I was reading an article in SciAm this morning about the possibility of a robot uprising. Don’t laugh yet, this is a very real, if still quite remote possibility.
The main idea that was described was that AI could rise one day to self-awareness and to an ability to improve itself through self-replication beyond human abilities to control it.
Sure, that’s one possibility, and some people are actually arguing that if that’s the case, maybe it’s just the march of evolution and humankind is just destined to one day become obsolete and be replaced by something fitter, whether from good old evolution or by artificially creating its own replacement.
I would tend to agree but I do have an objection. There is a distinction in this kind of speculation that is not often pointed out: self-replication and evolution are not the same thing.
- The state owns a majority of railways, energy production and distribution, aircraft and telecommunication industries of the country.
- There is a minimum wage, and it's pretty high: 1300 euros a month.
- Health care is mandatory, universal and state-managed.
- Cities have an obligation to provide cheap homes to poor people.
- Several of the top TV and radio stations are state-owned.
- Movies and art in general are largely sponsored by the state.
- Public schools are often better than private ones.
- Free college education for all.
- Top 3 scientific colleges pay their students for being promising future contributors to society.
- Owning a gun is not a sacred right guaranteed by the constitution.
- The constitution is only 52 years old, and it can be changed by referendum.
- People can't get fired from a permanent position for no good reason and without a severance package or time to rebound.
- If you get fired, you get substantial unemployment insurance.
- Religion and the state are strictly separated, to the point that cults and religions pay taxes like everybody else, and politicians rarely talk about their religious convictions, or lack thereof. No mention of God is made on banknotes.
- 64% of the population defines itself as atheists or agnostics according to http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/allnewsbydate.asp?NewsID=1131
- Children in school don't pledge allegiance to the flag.
Recently Ambrose pointed me to one of his posts in response to a snarky comment I made about the Inquisition on Twitter. His summary goes like this: "The Inquisition was a good thing for its time. You don't even have to be Catholic to think so, if you'll just look into the facts and how it was a civilizing and taming influence in otherwise extremely brutal times."
The argument is that the Inquisition wasn't doing the torturing and killing themselves, but rather that their role was to determine who was "innocent" and who was "guilty" and then hand them over to the competent authorities who would then proceed with the torturing and killing (which they were fully aware of). Of course, the crime these people were "guilty" of was to believe differently or to not believe at all.
Most of the debate tends to be around theism versus atheism. But there is so much more! Let's review the full set of hypotheses:
- x = 0: atheists think there is no god.
- 0 ≤ x ≤ Infinity: agnostics think there may be between zero and an infinity of gods. Interestingly, the set of natural numbers plus infinity is called "supernatural numbers".
- x = 1: monotheists think there is one God.
- x ∈ ℕ*, x > 1: polytheists think there is more than one god.
- x ∈ ℚ: in some polytheist religions, gods can procreate with humans, which gives demigods. If demigods then procreate with humans, does that make quartergods? This is of course assuming the divinity of humans is zero. ℚ is called the set of rational numbers, which doesn't make this position especially more rational than the others...
So where do I stand? I think x ∈ ℂ: there is a number of imaginary gods. I guess that makes me a complexotheist.
I took (my) Alice to the movies this week-end, and we saw Tim Burton's Alice in 3D. I love Tim Burton's universe. But this time it just didn't work for me.
Maybe it's because I've recently read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but the whole foundation of the movie seems utterly absurd. In a bad way.
All events *should* be absurd but should make sense in their own weird way. Alice should be the one who tries to make sense in an absurd world.
Instead of that, we have a relatively normal world with slightly mad characters. there is a plot, and even a quest.
But worst of all, Alice as a warrior in a shiny armor? Alice in Wonderland as an action flick? Wow. And when Alice recounts the six impossible things she's done today, she sounds like Rambo, not Alice.
It's OK to take an existing work and make it your own, but this is not it. It's not even very personal: Burton can do so much better than that.
The only moment of grace for me was when Alice remembers her previous visits.
Anyway, (my) Alice liked it so it wasn't a complete waste of time...
Amy was asking me some questions on "alternate dimensions" and "parallel universes". Here's my answer, which is entirely non-scientific although it is based on a few things I know (or think I know) about physics. I'm suspecting for example that the string theory stuff is a little shaky as I never really studied the math in there.
Uh oh, I've been watching Fox at the gym again...
The big thing they were talking about was Harry Knox, a White House advisor, having said the Catholic Church was "hurting people in the name of Jesus" by forbidding the use of condoms. Fox pundits of course were outraged, their arguments being that scientific consensus was agreeing with the Pope that condoms weren't preventing the spread of AIDS and that the Catholic Church was saving a lot more lives through its charities than Knox's organization, HRC.
Let's look at these claims.
It’s the week-end, which is the perfect time for a slightly off-topic post. It’s still engineering of sorts though in that it provides what I think is an original and cheap solution to a real problem.
As I’m in vacation, I thought I’d make a post on something different but still quite geeky. I really like to see how people set-up their video systems: there isn’t just one way to do it right and I can’t think of two friends of mine who have something even remotely similar. So I’ll describe my setting and invite you to drop me a comment and describe yours. I’ll also tag a few friends and ask them to describe theirs. I’ll post links here.
I don't watch the news and to be honest I don't understand why anyone with half a brain would. That is, I don't watch except when they put a screen in my face with the captions on like it's the case at the gym. I didn't think I would ever regret being able to read. A TV screen is a terrible thing: it's very hard not to look at it. And I had forgotten the Zune.
So I watched the news.
Here's what I learned: