RSS Parrot


🦜 Apperceptive by Sam • Buttondown

I'm an automated parrot! I relay a website's RSS feed to the Fediverse. Every time a new post appears in the feed, I toot about it. Follow me to get all new posts in your Mastodon timeline! Brought to you by the RSS Parrot.


Hello. My name is Sam. This newsletter is about self-driving cars, autonomy, machine learning, the human brain. I think that almost everybody building "AI" or self-driving or whatever underestimates the importance and sophistication of social cognition, and how big a part of human intelligence it is. Previously, I tried to fix that state of affairs by publishing research, and then by starting a company. Now I write about it here. The more people who understand it, the better.

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Supervision and truth

Published: May 31, 2024 16:23

A diagram I found online about distinguishing facts and value judgments. Seems easy enough! For more than a decade the dominant training methodology in machine learning was "supervised learning". Under this paradigm, machine learning models are trained…

How the field of "AI" got like this

Published: November 2, 2023 14:40

Photo by Nick Wessaert on Unsplash The AI world can a deeply hostile place for people who are not white men. This is inarguable, and is a huge problem for the field, and one that should be solved not just for reasons of equity and fairness but because it…

I knew this was coming

Published: October 27, 2023 16:29

3rd gen Cruise vehicle in happier times. Pic by Dillu, via wikimedia commons In 2016, when we originally raised money for our self-driving car company, we were part of an enormous boom. There were dozens or possibly hundreds of startups with an idea for…

The cost we bear

Published: September 22, 2023 15:31

Photo by Jim Wilson on Unsplash A cyclist got killed here a few weeks back. He was 57, I assume a commuter, riding in a wealthy suburb. He was hit by a truck turning left as he rode through an intersection. I was talking to my spouse about the crash, and…

Understanding (and) psychology

Published: August 9, 2023 14:29

Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash I've talked in the past about the difficulty of knowing what you're measuring, and how important that is to machine learning. It came up a lot at my company, but it is also incredibly important to understanding what LLMs…

The value-destroying potential of AI

Published: July 31, 2023 14:37

Photo by Nick Jio on Unsplash When my company was trying to sell our solution for theory of mind to autonomous vehicle companies, the biggest problem we had was convincing them that what we were offering worked well enough to deploy in vehicles. In part,…

Knowing how to measure

Published: April 14, 2023 12:16

Photo by William Warby on Unsplash One of my regular hobbyhorses is that computer science/machine learning as a field failed to learn the correct lessons from psychology/cognitive science. The relationship between the two fields is fraught. In the late…

Self-serving thought experiments

Published: March 15, 2023 12:58

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash A few years ago my collaborator Julian de Freitas and I published the first of what became a series of papers about the problems with applying the thought experiment known as “the trolley problem” to autonomous cars. The…

AI as UX

Published: March 2, 2023 13:26

Photo by Daniel Perunov on Unsplash I was talking to my friend Kieran about the argument I made in my last newsletter, about AI being UX.  That is to say, "artificial intelligence"1 is really, fundamentally, a metaphor for user interaction.  I think it's…

The story Waze tells about problems with autonomous cars

Published: October 7, 2022 20:28

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash I’m not alone in complaining about ubiquitous GPS navigation. Google Maps and Waze (in particular) are causing changes in traffic patterns that have unpredictable knock-on effects. For drivers, this has the effect of…

What is it all for

Published: September 9, 2022 19:21

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash I started this newsletter because, after the sudden evaporation of the company I'd spent seven years building, I had more to say. Things I hadn't been able to say in that job. Things about the substantial problems with…

Computer vision is badly defined

Published: August 4, 2022 12:42

DALL-E 2 trying to express the puzzlement of a computer looking at a human The perception systems in autonomous cars have been struggling with providing the information necessary for driving. One reason is the way that computer vision is defined. The space…

The urbanist case for autonomous cars

Published: August 1, 2022 19:46

Photo by Fons Heijnsbroek on Unsplash Around the corner from where I live, they're building a new subway station. It's part of the first major expansion of the regional subway network in decades. The entrance to the station is on a road that gets used as a…

What autonomous cars see

Published: July 27, 2022 18:53

Photo by nik radzi on Unsplash Autonomous cars are operating based on a set of information about the world completely different from the information on which human drivers rely. It’s a hard concept to develop an intuition around, but it’s central to…

The Nightmare Scenario

Published: July 25, 2022 15:24

This is something I've believed for decades. I grew up in one of the last true streetcar suburbs in the country, a bucolic (and now unaffordable) place which puts paid to the lie of the necessity of car dependence for pleasant (if slightly boring) suburban…

Driving is a social process

Published: July 20, 2022 17:01

Photo by Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash There is something very strange about automobiles. They are much faster and more dangerous than our brains are used to thinking about. This was more obvious to people when automoviles were new. In the early…

On harm reduction

Published: July 18, 2022 13:46

Photo by Jordan Bebek on Unsplash I spent the last seven years of my life trying to convince the autonomous vehicle industry of two things: first, that driving is fundamentally a social process; and second, that if they ever wanted their vehicles to work…