Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Saturday, April 06, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Networking in the Mind Age: Alexander Chislenko looks at Hans Moravec's Mind Age and the future of networked robots and society.

It may be difficult to get used to dealing with a volatile distributed entity. Suppose your robot made some really stupid mistake. You are mad at it. The robot explains that the action was caused by a temporary condition in the experimental semantic subnetwork and suggests to present to you a hundred-terabyte volume of incremental archives, memory snapshots and audit trails from numerous servers involved in the making of the unfortunate decision, containing a partial description of the state of the relevant parts of the system at the time. If you can even find the culprit, it's non-material, distributed, and long gone.

Now, what do you kick?

See also: Moravec's Robots, Re-Evolving Mind

The incremental growth of computer power suggests an incremental approach to developing robot intelligence, probably an accelerated parallel to the evolution of biological intelligence that's its model. Unlike other approaches, this path demands no great theories or insights (helpful though they can be): natural intelligence evolved in small steps through a chain of viable organisms, artificial intelligence can do the same. Nature performed evolutionary experiments at an approximately steady rate, even when evolved traits such as brain complexity grew exponentially. Similarly, a steady engineering effort should be able to support exponentially growing robot complexity (especially as ever more of the design search is delegated to increasingly powerful machines). The journey will be much easier the second time around: we have a guide, with directions and distances, in the history of vertebrate nervous systems.

Light, faster than light

Superluminal phenomena shed new light on time: Graham Shore talks about the research into the possibility that photos can move faster than the speed of light as we know it and whether the existence of such photons would imply that time travel is possible.

Quantum effects such as vacuum polarization in gravitational fields appear to permit "superluminal" photon propagation and give a fascinating new perspective on our understanding of time and causality in the microworld. To understand these new developments, we first need to question the origin of the received wisdom that superluminal motion necessarily leads to unacceptable causal paradoxes.

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It's too bad I'm a cynic

Jeb TM

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush moved to trademark his name, in an effort to prevent a Florida group that has launched personal attacks against Janet Reno from continuing to call itself Americans for Jeb Bush.


The High Energy Transient Experiment satellite, launched in 1996, never separated from the final stage of the Pegasus launch vehicle. It's coming back to earth in the next few days. Four 33 pound batteries are the only parts expected to survive reentry, but their impact point is not yet known. The current prediction for reentry is April 7th, at 4:41am Eastern and updates can be found here.

After the first failure, MIT quickly moved to try again. HETE-2 was launched in October, 2000 and is working fine.

Launch delay

The shuttle launch has been pushed back to Monday, between 2p and 6p Eastern, due to the amount of repairs needed to fix the hydrogen leak.

It just looks like one war

Two Middle East Wars: Amos Oz provides an interesting perspective on what's going on between Israel and Palestine right now.

Two Palestinian-Israeli wars have erupted in this region. One is the Palestinian nation's war for its freedom from occupation and for its right to independent statehood. Any decent person ought to support this cause. The second war is waged by fanatical Islam, from Iran to Gaza and from Lebanon to Ramallah, to destroy Israel and drive the Jews out of their land. Any decent person ought to abhor this cause

Climbing higher or sliding down?

The New Face of Capitalism: Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt

For a long time now, the U.S. economy and the economies of the advanced capitalist world as a whole have been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth relative to the quarter-century following the Second World War. It is true that there have been cyclical upswings and long expansions that have been touted as full-fledged "economic booms" in this period, but the slowdown in the rate of growth of the economy has continued over the decades. Grasping this fact is crucial if one is to understand the continual economic restructuring over the last three decades, the rapidly worsening conditions in much of the underdeveloped world to which the crisis has been exported, and the larger significance of the present cyclical downturn of world capitalism.

Life and Debt

Life and Debt: a review of the documentary of the same name which looks at the effect of globalization on the people of Jamaica.

"I guess I thought the IMF was like the Red Cross"

This surprisingly naive beginning was the starting point for Stephanie Black's myth-shattering analysis of globalisation, the film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica, the film documents how the schizophrenic nature of the island, both an earthly paradise and a crippled nation, is aggravated by the economic trinity of World Bank, IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.

See also:

AS been much discussion recently of the documentary film Life and Debt. Set in Jamaica and based loosely on Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place , this excellent film is a critique of globalisation. Given the upsurge in the anti-globalisation movement since the Asian Crisis, there is a rapidly growing demand for literature which delves into the 'other side' of globalisation. Thus, Life and Debt's appearance is timely.

Some reviewers have criticised the film as poor documentary, since it shows just one side of the story and makes a caricature of what is a complex issue. The criticisms are apt. Still, I also think they do not detract from the movie's merits. As I said at the Jamaican launch of Life and Debt, I think the film is best viewed not as documentary but as polemic. It sets forth a counter-position to the currently orthodox one on globalisation.

"When you come to Jamaica as a tourist, this is what you will see..."

Most developing countries end up as casualties when one examines the travesties inflicted upon them by huge corporations and ruthless organizations such as the IMF, IADB, and WTO. However, Jamaica is a country that has an international voice and is routinely visited by tourists, making it the perfect paradigm to show the disparity between the "haves and have-nots." Stephanie Black's incredible documentary, "Life and Debt," initially is seen through the eyes of a tourist in Jamaica (with an effective voiceover excerpted from a Jamaica Kincaid novel), to show audiences that Western perceptions about the Land of Wood and Water differ from its harsh realities.

Stormy weather

Its Even Worse Than It Appears: on reports of unpredictable and extreme weather being caused by the polar ozone holes.

Dr Solomon said the ozone hole over Antarctica, and lesser ozone depletions over the Arctic, have now established a pattern in which vortices of extremely cold air are becoming trapped over the polar regions instead of performing their natural function of spreading to lower latitudes and cooling global weather systems.

Dr Solomon led the 1986-87 research expedition to Antarctica that proved that chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in aerosol sprays were accumulating above the poles and driving a complex chemical chain reaction that destroyed the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.

After hearing from Dr Solomon and other researchers, some delegates said they would advise their governments that the option of waiting for more evidence of climate change was being overtaken by the real thing. Outbreaks of extreme weather would take an unacceptable toll of human life, farm production and social infrastructure, including transport systems and buildings.

This story originally appeared here in the Otago Daily Times, but the version I linked to is more readable.

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley