Monday, December 15, 2014


1. Remember that robot uprising I was always freaking out over back when I was writing the Daily Dirt on a relatively daily basis? In the years since the Dirt went tits up, that "trope" or "meme" or "idiom" or what have you has become somewhat of a cliche', not to mention an increasingly probable possibility, if the people at are to be believed. In attempting to explain why A.I. are pretty much destined to wreak havoc on mankind, they write:
In the case of utility function, action and stimulus form a sort of feedback loop. Actions that produce stimuli consistent with fulfilling the program’s primary goal will result in more of that sort of behavior. That will include gaining more resources to do it.

For a sufficiently complex or empowered system, that decision-making would include not allowing itself to be turned off, take, for example, a robot with the primary goal of playing chess. 
“When roboticists are asked by nervous onlookers about safety, a common answer is ‘We can always unplug it!’ But imagine this outcome from the chess robot’s point of view,” writes Omohundro. “A future in which it is unplugged is a future in which it cannot play or win any games of chess. This has very low utility and so expected utility maximisation will cause the creation of the instrumental subgoal of preventing itself from being unplugged. If the system believes the roboticist will persist in trying to unplug it, it will be motivated to develop the subgoal of permanently stopping the roboticist,” he writes. 
In other words, the more logical the robot, the more likely it is to fight you to the death.
Anyhoo, if my efforts had anything to do with the increase in awareness of this looming catastrophe, then that would have to be my third proudest moment in terms of Jerky LeBoeuf leaving his greasy thumb-print on the global zeitgeist. The runner up in that category would be my coining of the term "mansap", which I came up with in my porn copywriting days as a new word for semen. But the one I'm most proud of is my crazy neo-expletive: "Jesus Fucking Nailholes!" I see it starting to creep into conversations, and it makes me damn proud, let me tell you.

2. Looks like some "boffins" (that's British-speak for "scientists") have figured out a way to freeze light for one whole minute. Not sure how, exactly, but I'm pretty sure this breakthrough is going to play a big role in the coming war with our Shiny Metal Overlords (see above). Also, be sure to read the entire linked page, because there are some awesome videos full of scientific goodness at the bottom of it. Videos like this one, about how to break the speed of light:

3. Ah! So light and frothy with the suggested readings today! Perhaps I should commit my own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge by plunging you headlong into an incredibly depressing dispatch from George Packer in the most recent New Yorker about exactly how and why the press is LESS free today than it's ever been before. It begins...
In the worldwide movement away from democracy, perhaps the most vulnerable institution is the free press, and the most disposable people are journalists. If they’re doing their job right, they can have few friends in powerful places. Journalists become reliably useful to governments, corporations, or armed groups only when they betray their calling. They seldom even have a base of support within the general public. In some places, it’s impossible to report the truth without making oneself an object of hatred and a target of violence for one sector of society or another.
And it only gets more grim from that point on, concluding, in part...
Despite its promise of liberation, democratization, and leveling, the digital revolution, in undermining traditional forms of media, has actually produced a greater concentration of power in fewer hands, with less organized counter-pressure. As a result, the silencing of the press, otherwise known as censorship -- whether by elected autocrats, armed extremists, old-fashioned dictators, or prosecutors stopping leaks with electronic evidence -- is actually easier and more prevalent today than it was twenty years ago.
Not that there's much we can do about it other than hanging on and doing our best to be honest in all things (a promise that I hereby make to anyone reading any of my blogs). But I do sincerely believe that it's important for all of us to be aware of exactly how dire the situation really is. It's easy for me, here in Toronto, Canada, but maybe not so much for our old journalistic pal J.J. in Istanbul. So keep him and others like him in your thoughts and prayers.

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