Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shrinking mind

Humanity has been on an unambiguous upward slope of expanding mind and psyche forever. Although there have been minor setbacks in the dark ages, humans have always been marching forward. Now there are good reasons to doubt if this will continue. Half the world population is now governed by charlatans and autocrats, some fraudulent and others heartless. There have been telltale signs of a bifurcating world, based on knowledge and empathy. There are now alternative universes, not the kind physicists think about, but simultaneous spaces with different information content existing in the same time coordinate. It appears that we are fast approaching a fork on the road and the selection of this binary choice could possibly seal the fate of humanity.

From dynamite to nuclear bombs, the inventors always lamented of their own accomplishments. There are good reasons for it. In a world of peaceful human beings, less than 0.000001% could substantially change the dreams and hopes of the rest. Some use weapons and others words to hurt the rest using the pulpit they have been granted. Humans remain to be in a level 0 society, still lacking a holistic understanding of what connects them together and their own irrelevance in a universe of inexplicable complexity. They seem to be saddled with a badly designed organ with high computing power but little capability in seeing and understanding the big picture. They have not been here before. For most of their history, they basked in uniformity - in color, ignorance, knowledge and capability. In the last few hundred years, they have been forced to intermingle but they still have to use hardware and operating systems designed for the past. Masking this with fancy applications has not been successful for a small percentage of the population.

It looks bleak. Educators may want to take note, millennials seem to have it, but the issue is they that may not have a chance.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Condensed knowledge

A recent study (1) that appears to demonstrate mining entire body of articles than abstracts provides higher information content is obvious. The more important question is what the mining is for and how the results are expected to be used. Also interesting is how much more incremental knowledge can be extracted from full articles.
In a world of exponentially expanding data, the risk of getting caught in the details is high. The “detail oriented technician,” has been more useful than those who see “the big picture,” in a scientific context because discoveries came from pouring over the data in a detailed fashion. But now, data is arriving from every direction and time is not an affordable luxury for decision-making and advancing ideas, with half-lives tending toward days and weeks.
Humans have not been here before. For hundred thousand years, they banked on experience, accumulated over many generations. Now, experience is losing out to machine learning. Here, time is of the essence and understanding patterns reigns supreme. Patterns have a hierarchical structure, and if a pyramid needs to be built bottoms up, it may not add value if it takes too long. Hyped up technologies in the areas of deep learning and mind will likely find that brute force approaches to “artificial general intelligence,” are unlikely to yield interesting results. 
The early human survivor in the wild had an intuition that the leopard is behind the bush to the left of her and she relied on patterns at the highest levels. Data scientists toiling with oceans of data, statistical modeling platforms, machine learning, deep learning and even deeper mind, may have to look back and understand that throwing data, analytics and technology at a problem, never helped humanity.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Fusion deficient

Humans' ability to harness energy, propelled tactically by the Sun, remain meager. Unfortunately, they have not even been able to replicate the processes in the Sun that apparently throws of seemingly unlimited free energy. Fusion, hot and cold, eluded the struggling species, with nearly 30% still without proper food, clothing and shelter. Lifting humanity from despair remains to be an energy problem, something not many are focused on.

The simplest of processes, fusing two Hydrogen atoms into one of Helium and releasing an abundance of energy, still remains outside the grasp of the engineers. Recent news from the famous defense contractor was encouraging but the path to practical implementation still seems too long. And the crooks who raised false hope on cold fusion seem to have gone away. Tactical conversion of Sun's power - solar and wind - still seem too expensive and rather cumbersome. And, if the energy secretary ever goes to school and perhaps learn something, he may learn that fossil fuel is not the answer either.

The answer appears to be tantalizingly close in fusion. The template is readily available and a generation of great technologists stand ready to convert dreams into practical applications. What is missing is imagination, something that cannot be taught or bought. Perhaps, we need a bit of luck.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The code

Humans and their cousins, the apes, have been exceptional in facial recognition. Their life depended on it for the ability to recognize a friend from a foe was crucial for survival. Recent research from Caltech (1) appears to get closer to the neural code for face recognition. The trick appears to be specialization with singular neurons, focused on specific features. The idea appears to validate recent advances in deep learning for image recognition and it could provide further impetus to the acceleration of artificial intelligence.
The idea that single neurons encode specific features has been tantalizing for deep learning enthusiasts. It allows scalability in deep neural networks with increasing specialization in layers. The single feature specificity at the neuron level and its ability to make binary decisions provide further evidence of micro compartmentalization and voting based decision-making. Complementarity, communication and cooperation appear to dominate in goal seeking and that has implications for future research in computerized image recognition and more broadly, artificial intelligence.
The neural code developed by primates, an efficient and massively parallel processed algorithm that helped them survive and evolve, could be replicatable. Hopefully, those who get hold of this will use it wisely.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


The space administration's plans to throw a refrigerator at an incoming small asteroid (1) to demonstrate fancifully worded, "kinetic impactor technique," is ample proof that humans are sitting ducks on the blue planet surrounded by big and fast objects. Momentum has been known for a while and if one can impact the direction of the approaching object slightly, it could be beneficial. But to be effective, such a maneuver has to be very early in the trajectory of the approaching object. Combined with a lack of knowledge of projectiles moving toward us, it remains to be a probability game - and the odds are likely against the species, still trying to kill each other around the world.

If the state of the art is studying the effect of an impact of a heavy projectile on an approaching asteroid, it seems that we have not advanced sufficiently to survive. If the best minds in practical space exploration are engaged in tactics, we may be in more terrible shape than could be imagined. Aided by policy making ignoramuses in the capitol, trying to cut funding for fundamental research, we now have a stagnant knowledge regime, unable to advance science and humanity. To make matters worse, we have engineers and technologists focused on applying old ideas just to win funding. 

Stupidity has a price. In most past failed experiments in civilizations, it ended up with an ignorant leader perpetuating tactics surrounded by those currying for favor by applying old ideas to solve new problems.