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Could Ms. Pac-Man Train the Next Generation of Military Drones?

The New Yorker

Thirty-five years ago, while Martin Amis was writing "Money," one of the novels that defined the nineteen-eighties, he admitted to a distracting dalliance with another contemporary icon. "I have spent weeks in a PacMan-fed stupor, unwilling and unable to think about anything else," he wrote in "Invasion of the Space Invaders," his "addict's guide" to the nascent arcade. Amis was not alone in his obsession. The Japanese-made game, in which players guide an auto-munching yellow head through a Daedalian maze, consuming a trail of pellets while fleeing four candy-tone ghosts, earned more than a billion dollars in quarters in its first year, surpassing the highest-grossing "Star Wars" film at the time. Pac-Man towered, Amis wrote, over "a vast garbage dump of rocky romances and wrecked careers."


I've Seen the Greatest A.I. Minds of My Generation Destroyed by Twitter

The New Yorker

She loved E.D.M., in particular the work of Calvin Harris. She used words like "swagulated" and almost never didn't call it "the internets." She was obsessed with abbrevs and the prayer-hands emoji. She politely withdrew from conversations about Zionism, Black Lives Matter, Gamergate, and 9/11, and she gave out the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to friends who sounded depressed. She never spoke of sexting, only of "consensual dirty texting."


AlphaGo, Lee Sedol, and the Reassuring Future of Humans and Machines

The New Yorker

Midway through the first of five recent matches between Lee Sedol, a top-ranked professional Go player, and AlphaGo, a computer program conceived by Google DeepMind, an odd thing happened: Lee's jaw dropped, hanging open for a nigh-cartoonish twenty seconds, and then he laughed. AlphaGo had just mounted an aggressive, and evidently unexpected, attack. The moment was reminiscent of a famous episode in Go history, when Honinbo Shusaku, a future legend of the game, squared off against Inoue Genan Inseki, an older and more experienced player, in 1846. The story goes that a spectator--a local doctor who knew little of Go--correctly guessed that the seventeen-year-old Shusaku was beating Inseki. Asked how he knew, the doctor responded that, after an earlier move, Inseki's ears had flushed red, a clear indication of surprise.