Saturday, January 19, 2019

Aging...

Recent news (1) that the components of the microbiome has significant predictive power in the host's age is interesting. The dance between bacteria and other biological entities has been continuing for over 4 billion years. During that time, the first occupants of the planet, have substantially expanded their ability to manage and control every other entity. Now, they demonstrate species wide optimization based on the host's state and it is exciting and possibly, scary. They have shown efficient communication between members of a society and it is possible they are practicing a broader design.

Bacteria, the most beautiful, potent and strategic biological entity in the universe, may have arrived on Earth hitching a ride on an asteroid. They have been busy ever since. They may have aided the development of more complex biological designs for future harvesting or as an enclosure for a sojourn. Such is the power of the single cell entity that they could eliminate entire species within measurable timescales. Humans, the least robust of available substrates, arrested the advance of a superior entity by cobbling together agents from soil under their feet. But now, we are regressing to the past as more powerful bacteria arrive with an ambition to wipe out the miserable lot.

The human enclosure has been profitable for bacteria. They could influence the organ that sends out instructions across the substrate from the gut. And, that gave them immense power to design and control large entities at will. Now, species wide collaboration indicates an understanding of time and the impending demise of the tactical enclosure.

It is ironic that the blue planet has a singular owner.

(1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/bacteria-your-gut-may-reveal-your-true-age

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Voyager

Voyager 1 and 2, crowning accomplishments of the space agency, when there were real people with passion, continue their decades old work. Data from Voyager 1, the man made object that left the solar system (2), seems to debunk the hypothesis that dark matter is composed of a large number of small black holes(1). A figment of the physicists' imagination to connect status-quo theory with inexplicable observations, dark matter, has been elusive. In a world governed by experimentalists, always looking to prove what has been speculated, micro black holes certainly fit the bill. But now, Voyager 1, indicates otherwise.

The human movie has been playing in slow motion. The information content of the universe, likely infinite, has been fed to humans in bit size chunks. Satisfied with so little, Lord Kelvin declared over a century ago that "there is nothing new to be discovered now and all that remains is more and more precise measurement." The smarter ones at the turn of the century who substantially changed the slope of human knowledge, remained relatively humble. The current crop, however, is unwilling to abandon age old ideas and they cook up theories with such mathematical precision, such ideas are dead on arrival. The engineering and experimental orientation of physicists have dampened the knowledge curve for modern humans.

It is always risky to propose something completely new and it is a lot safer to prove something that has already been stated by the lords of science. A cult like culture that seems to scorn religion has all the same characteristics. The modern dark ages that show little fundamental leap in knowledge is in full flow.

 (1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/aging-voyager-1-spacecraft-undermines-idea-dark-matter-tiny-black-holes

(2) http://www.scientificsense.com/2013/03/good-bye-solar-system-good-bye.html#axzz5cRMINFR0

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Economist(s)

Economists are odd people. They love numbers and they pretend to make policies with a level of determinism that does not even exist in physical sciences. They will cut, dice and serve numbers onto your plate like the most skilled chef in a Benihana restaurant. And they top that off with colorful charts and interesting conclusions.

A recent article in the grand magazine appears to conclude that the "retreat of democracy," stopped in 2018 (1). This is an amazing observation. In any other professional field, this will raise many questions but apparently not in economics. The first question will be seeking a definition of the phenomenon, "democracy." Sure, this throws a wrench into the neatly tied up spreadsheets used by the authors to make such a fascinating conclusion. The next question is whether we knew if "democracy (whatever that is)," was in decline. To stop the "retreat," one has to imagine the retreat first. Colorful charts and spreadsheets are useful but they typically do not provide any insights. Granted they look beautiful in the glossy paper of the magazine that travels across the world, spewing wisdom,

Let's step back for a moment and revisit the fundamental question of definition. The largest and arguably the greatest democracies of the world elect idiots and religious fanatics. The smaller and older ones that were pushed back into their corners by their "subjects," elect bureaucrats with no understanding of the world. And, across the rest of the world where democracy reigns, they elect those who want to create policies to fragment and concentrate. So, was democracy in decline before and more importantly, have we stopped the decline?

Humans have been democratic before the arrival of the modern variety. The "modern humans," have objective functions specializing in killing, pillaging and domination. This is incompatible with "democracy," as evolved from Greek philosophers. When the brain ruled, humans found interesting ways to tap into the information content of society. This was lost many decades ago when ignorance and materialism enveloped the declining species.

In spite of all the "numbers," democracy was never in decline nor have we "stopped the decline of it" We have not had democracy for hundreds of years.

(1) https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/01/08/the-retreat-of-global-democracy-stopped-in-2018

Monday, January 7, 2019

Smart fish

Recent finding (1) that archerfish demonstrates facial recognition, likely over and above the most hyped up AI technology, is a constant reminder that humans are not very smart. Their Silicon infused technologies have led them astray and their ego has gotten them blind and incompetent. It is not the count of brain cells nor the ratio of the brain weight to that of the body weight that matters. It is how you use it and the human is the most unlikely candidate for efficient use of her endowment.

As the search, operating system and hardware monopolists with infinite access to capital prove that they can create racism on Twitter (as if that needed proof) and play games like no human has done before, it is important to be aware of basic notions of intelligence. It is not deep mind, however superb that "great," mind is playing star wars, it is not alpha go, however awesome a go player she really is, it is not deep blue, in spite of the domination of arbitrary chess boards and guess game in Jeopardy - intelligence has nothing to do with any of these games that old men and women play. The archerfish can recognize a human face from any angle without any evolutionary specialization and she has very few resources.

Humans appear to be held back because of their own progress. It is an oxymoron, for the contemporary crop seems to have forgotten what got them here. As the whales and parrots mimic human speech, as the great apes sit and wonder what has gone wrong with the universe, as the elephants visit the spot where their companion fell to mourn, as the pigs play and sleep together in a harmonious community, as the dolphins attempt to guide, as the dogs attempt to rationalize, as the octopus hide, as the squirrels save and as the crows make tools, we have a species that hate, kill and destroy their own habitat.

Not too smart.

(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fishy-smarts-archerfish-can-recognize-human-faces-in-3-d/

Friday, January 4, 2019

Plan S

As ignorant politicians battle against each other to make the world worse, there is a movement afoot that could move humanity closer to a positive slope of advancement. It is ironic as the undemocratic countries sign on to an idea of open science, the "advanced democracies," stay on the sidelines. There are good reasons for this as money make many "scientists," go blind and the rest seek fame, tenure and Nobel prizes by hiding their research, funded by the public.

It is time for Plan S (1). Knowledge should not be bottled up even for money and fame. This is especially true if such money and fame came from funded research by the public. The racket has been widespread - authors, publishers and "peer reviewers," - an in-bred community who do not understand the world at large. They assert they are "elite," and know everything. They attempt to teach at universities with singular metrics for performance that counts the number of "publications." Such manufactured research, akin to sausage making, moves us back and not forward.

It is time for Plan S. For nearly half a million years, homo-sapiens progressed across unknown terrains by sharing information freely. They collaborated, brain-stormed and advanced thinking. The academic sham has put an end to human progress as they protect marginal increments in knowledge to extract economic rents. They pretend to teach but only those who do not understand their "research." They "advise," but only those who do not recognize the shallowness of their knowledge. They "influence," policy as if they can see the future and they look down on the rest.

It is time for Plan S. If you discovered something with public money, it is for the public and not for you.

(1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/will-world-embrace-plan-s-radical-proposal-mandate-open-access-science-papers

Friday, December 28, 2018

Wearing the inside out

A precise definition of consciousness eluded humanity forever. As she stood up in the African Savannah for the first time and took a peak at the star-studded Southern sky, unobstructed by light pollution, she knew there was something more than tactical optimization of a narrow objective function that included food, sex and survival. Consciousness appears to have originated from the individual abstracting herself from the immediate and visible context. Thus, a conscious individual will be more prone to abstraction such as art, literature and music and will be less adept at prescriptive notions as perpetuated by science and technology. It is likely that the industries that drive the economy has less aggerate consciousness compared to society.

As "artificial intelligence," accelerates with a battle being fought on the margins to make machines, "conscious," the technologists have to understand that one cannot impart a property to an object without a clear definition of the property. Consciousness is clearly not appearing, talking and behaving like a human (or a dog), but rather an ability to abstract. Dogs are likely more imaginative than most humans and they are possibly more conscious. A narrow objective function will constrain the originator and most of the world's human population is struggling to cope. The luxury of time to think is an important nourishing aspect of consciousness.

Then, a more important question is whether consciousness is utility enhancing for the individual. A conscious human being will have a higher level of pain as she attempts to optimize within a complex and uncertain context. A conscious individual will not limit her thoughts to countries, religions, races or education. A conscious individual will not extinguish another, be unfair, seek localization and become narcissistic. A conscious individual will seek to unite rather than divide, seek freedom and achieve happiness within a finite time horizon.

Humans do not seem to have very high levels of consciousness nor do they have a definition for it.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Singularity, revisited

As fragmentation rules the status-quo, as hatred defines actions and policies, as incompetence dominates, as ignorance prevails, as uncertainty thumps the known and the deterministic, as science ignores religion, as religion seeks to kill science, as technologists travel to the street for money to invest, as financiers travel to the technologists to fill their sack, as musicians shout and cry without meaning, as cops kill, as the white, black and brown assert why they matter, as the politicians who went to drain the swamp, poison it, as the markets crash, as the homeless shiver, as the sea rises and crashes into the coasts to eliminate life, as the academics write papers of irrelevance, as the doctors attempt to keep their patients on life support, as the physicists make theories of nothing, as the engineers make meaningless inventions, as the graduates of the best schools get elevated in spite of their criminal backgrounds, as the bureaucrat in the lonely island gets lost in separation logic, as the elite drink wine and the rest beer, as the handsome horse rider plans the next intervention, as the purveyor of non-capitalism deals with the one who does not understand capitalism, as the religious leaders lock up their positions by attempting to eliminate those with a different faith, as the ancient island loses humans in droves, as the technologists spread private data as if it is Halloween candy, as the consultants assert they know everything and the investment bankers assert they have all the money, as the universities attempt to recruit the best and the brightest of certain shades, as some dole out tax relief and others take it back, as entrepreneurs struggle and monopolists win, as the young and confused battle against the old and weary, as some try to burn anything that burns and others try to save the burning residue, as the powerful kill those with information and the most powerful stand silently behind, as the world spins in distress in spite of the many exo-planet discoveries, we have reached a discontinuity.

I suspect, this was not the singularity they have been waiting for.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

High-throughput Screening for Energy


The battle for innovation will be won at the intersection of materials and information. The field has been lagging for nearly a century as scientists focused on incremental improvements to established media. Now, there appears to be hope for progress at an accelerated pace (1). Well established techniques in fields such as life sciences could boost productivity in other areas.

Humans have gotten used to relying on nature for materials for half a million years. In the modern world, that substantially curtails their ability to move further. They have been given a matrix of simple molecules and the capability to combine them at will to create new properties and applications. They have been misguided for ever, trying to make gold from charcoal and attempting to fuse hydrogen in a cold test-tube. Industries such as pharmaceuticals that claim to have found "new agents," largely relied on tree barks and soil. It was nature that made the humans tick, albeit at a very uninteresting level.

The ability to custom develop materials to fit desired properties will be an indication of human advancement. It is not the ability to code, to send mechanical toys to nearby planets, to keep the weak and the weary on life support systems, to devise theories of nothing, to postulate the growth and decline of countries, markets and cryptic currencies, to create humanoids without consciousness, to make vehicles that move at the speed of sound or to inject poison to the political swamps.

Next generation materials will redefine the energy and the future of the "tiny blue dot."


(1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/12/megalibraries-nanomaterials-could-speed-clean-energy-and-other-grand-challenge-targets