Tuning the Turing Test

Image

Let’s begin with the world’s greatest sci-fi movie: 2001.  This is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space OdysseyIt's Eye-Conic.  Sorry.

Marvin Minsky had no problem understanding that the emptiness of 2001’s dialogue was intentional:

” … And after the momentous statement that the monolith must have been deliberately buried, one of the astronauts says, “Well, how about a little coffee?”  Kubrick’s idea is that the universe is too majestic for short sighted people.”

Trying to understand an “intelligence” that is much greater than our own is going to be a tough job.  Drinking a cup of java while pondering that gulf might be appropriate.

Which brings us to Alan Turing, the godfather of the modern computer.  He suggested a simple test to determine “intelligence.”  He didn’t define the term either, by the way.  What he said was put a person in a room and let them interact with a human, or machine, in a limited way (like through text only) and let them ask questions.

Today, this remains the best test we have of machine intelligence.

Here’s the problem.  What kind of person are you going to put in that room.  For instance, if you put my mother in law, she’s likely to think that the navigator voice in the GPS is already intelligent.  You should see the conversations they have while we drive along.

If you put some genius, like Doug Hofstadter or Doug Lenat in that room, chances are they can ask one question and game over.

So, next time you think of the Turing Test, also consider who you are going to put in that room.  If you’re scientifically oriented, then you want a “standard” human.  Good luck!

In the meantime, I’m going to get some coffee.

Space isn’t big enough for: 20%

There’s an ancient saying among managers: 80% of your problems will come from only 20% of the population.  It doesn’t matter if the population is springs that go boing, or people writing programs in your application department.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.The latest FBI statistics I saw indicated that about 80% of the crimes were being committed by a regular 20% of the population.

In the movie Casablanca, the Chief of Police tells his captain to round up the usual suspects.  In truth, that’s not a bad strategy.  Those people might at least know something, even if not being guilty outright.

Here’s the deal.  Once you get enough people together, anywhere, there’s going to be a small number of “bad apples” who create a bunch of mischief for the “good apples.”

The key word here is — anywhere.

No matter what kind of great people we send to the moon, there will be a few who turn out to be troublemakers.  Why?  Because it’s human nature.

The problem is that the first moon colony isn’t going to have the resources to keep that person in line all the time.  There certainly won’t be someone free to watch them all the time, and if they do something naughty and have to be put away, where will that be?  There won’t be any room for a jail.

So what happens?

In short, there won’t be room for these people.  The early settlers are going to have to make some very tough choices.  Down here where the air is almost free and there’s room to spread out, the cost of taking care of a miscreant is relatively small.

But up there, where there is no air and you can hear every sound your neighbor makes in their sleep, the cost of keeping a nasty person in stir will be very high.

The solution?  Swift vigilante justice.  A community tribunal, and equally swift sentence.  The judge can say cuffs come off, rejoin your friends.  Or the judge can tell them to take a short walk outside the dome, without a suit.

Of course, after that short walk, someone will have to bring him back inside.  After all, in outer space, there isn’t going to be room for cemeteries either.  We’re going to need everybody for fertilizer.

After all, each body is about 80% water, and 20% fertilizer.

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: iTunes

The concept of having YOUR music playing just for you goes back a few years.  Even before iTunes and other music services there were things called “walkman,” and before that there were portable radios.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the thing.  If you’re jammin to the tunes, and happily banging away on the steering wheel at the same time there’s a “thing” on the road, there’s a better chance that you will hit that thing.

That’s why lots of places are trying to cut down on the number of accidents by putting the brakes on distractions in the car.  Is it working?  Don’t know.

But I do know that distractions can kill.  Doctors who are distracted in the operating room can make mistakes on their patient.  Pilots distracted in the cockpit can make errors regarding their aircraft.  And lunar colonists who are distracted might leave the wrong door open, or close the wrong valve.

Here’s the real deal.  On the moon, a single error could kill everyone.  Putting in safeguards that prevent all stupid mistakes is very expensive.  And getting anything to the moon is going to be costly.  That means we have to choose.

We either make every move to avoid mistakes every way we can.

Or we accept the risk of total failure for the benefit of individual joy.

My suggestion?  Don’t take iTunes or earbuds to the moon.  Too expensive.

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Space

Would you buy a hectare of moon for a single credit?

How about a million hectares for the same price?

There’s a LOT of moon, and that means there could be a lot of moon to sell.

More importantly for our first colonists, however, is the cost of LIVABLE real estate.

You could own the whole moon, but you’re only going to live on a little bit of it.

And since you can’t sleep outside very long, you’re going to need a roof,

and walls,

vacuum seals,

oxygen generators,

carbon dioxide scrubbers,

and, well, you get the picture.  Living on the moon is going to be very expensive.  It’s going to be way more expensive than living in downtown Tokyo, Manhattan, and London combined.

Do you know anyone who lives in those places?  If so, then you know that they also live under the following conditions:

Small rooms, thin walls, annoying neighbors, and lots of rules of things that they can’t do.

So, imagine what we’ve figured out.  The moon, cheapest real estate in the universe, yet has the most expensive livable real estate in the universe.  You’ll live in space, where there is no horizon, yet you’ll be able to reach out and touch both of your walls.

Infinite space, yet no place for claustrophobia.

Who knew?

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Inches

Image

Long ago, back when caves were considered prime real estate, we measured things using our fingers and feet.

More recently, we started defining the best units to use for learning.  There’s this outfit that helps the whole world get its act together.  They work very slowly, and nothing they do is mandatory.  That’s too bad, because the world has a lot of crazy stuff going on.

The world’s largest economy still uses old measurements based on units that don’t convert easily.  Quick, how many inches in a rod?  How about in a mile?

Do the same thing using the metric system.  Badabing!  Easy peasy.

Guess what?  If you’re an American dreaming of living on the moon, you better pack your undies and your sun-tan lotion (SPF 500!), but leave your feet and inches behind.

There’s not enough room.