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Comment: Re:Technology is incompatible with Species (Score 1) 686

by zentext (#47227359) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

No, you explain to me why such a being would *want* to direct the story of the evolution of a world. Consider what benefits controlling the events might give, as opposed to the benefits of avoiding disrupting the events.

I've considered both situations, and there are no benefits from intervening. Remember that material resources are not an issue. Information on the other hand, has universal value.

Such a being could replicate itself easily if it wanted. But why would it? If it wanted to have a conversation with itself, it doesn't need another copy of itself to do that.

Likewise, directing events on a world such as Earth, towards some goal the entity chose, is logically very similar to reproducing itself. The end result is going to be something derived from the entity. Again, why would it want that?

But a unique story (eg the History of Earth) that has not been influenced by the teller/recorder - that is a tradable commodity.

Your question is more the result of your own projection onto such a being of human instinctive desire to 'control', rather than an objective attempt to understand the pros and cons (to such a being) of interference.

Also bear in mind that Earth has the potential to give rise to new Gypsies. Effectively, any world ecosystem that gives rise to a species intelligent enough to develop technology, is a womb gestating such an ascension. So consider the analogy - how would you feel about the idea of 'directing the story' of the development of a fetus? Including the mind of the newborn individual, since in this case we're considering fully functioning intelligences.

We don't see direct contact, because contact itself is a form of intervention, and intervention is pretty much the equivalent of poking a fetus with a stick.

Comment: Technology is incompatible with Species (Score 3, Interesting) 686

by zentext (#47220009) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

There are no old, space faring civilizations, for one inescapable reason. Technology is incompatible with species. No ifs or buts.

Brief explanation: Life of any kind, in any environment must always evolve as species - defined as multiple beings sharing a common 'genetic code base' - regardless of how the information is encoded. In our case it's DNA. In all species the individuals serve as reproductive vectors for the code they carry, and individual survival of the fittest is required for any species to evolve and adapt to its environment. This implies that individuals also die - this is necessary, otherwise natural selection cannot operate, hence no evolution.

Life is likely quite common in the Universe. Even if intelligence is statistically a rare development, there still should be countless instances, including plenty long ago, where 'long' means more than one star lifetime. So if intelligence results in technological cultures, including any kind of major engineering or space travel, where are they all? Even if such civilizations choose not to say hello to us, we should still see evidence of their works.
But we don't. There's apparently nothing. Just elusive local UFO sightings, of unknown reliability. Certainly no daylight landings in city park, so to speak. That was just to restate the Fermi Paradox. Where is everyone? We exist, so there should be other civilizations like us, but much older and more technologically advanced.

The logical error here, is to assume that technology is a continuum; that a society develops technology and then just continues to progress as a society - a cooperating population of individuals with a common genetic heritage, hence species.

But this NEVER happens. Can never, will never, never does. Here's the inescapable reason.
As a species develops technology, they inevitably discover the nature of the physical encoding scheme of their own biology. They develop the means to manipulate that coding scheme. Our fledgling genetic engineering is an example of how that starts. Quite rapidly the science of engineering their own coding will advance, since after all it's just a messy 'wet' version of computing science, and you can't have high tech without already being well advanced in computing technology.

Somewhere in the process of unraveling their genetic coding, an intelligent species will also develop a science of consciousness - what we presently think of as AI, but which is ultimately about minds in general and how they work, including our own.

As these two science threads advance, genetics and mind-science, it is 100% totally inevitable, that at some point individuals will gain the technological capability to begin modifying their own nature. We already do this - for instance using altered viruses to perform corrective edits of faulty DNA, eg the Cystic Fibrosis cure.
But that is primitive stuff. Ultimately, gene engineering and AI technology provide individuals with the means to 'transcend' - to embark on total self re-engineering.

At this point in the analysis, most people become incapable of logically carrying through. It seems there's another strong cognitive bias or two, not listed in the Wiki. One is that most people seem incapable of thinking impartially about the probability of termination of their own species. Another is a mental block against thinking logically about the likely motivations of entities that do not share the species-centric world-view of us genetic humans.

Here's an idea: try thinking about an intelligent entity, that does NOT share any of our reproduction-motivated species-protective instincts. Nor any of the many cognitive biases in the Wiki list.
Because that's what you get eventually, after any species-based individual achieves self-engineering capability, then immortality, an ability to deliberately optimize and enhance it's own mental capabilities, weed out instincts no longer appropriate to it's new existence as an immortal space-traveling entity.

Anyway, the point is that 'technological species' is an unstable state, that cannot last. It inevitably results in one or more of the genetic members of the species diverging into self-directed enhancement. To which there is no upper limit.
The problem is, that a society of genetically homogeneous members of the species, and one or more highly diverged self-engineering entities, is totally unstable. Coexistence is impossible. For many reasons, some of which are: competition for resources, evolution-derived 'anti-outsider' hostile instincts, inevitable desire of many individuals in the species to avoid dying by transcending themselves, governmental power structures feeling threatened by the inevitability of major change, etc.

What happens then can involve many different scenarios, but they *all* end up with there being no more 'technological species'. Results can include 'no survivors', one transcended survivor, multiple transcended survivors, etc. But the result in which the technological society survives, is not an end point. It is just a loop - events will repeat, until one of the other end-points occurs.

The Universe is full of life. But there are two kinds:

1. Ecosystems in which intelligence has not yet evolved to the point where technology develops.

2. Very high tech immortal self engineering unique individual sentient entities, with nothing in common with any species. In particular, such beings won't have any pointless (to them) instincts to reproduce, populate, conquer, etc.

The transition between stage 1 and 2 occurs very fast, on stellar timescales. In our case the entire timeline from appearance of Homo Sapiens, to Transcended appearing is going to be less than one million years. From technology, radio, etc, to transcended, probably little over 100 years. If that's typical it's no wonder we don't even detect radio waves from other civilizations. Such expanding shells of radio signals will be very thin - less than a 100 light-years thick. Blink and you missed it.

A good analogy for the mindset of Type 2 entities would be 'space gypsies.' If you can consider a vast fleet of networked, stealthed, ancient starships, forming a single conscious entity, who is wandering around the Universe on a timeless journey of adventure and discovery, a gypsy. But why not? That's what they are.
Incidentally, the 'little gray guys' of UFO lore are not 'aliens'. They are just mass produced remotes. Materially efficient, easily manufactured Waldos. Probably built on a pattern something like open source shareware, passed between Gypsies when they happen to meet and trade stories, knowledge and code.

So why don't they introduce themselves to us?
Can you really not see it? More cognitive bias blinkers...
What is the one thing that such beings could value? They inhabit a Universe of unlimited material resources. But there is one thing that never grows stale. Stories. True ones. Even better, if the story is a chronicle of the arising of a new Gypsy (for want of a better name.)

If you find someone who is telling a great and original story, that you know others you may meet will like to hear and value for it's genuine nature and honesty, would you interrupt them and start dictating how the story should go?

No. By doing so you'd destroy it's value. Even merely announcing your own existence would hopelessly corrupt the telling. It wouldn't be a valid true saga, it would have become just a kind of echo of your own ego.

And that is why the one or more Gypsies who have been observing our Solar system probably for millions of years, confine themselves to simply watching. With possible exceptions of doing what they can to invisibly prevent humans from turning Earth into nuclear slag, because that would certainly ruin the story, ending it prematurely. They're waiting... if and when Earth produces a Transcended, then they'll say hello to that newborn, and welcome them to the Eternal Adventure. They are very patient.

Incidentally, Humans should stop attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to shoot down UFOs and dissect the Grays. It's annoying.

A related SF short story: http://everist.org/texts/Fermi...

Comment: Re:Depends on who is hiring (Score 1) 444

by zentext (#36383416) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Certifications To Get?

This thread has been an enlightening read. I previously thought under-commented code (and comment-free code more so) was purely down to laziness.

But seeing people describing why they don't write comments on code, now I know better. It isn't always laziness, it's sometimes an egotistical and delusional belief in their own godlike programming abilities, coupled with a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of programming.

Programming isn't 'just to make the machine do something'. The purpose is to produce code that allows yourself AND FUTURE OTHERS to make the machine do something - not necessarily exactly what you first intended it to do.
Given that in any code of real-world size and complexity there are _always_ degrees of subtlety that are not immediately apparent on reading the raw code, thinking it's acceptable to leave out documentation of INTENT is just delusional.

One thing such a 'comments are pointless' outlook reveals, is that the person is too young to have ever had to go back and deal with large amounts of their own complex code from a decade or more ago.

Comment: Re:Depends on who is hiring (Score 1) 444

by zentext (#36383242) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Certifications To Get?
Exactly! Comments are to explain motivations, overviews, summaries, and generally the thinking behind the code. Also notes about why code was changed and when, bugs found and not-yet found, things remaining to be done, and so on. I once ported the old 3Dfx 3D drivers (Glide) from a PC platform to a MIPS processor embedded platform. The Glide source code we received was a CD full. Hundreds of files, a ghastly complicated build tree, huge dependency mash... There wasn't one single line of comment anywhere in the entire code or build set. And I was just learning about 3D techniques. Got it working, but Oh! The cursing! I could see what it was doing, but whyyyyy?!

Comment: Outgassing? Jets? Ha ha ha! (Score 1) 62

by zentext (#34143280) Attached to: NASA's Stunning Close-Up Photos of Comet Hartley 2

It's amazing, how doggedly the existing 'outgassing icy comets' paradigm hangs on despite so much contrary evidence.

How can anyone look at those pictures, and NOT recognize corona point discharges? Sigh. I suppose most people have never worked with high voltage systems, especially in vacuum, so they have an excuse. But still, NASA... it's really sad.

If you have no idea what this is about, google 'Electric Universe'.

Comment: Bionic arms, and cell phone in shirt pocket? (Score 1) 200

by zentext (#34009940) Attached to: Austria's 'Bionic Man' Dies In Car Crash
After five more bionic arm patients die in exactly the same way in about the same spot, they'll figure it out. That's just out of range of the last cell phone tower on that road, and his mobile tried to poll for a new tower, at max RF power output. Which glitched his arms. Brrrpt brrr brrrt brrt brrtbrtbrt your dead... Or.... he was driving a Toyota Prius, and there was a software interfacing problem.

Comment: Re:Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Score 1) 347

by zentext (#33844048) Attached to: Mystery of the Dying Bees Solved
This! Skimming through n pages of superficial joking and poor reasoning abilities, regarding one of the potentially most critical environmental problems today, and this was the ONLY comment pointing out the blinding obvious. Finding the virus and fungal types present in the dead bees does NOT prove they were the cause of death. It just proves sick bees get sicker. One bee keeper also points out that CCD is likely a result of multiple factors, from the set of hive maltreatment, GM crops producing pesticides (and/or all the other subtly off metabolites typical of GM organisms), radio spectrum pollution, infection with foreign parasites, monoculture diets, etc. Meanwhile all you supposedly smart tech types are making fart jokes - metaphorically speaking. So it turns out persons involved in this study (that makes no mention of control groups) have links to the companies producing pesticides? What a surprise. The only thing that does surprise me, is that we haven't yet seen studies demonstrating that 911 truthers, marijuana, and illegal music downloads are causing CCD. Enjoy your future food rationing.

Comment: Please let it have a web interface (Score 1) 181

by zentext (#33709214) Attached to: Panasonic's 16-Finger, Hair-Washing Robot
A web interface, a sensible OS, scriptable application code, and a few security holes. Endless potential for laughs. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a back scratching AI. Never mind chatting through a terminal Mr Turing, when I can't tell if it's a machine or human giving me a back scratch, I'll accept that AI is really here.

Comment: Re:"BUY" a scope?!?!? Is this a joke?!?!? (Score 1) 337

by zentext (#33137876) Attached to: Oscilloscopes For Modern Engineers?
Absolutely! When I was about 12 I made myself a 'scope' from an old valve TV set. Sweep speed was either the TV line or vertical rate, and an op-amp on veroboard provided the single input drive to the other deflection coil. Can't recall if it was a 709 or the newfangled 741. Worked fine. Of course triggering was a bit iffy (well non-existant really), and I don't think I could even spell caliba... calibrak... er, that at the time. Did you know that a CRT electron beam could bore a hole in the glass, if you left it in one spot? It's these little details that separate the real EEs from the wannabees. But seriously, on scopes, the answer is 'it depends what you really need'. Just a few comments: * First starting out, why buy new when you can get great used test gear for very little cost on ebay and surplus shops? * For old analog scopes, I love the Tek 7000 modular range of mainframes and plugins. So flexible, and the ergonomics of the controls is beautiful. * The best thing about Tek & HP gear of that vintage, is you can get the full op & service manuals (including theory of operation and calibration proceedures) in either original paper (beautiful foldout schematics!) or on CD. Try getting full schematics for contemporary test gear - good luck! Having a real service manual, and dirt cheap 'spares units' available means you can fix the things yourself, ie not for untenable costs from HP/Tek service centers. This goes for all sorts of test gear, not just scopes. * Otoh, nothing old is going to be able to interface to PCs, for storing waveforms, etc. Consequently, one also needs some newer digital scope. But still 2nd hand/ebay, etc. Doesn't hurt to have several scopes anyway. Especially when you need to fix one scope. I've a simple old Trio 100MHz and a HP 54121T 50GHz DSO/TDR on my workbench, one Tek 7000 series rackmounted scope in each of several equipment racks, a Tek 465 on a trolley, and an assortment of others shelved. * One thing about LCD screen DSOs, I don't think anyone else here has mentioned. Beware the EMI from the LCD backlight inverter and fluro tube. This really surprised me when I discovered it with a Tek DSO at work. Can't recall what model it was, but was brand new around 2004-ish. Working on a circuit with millivolt signals, noticed an excessive amount of noise being picked up from somewhere. Turned out the scope itself was radiating! Holding a bare probe tip near the edge of the screen or plastic case nearby, was worse than the flyback EMI from a glass CRT - but at the backlight inverter frequency. Note to self - never use a backlit LCD scope with a plastic case.

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