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Posts Tagged ‘Singularity

“Maybe the only significant difference between a really smart simulation and a human being was the noise they made when you punched them”*…

 

… So humans won’t play a significant role in the spreading of intelligence across the cosmos. But that’s OK. Don’t think of humans as the crown of creation. Instead view human civilization as part of a much grander scheme, an important step (but not the last one) on the path of the universe towards higher complexity. Now it seems ready to take its next step, a step comparable to the invention of life itself over 3.5 billion years ago.

This is more than just another industrial revolution. This is something new that transcends humankind and even biology. It is a privilege to witness its beginnings, and contribute something to it…

Jürgen Schmidhube—  of whom it’s been said,  “When A.I. Matures, It May Call Jürgen Schmidhuber ‘Dad’” — shares the reasoning behind his almost breathless anticipation of intelligence-to-come: “Falling Walls: The Past, Present and Future of Artificial Intelligence.”

Then, for a different perspective on (essentially) the same assumption about the future, read Slavoj Žižek’s “Bladerunner 2049: A View of Post-Human Capitalism.”

* Terry Pratchett, The Long Earth

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As we welcome our computer overlords, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that Henry W. Jeffries invented the Rotolactor.  Housed in the Lactorium of the Walker Gordon Laboratory Company, Inc., at Plainsboro, N.J., it was a 50-stall revolving platform that enabled the milking of 1,680 cows in seven hours by rotating them into position with the milking machines.  A spiffy version of the Rotolactor, displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in the Borden building as part of the “Dairy World of Tomorrow,” was one of the most popular attractions in the Fair’s Food Zone.

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Special Summer Cheesecake Edition…

From Flavorwire, “Vintage Photos of Rock Stars In Their Bathing Suits.”

(Special Seasonal Bonus: from Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton to Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, “Take a Dip: Literary Greats In Their Bathing Suits.”)

As we reach for the Coppertone, we might might wish a soulful Happy Birthday to musician Isaac Hayes; he was born on this date in 1942.  An early stalwart at legendary Stax Records (e.g., Hayes co-wrote and played on the Sam and Dave hits “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Coming”), Hayes began to come into his own after the untimely demise of Stax’s headliner, Otis Redding.  First with his album Hot Buttered Soul, then with the score– including most famously the theme– for Shaft, Hayes became a star, and a pillar of the more engaged Black music scene of the 70s.  Hayes remained a pop culture force (e.g., as the voice of Chef on South Park) until his death in 2008.  (Note:  some sources give Hayes birth date as August 20; but county records in Covington, KY, his birthplace suggest that it was the 6th.)

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Your correspondent is headed for his ancestral seat, and for the annual parole check-in and head-lice inspection that does double duty as a family reunion.  Connectivity in that remote location being the challenged proposition that it is, these missives are likely to be in abeyance for the duration.  Regular service should resume on or about August 16.  

Meantime, lest readers be bored, a little something to ponder:

Depending who you ask, there’s a 20 to 50 percent chance that you’re living in a computer simulation. Not like The Matrix, exactly – the virtual people in that movie had real bodies, albeit suspended in weird, pod-like things and plugged into a supercomputer. Imagine instead a super-advanced version of The Sims, running on a machine with more processing power than all the minds on Earth. Intelligent design? Not necessarily. The Creator in this scenario could be a future fourth-grader working on a science project.

Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that we may very well all be Sims. This possibility rests on three developments: (1) the aforementioned megacomputer. (2) The survival and evolution of the human race to a “posthuman” stage. (3) A decision by these posthumans to research their own evolutionary history, or simply amuse themselves, by creating us – virtual simulacra of their ancestors, with independent consciousnesses…

Read the full story– complete with a consideration of the more-immediate (and less-existentially-challenging) implications of “virtualization”– and watch the accompanying videos at Big Think… and channel your inner-Phillip K. Dick…

Y’all be good…

Leading horses to water…

… and making them drink:

from Spiked Math.

On a more serious note… many are skeptical of “the Singularity”– the hypothetical point at which technological progress will have accelerated so much that the future becomes fundamentally unpredictable and qualitatively different from what’s gone before (click here for a transcript of the talk by Vernor Vinge that launched the concept, and here for a peek at what’s become of Vernor’s initial thinking).  But even those with doubts (among whom your correspondent numbers) acknowledge that technology is re-weaving the very fabric of life.  Readers interested in a better understanding of what’s afoot and where it might lead will appreciate Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants (and the continuing discussion on Kevin’s site).

As we re-set our multiplication tables, we might recall that it was on this date in 1664 that natural philosopher, architect and pioneer of the Scientific Revolution Robert Hooke showed an advance copy of his book Micrographia— a chronicle of Hooke’s observations through various lens– to members of the Royal Society.  The volume (which coined the word “cell” in a biological context) went on to become the first scientific best-seller, and inspired broad interest in the new science of microscopy.

source: Cal Tech

UPDATE: Reader JR notes that the image above is of an edition of Micrographia dated 1665.  Indeed, while (per the almanac entry above) the text was previewed to the Royal Society in 1664 (to wit the letter, verso), the book wasn’t published until September, 1665.  JR remarks as well that Micrographia is in English (while most scientific books of that time were still in Latin)– a fact that no doubt contributed to its best-seller status.

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