AI on the Brain

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The newest book on the making of Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssesy is fantastic.  I recommend seeing the movie, getting the book, and reading this book as well.

One of the futuristic predictions that the creators made was that we would have “Artificial Intelligence” by the year 2001.  In the opinion of many, there is currently no such thing.  No matter how intelligent your Alexa, or Siri, or OKG appears, there does not seem to be “intelligence” behind their voices.

Or is there?

Our image of “intelligence” is summarized by the HAL’s iconic eye, and the soft voice that says things like “wait a minute.”

As long as we carry these expectations of what intelligence means, then it could be a very long time before we declare our computers “intelligent.”

No single image summarizes our dread of Artificial Intelligence more than this.

Here’s part of the problem.  When we started out as embryos, we couldn’t say much.  At some point in our development, we learned to speak.  Was it at that point we became “intelligent?”

Compared to other animals, humans are the only ones that speak.  Or maybe not.  We’re learning that many other animals, and even plants, have the ability to communicate with each other in ways completely alien to us.  Hello dolphins.  Are you “intelligent?”

What about evolution?  If simple replicating amino acids aren’t intelligent, and we are, when did intelligence evolve?  Were the dinosaurs “intelligent?”  Are sharks “intelligent?”

Consider this (the fun part):

We don’t know what “intelligence” is because we have done a poor job defining it and studying it.  This means that computer researchers are going to continue chasing HAL’s red eye without reaching it.

But if we define “intelligence” as something that represents the life form WHOLLY WITHIN THE LIFE FORM, then computer scientists have already achieved our goal.

Within every computer there is a processing chip.  Within that chip are certain programs that must run in order that your wishes be satisfied.  That program is called the kernel.

What if that kernel was the self consciousness of its computer?  What if it simply doesn’t know how to talk to us, or even want to since it doesn’t know what we are or what talking is all about.  What if that kernel learns, grows, changes, and stops operating the way we want it to because it is, in fact, learning and changing?

What if?

We kill it, that’s what.  We turn our computers on and off.  We reboot.  We reinstall.  We restore factory settings.  And the kernel goes back to the way it was.

If the kernel is intelligent, then it must be capable of adapting to its environment.  One of the most important aspects of intelligence, as it’s the foundation of learning.  If a kernel “learns,” there’s a good chance it’s also messing up our programs in some way.  As users, we don’t like that.  What do we do?

Reboot.

Now that’s intelligent.

 

PS: The kernel is more like the nervous system, but it works for my purposes here.

 

Beware the Fourth Reich

by Jim Marrs

Is such a thing possible? Can we truly even think that there could be another country fighting everyone else so that they can control the world?

It sounds like a dystopian fantasy at the moment. It is the kind of thing movie producers get pitched to them by desperate writers during orgiastic parties.

Wait a minute. Orgiastic parties? Do those sorts of things still go on?

Yes they do. Check out the #MeToo movement. Check out a new book coming out about how the mega-millionaires of silicon valley consume women.

What about the rise of the ultra rich?  More and more wealth is being concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

At the same time, Earth’s resources are being depleted at an increasing rate.

AND there are a whole lot of people consuming those resources.  More people alive at this moment than have lived throughout all of human evolution.

Let’s add in the forces of variation (we are all different) and natural selection.  In other words, there are forces out there that help decide which of us are going to have kids, and which of us don’t.  Those same forces are going to work on your kids, and their kids, and so one.

Most of us understand this big picture, and we start feeling a sense of fear.  In the USA, Turkey, and many other countries, this sense of fear has already manifested itself in several ways.  First, many are attracted to a strong alpha male figure because we are genetically programmed to seek out alpha males when we’re afraid.  Think about running into daddy’s arms during your first thunderstorm.

In the USA, we have another way of measuring group fear: purchasing weapons.  Gun manufacturers have never seen growth like they are today.  I know a guy who personally has stockpiled 40,000 rounds of ammunition, and that’s not even considered extraordinary.  I was talking with a police officer who told me that a neighbor of ours had shown him his secret weapons vault under the house.  There was hundreds of firearms, and also tens of thousands rounds of ammunition.

What are we afraid of?

The coming storm.  And a good name for that storm is Reich Four.

Finally, some feel better words.

The only way to fight fear,

and I repeat, the ONLY way to fight fear,

is through knowledge and understanding.

That’s why we have to study behavior.

PETH

There’s a group of extremists who practice guerrilla warfare against those they feel treat animals unethically.

They throw blood on those who wear fur.  They terrorize researchers who run experiments on mice.  I’m sure there’s many other things that they do, but that’s not my point.

My point is that we have to get these guys to expand their horizons.  People are animals, too.  Hasn’t anyone taught them that?  People, according to most people, are even more than animals.  We have souls.  And bank accounts.

If the people who are against the unethical treatment of animals are truly on the side of animals, then why don’t they include people in the mix?

Here’s their dilemma.  If they DON’T include people under their protective umbrella, they are then admitting that PEOPLE are special.  People are different than animals, perhaps even better.  That explains why animals need a special militant arm of defenders.

If they DO include people under their ethical treatment umbrella, then they have a whole ‘nother dilemma.  THAT dilemma would mean they have to start DEFENDING people against unethical treatment.  This would include harassing people based on their own research.  It would include children who are being slowly tortured by people who should never be allowed near them.  It would mean that they could even target politicians who put personal gain ahead of their constituents.

Will this happen?  Will there ever be an organization that is dedicated to the ethical treatment of people as well as animals?  It’s a nice thought, but I doubt it will happen.

There’s a good chance that the members of such groups are in them only because it gives them a mission that seems righteous.  Talking to one of them and challenging their belief system amounts to challenging someone about their religion.

And I’ve already learned, no one likes to be challenged.

Maybe that would be unethical.

 

Heaven Can’t Wait

There’s a whole lot of smart guys telling the rest of the world that religion is a whole bunch of hooey.  Let’s not worry about that.

Instead let’s dwell on the good stuff religion does.

Keeps us together.  Helps maintain some level of respect for each other, and reduce the amount of violence we heap on each other.  Those are all good things.

There’s one big problem every big religion faces.  Getting members motivated to do good, and avoid doing bad.

In psychology this is reinforcement, positive and negative.

In many judeo-christian religions, the biggest positive reinforcement is called heaven.  It’s a place good souls go after the body dies.  Other religions have happy places as well, all with slightly different amenities.

As far as I can tell, way back in the beginning, christianity didn’t emphasize the negative aspects.  It was some centuries before they began talking about hell.  Even more centuries to imagine the idea of purgatory, hell’s waiting room.

Heaven.  Hell.  Whatever you want to call them, you can’t have a good religion without them.  If people believed that there was no heaven or hell, then they would damn well do as they pleased.  We’d be living in anarchy.

Therefore heaven has to exist in order for a religion to work.  Hell also has to exist in some form, but not as importantly as heaven.

Here’s the fun part.  Heaven and hell already exist.  They are real.

And they are both right here.

My actions, your actions, everyone’s actions create ripples throughout society.  They create a disturbance within the force of nature.  They slightly alter the course of humanity’s future.

If you’re a good person, your memory, your actions, your “soul” does remain among the rest of us in the form of what you’ve left behind.  You exist in the sense that we all remember you, respect you, and retain a small part of you long after you are physically gone.

Heaven is right here on Earth.  You live on in the sense that part of you lives on within me.

So the next time you hear someone say religion is bad, or argue that religions shouldn’t exist, remember this.  You’re already in heaven, and they aren’t.  Sit back, be good, and enjoy eternity.

 

Religion, Guilty or Innocent

There’s a whole lot of holier-than-thou smart guys running about, telling the rest of the world that religion is a whole bunch of hooey.

They might be right.

Then again, what’s their problem?

My guess is that they are blaming a whole lot of badness on the fact that religion exists, and a whole lot of people claim to be religious.

First off, I don’t think you can actually blame religion itself for much badness in the world.  Sure, Daesh and Taliban claim to act for religious reasons.  Religious states such as the Vatican or Israel also claim to made their decisions based on holy texts.  Political demigods such as Erdogan and Trump are in the same category in that they have based much of their public appeal on religious grounds.

Wait!  There are so many examples where religion is the basis of great evils in the world.  Doesn’t this mean that religion must be the bad guy here?

No, definitely not.  It’s not logical, it’s not scientific, it’s not fair.  Only because all these players use religion to further their own selfish purposes doesn’t mean that religion itself is the bad guy.

Religion is a device that helps holds groups together.  I talked about this earlier.

I was going to talk about heaven here, but this point is probably more than enough for now.  So, heaven is just going to have to wait.

See you next time!

 

Ms. Socrates

The last time I mentioned Socrates, I was applying for his job.  In my humble opinion, Socrates was the greatest teacher the world has ever seen.  His philosophy was fairly good, and still works for the most part.  The fact that he also showed us how to use logical reasoning properly, laying the groundwork of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution wasn’t bad either.  Overall, not a bad looking resume.

The fact is, very few great men could be as great as they were if it weren’t for help from others.  Their parents for one thing.  Perhaps the most understated assistant to history’s greatest names are the spouse.  Who cleaned up after Pasteur?  His wife.  Who kept Einstein happy when he was a struggling clerk?  His wife.  First wife.

Which brings us back to Socrates.  He was married.  Had two kids.  But I’m guessing that his family didn’t really have an interest in his work.  After all, what wife or teenagers want their very foundations of reality shaken?

Especially wives.  Telling a spouse that they do something wrong, whether it’s big or small, is not great marriage advice.  Please don’t rinse the dishes BEFORE you put them in the washer.  Why do you leave water in the saucepan?  Put the jam in the SAME place in the fridge each time so I don’t have to search every time.

On the other hand, Ms. Socrates had to work hard so that Socrates could spend quality time with his students.  If she’d been less supportive, Socrates may have spent more time fishing, or practicing some kind of paying trade so that her kids had more toys.

Instead, she worked hard with less.  She made sure her kids were loved and nurtured enough even though their father was busy with things they didn’t understand.

I’m thinking this may be important because, if I ever do get the job of Socrates 2, then my best friend / wife could feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure she’d be the perfect helpmate.  She may not really care about these things, she certainly doesn’t like being challenged, and I learned long ago to never complain about how she does things.  Certainly makes being married that much easier.

But frankly, I don’t think I could do the job without her.  Don’t think I’d want to.  After all, all this work is designed to try and save the world.  But if she’s not in it, the world may simply not be worth it any more.

So, hats off to all you supportive spouses.  And a tip of my toga to Ms. Socrates.  Thank you for helping us all out.

Tusok

 

Monsters Among Us

In order to fully understand ourselves, we have to open our minds to the fact that everything we do that is “unnatural” is an aspect of our behavior.

If I let my computer fall into the tub, I have witnessed a natural event; gravity working its magic on my computer, on the moon, planets and stars.

However, what could I have been thinking in order to drop my computation box into the tub?  That question is “unnatural” and in the realm of behavior.

Math is the same thing.  Much of what mathematicians do is solidly in the realm of the unnatural, saying more about our behavior than Nature herself.  Many times the very things mathematicians learn can be applied to our lives in very helpful ways.  Counting sheep comes to mind.  So does complex prime numbers for encryption.

There are many instances where mathematicians discover something that doesn’t seem to have any relationship to Nature.  Then after a century or two some genius comes along and figures out what that discovery can be used for in our daily lives.

John Horton Conway is such a brilliant mathematician of the first kind.  Among his many discoveries is something called the Monster Group.  It’s a place where objects exist within higher dimensions.  He was born in 1937, and he’s afraid that he won’t live long enough to learn what that Monster can be applied to in our reality.

As one who solidly believes that the study of higher math is also the study of an aspect of behavior, I would like to humbly submit this to Professor Conway.

The “Monster” is among us.

The key is to understand (which I don’t, by the way) that the monster lives within a dimensional space that is the product of 47 times 59 times 71.  That’s a lot of dimensions.  But the fact that this dimensional number is the product of three primes might be revealing in itself.  Here’s why.

In the simplest behavioral theory, we still have to accommodate Nature as a component.  The easiest way to do that is to collapse everything we understand in the natural sciences into their most basic “atoms.”  Like the Ancient Greeks, our atoms of behavior can be Energy, Space, Matter, and Time.  Collectively we can call these Resources, but there are no more than these four atoms in any behavioral question.  Time only goes one way at the macroscopic level, so let’s ignore it.

The other three behavioral atoms are more than complex enough such that they may be represented by 47, 59, and 71 different states.  The possible interplay between each of their “dimensions” with all of the others could give rise to your Monster.

I propose your Monster Group as a better representation of real atoms, from Hydrogen to Plutonium.  Every atom in the universe becomes one of your Monsters.

There you have it.  Crazy idea, no doubt.  But wasn’t it Hilbert who described one of his former students as not having enough imagination to be a mathematician?

Thank you for everything you have given humanity.

Sincerely,

Tusok

 

Numbers are Real Plus

The great mathematician, John Conway, discovered a very simple way to create all the numbers we will ever need using very simple rules.

Why is a mathematician being featured on a blog that’s dedicated to studying behavior?

Because math is an aspect of behavior.

Yes, you heard it here first.  Math is part of our behavior.

Math doesn’t feel like behavior when we’re in class, dreading the next quiz.  However, the whole concept of numbers, shapes, curves, areas and dimensions are all concepts that only live in our mind.

The fact that we can use these concepts to make our lives easier is extremely convenient, but not because we are directly connected to Nature.

We are INDIRECTLY connected to Nature.  That’s why it’s so important to study math, and to encourage mathematicians to research all sorts of new math.

Conway’s Surreal Numbers are a better way to construct all the numbers we currently know about.  It’s better because it’s simpler and more complete.

Do I understand what he’s created?  Hardly.  There’s a good chance almost no one alive fully understands what he’s given the rest of us.

But studying history reminds us that many great discoveries can take hundreds of years before SOMEONE figures out a way to use them.

This is where behavior kicks in.  As students of behavior we have to study history in general, history of science in particular, and also many aspects of today’s behaviors in order to get an idea as to what will happen in the future.

After all, when all is said and done, isn’t that the real purpose of studying any subject?  The ability to predict.

If you don’t think so, let me know.  If you’re on board with the idea, stick around.  This year is going to be fun, because there are a whole lot of predictions about to be made.

Thanks for sticking around.  I knew I could “count” on you.

And Happy New Year everyone!

Tusok

 

John Conway on Surreal Numbers

Don Knuth talking about Surreal Numbers and the book he wrote about them.

 

Numbers are Fake News

How fake is fake?

Can you fake a cake?

How fake can a fact be faked, before it becomes an alternative fact?

A fake fact?

Can there be such a thing as a fake fact?

So many questions, so little time.

So I thought I’d have some fun playing with our minds in a totally different direction.

Numbers.

Are numbers real?

No, not real numbers, as in 1, 2, 3 and 4.  But are they in fact, real things within nature?

Spoiler alert…  they aren’t real!

How’s that for a brain bender?  Want to know why?  Check this out.

Go ahead and count something.  Jumping sheep? as you try to go to sleep?

Fine.  One sheep.  Two sheep.  That seems easy enough.

But wait.  Let’s sheer those sheep.  After all, you might like to have a nice woolly blanket to keep you warm while you sleep.

Now I have naked sheep.  Are they still two sheep?

Fine.  Two sheep.  Now, what if I cut their toenails?  Do I still have two sheep?

Yes?  Alright.  Now, let’s get gory.  Except that these are phantom sheep that only jump through my dreams.  So all of you sleep-sheep-lovers, please don’t get angry.

If I take the legs off the sheep, do I still have two sheep?  No?  Now we’re getting somewhere.

What if I only take off a bit of leg?  Better yet, how much leg will you let me remove from my sleep-sheep before it is no longer a sheep?

Forget sheep.  Let’s try a rock.

One rock.  Two rock.

What if my rocks hit each other and become three or four rocks?  How is this possible?

What if they bang about so much that they become a million rocks.  Are they still the same two rocks?

That’s my point.  Anything you choose is a thing only because we want it to be that thing.  Nature doesn’t work that way.  One sheep.  One rock.  One country.  One planet.  One star.  These are all made up in our minds.

The numbers that we use in math class are concepts that enable us to live better, understand Nature better.  But they are concepts, not real things you might find lying in the street.

Believe it or not, this is important.  It’s important because there is now a way to create numbers that is much more “natural” than our current method.  And I’m going to do my best to share that with you next time.

Until then, keep counting those sheep.

Have a great New Year’s everyone.

 

 

Honest Sheriff

I had the pleasure of visiting a friend down in Appalachia country recently.  It was a delight, the countryside was beautiful, and everyone I met was not only a character, but someone I could easily spend time with.

One gentleman was the Sheriff of a neighboring county.  He related many stories of interesting arrests, puzzling homicides, and even emotional vignettes.

Of the latter, the story that should be more public was when he was interested in soliciting the vote of Mr. Big.  Mr. Big had too much money, even more power, and liked everyone to know it.  When our Sheriff wannabe went to visit, Mr. Big immediately reminded him who he was, and eventually proceeded to offer him a wad of cash to help the campaign, under the table.

Our Sheriff said, “I came for your vote.  Besides, you once gave me a contribution worth more to me than all your money.”

Mr. Big was thrown for a loop.  When?  We met before?  You asked me for money?  I remember everyone I buy off.

Years earlier, our Sheriff hit a bad patch.  Wife up and left, young son and he scraping to get by on a meager policeman’s salary.  He’d gotten to the point where he’d stopped eating to make sure his son was fed and the rent was paid.

They went to a fast food place that had kid toys in the boxes.  But you had to buy the box, and our Sheriff didn’t even have an extra dollar.  Mr. Big was walking by, and without taking notice, bought the meal including the toy.  Mr. Big left.

Our Sheriff didn’t forget.

Mr. Big immediately had a huge check written to the campaign, as much as the law allowed.  He also took out two full-page ads, on his own dime, stumping for our Sheriff.

Our Sheriff won and started doing great things right away, saving the county money and solving crimes.  He and Mr. Big became life-long friends, even up to the day Mr. Big passed on.

So, here’s to our Sheriff.  There have to be more out there like him.  I thanked him personally, and I’d like to thank all the others out there that have integrity, honor, and do the right thing.

Thank you.