Mostly harmless

I got to go out with three computationally-sharp alums of my linguistics department last night. I’m proud to be friends with all of them, and it’s nice to know there are reasons we all have the same “ancestry” — we have, at the very least, quite compatible senses of humor. Bill and I have a running not-as-funny-as-it-seems joke about being the same person [corollary joke: I am the hairy one].

A living-in-the-future moment from the evening: we started talking about large-base number systems (as you do — no, really, when you’re three PhDs and an ABD in linguistics, this is normal), in the loud bar.  “Babylonian number systems,” says Lesley to her phone, and it promptly connects to the overmind and gives us three or four detailed, encyclopedic entries, like something straight out of Douglas Adams.  She beams; “I worked on noise robustness [at Microsoft],” and Bill reminisces about back in the day when we were early grad students and had this very scenario in mind as a pipedream of the future.  (I confess, I was the skeptic back in the day. I would have been even more skeptical if I’d been told it would work with weird tail queries like “Babylonian number systems”.)

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