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Yonatan Zunger
Works at Google
Attended Stanford University
Lives in Mountain View, CA
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"Zoologists of Reddit, what animal do you think most people don't know exists?"

So begins a thread full of some of the weirdest-looking creatures on the planet. Prepare to get lost on the Internet for a while.

(The creature below is something called a Saiga Antelope, which lives in a few small areas of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mos Eisley Spaceport.)

h/t +Bridget Spitznagel.
Christina Teskey's profile photoSverre Rabbelier's profile photoJosh Freeman's profile photoSaravanan Thirumuruganathan's profile photo
+Cod Codliness has just ensured nobody is walking with rhythm in this thread.  O.o

(pssst hey +Yonatan Zunger wouldn't it be cool if I could've made the eyes there in blue text?)
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The way that the statistical distribution of colors in movie posters has changed over the past century. Apparently, movies posters have been getting systematically bluer and darker, especially after 1977. 

I have no idea what to make of this, it's just kind of cool. If you click on the images in the blog post, they open up and become interactive, which is also cool.

via +Steven Flaeck.
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Wonderful +Yonatan Zunger 
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Yonatan Zunger

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For the gamer who has everything: a d1. Guaranteed to give statistically perfect distributions.

Via +Theron Hitchman
1-sided dice.
Leeann Bent's profile photoJyoti Dahiya's profile photoJeremy Chatfield's profile photoGray Embry's profile photo
Yeah, but you see only one half of the side, and the two halves are distinct.
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Yonatan Zunger

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A CS question that I don't know the answer to

A conversation on another thread raised an interesting question about computers that I can't figure out the answer to: Is judging a Turing Test easier than, harder than, or equivalently hard to passing a Turing Test?

I figured I would throw this question out to the various computer scientists in the audience, since the answer isn't at all clear to me -- a Turing Test-passer doesn't seem to automatically be convertible into a Turing Test-judger or vice-versa -- and for the rest of you, I'll give some of the backstory of what this question means.

So, what's a Turing Test?

The Turing Test was a method proposed by Alan Turing (one of the founders of computer science) to determine if something had a human-equivalent intelligence or not. In this test, a judge tries to engage both a human and a computer in conversation. The human and computer are hidden from the judge, and the conversation is over some medium which doesn't make it obvious which is which -- say, IM -- and the judge's job is simple: to figure out which is which. Turing's idea was that to reliably pass such a test would be evidence that the computer is of human-equivalent intelligence.

Today in CS, we refer to problems which require human-equivalent intelligence to solve as "AI-complete" problems; so Turing hypothesized that this test is AI-complete, and for several decades it was considered the prototypical AI-complete problem, even the definition of AI-completeness. In recent years, this has been cast into doubt as chatbots have gotten better and better at fooling people, doing everything from customer service to cybersex. However, this doubt might be real and it might not: another long-standing principle of AI research is that, whenever computers start to get good at a task that was historically considered AI, people redefine AI to be "oh, well, not that, even a computer can do it."

The reason a Turing Test is complicated is that to carry on a conversation requires a surprisingly complex understanding of the world. For example, consider the "wug test," which human children can pass starting from an extremely early age. You make up a new word, "wug," and explain what it means, then have conversations about it. In one classic example, the experimenter shows the kids a whiteboard, and rubs a sponge which he calls a "wug" across it, which (thanks to some dye) marks the board purple. Human children will spontaneously talk about "wugging" the board; but they will never say that they are "wugging" the sponge. (It turns out that this has to do with how, when we put together sentence structures, the grammar we use depends a lot on which object is being changed by the action. This is why you can "pour water into a glass" and "fill a glass with water," but never "pour a glass with water" or "fill water into a glass.") 

It turns out that even resolving what pronouns refer to is AI-complete. Consider the following dialogue:

Woman: I'm leaving you.
Man: ... Who is he?

If you're a fluent English speaker, you probably had no difficulty understanding this dialogue. So tell me: who does "he" refer to in the second sentence? And what knowledge did you need in order to answer that?

(If you want to learn more about this kind of cognitive linguistics, I highly recommend Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought [] as a good layman's introduction.)

In Turing's proposal, the test was always administered by a human: the challenge, after all, was to see if a computer could be good enough to fool a human into accepting it as one as well. But given that we're getting computers which are doing a not-bad job at these tests, I'm starting to wonder: how good would a computer be at identifying other computers?

It might be easier than passing a Turing Test. It could be that a computer could do a reasonable job of driving "ordinary" conversation off the rails (that being a common way of finding weaknesses in a Turing-bot) and, once a conversation had gone far enough away from what the computer attempting to pass the test could handle, its failures would become so obvious that it would be easy to identify.

It might be harder than passing a Turing Test. It's possible that we could prove that any working Turing Test administrator could use that skill to also pass such a test -- but not every Turing Test-passing bot could be an administrator. Such a proof isn't obvious to me, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Or it might be equivalently hard: either equivalent in the practical sense, that both would require AI-completeness, or equivalent in the deeper mathematical sense, that if you had a Turing Test-passing bot you could use it to build a Turing Test-administering bot and vice-versa. 

If there is a difference between the two, then this might prove useful: for example, if it's easier to build a judge than a test passer, then Turing Tests could be the new CAPTCHA. (Which was +Chris Stehlik's original suggestion that sparked this whole conversation) 

And either way, this might tell us something deep about the nature of intelligence.
Carlo Tambuatco's profile photoRitchie Philip's profile photoHussain Alkumaish's profile photoCarlo Misiak's profile photo
I presume a judgment algorithm would use a decision tree or something serving a similar function.  A shell built around it to pass need only choose responses from a subset of that, even.
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Yonatan Zunger

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I could get lost on this site for quite a while. Drawings, photos, details...
Historic Spacecraft

What a wonderful site. What wonderful drawings.
Ruslan Khmelyuk's profile photoAnanya Gupta's profile photoChris Robinson's profile photoDavid Hixson's profile photo
Oh good; another time sink. I certainly needed one of those.
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Have him in circles
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Yonatan Zunger

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There's a very interesting article here, which mostly isn't about Bundy -- it's about a more worrying trend of "special pleading," with various groups asking to make themselves exempt from the law on the basis of personal belief, but not to have that exemption apply to anybody else. It's an attempt to explicitly claim that some beliefs are more important than others, and that even though they could not convince enough of their compatriots of their beliefs that the laws themselves should reflect them, they should have the right to ignore the law in their own right -- often for personal profit.

via +Valdis Kletnieks.
"The past couple of years have seen a surge in conservatives demanding special rights to disobey universally applicable federal laws on the grounds that they simply don't believe in them…"
From Hobby Lobby to the Nevada rancher, members of the far right share a dangerous, anarchic pathology
Steven Johnson's profile photoGible Fog's profile photoPierre-Olivier Dybman's profile photoTom Higgins's profile photo
+Michael Verona
Funny how you failed to mention our deploying troops to Poland...
which borders the Ukraine...
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Yonatan Zunger

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I've always loved mid-20th-century hardware. The moment I really fell in love with experimental physics was the day that I had to use a bunch of 10-digit counters left over from the 1940s as the monitoring outputs to a cosmic ray observatory I was building; it was science, it was peaceful, it was oddly beautiful. So I particularly like watching these old vector graphics demos on an ancient CRT.
3D Vector Graphics on a WWII Radar Tube with Arduino

Google engineer Eric Schaepler has a passion for antique display technologies.
Lewin Edwards's profile photoShawn Hannah's profile photoBoris Borcic's profile photoPeter da Silva's profile photo
Fellow hardware nerds, check out the same guy's 555 timer AM radio project. I've seen some pretty bizarre 555 applications over the decades, but this might be the weirdest:
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I am sad to report that one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, Gabriel García Márquez, passed away earlier today, at the age of 87. 
David Steinmuller's profile photoNicole Lisanti's profile photoJack Graham's profile photoDennis D. McDonald's profile photo
Many decades ago I was introduced to A Hundred Years of Solitude by a housemate of mine. Besides being enthralled with the story, and becoming a life long fan of his writing, I employ the blind matriarch's method for finding things and seldom lose things now. RIP.
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One of the real hidden joys of data analysis is that sometimes a pattern pops out at you which is hilariously obvious in retrospect, but which you somehow missed beforehand. You can always spot experienced search engineers, for example, by the way they immediately figure out how any analysis will lead to porn.
Amazon the corporate entity doesn't actually produce a guide for dealing drugs, but its purchase-recommendation algorithm sure seems to have done just that. 
Ben Hutchinson's profile photoRalitsa Angelova's profile photoGray Embry's profile photoVincent Rupp Jr.'s profile photo
+John VanRoekel +Yonatan Zunger  Sorry about that. In my defense I can only state it was never my mission to "organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful." I saw it on broadcast T.V. and it supposedly "cures" cancer.
+Gray Embry , I really don't know for sure. I don't live in one of the 21 states or the District of Columbia that have made medical marijuana legal. However, I checked out an "online" free content encyclopedia and the  2 sound about the same. 60% of the marijuana sold in Colorado is in an edible form. Some of their recipes use this as the active ingredient. 
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Yonatan Zunger

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I am hopeful that soon, computers will be significantly better than humans at solving CAPTCHAs, and will finally be able to take over this rather pointless (and often nearly-impossible) task.

Via +Matthew J Price
Joshua Berg's profile photoKristina Thompson's profile photoBobby Coggins's profile photoPhil Stracchino's profile photo
+Paolo Amoroso nor presumably a lot of non-Italian new account holders ;-)
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Have him in circles
92,371 people
  • Google
    Chief Architect, Social, present
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Mountain View, CA
Boulder, CO - Rehovot, IL
Chief Architect, Google+
Lots of people ask me what my job title means. I'm the senior engineer on the Google+ team, and my primary responsibility is to oversee and guide the technical design of Google+ and all of the things related to it. In practice, I'm also involved in lots of non-technical issues as well: my job is to make Google as fun, exciting, social, and pleasant a place to be as it can possibly be.

(I've been at Google since 2003, but you probably haven't seen me before this, because I worked deep in the back end: planet-scale storage, very large-scale search, ranking, and so on. Lots of teams whose unofficial motto is "if we told you, we'd have to kill you" -- as opposed to Google+, where we get to go out and talk and interact with our users.)

For those who just came here, welcome to the Google+ Project. It's something that we're all very passionate about, and which (as its name indicates) is going to continue to develop and improve at what we hope is an amazing rate. I'm avidly interested in hearing user feedback, and while I can't guarantee that I'll have time to respond to all of it, it will most certainly be listened to.

And the obligatory (very important!) disclaimer: I'm not on this system as an official representative. While I'm listening to user feedback and interacting about the system, I'm also here for perfectly ordinary social networking purposes. If I am saying something official on behalf of Google, I will make that explicitly clear; anything else that I say here is not the position of Google, or of anyone other than myself.

In fact, most of what I post about has nothing to do with CS at all. If you want a taste of it, take a look at my blog.
  • Stanford University
    Ph. D., Physics, 2003
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
    B. A., Mathematics, Physics, 1997
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