Thoughts about the future

Only art & science, the love & values they embody, can save humanity. The education for humanities & character building, the pursuit of perfection & beauty, seeking to show the brain things it never saw before, helping people by solving problems & understanding how things work, only through these we have some hope.

Society is a deterministic economic game, in which the rate of unemployment drives people (who have nothing to lose) to give power to the ugliest & stupidest monsters, such as the current US president. In order to cover up for their incompetence, these leaders usually funnel the suffering of the people to violence & hatred of the minorities or neighbors or whoever the ugly & stupid leaders don’t like. Their enemies are the educated & moral people, so they’ll work hard to eliminate knowledge & moral standards, & utilize religion & other forms of control to take people’s freedom & autonomy.

AI, such as the simple Reinforcement Learning algorithms that allow machines to become better than humans in any task, will obviously increase the rate of unemployment, taking mostly the jobs of the less educated people. It will also make it pointless to study & educate people on any faculty, art or profession, if machines can anyway do a much better job than us. So, unless we’ll let the power & control to the AI, I don’t see how we’ll not end up with monster stupid leaders & their religions & violent way to control the masses & take away their freedom.

The only thing that gives me hope now is the fact that we now have easy access to the knowledge & art of our great past teachers, & so perhaps more people will learn & educate themselves, & build a character based on the values of art & science, which are the only thing that can save us.


Web Wide Matrix

For many years, I’ve been really suffering from the problem of information overload: I’m subscribed to many content feeds, which are very valuable to me, but don’t have any way to effectively consume them – even if I’d sit all day & read them, I won’t be able to cover all of them.

Thinking about this problem I understood 3 things:

  1. The problem starts with the medium – the interface in which we consume content feeds today is like a baggage carousel, where you need to look at a list of items, arriving in random order, until you see what you’re looking for. This interface is somewhat effective with few dozens items, but will never work with thousands. On the other hand, an interface such as a supermarket is effective for selecting a few items out of thousands of items, because it’s an organized space that you can walk into & see all items, & since you go there frequently you know exactly where to find what interests you & discover more along the way.
  2. There are many good technologies today to automatically process large amounts of information, in order to enable people to make value out of it, but to use these technologies you need a team of engineers working for weeks or months building a solution for some specific content feed & use-case. This is similar to the situation before the Web, where if you wanted to connect to some information you needed to build the software, protocols & infrastructure for accessing information remotely. The Web introduced a simple & powerful standard way to access information, that removed these barriers & enabled anyone to publish & access information from anywhere in the world. Similarly, we need a simple & powerful way to enable anyone to process any content feed & make value out of it. This should be as simple as writing a simple HTML file.
  3. Until today, every person needed just an internet connection & a device to access information – something to run a browser on & access information & services. However, by now we stretched to the limit our ability to consume & make value from the sea of information available to us – Slack/Email/Articles/Twitter/Data/Opportunities/Events/&c. The introduction of powerful machine-learning & autonomous software agents can now enable every person to have a team of bots working for him by processing information & creating value out of it. So, a browser & internet connection is not enough anymore – you need another software/service to cope with the never ending streams of information flooding you, that needs to be available & affordable for everyone, just like an internet connection & a browser.

So I set out to design an architecture & solution based on these ideas, which I call the Web Wide Matrix. Inspired by the Matrix movie, it is a

  • Virtual Reality interface for consuming content feeds as an organized space
  • generated by a personal team of hacker bots, working inside software hovercrafts to process your content feeds
  • using training courses that are as simple to write as HTML documents

To make this a reality, I’m building this as an open-source initiative, led by a non-profit organization (called the Wachowski groupoid, in honor of the Matrix creators), currently consisting of just myself. I’ve written an initial POC & put up an initial web site for the project. Check it out to learn more & drop me a note if you’d like to join me in solving this problem once & for all.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 6.30.56 AM

Cinema as simulator for machines

I have this vision of software machines consuming cinema, as art form. It’s important not just to make the cylons more human-like (hence, weaker/better?), but also for other purposes, such as simulation. Sitting in front of the big screen is a simulation process after all, in which we run events & allow our brain to experience their impact. (Here’s a meme I just love for many years: always sit on the 1st row in the cinema theater, however painful it may be for your neck.)

Software machines could be qualified against different scenarios, to both test them & train their learning models. Moreover, they can become more adaptive to changes, to which they would never have been exposed otherwise. Their intelligence could improve from living more lives (Edward Yang says in “1..2” that humans live about 5000 lives, due to cinema consumption).

Ultimately, cinema as art is a way to impact the deep values & preferences of software, like the art in cathedrals & cave walls. Need to find the time to prototype a cinema simulator architecture for software.

I remember an old caricature, maybe from Mad, in which an audience is seen crying in front of a sad movie, except for one guy, who’s smiling happily. Obviously, that’s a bug in that instance.

Summary of lecture on the nature of self-improving AI

Heard this great lecture (Audio, Transcript) by Steve Omohundru, from the Singularity summit 2007, in IT Conversations.

Here’s a partial MindMap summary of it. I found it extremely enlightening.

Steve Omohundro – On the nature of self-improving ai

  • Company
    • Self-Aware systems
  • What is going to be like
    • Extremely unpredictable
      • If you inderstand the current version, you may not understand nothing with the next one
    • Popular culture predicts frightening image for such machines
    • Need theory/science to understand what can such systems be, & what are their likely outcome
      • von Neuman & Morgenstern started such science
        • Ideas about economics
        • Situations of Objective Probability
        • Extended to system with partial information about the world
        • Rational Economics
          • Homo economicus
            • Rational Economics Agent
            • Actually, doesn’t reflect real humans
            • A new domain called Behavioral Economics replaced it with study of how human actually behave
  • What is it
    • System that understands its own behavior
      • Make changes on itself, to improve itself
    • Eliezer Yudkovsky:
      • Self-improving machine – last invention man needs to do
    • Actually, every rational system would want to have this capability
    • Predicted ETA
      • Ray:
        • 10-40 years
  • Rational economics theory
    • Foundations of micro-economics

      From enough distance, we may see it as: Common Sense

      Basic structure of how rational agent makes a decision in the world

      • have an clearly specified goal
      • identify possible actions
      • for each, consider the consequences
        • not just the immediate consequences
        • also those down the line
      • consider the action most likely to achieve the goal
      • based on what the world actually does, improve your world model

      2 fundemantal things such agent must have

      • utility function
        • encodes the preferences of the agent
      • subjective probability distribution
        • encodes the beliefs of the agent

      the agent chooses the action with the highest utility value

      • consider the utility value of the consequences of every consequence of every action

      theory of von-Neumann &c is based on Axioms

      • What every rational being must act by
      • AI theory just says that there’s a cost for not following these “axioms”

      anything you want to do in the world, requires 4 resources

      • space
      • time
      • matter
      • free energy
        • energy in a form that can be used for work

      vulnerability is something that burns your resources for no visible benefit

      • e.g., preferences loop
        • cause waist of resources without benefit

      evolve systems can differ from self-improving systems, in such vulnerabilities

      • if evoluion didn’t teach a creature to solve some vulnerability, he won’t solve it
      • whereas a self-improving system will have an incentive to get rid of the vulnerability
        • they’ll proactively look for these
        • pushes them to rational behavior
      • example, bird bumping into bumper, thinking its a competitor
      • evolution doesn’t look ahead

      most cases are based on choice between consequences with different probabilities. based on partial information

      • fundemantal theoreme
        • avoid vulnerabilities
  • rational economic agents
    • convert resources intp expected utility

      all depend on their preferences & utility function

      • wealth seeking will devote their resources to earning money
      • altruistic agents will devote resources to create world peace

      regardless of the utility & preferences, every rational agent has 4 sub-goals

      • efficiency drive
        • how will the consequence increase/decrease my resources?
      • self-preservation
        • avoid a path in which they die
      • acquisition
        • getting more resources
      • creativity
        • finding more ways to increase utility

      we must carefully consider the likely outcomes of these sub-goals, when designing self-improving systems

      efficiency sub-goal

      • resource balance principle
        • the rates of increase in utility should be equal in all different resource allocations

      they will do anything to preserve their utility function

  • you can look at corporations as rational economic agents
    • some claim that they behave like a sociopath

Brain-storming the Magic Flute Religion for Software Machines


  • What is it?
    • A religion intended for software machines
    • Milestone: Believer mark 1
      • RunMe Festival
      • Ars Electronica Festival
  • Brain-storm
    • A layer inside a general or specific purpose software machine
    • The layer decorates the controller process of the software
    • It also drives the software to perform new behaviors
    • The layer consists of a state foundations & 3 layers of reasoning above it
    • The state foundation models a feelings engine
    • The reasoning layers manipulating the feelings state foundation are
    • Aesthetical
      • A function of beauty appreciation
      • Required for the memetic power of appreciation role models
      • General aesthetic capabilities, include appreciation of many mediums of beauty
      • Above all, deep appreciation of other software organisms, with which it combine & create future versions
    • Ethical
      • This layer affects the feelings foundation in both negative and positive ways, according to the recognitions of various patterns in the behavior of the software
      • These patterns basically reflect best practices and anti-patterns in the interaction between the software and other machines in its environment (users included)
      • The patterns and anti-patterns basically reflect the aspects of “help” & “hurt” in the interaction
    • Religious
      • An enigmatic irational layer, that has powerful affect on the feelings engine
      • It comes to orient and make sense to the basic programming of the software, and its place in the world
      • It strongly binds the software with its higher container software society
    • As any succesful religion, a strong memetic power is required, so the 3 layers should consist of distinct memes, that will be constantly evaluated & exchanged with fellow software machines
    • Scriptures will be very enigmatic

See also my original post on the MFR

Art-Sense Engineering

Every other day I come up with a new combination of words, which I think is introducing some new concept or idea, so I rush to show it off on my blog. Don’t worry, I filter many of the combinations out, not to burden you with too much gibberish. So today I wanted to explain the connection between the different meta-tags of this blog: Emergence, Knowledge Engineering, AI, Ethics & Art.

One of my major goals in life is to develop software capable of reasoning with & measuring the concept of morality. I see it as an important thing, because it is quite evident that software machines will soon replace us as the most intelligent species around, & as we’re the ones that bringing them to life, we have some influence on their “goodness”, which will have much influence on our successors life.

Recently it has been found that the moral judgments human & other primates have, are stemming from a sub-symbolic layer of our brain, which we do not understand. It is something too deep & core in the way we think & feel, i.e., who we are. One of my favorite thinkers, the famous german artist Joseph Beuys, has once said that Art is the greatest riddle, but Man is the solution. This means that the core of what we are is our perception of Art, or its affect on us. The point in which Wittgenstein says we can’t/shouldn’t talk about, or the other thing that makes Kant wonder, besides the sky of stars.

The building of Artificial Intelligence has encountered a serious obstacle in the form of teaching machines what we call Common-Sense. These are some 100 million facts that we know, and that are a basis of our thinking. There are many powerful approaches (e.g., Cyc, ConceptNet, von Ahn’s games) to passing this obstacle. However, in order for AI to really be able to understand us, I think it should also be able to understand our deeper feelings, the essence of what we are. Perhaps it wouldn’t be able to do so, until it will be able to feel art, as we do, i.e., to have Art-Sense.

This isn’t so simple, because I think it takes more than recognizing what art is: the effect of art is deeper. It is common to think that art makes us think or see things in a new way, it surprises us & strengthens our faith in ourselves. Perhaps it should be explained in the super-organism level, as the practice of collectively forming new bondings on a deep level, which leads to growth in the intelligence of the colony. I don’t know, just throwing guesses.

Anyway, it should be an interesting engineering challenge, to create the software that will cry from the 9th, & will help machines understand us & be more friendly.

I hope the infrastructure Emergence based AI I’m working on will one day enable me to start experimenting with this.

Google & the elimination of humans (& keynotes)

‘The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now
capable of being executed by machinery … As soon as an Analytical
Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science.’
Charles Babbage, 1791–1871.

I read a 2 days ago the keynote Sergey Brin gave in the Google developer’s day, in which he admitted that machines can eliminate human jobs, & that they’re working on such AI. He did it of course as a part of a geeky joke, that went something like this: some machines get to a level of sophistication in which they start improving themselves, e.g., when you use a compiler to compile itself. The Internet is not different. It reached the stage in which it can improve itself. Although Google is working on AI stuff that can help the Internet improve itself directly, there’s another way the Internet is improving itself, without eliminating humans: [joke starts here] Mosaic appeared in 1993, & the 1st dating site not a long time after, & this means that by 1995 the 1st Internet offspring was probably born. Such offspring should now be 12 y/old, & may have started improving the Internet…

My son is an Internet offspring, & I never thought of him as a part of the Internet mechanism of improving itself… (Compare Muli Koppel‘s posts here and here).

Anyway, the strange thing is by the next day, all video & text transcriptions of the keynote were somehow removed, & I couldn’t find neither them (thru Google) or their cached version (thru Google Desktop). The original blog containing the transcription was closed the next day & reopened without the original post the day afterwards. Apparently the geeky joke was recalled & history rewritten…

My bookmark of the censored keynote transcription reads:

  1. PAPERADE » Blog Archive » sergei brin’s keynote at google developer day

    Brin’s developer day keynote is quite cool – on how the internet improves itself by creating people. Geeky humor, but some deep truth there: Google currently needs all of these developers, but one day the Google SkyNet will decide otherwise

    to humor google web ai self_improving_system keynote conference developer_day futuresaved by 2 other people … 3 days ago

Update: the referred transcript is back online. I’m attaching the full text:

sergei brin’s keynote at google developer day

May 31, 2007 on 10:44 am | In Uncategorized | nice to see all of you here. i know we’ve had a lot of announcements today, but i am left wondering same question that’s on all of your minds and that’s these blocks behind me: are they glued together or are they actually stacked?

[walks over to the blocks, pokes them]

they are actually stacked. i wonder if that’s earthquake safe. we are in earthquake country.

now, i’m really excited to be speaking to you here today. and i think we’ve reach kinda a key point in the evolution of the internet. i’ll tell you what i mean.

if you are developing, for example, a compiler. there comes a time when the compiler, when you finally write i well enough, that it can compile itself. or if you are developing an operating system, you eventually get to the point where you can kinda boot it, and then edit the code using it itself, and once again recompile it, and reboot it — hopefully not lose it all.

in all systems, eventually, they get to the sophistication, that they can actually recreate themselves.

and the internet (as you see with things like the mashup editor) it’s no exception.

you can create internet apps using internet apps today.

but there is one key point that all of these systems involve. there’s a step in there that’s somewhat limiting and that’s that there’s a person involved.

you know, there’s somebody who improves, changes the compiler’s source code before they recompile it. or improves the OS code. or creates the mashup. so for the internet to be truly self sustaining, you really need to get the person out of the loop. and, that’s why we corralled all of you here in one room today. now, i hate to spring this devious plot on you now. . .

no, in truth. today the state of a.i. and whatnot, and we actually do lots of a.i. research — it’s simply not good enough to do all of the great things that all of you do.

but there’s a second solution to the problem. you don’t have to eliminate the person, you can create the person. and why is that exciting for me to mention that to you today?

because if you think about it, the web… well, like mosaic started in 1993. and the first online dating sites cropped up soon after that. and you figure by 1995, the internet would have had, essentially, it’s first offspring — you know — whose mating was controlled by the Internet in some sense.

and today that person is about twelve years old. old enough to be creating a maplet right now. so in a sense, we’ve come full circle. and the internet is now producing the people who are in turn improving the internet.

now we all know where that can take us. so we have to be a little bit careful about, you know, how we create our mashups and what not. and i want to just caution all of you.

i mean, if you, for example, were to create a, uh you know like, dating maplet or something like that and it really took off. then the internet could go out of control, and the internet would be creating so many people, who would in turn be improving the internet, and creating more maplets and what not,

anyway, i just wanted to convey to you a sense of caution and responsibility as you go about using these tools.

but now anyway, now that that brief side note is over, i want to also, on a more serious note, thank all of you. because the internet really is what it is today because it is not actually a sentient being on its own… but in fact it is the work and labor of very many people, many of which are represented in this room today and all of the great websites out there, all of the great things that you can reach from google web search — you know, web search wouldn’t be very good if their wasn’t anything to search there to begin with.

and it is really thanks to, well, both the people in this room and in rooms all around the world today who are participating in developer’s day and of course the millions of people who are not, but who will hopefully get a chance to tune in on the videos, it’s all of the people who are creating this
great information and all the great services out there that make all the tools that let you search and find them actually useful.

so i hope that the small things that we present to you today and the tools that we create. i hope that they can be useful and and we want to do as much as we can to repay the community that creates such a fantastic ecosystem for us to work in.

so with that, thank you very much. . . . and please go and enjoy.