Profiled Against a Desert Ribbon

The desert abloomCatch a profile of me in this month’s IEEE Spectrum Magazine. Note Yggdrasil in the background! It’s been great working with IEEE’s Cloud Computing Initiative (CCI) these last two years. CCI will be ending soon, but it’s impact will live on in, for instance, the Intercloud Interoperability Standard and other ways. Importantly, I’ll be at the IEEE Big Data Initiative Workshop in Hoboken, NJ, at the end of the month working on the next initiative in support of advanced data analytics. Note that Hoboken and Jersey City have better views of Manhattan than Manhattan itself!

“Animal” was the name of the program and it built simple decision trees based on yes/no answers (does it have hair? does it have feathers?). If it didn’t guess your animal it added a layer to the tree with the correct answer. Incremental learning at its most elementary, but it left an odd impression on me: how do we overcome the specification of rules to create self-specifying (occasionally, maybe) intelligence? I spent days wandering the irrigation canals of the lower New Mexico Rio Grande trying to overcome this fatal flaw that I saw in such simplified ideas about intelligence. And I didn’t really go home for days, it seemed, given the freedom to drift through my pre-teen and then teen years in a way I can’t imagine today, creating myself among my friends and a penumbra of ideas, the green chile and cotton fields a thin ribbon surrounded by stark Chihuahuan desert.

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