Tag archives for: montreal

Graffiti and the Art Test

If you're in the tech industry, or you're just generally interested in technology, chances are you've heard of the Turing test. It's usually billed as a litmus test for intelligence in machines. The idea, in its most basic form, is simple. A judge converses with two subjects, one of which is human and one of which is a machine, via some sort of mechanism that hides the physical characteristics of the subjects. If the judge cannot tell the human from the machine, we say that the machine is intelligent. Simple as that.

The Turing test has been a major source of controversy in Philosophy of Mind circles, but the irony is that Turing intended it to be a way of sidestepping debate. In his view, asking whether a machine could think was about as useful as asking whether a submarine could swim; the answer, of course, completely depends on what you mean by "machine" and "think". These are questions with very subjective answers, so instead of going down that particular rabbit hole, he came up with his test. He thought it was a reasonable one for a very good reason: we use it to judge the intelligence of other people every single day. One judges the intelligence of another person based on conversations with said person. There's no other way to do it; you don't get to peer into their brains to watch the gears move. Why shouldn't machines be subject to the same treatment?

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Oatmeal Stout Under the Watchful Eye of Abandoned Silos

For a long time I've been trying to gauge my personal feelings about this building:

This is the old Canada Malting factory. It's in the heart of Saint Henri, in Montreal, next to the McAuslan brewery on Notre Dame, right on the Lachine canal. I live about a 20 minute walk away. It's huge, intimidating, in extreme disrepair and very well-graffitied. It's been abandoned for decades.

Ferreting out my reaction is not as easy as one might imagine. Introspection, at the best of times, is a tricky business.

But, hey, I can try. My immediate reaction is to be in awe. It looks like something out of a dystopian future - like there's been some horrific war, or we've run out of oil, or the Machines or the Apes or the Party have taken over. You vaguely expect Mel Gibson to show up on a motorbike.

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Toronto Versus Montreal

Debates about the relative merits of Toronto versus Montreal are rarely level headed. Each city has its champions and its detractors and, unfortunately, the loudest are often the least objective, having only ever lived in one city or the other, but not both.

I've lived in both, for extended periods of time, so I feel I'm in a better position than many to dispense some useful observations on Canada's two largest cities.

Observation #1: Toronto is much bigger than Montreal, and feels like it, too

On a warm day, you can walk lengthwise from one end of downtown Montreal to the other without really breaking much of a sweat. You'd be hard-pressed to do this in Toronto. The situation is made more extreme by the fact that a large chunk of the island of Montreal is taken up by an airport. So the amount of usable space in Montreal is even less than the size of the island might suggest.

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Let It Snow

Cheesy title, I'm aware, but Montreal just got something like 30-60 cm of snow, depending on which weather report you read, and it's gorgeous.

I live on the 26th floor of my apartment building and from up there it's a bit difficult to see just how much snow we got. I get to the street level this morning and I see snow banks higher than my waist. I don't remember having this much snow since I was in primary school, and I was smaller then so my memories might be playing tricks on me.

I'm sure there's a lesson in all of this about global warming (why is it that I can't recall snowbanks this high in such a long time?), but for the moment it's nice. We might just get a white Christmas this year.

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