Monday, August 22, 2016


I'm thinking about cybernetics a lot lately, and more specifically about how so many systems I observe can be interpreted as neural networks, neural network simulations run on quantum computers, and even more specifically, about Ross Ashby's version of this form of cybernetics... which sounds suspiciously like the state equations of quantum mechanics.

Customer relations at the counter, traffic flow to and from work, just in time inventories at the temp jobs, the information arbitrage of contractors and in-house added value services, "I know a guy that knows a guy" type of stuff all look a lot like a neural network in continuous cycle.

W. Ross Ashby, creator of the homeostat, when talking about cybernetic systems, often made the point that the environment is an active participant in the feedback loop. Well, that's obvious.

A lumberjack chopping down a tree can't do much without the tree, But is the tree an active participant? Ross would say yes. The lumberjack observes:orients:decides:acts based upon the attributes of the tree. He modifies his axes swings based upon the chunks that fly out. The tree is not going to drop chunks exactly the same each time. There is contingency involved. He modifies his swings and positions when it looks like the tree is about to come down. Don't want to have the tree fall on you, so yes, the tree, the environment is an active participant, adding that fun little nonlinear enhancement to the feedback loop.

(This is what butthole social Darwinists ignore that their peril: innate virtues involved in fitness are less than half the equation, Only the fittest survive for that environment. As the environment acts upon the actions of the individuals, so one can, in a fitness seascape, make the right choice at the right time from position of the right circumstance, and end up at the bottom of the trough from the crest of the wave. WIPE OUT!)

Which makes me think (and I've said this many times before) that intelligence as a property isn't really real; any more than cold is real, or dark is real. Intelligence is the absence of stupidity, just as cold is the absence of heat.

As such, there is no such thing as a competely stupid person. Actually, there is, but under the demands of our particular universe, completely stupid is completely dead.

On the obverse, no one is completely smart. We are, of course, compartmentally smart, or rather, compartmentally stupid.

Some people have a whole houseful of smart, and just a closet of stupid, while others... the opposite.

We obviously utilize that. One can have only a closet full of smart and a house full of stupid, but by interacting with others, using the ultrasocial network we ape-shaped bugs have developed, take advantage of others who are not so stupid.

I do it both ways all the time. I, in fact, know given my current circumstances, that there are some not so stupids out there looking out for me, which is why I landed this temp job,and also why I have an interview with an art foundry.

If it wasn't so nice, I'd probably be paranoid.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Temp Job

I got a temp job working behind the counter at a retail metal outlet. It's a franchise where you can buy metal. I haven't done counter work since college.

I've been working there for three weeks, and so far, out of the hundreds of customers I've dealt with, I've only had to deal with two assholes.

That's pretty good.

The guys I work with are all good guys, and the boss has asked me to fill in when needed, as he considers me "a good fit".  Well, I try to be patient, polite, considerate and helpful, and I guess that's what you have to be if you are a counter guy. Everyone is in a hurry, needs instant gratification, but I've been told to just relax and not let them rush you. That advice came from Phil, the other counter guy.  Phil pretty much runs the day to day operations, so classify him as non-com, staff sergeant. Phi's a good guy, funny guy; therefore, smart guy. Interesting character, like most people I've dealt with since working there.

The one most recent asshole customer I would classify as a pufferfish, an angry pissy little empty shitbag.

He likes to threaten. Threats are illogical.

If this were a samurai movie, he's the scared little shopkeeper constantly worried that he will lose his small piece of capital. He threatens and bullies the underlings, but if anyone stands up to him he collapses. And he toadies to superiors. It doesn't help he has that whiny nasal south side of Chicago dialect that makes me want to punch him in the face.

I'm of an age now where I really don't have the time and patience to put up with people's shit. So when it got to the point where he was just too much of a whiny little bitch, and I knew I was going to tell him to fuck off, I turned him over to Phil.

Phil is a pro, and had the guy settled down in about fifteen seconds. After Phil got off the phone, he laughs and say "I could see the smoke coming out of your ears".

He was right about that.

We have also had a ton of people who are just really good, really colorful characters.

I had one middle-aged black woman come in wanting to buy an 8" x 10" plate of inch thick steel, because she had to go do business on the south side. I discouraged her from buying it. It would have weighed, like, 40 lbs. Actually, I pretty much treated her like she was my mom, as gently and compassionately as I could. She was from Evanston, which, like progressive Oak Park, is pretty well integrated. (Chicago, third after Milwaukee and New York City, is a severely segregated, physically walled off racist city). Rather than try to assuage her fears, I googled a bunch of places where she could buy a protective vest.

A lot of the white guy customers are bigots. I was uncomfortable with some of the things I heard.

Well, this is America, and you are allowed to express your opinions.

I just figure these bigot types are limited, because by limiting their behavior according to stereotypes, they cut way down on their options and opportunities in dealing with people. I also have to assume they feel they are in a private space where they can vent, and perhaps outside of this cracker barrel venue, they treat others differently than how they express themselves.

The vast majority of the customers are skilled laborers, machinists, fabricators, etc. What those gentleman snobs the Founding Fathers would have considered "lowly mechanicks". Possessors of only mere skills, labor, and ingenuity, and not proper men of property.

The Founding Fathers were assholes.

It's amazing how, despite the enfranchisement of so many into our supposed democracy, there is stilla stigma attached to working with your hands. These people, of course, have my utmost respect. They know so many things about bending material instrumentality to their will I am quite frankly in awe. The stories they tell sound braggadocious and triumphal, but they are really problem:action: result stories. I know that, should civilization as we know it end tomorrow, these guys are guys you want to hang out with.

That's about it. I have two interviews next week. One at a art foundry, the other at a furniture fabrication place. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Only Sporadic Reportage For Foreseeable Future

So, I'm an idiot. I've known for some time that I cannot afford my current job as studio technician. Between the increasing cost of living and having my hours cut back (not to mention lack of a raise), its just impractical to continue this.

So, way back at the beginning of June, I tendered my resignation effective August 1st. (Thinking, of course, that by this time I'd have a new job).

Well, I don't have a new job. Many people, including myself, would say I am an idiot for not securing a job before I resigned. Yeah, well, I'm an idiot.

I do have a couple of gigs that will get me through until October. And I get to keep my bronze casting instructor's job until the end of the fall semester. After that, the new lab tech takes over.

Keep in mind, this isn't a sob story. This is a realization that the art career just ain't going to happen, even with a supplemental job, and so I got to go get a real job once again. Oh boo hoo.

So, here's the deal. The only place I have internet access is here at the college. I do not have internet access at home, save through my phone. This means that my already rather sporadic easy writing will be even further curtailed. For how long I don't know.

If I think of something to say, I'll write an essay on my laptop, go to the library and publish. Otherwise, I really didn't have anything to say.

We'll see how this works out.

In the meantime here's a little something I cast and cleaned up today. Yes, that's right, I made it in one day.

"The Advocates" 2016, Cast Bronze, approx. 10" x 10" x 5".


Thursday, July 21, 2016

You'll Find Not Much A or I in AI

So, reading through The Gunning of America, I've already decided not to do a book report on it, other than to suggest it is a good summer read.... though perhaps not today, what with the heat index in the 100s.

Quickly, the book is about how America's gun culture had to be created. The gun used to be just an every day object like a rake or a hammer. The market demand wasn't there, and it took advertisers and marketers to create the gun market we have today. They make it an object of glamour, one that we fetishize and fantasize and accessorize, new and improved, etc. And it was all due to the Industrial Revolution. Used to be, you want a gun, you go to a gunsmith, make known your wishes, come back in a month. If some wandering salesman tried to interest you in a new and improved gun, you'd probably say, but I already have a gun. This shoots more bullets faster, the salesman might say. Well, that's just crazy, you'd reply. I only need it to shoot one bullet at a time. Anything more is a waste of bullets. And the salesman would go away.

What I'd rather talk about is two things that I've been thinking about, and that the book peripherally deals with.

The first thing is that the Constitution was written prior to the Industrial Revolution, and it shows.

That 2nd amendment doesn't mean what it originally meant, and we've had to deal with that, and the way we've decided to deal with it is through denial. Most people have always recognized firearms as really nothing more than implements of slaughter. Some people have a hard time with that. They make up rationalizations about how careful, adult, and mature they are with these things, but they refuse to allow chaos, accident, lapse of judgement,  and random chance into their equation of usage.

The least that any 2A proponent (if they are honest, and I am) is admit that to continue the maximum freedom implicit in the 2nd amendment, many small innocents - most especially children - must be sacrificed on the altar of the gun.

And the second thing is, the Industrial Revolution (IR) took all the fun out of everything.

Now, let's be clear, the IR has been going on for 10,000 years at least. We call it Civilization, but finally it's obvious that the S curve which represents market saturation of this method is making it's way into every human endeavor.

Go back far enough, and you still find interchangibilty, division of labor, standardization of parts, machines making machines, all that stuff is typically used to characterized the IR, has been around a long long fucking time.

I can show you middens where peoples of 200,000 years ago manufactured hand axes in assembly line fashion. For that matter, I can show you mechanical cunning that is billions of years old. When it comes to pound-for-pound machine infrastructure and functionality, a good old carbon substrate can't be beat. Carbon tech kicks ass.

We typically think of machines as being made of metal, or more recently, silicon, but good old squishy albuminous slime has done an amazing job as an machine instrumentality for physical manipulation and information processing.

Remember the Riddle of Steel?

It's true! Flesh is stronger than steel. Flesh fashions steel, and what is flesh but an amazingly intricate miniature elves' workshop of cellular machinery?

Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steven Hawking are all worried about AI. Well, quit worrying. It's already here. In fact, it's probably us, especially if you listen to Professor Nick Bostrom, we are probably just a simulation.

Now, what do you do with simulations, provided they are not entertainment? You use them for work.

Hang on a second, back up a bit. One of the complaints about automation and cybernetics is that it takes jobs away. It eliminates real people, and in modern times, eliminates real people in favor of fake people - corporations. How that happened is very interesting but, consider:
"The 1810 census rhapsodized about the dawning industrial age, praising "these wonderful machines" that were vastly easier and cheaper to employ than humans, "working as if they were animated beings,...laboring with organs that never tire, and subject to no expence of food, or bed, or raiment, or dwelling". Nor did they gamble, drink ardent spirits, "scuffle", fist-fight, or lollygag during the workday"
For that matter, machines which had once emulated the human hand, could now outperform it.

And how has that changed any? Save that, where once the bodily labors were replaced, now the efforts of mind are made a paltry thing by machines.

Eli Whitney and Colt and Winchester really didn't give two shits about guns. They were not in the business of making guns. They were in the business of making monies, and they did so by building machines that made machines that could make anything, and they happened to choose guns.

How is what Silicon Valley doing in comparison any different? They don't give two shits about AI. They want machine universes that can make machine minds. Building self-driving cars, or robot butlers, or smart homes or kilobit drones doesn't matter. They don't care.

So, question, How do you build a functioning electronic brain? Well, you reverse engineer a brain, and then you train it. How do you train it? Through simulations.

The old analogy of the hyper intelligent computer creating a still even more hyper intelligent leading exponentially to the Singularity is completely wrong. Those hyper intelligent synthetic minds have not the first clue how to build a better brain.

What do they do? They build better simulations. So, video games, already manically real, which have little AI players in them, what do suppose is happening there? They are here already.

But what you find is, like us, they are neither artificial, nor particularly intelligent.

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Invasive Species of Fire Ape

I went back to Indiana for a bonfire Saturday night. Our friends had found an upright piano to burn. This is perhaps the third or fourth piano in as many years. They guy has four sisters, all with non-functioning, beat up pianos in their respective basements. It is simply a matter of moving them out and carting to the farm to burn.

On the one hand, I feel a little guilty, but, honestly, I'm just the hundred billionth or so fire ape to frivolously burn something for the fuck of it. I realize I'm not helping out the global warming situation. On the other hand, it's cool to burn things. That's what we fire apes do.

As I've said before, when you look around at the made world, and realize that almost every aspect of it required some form of fire to create it, you realize are doing what comes naturally. It may be our undoing, but such is the way of the universe. Ho hum.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ban Big Bad Haywired Brains

My car is in the shop today, so I rode my bike. I rode through light industrial land from the auto repair shop to work.

Things I noticed:

About 75% of the commercial buildings were vacant, with for lease and for sale signs everywhere. So either the economy is nowhere near where people think it is, or more likely, developers have way, way overbuilt. I also see this with transport. Trains are underutilized. Ships are underutilized. Way, way too much supply for the demand.

Why don't these owners of empty strip malls and warehouses put solar panels on their roofs? Why not at least generate some kind of income from an empty building you still have to supply minimal utilities to (so that Mother Nature doesn't tear them apart)? Why not try and get server farms or dumb bulk storage, or some such in there? I suppose they are trying that, but way too many of these buildings cater to the idea of being filled with people, and these buildings will never be filled with people again.

People are stupid. People are stupid because they adapt their plastic brains to their immediate environment, and then just stop. I think people were a lot smarter before the Industrial Revolution (more later on this maybe). Example: I'm riding on my bike on the road, because light industrial land does not have much in the way of bike trails and bike lanes. Cars and trucks. People driving cars and trucks become cars and trucks. So, I'm on these big animal traces with all these big cars and trucks, and they might as well be buffalo and rhinoceroses and elephants that fast little scurrying bike animal me must avoid. And they just don't fucking notice me. Or when they do notice me they freak out, like an elephant noticing a mouse. They are just big, dumb, lumbering clueless animals. No wonder the Vietnamese called the American armed forces elephants. Just big dumb, lumbering clueless animals.

So, big brains does not  = smart. Big brains = big dumb animals with big brains.

Speaking of which, Im reading a book called "The Gunning of America" by Pamela Haag. I may do a book report on it, but so far, it's just entertaining, and the gist of what I've gotten from the book (still early), is the The Industrial Revolution Took All The Fun Out Of Guns.

Or, as the Washington Post reviewed the book: Guns in America were no big deal, until Big Business Made Us Love Them.

Which is to say, Ms. Haag does not wish to enter into the current argument about guns, merely provide a historical perspective as to how we arrived where the nation is with respect to guns.

Marketing made guns a fetish item. Guns became an exceptional tool, much the same way that Americans fool themselves into thinking that America is exceptional. America is a nation, an interesting and unique nation, but that's about it. Guns are not exceptional tools.

(The guns = tools argument often turns into a logical fallacy, a category error that pro-gun apologists make, noting that weapons are defined as technology, and are therefore tools, and tools can be misused. Failing to note that a weapon is a tool, but a tool is not a weapon. The sole purpose of a hammer or screwdriver or a shoe is not for maiming and killing).

Honestly, for the longest time, guns were toys. Toys that made noise. Guns occasionally were useful, but only under limited circumstances, and only within a certain range. Inside or outside that range? Useless. Better to have a knife, or an arbalest. or even a stone, the original ranged weapon.

On the American frontier, already manicured by Native Americans into ideal hunting ground, I'm going after small to medium game. If I use bow and arrow, I can kill many rabbits and squirrels and deer and birds. If I use a blunderbuss, or even a rifled musket, still wildly inaccurate beyond a certain range, I scare away ALL the game with one shot. So, gun for hunting, back then? Not so good. Not if you wanted to eat on a steady basis.

But the Indians wanted firesticks you say! Well, the Indians would have wanted a Camaro if they had been around.

Those things were novelties, toys, prestige items, something the other chiefs didn't have. But you didn't fucking use them for hunting!

Guns are actually not a problem. Never should have been a problem. Became problem once big business took over. Big business takes the fun out everything.

People with guns are a problem. More specifically, and wow I am in agreement with Wayne Lapierre on this, people with bad brains that have guns, rotten brains, brains that go haywire, are a problem.

The difference between Lapierre and I is what constitutes mental illness. Who has bad brains? Feel threatened? In fear of your life? Feel the need for personal protection? Maybe you are paranoid. Maybe you've got a rotten brain.

Think about it, the situation that you wish to resolve requires lethal force? Really? Your going to go up to that scary or annoying person, whoever it is that has turned you into a scared little bunny, and with your bunny paws you going to ba-BAM blood and guts and brains all over you, and that solves the problem. Remember we are dealing with civilian life here, not a war zone. Even in the inner city, it is not strictly a war zone. People don't live in war zones. Not for long. If it is really a war zone, they  usually become refugees.

All these phantoms and phantasms and bad feelings and discomforts and oh-dearie-dears that you feel you are undergoing drive you to the conclusion that you must kill? Or even maim? Perhaps disfigure for life, and that'll teach them?

I'd say you are insane.

By my definition, Wayne Lapierre is insane. He lives in a very safe house in a very safe neighborhood and goes to work in a fortress, and feels threatened and in need lethal personal protection?

That's one fucked up brain. I'm mean look at him. He's really quiet. He looks like the quiet type that will just snap under the slightest provocation. He probably should have to take a test if he wants a gun.

I can see it right now. Here I am the gun store owner, and Lapierre comes in says he needs a gun.

Need a gun? Uh oh.

Probably hears voices in his head!
I look around at the arcadian calm of suburbia in which we find ourselves, and I say really, and surreptiously push the silent alarm. Time for Wayne Lapierre to be evaluated by the properly trained psychological technicians. Does this violate his 2A rights? I don't see how.

Why, even in the inner city, how exactly are you going to be safer brandishing a gun and waving it around? You don't have to be on any drug, just all stressed out.

No, I'm sorry, you got a bad brain. You probably need to evaluated.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Little Black Box, Meet Big Black Box

I don't think there is a good symbol for recursive substitution. Oh, true, there is a protocol for recurrent sequence, like the Fibonacci sequence, for example, can be represented as

fn = fn-1 + fn-2 where f1 = f2.

But there is no simple singular symbol like plus or minus or equals is: + - =. I'm not sure if that matters, but it kind of bugs me.

I was thinking how history does not repeat itself, and does not rhyme. But it is occasionally almost self-similar, or as some people would say, fractal, when inherent conditions are similar and external conditions are also similar. I noticed this looking at pictures of headhunters in Burma, the Naga tribe, and how, living in similar conditions to the Yanomami, they look the same. Same tech, same lifestyle, even the same hair styles. Despite the fact that they separated by a gulf of 10,000 miles and 10,000 years.

So, you might say a similar little black box under the same conditions within a bigger black box produces - perhaps only superficial - similarities in both. And if this is true in space, why not in time as well.

And thus people say cute dumb things like "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme".

It is also why people go fractal crazy when in fact fractals do not even begin to explain not half of what we see out in reality. They just do a slightly better job than regular old geometry.

Take, for example the Mandelbrot set which so many swoon over. Infinite zoom, one person told me. But if you look at the images, after awhile they are so blandly similar and, well, kind of boring, been there done that a few orders of magnitude ago.

And what, after all, are you looking at? Well, it's recurrent sequence of a complex number Z plus some constant C such that Z = Z squared plus C, then substitute the new Z into the old Z and square and add C again, and so on.


Now if you do that, you find that the function goes to infinity, and every value ultimately going to infinity ends up, color wise, as all white, like a blank page. But, if you look at the gradient, or how fast it tends towards infinity, and arbitrarily assign a color to the gradient, you end up with the classic picture of the Mandelbrot set.

Okay, so what? Point being I guess that self-similarity ain't all it's cracked up to be, but still, you use what you got. As that creepy old incompetent psychopath Donald Rumsfeld said, shrugging off the severed limbs and shredded viscera of poorly armored American servicemen, you go to war with what you got.

Anyway, the self-similarity tool I used last night to compare historical processes, and it went like this:

I'm reading an account of Eli Whitney. Yes, of the cotton gin (and the inadvertent propagator of slavery and genocide, by making green cotton that grows well in Mississippi and Alabama profitable). Eli Whitney managed to finagle a contract with the federal government to produce 10,000 stand of arms (rifle and bayonet) at $13.40 a pop.

Keep in mind, in the 1790s, America had a gun problem. There weren't enough guns.

So, at the time the craft industry just could not meet the demand of government. Whitney proposed to use "machinery moved by water" and to form "tools so that tools themselves shall fashion the work".

Whitney was kind of successful, in a wink and a nod kind of way, when in 1801 he demonstrated to President John Adams that random selected parts could be assembled into a rifle. (The parts had been pre-selected and fitted and finessed by craftsmen to actually work). Thus, the not entirely new idea of standardized parts was made manifest.

But what struck me was the account, a year prior to the White House demo, of how a government inspector arrived at Whitney's factory completely appalled to find that Whitney had a not produced a single rifle, but was instead making machines.

I suppose the reason this seemed profound is so many things that we have done in the industrial revolution are exactly that. We are not making machines to make items. We are making machines to make the machines. And what struck me is that this is exactly what we are currently doing with AI.

We are not creating artificially intelligent programs. We are creating programs to create programs. AI is simply an item that is a result, and not a goal. And if the endeavor is successful, it will be as easy, and inadvertently easy, to create 10,000 AIs as it is to create one.

I wonder what they'll create?