Posts Tagged code

“Build” – Play Review (about a startup in Silicon Valley)


Written by Michael Golamco, “Build” is CityLights’ Executive Artistic Director, Lisa Mallette’s yet another bold venture aimed to bring thematically relevant plays to the Silicon Valley audience.  Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, CA, this is a story about — what else? A startup! And what could be more hot than a video gaming company?

I am going to skip a more typical review with detailed plot description, in favor of giving you a glimpse of the future envisioned in this production.  To give a little background of the plot, Kip (George Psarras) and Will (Max Tachis) had earlier conceived a brilliant game that resulted in a grand success, leading to what appears to be a milestone based buyout deal.  Unlike Will, dapper and immaculate, Kip, the creative genius, with disdain for money, and for following procedures, and grave dislike for documenting details to make hand off of work easier for others, has a harder time with monetary success, fast cars, suits and board and shareholder meetings.  Kip spends his days cloistered in his home mourning the loss of his late wife, and has abandoned social life, in favor of staying indoors, in his cluttered apartment, working on his next big project; only this time to give it away via open source and cloud.  And who else to keep him company but an “artificially intelligent” being, an AI robot, oddly resembling his late wife Allison (Morgan Voellger).

English: IBM's Watson computer, Yorktown Heigh...

English: IBM’s Watson computer, Yorktown Heights, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think that it might be too far fetched, think again.  Sometime back, IBM’s AI computer, Watson made history when it appeared on Jeopardy, the popular game show beat most of the contestants http://bit.ly/JOZmwH .  Watson is a computer system, capable of answering questions posed in natural language.  This is no small feat.  Human language is infinitely complex.  That alone makes for a huge challenge in building an artificially intelligent, interactive being.  Puns, idioms, and other contextual expressions, and even the tone of voice http://bit.ly/17FvMmW  and a pause at a different place in a sentence, can completely alter the meaning.  In medicine, AI computer like Watson is expected learn the nuances of the language to offer complex diagnosis, and even indicate the level of confidence it has in the diagnosis offered.

ASIMO uses sensors and intelligent algorithms ...

ASIMO uses sensors and intelligent algorithms to avoid obstacles and navigate stairs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In “Build”, Kip’s AI being is keenly aware of her identity “16 terabytes of data”.  But she is far superior than any ordinary machine and he has built it in human avatar.  The robot takes on Allison’s personality, even the loneliness Allison experienced when she was married to Kip and Kip was occupied with his gaming venture.  This AI machine made out of code is incredibly smart (beats Kip in the word game they play), is intuitive and curious, and even talks about her dreams.  When Will discovers Kip’s secret AI being, he is both astounded and concerned that Kip will forever stay a prisoner of his home, as long as he has the companionship offered by the robot.  Along with this ulterior motive, Will also has fond memories of Allison and is mesmerized by Allison-like-robot.

This is not stuff of idle imagination.  Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have all said that we should be concerned about the future of artificial intelligence.  Louis Del Monte, an entrepreneur, has said that some day, machines could surpass humans and could become the most dominant species, and Hawking has said that machines could eventually “outsmart financial markets” and “out-invent human researchers”.  Days may not be far when machines will fulfill the roles of companions and caregivers.

While it is challenging to imagine the future, this production is tackling the challenges of reproducing that “future” on stage.  It takes the audience into the fascinating world of video gaming as Will and Kip work on deliverables, cleaning out bugs, and packet drops.  Then with the help of high tech design and lighting, the audience is introduced to the AI robot.  Video designer, Nick Kumamoto has worked wonders with some scattered computer screens and lighting.  While AI robot appears caring and concerned, and seems to be a perfect companion, the story revolves around three human beings, one who has passed away, leaving behind memories, and two friends who struggle through their growth and transformation, to keep the ties that brought them together in the first place; gaming, innovation, and their urge to “build” something, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  “Build” will be running at CityLights in San Jose, till February 22, 2015.  For tickets, go to www.cltc.org

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The Imitation Game – Movie Review


A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett)

A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II.  Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  And he was a homosexual.  A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable.  Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered.  Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park – geograph.org.uk – 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park.  Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation.  It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.  Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.

In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work.  At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home.  The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison.  In 1954, Turing committed suicide.  His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen.  Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.

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