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Tidy your Life

I just finished Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forevercache, but even before I was halfway through I couldn't stop myself from reorganizing half my room and finally disposing of many clothes I hadn't even looked at in two years.

I had always considered that I could just let things sit at the back of a shelf until the next time I moved flat and then I'd finally get rid of them, but while tidying yesterday I realized that I actually had many nice clothes I'd wanted to wear that I …


Cardboard Photography

Google just recently introduced Cardboard Cameracache. If you haven't tried it, do, it's amazing. It's the closest I've seen to transporting somewhere back in time to wherever you took the picture. I've used it with friends, parents, even grandparents, and always it is equally amazing to see the delight on their faces when they realise that they can see exactly what I saw when I was there; they can truly feel like they are part of the scene.

While the Cardboard Camera app includes a few sample images, it can often be difficult to get a sense of whether …


Scarcely Credible Stupidity

I just finished another book in the excellent Culture series. It contains this little gem of a speech given by a member of the Culture (a utopian society with very advanced technology, best described by the phrase money is a sign of poverty) on the topic of planet Earth:

'Now, on Earth things are not quite the same. On Earth one of the things that a large proportion of the locals is most proud of is this wonderful economic system which, with a sureness and certainty so comprehensive one could almost imagine the process bears some relation to their limited …


Computing Machinery and Intelligence

I was just reading Quantum Computing since Democrituscache (an excellent book!), when it referred me to Turing's Computing Machinery and Intelligencecache.

This argument is very, well expressed in Professor Jefferson's Lister Oration for 1949, from which I quote. "Not until a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concerto because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the chance fall of symbols, could we agree that machine equals brain-that is, not only write it but know that it had written it. No mechanism could feel (and not merely artificially signal, an easy contrivance) pleasure at its …


Iterative Deepening for Talks

When you give a talk, assume your audience knows nothing.

Start with a one minute summary, then go back to the beginning and give the 5 minute version of your talk. Showing an index slide for your talk does not count, those are a joke.

Only now can you give the full version of the talk since now the audience will have all relevant context in the L2 cache of their brain.


Surveillance against Social Change

From illegal to socially accepted:

  1. illegal and immoral
  2. still illegal, but more and more people start doing it
  3. start of decriminalization, grey area
  4. fully legal and accepted by society
  5. the obvious right thing to do

As exemplified by gay rights or marijuana legalization, at various stages of this process.

Broad government surveillance stifles this process by preventing the change from step 1 to 2 and thus hinders social progress.

Freely paraphrased after Bruce Schneier at Defcon 23. Wisdom is due to Bruce, mistakes are mine.


Working Out is like Investing

When investing, you are rewarded for taking risk by an increased rate of return.
When working out, you are rewarded for pushing to your limits and enduring the pain by increased muscle growth and strength.

Only risk that can't be diversified away results in a higher return.
Only pain that can't be avoided by warming up and stretching results in muscle growth.

Invest smart, diversify into low-fee index trackers.
Train smart, warm up and stretch after you are done.


Essential Running Stretches

  • Heel dip. Stand on a curb or a step with the tip of your feet, lower your heel as far as you can, hold for a few seconds, return to upright.

  • Touch your toes. Stand with legs straight, bend down as far as you can and try to touch your toes (or the floor).

  • 正座 (seiza). Kneel on the floor, then sit backwards onto your legs.

  • Leg pull. Alternative for above if the ground is rough. Stand on one leg, pull the back of the other to your bum and hold. Alternate legs.


Adventures in Reinforcement Learning

You may or may not have noticed that I've been working for DeepMind for a while, causing me to get exposed to lots and lots of cutting edge machine learning research. Most of that I can't share here, but there's plenty that's already public.

Reinforcement Learning

Firstly, yes, that's what all the fuzz is about. There's a great book by Sutton and Barto, Reinforcement Learning: An Introductioncache, with an in-progress version of the second edition available for free from their website!

The book is very good at introducing and explaining RL itself, but does not cover how to combine …


Brains, Sex, and Machine Learning

A great explanation of why Dropout is really good for training large neural networks, and why it's actually the same thing your brain is doing:

Recent advances in machine learning cast new light on two puzzling biological phenomena. Neurons can use the precise time of a spike to communicate a real value very accurately, but it appears that cortical neurons do not do this. Instead they send single, randomly timed spikes. This seems like a clumsy way to perform signal processing, but a recent advance in machine learning shows that sending stochastic spikes actually works better than sending precise real …

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