Showing posts with label that is illogical captain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label that is illogical captain. Show all posts


i'm a bastard

i am. i and a few other people made a guy storm out of our Grand Challenges of AI tutorial today just by questioning him.

the tutorials are pretty simple for GCAI, which is an introductory, non-technical artificial intelligence primer that i take for giggles (can't get any credit for it, for various reasons.) you get a source book of articles, you bring it to each tutorial, and each time, you read through one of them and a sort of informal town-hall debate arises around it. today it was Turing's seminal paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, from way back in 1950. it's basically the original introduction to the field of AI, where Turing defines intelligence, presents the concept of machine intelligence, and demos the common arguments against the possibility of deep AI. he then rebukes each one, apart from the last, which is (hilariously) the 'argument from telepathy'; at the time, it hadn't yet been discredited, and Turing was a firm believer. it shows in the paper, with a genius like Turing asserting the existence of evidence for telekinesis and telepathy which he doesn't provide and suggesting the necessity of 'telepathy-proof rooms' for testing AI in.

that wasn't the argument we had problems with, however. Turing's first cited objection to AI is religious, the 'Theological Objection'. people apparently didn't like AI, back in the day, because of their ridiculous conviction that only people could think because only people had souls. of course, a machine could never have a soul, so how could it possibly ever be intelligent?

i pointed out that this shouldn't even have been included in a scientific paper in the first place. it's just pandering to the deluded, pretending that their silly beliefs are legitimate enough to warrant consideration in a serious scientific journal, but it was the norm in Turing's time to pamper these people. i get that, but, i explain, you can't argue from God unless you've previously proved God, and you can't make arguments involving souls unless you've demonstrated their existence already. which nobody has.

crazy two rows down from me pipes up. "Just because it involves God is no reason to automatically say it's bullshit," he tells me sternly.
"It is," i throw back. crazy goes on to explain that we have souls, animals don't have souls, machines don't have souls, and that therefore we're fundamentally different from either one and the only intelligences possible.

why is this guy studying AI? it being pretty harsh to say that, i stick with asking him for evidence of his batshit claims, and with giving an explanation of neural nets and how the ones we have are tiny arrays of perceptrons compared to our trillions of neurons. we're not anywhere close to creating an analogy of the human brain, but if we did get that many perceptrons, there's no reason to write off the possibility that they might approximate a sentient intelligence. "If we can build nets as big as our brains," i ask him, "then how can you be so sure that they won't come close to intelligence?" somewhere in this i used the phrase 'biological machines' to describe us. it turns out this was a big fucking mistake. crazy didn't like that one bit.

"We're pointless then," he says, over and over. "We're just pointless then aren't we."
"We're not pointless. That doesn't follow at all," i cut him off when he starts to annoy me. "Knowing how our brains work doesn't mean we're devoid of all meaning. Or are you trying to tell me we need a soul to have meaningful lives?"

at this, crazy finally has enough. he turns round, points at me and the people who've been agreeing with me like we were witches, and goes, "I don't like this, this is just fucking shit. Fuck this. You're all getting so overemotional. Fuck this. Fuck," and he shoves his way out of the lecture theatre and stomps away down the corridor, leaving me feeling like a total asshole and my comrades giggling their asses off at this guy.

"We're getting emotional?" snorts the guy just in front of me as the crazy's footsteps die away. i still feel like a shit about it, but i can't just sit there in those sessions and let people spew bullshit unchallenged. i guess some people just can't cope with being asked to actually prove what they're claiming is true.


chillin' in 1954

i'm a transhumanist, someone who believes that technology can and should be used to improve the human condition, and specifically, the human body. this is why i have all these implants, and why i design more - i want to learn something about how to use technology to help me, and in doing that, maybe help someone else to improve themselves too, or even create something that helps millions of us.

my view of the future of such implants is completely bottom-up, in that i'm for creating implants that can do a fraction of what i want an entire transhuman body to be able to, and then combining them in my research subject - yours truly - as science and i progress, to eventually add them together and get closer to what i want. hence the tiny, homebrew components i've sited and had sited are simplistic and monofunctional; but an array of tiny, monofunctional devices is what we call a computer, and i hope the whole human who has many modifications like these will be better than the sum of their parts.

a lot of people don't agree with me. go to a discussion on transhumanism like the ones started by my buddies at Atheist Nexus, and you find people wanting downloadable silicon brains, full-conversion robotic bodies, cybernetic jacks into virtual representations of the Net, ad nauseam. now these are wonderful dreams, sure, but we're not living in a manga or a game, we're adults alive in 2008 and we're probably not gonna live to see this shit. i see so many people totally unmodified, hanging around in cyberspace waiting for Masamune Shirow's prosthetic robot bodies and electronic ghosts. it's not gonna happen in your lifetime, awesome as it'd be if it did. it's like we're sitting around in 1954, waiting for our robotic house servants and our flawless machine translation, before any of us has even taken a look at a neuron.

so we don't got ageless, beautiful super-cyborg shells, and we don't got mathematically enhanced solid-state brains to put in them. what we do got is various electronic components that aren't averse to being immersed in a wet environment, soldering guns, electronics knowledge readily available to anyone who can get to a library, and curious, inventive, spectacular human minds. what we do got is the curiosity and the resources to start creating those dreams.

so if you're a transhumanist as well, and you always wanted a cyberdeck, you can't have one yet. sorry. but don't sit on your ass waiting for someone else to invent them. experiment for yourself. design a few circuits, try an RFID security system out, see what today's technology can do for tomorrow's dreams and see what you can do to bring about some tiny part of that transhuman species you wanna see. get the fuck out there and put our philosophy into practice.



that's the Golden Rule

i just have a simple point to make. the other day i was sitting calmly on my ass in the labs, listening to the excellent Fresh Body Shop, when i was surprised by a guy doing his PhD thesis who wanted a hand working MS Office. glad to help, and knowing Office and as well as the next guy, i spent a few hours showing him how to work the flowcharts, draw diagrams and import/embed objects into Word. after a while, it transpired that said PhD involved the "faith equation", about which i decided to keep my mouth shut, despite the fact that you can't do algebra with religion and get the same answer twice, never mind a meaningful one (it's like trying to do algebra with anything else that isn't numbers - it's just not gonna work.)

after a while, he asked me if i was still okay with the length of the words and their spellings (at this point i was doing the typing, having taken the keys off the noob in a fit of bad teaching several minutes beforehand.) i was, yeah, i replied, since i'm eidetic, but i wasn't used to seeing so many theological terms in a mathematical context; i said the last person i saw doing that was Behe, and that wasn't good. i went on to add that even if i was a theist i'd still have been able to see the holes, and enquired whether he too had read said bad tract.

"Atheist?" he repeated, obviously perturbed and evidently never having heard of Michael Behe. "You're an atheist?" it was as if i'd accidentally let slip that i was a vampire or a leper. he actually shifted away from me in his seat like he might catch heresy and asked me, bewildered, "Well, why are you helping me then?"

teeth clenched, i explained that you don't have to be Christian or even theist to be good. i put it to him that there is a basic human moral code that exists above holy books and word-of-god, and that we use it, for example, in deciding not to follow the rules in the Qur'an that tell us to stone heretics and behead unbelievers, or the ones in the Bible that involve bull sacrifice and pigeon-killing and the whole gay-hating thing.

unconvinced, he wanted to know what had made me an atheist. i've always been an atheist, having never been convinced by the state religion, the mainstream alternatives or the new-age dross of my hometown as a child, and i said so. i pointed out that i follow the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have others do unto you - and that i was helping him because of that. i'd like to think other people would help me with, say, Maya if i wanted to do some 3D modelling, and so i help people out with what i know.

i think i managed to convince him eventually that we're not baby-eaters, though he might have thought it was just me. that's one of my aims in life - to show that most atheists are not assholes, and most Christians are not assholes either. just because we're either side of a debate doesn't mean that Hitler represents all Christians, or that Stalin stands for all atheists: we're all human, and humans should help each other out regardless of who believes in Yahweh and who doesn't.

that's why i'll help Christians, Muslims and anyone else that can't work a compiler, and that's why i'd expect anyone else to help me if they see me passed out in the lab. that's the Golden Rule.



the ueber-rant

i had a debate with a Philosophy student yesterday. it went like this:

Lepht (on way to coffee shop, having ended up in casual conversation in transit): ... of course, that's a faith-based conclusion, and if that's all she's got -

Student: You know, this thing you've got against faith is something you should really work on before you really insult someone.

Lepht (momentarily taken aback): What? I don't care if I insult people with faith, Harry.

Harry: You should care. You've got to respect it, even if it's not right for you. You always seem to write things off if you disagree with them, just because they're not right for you, and that doesn't seem fair.

Lepht (by now absolutely astounded): It's not that it's "not right for me". It's that faith is based on an absolute lack of evidence. That doesn't make it "not right for me" and "right for some others", it makes it wrong for anyone who lives in the real world. By your logic, everything's right for someone - hell, Nazism is "right for some people". You can't say it's wrong, just "not right for you".

Harry: That's not the same. I'm talking about spirituality, not religion.

{i usually do end up in this kind of fight with students. in this case i ignored his blatant change of subject and went with his next point.}

Lepht: They're both based on faith. Where's the difference? Why should I leave one alone but not the other?

Harry (becoming agitated): No! Religion is, is dogma and rules and regulations. Spirituality is about... (turns away) It's about personal (inaudible).

Lepht: Look, what do you even mean by spirituality?

Harry: They're not the same!

Lepht: But what does the word mean?

he just wouldn't, or couldn't, define "spirituality", or tell me how it was at all different from religious faith, or why i should respect either of them. i've had thousands of these conversations, with all kinds of believer, and none of them can ever tell me why either faith or spirituality deserve respect.

that's it, of course: every human being deserves respect. the human genome is so beautifully adapted, the body such a wonderful product of evolution over an inconceivably long time, that i couldn't conclude otherwise; it's one of my core tenets, that everyone on the planet has a brain worthy of the most complex theories we can imagine, and then some. i respect all people for what they are, no matter how foul and reprehensible their behaviour or stupid their choices.

what i can't respect is their silly, mushy beliefs. i won't sit back and be told that Jesus will save my soul. i won't be sermonised about my immorality. and i won't allow philosophers and Pagans to demand my tolerance of their vague and ill-defined notions of non-religious faith, either, no more than i would tolerate someone touting Peruvian creation myths as truth or trying to stop my security classes because they're against the teachings.

i respect humanity. i serve humanity. but i despise faith, and i'll afford it no tolerance.

it doesn't deserve tolerance.

(about to be blown off the face of the earth by angry Pagans)


daft punk is playing in my labs, my labs

things i have been doing in my laboratory that i should not be doing at my age:

1. refusing to get off my wheeled desk chair and instead using the walls as kick-off points to propel myself across the room to the waste bin

2. building ten-can stacks of Pepsi cans

3. logging on to as many of the hundreds of terminals as i can in a vague attempt to satisfy my curiosity as to whether i can DDoS my own network with local access rights

4. laughing at these guys

5. forgetting to turn the lights on, so that Security turns up on its rounds and sees me sat alone in the dark, bathed in the glow of five flatscreens like some sort of mad professor, giggling, and has to see my University ID before it'll believe i actually work here and am not some sort of insane swipe-lock-cracking meth-swigging hacker hobo

ah, the holidays, the bane of my entire existence. i can't believe people like these things. this is another one of those progress report posts, just to convince anyone i've sent here that despite being roommateless for a good few weeks now, i have not been committed, arrested or hospitalised, and i have not killed myself. nor have i gone on an insane rampage and gained administrator access to the med campus in order to create my own twisted modifications of human beings so that i may amass an army of soulless beings to take over the world in the name of atheism and computer science.

i think i'm dealing with it quite well, actually.


ed. today is Friday the thirteenth! sit back and watch as ordinary bad events happen, which will then be blamed on the date by woos of all varieties. oh, the meatspace is such fun. - L


five things

recently i've been yammering a fair amount with a creationist; to my utter disappointment, this man proved entirely unable to give me a reason for faith. like James Randi, for several years i've been waiting for someone to give me a good reason for faith, and none of the believers i've talked to ever can.

thus today's thing. here are five things that i just can't make gel with creationism, and not even the young-earth version: the simple "god done it" excuse.

1. "purpose". one of the canards i always get from christians is that if god didn't make the human race, and it's (unthinkably) just an unusually introspective and intelligent species, then obviously we have no purpose. my response is always this: if god did make sapiens sapiens, then according to you guys' magic book our sole purpose is to worship it. what kind of life is that? you only exist to serve the whims of a callous, capricious deity, who created you to be played with and manipulated at its discretion?

2. fossils. either they're wrong or the bible's bull: which is it?

3. evolutionary residuals, like the rudimentary hipbones on a snake or the tail of a human. if we didn't evolve, why the fuck would a god put those there to make it look like we did?

4. the idea that god is needed for the big bang ("because something can't come from nothing"). for one, science has moved on from the bang, and there are several world models that don't require a singularity at that point, the best of which was derived by Hawking. for another thing, if something can't come from nothing, where the fuck did your magical deity come from?

5. nasty organisms. there are parasites that turn crabs into "zombies" to look after the parasites' own young. there are spiders that nest inside human legs. there is the ebola virus, there are cancer cells, there is alzheimer's disease. why the fuck would a just god create these things? what possible sense is there in that?

i open the debate with this: occam's razor disagrees with theism.




so - this is a new blog, then. this will be the first and last time you get to hear me explain what the hell i'm doing here, why Sapiens Anonym exists, and the like. my name is Lepht, and my surname is not Anonym.

to begin with, i need a place to collect ideas. from time to time shit occurs to me that it seems it would be a shame to forget, and that is one of the things i created this blog for. the others are so that those who share my views can point me to more ideas, and so that those who don't can debate with me - this being the main point. in short this is intended as a place of education, albeit on a local level.

i'll be discussing a lot of things here. i'm primarily interested in computing science, but also in science and scientific issues in general, logical and mathematical theory, digital music rights and open source code, and quantum mechanics; to boot, i'll occasionally lapse into inanities concerning programming tricks or techno DJs i have something to say about. i welcome any and all comment on this.

one caveat, though: i am a rationalist, which implies that i'm also an atheist, a Darwinist (actually, an FCD) and a skeptic. i not only expect hate mail for this reason, i welcome it and will enter into whatever debate you can muster.

the only types of comment i will not answer are personal questions. i am an online entity, the physical counterpart of which does not concern you: i do not, for all intents and purposes, have so much as a gender or race. i do not want to see your myspace page or tell you my favourite food; i want to know your thoughts about the sum over histories, and your ideas about conditional probability's impact on everyday life.

introduction over. let the enquiries commence.


PS. i shall say this now: no, i will not use capitals. it is a stylistic choice that reflects the way i speak in the physical world. i do not think i am e.e. cummings, my keyboard is not broken, and i in fact attained full marks in my country's standard English grammar examinations; thus, i am allowed, i think, a tiny amount of poetic licence. now let us never speak of it again.