in the room.”  Very understandable that kids would learn this in school, their first “room”.  In the schoolroom, the smartest kid gets the strokes.

But I got introduced to Philosophy #2 some years ago, and it makes more sense for most situations, for most grown-ups, for most rooms that are not set pieces like classrooms: “Be the one who helps the room move forward.”

I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and doing my first presentations to big audiences, also my first consulting gigs.  A colleague approached me after one session we had worked on together and said, “You know, Dan, being the smartest person in the room isn’t always the right strategy.”

“Huh?  What?”

“Your strategy is to be the smartest guy in the room.  And you do it really well.  But it’s not always the right thing.”

“What’s a better strategy?”

“Everyone in that room is there trying to do something, solve some problem, move something forward, that’s why they’re in the room.  I try to help move the room forward.”

“What does that mean?”

“Find out what people are trying to do, and help them figure out how to do it.”

I kept thinking about this, and thinking about it.  My colleague was so right.

So fast-forward to these kids.  They were supposed to fill out online forms after each class discussing what they had contributed to class that evening.

And almost every one of them put in stuff where they had said something smart, where they had said something that could have made them the smartest person in the room.

A couple of students got it, though: they talked about what they had said or done that helped the class move forward, or helped their team move forward.

They were the ones who got my votes for best class participation.  Like they say here, “If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Poached Eggs with Greens and Goat Cheese on Toast

I’m sure you know how it is with food: it speaks to us in a welter of voices and feelings: whispers, sighs, hot voice in the ear.

So last night, on my way back home, thinking about dinner, I got an authoritative “Poached Eggs” from my limbic system.

I like them.  I’m not very good at making them (they spread out too much or else the yolks get too hard).  Good chance to practice.

But what to make with them?  I had noshed at the last event of the day — a reception for some teams finishing up an Entrepreneurship course — and didn’t want some blowout dish like Eggs Benedict or hash and eggs.

Epicurious to the rescue.  They had a dish called “Poached Eggs with Ramps” that looked like the ticket.


That’s theirs.

Well, needless to say, I didn’t have any ramps, but I did have some baby chard from the farmer’s market.

And I didn’t have goat cheese, but I had some La Tur, which is a blend of goat, sheep, and cow.

Safe improvisations, both.

And I had some nice gnarly-looking multigrain bread to give some bottom to the piece.

So, I sauteed the chard with olive oil and salt


As I feared, I ran into trouble with the eggs.  First egg spread way out, even with the vinegar in the water.



Second egg went a bit better, and I knew enough by now to get them out of the water before the yolks turned to adamantine,


20150306_195228Here’s the final result.  Not too shabby, and very tasty.


A decisive answer to that limbic voice.



“Delicious Broccoli-Rice bake”

So, Debbie went out of town last night for a few days.  Perversely (since the whole genesis of Crummycook was spelling her in the kitchen) her trips generally bring the Crumster out of retirement.   And so it was last night.

I looked up “brown rice” (I had a couple of cups cooked left over) and “ricotta” (because we have a pint of it and this happens all the time: we use a bit of it for one recipe and then the rest eventually goes to mold).

Guess what?  My beloved Epicurious let me down.  Nothing for these two except some recipe that didn’t look very interesting.

So I just googled the ingredients, and one that came up — from — was a casserole-type dish with brown rice and broccoli… and ricotta.

Broccoli-Rice casserole

Not the best picture, but you can see what it looks like.  Cheesy on top, with chunks of broccoli throughout a rice-and-cheese matrix.

Pretty good.  No one to do criticism and self-criticism with, so not much to say in that regard.  But I’d cook it again, although with fewer pots and pans.  I somehow filled the sink with apparatus making this, and it’s not that hard.

Maybe I should go back to past Crummycook recipes and reduce the pot-and-pan count…