Saturday salon 12/3

1. Human supremacy under threat as computer beats world “Go” champion?

    “Yesterday I was surprised but today it’s more than that — I am speechless”.

After the first victory by the computer, that was the reaction as AlphaGo defeated grandmaster Lee Sedol for the second time.

A key to victory was that the computer after being trained on a database of some 30 million moves from historical games played by experts then improved itself by playing games against itself. The game requires intuition and evaluation as well as calculation.

In chess there are about 20 choices for every move. In Go there are about 200.

On radio today a tech expert explained that there were 10 to the power of 80 atoms in the entire universe. In a whole game of chess there were 10 to the power of 120. However in a game of Go there were 10 to the power of 320.

However, he said that a person every day deals with more possibilities than either, and he saw the activity as framed and safe.

The man behind the computer, Demis Hassabis, says either way humanity wins. They are still on the way to finding real world problem-solving applications.

You can always pull the plug out of the wall.

See Wikipedia for details of the games, and for the game of Go. Two players take it in turn to place stones on a board. The idea is ti encircle the most territory.


Thanks to John D for the initial link.

2. Messing with Barnaby’s mind

Tony Windsor has decided to challenge Barnaby Joyce in the seat of New England. Probably Joyce will hold on, but Michelle Grattan reckons Windsor will mess with Joyce’s susceptible mind.

She says Windsor plays the man and he plays rough.

Joyce will have to campaign nationally as leader of the Nats and deputy PM, but he’ll have to spend a lot of time in his electorate or he’ll be done over.

Elsewhere, Sophie Mirabella is going to try to win back Indi from Cathy McGowan.

All good fun!

3. Palmer messes up Queensland Nickel

Can Clive Palmer run anything?

Last March he closed Coolum Resort for major renovations, but there has been nothing but ructions ever since. He’s lost most of his party politicians.

The same chaos has now descended on the nickel refinery in Townsville.

First Queensland Nickel went into administration. Then the administrator was shunted and Queensland Nickel Sales, a new Palmer entity run by the same people, took the operation back off the administrator, tipping in $25 million. 550 workers await their fate, but will have been sacked this Friday by the entity that employs them.

There was a kerfuffle over government permits, now largely resolved, and nickel shipments, brought in by boat, have been cancelled.

Palmer reckons he’s going to rehire the 550 workers, and was to write them a letter at noon on Friday. Will they be able to carry over their rights and entitlements?

Talking to ABC RN’s PM Professor Ian Ramsay wonders whether the companies QNI has dealt with (who are owed heaps of money) will want to deal with the new entity.

By the way, the Queensland Nickel site is still there and the section on Company Principles makes interesting reading.

4. Music is us

ABC Catalyst’s program Music on the Brain is worth catching on iview if you didn’t see it. Music can bring oldies withdrawn and suffering from dementia to life. Emotions are stirred and mamories flood back.

People whose movement is frozen by severe Parkinson’s can suddenly walk smoothly and even dance.

I have no doubt that as Homo sapiens developed language and other attributes that charactarise us, music and dance was part of the story.

5. What’s with Trump?

Michael Tesler and John Sides at Washington Post have done a series of three articles on why Trump has so much appeal.

    First, most Americans and many Republicans in particular are not orthodox ideologues. Second, white identity and hostility to minority groups are strongly correlated with Trump support.

In other words racism. But Trump actually does better in mixed race states where white identity is under threat than in predominantly white states.

Finally, a third important factor is the economic struggles that some Americans are experiencing.

They say that even if he’s given the gig Americans won’t elect him. Thing is, if it’s Hillary, plenty of people don’t like her much and the dirt digging will be something else.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

27 thoughts on “Saturday salon 12/3”

  1. The scary thing is that my American son agrees that Trump is actually a moderate compared with Cruz and Rubino.
    The surprising success of both Trump and Sanders is the sign of a society that is extremely pissed off with what is happening in the US.

  2. That is my opinion too (your son), John D. I suspect that Trump will turn out to be more Democrat than Republican,…..on many important issues, and a total whacko on some others. He is after all an executive with broad experience managing large teams. The outcome will surprise, I suspect.

  3. John, I think you’ll find the name is Rubio. I keep getting ot wrong too!

    Cruz is definitely scary, I don’t personally know about Rubio.

    There’s talk of the Republicans if no-one has more than 50% at the convention putting in someone else, like Mitt Romney.

    My best scenario would be for that to happen and then Trump run as an independent. That would ensure a Democrat win.

    Sanders is not entirely dead. He took Massachusetts, but the delegate count was almost evenly split. Next week should tell.

  4. AlphaGo wins the third match.

    Some Go professionals commented that AlphaGo displayed unorthodox, dubious moves that initially befuddled humans but made sense in hindsight.

    This article gives a more detailed account. The computer seems to have Lee Sedol’s measure. The fact that he lasted four hours is probably amazing.

  5. GO: It is worth noting that time pressure made it hard for Lee Sedol towards the end of the game, a serious disadvantage playing a computer. The rules should have been changed to neutralize this computer advantage.

  6. Pity about Rubio.

    I agree that time rules should have been changed. Lee apologises and says he’s never been under such pressure.

    Garry Kasparov’s comments before the match-up started were interesting. He said that when he first played Deep Blue it had weaknesses and the temptation was to exploit them. But in doing this and not playing your own game, you can trick yourself.

    But the key disparity between flesh and silicon is the mundane machine advantage of relentless consistency. Computers don’t make big blunders, at least not in chess, while a human is only a slip away from catastrophe. No machine suffers complacency, anxiety and exhaustion. When I lost the decisive sixth game to Deep Blue in 1997 I was under huge pressure and played like it. It was the worst game of my career.

    He said it was just a matter of time and the computer would win. He reckons you can buy a program now for your laptop that would crush Deep Blue.

  7. Clive Palmer on Insiders says that the administrator cancelled the ore shipments and froze the bank account. There are 18 government approvals he needs to operate, and if he hasn’t got them all, which he hasn’t, he’s illegal. It would take 8 weeks to obtain ore.

    He says that when he bought the place 7 years ago he started out with a loan guarantee of $43 million from the Qld government under Anna Bligh.

    I think given the water under the bridge, personality and political issues, it seems now not possible to sit down with Palmer in good faith.

  8. Now we are told that there was no discussion at all between Palmer and his mob and the administrator before the administrator received a letter on Monday morning. Not surprising then that the transition hasn’t been smooth.

  9. Barnaby will thump Windsor by just reminding the voters of Windsor selling the farm to coal interests.

    Mercurous Goldstien of the greens may preference the Nats on principal ( lol, thats a joke btw )

  10. Jumpy, there was a ReachTel poll that broke about 43 to 38 for Barnaby on the first cut. Most ‘experts’ think it will be close. Barnaby was unable to stop coal mining where it matters.

  11. In 2010, Mr Windsor sold his 376ha family property Cintra to Werris Creek Coal, owned by Whitehaven Coal, for $4.625 million.

    Why do the green/alp coalition, that hate AGW not also hate this man ?
    Oh wait, that 2010 handle on power thang……..nuf said.

  12. Jumpy, be fair and check it out:

      8. This land is not on the Liverpool Plains and does not have any water resources of significance under it.

      9. The portion of coal bearing land on Windsor Family land is 25 to 30 acres of gravel ridge which is adjacent to Quirindi Council’s gravel quarry of some 50 years.

      10. A gravel ridge is the type of land that should be mined, not the fertile land of the Liverpool Plains.

      11.If mining were to be approved (which in my view is highly likely, given the nature of the land in question), mining activity would come within 250 metres of our family home.

  13. If Barnaby, personally, took $4.65 from an Evil fossil fuel company would you’se both defend him this ardently ?

    No more proof needed that tribalism distorts objective thought.
    Imagine if Barnaby winked or looked at his watch……

    I may take a long break from here till the election fever has passed, if it ever does…..

  14. Jumpy, I’m not defending Windsor, simply seeking the truth, which seems to have become incredibly complicated.

    If anything it shows the folly of allowing mining on the Liverpool Plains because of the risk to aquifers, which is what Windsor has been saying.

  15. Lee Sedol wins the 4th Go match by confusing the computer.

    Demis Hassabis, the head of AlphaGo developer Google DeepMind, has described Go as the “Mount Everest” for AI scientists.

    “It was doing well… but then, because of Lee’s fantastic play, it was pressurised into some mistakes,” he said, describing the loss as a “valuable” way to fix the problems with the supercomputer.

    “Actually we are very happy because this is why we came here, to test AlphaGo and its limit and find out what its weaknesses were.”

    Mr Lee said those weaknesses included a difficulty in responding to certain unexpected plays by an opponent, which led to more mistakes.

    Go involves two players alternately laying black and white stones on a chequerboard-like grid of 19 lines by 19 lines. The winner is the player who manages to seal off more territory.

    On the 78th move, Mr Lee placed a stone unexpectedly in the middle section of the board, stunning many experts and confusing the AlphaGo.

    Mr Hassabis later tweeted that the AlphaGo made a “mistake” on the following 79th move and only realised it several moves later.

    We will see what happens in the 5th game

  16. Update on Queensland Nickel.

    The estimate for the environmental cleanup of the site if the refinery closes has more than doubled to $100 million. I guess that would provide employment for a while!

    It is said that Queensland Nickel owes $428m. One wonders whether the operation could ever be viable.

  17. Brian: The last coal mine I worked at (Isaac Plains) recently sold for $1. In effect the buyer was committing millions of dollars to pay for the final rehab.
    If nickel prices rise again it may be worth committing to $100 million clean-up costs to get the refinery.

  18. John, I think much of the $100 million is to fix the tailings dams if they are no longer to be used.

    The latest is that there is a move for the workers to buy the plant, where they would become owners rather than employers. They’d need someone to lend them money. Doesn’t sound workable.

    The price of nickel does need to go up to make any owner viable and I don’t know what the chances are. I believe the whole plant is antiquated technology, and has long exhausted local supplies of ore, so the chances of an ongoing viable operation have always looked slim, I think.

  19. Hi Brian, I put a comment on a previous thread about the February global temp

    Tonight I’m interested in an item on ABC news about the Barrier Reef and coral bleaching. There was an item about this tonight (Monday) and I think the intro said something about El Niño but nothing about climate change, although it was discussed in the report. I would like to follow this up but I don’t have time as I know the ABC processes can be rather slow. So I wonder if there’s anyone here who has time to follow this up with the ABC and find out how and why this happened. I’m happy to give support and advice to anyone who wants to do this.

  20. Val: The ABC report mentioned climate change near the end. I thought that it was a reasonable report.
    Brian: There is no logical reason why the nickel price should stay low. It is not a pariah product like fossil fuels.

  21. Val, I too thought the ABC report was reasonable. It seemed to see climate change as central. I’ve got a segment in the next CC which may surprise a little.

    John, thanks for that about nickel prices. However, I do recall a piece at the Conversation I think that said the refinery was basically yesterday’s technology. Hope it all works out.

  22. John D. It is because of good prospects for most non-ferrous metals that I am so suspicious about a lot of the shenanigans surrounding the Yabalu refinery and the We-Hate-Clive Campaign (not that Clive Palmer doesn’t deserve a lot of criticism).

    Yesterday’s technology? That’s Standard Operating Procedure for Australian business and government, isn’t it? Look at our purchase of the JSF Flying Goldbrick for instance. However, surely parts of the existing plant can be improved, upgraded, adapted or replaced so as to improve productivity or to widen its scope – something that is more likely to happen with the displaced workforce having their suggestions listened to than with have a new board and a new management team chock-a-block full of more cloned-clowns.

  23. Yes, interesting a Keynesian like Kouk totally ignores DEBT.

    More on methodology: the term of each government is taken to begin with the month or quarter immediately after it has been sworn in.

    He goes on to say this methodology is crap but will go with it anyway.
    I wonder why ? Does it help his life long ALP bias ?

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