There’s a new game in town
Mini ‘how-to’ Bluetooth/Wifi combo for Raspberry PI
Stick’em with the pointy end
Virtual and not so Virtual Space
Be Still my Bleeding Heart …
The Never-ending Privacy Battle
The Many Sides of Bitcoin
Cyber Jihadists
Hacker Gangs
The New Old War
The Sacred Executioner
Scripting Aphrodites
There’s a new game in town My first foray into role playing games (RPGs) wasn’t actually an RPG at all. Rather, it was a computer based word puzzle, “The Colossal Cave” aka “Adventure.” I stumbled upon this game during a computer job back in the late 1970s. The game was written in Basic and ran on a PDP-11. I spent hours […]
Mini ‘how-to’ Bluetooth/Wifi combo for Raspberry PI I recently purchased the Cirago USB Bluetooth/Wifi combo to use with my raspberry pi. All things considered, I am quite pleased. Being reasonably versed in google-fu, helped, of course. Since I want the freedom to do some mobile tinkering, I need to access the pi sans a lan. That, and my latest wild hair project […]
Stick’em with the pointy end Since I have been spending a great deal of my time playing in the field of 3D design and printing, I have only recently stumbled upon, and had time to read, “Privacy for Me and Not for Thee,” penned by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, a human rights activist whom I first encountered in the virtual world […]
Virtual and not so Virtual Space Not long ago, someone asked if I liked 3D printing better than virtual worlds. The short answer is, equally but differently.
Be Still my Bleeding Heart … “Secure web servers are the equivalent of heavy armored cars. The problem is, they are being used to transfer rolls of coins and checks written in crayon by people on park benches to merchants doing business in cardboard boxes from beneath highway bridges. Further, the roads are subject to random detours, anyone with a screwdriver […]
The Never-ending Privacy Battle This brings me back to the Hundredpercent American. To some extent he is a pet of mine. I have always rather liked him, because he has some promising qualities. For instance, he has enormous hospitality. I used to feel personally complimented by the amazing warm-hearted hospitality showered on me by Americans. […] When I realized […]
The Many Sides of Bitcoin Pariah, darling, or somewhere in between. Bitcoin has continued to linger in the daily media spotlight since the shuttering of darknet’s black-market drug bazaar, Silk Road, and the subsequent announcement of the arrest of its alleged owner, Ross William Ulbricht (aka DPR), on October 2, 2013. Media mavens have long cast bitcoin as a sort […]
Cyber Jihadists “We’re facing a very great threat of loosely-coupled, organizational networks that increasingly rely on IT infrastructure to coordinate their movements and recruit young disenfranchised, apathetic guys as suicidal pawns in a sophisticated, dispersed movement. (…)” (AHM, Usenet, September 21, 2001)
Hacker Gangs Meet Jim Script Kiddie (skiddie). He is the guy (usually in his early to mid teens) who comes into a hacker forum, asking inane questions like, “how can I be a hacker?” He also tends to over-indulge in “hacker speak” making him look pretty much like a moron to seasoned (and not so) computer netizens.
The New Old War In 1956, FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover initiated a program, code-named COINTELPRO (counter intelligence program) ushering in what would become the mainstay for how intelligence communities dealt with domesitic affairs. The sole directive of this program was “to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of various dissidents and their leaders.
The Sacred Executioner In his book, “The Sacred Executioner,” Hyam Maccoby notes: “A figure in mythology that has received little attention is that of the Sacred Executioner. […] By taking the blame for the slaying, he is performing a great service to society, for not only does he perform the deed, but he takes upon himself the blame […]
Scripting Aphrodites On Wednesday, April 13, 2006, 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin was reported missing by her father. Investigators thought she may have been abducted by someone she met online. Oklahoma law enforcement suspected her abductor might be heading just across the border to Texas and requested Texas issue an Amber alert.
image There’s a new game in town
image Mini ‘how-to’ Bluetooth/Wifi combo for Raspberry PI
image Stick’em with the pointy end
image Virtual and not so Virtual Space
image Be Still my Bleeding Heart …
image The Never-ending Privacy Battle
image The Many Sides of Bitcoin
image Cyber Jihadists
image Hacker Gangs
image The New Old War
image The Sacred Executioner
image Scripting Aphrodites

Ghost in the Machine

The phrase, “ghost in the machine,” was coined by 20th century British philosopher, as a means of characterizing 17th century mathematician and philosopher, theory of mind. Descartes theory was an offshoot of the age-old dualism theories that dated back to and . His theory—referred to as —distilled dualism into today’s mind-body theories, wherein “consciousness and self-awareness” were mind, and brain was “intelligence.” Descartes further went on to propose that the seat of the soul was the pineal gland.

The term soul, of course, was often used interchangeably with the term, consciousness.

By the late 19th century, the seat of the soul was upseated, by self-proclaimed mystic, , who put forth the theory that the pineal gland was an atrophied “organ of spiritual vision“—what we refer to today as the “sixth sense” or more specifically, extrasensory perception. Of course, some individuals, especially skeptics and those prone toward the hard sciences will argue that the aforementioned were given to flights of fancy. And while the fantasy may provide relief in times of loss (i.e., the soul goes to a better place), we are nothing more than a sum of our biological parts, that work in unison—one with another—wherein behavioral and physical characteristics can be explained by a combination of genetics and our interatction within the greater ecosphere of society and nature.

This was about to change.

In the past decade, another school of thought has been emerging. One that acknowledges “consciousness” yet defines it within the physical constructs of the hard sciences, and begins with the machine.

In 2002, and struck a wager. Kurzweil believes that by 2029, machine will pass the , as described by in his 1950 paper, “.” Kapor isn’t so sure. Enough so, to wage $20K dollars. Arguably, the debate has less to do with what technology may (or not) do, and more to do with definitions.

For example, if one were to consider Alan Turing’s challenge in its most simplistic form, one might argue that artificial intelligence was achieved with the first and most well-known simulation, a Rogerian Psychotherapist, , written by in 1966. Although we can assume that Kurzweil does not consider Eliza to have even remotely passed the Turing test, his vision still appears to be more toward a novelist approach—a machine that tells a good yarn. Kapor’s vision, on the other hand, appears to ask the question: can machine gain some degree of sentience—a soul, if you will—a ghost? Nonetheless, both appear to agree that in order for machine to think, it must contain vast knowledge.

Now, while this is certainly an interesting thought exercise, Kurzweil’s and Kapor’s wager is nothing new. In 1990, offered $100,000 to the first person who could write a conversational A.I. that would truly be indistinguishable from human. Thus began the first annual Loebner Prize contest. By the following decade, Dr. Richard Wallace had entered the contest and picked up three first prizes, with his Alicebot. Wallace developed a tagging language that he coined, (A.I. markup language) as well as open sourcing his design. Because of this, Wallace’s AIML has become an accepted industry standard where conversational bots are concerned. In fact, the chatbot interface used by most second life residents to power their greeters and helpers are AIML-based Pandorabots. The bots however, still lack cognition.

Enter , the brainchild of Chris McKinstry, and , the brainchild of Marvin Minsky, Push Singh, and Catherine Havasi. Tragically, both McKinstry and Singh committed suicide in 2006. Still, their projects live on.

Importantly, both projects were based upon the premise of collecting and cataloguing all known factoids such that a sort of mega-knowledgebase could be achieved. The result would then become a source whence machine could find its intelligence. McKinstry’s mindpixel eventually found its home in Cornell University, and the paper, “Action dynamics reveal parallel competition in decision making,” by Rick Dale and Michael Spivey, with posthumous credit to McKinstry, was published in January of 2008. The OMCS project proceeds as well, and has amassed over fifteen thousand contributions. Yet, even if the contributions were increased by an order of magnitude, will that be enough to achieve mind? And what about body?

Enter Project Natal, , and .

To address this, three startup companies were eyeing electroencephalographs for controlling avatar movement, and the mocap industry is blooming as a mechanism for recording human movement. And just this last spring, Microsoft debuted Project Natal by introducing us to Milo. Milo is a comprehensive system that responds to voice, facial changes, and body movements. Other companies have moved toward touch screens. Imagine, if you will, a future where you can reach out and literally touch an avatar, and the resulting touch triggers the other player’s sensation gear? No. We’re not going “there” today! Seriously, the goal of immersion is to teach you to “bond” with your computer.

But back in the real world!

Regardless of the technology strides, we have yet to find soul. Enter quantum physics.

In 2002, the same year Kurzweil and Kapor were striking up their wager, two researchers, Johnjoe McFadden, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Surrey, and Susan Pockett, professor of physics at the University of Auckland, had put forth their own theories of consciousness. Dr. McFadden proposed an electromagnetic field theory of consciousness. More specifically, that consciousness lay in the brain’s naturally occurring electromagnetic field. He has since gone on to proffer that consciousness is a result of quantum evolution. Dr. Pockett challenged his proposal, while also noting in her discourse, “Difficulties with the Electromagnetic Field Theory Of Consciousness” (2002, Pockett):

My version of the electromagnetic field theory of consciousness is presently quite restricted in scope. It is that qualia are identical with certain yet-undefined spatio-temporal patterns in the electromagnetic field. At present, the only objects in the universe that generate such patterns are biological brains, but in principle there is no reason why the patterns should not be generated by artificial means.

I contacted both McFadden and Pockett, as I was toying around with my own theories and opined that their work might prove useful within the area of forensic psychology, specifically, utilizing mind printing, if you will, to detect factitious disorder. While Dr. McFadden simply pointed me to his website, the resulting discussion with Dr. Pockett was, needless to say, both informative and provocative. In a missive, Dr. Pockett noted, among other things:

With respect to your proposal, in principle you’re right, but in practice it’s simply not possible at this stage to measure what you want to measure, for technical reasons. I am presently trying to measure the em patterns that covary with the simplest possible kinds of sensory experience – taste, touch, that sort of thing – in normal subjects and even this is extraordinarily difficult. One major impediment is the inverse problem. This amounts to the fact that the em patterns are badly smeared by passage through the brain, skull and scalp before they get to the recording electrodes. You can work back mathematically to what the patterns would have been at their site of generation, but the problem is invariably “ill-posed” ie there is never a unique solution.

Fast forward to today.

Kurzweil has gone on to found Singularity University in preparation for uploading mind into computer. Wallace and various bot developers continue to attend Loebner’s prize competitions, vying for the grand prize. The startups, OCZ Technology and Emotive debuted their products in 2008 and this year, respectively. And Microsoft’s Project Natal is slated to debut in November of 2010. Dr. Pockett has recently completed research regarding conscious and unconscious states using intracranial EEGs. She is also exploring the question of whether the conscious mind is required in the decision making process. Dr. McFadden has since moved to the department molecular genetics and continues to flesh out his theory of quantum mind. And, of course, as mega dictionaries full of factiods (isn’t that what the google machine is?) continue to grow, and computer and cognitive scientist alike, are attempting to grok the results from a statistical analysis point of view.

All things considered, we can count ourselves blessed or damned, or perhaps, both. For as we stand at the door of tomorrow, witnessing the fluid fiction of technology, we are beginning to see a notable shift. One that redefines family, community, business and education. One that will also involve a change in the way we interact, not only with “computer,” but with each other as well.

Even so, will any of these “technological wonders” truly address the question of the ghost in the machine?