Saturday, June 25, 2022

Spoofing and Jinking

My brother went to see Top Gun: Maverick and said it was stupid but fun, like all good propaganda. 

The original Top Gun (which I also have never seen) was also propaganda which resulted in a huge recruitment boost for the United States Navy. The one thing my brother objected to (other than the hypersonic bullshit - of which I could write a separate essay called the Hype in Hypersonic) was the avoidance of a drone subplot. Possibly because tiny Tom Cruise would be sky burgers after about twenty seconds against a drone. Let's face it, unlike fighter drones, Tom Cruise cannot handle sustained 9 gee acceleration and look both ways at the same time. He cannot think a million times faster than a human.

Not to make too much of drones. Like hypersonic weapons, they suffer from design flaws and the biggest flaw is the machine intelligence itself. It's damn hard to audit a machine intelligence and the data it learns from. It's damn hard to know how it is doing what it is doing other than empirica evidence. This is nto a good situation. There have been numerous reports of bias introduced into these little critters (the classic example is how an AI chatbot was corrupted into a racist, sexist troll after being exposed to Twitter) and invariably the fault lies with the training data. Garbage in, garbage out.

One example is to attack machine learning training by re-ordering the sequence of training data. This is because ML models are susceptible to "initialization bias" (paging Kahneman and Tversky). Whatever data they receive first has a profound impact on the overall weighting of subsequent data.

Worse still, evidence is mounting that validating an ML model can be made impossible by planting an udectectable backdoor into the training data. Such a backdoor can change the classification of any input wihout detection by a tester - unless they are in possession of a "backdoor key". The mechanism is undetectable by any computationally bound observer, meaning you can't even tell if a backdoor was implanted into the model. That's pretty scary. Rather like the Manchurian Candidate, the thing itself doesn't know it is corrupted.

There are plenty of examples of how poison data makes ML baby Jesus cry, but for your entertainment, read this Pluralistic entry from Cory Doctorow. My favorite is  where a 2" piece of tape on a road sign can trigger 50mph accelerations in Tesla autopilots.

Other thing: I've had, hopefully, the last operation on my eye for the year. The retina had completely detached and my eye received essentially a boob job. The vitreous humor was removed and replaced (after the retina was re-attached with a laser) with silicone oil. The eye would have withered and died with the retina detached, So, the eye is saved, the vision is lost, and I'm good to go.

To mess with people, I published this aftermath photo, which is fake:

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A New History of Old Europe

A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe by Johannes Krause and Thomas Trappe (translated by Caroline Waight) gives us the latest info on archeology and DNA samplings from European archaeological sites. The title may be a bit pretentious, as it only covers an area of Earth more or less a cultural backwater until very recent times. Still, there is a lot of new information to give us an up-to-date picture of the peopling of Europe. European archeology covering the most ground, it is refreshing to see debunking and confirmations from new data. Particularly, and most interesting, the piecing together of prehistoric metadata involving artifacts and diseases.

I enjoyed this book as it is a good tie-in with David Graeber's and David Wengrow's The Dawn of Everything.

Shaman of Bad Durremberg

Europe, the largest peninsula on Earth, has it tough duing the Ice Ages. Though the central plains heading across Eurasia are ice free, living conditions at the deepest parts of ice ages are impossible. However, during the interglacials Europe is quite charming. Briefly, from current data in the book, what we currently know is that Europe's first known settlers are Neanderthals and Denisovans some 600,000 years ago. Early modern humans followed, but left no permanent genetic record among modern Europeans.

Three waves of anatomically modern humans have left genetic markers among Europeans today. The first wave, the hunter gatherers that produced the beautiful cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira, entered from Africa approximately 45,000 years ago. Reconstructed DNA evidence taken from bones and teeth from that time indicate they were dark-skinned, and dark to light eyed. These Aurignacian hunters after mastodon and cave lion and short face bear were beautiful black people with blue eyes.

The latest Ice Age ended some 12,900 years ago, and was so abrupt as to be noticed in the short span of one generation. Times were good for the hunter gatherers in Europe, until about 8,000 years ago, with glaciers finally in retreat, farmers from Anatolia and the Fertile Crescent appear in Europe. Interestingly, there are two distinct groups of unrelated peoples inhabiting the western and eastern portions of the Fertile Crescent. The western people are the lactose tolerant cheese eating surrender monkeys of the future. Because they lack nutrients (vitamin D) from hunter gathering, they got paler and paler the further north they went. Funny thing is the physical records show the original hunter-gatherers staying way clear of these extremely violent farmers bickering over land, other than interaction through trade.

 And the trade networks are a regular time crystal of a quantum computer connected by atom lasers. Much to be gleaned from the metadata of traded artifacts, but the extent of networks reached all the way across Eurasia, and possibly into the Western Hemisphere. These are the peoples behind the poorly named Agricultural Revolution, with groups picking up and abandoning agricultural practices as set their whims. (My mother's side of the family can be traced back to the Scandinavian penisula, which became ice free a mere 6,200 years ago.)

5000 years ago the last migration wave arrived from the Ponticsteppes above the Caspian and Black Seas, the Yamnaya. The Yamnaya brought Indo-European languages, bronze age tech, and domesticated horses with them. They originally migrated across the Caucasus to the steppes from the Zagros mountains of Iran (thus the whole shithead Aryan white supremacy thing).

This third migration wave DNA is prominant in Northern and Eastern Europe, and also in Native Americans. (Easily solved problem traced back to a 24,000 year old skeleton in Mongolia, the common ancestor). We are up to speed save for an interesting deduction via the metadata of disease. There is a suggestion that the Black Plague came with the Yamnaya, like a biocidal invasive species.. Further, plague has a possible origin in the domestication of horses. The bacteria responsible for plague are indigenenous to the Vast Plain of Eurasia. Further evidence, the Yamnaya replaced their steppe horses and tamed native European horses (possibly more resistant to plague). 

Obviously, the authors stress the absurdity of racial superiority and that we are still of dangerously limited genetic diversity. (Me being Scandinatian makes me seriously inbred). Thank goodness for the African Diaspora.

Still lots to do, lots of books to come, and still a lot of places to dig up.