Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I am interest in Ray Kurzweil’s ideas.
He describes a near future where advances accelerate, particularly in machine intelligence, nanotechnology and robotics.
The advance in machine intelligence, for Ray, involves cracking the algorithm for pattern recognition that animal intelligence has.
One possibility is that pattern recognition is, in part, a function of size . (
Suppose you had ten thousands of computers all connected.. How many choices have to be made before the computer can recognize that a thing is, for example, a book? Suppose you had a bank of computers devoted to just one task; recognizing images of books. A processor devoted to that one question; is this a book? Are they books?
Are there any books in this picture? That is a good way to put it, because what is life but a series of pictures? If you can interpret the picture you can understand life. If you recognize what, in the current picture, is a book you are that much closer to “understanding” what is in front of you.
The brain is a redundant system. It wasn’t built by a programmer. If a method worked it could be repeated and repeated in brute force fashion.
So, what might be achieved by putting tens of thousands of computer components in a single building, attached to a Velcro infrastructure? That’s what Google is doing. Tens of thousands of mother boards stuck to Velcro, attached to the other motherboards via wireless connections. Will google be the first to achieve pattern recognition? I would say that based on the present evidence the answer is, "Yes."
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Silicon vs Carbon Intelligence:
Carbon is far superior to Silicon when it comes to diversity of possible shapes and composition because Carbon is the only element that can bind with itself and numerous other elements. This is a consequence of the fact that Carbon has exactly four of the allowed eight electrons in its second orbit. Carbon can form chains and rings and can bind with Potasium, Sulpher, Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Nitrogen.
Silicon is good for making glass and switches.
Carbon makes proteins and carbohydrates and esters and enols and ethols, and alcohols and acids and hormones and chlorophyll and hemoglobin and muscle and brain and diamonds and graphite.
There are ten million known carbon compounds. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon ).
Furthermore, proteins achieve further complexity through how it folds and how it crystalizes.
Carbon has proved its superiority as the chemical to first achieve self awareness on Earth.
I am carbon, hear me roar.
Carbon will use Silicon and the other elements to extend its powers, but in all cases intelligence and self awareness will have started and will reside with Carbon.
Carbon is, here on earth, generating a group mind that constantly evolves in knowledge and quality of its algorithms.
The internet, like printed books before it, has become Carbon's repository of knowledge.
Consider Wikipedia. Database grows and is rapidly refined by whomever can make an improvement. It and other databases like it, are the Earth's hive-memory.
Consider the open coding movement. Open coding encryption software is much more likely to be secure then commercially available products. Why? Because the open source coding is, being free, constantly being used, and therefore scrutinized by whatever individual minds that are interested. It is constantly being tinkered with and tested by people who want to use it and therefore have a stake in its state of functionality.
An almost infinite and very fast memory and a steadily improving set of algorithms will not be intelligent or conscious any more than an airplane is intelligent and conscious. Machine intelligence, what ever chemical or atom it is made from, will just be a machine for answering questions. The questions will be asked by carbon based life.
On Consciousness: Consciousness is not strictly speaking a quality of the mind. A good part of consciousness comes from information about our bodies and about our immediate environment. In order to be full conscious I need to know the local temperature, my overall nutritional status, the position in space of my entire body, the safety of my immediate environment, and everything else I need so I can attend to my survival and drives. In order to be considered fully conscious I need to be able to access my memories.
So, nothing but carbon based intelligence will ever be said to be fully conscious.
On Intelligence: Intelligence, too, is not simply a quality of mind. Intelligence is the ability to percieve and manipulate events to one's own best interest. To be intelligent one needs perceptual organs and manipulative organs. Furthermore, one has to know one's own best interest, including the exact state of one's internal organs. That in turn requires drives and hungers often molded by long periods of evolutionary pressure and competition for energy. Hormones and enzymes and millions of other carbon based molecules are needed.
So, only carbon can provide the complexity of structures needed to achieve real intelligence and consciousness. The other chemicals are simply not versatile enough. A simulcrum of a man could not be made of Silicon or any other chemical. You need the complexity that only carbon provides.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
More about the Iraqi End Game
Recent reports find Bush's approval rating at 34%, a new low, and warnings that Iraq is at the brink of civil war are everywhere.
Whether its Serb against Croatians or Tutsis against Hutus, ethnic animosities seem easy to stir up even to the point of genocide or civil war.
Since the insurgents have every reason to stir up those animosities, it seems to me communal violence will continue and, as I have predicted before, civil war until the two sides collapse of exhaustion seems likely.
It seems clear that the US is going to shortly begin withdrawing most of its troops, regardless of what transpires. The question that interests me now is whether we will abandon our bases.
If we withdraw our troops, do not leave a cordial Iraqi government in place, and are not able to maintain military bases in the country then the whole Iraqi war will have been entirely devoid of any return. Lives and fortune spent for nothing.
Watch the end game struggle over those bases.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Why Intelligent People shouldn't worry about Intelligent Design and other thoughts about religion, on Dec.3, 2005
Why? Because there is no experiment that can be designed to test Intelligent design.
If you can't do an experiment to test an idea, then the idea is based on belief.
Things we believe to be true on faith can be taught is school, but not in the Science classroom.
A Comparitive Religions course, it seems to me, would be a good idea for American High School.
On the other hand, there are some intriguing experiments that could be designed to predict the nature of a "designer" if you assume one does exist.
For example, you could design an experiment to determine if the "Designer" is loving and benevolent and all powerful. You could, say, predict that a loving and benevolent and all powerful Designer would strike down the evil and the undeserving, while sparing the innocent and the good. Victims of acts of the Designer, like the recent tsunami, could be studied.
Friday, November 11, 2005
11-21-05 Iraq end game
Suddenly it all became clear to the American majority: Bush has made a mess of things.
The Times today reports that only 40% of Americans believe that Bush is "honest and trustworthy.)
The war situation in Iraq is particularly dismal.
The insurgents are very well armed because we forgot to guard Saddam's weapon supplies. They have rocket propelled grenades and tons of explosives. They seem able to tap into a cadre of men willing to suicide.
Our forces are hunkered down in "Safe zones." When we make sallies out of the war zones, casualties occur and no apparent benefit results.
Shall we begin to pull our troops out, as Kerry suggests, or reinforce them, as McCain suggests or continue as we are, as Bush suggests?
McCain's course would require a draft, of course. Would America support a draft of young people to go fight for a democratic Iraq? Would the young support it? I don't think so.
Bush's suggestion that we continue as we are seems hopeless. His war policies seem aimless. His credibility has been lost.
Therefore, the liklihood seems to be that there will be troop withdrawals.
Amidst much anguished and angry cries we will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, whether or not Iraq is ready.
Some number of US troops will, I presume, stay in Iraq, to guard the oil and to keep Iran out.
The Kurds in the North will declare independence. They have oil and they have been ruling themselves for ten years. This will make Turkey nervous.
The Sunni and Shiites will emulate Lebanon and divide into religious and state suported factions that fight until they are exhausted.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Ira explains why Bush is finished. Written at a prescient date of 9-21-05
Hurricane Katrina has caused the political collapse of the Bush administration, although the collapse isn't fully evident yet.
Katrina revealed that FEMA had been undermined. Inept croney's had been appointed and important positions in FEMA left empty. FEMA had been treated as an unnecessary governmental money waster, an "entitlement" program in the words of its former Bush appointed head, .
Then, of all things, a disaster happened and FEMA wasn't ready! Chaos broke out!
Taken by itself this is an alarming indictment of an administration that has been promising to make us safer against disasters while demeaning and undercutting a number of other seemingly vital governmental agencies.
However, at essentially the same time the situation in Iraq significantly worsened.
The talks on the constitution broke down and a referendum will have to be held. Most certainly three Sunni provinces will vote against the constitution, setting back the polital process by a year at least. Violence continues to escalate and increasingly it is Sunni against Shi'ite. American troops huddle in "safe zones", development has gone nowhere, and the worst possible outcome, civil war in the midst of the worlds largest oil reserves, with fundementalist Islam the likely winner, seems to have begun.
The rising suspicion in some minds that the invasion of Iraq was, indeed, a bad idea gains strength from the Katrina fiasco.
Much of President Bushs appeal comes from well shaped and well spun rhetoric, read slowly and sincerely.
However, once cynicism sets in, his lofty rhetoric becomes a liability as it simply raises the cynical thought, "there he goes again."
The promise to rebuild the whole gulf coast, while at the same time both fighting and rebuilding Iraq, awash in red ink as we are, certainly evoked that thought in me.
It appears to me that President Bush has run out of luck, having stayed in office a few more years then he should have. And, as at New Orleans, once the dike is breached all kinds of poisonous waters and ugly facts will flood us.
(the Rove scandal and the torture scandal and the Guantanemo scandal all leap to mind.)
I expect the Bush administration will spend the rest of its term beseiged and defensive.
Also, I have a suspicion that Katrina will be looked at in the future as the first of a series of global natural disasters due to global climate change. If so, President Bush's inactivity in the face of global climate change may come to be seen as his biggest blunder.