Monday, March 22, 2010

Riding In Smart Smart Cars With A.I.s

And while you're reading about the A.I.s that may one day exist, take a look at what might end up their one Achilles' Heel - the power source... %)  Actually, that article deals with batteries for cars - but then again it could still be right - why wouldn't an AI like to have a car as a body?

Am I A.I. Or Am I "Real?"

Great discussion of AI "human rights" here - follow the comments!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Desktops Pigeons And Sociopaths

I never know whether to hug people or punch them - they are both magnificently intelligent, and profoundly stupid, at the same time...  In this case - I think a good smacking might be in order.  (Metaphorically, all right?  I don't actually go around being violent, it's a figure of speech...)

The case is this article about desktops being dead.  I can agree with that, I saw desktops making way for more ubiquitous forms of computing back in the late 90's when I saw PDAs with cellphone technology, cellphones with cameras, and the first tablet computers.  Desktops were already irrelevant when I was a system admin making a living out of maintaining the damn things in their thousands, and butting my head against the stupidity of PHBs who couldn't see past the good ole clipboard and biro let alone to the age of using your a wireless phone thing to check - uh, "email" wasn't it?

So why does this eagle among reporters immediately descend to the rathole of thick-headedness with this quote? "Both companies know that mobile computing is where the action is now and where it will be forever."

WTF?  You've just said yourself, technology changes.  But "mobile computing will be forever?" OMFG.  No wonder even pigeons can think rings around us...

The direct connection to the brain is where the next tech battle is most likely to be, and then the tables will turn and the next battle will be to get oneself into the technology rather than putting the technology into ourselves.  And if that sounds wrong and bad and all kinds of not gonna happen, just think how each succeeding technology seemed to be the worst of its kind - until a few people adopted it and began to use it...

Believe it or not, snail mail (and I'm talking REAL snail mail here, carried over the course of weeks by ships and coaches) was going to disrupt life because people using mail were no longer paying as much attention to local social happenings.  Then the telephone threatened the very social fabric for much the same reasons, no longer needing to deliberate over the wording of a letter or visiting a person to pass on messages.  And OMG if you thought that was bad, you should read about what the cellphone was going to do to our neatly ordered social scenes...

So no - I'm not going to believe that we wouldn't adopt such future technology out of some sense of responsibility or altruism.  It's going to happen.  And it's happening faster and faster, year by year, month by month, week by week.  The real worry is what kind of people we will be once we adopt it.

Going from State messenger to social mail carriers created a group of people who communicated ideas and multiplied their collective intelligence using communications.  But you know what?  Local community DID suffer.  Because all of a sudden it became clear that one of the parts you needed for your Next Big Thing was more easily obtainable at your correspondent's location - and was also infinitely easier to ship to you than to find someone local, explain your idea, and get them to make the part for you.

And at each stage, the technology we've built has reshaped us - a polite nuance dropped here, a social responsibility avoided there - to the hurry-scurry uncaring people we are today.  But it's working, because by and large, we're all evolving into that type of person, and we're very good at adapting to new norms.  So the people who fear new technology because it will turn us into introverted, asocial, and possibly even sociopathic  machines should take a look around, and realise it's already happened, we've prepared ourselves for the next step, and the next, and there's no way to not take that step now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We Are The Alien Signal Our Parents Warned Us About

So where are they?  Those teeming alien hordes that SETI has spent fifty years looking for?  I'm going to suggest something, something really whacky, really off the wall - but maybe, just maybe, it's in with a chance...

Let's suppose, just for one moment, that radio signals obey the same rules out there as they do here.  If you send a signal in every direction at once, it's spread pretty thin and you can't detect it after just a few thousand kilometers at best.  So any alien civilisation that's broadcasting a signal strong enough for us to pick up a billion parsecs away has to be burning through an average sized sun's worth of fissionables every few centuries.

The other way to improve the strength and range of your signal is to focus all that energy into a beam. And what are the chances that an alien civilisation is pointing a radio beam right at us?  Right.

Professor Davies thinks much the same.  He also suggests that we need to look at a much broader frame of reference if we're to find any evidence of those elusive green people.  I suggest that even he's maybe not looking at a wide enough frame yet...

For a starters - if I wanted an alien civilisation to find out about me, I'd probably not bother to leave a radio beacon around.  Just not worth the effort.  Also, to be quite honest, quite primitive for my tastes.  If I'm at that stage where I contact another alien (or alien civilisation) then I'd be using a much more permanent beacon.  Like, maybe, I'd leave a 3D hologram of my civilisation.

Maybe the reason we're not seeing a message is because we are the message...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is "Jacking" a good term for "Genetic Hacking?"

Does anyone else remember only a few years back, when DNA sequencing was carried out across thousands of distributed home PCs running SETI-like batch software?  And how it was going to be, like, ten years to decode a fairly simple genome given the state of the art in computers at that stage was 486's and the very first Pentiums?

So it was good to see Moore's Law kick in and that first genome fell in only a few years.  Meanwhile, other DNA was being unravelled, larger more complex chunks, bigger genomes.  And now, we're at the point where the number of people with completely sequenced genomes will go from a handful, to the proverbial shitload.  In fact, the article even discusses home hobbyist gene tinkering.  Because of cheap gene sequencing technology.

My thoughts?  Almost as soon as we had civic records, we had people "hacking" records to create false personas.  When we got telephone systems, we had phreakers hacking the telephone networks to make free calls and/or create mayhem.  When we got credit cards, we had credit card fraud as well as clever ideas like gift cards. Almost before computers got on a few elite desks, there was the brain virus and then stoned virus.

Yes, we also had people who compiled great information from our civic records, telephone help and support lines, convenient ATM banking, and so much software and computing power that the genome fell in a tenth of the time that was originally predicted.  But there are always people wearing grey hats and black hats, taking advantage.

Gene technology is going to open a few very strange doors indeed.  I can imagine the first home genetics hacker to discover how to stop ageing processes by a simple genetic manipulation.  But there are also going to be some very nasty hacks.

Are we ready for this kind of onslaught?  Probably not, but that's never stopped us or slowed us down in the past.  I'm sort of hoping I can hold on long enough for some home hacker to figure out a way to regrow emphysemic lung tissue, that would be nice.  But I'm not at all looking forward to the first case of chocolate bars laced with some kid's "zombie juice" virus laying inert in it...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are We Just A "Kodak Moment?"

I won't beat the stupid journo drum of saying "IF this is true" because I am not a scientist.  The people in this long article, however, they are  scientists, and they should know better than to keep up the "what if" garbage.  If they have something that fits their observed facts, then they should stop saying "if this is true" and instead start believing in themselves a bit more.  Since our whole belief system would be changed by this.

If you've waded through that article, you're probably back here with a zillion thoughts whizzing around in your head.  For those of you that haven't read it, let me summarise for you:

An "observatory" in Hanover which was set up to observe gravity waves, has been getting the odd noise that's messing up their signals.  Before they had a chance to formulate a theory, a physicist named Craig Hogan volunteered an hypothesis of his that predates the Hanover experiment but which explains the problems they've had.

Which is, that they've hit the quantum limit of resolution of the Universe.  You know how a two dimensional computer image contains one dimensional bits (pixels) which represent a three dimensional object we've taken a picture of?  Well, the Hanover experiment has discovered the "pixels of space and time," the smallest units of spacetime that can be measured.

And that means that our Universe is a three-dimensional "picture" itself, representing a higher dimensional Universe.  Going back to the idea of the picture of a three dimensional object, you can imagine that the three dimensional object "drifted" through the picture plane, and left an image of itself behind.  Our brains can do the complex math of recovering that original object by the simple act of looking at the two dimensional picture.  We 'know" what the three dimensional object that cast this particular "shadow" was, because we have experience of how the picture encodes the information.

Despite that picture looking like a completely smooth analog object, though, we know that it's made up of pixels, which are the "quantum limit" of a digital picture.  You can't "enhance the image" beyond the individual pixels despite what all the CSI shows suggest.  Similarly, the quantum limit of a painting is the molecules of the pigment and the substrate, once you go to microscopic levels you find that the "quanta" of the painting are the molecules of pigment adhering to the molecules of the substrate, and no matter how much more you magnify, that's the limit.

Now we've known for millenia that things are composed of smaller things.  Ships, planks, molecules of wood, atoms that compose the molecules, quantum particles (there's that word again) that compose the atoms.  But for some reason we've treated both space and time as analog quantities.  I.e. it's always been assumed that time flows in a stream, that you can always halve the distance between two points one more time.

So the quanta of our Universe would be the "shadow" of the next higher dimension(s) as seen in our "3D plus time" fashion.  Now to the most unquestionably mind-blowing part of this...  Just as every part of a two dimensional image as described above is part of a representation of a three dimensional object, that means that we ourselves are also just "pixels" of an image of a Universe with more dimensions than ours...

I'll take this a step further, because I like to stick my neck out.  We've known that the material world is atomic, that is, larger assemblies being composed of smaller assemblies, down to the quantum limit.  We assumed that there would just be no lower limit to quanta, but it seems that we may have been wrong on that one.  Now we're being forced to understand that time is similarly atomic and that time too has a lower limit.

Now imagine your brain, your mind, working away, ticking over.  If intelligence and consciousness were linear and analog, we would notice discrete quanta of space and time.  In the space between one "tick" of time and the next, our intelligence/consciousness would be churning along feeling very strange indeed.  So our consciousness also is quantum in nature, meaning that what we consider our "selves" is actually a 3D hologram of the next dimension in consciousness and intelligence.

No wonder we're filled with such a sense of being part of a larger whole, this is why we invent gods and demons and whole religions designed to "develop" us into the next dimensional being we quite likely sense we're the image of...  No wonder we have entire theologies and religions devoted to the idea that "we are all one" or "we are part of a greater Being's plan..."  It's because some higher dimensional being took a snapshot...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I haz a clone online!

Just been and visited my chatbot online again at I keep forgetting I have it there, and keep forgetting to send people there.  I know this one doesn't do much more than a glorified Eliza, but I can see the day not so far away when an AI online will be able to field questions and contacts for me and send me only the ones it can't deal with on my behalf...

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