Robots (Control)

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One of humanity’s worst fears is kind of a Frankensteinian fear. We fear that we’ll make something so powerful and intelligent that we will end up serving it. Robots are our new Frankenstein’s Monster. They can have superior control, advanced tools, super powerful limbs, and nearly prescient intelligence. Of course, a robot with artificial intelligence can only be as smart as the smartest person who programmed it–except that many of us who work in the field of programming don’t work alone, so the intelligence is compounded.

Not long ago, in the news, we saw that self-driving cars already messed up royally. That happened fast, didn’t it? So how long until an AI robot takes over your house, just like everyone fears? See, we can all learn a lesson from Star Wars. “Droids” were everywhere in that movie world, but did you see anyone really respecting the “droids”, or making close companions out of them? No. Did Luke fly a self-piloting speeder? No. He was the pilot.

What else can we learn from Star Wars? If you’re really smart, you make your closest companion a Wookie, not a robot. Make your closest friends people who have telekinesis, not artificial intelligence. Make sure you have the ultimate control over any and all robots in your house. (Heard of emergency protocols? If not, you will.) And make sure whatever vehicle you choose can be piloted by you—just in case.

Skyward Hawking

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One of the best things I ever heard come out of any scientific mind was when Stephen Hawking said that we could travel at the speed of light if we would only peel off the nonessential parts of our personal mass.

Isn’t that a great analogy for death? Our spiritual self becomes free from the handicap of a limited, mortal shroud. Is a spirit massless? What we know about life is limited. What we know about death is likewise limited. How is a person made? How is a person unmade? When is death really certain? When does life begin? Some say before the temporal body is conceived, life begins. Others claim that only after the baby takes its first breath, life begins. These are all valid points of view, and worth considering. Scientifically we can see that life is in the smallest parts of a person’s birth, but whether those parts still belong to the mother and father, or if they already have a life of their own is still up for discussion and discovery.

If our intrinsic mass is the only thing slowing us down from traveling the speed of light, then how do we manage to shed off the inessential portions without actually dying? It’s definitely an interesting and fun thing to think about: What are the essential parts of the human form? What is the ideal mass for something to travel at the speed of light? Hawking may already have discovered the secrets.

So far, there is only one thing we know of that can travel faster than the speed of light, and that is thought. And thought is easily defined as having no discernible mass, so it fits neatly in Hawking’s physics.

One of the things limiting us to patrolling our own galaxy is the fact that it takes us so long to get from one place to another. Right now, we’re settling for the idea of having outposts on the various planets and moons and other space-rocks that could line the way for us to explore elsewhere. We would leapfrog our way out. But if we could master the reduction and simplification principle, we might go much farther in less time.

Food for thought, via the skyward thinking of our dear Stephen Hawking. See you on the other side of the unknown!

Video Gamer’s Reality

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Have you ever heard a song and thought, That reminds of my favorite video game…?

There are a few diehard Zelda fans who revere Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” because it might have been in the game. They still know the real title music when they hear it. They know when they hear something even close in style that they’ve played a game with that kind of music in it. Oh yeah, the thumbs start trembling excitedly and their eyes glaze over as if they’re suddenly transported right into that interactive world.

Have you ever seen a chevron painted on the street, like the one in the picture above, and thought, This should give me a burst of speed…?

If you have, then you know exactly what it’s like to live in the video gamer’s reality. It must be some kind of parallel world, because people from far parts of the globe have reported experiences like that. One minute you’re writing reports on your office computer, and the next you’re flying through the darkness of the starry universe shooting down enemy ships. One minute you’re driving the company truck, the next minute your driving a tank. One minute you’re riding the bus, and the next minute you’re driving the bus erratically, smashing down the pedal, racing for that next ramp so you can leap this ten ton hunk of diesel burning machismo over the broken overpass…and then you come down, not landing the bus, but landing your sense of reality right back where you were. You wish you were there, but there is no there. At least not anything you can hold down and make it stay.

One more: Have you ever accidentally looked over someone’s shoulder, someone you don’t know, and saw them playing a game on their phone like Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, or Geometry Dash and you wanted so bad to tell them how to play the level they’re on because you’ve already beaten it, and you know they’re going to make a mistake, but you don’t say anything because, well, you don’t know that person, and that would be really awkward to jump right in and say something, plus they would probably get mad and tell you it was your fault that they blew the level, and that’s what you would do if someone over-the-shoulder played your game for you?

Where’s My AI?

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Have you ever heard of apophenia? It means to communicate by using a series of seemingly unrelated ideas. Well, I have an acquaintance, even a friend, who makes lots of sense when I speak to him directly, but when he creates online conversations, he is totally apophenic. He trips from subject to subject so rapidly, there are few people who follow his online rants. In fact, there are few people who can follow his online rants. He does not construct a paragraph thoughtfully. For instance, while chatting with him about his pet peeve, “climate change”, he managed to change the subject seven times. He wandered off into subjects like the caffeine and cocaine contents of certain soda, the pay-off of American auto manufacturers by their government, and how many people work at NASA. Now, if you take all of these subjects one by one, you can see how they do relate to the original topic, though the relation is no doubt indirect. It may even be interesting to note here that one definition of the word apophenia is to read connective meaning into someone’s seemingly unrelated ideas. So, for me to understand my apophenic friend even better, I have to employ apophenia? It’s not easy.

Another acquaintance of mine, who, unfortunately, I can’t really say is a friend, has autism. For this man, I have to employ a great deal of patience. He does not understand figures of speech at all. He takes every word literally. If you tell him you sent smoke signals, he would look up in the sky for the smoke. If you tell him he ate crow, he would mentally review his last few meals. If you told him someone was pulling his leg, he would ask you why you can’t see the obvious truth—no one is even so much as holding his leg.

And this is where I think AI could shine. Really, really shine. If I had an Artificial Intelligence program to communicate with both of these men, then more clear sentences could be arranged, more clear thoughts could be passed around. Of course, we would have to input the specific case of each man. I would have to tell the AI that the first man uses apophenia. I would have to tell the AI that the second man has autism, and probably I would have to tell the AI what sort of autism. And of course the autism would have to be diagnosed to discover the specific kind. Then again, an AI could be trained to detect the subtle nuances of an autistic mind.

The great conclusion of all of this would be that we could all communicate with each other more effectively. I can just imagine how the AI would pare down the first man’s ideas like this: “And I believe in thegungadincocacolamachinepoisoncontroleradication fromouterspacetimecontinuumfactoreconomicsofahockeygamefistfight will cause climate stasis.” So that I would hear only: “I believe in climate stasis.”

And then with the second man, I would say, “He’s pulling your leg.” And he would hear, “He is not telling you the truth. He is instead fabricating a non-existent scenario for your entertainment and amusement, while simultaneously using you as part of the humor. You are now friends. The appropriate response is to laugh, make a fist, and punch him in the shoulder.”

There Are No Idiots

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Have you ever seen someone point at a Ford Bronco and say, “That’s a cool looking Jeep.”? Just because they think it’s a Jeep doesn’t make it a Jeep.

Just because you think someone is an “idiot” doesn’t make them an idiot. Plus, what happens to your abstract mental construct when the person you called an idiot gains a higher IQ score than you? Would you call yourself an idiot? And even if you did manage to call yourself that, would it be true? I’m here to tell you it’s not true. There are no idiots, only people in a different stage of growth, or level of learning from you.

The “abstract mental construct” I mentioned is that label, the tag. It creates a space inside the taggers brain—a convenient file for all the other people who are like the one identified. A shallow way to regard others, it requires no in-depth study of anyone. It doesn’t necessarily correlate with reality; that’s the abstract part. It’s not objective, as in, it can’t be verified by everyone in the universe. So, for instance, if you were playing with 5 year old Isaac Asimov on the playground, and he poured gravel in your shoes, and you called him an idiot, would everyone, or even a high majority of people agree with you? Or would they say that you’re the only one who thinks so?

Okay, maybe that was too agreeable. Many people love Isaac Asimov. Many people would even wish to have him pour a handful of gravel in their shoes. They would have saved that gravel their whole lives—and cherished it. Insert the name of someone less agreeable in the above paragraph, like say, Donald Trump, or Marshall Mathers. Did either one of these “idiots” know very much when they were 5 years old? You might even say that both are of the same intelligence as they were when they were 5; but if you said it, you’d know you were only trying to be funny, and that your argument didn’t carry any weight logically. They grew. They learned. They know more than they did when they were 5. We all grow. We all learn. Some learn slower than others. But if idiocy is so temporary, is it still a label you want to use? In a few short weeks, or even months, you could be proven wrong. You could be passed up on the scale of knowledge.

Next question: How does labeling someone an idiot help that person learn what you wished they knew?