Sunday, October 22, 2023

Nice One Cyril

I missed Gary Marcus' keynote* at the 'Chat GPT and Other Creative Rivals' conference I attended in the middle of the year. I am disappointed about that now that he has started throwing shade at the UK's upcoming vainglorious AI Safety Summit; something that has also been on my to-do list.

Telegraph (paywall):

Meet the AI heretic battling the hype with a warning for Rishi Sunak

Tech expert Gary Marcus is the dissenting voice in a clamour of paranoia and veneration

In a fortnight, the UK’s AI Safety Summit will assemble the great and the good of artificial intelligence, in the hope of creating an international “Bretton Woods”-style agreement to regulate it. Although he was one of three experts invited to give testimony to the United States Congress on AI regulation, alongside OpenAI founder Sam Altman, Marcus hasn’t been invited to Buckinghamshire. He isn’t surprised that his views aren’t welcome. 

“Generative AI can’t live up to the current expectations,” he says. “It’s simply not smart enough to do many of the things we think it will be able to do. The systems are not transparent, they’re not reliable, they don’t really understand the world. These are very serious problems that are not being faced.” 

Such talk makes him a heretic, and pointing out some very inconvenient truths is not universally welcome. Marcus explains these flaws very elegantly: for years he was The New Yorker magazine’s go-to guy to explain developments in neuroscience and data. Guitar Zero, his book explaining how the brain learns, based on his own initially hopeless quest to master a musical instrument, became a bestseller.

It's his guitar book that interests me today though after John and I spent some time noodling around yesterday, so I've dropped a credit on the Audible version. Maybe my brother and I can listen next time we're driving to or from Cardiff.

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, a professor of no discernible musical talent learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone of any age might master a new skill.

Just about every human being knows how to listen to music, but what does it take to make music? Is musicality something we are born with? Or a skill that anyone can develop at any time? If you don't start piano at the age of six, is there any hope? Is skill learning best left to children or can anyone reinvent him-or herself at any time?

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gary Marcus, an internationally renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, becomes his own guinea pig to look at how human beings become musical- and how anyone of any age can master something new. Guitar Zero traces his journey, what he learned, and how you can learn, too. In addition to being a groundbreaking look at the origins and allure of music, Marcus's journey is also an empowering tale of the mind's plasticity.

In a quest that takes him from Suzuki classes to guitar gods, Marcus investigates the most effective ways to train your brain and body to learn to play an instrument. How can you make your practice more deliberate and effective? How can you find the best music teacher for you or your child? Does talent really exist? Or is hard work all you need?

Guitar Zero stands the science of music on its head, debunking the popular theory of an innate musical instinct and many other commonly held fallacies. At the same time, it raises new questions about the science of human pleasure and brings new insight into humankind's most basic question: what counts as a life well lived? Does one have to become the next Jimi Hendrix to make a passionate pursuit worthwhile? Or can the journey itself bring the brain lasting satisfaction?

For those who have ever set out to learn a musical instrument-or wishes that they could- Guitar Zero is an inspiring and fascinating look at music, learning, and the pursuit of a well-lived life.

* Keynote

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