domingo, abril 21, 2019

Topology vs. Differential Geometry: "Ricci Flow and the Poincaré Conjecture" by John W. Morgan, Gang Tian


The essence of the Poincare conjecture: he conjectured that every simply connected 3D-manifold is homeomorphic to the sphere.

In non-maths language, Poincaré's conjecture is that if you have a shape which everywhere looks like 3D-space (much like our universe seems to) [this is what makes it a "3D-manifold"], and this space is "finite" in some sense and without boundary [this is the "closed" part, for manifolds] in a way such that whenever you draw a loop in your space you can pull it to a point (like you can pull a rubber band on a regular sphere to a point, no matter how you wrap it, whereas there are non-trivial loops on the surface of a doughnut, or a "torus) then this space, up to a bit of deformation, must be a 3D-sphere. The language is a little misleading here - "simplest shape in 3 dimensions" isn't really what is meant. I can immerse a normal sphere "in" 3 dimensions, what is important is the internal dimension of the sphere, as described above. A 3D-sphere isn't the surface of a normal ball that you'd be used to, it is its analogue which can be immersed in 4D-space, but if you lived on one it would "feel" like you lived in 3D-space. You couldn't draw it "in" 3D-space.

The reason for the 3D-sphere, and not n-sphere for any n, isn't that the same statement doesn't work for any n, it's just that historically the 3D case was the hardest to solve. It's an interesting phenomenon in topology that some things become easier to prove in high enough dimensions (in some sense, you get more room to work with - there is a standard trick called the Whitney trick which works in dimensions 5 and above which is often the reason for some things in topology being solved in high enough dimensions). Of course, it's not as simple as saying "everything gets simpler". It's possible to show, for example, that an effective classification of manifolds of dimension 4 and above is impossible.

Probably the most famous event in mathematics in the last 25 years was Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, for which Wiles received numerous honours. But the complete proof of Fermat's last theorem depends on a result proposed by J. P. Serre and proved by Ken Ribet, a conjecture by Taniyama and Shimura suggested the path to follow, too many mathematicians to list here made other contributions, and finally Wiles' "proof" contained a mistake which was pointed out by Richard Taylor (who helped Wiles fix the mistake).

People read about celebrities lives, what they do on a day to day basis and care about just everything they do. This is entirely the opposite in science, with a few notable exceptions. In science Fermat's last theorem is famous, Andrew Wiles is not. The law of cosines is famous, Francois Viete is not. Electromagnetism is famous, Heaviside is not. Gauge invariance is famous, Hermann Weyl is not. It is with very few exceptions the theories and discoveries that are remembered, not the names. The only exceptions I can think of are Einstein, Newton, Hawking and maybe Aristotle.

Hamilton was kind of frustrated and jealous of the fact that Perelman solved Poincaré using Ricci Flow as the basis, but he could not do it for almost 2 decades even after pioneering Ricci Flow. There is a book "Perfect Rigor" by Gessen (It's rather unfortunate Gessen does not attempt a more balanced biography; read it for the facts not for Gessen's opinions). I would suggest all math aficionados to read it to understand the man who solved Poincaré. There are inevitably arbitrary variables in life that make it "unfair." Richard Hamilton fell victim to one of these "unfair" circumstances: I think he was "too old" when Grigory Perelman was given the Fields Medal recognition, a recognition that Hamilton, too, should have been included, due to the former's foundation work upon which Perleman used to accomplish his own work. The arbitrary cut-off age that qualifies a person for the Fields Medal is 40. If you turn 41 a few hours or days or weeks before the announcement, you don't qualify, regardless of the quality of your mathematical contribution. But, as the philosophy of the medal puts it:  the Fields Medal is to "encourage" the younger and promising mathematicians, NOT to "reward" some ultimate or crowning accomplishment in mathematics. Once you accept such an arbitrary rule, it is an arbitrary rule that is easy to live with, however you feel toward it personally. If the Riemann Hypothesis was solved tomorrow, it would be known about whether or not it was a known name or someone from obscurity that solved it. And either way, no one would care about the person, no one would want to know how they live their life, what events they go to, or what they enjoy.

Wow, I'm really amazed at how many false statements people make about this kind of stuff, and if you're new to this field then you're likely to be very confused by learning incorrect things. First of all, this area of mathematics is not topology; it's differential geometry. That is like saying that calculus is in the field of arithmetic. Also, the normal sphere we think about is not a "3-dimensional sphere," but a 2-dimensional sphere sitting in 3-dimensional space. Calling that object a "3-dimensional sphere" is just confusing because then people get the idea that you're talking about the entire ball, so including the inside of it. You are only talking about the surface of that ball, which is a 2-dimensional surface, hence it is a 2D-sphere. A 3D-sphere is the surface of a 4-dimensional ball, and these concepts are important when you want to abstract these objects from the Euclidean spaces they are living in and consider the differential structure of them without a reference space."

Morgan and Tian's is still one of the best treatments out there when it comes to understanding Ricci Flow.

sábado, abril 20, 2019

M-Theory: "Higgs - The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle" by Jim Baggott



One way to visualise this kind of stuff is to understand why Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is seen as weird. Imagine a 2D field (a sheet) that you excite with some energy – you get waves in the sheet of course. What QFT says is that if you reduce the excitation energy to some very small value, you don’t get small waves, you get no waves at all. Then, as you increase the energy past some threshold, you get a localised wave-like excitation, a standing wave if you will. In the 2D analogy, you can imagine it as a small vibrating bump in the sheet.

This bump has some important properties. It has to be capable of persisting in the field for some time after the excitation energy has been removed. Depending on the nature of the bump it can last for nanoseconds or for millennia, before it eventually decays back into the sheet (creating other excitation bumps as its energy is dispersed). It can move around the sheet without losing its localised integrity. It can interact with other bumps, attracting or repelling them as it wanders about.
So QFT describes a series of local wave excitations in a field, which because they remain locally small appear as particles. Because there are several fields, and because the particles interact with (exist in) more than one of them, the resultant dynamic system is rich and complex. The fields remain subject to the laws of relativity, and it is the fields that are the fundamental structure of the universe, not the particles.

So for example, in the search for evidence of the Higgs Field, the idea was to use the LHC to make a sufficiently large ripple in the Higgs field that a localised wave-group (particle) would be formed. This was the Higgs Boson, and much was said about it. But the boson was just evidence of the field. It is the field that is the fundamental structure, the thing that by its interaction with other particles gives them mass.

This is a much, much more important topic than most people realize, and many of the reasons have not even been mentioned yet in this discussion. Firstly, there is a limited number of top quantum/relativity scientists in the world. This fact is extremely important, because a big portion of those work on M-theory. People argue that M-theory is so complex that you need many of the top minds working on it (which they are), BUT that actually limits the brain resources for the rest of the fields. And I do not only mean science, but also ideas that could one day lead to science. One of their main argument is, quantum physics has hit a roadblock last 30 years, only discovered things that was more or less already expected, and only real progress come from astronomy. Well if old experts keep saying that to young students, they are going to choose something like M-theory, they don't want to devote their career on something that has no promise of big breakthroughs. But younger generations have often in science history come up with radical new ideas that can make a stale field move forward. Well, that might take a long time now, that many of the brightest works on M-theory.

And another thing. Even if M-theory can be applied to our universe(s), it looks to be a long way from science. People often say M-theory is like next centuries science, by accident discovered in the last. Well, it sure looks that way, also in terms of when it will become science. Likely not next 10 years or 50. As far as I understand it does not even have the string equivalent of fields yet. And, with the 10^500 permutations of possible universe configurations, it’s not even sure it will ever be useful, even if does fit the world we live in.

I am not saying it should be thrown away, it just vacuums too many bright minds away from other fields. One step at a time. Not all the steps at once, is what I vote for. Cannot force it on people of-cause, people should research what they feel like. Like doing more research into Grand Unified Theory (GUT), instead of trying to skip directly to Theory of everything (TOE), like M-theory. I just think it’s a problem, and a big one.

Many scientist working in quantum theories, often also believe in M-theory, even though it is not the field they work in. That could also be a problem, as they might for example think, "hmm, I would not spend my time on GUT, as M-theory will be the theory on that". Which would also limit competing theories on aspects M will cover.

First place to start; top M-theory experts should stop trying to paint opponents of M-theory as crackpots. It's not done directly, but can often be read between the lines. And stop calling it science, until it is. I hope this gets better, so science can move forward faster. I see only one reason to stop progress, that is if the scientists suspect new insight can lead to unwanted weaponization. Like antimatter bombs or something similar that is too powerful for us to handle. Then of-cause scientist should find ways to prevent progress in that field. But this does not seem to be the case, so please let’s get more research diverted from M-theory into improving our current framework of nature, so we can understand dark matter/energy, and other weird empirical data from the universe.

Were high-energy and fundamental physicists found to have abandoned the scientific method and to have resorted to 'metaphysics' or just plain juju, that would have serious repercussions for science, but little immediate effect on anything else. On the other hand, misrepresentation of science in popular works is definitely something we should avoid on grounds of general policy and good governance, but is rarely perpetrated by working scientists, and has itself zero effect on science.

It is true that one has the impression that science at the present cutting edge is rather theory rich and data poor. However I suspect that this is always the case, because at the frontier of science it is usually easier to theorize than to gather and interpret data. As the frontier moves on, unsuccessful theories fall by the wayside and are forgotten. We thus suffer from a sort of historical tunnel hindsight in which we see the path that science has traversed as an obvious high road, and forget that it was usually far from obvious at the time.

At the end of the day there is no problem with spinning all kinds of theories, because ultimately the facts will decide the issue. Scientists know that. There's no downside. Nobody is about to take string theory or whatever as fact and base their actions on that.

sexta-feira, abril 19, 2019

Perception and Maps: "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" by David Bohm



In a four-dimensional reality, all lower dimensions would appear as abstractions from the totality in the same way that a line or a plane presently have no actual existence to us and are abstractions. There are no perfect lines or planes, in the mathematical sense, except in mathematics. Every line also has width and is therefore potentially a plane and every plane has depth and is potentially a solid.

The Russian philosopher, P. D. Ouspensky developed these and other ideas in his book Tertium Organum. He became a mystic and disciple of Gurdjieff and his ideas were somehow transmitted through Gurdjieff to the theoretical physicist David Bohm (later collaborator with J. Krishnamurti) whose efforts to find a common reality that would explain the quantum-relativity dilemma resulted in Bohm's theory (published in his book "Implicate Order").

It's mind-blowing, the idea, the likelihood, that time is pseudo-emergent, an illusion born of not being able to step outside ourselves. We always find ourselves in one 'frame' of the movie of our lives. But we would experience that movie of our lives in exactly the same way even if there was no projector and the 'frames' were jumbled in a heap on the floor. There's no need for an outside mechanism like the 'flow of time' to make sense of that bundle of frames, because there's only one possible order in which they make sense. And we exist in each frame, with particular memories and expectations. Our minds would experience what we call the flow of time even if time is fundamentally an illusion.

The problem has historically been seen in an inability to identify/find/pin-point.... the "self". Several philosophers have sought the "self" and have not to found it. Mostly (I think), like Hume, they have decided that there isn't one.

Indeed the idea that there is a Self that is independent of the body that its inhabitants seems to me to be just recreating the" Ghost in the machine". A quantum leap, such as from the lowest to the next level of an electron in a hydrogen atom is actually the smallest change of energy possible. Sure, time doesn't exist for photons, because they are massless. A photon that was created shortly after the Big Bang doesn't differ from one which was emitted from the lightbulb in your room a fraction of a microsecond ago. But iff (if and only if) you have mass, time exists, see next paragraph. Determining if time exists for neutrinos is something I'll leave to experimental physicists - as solar neutrinos change state on their way to detectors on earth, this would tend to suggest that time *does* exist for *some* massless particles, or that they aren't massless after all (But they carry momentum. E = pc for photons. Einstein's often misquoted equation is E^2 = m^2.c^4 + p^2.c^2 . They have energy, and thus momentum, but no mass.). Theoretical physicists and experimental physicists are like men and women, i.e., we may not always understand each other, and sometimes we disagree, but for the most part we get on fine. We've known about neutrinos since the 1930s, at least theoretically, but they're slippery little beggars and I'll leave the nature of whether time exists for them to the experimental physicists.

If time doesn't exist, I would suggest that that you try this experiment: simplified into only one dimension your position is given by the equation s = ut + 1/2.a.t^2. This is an equation involving time, t. Now if your position is up the embankment of a motorway, because you just ran there, I would suggest this makes quite a big difference than if your position is directly in front of a 38-tonner doing 100 km/h. You may, for example be able to take acid and do physics rather better in the former case than the latter.

Do I mean all of these a la Poincairé or a la Gödel? The “point of a pyramid” intersecting 2 space is the pyramid, but it isn't. That's what David Bohm's book is all about. Perception is to some degree your map...not the territory...the point to that is if your experience is limited so is your mapping...mathematics is a closed/abstracted system...that neglects certain points in order to proceed....some of those neglected points are things that define this system. Plato said that this world descended from a world of forms...that the world of forms was used to construct this reality...along with other intersecting worlds of ideas...I was pointing out that although they exist conceptually, they don't exist in reality...because of the entangled warped nature of space there is no such thing as a straight line...parrots see in the ultraviolet as well as the full range of humans.

Bohm’s book is all about perception and reality and maps. I think of it as perception may not be reality but it is based or derived from reality. Perception is my map and my map was derived from reality. I can't separate the two, except in abstraction, which is not necessarily real. The neglected points that I can think of are 0 & 00 and they bracket the universe. Plato's idea that this world is descended from a world of forms, would need to show that a world of forms exists in reality. I think he was high on something when he said that, IF he said that. Some things get lost in the translation. Worlds of form intersecting with worlds of ideas. Too deep for me. Done spun off into never never land I guess. Same as the point of a pyramid intersecting 2 space Is the pyramid I wrote about above.

This is dangerous...what if they prove our universe doesn't exist?! Then we aren't here and are not having this conversation which is a contradiction. Don't worry, we do exist. Existentialism had its day and has come to an end.

quinta-feira, abril 18, 2019

Epistemology vs. Ontology: "Infinite in All Directions" by Freeman Dyson




As infinity is, -1/12 is a rather odd notion. I have come the conclusion that it is not space and time that is curved but numbers and mathematics. Space and time is actually straight when you take this into account.

Maybe that's why I love quantum physics; it challenges science with science to move beyond its arrogance that ‘this is what is’. What is is only what we think we understand at the moment. Is is always evolving, then, something new becomes what is. I believe it’s possible for layers of what is; I accept I don’t know and remain open to ideas. I love this idea that yes, on a macro level time moves forward and on a granular level other things may be going on. Fascinating!

And what we can say about nature is dictated by the conventions in which we choose in order to describe it. We have (for example) chosen to adopt a measure of time which dictates what is "cause" and what is "affect". Based on instinct. We feel that we are born before we die. Just reverse the direction of time, rewrite physics so that what we now regard is an "affect" is now the "cause", and everything is consistent. The choice is simply one of convention. Arguably, it doesn't matter one bit. What matters is that we understand what we mean by the "direction of time".

It's an epistemological debate. Is the direction of time a fundamental choice, or just an arbitrary one? If we were to choose another, it would change how we write the physical laws, but would it really change the universe as we observe it?

Physics is a model that "works". It isn't the truth. There isn't a "truth".

According to scientists from various specialties the experience of human consciousness is not real in different ways. These views are based on conclusions from theoretical constructs. The data used to verify scientific theories and the theories themselves are products of human consciousness. So if consciousness is inherently fallible, how can we trust conclusions ultimately derived from consciousness? Science like art and culture have enriched the world, for both good and bad - I'm not seeking to deny that, it is too obvious.

What I am saying is that when it comes to actual nature, actual reality, the factual state of things as they are, my abstractions about it, or yours, or anyone else's, no matter how noble or enlightened they might be, have no significance. The word is not the thing. The word "tree" is not the actual thing we call a tree. Our knowledge of the world is not the actual world, in the same way that a map is not the actual territory it describes, but is merely a convenient series of abstract marks that can guide a person in a conditional, limited and purely functional way. The map of the New Forest is not under any circumstances, now or in the everlasting future, the New Forest - it is a man-made construct which has come into existence for private and purely subjective, goal based ends. The map is a means to and end, like a description, like a word. The reality is an end in itself and is not man-made.

This is not philosophy, it is a matter of simple observation and discernment of which a child is capable. Words have become so important to us that we miss the actual fact: it is a kind of madness. When it comes to matters of truth and actuality, science, even the greatest science of Einstein or Planck, is only an approximation at a mental level, a conceptual level, of how/what reality is: it is not reality itself.

String Theory and the Kaluza-Klein (and Calabi-Yau Spaces) reflect the old conundrum between epistemology and ontology...Freeman Dyson has a book entitled "Infinite in All Directions.  If that is so, science could go on exploring for ever.  On the other hand it may be circular in which case science will go round in circles for ever filling in more details. The current view is that intelligence and awareness somehow arose from the physical universe, but now it is conjecture that information inherently exist in the universe, however it is possible that by extending information to intelligence, intelligence might inherently exist in the universe.  Science relies very on instrument to 'see' phenomena, various scopes, telemicro oscilloscopes, etc.  So the development of scopes will presumably go on forever yielding evermore certain information. Dyson is not a Sphere...

quarta-feira, abril 17, 2019

Ropey Lemmings: "Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning" by Christopher M. Bishop



I once had a salesman trying to sell me a Neural Network (AI if you like). It was obvious that teaching it all our business rules and so on would be so time consuming it was more efficient for people to just get on and do the work. HAL 9000 it wasn't. Remember? We had the same buzz about Big Data, and Blockchain / Bitcoin, only some months ago: they also were The Solution to Save the World. AI is just the latest avatar for these technical dreams.  All share a common fact: they hardly have any reality beyond PowerPoints, almost none of the promises have been / will be delivered. Meanwhile, beyond the journalists and public being tricked, the CEOs and IT manager themselves attend conferences, watch marvellous PowerPoints, dreaming about those miraculous new technologies, and spending millions of real pounds, dollars and euros to hire AI specialists (but hardly any Data Scientists anymore...).

So I'd say this is mainly marketing bullshit, very well sold.

I call this a misadventured attempt at misdirection.

As an engineer I’ve long been skeptical of technology for technology’s sake and as we don’t know what consciousness is and hence sentience then I am doubly jaundiced about AI. I am also concerned at the ever increasing of un-needed layers of complexity we are piling into how we get things done in society. Sure, I understand if you do online banking you need a certain level of security which requires a certain level of complexity but now we are being told that we need to get rid of cash transactions which just cements in a certain type of complexity.

In the industry I work in the processes have been entirely replaced by server based systems with their own problems. These problems are always complex but always the same, reboot the driver, etc. The thing is, a huge amount of complexity has been introduced for very little gain. We used to use a particular technology that has been almost supplanted by ‘digital’ but it costs a very large amount of money for ‘digital’ to reach the same quality as the previous technology. However, most people involved, either technical or non-technical, generally express reactions ranging from denial to bewilderment when I question whether we have gained anything.

When I read it a long time ago, I thought it was no big deal. In retrospect, I still think it's nothing to brag about. There are much better books in Academia than this one.

Why I selected an AI manager over a human:

My AI manager doesn't smoke and isn't a malicious gossip.
My AI manager assesses my work objectively.
My AI manager learns from me but isn't allowed to steal my work.
My AI manager is aware of its own limitations.
My AI manager isn't illiterate.
My AI manager isn't thick.
My AI manager can't skive off early.
My AI manager can't avoid responsibility.
My AI manager can actually understand and evaluate a counter-argument on its merits.
My AI manager can't lie.
My AI manager can't look after its mates.
My AI manager can't harass me or ignore my complaint if I'm being harassed.
My AI manager isn't human and I don't have to pretend it is, in short I don't have to humour it.

If you go by this book, and don’t believe all of the above, I'm guessing you’re on your way to know about AI. Incidentally, none of the above four would be true ....for starters. But that’s OK, because the only point on the list would be 'My AI manager doesn't need me, because it has other AIs, so I have no work, no income'.

Books like these, remind me of the unmitigated optimism displayed about automated language translation that overtook the computer science community. More than fifty years later we are no closer to achieving automated language translation than we were back then.

Translating a piece of text from English to French or Italian can be done relatively easily by a person skilled in the source and object languages, but it is beyond the capabilities of computers. Why? Because somebody has to write a program to do the translation and take into account the idiosyncrasies of the languages involved. It can't be done by dictionary lookups.

Artificial intelligence (which is really machine learning) is in the same bind. While we can teach robots to do simple tasks like painting a car or welding two pieces of metal together, life consists of far more complex activities that can't always be reduced to simple binary options. How do you program a driverless car to crash into a wall and endanger the occupants rather than run over a couple of pedestrians?

Journalists should be less ready to accept the pap that is produced by technology companies promoting their futuristic products.

As far as I can see Machine Learning is the equivalent of going in to B&Q and being told by the enthusiastic sales rep that the washing machine you are looking at is very popular (and therefore you should buy it too). Through clenched teeth I generally growl "That doesn't mean I think it is the best washing machine." Following the herd is not my bag; there are enormous problems down the line: the circular argument of how people make choices is strengthening its grip as real-time information (likes and dislikes) accelerate across social media networks. A ghastly law of averages and gambling emerges — a polarising exponential effect to choice making: if my friend likes it, if 1000s of other people like it, if millions like it...then it must be likeable and therefore I must like it/want it. It can be anything from a washing machine to a football team to voting in an election. Individuals are losing autonomy in their thinking and decision making; they follow the herd bumping up against the limits of their own echo chamber; they run at speed from the white noise of too much information.

This isn't intelligence (artificial or real). This is lemmings following each other over a cliff.

Bishop's book is an oldie, but it's still one of the best treatments on AI around. Even today.

terça-feira, abril 16, 2019

Superstitionists: "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" by John D. Barrow, Frank J. Tipler



This is a frankly stupid argument and it surprises me that in the course of more than 25 years, otherwise highly intelligent people (scientists, I mean, superstitionists, not so much) still bother to engage in it.

So far as the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for our kind of life is concerned:

1. It does not matter whether there is an infinity of parallel universes; or 24; or three; or just this one.

2. It does not matter whether there have been millions of earlier Big Bangs, or just 42; or five; or just this one.

3. It does not matter what are the odds of these constants being as they are, whether it's one in 10 or one in a googolplex. We don't actually know what the probabilities are because we don't know why they are—we're still flummoxed by the colossal disagreement between vacuum energy density (cosmological constant) and what quantum field theory suggests it ought to be: a discrepancy that may be as large as 10¹²° (depending on Planck energy and some other stuff)

4. What matters is the we can be here to observe only this universe and only because the various physical constants make it possible for us to be here. We could not be observing any universe in which those constants were significantly different. There are no humans elsewhere in the realm of all universes saying "Why aren't these physical constants different?"—because they could never have been born.

It is that simple. It does not help to attach polysyllabic terms to what I've just said (like 'anthropocentrism') because that doesn't add information or meaning, any more than declaring that your chosen god(s) dialled in a convenient value of Λ. This 'debate' is equivalent to a curious goldfish saying "Wow, isn't it a bit of a coincidence that we—who need water to live in—find ourselves in this pond?"

The fine-tuning problem is an interesting physics problem, no doubt meaning we don't understand something on the fundamental level. But it is very much overplayed in the theological arena. Why (some) physicists still harp on about it on debate platforms involving the religiously minded is a mystery.

Another overplayed paradox: the Fermi Paradox.

Or the intelligent puddle which marvels at the fact that its perimeter fits it so precisely that it must have been made specially for it. That would answer the meta-question: 'Why do humans ask why the universe is like it is?', it doesn't answer the question: 'Why is the universe like it is?' What 'matters' is entirely subjective to each individual.. but do not let that stop you attempting to rationalise all and sundry.. doing do might give a feeling of accomplishment.. which is, in itself, 'subjective'..

The probability of the universe being as it is is 1. Unlikely as it appears, conditions where life developed on Earth and the evolutionary path of self replicating organism to intelligent beings capable of theorising and philosophising has been miraculous, a journey against all odds where catastrophes, geological action, population pressures, diseases amongst other things hindered but also ensured the rise of mammalian life and the existence of sapiens. It's maybe not as chancey as the physics of the universe but it's chancey enough and has been accomplished without any Creator having been involved or if otherwise having the courtesy to leave evidence of such input.

The fine-tuning argument can never go anywhere, no matter how refined it gets, for one very simple reason: if God revealed himself to us, directly or indirectly, we would have no way of verifying if it was actually God, because we have no experience of God and nothing to compare it to. If he appeared in the heavens and spoke to us or left his signature on the corner of the cosmos, it would have no more plausibility than the face of Christ appearing on a slice of toast in Bognor Regis.

We will never know the fundamental origins of the universe either way. Or, if possible, ask your mother; she puts everything away. Perhaps sounding a bit cunk, but asking sincerely, where are all the multiverses exactly?


segunda-feira, abril 15, 2019

"The Future of Humanity - Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth" by Michio Kaku



Sometimes I seem overly optimistic. Every new advance in technology always seems like a double edge sword to me. Plastic, the miracle substance. Throw away diapers. Cell phones (and texting), fossil fuel, nuclear energy. Every supposed advance has drawbacks, seemingly paradoxical It is almost as if we are not supposed to be doing this stuff to begin with. Maybe though, with this AI, we can learn and respond to some real intelligence for a change, rather than what we see today, trying to convince us they are intelligent as we go along with the programs of destroying our habitats. Maybe AI can evolve much faster than we in intelligence and thereby help save us poor rascals from extinction.

In the best case scenario, AI will make the least skilled 50% of humanity obsolete - the warehouse workers, truck drivers, and security guards. So what do we do with these surplus people whose upper limit of ability is being semi-intelligent muscle or standing in place waiting/looking for something? I don’t want to be stuck with the bill for financing their lives, and, left without limits, one can expect a faster rate of breeding in this cohort than the busy, high skill cohort. My money is on a lot of violence in the next decade or two.

AI is the current buzzword flavour of the year. Eventually it too shall fade away. Long ago buzz words were used in marketing spins to sell stuff to consumers:

• Automatic
• Turbo
• Electronic
• Integrated Circuit
• Computerised
• Robotic
• Green
• Eco Friendly
• Organic


Higher skilled labor is more likely to adapt than lower skilled labor and creative thinking is going to be augmented vs the wholesale replacement of unskilled physical labor. I think the trades are quite safe as well, as their physical labor is directed by their skill and knowledge. We plain need less meat and more brains. I don’t have an answer. Maybe to “do” is a call to state sponsored slaughter, which it isn’t. My point is that we will have a cohort of people who will be unable to support themselves and a high propensity to make more such people. What happens when you end up with 2 or 3 people needing social support to survive, during what should be peak wage earning years, per taxpayer? That seems like a Big Problem to me, one which we should get ahead of and do something about. We are all in a very sophisticated computer simulation so complex we think it's real, that we are real. I welcome our AI overlords and if you could just tweak the program a bit to make my life a bit more bearable I would be very grateful.

I should really be appealing to the 5th Dimension Organic Masters who push the buttons of the AI Overlords who keep our computer simulation running, despite them being blissfully unaware of their 5th dimension AI Overlords, who haven't got the foggiest about their 6th Dimension Organic Masters. Her Noodly Majesty laughs at any tangle of wires less complex than a Flying Spaghetti Monster... even if decent Pastafarians can’t spot Russell’s teapot, in which AI has stewed for decades.

I user to play with various AI tools to help people learn foreign languages. Neural machine translation (NMT) for example, speech recognition, image recognition - all of these can be employed to help people learn. Add crowd sourcing and you get a combination of human and machine intelligence, which offers many interesting benefits. For example, I took DeepL - a translating tool and first began by using as a translation aid. I soon discovered that you can use DeepL to improve imperfect texts, for example, which Germans have written in English. Neural MT sometimes changes the meaning of a sentence, so I let the crowd try to discover these errors and correct them. I’m currently developing the platform to include translation into simple language. This is something AI currently cannot do, but which is great when crowd sourced. The nice thing about all this is that the platform will be open source and free for anyone to use (If I don’t die first...).

In my opinion, we're just getting started with disruptive AI. It is transforming our lives and should be embraced. As a technical translator though, I have seen NMT engines like DeepL & Google Translate take over the job of translating to the point where I need to find other sources of income. As I work to integrate AI into language learning, I hope that my work in education offers me some security, at least until the machines finally take over that is. The dangers of a completely networked society are economic, political and cultural, but also moral on a fundamental level.

Firstly, the economic. There's a good book by two academic business advisors called 'Capitalism without Capital'. They argue that the increasing polarization of wealth in OECD countries since the 1980s and even right-wing populism can be accounted for by the digitalisation of the economy. The theory goes as follows. At the beginning of the last industrial revolution people worried that new technologies would mechanize labour to the point that human workers would be obsolete. It didn't happen. While stable hands were out of work, they could be re-employed as train drivers, engineers and so on. Indeed, while in terms of working and living conditions the first half of the 19th century was horrific, eventually a skilled manual workforce became so large that it organised. So grew the labour movement. Workers won rights, power shifted from capital to labour and the rural regions in Britain, America and areas of Europe that today are so impoverished thrived.

Fast forward to the next industrial revolution and these regions are de-industrialized as a new fibre-optic, global economic system develops. Again, there are fears that human labour will soon become obsolete, but again it doesn't. New jobs come into existence: software engineers, programmers, data analysts - but there is also there is a proliferation of work dependent on algorithmic networks such as media, marketing, research, the lifestyle and cultural industries. But there is a social problem with this new 'knowledge economy'. According to the book, it relies heavily on 'intangible assets'. Increasingly, business are investing in things that have no physical presence. Examples are software, apps, brands, patents, data, skills programmes, R&D, management systems, business models. Attempts have been made to measure the value of these assets and incorporate them into GDP, but not very successfully. In fact, as David Graeber argues in 'Bullshit Jobs', the capitalist system is now investing in human resources that serve no obvious point (though this is a bit of a separate argument).

Anyway, the corollary of all of this is the increasing concentration of wealth in cities where people with the skills and qualities needed to thrive in the knowledge economy congregate. Moreover, as intangible assets tend to compliment each other, collaborative networks of cognitive and cultural specialists form. Meanwhile, Hartlepool looks like the end of the world. Hence, a widening social disparity that is not just economic but cultural. Hence Brexit.

The other moral problem is more fundamental still - and it goes deeper than the surveillance and political abuses we all know so well. A networked world carries the threat of both authoritarianism and the destruction of the very foundations of what we understand as civilisation. For example, we are accustomed to recognise a distinction between a legal market of goods and services and a black market of criminal activity. But in a networked economy of virtual currencies and unaccountable transactions that distinction dissolves. Trafficked women are all over the porn networks; Mexican cartel money is held in western banks. There is no longer any coherent moral structure to the world.

While the right are abusing these new technologies in the worst ways, the left are not blameless. It is the generation of 68 revolutionaries who wanted a world of radical autonomy as much as the New Right. This is the result.

Kaku's take on the "future of humanity" is just scam to sell books (and it's also a pathology). I much prefer his technical stuff on Quantum Field Theory which I'm re-reading right now.