Geoff Nunberg en Do Feelings Compute? If Not, The Turing Test Doesn't Mean Much To judge from some of the <a href="">headlines,</a> it was a very big deal. At an event held at the Royal Society in London, for the first time ever, a computer passed the Turing Test, which is widely taken as the benchmark for saying a machine is engaging in intelligent thought. But like the other much-hyped triumphs of artificial intelligence, this one wasn't quite what it appeared. Computers can do things that seem quintessentially human, but they usually take a different path to get there. Tue, 01 Jul 2014 19:46:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 63691 at 150 Years After Marx, 'Capital' Still Can't Shake Loose Of 'Das Kapital' A lot of things had to come together to turn Thomas Piketty's controversial <em>Capital in the Twenty-First Century</em> into the <a href="">tome of the season</a>. There's its timeliness, its surprising accessibility and the audacity of its thesis, that capitalism inevitably leads to greater concentrations of wealth at the very top. Tue, 27 May 2014 18:54:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 61513 at Hackers? Techies? What To Call San Francisco's Newcomers "There goes the neighborhood." Every so often that cry goes up in San Francisco, announcing a new chapter in American cultural history, as the rest of the country looks on. There were the beats in North Beach, then the hippies in the Haight, then the gays in the Castro. Now it's the turn of the techies who are pouring into my own Mission neighborhood, among other places. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 18:56:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 52210 at Sorry Assiduous (adj.) SAT-Takers, Linguist In Dudgeon (n.) Over Vocab Flashcards When I took the SATs a very long time ago, it didn't occur to us to cram for the vocabulary questions. Back then, the A in SAT still stood for "aptitude," and most people accepted the wholesome fiction that the tests were measures of raw ability that you couldn't prepare for — "like sticking a dipstick into your brain," one College Board researcher said.<p>It wasn't until the test-prep industry took off a few years later that people realized you could work the system, and students began boning up on the words that were likely to appear on the exam. Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:27:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 50654 at Narcissistic Or Not, 'Selfie' Is Nunberg's Word Of The Year I feel a little defensive about choosing "selfie" as my Word of the Year for 2013. I've usually been partial to words that encapsulate one of the year's major stories, such as "<a href="">occupy</a>" or "<a href="">big data</a>." Or "privacy," which is the word chose this year. Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:26:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 50458 at Was Rand Paul's Plagiarism Dishonest Or A Breach Of Good Form? Even taken together, the charges didn't seem to amount to that big a deal — just a matter of quoting a few factual statements and a Wikipedia passage without attributing them. But as Rand Paul discovered, the word "plagiarism" can still rouse people to steaming indignation. Samuel Johnson called plagiarism the most reproachful of literary crimes, and the word itself began as the name of a real crime. In Roman law, a plagiarius was someone who abducted a child or a slave — it's from "plaga," the Latin word for a net or a snare. Tue, 12 Nov 2013 18:11:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 47581 at The Internet's 'Twerk' Effect Makes Dictionaries Less Complete Evidently it was quite fortuitous. Just a couple of days after MTV's Video Music Awards, <a href="">Oxford Dictionaries Online</a> released its quarterly list of the new words it was adding. To the delight of the media, there was "twerk" at the top, which gave them still another occasion to link a story to Miley Cyrus' energetic high jinks.<p>And why not add "twerk"? It's definitely a cool word, which worked its way from New Orleans bounce music into the linguistic mainstream on the strength of its expressive phonetics, among other things. Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:30:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 43826 at Bracing For Google Glass: An In-Your-Face Technology The likes of you and I can't buy <a href="">Google Glass</a> yet. It's available only to the select developers and opinion-makers who have been permitted to spring $1,500 for the privilege of having the first one on the block. But I've seen a few around my San Francisco neighborhood among the young techies who commute down to the Google and Facebook campuses in WiFi-equipped shuttle buses or who pedal downtown to Zynga and Twitter on their fixies.<p>You've probably seen pictures of one of these. Mon, 05 Aug 2013 18:22:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 41022 at Calling It 'Metadata' Doesn't Make Surveillance Less Intrusive "This is just metadata. There is no content involved." That was how Sen. Dianne Feinstein <a href="" target="_blank">defended</a> the NSA's blanket surveillance of Americans' phone records and Internet activity. Before those revelations, not many people had heard of metadata, the term librarians and programmers use for the data that describes a particular document or record it's linked to. Fri, 21 Jun 2013 17:25:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 37901 at 'Horrific' And 'Surreal': The Words We Use To Bear Witness Mass shootings, bus crashes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks — we've gotten adept at talking about these things. Act of God or act of man, they're all horrific. At least that was the word you kept hearing from politicians and newscasters describing the Boston bombings and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas.<p>That may not strike you as surprising — the events were horrific, weren't they? But it's actually a new way of describing things. "Horrific" is an old word; it turns up in Thackeray and Melville. But until recent times it was rare and literary. Fri, 26 Apr 2013 15:51:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 34071 at