Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-12-06 - 9:36 p.m.

This is a new keyboard which I saw in Tesco for a ridiculously low price and so I thought I would give it a try.

Some new work has turned up just in time – continuing the dialogue with the select committee on education and skills - the next instalment has to be in by 8 January. There have been a couple of big developments this week – one is a report that was published yesterday which seeks to make the UK better at generating the skills it needs to maintain global competitiveness over the next couple of decades. It has been a year or more in the offing. I found myself reading it in the small hours thanks to my erratic sleep pattern.

Eventually it worked its magic and I nodded off. In fact it worked so well that I nearly overslept. The next contribution is G Brown’s response in the pre Budget Report this afternoon.

The previous evening at dinner I had a long talk to someone who worked at a recently privatised defence research establishment and who specialised in the relationship between pure mathematics, logic and the reliability of software. His PhD had been in something quite deep in the foundations of mathematics – an alternative way of grouping things together – not a million miles from Russell’s paradox which is one of the few bits of this stuff I think I understand – a bit.

He too had read the 1980s biography of Turing and so we were able to spend time talking about T’s trip from Kings to Princeton, meeting with Godel and his return to the classes with Wittgenstein. My dinner conversationalist said that at his place of work they have an original enigma machine and that not so long ago they got it out the case and fired it up – it still works. Some of this is, believe it or not, relevant to the stability control software in cars. Or at least relevant to the judgement whether the code has been sufficiently well developed that the software can be let loose on the general public.

I said that when I worked in DTI ppersonnel I had tried to get hold of Turing’s personal file – unsuccessfully. I also recalled the time that I had heard Clinton’s IT security adviser in Washington DC – very much the world we have lost.

It transpired that he knew someone who was in the same scout troop as me as a teenager - in fact he lived down my street. This individual made his mark when he discovered Bob Dylan in 1963 - Freewheeling. And then he arranged for one of his mates to lend me Kind of Blue and Ole which really put me on the road to ruin. Finally he persuaded me that philosophy might be more fun than whatever it was I thought I was going to do. To cap it all he s the first person in english history to have failed the 11 plus and gone on to become a professor of artificial intelligence at an ancient university - and there he was in our conversation yesterday evening - by chance.

The occasion for all this jollity was the was a meeting at Loughborough University to work out what the priorities are going to be when the new funding regime for EC research starts in the new year. They had managed to get some potential collaborators from Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany to come along which was pretty impressive. The day seemed to go quite well for us – and maybe we will be able to intercept a german suggestion about what next.

Still listening to ebtg.

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