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  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 16:17:23 on 2016/02/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , law, , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    In Our Brains… 

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    In our brains, almost everything is connected to the world outside of our brains. Thinking about artificial intelligence (AI), my friends Ted and Brandon are asking for help (@http://concerning.ai). In my humble opinion: If you want to „get somewhere“ then you need to think „outside of the box“.

    What I’m writing here has mainly to do with things Brandon and Ted talk about in episode 10. Also, in episodes 11 and 12, Brandon and Ted talk with Evan Prodromou, a „practitioner“ in the field. Evan points out (at least) two fascinating points: 1. Procedural code and 2. Training sets. Below, I will also talk about these two issues.

    When I said above that there is a need to „think out side of the box“, I was alluding to much larger systems than what is usually considered (note that Evan, Ted and Brandon also touched on a notion of „open systems“). For example: Language. So-called „natural language“ is extremely complex. To present just a shimmer of the enormous complexity of natural language, consider the „threshold anecdote“ Ted shared at the beginning of episode 11. A threshold is both a very concrete thing and also an abstract concept. When people use the term „threshold“, other people can only understand the meaning of the term by at the same time also considering the context in which the term is being used. This is for all practical purposes an intractable problem for any computational device which might be constructed by humans sometime in the coming century. Language itself does not exist in one person or one book, but it is something which is distributed among a large number of people belonging to the same linguistic community. The data is qualitative rather than qantitative. Only the most fantastically optimistic researchers would ever venture to try to „solve“ language computationally – and I myself was also once one such researcher. I doubt humans will ever be able to build such a machine… not only due to the vast resources it might require, but also because the nature of (human) natural language is orthogonal to the approach of „being solvable“ via procedural code.

    Another anecdote I have often used to draw attention to how ridiculous the aim to „solve language“ seems is Kurzweil’s emphasis on pattern recognition. Patterns can only be recognized if they have been previously defined. Keeping with another example from episode 11, it would require humans to walk from tree to tree and say „this is an ash tree“ and „that is not an ash tree“ over and over until the computational device were able to recognize some kind of pattern. However, the pattern recognized might be something like „any tree located at a listing of locations where ash trees grow“. Indeed: The hope that increasing computational resources might make pattern recognition easier underscores the notion that such „brute force“ procedures might be applied. Yet the machine would nonetheless not actually understand the term „ash tree“. A computer can recognize what an ash tree is IFF (if and only if) a human first defines the term. If a human must first define the term, then there is in fact no „artificial intelligence“ happening at all.

    I have a hunch that human intelligence has evolved according to entirely different laws – „laws of nature“ rather than „laws of computer science“ (and/or „mathematical logic“). Part of my thinking here is quite similar to what Tim Ferris has referred to as „not-to-do lists“ (see „The 9 Habits to Stop Now“). Similarly, it is well-known that Socrates referred to „divine signs“ which prevented him from taking one or another course of action. You might also consider (from the field of psychology) Kurt Lewin’s „Field Theory“ (in particular the “Force Field Analysis” of positive / negative forces) in this context, and/or (from the field of economics) the „random walk“ hypothesis. The basic idea is as follows: Our brains have evolved with a view towards being able to manage (or „deal with“) situations we have never experienced before. Hence „training sets“ are out of the question. We are required to make at best „educated“ guesses about what we should do in any moment. Language is a tool-set which has symbiotically evolved in our environment (much like the air we breathe is also conducive to our own survival). Moreover: Both we and our language (as also other aspects of our environment) continue to evolve. Taken to the ultimate extreme, this means that the coexistence of all things evolving in concert shapes the intelligence of each and every sub-system within the universe. To put it rather plainly: the evolution of birds and bees enables us to refer to them as birds and bees; the formation of rocks and stars enables us to refer to them as rocks and stars; and so on.

    In case you find all of this somewhat scientific theory too theoretical, please feel free to check out one of my recently launched projects – in particular the „How to Fail“ page … over at bestopopular.com (which also utilizes the „negative thinking“ approach described above).

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    nmw 12:39:19 on 2015/08/11 Permalink
    Tags: conservatism, conservative, law, , , , sytem, sytems,   

    How to Constrain the Freedom to Choose the Best of all Possible Worlds During an Era of Uninterrupted Progress 

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    Over the past couple days, I have dragged some of my closest friends and relatives — in some cases almost kicking and screaming (though perhaps not the very dearest ones) — and pretty much forced them to read my previous blog post… and also to discuss it with me. One result of all this mental anguish is this current blog post I am writing — but please: If you haven’t read the previous one yet, then you really must first read it  (why not do that now?).

    I will simply assume you have already read it (which is quite certainly not very hard to do),

    I thought I had been able to simplify away so many treacherous problems with one of my favorite quasi-progressive ideas (especially those that go beyond the status of mere typographical errors) — but it still seems as though I was mistaken and hitherto remain uninfallible. 😐

    My greatest error seems to be my unpardonable doubt that the current world is indeed the best of all possible worlds — as the incessant toil of legislators, lawmakers and the like do not apparently lead rational people to disbelief in current laws but rather to a steadfast doctrine of the present situation above and beyond anything that has ever come before (since it is now undeniably long gone since at least yesterday). My disbelief in the present state is almost universally scoffed at as underdeveloped, a sort of “heathen savage” world view… and awe and amazement over the fact that anyone would ever question the present state of progress as the undeniable best of all possible worlds.

    Never for a moment do any of my interlocutors pause to wonder why legislators and lawmakers alike do not stop and retire once they have achieved perfection.

    “No!” they say: “We must limit the ability of free people to live in the past.” (or something more or less equivalent and/or along those lines). For example: No one must be so free as to choose slavery… and this is unfortunately not merely paradoxical nonsense (note that every currently living American today enjoys fruits produced from the hands of slave labor, whether that be some technological product, the clothing they wear on a daily basis or the White House which was built by slaves for the esteemed American President to reside in).

    Well, in order to keep a quickly lengthening story at least somewhat short, I have scrambled to find a stopgap — and this is what I have come up with: First, no one may choose a system of laws from any time other then when they have already been alive (and perhaps also living under those laws). Second, no person may ever be subjected to laws they have not at some point previously lived under (besides that sacrosanct case in which lawmakers / legislators / whatever make new [+ “improved”] laws). I hope these two added caveats might prevent and/or stop many if not even most of the loud, annoying objections from people who protest too much.

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 14:57:18 on 2015/08/09 Permalink
    Tags: , fixed, flux, , , law, , , , privilege, privileges, , , , , , variable   

    How to Fix the World via the Legal System 

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    I have long since been a big fan of Edmund Burke — the “father of modern conservatism”…. He was probably far ahead of his time, but for today, I feel he is no longer far ahead of our time. What is more: I think I myself have figured out a way to improve on his ideas about conservatism.

    These ideas I have, I started having them during my college years .. but I have just now added one significant extra twist which make them far simpler to implement.

    The basic idea is this: People should be able to live out their lives under a single system of laws and not have to worry about whether laws might change at some point in time. The main reason why this is problematical is that lawyers (or legislators, or whatever) keep changing the laws … and therefore law (remember how Tom Paine wrote that “in America, law is king”?) is a constantly moving target. The problems, therefore might get extremely complicated if people are born at different times… as in the meantime (between their dates of birth) some of the laws may very well have changed.

    The “extra twist” I came up with today is this: There should be different levels of fixedness — I think perhaps four of them. The law we have today — basically: fully “variable” law (and by that I mean the laws could change at any time) — could be called “free” law (because we don’t have to “pay” anything for it — at least not apparently so). This is what everyone has today (whether they like it or not).

    To this I would add 3 levels of more “fixed” laws: 1. uniquely fixed law; 2. strictly fixed law; and 3. affordable fixed law. Affordable fixed law (a sort of privilege) could be bought at a rather affordable rate, and it would fix the law a person is subjected to to the law of a specific calendar year. Strictly fixed law would fix it to a particular date. Uniquely fixed law would go above and beyond that and fix it to a unique point in time. This reasoning adds some significant ideas. First, moving from free law to affordable fixed law to strictly fixed law to uniquely fixed law, one would advance from lesser privileges to higher privileges — in other words: the higher privileges would trump the lower levels of fixedness. Also, this would introduce something like market forces into the system — the price of affordable fixed vs. strictly fixed vs. uniquely fixed law could be set at the beginning, but might be allowed to rise and fall with the sentiments of how people wish to invest in having such a level of reliability.

    That is the basic idea, redux. I will leave it at that for now — at least I have finally written it down and posted it for all the world to see. :)

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 23:05:41 on 2015/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: archetype, archetypes, , , law, , permanent, , , , , temporary, , , , , , written language   

    The Quintessential Human Superpower: Universal Law 

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    The evolution of homo sapiens is a continuing story, and so far the development has been not only towards rational thought, but also towards technology for sharing ideas.

    Among these technologies is language, and since just a few thousand years ago: Written language. Before written language was developed, humans devised several tricks to be able to keep permanent records. These are still effective mnemonic tools, but since the advent of writing, permanent records have become increasing widespread. Ironically, written records may actually pose a threat to homo sapiens — more on that in a moment.

    First, let me give a brief description of the role written records play in human civilization today. Although in many cases written records are created to document temporary facts (think, for example, of the receipt a cashier hands you when you have made a purchase), the far more significant use of writing is to codify universal laws — whether that is a government’s rules of law, or the natural laws that have been tested time and again by observation, then to be approved as “scientific theory” (and ultimately to be turned into quasi-indisputable universal law).

    Such universals play a very significant role in society. Being virtually indisputable, they become “facts of life”, “common sense” and similar concepts. They become as fixed as the firmament, and they are handed down from one generation to the next with the same sense of certainty as that a mother will care for her newborn child. These concepts are unwavering — and I feel they are very similar to what C.G. Jung referred to as “archetypes”. In contrast to Jung, however, I feel they are not coded into the human psyche — rather: they are written into the human record. As such, they are particularly human attributes (because I feel only humans have developed such advanced permanent record-keeping technologies).

    Such unwavering, permanent universal laws are basically uncontestable — to deny their validity is to step outside of the norms that are part and parcel of living within a civilized community. The risk I alluded to before is that there does not seem to be a straightforward way to deal with revising these laws (in case they should for some odd reason no longer remain valid). Although there have been successful “scientific revolutions” in the past, there is no guarantee that this will remain so forever (consider, for example, the heated debates over the concept of “global warming” or the question of whether some resources are “renewable” or not).

    Scientific laws give rise to a notion referred to as “objectivity” — in a future post, I wish to explain how this idea of “objective” facts is actually a rather quirky notion (and how it is the exception to the rule, rather than being anything normal).

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