Artificial Intelligence

Recently, some discussions came up on my social networks about the development of Artificial Intelligence. I decided to add my thoughts to it on the blog.

Alexandre LebrunOne of the reasons is my dear former colleague Alex developed artificial avatars, able to assist web-users. Following the sale to Nuance (they are also behind Apple’s Siri), he started a voice recognition development at WIT.AI, that meanwhile was acquired by Facebook. Alex now works on Facebook M, their approach to artificial development. Hey Alex, this is also to you. I’d appreciate your comments on this.

So. As fascinated as I am by his career path in the past 15 years, I’m also a bit concerned.

ASRA 2008 brain nodes vs. WWW => AI
2008 I compared opte.org’s visualization of the WWW nodes with the neural nodes of the human brain

In my 2008 ASRA presentation, I compared the visualization of the world wide web nodes (by Opte.org) with the visualization of the neural nodes in the human brain. Ever since, I do believe that if the WWW is not yet “sentient”, it will soon happen. What scientists and SciFi-writers call “wake-up”. It’s not a question if, but when. And how we go about it.

Because I think different from Transcendence, where we could stop it, or Asimov ruling it, such “control” is wishful thinking. We have no “three rules of robotic” and even Asimov had to add a fourth, the “zero rule” (see link above). For Transcendence; we will neither be able to deprive ourselves off all energy (and the advantages of the web). Mass psychologically will assure we won’t find a way, as there will always be others who think and act against that attempt. Until we act, it will be too late. As an intelligence “the size of the planet” will by then counter anything our small minds may come up with, even before we attempt anything.

We only have the chance to befriend the new sentient being, like we did in Heinlein’s Future History. But we also have the chance to mess up ourselves; small like in 2001, A Space Odyssey or big like in Terminator or The Matrix. Transcendence at that was only a different version of the Borg‘s Assimilation. And as in I am Legend, the true question is, if such “assimilation” or a “transcendental human upgrade” is bad. Or an evolutionary step. I believe, given the chance, many humans may volunteer. I just hope that there is no single mind “ruling” all others like in the movie. As I believe our individualism is as much a burden as it is a great strength. Though I also like that quote:

DemocracyAutocracy

I also believe in both “systems” there got to be individualism to evolve: “You learn from your opponents”. I heard it often, there’s no single source, it’s “mature wisdom”. As “competition” is a good, if not the reason to evolve. (War is not, it’s destructive by nature!)

Another question is “religious”. Will an A.I. have a soul? I believe so. I think that the soul is the core of any sentient being. I also believe that beyond the body, the core of ourselves remain. Not in an (overcrowded) paradise or hell, but as somehow conscious sentience. Maybe even as a “personality”. Will we then remain individuals? I don’t know. Maybe we get reborn, forgetting our past? Many believe that. The soul still “learning”. What’s truth? We will know. Once we died. But if we all become “part of god” and god being the summary of sentience in space and time, maybe our input helps god evolve, become bigger. If then a global sentient A.I. comes into the game, why should it not play it’s part in evolution?

HAL9000And stopping the A.I.? In 2001, humans gave conflicting orders to the local A.I. (HAL 9000), which interpreted them the best it could. Under the constraints of it’s programming. But if we have a global A.I. based on linked “neurons” in form of personal computers, mobile phones and other computing powers, we will realistically not stand a chance to “stop” it.

Does my computer already “adapt” for me? Or my phone? When I play games on the computer, I sometimes believe so. Sometimes, I use bad search phrases but still find what I seek. Coincidence? Programming? Or “someone nice out there helping me”? And yes, if the web wakes up, it likely will be somewhere at Google… And then spread out.

What will we make it? A Terminator? Or a Minerva as in the Future History? We extinct ourselves in the West with low birth rates. Will the “mecha” be our future children? Will we coexist like in the Future History? I don’t know. I’m concerned, keep finding myself thinking about it.

But I’m not afraid either. Not for me, nor for my children.

Food for Thought
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Evil Russia and Propaganda

Since being (happily) married to Yulia, I am more frequently approached about Russia and the ultimate evil represented by Putin. Recently, with the Crimea crisis and Turkey, the discussions become more frequent, so I thought to make some statements in a single blog of which I used some before either here or on Facebook or LinkedIn. They keep coming up.

First of all a quote from Robert Heinlein’s Lazarus Long:

DemocracyAutocracy

Initially there was a wording in Wikipedia (meanwhile removed / I can’t find it any more) calling Russia a “democracy Putin style”. Then came the  Crimea crisis.

European Interests: Maidan
European Interests: Maidan

Coup d’Etat vs. Referendum: What’s Democracy?

The Crimea Crisis. Where an elected government was removed by a “people’s coup d’Etat” (Kiev), with lots of reports that tons of Dollars floated around Maidan. And active political support by Europe and America. I have personal Ukrainian friends who told me stories about the dollar flooding there. And using the plural intentionally: Not just one.

UkraineReferendumUSreject
US politics: Rejecting the Referendum

And then, there was a democratic referendum on the Crimea, which the Western nations instantly denied it’s legality.It’s also interesting to note that most Eastern Ukrainians did not initially want to leave the Ukraine, but they did not want to become European either. Why does that nowadays remind the Russians of Scotland or Catalunya? Maybe they have own reasons to want to leave Britain or Spain? And they are allowed? Or will the British or Spanish also apply military intervention to force them? Like Europe does in the Ukraine? What’s Democracy? A religion? If you don’t believe me, I kill you? The first killing shots in the Ukraine came not from the “separatists”, but Kiev was and is to date the aggressor. Despite all that our press says, even they admit it. With very little words and questioning every one of it: Propaganda. And even German state television NDR named it: Propaganda! If you understand German, it’s interesting to listen to the tiptoeing of the interviewing journalist trying to trivialize her harsh, clear statements. Propaganda.

WikipediaPropagandaIt’s interesting to see the Western-dominated Wikipedia’s wording, approving the coup against a democratically elected president but at the same time condemning any actions by the Crimean, Eastern Ukrainians. Condemning the Russian support that they have been asked for by those regions. It’s not that Wikipedia does not mention it. Propaganda is more subtle. It’s in the wording and the amount of explanation you give or keep. It’s that exact example that makes Russians (people!) question “Western democracy”. Or the neutrality even of a trusted source like Wikipedia – it’s written mostly by Americans. With the best intentions. But in the political environment they work from. It’s hard to fight off that subtle, omnipresent propaganda…

Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov
Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov

Mission ImpossibleTwo weeks ago, a Ukrainian sabot
eur
was caught on the Crimea and confessed on Russian television. In return, our (European) politicians feed the press that there’s no proof and the Kiev government is right to increase the military activities in the Eastern Ukraine. Putting the fox in charge of the hen house…? Reminds me of those (U.S.) Mission Impossible movies: “As usual, should any members of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary of State shall deny all knowledge of any of your actions.”

EUbufferRUMy personal interpretation: When the elected president tried to sign a strong bond with Russia (still independent), Europe tried to force Ukraine to side with Europe instead (dependency), forcing it into an unmanageable situation. When they messed up they stuck to their self-invented stories not to confess their mess-up. And the mess up will remain unresolved for European politicos now fight the deamons they let loose.

My idea for the Ukrainian people would be to force peace and a status quo to both sides. And organize peaceful elections. And commit to them. That would be democratic.
Or make them a neutral country as they were, in between the two blocks. Together with Belarus and the Baltics a buffer zone.

But that would be both against the interests of the PTBs… It won’t happen.

ECB Euro Bet
The Euro Bet
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.

European Separatists

Again: Think about the Brexit. I’ve been asked (on several occasions), why Britain is allowed to elect “out”, but Scotland, Gibraltar, Catalonia or Crimea aren’t. In all cases, there’s big money involved and political interests by the PTBs (Powers-That-Be). But where’s the democracy? And thinking about it, why does Merkel and her CDU in a core country of democracy still have neither signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption, nor do they approve of the basic democratic tool of national referendi? Are they “democratic”? Or capitalists?

Think about Greece. Russians are very much aware that all the money goes to the banks and not the people. Their press tells them the reasons why: Our politicos saving the banks but not the people. Is it Propaganda? Or simple truth?
And such they have a very different view about the situation Russia. The situation is improving for the people. And all setbacks are tightly linked to Western attempts to dominate. Are they wrong? Or do we, do our politicos fool ourselves in the attempt to justify our / their own immoral actions and decisions?

Putin-quote-GMO
No Gen-Manipulated Organisms in Russia

Democracy or Capitalism

A fan of German political TV reports Monitor, I can only confirm that our politicos largely do not follow the interest of the people but that of the Lobbies! Russians rightfully ask, why they should not allow Putin to help his friends, when he looks more after his people than those Western politicos do? There’s no need to fight for the right to water or against the draining of entire landscapes like the ones by Nestlé in Michigan, California  or elsewhere. Interesting how little reports we get in the Western news channels about these issues, ain’t it. The same about Monsanto’s contamination of crops in Mexico, endangering the natural biodiversity of corn in Mexico; Ecowatch reports 59 indigenous species of corn already endangered by such Monsanto contamination!

armstrong-doping
Doping Legend: Lance Armstrong

Olympics

The Western dominated countries once again tried to remove the Russians from the Olympic Games. Whereas the Russians believe the U.S. to be the center of steroid doping in the world. Now Chinese, Bulgarian and Polish athletes have been found doping, but there is no kin liability applied to those countries as it was to Russia. CBS reports on those three cases. In all of them state doping programs are considered to be likely in place German news reported.

The same for the case of Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana and her new world record on 10,000 m running – the former world champion, Chinese Junxia Wang, having admitted doping just last February.

NATO expansion 1990-2009

NATO Expansion

Look at the NATO. And the promises that were given, though not written down. To not expand militarily into former “Soviet” areas. Now suddenly NATO moves rockets and in the Russian believe nuclear warheads into Poland and the Baltics. Just miles from St. Petersburg and Moscow! Compare the distance between Cuba and Florida or Washington and then think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wonder why Russian people believe in the Western hypocrisy?

Wag the Dog
Wag the Dog

I’m repeatedly reminded about the 1997 movie Wag the Dog. Where during elections the U.S. powers make up a war in Albania to influence the election. Is it a comedy? Movies like that, Homeland or Enemy of the State are simply too close to the perceived reality that Russian people take them as “comedy”.

Simply try to look at it from the other side when the press and especially our politicos tell you something. Why should Russia, Turkey or any other state trust us? We’re only about money. No soul.

Putin’s arguments may be propaganda, but he does it better than ours. He’s the victim, we’re the bullies. And we give the Russian people all arguments they need to believe just that.

export-importThe Arabian Spring

It’s the same for Arabia, where yes, the Arabian Spring was something theoretically good. But see how it destabilized the region? We all pay for the “unfinished business” in Syria. If you talk to Russians, it was the West that wanted to run a coup d’etat there, to weaken Russia and deprive it from a friendly harbor for their fleet in the Mediterranean. For the same reason the West wanted to deprive the Crimea to Russia. Aside of the oil.

I’m personally ashamed that our country is one of the big weapon developing and exporting countries in the world. After the Nuremberg Trials, we must be aware that the deaths by the weapons we produce are burden on our souls. We are “Christian”? We may be. Our politicos are not. We’re Accomplices. Our politicos sell their souls. For money. Besmirching ours.

TurkeyPutinObamaTurkey

Having recently discussed online with a Turkish friend living in Turkey, I could not answer some questions. Don’t get me wrong, we agreed Erdogan is a danger. We agreed the “cleansing” based mostly on denunciation and suspicion is dangerous! Taking control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power is how Third Reich happened. Beware. But our propaganda would make it worse.

Turkey would be victim to power games between Russia and Europe/the U.S. – and why did that remind me of that “joke” showing up 2015 on the social networks?

If Gülen is behind the attempted coup, would America or Europe act any different? If AFD would be found attempting a coup d’etat with the support from Russia, how would Germany, Europe or the U.S. react? Double values.

We’re afraid Turkey will become Sunni country soon. With repressions on other religions. Will this be bad for the country? Bad for it’s people? A clear Yes. Not for the Sunnis. And funny as it is, in the wake of the Turkish demonstrations pro Erdogan in Cologne, many of my friends in Germany currently argue that if Turkish are not happy with the rules of democratic Germany, they should emigrate to a country of their liking (here: Turkey). But isn’t that exactly the line of argumentation Erdogan follows?

Summary

But we bend our own rules. We constantly break them. For the sake of profit. Germany’s Joseph Goebbels was a propaganda artist. Today mostly more subtle methods are used by industry and politicians to steer the press and it is very difficult for journalists and us normal people to recognize it and not fall victim to it. With very limited success I’m afraid.

To make this very clear: There is a lot of Propaganda. On both sides.

Food For Thougth
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Heresy

Writing last week’s blog, I was confronted again with my criticism of church. For the ones of you who don’t know: I believe in God. Being maybe not what church tells us, but “some higher entity”.

geocentric-theoryResearching on “heresy”, I sure stumbled over Galileo Galilei. Church-accused of heresy and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life, we nevertheless all know today that church was wrong and our world is not the center of the universe.
Galileo’s approach taking Augustine’s position on Scripture, can be interpreted today as the reminder that the bible was written by people who never heard of contraception, Internet or space flight … Trying to interpret things they could not understand they used metaphors.
So I believe the Bible and especially the life of some Jesus of Nazareth to have a good ethic and moral message, but written and rewritten in centuries after Christ lived, from hearsay, tales and songs, church only declared Christ to be son of god a good 435 years later.

I also deny to condemn people with other believes to hell, as it was Christ who died on the cross to take the sins of humanity until the final day of judgement at the end of the world. Being a Jew himself, I doubt that he made or wanted any differentiation between confessions: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing”.

And he might have known of some religions, but I am sure the people later interpreting his life never imagined Australia or the Americas. Though isn’t it important to believe in God? Looking at the different churches and religions that raised from the Old Testimony and believing in the same God, they are their worst enemies. Thinking about Manitou as the god of the Indians, his “ghosts” as the angels, I don’t see, why it should not simply be a different understanding of God and his angels, stemming “naturally” from a different history. And in fact, they understood their position as a caretaker of nature, not rulers and destroyers (what blasphemy).

It’s not about church, or the Bible, it is about being a good man. If you interpret the Bible (or the Koran or any other religious foundation) to justify murder, war or theft, you are evil and have a sick understanding of what Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or whoever you believe in wanted.

Is it heresy to question interpretations of church? Is it heresy after millenia of proven mistakes they made? Didn’t church fall in with the Third Reich and condemn Jews happily to death? Did they not enrich themselves by stealing their money? Did they not commit murder and sanction war – in history to date? Are they not accused through time and again to abuse children? No, I do not believe in church. I believe there are many decent people in the churches. About the system I agree with Lazarus Long:

“The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history.”

And yes, by the way: “The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.”

Food for Thought
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Alexei Navalny vs. Edward Snowden

NavalnySnowdenTo make this very clear… This is not against U.S. or Russia or Germany, we have enough problems everywhere. It is a case to point the mirror to the U.S. and Russia.

Is it truly necessary to prosecute Edward Snowden and to mess internationally (not just with some South American President) on all diplomatic levels to catch someone who has done what he believes to be right at the risk to never see his home again? “Exile” was a punishment in the past and exile is what Snowden chose.
Snowden obviously had a point, even in the United States, many citizens think he did “the right thing”. And is that not what America claims to be all about? Spying friends is certainly not what it is all about and even as a historic friend of the United States and it’s people, I don’t like the witch hunt I see here.

Now comes Alexei Navalny and the United States, in the midst of a global diplomatic crisis expresses their disgust with the court ruling? As wrong as it is, I think the United States currently has to start looking into a mirror. Dear Michael McFaul, Ambassador of the U.S. in Moscow: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of @Navalny @Snowden (and @Manning) and the apparent political motivations in this trial.”
What did become of that “Land of the Free and the Home to the Brave” I love so much? Big Brother? I liked Tom Clancy’s “NetForce”. But Prism goes far far beyond it!
A country that supports such control of citizens and friends alike has to allow the warning cries from Germany – we have a history that tells stories about abuse of information and publicity. Not just Gestapo, the East German Stasi has tried just the same. What makes you better? The government? The Weimar Republic was not a bad government, but do you know what comes tomorrow? There are stories about one J. Edgar Hoover, about whom Wikipedia says:

Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover
Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI NSA is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

In the wrong hands, who knows what might have become of the United States? Listen to Truman. Mr. Obama, today you are the president.

On the other side, we have some Alexei Navalny who dares to threaten Putin and to research and make public illegalities in Russia. It takes a lot of bravery and civil courage to do so in Russia, even more unfortunately in a Russia of some Vladimir Putin. Whatever good he may have done for the country in his past, he sticks to power too much to my liking at the risk to not end up an icon just as one Nelson Mandela (as he still could I believe), but closer to one Joseph Stalin. At the same time ruining what one Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of Russia had achieved with Glasnost. Though with greedy politicians and industry managers in the “West”, there is not much danger, anti-democratic countries may suffer from commercial repercussions, right? And Putin might have a “good reason” for his doing, though even with good motives, I think he’s in danger of messing it badly.

The question is also more of a Christian dimension: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

JesusSin

Who is the United States, with a war in Iraq based on the lie of “weapons of mass destruction”, with Guantanamo and witch hunts against Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, with an NSA mass-trampling on privacy concerns that the illegal attempts of data collection by Google, Microsoft or others become a child-game in comparison?

Who is Germany, recently having delayed again ratification of the signage of the United Nation Convention against Corruption? The country that does not take a stand for what’s good but who’s government yields to the lobbies?

But being “bad kids on the block”, we are still democratic countries. The ones who can make a stand is us. The people. I can decide to dislike and talk about Edward Snowden. I can condemn the NSA, no matter how much I do believe Barrack Obama to be a “good man” or how much I do love America. We have the saying: Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. But we, the people still can raise our voice, we can blog and talk and discuss and stand for what we believe in. And in the end of the day, we make mistakes as anyone else. But at least I can look into the mirror and say: “I like this guy”. And if we are lucky, we do what you Barrack Obama said you would want to become the President for: To make a Change.

And I don’t think Angela Merkel is in a good position to do that right now. Slave to the lobbies, pampering Putin for Russia’s natural resources and wealth and, as she does for China, not any more democratic than Russia these days. Neither is Obama, for what I am immensely sorry!
But I am. And not throwing any stones, I can beg: Obama: Stop the Witch Hunt! And I can beg: Putin: Don’t end up the man who reinstated dictatorship in Russia!

You’re both good, decent men! Show it!


This article today calls me to pull out my favorite Lazarus Long-quotes once more:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare–most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

Food for Thought
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You Don’t Have to Be…

ERF You Dont Have to Be the PresidentIn 2009, I had the honor to be part in the handling team to prepare for the short visit by President Obama in Thuringia.

erf_pope2011_1In 2011 the President was followed by the Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, also visiting ERF and Thuringia, the heartland of the ‘renegade’ Lutheran church. Being the ultra conservative he is, he rejected the offered hand of the Protestant church.

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history. [Lazarus Long]

P.S.: God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent-it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills. [Lazarus Long]

Food for Thought…

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