With wit, vision, and scholarship, Domingos describes how these scientists are creating programs that allow a computer to...

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THE MASTER ALGORITHM

HOW THE QUEST FOR THE ULTIMATE LEARNING MACHINE WILL REMAKE OUR WORLD

Traditionally, the only way to make a computer execute a task is to write precise instructions: an algorithm. As the author notes in this enthusiastic but not dumbed-down introduction to machine learning, it is impossible to “write a program to tell a computer how to drive a car or decipher handwriting, but if we give enough examples to a computer running a learning algorithm, it will figure out how to do it on its own.”

The ultimate learning program, writes Domingos (Computer Science/Univ. of Washington), is the master algorithm, and the process is well underway to allow computers to function creatively. Data alone is not enough. Defeating the world’s greatest chess or Jeopardy players was a matter of brute force, but simpler computers running learning programs already beat talent scouts in baseball, connoisseurs in wine tasting, and doctors in disease diagnosis. Though lucid and consistently informative, Domingos’ explanation of how a variety of scientific schools approaches the master algorithm requires close attention from readers. Symbolists believe that intelligence emerges from manipulating symbols, just as mathematicians solve equations by replacing expressions with other expressions. Connectionists try to reverse-engineer the brain. Evolutionaries write programs that change in ways similar to natural selection. Bayesians know that all learned knowledge is uncertain, so they emphasize 18th-century English clergyman Thomas Bayes’ theorem, which can handle probabilistic inference. Finally, analogizers search for similarities in data and write code that combines them to make new predictions. “Armed with your new understanding of machine learning,” writes the author, “you’re in a much better position to think about issues like privacy and data sharing, the future of work, robot warfare, and the promise and peril of AI.”

With wit, vision, and scholarship, Domingos describes how these scientists are creating programs that allow a computer to teach itself. Readers unfamiliar with logic and computer theory will have a difficult time, but those who persist will discover fascinating insights.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0465065707

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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