Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Katie Couric's green zone latte

I keep hearing about how difficult it is for journalists to leave the green zone in order to get accurate news footage.
  • Soldiers do it every day, just because you went to an ivy league school and see your opinion in front of a mass market audience, does not mean that you are too precious to not do your investigative job.
    • The military should be accommodating to journalism.
    • A fund should be available, maybe partially public funded, that compensates journalists, particularly those without large conglomerates behind them, if they are injured/killed.
  • Iraqis should take more assertive action to protect journalists if they want to have their stories heard and an impact on international dialogue.
    • Thus Iraqis bear a burden for lack of information and accountability available to external/internal actors and decision-makers.

    • IF media acts incompetently and unfairly, THEN the media can expect less support and protection from the public.
      • The media should more vigorously criticize itself because it affects their reputation in generic terms.
      • The problem of accountability and risk thus arises if the editors and top-tier news directors are not the ones occasionally bearing the danger of their reputation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quick and Rough Ideas

unrefined thought list...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will the next Singularity Summit be overrun by a rogue AI?

It seems entirely reasonable to expect that an integration of cumulative knowledge can produce an uber-humanoid when the processing power advances enough. This cyber-consultant may not be able feel emotion the same way as a normal human, but that does not seem to be necessary for amazing intellectual productivity gains to be realized. How often do real flesh and blood guru's get hired to provide advice and expertise without appearing to have ever left the library for anything but a star trek convention.
What does a great CEO or medical doctor know that can't be codified? Perception is the current hurdle being addressed and if that is mastered such tasks as financial analysis, medical prognosis, product engineering etc may become nothing but the embodiment of a warm breathing human mediator and the cold calculations of the uber-cyber-geek. That may seem scary until you realize how many medical errors are made a year and how much misallocation of resources stifles economic growth.

"...Who is to say there are not principles of biology and physics that we don't fully understand yet that will act like a brick wall on the development of information tech?" John

This is a good point to consider, but will intelligence be limited in the same way as physical laws? Some say processing power limitations can only be circumvented by nanotech and/or quantum computing. An intelligent agent may be unable to explain what a prop plane will feel like above the sound barrier (a physical limit) but knowledge often makes decisions easier. Having a large body of experience with flying objects behavior is not as useful as a law of aerodynamics. But a super AI may be limited in its ability to predict human behavior, like the explosive demand for tickle-me-elmos, because the AI's capacity to predict is limited by the subject matter, the chaotic nature of normal humans.

Here are some other questions to ponder...What ethical considerations should we apply to people who use the accumulated corpus of human knowledge to create a comprehensive uber-AI? What patent rights are reasonable for an advanced algorithm that can beat the stock market or look further down the iterative line of invention?

If AI is able to think exponentially and create what will that do to our notion of intellectual property rights?

What if the AI determines eugenics etc is the best social policy?

If the individual agent is able to make the best decisions within a distributed manner then it is highly likely that the uber-intellect will acknowledge that. The ability to buy cigarettes and porn does not have to be restricted by an uber-intellect unless it was given the authority to make policy decisions and decided so… and that may well be a scary form of government. Would you agree that an invisible hand is already limited by product availability, and social norms. AND these previous actions of the invisible hand have created a cumulative current state of affairs with positive and negative limitations? An uber-intellect may be able to create prosperity and subsequent increases in individual choice.

also I am not sure Adam Smith would necessarily understand our use of "invisible hand"

Processing power does influence what it considered intelligent behavior because within a certain time and space any task that will be judged intelligent (turing test) is going to be limited by mental resources available to evaluate associations and determine actions within a dynamic environment. The real world is fast paced and real world decisions exist within a quasi-infinite problem space. Chess itself requires incredible processing power in order to span even a segment of the state space and is not dynamic like most tasks.

What does a dog with super computational ability do with itself, who knows, a cognitive scientist might argue it depends on what part of the brain this super dog got upgraded, IF the dog is capable of reflecting on its thinking it may be able to do more than just calculate the distance squared to the next dogs ass. What is different between the human brain and the dog brain…size, structures, innate algorithms?

Processing power is necessary for human-like intelligence, but not sufficient.

Was Alex intelligent?

Alex is intelligent according to a measurement of intelligence that is satisfied by an ability to “combine the different labels in his vocabulary to request, confuse, or categorize over 100 different things," Pepperberg said. "So he understood labels from materials, shapes, colors, things like that."

definition of intelligence on wikipedia:
The definition of intelligence has long been a matter of controversy.
At least two major "consensus" definitions of intelligence have been proposed. First, from Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns, a report of a task force convened by the American Psychological Association in 1995:

Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different definitions.[1]

A second definition of intelligence comes from "Mainstream Science on Intelligence", which was signed by 52 intelligence researchers in 1994:

a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—"catching on", "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.[2]

not wanting to sound like Ramona, but a thermostat is intelligent if the definition of intelligence is an objects ability to react to stimuli in a manner satisfying some task goal, ie measure current temperature and adjust processes in order to adjust temperature to that of a goal state (ex. beautiful 65 degree WI evening).

but not intelligent like a retarded 5 year old.

Is my ability to respond to your questions more than what could be achieved by an advanced conversationalist expert system? How would you test me to see if I am a human instead of a DARPA cyber-turing-bot seeking out AI skeptics?

If hungry, eat
If tired, sleep
If hot, remove hand
If pleasurable, smile
If pleasurable
And contested (turbulence detected)
Display poker face
send signal to nearest person for optimum attitude, ascend or descend to determined attitude or until within optimal comfort zone.

“by an advanced conversationalist expert system” I mean a CES with ADD and questionable social skills..

“computers are very poor at doing things we've done since the beginning of human existence: language, image recognition-- deriving meaning from imagery, understanding, emotional cognition”

computers are great at language, they are programmed with various levels of languages that must communicate between an OS, various software apps, a user input, external computers in the network, all with a thermostat like awareness of processing capacity. They are not good at human language and the hodge-podge of associations/connotations with which we relate our language to individual experiences/perceptions in the real world.
…besides how often have you tried to explain abstract terms like love with little success.

…technology is making big advances in image recognition, not necessarily via the same method as human sight,…besides I doubt you would suggest visual imagery is necessary for intelligence, unless you wanted to be bombarded by angry audiomails from visually-impaired bloggers. Emotional cognition…I don’t understand myself let alone other people, maybe you know a genius shrink you can put me in touch with.

Objective Art? I have nodded several times when a pretty art student explained the meaning of some “contextual impressionist art” only to be reminded of unique perspective and an ego's willingness to defer to the id.


"Kurzweil talks about a computer program able to 'simulate' a human mind in 10 years; in what way? Will it go out on dates? Will it have emotional meltdowns? All the best work in cognitive science recently (Le Doux, D'Amasio, Ramachandran) has been on the importance of emotions to mentality and the importance of bodily states to emotions." Stephan Johnson

I agree that 10 years is unlikely to produce the technology required to comprehensively simulate the human condition with regard to emotion and feel. But is one human mind ever able to simulate another to any certain degree? And what about cognitive scientists who stimulate a portion of the brain with electrodes and the subject reports various moods and memory recalls…what are dreams, flashbacks and the ghost limb phenomenon of amputees. Is all past experience relevant to every new conscious experience? Besides it would be a troublesome hurdle if AI was expected to simulate the 13 year old female in order to gain respectability.

Mark Bahner
Are you arguing for a Chinese Room perspective or against it? My novice understanding of current translation software would cause me to consider it little more than a set of word exchanges, with some syntax rules. Ultimately it is unable to convey meaning between complicated sentences and subtle uses of semantic meaning, with any high degree of accuracy. What about discussion context, semantic drift, and measurements of the “fusion of horizons.”

probably all quibbles over differences between strong and weak AI again.

testin, I don't know about Paul but I am not all together clear on what your asking in your questions.

Imperial President gives out free lunch

free lunches…

Democrats want to collect everyone’s lunches and redistribute them in order to rectify perceptions of unequal opportunities, and then they make it easy for some people to sue your lunch away and hoard money in foundations and trusts.

Democratic Caesar may have a smaller jurisdiction, but makes up for it with the glitz and Hollywood entourage.
With Democratic Congress = scary
Tactic: people can organize for longer meal breaks and extra grants of crumbs, bonus to biggest whiners.

Republicans just want to take your lunch, berate you for your lifestyle, and catapult it at anybody who makes eye contact.

Republican Caesar has big guns and a sense of religiously sanctioned absolution.
With Republican Congress = scary
Tactic: Hope for some gristle to trickle down, crumbs to fall, and a 2nd amendment with rewards in the afterlife.

Strategy: at least a 3rd party, being comprised of green libertarians.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Petraeus and Crocker

The house was primed to grill Petraeus over what they believed to be a mismanaged war operation but were delayed by microphones that did not work except for the background sound of them swearing and grumbling. The serenity was further upset by protestors who seemed to bother the chairman enough to cause him to threaten prosecution in the typically arrogant manner of our "representatives". The senate followed suit and it was obvious Petraeus and Crocker were tired of giving their entire opening speeches over and over again and decided to shorten the summary. It seems ridiculous to have them waste their time giving the speech three times in this day and age of technology. Well it may have payed of to cut some time so the two could take some time away from testifying and shove food down their mouth in the 5 extra minutes for dinner that was graciously available between rounds of self satisfying congressional speeches.

I wonder how well congress could operate in a war zone if they can't even seem to get their operations to run smoothly in the cushy comfort of DC.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

illegal immigration, driving privileges

It is a fundamental right to travel, live, and work wherever you like only if you deny any social contract and the freedom of a society to determine what rules and norms govern their own community. Do I have the right to live in your house and eat your food? The car wasn't produced out of thin air and travel doesn't exist within an inter-space wormhole, somebody had to construct and maintain the road, enforce the laws (unless driving 100mph drunk is a fundamental right), provide medical service to victims of accidents, and ensure a military/law enforcement entity is capable of protecting the road, gas station, and maybe your rear end from any intruders expression of their version of fundamental rights to your stuff.

Security, services and infrastructure are only available when a group of people are able to work together, people work together best with a governing body of enforceable laws and expectations. Taxes are an efficient method for investing in the public commons. (by public I am mainly referring to people sanctioned by contributors, and by commons I mean something between the natural environment and human improvements.)

Thus my argument is innocent migrants have a fundamental right to some route through another's territory, but if they reject social contracts I doubt they have built the social architecture necessary to produce the likes of cars, and can thus walk around town and hope for generosity if needed. And if the person was born in an unfriendly territory they can expect to be under extra scrutiny.

Housing Crisis, Bernanke

A public discussion needs to develop about the cost and benefits for society that result from government creating a set of perverse incentives for consumers. The economic muck that results requires government to intervene in order to rectify the situation. People need a place to live and I think government can provide a bare minimum, but people do not have a right to a standard of living beyond their means. When Bernanke spoke about the crisis he mentioned the Feds role in the overall economy but also said alleviating individual consumers poor decisions is not his role. Wall Street analysts immediately focused on his concern about the economy and confidently assured listeners he would cut interest rates. Was this overwhelming confidence due to secret knowledge, self-interested delusion, or an attempt to create momentum that will influence Bernanke's decision in lieu of public and corporate expectations.


Mugabe's rule has been detrimental to the countries people and economy, food production has plummeted, and inflation is greater than 7000 percent. The external aid that the country used to depend on has been cut since 1999 by international nations who have been disgusted by the actions of the Mugabe regime. Africa has been plagued by discrimination, anti-intellectualism, and anti-capitalism. The combination of corruption, ethnic strife, and constant purges of successful businesses is only exasperating the problems. Violence and government sanctioned thuggery against whites, and south east asian business owners and farmers is a form of racism rarely addressed by U.S. media because it doesn't fit the mold of whites as sole racists. The problems Zimbabwe created for itself are now spilling over into South Africa and will likely create greater instability in that region and place further pressure on white Africans. I am no defender of greed and thievery whoever its source, but some people need to focus on improving themselves and their surrounding instead of blaming others for everything in an attempt to justify confiscation of wealth, because it will only undermine economic development.

Kosovo partition

The conflict in the Balkans was more complicated than many Americans cared to consider before intervening in the region, but the mass civilian genocide required action. The complicated history and contradicting claims to the land should not be ignored when external interests voice concerns. The interest of regional neighbors and the input of those who defended the Albanians in Kosovo and the surrounding area should be included in any discussions of partition. My father served time in that region with the U.N. and I have heard biased opinions from the many sides that do not bode well for stability if radicals are pitted against each other. Sometimes decisions need to be made and action taken, but other times peace is best served by moderate majorities leading decisions with informative reason. Some on both sides of the disagreement have too much emotional baggage and personal stake to be allowed to stir up trouble during bold and ill-advised political posturing.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Osama bin Laden, Convert

America often is responsive rather than proactive, this being evident in the general lack of cultural awareness, particularly with the Middle East prior to 9/11. The understanding of that regions culture, religion, and history is still lacking but exponentially better than 6 years ago. The last couple years of assertive policy have been problematic partly due to high level policy makers being ignorant about the region. Examples of this incompetence was highlighted by questions about the difference between Sunni and Shiites that were posed by reporters to Congressional officials and military officers. I have been one of those people who only focused attention on this geographic region after the 9/11 attack, but I have found the Middle East culture to be interesting and Islam to be like Christianity and Judaism in the contradictions present in scripture and practice. Whether politically correct people would like continue to separate terrorism from Islam it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of attacks that U.S. interests currently face are from people purporting to do violence in the name of Islam. It is a part of the human condition that people will lump innocent practitioners with those that capture headlines with deviance, especially when the former do not assertively route it out of their own community and let alone vigorously speak out against such actions. Our history with the Middle East is riddled with problematic policy involvement in that region, and Islam has many noble characteristics associated with it, but it should make us wonder if such a backward region with unfavorable religious headlines is going to recruit what type of new followers to the faith. I have heard conflicting reports of Christianity and Islam being the fastest growing religion, but it seems strange that people would be drawn to Islam while it is struggling to accommodate the reality of the modern era. I hope that Islamic societies can undergo a reformation that facilitates self-criticism and tolerance, and new converts can be attracted to the beautiful aspects of the religion instead of the anti-western connotations it may symbolize. Only a sicko or ideologically isolated individual would be convinced by Osama bin Laden to convert. He has moved Islam one step forward and two steps back.