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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces
      Monsters'

Oblomovka

Currently:

current obsessions, 2019

I feel like my political and cultural inclinations are slowly but determinedly turning into proto-retirement hobbies. And I can’t even imagine that I’ll ever have enough money to retire! It’s another one of those Pak Protector transformations, where our versions of what it is to be older are a mixture of strange new instincts, and aping what we can glean from role-models.

(It’s pretty easy to deduce what roles Lizzard and I are aiming for here; I believe us to be successfully morphing into eccentric-looking, reasonably approachable benign cultural fossils with Something To Relate With Colour For Your Neighbourhood. Expect us to pull up in your small seaside town in our wooden maker car and start setting up a retro-computer repair shop any decade.)

Anyway, the primary obsession for 2019 so far has been, as I may have mentioned, Lisp! Or rather, LISP. I have now moved back in time, past my brief flirtation with Plan 9 and Bell Laboratories’ UNIX™ fundamentalism, into the AI labs of the fifties.

Last week, I spoke at Stanford at EE380, which was a regular weekly talk that I loved to attend when I first came to Silicon Valley (well, actually, I mainly loved reading the emailed announcements, which as ever were just as good if not better than leaving my house.) I did not have enough insight into the generational strata of the valley to recognise that EE380 was primarily run by old school AIers and their colleagues; I stuck in a few McCarthy references into my talk just because I wanted to convey some sense of long stretches of chronological time, and only belatedly realised the audience was full of people who’d lived through all that history. They kindly took me out, and scattered entertaining gossip my way, including the fine, fine tradition of Les Earnest claiming, convincingly, to have invented everything. Anyway, it’s always a little embarrassing to garnish your talk with references to the Glorious Past, when the Glorious Past are in the room, still fresh with the injustices and the memories of an eternal moment of youth.

(Video of my talk is now online; it’s a bit all-over-the-place, even for me, but as a confused snapshot of how I think the international regulation of technology is going, it’s got some value. I’m playing my part in the historical archives, which are really something and probably a better use of your video-watching time.)


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petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.