Saturday, March 12, 2016

Voices in AI - and life-extension

 On the crucial and ever-more pertinent topic of AI or Artificial Intelligence, have a look at this Top 10 list: people in AI that you should know.  I’ll copy the list in detail, below. But even the most casual of you will recognize two of the names.

== Drones in the wrong hands ==

After giving talks in DC to several packed halls filled with agency civil servants about “threat and danger horizons,” I encountered this Russian video showing a machine-gun armed quad-copter in action. How long before one of these is used to assassinate somebody?  First use will likely lead to the banning, then tight regulation of drones in the US. 

The irony?  We’ll likely be safer in a world of many drones in private hands. Because civilians who see bad actor drones will likely dive their own drones into them. (I referred to this in EXISTENCE.) We need to remember, when it comes to dual use technologies that our safety depends only partly on restrictions - or on a vigilant protector caste (PC).  Over the long run, what will make the crucial difference is a high ratio of good practitioners to bad tech users. 

Keeping that ratio high-and-rising is going to be as important as any investment in the Protector Caste. They complement each other.

== Peak oil… by outgrowing it? ==

Speaking of whales, here’s a quote from energy expert Amory Lovins about how quickly an industry can change:  "In the 1850s, whalers—America’s fifth-largest industry—were astounded to run out of customers before they ran out of whales," he writes.

Among the factors that Lovins weighs: “the energy density of liquid hydrocarbons remains an order of magnitude better than that of the best batteries envisioned today, though electric cars use that energy far more efficiently.”

== People Most Watched by the AI Elite ==

Back to our lead-in story. These are the ten folks who the most selective experts in Artificial Intelligence pay attention to -- that is, according to the network tracking service Little Bird.

1. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla; co-founder of Open AI, a new organization dedicated to making sure AI is beneficial to humanity. Elon is the person most followed by the AI thought leaders. 
3. Gary Marcus, CEO of Geometric Intelligence, Professor of Psychology & Neural Science, at NYU.
4. Ben Goertzel, founder of OpenCog, is a prolific advocate for an open source artificial intelligence network.
5. David Brin futurist, blogger, and author with a new book coming out in March called Insistence of Vision, which he says "will open doorways into possible (and mind-blowing) tomorrows and alternate realities.”
6. Randy Olson, data scientist researching AI, master curator of great content related to AI, data visualization and more.  
7. Peter Xing, intrapreneur at Deloitte and co-founder of TranshumanismAU, an Australian organization that aims to enhance the human biological condition.
8. Nikola Danaylov is a Singularity-minded public intellectual and host of the Singularity 1 on 1 podcast. 
9. Rodney Brooks, CTO of Rethink Robotics, a company that makes robots that collaborate with humans.
10. Rod Furlan, a Singularity University alum who’s the founder of Lucidscape, a company "building a new kind of massively-distributed 3D simulation engine to power the vast network of interconnected virtual worlds.”

“Follow these people,” Sayeth the Little Bird site, “or ignore them, at your own peril.”

== Paints Preserve Us! ==

The Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF) has awarded a prize to a team that used polymers to stabilize all the cell’s in a mouse brain so it could be cryo frozen without (much) damage.  This will supposedly preserve the location and strength of every neural synapse or the “connectome” which some believe will be enough to allow accurate modeling of all of a suspended person’s thoughts and memories.  Note that the goal is no longer to make the organic brain come alive again, itself. I still deem this approach problematic though.

1) There is evidence that the synapse is not everything. There are signs of substantial intra-cellular computing.

2) The need for freezing at cryo temperatures still leaves the stored brains very vulnerable across a century or more. The "preservation" thing will only become credible when you can put grandpa's fully plasticized head on the mantle - at room temperature. (See this depicted in my just-published collection of stories, Insistence of Vision.)

== Inheritance just got weirder and more like the New Testament ==

Epigenetics is revealing how experiences endured by a child can sometimes affect his/her sperm and /or ova in ways that then are inherited in a somewhat 'Lamarkian' fashion, by the kids of those kids or even grandkids. Changes in regulatory chemistry, rather than the basic DNA code, itself. 

In this study we see a small, isolated Norwegian region that had cycles of starvation and excess that are very well documented.  It appears to be the latter - years when good harvests led to records of "gluttonous" over eating - that apparently had the most severe effects on lifespans, two generations later!  

Studying the massive regulatory stew of the human epigenome will dwarf the Human Genome Project: "…the human genome contains something like 25,000 genes; it took $3 billion to map them all. The human epigenome contains an as yet unknowable number of patterns of epigenetic marks ... certainly in the millions. A full epigenome map will require major advances in computing power. When completed, the Human Epigenome Project (already under way in Europe) will make the Human Genome Project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus."

Almost yearly, scientists announce one more intervention that “increases the lifespan of mice by 25%” or more.  Caloric restriction, various nutrients, blood exchanges with younger animals… and now by killing off “senescent cells” that have stopped all active division processes.  Eliminate those cells and the mouse not only lives longer but appears younger… (much the way Larry Niven portrayed something similar, in RINGWORLD.)  Scientists discovered that senescent cells secrete a tumor-suppressing protein – hence they rewrote part of the mouse’s genetic code to produce the protein caspase when they begin secreting p16—this acts as a kill-switch, which prompts that cell to die.  Clever. 

But also simple, and hence it qualifies as “low hanging fruit.” Any species that desperately needs to switch to a longer lifespan – as we did, half a million or so years ago – is likely to stumble onto this method and hence I’ll bet they’ll find we already do something like this.  See my essay on why we’ll have to find some more difficult and un-natural things, to get real lifespan extension for us already long lived humans. 

 == Science & Tech news ==

Finally, a truly non-volatile memory storage system, laser etching inside disks of pure quartz - could have an indefinitely long lifespan. 

Meanwhile. A Harvard team have devised a way to make virtually any shape out of a flat sheet of paper, using a fundamental origami or tessellation fold.

Google's Project Loon has been doing R&D on a fleet of interconnected, autonomous, cheap balloons that will soon fly high above commercial jets providing ultra cheap internet access all over the world. This is just one of several endeavors that promise an important open door to the world and cosmos for billions. 

The EHang184 quadcopter isn’t exactly your flying car. But it’s a step closer. One-person passenger hauling by an autonomous drone. 


Alex Steffen, late of Worldbuilding.org, has a new kickstarted project: Our Heroic Future - that I have supported, launching the live-performance talk trend some way beyond the TED standard of a mere inspiring 18 minutes. He intends "a remarkable three-part live documentary. Each 90-minute show is centered around a talk, incorporating stage presentation, film and photography, visual design and motion graphics, sound, music and lighting to tell a powerful story of where we are, where we can go, and what it could be like when we get there."  Give it a look. Sure it's similar to things I've been doing. But there's a huge need for future-can-do tent meetings!  Revivals of our most important faith... belief in ourselves and our children.

Google wants to work with university researchers on short-term projects involving the use of its software and technologies in emerging Internet of things applications.

As every other part of optics shrank, the focusing lens – and the necessary space behind it – remained bulky and heavy, especially on space probes and our portable devices. Now comes a flat, lensless array of several million pinholes, giving new impetus behind the oldest principle in optics, opening an amazing diversity of possibilities.

Humans and Neanderthals may have interbred 50,000 years earlier than previously thought.  There may have been a small admixture exodus of African humans long before the main wave emerged. Here’s a better article. 

and about space...

Located about 300 million light-years away in the Coma Cluster, a record-breaking supermassive black hole weighs in at twenty-one billion times the mass of the Sun, several thousand times larger than the mammoth that lurks at the core of our own galaxy.  Long ago, it would have been a quasar. The accretion disc around the black hole would have emitted up to a thousand times the energy output of the Milky Way.

Mapping  asteroids is important to our future - or discovering threats to it. The B612 Foundation plays an important role in this effort. As it progresses, the distribution of discovered objects appears to be pretty much as expected, except in one zone. Close to the Sun. 

== The incredible forgiveness of our fellow creatures ==

I’ve long been fascinated by the ability and willingness of higher animals to parse among and between humans. Of course we know dogs and cats and horses do this, on a personal level. But then there are the whales and dolphins and sea lions who will flee some ships on sight, but approach others either to play or (alas, often) to beg help with a problem, e.g. cutting them free of a tangled fishing net. 

Elephants are special in almost every way. They know that some humans are waging terrible war upon them, poachers slaying them out of greed for ivory.  Yet, they have been known to flee in the direction of game wardens. And last year, in apparent proof of advanced linguistic and memory abilities, a bull who had never been to an animal rescue center led a wounded comrade there, somehow (presumably) having learned of it second-hand.

Now see this video about a matriarchal herd that annually migrates, utterly peacefully, through the lobbyof a tourist hotel, to munch on fruits in the yard beyond. It is elevating – even uplifting – to realize that we are not hated, as a species.  Animals seem to know that we are varied.  And at our best, we are capable of being friends. 

(In EARTH see the self-contained story of a brave young man’s confrontation with a merchant of animal death.  And in INSISTENCE OF VISION, several tales featuring “Elepents” – redesigned as the perfect workers in space.)

== And finally ==

Share  20 Jokes That Only Intellectuals Will UnderstandSome are pretty good!

148 comments:

Perry Willis said...

Good stuff. The final item, about our animal friends, is especially moving.

Anonymous said...

Fake video:
http://www.businessinsider.com/watch-this-flying-submachine-gun-wreak-havoc-on-everything-from-mannequins-to-cars-2012-4

Marshall Kirkpatrick said...

David, thanks for including our AI findings in this round-up. I was pleased to re-familiarize myself with your work as I used our technology to put that list together. I just happened across your reference to it when I opened my RSS reader! Keep up the good work, I and others really appreciate your blog commentary, among your other work.

Duncan Ocel said...

Just to save you some heartbreak, David, I don't think that quadcopter video was Russian. Wikipedia says the poster, FPSRussia lives in Georgia, USA. The vegetation looked off for Russia.

Anonymous Viking said...

Regarding energy density of batteries versus liquid hydrocarbons, the Aluminum/Air battery is pretty good, but its adaptation would require function over form, given the large overlap between Apple and Tesla followers, that seems unlikely.

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/151801-aluminium-air-battery-can-power-electric-vehicles-for-1000-miles-will-come-to-production-cars-in-2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium%E2%80%93air_battery

David Brin said...

Marshall K glad you are pleased. Your influence evaluation system looks very interesting. Feel welcome here.

Unknown said...

Speaking of AI, Google's AlphaGo program has now won the first 3 of 5 games in a match with Lee Sedol, a top professional 9-Dan Go player, surprising everyone with the quality of its play. This is the the first time a computer Go program has beaten a 9-dan professional without handicaps.

AlphaGo uses a combination of neural nets and Monte Carlo tree search. It was initially trained from recorded historical games and recently further improved by playing games against itself.

The 4th game is currently in progress (Sat 9pm PST) and being streamed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP7jMXSY2xbc3KCAE0MHQ-A.

Congratulations to the Google DeepMind team for the success of AlphaGo.

-- Ron --

Paul SB said...

Hi Dr.Brin,

I haven't been able to check the blog for the last few weeks, but I decided I needed an SMA (Sanity Maintenance Activity). I hope I didn't annoy anyone who was expecting me to answer their entries. Last I remember I was in a conversation about priming, which may have been 3 or 4 threads back.

Anyway, when I saw what you wrote about the epigenome project, it made me wonder if you have had time to check out that video I recommended some time ago called "Stress: Portrait of a Killer." It brings up the project that lead to much of this new work in epigenetics - the Dutch Hunger Winter survey which found that the children on people who were born during the Hunger Winter had much higher incidence of several genetic disorders that could not be explained by family history. I know you're busy, but I thought that maybe you might have taken some inspiration there.

Loved the elephants! And my daughter and I got all but 2 of the egghead jokes, which puts us at 90% egghead.

Larry, in an earlier post I saw you said something to the effect that you expected I would laugh at you for bringing up another comic reference. I think you misunderstand. I don't have a problem with comics. I used to draw my own when I was a kid (and a somewhat better artist). I get that the genre is perfect for an artist who wants to be a storyteller as well. It's superheroes I can't stand. Make all the comic references you like without fear of me laughter (though I might smirk a little).

Paul SB said...

oops! "my laughter" not "me laughter" - it's not Talk Like Pirate Day for 5 more months...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re 20 jokes
I didn't get no 3

The three logicians in the bar
The first two say that "I don't know"
How does the third one know if they want a drink?

Re the epigenetics and Norway paper - sounds like too big an effect to me - especially with such a small sample size (99 individuals)

99 individuals - 32 years!! difference in longevity

I would love to see the data - born in 1905, I wonder how many of them died in the influenza outbreak after WW1?
Or in either of the world wars

Jumper said...

If the first guy had not wanted a drink he would have said "no" to the question "do you ALL want a drink."

Tony Fisk said...

Lee Sedol won game 4, so humans aren't ready for the scrap heap just yet.

Tony Fisk said...

I had to have a run at #3, and it reminds me of a joke free problem:

Alice invites three of her party animal logician friends* over for a wild time.
She seats them at a table and produces a box containing 3 black and 2 white hats.
Asking them to close their eyes, she places one on each head.

The set-up is that each player can see what the others are wearing, but not what they have on.

Alice now asks them to write down whether or not they know what colour hat they're wearing, and place their answer in the middle of the table so the others can see.**

Those who don't know are asked to try again.

How many rounds should it take for everyone to work out what colour hat they are wearing if they are:
a) 1 black, 2 white?
b) 2 black, 1 white?
c) 3 black?

*That'd be Brin, Cairncross, and Dondzelion
** A shot of vodka is downed at the end of each round.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread,

Robert,
"Name a good NASA project that a change in presidents killed?
Apollo."


Actually Apollo survived three Presidents.

But the myth is that Apollo was a good space program. It wasn't. It was an effective political program. As a space program, it was unaffordable and ultimately pointless.

And it wouldn't have survived in its Apollo 11 form if Kennedy hadn't been killed(**), he was apparently becoming horrified by the costs and negotiating with the Russians on a joint mission. He and Khrushchev had developed some kind of bond during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but when he died, Khrushchev didn't trust Johnson and dropped the talks.

(** Now there's a conspiracy for you... NASA killed JFK...)

Joseph Gliddon said...

Good problem. Took me 2hours and 33 minutes to work out ;)

Joseph Gliddon said...

Good problem. Took me 2hours and 33 minutes to work out ;)

Deuxglass said...

Concerning AI, Google’s AlphaGo beating a Go grandmaster is impressive. It is not that it beat him, but how he beat him. It did not use the brute-force method that IBM's Deep Blue used to win at chess nor was it preprogramed by specialist engineers. It used the raw data of 50 Million Go games loaded on it and it then played against itself until it was ready. It learned the game just like a human would and it learned so fast that the makers of AlphaGo were very surprised. Specialists of the game said that AlphaGo came up with masterful, unique and even beautiful moves showing that it can innovate. Computers like AlphaGo can in principle, learn any job a human can whether it be driving a truck to preparing a law case.

There is another development that is advancing quickly and that is what entrepreneur John Robb calls ‘clip-on robots”. These robots have a humanoid form. All of our machines from A to Z are made to be operated by humans, which is why they are built the way they are. To retool and rewire all our machines to operate our machines would cost an enormous sum. It would be the equivalent of replacing all our capital stock. The way around that is have a generic humanoid robot that can get in a car, drive it to the factory, walk in and start operating a machine or a backhoe or something else.

Before I laughed at the film “Terminator”. I loved it but I came up with lots of reasons why it wouldn’t happen but now I am starting to have doubts. Humanoid robots seemed so inefficient. Now that they are becoming a reality and you put it with AI, then we do become redundant. Maybe I should buy that cabin in the deep woods after all.

Jon S. said...

"The three logicians in the bar
The first two say that "I don't know"
How does the third one know if they want a drink?"


The bartender asked if they all wanted a drink. Logically, a single group member disagreeing would falsify the proposition that they all want a drink. So #1 wants one, but doesn't know about 2 or 3, so his answer is that he doesn't know if they all want one. 2 knows he does, and can deduce that 1 does, but has no idea about 3. #3 can deduce that the first two can only answer "I don't know" if they do want drinks, thus leaving open the possibility that the proposition is true. Since he wants one as well, that makes it true, thus he answers "Yes".

And now that the joke has been thoroughly dissected, a moment of silence please...

The Buddhist one continues, though. The hot-dog vendor proceeds to fill the Buddhist's order, then hands him the dog. "That'll be two dollars, please."

The Buddhist hands him a five. The vendor puts the bill in his till. The Buddhist asks, "So, where's my change?"

The vendor replies, "Change must come from within."

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - "Now that they are becoming a reality and you put it with AI, then we do become redundant. Maybe I should buy that cabin in the deep woods after all."

I often think of "John Henry v. the Steam Powered hammer" - and the narrow reach of redundancy. If a worker's only value is his ability to swing a hammer, then that worker is vulnerable to redundancy, and will die tragically fighting against the machines. But humans as a whole will move on to new work that is now possible only because of possibilities previously unimaginable. Global warming threatens to flood and destroy coastal lands? Well, now we have unprecedented land-creating capabilities.

Similar changes apply to every field rendered "redundant" by machines: a person who identifies himself as a 'hammerer' will lose to the hammers, so identity will need to evolve from secure, reductive frames to something broader - but no man was ever merely a 'hammerer' - humans are also fathers, creators, fighters, lovers - all things that AI and tools might 'change' but not 'replace.' AI can do many things for us, but it will never experience the world on our behalf.

That said, since we cannot experience the real world of Mars yet, here's a pretty cool "virtual tour"...https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/mars-journey/ - AI could go and get you a whole world of videos - changing what you see through its eyes - but it can never see it through your eyes.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

As for #8, the logician in me balks.

A logician's wife has a baby. The doctor hands the newborn baby to the dad. Wife asks, "So is it a boy or a girl?"

I believe a proper logician should answer - "TRUE" which covers, boys, girls, and hermaphrodites - and "FALSE" if the baby is none of the above (ie, if wife gives birth to an android - which, if that should occur, then either logician is himself an android, or he can also derive new conclusions about the truthfulness of his wife).

LarryHart said...

@donzelion

Really? The answer "TRUE" sounds correct to your ear? It sounds awkward to me in that context.

More generally, concerning those 20 jokes, I'm curious how many others here, especially the guys, are married to someone who can appreciate the jokes as much as you can.

Tony Fisk said...

@Joseph Gliddon: I saw what you did there.

Re Alphago tournament: I think the Google Team has established that a program can play a damn fine and imaginative game of Go.

Sedol has shown that a human can assess that game, and rally to play upon its weaknesses. It will be fascinating to see how the final game turns out.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: (From last thread regarding Principles)

(1) Sometimes, you gotta do something. Hmm... Sometimes you gotta do nothing. Don't forget Smith's Time-Will-Tell rule. You might be damned for doing nothing now or later, but screwing over something for you children exudes a particular aroma not associated with inaction related to your neighbors. 8)

Economics arguments are fun, but I'll wait for the next time one of these threads comes around on the blog. When that happens, though, I won't be trying to defend deflation or gold standards or any of that nonsense including the silly notion that value derives from the fruits of one's labor. Marx got that wrong and many people paid with their lives for it.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding clip-on robots, I can't help seeing this as a role reversal situation. We will wind up being the 'driven' device because we built all our other devices to be driven by us. Some future visitor to our world will conflate road widths, cart wheel spans, and driver cabins. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding energy density, any decent engineer will point out you don't need it much when energy efficiency can be improved. Anywhere that is possible, it should be possible to push hydrocarbon usage out. Where it isn't... well... I seriously doubt there will be enough of that kind of need to be a climate problem. If we buy our kids a generation or two of safety, they'll probably make this about as scary as the population bomb was.

I'm looking at the last two incandescent bulbs left in my house right now. Better go swap them out. 8)

donzelion said...

@Larry - "Really? The answer "TRUE" sounds correct to your ear? It sounds awkward to me in that context." LOL, not "correct" - correct in the context of what a logician would actually say when confronted with a disjunction. Alas, someday, I may graduate to a level of wit that has a broader resonance. (Current girlfriend liked the Pavlov joke, but she's a behaviorist herself, so it was cute.)

Paul451 said...

Re: Cryo-preservation
The real short-term goal should be whole-organ preservation. Starting with transplantable tissue/sub-organ preservation and working up. Huge boon for medical transplants, ending the race against decay, drastically improving donor-recipient matching by widening the available pools of both.

Even freezing blood is rare and expensive, and can't yet be done with whole blood.

Much more useful than freezing or plasticising a dead brain.

Re: 20 jokes.
Only one I didn't really get was Sartre, because I haven't read Being and Nothingness. But from the context, I assume that Sartre makes a fuss over the difference between not selecting a presence and not being able to select an absence. Which tells me that I probably don't ever want to read Sartre.

Paul451 said...

Alfred,
"Regarding clip-on robots, I can't help seeing this as a role reversal situation. We will wind up being the 'driven' device because we built all our other devices to be driven by us."

Had a thought like that after reading Stones of Significance.

If Moore's Law's exponent means we can one-day model neurons sufficiently well, an advanced computer should be able to model your biological brain faster than it can function, hence anticipate anything you think, let alone everything you do. Particularly if if also has a "reader", even if not at an especially high resolution. Think wearable fMRI.

(Interestingly, IMO, a "writer" isn't necessary to create a seeming connection between the biological and artificial. Our brains adapt to turn patterns of perception in gestalt understandings or perceptions of situations, even when you aren't aware of the specific sensory trigger. And more deeply, we not only create models for the behaviour of others, over time our brains physically adapt to echo/anticipate that behaviour. (People often liken amputation as analogous to "grief", but I suspect that "grief" is actually hijacking the mechanism of limb-loss. You lose a loved-one, you really do feel like you lost a piece of yourself.)

It should be simple for any AI that can model our brain many thousands/millions of times faster than we function, to hijack that adaptive mechanism; to train our brains to subconsciously associate certain perceptions/choices/feelings with subliminal sensory twitches, tweaks and flashes from the AI. This training allows the AI to direct the thoughts and actions of an augmented person, even if the biological brain doesn't know where the information came from. Hence our brains could still achieve deep integration with an AI, even if there was no "neural interface".)

---

So if we suppose (as David does in Stones) that there's some value that the biological brain provides some innate value, then the brain will remain a necessary part of the best AI's.

David suggests intuition/feelings are the unique property. Hence "Cortex" is a different-but-equal part of the gestalt post-Human narrator. But perhaps it's that neural simulations "run down", gradually drifting into a closed behavioural loop, an AI-specific psychosis. Periodically re-reading the biological brain "reboots" the simulation, and hence the AI as a whole. And so, then we won't be an equal part of the post-human. Even if necessary, our minds would be a small, trivial co-processor providing a specific dedicated function. Like a clock circuit on a microchip. Post-humans wouldn't be augmented with AI's, rather AI's would be augmented with a biological-human.

Moreso, if nano/bio assembly reaches a sufficient level, then the biological parts could be easily reproduced, hence easily replaced if lost. Only a minor loss of resources, an inconvenience. Like losing your wallet. If we're lucky, if that biological brain forms the seed-code of the broader AI, the AI may attach a sentimental value to the biological. More like an intimate personal memento that you'd run back into a fire to save, rather than a credit-card or ID.

Paul451 said...

So when I was thinking about that, my wandering thoughts turned it into the seed of specific type of a SF story, which I thought could serve as a framework for explaining the reasoning behind the ideas of the Singularity and Post-Humanism to the reader. Explaining why so many Singularitarians think it's not only possible, but inevitable.

I thought it would be an interesting scenario would be if the biological component suddenly lost the artificial. Suddenly got cut off from those subliminal cues, without really understanding why they felt lost. A scenario where an accident destroys the artificial component of the AI-human gestalt. The conceit would be that the surviving biological human is left with amnesia while healing (whether from the shock of being cut-off, or from their injuries, wouldn't be made clear), and their healer or rehab-person needed to explain the world they live in.

Since that's incredibly boring, to give it a bit of zhoozh the survivor might experience blackouts, weird glitches in their reality, and a growing suspicion about the motives (and identity) of the healer and other staff/patients. Is the survivor in the hands of anti-AI naturalist-extremists (neo-neo-luddite terrorists) thought to be long extinct? Is the "healer" actually their legendary leader, somehow survived? Why does the survivor almost-remember that face, that voice? Is the survivor a prisoner behind enemy lines, or a unwilling convert kidnapped by the extremists? Or, god forbid, a willing convert, in the confusion of mid-conversion?

And the final twist, his healing is complete when he finally realises that he is, of course, merely simulating a biological human in a physical location. The protagonist was actually only the synthetic AI which survived the accident, with severe damage to its core identity. Isolated from help and in repair mode, it essentially had to recreate itself and its biological "seed" from fragments of multiple people that it remembered, all the time on the edge of AI-psychosis. Integrate the pieces into its what remained of the simulation of its previous core biological human (it's "sanity circuit"), and then simulate that biological human well enough to re-seed the rest of the AI in order to stabilise the new AI identity (as well as have a template to physically assemble the actual new biological human from surrounding material.) The clinic a fiction of the repair mode, the healer-cum-rebel-leader actually the surviving remnants of the simulation of the previous core biological human.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "You might be damned for doing nothing now or later, but screwing over something for you children exudes a particular aroma not associated with inaction related to your neighbors."

It really depends on the context. In many cases, imprudent action is harmful, but less harmful than inaction - so long as the imprudent action is bounded by other self-curing rules. The three principles interact - the second, "snake oil is toxic" responds to the debt dumping on our children that you refer to. In a Keynesian system, deficits are created, but they are also paid off - we raise taxes in time of surplus to pay the cost of our deficit. The whole picture works - unless someone injects snake oil into the system to "make the costs magically disappear" - by conquering our creditors (Nazis, Communists), or by shifting them to our children (Reagan). "Pay your own damn debts" is a reformulation of "snake oil is toxic" (though reaching that derivation would take more space than is afforded in a comments section).

But the reasoning behind "sometimes, one must act, and sometimes, imprudent action is better than inaction" - is more evolutionary logic, than economic. Want to have children? Well, your mate may make a rational assessment of your qualities and character, but such assessments are not typically the way mating behavior is initiated. Typically, the process entails a certain amount of bounded impetuosity (gotta get her attention somehow, but cannot cross certain lines). Or, in another (non-logical, but entirely apt evolutionary formulation), sometimes a little social lubricant facilitates other forms of, erm, friction - but one cannot cross certain lines, and one must always bear the consequences oneself.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred

That was Keynes "discovery"
That an economy would NOT move back to a position of full employment on it's own

That a "good" economy could be disturbed and then move into a stable but very far from optimum position

Before then it was thought that it would recover on it's own

Keynes was expecting that the debt would be paid back by increased taxes after the recession

And a LOT of governments did operate like that - mostly when being operated by the "left wing" parties
Here in NZ Auntie Helen's Labour party had paid our debt back to almost nothing before the right wing National party got in
In the UK Labour had also substantially reduced the debt before the 2008 financial crisis

In your country Clinton had set things up to reduce your debt before the shrub got into the act





donzelion said...

@Paul - I'm not sure reading "Being and Nothingness" would help... but there's a very loose way to reconnect this strand with the topic of the original post on AI.

Sartre thinks he's finally fixed a problem first raised by Descartes. Descartes (aside from setting foundations for modern algebra and calculus), posed a riddle - what if I cannot trust anything I see - what if every scientific measurement presented to me is a lie, perpetrated by an Evil Genius trying to deceive me? What if in the "real" world, "2+2" actually equals "5", but some agent gives me the wrong answer every time, and also hides this truth every time I touch external objects and try to count them? What can I rely on then? Well, I can trust that I exist (cogito ergo sum) - because asking the question proves the answer. Descartes hoped he could use that "fundamental truth" to prove mathematics, logic, etc. in the real world - but to do it, he used a circular argument to prove God exists, then used God's benevolence to prove that mathematics, logic, time, and perceptions are "real."

Philosophers were unsatisfied. Many of them invented complex linguistic, psychological, empirical, and mathematical tools to try to change the way of describing this problem and reach some solution. Much garbage resulted. One of the "worst and most useless" solutions was inventing a logical language to represent the basic concepts of metaphysics - which, while utterly useless for its intended purpose, did present a cute parlor trick once a machine was built that performed calculations using those nonsense logical structures...

Sartre's solution to Descartes' riddle is intriguing: humans respond to the "absence of stimuli" - the 'lack' of a thing actually tells us something important. Were some evil genius telling you "2+2=5" - you would have expectations about the real world - which would be invalidated frequently. You "experience" that expectation being invalidated - and it all happens "inside your own head" - that space where "you think therefore you exist." Baby cries, expecting Mommy to come and comfort Baby - sometimes that expectation is met, sometimes it's not met. Baby learns Mommy is a separate entity, not under Baby's control. All these unexpected "absences" become the basis by which Baby learns that a "real world" exists beyond Baby.

In an AI context, if Sartre is right, then "self-aware" machines must also be able to respond to the "absence of stimuli." Instead of mastering games, like Chess or Go, by calculating millions (or quadrillions) of potential moves, they need to respond to an "absence" of observed stimuli, and derive meanings about external phenomena from those absences. Our supercomputers can beat us at Go and Chess now, but they have yet to reach the basic insight Baby has about an external world.

Travc said...

Apropos the mention of epigenetics, I very much recommend this book:
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/evolution-four-dimensions

If you (Dr. Brin) haven't read it, I think it would likely be worth your time. It is a decade old now, but not at all out of date IMO.

Deuxglass said...

Donzelion,

John Henry was a man with strength and impressive hand-eye coordination but he wasn’t too smart. He didn’t know when to quit. His only competitive advantage had become irrelevant. Some people today would say that all he needed to do was go back to school and get a degree in accounting but I don’t think he would have had the smarts or the resources to do that. He could probably only get a job flipping burgers. In that case, the appropriate song would be “Sixteen Tons”. If we take the broad view of trade and technological progress, we do get a warm feeling that everything will work out in the end but in doing so it allows us to ignore, in good conscience, the effects they have on the individual.

Humans possess qualities that AI may never care about such as beauty, loyalty, fairness and many others. These are our noble attributes and are precisely those that cannot be incorporated into AI. All AI would “care” about is efficiency and the optimal utilization of resources needed to reach its objective. This is the type of AI we are building now. Even though AlphaGo is very good at Go, I doubt that it appreciates the beauty of the game and why one would play it for pleasure.

Can we teach AI to have our noble qualities? Can you teach it compassion, love, morality and fairness? This should be our first priority when we build AI, but as far as I know, no one is doing it.

That’s for the Mars videos. They are really cool.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Paul451, the cryoprotectant technologies of the past few decades have been first targeted at immediate needs such as cryopreservation for organs for transplantation. Cryonics organizations watch these developments, and then they use those techniques when they are appropriate.

Alcor, which is the world's largest cryonics organization, has announced that it has no intention of using the biopreservation method that won the "Brain Preservation Prize for Small Mammals" because that method is too biologically toxic to cells. For Alcor's full statement, see:

http://www.alcor.org/blog/alcor-position-statement-on-brain-preservation-foundation-prize/

donzelion said...

@Paul - BTW, I raised Sartre and followed it through a little bit not because I think he's particularly interested in AI, or even all that closely connected with this discussion, so much as that his approach to Existentialism tries to take a "serious" look at what "feelings" tell us about the world.

That's compatible with a notion that "feelings/intuition" are critical to intelligence, but does not require a commitment to "biology" as the only means of attaining feelings or intelligence. To a Sartrian approaching this field, I would imagine that some system must experience and extrapolate meaning from "lack" that is completely different from what comes from external stimuli ('external,' in this sense, as occurring outside the brain - e.g., the experience of 'hunger' would be an external stimulus if it is triggered by other portions of the anatomy).

Speaking of 'hunger,' I picture that sensation in humans, or any animals, as emerging initially from a symbiotic interaction with the bacteria in animal guts (bear in mind about 90% of the cells in our bodies belong to these bacteria...). I'm no biologist, but I understand many believe that bacteria might have served as the original source of mitochondria in eukaryotes - and a sort of symbiotic mutation emerged. 'Hunger' and 'reproductive' behavior might all have emerged from these sorts of chemical interactions - the 'brain' in a human might, from the perspective of a bacteria, be a manifestation of a 'chemical response processing center' that 'makes their lives easier' or regulates a certain equilibrium state (by adding food).

If that's true, then an architecture of "thought" that starts with "computation" doesn't get us very close to reaching "intelligence." A better place to develop intelligence might be focusing on replicating behaviors seen in the micro-organisms, particularly as they interact with one another.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - I think most people see "John Henry" as a cautionary, tragic tale - but also acknowledge how important tool use is for humans. Those humans who use/acquire/build tools well tend to beat those who do not. Trade and technology, to me, are merely transformative features - creating both joy and misery. I don't get "warm, hopeful" feelings that everything will work out from "trade & technology" - so much as wondering at the possibilities, and my own place in this story. But I do think that we will never be able to completely mitigate the harms that befall those who fail to adopt tools effectively, not without substantially reprogramming humanity.

The intriguing aspect of AI to me is that here, instead of creating a "tool," we're actually potentially creating a new kind of "person" - one that could be imbued with precisely the sort of programming we'd want to see in ourselves. Perhaps one function of this new type of person may be to help both of us understand certain concepts better - for example, if "beauty" has any objective meaning (other than "I like it") - how can we know an AI would be unable to grasp that objective meaning? Perhaps it would understand DIFFERENTLY from us, and by comparison with their formulation, both of us could reach a better understanding?

"Even though AlphaGo is very good at Go, I doubt that it appreciates the beauty of the game and why one would play it for pleasure."
My earlier comments to Paul re Sartre are really one way I think one could object to using the term "AI" in reference to what AlphaGo has done. Computing pi to a quadrillion digits, or winning at Go - such computations may have very little to do with "intelligence" as we experience it, and only represent milestones in an engineering process that beings we know are intelligent find entertaining. No harm there (as long as nobody has a brain aneurysm trying to win at the game).

"Can we teach AI to have our noble qualities?"
I'm not entirely sure how to teach US to have our noble qualities (though I still hope to have children, and I hope to at least try - I have no delusions that I know what to do, other than make the best effort I can). But that's a dodge to your challenge. As I see it, the "noble qualities" are almost certainly evolutionary behaviors we've adopted, championed, and refined - there are rational underpinnings to these behaviors, which can be replicated. We have no idea precisely where or how these behaviors came about - how the confluence of bacteria and protists and eukaryotes converged into multicellular entities, and then to multicelluar entities with brains, and then to brains that work like ours - but we're making steps, one question at a time.

One hammer blow at a time. ;) Perhaps a blow in our coffins, or perhaps a blow building our safest, best homes and wonders never perceived before.

locumranch said...



We commit category error when & if we assume that our desires have a 'rational underpinning', the subtext being that ideas of worth, merit & value are entirely arbitrary.

This is especially true in matters of 'economy' -- in every sense of the word -- for, according to the rules of Supply & Demand, we tend to disdain what is plenteous & value what is scarce, even though scarcity and (or) plenty are not enough to determine value in & of itself, the key being desire.

Therefore:

(1) We value the Protector Caste when we feel vulnerable & we judge this resource scarce, but we judge this undesirable when a relative oversupply infringes on personal freedoms;

(2) We pursue 'AI' because we judge intelligence rare, yet we dismiss the sea of intelligence that we already swim in;

(3) We desire the health of youth when old, yet we abuse youth with mandatory indoctrination, risky behaviours & drugs when plenteous;

(4) We curse CO2 in oversupply when it is indispensable in scarcity: and,

(5) We value what we lack & condemn what we have.


We limit ourselves by self-deceit & circular thinking, for we are not a rational species (even though we tell ourselves so at every opportunity) but a rationalising one which condemns itself to the cyclic history model & self-defeat, which is why the pursuit of endless economic growth, immortality & AIs that think "like us" are futile rather than high-minded acts.

These are False Economies that offer short-term benefits at the long-term cost of squandered resources & wasted effort.

Quite literally, we 'want' what we lack:

The young, maturity;
the mature, youth.
The hungry, plenty;
the satiated, hunger.
The wet, dry;
the dry, wet.
The dying, life;
the living, peace.

We can break this Futile Cycle yet, if we so desire.


Best

Jumper said...

Speaking of CO2, I determined that there's about 10 times the amount of CO2 in Mars' atmosphere (in total tonnage) than there is in our atmosphere. In other words, sufficient CO2 for large scale industrial use there. If an industrial process needs it, that is. It might be cheaper to extract oxygen from it rather than from rock oxides, for example.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Larry, in an earlier post I saw you said something to the effect that you expected I would laugh at you for bringing up another comic reference. I think you misunderstand. I don't have a problem with comics...


Sorry, I didn't mean to make you paranoid. I could have said "I realize I'm referring to comics again..." and meant the same thing by it. Name-checking you was just a way of personalizing the comment, not of slandering you.

donzelion said...

@Locum - in my view, your list of what we do illustrates the inherent flaws of the neoclassical model istelf, since absolutely none of the things we do, or how we do them, responds at all to supply and demand, and indeed, in each case, repudiates those laws.

(1) To have a "Protector Caste" at all - we need people who do not reason as pure mercenaries, who are willing to sacrifice their lives without calculating their best strategies to maximize personal happiness. (And it gets even more confusing when we add "mothers" - who also risk their lives to have children, and who MUST raise those children without 'rationally' contemplating how to maximize their own individual happiness in order to raise children well.)

(2) If we "pursued AI in response to an "intelligence deficit" - then the engineers, programmers, developers, and philosophers would be motivated by attaining maximum profit. Yet when those people are coding AI, if they're thinking about potential returns on investment, it rips them from the mindset that actually makes such discoveries and processes operate. Indeed, all "science" has to operate not with an eye on maximizing benefits, but rather, with an eye to losing ourselves in "truth" (and the power of the 'flow' - or being in the 'zone' - something athletes, coders, artists, priests can achieve - but not by fixating upon the rewards of their conduct).

I can go on with your other points and account for problems inherent in the neoclassical model when it is applied to humanity ourselves. BUT the mere fact that we are not 'happiness maximizing machines' does not mean we're condemned to anything in particular - except to failure if we try to construct intelligence that is itself a 'happiness maximizing machine.'

LarryHart said...

@donzelion

Happiness is elusive. I find that if you live your life with "maximizing happiness" as your first law, it doesn't work. Happiness comes in the process of pursuing and accomplishing other goals, or sometimes even just by being in the right place at the right time when something external to you happens. You don't get closer to happiness by making it your active goal, just as you don't make yourself a more attractive dating prospect by being single-mindedly interested in getting laid.

BTW, the same seems to be true for corporate "happiness" in the form of maximizing profit. All companies want as much profit as they can, but when "maximize profit" is your entire mission statement, it's not going to happen. You have to be in a position of accomplishing something else in order to profit in the first place.

Zepp Jamieson said...

On the twenty jokes, #11 stumped me, so I Duck Duck went. The red mark on my forehead is slowly fading.
Police Officer: Do you know how fast you were going, Doctor Heisenberg?
Heisenberg: No, but I know exactly where I am.

LarryHart said...

Being more of a calendar fanatic than one of base-8 math, #12 took me several minutes to get as well (Oct 31 = Dec 25). It is a funny coincidence, though, and I also had pleasant memories of Tom Lehrer's song about New Math.

David Brin said...

locum recites a litany of zero sum dichotomies and does not show the slightest sign of grasping how limited that makes him seem, to those who see beyond simplistically trivial-to-refute zero sum.

LarryHart said...

...which reminds me of another observation, not on that list of jokes. The equation:
ELEVEN + TWO = TWELVE + ONE
is true, not only mathematically, but anagramatically as well.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Re: 20 jokes.
Only one I didn't really get was Sartre, because I haven't read Being and Nothingness. But from the context, I assume that Sartre makes a fuss over the difference between not selecting a presence and not being able to select an absence.


I find that one funny even without specifically referring to Sartre. I saw a variation of that in a Father's Day column by Garrison Kellior several years ago. He saw that as a metaphor for what fathers have to put up with. They're all out of what you don't want on your coffee.

donzelion:

(Current girlfriend liked the Pavlov joke, but she's a behaviorist herself, so it was cute.)


My "current girlfriend" is my wife of 20 years, and she's "one of us" in the sense that she could appreciate every one of those jokes just as you or I would. I did have to explain "unionized" to her, but there were a few she had to explain to me as well. I feel blessed, despite our daughter being doomed to nerdhood from both sides.

LarryHart said...

Strangely enough, two of those jokes independently reminded me of "Star Trek", even though both instances were only in my own head.

The one about Einstein and Newton had me recalling the scene in the holodeck where Data played poker with Einstein, Newton, and Stephen Hawking (the latter actually playing himself). I found that to be one of the most memorable scenes of the series, despite it having nothing to do with the rest of the plot.

Then there was the first of two that began "A Roman walked into a bar...". I first read it as a Romulan walking into a bar.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: I’m inclined to think amputation grief associated with the loss of loved ones is well modeled by Douglas Hofstadter’s version of what a ‘self’ is. In his Strange Loop book he spends a lot of pages showing how such a structure is probably a recursive thing from which interesting features emerge like patterns in fractals, but he also talks a bit about the pain he suffered when his wife died unexpectedly. The loop argument strongly suggested that a ‘self’ isn’t a thing that exists in just one brain. Anyone who is loved by other people straddles all of them to some degree at different levels of fidelity because the people who love us model within their own self. If the best copy of a person dies, the rest of us who model them are going to suffer an amputation.

I understand David’s reluctance to believe we will be uploading minds into machines anytime soon, but the part of his argument that rests on intracellular computation strikes me as missing the point. Our ancestors have improved over thousands of generations at the fundamental act behind the English verb ‘to love’. We copy others into our selves. We don’t need to figure out how to copy people into machines from scratch. We have working examples of how it’s done between biological brains and can study that to improve the fidelity of a copy. Information transfer rates between people are low, so there is room for improvement there too.

As for the interface between us and our digital parts, I think it is pretty clear what it will look like. It will be through language as our inward pointing senses. This is another Hofstadter idea that I’ve been embellishing upon for fun. It treats every word in a language as a crude sensor. Think about light sensitive cells as precursors to eyes. Our languages are full of these things and if we step beyond simple dictionaries to include idioms, acronyms, and phrases we get an expanding collection of things we can sense. Fluent English speakers are taught what a ‘sour grapes’ story is while we are young. Our host extended the concept behind LASER in EARTH and now many of us have a broader sensor for it. These things should be useful as an interface to us because of another inward pointing sense we have we call that tells us we know that we know something. It is blindingly fast and far below where we pay attention. That sense can misfire and be hijacked by chemistry as demonstrated by the ‘tip of the tongue’ (in English) feeling we have when we know we know, but can’t quite say it. Finding the elements of our languages is a matter of training with a good fMRI. Queue them and trip the inward pointing confidence sensor and you’ve got a puppet with a mind that delivers feedback.

Combining these two is where things get most interesting, though. If I’m loved by a number of people and they are made into puppets, do I become one too without having to be wired first? Heh.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Keynes didn’t ‘discover’ that full employment thing. He offered it as a postulate. It sounds plausible even to my ear. What annoys me, though, is that the foundation is an illusion if you dig a bit. The full employment state is inherently unmeasurable because we can’t nail down the definitions involved. Keynesians tend to agree on them as a bloc, but Austrians don’t agree with Keynesians on many of the meanings, so conclusions just hang out there in the open air.

I get that Keynes argued for paying back the debt. Sounds like a good idea. The Austrians, though, argued that this was part of a resonance cycle. If someone could work up the courage to avoid the cycle all together, we might be better off. There ARE going to be other feedback loops besides government funded ones, though, so it gets tempting to set them against each other.

Clinton gets some respect for me for debt reduction in the late 90’s, but so does Gingrich. Ultimately, though, I’m not inclined to give either of them all that much credit. The late 90’s were a boom era for us. Debt reduction occurred largely because revenues increased and the feds weren’t inclined to spend them fast enough to make up for it. Debt reduction in the US is mostly about what the people do as the economy grows. What GWB and his people did was spend into the face of a recession, go to war, AND cut revenues. It was astonishingly stupid and we didn’t even need hindsight to see it. It’s one of those rare events when Keynesians and Austrians agreed. 8)

Robert said...

Politico has a very good article here as to why Hillary is having such a big problem in the Democratic Primary... and how this bodes poorly for her in the general election. And a good part of her problem is that Hillary is trying to capitalize on her name. She is a Clinton and the last Clinton Presidency was Good so Hers Will Be Good.

Except when you look to the past for success... you don't succeed. You tread water at best. Think of the Republican Party. For the past seven years they have been trying to use Reagan as their standardbearer and been about looking back. And the only reason they hold the House is because of widespread cheating (because that is what gerrymandering is), and the Senate because they convinced Democrats not to vote in 2010 and 2014... and in 2012 the states that were weakest for Democrats were those that had a larger number of Republicans turn out to vote.

Hillary is going to lose to Donald Trump. He will hit her hard on every single area of weakness. He will convince blacks not to vote for the woman who called black teenagers (who are now black adult voters) Superpredators, and will convince the LGBT community not to vote because she was Against Gay Marriage (and she was!). If there are complaints of his attacks on her, he will call her weak and using her gender as an excuse.

She does not have a message. She is about "vote for me because Republicans are worse" rather than "vote for me because we need to change Washington." Sanders has a damn message, and it has mobilized and ignited a lot of voters who will follow him. Trump says "he's a fucking socialist!" and Sanders will say "So is Norway. So is Sweden. You have a problem with our allies in Europe?" And then Sanders will go back to talking about his message.

There is only one chance Hillary has. If she starts on the attack and somehow gets Trump on the defensive and refuses to give him a chance to go on the offensive himself... she will win.

But the House and Senate will remain in Republican hands because people are not going to want to vote for Democrats after such a filthy campaign.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@Larry - "the same seems to be true for corporate "happiness" in the form of maximizing profit. All companies want as much profit as they can, but when "maximize profit" is your entire mission statement, it's not going to happen."

Isn't it ironic that so few science fiction players acknowledge corporations as "artificial persons" in a context of AI? They're just a stinking sheet of paper! Who cares if they (a) own property, (b) exercise speech rights, (c) create tools (like AlphaGo and DeepBlue)? Until they can calculate pi to a million digits, we don't need to worry about them taking over the world...but what do they feel? Not even intelligent at all!

"My "current girlfriend" is my wife of 20 years,"
Then you're a lucky man, my friend.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred
While "full employment" may be a difficult measure, and the maximum employment is also difficult the difference between
State one with a certain amount of employment
and State two with LESS people employed is absolutely clear

I was incorrect by talking about "full employment" - Keynes was much clearer he talked about greater and lesser.
I fell foul of the "straw-man" that is used by certain people to damage the Keynsian argument
Just like the straw-man of people who are actually asking for reduced inequality asking for equality

The key insight that the economy is NOT self recovering is the important thing
The very dubious view that the economy "resonates" is just an excuse not to do anything - mainly because the solutions tend to benefit "them" - not the elite

Just as IMHO the most important insight in "Capital in the 21st Century" is the data that shows that the "well known" mechanism that limits inequality does not actually exist

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: There is even a problem defining the term ‘employment’. We all know what we think we mean by it, of course. When it comes time to measure, though, we discover it is a fuzzy thing. Is a kid working a part-time job at a fast food store employed? Most would say yes. What about an adult supporting a family in the same situation. Some would say yes and others would qualify it by saying they are partially employed. If the term depends on internal variables like intent to support a family, age, and potentially employable skills, we are in the realm of arbitrary measures. Such measures mean essentially what we say they mean, but disagreements about them are as resolvable as many other philosophical arguments are. We wind up agreeing to disagree often enough that it matters.

I’m not trying to undermine everything anyone knows about economics, though. I’m trying to point to the illusions upon which we build what we think we know. I’m encouraging Keynesians to be a tad more skeptical of their illusions and not dismiss Austrians as inhuman monsters for disagreeing about the value of Keynesian illusions. There are more than two rings in our circus anyway, so skepticism about labelling is appropriate too.

I’m not even mildly inclined to argue that an economy is self-recovering. Some old school folks who BELIEVE in equilibria might, but I’m not one of them. I’m not sure it even makes sense to talk about ‘the economy’ as a whole. I like making the distinction between people who economize and those who don’t, thus I need another term to describe markets containing people who aren’t doing anything more than economizing at a micro level. Hayek did this with the term ‘catallaxy’. For example, in a job market I’m mostly interested in optimizing my own returns. I’ll give some thought to others in order to avoid obvious negative externalities, but not much more. That means I’m a micro-economizer and any job I acquire and the data associated with it should not be examined with macro-assumptions. Self-recovery requires equilibrium forces and those are macro-assumptions. See my issue?

Please be careful with your assumptions about my assumptions. There ARE times when I think the best thing to do is nothing, but it’s not an excuse to enrich those who would behave immorally. I’m sensitive to the Time-Will-Tell test of our actions. A person intending to do good can fail miserably even when everyone at the time thought they had a great idea.

Alfred Differ said...

Hmm... corporate entity as a gestalt mind. That would explain why the primary problem with every employer who ever paid me (and I suspect this is universal) is the lack of communication between people. What communication does exist is disorganized often enough to prevent the org from achieving its stated goals too.

So... we've already been taken over. Heh. I'm going to have to think about it a bit.


This reminds me of a thermodynamics class I was in long ago. The instructor was trying to explain 'Heat Death of the Universe' as we learned about entropy. His novel point (I thought so at the time) was that it had already occurred if you counted the neutrinos. Only baryon prejudiced observers would think we could still milk energy from one part of the system to another. The instructor delivered that with a big grin knowing we'd have to think about it a while. Needless to say, I remember what he taught about entropy better than any other teaching attempts on that subject.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "Our ancestors have improved over thousands of generations at the fundamental act behind the English verb ‘to love’."

Not so sure about the "improvement" part. In a science fiction context, I'm often amused by aliens who "want to know what love is" and want us to show them, but by asking a few questions, they reveal how little we actually know. (Oh wait, that's not an alien, that's just a Foreigner...)

What if the "act of loving" is merely a set of behaviors linked to chemistry in our brain. Lots of psychologists keep offering reductive concepts like "oxytocin" pathways to account for reproductive and sexual bonding behavior...what if those processes are, in turn, related to similar processes involving the bacteria residing in our guts (which comprise 90% of the cells in our bodies) - e.g., the carbohydrophiles are dying! - their carcasses convert into toxin X - which the gut transmits to the brain as "Sad! Hunger! Sad! Eat!" signals.

If we see ourselves this way, instead of "us" being a "brain in a skull with sensory arrays linking to the body" - how much of our thought is really, "brain translating signals" from internal and external stimuli - with the "us" being a manifestation of all those interactions? Our brain is not the "puppeteer of our body" (as the older models thought it was the heart, and others the "soul") - but rather, there's no puppeteer at all - we are 'symbiote soup' creatures (and most likely, so are other animals that also show intelligence).

donzelion said...

@Alfred - LOL, no, I'm not claiming we've been "taken over" - only that people in a sci fi context tend to think of only a certain kind of "artificial person" - entities that look like us a little bit, act like us a little bit, think like us a little bit. Since lawyers, rather than engineers, invented corporations, they're utterly irrelevant to any such consideration. Besides, they don't play chess, they only invent machines to play chess. So what good are those miserable little pieces of paper (that happen to already own the bulk of the world)?

But in terms of a gestalt mind, thinking of our own "minds" - which we think we know so well - as a series of complex processes ultimately driven by interactions with gut bacteria and with other external stimuli - could be a tad humbling, which is the real goal of the thought experiment. From our vantage, we look back at scientists of old who believed that the "heart" conducted "thought processes" - ah, you foolish relics of long ago and your superstitious ignorance. But perhaps our commitment to brains is itself just a new incarnation of that old ignorance - "they were wrong about hearts, because hearts mostly pump blood, and while blood is important, it's not 'thinking' - it's mostly water, with some cells carrying nutrients about - so instead of the 'heart' as the base of the soul, maybe the brain is...this organ definitely connects to more behaviors we observe than the heart does..." Instead of that model, the "symbiote soup" concept is intended to suggest no thought ever existed as an expression of a single organ - can can never be "brains in a vat" because we are not merely our brains.

Tony Fisk said...

Re: 20 jokes.
Only one I didn't really get was Sartre


I 'got' it, but found that 'getting' it didn't require Sartre, or his book. Which seems... appropriate.

"There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary notation, and those who do not."

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Hillary is going to lose to Donald Trump. He will hit her hard on every single area of weakness. He will convince blacks not to vote for the woman who called black teenagers (who are now black adult voters) Superpredators, and will convince the LGBT community not to vote because she was Against Gay Marriage (and she was!). If there are complaints of his attacks on her, he will call her weak and using her gender as an excuse.


As you already know ad nauseum, I don't share your pessimism. You seem to think Hillary and the Democratic Party will just sit still for Trump to attack. Hillary will give as good as she gets. I somewhat agree with you that her candidacy doesn't excite me the way Obama's did or Bernie's does, but she (and Bill) knows how to do politics. You haven't seen her go toe to toe with Trump yet. I doubt it will go as you think/fear it will.


Sanders has a damn message, and it has mobilized and ignited a lot of voters who will follow him. Trump says "he's a fucking socialist!" and Sanders will say "So is Norway. So is Sweden. You have a problem with our allies in Europe?" And then Sanders will go back to talking about his message.


It won't just be Trump attacking Bernie. It will be Karl Rove and Frank Luntz and the entire FOX machine. Hillary already knows how to handle those guys. Do we know that Bernie does? I know you think I overestimate Hillary's prowess, but at the same time, I'm afraid you overestimate the American public's tolerance of outright "socialism" or their willingness to emulate Europe.

Ask yourself why the Republicans aren't already attacking Bernie. Do you really think it's because they've got nothing? Or is it, as I suspect, because they'd prefer to run against him.


There is only one chance Hillary has. If she starts on the attack and somehow gets Trump on the defensive and refuses to give him a chance to go on the offensive himself... she will win.


I think that's much more likely than you seem to.

But the House and Senate will remain in Republican hands because people are not going to want to vote for Democrats after such a filthy campaign.


Then why would they vote for Republicans after a filthier one?

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Isn't it ironic that so few science fiction players acknowledge corporations as "artificial persons" in a context of AI?


Many months ago, I said that I wished a sci-fi author would write a story about "Citizens United" causing a corporation to literally come to life. I do not mean a computer system becoming self-aware; I mean a corporation itself developing sentience, ability to affect the external world, and (perhaps) a conscience. I'd be curious to see where that would lead.

I don't even mean that it would be a dystopia. What if the corporation decided it wanted to be a good citizen?

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart: Why not, in lieu of "a corporation coming to life" a genetic alteration becomes available that can result in a breed of humanity predisposed to forming hive collectives? Lots of possibility for progress or savagery there, I would think!

Robert said...

Oh, Larry.

Republicans already are attacking Sanders. Hell, Trump is threatening to send his supporters to disrupt Sanders. You know what Sanders said? "Go ahead. They'll hear the truth."

Republican attacks aren't causing Sanders to quail or cry foul. The Sanders crowd don't give a flip what Trump and crew says. And Sanders has been dealing with bullshit from Republicans AND Democrats since his days as a Congressman in the 90s.

You know what Sanders vs. Trump will result in? Republican candidates distancing themselves from Trump (they already are starting to prepare to do this), which will alienate Trump voters from Republicans... so long as Hillary Clinton isn't in the sights. Because they despise Hillary. Hillary motivates Republican voters to come out.

--------

I recently saw a comment on Facebook. A potential voter went to a Clinton rally and a Sanders one. The Sanders rally got their information. A couple days later a couple Sanders reps showed up at their door and offered to help them register to vote. They never heard from the Hillary campaign.

The Sanders Campaign is getting people registered to vote. It is telling people how to vote and where to vote. Clinton expects to get the Democratic Nod and doesn't care beyond that.

It reminds me of the Obama campaign. That campaign also worked to register new voters and help them get to the ballot. But Obama dropped the ball. He abandoned that network afterward. If in 2010 he had used that network, called all those voters, urged them to vote to help prevent Republicans from stopping other legislative efforts... well, history may very well differ from what really happened.

Sanders seems the sort to learn from history. No doubt 2014 under President Sanders would prove far different than that under President Clinton.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Doesn't even need a 'genetic alteration', just management issued with a wireless tap into the corporate intranet, which begins to act a little more than the sum of its organic parts. (The way the Matrix should have justified retaining humans. Meanwhile, I's may yet see daylight)

Tony Fisk said...

US election cycle is currently in the 'my camp or nothing' phase. Judging from 2008, it will pass. Meantime, it's rather sad to see otherwise intelligent people (not just here btw) belittling that *other* candidate, even though they may well end up having to vote for them (or go home and sulk... Yeah, that'll help, much)

Jumper said...

LarryHart, it would be a good story, I think, if the benevolent corporation was staffed by uniformly bad people. Sort of the opposite of the situation we often find ourselves in nowadays.

Tony Fisk said...

AlphaGo won the fifth match, taking the series 4-1. I was wondering whether Sedol had belatedly got the AI's measure, but it seems not.

Deuxglass said...

I don’t think polls matter much anymore because people no longer give truthful answers to pollsters, I know I don’t. If they call me at home, I hang up, if asked on the street I walk by, if cornered I give a politically correct answer. I see no reason to give personal information about what I believe so that a polling company can make money. There is no counterparty. I receive nothing in return for giving out personal information. Polling companies suspect this and try to compensate using statistical means but it still ends up with erroneous predictions. Garbage in is garbage out no matter how many degrees of confidence the statistical equations spit out.

Some polling companies try to overcome this by offering money but that doesn’t guarantee a truthful answer. It works somewhat if you are asked which shampoo you prefer but with truly important questions, it has no effect. You can’t tell if the person is lying. Some polling companies are using tech to detect lying. This is what the FBI use to help detect untruthful answers, i.e. voice stress software and lie detectors. The problem with these methods is that it is no longer a poll, but an interrogation. If done with consent, then there is no legal problem. However, your responses will be recorded somewhere and you run the risk of your opinions popping up at an inconvenient time years hence even if they swear that it can’t happen. The more sophisticated polling companies use the stealth mode. They record your voice and video and use algorisms to detect lying without your consent or knowledge. It should be illegal but it is not. It is one of those grey areas. So if someone shoves a camera and a microphone in your face and asks what you think about an important issue, just walk away. It is none of their business what you think or believe.

Deuxglass said...

Primitive “AI” is already used in corporations to make tactical decisions such as where to place a new factory in order to get the best mix of input factors. It is widespread but isn’t used much yet to make strategic decision such as which new business should the company get into. But as Ai gets better and better, top management will rely more and more on AI making strategic decisions simply by the fact that their competitors would be doing the same thing thereby reinforcing the trend. Top management would then devolve into a “rubber stamp” body in which AI makes all the decisions and they just go along. When this happens, AI would be the effective leader of the company. Other companies would go through the same process so we end up in a situation where the AIs control the actions of all major companies. If we believe in game theory, then these AI should end up cooperating which means they would agree to fix prices, divvy up territory and share information that maximizes their profits. That is the danger.

My my, don't I sound pessimistic when I get thinking about AI. I am an optimist by nature but when I think things through, I get answers I don't like.

Deuxglass said...

Longevity and Epigenetics of some single-cell eukaryotes have been studied extensively. The Paramecium (a totally fantastic little creature) is at the forefront of longevity and Epigenetics research. Paramecium longevity has been studied in space since the Skylab days and is still going on. When these little buggers have divided 200 times, they are old, decrepit and ready for the old folk’s home. The progressive accumulation of DNA errors are doing it in. However if it has sexual relations with another old cell and then divides, the resulting cells are rejuvenated. This strongly indicates that the secret to longevity comes from DNA repair system that kicks in when Meiosis occurs. We use that same system DNA repair system as the Paramecium so we have to learn how to provoke it. The problem is that it might also provoke cancer as a minor side effect. On the bright side, we have a ready supply of old people who not only desperately to want extend their lifespans but who can also pay for the expense research. That would be the very wealthy and very old 1%ers who would be willing to try any method to stay alive. They would serve as Guinea pigs and finally contribute at something to the common good.

Deuxglass said...

P.S. Please excuse my grammar errors. I had to write quickly.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

From the main post: Almost yearly, scientists announce one more intervention that “increases the lifespan of mice by 25%” or more.

So why aren't we doing this with humans? We know quite a lot about the differences between human DNA and mice DNA; and the reasons why things work in mice, and why those techniques might or might not work in humans.

There are a lot of life extension scientists who would love to use what they have discovered to enable humans to increase their healthspan. The most promising treatments are likely to involve changing two or more genes at once. As Deuxglass said, there are plenty of potential volunteers. The potential volunteers are not only vast numbers of the elderly, but vast numbers of younger people with a very poor quality of life because of genetic diseases.

In many cases, the answer to David's "low hanging fruit" question is simply that the genome we need for growth and development is different from the genome that we need for maximum healthspan. The only way around this problem is to modify our genome in middle-age. This is something that nature would never have been able to do in humans.

In September, the CEO of a biotech company (who was then 44) went to South America to have two of her genes responsible for aging modified. One modification was to lengthen her telomeres. The other modification was to insert an anti-myostatin gene to prevent the loss of muscle with age.

This technique of modifying more than one gene simultaneously appears to be the most promising, although as a practical matter, most volunteers will be restricted to changing one gene at a time in all of the earliest human experiments.

The anti-myostatin modification is in human clinical trials to treat one form of muscular dystrophy, so it will probably be the first gene therapy to become available to improve the quality of life of aging humans.


raito said...

Deuxglass,

I disagree with your assertion that Alphago learned 'just like a human'. Find me a human who has analyzed 50 million of anything. What we're seeing, both in brute-force and pruning methods, are the idea that quantity has its own quality being proven.

But note that it's probably that those 50 million games were played by humans. Now find me some endeavor where the AI can learn as rapidly as a human from scratch. I don't think you will.

It's still a good achievement, but I don't think it proves what many want it to prove.

LarryHart,

My children are pretty doomed, too. On the one side, they have a father who grew up on Star Trek and other Sci-fi and who went big into electronics, computers and RPGs early. On the other, a mother who's a chemist, engineer and MBA who was re-reading(!) Lord of the Rings when she met the father.

Daughter demands math problems and builds organic batteries for the science fair in first grade. Her homeroom no longer has books of sufficient difficulty for her. But if you ask her, she's a singer and dancer.

Younger brother also asks for math problems. Loves Japanese monster movies and spaceships. Builds robots in his spare time (pretty soon we'll be building for real). If you ask him, he's a knight.

I think I'm doing my part for the future. Trying anyway.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Republicans already are attacking Sanders. Hell, Trump is threatening to send his supporters to disrupt Sanders. You know what Sanders said? "Go ahead. They'll hear the truth."


That wasn't the sort of attack I was referring to. Republicans don't yet have political ads out or corporate news commentators talking about how unworkable and "unAmerican" Bernie's proposals are. It feels to me like they're keeping their powder dry in case they really do get to run against him.

Sanders's response is why I do like him, and I wish he could be president, but I'm afraid he's not the candidate to win in November. I already early-voted in Illinois, and the presidential race was a last minute decision between my heart and my head.


Republican attacks aren't causing Sanders to quail or cry foul. The Sanders crowd don't give a flip what Trump and crew says. And Sanders has been dealing with bullshit from Republicans AND Democrats since his days as a Congressman in the 90s.


Good to know in case Sanders is the nominee. But at this point, I don't see how he gets there, unless he starts winning states with 75% or so. People don't seem to realize that the Democratic races are proportional. It doesn't matter which candidate "won" Iowa by a few tenths of a point--they each got almost the same number of delegates. Half the races have been virtual ties, and half have been blowouts for Hillary. How does Sanders come back from that?


You know what Sanders vs. Trump will result in? Republican candidates distancing themselves from Trump (they already are starting to prepare to do this), which will alienate Trump voters from Republicans... so long as Hillary Clinton isn't in the sights. Because they despise Hillary. Hillary motivates Republican voters to come out.


I still get the feeling you're in a pro-Sanders bubble and mistakenly believing that it represents the whole of America.


It reminds me of the Obama campaign. That campaign also worked to register new voters and help them get to the ballot. But Obama dropped the ball. He abandoned that network afterward. If in 2010 he had used that network, called all those voters, urged them to vote to help prevent Republicans from stopping other legislative efforts... well, history may very well differ from what really happened.


Did the Democrats really not make use of Obama's network, or did it just not help?


Sanders seems the sort to learn from history. No doubt 2014 under President Sanders would prove far different than that under President Clinton.


Do you mean 2018? In any case, the sad fact seems to be that Bernie is a favorite among young people, who tend not to vote so much. Hillary is a favorite among older people who do vote. Until the intensity of Bernie supporters translates into actual votes, nothing will change. Even if Bernie gets young Democrats to vote for him in a presidential year, do you really think they'll come out in force for a "mere" congressional election? I think Hillary voters are more likely to show up then.

I'll be happy to be proven wrong about this, as I do like Bernie. But I can't pretend to see the reality I wish I had instead of the reality that really is.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

LarryHart, it would be a good story, I think, if the benevolent corporation was staffed by uniformly bad people. Sort of the opposite of the situation we often find ourselves in nowadays.


There's a well known comic book/movie character called "Spawn" who seemed to be based on a less known comic book character "Deathlok" from the 70s. Both were men who had died and been rebuilt (one magically, one technologically) to be agents of their evil creators. Both had an ingrained sense of goodness that rebelled against their creators' programming. They were tragic characters, wanting to be good and human in the face of what had been done to them.

I see the "corporation with a conscience" story going in that kind of direction.

Deuxglass said...

raito,

You asked for examples and I would love to list them but there are too many. Look at the list of the over twelve thousand jobs that people presently do and ask yourself which ones could AI in conjunction with robots, do. Any job in which procedures are involved have these databases already in place. Look what is happening to the law industry as a good example. Every technical and service job is built on procedure and precedent that has to be learned before you can do the it and the "how" is found in books, databases and reports.

The important point is it's not what AI could do better than humans but whether AI could do it CHEAPER than humans. Cost is the overriding factor in job replacement. David Ricardo showed that it is comparative advantage rather than absolute advantage that determines who makes what and if we apply the same principle to human competiveness vis-a-vis AI competiveness, we see that AI doesn't need to do the job better to win, just cheaper.

Deuxglass said...

Can AI replace an art critic? Here in France, the Musée du quai Branly in Paris linked with robotic engineers to build a robot art critic. It is a sophisticated robot that can learn and develops its own opinion on what is good art and what is not.

Here is the link. It's worth a quick look.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/french-berenson-robot-programmed-use-artificial-taste-judge-works-art-1545811

Jeff B. said...

Jerry Emanuelson,

Pardon my ignorance- how exactly would such a gene modification/replacement work? Would there have to be some sort of molecular carrier to disperse the modification to every single cell of the body? Honestly curious, it seems like this would be a vast undertaking (Almost like science fiction! The Future is Now...)

Deuxglass said...

Jeff B,

A modified virus is used as the vector to introduce the new gene into the cell. The first time that was tried was in 1980 and is still the best method. There are some non-viral methods but they are just variations of the viral theme. In general they are less effective than using viruses.

Jeff B. said...

Deuxglass, thanks. I know about viral vector transmission, just a bit boggled envisioning any single virus infecting every single cell. Or would it only have to be a partial insertion? If partial, would there need to be some "competitive advantage" given to the viral cell as well to allow it to "outcompete" the normal cells?

This is why I always preferred focusing on ecology and animal behavior- genetics and microbio are just weird, strange realms....

Duncan Ocel said...

Jeff,
You could definitely include some kind of selective advantage to the altered cells. Repeated viral injections over months, along with selection once a majority of cells are altered just might do it. Also it would be good to include a non-selective indicator to know WHEN enough cells are altered to ensure individual's survival after selection.

It is definitely easier to do this stuff to an early-stage embryo than an adult.

Jeff B. said...

Duncan, thanks, that I can understand. And yes, I can see embryonic procedures would be so much simpler. Now we just need genetic testing to keep pace so that such embryonic treatments could become commonplace, and us obsolete models can ride into the sunset.

Deuxglass said...

Jeff B,

It really depends on the disease. Many viruses only attack certain types of celles so it is possible to target the one you want in theory but there is a grave danger involved. A badly-designed vector could inject the gene into celles that are involved in reproduction and thereby making the modification inheritable. That should be good for genetic diseases but the problem is if something goes wrong you would then be containing future generations for the mistake and that poses big moral issues. I believe that presently, it is banned in many countries to specifically target reproductive cells because of the uncertainty but I am sure somewhere there are teams that are going ahead. Jerry Emanuelson above mentioned that a CEO went to South America to get gene modification therapy certainly because it was not allowed in the US. All the articles about "enhanced humans" tend to gloss over the fact that we are far from knowing how to do it safely.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deuxglass said...

Jeff B,

Using embryos to this type of research has its own problems. or it to be a rigorous experiment you would have to have a control embryo that has exactly the same genetic makeup as the other. You can do it. it is easy to provoke a just-fertilized embryo to split. Then you would introduce the gene in one and not the other. You would have to let the embryos come to term and compare them as they grow up. Many genetic diseases become apparent only after a few years of life.

If you do this with chicken embryos then there is no problem but to do that with humans, children actually, would be tantamount to the human experiments practiced by the Nazis and the Japanese in WW II. I for one, can't think of something worse even if it is done for the "advancement of science". Unfortunately experiments like this have been going on for some years now. Certain countries don't have a problem the moral question.

David Brin said...

The thing about Bernie fighting on is not just in hope (vain) of winning, or of pushing Hill to the left. If he gets above 40% then she must choose him as VP.

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,

I was talking about when general purpose AI becomes reality. The example you gave are single-purpose systems and don't apply. I have experience when stock and future trading was done by people in the "pits" (I worked in them) and when electronic trading took over. A flash-crash couldn't have happened in the pit or on the floor. Nobody would sell a stock that three minutes before was trading at $30 and now it at five cents. They would all have stopped and say something is wrong especially if it was happening to a wide swath of stocks. It is a common sense reaction, a natural circuit-breaker if you like. I don't propose going back of course but we can't always assume that that having a human in the loop is a panacea.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - Not sure about AI serving as an art critic, but they're certainly fully capable of serving as an "artist" - or at least, a screenwriter. How else could you account for Transformers movies? And battle scenes are so much more interesting when a computer has calculated the appropriate "Grrr! Arr! Aiiy!" responses of a million 'agents' going at it - so much more heart and pathos, and less whining about the catering.

"Primitive “AI” is already used in corporations...Top management would then devolve into a “rubber stamp” body in which AI makes all the decisions and they just go along....AI would be the effective leader of the company."
In many instances, this is already the case - and yet, our concept of "leadership" simply evolves a bit in response. In finance, AI opens and closes the vast majority of trades in securities, currencies, derivatives, and commodities - so the money moving what you eat, wear, and drive isn't'moved' by human hands - yet humans still have a role (typically as "trust agents" for managing a pool of select participants). No one needs a bunch of stockbrokers in a pit - and that process is only maintained because theater captivates old fashioned money.

In medicine, similarly, researchers don't experiment with drugs the way they did 30 years ago. Instead, brute force AIs test millions of proteins, compounds, genetic tests - the job of humans seems to be to present interesting questions, to file forms when the AI finds suitable candidate proteins, and to obtain and file consent forms and tell prospective patients to 'relax.' Again, "trust agents"...rather than rubber stamps.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

If he gets above 40% then she must choose him as VP


Do you think he wants VP? In four or eight more years, he'll be reeeeeeally old. And he's got more power as a Senator than he'd have as VP.

Jumper said...

Heads would explode if Bill Clinton ran for VP.

raito said...

Deuxglass,

I don't think we're having quite the same conversation with the same definitions. In particular, I don't think we mean the same thing by 'learn' and 'win'. For me, simply following an established procedure is not 'learning'. At best, it's programming. And there's lots of human jobs that don't require learning other than whatever is required to understand the procedures (I've had those jobs in the past. And heaven help you if you actually try to improve them.)

I don't consider most expert systems to be capable to learning. I don't consider having an outside agency adding to the database to be learning. And no, it's not comparable at all to having a teacher teaching a student. If it was, then everyone would get good grades, wouldn't they?

And I don't consider doing a half-assed job more cheaply to be 'winning' (though I'm apparently not in the majority there). And I consider that a completely different conversation.

I agree with most of what you say. I just don't find it relevant to my points. AI + robots does not equal learning.

donzelion said...

Deuxglass - whoops, beat me to it...I thought I could rewrite and insert the missing "not" before getting a response...

But my (less snarky) point remains: "what we do" is shifted entirely by the AI that exists, as with all tools. I don't see that changing, and I don't see John Henry tales becoming any different in the near-term. Corporations (as artificial persons) do change everything in our society (for better, for worse - we get to try to balance things out, but the changes remain whatever we think of them). New natural persons also change everything in our society (or at least, in any household trying to adjust to a recent arrival). Change is inevitable, always uncomfortable for those locked into previous ways, and that's just fine.

I think to capture the difference though between "general purpose" and "single purpose," one has to draw from biological metaphors for now. A 'human baby' could be described as a 'single purpose machine' (poops, eats, cries - and generally an attention seeking robot) - but our interaction with that 'machine' changes it, and us, simultaneously. And every time parents reach an equilibrium state with this machine (e.g., the machine is sleeping), new complexity arises in the interaction. The mere fact that the 'machinery' is constantly changing (and even interacting with machines on its own) shifts every assumption about it's specific functions and its general capabilities.

Rather than the potential applications of the 'machine' - the key concern really ought to be, "does the concept of 'WANT' apply to this machine?" For babies, their bodies present stimuli, but their little brains convert that into 'want' - and then apply this concept of want more broadly to other fields (including, potentially, the field of wanting another baby - or wanting to raise a baby itself).

For a corporate machine, we have - without a single mathematical processor - a manifestation of an artificial thing that "wants." "But that doesn't count, because it just responds to human stimuli!" Perhaps, but then again, so do most babies...which yes, they could grow up to want to kill us, and yes, eventually, they will grow up to replace us...but that's hardly the only possible course, or even a very meaningful understanding of what they represent.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jumper:
Bill Clinton is ineligible to run for VP because he would be unable to fulfil the primary requirement of the job: to assume the duties of President when needed. He's already termed out.

Anonymous said...

Re: 3 black and 2 white hats.

MUCH much less than 2 hours 30 minutes, and that frightens me. I don't normally play with the big boys.

1 or two rounds only.
------------
1st Round:
Nobody can give an answer of white. Only B (black) or U (unknown)
A person can only answer (B) if they see two white.

If BWW then answer B U U:
Both U see B W, and change to W.
End. BWW = 1 round.

If BBB or BBW then answer U U U :
...on to

2nd Round:

All 3 now know nobody sees W W.

If BBW then answer BBU as each B sees one W and one B.
U sees the BB answers and changes to W.
End. BBW = 2 rounds.

If BBB then answer UUU.
Each U sees UUU and knows neither other B sees BW.
Each U changes to B.
End. BBB = 2 rounds.

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,

I was responding to what you wrote and when I sent the post for some reason it came out ahead of yours! Of course it could be that I can see the future.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, here's an excerpt from "Bloomberg Business Week" for March 14, 2016's article "A Buddy System for Redistricting"

In most states, legislators are responsible for redrawing congressional district lines after each decennial census. The majority party can try to gerrymander the boundaries to shore up majorities in its favor, so future elections will be easier to win. That's led to more predictable elections. Only 59 of 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to be competitive this fall, according to the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election tracking service. "Everybody hates it, but nobody knows how to get out of it," says Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who's running for Congress.

Raskin has a novel solution. In February he introduced a bill directing Maryland's Democratic legislature to create an independent commission to handle redistricting. Studies show such commissions draw fairer maps than elected officials. Six states, including Arizona and New Jersey, have handed over authority to outside bodies. Raskin added a twist: His proposal would take effect only if neighboring Virginia, where Republicans control the legislature, agrees to do the same. A single body would draw congressional lines for both states. Maryland's Democrats would give up their lock on power, as would Virginia's Republicans, in the interest of a more level playing field. The deal comes with a grand-sounding name: the Potomac Compact for Fair Representation.

----------

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Anecdote animal may readily be contrasted with a recent spate of snowmobiles in the news, wherein the car sitter injured or killed themself or other beings. Mere background noise in the 30,000+ needlessly slaughtered in the course of the wreckful haste of a few car sitters, to be sure, and as American as apple pie, given that only in 2016 (yesterday, actually) did the Federal Highway Administration actually begin to require DOT track their performance on bicycle and pedestrian safety. This may lead some to wonder who exactly is in need of uplift, and when exactly they will stop lowering themselves to the seat, electric or otherwise. Why not instead make car sitting irrelevant to daily needs?

donzelion said...

@Deux - naw, you responded before I caught an error. Time, and distraction at play. ;)

@Rialto - I concur, but in my view, the definitional problem rests with pinning down what "learning" actually means. That's sort of where I was going with the Sartre discussion: "learning by generalizing from observation of what does NOT happen, despite expectations that it would." To what extent does human reasoning build conclusions from the absence of information, rather than merely responding to the presence of information? (I get that this interests just about no one here - after all, the dude's a French cafe philosopher, from an era when they didn't even have wifi in those cafes...)

A computer that plays 50 million games of Go with itself, or a computer that calculates 50 million possible moves in Chess - is still doing something totally different from what a human brain does. Is that intelligent at all?

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I have no doubt we’ve improved our skills relating to the verb ‘to love’. I also have no doubt that few realize it in the terms of which I’m thinking. In the broadest sense, we have become better at modelling each other and the evidence is to be found in both the reduction of violence and the increase of our willingness to be dependent upon each other through trade. Our models of distant people are pretty crude, but they are good enough to expect money to motivate some market behaviors and success in the market to inhibit some violent behaviors. Our models are good enough to arrange for interracial and interfaith marriages often enough (at least in the West) that the cultural identities of some of our children are beginning to blur. It’s the part of those models that enable predictions of market responses that have the longest track record, though, and the evidence for that is obvious. There are 7.3 billion people alive today and the number going hungry is dropping in both percentage and absolute terms.

Of course there is brain chemistry involved. Successful behaviors should be rewarded somehow if more kids are going to be born and survive, and we’ve done rather well at that in the last couple centuries. One should avoid confusing the act with the reward for the act, though. The fundamental act involves our ability to model each other for predictive purposes. What the physical layer does to enable successful reproduction of the behaviors is independent. The recursive loop that manifests in a brain can obviously support a ‘self’ and we know in some cases it can support more than one. We flirt with insanity in the act, but doing it well has obviously worked for us as a species.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

For human genetic engineering, one serotype of the adeno-associated virus is currently in the most common use.

The only legitimate safety issue when human genetic engineering is used in fully-informed and consenting humans is keeping the modifications out of the human germ line until we know a lot more about the outcome. This is a legitimate concern, but they don't think that the current methods of human genetic engineering will modify the human germ line. In any case, until we know a lot more about it, its use should be voluntarily restricted to those who are very unlikely to reproduce.

(Some other "safety" issues seem quite bizarre to me, such as concerns about the effects on the patient five or ten years in the future when the patient only currently has a life expectancy of one year, or already has a terrible quality of life.)

If you want to hear from a healthy and articulate human who has actually had genetic modifications to herself, there are several interviews and talks by Liz Parrish on YouTube. They are all necessarily fairly long. (Something this new to most people cannot be explained in five minutes.) One of the most recent is at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdEyd1CZYvo

Deuxglass said...

Jerry Emanuelson,

There are over 6,000 known single-gene disorders. Some cause early death and others become apparent only after a few years of the child's life which is why you would have to monitor their health for several years to see if the genetic treatment given in the embryo stage worked or not and if it had caused unforeseen side effects.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jerry: The five and ten year effects on a patient make sense to me. My experience with an auto-immune disorder that had a five month median survival time (undiagnosed) taught me to think in terms of five and ten year survival statistics because that was how the therapy was described. I had two therapy options, but one was so new that while they had FDA approval, they didn’t have the five year numbers yet. My doctor explained that had I lived a little closer to the researchers, they would have pushed hard for me to choose it since it was known to be less punishing than the chemo drug in the first therapy. I lived too far to be directly observed by the research staff, though, so I chose option #1 because they listed a five year survival rate of 90% and a complication rate about as high. I’m alive at year #3 with no known complications, so I’m pretty happy about it.

I’m not convinced that providing therapy to those who choose not to reproduce is going to be enough, though, to understand the long term implications. Considering how long our lifespans are, I’m not sure I could ask someone to not use a particular therapy based on their plans to have children. I’d feel a whole lot better placing the burden upon them by pointing out any screw up will impact their children and grandchildren and so on. We already make choices like that when choosing mates, so I think it is a fair extension of our code of ethics.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "I have no doubt we’ve improved our skills relating to the verb ‘to love’." Well, posit the terms in which you are thinking clearly, and you can convince me.

"Our models are good enough to arrange for interracial and interfaith marriages often enough"
Indeed, two out of three women Donald Trump married were models good enough to arrange for interracial marriages...Oh wait, you meant a different sort of "model." Sorry. ;-)

More seriously, "violence" and "love" are concepts existing primarily in our mind, but with some external manifestations. Yet an 'increase or decrease' in the one could occur with no correlating change in our minds (hence, even though violence is usually an external manifestation, the real decline of violent crime in the last 25 years or so is NOT perceived broadly among Americans - most erroneously perceive the opposite). As with violence and war, so with love. We can certainly acknowledge 'changes' to the behaviors (e.g., pre-Bronze Age men seldom shot their "wives" with their guns, on account of not having any) - and to the institutions (e.g., did pre-Bronze Age men even have 'wives' as we understand them, particularly given all that interbreeding with Neanderthals?).

At the more individual level, the brain chemistry involved interacts with the gut chemistry - cells produced through our DNA interact with cells produced by "alien" DNA (or at least, bacterial) - which MAY create the chemistry of our basic drives, or MAY simply 'influence' those drives. Whether these processes are the source, or mere influence upon "us" - the process means that actions, rewards/consequences of actions, and the whole 'driving chemistry' underlying our will (including biofeedback, habit, and instinct) - all that is hard to separate into distinct 'layers' - and thus, any time we try to "copy" others into ourselves (or model their behaviors), we fail, achieving at best an approximation using distinct genetics, just as if we try to copy ourselves into our children, we fail (and they get a little annoyed if we try to hard to make them just like us, or so I've been told).

"We flirt with insanity in the act, but doing it well has obviously worked for us as a species."
Perhaps - but going back to our earlier discussion re economics, this is an argument for "We must act" - not an argument that "we act well" or badly.

Paul451 said...

Raito,
"Younger brother also [...] If you ask him, he's a knight."

Google "hema academy" + your home city. Then see if any run appropriate-age kids classes. (And then up your insurance.)

David Brin,
"The thing about Bernie fighting on is not just in hope (vain) of winning, or of pushing Hill to the left. If he gets above 40% then she must choose him as VP."

Does any President nominee ever choose their highest-ranked rival as their VP? Other than GHW Bush, no modern VP has been a rival of the Presidential candidate in the Primaries.

Deuxglass,
Re: John Henry, he could hammer, he could whistle, he could sing.
"His only competitive advantage had become irrelevant. [...] He could probably only get a job flipping burgers."

Not really, in that era, John Henry would have been a great steel worker. Strong, fast, accurate. Either in steel mills or in steel construction. Especially in shipyards, he would have been a great riveter.

(Reading between the lines, his boss was a prick.)

Jumper,
"Speaking of CO2, I determined that there's about 10 times the amount of CO2 in Mars' atmosphere (in total tonnage) than there is in our atmosphere. In other words, sufficient CO2 for large scale industrial use there. If an industrial process needs it, that is. It might be cheaper to extract oxygen from it rather than from rock oxides, for example."

Standard mission architecture for Mars, going back to Zubrin, is to produce methane for return-fuel from atmospheric CO2 plus a bit of introduced hydrogen. Oxygen (the other propellant required) happens to be the waste product.

LarryHars,
"ELEVEN + TWO = TWELVE + ONE
is true, not only mathematically, but anagramatically as well."


Heh, before I got to your third-from-last word, I was assuming it was going to be a "cryptarithm" substitution puzzle (**) and was starting to try to solve it in my head. "One or both of VEN+TWO and LVE+ONE must be at least 1000 in order for the leading digits to change, therefore... hang on, that can't... how can E be the third digit in both if... is there a way of getting... no... what the...

Oh... anagram. Right. Yeah. Adorable. {mutter}"

(** Where every letter consistently represents a number from 0-to-9. For example, SIX + SEVEN + SEVEN = TWENTY begets 650 + 68782 + 68782 = 138214.)

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
"I'm afraid you overestimate the American public's tolerance of outright "socialism" or their willingness to emulate Europe."

Actually, "socialist" is such a weak swearword now, even amongst some rusted-on Republicans, that the new strategy I've seen from the Right's faux-grass-roots machine is to redefine Fascism as left-wing (this has been going on for awhile, trying to brand Hitler as left-wing, to try to dilute the power of "right-wing extremist" as a Democrat swearword) and hence brand Sanders as a Fascist.

Which does mean you were right, but for the wrong reason. They will figure out a way of attacking Sanders, but only because screaming "Socialist!" doesn't work any more.

The problem is that if this works, this works against any Democrat because obfuscating the difference between liberal/left/socialist has been part of their strategy for a long time. (That was how "socialist!" lost its power.) In order for Clinton to counter the liberal=socialist=fascist, she will need to swing sharply to the right after she gets the nomination. Which I'm expecting anyway.

And that's why a lot of Democrats will stay home.

"Ask yourself why the Republicans aren't already attacking Bernie. Do you really think it's because they've got nothing? Or is it, as I suspect, because they'd prefer to run against him."

Political operators don't play like that. They are focusing on Clinton because she's polling 60/30 over Sanders, and will almost certainly take the nomination.

It helps them if Clinton has to fight harder in the Primary, her campaign will need to spend more now and she will suffer more damage attacking the left's darling. Attacking Clinton's rival merely helps her, saves her money while reducing the money they have to fight her later. Why would they be so stupid?

Worse, seeing the Koch/Murdoch media machine visibly attacking Sanders will also energise his base against the morale hit from losing so many Primaries. That's why, so far, they've kept their anti-Bernie attacks within the far-right meme-sphere, trying to pre-emptively block the ears the working-class white males who are unhappy with the Republican party's owners, making sure they won't listen to Sanders in the unlikely event he does get the nomination.

Paul451 said...

Donzelion,
"What if the "act of loving" is merely a set of behaviors linked to chemistry in our brain."

Romantic love is primarily chemical. It's to "addict" you to someone's presence for long enough that the deeper (and long term) neural adaptation occurs.

Tony,
"I 'got' it, but found that 'getting' it didn't require Sartre, or his book."

Oh, I got the broad joke, I've heard it before without the Sartre reference. I just assumed because the Sartre reference that there was an extra meta-joke inside it, accessible only to those familiar with JPS.

Robert,
Re: Anti-gerrymander redistricting committees.

I believe there's a Republican-led Supreme Court challenge to the very concept of independent redistricting committees, on the grounds that the US Constitution gives that power to the state legislatures but not the power to delegate that power.

(Of course, such a ruling would make all govt departments illegal, requiring the President and Governors to directly perform every action made by their government.)

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,
Re: Corporate Grey is people, people!

Not just one corporation, but a weird amalgam of corporate policies and politics, trading algos, media, buying behaviour, etc.

Told from the POV of a self-described and proudly "amoral" businessman, chatting to golf buddies. Talking to the CEO of a corp that pulled off a vicious market manoeuvre which increased their market share in spite of public outrage, and caused a major uptick in its stock price; asks him how he pulled it off, is told ("between you and me - no really, this cannot get out - ") that he has no idea how it happened. No-one really authorised the act ("even for us, it was unthinkable"), instead it was the result of a series of interacting policies, email misunderstandings with foreign subsidiaries, and "just do what it says or you're fired" threats from mid-level managers to lower level employees. Had they not locked down decision-making so hard in the lower echelons, someone would have been brave enough to challenge it.

The following weekend, he's talking to another golf buddy, this time the CEO of a trading house that made billions on the same share surge of the previous corporation. But his buddy has no idea ("no-one understands them any more") how the HST algos anticipated the stock surge, let alone anticipated the act that caused it. The businessman starts asking around and discovers more and more such actions, often malevolent, seemingly brilliantly coordinated but with no-one apparently responsible. Concerned, he first wonders about a rival business mastermind, then organised crime or hostile nation-state, even some trolling hacker collective. Then panicking, he wonders if someone's AI project has become sentient, such as the HST algos. He hires more and more people to investigate and rules out all alternatives; talking to experts on distributed-agents and emergent behaviour, he finally realises that "the system itself" has somehow become sentient. One of the consulted academics, talking about Smith's "invisible hand", naively claims that the "hand" will favour good acts for society "on average", because people "on average" are good. But the businessman realises that the "invisible hand" is no longer connected to the overall will of society, only to those "5000 golf buddies", a collection of amoral bastards and manipulative psychopaths who don't care about anyone outside their own circle and barely within.

The closing para is the guy sitting alone is his penthouse apartment, watching a business-news story about "the economy's reaction" to suddenly rising tensions between the major nuclear powers; doodling on a piece of paper, he realises he is writing an unconscious prayer to the new gestalt-entity, or perhaps himself and his golf buddies, over and over:

...dontbeevildontbeevildontbeevil...

Oblig: http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=2228

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding learning systems, I think it is important to distinguish the different process types. I was taught to lump them into three broad categories. The first is what we do with neural networks. We train them mechanically against what is known to produce desired responses. Chess savant programs work like this whether they rely on neural memory or not. They get trained against millions of games played by humans and might even have a game database available during play. The second involves the detection of patterns in what is known and trained into a mind. These are heuristics and are what humans bring to chess tournament play involving teams of people and computers. Pattern spotting still requires mechanical training as feedstock, though, so you won’t see successful tournament play with these teams when the humans are novices. The third involves spotting patterns in the patterns or possibly anti-patterns. Success at this level often involves modeling of problems and translations of the model into a variety of languages.

For an example problem using these three categories, consider a small formal system offered by Hofstadter in his GEB book. Try not to look up the solution. If you try to solve it yourself, the odds are very high you’ll use ach of the three types to get there.

Using the rules of the system, can one produce MU from MI? A simple yes or no answer suffices, but humans will usually want the answer explained.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MU_puzzle

Jerry Emanuelson said...

@Alfred: Your example is quite different from what I was talking about. You had two options, one of which had some information about probable complications 5-years out.

I was referring to experimental genetic treatments with no known alternatives and only speculative information about possible 5-year complications. Millions of people are routinely NOT offered genetic treatments that would likely give them a few extra years of healthy life because of concerns that the patient may have unknown adverse effects from the treatment in 5 years.

Dying people are routinely denied experimental treatments that could save their life because of a strong possibility that the treatment might kill them.

I don't particularly disagree with anything you said about having children after being genetically modified. It is a complicated question, and potential parents just have to be aware of the possible risks.


LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Does any President nominee ever choose their highest-ranked rival as their VP? Other than GHW Bush, no modern VP has been a rival of the Presidential candidate in the Primaries.


Lyndon Johnson?

Duncan Cairncross said...

hi Guys
Changing the subject
This article talks about a nurse who killed a child by accidentally administrating 10 times the correct dose and subsequently committed suicide
http://www.vox.com/2016/3/15/11157552/medical-errors-stories-mistakes

Is that the way the medical profession works?

Somebody calculates the dose and then administers it?

When I was setting up the process to build engines at each step somebody would do something AND somebody else would check it
That is the only way to get to the repairs per million level
And that was twenty years ago!

A simple PFMEA (Process Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) would show the possibility of somebody dropping a decimal point in the calcs
That would have been somewhere near the top in being fixed

Surely the medical guys are further on than that!

Robert said...

The medical industry exists for one reason: to make a profit.

This means that you do not have as many medical personnel as are in fact needed. Instead, hospitals and the like force fewer people to do more work, which is a big factor behind nurse and physician burnout. And for the shortages we have in those fields.

Your suggestion would require an additional employee. Well, more than one really. And that would increase costs by a bit, which is not acceptable by the Powers That Be.

What will happen eventually is that medical technology will be at a point to catch those mistakes before they happen... assuming of course that hospitals purchase that new technology because hey, the old technology works and replacing it with something new and expensive cuts into profit margins.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Okay. Terms definition time then. Remember that I’m talking about this stuff relative to the notion that loss of someone close to us is analogous to an amputation.

In English, the verb ‘to love’ is a mash-up of ideas all of which tend to be overloaded. I can love my wife, my children, my car, my job, and even an abstract pattern of clouds in the sky. Focus for a moment on what we mean when the object of the sentence is another person, though, because the others usually imply a desire to repeat a particular experience. When the object is a person, one might also imply desire for an experience, so let’s further restrict our attention to situations where that is not the case. I can say I love my wife. Period. Someone hearing that can try to force the experience interpretation, but I might reject it. This kind of focusing isn’t perfect and doesn’t have to be because what I’m trying to get at is an answer to this question. What is the subject of the sentence doing? If I love my wife, what am I doing? If you love your children, what are you actually doing?

Hofstadter’s answer from the Strange Loop book is the subject is copying the object into their self. I alter that answer slightly because I think children under the age of 7 or 8 are probably copying ONTO their self. Only after we have grown a few years are we big enough in the sense of accumulated experience that the object of our love doesn’t swamp us. Skepticism of parental information seems to arrive at about this age, so that’s the foundation of my guess. When I argue that we’ve improved our skills over thousands of generations regarding ‘love’, I’m referring specifically to Hofstadter’s definition and this belief translates roughly to the observation that humans have been expanding their ‘horizon of inclusion’ as David would say it. We’ve gone so far as to include other mammals and some abstractions. Why has no one carved up and made a meal of the elephants who waltz through that hotel in the video? I think it is because more than a few people love them. We don’t eat what we love any more than we would eat one of our own limbs.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: (cont’d) Harder evidence for this improvement, though, can be found by considering a Platonic Chain that mashes up a bit of Ricardo, Smith, and Malthus. It starts with Free Time. Imagine you are a hunter-gatherer and your food supply is relatively easy to acquire one summer. You have some Free Time as a result. What do you do with it? There are a range of possibilities, but consider what happens if you choose to Innovate. If you improve your tools or knowledge of them, you might wind up with Free Time next year even if conditions aren’t as good. If you pass this Innovation on to your children, the surplus might be inherited.
• Free Time -> Innovate
What happens, though, if you Specialize and rely upon your tribe to provide what you need but do not produce? They might be tempted to Specialize too. If this continues, Free Time is turned into Specializations that cause the tribe to behave as a single economizing entity. It succeeds or fails as a unit. Other things might happen, but the link to follow here goes like this.
• Free Time -> Innovate -> Specialize
There is decent evidence for this chain in our distant past. It’s not even restricted to humans, but we are faster at it because we have large brains and don’t have to rely upon genetic methods for storing specializations. Note that at the second link it is possible for the chain to loop back upon itself. That is a feature that will continue as we add links, so let me skip forward in the chain a bit. The links should be obvious.
• Free Time -> Innovate -> Specialize -> Wealth -> More babies ->
Specialization is an obvious advantage for accumulating the resources we use to support the next generation. Accumulate too much wealth, though, and your tribe can’t remain nomadic. You will have to build cities and all they imply. There is nothing surprising here and anyone who likes to play civilization simulation games already knows the tricks involved… except for one the programmers usually don’t model. Somewhere in the chain is an implied assumption that the humans willingly rely upon each other. I won’t specialize if I don’t trust my neighbors to provide for my needs outside my specialized skills. What do humans DO to build this trust? I argue that we love each other in Hofstadter’s sense. If I have successfully modeled my neighbors, I’ll be able to predict which ones I can rely upon in the trade that must happen between specialized members of a community. Follow this chain, therefore, and one can use the population as a proxy for the level of specialization in a community which speaks to the success of members at predicting each other.

Since there are about 1000x more humans on the planet today than before the ice melted last time, we’ve gotten better at loving each other.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: I had the pleasure of seeing the medical version of the process you describe when I received a transfusion. There were actually three people involved. One prescribed, one delivered, and another watched the delivery with the authority to stop it if there appeared to be a mismatch with what was prescribed.

For one of the drugs I'm on, though, only the doctor was involved. He calculated how much of a drug I was supposed to take each day based upon my weight and then wrote the prescription. The pharmacist is the delivery agent, but I'm the third and the second and there is no veto route. I've seen nurses doing this too for my insulin injections, so it's not unusual.

I would guess the more rigorous process is used for the most dangerous activities.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: As I remember it here in California, the People took the redistricting power away from the State Legislature. I'm pretty sure there is an amendment #9 argument in there somewhere that would allow the SCOTUS to avoid overriding us. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Jerry: Okay. That makes more sense to me now. 8)

I suspect the denial of therapies that might kill them is due to the way we get our hopes up with any new therapy which then leads to a crash when the patient dies and blame placed upon the suggested therapy and those involved. Even if no lawsuits result from it, there is an ethics argument to be made that inaction is morally sound. In one case, there is only Lady Luck to blame. In the other, there is a real person who can be blamed. How does one convince one's next of kin to see things the way the dying patient does? Tricky.

I sincerely doubt my wife would have taken it well if the 1 in 100,000 chance of my death after a kidney biopsy had turned against me even though she was right there as my kidney doctor did his best to inform me of the need, the risks, and then ensure I made an informed decision. One doesn't even need genetic therapies to run into these problems. At least I had a choice, though, and a low risk option.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I would guess the more rigorous process is used for the most dangerous activities.

Yes there "should" be an analysis done and the additional work balanced against the risk

But we added the extra stages for a mass produced $2000 engine - where the risk was having to give the customer a new one

When you are looking at a life - forget the value of the life the incident caused man years of investigation and reports and the sacking of a fully trained employee
Even from a "cost" point of view that does NOT look like the low cost option

Higher quality normally end up costing less in the long term - but trying to get management to gets its collective head around that!

Alfred Differ said...

You'll get no argument from me on that. Even with my reduced level of alertness while stuck in that bed, I could see many process improvement opportunities. They even began to use a new one while I was there that involved barcoding on all the medication and procedural steps the nurses used. I remember thinking that was a 90's era innovation (it was late 2013 at the time), but I got to see the person training the nurses as they did their routine with me. It cheered me up a bit to see the nurses struggle with change the way my customers do when I deploy new apps. 8)

My best guess is there is a high cost associated with change that swamps the lawsuits and loss of talented staff. From what I've seen, there is no shortage of low level nursing staff, so the incentives might not be in place to get what you suggest.

locumranch said...



Medical Errors are unavoidable: They can & have been minimised (quite successfully) by a 'Systems Approach', but the Systems Approach has an inherent (self-defeating) limit wherein too few checks & balances allow for inadvertent human error and too many checks, balances & analysis cause paralysis, alarm fatigue & higher rates of medical errors.

The Systems Approach is analogous to Nut & Bolt Tightening: Success is achieved by BALANCE (aka 'just the right amount of tightening'); Not-Enough tightening leads to catastrophic failure when the loose nut falls off the bolt & the structure collapses; and Too-Much tightening causes catastrophic failure when the over-stressed bolt fails, fractures & precipitates structural collapse.

This is the principle that too many Optimists & Perfectionists fail to grasp: Balance.

By assuming EXCESS production, resources & checks, the Positive-Sum Approach self-defines as a temporary NON-equilibrium strategy which quickly degenerates into a balanced Zero-Sum equilibrium (which is why monopoly is the logical end-state of even the most zealous checks, balances & competitions).

I've see this played out time & time again, most recently in the manufacture of generic medications:

(1) Company A produces Medication X, made valuable by its effectiveness & scarcity, until that medication goes off-patent, then Company B, C & D compete with A by producing EXCESS Medication X which drives down both the scarcity & value of Medication X, making it cheap & easily affordable to the consumer in a Positive-Sum, non-equilibrium & unstable sense.

(2) Eventually though, the Medication X EXCESS self-corrects and seeks equilibrium as Companies A thru D cease production due to Medication X profit-loss & relative low value due to over-supply. Generic sources of Medication X vanish, causing worsening SCARCITY until a Zero-Sum equilibrium can reestablish itself, which then allows another company to produce Medication X with some degree of profit.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-many-generic-drugs-are-becoming-so-expensive-201510228480

Maximal Entropy implies Equilibrium


Best

TheMadLibrarian said...

Late to the game, I had fun with #8, then remembered this:
http://sydneypadua.com/2dgoggles/happy-200th-birthday-george-boole/
If you appreciate nerdy comics, seek out The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - I'll try to respond to your posts tomorrow; hard to reduce a full response to <400 words.

@ Duncan/RobH - lots of work is underway to rein in fatal medical errors, BUT it's a difficult issue to solve. While the profit incentive does contribute to the problems, it's not so simple as "greedy hospitals would rather play dice with patients lives" or the old "do more with less" problem.

Many engineering processes that were adopted in the 60s/70s came about as a result of new products liability doctrines, which made companies building products responsible for defects they'd never encountered before. To respond, they developed doctrines for checking and double-checking calculations, and at the factory level, of handling shortfalls that arose in production to ensure uniform quality supervision. For assembly lines, if any line falls behind, the shortfall can be remedied either by bringing in additional laborers from elsewhere in the plant, or bringing in temps from outside as needed: either way, fixed costs of retasking workers are low.

Nothing works that way in a medical context. Adopt whatever protective measures you like, you still have to see a certain number of patients in a certain amount of time to break even. The fixed costs of backup help to cover a shortfall are high. If a doctor spends more time than anticipated on a single patient, the doctor must contract the amount of time allocated to the doctors remaining patients during a shift, potentially spending less time than was necessary under ideal circumstances - OR work long past the shift (increasing costs and changing the break even targets). In such a regime, doctors/nurses will be overworked - every time - whether this is a socialized medical system or a capitalist one.

donzelion said...

@Duncan - "Higher quality normally end up costing less in the long term - but trying to get management to gets its collective head around that!"

Not so in a medical context, but let's put some numbers to the story to explain why.

Let's make up some numbers: Say a doctor needs to make $4000/shift to break even - $1000 for the doctor (and insurance) per shift, + $3000 for all other costs. Say patients average $250 per visit (most of it paid by the insurer). Say that the minimum time to render competent medical services in this practice is 20 minutes per patient if there are no serious medical issues. Based on these inputs, the doctor arranges an 8 hour shift with 16 appointments, averaging 2 patients/hour, taking a 5-minute lunch. The doctor cannot exceed this 8-hour shift without paying staff overtime (and clogging the medical facilities).

Say on one particular day, after seeing the first 6 patients in the first three hours, during the fourth and fifth hours, the doctor sees something in two patients requiring a full hour to resolve - which throws off the whole day's schedule. By hour six, the doctor has 8 patients remaining, and 120 minutes remaining to see them in. Even if everything goes absolutely perfectly and the doctor skips lunch, this will require 160 minutes to render 'minimum competent medical services.' Uh oh.

So what to do? Bring in an extra doctor? With $1000 fixed costs to see $500 worth of patients, that's a losing strategy for the practice - and if done too many times, the hospital will go bankrupt. Reduce the total time for "minimally competent medical services"? Ah, but the insurers may not compensate you if you make errors - and patients will complain and go elsewhere if you give them less face-time with doctors.

The point of this story is to explain the "time crunch" every medical service provider encounters in every system (capitalist, socialist, or even traditional medicine practices). I do not know an easy solution, but I'm confident that several types of "solutions" will not actually change the problem all that much.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Donzelion

You figures are a bit "sus" $1000/shift is $250,000/year!!!

$3000 for everything else?
That is maybe one nurse/doctor and a building that is basically an office building

$750,000/year for an office and a nurse

Those costs are wat too high!
Here (NZ) the costs are a good bit lower for the doctor and maybe about 1/4 of that for the other

Then lets look at other costs

How much would a screw-up cost?
Somebody has been given the wrong medicine - there will be reports to write, people to see, extra doctors to check on what has happened,
If it is a serious event and somebody has suffered injury we can easily be talking about a "Doctor Year" in time diverted

In fact that time and cost is built into your model as it will have to be paid anyway

So the two strategies are
(1) Operate the old fashioned way and pay for the mistakes as they happen
(2) Use more time and effort up front to prevent some of these things happening and save on the mistake costs

As I said the problem is persuading "management" - which like Dilbert's pointy haired boss is rarely very numerate - to actually invest in the effort to do it right first time

"For assembly lines, if any line falls behind, the shortfall can be remedied either by bringing in additional laborers from elsewhere in the plant, or bringing in temps from outside as needed: either way, fixed costs of retasking workers are low."

NO NO and NO
If a line costs $1m/day to run and you have to run it longer it costs a LOT more, if one part of your line runs slowly it sets the pace for the entire factory - a medical practice is much much more flexible than a large modern production line - it is a lot easier to move a few people than to have tonnes of material going out of sequence

Robert said...

You were right again, Dr. Brin.

Boehner has endorsed Paul Ryan for President in the case of a brokered primary. Though it would be amusing to see the finagling going on to ween away Electoral votes from Trump should he barely squeak over, just to GET a brokered result.

My prediction? Massive outcry, claims of "stealing the election," and the populist base that backed Trump would choose not to vote, giving Hillary the election. And possibly the House and Senate, but due to low voter turnout.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Robert,
Re: Anti-gerrymander redistricting committees.

I believe there's a Republican-led Supreme Court challenge to the very concept of independent redistricting committees, on the grounds that the US Constitution gives that power to the state legislatures but not the power to delegate that power.

(Of course, such a ruling would make all govt departments illegal, requiring the President and Governors to directly perform every action made by their government.)


Republican-led Supreme Court rulings don't even pretend to make sense. In "Citizens United", Roberts asserted with a straight face that large donations don't even create the perception of corrpution. In Bush v Gore, they bent into pretzels to explain why the Florida state legislature (which happened to be GOP-controlled) represented the will of the people, and therefore what they decided had precedence over the Florida Supreme Court (which happened to be Dem-controlled). And of course, my favorite, the Texas case that would have been ruled upon this coming term found alternate meaning for the Constitution's clear wording "Whole number of persons" to mean something more like "number of likely-Republican voters" for allocating congressional and state legislative districts.

What makes this particularly onerous is that you just know they'd rule the opposite way if the parties were reversed--if the Florida Supreme Court was GOP-controlled, or if more states had Democratic legislatures. Say what you will about liberal activism such as Roe v Wade, but there's no comparable "They would have ruled the opposite way if..." scenario. Liberal justices might have stretched to find the decision they wanted, but they didn't have to speak gibberish in order to do so.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

We don’t eat what we love any more than we would eat one of our own limbs.


A minor semantic quibble, but in the sense that we "love a good steak dinner", we eat what we love all the time.

In fact, I once read a short story which was a misogynistic screed comparing feminie companionship to vampirism. The man who realizes that his wife has always been a vampire is horrified to discover that when she (truthfully) professes love for him, "You love me the way I love a good meal!"

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Somewhere in the chain is an implied assumption that the humans willingly rely upon each other. I won’t specialize if I don’t trust my neighbors to provide for my needs outside my specialized skills.


Which is what is all wrong with the Ayn Rand notion that there is no collective, no society, but only individuals who make specific deals with each other. It might appeal to some in theory, but in practice, that doesn't describe the way humans function.

LarryHart said...

Robert:


Boehner has endorsed Paul Ryan for President in the case of a brokered primary. Though it would be amusing to see the finagling going on to ween away Electoral votes from Trump should he barely squeak over, just to GET a brokered result.

My prediction? Massive outcry, claims of "stealing the election," and the populist base that backed Trump would choose not to vote, giving Hillary the election. And possibly the House and Senate, but due to low voter turnout.


That would be a best case scenario.

What if Cruz almost catches Trump in delegate count? Would a brokered convention give it to Cruz, or still to someone like Ryan or Romney? If we're really lucky, they alienate both Trump and Cruz supporters.

I'm sure the Chicago Tribune would find a way to endorse Paul Ryan in the general election, though.

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

Does it seem yet as if Hillary is the inevitable Democratic nominee? And that this isn't because the fix is in, but because she's winning more delegates? I'm almost at the point where it's no longer a question of whether I'd prefer a Sanders presidency, but on making sure Hillary beats whoever the Republicans throw at her.

Earlier, you mentioned a concern that Trump could convince black people not to vote for Hillary because she once said "super-predator"? Did you see anything like that at work in last Tuesday's results? 'Cause I sure didn't.

Anonymous said...

And, for drones, civilians competing with military designs? Really? Perhaps if the force is with the civilian pilot, and the military pilot flubs their skill roll, and with some luck, then the drone equivalent of a Bell 222 might possibly destroy an attack choper. Signs point to no; the notion of kamikaze attacks using random civilian gear against purpose-built miltary hardware as a viable strategy smacks of desparation or wishful thinking.

Robert said...

Larry, Sanders is entirely too gentile a candidate to do to Clinton what Trump would.

Thus we do not get constant sound-clips of Clinton saying "black teenagers are superpredators" and how they need to be controlled.

Trump would have back-to-back airing of that with Clinton herself saying this on television until when someone says "Hillary Clinton" someone else would respond "Superpredators."

I don't view Hillary as inevitable. Consider where Barack Obama was at this point in time. And yet he won. Funny, that. It's like a candidate who has a firm grasp on a set group of voters and who is learning how to get those voters to go out and vote for him could possibly upset the apple cart and deny Hillary her Inevitable Coronation.

Whether it is Sanders or Clinton, however, if the Republicans have a brokered convention and select Ryan to be their savior, then Republicans are going to lose. Big.

Of course, this also suggests that Sanders would win even bigger than Clinton when facing Ryan... and it also makes you wonder as to what would happen to the Republican Party if suddenly they lost their House and Senate majority... and even the ability to filibuster. And if there was a knock-off effect on the State level.

What else matters is in 2018 - on the State level. Because that is when the economic impact of low oil prices will have on Republican Shale Oil States that failed to diversified their economies. If unemployment is increasing and Republicans are cutting all services to make budgets meet... voters are going to get rid of them. And if the Democratic Party gets their heads out of their asses and starts preparing now, then they can capitalize on this.

It won't happen. Democrats are creatures of comfort as much as Republicans are. But disruption in politics can be a good thing.

Rob H.

raito said...

Paul451,

The boy didn't get the notion in a vacuum. I've spent a fair portion of my life learning to commit mayhem on my fellow man. Fortunately, I've also spent a fair time learning why I should nearly never do so.

No local HEMA worth mentioning a this time. They're either irregular, or gone. And I'd know.

locumranch said...



Deserving of the pending Democalypse, some of you are sociopolitical morons who mistake time as fungible, individuals as machinery & competition as cost-effectiveness.

I could explain to you how the current Political & Medical Non-Economy actually works, but the lot of you would rather not know about rate-limits, diminishing returns & five-year plans.

Simply put, you can't just 'carrot & stick' time-limited producers to work harder & produce more, especially when all-cause producers & physicians are a vanishing demographic resource.

It's analogous to shoving excess sewage through a pipe diameter designed to handle less flow capacity: It can be done (temporarily) at the risk of cataclysmic long-term consequences.

Entropy always wins & Flint MI is our collective future.



Best
_____
Why would Ryan want to run for Prez? As 'Speaker of the House', he's already 3rd in line for succession if & when anything happens to the Prez & VP.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Entropy always wins & Flint MI is our collective future.


In the long run, everybody is dead.

Now that we know that, what do we know?


Why would Ryan want to run for Prez? As 'Speaker of the House', he's already 3rd in line for succession if & when anything happens to the Prez & VP.


Maybe he'd prefer to be first in line?

The "3rd in line" thing is only if anything happens to both Prez and VP before another VP takes his place (Gerald Ford). It hasn't happened in 200+ years. He probably doesn't see that as good odds.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart:
The fiddle Ryan established as a condition of becoming Speaker (no more shut-down threats or continuing resolutions in lieu of budgets) ends with this Congress in January, and barring a Democratic takeover, the next Congress will revert back to playing the same games--even if the President is a Republican.
Ryan doesn't want to be the next Boenher.

Robert said...

While abstracting a science journal, I had an interesting thought.

One of the problems with sending satellites into space is they have a limited lifespan... but need to have sufficient power to be able to transmit information back to Earth. But there is in fact a way around this.

What we need to do is create several satellites that serve three purposes. First, they retrieve radio signals from other satellites... and then they transmit them to specific locations, probably toward Earth. Third, they can also store data in case there is a reason transmissions cannot be sent to Earth (say we're behind the Sun at the time).

We then can send multiple Cubesats to a location to do research. The cubesats use less power, especially if they don't need a high-power transmitter, and can send data to that central dedicated communications satellite. And additional cubesats can be sent via solar sail or the like for a reduced cost compared to traditional larger satellites.

Such a system could even be used to send missions to Uranus and Neptune - an initial investment in the larger communication satellite and several Cubesats, and then each nation could send any additional smaller mission as needed or desired.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

I really am on your side here. I think your reading and suggested tactics are incompatible with the goal, and you think likewise of me, but we're both after the same thing in the end. Keep that in mind when I say...


Thus we do not get constant sound-clips of Clinton saying "black teenagers are superpredators" and how they need to be controlled.

Trump would have back-to-back airing of that with Clinton herself saying this on television until when someone says "Hillary Clinton" someone else would respond "Superpredators."


You mean he'd convince his own supporters go vote for Hillary? :)

But seriously, I don't see why you think this attack is so effective, while berating Bernie's self-proclaimed "socialism" is not. No one has been talking about superpredators for 25 years. Trump has endorsed throwing black people out of his rallies while sucker punching them right now.


I don't view Hillary as inevitable. Consider where Barack Obama was at this point in time. And yet he won. Funny, that. It's like a candidate who has a firm grasp on a set group of voters and who is learning how to get those voters to go out and vote for him could possibly upset the apple cart and deny Hillary her Inevitable Coronation.


Obama had more delegates by this point in the race. He was also more of a party favorite. I think much of the Democratic Party in 2008 felt as you do and as I did then--that Hillary could lose to a Republican in a year when no other Democrat could. When Obama started to look viable, many backed him because he wasn't Hillary. This time around, the tables seem turned.

And I'm still not proposing a "coronation" without her actually winning by the rules. I just think she will win at this point. Michigan was a good upset for Bernie, but it didn't translate to Ohio or Illinois. I just don't see where she'd get the delegates now.


Of course, this also suggests that Sanders would win even bigger than Clinton when facing Ryan... and it also makes you wonder as to what would happen to the Republican Party if suddenly they lost their House and Senate majority... and even the ability to filibuster. And if there was a knock-off effect on the State level.


That's my wish list as well, believe me. My only caveat is that I don't think enough Senate seats are in play for the Dems to be fillibuster-proof (they couldn't even count on all of the 60 members they did have for awhile in 2010).



Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I love a good steak too. 8) English is so much fun when we overload our analogy webs. In this case, though, it is the sensory experience I desire from eating a good steak. Some of us love our wives in a similar way, thus the temptation to overload the verb, but love of another person often implies something broader than a desire for an experience. Without that reach, some of us begin to think of a relationship with another person as shallow. We are expecting more. What I suspect we are expecting is to copy that other person to some degree. Try doing that with a good steak and see how far you get. 8)

A beached dolphin could be carved up into steaks, but suggest that to our host's fans and they'll accuse the person holding the knife of being less than human. There is an obvious deficiency in their ability to love others.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Regarding Rand, I think the simplest relationship is enough to refute the position people say she adopted. Marriage. Many of us enter into it willingly and surrender some of our individual sovereignty. In Vinge's Tinnish terms, I'd argue that married people are a duo to some degree. Their might not be an obvious mind speaking through two parts, but there IS something there that produces behaviors not observed in singletons.

Alfred Differ said...

@Robert: Are you are referring to Obama’s victory in ’08? The way I remember it in the general election, there was actually a decent chance he was going to lose up until the financial sector melted down. In the primary season he pulled off a well-orchestrated upset, but I think that was mostly about Dems fooling themselves in a traditional way. After many years of GOP rule, they lost the House and Dem appetites were focused on the White House. Anyone successfully identifying as a candidate of Change was going to be appealing. That wasn’t Hillary. What Obama did was impressive, but Clinton has learned from the experience and we are seeing that knowledge applied this time around.

I DO think the Dems need to learn something from Sanders and apply it the next time around. Their voter base is shifting towards Sander’s positions. The pull toward the center by Bill Clinton in the 90’s looks to be long in the tooth. In another decade, I think we will look back at Sanders as a sign of a shift that will be complete by then.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Bah. The software engineer within me looks beyond the person doing the work and sees the work as something that can be divided and morphed. When we automate some piece of what you do, time might be multiplied because the automation does it faster. A doctor’s 8 hour day with 16 appointment slots might contain 24 slots if part of what she does isn’t done by her anymore. If a machine can do it cheaper, then my appointment will be with a doctor/computer team. I already see this with my current HMO and I’m all for it.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I love a good steak too. 8) English is so much fun when we overload our analogy webs.


I knew that wasn't your point, but it was appropriate enough to require a mention.




In this case, though, it is the sensory experience I desire from eating a good steak.


I think "love" in that sense is a metaphor. "I find a steak to be so enticing that my thoughts in anticipation and my feelings during consummation rise to the level similar to that regarding a beloved person." You don't literally "love" the steak.


Some of us love our wives in a similar way,


Heh.


thus the temptation to overload the verb, but love of another person often implies something broader than a desire for an experience. Without that reach, some of us begin to think of a relationship with another person as shallow. We are expecting more. What I suspect we are expecting is to copy that other person to some degree.


I agree with the broader experience, but am not sure about "copying". What I think of as familial love is tied up with gratitude. I'm grateful someone like her (my wife) with her qualities exists. I'm grateful she is part of my life, and willingly so. Because I find her romantically attractive, I'm grateful that she reciprocates the feeling. I'm grateful that a single package contains both the physical components and the other personal ones, so I don't have to cheat on one woman to get what I'd want from another. All of that and more are bound up in the concept I try to describe by saying I love her.

LarryHart said...

furthermore...

The word "love" has a connotation of something very important and sacrosanct.

To say "I am sexually aroused when I see her" is nothing more than a biological function, similar to "My mouth waters when I smell a steak cooking." To say you "love" someone implies that the feeling is momentous, and perhaps even that it is sanctified. It seeks to confer value on what you are describing.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Gratefulness is quite appropriate considering how cantankerous some of us can be. Take a good look at what your wife is doing, though, when she chooses to be part of your life. If your relationship is working well, she pays attention to you and learns you. Remember an old TV gameshow involving newlyweds trying to demonstrate they knew each other? It wouldn’t work as well with a couple who’ve been married a couple of decades. Why?

There is also this little thing some of us say at funerals. The deceased person is survived by… family, friends, and other loved ones. We generally don’t list people the deceased person loved unless they loved them back. If someone loves you in the copying sense, they really COULD fulfill the ‘survived by’ duty. That’s the only way they could… because they remember.

Anyway, Hofstadter explained it better in the Strange Loop book. It is a difficult section because he frames it in terms of his sudden loss of his wife, but in those terms the sense of the thing stands out best. The tragedy makes it clear what he lost beyond his life partner. It also helps frame the runaway case of human evolution and the growth of our brains. We need them to be big enough to represent more than one person within us. It also helps to frame an explanation of the role language plays as a compression algorithm for these copies. I can say ‘cantankerous old man’ in English and fluent speakers will know a lot about the person to whom I am pointing. See the compression? David’s expression about boomers being sanctimonious you-know-whats is similar. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

oops. another thread has started. I'm moving onward. 8)

Anonymous said...

After giving talks in DC to several packed halls filled with agency civil servants about “threat and danger horizons,” I encountered this Russian video showing a machine-gun armed quad-copter in action. How long before one of these is used to assassinate somebody? First use will likely lead to the banning, then tight regulation of drones in the US.

Because clearly the most dangerous part of machinegun+drone is the drone…