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Comment I innoculate my kid against commercials (Score 1) 301

We're a Netflix-only household. My kid almost never sees commercials there. But I don't want him to not know what they are because I don't want him to fall prey to the tactics advertisers use. So whenever we do run across commercials (at the movies, at grandmas house, etc.), we often talk about them with respect to issues of truth, opinion, spin, manipulation, and reasons to buy.

I would not be happy for my kid to be one of the 82% who don't even know what a commercial is.

Comment Re:We need standard TOS (Score 1) 94

This is the right solution. The government should represent the people and be the balance to all the power these corporations have when they make unilateral decisions that affect millions of consumers, while each individual consumer alone has no power to get the corporation to listen to them. The government in this situation is our collective bargaining unit.

However, our government doesn't work this way. Our government feels the need to represent both the people *and* the corporations. Unfortunately the corporations have more sway on politicians than the voters do. So we can not expect government to step in on behalf of consumers except in particularly egregious cases. Worse, we can expect the government to step in on the side of corporations, and our government does this time and again.

Getting corporations' hands off our politicians needs to be our first priority. Without that, very few situations like this will ever get fixed.

Comment /etc/hosts (Score 4, Insightful) 307

I blacklist domains I don't like in /etc/hosts (with blacklists seeded by MVPs's hosts file). It's simple, and I don't have to trust or rely on anyone else's software.

Advertising works. Ad-supported websites survive. These statements are demonstrably true simply because ads and ad-supported websites exist, even though I block ads. So, my opting out of this obnoxious system hasn't broken anything, and thus the argument that I have some moral obligation to opt in fails. If advertisers and websites want me to put up with ads, they need to create ads I will put up with. They have not. Until they do, they don't get my eyes.

Comment Re:Except that... (Score 1) 556

Paraphrasing you, I thought you said:
        A: From the observation that the chances of life are (exceedingly) small
        B: it is valid to conclude there is a designer.

All I said is that B is not a necessary result of A. That's what I think "still a perfectly valid conclusion" means.

However, you may have meant that B is not *ruled out* by A. That I agree with. That life was designed is not ruled out by observing that the chance of life occurring (when we take the universe as a random system) is small. But starting from A it is not valid to definitively conclude B. A does not imply that B is true.

A is consistent with both conclusions, that there is no designer or that there is.

Intelligent Design proponents set up these probabilistic arguments to show that the "probability" of evolution being true is small. Then they argue from ignorance, saying, "because I can't think of any other explanation for life, given that it seems exceedingly unlikely that life evolved on its own, then it must be true that there is a designer". There could be some other explanation for life that we haven't thought of yet. No one has proved that there are only two choices. So, even if someone proves that evolution is definitively not the answer (with probability 1.0), we still can't conclude that a designer is the answer.

Calculations like these are what drive science. First of all, we know they are wrong to begin with. We are trying to capture an immensely complex process by a few numbers and a very limited kind of structure (multiplying probabilities). Therefore, arriving at a very small probability for live evolving by chance raises questions. Are the probabilities right? Are there conditional probabilities that we haven't taken into account? Is the process really random like we are assuming? Are our other assumptions correct? Even if we convince ourselves that we're in the ballpark, a small probability may be surprising, but that doesn't make it wrong.

A more scientific kind of reaction to this is the anthropic principle: The money quote for me is the weak anthropic principle, "which states that the universe's ostensible fine tuning is the result of selection bias: i.e., only in a universe capable of eventually supporting life will there be living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon any such fine tuning, while a universe less compatible with life will go unbeheld."

Thus, given that the calculated chance of life evolving is small, one alternative to a designer is the idea of parallel universes (i.e. a multiverse:

Comment Re:Except that... (Score 1) 556

That life was designed is not a "perfectly valid conclusion". Observing that the chances of life are small supports no conclusion about design or not. The probability of lots of things are small. Not all of them imply a designer. Observing that the chances of life are small raises *questions*; it doesn't provide answers.

Comment Same old ID argument (Score 2) 556

The whole of "intelligent design" arguments come down to this same argument: something is really unlikely; therefore the only possibility left is god. It's not a scientific argument. It's not even a logical argument. It's an emotional one predicated on couching it in emotional terms and then relying on the fallacy that unlikely things never happen, or pseudo-mathematically, "p == 0 for p epsilon, for suitably small values of epsilon".

It's really an argument from ignorance. "Anything I can't understand must have been made by god."

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

I agree.

You said, "By that logic we want nothing either...". That is a key point. We know what it means to want something, but we *don't* know how that desire or our awareness of it arises in practice, in our brains. That is, we don't know how to implement it, even if we had the ability to fabricate actual neurons. You can, and people do, define "Strong AI" as the attempt to "create an artificial living mind". In that case, you've defined it as something we don't know how to do (yet). Hence my comment about making conclusions about something starting from a point that is not in line with reality.

As you said, "What qualities [the strong AI we eventually do build] shares with us will likely be one of those things that can't be answered for certain until we actually create it." Totally agree.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

So you construct a fantasy world with whatever you imagine is or will be, and then want to discuss what will happen in that world. Fine, it's a fun thing to do, but you can't then bring your conclusions back to the real world.

I think we're arguing along different lines here. You want to posit a scenario and then discuss what happens within that scenario. I'm saying that the conclusions you draw from such a discussion only apply to reality insofar as the initial scenario matches reality. Your scenario doesn't. You start with "create a true, self aware, synthetic mind ...". That's nowhere near reality, so whatever conclusions you draw are also nowhere near reality.

And that's my point. It's useful to consider "what would happen if" because people do have the goal of creating a "strong AI", but it is speculation. The reality is that all we know how to do now and in the foreseeable future is build specialized, though flexible, algorithms to perform complex tasks. Talking about these as if they are "intelligent", or "want" things, or can "think" just makes it difficult to be productive. There is already real danger in having autonomous cars, autonomous planes, autonomous soldiers, and other complex computer controlled machines. We'd be better served discussing the real risks than fretting over some sci-fi world in which machines have become super-human fictional CyberMen.

Our autonomous cars will be faced with situations like the train moral dilemma (do nothing and it will kill 5, but you can divert it to kill just 1). That problem needs to be faced and an answer provided without resorting to pretending that the autonomous car has "will" or "morality" or a "desire" to minimize some mathematical function related to the number of deaths caused. Autonomous cars, as much as they may seem to have a "goal" of taking us to our requested destination, are just algorithms we created tied to machines we created. We have designed them with a goal in mind, but we have to understand what they *are*, not what we wanted them to be.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

I'm allowed hyperbole. Pout.

But seriously, AI's also want nothing. They are simply machines, too. More complex, of course, but still machines. That's my point. You imbue your hypothetical AI with all the qualities of a human, plus extra. You called it a synthetic mind. So we're starting the discussion by presuming something that doesn't exist, and then concluding basically whatever we want. We then try to say that conclusion applies to the real world. That's what Hawking did. He assumed an AI that can supersede us, concluded that it will supersede us, and then inferred that AI is a threat to humanity. It's a baseless argument based on something that doesn't exist, and that we don't know how to build.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

This is like saying, I'm afraid of automobiles because eventually they will want to travel at the speed of light and will therefore suck up all the energy in the universe in the attempt. Automobiles will almost certainly want to travel as fast as possible because in order to be useful as an automobile, it needs to go fast.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

We benefit daily from programs that are nowhere near as intelligent than us. Why is it "that the only way we're likely to benefit from creating an AI is if it's vastly more intelligent than us"? We benefit from non-intelligent machines of all sorts. We benefit from Google. We benefit from Roombas. We benefit from autonomously-driven mining equipment. This list goes on for pages.

In any event, you are conflating the premise with the conclusion.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

Here's a trivial algorithm: int add(a, b) { return a + b; }.

No matter how much RAM you give the computer running this algorithm, it will never be faster. No matter how fast you make the clock speed of your CPU, this algorithm will never be able to subtract numbers. No matter how much electricity you allow this algorithm to consume, it will never add three numbers at the same time.

Those are situations in which having more resources doesn't help.

You then suggest ways in which algorithms could be improved to use more resources. Fine, that's engineering. The hope/goal of AI is that we can find the kind of algorithms you hypothesize about. But we don't currently have algorithms that "merely require more resources" to get smarter.

I think having a "what-if" conversation can be very useful. (I particularly enjoy them, in fact.) However, my point is that the conclusion that AI will supersede humans is based on the assumption that we have an AI that *could* supersede a human. We don't have any such AI, and we don't know how to build one. So that hypothetical conclusion is effectively the tautological implication of assuming the outcome.

My point is that speculation does not result in being able to draw actual conclusions about our actual future. If we can't achieve the pre-conditions, we won't suffer the conclusions.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

Clearly, I am a poor author. My point, which has mostly gotten lost, is that speculating about what an AI is or will be and then drawing conclusions about what it will do tells us nothing about what might happen *in reality*. That is because, *in reality* we do not have AIs anywhere near the capability given to them in such hypothetical scenarios as the paperclip maximizer. Moreover, we do not know how to build such AIs. Thus, with speculative premises, the conclusions are just as speculative.

There can be value in "what-if" conversations, but if the premises are unlikely to ever be realized, then so are the conclusions.

Comment Re:Assumptions define the conclusion (Score 1) 574

a) No. b) No. c) No. d) No.

All of your points are the kind of uninformed assumptions I'm pointing out, in addition to some of them being just wrong.

Getting more resources does not necessarily make an algorithm smarter. It doesn't even always make it faster. Assuming you have some magical algorithm that "merely require[s] more resources" is just wishful thinking. Show me the algorithm. There isn't currently such an algorithm.

You can, if you will, define AI as you do in c). However, then there is no AI now, and may never be. You're speculating. And the self-aware requirement is very unlikely to be satisfied in our lifetimes. We literally don't even know how self-awareness/consciousness is implemented in ourselves, let alone how it would be implemented in something we create.

When you say, "I don't see why", and "it would likely", you're just speculating.

There's nothing much to be gained by positing unrealistic CyberMen with hypothetical powers and then trying to draw conclusions about what life with AI will be like. All the powers people like to hypothesize do not exist, and we don't currently know how to make them exist. So whatever conclusions you draw are just speculative fiction. Fun, and perhaps a useful philosophical/ethical pursuit, but it's ultimately fiction.

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