Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Hollywood is usually awful (Score 1) 384

I'd like to see some Saberhagen Berserker stories on the big screen.

So would I. Australian director Alex Proyas, who directed Will Smith in I, Robot, says he's very slowly working on it. An attempt was made to license the rights to New Line Cinema, but that fell apart. Apparently no studio currently has the movie rights, which I find a bit odd. I guess most studio executives don't want to risk going up against the Terminator franchise.

In some respects I don't blame them. Quite a few of the Berserker novels would be difficult to adapt into movies without totally mangling them, and even after a mangling, they might not be good movies. Berserker Man comes to mind. Others are almost too easy to adapt, like Brother Assassin, but the problem with Berserker novels is they are frequently tragedies. Even though humanity wins, the hero dies. Chinese and Japanese audiences love that, but American audiences hate it.

Maybe someday a Berserker movie will get made, but I don't have a lot of hope for that, or a lot of hope for the result if it happens. Hollywood treats adapted material so badly so frequently that it's just not worth it. They insist on inserting jackass movie tropes into otherwise good material.

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 412

You did not read what I said, and are inverting the logic. Yes, the Universe manifestly DOES have a few "simple" rules a.k.a. the laws of physics, and HAS produced rocks. But that is literally irrelevant to the point that there is nothing about rocks -- or, if you prefer, the laws of physics and the medium in which they operate -- that appears "designed". The laws are regular mathematical laws and we have no evidence for some sort of highly imaginative "field" of possible mathematical law sets and possible Universal media obeying them that a designer can select from to create the design, let alone evidence for the insane recursion relation in complexity and design implicit on the existence of such a designer.

Any sentient "designer" of a Universe plus their Super-Universe within which it builds the Universe has more complexity (and greater information content) than the Universe that they designed and built. If complexity implies design, then every designer and their Universe must have a still more complex designer in a still more complex Universe. If you wish to assert that this recursion terminates anywhere, so that you can call the designer at that level "God" or "The Master Simulation Programmer", then you no longer assert that complexity necessarily implies a designer, in which case there is no good reason to apply the rule at all even in the first instance without evidence!

Quite aside from this, rocks specifically do not exhibit any of the characteristics we generally associate with designed things, and we have quite detailed mathematical models for the probable history of rocks that do not require or benefit from (in the specific sense of being improved by) any assumption of active design. Neither, frankly, do the laws of physics.

As I pointed out in another thread, the following is a classroom example of incorrect logic:

All men are mortal.
My dog is mortal.
Therefore, my dog is a man.

All computational simulations are discretized.
The Universe is discretized (or not, see other replies).
Therefore, the Universe is a simulation.

You argument is even worse:

Rocks, that do not appear to be designed, can be designed anyway.
Therefore, we can never say that rocks do not appear to be designed.

Say what?

My dog, that does not appear to be immortal, might be immortal anyway.
Therefore we can never say that dogs are mortal.

Sure we can. What you might get away with is the assertion that there is a very small chance that some living dog (including my currently living dog, that isn't dead yet!) might turn out to be immortal. However, every single dog since wolves came out of the cold that was born more than thirty years ago is to the very best of our observational knowledge and theoretical knowledge of dog biology dead as a doorknob and every living dog that any of us have ever seen appears to be aging and we all understand how aging and disease and accidents all limit life. To assert immortal dogs you have to just make stuff up -- invent things like "dog heaven" where all dead dogs run free and have an unlimited supply of bones, or imagine that somewhere there might be a very lucky ex-wolf that failed to inherit an aging gene and that has never had a fatal disease or a fatal accident and that somehow has eluded our observational detection -- so far -- and (ignoring the second law of thermodynamics and the probable future evolution of the Universe based on the laws of physics) assume that that dog will somehow survive longer than the Universe itself probably will. Both of which are pretty absurd.

So I repeat, there is absolutely nothing about rocks that makes us think that they are designed. That does not imply that they might not be designed after all, it is not a logical statement that rocks could not have been designed, it is an empirical statement that, just as dogs appear to be mortal (and not humans, however easy it is for dogs to make the mistake, especially around dinner time:-), rocks appear not to be designed. When I find a rock on the ground as I walk along, I do not quickly look around trying to figure out who designed the rock because it looks so very much like a made thing. Quite the opposite. And, I can almost guarantee, so do you!

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 412

No arguments. Simulations similarly are generally not "deterministically" scripted. They are constantly rolling (metaphorically) pseudorandom numbers to generate non-repetitive game play. But rocks or gameplay that is "generated" are still generated according to an algorithm that was designed, and I was using the term in this broader sense.

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 412

I was pointing out (possibly badly) that his argument was a formal fallacy of the general sort: "All men are mortal, my dog is mortal, therefore my dog is a man". "All simulations are discretized. The world we observe is discretized. Therefore, the world we observe is a simulation." Same argument, substitute men/dog/mortal and simulations/world/discretized (or whatever). This is simply an incorrect argument in symbolic logic completely independent of the meanings of the symbols per se, unless I am misremembering my formal symbolic logic.

ELSEWHERE I pointed out that we do not, in fact, know if the world is discretized and that even if it is as far as spacetime is concerned, that doesn't mean that it is discretized in amplitude/phase space. And I am teaching quantum mechanics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the moment, so I'm not exactly ignorant about this.

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 412

Shall I show you my dry stack walls and my mortared fieldstone walls? Besides, this doesn't really impact the argument. The argument is: "Things exist that appear to have functions in a system of interlocked causality. If I were going to simulate this particular system of apparent interlocked causality, I would do so by using things that have these functions so that the result looks like this system of interlocked causality. Therefore, this apparent system of interlocked causality is a simulation because it works the way a simulation of it that I built would work!"

This is an utterly absurd argument. Begging the question doesn't begin to describe it. This is just the argument for God by design dressed up in computer clothing with a side order of Solipsism, and leaves all of the same questions begged and not even acknowledged as "problems". OK, so we are a simulation. Even discretized, the Universe has the information content of at least 10^256! (that's factorial, not exclamation point, all the permutations of all the ways "stuff" can be entered into the apparent cells). Or, of course, as I argued, it could have far, far less information content because all it really has to do is provide a few gigapixels of my apparent visual field, a handful of less dense informational channels for sound, tasted, smell, and touch -- certainly less than a terabyte of information -- and update it according to a set of classical physics rules plus an interactive script. It doesn't even have to do more than one, because if the Universe is a simulation, you could be and probably are a NPC being presented to just me in my VR bodyset -- assuming that in some more fundamental reality I have an actual body and am not MYSELF a self-aware NPC in a simulation being run for things that look like giant amoebic blobs swimming in liquid helium near the cores of gas giants (or in some more bizarre environment as we have no possible way of even speculating about the physics of the world in which the host computer supposedly lies).

We could come damn near building this now -- it's an easy extrapolation of our first rudimentary VR sets. We likely couldn't make it high enough resolution yet, but that's just a matter of scaling of work underway and doesn't require anything like Planck length discretization.

Then there is that computer that we are all running on. One way or another, its information content has to be at least as large as the information content of the Universe being simulated, or Shannon has lived in vain. Furthermore, it has to have an extremely high degree of organization. Indeed, the information content in the physical hardware of any computer ever built -- all the way down to your hypothetical Planck scale -- is almost infinitely larger than the content of its "computational" working memory and processors. Indeed, if one accepts the assertion that real quantum phases etc are real numbers, and meditate on the continuum hypothesis and aleph null and aleph prime, it is infinitely larger. It takes billions to trillions of atoms to represent a single switch, and many switches and other adjuncts to perform even a simple, crudely discretized computation simulating real number arithmetic.

So if you REALLY take the simulation theory seriously, you have to have a Universe somewhere -- somewhere, somewhen, somehow, there has to be a physical basis for the computation, energy and entropy with a set of rules that encodes this massive program -- that has a much, much, much, much.... larger information content than the Universe being simulated. My laptop (plus a remote supercomputer plus a network) can play World of Warcraft and provide me with a very nice simulation shared with a few hundred others (more like a few tens in any given perceptual field representation) based on coarse-grained objects and carefully builts SURFACE representations, because the giant snapping turtles are only shell thick and have no actual internal guts. Even this crude a simulation, skin deep and lacking real depth and transmitting only a shared visual space with added sound effects that don't even try to "share" a sound space, requires ever so much more physical information to represent it.

Now if I were designing a Universal simulation, I would make it self-representing. That is, I would make it its own computer. This makes it information-theoretically compact. The program being run are "the Laws of Physics", and the data being manipulated represents nothing but itself; it isn't stored on something else. Now the simulator for the Universe is the exact size and exact structure of the Universe being simulated, Shannon is very happy, and hey, even the Planck length -- if real -- is now relevant. The only real problem left is that now it isn't a simulation, it is reality itself. And a minor secondary problem -- even if this is how I would design it (if only because I can look around me and see that it works) that doesn't mean that it was designed. One cannot look at something with a given degree of complexity and say "Wow, that's complex! It must have been designed in order to be that complex" without contradicting your own argument with the implicit assumption that there is an even MORE complex layer of reality supporting the designer and the medium in which the design is realized. The only empirical conclusion that is justified and consistent is that what we see is what we get. Reasoning by analogy isn't reasoning at all, either logically or empirically.


Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 5, Insightful) 412

1. Due to limited computational resources, the simulated universe would be granular or "quantum".
2. To limit computation, reality would be held in a fuzzy probabilistic "superposition" state until it is actually observed, similar to how a GPU running OpenGL will skip the generation of hidden polygons.
3. The maximum speed of information transfer would be finite, to limit the propagation of changes through the universe.

All of these are actually true in our universe, ergo, we are very likely a simulation.

And this, sir, is why you really need to consider taking a course in formal logic and maybe learn about logical fallacies.

None of these assertions, even if they were true in some useful way, constitute a statistical or logical argument for the conclusion. This is true at an openly embarrassing level. Suppose one were designing a rock because you wanted to build a rock wall and for some reason didn't want to use actual rocks. Due to the cost of raw materials, rocks would be finite in size. Because you don't want the wall to be boring, rocks would come in many different colors, sizes, and shapes. Because you don't want the fake rock wall to fall down, rocks would be solid, as opposed to liquid, glass, plasma, gaseous.

All real rocks are actually finite in size, come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, and tend to be solid to the point where "rock solid" is a standard metaphor in human speech. Ergo, all rocks are obviously designed.


Teleological arguments are pure bullshit, which is what the physicist in question (as well as myself, also a physicist) are happy to point out.

When one actually looks at rocks or Universes, there is an utter lack of either evidence or a plausible, consistent, evidence linked chain of reasoning that increases the probability that the notion/hypothesis "Rocks are designed" or "We are living in a computer simulation" is/are true from their rightful place (so far) of 0.0000.....(0 until you get bored with writing 0's)...001 to something with a tiny smidgen of actual measure.

These are not independent assertions, by the way. If you take the assertion that the Universe is a simulation seriously, then rocks ARE designed objects, even though there is absolutely nothing about rocks to suggest that they actually are designed.

One could then deconstruct the truth of each of your statements individually. For example, there is nothing in quantum theory that limits computational requirements -- quite the opposite. Indeed, quantum theory is built on top of complex, non-discrete numbers in every quantum textbook ever written -- C-numbers. That is, quantum objects are described in general by (at least) TWO real numbers, not just one. If you attempt to represent the quantum state of a very simple -- the simplest -- two level quantum system such as |\psi> = A|-> + B|+>, one discovers that it requires two continuous degrees of freedom and that the states of the system map nicely into points on a 3D spherical hypersurface. If you try to describe the most general quantum state of N such 2 level objects, it requires 2^N or so continuous degrees of freedom. Consequently, we are limited in our solutions or simulational studies of fully correlated quantum systems to a tiny, tiny handful of e.g. "two level atoms" -- perhaps 20 to 30 of them -- because one very quickly runs out of computational resources to perform even very small general computations.

Second, you are building a whole mountain of assumptions into what appears to be a misinterpretation of the Planck length. To quote Wikipedia's page on this topic:

There is currently no proven physical significance of the Planck length...

so you are quoting something for which there is no direct evidence as evidence in a bad teleological argument for something for which there is no evidence at all.

You also don't address the actual numbers associated with the Planck length/time. If the Planck length \ell_p is order of 10^{-35} meters, and the visible Universe (alone) is ~10^11 light years across, and a light year is 10^16 meters then there are 10(11+16+35)*3 = 10^{186} cubic Planck lengths in the visible Universe, and making Planck time out of \ell_p/c we end up with another factor of 10^70 x 10^186 = 10^256 discrete space-time points. That's a hell of a lot of data, and one has to compute all of this for all of these time slices.

Now speaking only for myself, if I were building a simulation of the Universe, it would NOT look like this microscopically. That's because when one plays a game with a physics simulation, all one has to do is present a perspective view into a purely classical representation of various surfaces, plus some sounds, plus some sundry nervous/sensations. Humans can't see microscopic things anyway, even with a microscope we don't see microscopic things, we see images that our brains plus some cognitive work identify as microscopic things. I don't have to make a virtual world that has actual simulations of individual viruses to simulate the nervous sensations of "feeling viremic". Reality need never be more than skin deep, perception deep. I'll point out that empirically (there's that word once again) ALL actual reality simulations present precisely this sort of a Universe BECAUSE it doesn't require an enormous representation. When a dark iron dwarf in WoW throws a bomb at you, the simulator doesn't compute the quantum chemistry ot a gunpowder explosion all the way down to the Planck scale, it just manipulates a few pixels and sprites according to a very simple model of what an explosion LOOKS LIKE.

Similarly, it is really irrelevant as to what the "speed of propagation of causality" is in a simulation. It doesn't even matter how fast your computer is, since you are just stacking up large arrays of numbers with some index you are identifying with some sort of discretized timestep. And don't get me started about relativity and simultaneity and the ordering of events separated by spacelike intervals and COMPUTATIONS of all of these things -- suffice it to say that your argument itself is in fact naive and incorrect per point as well as collectively.

Could the world of our experience by a simulation? Sure. Of course it could. And pink unicorns COULD fart rainbow colors. There is nothing fundamentally contradictory about either one, especially when you get to make up the terms that aren't being contradicted.

It's just that we haven't a shred of actual evidence that either assertion is true. Or that the Universe is a made/designed thing. Or that we could somehow DISTINGUISH a designed "real physical" Universe from a designed "simulation, unreal" Universe from the real, undesigned, physical Universe we appear to live in. Teleological arguments are just as dumb in religion as they are in the assertion that we are all living inside "the Matrix" in reality. How could you even know?


Comment Re:Adjust using the PCI index. (Score 1) 374

But everybody needs that second car.

Yes, everyone does need that second car. It's very rarely optional in a two income household, especially considering the state of mass transit in the US. Worse, both the first and second cars are notably more expensive than they were in the 1950s, even inflation-adjusted. Safety equipment costs money, and auto manufacturers really really want to upsell you to the model with the entertainment system in it.

They need to eat fast food rather than cook.

Fast food is as cheap as cooking yourself now. Maybe the results aren't as high quality for the same price, but it will keep you alive, and you aren't paying a premium for it.

They need to pay for that cable and internet.

Well yeah. Paying for Internet is as essential today as paying for a telephone line was in the 1950s. I suspect the two are comparably expensive, too, inflation-adjusted. Ma Bell ruled the world in the 50s, and extracted her pound of flesh. Today's ISPs behave quite similarly.

They need central heating and air.

Central air I'll give you, but central heating has been a thing since the 1800s in cities, when it was a coal furnace in the basement, and your house had a street-accessible coal chute for deliveries. It was certainly a thing everywhere in the 1950s, including rural areas, where it was propane or fuel oil. (I lived in a house with a fuel oil furnace for several years, as a child. Filthy.)

I'm surprised you left out the largest difference in expenditure. House sizes are considerably larger today than they were in the 1950s. That's usually the go-to complaint from the "slaves should never have it better than their parents" crowd that you represent.

How about this. All of those things are things we should have now. What the hell is civilization for? What the hell are all these engineers for, if not making things better for as many people as possible? And yes, why aren't all us Morlocks getting a bigger slice of the financial reward for doing all that work?

Comment Re:Is the tech bubble official yet? (Score 1) 77

As far as I know, nobody has yet devised an experiment capable of determining whether consciousness actually lives in the brain, or whether the brain is a receiver for a consciousness which exists independently of the body.

You mean, aside from all of the usual ones? Like, giving people powerful drugs makes their (my!) consciousness go away? Like the fact that strokes, drugs, alcohol, accidents, and acts of violence that damage the brain tissue make consciousness go away incrementally? Like the fact that when people's brains die, they apparently die (from the point of view of every device built to measure the neural activity that we identify as consciousness in everything with neurons that we have ever studied)? Like the fact that we have working neural models capable of at least a few of the first steps towards consciousness? Like the fact that all of our understanding of science so far, working together, provides not the slightest support for an alternative hypothesis?

Asserting that we have no experiments to determine whether consciousness lives in a brain is like asserting that we have no experiments that refute the possibility that we are all just NPCs in a giant MMORPG Matrix, or asserting that we have no experiments that refute the possibility of hidden nonlocal dimensions in physics, or we have no possibility of proving that Jesus didn't raise the not-quite-dead yet and make blind people walk and deaf people see. Science doesn't work that way, evidence doesn't work that way, as it leaves one stuck in the eternal "lack of evidence is not evidence of lack" for an infinite sea of non-contradictory assertions that could be true.

Heres how it works. Nearly all of that "sea of notions" -- possible true assertions -- is nearly perfectly improbable. Not "false", just -- literally -- not likely to be true, given what we know and the evidence so far. There could be a rock on the far side of the moon carved by chance into a nearly perfect bust of Abraham Lincoln -- not impossible -- but there is no point in wasting precious plausible belief in our ontology on such a hypothesis as there is no evidence that it is true. Furthermore, by doing a statistical study of rock shapes on the earth looking for rocks that actually look like they were carved into human busts with precisely recognizable features, we might even conclude that it is very likely to be false because the particular shapes that make up a human head, neck, and shoulder set are simply unlikely to occur by accident. This is Bertrand Russell's "teapot" argument.

Of course there is one amusing way the teapot could fail. We could send a silver tea set into orbit! Or, we could drop a bust of Abraham Lincoln on the dark side of the moon. Neither of these apply to consciousness, yet, but of course that is the point of the entire "True/Strong AI" enterprise. Which I personally think will succeed within the next ten to twenty years, not to preserve human consciousness but to augment it and exploit it (the AI). We are already augmenting human consciousness through the interfaces we already have -- the fingers and eyes and ears -- to the point where google is a major part of our brains, to the point where I can stream this thought chain out into your brain faster than anyone a mere twenty or thirty years ago would have ever dreamed possible.

So please, we have a mountain of evidence that consciousness is, in fact, supported directly by the physical tissue of the brain. We also have an immovable mass of humanity that does not wish to face this fact and shape their lives and ethical systems upon the probably true, scientifically supported ontology that strongly, strongly suggests that this one life is all you get, that if your brain dies you die, that there is no alternative reality or superset reality where you will live in paradise or be tortured for eternity, and that there is no mysterious invisible self-aware construct that grants wishes and enforces "perfect justice" or "perfect law" or "perfect love" on a selective basis depending on whether or not one embraces a particular set of "ancient" beliefs.


Comment Re:Is the tech bubble official yet? (Score 1) 77

I'm giving up mod to add to this. Bug Jack Barron is worth the read even today, as Spinrad is a true visionary. One of my favorite books. Sort of a Rush Limbaugh in reverse, or what Stern wishes that he was. And periodically, you hear snippets of med-tech that still leave open the possibility that Spinrad's take on immortality wasn't completely wrong...


Comment Re:Google = a propaganda tool. (Score 1) 429

When Google seems to care about the 20,000,000 Russian lives lost in WWII, it might begin
to appear that Google is using its power with some sort of sense of fairness.

No one is trying to deny that 20 million people were killed in Soviet gulags. More to the point, no one is trying to deny that 20 million people died in the Soviet gulags and use that non-fact as justification for arson and murder today.

Comment Re:Bring it on! (Score 2) 331

I think artificial meat inevitable but I doubt it would be healthful.

Why wouldn't it be? By the time your gastric juices are done with the food you eat, it's been reduced to a slurry that is absorbed at the molecular level. If artificial meat contains the same molecules as animal meat, i.e. vitamins, fats, and amino acids, your intestines won't notice the difference. I suspect the results of these experiments are already fairly healthful. Perfecting the cosmetic attributes such as taste and texture will be the hard part.

Comment Re: Cutting who? The massively inflated? (Score 1) 648

Why, exactly, is this a sentence fragment?


is a sentence, consisting of a verb in imperative form, with the understood subject 'You' (the listeners). So is "Try." So is "(You) go again." Or "(You) try again."

Oh, and since you are supposedly representing the grammar police on /., and I'm challenging your absurd statement that this is a fragment, I suppose I ought to provide you with at least some K-12 level documentation that your assertion is, in fact, absurd:

Comment Re:Small business is going to get left behind (Score 1) 297

As a small business manufacturing a fairly niche product, in the past few months I've noticed that vendors are less willing to to small production runs of custom parts. Last week I had a CNC milling vendor tell me, and I quote, "Well, you haven't done any business with us in a while so we're unable to work with you."

Sounds like you're going to have to buy a CNC milling machine. A.K.A. a robot. If you don't, you'll miss out on the next industrial revolution...

That might not be as outrageous as you think, either. I hear a decent CNC milling machine can be had from China for 1/10th what they used to go for, and its own build quality and its accuracy aren't any worse than the far more expensive models. Small business can survive this, but it will be just a little bit bigger than it was, and more vertically integrated. You're going to have to produce more of the stuff you use in house, and you're going to have to produce it in an automated fashion.

Yeah, getting small runs of large custom castings done is going to be tough, but maybe they'll do it if you agree to do your own milling. I know that's how it works for steel castings. Large scale live steam model rail cars are built on cast iron wheels that are shipped from the foundry raw. The hobbyist has to do the finish milling himself.

Slashdot Top Deals

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972