Machine Unlearning

Humans have a tendency to rely on machines as a way of understanding ourselves. The mechanical world has long provided metaphors for how the human body works. “We’ve always had technological analogies to try to explain biology,” said Chris Atkeson, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University. “One idea of how the brain worked was it’s hydraulic. People described hydraulic clocks and the heart pumping blood. Then we had steam engines as a metaphor for how [our bodies] worked. Then we got electricity.” Expanding upon this tradition, in 1948, the mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener published his book Cybernetics, which used computer-brain analogies to lay the foundation for how people now think about the Information Age. Today, of course, computers figure prominently in explanations of living systems. People routinely describe the…

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