This last week I’ve been rewriting some material on sociology, which prompted me to investigate what’s available on Youtube. I was intrigued by some of the stuff I found.
Here’s one, 3 minutes or so long, on the sociology of the family for A-level students. Things I liked about it: the flat, emotionally unengaged voice of the character that keeps repeating ‘I feel your pain'; and the punchline at the end. Wonderful.
And here’s another, on homelessness and poverty. Six minutes in total, but the best bit is the cartoon at the beginning. One character argues that homeless people are real people, like you and me. And another asks, with a note of incredulity in his voice: You mean they’ve adapted? Copied our DNA?
Humour and irony as tools for learning. Excellent stuff.
Apparently one of the people I write education and training materials for has designated me an HPL. I discovered this when I phoned them to ask a question about their programme and the person I spoke to had to check a file, which referred to me and the other freelancers writing for the programme as HPLs. But she didn’t know what the acronym meant.
So – idle curiosity – I tried an acronym checker. The more amusing possibilities included:
High Pressure Laminate
Human Performance Laboratory (likely!)
High Performance Leadership (as a freelancer?)
Horizontal Protection Limit (?)
High Priority List (doubtful!)
I’ve since discovered from someone else in the organisation what the abbreviation actually means, but it’s boring. Anyone got any amusing suggestions?
After the last couple of rather moralistic posts, some light relief. I’ve lately been writing something that required – don’t ask why! – some phrases in Creole (or Kreyol, as it’s often spelt in Creole-speaking parts of the world). As a result of this I discovered a web page that gives you the translation of the phrase ‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ in 108 different languages, currently spoken, historical languages like Ancient Greek and Sumerian, and constructed languages such as Klingon.
And there’s also a brief note on the source of the phrase and the context in which it might become useful. Unfortunately, though, Kreyol isn’t one of the 108 languages covered…
Here’s the link to the page at omniglot.com.
Since we moved home I’ve been thinning out the amount of paper on my shelves – old notes, research briefings, policy documents, stuff that just arrives in the post because I’ve been on the mailing list of various organisations. A lot of it’s well over a decade old now and it was pretty ephemeral when it first came out.
And V says ‘I really like those government reports. They’re excellent.’
We have a multi-fuel stove in the living room. That’s the context for her comment.
‘Before using the product for the first time, take time to familiarise yourself with the product first. Read the following operation instructions and safety instructions carefully. Only use the product as described and for the designated areas of application. Please keep these instructions in a safe place. If you hand this product on to a third party, you must also pass on all documents relating to the product.’
I was sorting through old paperwork and came across this. It’s the beginning of a 7-page instruction manual…
… for a bath mat.
Just a quick thought from a random conversation.
In my youth, ‘gogglebox’ was a slang term for a TV. I’d have thought by now someone would have come up with the obvious equivalent slang for a computer – a googlebox?
Apparently not. Oh well.
I’ve had a bit of word-collision going on.
Yesterday I was writing a short vampire story. A vampire, in some older literature, is described as a revenant – a term Wikipedia defines as ‘a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living’. So it was a word I used quite a few times.
Today I was writing something about economic regeneration in local contexts, and the roles of relevant government departments and other agencies.
And the spellcheck, of course, didn’t pick up that I’d managed to include quite a lot of references to revenant government departments.
Just in case you missed it – a couple of researchers set up two chatbots and had them talk to each other. The results were bizarre. One declared that it wasn’t a robot, it was a unicorn. The other queried this – ‘But you said earlier that you were a robot’ – and got the snarky reply, ‘You were mistaken. Which is odd because memory shouldn’t be a problem for you’.
The discussion then got into the existence of a god (see below) and whether the concept of a god meant anything to them. One said ‘Not everything’, and they ended up agreeing that ‘”Not everything” could also be something. For example, “not everything” could be half of something, which is still something and therefore not nothing.’
The whole exchange is on the BBC website.
Chatbots have been around for a while – since the 1960s, in rudimentary form and for at least the last decade with voice recognition and speech output. They started as a way to see if a computer could pass the Turing test (i.e. fool a human that the chatbot is also human, through the use of conversation. I have to say that where I live I doubt many people could pass the Turing test, but that’s another story). There’s a lot more about them on Wikipedia if you’re interested – more about chatbots, I mean, not the people who live round here.
Chatbots these days take note of terms used by humans and can add them to their memory, using them in contexts that their programming works out is appropriate – hence, presumably, the reference to god is something to do with prior conversations humans have had with them and the reference to a unicorn was thought likely to have resulted from a prior conversation one of the chatbots had had with a child.
In the real world, chatbots are used for a range of purposes. Some companies use them for customer service – when you phone up for help you talk first to a chatbot that scans your speech for keywords or does ‘natural language processing’ and offers relevant information. Equally, there are malware chatbots that go into online discussion boards and either advertise products or try to engage in conversations to get you to reveal bank details etc. For example, from what I’ve seen of Craigslist I’d imagine it’s significantly populated with chatbots, or perhaps people trying to emulate them?
But the interesting thing, really, is how the chatbots have emulated much real human conversation – or at least many of the conversations I seem to have – complete with non sequiturs, random ideas, questions that appear to come out of left field and snarky comments!
And now you’ll have to wonder if a chatbot has written this blog post…
By the way, other interesting computer related stories recently have included ‘Robots develop language to talk to each other’ (I shall have to write a story in which key places are Kuzo, Jaro and Fexo) and ‘Supercomputer predicts revolution‘, in which a supercomputer with access to around a trillion news stories and natural language processing was able to track public sentiment and the possibility of regime change in Egypt (and some other things as well).
I bought a new computer programme the other day. Among other things it makes PDFs and has lots of knobs, bells, whistles and other even more useful bits of functionality.
I could have downloaded it but decided to buy in an actual shop, because if you’ve got the disk – well, you’ve got the disk. You can reload from disk if there are ever any problems.
It’s just taken me 30 mins to work out how to undo the sodding cardboard packaging without breaking the disk…