Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Thursday, March 07, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Condemned to repeat it

The Longest War

The fight we're in didn't begin on September 11; it started thousands of years ago. It's the struggle between East and West, and history can both encourage and help us--if we read it properly.

[via dangerousmeta]

Rogue states

Rogue States? America Ought to Know

We hear a lot about rogue states these days. You know, the rogue states that refuse to ratify important treaties, the ones who refuse to allow international inspections of their weapons of mass destruction, the ones who ignore U.N. resolutions, who violate human rights with impunity and who refuse to sign on to human rights conventions? You know, those rogue states.

Let's get down to specifics. What would you call a country that produces the highest levels of dangerous chemicals in the world but abandons key negotiations aimed at reversing global warming? How about a country whose leader blithely announces that he is abandoning a quarter-century old arms control treaty, one the whole world understands to be the key to preventing complete nuclear madness? And what about a government that walks out of talks to enforce the biological weapons treaty because it doesn't want international inspectors peeking at its own weapons production facilities? That same country keeps rejecting human rights treaties, even the ones protecting the rights of children.

[via wood s lot]

Just training?

US Troops join Invasion of Colombian Rebel Zone

After pictures of US Army Green Berets operating alongside the Colombian military in the invasion of the safe zone appeared on the front page of the Colombian daily El Tiempo, one politician, Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio Serpa, called the US military presence "very grave" and demanded a clarification from the government.

General Hector Fabio Velasco quickly replied that the US Special Forces had "come simply as observers." Serpa's opponent for the Liberal Party nomination, the rightist Alvaro Uribe Velez, said he welcomed the US presence and would support the sending of US combat troops to fight in Colombia, rather than merely providing aid and training.


Saving Machines From Themselves: The Ethics of Deep Self-Modification: Peter Suber discusses self-modification by artificial intelligence systems.

It is at least possible, then, and even seems likely, that machines will have the tool of deep and precise self-modification long before they have the understanding to use it effectively to achieve the ends they desire. For example, a machine capable of reading and revising its own code could probably figure out in a reasonable time how to enlarge its memory or lengthen its attention span. But what if it wanted to learn foreign languages more quickly or make funnier jokes? It's difficult to imagine that it could discover helpful code revisions, let alone necessary ones, without abundant trial and error. But trial and error in revising one's own code are about as hazardous as trial and error in brain surgery. If machines don't have precise knowledge to accompany their precise tools, or if they simply have incentives to experiment, then their experiments in self- modification will be fraught with the risks of self-mutilation and death.

[via wood s lot]

Freedom of Information

For their eyes only: on the increasing restriction on information following 9/11.

The United States possesses an extraordinary institution which sets it apart from almost every other nation on Earth and helps define America as an open democracy. It is called the 1966 Freedom of Information Act, and it is in serious trouble.

[via The War in Context]

Changing the rules

Tension rises as Mugabe 'dances in the dark': on last minute maneuvering by Mugabe to ensure he wins this weekend's elections.

Hubble update

The fourth spacewalk in four days is underway to add a new camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, to the Hubble. Yesterday's power unit replacement seems to have been successful.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley