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“A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.” – G.H. Hardy

What if the Industrial Revolution never ended? What if Da Vinci was not merely a creative genius but had many teachers due to the influx of Greek scholars after the fall of the Byzantium Empire? What if the future is just a stepwise evolution from the nearest-neighbor in systematic composition while directed by correspondence, one recombination after another, pushing along what has already happened while shaped by the pull of the potential? What if that means that the nearby future is highly predictable and we are living in an era witnessing the emergence of ways of making which continue to shorten the path between idea and actualization?

After several millennia, from the first brick to reusing the same glyphs to simplify writing, to water wheels and lenses, assembly lines, robotic arms and general purpose computing machines, we’re about to enter a phase in our evolution where we will have collectives of machines which can reproduce just about everything, like a CD player can reproduce all sorts of music, an LCD screen can show anything from drawings to movies, and a printer can reproduce any book in the world, written in any language at any time in history. The concept of ‘printing’ holds within itself a maximal potentiality for manufacturing processes. The idea of a printer is interesting as, in theory at least, one can print out the whole range of documented human thought using a printer. Likewise, a nano-circuit printer can spit out a design from any mobile phone company irrespective of the manufacturer of the printer itself. Similar to how computer software works, or how moveable types made the Gutenberg printing press so flexible, a printer will allow for a local maximum of interchangeability, while increased competition will ensure the commoditization of its many parts.

Nowadays we have tools making tools, some even capable of reproducing themselves. Several technical domains are forecasted to advance towards the level of an ‘information science’ during the following two decades. This is a stage where the technological application and technical means reach a ‘general purpose’ state, and the end-result will be determined by a sort of software, a set of instructions on how this ‘general purpose’ tool is to behave, such as lighting up a number of pixels on a screen in a variety of colours so that this text appears on this particular location.  The currently identified domains are bio-technology, nano-technology, robotics, information and communication technology and the cognitive sciences. Not only are these different areas evolving in an accelerated pace as information, technology, “feeds back on itself”, it is also highly exchangeable which is causing a high degree of cross-fertilization amongst these domains, further accelerating its evolution. E.g. Artificial Intelligence is a bio-info-cogno combination, and if we’d mix this with programmable matter it can join nano-robo to the mix.

This is an adequate stage to introduce an intriguing idea concerning “novelty density”, the technological singularity. If we consider the gradual spread and development of ideas since recorded history we are nearing a time where ideas combine and recombine at such a high speed that their application will not have a definitive form anymore but exist in a state of continuous renewal. This is for example very obvious in the case of personalization, where clothes can be made for an exact fit, a medical treatment is composed specific for the person’s condition and habits or a headset is etched and embedded into someone’s favorite glasses. None of these end-products will be the same, at least not intentionally.

When tracing back its origins science and technology used to be two very distinct disciplines.  It is even so that the type of persons involved are quite distinct, with engineers tending to be the pragmatic hands-on type of person, and scientist a bit more absorbed in figuring out a tool, machine or procedure. As the term already indicated, an engineer tends to work more with his/her hands while a scientist works more with his/her head. Different tools, different results. Once in a while in history these disciplines come together, combine and fasten the pace of evolution, such as mixing geometry with construction that lead to a jump in ways of building and machine making, using mathematical formula not only as a descriptive framework but in many occasions also as a prescriptive framework. Within the context of information technology the latter is a programming language and in essence you can regard chemical notation as a programming language, or quantum field theory, or optics, or thermodynamics, or mechanics, or musical notation. You get something with the expressive power of a language, with a functional grammar and syntax, and a sort of alphabet.

During the singularity, the combinatorial explosion of both intra-domain and cross-domain advances becomes so fast that we cannot give it a meaningful measure anymore. Ideas, procedures, methods, programs, can jump from one language to another, but if they are in bordering fields they can provide new functionality which in turn make the previously impossible possible. For example carbon nanotubes can already be fabricated with a length of one meter, eventhough the individual tubes are so thin they are invisible to the human eye. Once this fabrication process has been improved to the state that it is economically viable, mixing this with weaving techniques will allow for rope, cables, duct tape, wall paper, concrete bricks, rubber or asphalt. It is hard to imagine what it means to have so many materials with the strength of diamond, and what the impact will be of a washing machine or a pair of worker jeans that doesn’t break anymore or glasses that don’t scratch. Surely it will mean the end of the ‘throw away’ culture of mass produced goods that are designed to break. ‘Planned obsolescence’ as it was introduced in the late forties will need to give way to other market forces, like fashion trends. Besides articles that are simply rare or inimitable, what does it mean for other forms of artificial exclusivity, most importantly the protection of intellectual property via copyright and patents? What will the impact be when the chemical signature of the most valuable rare chemical elements on the periodic table can be simulated with a combination of cheap alternatives? What happens when there are so many discoveries that duplicate patents are becoming the norm? How can the language used in a patent ensure its uniqueness? And even if it is unique enough, can simple variations result in the same outcome without being covered by the patent? To what extend will similarities amongst different patents be considered equivalent in favor of the original patent? And is that fair?

Some companies have set up their patents in such a way that a discovery of a possible new area of applications, that the patent is automatically deconstructed to its elementary building blocks and their join points, and a computer system will start generating variations on the core patent. This can be twenty variations, two hundred or two thousand. This way such a company will try to patent a possible industry. Also, it makes it unclear for their competition what has actually been discovered, so that they can reverse-engineering the same kind of solution. But patents are also meant as a show of muscle, a signpost that this company might be willing to defend their patent in a court of law, but more importantly that they are eager to strike a commercial deal with other companies concerning reusing their patent or even the products described and thereby grow their business. In particular the software industry, it is not really worthwhile to defend patents in court, unless you have an illusionary exclusive company named after a well-known fruit and are eager to bully new entries off of your perceived turf by threatening them with expensive court cases that will bankrupt any start up.

That may sound reasonable when a company has spent years figuring out how something actually works, such as with medicinal treatment, and they are rewarded with this imposed exclusivity with a patent, but there are many bio-tech companies too that have simply patented or copyrighted the gene sequence of a common disease or its healthy form and charge an arbitrary large sum of money for sharing that information. Mapping the human genome has been a collective effort that took quite some years, but with every increase in knowledge the technologies improved and it has essentially become an information science. DNA sequencer machines are simply fed the information of the gene sequence and an exact copy of a disease or the cells of an organ can be reproduced. Even in the commercially oriented US patent system it says that a patent refers to “the right granted to anyone who invents any new, useful, and non-obvious process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter”. Maybe thirty years ago a gene sequence was non-obvious, but with current technology it is primarily a matter of number crunching an enormous database of research results and trying to find correlations that indicate a causal relation. Likewise, with general purpose robotics, the advances in nano-science, meta-materials and programmable matter, can we still say that descriptive patents are non-obvious? Especially as information technology is reaching a stage where inventions can be automatically deconstructed the same way as patents are and new inventions can be grown using evolutionary algorithms which simulate the act of invention. Computing systems are already used to grow mathematical or chemical formulas, and by 2020 such automated discovery engines will be powerful enough to spit out potential leads on a daily basis.

If the patent system is becoming increasingly inadequate, what else is there? Well, companies can be secretive about their R&D by simply not sharing it, or sharing only the end-results in a non-obvious way by scrambling, encrypting, obfuscating, cloaking or any other technique that hides the actual invention. Additionally they can opt to protect their intellectual property by treating it as a trade secret, making sure that the vital information remains confidential via non-competition and non-disclosure, but even better is to simply have some “secret formula” that is only known to a handful of people. Again, referring to the above mentioned company named after a well-known fruit, such secrecy can be applied all throughout the company, to internal projects, to release schedules and marketing campaigns, and any another kind of information about the products so that one can tightly control the impression that the product range has. Added to some previous laws adopted during the Bush era, with the new copyright laws it has become possible to control online media by addressing unwanted news coverage as copyright infringement. As has become the norm, providers are all too aware of the costs of giving this the attention it deserves and they simply remove such articles whenever complaints start spilling over. Be that as it may, such an environment and company culture is often not that welcoming or challenging for top-talent and as a result their R&D will steadily degenerate towards a second-rate copy shop, which may not be that bad for business and considering the advent of automated invention a current head start can provide enough momentum, traction and path dependency to last up to 2020 for sure, maybe even 2025.

Still, full frontal secrecy is only one sort of business model. Cooperation is another. Now, what if it is possible to take the patent system and the trade secret system and mix them? Extrapolating patents towards the nearby future, its description will need to become as specific enough to ensure uniqueness and to meet that requirement the difference between a patented invention and the actual implementation is greatly reduced. Most efficiently it would describe, in the appropriate “programming language” how the invention is realized. On the other hand trade secret can be ensured by an information exchange infrastructure of digital certificates so that information can be securely shared. This infrastructure can be set up in ways that honors such secrecy by avoid any readable display or avoid temporary storage, so that a business partner can use the ‘secret sauce’ on a pay-per-use manner. Again, we can draw upon and extend current systems of electronic data interchange.

There is a definite shift going on, from owning the actual production process and sharing the end result, to owning the rights and sharing the production process, to owning the “secret formula” and sharing the invention itself. What if someone comes up with a universal design exchange language, a sort of MIDI which simply describes the input or output of a machine, but doesn’t tell it how to do it. Enveloping these with a machine-to-machine digital certificate infrastructure, a system can be constructed for when the factory hall turns into a general purpose 3D-printing service station run by self-assembling software robots.

Patents are a legal affair dealt with in a complete outdated modality, relying on procedures and an ineffective, impotent and overly expensive system that is unsuitable to deal with the demands of our future. If it is such a vital aspect of the free market, there are better ways, by automating the patent system and providing an infrastructure that allows sharing its temporary copies. That way the return on a patent is based on actual consumption instead of perceived value, which can lie very much apart. Possibly it has not been automated yet as it is an industry in its own right, but that will soon be over when series of novelty wave reshape the legal landscape. As programming languages go, law itself seems ripe for an overhaul.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You are onto something (2+ / 0-)

    A bit dense to read, but I think I am with you regarding the obsolescence of intellectual property law and custom.

    For me as a folk musician, the pet peeve is the suppression of the folk process in musical creativity.

    •  it may have worked (0+ / 0-)

      for slower times, but today's world is so much faster that it stiffles creativity and innovation. My parents in law were musicians and theatre folk, copyrighting might have translated to a pay-per-use mode of cooperation but in most cases it just ended up in things being left unused.

  •  your idea of a design exchange (3+ / 0-)

    that preserves trade secrets by describing inputs and outputs but cloaking process was well worth reading.

    I've seen a number of your diaries go by, and simply wish that those vast gray monoliths of text were not your sole medium.

    •  Obfuscation isn't a terribly good way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      this just in

      to go about protecting IP, which is why trade secrets are normally those things you can keep close, under guard and well away from inferring eyes.

      Give me an API, tell me it can be done, and give me enough time, and I'll either figure out a way to reproduce it or find someone who can.

      •  a few thoughts (0+ / 0-)

        (1) re API: I read the original diarist as talking about some generalization of the API (the "P" in which speaks just to programming) to a general manufacturing interface/interchange. (The latter, of course, already exist in various partial forms; I was just trying to roll with what I thought was his idea.)

        Wouldn't manufacturing processes (especially if one talks about things like macromolecules) be easier to protect via secrecy than algorithms?

        (2) Then again, algorithms aren't completely precluded: suppose one develops an algorithm that can factor integers much faster than anyone else. The API receives an integer and returns factors: easy to describe, hard to guess.

        (3) Behind the API, the request may be processed in conjunction with proprietary data for which the provider maintains NDAs with the sources of data. The data, not a free-standing algorithm, is the secret.

        (4) Key phrase in your post "give me enough time" (which implies money, as well). If the product morphs rapidly enough, there won't be enough time for you to be a competitive threat.

        •  yes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          this just in

          The original plan was based on (never mind the proprietary clause here) but this evolved further where the API itself can be thought of as a mix between a software robot and a bitcoin. So, the API, instead of a fixed interface, is an algorithm itself..
          The comparison with MIDI is made because that is a sort of "best effort" matching, it doesn't describe what some machine needs to do, but what it's output is supposed to be. Along with what George Dyson refers to as "template-based-addressing" API's are supposed to lock into each other similar to how molecules do. Instead of direct addressing, a match is made based on a query. Avoiding exactness and prior knowledge would be far more efficient when working with vast amounts of interfaces.

          And indeed the key factor here is "If the product morphs rapidly enough, there won't be enough time for you to be a competitive threat." which implies power laws and path dependency, which are much stronger evolutionary forces than protectionism.

    •  There is a problem with using a "description (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of inputs & outputs" to define a "trade secret": No one has any incentive to figure out a different way to get from the inputs to the outputs. Work out a less expensive/more reliable/ruggeder/lighter/etc, method & the patent/trade secret holder simply asserts its "property rights" & takes it away from you.

      I'm thinking here of the AK-47, which IIRC was originally inspired by the Red Army's desire for an infantry weapon equivalent to the Wehrmacht's StG 44 & performs most of the same functions in a more rugged & easier to manufacture package, but employing quite different technological methods. Maybe that's not entirely applicable here but that's what came to mind.


      by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 12:13:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  IANAL, but I don't see ... (0+ / 0-)

        how "the patent/trade secret holder simply asserts its 'property rights' & takes it away from you" is valid for trade secrets, specifically.

        My understanding of trade secrets comports with the last sentence of the second para under Protection here; i.e., if a non-NDAed other party lawfully (i.e., no espionage) guesses your trade secret, you're out of luck.

        My point in posting at all was to offer the author some encouragement for sharing his ideas. If you think I'm just plain wrong here, please have at me again, but it sounds like you might have some thoughts that would be beneficial to the discussion of the original post, too.

      •  incentives? (0+ / 0-)

        Understand what you're saying, but i'm not sure what you are trying to say with it.
        When having massive business intelligence available on a competitors supply chain, it would very well be possible to figure out non-events, what information is missing. That could give some idea on their trade secrets. The advantage is only temporay.. but compared to patents at least it doesn't give a fierce competitor insight into one's possible strategic plans.
        In the fashion world copyright on the company logo is used to brand an article, e.g. a Prada bag uses some fabric with the logo woven into it like a watermark. This is because whatever they do is technically quite indistinguishable from their closests competitors that patenting doesn't make sense anymore, trade secrets are fleeting and the way to establish their competitive rarity is by adhering to a particular style

        •  Let me relate a story that may shed some light (0+ / 0-)

          on my concerns:

          When the Chemical Weapons Convention was awaiting ratification by enough countries to take effect, I worked with a project to establish if a production facility could be wired with sensors to show when it shifted to making a different product. The idea was to instrument chemical reactors so that if a cheating nation tried to make nerve agent in the middle of a production run for some (relatively) innocuous chemical it could be detected. A major chemical company allowed us to put sensors on one of its reactors & I was given the data to analyze.

          It turned out that you might be able to catch a change in product without too much data, but to nail down whether there was a significant chance the plant was violating the CWC by making one of the proscribed agents or precursors took a lot more information. And there was zero chance a chemical facility would allow any international agency to wire them up enough to provide that information. Because  the critical process parameters--e.g., temperature, pressure, duration, feedstocks & proportions--were trade secrets. The optimal values had been developed over years of production experience; the difference between a profitable product & a white elephant often came down to pennies per tonne in production cost; and the corporations would not even patent the processes because they knew that if the parameters were documented in a patent application, their competitors could tweak the settings a tad & still make the stuff, & if those competitors' other costs were lower (e.g., cheaper labor, or the lack of a research division to work out processes) the original corporation would be fatally undercut. It simply made better business sense to do whatever was required to keep the settings secret. And there was no way they would allow a bunch of international inspectors--some of whom would come from (or could be induced to work with) lower-cost producers from less advanced nations--to track their processes closely enough that the parameters could be reverse-engineered from the data.

          My concern is that you cannot protect "intellectual property" like this without extending it to any process that starts with the given raw materials & results in the given product, i.e., no tweaking of settings allowed. Without that level of protections, producers are better off keeping the process a "trade secret."

          Again, I'm not sure this is precisely applicable to your argument (which I am still having trouble figuring out), but I thought my experience might be a useful addition to the discussion.


          by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 06:02:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Clear (0+ / 0-)

            Fully agree. The infrastructure i had been hoping to get going draws an analogy with MIDI, which is pretty much a black box mode of working. The "input" in that sense is not an instruction set, but a request. So, if somewhere within a web of processes there is a bubble of secrecy, that is perfectly fair. Doesn't need to have infinite granularity.I'm thinking here of molecular cloaking to change the chemical signature of designer molecules or molecular mimicry, where certain characteristics of complex molecules can be simulated with others.

            So, with the gradual adoption of 'general purpose' production facilities these "critical process parameters" will increase. Like with the current "cloud" rage, a hybrid format between private and public services is perfectly possible and advisable.

            As replied below here, this article was written to get some ideas "out there" in support of plans such as and

            Lots of cheers. Zero action.

    •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      this just in

      Started writing these blog articles on request .. i'm more a worker bee. This article was written to get some ideas "out there" in support of plans such as and

      Lots of cheers. Zero action.

  •  re: When tracing back its origins... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    this just in, FarWestGirl
    When tracing back its origins science and technology used to be two very distinct disciplines.  It is even so that the type of persons involved are quite distinct, with engineers tending to be the pragmatic hands-on type of person, and scientist a bit more absorbed in figuring out a tool, machine or procedure.
    Welcome to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, man. Try not to let it drive you crazy.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 10:13:57 AM PDT

  •  First thing the Resistance needs to prepare for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are the post Judgement Day patent lawsuits.

  •  The Singularity is a new religion... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... based on the ideas that:

    1)  Within a couple of decades, artificial intelligence (AI) will achieve consciousness and exceed human intelligence.  The moment it does so, the existing exponential growth curve of computing power will go vertical as these new machines rapidly bootstrap themselves to Godlike intelligence and power.

    2)  AIs will be capable of meeting all human needs.  There will no longer be a need for work, or at least, the vast majority of work.  

    3)  Humans will be able to "upload" their minds to AI platforms and thereby achieve immortality.

    In my estimation, this is bunk.

    1)  Machine consciousness is not possible with classical computing architecture.  The human brain uses a number of different methods of "computing", at least one of which, the chemistry that makes for emotion, cannot be duplicated in algorithms running on a silicon platform.  Keep in mind that simulation is not duplication: a model is not equivalent to the object being modeled.

    The idea of "Godlike" intelligence and power, or in oldschool language, omniscience and omnipotence, is clearly borrowed from the entire history of religion in human societies.  

    2)  If it did become possible to produce conscious machines, particularly if they equaled or exceeded human capacity, they would be persons in every meaningful sense.  

    The moral implications of creating any such machine are the same as those of having a baby.  Using them to "meet our every need" is morally equivalent to creating a new class of slaves.  

    3)  "Upload" is pure pseudoscientific nonsense.  It assumes that a mind can be separated from a brain and "transplanted" into a conscious machine.  That amounts to a reincarnation belief, wrapped up in technology to make it look sciency.  

    One of two things is true: either your mind is wholly and solely a product of your brain (this is known as "material monism"), or your mind is the outcome of an interaction between your brain and a different state of existence that is conventionally known as a "soul" (this is known as "dualism" or "dualist interactionism").  

    If your mind is wholly and solely the product of your brain, it is identical with the physical matter of the brain, and when you die, your mind ceases to exist.  Transplanting the information stored in your neurons will not save you from nonexistence, any more than making a copy of a book will save the original from burning to ash if it's put in a fire.  

    The analogies of computers, bits, and software, have blurred this distinction to the point where we assume, erroneously, that a copy of information is equivalent to extending the lifespan of the medium on which the information was originally stored.  But in the case of the human mind, the brain is what translates "the information" into the experience of existence.  

    The correct analogy is to cloning, or if we want to go science fiction, a Star Trek "replicator" that can produce an identical copy of you.  The clone or the copy is not you.  When you die, it continues living, but you are still dead.

    Alternately, if dualist interactionism is correct, you have a soul or equivalent, and when you die, it will continue to exist.  This is the position taken by conventional religions.  If it's true, then you won't have any need of a silicon prosthesis in order to continue your existence.  Or, as I've said before, if you can reincarnate into a computer, you can reincarnate into a cat.

    We got the future back. Uh-oh.

    by G2geek on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 02:46:34 PM PDT

    •  Take a while to parse this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but could you go into more detail about 1)?  The non-computability of emotion on silicon substrate?  I can't think of a reason why, but outside of solid state chem I'm useless.

      •  simulation is not duplication: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm starting from the assumption, which is well supported from neuroscience, that emotions are the subjective sensations of the actions of certain neurochemicals on neurons.  There are plenty of endogenous examples, such as adrenaline, endorphins, and oxytocin (the "trust molecule"), and drugs from alcohol to zoloft.

        The production of endogenous neurochemicals, their transport into and through the brain, and their actions on neurons, can be described in chaos math, which means they are locally deterministic and computable, but only predictable within an approximation rather than with precision.  For example chaos math can describe an "attractor" or boundary condition on the range of values of a variable, but when used to describe an actual physical system, can't predict the state of the system at a given point forward in time.  

        For example we can predict the weather to within approximate boundaries going forward a few days, but we can't predict it precisely or indefinitely.  Even with Godlike AI, we couldn't do much better because it is impossible to achieve the density of sensors needed to make the current measurements from which precise predictions into the indefinite future can be derived.

        (continued in my next comment immediately below)

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 03:35:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  continued... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The above is the first problem: incomputability.  When applied to the neurochemistry of emotion, there are theoretical limits on how far ahead and how accurately we can calculate how actual emotions will work in a human brain.

        The second problem is that simulation is not duplication.

        Calculations of chemicals acting on neurons, are not identical to actual chemicals acting on actual neurons.  A model is not the same as the object being modeled.  It may have certain functional equivalences, but it is not identical.  And the things we miss may be more important than we recognize at first.  

        For example a computer model of an aircraft gives you certain information about how the aircraft will perform aerodynamically, but there is still a need to build a physical model and fly it in a wind tunnel to be sure.  And the computer simulation plus wind tunnel model are still not sufficient to know how it will perform in real-world conditions, so you still have to build an actual aircraft and conduct actual flight tests.  You don't go from the computer simulation to the production airliner full of passengers: empirical flight tests are needed precisely because the simulation is only an imperfect model of reality.

        This should be self-evident from everything we do in the physical matter world, but the prevalence of computers and computer analogies has muddled the distinction to the point where many people completely fail to grasp it.

        It may be that calculated simulations of emotional states are sufficient for numerous purposes that hypothetical AIs might serve, such as enabling a crooked political campaign to calculate how voters will react to being selectively disenfranchised ("how many voters can we screw before they get pissed off enough to riot?").

        But the absence of actual emotions, and the ability to model simulations of emotions, are precisely the characteristics that define the "charm" that is one of the key signs and symptoms of a sociopath.  Do we want a society infested with Godlike AI sociopaths?  I don't think so.

        And lastly, for the dreams of "upload" that motivate much of the Singularity and its associated research (such as Google giving Ray Kurzweil a blank check), would you like to be reincarnated into such an entity?  What a supreme Faustian bargain that would be: Godlike intellect, no actual emotions, but the ability to emulate any human emotion sufficiently to convince humans that you have feelings.  To use a vulgar analogy, imagine being a robotic porn star that can put on the great performance while feeling nothing, and at the same time remembering how it felt to be a real human and have real sex.

        Fortunately or otherwise, we'll never get to find out, as I said, since "upload" is only possible if you have an immortal soul to begin with, at which point you don't need a silicon prosthesis.  


        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 03:53:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  lastly, the promise of real AI: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Serious AI researchers are not preoccupied with trying to build God boxes or soul catchers.  They are working on real-world problems along the path to creating real-world machines and software that can provide real benefits.  For example:

        No doubt you've heard the phrase "fine-tuned universe."  This is the idea that we are living in a universe in which certain physical constants have precise values needed for our universe to exist and life to exist in it.  

        This has led to the "anthropic principle," which in its scientifically supportable form, says simply that the only universe we could observe, is a universe that is favorable to our existence.  That sounds like a tautology but in fact it is useful for making testable predictions about other conditions in our universe.

        But, we ask, what would occur if the values of those key physical variables were different?  How different could they be before the universe as a whole was radically different?  How different before the universe could not exist at all?  Or are there other values for these variables that are even more favorable to life than the values we observe?

        The way to test those questions is with AI supercomputers.  At present, our best supercomputers can barely model a couple of simple atoms sufficiently to test what happens if those values are varied.  We are far from being able to model molecules, much less proteins which are the building blocks of life.  But real AI, running on quantum computing platforms, has the potential to be able to run tests up to the level of complex molecules and potentially beyond.  

        That would begin to give us answers to the question of the boundary conditions of our universe and life-bearing universes and stable physical universes in general.  

        That kind of thing is why AI research is worthwhile and deserves support.  But that is a radically different type of AI research compared to what Ray Kurzweil and Google, and other Silicon Valley Singularitarians, are pursuing.  It will not give us a silicon Messiah nor Eternal Life, but it will give us tools for answering certain questions about the physical universe and the physical basis of life.

        As for deities and immortal souls, they are beyond the scope of empirical science, and each individual has to come to terms with those issues themselves and arrive at their own conclusions.  

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 04:06:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  pet peeve (0+ / 0-)

          Interesting... i have two articles coming up near the weekend which you may appreciate, "The Paradox of Artificial Life" and "The End of Competition" which go more into such ponderings.

          For what it's worth, I've only stumbled on Kurzweil a few years ago but only gave his work a cursory look. Not that i disagree with him as he seems to be fairly correct, but i don't know his writings well enough to appoint myself as an advocate. If any, i'd give some credit to common sense, Ian Pearson and Peter Cochrane. The latter two are very credible futurologists who can claim an accuracy of roughly 80-85% in their predictions.

          I wasn't addressing any of the issues you refer to here, the article is about the social, economic and legal consequences of continuous novelty and how to find a modus operandi that does not lead to another major systemic crisis.

          •  i'll keep my eyes open for those.... (0+ / 0-)

            I assume you mean they're articles you're publishing here.

            I first ran into techno-deity religions 30 years ago, with the combination of a) the cryogenics / nanotechnology belief that people could have their bodies frozen to be resurrected in the future by nanobots, and b) a pattern in early Cyberpunk fiction wherein characters' physical bodies were killed while they were "jacked into the Net," but their minds (souls) continued to live in cyberspace as if nothing had happened.

            That combination made clear what was going on: there was an emerging belief in various forms of eternal life through the vehicle of technology.

            The core problem of which was, these were religions with no moral limits on how one could go about obtaining the money to pay for the eternal life.  And for an illustration of where that absence of moral limits must necessarily end up, see the novel Bug Jack Barron: immortality drugs harvested from the adrenal glads of tortured black children.

            A faith that claims to satisfy the craving for immortality without moral limits on how one attains it, is a potentially enormously destructive force in society.

            And another such faith arose with Kurzweil's singularity.

            But in fact his reasoning is fatally flawed, as I've explained above.  He is taking a position that is based on faith, and wrapping it up in technology to make it appear scientific.  This he does because, as he himself has said, he is utterly terrified of the prospect of his own death.  

            Re. the consequences of continuous novelty, I'll have to go back and read the article again, keeping your actual intent in mind, rather than misreading it with the wrong "Singularity" in mind.  

            We got the future back. Uh-oh.

            by G2geek on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 07:11:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Intelligence without representation (0+ / 0-)

      by Rodney Brooks is recommended reading.

      The map is not the territory, but my map is my territory.

      By the way, you are referring to another sort of Singularity than the one in this article.

      •  hi Paul- (0+ / 0-)

        Sorry if I was responding to the wrong Singularity; the most common use of that word today is in the context of Kurzweil's computer-God religion.  

        I had never heard anyone make the claim that Kurzweil's Singularity would lead to the end of intellectual property fascism, but I've heard enough wild claims for it, that it was not unreasonable to infer that this was another such.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 06:46:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  but here we have a new Singularity claim: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The claim that in the era of the Singularity, copyright fascism will vanish.

    We have heard that claim before, at the beginning of the era in which desktop computers became ubiquitous: the late 80s into the 90s.  

    How'd that work out for us, eh?

    Technologies exist within the framework of laws and societies.  Overcoming the strangle-hold of antiquated notions of intellectual property, cannot be done by inventing new machines: they will only end up co-opted by the existing patterns of laws and property relations.  

    The way to overcome antiquated intellectual property laws is by changing the laws.  And the way to do that is through the political process.  It will not be done for us by some hypothetical deity, whether the Gods of conventional religion, or the Singularity's new Gods of our own making.

    We got the future back. Uh-oh.

    by G2geek on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 02:53:19 PM PDT

  •  A quibble with Hardy: Mathemeticians don't (0+ / 0-)

    invent the math, they perceive relationships and use math to describe those relationships. The relationships exist independent of perception.

    Math is a descriptive language, it is not what it describes.

    Along the lines of Magritte's trompe l'oeil piece, This is not a pipe, where the piece it is a two dimensional representation of a pipe, not the pipe itself.

    A lot of mathemeticians conflate the two things, as well. ;-)

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 03:57:30 AM PDT

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