Friday, September 28, 2012

What is evil?

Is evil simply a result of the imperfect human value system? i.e., a mechanical imperfection.

Mars sample return

There is considerable debate over the costly (perhaps 4 billion dollar) Mars sample return mission.
(A sample collecting rover for the project could, itself, cost 2.5 billion or more.)  In an ideal scenario the Curiosity rover might find something so interesting (potential life?) that we would want to go bring ITS samples back.


Humans are born with a great deal of knowledge built into them by their DNA.(see Chomsky for example)  This was obtained from hundreds of millions of years of learning (by evolution).

AI might be impractical if knowledge learned during an AI's "lifetime" turns out to be small compared to what has to be built in to the AI to begin with. (i.e., to even get it to BE intelligent)

Asa H 2.0 light (see my blogs of 10 Feb. 2011 and 14 May 2012) has a minimum size of 8-9 kB (depending if its coded in BASIC or C++).  A casebase (knowledgebase) of about 50 simple cases has been learned by Asa H 2.0 light and has a size of about 10 kB.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Ideally, Bin Laden would have been arrested, tried, and convicted by a neutral/impartial jury in the Hague and sentenced to life in prison.  This may have been impossible but perhaps we should have tried.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tax only the rich

I just got an email from which states "According to Federal Reserve data, the wealthiest 1% of Americans now have a greater net worth than the bottom 90% combined."  Assuming that this is accurate the federal government should only tax the top 1%.  The rest of us have nothing to give.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More on interstellar travel

Our DNA represents the end product of hundreds of millions of years of learning. Any intelligent recipient would want to preserve and make use of it.  For that reason I would expect them to recreate us. (see my blog of  11 May 2012)
Note: With generational starships the original astronauts don't get to their destination either.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

laboratory experiments

Ideally, everything we teach, everything we believe, we would test/demonstrate in one or more laboratory experiments.  But this is impractical.  Learning from experience is slow and costly. It would take too long to "PROVE" everything, and we don't have the equipment to do it.  It would cost a great deal to obtain all the required hardware.

If standardized student test scores were the proper measure of performance we might do no experiments, no hands-on work at all. 

But experiments are where new knowledge comes from.  As profession scientists we must do experiments.  (Or at least some of us must.)  Even when we are "just teaching" students need to see some experiments even if this learning method is "less efficient."  Students need to see examples of how new knowledge is obtained.  Students need to see some subset of our beliefs "PROVEN."  We can all argue over how much time and money to spend on this. (Neither can these experiments all be computer simulations.  I've argued previously why computer simulations are not as good as real experiments. see my blog of 17 Sept. 2010)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Being a scientist is being human

The figure below is roughly that from page 1045 of Russell and Norvig's Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, 3rd edition.  It is a simple description of what it is to be human. (Of course it's oversimplified, it takes up less than a page!)  We look at the world with our senses and observe what it is like.  We have some idea of how the world evolves, what actions we can perform, and what our actions do.  We use a value system to decide what is best to do at any given moment.

A scientist does the same things.  S/he may simply put more effort into it, work harder and more carefully at it.  Scientists sense the world, perhaps with refined instruments.  We want to know what the world is like, perhaps in more detail than the man-on-the-street.  We want to know how the world  evolves, again, perhaps in more detail and on various scales.  As scientists we act, perhaps augmented by machinery.  Hopefully we use a more refined value system (see my blog of  21 Sept.  2010) whereas unaided humans have a simple network of drives and aversions.

We are all scientists.  To be an intelligent creature is to be a scientist.  As professional scientists we just work harder at it.  Scientism is in our inherent nature.


I advocate scientism, the "belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning" (Wikipedia, scientism).
There are, of course, various versions of scientism, some stronger than others.  I believe that all knowledge is of an approximate character and human capabilities are limited and limiting. Human science has boundaries/limits/limitations.
E. F. Schumacher (in A Guide for the Perplexed) claims science (and scientism) is confined solely to what can be "counted, measured, and weighed."  Clearly he is wrong.  The wavefunction can not be so measured but is an important part of science.
I don't believe science is (or can be made) value-free (or value-neutral).  Values are needed and used whenever we make decisions/judgements of any kind. I advocate some sort of value system like that in my 21 Sept. 2010 blog.
I do not advocate any single perspective, rather I advocate a "scientific pluralism" (see my 26 Sept. 2010 and 17 Aug. 2012 blogs).

The X Files

One can assemble huge "databases" of faulty results (see my 2 April 2012 blog).  I have about 1 file drawer which contains my more controversial collection of articles. 
On the higher quality end are the space drive articles like Jack Wisdom's Swimming in Spacetime, Science, Vol. 299, 21 March 2003, pg 1865 and Campanelli, et al's, Maximum Gravitational Recoil, Phys. Rev. Letters, Vol. 98, 231102, 8 June 2007.
Other papers in this file include, for example, work on time travel (like F. Tipler, Phys. Rev. D, vol. 9, num. 8, pg 2203, 1974) and solid state ("cold") fusion (like Fleischmann and Pons, J. of Electroanalytical Chem., vol. 261, num. 2A, pg 301, 1989).
Besides journal articles there are also books in the "X Files," like Tipler's The Physics of Immortality, Doubleday, 1994 and Mallett's Time Traveler, Thunder's Mouth, 2006.