Saturday, March 02, 2019

Wonders from biology and predictive songs!

Amid a worldwide  war being waged against every fact-profession, we must do more than fight back politically. We must keep up our morale as a vigorous and confident scientific civilization. And so, here's your weekend dose of amazing news.

== Bio wonders ==

Rats with paralyzing spinal cord injuries were able to walk again after receiving 3D printed implants loaded with stem cells. The cells grew and reconnected the severed portion of the rats' spinal column, giving them control of their rear legs. And yes, this appears to be happening. Your tax dollars, going to miracles.

It'll take a while to help humans. Meanwhile, though, some pretty cool synergy from Japan, where a startup that develops robotics for physically disabled individuals has hired 10 employees suffering from spinal cord injuries who, working from bed, can now operate 4-foot interactive OriHime-D robots with eye-tracking software, enabling them to engage directly with customers and earn a 1,000-yen hourly wage. Not mentioned – the AI software will learn from these interactions and grow better at duplicating what the human controllers do. Still “With approximately 2.7 million physically impaired patients in domestic care, as well as an aging population, Japan has now seen a host of technological solutions for its handicapped citizens." Globally, this impact could reach approximately 15 percent of the world population. (From the Abundance newsletter.)


== We're players.... ==

More evidence that an ant colony operates a lot like a brain. The colony at large can make group decisions and have memories. Of course Kevin Kelly talked about this in Out of Control.

An amazing experiment inserted genes that allow plants to get rid of a toxin far easier and thus free up energy in "C4" photosynthesis for growth. Preliminary signs are amazing. Though always in such cases I wonder – “why was this low-hanging fruit? Why didn’t nature stumble into this herself, across 2 billion years?”  True, there are some paths that are hard to “stumble-into.” Some of those may lead to greater human longevity. But the low-hanging fruit questions always make me wary.

You’ve all heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, right? Games that explore the theory and pragmatic practice of “trust” have come a long way, thanks to computers.  This fascinating tutorial / interactive cartoon illustrates the problem. We need to understand this because it goes to the heart of why we built a society where some trust is possible. And why cheaters want to wreck it.

Researchers performing an amazingly broad analysis of gene activity within the brains of frogs, rodents, fish, and birds found certain sets of genes were more likely to be “turned up” or “turned down” in monogamous creatures than in the non-monogamous species.

Peter Limbergand Conor Barnes attempt to map the various memic wars taking place simultaneously in our riven society, in an interesting online article: “Memetic Tribes and Culture War 2.0.” They perceive us engaged simultaneously in six crises: 

·       The meaning crisis weakened our collective understanding of what ought to be.
·       The reality crisis fractured our collective understanding of what is.
·       The belonging crisis took away a genuine feeling of community.
·       The proximity crisis removed distance from conflicting views.
·       The sobriety crisis reduced our agency and turned us into addicts.
·       The warfare crisis transformed our minds into weapons for hidden wars in plain sight.

While I understand the memetic divides that they lay down, I perceive the landscape a bit differently. The biggest dichotomy, in my opinion, involves the positive sum game.  While humans grasp the concept of cooperation toward shared goals, the positive sum concept is a difficult one, since almost no human societies practiced it.  Nearly all were zero-sum, and despite generations of pro-positive propaganda (especially via Hollywood) the concept is difficult even for millions of Americans. Indeed, if you grasp positive sum, it almost compels your position along most of the Limberg-Barnes spectra.

== End times? ==

The last time the Earth’s magnetic poles flipped (reversed)  was 781,000 years ago, but it's believed to have occurred every 20,000-30,000 years over the last 20 million years, so are we a quarter of a million years “overdue”?  That was roughly when Homo sapiens was emerging as a distinct species. And it makes you think, on several levels, especially now as the mag-field is undergoing unusual fluctuations, with the till now dominant part of the North pole – the Candian part – weakening rapidly in favor of the portion that emerges in Siberia. 

Another semi-random thought about end times? You all know the song “It's theEnd of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Way fun... but I mean I mean jeez, most of the pop and political figures run-off in the lyrics are completely obscure now! Either R.E.M. or their heirs should do a new version every decade or they should license it! Seriously, it's a public trust and... why the heck not?

(And Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" - again, should be updated at least every 20 years.) And yes, I’m “just sayin.”

While we’re at it, is “Feel it still” by Portugal the Man by or about a guy my age? One who can still kick it?  Just askin’…

== Powers of sight ==

Known to some as “Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law,” the cameras get smaller, faster, better, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous each year… and it is up to us whether this results in Big Brother forever… or never.  Now the next stage in miniaturization of lenses. Researchers at MIT have developed a process to shrink objects down to nanoscale size. Materials are placed in a gel in the desired configuration, and the gel is then exposed to acid, shrinking down to (up to?) a tenth the initial size. 

"The MIT team is now exploring potential applications for this technology, and they anticipate that some of the earliest applications might be in optics -- for example, making specialized lenses that could be used to study the fundamental properties of light. This technique might also allow for the fabrication of smaller, better lenses for applications such as cell phone cameras, microscopes, or endoscopes, the researchers say. Farther in the future, the researchers say that this approach could be used to build nanoscale electronics or robots." reports Science Daily. (Thanks blogmunity member Andy.)

Of course the Asimov novel and the flick FantasticVoyage come to mind. With James Cameron talking about a vivid new-CGI remake. This is one that should be utterly remade, every 20 years! 

Of course, over a longer term, what we need is better local and distributed energy storage, so that sustainables like daytime solar or wind can provide what we need anywhere and around the clock. Alphabet’s moonshot factory X has spun out “Malta”; the  pumped thermal energy storage system uses vats of molten salt and a liquid that acts like antifreeze to make  renewable generation more productive while dramatically improving power grid stability and resilience.

== And finally... ==

It’s called sequential excitation of polymerization and I worked on this concept – for both 3D TV and 3D printing – in 1980… and got distracted by other things, so no credit and no brag! Except to say it’s about time! 

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new 3D printing method that can produce complex shapes at up to 100 times the speed of traditional 3D printers. In conventional stereolithography, 2D images are projected onto liquid resin that hardens when exposed to light, but the stacking of these solid layers is far too slow a process for commercial-scale print runs. By using two different wavelengths of light, however, this printing method can now selectively harden specific parts of the printed resin while keeping resin near the projection window liquid. This allows for continuous printing (no incremental layering involved!) and massive speed improvements.”

Rick Arthur, one of GE’s senior directors for R&D, has written extensively about technological change and resilience.  Here he talks about testimony in D.C. about “the future of work.” 

A compound derived from a strain of bacteria that lives inside a common parasitic worm is three times more potent than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. An interesting evolution story and a hopeful discovery.  

And to finish up... something transfixing. Another rotating ice disk. Seen 'em before, but literally and figuratively cool.

Got a science morale boost?  Great. Share these with a friend... and remind her/him that all of this will shut down if the feudalists regain power.

107 comments:

TheMadLibrarian said...

I loved Fantastic Voyage when I first saw the movie in the 60s (I was under 10 for sure, but that and TOS Star Trek still made a massive impression on me!) At the time, the effects were pretty good, but yes, a well done redo by James Cameron or someone with high-end CGI would be interesting.

Mike Will said...

Got up early to watch the SpaceX/NASA launch. The first astronaut aboard that Crew Dragon capsule will be a Canadian. Our top official (the Prime Minister's boss on paper) is an ex-astronaut (2 missions). I've been reading feverishly about the Gateway station (plus the flood of Dr Brin's links of course).

I then spent the day at a SmartCity/AI/Makerspace meeting near Toronto. Just another day here in 'Quantum Valley' (UofToronto-UofWaterloo-PerimeterInstitute). We've been 'science-ing the shit out of it' for a long time.

James Cameron is a fellow Canuck who did his own "Fantastic Voyage" in the Marianas Trench. They've just found that most of the critters at the bottom have man-made plastic in their gut. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/deepest-ocean-trenches-animals-eat-plastic/583657/
Now that's one helluva canary-in-a-coalmine. Oh, and Sting has taken up residence in Toronto lately for a play he's doing. All this flag waving is meant to give my American friends an encouraging hug. All is not lost. The stars still beckon.

David Brin said...

Mike, you Canadians can save the world. Just... surrender. Join the US and we'll have 8 new blue states and two purple. We'll then end this freaking civil war, and save enlightenment and the world. Then we'll look the other way when you all leave again... so long as you take South Carolina and Florida with you.

Mike Will said...

@Dr. Brin

You joke, but that math is precisely what has saved us from the Manifest Destiny psychos for two centuries.

A.F. Rey said...

"The End of the World as We Know It" may not be as out-of-date as you think. Did you know that the song refers to "Trump?" ;)

(Actually, the lyrics say it merely uses the word "trump," but from listening to it, I'm not so sure...)

Also, I heard a song the other day driving home from work. Christopher Cross' "I'm Too Old for This" from his 2011 album Doctor Faith. The tune is so-so, but the lyrics caught my attention.

The willful ignorance across the nation
The screaming yahoos that rage on every station
It makes me crazy and I'm too old for this

Folks in this country used to strive to be better
Work to be smarter so they could understand
Now we idolize the clueless and the mean
It's hip to be stupid, just wear the right brand
I sound like a geezer but it's a disgrace
Try to discuss it and they get all in your face
It's raining morons and I'm too old for this

Too old to see the lack of compassion
Too old to watch it go out of fashion...

Too old to watch the men we elected
Sit on their hands when it's change we expected
So hard to keep the bigotry out of my head
So hard not to wish some people dead
I got to keep a hold on myself

Don't want this anger; I got to stay clear
Too much to do before I get out of here
I still believe in peace but I'm too old for this


Full lyrics here: https://genius.com/Christopher-cross-im-too-old-for-this-lyrics

And the music here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw0K3UU5Udk

David Brin said...

A.F. Rey thanks. I think I'll post your whole comment.

David Brin said...

Let me add that we can no longer judge a song by its “tune.” Back in the 20th Century I predicted – and so did Spider & Jeanne Robinson in their Hug-winning story “Melancholy Elephants” – that the rapacious rate at which we were getting great new melodies across the 60s through 80s would taper off as all the useful, compelling melodies get used up. Alas, though long delayed, it clearly happened at least a decade ago. There are terrific musicians nowadays! They should be proud, not ashamed of doing wonderful variations on earlier melodic themes.

Paul451 said...

Not sure if this has been posted here:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201901/16/WS5c3edfb8a3106c65c34e4d75.html

In a follow-on to China's Social Credit system, which has seen people shamed on billboards, a commercial claims court has now created an app that lets people see if there are "deadbeat debtors" (people with unpaid debts to that court) near them, including all their personal details. Users are encouraged to spy on the debtors and report their spending habits to the court via the app.

If you owe money to the wrong people, instead of having to hire a collection agency, they can turn the entire city against you. The app doesn't tell users who you owe money to, or under what circumstances (are you disputing false business charges?), just that you are a "deadbeat debtor".

(China is exporting components of this technology to other authoritarian regimes via companies like ZTE.)

Paul451 said...

I'm curious how "more transparency" would fight this when the those at the top are able to exercise such finely-grained control over what the population does.

David Brin said...

Paul451 Pleas. Seriously. Look at your own question. Then look at it again. And again until you see the answer. And the thing that amazes me most is that it is simultaneously obvious and (alas) counter intuitive to absolutely everyone.

I have faith in you. Tell us what the exercise reveals.

Paul451 said...

I know you think that "looking back" is the answer, but with the Chinese scheme, they get to control what you are looking at, because they see what you are looking at and they can punish you for it, but you can't punish them.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the answer lies in what scores senior Chinese officials grant themselves, for all to see.

The Alita tie-in "Swan Song" has a catchy rhythm and some good lines about passivity. Lupa probably doesn't have the pedigree of Joel, though. Yet.

Greg Byshenk said...

I think the answer to the "low-hanging-fruit" question is that this doesn't seem to be that.

The researchers used computer simulations to design three new processes to deal with the glycolate. Then they spliced new DNA into tobacco plants’ chloroplasts, the site where photosynthesis occurs. They also prevented glycolate from leaving the chloroplasts to ensure they carried out the alternative processes, rather allowing photorespiration to take over. They saw over 40 percent increases in the amount of biomass the plants produced.

Certain things are difficult to select for naturally because of path dependence or interdependence.

In this particular case, if I read the article correctly, the new processes to deal differently with glycolate are only really useful if glycolate is prevented from leaving the chloroplasts (if not, then the "normal" processes will be active), but in the absence of these new processes, such prevention would be actively harmful. One of the benefits or real design is that we can implement such combined processes that are extremely unlikely to be selected naturally (because independently they will not be selected for - or will even be selected against).

Tim Wolter said...

I always try to stay somewhere in the vicinity of thread topic. So here's science, songs and optimism.

Anticipating my FIRST robotics team competing in a few weeks I'm watching live stream of events elsewhere in the country/world.

The most fun one I've sampled is in Turkey (!). Lots of upbeat music, a mixture of up beat pop, mumbly rap and things I can't quite place. The vibe is very much like Euro football, the announcers are way over the top in a patois that to me resembles Happy Klingon. The teams are from Turkey, Poland and Switzerland. Lots of silly costumes, some of which reflect what I assume to be the cultural divide in Turkey today. Some modest headscarfs - with various event pins and tech symbols on them! - but other kids in T shirts and hairdos typical of any high school campus in US or the EU.

https://www.thebluealliance.com/event/2019tuis#teams

They seem to be having lots of fun. I assume their programs are somewhat government subsidized, heck one Turkish team is coming to compete at our event in Minnesota. I also think the government is getting their money's worth in future engineers and innovators.

And the robots? Not bad. FIRST is new in this part of the world so I figure our machine could handle them. Or not, my group* seems to delight in tormenting me by heading down ridiculous technology rabbit holes, building themselves into, and out of, so many problems.

At our last practice they broke things I did not actually know were breakable!

T.Wolter/Tacitus
* been working with some of them for as long as 7 years now.

Daniel Duffy said...

The best "end of the world song" is "Five Years" by David Bowie.

Daniel Duffy said...

What we need is for the blue state north to secede and join Canada in a new United States of Canada.

https://me.me/i/introducing-the-united-states-of-canada-usc-created-by-merging-ad801775cb6d44bda0a9867c2046089f

Anonymous said...

Daniel, given how even blue America is right-wing by Canadian standards that wouldn't necessarily be a good move for either side.

Jon S. said...

Predictive songs? I vote for Rush's "A Farewell To Kings".

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the things that we let grow?
We turned our face from the castles in the distance,
Eyes cast down on the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear, and lies
Withered hopes and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitudes and scoffing at the wise...


1977, y'all.

(One could also make a case for "Beneath, Between & Behind" from 1975:

...The gun's replaced the plow
Facades are tarnished now
The principles have been betrayed...

...Beneath the noble bird,
Between the proudest words,
Behind the beauty, cracks appear;
Once, with heads held high,
They sang out to the sky -
Why do their shadows bow in fear?
)

David Brin said...

Greg Byshenk your dependence path notion seems to make sense.

Paul451 you say the words, but you do not draw the obvious conclusion.

Tim, again great stuff re FIRST. A real world changing Kamen program. “I also think the government is getting their money's worth in future engineers and innovators.” Well… one hopes they’ll become powerful democrats (small “d” but it’s the same thing, today.)

Tony Fisk said...

Another apo-calypso is Genesis' "Land of Confusion". The delirious Reagan-era video they did with Spitting Image is *definitely* worth updating!

re: biology and 'low hanging fruit', there are a number of widespread design 'features' which seem easy to fix, but which haven't been, despite million of years of evolution. The classic example is the pharylangeal nerve, which loops down from the brain and around the aorta, before going back up to the neck. This waste of wiring is the same in all vertebrates, and reaches the height of absurdity in the giraffe (and presumably the yodelling diplodocus.) I can imagine similar chasms existing in the landscape mapped out by metabolic pathways.

Tim Wolter said...

Tony
The pharylangeal nerve - also called the recurrent vagal nerve - is an interesting one. First studied by Galen himself. Back in med school I recall a professor talking about "The Prostitute's whisper". Seems in the really old pre-antibiotic days when syphilis was a big deal it often caused aortic aneurysms. This put pressure on the recurrent vagal which looped under it. What we now more politely call "sex workers" often had a raspy voice due to this.
I have never been able to watch old movies with Lauren Bacall without thinking of this.

TW/Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

Well, Tim, that bit of information puts a new perspective on Sir John Gielgud's fine but wispy deliveries.

yana said...


Two most interesting things learned in February: older people conversant on the same device, using the same apps as younger people, are more likely to be fooled by an intentionally fake article. Second, use of that demon weed is rising fastest among the senior demographic, in the states where it has been legalized.

Learned both facts the same day, that was worth a good laugh and some minutes' chuckling. Stuck in my mind, because there are four reasons why more gullible grans would be in one kind of state, but another 4 reasons why not.

The study which is begging to be done now, is performing parallel research in both kinds of states, about the gullibility of oldsters. If there's a significant variance, in either direction, that's valuable research. Could earn someone a doctorate, a study like that.

yana said...


Daniel Duffy thought:

"The best "end of the world song" is "Five Years" by David Bowie."

Worked up an hourlong like that,

Henry Burr - Last Night Was The End Of The World
Insane Clown Posse - Intro
DOA - Eve Of Destruction
Nick Cave - Red Right Hand
Smashing Pumpkins - Doomsday Clock
Arthur Brown - Prelude, Nightmare, Fanfare, Poem, Fire
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell
Ronald Reagan - We Begin Bombing In Five Minutes
Motorhead - Orgasmatron
Good Rats - Writing The Pages
Time Zone - World Destruction
David Bowie - Five Years
John R Butler - The Hand Of The Almighty
Bad Religion - New Dark Ages
Coven - One Tin Soldier
Sons Of Abraham & Savior - Testament
Bright Eyes - Four Winds

not everything fits everyone's taste, but nothing ever does.

David Brin said...

yana cool list!

Tony:” re: biology and 'low hanging fruit', there are a number of widespread design 'features' which seem easy to fix, but which haven't been, despite million of years of evolution.”

Well, I want camel kidneys, chimp tendon attachments, bear hibernation and especially bird lungs!

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"and especially bird lungs!"

Careful what you wish for, if you had, you'd be running and flitting uncontrollably, and would demand syrup on everything you eat. Calamari pesto with maple syrup. Cobb salad with corn by Kayo, and molasses on your broccocauli bake.

progressbot said...

>> Greg Byshenk said...
\\I think the answer to the "low-hanging-fruit" question is that this doesn't seem to be that.

Kudos! For exposing us here to such complex things.

Well... in wild nature more nagging need it's to guard your deposites. With torns, with poison, etc. Than to produce more making one look more tasty to predators.

Well, such GM plants can grow more... but destroy soil more too. And there would not be post/intra-singularity gods to save us. :(


>> Mike Will said...
\\The robot (AI) apocalypse has a solution: deep, wide, internalized scientific literacy.

Which need 10(20?) years or so of thorough devouted study. Well, if people would be that busy they'll have no time for stupid things, but... we have effect of university campuses frivolous atmosphere too.

\\Six months of 'learning to code' is just a fairy tale told by different narrators.

100% agree.
We do not need that much programmers... it's I as programmer saying. :)

\\In the end, only real, near-universal participation in the journey to the stars will work.

You mean robots? ;)

\\I wasn't joking earlier when I marveled at an ordinary citizen learning about neutrinos. It's not easy, but it's possible. I've seen it.

Well... but we need understanding of much more complex concepts then neutrino.
Like ecological, economical(that businessmens are not parasites, just because you like to call them that way, as it is in post-soviets), historical, etc.



>> David Brin said...
\\I find it astonishing anyone accepts the potemkin farce-facade of North Korean autonomy from China.

First good idea I see here. Kudos!


\\Well, I want camel kidneys, chimp tendon attachments, bear hibernation and especially bird lungs!

And not brains of a... :)

“Everyone complains of his memory, and no one complains of his judgment.” ― Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld

Also.

Few persons have sufficient wisdom to prefer
censure, which is useful, to praise, which deceives
them.
La Rochefoucauld (well, it looks better than that CITOCATE... more to the point)

We hardly find any persons of good sense save
those who agree with us.
La Rochefoucauld


>> yana said...
\\Could earn someone a doctorate, a study like that.

Or even better... some other "Boston Aanalytics". :P

\\Careful what you wish for...

Sigh... :)


>> Paul451 said...
\\I'm curious how "more transparency" would fight this when the those at the top are able to exercise such finely-grained control over what the population does.

No,no,no... how you don't see our Happy Path Only Way Of Thinking is singular way of thinking poss... allowed. You are blashemer. :)

Alfred Differ said...

What we need is for the blue state north to secede and join Canada in a new United States of Canada.

Heh. Yikes. No thanks.
We would absolutely butcher the French language.

Besides... I'm in California. We sorta need our northern tier cousins.

Besides ^ 2... The last thing this world needs is the actual Confederacy.
They'd be nuclear and biologically armed this time around.
What would they want to try to do I wonder. 8/

Alfred Differ said...

Manifest Destiny psychos

Ha! Love it. As if Canadians don't have a use for the term. 8)

The Stratfor folks have a nice little section in their essay on the geopolitics of the US about Canada. They explain that it was all over after the 1812 war was done. The British were occupied elsewhere and Canadians did the smart thing. With no threat to us in the Ohio River region, we realized it was too damn cold up there to mess with them anyway. No point. The threat was to New Orleans. 8)

The Stratfor essay refers to us as the 'Inevitable Empire', but they also point out where that inevitability could have failed. There are a few ways it could have, but the big one involved our internal cultural split North/South. Once we stole 1/3 of Mexico, we had only our own internal forces to stop us from joining the big league.

David Brin said...

Despite being too long and a bit snarky, porohobot's posting appears to be more well-behaved and more careful in use of language... and less drenched with rage. Hence I will keep my promise and skim-read his postings... some I will even read closely.

Alfred: "The Stratfor essay refers to us as the 'Inevitable Empire',..."

I see almost nowhere in discussions of the US Civil War, the #3 reason the Union had to win. If the confederacy succeeded, North America would have become another silly Europe, filled with borders and forts and guarding armies. For 200 years, the only times an American saw a soldier (normally) was in July 4 parade. It had huge effects upon American psychology and especially the characteristic notion that anything not clearly and properly forbidden is automatically allowed.

Anonymous said...

Calamari pesto with maple syrup

Quite good, actually. Just a smidgen of maple syrup so you get the maple aftertaste without too much sweetness…

(That's included while making the pesto, not poured on afterwards.)

Greg Byshenk said...

progressbot said...
Well... in wild nature more nagging need it's to guard your deposites. With torns, with poison, etc. Than to produce more making one look more tasty to predators.

In "wild nature" there are lots of different reproductive and survival strategies. Some involve protecting oneself or one's offspring; others involve massive overproduction.

Well, such GM plants can grow more... but destroy soil more too. And there would not be post/intra-singularity gods to save us. :(

Such plants can produce more energy. What they do with it depends on how we choose to use them. They can produce greater yields, or fix more nitrogen, or whatever else. That is another one of the advantages of actual design as opposed to random variation.

Jon S. said...

Henry Burr - Last Night Was The End Of The World
Insane Clown Posse - Intro
DOA - Eve Of Destruction
Nick Cave - Red Right Hand
Smashing Pumpkins - Doomsday Clock
Arthur Brown - Prelude, Nightmare, Fanfare, Poem, Fire
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell
Ronald Reagan - We Begin Bombing In Five Minutes
Motorhead - Orgasmatron
Good Rats - Writing The Pages
Time Zone - World Destruction
David Bowie - Five Years
John R Butler - The Hand Of The Almighty
Bad Religion - New Dark Ages
Coven - One Tin Soldier
Sons Of Abraham & Savior - Testament
Bright Eyes - Four Winds


Jethro Tull - Protect and Survive
Pink Floyd - Two Suns In the Sunset
Rush - Prelude from 2112

Arrgh! I used to have an entire apocalypse playlist, years back, but I didn't write it down...

Smurphs said...

yana said: use of that demon weed is rising fastest among the senior demographic

I can't speak for anyone else, but now that I am in the senior demographic, I sometime wish I could have a few tokes, just for nostalgia's sake.

(But I'd probably hate it. Don't even drink anymore. Just don't like it these days.)

Smurphs said...

and re: your music list, I love it, but as part of that senior demographic, I will always prefer the original "Eve of Destruction."

jim said...

Holy Cow! Someone slipped the neo-liberal Clitonite Brad De long some truth serum.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/4/18246381/democrats-clinton-sanders-left-brad-delong

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”
The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve ideas on the left.

Darrell E said...

Well if it's an apocalypse play list it must include War Pigs / Luke's Wall.

Darrell E said...

If we're going really old school one of my favorites is The Merry Minuet by the Kingston Trio.


They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The french hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man's been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away!!

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man

A.F. Rey said...

For apocalyptic songs, don't forget "Aftermath" by Don McLean--the very definition of depressed. :(

And no list could ever be complete without Tom Lehrer's "We'll All Go Together When We Go." :)

https://www.google.com/search?q=we%27ll+all+go+together+when+we+go&rlz=1C1GCEA_enUS807US807&oq=we%27ll+all+go+together+when+we+go&aqs=chrome..69i57.7732j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&safe=active&ssui=on

(BTW, for non-apocalyptic songs, you have heard "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Jimmy Webb? I read that he actually got permission from Heinlein's estate for use of the title. Judy Collins has a beautiful version of it.)

Anonymous said...

David, interesting quote from the teenager who sang during her brain surgery:

“If this is what it takes to keep my career going and get out of my tiny town, then sure, go for it,” Iaconetti told KIRO.

What were you saying about young people being in a hurry to leave their small towns?

Anonymous said...

now that I am in the senior demographic, I sometime wish I could have a few tokes, just for nostalgia's sake.

Come to Canada in a month…

Larry Hart said...

Greg Byshenk quotes progressbot:

Well, such GM plants can grow more... but destroy soil more too.


My brain went to a weird place when reading this, as I think of a "GM plant" as something different, but which also destroys soil as it grows. Sort of.

David Brin said...

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,”

What stunning, relentless unbelievable bullshit. In every way and top to bottom.

It was the MASSACHUSETTS health plan and it was always to be a halfway step, after Hillary's disastrously over-ambitious effort at socialized care in 1995 destroyed Democratic power in DC for a generation.

You lefties rave: "Every time we scare middle America and destroy Democratic power, it proves we should act MORE radically!" You are completely nuts.

SUMO DOESN"T WORK! If you do sumo, the left will always, always lose, as Purple states panic into the arms of the confederacy.

JUDO can get you some things the Left wants. But you refuse all subtlety or to learn any arts of polemic. Fortunately, I have hopes that AOC is a lot smarter. She's already alluded to FDR's "New Deal." If she can actually SAY "Roosevelt" and invoke the Greatest Generation, we might do an end run around Fox.

jim said...

David
What is so shocking about that quote is who it is from.
Brad De Long is not some Sanders type lefty economist, he is a neoliberal, globalizing, third wave, DLC, Clintonite wonk.

Eventually (I guess) he realized that trying to work with elected republicans is playing Calvin Ball.

Republicans are not going to vote for things like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, so Democrats should not let them screw with legislation and make it worse. The Democrats should focus on making good policy for the American people and not worry about getting votes from republicans.

David Brin said...

Exactly. Which is why you have a Big Tent and nominate AOC types in liberal districts and gun-toting, fact-and-science loving military veterans to take down gopper monsters in red and purple places... and LIVE with each other as allies who have a whole lot on their shared plate, and agree only to start fighting when the civil war is over and when the common-shared agenda is complete.

Mike Will said...

Dr. Brin said, "fact-and-science loving military veterans"

[Spockian eyebrow] I thought I was the only one who had seen these. Some TBI rehab chats have really surprised me. Things are not at all what one might expect. Encouraging.

jim said...

As long as the centrist blue dogs know that trying to work with republicans is a sure path to defeat for democrats. If they want to kept republicans from screwing things up and actually do good things for the American public they will have to work liberals, and progressives. The days of hippy punching to get votes is long gone.

Hopefully in the 2020's the centrists will realize that if they represent a swing district and the president is a democrat, the only way for them to win reelection is if the democratic president is successful. Back stabbing blue dogs should (and do) loose their jobs.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,”

What stunning, relentless unbelievable bullshit. In every way and top to bottom.


Well, I thought the point of that quoted article was along the lines of, "Don't make the mistake of adopting a Republican-friendly compromise posture in hopes of getting Republicans to vote for it. They won't. So make the case for your own agenda to the American people on its own merits."

Or to put it a shorter way, "There are no good Republicans."

You disagree? Or you think my interpretation is mistaken?

A.F. Rey said...

Interesting article at FiveThirtyEight about simplicity of messaging and why that makes it harder to convince people that climate change is real.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/good-climate-science-is-all-about-nuance-good-politics-is-not/

Scientists who study the psychology of storytelling and rhetoric say there are several factors that give climate change denialists an advantage in the political marketplace. Simplicity and smoothness of the message is a big part of it, said Eryn Newman, professor of psychology at the Australian National University. In an email, she told me that the easier it is to process information, the more likely people are to believe it.

In other words, the simpler the words are to understand, the clearer and more consistent the narrative is and the more absolute and concrete the claims, the more likely people are to nod along. Anything that makes us briefly confused or makes our train of thought stumble will make an idea less believable.

David Brin said...

AFR that is why I make it about things that can be verified in a WAGER. Because when they try to ahinge and wriggle out of it, that's an unmanly act of cowardice.

Larry Hart said...

Just happen to be re-reading Steve Englehart's run on Captain America and The Avengers from the mid 1970s. His final arc pitted the Avengers against a parody of DC's Justice League in their home dimension, in which Nelson Rockefeller was president and corporations had secretly taken over the country. This bit of monologue from the fictitious president in 1976 could be torn from today's headlines:

They're not the real problem anyway!

I am...I and all the other corporate and conglomerate executives who have taken control of this country! We run your lives, and you don't know it--since so few of us ever step out from behind the scenes!

Even then, all you see is an image--a carefully-crafted image, like any other products!

We talk alot about honesty, and pride, and team-spirit--but all we really want is power! The talk's just to get you to give it to us!

And you do! We commit the most outrageous acts--turn completely around on anything we've ever claimed to stand for--and you go right along, pretending not to notice!

That's what's so strange! Facts don't affect our image! You just look away, and wonder why the dollar keeps losing it's value---

Alfred Differ said...

David,

Friedman did address the need to defeat the Confederacy, but not quite as a need. The essay pointed out that the South was essentially indefensible in terms of geography and it was out manned around 2.5x to 5x depending on whether one counts the slaves they were unwilling to arm until the very end. In economic terms, the South didn’t have a chance. They might have won the first war, but there would have been a second in the sense that WWI and WWII can be thought of as one war with a brief period of rest for the combatants. [WWI, WWII, and Cold War were all parts of the same war in this sense.] In a geopolitical sense, the Confederacy needed to own the Ohio River system to stop the Union economically. That wasn’t going to happen even with European support. The Midwest is where the Union’s source of strength and wealth was located, right?

I remember Friedman essentially dismissing the notion that the US would be anything other than what it is now once Mexico lost Texas and our part of California with Texas being the important piece. With Texas out of reach, they couldn’t threaten New Orleans, thus no one could threaten the Mississippi basin. Game over. We won North America and could accumulate wealth through trade. A few decades later we were challenging the British currency as the standard of trade. A little after that, we were the only empire that won all portions of the world wars of the 20th century.

I think Friedman's essays and your content align in explaining how the Confederacy could not/would not be tolerated.

On another note…
In a geopolitics article on China (another topic) he DID mention how Korea has been divided between China and Japan for a long time. That essay backs up your position that China will use NK as a puppet if they can’t outright own it. They’d historically rather own the whole peninsula, but Japan is rarely a push-over. US foreign policy tends to balance regional opponents, so we do not benefit from Korean unity if that upsets the relationship between China and Japan.

Alfred Differ said...

In the spirit of predictive songs...

The one I heard today that is one of those self-preventing ones... I wish...

Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry"

When I hear it, I think first of the obvious TV shows I prefer to avoid.
I can also hear the secondary transparency message, though, since in our modern world, WE are the news content creators on social media.

The bubble-headed bleach blondes are everywhere.
WE decide whether to give them our precious attention.

matthew said...

Predictive songs? Devo's "Beautiful World"

It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world

For you
For you
For you

It's a wonderful time to be here
It's nice to be alive
Wonderful people everywhere
The way they comb their hair
Makes me want to say

It's a wonderful place
It's a wonderful place
It's a wonderful place

For you
For you
For you

Hey
Tell me what I say

Boy 'n' girl with the new clothes on
You can shake it to me all night long
Hey hey

It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world

For you
For you
For you

It's not for me

It's a beautiful world, For you
It's a beautiful world, For you
It's a beautiful world, For you
It's a beautiful world, Not me

progressbot said...

>> Greg Byshenk said...
\\In "wild nature"...

Hmm... but why in quotes?


\\there are lots of different reproductive and survival strategies. Some involve protecting oneself or one's offspring; others involve massive overproduction.

Even for that with r-stratagy ecological niche are still the same. So, they'll just produce more food for predators. ;)


Such plants can produce more energy.... Or just grow in places with fewer sunlight. ;)
or fix more nitrogen... Yep. Directly from air. I bet it would be more important improvment. ;)


\\That is another one of the advantages of actual design as opposed to random variation.

Are you proponent of "intellectual design"? What a blunder. :(


>> Alfred Differ said...
\\ [WWI, WWII, and Cold War were all parts of the same war in this sense.]

And is, and is.

\\China will use NK as a puppet if they can’t outright own it.

If only. NK *is* China puppet... for anyone who know history well and know why results of Korean War was as it was.

NK always was and essentially *is* proxy of China and USSR/RFia.

And Trunp who took the baite and started dialog with Kim, because of his short-sightness... it is what Putin trying to do with Georgia and Ukraine -- to make us start dialog with his proxyes DLNR and Abhasia/Osetia, and Pridnestrovie.


>> A.F. Rey said...
Simplicity and smoothness of the message is a big part of it, said Eryn Newman, professor of psychology at the Australian National University. In an email, she told me that the easier it is to process information, the more likely people are to believe it.

In other words, the simpler the words are to understand, the clearer and more consistent the narrative is and the more absolute and concrete the claims, the more likely people are to nod along. Anything that makes us briefly confused or makes our train of thought stumble will make an idea less believable.


Thank you very much, A.F. Rey.


>> Larry Hart said...

I assume my words was too long and not interesting for you.

Well. I'll make it shorter. "Cogito ergo sum" works so well, as you like it, *only* in philosophical doctrine of dualism. Are you dualist? ;)

And it was very right, very progressive... in time of religious idealism. By introducing some materialistic views and perspectives.

But now, it is greatly outdated and obscurant POV. Embodyment of Anti-Progress.

Alfred Differ said...

Back stabbing blue dogs

For some strange reason, I never saw it that way. I usually identified with the blue dogs, but felt the Democrats weren't interested in anything of mine BUT my vote... and rarely needed even that.

Give me someone I can vote FOR and I will.

Alfred Differ said...

'Cogito ergo sum' still works well enough if you know the context.

It's the stuff Descartes tried to deduce after it that gets weak in modern analysis. He didn't stick to his original rule requiring some skepticism in the face of non-obvious-ness.

Greg Byshenk said...

progressbot said...
Greg Byshenk said...
\\In "wild nature"...

Hmm... but why in quotes?

Um. Because it is a quote. (That is what you wrote.)

\\there are lots of different reproductive and survival strategies. Some involve protecting oneself or one's offspring; others involve massive overproduction.

Even for that with r-stratagy ecological niche are still the same. So, they'll just produce more food for predators. ;)

In 'nature', it doesn't matter if an organism produces "more food for predators", as long as it succeeds in reproducing more of itself.

Outside of "nature" (ie: in a controlled environment) the issue is irrelevant, as we are the "predators" and we are producing the organism.


[...]

\\That is another one of the advantages of actual design as opposed to random variation.

Are you proponent of "intellectual design"? What a blunder. :(

Do you mean 'intelligent design'; ie: 'creationism'? Then no. I am contrasting actual "design" (what GM engineers do) with natural selection, and pointing out that if you are actually intelligently designing, then you can come up with some things that may be extremely useful, and that are difficult to get using only (natural or artificial) selection.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The problem with evolution is "Local peaks"

You can see how evolution can get you to a peak of design - but if there is a higher peak close by then evolution will not get you there
But Intelligent Design could!

Jon Roth said...

More positive news.... . http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190304-how-do-you-bring-a-forest-back-to-life

Darrell E said...

matthew,

Good song, never knew Devo was the original artist. And here I thought I knew Devo. I know the song via Rage Against The Machine's cover. I'll have to find the Devo original and have a listen.

Larry Hart said...

ALfred Differ:

Give me someone I can vote FOR and I will.


Otherwise, let the worst candidate win? That's how we got Benedict Donald. Enough voters who despised the man just couldn't work up the motivation to vote for his opponent.

Larry Hart said...

Maybe I'm just cynical, but I've been much more motivated to vote by who I didn't want to be president than by having someone to vote for. In my adult lifetime, I've voted against Reagan, Bush Sr, Bush W, and now Donald Trump. I've voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the latter was the only one for whom the vote for was enthusiastic. All of the votes against were.

Darrell E said...

Duncan Cairncross said...
The problem with evolution is "Local peaks"

You can see how evolution can get you to a peak of design - but if there is a higher peak close by then evolution will not get you there
But Intelligent Design could!


There are "problems" that evolution is very good at coming up with very good solutions to, given enough time. There has been some very interesting results over the years experimenting with evolutionary programs to solve problems. This article relates a good example, On the Origin of Circuits. Some excerpts to give the gist of it.

"The informatics researcher began his experiment by selecting a straightforward task for the chip to complete: he decided that it must reliably differentiate between two particular audio tones. A traditional sound processor with its hundreds of thousands of pre-programmed logic blocks would have no trouble filling such a request, but Thompson wanted to ensure that his hardware evolved a novel solution. To that end, he employed a chip only ten cells wide and ten cells across— a mere 100 logic gates. He also strayed from convention by omitting the system clock, thereby stripping the chip of its ability to synchronize its digital resources in the traditional way."

"Finally, after just over 4,000 generations, test system settled upon the best program. When Dr. Thompson played the 1kHz tone, the microchip unfailingly reacted by decreasing its power output to zero volts. When he played the 10kHz tone, the output jumped up to five volts. He pushed the chip even farther by requiring it to react to vocal “stop” and “go” commands, a task it met with a few hundred more generations of evolution. As predicted, the principle of natural selection could successfully produce specialized circuits using a fraction of the resources a human would have required. And no one had the foggiest notion how it worked."

"Dr. Thompson peered inside his perfect offspring to gain insight into its methods, but what he found inside was baffling. The plucky chip was utilizing only thirty-seven of its one hundred logic gates, and most of them were arranged in a curious collection of feedback loops. Five individual logic cells were functionally disconnected from the rest— with no pathways that would allow them to influence the output— yet when the researcher disabled any one of them the chip lost its ability to discriminate the tones. Furthermore, the final program did not work reliably when it was loaded onto other FPGAs of the same type."

"It seems that evolution had not merely selected the best code for the task, it had also advocated those programs which took advantage of the electromagnetic quirks of that specific microchip environment. The five separate logic cells were clearly crucial to the chip’s operation, but they were interacting with the main circuitry through some unorthodox method— most likely via the subtle magnetic fields that are created when electrons flow through circuitry, an effect known as magnetic flux. There was also evidence that the circuit was not relying solely on the transistors’ absolute ON and OFF positions like a typical chip; it was capitalizing upon analogue shades of gray along with the digital black and white."


Evolution and Intelligent design are both useful tools for designing things and each has strengths and weaknesses that the other doesn't.

Anonymous said...

A.F. Rey said...
Interesting article at FiveThirtyEight about simplicity of messaging and why that makes it harder to convince people that climate change is real.


You would probably find this book interesting. Goes into a lot of detail on that topic.

https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dont-even-think-about-it-9781620401330/

A.F. Rey said...

Thanks for letting me know about it. I'd love to read it (if/when I can find the time).

David Brin said...

Darrell E, thanks for sharing that. Fascinating!

jim said...

Richard Jones wrote a very interesting article called
Your Brain Will Not be Uploaded
http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=1558

He has a really interesting discussion on the differences between designed and evolved systems.

"If you did have a map of all the neural connections of a human brain, dead or alive, is that enough to simulate it? You could combine the map with known equations for the propagation of electrical signals along axons (the Hodgkin-Huxley equations), models of neurons and models for the behaviour of synapses. This is the level of simulation, for example, carried out in the “Blue Brain” project (see this review (PDF) for a semi-technical overview). This is a very interesting thing to do from the point of neuroscience, but it is not a simulation of a human brain, and certainly not of any individual’s brain. It’s a model, which aggregates phenomenological descriptions of the collective behaviours and interactions of components like the many varieties of voltage gated ion channels and the synaptic vesicles. The equations you’d use to model an individual synapse, for example, would have different parameters for different synapses, and these parameters change with time (and in response to the information being processed). Without an understanding of what’s going on in the neuron at the molecular level, these are parameters you would need to measure experimentally for each synapse.


(cont..)

jim said...

An analogy might make this clearer. Let me ask this question: is it possible to simulate the CPU in your mobile phone? At first sight this seems a stupid question – of course one can predict with a very high degree of certainty what the outputs of the CPU would be for any given set of inputs. After all, the engineers at ARM will have done just such simulations before any of the designs had even been manufactured, using well-understood and reliable design software. But a sceptical physicist might point out that every CPU is different at the atomic level, due to the inherent finite tolerances of manufacturing, and in any case the scale of the system is much too large to be able to simulate at the quantum mechanical level that would be needed to capture the electronic characteristics of the device.

In this case, of course, the engineers are right, for all practical purposes. This is because the phenomenology that predicts the behaviour of individual circuit elements is well-understood in terms of the physics, and the way these elements behave is simple, reliable and robust – robust in the sense that quite a lot of variation in the atomic configuration produces the same outcomes. We can think of the system as having three distinct levels of description. There is the detailed level of what the electrons and ions are doing, which would account for the basic electrical properties of the component semiconductors and insulators, and the junctions and interfaces between them. Then there is the behaviour of the circuit elements that are built from these materials – the current-voltage characteristics of the field effect transistors, and the way these components are built up into circuits. And finally, there is a description at a digital level, in which logical operations are implemented. Once one has designed circuit elements with clear thresholds and strongly non-linear behaviour, one can rely on there being a clean separation between the digital and physical levels. It’s this clean separation between the physical and the digital that makes the job of emulating the behaviour of one type of CPU on another one relatively uncomplicated.

But this separation between the physical and the digital in an integrated circuit isn’t an accident or something pre-ordained – it happens because we’ve designed it to be that way. For those of us who don’t accept the idea of intelligent design in biology, that’s not true for brains. There is no clean “digital abstraction layer” in a brain – why should there be, unless someone designed it that way? In a brain, for example, the digital is continually remodelling the physical – we see changes in connectivity and changes in synaptic strength as a consequence of the information being processed, changes, that as we see, are the manifestation of substantial physical changes, at the molecular level, in the neurons and synapses."

Mike Will said...

Re: FPGAs
This is sometimes referred to as the 'Ghost in the Machine' effect. I've seen it in modern FPGAs (very frustrating, and hard to explain to your boss), and all the way back to the chips we used almost 40 years ago - Programmable Array Logic (PALs).

The Police created the "Ghost in the Machine" album after Sting read the book of the same name by Arthur Koestler, wherein this term was used as a metaphor for Cartesian Dualism. FPGAs are used extensively at SETI@home BTW. Complexity and determinism are not quite inversely proportional, but ...

"Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"
h1ttps://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005268

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

I don't think Trump is going to survive to be nominated at this point. If he is nominated, you won't need my help to trounce him since I live in California.

Give me someone I can vote FOR and I will.
I always vote, though. I never stay home and complain about the poor choices.

In the 80's I voted against Reagan and Bush Sr.
In the 90's I voted for Clinton twice and I've never voted against a Presidential candidate since then.
I will occasionally vote against congress critters, but my part of California has usually offered up a candidate I was willing to be positive about when I voted.

I expect attention be paid to what I care about in policy and principle.
I don't expect perfection. Compromise is permissible.

Alfred Differ said...

"If you did have a map of all the neural connections of a human brain, dead or alive, is that enough to simulate it?

I think the more interesting question will be whether any particular hardware combination can be used to grow a mind that is effectively indistinguishable from human. That my brain reconfigures itself as I learn is the obvious behavior that puts a stake in the heart of strict dualism. Any attempt to upload my brain would obviously have to simulate that, but it need not do it the way my brain does.

Practically all computing devices nowadays are simulators of sorts. Almost no one writes code directly for the hardware layer. The few who do know the rest of us are emulating higher-order abstractions, so all they really have to write are the lower level rungs on that ladder. So... should I care how a piece of hardware might simulate my mind? Nah. Not unless I have the task of building it. Even then, my actual task is to build the lower rungs on the ladder.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Give me someone I can vote FOR and I will.
I always vote, though. I never stay home and complain about the poor choices.


I don't think we're really all that far apart. This is the part that I'm cautious of, though:

I expect attention be paid to what I care about in policy and principle.


Sure, but when people say it's not enough to be against something, that they need a candidate to be for something--the implication being that they're not going to vote for someone just because she's the only alternative to Donald Trump--it gets my dander up. Because the equal-and-opposite of what you stated above is also true. If one candidate is on the polar opposite side of what I care about in policy and principle, then (depending what his opponent is like) that might be enough for me to vote for anyone-but-him.

Granted, it might not. And in the case where there are two candidates I just can't be interested in enough at all, I might sit out a vote. But I'd have to really believe that "there is no difference between" them--that I literally don't care which one wins because they both suck approximately the same amount. When people say that about Hillary vs Trump, or about Gore vs W--that they didn't vote (or they voted Stein/Nader) because "there's no difference between them", they are being intentionally lazy. We're seeing every day how different Trump is from Hillary, and the difference is hardly negligible.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

So... should I care how a piece of hardware might simulate my mind? Nah.


What you should care about is whether your family or co-workers will realize you're gone after you've been kidnapped and replaced with a robot.

Darrell E said...

David Brin,

I was hoping to find something about a specific experiment I came across a number of years ago, but my google-fu failed me. In that experiment the circuit was some sort of filter made from discrete components rather than an IC. The evolutionary program came up with a circuit composed of ridiculously few components compared to any designed circuit of the same type and, just as in the case of the experiment I linked to, it worked very well and they didn't understand how it worked. Though I'd be surprised if they hadn't figured it out by now.

David Brin said...

jim it's even worse than that. We know know for every synapse there are dozens to hundreds of tiny organelles that appear to store some murky kind of information along dendrites and even inside the main cell.

jim said...


So... should I care how a piece of hardware might simulate my mind? Nah.

I am pretty sure that Dr Jones would disagree with that.
Because the human brain is an evolved structure, it does not have any clean layers of design abstraction, so to accurately simulate it you have to do the simulations all the way down to the molecular level. Because the stuff happening at the molecular level effects the operation of the whole system, unlike what happens in a computer.

In other words your mind starts to emerges from many, practically unknowable, nanoscopic interactions that lay the foundations for how biological cells act. You just can't start at the level of a neuron. Nor should you stop at the brain, because the other organs in your body effect how the brain works.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

because the other organs in your body effect how the brain works.


One organ in particular seems to have an outsized effect. :)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Gore v Bush 2

I was living in the USA when that election went down - most of my friends (all senior engineers) considered that the two were close together - they expected the same things no matter which was elected - one of them was deciding based on the idea that Bush would be more friendly to off road motorbiking

This was because the last Republican - Bush 1 - had not actually been noticeably worse than Clinton

This ambivalence did NOT last when Bush 2 took the USA into his wars of choice

Larry Hart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

This ambivalence did NOT last when Bush 2 took the USA into his wars of choice


I don't know what is more frustrating about such voters. That they realize too late what was obvious all along, or that their buyer's remorse doesn't prevent them from doing the same effing thing 16 years later.

David Brin said...

Except Duncan, that I deem Bush Senior to be the worst president of the 20th Century, whose pals screwed any chance Russia would convert well to democracy and who in Iraq stained our honor horribly and ensured a middle eastern devastation that continues to this day.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
I would agree with you now - but I don't think I held that view back then!

Alfred Differ said...

I know our host points to all the nooks where information might be located in our brain, but I'm highly skeptical most of that matters. I could be wrong, of course, but I suspect most of the micro-details have more to do with how our brain cells perform than with what information they contain in the net. Ultimately, though, I don't care. Any hardware that gets relatively close to how our brains function seems likely to me to support someone who is relatively close to what we call human. There is too much variation among us for me to doubt there is a lot of wiggle room in exactly how brains work when it comes to producing functioning humans.

The micro-details might matter to me if I want to be copied to another 'brain', but there are some traits of mine I don't care to copy precisely. My brain changes over the years and I'm still me, so I wouldn't sweat some of the details.

As for whether my family would notice me being swapped to a robot me, I sincerely hope not. As long as the next me is indistinguishable to them, it's still me as far as I'm concerned.

Alfred Differ said...

jim,

I am pretty sure that Dr Jones would disagree with that...

No doubt. 8)

[the brain] does not have any clean layers of design abstraction

Meh. Clean design layers are rarely implemented cleanly in real structures, so I see this as a non-point. Abstraction is what humans do when simplifying the concrete. Implementation is always concrete, though. It's like the difference between the map and the terrain.

Some people reach for arguments to support what they already believe. I see that in many arguments some make against the eventual implementation of humans in hardware, but I also see it in people who vastly oversimplify the task of that implementation. I'm pretty sure the task is possible because every fertile woman who produces a baby manages the deed with a relatively short instruction set. Who's to say we won't emulate humans that way instead of manufacturing them whole as copies on an assembly line? We have a WORKING EXAMPLE to imitate, after all.

Besides, it's not as if women aren't producing copies of us currently. The instruction set produces little ones who are relatively close in the genetic sense and then over the next few years as their minds develop, mother's do the heavy lifting in making them functioning human beings. I suspect it will be possible to implement us in hardware long before we figure out how to do what the mothers do AFTER giving birth.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

As for whether my family would notice me being swapped to a robot me, I sincerely hope not. As long as the next me is indistinguishable to them, it's still me as far as I'm concerned.


It'd still be you as far as they're concerned.

It might make a difference to you.

Then again, if you were able to merge your memories with the other you, we could live out Kiln People.

yana said...


Transference of a whole brainful of person will prove impossible, whether onto media or into a fresh-grown brain, until the effort uses as much energy as nature used to create the human brain in the first place, which is peta-quadrillions of joules. Don't fool yourself, we are contained in these skulls. Might make neck-up cryogenics look better to an aging pharoah, but for the rest of us, the only thing that matters is making the world work better for our kids.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

The other guy would still be me up to the point of divergence of memory. As long as we were practically the same set of experiences and probably behaviors to events, Al#1 is indistinguishable from Al#2. I know enough object oriented programming to recognize the existence of an Al class and two Al objects. I'm okay with both instances being Al even if their memories cannot be merged.

Karl Popper had an extension for dualism into multiple worlds that weren't to be taken TOO seriously. World #1 and #2 were what Descartes would have recognized. Consider, though, our host's book "The Postman". It exists in world #1 as instantiations. It exists in world #2 when we read it as the subjective incantation. Abstract the world #1 copies, though, and you get a world #3 object which should ring bells for anyone who has read Plato. Is there a world #4 abstraction possible for the world #2 experiences of all the active readers? Why not? Invent as many worlds as makes sense because all one is doing is that we mean by the verb 'to abstract'.

At present, Al is a singleton and I get referred to with a proper noun. We used to do something similar for the Moon until Galileo found a bunch more and we had to invent 'moon' and 'moons'. Finding more moons doesn't make our moon anything less than the Moon, though. I see no reason why the same couldn't be said of people some day, so I hope some other instance of me would do just as well with my family as I do.

...and yes. I think our host has an interesting exploration of the subject. Except for some of the content that I thought was a touch mystical in the book (quite acceptable and even required for the story), I liked the treatment.

Daniel Duffy said...

Speaking of the end of the world as we know it ("and I feel fine")....

When we grasp at new renewable energy or carbon sequestration technologies, we do so with a bit of desperation.

We are hoping that these new technologies will save us in the same way that the Germans hoped that their wunderwaffen (V1, V2, Maus tank, ME262 jet fighter, Wasserfall AA missile, etc.) would turn the tide and win the war for Germany.

We seem to clutching at straws in a similar manner. Most of those weapons did not work as advertised or were too expensive to mass produce. Similarly, technologies like solar panels may not work long term, having a negative EROEI overall and only a 20 year lifetime:

http://energyskeptic.com/2019/pedro-prieto-many-solar-panels-wont-last-25-30-years-eroi-may-be-negative/

Daniel Duffy said...

P.S. Is it me or do the Germans tend to over-engineer everything, from WW2 panzers to automobiles from the Black Forest?

Jon S. said...

Larry, I do believe I agree with you on the importance of voting. It also puts me in mind of something Heinlein wrote, in the "Journals of Lazarus Long" snippets:

"If you are a member of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates or measures that you want to vote for... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against."

Duncan Cairncross said...

I don't see how solar panels can possibly have a negative energy ROI

When you buy a panel you pay for the embodied energy - here with ZERO government help the total system pays for itself in about 6 or 7 years

That MUST include the initial energy cost - and is a lot less than the 50+ years anticipated life

progressbot said...

>> Alfred Differ said...
\\'Cogito ergo sum' still works well enough if you know the context.

That what we discussed with Larry post ago. That *context* just do not include split-brains, fMRI and Blue Brain project. That's even without more up to date data.

\\I think the more interesting question will be whether any particular hardware combination can be used to grow a mind that is effectively indistinguishable from human.

We can grow neurons from stem cells. We can place them on chip and interconnect that chips.
What we have problem with -- how to dismantle our brain gracefully, without losing of that connectivity... but I think it could be achieved too. At least for frozen ones brains. ;)
And of course... snails and mices would be the first ones.


>> Daniel Duffy said...
\\Most of those weapons did not work as advertised or were too expensive to mass produce.

Well. Panzerfausts was quite good. And Panteras. Etc.
Real problem -- do not try to fight against all of the world... wizdom none of conquerers understood ever. :)


>> yana said...
Yana. “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it.”

>> Duncan Cairncross said...
\\But Intelligent Design could!

Design have biases of its own. Like that in answer to yana for example.


>> Greg Byshenk said...
\\In "wild nature"...
\\Um. Because it is a quote. (That is what you wrote.)

Well. But isn't it common phraze in English. Sorry for such stabborness. But I'm not native English speaker and tend to wonder about such obvious things.


\\In 'nature', it doesn't matter if an organism produces "more food for predators", as long as it succeeds in reproducing more of itself.

??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotka–Volterra_equations

\\Do you mean 'intelligent design'; ie: 'creationism'? Then no.

That's relif. Thank you.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Daniel Duffy
The problem with the Germans in WW2 was that they were run by a Fascist government

Fascism is almost like a theocracy - the almighty state is GOD and the "Leader" is a cross between high priest and a prophet

This has two major problems
(1) All criticism is "Heresy"
(2) Loyalty is much much more important than competence

The result was a series of incompetents trying to introduce "Super Weapons" - each of which REDUCED the German war effort - and the engineers who could see that were silent or silenced

The Brits had a similar - or greater - number of way out ideas - but they were much more selective about what they did with them

Daniel Duffy said...

Duncan, over engineering may also be a German cultural thing.

The Tiger tank was the most fearsome weapon of WW2 yet it literally spent more time in the shop than on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the simple rugged and reliable American Sherman tank dominated the Western front.

My neighbor's Mercedes is a beautifully crafted superbly engineered machine - which spends a lot of time at the mechanics.

Meanwhile, my old Ford is still going strong at 200,000 miles.

Daniel Duffy said...

Pro, only two things were needed for German victory in WW2.

While invading England (Operation Sealion) and advancing all the way through Russia to the Urals were logistical fantasies, Germany could have achieved a negotiated peace that left it dominant in continental Europe. Two things have to happen:

1. The Germans have to prevent the BEF from escaping at Dunkirk. After such a disaster with half the British army in German POW camps, even Churchill (let alone a peace leaning Halifax) would be hard pressed to reject Hitler's offer of a general peace (that leaves Germany dominant on the continent) so that British boys can be home by Xmas. The loss of the British army at Dunkirk would have been devastating to British morale. An offer to exchange 200,000 British POWs for an armistice would have been hard even for Churchill to resist.

2. Hitler accepts Stalin's secret peace offer in 1941 ceding the Baltics, White Russia, and the Ukraine to Germany in a second treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Rationality not be the Fuhrer's strong point, he rejected the offer and went for the whole ball of wax. As for Stalin, he fell into deep suicidal depression during the opening days of Barbarossa. He almost ate a bullet in is dacha outside of Moscow. Without him at the head of a very personalized totalitarian regime the USSR would have had to sort out a succession crisis and power struggle while facing German panzers.

These two events leave Germany dominating continental Europe with indirect control of the resources of the French, Italian, Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires (or creating their own Mittelafrika overseas empire).

Expect the Japanese to scoop up French Indochina and Dutch East Indies (America is not going to go to war to protect these colonies after Britain has signed an armistice) allowing them to defy the American boycott and continue their war in China. No Japanese oil shortage so no need to attack Pearl Harbor.

The war ends in 1941 with a shrunken and impotent Soviet Union, a German superpower in Europe, a Japanese superpower in Asia and an American superpower (with the draft and military funding finally passed) in the western hemisphere.

Britain and what's left of the empire/commonwealth would either seek American protection or be pulled into German's orbit. Canada, Australia and New Zealand definitively leaving the empire if necessary to join the Americans. Racist South Africa joining the Axis.

Lorraine said...

Tweet (actually thread) of the week: https://twitter.com/Klonick/status/1102970736497459200

to wit: "And it's a reminder that norms, not laws, govern a lot of our day to day personal privacy."

Larry Hart said...

@Daniel Duffy,

Your hypothetical WWII scenario is not all that different from the backstory in the alternative history novel Fatherland, which I highly recommend to anyone on this list. I compare and contrast it with Dr Brin's story, "Thor Meets Captain America". Both take place in a 1960s which have seen a kind of 20-year cold war between America and a German-dominated Europe.

Harris's novel, of course, has no supernatural or sci-fi elements to it (other than it being an alternative history), which I admit is a huge distinction.

Darrell E said...

The Nazis had several severe problems that led to their ultimate failure. I think the most significant factor in the lack of success of their super weapons was that they didn't have the resources to execute them properly. Take their tanks for one example. Amazing weapons, but with some critical flaws. Mainly the transmissions and other critical parts of the drive train that were not robust enough to reliably handle the loads they were subjected to. This was a result of the scarcity of the necessary materials and manufacturing capacity.

Of course the ultimate cause was poor strategic planning. The Nazis should have prioritized securing the resources and industrial capacity necessary to execute their plans. And of course they should not have invaded the Soviet Union as they did, and most especially should not have then allowed themselves to get stuck there through the winter.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The other guy would still be me up to the point of divergence of memory. As long as we were practically the same set of experiences and probably behaviors to events, Al#1 is indistinguishable from Al#2.


This is the source of porohobot's and my talking past each other on the subject. You seem to have an admirably philosophical view of what constitutes yourself--that a distinction that makes no difference to others is no difference at all. I still contend that it might make a big difference to you what the circumstances of your actual self is (In a dungeon? On a pleasant south-seas island? Dead?), irrespective of the impact of your replacement on others. Assuming that you genuinely enjoy the company of your wife and family, or that you feel satisfaction in your work, are you really so disinterested in the possibility of separation from those elements of your life, even if the other people are none the wiser?


Karl Popper had an extension for dualism into multiple worlds that weren't to be taken TOO seriously. World #1 and #2 were what Descartes would have recognized.


Any reader of pre-Crisis DC Comics also. :)


Consider, though, our host's book "The Postman". It exists in world #1 as instantiations. It exists in world #2 when we read it as the subjective incantation.


There's an inherent flaw in any popular story that takes place in the future--that someone in the story of (say) Soylent Green should be going, "Hey, this is just like that movie I remember from the seventies!"

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Of course the ultimate cause was poor strategic planning. The Nazis should have prioritized securing the resources and industrial capacity necessary to execute their plans. And of course they should not have invaded the Soviet Union as they did, and most especially should not have then allowed themselves to get stuck there through the winter.


In the Robert Harris novel I mentioned above, one difference between the alternate history and our own was that the Nazis had successfully cut the Soviet army off from their oil fields in the Caucuses. Another was that they realized the British had broken the Enigma codes and replaced their machines.

Strangely enough, the point of departure from our reality in that book seems to be that Reinhard Heydrich survived his assassination attempt (and is still alive in the book's 1964 setting). As if maybe his survival kept the Nazis from making some real-world mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ said...
"If you did have a map of all the neural connections of a human brain, dead or alive, is that enough to simulate it?


No.

You have to include the effects of hormones, gut bacteria, and parasites as well (although the latter act through hormones and (possibly) nutrient levels. (Not my field so don't have any good primary references.)

Darrell E said...

How about slime mold computing?

Slime Mold Can Solve Exponentially Complicated Problems in Linear Time

From the article . . .

"Researchers from Lanzhou University in China have shown that the slime mold Physarum polycephalum is able to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem, a combinatorial test with exponentially increasing complexity, in linear time. Using focused light stimulus as negative feedback to maintain the criteria of the task, the authors demonstrated that this model was able to reliably output a high-quality solution. This is the latest development among many biology-inspired approaches for advanced processing in the evolution of computing."

David Brin said...

There are almost-infinite numbers of "Alternate WWII" scenarios including Dick's "The Man in the High Castle," one of the earliest and most interesting.

But if your aim is plausibility, you must start by eliminating every scenario in which the Nazis get the bomb. They were never even in the same county, let alone ballpark. They MIGHT have developed crude nuclear reactors, as portrayed in THE TRINITY PARADOX, especially if they corrected their error re carbon as a moderator, and thus they could have developed filth bombs, which would only have made the US accelerate its pace.

Many what-if scenarios don't hold up. The british had a jet fighter that deployed at the end of the war and would have limited the ME262.

Counter to popular myth, the US did not need a tank to counter the tiger, since it did nicely with tracked artillery used as tank destroyers, which could also do other artillery functions. The tiger only prevailed in woods and urban fighting.

Likewise, the best overall tank of the war was... the Sherman. At El Alamein it beat every German tank till it met a few Tigers in Tunisia. At which point they had to learn team methods with infantry and tank destroyers and sheer numbers, which became easy as Shermans were outstandingly easy to build and to maintain. But above all, they were stunning infantry support weapons, their task 95% of the time.

The most important turning point of the war wasn't Dunkirk... Scholars don't think the Nazis could have crushed the beach zone much sooner. It was May 1941, when Brits were on the verge of smashing the Italians out of Africa, but instead sent divisions to help Greece, leading to a series of calamities and losses. But in doing so, they delayed the invasion of Russia by 6 precious weeks, saving the USSR so they could fight another day.

Jon S. said...

Darrel E: "How about slime mold computing?"

Shades of Star Trek: Voyager's bioneural gel-pack computers!

Duncan Cairncross said...

I would agree with Dr Brin
Dunkirk was not good tank country - and the German tanks would have been under the guns of British destroyers (not a good place)

More importantly at that point the French army was still larger and better equipped than the Germans - diverting to Dunkirk could have enabled the French to get their shit together and drive the Germans out

If Germany had retained the continent it would only have been until the "Tube Alloys" project was completed - with no need to build up forces for a pointless "D Day" the Brits would have continued the development in house

David Brin said...

Alas, the Brits had many smart choices but one of them was NOT how to refine U235. They persuaded Leslie Groves to invest billions in gaseous diffusion which never worked. Benford's novel THE BERLIN PROJECT posits we used the vastly better centrifuge method and got the bomb in time to use on Berlin.

David Brin said...

onward

onward