Tuesday 23 October 2007

Deskjet Organ Fabbing

Growing organs outside the body is futuristic enough - but using an ink-jet printer to print a heart... that beats! Incredible.


Monday 15 October 2007

Starship Dimensions - http://www.merzo.net/

Excelent! Should have the Red Dwarf too though.


Monday 8 October 2007

The worst of all possible worlds?

In IT it is often the case that the more efficient an algorithm is in time, the more bloated it will be in memory space. The opposite is also true: It is a rule of thumb that processor cycles and memory footprint are antagonistic.

Some weird, but elegant, new theories in physics and cosmology seem to show something similar: theories that conserve on constants seem to splurge universes.

Promiscuous with universes:
The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics; the universe is a black hole, and all black holes are universes; even the SL4 idea that the world is probably a simulation.

What if they are all true?

If everything is meaningless spam.
If every minor decision makes a swarm of new Me's; if each black hole is the root of another infinite tree of universes; and if in each universe millions of instances of reality are running in simulations.

Gazillions of Me's and all those I love.

And if, as each simulation server crashes, or each black hole evaporates, infinities of souls are wiped out.

How can anyvody aspire to seek any meaning, beyond personal gratification, against such a nightmare of chaos?

(I do though, anyway)


Friday 14 September 2007

Franchised Topology

You want to meet up with your buddy in Johannesburg, but don't want the 12hour flight? Just pop on your VR overlay spex and head off to a local pub, let the Spex superimpose vis photo realistic avatar over the environment.
Vis avatar mimics vis real movements gesture for gesture. Head, and pupil tracking keep his position consistent as you move around. But unless you are in an empty room ve will seem to walk through tables, and vis glass will hover in the air, the illusion will be broken.
The solution is..

to standardise the topology of the shared spaces. Mac Donald's could build all its restaurants with the same floor plan, allowing the remote virtual dinners to interact consistently with their locally corporal colleague's environment. A glass placed on a table in Jo'burg will appear to rest on an identically positioned table in London. Open VML descriptions of these geometries would allow small restaurants and bars to standardise too. Add payment integration: You buy the attractive lady a drink unaware that your spex are blitting her in from Moscow, but the system knows; so routes your request to that pub. You watch the Russian waitress swaying between the tables (identically placed in both bars) to bring your new friend the drink. Shortcomings may be discovered if the evening keeps on going so well, but telepresence prosthetics can probably help there.


iPhone tactile feedback - rumble pack.

Does anybody use vibrate function of the iPhone to give force feedback? A very short vibrate pulse could feel like a click, letting the user know when ve has pressed a key. It could, I suppose, be just as easily used as a rumble in games.


Saturday 18 August 2007

Death of the Dinosaurs

Confident of monopoly and interested only in short term profit, big Auto in the 1970s ignored the public swell towards small fuel efficient cars. Delaying the inevitable they slowly lost market share; the Japanese won that one.

Electric cars. All the car manufacturers have vested interests these days - delay, delay - but wait its too late, the barrier to entry has dropped, small companies can now make (or modify) cars that you can plug in.
Bring on home electricity generation. Centralized infrastructure bytes the dust.


I have uploaded.

With my DNA somevody could create the million most likely adult configurations for my brain. Calibrating the simulations against the multi media record of my life - gait analysis, word association, pupil dilation, semantic parsing - it should be possible to fix a probable state vector for everything in my head at some densely represented point in my life.

The more we can help St. Paul the editor the better. The Terabytes chilling in my Ready NAS NV+ are my soul.


The New Machiavellian Agents

The prince of North Korea is one of the few remaining human diplomatic entities. Once it was kings or emperors, then Popes and Prime-ministers. Now we are represented by our own rules.

All the while these Machiavellian institutions are compelled by the fundamental, yet emergent, impetus to evolve. Driven by the current environmental landscape to conserve wealth at the expense of all else.

Already Presidents or CEOs are just the figure heads of huge algorithmic entities; the post human age has begun.

Looking at the behavior of our societies one would notice signs of intentionality. The inferred motives for this observed behavior would certainly differ from the proffered motives of the nominal leaders of those societies. Not all the conspiracies of the herd are ever articulated by any of its members.


Sunday 15 July 2007

Inspiring... but up its own arse?

I enjoy Edge. More than that I think it is the online equivalent of an ancient learned academic institution, a font of ideas and a hub for intellectual cross pollination. But it does do a lot of 'Wanking' as well.

For example:

"There's no need to use scientific jargon when it doesn't pertain. Nor is there cause to fall into radical epistemological relativism..." from the essay REGARDING A NEW HUMANISM.

If this is deliberate it is supremely dry humour, otherwise it is a contradiction embedded within the proof.


Wednesday 11 July 2007

Dualist or Reductionist?

An Experiment to Establish the Dualist or Reductionist nature of the Mind.

Philosophers must ultimately reach an impasse at the Hard Problem. Today, as in the time of Des Carte, the ultimate nature mind and self, whether monist or dualist, remains opaque to the tools of abstract logic or subjective introspection.
A new third way, Dennet's way: denying that the thing exists at all, is a rather unsatisfactory clarification, especially to someone who strongly believes that he exists...
(full post after the jump)

Science has also failed to peer any deeper into the matter. Scientific reductionism has begun to produce good theories of behaviour based upon the structure of the brain, but does not seem to have the tools to address subjectivity and the Hard Problem itself.

This is a thought experiment I concieved of while reading
a paper by Don N. Page. (for references see my essay Lost In The Mind Maze.)

The experiment outlines a test could concievably be carried out to ascertain whether consciousness is reducible to physical reality, or whether it comes from the soul, some remote brain stuff.

1. Entropy = Information
At a fundamental level entropy and information are the same things. An ice cube with all molecules aligned in an ordered crystal lattice is far easier to describe than a cloud of steam. Thus the ice cube has less information than
the steam, even though both may have the identical number of atoms. This is because to describe the cloud of steam the position, and velocity, of each the atom must be specified. But the ice cube’s crystal lattice puts bounds on where the atoms may be, allowing only the departure of the atoms from their ideal position to be noted. The gas with more entropy requires more information to
describe it.

2. Entropy = Energy
Much more apparent is the direct relationship between energy and entropy. This is formulated by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:

The total entropy of any thermodynamically isolated system tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value.
The Wiki-Pedia unpacking of this:
When one part of a closed system interacts with another part, energy tends to split equally between all energy states, and the system approaches thermal equilibrium.
Using the example of the ice cube and the steam - a box full of steam, with a block of ice in one corner will eventually settle down to give a box with a pool of uniformly warm water (assuming the steam had enough energy to completely melt the ice to begin with). The entropy of the ice plus the steam will equal the entropy of the warm water. Just as the total energy of the ice plus the steam will equal the energy of the water.

Further the first law of thermodynamics states:
The increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added to the system by heating, plus the amount added in the form of work done on the system.
This is the familiar “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another.”

3. Information Loss = Energy Loss
Taken very seriously by physicists the correlation above implies that if information is lost from a closed system, e.g. from the universe, it would be in direct contradiction to the laws of thermodynamics. To illustrate that this is
not a purely hypothetical problem, take the paradox of Information loss due to evaporating black holes(7):

- The universe is a closed system; therefore information should not enter or leave it.
- Physicists used to think that dropping an encyclopaedia into a black hole would hide the information inside the event horizon, effectively partitioned of, but preserved.
- Hawking Radiation shows that black holes evaporate, eventually disappearing completely.
- This radiation has a perfect black body spectrum and cannot transmit any information.

Therefore black holes will eventually delete the information that they consume,violating the laws of thermodynamics.

This is still a real problem for current cosmology and scientists are working hard to find mechanisms that may save the information, thus removing the paradox.
(Note: I realise that recent theoretical theories may now have explained the paradox above. This example was used only to show that physics takes the idea of conservation of information seriously.)

The experiment:
Place a subject in a closed system, where all energy flows in and out are prevented or at least measured minutely. Measure the total energy, and therefore the entropy, of the room at all times. Place in the room a human subject. Allow
the subject to make decisions, perceive, enjoy, and otherwise interact with the contents of the room.

In a monist universe all decisions/experiences will be the result of physical processes within the room, and no information will arrive or leave.

In a dualist universe experiences will pass information into the realm of res-cogitans and information from decisions made or influenced by the soul will flow from there to the physical world.

If no energy fluctuations are measured in the room the subjects mind is reducible to a collection of atoms and fields. (The soul could still conceivably be purely epiphenomenal without any chance at free will.)

If the energy mysteriously appears and disappears we can conclude that information is passing to and from a soul.

Any mysterious results can be confirmed by having an identical room, but without a living human subject.

If only consciousness produces the anomalous behaviours, the room will be a Zombie Test.


Got a Roomba.

It was bound to be a disappointment - It would get stuck, the battery would be insufficient and it would do a crummy job - but I bought one anyway... and it is incredible.
We have had it for 2 months now and it does just exactly what it says on the tin. To be fair we do have a flat that is basically designed with the robot in mind. Open plan, wood floors, a small amount of furniture with decent floor clearance - it can even get under the sofa.

(more after the jump...)

It is like a dishwasher: not really a necessity but it would be a huge pain to give up on now we are used to it. Imagine shutting the door on a grubby flat and coming back to find the robot charging in its hutch, a spotless floor testament to the hard work it just put in. Dust motes, re-dried corn-flakes from the kids breakfasts (and Lego) are no problem (remember to fish the Lego out when emptying the hopper).
It seems to mostly sweep up the dirt, the sucking is pretty week, but it maximises its vacuum power by sucking through a thin slit. This works fine on our wood floor, but I can't imagine it sucking dust-mites out of a deep shag carpet.

It has a low IQ, it ricochets off the furniture to get the job done. This is the equivalent of my generation's grandparents' first TV. It is a milestone, but will look pretty dim-witted pretty quickly.


Tuesday 19 June 2007

Fermi Paradox

This is my rather depressing take on the Fermi Paradox.
There is no point in anything.

We humans are programmed/evolved to make sense out of the environment, so we find it hard to accept that large complex artefacts, like the universe for example, are pointless. This has allowed us to confabulate higher meanings that keep us going.

But if a truly rational being accepts that there is no creator/mysticism/purpose then what is the point?
Evolution generates its own purpose; survival. But a rational being will not be able to deceive itself for long if the universe really is devoid of higher purpose.
These minds will euthanize leaving nothing behind.

This may be a view in common circulation. Ian M Banks touches on the idea in one of his books when he describes a clean AI free of any of the "noise" of the creating species. These AIs always sublime immediately.

Fermi Paradox


Eric the half a mouse.

1/2 a mouse a philosophically...

When I first read about a simulation of a mouse brain running at 10% C, I dismissed it immediately as too far fetched - We Can't Do That Yet. Reading past the headlines the actual simulation turned out to be significantly less far fetched, but only slightly less portentous. According to the article, standard Moore's Law improvements will allow hardware of the same cost to run a human mind in real-time in 20 years. Or 1000 human minds in 30 years, 10,000,000 human minds in 50 years.

(more after the jump...)

Sure at the moment this is just a statistical model with no behaviour. The regions of this simulated brain have the neural topology and firing patterns of a real mouse brain, but the software it is running is just noise.
True AI equivalence will require the software too, and this is a non trivial problem. But even if we do it by brute force - start with a population of 1,000 agents each with a human brain's allocation of processing resources, run them at 1000 times real-time and let various fitness functions optimize the various brain regions - I can't imagine it taking more than a couple of decades to crack.

I personally think we will have some very clever software ready to run on those simulated brains by the time they arrive on our lab benches. Neuronal implementations of Jeff Hawkins HTM hierarchies, e.g. My MSc thesis, would already look pretty smart utilising all those synapses.

Mouse brain simulated on computer


Sunday 10 June 2007


The singularity is inevitable.
Any sufficiently complex substrate will evolve intelligent beings.

The laws of nature are complex enough to allow, amongst other things, us. As we discover mushrooms that eat gamma rays or bacteria that thrive in boiling Sulphuric acid - but also as we notice that cultural phenomenon are themselves agents who live and evolve within the habitat of human interactions - I am beginning to think that surviving long term in this universe might be tricky.

(more after the jump...)

There seems to be a fundamental drive for the universe to organize itself:
math -> physics -> energy -> matter -> chemistry -> biology -> intelligence -> culture... a single 'algorithm/process/drive', ratcheting up complexity with each iteration.

Memeplexs evolving in the space of human societies: Kings, Companies and Religions are themselves examples of primitive cultural beings inexorably drawn towards the same ultimate universal attractor.

Keep it too simple and you will be gobbled up by the emerging singularity next door, too complex and your own culture will go all exponential on you!



Saturday 9 June 2007


Zürich. It’s the warmest winter here in the Alps for 1300 years. The Zürich insurance company uses futuristic advertising and the slogan “Change Happens!”. Nestle CEO is on CNN stating that the only constant is change. NASA is talking about a Moon base by 2020, although NASA is always talking about a Moon base by “$date + 20 years”.


Hello Pre Singularity World!

I will be posting thoughts, musings and portents as we climb together past the foothills and on towards the peak of Mount Singularity itself.