Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Never to the stars

Humanity will never reach the stars.

Why? Well, yeah, why? Humanity will very soon be able to exist fully in virtual reality. Once we have perfect simulation of reality, then our imaginations of what might be in the Universe will greatly exceed what is actually there. Our stories will be much more alluring and billions of times cheaper to explore and investigate. As soon as we can “think” we’re exploring the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe, while being immersed inside VR tanks, or suits or neural implants, then why would humanity spend the time and money _actually_ exploring those spaces?

The scientific community would, one suppose, continue to pursue exploration and discovery, building bots that traveled as fast as they might to other star systems. But the billions of commoners who were more than happy to just sit back and imagine they were on another planet, eating exotic foods, speaking and interacting with bizarre aliens — why would they ever want to risk actually traveling to such locations?

They wouldn’t. And the funding for such actual excursions will dwindle as VR sims become more and more real. The economic reason for exploration of other star systems will fail to compare to the economic reason for delivering an even better virtual world here. And face it, the human imagination is nearly inexhaustible. It’s unlikely that the universe can beat us in the extraordinary portrayal of diversity of life and systems. (Unlikely, not impossible.)

If humanity lives through the next fifty years (no CMEs that destroy civilization, no plagues, no nukes, no asteroids or super volcanoes) then by the time we could actually GO to Mars, we won’t have to, or want to — at least not to experience it. We’ll be able to do that right in our Almost-There-Capsules.

This is one of the solutions to the Fermi Paradox. And, really, humans are almost there.



The Problem with Star Wars

The problem with Star Wars and Star Trek and many other “Star blah blah blah” type story lines is this: where are the robots?

No, I’m not talking about the cute comic-relief characters, nor am I talking about the droid-wars robots.

Here’s the thing, Space Is Hard. Even Elon admits this. Biologically based creatures die — really easily — in space. They die if they don’t eat, don’t get liquids, don’t get enough to breathe, get squeezed or stretched or ripped. Biological creatures are fragile. A biological military force, or agents, or workers or what-have-you would be a society’s LAST resort. The first thing a sentient species would do when they start exploring space is to build up the biggest, baddest, smartest, most versatile space-force using ROBOTS they could.

People? We’re not gonna use PEOPLE — hell no!

Look, Humans suck at space. Right now about 1 out of 20 rockets we launch BLOW UP! And that’s good. That’s the best we’ve gotten so far. Imagine if 1 out of every 20 commercial flights that took off from airports just today BLEW UP!  About 100k flights occur everyday. Imagine if 5000 of them exploded in the last 24 hour. Hell No!

So, between our really really bad track record for sending rockets into space and our super-duper track record for flying airplanes, we have a long way to go.

Now, let’s examine our robotic and computer track record. We’ve got some amazing technology there. Robots are going to be replacing humans for most manual labor, and most complex logistics and management in the next 20 years.

Let’s think about this. Humanity will have an amazing robotic work force and superior artificial intelligences in just another generation.

But we won’t have a reliable means of space travel for at least two or three generations.

By the time we can blast around the solar system (or galaxy) in a Millennium Falcon humans will have constructed an incredible robotic space-force. And with that space-force we would be sending ROBOTS out with vast AIs in our space craft to do our exploring, and our patrolling and our space war fighting. We wouldn’t send frail, easy to puncture organic HUMANS! Hell No!

Extraterrestrial Sentient Species in our galaxy would be even smarter than us. They would have even better robots and artilects. They would never use their biological selves to do the work robots would do so much more effectively.

That’s the problem with Star Wars and Star Trek. Their story lines rely on bags of animated organic chemicals and not robots; which is just — implausible.


Humanity is a mushroom

You’re all aware of the kingdom that is fungi which, in many cases, reveals itself as mushrooms. But mushrooms are just the last step in the growth stage that is mycelium. It’s mycelium that is the true creature, the organism that is a fungus. Mushrooms are the small fruiting nodes of a vast and long lived mycelium.

Mushrooms popup, often overnight, using the fuel and structure that the mycelium may have been building for months if not years.

Humanity, like mushrooms, are the fruit of animal evolution that has popped up, seemingly overnight (evolutionary speaking).

Here’s why this is an important analogy. Without the multi-billion year establishment of an immense base of evolutionary progress and of a multi-billion year process of oxygen generation and just as importantly, the deposition of enormous caches of easily harvested energy (fossil fuels), humanity, like mushrooms, would not have had the vast body, like mycelium, from which to spring forth.

Imagine an abbreviated story of humanity.

  • At 500my after accretion, cyanobacteria evolves and starts producing oxygen.
  • 500my later, life emerges from the sea and begins to evolve.
  • 500my later, life has evolved into all the myriad species we see today.
  • None of the extinctions occurred. All of the most efficient paths to evolving a sentient, environment manipulating being (humans) were taken and approximately one and a half billions years after Earth formed, humans evolved to where our own species (us) were about 100,000 years ago on our own planet.

Then what? Then humanity bumbles along as we did for 80,000 years.

If a Holocene equivalent period doesn’t show up, if ice ages, and volcanism continue to limit humanity’s expanse. If they don’t get a really-nice-window-of-pleasant-weather, they might never progress past a primitive but intelligent species.

But let’s say on this other Earth, a Holocene does arise. Humanity discovers and optimizes farming using grasses and draft animals. They figure out chemical reactions (soda, potash, lime) and build cities and sailing vessels. They progress, as a species and a society, up to about our own 1600ce. This agricultural based mushroom of humanity is small, low and not that impressive.

Then things change. There is no access to vast, nearly free energy sources. There is no coal, oil or natural gas. The technologically funded agricultural based population explosion never happens. No coal for textile mills or steam engines or steamships. No oil for autos, trucks, airplanes, ships, fertilizers. The mushroom that our human species spawned — through the leveraging of the massive quantities of fossil fuels — never happens for this other humanity.

BUT! Humanity is resilient, tenacious and creative. This other human set keeps at the growth of technology that we had, say, between 1400 and 1700. Within a few thousand years, this other humanity eventually discovers nuclear power, the silicon circuit, space travel, artificial intelligence, advanced medicine. It takes them much longer to do so but, if they survive all the plagues that will continue to befall them for the duration of their societal evolution, then they will get to where we are today — eventually.

AND, if they survive, might actually be wiser, more tolerant, more homogeneous a species than we will ever be.

Maybe our mushroom like explosion of technology and population is our down fall.

OR, maybe that is the ONLY WAY that a species like us can ever hope to evolve. To take the long road, without fossil fuels to spring us quickly from wood burning homesteads to colonizing Mars, would doom any species to extinction due to calamity.

Maybe intelligent sentience can only arise like we did, like a mushroom.

Computer Art?

There are many beautiful, intriguing, curious, mesmerizing displays of color, shapes, terrains and entities that we see everyday: sunsets, the full moon, the Milky Way, a landfill, a bucket of Legos spilled down the steps, a bamboo forest, etc. These exist. They are not art. The just “are”.

When a computer,
• on its own,
• with programming (neural network) that it has created,
• that has been established to be a fully standalone, conscious, sentient being,
• and that computer deigns to photograph, paint, sculpt, describe or capture in anyway
• a scene as mentioned above or extracted from its own internal or external vision of existence,
• that expresses some reflection or nuance of itself –
• then that computer will have made art.

Until then? What a computer might create is just an extension of its creator. Or, is, like a sunset, a thing that contains beauty or strangeness – but is not art.

PokePolice: a code of conduct

The Pokemon GO player’s Code of Conduct

  • Hunt Pokemon with a buddy. Go out in pairs or groups.
  • Your phone is your protection. Use it to record suspicious behavior.
  • If a PokeStop is remote, consider leaving it alone, or only approach it during daylight or with a pal.
  • Say hi to all the other Pokemon trainers you meet. If they don’t greet you back, or act suspicious, keep an eye on them.
  • Be a conscientious Pokemon trainer, lookout for other trainers who may need your assistance.
  • Be kind to other Pokemon trainers, this is a game after and is suppose to be fun.
  • The Pokemon GO phenomena is yours to police, protect and nurture. Care for the game as much as you care for your Pokemon.


The Need Economy

We are most assuredly smack-dab in the “I Need” economy.

I need ____ fill in the blank. What app hasn’t been built to try and fill some niche need some human (or other) might want or desire?

  • I need a trip to the airport next week.
  • I need a place to stay in Cabo in August.
  • I need a pizza.
  • I need my groceries picked up at the store.
  • I need a flight to Chicago, next Wednesday.
  • I need a new prescription filled.
  • I need a prom dress.
  • I need a child sitter tonight.
  • I need my lawn mowed.
  • I need, I need, I need.

The list goes on forever.

Now, many of these needs can be filled almost instantly. Amazon is the ultimate “I need” fulfillment provider. I need a ride, Uber of course. I need a place to stay, AirBnb. I need a flight — oh priceline, or expedia or kayak. And then the other needs have fulfillment channels but those require more work. Craigslist can fulfill some needs for selling your stuff, or buying local goods and services like firewood or carpentry. The same for Angie’s list, and the other “lists” out there.

But what’s wrong with this whole picture is that there are dozens of these channels that a person must navigate in order to have a need fulfilled.

Why not just have one?

This one will interpret your need, maybe query deeper to narrow down your choices and then either begin the fulfillment chain or connect to the service of choice to have that need realized.

Where is this singular, unified needs provider? Is it in the soul of the new DeepMind  AIs being built? Is IBM’s Watson going to become my personal valet for every want I could ever voice? What?

Someone will build this. You know they will.

Or is this an opportunity to be the first?

Elon Musk and Apple? NOT!

• Elon knows that computers are tools that are embedded in things that make them operate, autonomously.
• Apple sees computers as products unto themselves.
• The two visions are incompatible.
• Tesla, to become the ultimate personal transportation company, doesn’t need Apple to do so.
• Apple, to become the ultimate personal assistant company, needs to buy IBM’s Watson in order to provide the instant knowledge and intuitive guidance that only an integrated networked computer can. Essentially, if you need something, Apple should be able to deliver it to you, tell you were to find it, or instantly connect you to someone or some thing that can deliver on your need. The biggest hole right now in the human to computer solution is health. Apple should become THE digitally assisted health provider — tell me what’s wrong with me (tricorder), tell me how I can fix me, or tell me who can help me fix me, manage my medical self (history, records, genetic data, prognosis, recommendations, lab data (where are all the pee on a stick and tell me I have cancer iPhone add-ons?)).
• Elon is a visionary who uses computers as tools.
• Apple is a computer company who thinks the computer IS the only tool.