NetHack / The NetHack Learning Environment

Reminded of NetHack this morning after hearing of Facebook’s release of The NetHack Learning Environment.

“NetHack is one of the oldest and arguably most impactful videogames in history, as well as being one of the hardest roguelikes currently being played by humans. It is procedurally generated, rich in entities and dynamics, and overall an extremely challenging environment…”

I’ve only played this casually, but it’s very complex. It might be a fun project to learn a little bit about artificial intelligence. Or, you might simply wish to play the game yourself.

Worth a look. It’s free and runs on pretty much any computer you’d want to use. Almost everyone will want to get a version with graphic tiles.

Ironies of Automation

“…the more we automate, and the more sophisticated we make that automation, the more we become dependent on a highly skilled human operator.”

-Adrian Colyer, “Ironies of automation.” the morning paper. January 8, 2020.

A robot surgeon might be a great idea, but it’s going to handle the routine, the easy surgeries. What’s left is what’s hard. That’ll be the new work for human surgeons.

And who fixes the surgeries that the robot got wrong? Who watches the robot surgeons and steps in when they can’t do they job?

This is true of automation in every area. The jobs it eliminates are the easy, routine jobs. With more automation, the level of difficulty simply goes up.

If the robot does the job better, then they get the job. But, someone who does the job better than robots will always have to evaluate their work and step in when the work is beyond them.

Where will we find such people, if we don’t become them?

Excavating A.I.

“Datasets aren’t simply raw materials to feed algorithms, but are political interventions. As such, much of the discussion around ‘bias’ in AI systems misses the mark: there is no ‘neutral,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘apolitical’ vantage point that training data can be built upon. There is no easy technical ‘fix’ by shifting demographics, deleting offensive terms, or seeking equal representation by skin tone. The whole endeavor of collecting images, categorizing them, and labeling them is itself a form of politics, filled with questions about who gets to decide what images mean and what kinds of social and political work those representations perform.”

—Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen, “Excavating AI
The Politics of Images in Machine Learning Training Sets.” Excavating.AI. October 2019.


Beginning of a six-part fiction series about a man working completely alone aboard a spaceship bound for a new planet. His fellow passengers will remain cryogenically frozen for the 20 years it will take for the ship to reach its destination; Frank’s work is to maintain the environment and make sure all is proceeding as it should. Despite his solitude, the show is actually a dialogue between Frank and Casper, the spaceship’s AI. They have an abrasive, dependent relationship, and the progression of the series made me think a lot about where our current interactions with AI tech might lead (12m38s).”

—”Hebrew, Frozen, Dark.” September 19, 2019.

Wearable Robots | Science

“…it is realistic to think that we will witness, in the next several years, the development of robust human-robot interfaces to command wearable robotics based on the decoding of a representative part of the neural code of movement in humans. The need for wearable technologies that minimally alter human biomechanics will result in a transition from rigid wearable robots to soft exosuits such as the one reported by Kim et al., and, eventually, to implantable neuroprostheses that can influence or
assist human movement. The need for preserving human neuromechanics while using assistive technology will likely lead to implantable and networked recording and stimulation neuroprostheses. Such devices would implement effective interfaces to decode the wearer’s movement intent and influence it when necessary to enhance human performance (7).”

—José L. Pons, et al, ” Witnessing a wearables transition.” Science. 16 Aug 2019: Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 636-637.

Practical applications to efforts like Elon Musk’s Neurolink weren’t immediately apparent to me. Ok, a neuro-implant as a human artificial intelligence interface may make sense a few decades off. However, a neuronal interface for a soft exosuit seems like it something that could be used today.

Assistant Account Executive at Public Relations Agency Uses

“Talkwalker’s state-of-the-art social media analytics platform uses AI-powered technology to monitor and analyze online conversations in real-time across social networks, news websites, blogs and forums in 187 languages.”

  • Two views with two likes.
  •’s artificial intelligence decides a conversation might be happening or could potentially happen that would be critical of plastic production and quickly publishes it to the dashboard on their portal.
  • *Bing* A desktop notification sounds.
  • Bored assistant account executive at a public relations agency looks up. Yet another desktop notification about that damn The Intercept article? She decides it’s time to stop scrolling through Slack, Facebook and complaining about the cost of Matouk towels to her friend in Messenger (so expensive, even on Amazon!) and decides to finally look into what all the fuss was about in case their client, a ginormous chemical company producing plastic, decides to call and ask the account director what she is doing to minimize the damage from that small time publication The Intercept. Time to get some intel! Take me away,
  • Clicks on a promising link. See a few quotes and a link to The Intercept article. Thinks to herself, “What is this shit?”
  • Decides to go back to shopping on Amazon, her home page and accidentally hits the refresh button instead.
  • Woohoo, four views! Another exciting day here at, the veritable tip of the tongue of the “global conversation.”
  • Meanwhile, Big Plastic has dumped another few tons of plastic in the ocean, and I’m going to have a McDonald’s fish filet and wait for the microplastic to reduce the sperm counts of men to the point that every birth will require artificial fertilization. Nothing to see here folks! The problem of plastic and patriarchy is solving itself! Try the Matouk Factory Store!