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.

 

Pain is a Pain, can be a Gain

Being a pain in the butt is hardly a compliment.  But it may be a back-handed compliment in that it’s the unwelcome relative to what is best about our lives, living.

Our Western cultures have been oriented towards denying, reducing, even eliminating pain.  Eastern cultures tend to embrace pain, much as we sometimes have to embrace that relative we have to see over the holidays.

Nothing embodies emotional pain more than family, especially dysfunctional families.

Problem here is that we are going to talk about pain that’s not emotional.  No, this is pain that hits us below the belt.  Above the belt.  Right at the belt.  Remove your belt, just in case.

In broadest possible terms, pain can be good or bad.  In either case, pain is a way that your body “talks” to your “self.”  Do you think that dogs can feel pain?  If you do, then you have to also agree that dogs have a sense of self.  I believe dogs know themselves.  I only wish they had the sense to upgrade their owners on occasion.

Good pain tells you if you’re doing too much, pushing too hard, eating too much pasta.  That last only pertains to industrial pasta.  Homemade pasta is never painful.

Good pains include itching, in moderation.  I’m not sure what itching means.  My latest theory is that it’s the little bugs living on your skin asking to move somewhere else.  Every time you scratch those buggers get a ride to another piece of real estate.

Pain also comes in different forms, that apply to both good and bad pain.  Here’s some of the ways I suggest we describe them: acute, chronic, diffuse, specific, permanent, sporadic, rhythmic, shared by others, something only I feel, and finally, those that can be found versus impossible to find.

I know this is a lot, but pain covers a lot of area (ha!).  As a yogi, we have to embrace pain as part of living, appreciate it, and understand the good versus bad pains.  If our movements produce bad pain, stop!  Perhaps see a doctor.  If our movements produce good pain, also stop.  Rest.  Repeat.

As the US Marines are fond of saying, pain is weakness leaving the body.  Who knew that Marines were yogis?  They are.  Don’t mess with the Marines.

So, embrace your pain.  Understand it, and listen to your body.  It makes you a better yogi.  It makes you a better student of behavior.  And it makes you a better person.

Tusok

By the way, sorry about all the bad puns.  They sort of happened.  Hope they weren’t too painful.

 

Seeing Layers

Have you ever had to speak in front of an audience?  Has someone suggested that you think of them as sitting in their underwear as a way to reduce your own anxiety?

How in the world does that REDUCE my anxiety?  Heck.  That would increase my nervous nature.  I’ve seen some of those people in the locker room.  Trust me, keep the clothes on.

A long time ago I enjoyed an encyclopedia that included pictures of a person that could be viewed in layers.  First layer had all the skin.  Remove that clear page, and underneath was the muscle.  Then circulatory, nervous, and other endocrine systems.  Finally, the last plate held our bones.  Talk about layers.

As an exercise for all you aspiring students of behavior, turn the next person you meet into layers.  It’s fun, and they don’t have to know you’re doing it.  In fact, it’s better if they don’t.

For starters, do it in the physical sense.  Look at their face and strip off the skin.  Then the muscles, and take a look at their bones.

Now for the second part of our exercise.  The best part.

Start removing layers of behavior.  The first layer is the obvious stuff, the trite conversation, the routine greetings and reports, the choice of clothing and hair style.  Look at them deeper.  What does their family life look like?  What about their underlying understanding of nature and philosophy?  How about their childhood?  What part of the world were they raised?  What is their ethnic background?  How about their gender, life experiences, education, and significant people in their formative years?  What about their characteristics, goals, and fears?

Each and every one of the items mentioned above is a layer that can be appreciated all on its own.  Like some of the most wonderful layer cakes with every layer being something different, people have many nuances throughout their character.

So, the next person you meet at work who starts boring you with routine office gossip, start undressing them with your brain.  Don’t stop at the underwear or skin, that’s not only creepy, but uninformative.  Don’t stop until you get to the very bottom.  It’s a dive worth doing.

 

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.

 

 

Socrates’s Mistake

How do I dare say this about the greatest teacher who ever lived?

I wouldn’t have applied for the job of Socrates, Two, if he hadn’t overlooked this subject.

In his defense, he didn’t so much as overlook it as have a much larger issue to deal with first: teaching us how to learn about the natural world.  The Golden age of Greece had great insights, but they weren’t insightful enough to invent and use engines, electricity, and airplanes.

Socrates gave us the tools necessary to learn about the natural world.  That learning gave us the tools needed to start the scientific and industrial revolutions.  Those revolutions gave us engines, electricity, and airplanes.  That’s how deep his teaching went.  Not bad.

The problem he avoided was behavior.  Socrates left it off the table.  By doing that, he was implicitly teaching that our behavior was something beyond nature, something we couldn’t study using the tools of logic and measurement.

Bull s***.

You heard it right.  I who never swear said this in the strongest, most emphatic terms I can imagine.

Behavior is natural.  We have tools to study natural phenomena.  If we don’t study behavior, humanity is doomed.  And here is the final shocker.

Socrates knew this.

He had many things to teach.  A good teacher only teaches one thing at a time.  A good teacher only teaches as fast as his students can absorb that knowledge.  Socrates was a good teacher.

Socrates knew his students believed in Gods.  He knew society was very protective of their gods.  And the gods were a very popular cause of behavior.  Much craziness was sourced directly to those denizens of Olympus.

If Socrates interfered with the gods, it meant he couldn’t teach them about the rest of the natural world.  So he stayed away from behavior.

Socrates knew that a true study of behavior as a property of nature would also mean denial of gods, any gods.  He also knew his students weren’t ready for that.

Most modern people still aren’t ready.  Here we are, almost 2500 years later and it’s hard to go anywhere in this world without bumping into someone’s god.

That was Socrates’s mistake, an intentional one.  For if we are to truly study behavior in a scientific manner, we must consider ourselves part of the natural world.  We must deny the supernatural in all its forms.

After all, if there are deities that control everything including our fates, then what’s the point?

Putting it another way: You got God?  Party time!

 

Socrates, 2

I angered my friend by asking questions, too too many questions.

Most people don’t like that.

Most people are done learning early in life.  Some are done by the time they’re teenagers.  Some wait until they’ve finished school.  Others will fade as their hair changes color.

A few never stop.

Socrates never stopped.

He was going full tilt all the way to the end.  He was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens almost 2500 years ago.  He insisted on a trial, was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death at the age of 60.

His legacy was his students; and they had his methods, his conclusions, and most importantly, his enthusiasm for questions.

Today we live in a larger world by every possible measure.  Socrates would have marveled at the size, power, and speed of everything we take for granted.  Yet his questions are as powerful today as they were then.

In fact, they are more powerful.  For one important feature we have today that Socrates didn’t have then; information about how people behave in great detail.  We have access to thoughts, desires, and choices far beyond the simple toga-toting times of Athens.

It’s time for the sequel to Socrates.  In this day and age we are used to sequels, and even sequels of sequels.  Why not a sequel to the greatest teacher who ever lived?

I’m applying for the job.

I’ve got lots of questions, a good handle on the use of logical reasoning, and a fairly open set of assumptions and biases.

Additionally, I’m familiar with many of the modern disciplines, scientific methodology, and many of the technical tools available.

There it is, friends.  I am applying for the position of Socrates, too.  The sequel.

I’m affordable, work from home, require little supervision, and have a fairly decent sense of humor.

I’m also open to shortening the job title a tad.

How about,

Tusok?

 

Challenges of Socrates

I angered my best friend today by suggesting a better way to take a picture.  In all fairness, it would have been a gorgeous picture of a dandelion ball covered in delicate frost, with a fiery orange maple tree as the background.

Instead of a picture, I got an earful.  She said:

“You’re constantly challenging me, and it’s tiring.  I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

Ouch.  That really hurt.  I didn’t realize it, and I certainly don’t want to anger her, or you.

I started to ask: what do you mean by constant?  who others?

But she instantly corrected me by explaining questions are challenges.

Now I’m crushed.  It’s been hours since the frosty ball-of-fluff incident, and I’m crushed.

What’s worst is the very essence of my being is what she finds annoying.  I’m not worried about our relationship, there’s plenty more for us to base that upon, but it does mean;

No more questions.

Which brings us to the reason for today’s post, and the purpose of this site.

It’s all about questions.   Asking questions is the very essence of learning.  If my friend finds me annoying, what do my other friends, relations, and even YOU think?

Perhaps all of them, and you, are also annoyed.

For that I’m a little sorry.  Sorry because I would rather intrigue and please you so that you would press on and think these questions through on your own.  Also sorry because the alternative means we won’t learn, and future history will be the same as past history.

Which brings us to Socrates.

He lives about 2500 years ago, and was the greatest teacher in history.

How great was he?  His teachings created philosophical schools that have lasted up to today.  Second, he was able to teach using questions, allowing the student to reach the proper conclusion based on their own current knowledge.  Third, his teachings about objective definitions and the use of logic eventually led to the Renaissance; the scientific and industrial revolutions.

It’s quite possible that if it weren’t for Socrates we’d still be living in the Dark Ages, fighting Holy Wars, and travel around the world using nothing but wind-powered ships.

It took 2000 years for that message to get through.  All because he wasn’t afraid to challenge his students.

 

Evolution Devolution

155,615 words in something called Origin of Species.

Of those words, “evolve” is mentioned only once.  You heard it right.

As for “evolution” or “evolving” or some other variant, zip.  Nada.  Nothing.

Isn’t that funny?

Now, the word “variation” comes up 188 times.

And the word “selection” comes up 414 times.

Here’s the reason why.

As a methodical man, Charles Robert Darwin was most interested in convincing lots of good, smart people, in this radical idea that the thing we call “species” was changing over time.

CRD also knew that a lot of those same people were big on the Big Guy, the big light in the sky, the ultimate authority, GOD.

CRD had no interest in taking on religion, that wasn’t his aim.  His only goal was to show people that species weren’t sitting still.  Some species had walked the Earth long ago and disappeared.  That implied that new species were being created.  CRD had to figure out how to show people what he’d learned.

Law of Nature Number One: Each one of your children is different.  And attached to this law is another: Each of your children is different from all other children.  It’s another way of saying all of us are unique.  Even identical twins stop being identical the moment they are born.

Any problems with this?  Do you disagree?  Then check out a worm, and another worm.  If you look long enough you will see differences.  That’s a Law of Nature.

Law of Nature Number Two: Some differences help you have more babies.  Do you know any couples who have trouble making kids?  What about race horses?  The owners of famous stallions who win big races make lots of money selling that horses baby-making bits.  As long as horse racing is a big sport, there’s a good chance lots of fast-horse babies are going to be born.

Any problems with number two?  If not, we’re ready for the big finale.

Putting both of these Laws of Nature together creates a process of change.  Every individual is unique.  Every individual has a different number of babies.  And so on.

Biologists thought they were doing everyone a favor long ago when they applied the term “evolution” to the process.  It seems harmless enough.  What they didn’t realize was that they were making it harder for us non-biologists to follow along.  Bad marketing.

As a result, we have arguments with GOD over whether or not evolution exists.  Here’s the funny thing.  Evolution doesn’t exist, just like “falling” doesn’t exist.  Falling is a process of being up, and then suddenly being down.  We don’t have schools teaching “falling” as a subject.  Instead we have physics and gymnastics.

Similarly, we shouldn’t be teaching evolution in school.  We must stick to the laws of nature: we’re all unique, and we’re all going to have different numbers of children.

That’s a horse you shouldn’t bet against.