CONTRARY BRIN: Updates: science & robotics

As you know by now, I’ve been roped into speaking a lot about the Great Big AI crisis of 2024. I’ll touch on some aspects here. Plus some light on other areas of fast-emerging science! But first a couple of notes.

My esteemed colleagues Sheila Finch, Pat Murphy and Ejner Fulsang join me in a wide ranging discussion of concepts regarding communication with other kinds of beings… with dolphins, other mammals and even octopi-pusses!  And AI and aliens, of course.

A Journey worth taking and repeating… One of the wisest books I know is Prof. John Perlin’s A Forest Journey: The Role of Trees in the Fate of Civilization, not just a great source of insights about love of nature and its beauty, but also the utility of living in synergy with our natural and civilizational support systems… a theme I extrapolated then, throughout my novel Earth.  Here is a link to John discussing the new, updated edition.

== Will they converge on being like us? ==

From TechExplore: “Cambridge scientists have shown that placing physical constraints on an artificially-intelligent system—in much the same way that the human brain has to develop and operate within physical and biological constraints—allows it to develop features of the brains of complex organisms in order to solve tasks.” 

In solving maze puzzles, for example, the space-limited computational entity was constrained by a cost in speed and energy, the greater the distance between nodes. “When the system was asked to perform the task under these constraints, it used some of the same tricks used by real human brains to solve the task. For example, to get around the constraints, the artificial systems started to develop hubs—highly connected nodes that act as conduits for passing information across the network…”

Also nodes developed a ‘flexible coding scheme’ where the same nodes might be used for a wide range of functions, as in our brains.

This result has overlap with my own proposal (topic of my track keynote at the RSA conference, some weeks ago) regarding “individuation of AI”… including a need to anchor each top-level AI entity to a physical memory locale. It might be an all-constraining ‘skull’, as we have, or energy limits as in this group’s experiment… or else perhaps as little as an un-movable ID locus, that must be pinged for individuated identity. (And accountability.)

It also will have pertinence when we try to cram autonomy into the controlling ‘brains’ of largely physical robots.

Meanwhile, here’s discussion of language parsing into accentless responses accompanying smooth and dextrous robotic actions. Oh, it’s coming fast. Of course, those who read science fiction will be (slightly) better prepared than those who just suckle it from simplistic movies.

We know that chat and visual AI have come a long way and physical abilities of robots. But combining all that will be essential, before robots are useful in the home.

And so, what do I propose? My WIRED article (July’23) breaks free of the three standard ‘AI-formats’ that can only lead to disaster, suggesting instead a fourth. That AI entities can only be held accountable if they have individuality… even ‘soul’… But there’s a lot more, now. It’s taking shape…

== Sci Tech miscellany! ==

Roaring winds pushed a passenger plane to record speed — and early landing. An exceptional jet stream boosted a China Airlines flight over the Pacific to 826 mph Thursday. Pure Galilean relativity, of course. The speed of sound is NOT like the speed of light!

From the bright folks at the Institute for the Future: An Icelandic company, is planning a controlled breach of a volcanic magma chamber. For geothermal energy of course. They’ve tried it before; the overwhelming heat (842°F/450ºC) melted their equipment. Good luck!

Walmart reported that folks taking Ozempic, Wegovy, or other GLP-1 drugs bought less snack food than other customers. Shares of Mondelez International, maker of Oreos and Ritz crackers, fell 7.7%; Hershey and PepsiCo followed suit.

== …and finally… ==

Stephen Wolfram’s brilliant reputation in the mathematical theories of computation have also manifested in useful tools like Mathematica and the Wolfram Computational Language Model. Yes, many of his claims can seem outrageously bold, e.g. that all physical laws in the universe can be posed as manifestations of rule sets in the “computome,” an assertion sparking lively debates.  Despite my credentials as a physicist, it is the value of ‘debate’ itself – give-and-take argument in arenas of lively-creative, fact-based competition – that I am an actual expert. And this fellow – (full disclosure, he is a friend) – is among the liveliest. (One criterion: would he have been – like me – burned as a heretic in any other culture or time?)

Hence let me link to Stephen’s latest missive online (they are lengthy!) “Observer Theory” is about which of the universe’s vastly complex intricacies can be ‘reduced’ in ways that allow a limited observer (human, or mere-AI) to derive useful predictive models? Here’s sample paragraph.

“It’s not immediately obvious that anything suitable for a finite mind could ever be extracted from the complexity of the world. And indeed the Principle of Computational Equivalence implies that computational irreducibility (and its multi-computational generalization) will be ubiquitous. But within computational irreducibility there must always be slices of computational reducibility. And it’s these slices of reducibility that an observer must try to pick out—and that ultimately make it possible for a finite mind to develop a “useful narrative” about what happens in the world, that allows it to make decisions, predictions, and so on.”

In an age of tweets and skimming, who has time for complex ideas, so intricately drawn?

Is this a top thing we’ll use AI for, to distill such complex concepts for us. Ah, but the way tat Fox News ‘distills’ Kremlin generated agitprop from the gullible? Anyway, this latest is offered to you all as an example – at least – that some are out there on the frontier, on our behalf.

Oh, and sorry to link this so late, but it is worth a scan! This year-end cool-tech update is among the best I’ve seen, featuring some truly awesome products & inventions.

If you, too, are a person who would be burned at the stake, in past kingdoms or theocracies, then join in helping to defend an amazingly awesome civilization that’s been very good to you, overall, from the forces of literal darkness.

Source: CONTRARY BRIN: Updates: science & robotics

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