30 October 2005

Society of Mind

The book On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins, was mentioned in a recent post here. Another book that fits well with the same general theory of intelligence, is Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky.

Taken together they begin to sketch out a general outline for the theoretical underpinnings of a basic machine intelligence. The early machines will be crude imitations of human intelligence. Artifice imitates nature, inevitably. As the craft matures, divergence from the model will occur naturally.

Society of Mind is a much older book, and I was surprised that Hawkins gave no credit to Minsky in his references or index. Regardless, the rest of us are under no obligation to imitate Hawkins in that regard. Society of Mind is a seminal work that should be read and re-read by anyone who is serious about breaking into the machine intelligence field. Minsky fleshes out the concept of mental hierarchy in a clear and detailed fashion.

Hawkins focuses on neocortical examples of hierarchy, pattern sequencing, pattern invariance, and pattern auto-association. These are all powerful concepts that are well illustrated by actual neocortical functioning. Minsky touches on these concepts, but muses about a great deal more than Hawkins deals with. Hawkins zeroes in on the aspects of human consciousness that he feels hold the key to designing a machine intelligence. Minsky is far more general. Hawkins talks explicitly about neocortex, how it functions, how it might be imitated. Minsky stays away from the neuroscience, for the most part. Both books are highly inspirational.

The earliest functioning machine intelligences will copy a lot from the biological proof of concept. I would expect many graduate neuroscience students to perform "experiments" using machine models of neocortex, and possibly models of thalamus and hippocampus. The nascent field of neuro-prosthetics will probably be given a boost by these early neocortical models.

It is easy to conceive of "wearable sensors" that record the experiences of their human wearers, for later transfer to a neo-cortical machine. In this manner a type of record of a person's life might be maintained in parallel with the actual person's memories. As machine/neural interfaces improve, the record could easily become more accurate. These machine "parallel personalities" should not be confused for a real person. Not for a long time.

In later posts, I'll muse on possible means of utilising these neo-cortical machine personalities to augment the intelligence of biological humans.

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29 October 2005

Sleep Less, Do More?

Polyphasic sleep is one method devised to reduce the overall need for sleep. Discovered and practiced by many people over the centuries, it has a cult following now, with its own blogs and no shortage of halfhearted experimenters prepared to sacrifice a few hours sleep for the greater knowledge of mankind.

How it usually works is that a person gets enthusiastic about the idea of sleeping only four or five hours of sleep a night while retaining good energy levels and high levels of alertness. Then once the person starts radically changing his sleep patterns, he quickly loses enthusiasm for the experiment. This is the way the world is. Daily cycles of darkness and light. Humans evolved here, managing to fit personal habits within the overall scheme of things. To go outside the natural order is to tempt the fates. Who can do this and survive?

There are other methods of reducing sleep. Gradual reduction of the single block of sleep, perhaps augmented with one or two nap periods in between blocks, is a common method. Others go in for the cold turkey method of dropping 90 minutes every two or three nights until down to approximately 4.5 hours a night. Usually a single half hour nap is inserted in the afternoon.

An allowance of two weeks of pure hell is expected in the beginning, before the body somehow adjusts itself to the new schedule. Advocates of the shorter sleep cycles claim great things for energy levels and alertness, as long as the schedule is followed closely and good nutritional habits are adopted.

Modern life is not oriented around a schedule that demands naptimes. During the daylight and early evening hours, most people are expected to be flexible in order to meet occupational and social demands. Nevertheless, a lot of things are changing, thanks to the 24 hour internet and news/financial cycles. Freeing up two or three hours a night for creativity, work, and personal enrichment, might be the same thing as adding a month or more to your year.

Think about it.
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25 October 2005

On Intelligence

Much time and capital is expended toward the goal of developing a machine intelligence that could perform many of the thinking skills currently done by people. The motivation for this expenditure is obvious, especially when one looks at the savings already accomplished through automating physical labor. Human laborers bring a tremendous overhead to every employer. The fewer humans on the payroll, the lower the business overhead in the long run.

Most of the accomplishments in the machine intelligence field have been mere "nibbling around the edges" work. Through the last half of the twentieth century most researchers in machine intelligence had done a poor job of defining what type of intelligence they were trying to replace. The results were abysmal on the whole.

In the book "On Intelligence" Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm Computing and Handspring, presents his theory of human intelligence, with the aim of developing a machine intelligence patterned after the basic abstract concept of the human neocortex. Go to onintelligence.com to get a closer view of the contents of the book, and to read more about the underlying idea. Hawkins has even founded a new company called "Numenta, Inc.," to pursue the goal of MI.

I will not try to do justice to the ideas in the book in a short summary. I will merely say that anyone with an interest in the underlying bases for human intelligence would probably enjoy looking through the book. Hawkins is insightful and resourceful. He is the type of investigator who will crack the code of the neocortex. It helps to understand basic neuroanatomy and concepts of feedback and informational hierarchy. Those concepts are fairly well explained in the book, however.

My bias is in favor of augmenting human intelligence, rather than putting an emphasis on machine intelligence. It is likely, though, that augmented machine intelligences would facilitate a number of approaches toward augmenting human intelligence. This is not too early to begin thinking about applying safeguards to this technology.

The approach that Hawkins seems to favor will not result in autonomous machine intelligence, not at first. That is a safeguard in itself. An "intelligent" machine without an internal will, does not present a threat unless humans with malevolent intent take control of it. That is true of any number of already perfected technologies.

It would be best to apply the problem of improving human intelligence to the earliest machine intelligences. If Hawkins' approach is valid, early machine intelligences will function very much like human intelligence. Eventually the paths will diverge, but at first there will be strong parallels.

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22 October 2005

War, Morality, World Jihad, and Iraq

The US president Bush has chosen to make a stand in the desert country of Iraq. A curious choice perhaps? Afghanistan made more sense on the surface of things. Disrupting the jihadists' base of operations and training was logical. No more large scale jihadi terror attacks have taken place. The Madrid and London train bombings were much more modest in scale, more local in execution. The world jihad movement appears in disarray, under attack even in Saudi Arabia, the very heartland of jihad.

Iraq sits atop large oil reserves, but the oil production infrastructure is so decrepit in Iraq, that gearing up oil production there may take decades. Do Bush and his neo-con friends actually plan for decades in advance? In that period of time anything at all might happen. It is certainly more likely that their goals are more proximate.

Is Iraq truly part of the global jihad? Before Saddam's Baathist was toppled, what part did Iraq play in the global jihad? Was it truly necessary to invade and disrupt the center of the Arab world, the most powerful arab nation, the flagship nation of arab ambition?

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya function as jihadist institutions of propaganda. These satellite networks appear to conflate jihadist ambitions with the goals of the arab world. It is as if much of the elite in the arab world have taken sides with the jihadists. When did this happen? Before Saddam's removal? Before September 11, 2001? Before the Gulf War of 1990/1991?

If one looks carefully at the history of the arabs, and the history of jihadist Islam, there appears to be a waxing and waning along parallel paths for the two entities. There is an unhealthy interdependency between arabs as a culture and jihadist Islam as a movement. The September 11 attacks were merely one more group of attacks in a long series of jihadist attacks dating back to the mid 20th century. Before that, there were other clusters of attacks going back millenia in time. A waxing and waning of the jihidast movement, along with arab cultural ambitions.

The glory days of the arabs was during the height of the jihadist wars, before the Mongols and the Turks subdued the arabs. After the Turks, the European colonials divided the arab lands. Arabs have been humiliated for centuries now. The tide appears to be turning, since the newfound oil wealth of the 20th century is finding its way to devout and fanatical believers in the oil rich societies. The wealth is being diverted to those who show an aptitude for indoctrinating the young to jihad, and supplying them with weapons of mass murder. Every nation in the world where a mosque is located is also the cradle of jihadist indoctrination. Infiltration, subterfuge, covert preparation for jihad.

Under the rule of law in developed nations, there is really no way to stop this process. Combining the stealth infiltration of jihadist indoctrination with the cultural decline of the west, and demographic trends of high birthrates among muslim immigrants and low birthrates among indigenous non-muslims, and one can see that Europe's days are rapidly slipping away. Europe is destined to come under Islamic subjugation within decades.

What about the Anglosphere? What about North America and Oceania? What about Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, and Singapore? There will be outposts of free thought, of rational activity, long after Europe surrenders.

The US and the UK have chosen to confront the jihadist in the heartland of Islam. Realizing perhaps that direct experience of war with the jihadist was the only way to toughen their troops enough for the long war ahead, the US and UK chose to take the war to the place that they knew the jihadists could not ignore, the center of the Sunni arab pride.

Some say the purpose was to bring democracy to the arab lands. That may have been a long shot gamble, a side purpose. Others say the purpose was access to oil. But we have seen how far in the future any meaningful oil production in Iraq will be. More likely the purpose was to bring a familiarity with the jihadist tactics to the military commanders, in preparation for the inevitable conflict to come. Europe's leaders had already decided on surrender long before September 11. There was no question of Europe preparing for the long war. The will to fight against oppression had been drained from Europeans half a century ago.

The post-modern concept of war is that all war is immoral. Any justification for war is mere obfuscation, excuses by the ruling classes to shed the blood of the underclasses for their own gain. This is the wisdom of the post-modernist in regard to war. There is no real post-modern wisdom regarding oppression originating from third world entities such as the jihadists. Such a thing is considered unlikely in the extreme and not worth analysing. That is the weakness of the post-modern. Ideological hatred for western civilisation to the point of denying the uniqueness and liberating aspects of western civilisation, while simultaneously denying the barbarism and mindless homicidal tendencies of virtually every other civilisation ever known to history.

Iraq is a target of opportunity. Iraq was invaded because Iraq was there, at a particular time and place and state of being. Iraq was chosen by Bush as a place to make a stand. It was a multitude of gambles thrown together in one large toss of the dice. A monumental disruption to the overall scheme of things, such a challenge as not to be ignored by the jihadist, or the arab supremacists who stand one hundred strong behind every single jihadist.

Western civilisation is the cradle of the next level. No other civilisation has approached to a fraction of the enlightenment of the west. All other civilisations have been based on slavery and arbitrary justice, and a far less favorable balance of power between groups and classes, than western civilisation.

Next level humans will be more intelligent. They will live ten times longer. They will balance their emotional brains with their rational brains. They will not fight wars because they will not have to. They will understand the underlying dynamics of power far better than primitive and between-levels humans.

The anti-jihadist wars may be the last wars that enlightened humans will be forced to fight. Forced to fight for the sake of the next civilisation to come. As they say, a war to end war. For that to be true, modern humans must forsake much of their leisure for the sake of learning and growth.

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18 October 2005

Water Into Wine

Politicians do not care about next level humans, or the evolution of the species. These concepts do not help him to get elected. Given the politicians' lack of concern, why should they budget funds for research that would lead to next level humans? The answer is, they do not and will not--intentionally.

Aspiring next levels must be familiar with the resourceful concept of "dual use." A technique or procedure developed for one purpose, might be turned to another purpose with little effort. That is why persons who believe that humans are in need of evolutionary advancement take such a keen interest in nanotechnology, molecular genetics, and information technology. The necessary advances will occur in seemingly unrelated fields that are proceeding in a parallel path. It is the application of these technologies to human evolution that will mark a discontinuity in current trends.

Politicians will oppose any such ideas because society at large will oppose these ideas. Society will oppose these ideas because the underlying cultural swamp (media/entertainment/academia) is opposed to any process that might shift control from those who currently dominate culture.

As long as current research trends continue, the alchemists' goal grows closer. Making water into wine. Lead into gold. Primitive humans into next level humans.
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08 October 2005

Making It Work

"Does it work?"

Anyone who asks that question is obviously interested in results. Does the drug cure the disease? Does the refridgerator keep the food cool? Will the automobile get good gasoline mileage and maintain its value? Will the machine work out of the box, or does it require assembly or a lot of technical support? Does the diploma guarantee a good job with high pay?

Anglospheric populations are generally results oriented. We pay our money and expect things to work in return. When things do not work we are not simply disappointed. We are outraged. Normally, we are outraged. For some odd reason, we are willing to tolerate an educational system that has failed to work for decades now.

Our educational systems have become populated with the inept, the corrupt, the indoctrinated and indoctrinators, the bigoted and intolerant, and the totally incompetent. Educational institutions have become almost totally nepotistic and anti-results oriented. We are paying large amounts of money for something that does not work. We have it within our power to correct this problem, this critical problem with ominous implications for the future. We could change it, but for some reason we will not.

Our children are being corrupted, indoctrinated in failed ideologies, made into incompetent fools. Our greatest treasures, our progeny are being smothered into mindlessness by the moronic fools who now control the institutions of learning. Why do we tolerate this suicidal absurdity?

Because it is politically correct to do so. This sheep-like march over the brink is made possible by a decerebrate dedication to a conformity that kills. The leaders of our political, educational, and mass media institutions tell us that we must conform. We must be sheep and allow them to lead us over the precipice. It is our duty, our fate. If we object, well, there is clearly something perverse about us. If we refuse to march in step toward the cliff, we acquire certain labels which designate us as being "not of the fold." Such labels can keep a person from being employed, or cause him to be released from employment without recourse.

The above portrait of a small part of a dysfunctional society is necessary to understand a small part of the forces against which pro-evolutionary forces must battle on a daily basis. Not only do dominant forces in society disapprove of the idea of improving humanity, they seem intent on destroying most of the positive elements of western civilisation. Without western civilisation, we are left with caliphates, fiefdoms, warlord kingdoms, and criminal regimes.

There are many problems that must be dealt with. Still, many humans possess an innate desire to move forward. To consolidate the gains of western civilisation, and move ahead. These are the humans who want to "make it work." They work in every creative area of human action. Before the internet, it was harder for them to know of each other. It is becoming easier to find each other. Just a relative few, among billions.

Because of the rapid convergence of institutional obstacles to progress, there is little time to lose. There is no time for mensa-style preening, or the self-congratulatory posing of extropians and transhumanists. Does it work? That is the question.
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01 October 2005

Running Screaming From Phantoms

Only a tiny proportion of humans are directly involved in pushing human evolution forward. Billions will eventually benefit from the work of a mere thousands. When contemplating the future, nothing is more important than lifting up humanity's capacity to think and live completely. For some reason most people are otherwise occupied.

What are all of these people doing? Most people in the world are too poor to do much more than subsist. Try to find food, maintain shelter, provide for a family, avoid suffering as much as possible. Life is hard, then you die.

People in the developed world are also otherwise occupied. They are hanging on the words of media reports, drowning in crass entertainments and chemical numbing agents. Are they alive? They imagine they are. Their fear makes them think so. They are afraid much of the time, their culture is based on fear and insecurity.

The propagation of fear, combined with moral outrage, is the standard staple of the news media organisations in the developed world. The hugest achievement for news media executives and producers is to create a mindless stampede, to drive the public into mass action. To do this, to create mass panic that leads to mass action, they must create objects of fear and loathing. Then they must shove these feared objects into the faces of the viewing public, in every shape, manner, and permutation possible.

There is a political force at work, a thirst for power and the collusion with the powerful. News company executives are humans, with human biases and weaknesses. They want their "team" to win. They developed the tools of inciting fear, hatred, and loathing for a reason. You cannot expect them to abstain from their use, when so much power is on the table? The executives recruit the producers, anchors, reporters, researchers, who will play on their team, by their rules. The purpose of the entire team is to use the tools of fear creation to move the public to act in ways that cause the team to win. That is what dictates the content and the flavour of the news.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Emerging viruses, climate change, corporations, globalisation, modern science, George Bush, americans, nuclear energy, western civilisation, european males, pollution, rationality, mathematics, automation, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, genetically modified foods, genetic engineering, Israel, Jews, the rich, Halliburton, oil companies, mining, space exploration, drug companies, the US military, fossil fuels, automobiles, insurance companies, biomedical research . . .

Run screaming from the phantom fears. It gives one a purpose, albeit a purpose originating first in the mind of a propagandist, and filtered through the propaganda machines. Mass insanity is the salvation of the modern news media. This mass media propagated delusion apparatus may or may not have an effect on the effort to lift humans into a more conscious and fruitful life. Only a few are doing the work for the benefit of the many.

When it is time for people to begin making the transition, the mass media will portray the change as a great threat to the masses. For a critical time period next levels will become another phantom, perhaps the top phantom. The mass media needs all the phantoms it can get. It is constantly on the move, seeking out new phantoms to feed the machine, to manufacture fear, to make the people scream.

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