Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Kurzweil is joining forces with Google

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

On December 14th 2012 there was a super-interesting post on that Kurzweil is joining forces with Google.

Ray Kurzweil confirmed today that he will be joining Google to work on new projects involving machine learning and language processing…

Ambitions certainly run high:

Im thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science, so we can turn the next decades ”unrealistic” visions into reality.

As you read on, you begin to wonder, if this is really the start of Arthur C Clarkes 2025 Braincap vision.
See my Braincap article.

It is certainly all very intriguing:
On page 156 in Kurzweils ”How to Create a Mind” one reads that Kurzweil has started a new company called Patterns:

…Which intends to develop hierarchical self-organizing neocortical models that utilize HHMMs (Hierarchical Hidden Markov Models) and related techniques for  the purpose of understanding natural language. An important emphasis will be on the ability for the system to design its own hierarchies in manner similar to a biological neocortex.

Our envisioned system will continually read a wide range of material, such as Wikipedia and other knowledge resources, as well as listen to everything you say and watch everything you write (if you let it).
The goal is for it to become a helpful friend answering your questions –
before you even formulate them
– and giving you useful information and tips as you go through the day.

So, finally Gordon Bells full MyLifeBits is under way …

Ten years later, Wireless Sensor Nets making automatic digital diaries and putting them directly out on the internet for you, and what have you from Futuropolis 2058, seems almost commonplace.

Obviously, IBMs Watson was only the start.
In Jeopardy a question is posed, and Watsons machinery goes to work. Its UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) deploys hundreds of subsystems, all of which are attempting to come up with a response to the Jeopardy query. I.e. more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses. Finally, Watsons then acts as an expert system that combine the results of the subsystems. Helping to figure out how much confidence it has in the answers subsystems come up with.
Not only can Watson understand the Jeopardy queries, it can also search its 200 million pages of knowledge (Wikipedia and other sources) and come up with the correct answer faster than any human expert…

And that is just 2012 stuff. Kurzweill obviously won’t let us stop there.
On page 169 of ”How to Create a Mind” one reads that a better Watson should not only be able to answer a question, but also understand – pick out themes in documents and novels:

Coming up with such themes on its own from just reading the book, and not essentially copying the thoughts (even without the words) of other thinkers, is another matter.
Doing so would constitute a higher-level task than Watson is capable of today – it is what I call a Turing test-level task (That being said, I will point out that most humans do not come up with their own original thoughts either. But copy the ideas of their peers and opinion leaders).
At any rate this is 2012, not 2029, so I would not expect Turing test- level intelligence yet.

Intriguing indeed.

Arthur C. Clarke’s vision is surely well under way …

But even he didn’t anticipate a future where our memories belonged to the Cloud, Google or similar.
A cloud that will design its own cognitive hierarchies in a manner similar to a biological neocortex, based on our memories, and feed the result right back to us, shaping and directing our lives, as our most trusted friend.


Simon Laub

Posted on UseNet, Dec. 17th 2012:
Newsgroups:, rec.arts.sf.written
From: Simon Laub
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2012 23:43:03 +0100
Local: Mon, Dec 17 2012 11:43 pm
Subject: Kurzweil is joining forces with Google



December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Interesting article in Wired Magazine, dec. 2012, about EyeWire:

By playing a game of colouring neurons, amateur neuroanatomists trace the wires of the retina, working together to find a neuronal ”wiring diagram”. Such a map, also known as the connectome, will help us understand how the retina serves visual perception.


Anyone can sign up to play; the only qualifications are curiosity and a zest for careful observation …
This is a new age of exploration. By recuiting enough amateur and professional scientist, we will be able to make significant breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain.

Lead scientist on the project, Sebastian Seung, says that ”NeuroScientists have long hypothesized that our memories are encoded in our connectomes, because each experience leaves a trace on the brain by altering neural connections.
We will be able to test this hypothesis by attempting to read memories from connectomes”.

Exciting times ahead!


Try it here.

Reality – The Self Illusion.

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Bruce Hoods book The Self Illusion is a great book about the mental constructions that makes us who we are.
According to Hood, deep down, our selves might not be all that solid.
Instead, other people influence us and changing circumstances continually update our beliefs and our sense of self.

The self is shaped by the reflected opinions of others around us.
And Hood gives us a long list of very interesting observations and psychological experiments that illustrates that our selves are not rock solid things.
From Jane Elliots experiments with a third grade class (She convinced blue eyed children that brown eyed kids were smarter or vice versa) to Solomon Aschs Conformity test (Where students would rather follow the group than give the right answer) –
Hood concludes that:

We are susceptible to group pressure, subtle priming cues, stereotyping and culturally cuing, then the notion of a true, unyielding ego cannot be sustained. If it is a self that flinches and bends with tiny changes in circumstances, then it might as well be non-existent

Indeed, selves are constructed – not born, according to Hood.
People don’t remember much from before the age of four. According to Bruce Hood, the reason for this is that our selves have not been fully build at that age:

It’s not that you have forgotten what it was like to be an infant
– You were simply not ”you” at that age because there was no constructed self, and so you cannot make sense of early experiences in the context of the person to whom these events happened.

And the self is fragile. Even thinking too much about it might be a dangerous thing? We might be confused, begin to wonder if the construction, the self, can really do anything on its own? Do we, the self, have free will?

We need the self though:
Experiences are fragmented episodes unless they are woven together in meaningful narrative. This is why the self pulls it all together.
And, we also think of others as having selves. Indeed, we have not evolved to think about others as a bundle of processes. Rather we have evolved to treat others as individual selves.

What a story. What a book, full of great insights.

For more about reality – See my reality post Self, Reality and Reason.

And, notice how reality (always) loops back to mental constructs. See Reality loops.

The sarcastic Mars rover is on twitter ….

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Remember to check out Curiositys twitter messages:

And YES indeed – Curiosity has landed…. absolutely mindblowing amazing stuff!
Make sure to watch the landing video (nasajpl)!!
Certainly, some of us still find it rather hard to understand that
all of this actually worked……

And here is where it gets hilarious. The poor lonely robot, 248 million km away, turns out to be a rather sarcastic little fellow. And a poet as well….
A least thats the impression you get when you read his twitter ramblings: SarcasticRover.

01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00101100 00100000 01001110 01100101 01110010 01100100 01110011 00101110

They’re checking out my systems and software… got nothing to do but look at rocks and ponder death.

No that’s cool JPL… I’ll walk for over a month to go to some unpronounceable shithole so you can look at a rock or whatever. NBD.

Ready to start driving around in a pointless f–king circle looking for some kind of magical dirt or whatever. GO SCIENCE!

Now the Olympics are over, I assume the media will go back to ignoring athletes and celebrating intellectuals, right? LOL SAD.

Hey does that Mayan calendar bullshit apply to Mars, or can I just watch you all die from here? MAYA2012!!!

Hilarious stuff!

Read more about the sarcastic rover here.

See stunning pictures taken by Curiosity here.

And watch a 360 degree panorama from Mars taken by Curiosity here (sol 2 on Mars).

Todays links, April 21st 2012

April 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrows worlds:

People of tomorrow:
What faces will be like – The faces of tomorrow:
With different personalities? Personality variation by region (USA):

A strange world for sure:
Brain illusions – The break of the curveball:
Quantum suicide:

A world of XNA – not DNA?

Artificial genetic material XNA:
Artificial genetic material that can store information and evolve over generations in a similar way to DNA. A team at the J Craig Venter Institute , in Rockville, Maryland, are hoping to make synthetic organisms from scratch.

Still, we are part of the universe:

And kids still play:
Kids Send 3D GoPro Cameras Into Space, Get Back Stunning Footage:
Throwable Ball Camera Captures Spherical Panoramas:

As do grownups:
Rotating Images:
Flying balls … :

It is all in the mind:
Amsterdam Anatomie:
Info overload? Don’t worry, there might be a pill for that coming up soon….
Just take a synapse-regulating inhibitor, induce temporary autism,….

Enjoy the times:
While they last …(Time might be running out, or slowing down):

Its all right here, on the internet:
The internet. Where people swap files:
And stay invisible:
Like one giant brain?

Or, just browse on.

Determinism and Free Will

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Free will is a tricky subject.
In the book ”Who is in charge” Michael Gazzaniga has some good insights.

The two main positions within that debate are the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.

See more at Wiki.

The hard determinists will tell us, that:

1. The brain enables the mind and the brain is a physical entity.
2. The physical world is determined. so our brains must also be determined.
3. If our brains are determined, and if the brain is the necessary and sufficient organ that enables the mind, then we are left with the belief that the thoughts that arise from our mind also are determined.
4. Thus, free will is an illusion. And we must revise our thoughts about what it means to be personally responsible for our actions.
Put, differently, the concept of free will has no meaning.

Most people agree that the first claim is ok. Claim 2, however, is under attack.
From the 3 body problem and moving on to non linear complex systems it is seen that complex systems does not allow exact predictions of future states.

Which, obviously, puts claim 3 (and then claim 4) on shaky ground…

There are other problems though.
Can we derive the macro story from the micro story – find a mental state from neural state?
According to Gazzaniga, ”analyzing nerve states may be able to inform us how the thing could work, but not how it actually does.”
It has to do with emergence.
Gazzaniga quotes nobel prize winner Philip W. Andersen:

The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from these laws and reconstruct the universe.

Emergence is not very much liked. Finally, we have gottan rid of the homunculus inside our brains, and finally, we have gottan rid of Descartes dualism – and other ghosts in the machine – and then people propose, that there are still ghosts in there …

According to Gazzaniga:

You cannot analyze traffic at the level of the individual car.
You have to throw in location, time, weather, society and other drivers, then a new set of laws emerge, that can predict traffic.

So, once a mental state exist – is there downward causation. Can a thought constrain the brain that produced it?
Not, really, it is more complex than that.
Take genes. Codons are controlling the construction of the whole (enzymes), but the whole is, in part, controlling the the identification of the parts (translation) and the construction itself (protein synthesis). Its not upward or downward. Its complementary.

How do we get from brain state M1 to brain state M2?
M1 is produced by a physical state P1 and M2 is produced by P2.
If we just go from P1 to P2 – then there is no free will, and we are just along for the ride.
The tough question is though, does M1, in a downward constraining process, guide P2, thus affecting M2?

In genetics there is a multiplicity of events going on? And the same might be the case for action? Downward and upward causation working together.

Action is the result of complementary components arising from within and without.

And different levels and in different languages. Some levels completely emergent from the levels below?
And it gets worse. Social context and social constraints on the group level might also influence our actions. In a language that is completely emergent (not producible) from the level of brain hardware.

Free will is a tricky thing ….
And we didn’t even throw in quantum mechanics and the observer problem to make it tricky…. 🙂

Todays links, April 6th 2012

April 7, 2012 7 comments