To the extent that the Mitch Hedberg quote above is funny, the humor resides in the multiple meanings of the initial sentence “I used to do drugs”. The more obvious meaning of that sentence is a statement about the past where the phrasing suggests that the present is drug free…


The Bottle

John was strolling down the beach when he spotted a glass bottle washed ashore. Curious, he picked it up and saw that it was empty but for a piece of paper with some typed message. When he looked closer at the message, he was disappointed. It wasn’t in English. It…


The goals of this post are modest. The previous post about chess thinking outlined how humans don’t first generate a list of legal moves that they filter down. It hand-wavingly claimed that moves “pop up” in our minds. This post shows one possible mechanism of such popping up.

The analysis…


Chess offers us an interesting window into cognition. Millions of chess games are available for free. Games come labeled with the rough level of expertise (available from rank novices through super-grandmasters) and also the available amount of time (ranging from just three minutes for all moves in bullet chess through…


Word meaning is fluid and shaped by expectations. Just as a fluid takes the shape of its container, so too the context of a word forms a container shaping the word meaning. …


It is a commonplace notion that most words have a particular meaning (with the caveat that sometimes they have a handful of meanings for ambiguous words such as jaguar). Understanding a meaning of a word in a sentence, according to this default theory, is one of meaning selection, not one…


What symbols are for Marcus differs from what symbols are for Bengio — and in between those extremes exists another possibility that offers a compromise.

My research lives midway between the two extremes. I want symbols, but I don’t wish them handcrafted: my work has been in obtaining symbols by…


PatiencePhoto by Michel Porro on Unsplash

Why is AI Brittle?

What ails AI today is brittleness. Someone unveils this fantastic AI program that shows superhuman performance on some task, but a minor tweak to the input brings it down to its knees. AI systems that are marvelous at recognizing objects in images can be duped by altering a single pixel…


I suggest they don’t.

Frederick A. Cook’s picture of Ed Barrill atop a peak claimed to be Denali but actually 15,000 ft lower.

This post may be read by itself or as the second installment of “The Emperor’s New Benchmarks”. That post looked at a benchmark of passing curiosity (pun detection), but now we consider a problem that commands the community’s ongoing veneration.

Recognizing Textual Entailment

Several NLP benchmarks test for semantic…


The Dangers of NLP Benchmark Oversimplification

Language is complex. For NLP, we often use simplified benchmarks, relegating phenomena such as metaphor, metonymy, and ungrammatical usage to future work. We also simplify in other ways. Surely an innocuous step — doesn’t science proceed from the simple to the complex?

This post documents damage simplistic benchmarks cause. While…

Abhijit Mahabal

I do unsupervised concept discovery at Pinterest (and previously at Google). Twitter: @amahabal

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