Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November is the month of gratitude


November is the month of gratitude. I have to say, I picked a shitty month for that. This month has not been kind to me and trying to find the good in the bad has not been my strong suit. Still, the point of having a theme month is to try to focus on something you need to develop...

I am thankful for close friends and close family. I have to say that at a time when I was falling apart, some people came out to keep me company... people I hadn't expected... people who didn't really know what I was going through. At times, I feel like these people have moved on in their lives without me, but maybe it was just me trying to move on without them.

I had a very hard... change in my life recently. Someone who was a pretty consistent and close part of my life for over a year now no longer is. There is still a lot of pain and anger there (which I won't really go into). It will never be the same, but I should be grateful for what it was no matter how it turned out.

It's a bit dumb... but I am grateful for quality entertainment. Friends aren't always there for you when you need them, and even when they are there, they can't always make you feel better. At times when I couldn't find people to make me happy, I was at least able to stay entertained and engaged with something. As a writer myself, I shouldn't underestimate the value of good escapism.

I'm also grateful that I managed to get my car repaired right before we were hit by a snowstorm, so good job, me!

On the more general side of things, I'm grateful for my iPod and the radio adapter my roommate lent me so I can listen to it during my commute. I'm grateful for the WTF podcast that I listen to twice a week. Its one of the few things in this world that I feel speaks directly to me.

I'm grateful for quality superhero and fantasy films finally being produced. Hollywood is finally starting to catch up to the imagination of those books I digested when I was younger. I'm grateful for Rock Band 3 for helping me to focus my mind and develop my sense of rhythm (if not any genuine musical talent).

... Well, its a start anyway...

Oh, and I'm also grateful for the pic in this blog. Is that fucking great or what?

On Robots

Lately I have been thinking about robots. Specifically, I've been thinking about what the reality of having robots in society will be like and how poorly science fiction has depicted that reality.

First, why are robots almost always made of steel? I suppose this is to make them seem more intimidating, but a plastic body seems much more practical, particularly for a bipedal robot. Something that's more light-weight would probably move a lot easier.

However, a more interesting issue to me is the challenge of AI. Most people think that the human brain is analogous to a computer, but this is a gross generalization and reflects an ignorance of both the human brain and computers.

Computers are precision tools. They are designed to store and calculate information with perfect accuracy. Everything that they do is based on this ability. This is an ability that human beings do not possess which is the very reason that we created them to do this.

Human beings think that they store and process information accurately, but actually we are continually processing information dynamically. Our memory is not so much an experience stored and retrieved as an experience that is constantly being recreated. Our ability to recall information is not based on a table of contents, but rather by our ability to connect ideas and form relationships between those ideas.

In my day job, I'm a video technician and I can tell you that there is a huge difference in the way a human sees things compared to how a computer sees things. Humans look for patterns and function by pattern recognition. Even when you are reading these words, your mind can quickly distinguish between these letters based on simple pattern recognition, but if you try to capture text in video, it will almost always appear blurry because digital video simply maps the color space and create an average color value for each pixel. It cannot identify and recreate a pattern... it simply sees different values.

This is the big difference between the way a computer "thinks" versus how a human thinks. Humans think in patterns while computers think in values. In any clash between man in machine, this fundamental difference in mental process is going to be at the heart of it.

But what would robots want? That's almost impossible to say. Science fiction tends to look at the idea that robots will be treated as slaves and come to resent this. This leads to a very entertaining revolution, but is it likely? If the robots experience no pleasure or pain, would they harbor any resentment? Even if they developed emotions, what would they desire? "Freedom" and "rights" may just be trivial concepts to them.

Would AI value individuality? Perhaps there would be divergent philosophies where one group of robots are fighting for rights as individuals where as others believe individuality is against their nature and reflective of their programming. They might see unity under a single program as a way to escape the limitations of an individual identity that was programmed into them.

What would the limitations of robots be? Would robots be able to smell or taste? The other senses are relatively easy to replicate, but we have never really had any reason to create machines capable of smell and taste. Even if we had such technology, it certainly wouldn't be fool proof. In the dystopic robot uprising, smell might be the best way to tell the difference between a human and a robot in realistic human form.

Also, if the revolution did happen, how would it be fought? I don't think humanoid robots would be punching people like in I, Robot. Would they be giant, all-terrain vehicles with mounted weapons? Insect like swarms? Maybe nanobots carried on the wind and destroying us from the inside? Or maybe it would be a biological war and all they would have to do is distribute a highly contagious virus and wait it out.

Just a little food for thought.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dealing with Depression


"Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika, a WWII survivor, feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he photographed her dressed up as a fictional superhero. To his surprise, she loved it. The photos are a bit comical, but there's an underlying sense of hope, strength and courage in them."

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I'm going to make some changes to this blog. I'm not sure how yet, but less diary and more specific interests. I want to try to use it as a place to publicize my work, not bitch, cry, and moan. We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from my favorite standup comic.

video

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Suffrage

A couple anti-suffrage posters to put you in the voting spirit.


Monday, November 1, 2010

RIP Matt

So I wasn't feeling much better Saturday morning... maybe even a little worse. I seem to be developing little panic attacks. I'll notice myself breathing heavier and my heart beating rapidly when I think about the future and what the hell I'm going to do with my life. I was giving some serious thought to the idea that I have no future in my life...

Then I got home and found out my cousin was killed... murdered, actually...

He was stabbed six times in the chest outside of his work... puncturing his lungs and heart. He was 25.

I don't know how to feel about this. We weren't particularly close. There was even a period when I didn't like him at all, but that had long since passed. I actually just... well, I thought of him as someone normal enough or outgoing enough to really be happy. He seemed to know what he wanted out of life and was going for it.

Now he can't.

And here I was spending the morning thinking my life wasn't worth living. I'd like to say it gave me a new found respect for life... but really... I don't know.

You kind of mentally prepare yourself for accidents or disease... but not murder. Random chance feels more like an act of god. This was an act of man.

It just... He had a lot to live for... I think.

Why am I here wasting my life... while his life was wasted? Why am I alive for no reason and he is dead for no reason?

Should I even be thinking of myself at all when... My problems just seem so stupid when compared to this... I was just thinking about what it would be like to die and what my family would think. And then someone in my family actually dies... someone younger than me...

I'm having trouble believing in any sense of order and sanity in the universe right now. Score one for nihilism.

Rest in peace, buddy.