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Singularity: Here Already?

Okay, I have to comment on this one. I was minding my own business perusing science fiction sites during work hours when I bumped into this at the wildly popular io9 site:

Computer-Generated Paper Accepted for Prestigious Technical conference

Now in the world of the Singularity, this would not be big news. It’s kind of along the same lines as the story about Lynyrd Skynrd anonymously sending in recorded songs from their own albums to their label which then rejected them saying they were totally unsellable. Possibly apocryphal and we certainly don’t know the details. Which songs? Some famous bands’ non-hit songs were totally unsellable. In this case what exactly is a computer-generated paper and which prestigious technical conference run by over-worked, under-paid staff members was it? Perhaps they eventually found their mistake. In other words, what’s the rest of the story?

I lazily read through the article wanting to know a bit about this possible Turing Test passing computer when I got to the bottom and was horrified to see the name of the company I work for down there. omigod. It was one of our conferences. Please, please, please don’t let it be any publication I work on. Not that I would get blamed for it, I have no responsibility for our content other than typesetting it. In my organization, I’m the equivalent of the janitor in the dance wing of a Big Ten University. Most people here don’t even know I exist. The problem lies in the fact that if a mistake has been made, everybody gets all creative about how we’re never going to let it happen again. And for a few months we’ll have to look sharp and maybe even read what we’re putting out. I really hate that.

So the big question for me was do I notify anyone at my company or let it ride, assuming that even the participants in the conference didn’t notice Dr. Schlangemann wasn’t there? And if I do notify someone who would it be? Because everyone at my organization loses their vacation days if they don’t use them up by the end of the year, nobody works here during the last two weeks of the year. Besides if any of them are like me and have used their vacation by January 20th, they’re probably the equivalents of janitors in dance schools of Big Ten Universities. They’ll end up having to do a lot of work at 4:45 on Christmas Eve while the people who are actually responsible for the goof-up are riding down to the Islands for a Holidays-in-the-Sun vacation. Not fair. Do I really want to inflict that on some poor schmuck like me?

What would you do?

I totally passed the buck and contacted my boss’s boss. He’s always on line. You can email him at two am and he’ll respond within half an hour. So on 4:59 pm Christmas Eve, I shot him an email with a link. Then I left for a Holidays-in-the-Sun vacation.

So far there’s been no fallout, but like I said, the halls of this place are pretty much a tomb now. The tumbleweed is drifting down the hallways and the spiders are constructing condos.

I’ll follow up after the holidays.

Meantime, I have to ask the question: If the latest in technical writing is done by a computer and then oohed and ahed over by a team of experts who give it their blessing, who’s to say we haven’t already met and passed the Singularity?



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