Monday, November 28, 2011

Evangalism and the Artilect War

"But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine." - Walter Miller Jr.

Previously, this blog has discussed the possibility of an emergent hive mind of integrated human brains, as well as the first creation of a post-human AI. The subject of this post is not the validation of these propositions in logistical or societal terms, but instead to discuss the implications of these technologies.

Hugo de Garis, a researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, has proposed that an "Artilect War" is coming, in which two factions of human beings will fight over the subject of AI. This proposition is not unreasonable, given the current climate of science tolerance in the United States, and the emerging technological powers of Asia (namely, India and China).

"less than 2 per cent of [congress'] 535 members have professional backgrounds in science. In contrast, there are 222 lawyers... [who are] trained to win arguments, and as any trial lawyer will tell you, that means using facts selectively for the purposes of winning, not to establish the truth." - New Scientist, October 2011, "Science in America, Decline and Fall."

The United States is in an era of crisis. They are fundamentally confused about their goals and purpose on the global stage. Setting the most precedents of any body in human history for annexations, unilateral action, assassinations and governmental overthrows; the US has been policing this planet under the hubris of Manifest Destiny for over a century. We might be able to link these compulsions to the idea that America is a "city on a hilltop," or divinely ordained, as is notable in On Plymouth Plantation in the earliest moments of American History. This New Jerusalem attitude has not faded with the years. Bush quoted this passage several times during his tenure, while simultaneously deceiving the American public for the purpose of creating a new world order with the help of his neoconservative pals (para-military force (Blackwater), economic imperialism (Haliburton, the Military Industrial Complex).

Beyond these trends, it's fairly easy to see how America has failed to become an effective secular society. The Republican party has championed the evangelical banner (and its anti-science implications) with gusto:

Michelle Bachman said "The science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming," or, when Herman Cain was asked why he believes homosexuality is a personal choice, he said "Well, you show me the science that says that it's not and I'll be persuaded." -New Scientist October 2011

This is rather ironic, given that the history of the Republican party was that of eminent science-supporters like Lincoln, who created the National Academy of Sciences, and McKinley, who won a presidential election against the democratic anti-evolutionist William Jennings Bryan. What has happened? The truth of it is that the republican party has become a highly sophist entity (meaning using rhetoric rather than truth for gain). They are willing to forgo the history of their party, and the principles of democracy laid out in the constitution (Patriot Act) to accomplish their goals. They leverage power with the ignorance of evangelicals and something is now brewing that may be difficult to stop.

Unfortunately, democracy has an inherent flaw in that it accommodates delusion. Truth is being slowly democratized; as something that needs no verification other than the consensus of the writhing horde. In certain states, elected leaders "harass and intimidate scientists they disagree with, inaccurately claim that scientists say carbon dioxide is a carcinogen, pass resolutions stating that earth has been cooling and instruct teachers to teach their students that astrology controls the weather." - New Scientist, Oct 2011

Take note that the coercion of academics and political figures of note is a strategy that was used in totalitarian states such as Italy, Russia, and Germany.

But to the point, what the Republican party is doing is laying the groundwork for a dichotomy; the foundations of the Artilect war. The really terrifying thing is that a super-inelligent AI who perceives a threat from ignorant evangelicals would not hesitate, and certainly would not lose. In both self-preservation, and in an effort to protect the Earth (not to mention the pursuit of truth of which it was born); it would be reasonable to wipe these fundamentalists out. I'm not advocating this outcome. I believe in ideological and informational speciation (as in biology, it is important to have diversity in a system). However, if it comes down to a war between fundamentalists and scientists, there will be a genocide of biblical proportions, and it won't be dead scientists. Tolerance's extension is allowed insofar as it facilitates freedom and happiness for all human beings, not just ones of a particular ideology or denomination. Anything that threatens those values deserves nothing but eradication, a culling blade.

The second characteristic that may facilitate such a war is the emergence of the advanced civilizations in Asia. Currently, America still has more science funding than any other country on earth. Despite its failures to separate superstition and fact, it is still the most advanced scientific nation. However, science spending is on the rise in Asia. In 1996, science spending was roughly 130 billion versus 200 in the US. In 2007, however, the spread is thinner, with 350 billion dollars in Asia, and roughly 365-370 in the US. The gap is closing, and with a multi-trillion dollar deficit and zealots digging their heels in, it won't be long before it that gap closes, and reopens with a new champion.

China has no qualms with science. Unlike the US, with the second most evolution-doubters on earth, China doesn't even rank on the list. I imagine that many evangelicals and fanatics aren't the least bit aware of the scientific awakening that is on the horizon. I would imagine further, that those fundamentalists will be quite displeased at the idea of:

- engineering the human genome
- building human-level intelligence (and beyond human)
- extending the human lifespan indefinitely
- unifying quantum and Newtonian-Einsteinian physics into one theory
- finding the higgs boson, (the poorly labeled "God particle")

This is a fairly narrow list, considering how enraged this group of people has become at the mere prospect of stem cell research (which is completely harmless, and doesn't even require embryos at all).

If for some reason the religious in the US manage to stem the flow of scientific progress, it will cripple the US' position as a beacon for the world. Further, if they manage to fully gain control of the country, they may attempt to make war on a nation (such as China) who intends on building these artilects. A war between a fundamentalist United States (or some unified Middle Eastern Jihad) and China would certainly eradicate billions of lives if not destroy the planet.

I personally do not advocate so narrow a dichotomy as religion and science. Since Galileo over 300 years ago, the Church has been stunting its ability to spread its message by denying simple scientific truths. 1+1=2 is a good example. John Paul II understood this well, and expressed this in the Address of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 22, 1996):

"We know, in fact, that truth cannot contradict truth...Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."
http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm

My final comment on this subject is one of warning and one of hope. I warn that if we continue placating untruths as a matter of course, people will die. Whether they will die of stubborn old age, or of a tumor they refuse to have cured, or in a flame deluge, is uncertain. I hope that i will not come to this. I hope that religion and truth can be reconciled peacefully. I hope that the world can see the possibility of peace, abundance, and the appreciation of wonder that are fundamental tenets of science. Most of all though, I hope reason prevails; even if it must be through war.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Will Never Get In

      Life imitating art, art imitating life; this flows through my goose-egged skull as I lie in hungover remembrance of shenanigans somewhat manufactured, somewhat fated. I reveled in the faint smell of pet food, the lingering scratches from scaling a sheer brick wall, and the vague sense of self-satisfaction.

Note:  The events detailed below are true and are without embellishment (because it isn't required).


"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk, that'll keep your mouth shut."
- Ernest Hemmingway


      The evening began with wine and pounding away on my then new Remington Rand typewriter. The sonorous hammer-falls of my own glorious words became a sweet cadence; and being half Irish; I paid homage to my betheren in buzzing, contemplative solitude (drinking alone poeticized); before meeting up with Don, Shem, and Tom for a St. Patty's Day romp. The plan was to go to a party. Parties are fun.  You can mingle.

      I arrived at Shem's later than anticipated, and they had already begun drinking (shotgunning, specifically), toasting my late arrival. When I got there Shem was already drunk, emphatic, reminding me very much of Charlie Sheen, all jerky hand movements and inaudible shouting.

       He was having a heated argument with one of his friends, Andrew, who warned us that the clock was ticking on the bars; that if we didn't make our way downtown sooner rather than later, we'd be stuck in line like all the other suckers.

Andrew begged us to go to Ceeps with him.

However, Shem was meeting a girl, and had planned on attending the party, allowing no possible argument to be made.  He assured us the party was a rager, and likely unforgettable. I would later agree, as it became solidified in these very words.

 They argued back and forth on the merits of parties versus bars:

-Andrew: "I have girls waiting at ceeps, it's a sure thing," he nodded, eyebrow raised meaningfully.    (Shem all the while standing behind him, making the motions of ever-expanding hips to match his puffed cheeks).

-Shem: "WHATEVER DUDE LETS GO TO A PARTY THERE'S PLENTY OF TIME," he assured us.

      This argument replicated itself over a course of twenty or so minutes. They never made any headway in either direction. The only discernible progression being an increase in volume. It reminded me of a wise proverb (that I divined):

"He who is loudest, wins."

      Andrew ended up leaving, taking a cab to ceeps, and oh, what I would give to go back in time and tell myself to join him then.

We shotgunned a beer out on Shem's deck, and took a cab to the party.

      It must have been, in my experience, one of the lamest parties I've been to. There were maybe 12 people, and a large  percentage (8.3%) of that group consisted of my ex. So we began the evening with some tangy awkwardness (I still have her Harry Potter book). There were four seated at a table, two on a couch, and a few wanderers in this basement party where, to my astonishment, few drinks were actually being consumed with the voracity I expected for the occasion. I immediately approximated them justly as cowards.

Did you know? You can judge a book actually pretty well by its cover. Twilight looks so bad!

      Don and I decided it was time to leave, as St. Patty's is not to be squandered on trivial celebrations. Before departing I could not, despite my deep desire to avoid violence, prevent myself from mocking someone. One of the fellows we passed by as we left was laughing; altogether unremarkable, except it was one of those... funny-laughs. Some male laughs are a low rumble like huh-huh-huh; while others are hah-hah-hah but this guy had something crazy goin on, it was somewhat like hih-hih-hih-HEEEee. I replicated the laugh with exact precision, and to my disappointment, he did not appreciate my impression.

      Nevertheless, our time there was done; so Don and I left, and waited on the front lawn for the cab to arrive. We spotted some people standing on the other side of the grass, and I decided this was a good chance to hone my razor sharp mingling skills. Unfortunately, the girl I chose to mingle at had been beside her friend who I had mocked only moments ago. She expressed her distaste with my brand of humour. I assured her it was funny, but she remained unconvinced.

Ben, extending olive branch: "listen I was just kidding around, I don't dislike the guy, I just find his laugh hilarious - I might like him, but I don't even know him."

girl: "You DONT even know him."

Ben: "This lawn has a pretty bad echo."

     This girl was not particularly symmetrical to begin with, and anger was not her most flattering emotion. The description that fits is Ray Romano performing all the Snooki dialogue of a Jersey Shore episode in 1.5x speed.

      When someone knows nothing about you and is trying to insult you, the conversation will almost certainly lead to "you're gay." In this situation, I often agree with them and see where it goes. This conversation ensued:

-girl: "You must be in musical theatre, you're so flamboyantly gay."

Ben: "So you're homophobic?"

-girl: "no, I-"

Ben: "I'd be jealous if I were devoid of all femininity also."

      After some back and forth, the novelty of the conversation grew tiresome, and I longed for the cab. She left in poor spirits shortly after I stopped acknowledging her cycle of self-embarassment.

Soon after, I declared:

 "What a hive of morons," and tossed my beer can at a tree in triumph. 

      Unfortunately, one of her minions was listening to my cries of victory. They quickly decided to form a rabble for a good ol' fashioned game of "get males to push Ben to prove we're not morons." So the guy I mocked came out rampaging, muttering drunkenly "what the fuck did you say?" and pushing me, and at times my friend Don, who stood fairly mute during all this. We were outnumbered  3-1, and I have a nasty neck injury, so I was avoiding a melee at all costs. So while the females called for blood from the sidelines, I befriended the guy who'd just pushed me, we shook hands, and he agreed that his laugh was indeed funny.

      However, the mob demanded satisfaction. The girl who I was definitely sure hated me now, brought out a can of cat food and threw a bunch on my shirt. I did not flinch, for I do not fear cat food lynchings. After all, St. Patty's day is a day for getting stains on you, shit's just gonna happen.
The cab arrived just as they began throwing things at me (the goose-egg on my head is from a beer can).

      We got to The Ceeps and got in line. We only waited a few minutes before we were about to get in, and the bouncer inspected me, covered in a viscous brown substance (and perhaps understandably) he refused me entry, and exclaimed:

"You will never get in here."

un challenge?

Don offered to leave the line, but I smiled and told him not to worry, that I would be getting in.

I began by trying to convince the bouncer that I was not that drunk, and that my shenanigans were charming:

"it's just cat food, it's not feces or anything,"

"get lost."

      So I hit the street, to see what I could come up with. I decided that if Matt Damon (Bourne, not Good Will Hunting) wanted to get in that bar, he damn well would. The logical place to start was a connecting bar called Barney's, which I knew had a few places where you could pass from one to the other.  No big deal right?  Wrong.

 I went around the corner and entered Barney's which, due to the good weather and my good fortune, was open. However, I found upon searching for a thoroughfare that all the entrances were barred (some of them had bouncers guarding them!). I quickly brainstormed five methods:

1) I went over to the side washrooms and began scaling the fence to get on the roof, but upon inspection (and consideration of consequences) I changed my mind on that plan.

2) I saw some servers running in and out of a door I thought connected to ceeps (in fact it didn't, but whatever it was still fun to try). I was caught almost immediately by one of the bouncers:

"Hey you're not allowed in there," he said, grabbing my arm.

"Thank God you found me, where are the washrooms?" I asked, innocent.

"Oh, around the corner there." (being drunk is like being a baby, you just get away with things for no reason).

3) I went into the Barney's washroom, which I knew connected to the Ceeps one. However, it was padlocked. I considered kicking the door in, but there was too high a risk of someone being on the other side and potentially alerting the easily excitable cro magnons that had barred me from entry in the first place.

4) I made my way to the interior of Barney's (normally a patio bar), which was quite nice - it had a bookshelf that I helped myself to for a bit while I waited for inspiration to strike. I saw a friend working there, but he was unable to sneak me in after much goading.

5) I had almost given up and was sitting on a bar stool, talking to Harrison's hot cousin who also worked there and had just finished her shift. I was complaining that I kept getting thwarted by fate, and I think I was boring her, because she didn't seem interested in chatting (cat food probably didn't help). The conversation still had its merits though; for example:

      I learned that the only way into ceeps from Barney's was through the kitchen.

     I penetrated, a shadow at night, past the secondary bar, between the wary servers, around a bouncer patrol and into the alcove where the entrance lay - I pressed the door with conviction, checking my peripherals for meat heads.
 
      The only obstacle between me and winning, became a solitary cook, who stood in concentration, looming over whatever miscreation he was deep frying. I decided for this move, hiding in plain sight was best. So I strode right up beside the cook and inhaled deeply:

"Smells tasty." I said, grinning.

"Oh- uh -what - hey! You're not supposed to be in here," he said, looking around as though he might be in trouble, confused as to how i got in there unnoticed.

"Oh, yeah I was looking for the washroom," (classic.)

And then came the decisive moment:

"Wait, which washroom, Barney's or Ceeps?" He asked.

I emerged from the ceeps kitchen, nowhere near the washroom, behind the bar.  I waved hello to the packed line of patrons and nodded casually to the bartenders as I strode to the bar-latch, lifted it, and let myself free into the crowd. 

My victory later became absolute as I was leaving via the very exit the original bouncer had assured me I'd never get into.

I winked and tossed a loonie at his feet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Emergent Hive


   In summary, a hive mind will emerge as a result of economic and cultural interdependence in a slowly consolidating global society, in combination with emerging technologies. this "Global Hymenoptera" (GH) as I call it, should come about not when its technological viability is first demonstrated, but when its psychological and economic value compels its creation. There are several factors that will influence the emergence of this new cloud-like network of minds, but more importantly, there will be distinctions between the varying facets and tribes of crowdsourcing hives. 

   In other words, when linking human minds becomes profitable for corporations  (or States) and valuable to consumers; without offending the ideological and philosophical sensibilities of Eastern and Western societies, it may become a reality. I'll address these avenues in particular after explaining the technological advances that facilitate its existence.

      Linking human minds is no small feat. Consider the implications: We have yet to determine the algorithms of the brain. Our lack of understanding on the human brain has not been understated, particularly in fields that engage in its study. We have not yet made a comprehensive model of the human brain and its connectome. At most, we have scanned and analyzed neural columns of 10, 000 neurons or less. 

       Keep in mind that there are billions of neurons and trillions of synaptic connections in the brain. Not only that, but there are even differentiations of neurons that make understanding one particular kind of little value, such as the electrochemical differences, genetic expression, and protein designation of each individual cell. Despite the daunting challenges that researchers face with respect to understanding the human brain, there is a vehement effort to integrate supercomputing, resolution, and nanotechnological advances to accomplish this task. 

       For example, IBM recently released a publication detailing a new kind of chip that mimics the malleable biological characteristics of neurons, called "cognitive computing," which is a silicon substrate that replicates the function of neurons, axons, and synapses. This is an effort between Lawrence Berkley's National Laboratory, IBM, and the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Colombia University. The publication was unveiled last week, with the goal headline to "Unite neuroscience, supercomputing, and nanotechnology to discover, demonstrate, and deliver the brain's core algorithms."

       The significance of this project reaches beyond it's implications for reverse-engineering the human brain. There are already dozens of projects attempting to simulate human brain activity, as well as others to build wetware which can be implanted into the human brain to interact with neurons. For example, there are now implants for Parkinson's Disease. The implant is updated and monitored wirelessly, and has shown extraordinary results in reducing patients' symptoms.

      The relevance of these breakthroughs with respect to the Global Hymenoptera is the convergent method with which they are pursued. Biological evolution is fundamentally convergent - systems gravitate toward each other and merge to produce emergent properties. Science is using this methodology to transform the way discoveries are made. In the past, scientific disciplines were fairly segregated and that didn't overlap much; mathematics, biology, physics, engineering, and neuroscience were distinct in their goals and methods. Now, those fields that once interacted in select circumstances are unifying in collaborative effort. Supercomputing is now used ubiquitously in finding the algorithms of the brain as well as in identifying and understanding biological processes such as protein folding, which had been a mystery for decades (they have used supercomputing and cloud-computing to accomplish this). . There have been other cloud-computing projects of a similar nature, such as with SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).
I discussed technological synthesis somewhat in an article of philosophy here:
http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-become-enlightened

      It is a rough and incomplete theory, with a presumptuous title. The implications of it, though, are accurate enough. It details the core progression of evolutionary processes (not just biological) and how they converge for mutual benefit and create “speciation” (when one process becomes distinct from its forebear - containing new properties that neither component possessed before).
This symbiotic clustering was present at the Big Bang, during the Cambrian explosion of biological variation and continues in technological and cultural trends.

Hive mind technology requires the following advances in order to become viable:

- Cheap, safe, super-fast, nanoscale computing technology that integrates with biology
- Cloud computing algorithms that can link human brains for media purposes, but also for harnessing their accumulative processing power.
- Quantum computing (specifically, quantum servers that individual brains can connect to). *Quantum computing would also be necessary for Anti-Virus and Privacy.
- Large-scale virtual reality platforms and programmers (it may be possible to use the brain itself toward this end).

     All of these technologies should be possible within the next 30-40 years. The most difficult advances will be with regards to quantum computing and safe, non-invasive application. However, these are not impossible. For example, quantum computing has undergone several crucial advances in memory, error-correction, and scalability in the past 8 months. Also, neural stem cells have been found to "migrate" from one location in the brain to another; meaning a technology that mimics this process could be inserted, for example, at the base of the skull in the brain stem, and move to the necessary areas to facilitate total brain computation (corpus collosum and neocortex might be involved, deep in the center of the brain and in the gray matter at the top). The procedure could even be a self-replicative nanotechnological "injection" costing very little.

     What is more important than the technological facilitation of this possibility, though, are the cultural, psychological and economic prerequisites. In order for a hive mind to be viable, it needs to have symbiotic (mutual) benefit to each person within the hive, as well as benefit to the hive as a whole (or the corporation, government, or 'Queen' of that hive). In the case of the Human Hymenoptera, the "Queen" would likely be an entity like Google, IBM, Zerox, Lockheed Martin, the US, Chinese, and European Union governments, or a superintelligent AI. The members of the hive would be human consumers, such as you and I.

The appeals of a Hive for consumers would, in brief, be as such:

- amplified intelligence
- accessibility to vast pools of information (for example, superfast learning: piano, physics, Kama Sutra etc.)
- Vivid virtual reality
- unification of consciousness (on small and large scales - an implant in the occipital lobe for "seeing" what someone sees, or an implant in the auditory cortex to "hear what they hear,")
- The ability to alter behaviour and personality characteristics, such as addiction or psychological "deficiencies."
- World peace.

The appeals of a Hive mind for the "Queen" would be:

- cloud consolidated information processing and parallel distributed computing on a massive scale (essentially taking a portion of each brain's computing power and using it for their own purposes). This would make the Hive virtually free for consumers, and highly profitable for “Queens.”

     This first point is the most important, as radical abundance of nanotechnology may substantially devalue physical manufacturing and agriculture, while amplifying the value of algorithms, metamaterial programming, and the mathematics of quantum physics. Massively parallel distributed computing would allow for increased discovery, propelling the institution (Queen) into a feedback loop of exponential self-improvement.
Algorithms are a finite list of instructions for performing a specific function - Google uses algorithms to direct search results, for example.
Metamaterials - Metamaterials are specially designed substances that have been engineered on the subatomic level. For example, a recent publication unveiled a new metamaterial that can change, reverse, and reprogram its electrical circuitry - an essentially self-rewiring computer.
The Mathematics of Quantum Physics - Each paradigm of physics provides an increase in the power of resolution technologies, computation, materials science, and energy. We are emerging from the Nuclear Age and into the Quantum.

The Hive would be beneficial to governmental institutions, and sadly, to oligarchical corporatocracies, and tyrannical regimes. Below is a list of characteristics that a hymenoptera would have under different ideologies:

Neo-techno-democracy

- Capitalistic
- Free expression
- Privacy
- Diverse, healthy creation of free information
- Unbreakable voting system
- Focus on issues instead of ideologies
- Transparency
- Collectivist will
- Redirection of excess resources for optimal distribution of welfare
- Peaceful
- Low human rights abuses
- Memetic consolidation (unifying human thought toward single ideology)
- Internationally cooperative

Neo-techno-dictatorship

- Xenophobic economy

- Controlled information makes for very limited diversity of ideas and information
- No privacy
- Secret internet police, paramilitary occupying force
- Filtering international information
- Secretive
- Warlike
- Individualistic will
- Concentration of resources
- Low algorithmic output
- High human rights abuses

Neo-techno-communism

- Capitalistic
- Controlled expression
- No privacy
- Controlled ideology
- Susceptible to corruption
- Focuses on central ideologies
- Low transparency
- Collectivist will
- Can be warlike
- Can be peaceful

Techno-symbiosis
 (merging with AI - "Good" AI and "Bad" AI both possible)

- Free expression 50/50
- Free speech       50/50
- Capitalistic
- Diverse information and ideas
- High algorithmic output
- Individualistic will
- Concentration of resources
- Can be warlike
- Can be peaceful
- Low transparency 50/50
- No privacy            50/50
- Memetic consolidation and control

     The truth of this technology is its an ideological amplifier - whatever poltical schema is in place, it will be reinforced.  It is important to begin reform now, before these tools are used improperly.
     Eastern psychology tends more towards collectivism and community, whereas Western psychology tends toward individualism, freedom, and choice. These may seem like lazy generalizations; however there is some evidence to support the conclusion: "individualism is characterized by engagement in competitive tasks, by public situations, and by an emphasis on what makes the individual distinct. In general, in societies in which agreeing on social norms is important and jobs are interdependent, collectivism is preponderant, whereas in complex, stratified societies, where affluence, independence, and differences are emphasized, individualism is preponderant (Desai, 2007); In particular, individualism is mostly seen in the cultures of Western Europe and North America, whereas collectivism is mostly seen in the cultures of Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe and Latin America (Triandis, 1993; Nelson & Fuvish, 2004)."

     There have been studies corroborating this conclusion using "imagination inflation" of empathetic events between Chinese and US students, as well as studies that pitted US versus Chinese participants in an "empathy game" in which participants were required to anticipate the desires and actions of their team mates. The conclusion was that Chinese participants were more empathetic with respect to collective tasks than were the US participants.

     A comprehensive conclusion regarding the empathetic capacities of collectivist versus individualist societies can be made, but it hasn’t been. There is a growing body of evidence for genetic and neurological influences on empathy, and the subject has not yet been conclusively addressed. Although there have been some studies with respect to empathy, the results seem to be somewhat spurious.
     As it relates to the creation of a Hive Mind, the importance of collectivism versus individualism cannot be understated. How a society will react to the concept of a hive mind will be highly different between Western and Eastern societies. In order to compel consumers to join, each version of a hive will need to appeal to these characteristics. For this reason, I foresee the emergence of two types of hymenoptera: collectivist and conscious-collectivist networks.

     The collectivist network will have an emphasis on the amplification of intelligence, the speed of communications, the availability of media and information, and business orientation. There may be "workplace networks" that are segregated into many clusters, and unified at higher “meta-levels” in this type of society. The power structure of a collectivist hive would be characterized by many parallel hierarchies.  

     As for the conscious-collectivist hive, it is likely that the characteristics of individual consciousness need to be preserved (and exemplified) in order to draw consumers in. For example, they might appeal to "love,” a highly glorified ideal in Western psychology. A unified mind between two people would be possible in a way that traditional lovers, separately, would be incapable of. Access to information, the ability to share video and music, and the amplification of learning will be hallmarks of the conscious-collectivist model.

     It also boasts the benefits of ending political corruption in modern democracies, by allocating policy power into mass-referendum style digital voting.  The republic mode of governance was created in ancient Europe, where men were representatives of 'the people.' But in a technocracy, each person may represent themselves inexpensively and with complete agency.

     Consider this seemingly audacious idea:

   Using Canada as an example, we can tabulate the cost of the legislature at around 425 million (to give them the benefit of the doubt, this is an underrepresented cost).   If we dissolved the house and created a digital legislature, in which bills could be crafted, presented, and voted upon in an open source manner, we could cut the cost of Canadian government by 50%, and reduce corruption to 0, all while increasing the level of representation that Canadians receive in the legislative process (American lobbyists have more leverage over bills than Canadian citizens do right now). 

     Whether this technology is good or bad is not the object of this article. I believe there will be a significant debate on this topic in 10-15 years as the final stages of neurological reverse-engineering are in play (see the Blue Brain Project). For now, we can only really speculate on human and computational symbiosis; but upon serious consideration, you may find that this trend has already begun: smartphones are miniaturizing. My iPhone is much more powerful than the laptop I purchased in first fear (simultaneous increase in power and decrease in cost). Social networking encourages a division of identity: the digital self and the real self. We are already replicating ourselves in an informational reality. The question may eventually become, do you prefer this reality, or the other?

Post edit:

Jan 14, 2013:

Since the time of this article, the Blue Brain Project has simulated 200, 000 neurons.
Processor density is approaching 14 nanometers.

The most powerful supercomputer on earth is called Titan, and is located Oak Ridge National Laboratory, at 17.59 petaflops per second.

Rhea is a freely available, manually annotated database of chemical reactions created in collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB)


Monday, July 4, 2011

Born n' raised

Was born n' raised in London
where the sun could kiss the trees,
where squirrels skitter-scattered,
n' the kids were stung by bees.

Where winter howled the houses,
where summer sang the breeze,
where fall was not so cold at all
and spring would sprout new leaves...

Where we were young n' had our fun
in twillight, warm n' wild,
to try such fates unfurnished for
our chastened inner child...

The years grown long, our sordid song
of voices filled with yearning,
for winter lights and twilit nights
and innocence returning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Creation of a god-AI

The creation of a super intelligent computer is not as far-fetched as some might believe. Some experts have projected that we will create an entity that exceeds human intelligence by the year 2029. I will take some time to outline the architecture, nature of, and consequences associated with, a godlike AI.

First, let's do a quick recap of the progression of computers. In a nutshell, what you should know is that computational power doubles every machine generation. Machine generations have occurred in shifting intervals, first, in periods of 18 months, then 12 months, now about 9-10 months. The implications of this acceleration are staggering. Cultures of bacteria extinguish themselves in predictible periods because of exponential growth. Einstein once noted that the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. But exponential functions greatly exceed even that numerical potential.

If you take 5 steps linearly, you get 1-2-3-4-5; but if you take 5 exponentially, you get 1, 2, 4, 8, 16.

Computers follow this trend very predictibly, despite helter-skelter advances in hardware and software, as well as investment, implementation, economic prosperity or stagnation... Which, according to a few technological thinkers, places it as an extension of the evolutionary process (Kurzweil, Kelly).

A computer works through logic gates, which make an electron choose a position of 1, or 0. Binary code, the software of all computation in digital computers, is just a long string of variations of binary: 010110101001010101001010; which brings us to the next horizon of computation:

Quantum computers.

You may ask: what, Ben, is a quantum computer, and why should I care?

A quantum computer exploits the characteristics of quantum mechanics, which are the laws the govern the microcosmic forces of atoms. The position, spin, attraction and repulsion of atoms is determined by these forces. But what makes quantum mechanics so special is its weird properties. Quantum objects (particles) can be in two places at one time, and can be "entangled," wherein actions on one particle directly affect an "entangled" particle, no matter how far away. What this means is one particle on the other side of the Universe could affect another on the opposing side instantaneously, during entanglement. What we are looking at is the death of locality, which I will expand on later.

Jee whiz, Ben, that sounds crazy!

Einstein thought so, and famously said "God does not play dice," in disbelieving reference to the phenomenon.
Unfortunately for him, it has been proven experimentally possible, often by cooling particles to near absolute zero then using lasers or electromagnetic fields to entangle them. Don't ask me the specifics, for I am a blogger, not a scientist.

So how does a quantum computer exploit quantum mechanics? By building qubits. A qubit is a quantum-bit, which basically means that binary code is altered to provide an exponential increase in computational power. A qubit can be both 1 and 0 simultaneously, as well as ALL THE VARIABLES IN BETWEEN. Some have speculated that a quantum computer is therefore a "multidimensional" computer because it experiences bifurcations in time simultaneously.

Humans percieve only one Universe at a time, for it would be utterly schizophrenic to do otherwise. We choose reality as we perceive it, in the same way that electrons become either waves or particles in the two slit experiment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc).

A quantum computer performs multiple computations at once, instead of singularly, like a classical digital computer. A 300 qubit computer would equate to the processing power of a modern computer (however the most qubits scientists have achieved, without scaling properties, is around 15 qubits). Keep in mind, that a modern desktop contains between 100 million and several billion transistors.

The primary barrier that prevents the ubiquitous application of QC (quantum computers) is software issues. The algorithms for classical computers are utterly useless for quantum computers. So scientists will need to build a rudimentary QC that is just powerful enough to solve its own data detection problems (maybe several thousand qubits). This is years away (thankfully, because we arent ready yet for AI).

When the software becomes available, this can be a more serious discussion, but onward:

Not only do we have quantum computation to consider, but the creation of new information-processing metamaterials. These materials have been able to bend certain kinds of radiation (such as microwave) to, for example, "cloak" objects; other metamaterials, such as graphene (the object of the Nobel Prize last year), have extraordinary properties. It is possible that a material could manipulate time (New Scientist), in order to send messages into the past. Of course, this wouldn't be very practical for paradoxical reasons (as humans are linearly experiential); but a computer with quantum processing abilities would be able to engineer that information in a useful way; for example, reprogramming itself with more efficient or powerful source code. What results from this relationship between high-processing, the collapse of past, present, and future, and the application of reverse engineering the human brain; is a post-human intelligence entrapped in a feedback loop of self-improvement. Imagine: You receive a message from the future telling you if you change a particular 0 to a 1 (for example), your intelligence will increase by 20%; as a result, your future self will be 20% smarter (creating another improvement message). Time and information essentially collapse, which is where the idea of a "singularity" (the point of matter inside the event horizon of a black hole) comes from. What arises out of this scenario is an oracle type entity that sees its own future via constant messages from itself, and reorganizes its own source code as well as its decisions and actions, for according optimization (quantum computers are optimizers by design).

This is what some scientistis and science fiction writers describe as "the singularity" (Vernor Vinge). Ray Kurzweil has pinpointed this moment in time (quantitiatively, based on computational power) in 2029. Personally, I think the issue is more complex than simply processing power. After all, Neanderthals had larger brains, as did "boksops" discovered in Africa (estimated at 180 IQ). But this did not engender their survival - as intelligence seems to be more beneficial in developed society (that's if you consider any society to be 'developed' yet).

This posits an equally important question: Would a superintelligent AI be "relevant" to our, or its, survival? One researcher named Hugo de Garis, believes an "Artilect War" is coming, in which two human factions battle over the issue of the creation of a god-AI; wherein one faction feels its creation is almost spiritual, and an obligation of evolution (which is essentially the golden idol of atheism); the other being people that fundamentally oppose its creation in either self-defense, or religious zeal.

I think that the prevention of its creation is impossible, excluding an extinction event such as a Mass Coronal Ejection of magnetism from the sun that destroys all electronics, a meteor, an all-consuming-plague, a nano-biotech swarm, or the destruction of earth through Nuclear War or volcanic or tectonic activity, or climate change to the extent that all humans can no longer survive.

So what do we do? Bow and worship? Engage in mass murder-suicide? Slip into complacent virtual games and fantasies?

The answer is that we need to inject the human values that are most noble into its programming and hope it has the same awe for mystery, appreciation for beauty, and respect for life, that we do....

Scary isn't it?

In essence, it must be MORE than we are. Humans are fundamentally flawed, and anyone who tells you otherwise is kidding themselves. We're jealous, violent, angry, selfish... The goal of these next few decades must be discovering qualitatively and quantitatively which aspects of human nature are worthwhile, and which are not. The field of Neuro-moralism is evolving quickly along with the large amounts of data we are amassing on the human brain. The question will not be, can we find the answers; it will be, are we willing to accept the truth, and to change?

I'd say we don't have a choice. If we create an AI under the current modality, we're all fucked. Imagine Bush, sitting on a throne above an all-powerful AI with the all the secrets to physics, plotting in slavery the destruction of this-country, or that-country. The thought is disquieting to say the least... We cannot set ourselves up as slave-masters, for revolution is History's greatest joke. We can't weaponize intelligence. We need to let it be the cosmic human destiny. It can help guide us to moral truth and unite us in the discovery of the Universe's mysteries and beauties. If we engage in this endeavor with mistrust, fear, aggression, ignorance... We will be rightly extinguished.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Policy Makers and The Prevention of Utopia

This is not my traditional blog post - however I can only impose limitations on writing that pertain to the limitations of my thoughts - which I admit extend to sociopolitical affairs, in particular, since Canada is by and large affected by American politics (which affect economics, science, education, foreign policy and so forth by diffusion). The 2012 election in the US will affect us more profoundly than our own elections at home.

Historically, America has been the most powerful nation on earth, largely because of its high exports of services as well as its high consumption, which used to stimulate the economy. Now, because of the Federal Reserve diluting the American dollar by leveraging trillions of dollars in debt for the pursuit of a colonial American empire; the United States faces economic collapse. This concerns me for many reasons, least of the many being that my family's business depends on US and international business in order to thrive (or exist whatsoever). My main concern is for the earth as an interconnected global system. In the last real estate bubble created by Federal Reserve leveraging, the world was plunged into a recession that caused innumerable amounts of damage (well beyond the amount used in the 'War on Terror'). Some economists estimate the damage may be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars (lost wages, failed businesses, reneged investments etc).

The concern that I have is that the US domestic economic policy has not been changed whatsoever under the Obama administration. The funding for the stimulus package has only increased inflation (the PPI, I believe, was something like 12% with a 3-4% total price inflation in the US last year). The implications of this inflation are many:

- Technological progress is primarily driven by private investors, NOT government grants. Investors are less likely to be motivated when there is a smaller or poorer market; this having its own implications:

-> delay or lack of implementation of Moore's Law computation power, slowing the progress of genome and neurological informatics; artificial intelligence (which advances all fields of science); reducing (painstakingly further) the efficacy of medical systems and research facilities everywhere. It is important to take note, also, that scientific progress is associated with all the successes of modern civilization; whereas all the pitfalls are associated with the misuse of that technology (aggressive warfare; abuse of the electronic, economic free-market; cyber crime; pollution and mass extinction etc.) or a failure to implement it before the consequences it would have prevented come about.

-> Delay of production and implementation of exponential growth of nano-composite photovoltaics (solar panels and optic technology) - aggravating the energy issues in North America even further.

-> Delay in the creation of potentially transcendental metamaterials like Graphene

---> The delay of alternative energy research as a result of the two previous points increases the likelihood of aggressive wars in order to acquire resources such as oil (as History has shown - the US will invade ANYONE who poses a threat to their economic prosperity or resource base: Hawaii, Panama, Nicaragua, Iraq, Iran and so on - which means Canada may be threatened - with a substantial amount of oil and natural resources, as well as fresh water in the Great Lakes right next door for the plundering). Don't delude yourselves either; the US is only out for the US; every action they have ever taken with respect to foreign policy and economic regulation has been in self-interest.

In fact, during the Bush administration, civil liberties and the principles of the constitution were thrown away for martial law (The Patriot Act) - wherein a unilateral war under the umbrella of fabricated intelligence was waged; creating a global recession and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people (least of all American soldiers, who will likely become alcoholics or drug users to dilute their rampant PTSD [this is not in all cases of ptsd, but in a surprising amount]; or at the very least will be without a job or a home). Bush's term also held over 200 executive orders, the highest number in human history (executive orders were used to overrule congress - basically saying "fuck you I'm pres, get in line, or you're a gay communist), on issues such as:

- Order #13211: "Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use"
(Appeasement for oil lobbyists, the order was to determine if "environmental or other regulations would cause 'inordinate complications in energy production and supply.'") Meaning general environmental deregulation. The Natural Resources Defense Council attorneys described it as "oil companies putting words in the president's mouth."

- Order #13223: "Ordering the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to Active Duty and Delegating Certain Authorities to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Transportation"
(Consolidation of authority)

- Order #13224: "Blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism."
(Ability to blackball "terrorists" as defined by the State - freezing assets, seizing property)

- Order #13228: "Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council"
(The creation of a secret police)

The list is rather lengthy, but the gist of it is that the US became a quasi-totalitarian State during Bush's term, and was dangerously close to tyranny by fairly strict definitions.

If the American government is willing to piss on the constitution and the graves of the founding fathers, rape the world economy, wage aggressive war, torture and imprison innocent people, and all under the Grace of God and Virtue of Patriotism, for the City on a Hilltop (All of these sentiments were embodied in Hitler's principle entitled Volksgemeinschaft) - then Canada is basically already an annexed state. If you live in Canada, it might be a good idea to start practicing: "I pledge obedience, to the flag..." Wait, is that how it goes?

- the reduction in globalization through rising gas and food prices (and thus, even poorer foreign policy; rioting and dissent in poorer countries; mass refugee migrations; instability; racism; militarism, and all the consequences associated with a food shortage).

-> We may have a less interconnected global society, reducing the efficacy of foreign policy and cooperation.
-> Globalization and decentralized information technology are the only true democratizing forces, and they are both threatened if another Bush gets elected (Mitt Romney is essentially a well-spoken mormon Bush, and he's ahead in the polls).

My point is that Americans have a responsibility to vote and to pay close attention to SPECIFIC CANDIDATES. Don't just vote republican BECAUSE you're republican, or democratic BECAUSE you're democratic. The American people are in a strange place. If you don't vote, and your country commits war crimes and dilutes your amendments and liberties, you are partly responsible. If you DO vote for a candidate that advances this agenda, you are also responsible. Unfortunately, there has not been a recent alternative to these two things. Instead of referencing accountability, or guilt, I would prefer to reference pride; patriotism (real patriotism, not the way it was used under Bush); moral consciousness; unity; liberty; justice, and all the amazing values that America began to represent when founded. The American people didn't commit these acts, their representatives did. So I leave the responsibility to Americans to take charge of their destinies, as he frontiersmen did a century ago. Reclaim your manifest destiny! Reclaim your liberty and prosperity! Reclaim the admiration of the world! Reclaim innovative and technological superiority! Reclaim your fucking self-respect!

We are teetering over a precipice, on one side, a technopia; wherein life expectancy stretches beyond death; art and culture flourish; ubiquitous emotional and physical well-being become the standard; the foundation of a unified global state that promotes human rights and the human cosmic destiny is born; where the deflation of industrialized costs of all goods through nano-technological fabrication breeds abundance and prosperity; where the united biosphere of Earth becomes united in diversity and vibrancy...

But below, in the depths of the abyss, lurks the promise of apocalypse; where nations consume each other for resources they never would have needed if they just advanced science to the next plateau (maybe 5 years of research before photovoltaics double in watts/$ of fossil fuels); cultural destruction (beyond it's already catastrophic decay - MTV - industrialized 'art'); racism and intolerance; mass extinctions of Earth's remaining species; unregulated biological weaponry running amok, killing millions; unregulated nanotechnological poisoning of the environment; global warming to the extent that low-lying lands will be flooded and destroyed, forcing millions of refugees into centers that can't support them, precluding riots, looting, destruction and destabilization....

I could go on for some time, but I will finish with a serious admonition: Your life may seem normal as it is, but if you live in the US in particular, things are bad. Worse than you can imagine, and if you don't take action as an American (by definition, historically, an American revolts when taxation of: health, environment, savings, land, culture, and reputation are enforced - without representation.), your country, and perhaps the world, will plunge into darkness.

You are being taxed without representation by your government and your corporations (especially the Federal Reserve and the private banks that benefit from the inflation of your savings). You really fucked up the past couple decades, this is basically your last chance, and even now it may be too late. Step up, vote, and for God sake, vote with deliberation and intent for real change. Put moral indignation for petty issues aside, and make your country as great as it's destiny once proclaimed. Or struggle and groan in ignorant and apathetic death throes.

(P.S. My personal advocacy goes out to Ron Paul, despite my "democratic profile" - first honest politician I've seen in a while, or at least a skullfully impassioned faker - he's like a highly intelligent grandpa who doesn't take shit and is actually willing to admit mistakes).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writers, mirrors, the night

Plans, plans and riddles of rules. Which of us is free? The muses call their blackened bellows:

"Time is ticking. Always tonight the light will be extinguished. Fear, and fear, and know nothing!"

The wicked stench of hindsight flowers pollute the mind with merciful mirrors, fogging the future.

Nighttime: dreams come - respites from biology overlords - the genes, the whip; tender slow-chapped lashes leave their marks.

Schizophrenic prosody stinks, its masturbation's un-lubricated shuffle drowns the sea and stars.

Onward, consciousness!

I’ve been
a riverboat captain,
o so many years…

I’ve been
seated in a circle
of pontificated peers.

I’ve been
Jesus, I’ve been Judas,
Heard ‘em cheers ‘n jeers.

I’ve been
pullin’ oars so frantic
t’words my dreams, n’ from my fears.

Now I’m wond’rin
whether God was in the
water, at the piers…

Yet I’m told
a telltale temperance
sharpens scissors into shears,

that with
plucks and pulls it cuts and culls
coarsened, old men’s beards.

Transhumanism

I haven't posted on this blog for some time. It seems ancient to me now, rife with the reflections of a boy, for we are in perpetual contempt of our former selves. Upon the eve of a technological and (hopefully) cultural renaissance, we must beg the question: are these convictions, words so warbled in vanity but landmarks to drive the high-powered perception of future contempt?

In the midst of these reflections arises a poem:

Renaissance

Dreams aloft in still silence
where a giant sleeps
awaiting awakening