Showing posts from 2023

My Dad's work with Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller

Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller facilitated my Dad getting a professorship at UC Berkeley when I was 3 years old. Oppenheimer left Berkeley but Teller was a good friend of my father and I remember him being in our home. Three weeks ago, my wife and I were just leaving to see the new Oppenheimer movie when my Dad called. He mentioned that when I was in grade school he was invited to give a talk at Princeton. After his talk Oppenheimer talked with my Dad and invited him to have dinner at his house. My Dad said Oppenheimer was not well (I think he died of throat cancer soon afterwards) but his wife Kitty carried the conversation. My Dad, Ken Watson, passed away 10 days ago on August 18, 2023.

Time and Attention Fragmentation in Our Digital Lives

  As humans we have evolved over a few million years to be both attentive and reactive to danger, live in social communities, and spend much of our time being in the present moment gathering and eating food and socializing. The behavior of rapidly changing short attention to content on social media, too many good short form things to watch on streaming video entertainment platforms, are all rewiring our brains in an unnatural and unhealthy way. I fight back, but in really simple ways that entail little ceremony: Almost every morning I spend 30 minutes scanning Hacker News (about 10 minutes), Apple News (about 5 minutes), and the remaining time on Twitter and Mastodon finding interesting new (mostly tech) things. I make notes in a temporary Apple Note: links of things I may want to research, try, or simply read that day. I like to get this all done at once, and then not feel like I need to interrupt my activities during the day to “catch up” on what is happening in the world. In a way,

ChatGPT as part of the evolution of programming languages

In the 1940s von Neumann and his colleagues created conceptual models for computer architectures that were oriented toward the engineering problems of building computing devices, and not for making it easier for humans to write programs. The Lambda Calculus and also the design of the Prolog programming language are the first real efforts that I am aware of to place emphasis on how we humans think and solve problems. I  had a thought earlier today that I keep coming back to: there are concise programming languages that can be more difficult to write code with, but once done the code is more valuable because of its conciseness that yields better readability. I have been fascinated by, and use Copilot and ChatGPT to write code and sometimes it works well enough. What will the effects of ChatGPT and future LLMs be on the popularity of niche languages like Prolog and APL? All things considered I would often rather have a concise program in Prolog or a flavor of Lisp than a much larger prog