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Comment: Re:Illegal? I think not. (Score 4, Interesting) 162

by Antonovich (#47348399) Attached to: California Legalizes Bitcoin

Though not exactly the final arbiter for such questions, Wikipedia's Money page gives a reasonable definition of money and according to that, Bitcoin is *almost* money. It certainly could become "money" if a few more bigwigs get behind it and regulators don't get involved. The "generally accepted" part is key here - it's far from "generally accepted" anywhere outside of a few illegal marketplaces. That could certainly change though.

What we can't forget is that there is no such thing as black and white - things are not just "money" or "not money" and even things that pretty much everyone agrees are money can be treated as other things. Currency is often traded in ways somewhat similar to commodities. And you mention gold, which for centuries was synonymous (equivalent even) with money. Things change. Remember that modern money shares much in common with religion - it is based on an intricate system of *faith* and faith in a particular means for holding generally accepted value for the purpose of the exchange of goods and services is not something God has set in stone...

Comment: Re:They discovered culture! (Score 1) 127

by Antonovich (#47262591) Attached to: Emotional Contagion Spread Through Facebook

I was going to mod you up but decided to reply instead. While I didn't, of course, RTFA, showing that these sorts of phenomena happen in virtuo is not something that has always been accepted. For example, 15 years ago socio-linguists were still maintaining that a physical presence was necessary and TV wasn't sufficient for the spread of new expressions and pronunciations (though "priming" was thought to occur...). TV isn't social media but there are a lot of old fogeys still in academia with positively ridiculous views on the spread of behaviours, beliefs, etc. "Only with face-to-face contact" and the like. It may be obvious to many but it is not obvious to all, and not even to all in a position to affect policy and research...

Comment: Re:Progenitors? (Score 1) 686

by Antonovich (#47220157) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

I've been told off for proposing the nature preserve idea.

We get told off for lots of things, doesn't mean they are wrong! There seem to be very many reasons why advanced civilisations wouldn't have contacted us. For me the most likely is that we're just not interesting enough, which has elements of most of your pet theories. Let's face it - a civilisation that could get here wouldn't have any designs on our resources. If you could get here you could get to lots of places and the things we have on this planet are all easily synthesisable, at least they would be if you already had interstellar travel. If you have interstellar travel then you have almost certainly gone through some kind of "intelligence explosion" (singularity talk aside for the moment), and the shit we are still dealing with - internecine violence, massive wealth disparity, severe resource over-utilisation, etc. - will make us look little better than rats to a civilisation that has itchy feet. So why come here? Many civilisations might well be sending us messages that, when we are able to interpret them, will suggest we are interesting enough to talk to.

Imagine we are looked upon like a race of rats. If we were the first race of rats that an interstellar culture came across, then we might be interesting to contact/interact with. But what if we were the 382nd? Far away, with nothing particularly interesting to offer, why bother? Like really, why bother?

The main problem with all this sort of discussion is one that is raised by all sorts of deep thinking around culture, beautifully illustrated by Wittgenstein's "If a lion could speak, we would not understand him". We project out what we would do *today* if we had the technology to do X. The key issue is that by the time we develop the technology needed, our worldview will have changed so radically that we have no way to imagine how we would react, and what we would want to do. We talk about "cultural invariants" but what we do is just interpret what we see to align with our current cultural norms. It might work reasonably well with our fellow groups of humans, who all live in remarkably similar circumstances, but it is ludicrous to think that the way we look at the world could be remotely similar to anything that developed on another planet. Or that we are currently at a point in our development that corresponds to a comprehensible level of development in a culture/society in the very near vicinity. Life developing is surely a rare affair, but a comprehensible society developing at exactly the right time in the history of the universe in the near vicinity seems vanishingly unlikely.

Comment: Re:hahaha! (Score 4, Insightful) 932

by Antonovich (#47214699) Attached to: House Majority Leader Defeated In Primary

Yes, science is never settled and is also always highly political, in spite of most scientists fooling themselves that it is "the search for the Truth". But dude, honestly, just stop it. I really can't believe how nay-sayers with half a brain can keep it up - there is a MASSIVE pro-oil/gas/coal lobby that tries to sow the seeds of doubt. What do the 98% of scientists that maintain AGW is real have to gain? It's not like there is some secret society of super-rich Gaia Illuminati that is trying to brain-wash the world into... spending less by using less. Sure, some are benefiting - some are even financing pro-AGW studies - but it is NOTHING like what is happening in the other direction. And still there are only 2% that hold on to the "it's not happening" or "it's not because of what humans are doing" line.

Politics and self-interest are everywhere and in everything. But if you are going to posit a major global conspiracy then it at least has to be realistic - a government/group-of-super-rich would have great interest in hiding an alien visitation to keep the tech for themselves but "use energy more efficiently, spread generation around the globe using various different technologies that don't upset the current atmospheric balance" is hardly something that qualifies as something of interest for some nefarious group of super-villains...

Comment: Re:News at 11 (Score 2) 136

by Antonovich (#47195595) Attached to: Tesla Makes Improvements To Model S

While almost impossible to enforce, many studies show that driving for that long without a break is *dangerous*. Sure, you can come up with plenty of scenarios (more than one driver, etc.) but the use cases are rare enough to not be significant. It would still be impossible to have a break exactly where you wanted to (like stopping for gas and then parking by a nice lake for the rest/leg-stretching) but people would get used to it. I use my car so rarely there is no justification for having it but would definitely think about getting an electric one with a 640km range...

Comment: ...a computer could be understood to be thinking (Score 1) 432

by Antonovich (#47190753) Attached to: Turing Test Passed

He wrote "The original question, "Can machines think?" I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion.". Which is not the same as saying "could be understood to be thinking". Turing raises a number of highly interesting questions about what it means "to think". Passing the test is an interesting and noteworthy achievement but as Turing intimates - saying "a computer could be understood to be thinking" is "too meaningless to deserve discussion".

Comment: Re:A claim as old as electronic computers (Score 1) 47

by Antonovich (#47072645) Attached to: Why Not Every New "Like the Brain" System Will Prove Important

Why do my mod points always expire right before a comment that really deserves them?!?

Your comment gets at one of the most interesting problems of the philosophy of science - how humans use metaphors, usually taken from social life and other areas of the human experience, for understanding the world around us. It is not just for explaining to lay people, some scholars (and me :-)) argue that in order for us to "understand" anything at all then we need to employ metaphors drawn from social experience that can ultimately be traced back to the development we undergo as infants and young children. Obviously the larger socio-cultural contexts we are immersed in play a vital role in this development. And so it is that the dominant paradigm (metaphor, meme, model,...) in neuroscience and psychology has been "mind as computer" for the last 50-60 years. It's not the only one though, and embodied approaches have started to gather steam as the mainstream approach starts to show its limitations.

Unfortunately, the problem is that there is no way out of it. There is no "one model to rule them" that can magically uplift us from our ignorance - all approaches *inevitably* have this flaw. The metaphors we live by (to borrow from Lakoff & Johnson) will inevitably help us to understand some aspects of our experience and obfuscate others. Some will help us do amazing things, like the mind-as-computer metaphor has, but stop us from doing others. I personally think that in order for us to move forward in creating "intelligent" non-biological machines we need to get away from the computational metaphor and adopt embodied, enactive, integrational approaches like those promoted by second order cybernetics, dynamical systems, behavioural robotics and other related areas. Thankfully these theories are starting to get fairly major traction and we'll get a chance to see where those metaphors take us over the next couple of decades.

Comment: Re:American Date Format (Score 1) 134

by Antonovich (#47063431) Attached to: New IE 8 Zero Day Discovered

And you are a non-American (as in the continents) native speaker of English? I'm from NZ and it's the other way round, or at least was until I left 10 years ago... The "dialect" has undergone very strong Americanisation over the last few decades though. Your "for instance" is also a little ridiculous - a non-American would never say "nine eleven" meaning "the eleventh of September" (or even "eleven nine"). I also can't remember anyone ever saying "September eleventh" but plenty of people saying "September eleven" regarding the attacks on the WTC. The "nine eleven" term has a much stronger relation to the actual date for Americans (US-only?) than it does for non-Americans.

Comment: Re:Shame Google dumped Motorola (Score 1) 234

by Antonovich (#47032915) Attached to: Why Cheap Smartphones Are Going To Upset the Industry

I bought a Moto G because I wanted to test it out before giving it to my brother and upgrading to a "proper" phone, the N5. At this point my brother might be getting my current Moto G but only if I decide to get the 4G version... It does absolutely everything I need and does it well. Damn shame Google sold Motorola - why do they make it so hard for me to give them money?!?

Comment: Re:ANOTHER DEAD BODY! SWEET JUSTICE! (Score 1) 450

by Antonovich (#47030319) Attached to: Robbery Suspect Tracked By GPS and Killed

And it's not like *no* police have guns. Like in the few other properly civilised countries on earth, the UK has a police unit that does carry firearms and who are involved if the crime is reported to involve guns or there is suspicion that a suspect is armed with a firearm (for raids, for example). These units are highly trained in when to use, and when not to use, lethal force. It's just a better system. I would rather sacrifice the odd police officer than the countless innocent citizens that are murdered by overzealous cowboy cops.

Comment: Re:My PC cannot be conscious the way I am (Score 1) 426

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him". Wittgenstein.

This is precisely why we should give machines a humanoid form and as Turing suggested back in 1950 (as one option), "follow the normal teaching of a child". Something along the lines of what Savage-Rumbaugh & Co. tried with her bonobos (particularly Kanzi). There is obviously a lot of work to do creating the machines that would be able to learn "in a human way" but for me a near-human developmental environment should be a given. Then we'll believe it has consciousness when it asks "what is the meaning of life?" and smiles when you reply "42".

Comment: Re: Still a long way from brain-boxes (Score 1) 209

This is where the philosophy/psychology comes into it. Many in the field don't think that humans (or anything else) get born with minds included but rather that they develop (or emerge). Some talk about minds even being "distributed". The idea being that not only is exposure to human culture (language, etc.) necessary but that it is actually constitutive of the minds themselves. Developing this any further would require a lot of space. I can recommend the works of Rodney Brooks and Rolf Pfeiffer if you are interested in robotics-focussed takes on the role of embodiment in intelligence - they definitely convinced me :).

Comment: Re: Still a long way from brain-boxes (Score 1) 209

All good stuff but I guess my issue is with the "given near infinite computing power". The real world with real agents in it is super duper complicated. The problem is that by the point where we have adequate knowledge of the body (including the brain of course), physics, chemistry and all the rest and computing power to simulate it all realistically, we'll have been able to create intelligent humanoid robots for a long, long time. Use the world as its own model, as Brooks would say. I argue that while it might be possible to create humanlike intelligence by other means, why not just just create a humanoid robot and socialise it like a child? I have only been reading on the matter seriously for a few months and thought this idea was pretty revolutionary until I read Turing's original 1950 Turing test paper where he finishes by suggesting just that :-). Sure, we're still a while off having robots complex enough to be able to do it properly but I'm pretty close to certain that this will be far and away the cheapest and quickest way to create a humanlike "artificial" mind. Notice I keep stressing the humanlike - if it isn't humanlike then I think there is a good chance we might not know it if we see it. Not that we couldn't create a non humanlike mind, just we wouldn't know we had done it, and we could end up spending vast amounts of money for nothing, or have disastrous results...

Comment: Re:Still a long way from brain-boxes (Score 1) 209

I would say the shoe is on the other foot. Show me a single intelligent, adult human without a body and I'll happily remove the "definitely" :-). As far as science has been able to show so far, both brains and bodies are necessary. I think it's certainly possible that a body is only strictly necessary for the developmental phase but that's an empirical question to test. The key problem here is what we call "intelligence". If the definition of intelligence contains only logic processing, then obviously pretty much any modern computer is intelligent. I'm happy with accepting that but would argue that human behaviour (the real kind that we see in the wild, not thought experiments in scholars' heads) is not very well described with this model and needs something else. I'm yet to see any hard evidence that the computational model can describe human behaviour very satisfactorily. Perform chess computations, sure, spend a day taking care of the kids, going to work, playing tennis after work then preparing a romantic dinner, not so sure. At least not so sure it would be done like a human would.

To be honest, I actually subscribe to radical constructivist views of knowledge but will certainly accept that any decent model we use should enable us to predict/explain lots of actually observed phenomena ("hard evidence" you might call it). But let's not forget that for centuries almost all scholars attributed the causes of many phenomena to supernatural deities - it's not because (almost) everyone believes something that it's "the Truth". But I'll grant that maybe I should temper my claim to "it is definitely worth taking the idea that embodiment is necessary far more seriously" :-).

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