Lists of Bests

Chris Ford of ThoughtWorks has put together his list of the most important academic papers in computer science. This is becoming a thing: Michael Feathers and Fogus have also published such lists.

Chris set three criteria for inclusion in his list:

The paper must have changed the world. (I.e., they must truly be important.)

The paper must have changed his perspective. (This makes it personal.)

Only one paper is allowed from each decade. (This makes the list interesting.)

His list includes some choices that are hard to argue with, like Alan Turing’s “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” and Claud Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.”

I thought about trying to put together my own list, and maybe I will sometime, but I realized as I thought about it that all the papers I would choose are already in this list.

Killer Robots etc.

Elon Musk is seriously worried about artificial intelligence. He’s donated ten million dollars to the Future of Life Institute to ensure that AI research is beneficial.

I’ll grant you that ten million is chump change to Elon Musk, but the Institute has the word “catalyze” in its mission statement, and we all know that this means they expect small nudges in the right places to have huge impacts.

I’m trying not to be cynical because I think that Musk’s concern is legitimate, and I hope humanity does take the right steps to avoid a future of killer robots and an Internet of Evil Things. And maybe the consciousness-raising that the Institute is doing will be enough. But I’m going to have to see a few practical programs before they get my ten million.