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Insanely Complicated, Hopelessly Inadequate

Paul Taylor: AI, 21 January 2021

The Promise of Artificial Intelligence: Reckoning and Judgment 
by Brian Cantwell Smith.
MIT, 157 pp., £20, October 2019, 978 0 262 04304 5
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Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust 
by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis.
Ballantine, 304 pp., £22.50, September 2019, 978 1 5247 4825 8
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The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect 
by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie.
Penguin, 418 pp., £10.99, May 2019, 978 0 14 198241 0
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... the most prominent critics of machine learning as an approach to AI. Rebooting AI, written with Ernest Davis, is a rallying cry to those who still believe in the old religion.Marcus and Davis maintain that, despite the current excitement around machine learning, it will always fall short of achieving a real general ...

California Noir

Michael Rogin: Destroying Los Angeles, 19 August 1999

Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster 
by Mike Davis.
Picador, 484 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 9780330372190
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... Yet people turn from His ways.’ These remarks are not by the author of Ecology of Fear, Mike Davis, but the Southern California congresswoman Andrea Seastrand, speaking on behalf of Jehovah. Although the Los Angeles Times reassured its readers that ‘as far as can be determined’, the dozens of large snakes deposited on Southern Californian beaches ...

For ever England

John Lucas, 16 June 1983

Sherston’s Progress 
by Siegfried Sassoon.
Faber, 150 pp., £2.25, March 1983, 9780571130337
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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon 
by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 160 pp., £5.25, March 1983, 0 571 13010 0
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Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 288 pp., £10.50, March 1983, 0 571 11997 2
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... along the twilight lane, while the last blackbird warbles from the may-tree. Two years previously Ernest Rhys had put out an anthology for soldiers, called The Old Country. It included an introduction by Sir Arthur Yapp of the YMCA which spoke of the soldier in imagination seeing ‘his village home’ (most soldiers came from industrial cities); and the ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made clear – hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s speculations on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention. There is at least one known case. In 2013 William Vollmann wrote about getting hold of his own FBI file and discovering that during the ...

Flub-Dub

Thomas Powers: Stephen Crane, 17 July 2014

Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire 
by Paul Sorrentino.
Harvard, 476 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 674 04953 6
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... and H.G. Wells, and leading news correspondents Crane met in Cuba such as Charles Michelson, Ernest McCready and Richard Harding Davis. These are rich materials but at the same time they are incomplete and sparse. Crane was not a prolific letter-writer and he left no diaries or memoir. Further confusing matters was ...

Bolsheviks and Bohemians

Angus Calder, 5 April 1984

The Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Hugh Brogan.
Cape, 456 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 224 02010 2
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Bohemia in London 
by Arthur Ransome, introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Oxford, 284 pp., £3.50, January 1984, 0 19 281412 5
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... became convinced that Taqui, Susan, Titty and Roger, the children, now grown-up, of his old friend Ernest Altounyan, were claiming undue credit for having inspired Swallows and Amazons – though in 1930 he had made sure that they got an advance copy of the book which he had dedicated to them, and had been deeply gratified by their approval. He replaced the ...

A Plan and a Man

Neal Ascherson: Remembering Malaya, 20 February 2014

Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain’s My Lai 
by Christopher Hale.
History Press, 432 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 7524 8701 4
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... by a Thai Communist hit squad in Bangkok later that year. How much​ did the British know? John Davis, the Force 136 man who was closest to Chin Peng, Lai Tek’s successor as MCP leader, had been in the prewar Special Branch. He knew the secret of Mr Wright, but did not tell his comrade. Anyway, the end of the war brought a new situation. In Indochina and ...

But I wanted a crocodile

Thomas Meaney: Castro in Harlem, 4 February 2021

Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s 
by Simon Hall.
Faber, 276 pp., £17.99, September 2020, 978 0 571 35306 4
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... extreme length of Castro’s speeches is a puzzle. He compulsively worked them over. Angela Davis remembers him telling her that he used to get nervous before delivering them. Part of it may have been to do with the methodical patience he learned during his two years in the mountain fastness of the Sierra Maestra. It was also the place where Castro, who ...

Museums of Melancholy

Iain Sinclair: Silence on the Euston Road, 18 August 2005

... trips to Kew, Clerkenwell, days trawling the internet, established a connection. Hadman E. was Ernest. From Stilton. A railwayman in Peterborough, an ‘acting porter’, Ernest died on the Somme in 1917 and is listed on the Thiepval Memorial. There was indeed a remote kinship with Anna. Her great-great-grandfather and ...

The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove, 12 September 2019

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... was immediately placed in care. Named Graeme Logan at birth, he was adopted by a childless couple, Ernest and Christine Gove, and his name changed to Michael Andrew Gove. Gove’s adoptive parents came from a working-class background, rooted in the fishing industry in Aberdeen. By the late 1960s, his father had built up a small fish-processing business, but ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... in her words. You’ve heard it from time to time in the movie tones of Marlene Dietrich or Bette Davis. It was late, I’d been in bed for some time. I pretended to be asleep when she walked into the dark room and told me. I didn’t know what to say, and I was frightened by what would happen to the voice if it was encouraged to go on. Besides, I had a ...

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