Monday, December 7, 2009

Things of beauty

Sometimes there are no words that can describe a picture...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advantage of the unborn. AI and self-replication

A.I. (artificial intelligence) is not yet where we want it to be (at least where those of us who grew up reading Asimov would like it to be). That's for sure.
It's also not yet where many expected it would be by this time. We tend to underestimate the complexity of the problem of reaching a level of intelligence comparable to ours. -although we can lower the bar a lot with our own stupidity from time to time-
But although it has a long way to go, we could say it is slowly moving forward through different fields. Like a child who is slowly learning in an extraterrestrial world.
We humans take a lot of years to learn. In fact we spend most of our life learning and some never stop. But probably the most significant difference with AI is that once we have learned all that we wanted to learn, we can't make a backup of that knowledge or copy it to another human.. at least not in a way that would take significantly less time for the other human to learn it.
While you could say that once we have an AI that has learned all that we wanted it to learn, it could hold that knowledge for ever, while it continues to improve on it. Or make instant copies of it.
Of course, once you start to wonder in this direction the creep factor starts to rise. But the potential for an ever growing intelligence comes along the hand of AI.

Now if that ideal AI learns how to replicate itself with one of these:
Then we have a problem.. :)

Edit to add : This is extensively covered by the singularity subject.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Zeitgeist movement and the Venus project

The Zeitgeist movement and the Venus project are products of the mind of Jacque Fresco. A sociologist and industrial designer with an idea of how to get to a better future for mankind as a whole.

To make a long story short, his thinking goes about the following lines:

  • The current monetary system is fundamentally flawed because it is based on scarcity. The system by itself does not promote the production of abundance since there is no value in abundance (those products that are scarce are more valuable) and all money is created from debt to the financial system. Debt creates interest and more debt. And as a result there's always less money than debt. Hence there is always someone who's left without a chair when the economic bubbles collapse and the music stops. While the rest have to fight for the ones left.
  • He witnessed how in a period of great depression the machinery for producing goods was still there, only the money wasn't there impeding production.

His conclusion from this was that if we could guide production intelligently without the use of money we could produce abundance for all instead of scarcity.

The idea that follows is that society should be guided by thinkers (scientists, academics.. making the scientific method the heart of everything) instead of crooked politicians and lobbies. ( If we want to go deeper into the crazy side of things their idea is that a central IA could guide us all.. hello skynet :p )

In plain theory this all sounds good, but there are a few problems one can imagine even after thinking about this for a little while. We don't always want to do what's best for us.. This may well jeopardize our collective future, but that's just how we are. And not recognizing this would make us blind to reality.

So, what if we are just not happy living in a kind of technocratic socialism?. Although I would prefer that than living under a corrupted government.. :/

I communicated with people from the movement on their forum stating some of these concerns, and finally the conclusion I reached was that this is mostly an idea in progress. And as with many ideas it has its strong points, and its weak ones. And as an idea it can evolve to something better.

Jacque Fresco started the Venus Project a long time ago and it didn't actually get far. At least as I see it. Hopefully the idea will get somewhere since the internet seems to be bringing upon a truly collective consciousness as never seen before. And global warming and energy resource problems are forcing us to take what will happen to all in consideration (you can't just expect to save yourself alone).

So again, let's hope ideas like these along with others can change our world for the better.

PS: Here's an extract of my post on their forum:

Has The Venus Project been proven by the scientific method?

I mean, how do you know for sure it would work if it is not a proven hypothesis?.

For instance, I like the idealistic idea of a world where everything is "free" and you don't need to have a slavering job. But I know I don't like the design of the cities as shown in the orientation video and I wouldn't want to live in a place like that.
May be if the cities looked like this I would be more willing:

But still, I would like to decide how my house looks. Where would be the limits to what we could ask for?.

Computers are still far from been able to decide for us (
Wolfram Alpha is still in diapers ), and still I wouldn't agree to be ruled by a machine. What if the machine one day decides we shouldn't exist anymore?.

What if we start in this path and then find out it doesn't work?. (remember
Cabrini Green ?)

The only thing I share completely is that the monetary system is flawed, but could we produce enough to be able to give anything to anyone?. Could you do it without forcing anyone to work?.. Has this hypothesis also been proven?