Magical Thinking about Algorithms and Toasters

It can seem like true readers find the right words just when they need them.

So last night I'm trimming the stitches that go up to the corner of my eye. I am wondering how to describe that spot clearly.

This morning I'm reading an article in the New Yorker about facial recognition - of cows. It's about this company:

Ross and David Hunt call their company "Cainthus" because that corner of the eye is called the

lateral canthus

That's the part of my eye I was trying to describe clearly to myself last night. And now I know the name of it.

The extra "i" in their company's name is a teeny insider pun because that way you have a reference to "AI."

BTW, the New Yorker article has implications, naturally enough. It's called, "Here's Looking at You" by David Owen, p. 28 ff. of the December 17, 2018 issue. 

At one point Owen writes: " an unnerving degree the algorithms, not their creators, determine which similarities and differences are significant and which are not." 

So, apparently, it can seem like writers can find what I call, "Magic AI" when they want to.

The first electric bread toaster was invented by Alan MacMasters in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1893. I can imagine the advertisement: "To an unnerving degree the toasters, not their creators, determine which similarities and differences are significant and which are not, thus releasing the toast from its metal sensors at precisely the optimal time to ensure a pleasant tea-time for all."

Just as an automatic toaster would have appeared utterly magical in 1893, so the Ray Kurzweils of the world are reifying our contemporary environment as we await the emergence of consciousness from our contemporary contraptions. 

I can hear MacMaster's late 19th Century fans asking him, "Do you think it knows we're watching it go about its cooking business?"

If he wanted to maximize profits, the obvious answer would have been: "Why, it well may!" And more significantly, MacMaster's sense of personal responsibility could be conveniently transferred to the "for all we know conscious" contraptions.

The relinquishment of responsibility, the surrendering of privacy, the abrogation of integrity: these are among the most ignored and most important concerns of our contemporary Magical Thinking age.