Sunday, December 30, 2012

How To Become Deeply Offended

Hostility does more than plastic
surgery could ever undo.
Being offended by anything and everything can be a lifelong, satisfying occupation providing an endless source of valuable outrage for neurotic people who cannot afford cable TV and do not know how to work the Internet.  And, it's incredibly easy to do.  But before I explain the easy steps that anyone can follow to achieve a total, permanent state of affronted hostile umbrage, you may be asking why anyone would want to do so.

Hell if I know!  But is seems a wildly popular thing to do these days, and who am I to not jump on any bandwagon that happens to be passing by.  Since everybody is doing this anyway, I figure why not provide an easier way for people to have exactly what they want?  Therefore, whatever your bizarre and disturbing personal reasons may be for needing to be offended at every hand, the following steps will help you get there.

Step 1.  Always be on the lookout for an insult.  Is anyone calling you a skin-wearing compost smeller?  How about a grass-combing cake-sniffing gormless poltroon?  Has anyone indirectly implied that you are a bag-waving chino-covered gaberlunzie or a zit-popping denim-feeler?  Or a toenail-touching chicken taster?   If not, then you should pay more attention.

Pro Tip:  If you cannot induce anyone to insult you to your face, then you can always IMAGINE that they have done so.  This is every bit as effective and saves a tremendous amount of time.

Step 2.  Try to make sense of the insult. If you do not currently know what a pillock-mincing spanner or a carbuncle-covered poxydoxy or a wombat-licking cheese-voting galah is, then you might have to borrow somebody's internet to look it up.  However, a precise definition is not absolutely necessary as long as you assume that whatever it means, it must be something very, very bad indeed.

Step 3.  Whatever the insult is, e.g. hat-wearing puppy-spanker or a sniveling waste of parents, the most important step of all is to secretly (or openly) believe in its accuracy.  Whether due to your susceptibility to other people's natural authority, your weak-minded suggestibility, or simply a deep-seated self-doubt: for the insult to have any effect whatsoever it must be believed.  Conversely, if an insult IS having an effect on you, you can be certain that it is something that you DO unconsciously believe.

Once you have achieved Step 3 - a belief in the aptness of the insult to your personal situation - then your own self-hatred will be directed outward onto the person that you are pretending has given you the insult.  This allows you to self-righteously justify your anger and accept no responsibility for your next actions, including loud and embarrassing public tantrums, weak and futile acts of revenge, or simply wasting the rest of your life sulking in obscurity.

Most people are still not aware that the insult required not only your permission but your active willing participation, and will feel unable to blame you for whatever comes afterwards.  While your life will remain a failure, at least few people will blame you for it.  Because that would be insulting.

For some lucky individuals, indignation, resentment and pique come as naturally as growing hair.  They are gifted in that way, and unconsciously perform these three steps with intuitive style and flair.  Most are not even aware that they are doing anything at all!  But rest assured that they are following all of these steps, as anyone must who wishes to experience the regurgitating bitterness of hating themselves and others.

Be warned, however. If you are not careful to observe these rules, some insults will not cause you to feel the slightest tinge of discomfort.  Without diligently following all three steps, even the grossest epithets might pass right through you without any effect whatsoever.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Scorpions and Me

I made a most astonishing discovery last night while waking barefoot in the dark with only an ultraviolet light.  Astonishing, creepy, and not a little unsettling, that makes me wonder if we humans have more in common with scorpions than is comfortable to imagine - namely anything whatsoever.

But first, I feel I owe you an explanation of what in Baggins' Name I thought I was even doing, walking around barefoot in the dark with a UV light.

You see, I am visiting family in Arizona. Arizona has lots of bark scorpions, Centruroides sculpturatus, and most of them apparently live inside my parents' suburban house for some reason. More than once has a midnight excursion to the loo been interrupted by someone trodding barefoot upon a bark scorpion minding its own inscrutable business on the carpet, resulting in an indescribably painful, potentially lethal sting.

I was therefore advised in the strongest terms to always keep a UV flashlight at the bedside, in case nature calls during the night.  Why a UV light?  Because scorpions glow bright green under UV light, while under ordinary white light, they are the exact same color as the carpeting, evidently chosen in a moment of extreme confusion.

 So, what did I discover while padding around barefoot under UV light that has so shaken my belief in the natural order of the universe?  I mean other than the intriguing variety of very curious stains on the carpet not visible under normal light?

To my surprise and consternation, I discovered that toenails, like scorpions, also glow green under UV light.  The same shade of green.  I am horrified to think that we humans have even a tiny biochemical link to scorpions.

But just like the time we realized that Pluto was not really a planet, I'm sure we'll eventually get over it and in time be able to live normal lives again.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Artificial Intelligence Is Stupid

Deep Blue was stupid.
Yes, I have heard all about Deep Blue, the chess-playing machine that kicked Garry Kasparov's ass (sort of - only by the skin of its chips, but chickened out of a rematch and never even had a look at the Great Bobby Fisher).

Yes, thank you, I also know all about Watson, the hands-down all-time Jeopardy! champion of the universe.

And yet I assert that today we are as far from true Artificial Intelligence (AI) as we were in the days of mechanical adding machines. Deep Blue and Watson are enormous feats of computer science, but they are not intelligent.  They do not think, do not have any awareness, have no understanding of the data that they process or the rules they follow, and they do not have any level of consciousness whatsoever.  They are, in their essence, just algorithms.  Programs.  Deterministic mechanical data processors.

But if beating every single person in the world at Jeopardy! isn't intelligence, then what is?  A correct understanding of intelligence actually leads me to see playing games like Jeopardy! and chess as not intelligence itself, but as a kind of suspension of intelligence.   Computers and machines are far better than us at things like calculating, data processing and large sorting tasks.  In order for humans to do these tasks well, we actually have to suspend our real organic intelligence while we discipline the mind to follow the rules of an algorithm.  And we have to have a damn good reason for it.  Part of intelligence is instinctively or analytically knowing when to suspend consciousness and which algorithm to run.

Deep Blue and Watson did not have to consider those problems at all. Their programmers decided for them what algorithm to run and when to run it.  All they had to do was follow the rules laid down.  And yes, you do not need to remind me that the fine-tuning of those myriad rules was done by "playing back" thousands of human moves in these games, which implicitly contain the parameters of the most effective, creative human strategies.  At its core this detail is just another deterministic algorithm and, in fact, only further emphasizes the point that human intelligence cannot be synthesized by a machine.

Why is that?  Because the foundation of intelligence is not logic or facts (sorry, all my scientist friends!)  Intelligence is not being able to associate one set of stimuli with the memory of another.  Even flatworms can do that.  That mechanistic activity does not necessarily accompany an understanding of what those stimuli mean.  The core of intelligence is a consciousness of the meaning of facts or events. So, how do humans create meaning and gain consciousness of it?

To begin with, the human mind is integrated into a living organism which has at its very core the instinct for survival.  It wants to survive, needs to survive, and fears annihilation with absolute physical, organic terror. Being integrally connected to living flesh, blood and bone allows the primitive brain to be aware of the internal state of the organism and its prospects for ongoing operations.  It can control the organism and correct for situations that threaten the organism.  It does this not because it is artificially programmed to do so, but because it is terrified of death and therefore of anything that takes it in that direction.

With eyes, ears and other external sensory organs the core brain can assess the organisms environment and its prospects for nourishment, safety, sex and health. The brain is conscious of the meaning it assigns to any set of stimuli because it associates them with either survival or death. These primitive emotions are at the core of all our more complex human emotional states, and that same mind makes assessments of the meaning of all events relative to the organism's health, survival, and genetic success.

Our intelligence derives entirely from our ability to be conscious of and to make meaning of events, situations, and objects in our environment.  It should be noted that these meanings are usually subjective to the conditioning of the mind; hence we have optimists and pessimists making distinctly different meanings for the same events.

Please do not dismiss this as that "emotional intelligence" artsy-fartsy nonsense.  Let's take Garry Kasparov's brand of kick-your-ass braniac intelligence, for example.  How does his brain so aggressively, cunningly and accurately prosecute a game of chess?  Where does the will to do so come from?  Because the primitive brain wants something.  Garry's brain associates winning at chess with organic survival, and so his vast resources of memory, cogitation, creativity and gut feel combine in a highly trained mind to be virtually unbeatable in an extremely logical, cerebral activity that is unquestionably "intelligence" in action.

Once the will, drive and organic resources are in motion, then the champion (in whatever game - chess, Jeopardy!, quantum physics, stock trading, or jazz) must suspend and master his emotions to keep the required outcome firmly in consciousness.

Here is the one issue that AI proponents are not able to solve:  How do you make a program WANT something?  I mean really, desperately, deeply and irrationally WANT something?  Or to be afraid of something?  Or to feel anything at all?

Without that, a machine can never understand the context of information and be conscious of its meaning.   Until machines can be in any way concerned for their organic existence and be conscious of the emotional context and meaning of events relative to its well-being, then machines will never be intelligent.

My Prediction:

Artificial Intelligence will always be stupid.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Typical, Ordinary Saturday at My House

Honest, folks, this really is what a normal Saturday is like at my house.

The innovative Nord Electro 3, 73-Key Electronic Stage Piano and Organ reproduces the great keyboard instruments of the 20th century. In this case, a Wurlitzer Stage Piano with added a-wah effect and just a touch of overdrive. I'm using the low-noise 50-W amp I built a few years ago, which produces a very clean facsimile of the input without adding or removing anything.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How Luck Works

Is luck real?  Does it exist, or is it only random chance and perception?

Do you know people who seem to get all the breaks in life, all the good things, all the luck?  Is it something they are doing, or does God just love them more than you?

In the book  The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles by Professor of Psychology Richard Wiseman, the phenomenon of luck is scientifically studied a) to see if the phenomenon is real and not just anecdotal; b) if it is real, to find out why it works, and c) to determine whether "lucky" people are doing something different that anyone can do.

After interviewing and observing thousands of people, some of whom consider themselves "lucky" and others "unlucky" or "average," it became clear that there really are "lucky" people out there who seem to get all the breaks.  Seemingly in defiance of the laws of probability, "lucky" people get great jobs after a chance meeting, meet their perfect life partners in the most improbable ways, and repeatedly get opportunities to realize lifelong dreams through the most random and unlikely chains of events.  How do they do it?

From the research, four clear factors that predict the "luck" of a person emerged:

  1. "Lucky" people are open to new experiences, see and take advantage of opportunities, have large networks, and have a relaxed attitude towards life rather than a fearful one.
  2. "Lucky" people make great decisions by listening to their intuition, and working on ways of specifically improving their intuition through absorbing relevant information.
  3. "Lucky" people remember their past "luck," expect to be "lucky" in the future, expect to have "lucky" or favorable interactions with people, set and actively work towards goals, and persevere in the face of adversity because they are certain that "luck" will appear any any moment, as long as they keep trying.
  4. "Lucky" people have bad luck too, but they see a positive side to such events and believe that "bad luck" will actually be for the best in the long run.  They do not dwell on past "bad luck," and they take positive steps towards PREVENTING "bad luck" again in the future.

Have you been "unlucky" in life, career, love, money, health or bowling?  The bad news is that it probably WAS all your fault after all.  The GREAT news is that it was only your fault, and you have the power to change all that.  You are not, as you once assumed, at the mercy of the random chances of life, because Luck is something you can make.  It is made by the way you perceive, think, prepare and act.

"Lucky" people (and you will now be joining that group, I hope) are not superstitious, do not gamble or take unjustified risks, do not sit and wait for "luck" to come their way, and do not blame their life on other people or on circumstances over which they have no control, e.g. "bad luck."

"Lucky" people, including you, use the power of their creative minds to visualize what they want, to set goals that they believe in, and to absolutely have a blast working towards those goals.

The harsh reality is that you are going to die someday, whether you have any fun in life or not.  You can die a miserable deluded Pessimist, or die a happy deluded Optimist.  Your choice!

Oh, and "Lucky" people live longer, too.  How 'bout that?