Thursday, October 9, 2014

IBM Watch : The making of a champion: Deep Blue

Interesting brief column on chess, Garry Kasparov, and IBM's Deep Blue computer.

IBM Watch : The making of a champion: Deep Blue: "The making of a champion: Deep Blue
IBM is a vast subject, and even an expert is bound to have a gap or two in his or her knowledge of the company. One of such gaps for me was in just how the so-called "Deep Blue" computer was programmed with the necessary expertise to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

During a recent visit to IBM's Somers, New York, offices, I met with Bill Pulleyblank, vice-president of the center for business optimization for IBM Global Services. His job is to make connections between IBM Global Services and its clients, and IBM research.

Before he took his present position, Pulleyblank was the brains behind Deep Blue, if that's the right way of putting it. And to hear him talk about it is to understand that computers are the object of passion in their creators in much the way that sportscars are in theirs.

Pulleyblank recounted how Kasparov beat Deep Blue in their first match. The computers' designers took the lessons of the defeat back to their workshop and made some crucial tweaks."

Read all about it: 30 January 2011

In no particular order, here's some of the things we've been reading in the past 48 hours:

The most depressing story of 2011: five thoughts on phone-hacking

There's been just one media story in 2011 so far - but to date, we've done our level best to avoid writing anything about the whole phone-hacking mess.

It is, self-evidently, a huge story, but it's one we find it hard to get excited about. The Guardian's dogged pursuit of the story should be admirable, but their holier-than-thou attitude just comes off as plain irritating. And the long-term implications are profoundly depressing.

There's also the very real risk that with acres of newsprint and hundreds of online articles already having been devoted to the topic, we won't have anything new to say on it. So, rather than attempting to offer a wise and balanced verdict on the whole sorry affair (for which you'd do much better to read this piece by Simon Jenkins), we'll offer just the five following thoughts:

1) The legal issues are not quite as black and white as some would have you believe. & nbsp;Yes, intercepting someone else's calls & nbsp;is a criminal offence according to Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and there is no public interest defence (quite why, we're not sure...). But as the Independent reports, initial legal advice received by the Crown Prosecution Service suggested that 'if intercepted phone messages had already been heard by its intended recipient, then listening in wasn't a crime'. That's now changed - 'the DPP's new interpretation is broader', we're told - but the whole area is murky at best. And while journalists may have been clear that accessing voicemails was against the law, other common journalistic practices which may come under scrutiny - recording phone calls, accessing databases, publishing leaked information - clearly exist in a very grey legal area.

2) It's hard to feel sorry for the 'victims'. Sorry, but it is. Actors, pop stars, footballers, politicians... they're all entitled to a degree of privacy, it's true. But in the wider scheme of things, if you look through the annals of journalistic transgressions and count up all the awful things hacks have done to people over the years - and there are a few of them - listening in to Andy Gray's voicemail messages probably isn't at the top.

3) It's not just about the News of the World. If you haven't already heard the tales, then to get an idea of how prevalent 'screwing' used to be, have a glance at this Press Gazette article from back in 2006. It happened everywhere - on other red-tops, on Sunday broadsheets - and all the time. Our favourite quote? The former News of the World staffer who told the Press Gazette: 'When I was on the paper there was a war between the features department and news. Features would hack into the phone of somebody who was on the newsdesk to see what story they might be working on.'

4) It's not just about phone hacking anymore. The story the whole phone hacking scandal most reminds us of is the MPs' expenses brouhaha, where what started off as a targeted critique of politicians' expense-claiming became a general free-for-all and an excuse to give the political class a good kicking. There are key differences here, of course - it's smaller scale, there's no smoking gun disk to drip-feed new angles from and the media itself is much less willing to fan the flames. But the keenest critics of the media - and some of them are in fact MPs perhaps relishing a bit of post-expenses payback - want to make this about much more than phone-hacking, and broaden it into a wider debate about journalistic ethics. Remember 'blagging' and Operation Motorman? Well, everything dodgy a newspaper has ever done is now fair game. Which leads us to the fifth and final point...

5) & nbsp;No good will come of it all. There will be no satisfactory outcome or happy conclusion to the phone-hacking affair, for journalists at least. Our public reputation has fallen still lower (good news for estate agents...). The Government is now planning to bypass the Press Complaints Commission and 'tighten up on the activities of newspapers'. And while the Guardian may have been celebrated claiming the scalp of Andy Coulson, they may live to regret their victory. Others have already pointed out the apparent disconnect between the Guardian's respect for privacy when it comes to phone hacking and their respect for supposedly private information obtained via Wikileaks. As Stephen Glover put it in the Mail on Sunday: 'There is surely a gulf in standards between the newspaper's sense of self-congratulation in publishing these private cables and its excoriation of the News of the World for doing something that in many respects was very similar.'

That's not to say he's right, of course. There is a clear difference between hacking into someone's phone to chase a Sienna Miller scoop and using leaked cables to lift the lid on international diplomacy. But not everyone sees it that way - and the & nbsp;Guardian is unlikely to be spared in any crackdown on aggressive, grey-area journalism which results from the phone-hacking furore it helped to create.

Justice in the land of the Toblerone

Say what you like about the Guardian (and people generally do), but they can cover instances of over-zealous policing particularly well.

The latest comes from a rather unlikely quarter though, with business editor Andrew Clark starting the day as an accredited correspondent covering George Osborne's speech at the Davos summit, but somehow managing to end it with his hands tied behind his back in an underground car park detained by Swiss riot police.

Andrew Clark clearly isn't used to the Paul Lewis cop-baiting routine - his surreptitious Blackberry shots came out decidedly blurry - but when push came to shove, he knew what to do.

One by one, we were taken upstairs to the police station, at a rate of perhaps one every 15 minutes. After an hour or so, a policeman finally listened to my appeals and, examining my passport and press card, took me upstairs. I was photographed, mugshot-style, holding a number. & nbsp;
Then an English-speaking senior officer ordered me to delete any pictures taken on the train, and to rip out any pages from my notebook relating to the incident. I declined, asking him whether it was truly illegal in Switzerland to take pictures of the police.
He replied that policing the World Economic Forum was a ""special zone"" and that ""special rules"" applied. ""You have one minute. You can do this and go or, if you don't, you stay here,"" he said. & nbsp;
Again demurring, I asked to make a phone call – which prompted the assembled police to go into a huddle. Instead, the senior officer reached for his phone himself and made a long, animated call in German. More discussion ensued when he had hung up. Then he strolled over and he snapped: ""You can go back to your country.""
Well played.