Sunday, February 05, 2006

More for the Predictions Registry... plus some humor...

First those predictions... again from Earth...

Kevin Kelly wrote in: “I love this guy's home approach to the transparent society. It's the future for us all.”

Kevin also comments that the planet-sized "Web" computer is already more complex than a human brain and has surpassed the 20-petahertz threshold for potential intelligence as calculated by Ray Kurzweil. In 10 years, it will be ubiquitous. So will superintelligence emerge on the Web, not a supercomputer?

Along similar lines: Nova Spivack has proposed a "collective self-awareness" Web service that is "like a 'Google Zeitgeist' on steroids, but with a lot more real-time, interactive, participatory data, technology and features in it. "The goal is to measure and visualize the state of the collective mind of humanity, and provide this back to humanity in as close to...

Functional magnetic resonance imaging has reached the level of sophistication required to identify states of mind, as shown in one recent experiment to measure levels of empathy, based on "pain-related areas" in the brain when a person is watching someone else in pain....

* Top 50 Inventions Popular Mechanics December 2005 * In the past half-century, scientific and technological advances have transformed our world. PM convened a panel of 25 experts to identify the breakthroughs of our time, from the TV remote control (1955) to IEEE 802.16, the metropolitan area network standard that functions like Wi-Fi (2002)....

Finally, I will follow up (in comments) with a bit of humor from the wunder-punster William Taylor.

Keep hoping.


David Brin said...

Here's a short humor story by one of the best humorists I know, WIlliam Taylor. It was supposed be be exactly 200 words... and barely made it...

The funniest story of 200 words

Two hundred words to make someone laugh?

Gotta be either a long joke or a short shaggy dog

I'll try for a joke.

So. An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scottsman
walk into a bar.

Naw. It's been done.

An English defendant, an Irish defendant, and a
Scottish defendant walk up to the bar.

On a Hollywood back lot, three carpenters, an
Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scottsman mock
up a bar.

Too location specific. Besides, it SAGs.

A parrot, a macaw, and a toucan squawk into a bar.

No. No. Avian humor doesn't fit my flight of fancy.
It could take a tern for perverse, or be hard to swallow
if the wellerisms run dry.

An English Bulldog, a Scottish Terrier, and an Irish
Wolfhound trot into a bar.


It's 1929 and a movie theater and they bark into a

No. No. No.

Too specific and way too esoteric.

And humor, when it's too esoteric, can be like
yelling "foyer!" in a crowded vestibule.

A catholic, a protestant and a sikh walk into a bar
mitzvah. The rabbi takes one look at the kirpan
and--oh, damn! I'm at two



Rob Perkins said...

heh. heh. heh.


Kurzweil: Regarding the usefulness and coming ubiquity of the Web, I confess today feeling a bit like the murder victim in Vinge's Marooned in Realtime whenever my internet connection goes down. I feel like half a person, without Google and its ilk to make me more informed that I'd otherwise be, every single time.

And to think, my grandparents never knew a world where a conversation with someone from another continent, or across this one for that matter, was as easy as settling on a common language.

Still, I keep doubting it'll ever completely replace books! :-) Publish us another story, David! :-D I'll buy it hardcover this time!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what kind of intelligence would come from the combined zeitgeist of the Internet, but I bet it would be at least half devoted to sex. Assuming we're going by the basic makeup of the INternet, anyway.

Which would...probably drive it crazy, really, since it's just a mass of stuff on computers. Or are they always having sex, and virii and stuff are computer STDs?

You know, I think that's more than far enough to take that train of thought.

Kagehi said...

> In 10 years, it will be ubiquitous. So will
> superintelligence emerge on the Web, not a supercomputer?

Umm, no. Why? Because the internet doesn't even have basic awareness. Its like hundreds of rooms, connected by huge numbers of halls, with a few tubes running between some of the rooms, where "specific" types of data get sent. Normal internet use involves leaving the room, wandering through all the halls and retrieving something. using the tubes amounts to little more than using the old nuematic tube systems that where once nearly ubiquitous as well. The only part of the system operating intelligently are the users, who *tell* the software what tasks to perform on the network. Even some things like web crawlers are not a possible source of intelligence, since they only collect data, not use it and are directly prevented by special rules from looking at some information. To create a global intelligence would require something like the CYC language project, but tied to software able to use the knowledge it gains to minipulate the information for various tasks, the capacity to learn or invent new tasks and to derive its own goals, without outside intervention. Due to the nature of the network, it would also require a lot of redundancy, so that if bits of it get cut off, it didn't suddenly die. Even if a limited version of such life where developed, without the capacity to evolve beyond its basic purpose, it could never grow more intelligent than was designed to be, thus the need to invent new tasks for itself.

I would no more expect the internet to develop an intelligent than an office building, not without something "significantly" different than what is currently in use. People predicting this sort of thing have watched Terminator a few too many times. lol

Anonymous said...

Nate said...
I'm not sure what kind of intelligence would come from the combined zeitgeist of the Internet, but I bet it would be at least half devoted to sex. Assuming we're going by the basic makeup of the INternet, anyway.

and racial hate sites..

Tony Fisk said...

David, you've mentioned these 200 and 500-word story exercises a few times here and there. There's a more extreme version: 50 word stories which, apparently, Brian Aldiss used as a sanity check while he was writing the Helliconia tomes. I remember the local newspaper publishing a selection of these (aka 'vignettes'). The contributions by Aldiss and Fred Forsyth were particularly pithy.

--- off topic ('roach alert! Shine a light in there!)
The NASA FY 2007 budget has got the Planetary Society in a lather. (comments here).

In a nutshell, all future funding into the space station, the shuttle, and its replacement.
Existing projects to be maintained, but most future space science has been deferred or cancelled (the Europa mission, the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission)

I know, the cake's only so big (although I note George is busy serving another large slice to his defence buddies), but if you put the nature of these cuts together with Stefan's little anecdote about edicts issued by the zealous fundamentalist NASA clerk appointed by Bush, one can easily imagine that some back room boys are busy reprinting the map of the heavens.

One where the warning: 'Here be God' appears a bit more frequently than it has.

Anonymous said...

A followup to the story about the GOP-flak turned PR-"commissar" at NASA:

As a conservative journalism major, you just had to know that George Deutsch have a paper trail, right?

Oh, yes indeedy:

You know, Mr. Deutsch's actions at NASA sound exactly like what an anti-modernist ideologue inspired by the "Wedge Strategy" would do in a position of power.

A thought:

Since the State of the Union address, the president has been touting the importance of math and science education in various speeches.

Nothing wrong with that, of course.

70,000 new math and science teachers? Hey, sounds good!

Of course, all this might just be empty posturing. A hollow promise, like the brave noises about exploring Mars and returning to the Moon.

But imagine if the Administration actually does come up with some money to hire new teachers and equip some science classrooms.

But . . . . science by its very nature is dangerous to conservatives and tyrants. If the feds come up with money, what ideological strings might be attached?

If conservatives have their way, science in America may come to be a intellectually gelded work animal, fitted with ideological blinders, firmly harnessed, and taken out of its stall strictly for the benefit of industry.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought for David Brin:

Earlier this year, you asked your blog readers about their proxy power setups; have you thought about monthly updates/renewed requests for those who haven't yet gotten on board?

David Brin said...

Stefan the answer to your wondering, about the Bush initiative to hire 70,000 more science teachers, appeared today, in the Administration's proposed budget.

There is almost no money at all devoted to doing that task. It was all hot air.

As for proxy power? Yes!

Anybody else care to step up and testify what they've done, joining some groups in order to delegate them to save the world FOR you?

Kagehi said...

"There is almost no money at all devoted to doing that task. It was all hot air."

Almost no? I was under the impression that Bush's plan calls for a 20% *decrease* from current levels in Department of Education funding. Guess he plans to pay for these people to the retrained (not hired), using pretty beads and blankets? lol

Rob Perkins said...

The arguments leave me a little cold, actually. Education funding is by and large a local-government thing anyway; we vote levies or bonds to build the schools, with the teachers paid by the State apparatus. Federal funds never account for more than a small fraction of our school district's funding.

Not that I wouldn't welcome a heady influx of cash for teachers, and for GOOD teachers at that, but the NEA and its attendant State unions don't select to pay GOOD teachers more, they select to pay OLD teachers more. So the likelihood isn't that federal money would go to hire more teachers or better, rather, it is that the Teacher's unions themselves would absorb the money in demands for higher salaries or better benefits.

Not that I wouldn't *also* welcome a more respected place in the world for teachers, heaven knows they ought to be paid more. But I'd also want to hold teachers much more accountable to standards than I think they are, (for example, I still despair at finding an elementary ed teacher who likes to teach or do math. The "specialists" they can hire hardly do better) so that GOOD teachers rose to the top of that particular pile. And I've had my share of overpaid bad teachers.

Rob Perkins said...

Michael, I only accept that if the institutional infrastructure around teachers doesn't coddle bad teachers, or bad teacher practice.

I've had teachers before who insisted to me that the word "mien" did not exist. That would be an example of a "bad teacher". (I had found the word in the dictionary the night before...)

And, I have friends in teaching, who seem to think that people go into it for the love of teaching, not just the love of the subject. One of those friends was brought on to teach Spanish at a high school, and after an altercation with one student's parents over her cheating on his final, was "not renewed" for the following year.

He had to find *better paying* work in industry because that school wouldn't employ a teacher who insisted that his students not cheat on their tests.

So there are situations where tossing money for teachers won't help at all.

Anonymous said...


Given all of the Kurzweil posts, it looks like you've discovered his latest book as well.

I have been on-and-off from this site over the months, though I was wondering if you were going to address the content of that book. (Have you already?) After all, Kurzweil does give some fairly specific timelines for his predictions.

I agree with Mr. Kurzweil that the increase in the pace of change is logrithmic. Back in the early 1990s I had set, in my mind and with no rigorous proof other than reading a few books (like Toffler's "War and Antiwar") and pondering for awhile, my own "technological Black Hole" date to be somewhere around the 2050s. I guess then that part of me agrees with Kurzweil that the shape of the logrithmic timeline is roughly what he says it is.

David, I would love to hear your opinion on that.


I agree that the Web, such as it currently is, will not be any more intelligent than an office building, no matter how many interconnections it has.

I am of the opinion that we will, in time, simulate human volition to the point of parity with real humans but that doesn't mean that the computers we design for the task will actually be conscious. Until we understand the real nature of experience, computers will just be toys-on-steroids. I differ strongly with Kurzweil in this regard, since I believe he has been systematically confusing both volition and experience (qualia) and lumping the two into the rubric of "consciousness." This confusion, along with the good prediction of the timeline along which we are likely to see parity simulations of human volition, have led him to an unfounded prediction of a timeline for the appearance of "conscious" computers and the next "evolutionary step." In other words I believe that Kurzweil is making a "strong AI" case for the technologies he is prognosticating about and has not paid much attention to the evolutionary steps needed to create true "strong AI."

Of course I could be wrong myself. Fortunately, there are concrete experiements that will be implemented--eventually--to help us get a better idea about what the nature of consciousness truly is. These experiments will come in the form of the incremental replacement and/or enhancement of the human brain through artificial devices. At what point does a patient who has had major portions of their occipital lobe replaced start reacting to images that they are not actually conscious of seeing? At what point do artificial brain replacements and enhancements start reproducing the "split brain" effect that is observed in patients with their corpus collosum severed? If it can be proven that those new "split brain" patients are actually wired into the rest of their brains properly (unlike the current split-brainers) then the conclusion will be reached that those replacement devices do not, in fact, reproduce the conscious experience. This will place a big dent in Kurzweil's timeline for "strong AI" unless a revolution in the understanding of qualaic experience is to be had in the mean time (this, Kurzweil has not made a case for).