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?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Landscapin' Whirl

Latest sculpture, "Right There Honey". Cast Bronze and fabricated steel, Approx. 12" x 6" x 6"

This piece could cynically be subtitled "Johnny Needs Money".  Got a buyer for it already, and that's good. But still, Johnny Is Baroque (and thus the essay title, baroque is from the Portuguese baracco, misshapen pearl, and so via Cockney rhyming slang).

Thursday, July 7, 2016

We Shall Study War Forever More

Right now from ten feet up: Hillary and Trump have their primaries sewed up, on to the conventions. Question: Who is working for whom? Despite all the corporate media hand-waving and yoo-hooing, despite all the juvenile shit from the both of them, they do seem to be walking hand in hand...

From a hundred feet up: That Concealed Carry thing (irrespective of licensed and authorized or not) does not seem to be working out too well for our more dark complected fellow citizens of the US of A. Perhaps they should shield themselves with white people brandishing long rifles.

From five hundred feet up: Our Reluctant Caesar, Barack Obama, despite assurances that 'this is not who we are', seems determined to prove to the ages that this is exactly who we are.

Torture prisoners. Keep suspects in indefinite detention without due process. Assassination by drone.  Barbarism, savagery, oppression, hypocrisy. True, introduced by Bush and his incompetent psychopaths, but normalized by Reluctant Caesar. Doesn't want to push the button that keeps the whole militarist train to moving, but does anyway, after a sigh and a shrug. How will it be any different under Trump or Clinton? It won't.

From a thousand feet up: The 'longest war in the US history continues'. The War on Terror. Funny, though, how there are now more  - and more virulent - terrorist organizations in 2016 than in 2000, because... (psst we play right into their hands, by going ape shit and slaughtering anything that moves, guilty or not, and thus provide even more cannon fodder seeking revenge upon us for going ape shit all the time, a cycle of viciousness that any casual student of US history would instantly recognize).

From ten thousand feet up: Funny, also, how, if you ignore the brief two week stand-down in 1995, the US of A has been in a state of emergency for at least 75 years. Bridges collapsing, roads turning to gravel, lead in the water, standard of living plummeting, social safety net in tatters, a heathy, educated, and informed citizenry in decline, yet plenty of monies for making war. Sound familiar?

From a hundred thousand feet up: The Battle of the Somme commences, and though there are already two million people stuffed into sausage casings and rotting underground, an additional million will be ground up in the next few months. Get used to this, folks, because:

From a million feet up: One of three possibilities, peace (probably because all the annoying beach apes are gone), war (with or without the annoying beach apes present) as our machines take our lessons to heart, or ?

Not betting on ?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I Did It Again

Got word from Kohler Arts Center that I was rejected - once again - for a residency.

Try again next year.

My proposed exploration involved breaking molds and producing forms from those broken molds. There was an option to work in glass in conjunction with Corning Museum of Glass, also. I made the same proposal for glass casting. No dice.

I've been trying to cast this particular motif in glass and it don't want to be. So, the rejection and the wonderful discovery of a broken mold in the kiln with glass all over the kiln shelf, coupled with everything I touch turning to shit, would suggest, well, not that I give up, but that I reevaluate.

See this is what distinguishes me from incompetent psychopaths like Donald Rumsfeld, who would just "stay the course". And we know how well that works out. It doesn't.

Another distinction between me and Donny is, he gets rewarded for his incompetence.

Anyway, two cast glass pieces out of the kiln this weekend. The first is Purple Capped Fleshy Jelly, which is kind of boring and just looks like an octopus wearing a hat. But I like the color scheme on it.

And then, Crop Failure II.

(Not to be confused with Crop Failure I, which started me on the broken mold exploration).