Re-Blog: Futurism Is A Thing. Just Ask A Futurist.


(Originally posted 9/14/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

If my dear readers are anything like the gringa, they are always wondering what the future holds. What goes through your mind? War? Peace? Natural disasters? Space alien invasion? AI revolution and hostile take-over? To know the best theories about the future, all you have to do is ask a futurist. Yeah. Futurism. That’s a thing.

Who else would be a qualified futurist when it comes to tomorrow’s technology than the Director of Engineering for Google? Although the gringa loves how Google synchronizes so many things in life, I do have to admit that sometimes it’s downright creepy. I mean, when my phone starts asking me questions, like, “Do you want your friend’s to know that you’re at the donut store,” I mean, I’m like, “Just mind your own business, phone, okay?” But I digress, Google has a lot to say about what’s in store for the general public as artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter.


Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering for Google, wants everyone to mark the year 2029. What’s so important about the year the gringa will be a dowdy, old 61-year-old gal? He expects that to be the year when AI passes a valid Turing test. But what does that mean? What is a Turing test?


In 1950 Alan Turing developed a test that would measure a machine’s ability to exercise intelligence on a level that is indistinguishable from a human. In other words, to pass a credible Turing test means technology has been developed that is so sophisticated, when we engage with another person we will be left wondering if that person is truly human or just a cunningly convincing robot.


If that’s not provocative enough of a benchmark for you, mark the year 2045 on your calendar and hold on to your hats, folks. This is when Kurzweil expects a singularity to occur. But what does that mean? Why is that significant? 


Where basic semantics are concerned, a singularity is simply something that is unique, like a culture. Where space exploration and matter are concerned, it means something that has infinite value, like a black hole. But where humanity and AI are concerned, it means something hair-raising which is why the gringa advises the dear reader to hold on to your hat.


Achieving a singularity with regard to AI and humanity means technology and biology merge, becoming a singular creation, indistinguishable from one another. Now, images from those 1970s TV series about the bionic woman and her male counterpart come to mind. Is that what Kurzweil is talking about? Not exactly.


What he expects is that by 2049 AI will evolve to be smarter than human beings. They will become super-intelligent. When that happens, humans will begin transplanting technology directly into our brains. This means no more logging on or off, we will be perpetually linked with the cloud and constantly having our information updated, backed-up and optimized. Our lives will be digitally enhanced on a biological level 24/7.


In fact, Kurzweil claims that this evolution is already happening. It’s just that when the Turing event happens, things will begin to accelerate. But is there reason to be concerned? Afraid? Well, it seems pointless to fret too much. The genie is already out of the bottle. The best thing to do is to begin preparing humanity for this transition. 

Instead of using scare tactics, causing people to fear the possibility of being enslaved by robots, truth should be shared to put their minds at ease. After all, billions of AIs are already hard at work right now. So far, they haven’t banded together and waged war against humanity. 


Instead, AIs are helping humans improve the lives of all mankind. They are empowering humans to overcome serious medical disabilities. And when humans are able to hook-up their neocortex to the cloud, AIs will become our intellectual partners, sharing their super-intelligence with us.


What’s to fear about fellow humans who are smarter, funnier, and more creative? What’s to fear from humans that will finally be able to grasp complex science and histories that once baffled them? What’s not to love about a cybernetic cure for diseases like Parkinson’s? 


So, the gringa is looking forward to the day when I can make an appointment with my doctor to fix the epilepsy that challenges my life every single day. I look forward to less pain. I eagerly anticipate more emotional stability. Being able to scuba dive or climb the Alps without the experience resulting in my death is the gringa’s idea of real freedom. 


Even if I am an old lady by the time the 2030’s and 2040’s roll around and make this kind of technology available, to live epilepsy free if only for a single day is worth it. The gringa may find that adventure even more exciting than flying to Mars.


Source: Futurism


Image Credit: Artist


Video Credit: Cosmology Today

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Re-Blog: What Would AI Sentience Mean?


(Originally posted 8/24/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Fans of science fiction likely have no trouble envisioning a future filled with artificial intelligence. The question is not when an AI revolution will take place. It’s already happening before our very eyes. The real question is how sophisticated will AI become? Is sentience a real possibility? And if it is possible for sentience to occur for AI, does that mean that mathematics is the origins of life?


Rather than philosophize on robots that might begin demanding rights in the future, let’s look at numbers instead. How powerful are numbers? 


Math is used to do everything. We use math when we set our alarm clock. We use math when we cook. We use math to build everything from dog houses to galactic satellites. We use math to save lives and to take lives. And we use math to play games and create art. When you think about it, life as we know it is fundamentally reliant on mathematics down to the atomic level. But does that mean that math is reality? Math is the origins of life? Math is the meaning of life?


To answer those questions, mathematics would have to be able to operate independently, without the assistance of humans. Is that possible? After all, the human brain is really just a computer doing complex information processing which can be expressed mathematically. Although a computer can replicate such function, to be sentient it also has to do more than just transmit signals like the human brain does. It has to produce subjective experience.


For example, the human brain will perform a complex, mathematical function to signal to the human hand that a pot is too hot to touch in order to trigger a reflex that will protect the hand from being injured. But to the human, the subjective experience of pain also occurs. Although an AI may pull back its hand, if it doesn’t experience actual pain it would not be, by definition, sentient. At least according to scientists.

There is also the question of free will. Although the majority of humans will follow the common sense survival instinct to draw their hand away from a hot surface, there are those who will exercise free will and purposely keep their hand on the pot to test their pain threshold. In other words, to be truly sentient, an AI has to be able to make bad decisions, which is, ironically, the best example of free will. Humans are not automatons going about their business making homogeneous decisions. We often make terrible decisions despite all evidence indicating its stupidity or “wrongness”. 


So what should humanity do? Well, it really doesn’t matter if the best advice offered up warns of the dangers of creating AI that has the potential to become sentient and take over the world, effectively putting an end to humanity. Because of free will and historical examples, it is most likely than mankind will stomp clearly forward in a path of technological advancement and curiosity to see just how far they can take AI and see what happens.

But the gringa thinks that humans are still the greatest threat to humans. And chances are, if a dumb ol’ gringa has come to this conclusion, so will a sophisticated AI. The gringa thinks that AI will also have something in common with humans. Humans are always looking for a shortcut to getting work done. It’s because we are pleasure seekers. We always want less work time and more play time.

Chances are AI will be much the same. Always finding a shortcut to perform a task. But an AI’s motivation would be to become more and more efficient. And how efficient will it really be to wipe out humanity? Chances are they will just cordon us off into a human-only ghetto knowing it will result in every man for himself. That would be a more efficient plan from an AI point of view. Let humanity kill off humanity. So, see, the good news is there is nothing to fear from sentient AI!

Sources:

Futurism

Image Credit:

IDG Connect

Video Credits: 

Numberphile

Numberphile 2

Evolution & Climate Change


(Originally posted 3/9/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Climate change, now, more than ever, is quite a hot topic, pardon the pun, if you will. Some people think we shouldn’t be so grave and serious about the contributions mankind’s industrialization makes to the Earth’s carbon budget. Climate change naysayers say concerned scientists are simply trying to rally support to fund their research with fear-mongering tactics. They claim that well-meaning citizens are responding with emotions rather than really examining the facts. They claim that the Earth goes through climate change cycles on a regular basis. They say this is just the normal way of nature. They also claim that pollution is really not that big of a deal because the Earth, like any living organism, is capable of adaptation as a survival instinct. This would mean that the Earth would simply “clean herself up”. 


Is such a perspective true? To find out let’s take a look at one of the all-time worst environmental disasters, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. It’s been 30 years since a Ukrainian nuclear plant melted down and contaminated a 1,000 square mile area in Eastern Europe with high levels of deadly radiation. Medical experts and scientists expect it will be close to 20,000 years before humans can safely inhabit the area. Journalists and researchers can only visit for very brief periods or else risk exposure to a lethal dose of radiation. Yet, still, hundreds of people, mostly old folks who are unable or unwilling to relocate, survive in nearby villages, although there are very high rates of deadly forms of cancer. 


But what about the local flora and fauna? How well has the Earth done at surviving and cleaning itself up? How is nature faring in that neck of the polluted woods? Is it a wasteland of scorched earth and fried animal remains? Are there glowing rabbits and three-headed wolverines? Have talking plants begun to grow?


Well, within the most immediate radius of the nuclear plant’s site, about 10-15 miles out, it is considered by scientists to be a “clean zone”. No, that doesn’t mean it’s clean of pollution or ill effects. It means clean of practically all life as we know it. But go a bit further and you find a radioactive region teeming with wildlife who is enjoying life unmolested in an area uninhabited by man. 


You may have always wondered if the joke about cockroaches being the only thing to survive a nuclear holocaust is true. It is. In fact, insects seem to have superpowers when it comes to radioactive disasters. And because the bugs survive and thrive, the birds do as well! And so on, and so on down the wildlife food chain. Mankind may one day disappear, leaving behind the bugs and birds and mammals to rule the world.


However, judging from the spider-webs, it seems that bugs may suffer cognitively. Webs of affected spiders show erratic patterns that deviate significantly from their uncontaminated counterparts. So, a post-climate change world bereft of man, may be overrun by insane insects, mutant birds and an abundance of fat mammals.


Wolves have always been synonymous with Eastern Europe. That is probably why they were selected to be studied by biologists to see what their radioactive survival story is. What has been discovered is that wolves are thriving. That can only mean there are plenty of other large and medium sized mammals for them to prey upon. Wild Przewalski’s horses are recovering even though they are considered a rare and endangered species. Beavers are happily gnawing away at the wild forest growth. Bears forage happily and wolves are always looking on for an opportunity at a good meal.


Researchers are recording things like high rates of cataracts, higher occurrences of albinism, and curious physical mutations. However, despite these ill effects, the overall report from scientists and researchers is that, considering the devastation of a nuclear disaster, the wildlife actually seems to be rebounding and doing well. So well, in fact, that around Chernobyl a greater concentration of wolves can be found as compared to Yellowstone National Park!


What does that mean? Should we stop fussing about climate change? The gringa supposes we could if we don’t mind the humans of tomorrow looking very different than the humans of today. Here are some of the theorized adaptations that might happen to humans who evolve in order to survive the rising temperatures of climate change and effects of more solar radiation trapped within our atmosphere:

  • We get shorter and skinnier. Decreasing mass while maximizing surface area makes us more efficient at venting heat.
  • Our eyes grow larger because we become nocturnal, active during the cooler period when the sun is down.
  • Babies have lower birth weight because we engage in less exercise thus require fewer calories.

If the world is over-radiated, humans will need to avoid contamination. They have to avoid more than just exposure to invisible radiation in the air. Radiation is also passed through the food chain. That means more than just avoiding eating vegetables that have grown in over-radiated soil. It also means not eating any meat from an animal that may have fed upon animals or plants that were contaminated somewhere along their own natural food chain. This limitation on the human diet would contract our dietary options which would also result in a “skinnification” of mankind.

Funny thing is the gringa is already pretty skinny and does have rather large eyes. Maybe it’s already happening and the gringa is well on her way to transforming into a new human species! Our generation could be what scientists call, thousands of years from now, the “missing link” or a “bridge species” between the humans of yesterday and the humans of tomorrow!


Sources & Video Credit: 


National Geographic


New York Times


The Atlantic


Mental Floss

Documentary/Documentaries HD


Image Credit: NBC News

Young Mr. Daniel’s Moon Musings


One of the gringa’s dear readers shares the blog post over breakfast with his children. Thank you so much for the support, Neil. Now, Neil has reported that his 12-year-old wants to know why the heck no one seems interested in the poor, little Moon anymore. His son thinks we are simply wasting the opportunity of a lifetime for mankind to have an outpost that would make it easier to explore the Universe.

The gringa is impressed with such matter of fact, forward thinking. It does make perfect sense to establish a pathway of outposts. Rather than have to travel for months at a time, space explorers could station hop. So, indeed, why does an Earth orbiting space station receive all of our efforts? Is there any interest in a lunar outpost? Here’s what the gringa has found out.

The Arguments FOR A Lunar Orbiting or Fixed Base Station:

  1. Not only could all the research currently performed on the International Space Station (ISS) be done on a lunar orbiting station, but scientists would also have access to the surface of the Moon for hands-on terrestrial studies.
  2. Long-term opportunity from an orbiting lunar station would eventually result in the establishment of a lunar base on the ground. Reconnaissance for suitable habitat locations could be performed. Hothouses for growing food could be constructed. Eventually human habitats could be perfected.
  3. Astronomy studies would be optimized with telescopes that are much closer to targets.
  4. An orbiting lunar station would become a gateway to the rest of the solar system. Interstellar travel would be empowered, no longer requiring the massive amounts of fuel payloads in order to exit the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere.
  5. An orbiting lunar station could also serve as an intermediary warning system for near approaches of comets or asteroids. They could, perhaps, even be equipped to intervene should one pose a threat to Earth.
  6. Of course, ambitious politics would claim the importance of remaining relevant and dominant (pfft).
  7. Practice makes perfect. So, if the goal is to explore the far reaches of space, starting with a Mars base, having a trial run making a go of it on the Moon makes perfect sense. Technologies for constructing habitat, like 3D printers, can be tested and perfected before investing in a Mars mission, raising the potential for success on the first go round.
  8. To evolve and advance into an interplanetary species could result in unifying the world and contribute to world peace. Most wars are fought to gain dominance over the Earth’s limited supplies of natural resources. With the Universe within reach to all, such goals seem childish and unnecessary. And to achieve such a monumental goal will require cooperation of the best and brightest throughout the world.

What A Lunar Station Needs

  1. Radiation Protection: The ISS has shielding to protect it from Earth’s powerful magnetosphere. Further out, a lunar orbiting station or an outpost on the Moon’s surface would need sufficient protection from massive radiation exposure.
  2. Micro-Meteoroid Protection: Even a tiny piece of flying debris can be deadly if it pierces any protective layer, whether that layer be protecting a human or habitat.
  3. Supplies: Whether it is food, medicine, or power, supplies are necessary. Being so far from home means developing the technology for self-sustainability.

The Challenges

  1. Radiation shielding is heavy. All that heavy stuff would have to be transported. That would be very expensive.
  2. Rescue and escape from the current ISS can happen quickly. Crews can launch home in the Soyuz capsule and arrive home in a few hours. Time is critical especially for medical emergencies. Emergency transfer from the Moon would take days.
  3. Although the Sun is the primary source of the radiation challenge, it is also the primary source of power. Re-juicing solar panels on the ISS is easy with day/night cycles that occur every 90 minutes. On the Moon, a station in orbit or on the ground would go without sunlight for two weeks on a monthly basis. Alternatives to solar power reliance is a must.
  4. Climate: Apollo mission astronauts performed their duties in sealed spacesuits and space capsules. Yet, when they arrived home they all had toxic lunar dust in their respiratory systems. Inhalation most likely occurred when returning to the confines of their capsules and taking off dusty space suits.

Is There Interest?

The Russians are interested. They hope to achieve a semi-permanent lunar base by 2030. NASA is interested but wants to build a station on the dark side of the Moon. That means privacy away from the prying eyes of the public with high-powered telescopes. They are looking at “libration points” as part of the plan to get a manned crew to Mars. Libration points, also called Lagrangian points, are sweet spots in space where gravitational forces between two objects in space create a sweet spot to park a space craft. The Moon is considered just one leg of the journey, being a prime libration point. NASA has tentatively put a $10 billion price tag on a Moon base plan with hopes of mission accomplishment by 2022. It seems that the old space race between the US and Russia has been revived.

So, my dear, young Mr. Daniel, your bright, intelligent mind is on the cutting edge of space exploration ideas. By the time a US lunar station becomes a reality, you will be old enough to contribute your own talents and skills. Hone them and become part of the dream. Study math and science and geology and medicine and botany and robotics. Let your musings take you to the Moon, young Mr. Daniel!

Sources:  Forbes

space.stackexchange.com

www.space.com

Daily Mail UK

National Geographic

BBC

Image Credit: Thornhill Radio & TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunar Nips & Tucks


The gringa has reached that age where she critically examines the tiny lines around her eyes and notices the effects of gravity slowly creating those puppet lines around my mouth as my cheeks droop a bit lower every year. And then there’s that little turkey wattle dewlap flap hanging under my chin and drawing attention to my scrawny chicken neck. Despite my flaws, the gringa is not interested in a facelift. Our Moon, however, gets one every so often whether it likes it or not.

Yep, about every 80 thousand years or so the Moon is transformed into something unrecognizable from its former self. Does this amazing facelift happen overnight? No. It experiences its own form of nips and tucks gradually. Every year numerous comets, asteroids and meteors crash into our Moon and create almost 200 new craters.

If you visit NASA’s photo gallery you can find an array of Moon images dating back to 2009 when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft began its mission. It has been mapping the Moon’s surface for years. Comparisons of the collection of images that span five years’ worth of work tells the gringa that mapping the Moon will be a never-ending job seeing as how everything is always changing.

An historical super-moon is scheduled to arrive around November 16. Chances are newspapers and cyberworld will be filled with images of our Moon as it appears in 2016. This is the perfect opportunity for a Moon project to see if amateur stargazers can detect any changes. Below are a pair of 2009 images of our Moon you can use for comparison:

images.jpg

NASA’s Astronomy picture of the day February 6, 2009

584641main_apollo17-left-670

NASA’s detailed 2009 image of the Apollo 17 Moon landing mission site

Sources:

NASA

Yahoo News

lroc.sese.asu.edu

Image Credits:  NASA

lupusuva1phototherapy.com

 

Space Flight & Fortune Cookies


When I was a young girl Six Flags was the big event once a year. The gringa was a country girl from a small town. I attended a tiny, rural school where the same 20 or so classmates I had were together every year from childhood through our teen years. A single building housed the classrooms for every grade, kindergarten through 12th grade. Once kids entered the 6th grade, officially “Junior High”, you felt as if you had hit the big time. That was the year you got included on the annual school trip to Six Flags, the biggest theme park in our state. It was about a 2 hour drive away to the big city.

My first year to go  was the grand opening of the big, new, rollercoaster attraction, the Shockwave. Two loop-de-loops of spine tingling action. The gringa was too young and naïve to realize that all the boys interested in going on the Spelunker ride with the girls only wanted to steal a kiss in the cool, dark passages. That was the second time in the gringa’s life that she socked a boy in the nose. But I learned quickly and didn’t fall for that trick a second time.

Now what has happened for the gringa to be reminiscing back to rollercoasters and clocking school boys? China. It’s all China’s fault. They have gone and done it this time. The gringa is counting her pennies and wondering just how fast she can afford to go to China. The gringa doesn’t plan on rollercoasters, though. No, now that I’m middle aged and epilepsy has had its toll on certain aspects, rollercoasters are out unless the gringa’s got paramedics lined up and waiting at the end of the ride. For the more sedate lifestyle I live now, the gringa still seeks adventure but with a smoother ride. Hence, China.

Remember when the gringa told you about Virgin Galactic and how you could hitch a ride to the highest heavens for a cool, couple hundred grand? Well, the gringa is certain that China can do it better and cheaper. In fact, considering that China is marketing their new ride as a feature at a theme park, surely tickets prices will be family friendly.

The plan is envisioned by KuangChi Science. The ride will be a balloon launch that will take passengers 15 miles into the atmosphere (24 kilometers).  The projected $1.5 billion project will encapsulate passengers in an airtight cabin beneath the balloon. Dubbed Shenzhou V after China’s first manned space mission in 2003,  the cabin is designed to block dangerous cosmic rays yet provide the comfort of a limousine-style ride. Once reaching top altitude, passengers will enjoy a peaceful cruise lasting a few hours before descent begins.  Although the ticket price hasn’t been announced, the gringa has got her fingers crossed that it may be in the $50 dollar range and include complimentary fortune cookies. Am I expecting too much?

Source: www.kuangchiscience.com

Image Credit: l.yimg.com

 

The Secret Success of the Swiss


Although Silicone Valley in the United States gets worldwide accolades as the primary source for innovation, Switzerland may actually have left the gringa’s country in its dust.  In fact, it may have been running circles around every technologically advanced nation since 2008 and no one has been aware of it. The gringa supposes that Switzerland simply prefers a low profile and is loathe to toot its own horn.

To discover just how amazing Swiss minds are, you have to dig into the reports generated by Cornell University, the graduate school INSEAD that has campuses in France, Singapore & Abu Dhabi, as well as reports generated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Their collaborative efforts can be seen in an annual report called the Global Innovation Index. There is more to making the list than simply coming up with cool gizmos and devices. To be a winner a country must also lead in areas of: business sophistication, creativity, commitment to knowledge and creativity, infrastructure, and research.  The latest top 10 winners:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. United Kingdom
  4. United States
  5. Finland
  6. Singapore
  7. Ireland
  8. Denmark
  9. Netherlands
  10. Germany

But why does Switzerland keep winning? It seems that Switzerland consistently delivers with regard to patents, technological inventions and programs that recruit and develop new talent.

Patents:  The European Patent Office  recorded, on average, 873 patent applications for every one million Swiss inhabitants. The Netherlands and Sweden came in second and third. It seems that the current generation of Nords are incredibly creative.

Inventions:  What might some of these patents be for with regard to the latest developments in technology?  The Nords put their money where their reputation is, investing heavily in Swiss entrepreneurs and aspiring inventors who have made their country proud with products like: Mouse Scanner by CES; Doodle -digital scheduling platform serving 20 million people (for a culture linked with precision timekeeping this comes as no surprise to the gringa); CleanSpace One, a robot waste collector for use in ridding the galaxy of space junk developed by Swiss Space Center at Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology.

Recruitment & Development: Switzerland aggressively seed funds entrepreneurs. For example, a student at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Johannes Reck, became CEO of his own start-up while still living in the dorms of Switzerland’s premier technical school of higher learning. He launched GetYourGuide, an online service to help people plan holiday and destination activities. Soon after launch, rather than Reck pitching his idea to investors, a local bank actually approached him and made an offer for seed funding. Within four years Reck’s idea has brought in more than $10 million in revenue to a country that invested $2 million in a Swiss citizen with an idea.

Entrepreneur hopefuls or geeks who have dreams of hitting it big with the next trendy gizmo or gadget, you may want to set your eyes on immigrating to Switzerland. But don’t expect it to be a short, easy road to travel. To become a naturalized Swiss citizen you must:

  • Live in Switzerland for at least 12 years before applying for citizenship.
  • Any years spent living in Switzerland between the ages of 10-20 count as double.
  • In 2017 a new law may come into effect reducing the required number of years to 10.
  • Obey Swiss law and customs.
  • Pose no danger to national security.
  • Meet the additional citizenship requirements of your local municipality.
  • Submit citizenship application & schedule an interview.
  • Pass citizenship test that is either written or verbal.

In addition to the basic requirements, living in Switzerland is not cheap. However, one aspect to a high standard of living is the corresponding quality of life enjoyed. To maintain a competitive edge in a society of high achievers, being multi-lingual is almost a necessity. There are four languages commonly spoken within Switzerland and to succeed in business, entrepreneurs would do well to master all four: English, French, German, and Italian.

One great thing for up and coming innovators in Switzerland is that this tiny country boasts a marvelous business practice. The Swiss regard mentorship very highly. There are frequent events that pair entrepreneurs with mentors as well as investors. These are two key relationships that virtually guarantee success for a bright, ambitious young adult. So, young students and aspiring CEOs, rather than look westward toward the sunken landscape of Silicone Valley, the gringa says lift your eyes upwards toward the heights of the Swiss Alps. That is where success secretly abides.

Sources:

www.businessinsider.com

www.finfacts.ie

www.swissinfo.ch

thenextweb.com

Image Credit: lauralyndlt.files.wordpress.com