Category Archives: Blogs' Archive

AI

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but time marches on, the game changes, and a fresh update is due now  and again.  Just the other day I saw a story about a guy with two totally prosthetic arms, like from the shoulder.  Grip of steel.  And there’s almost no part of the body we can’t, now or in the very near future, replicate.  The blind will see, the lame will walk.AI

The hard part, of course, is the brain.  Thus, the quest for artificial intelligence.  And, of course, with the quest for artificial intelligence comes the ethical argument against it, which is “Are you crazy?  They will kill us all!”

The way I see it, though, is like this.

Computer minds are nothing like human minds.  No matter how much computing capability they have, that doesn’t mean they can feel.  Or, imagine.  Or desire.  They will not suddenly kill us all unless somebody orders them to.

I believe the first AI will be a hybrid, and we are seeing the development of it right here, right now. This sentence, which originated in my mind (one tiny and discrete cell of the hive mind), flowed out through my fingers to a keyboard, thanks to the miracle of written language and praise be forever unto the unknown genius-scribe who first thought that up. From there it goes to your computer screen, just like the thought, or the impulse, will leap from neuron to neuron via incredibly rapid chemical processes. In an instant, others can respond, adding variations and objections. This is the thought process of the internet, backed up by all the information in the world, or at least all the information that anyone has deemed worth recording, the constantly changing views from our deep space telescopes, the ongoing research at universities, laboratories, hospitals and factories all around this sweet, little world of ours and beyond. It has not yet reached the point where we can call it artificial intelligence (it is clearly artificial – it is the word intelligence which gives us pause), but the potential is there.

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‘Tis the Season…

‘Tis the season to have our annual argument about Bill O’Reilly’s totally imaginary War on Christmas, which is fiercely fought by legions of keyboard Christians, well intentioned old ladies who seriously think we’re all going to literally burn in hell, and those who don’t know the difference between a public school and a church, bravely defending their religious ritual against a non-existent threat.

Bill O'Reilly, most paranoid man in the world

Bill O’Reilly, most paranoid man in the world

One person today in faceplace space was saying ‘If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, which is Christ Mass, then you shouldn’t have a tree, you shouldn’t give gifts, you shouldn’t be disrespecting, even co-opting, our religious holiday.’

This was my reply:

It’s not a religious holiday, pure and simple. It’s three days after the Winter Solstice, the days are beginning to get longer, the Sun is not actually going to go away forever. This has been a holiday since people first started to look at the sky and wonder what the heck was going on, which means it probably goes back to before we were properly people at all. Gifts and gift giving were a part of human culture long, long before the time of Christ, like maybe a million years before. Alcohol? Probably about the same. Trees also preceded us and, since it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to chop one down and bring it to the place where you live, that too has probably been part of the celebration since before Christ was born. Snow? Goes way back. A roaring campfire? Well, I’m sure that’s a question archaeologists would like to answer, but I’ll bet it’s at least 500,000 years.

Christmas has been known as Saturnalia, Yule, and probably many other ancient names. Just because the power cult you happen to belong to came along a couple thousand years ago and started claiming everything in sight, doesn’t actually make any of it yours. Happy Holidays.

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Isms

Democracy, Theocracy,  Monarchy, Empire, Communism, Capitalism, Socialism,even Anarchy, these are all just different formats for managing  civilization and the problem is that  all of them could  work, in theory.

But, as I have heard attributed  to Yogi Berra, although  I kind of doubt that ‘In theory is the same as in practice, in theory.  In  practice, it’s not.’

The problem is obvious.  What do all of these systems have in common?  People.  It’s always the damned people.  Anarchy would be beautiful, it is the most poetically beautiful of all of them, the beautiful belief that  people, left to their own devices, would do the right things.  99% of the time, that might be true, but that other one percent of the time you want the police or the fire department or the  ambulance to arrive on time.  It’s  like that stupid Adam Smith  metaphor about the invisible hand.  It’s invisible, people!  That had  could  just as easily whop you up the side of the head.

In an  unregulated, free-market capitalist system, an  ever tightening group of people at the type make more  and more money, and leave the  paupers in the dirt.

In communism, dissent and individuality are strongly discouraged.

In theocracies around the world, people are poor, and  oppressed, and ignorant.

Democracy may well  be the  fairest system so far devised by man, but it  is only as good as the Demos it represents.  And  quite honestly, I am not convinced that Gruber was wrong.

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Kim Jong Troll

I just wrote a long, insightful piece on Kim Jong Un and why it is terribly uncool that he hacked Sony Pictures computers and intimidated them out of showing that film with Seth Rogen and James Franco about him getting whacked, because if he wants the world to stop laughing at him and random comics making fun of him, maybe he could try being a better dictator, like by allowing his people a bit of freedom, to head south if they want, to have the internet, to not die in concentration camps.  But, I wrote it it on my son’s computer becaus mine crashed and this one doesn’t want to do what I tell it to, I feel like I’m writing on a phone and then it lost the whole piece so this is the short version and good night.

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Que Viva El Presidente Obama!

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach,” Obama said in his speech today, announcing that fine Havana cigars will soon be available  over the counter at fine tobacconists all across the United States.havana

It’s pretty amazing.  Soon, hordes of American tourists will descend on Cuban  beaches, reminding  them all of why they wanted to get rid  of us in  the first place.  We will exchange diplomats and a  few entrepreneurial types will carve out a niche  for themselves.

The last 50  years  will start  to fade into memory.

There are three ways in which I think this is a wonderful thing.

First, I think it will be good for Cuba.  The tourist dollars won’t hurt, but  the relaxation  of trade inhibitions will do wonders.  They would probably have a thriving, vibrant economy today if we  hadn’t been blockading them damned near since I was born.

Second, I think it will be good for the United States, although less so.  The U.S. is huge.  Only a tiny minority of people, most of whom live in  Florida, will be directly affected.  But, it’s one more conflict  we won’t need to worry about.  One problem solved.  The next time some smart ass right winger makes a comment about Obama’s Nobel Prize, you can mention this.

The third great thing about this is in the quote above.  If something hasn’t worked for 50 years, it’s time to scratch it and start a new approach.  Going by that same, beautiful logic we should also end the war on drugs.

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On Time

I was just scanning the  science section in the old Huffingpaste, when I came across this  gem of a headline: Why Does Time Move Forward?  I am not going to link to the article, and I didn’t  bother reading the article, because hey, come on, really.

Time moves forward because if it moved backward then we would call that forward and, in fact, that might be the case.  You only can relate to your own environment and we are stuck in  this one, moving the way that time moves in this universe.

If there were some sort of Merlin/Benjamin Button/the  Jonathan  Winters character in Mork and Mindy effect  going  on, then it would seem perfectly natural to us and that’s  how  we’d relate to it.

But I think we can  go a step farther.  As Descartes said “I think therefore I am,” so it follows that not only can we trust our basic sense of existence as proof of  existence, so we can  trust the evidence  of our senses that the universe around us is, at least in the ways  that affect us, more or less as it seems.  Flowers bloom in the spring, the dawn precedes the day, we are small when we are born and  get a bit older every day.

So, time  is moving  forward.  Which is exactly what we demand of it.

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Pointing Fingers

Dick Cheney and Karl Rove have both responded to the Senate Torture Report, which  proves that American soldiers acted like war criminals, and they did so with the full support of the U.S. government, by saying “Bush knew it!  Bush authorized it!”  I find that very curious.

He did it, too!

He did it, too!

Why?  I guess they’re a little bit nervous, although I’ll be really surprised if they ever have to answer for their crimes.  But, how does this exonerate them?

I guess what they’re saying is that they were just doing what the  boss told them to do, just following orders.  Slime.

No decency.  No compassion.  And no loyalty.  None whatsoever.  Somewhere in Texas, the former president pauses in his portrait of puppies, holds the brush in the air, gets a faraway look in his eyes and says “Et tu, Turdblossom.”

I think they should arrest George W. Bush.  Put him in one of those interrogation rooms, like you see on T.V., where people can look in but you can’t see out, and tell him all his friends are ratting him out and he’s going to end up like Rudolf Hess if he doesn’t start co-operating and then you bring in the good cop who tries to understand him and offers him a shot of whiskey and then we’ll find out everything, the whole lot of them can go to jail, and we can put this dark chapter of our history behind us.

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