friday’s finds #300

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. My initial post in this series was made in May 2009. The first three years of these posts were weekly. This is the 300th post of my Friday’s Finds.

@SebPaquet: “Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play.”

Warren Buffet: “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.” via @dankeldsen

@R0BY0UNG: ‘On the train today, the guard said, “We’re now arriving at the wealthy town of Wokingham. Mind the gap … between rich and poor” Inspired.’

Yochai Benkler: The Right-Wing Media Ecosystem

“If we think that fake news is the problem, we ask questions like, how can Facebook and Google change their advertising algorithms to deter people trying to make a buck? Or, how do we create a Facebook flag for users to forewarn of fake news? This may not be entirely irrelevant, but fundamentally, when we understand that we’re in a universe of disinformation and propaganda, we face the basic question of: How do we maintain a democracy in the presence of intentional efforts to deny the validity of basic methods of defining the range of reasonable disagreement? How do we maintain democracy when all the professions that claim to have pre-political basis for shared knowledge, on which citizens can come together to understand their shared fate, are challenged? It’s journalists, it’s scientists, it is judges, each of these mechanisms of independent judgement are challenged. How can we hold governments accountable when shared knowledge of certain facts are lost?”

Macron and the Nordic Model

“For a very long time, the political struggle has stood between one ideology that hailed the market as the solution to almost every problem and that put emphasis on deregulation and privatization. On the other side, the traditional left, not least in France, has seen the market as the incarnation of all things evil. Research on what creates the greatest degree of human well-being now provides a different and fairly clear answer to which model performs best. Namely, that there is a particular combination of market and political regulation that delivers the highest degree of human well-being. This and the choice of Macron can indicate that we are facing a new political shift in history. If the meaning of democracy is the realization of the ‘will of the people’ it is reasonable to think that this ought to result in better living conditions for the people.”

The Thoughts of a Spiderweb via @gideonro

‘Proponents argue that when animals build these artificial structures [e.g. webs], natural selection starts to modify the structure and the animal in a reciprocal loop. For example: A beaver builds a dam, which changes the environment. The changes in the environment in turn affect which animals survive. And then the surviving animals further change the environment …

… And as with niche construction, natural selection affects the structure — different kinds of birds have evolved to build different kinds of nests, after all. But in the extended phenotype perspective, that selection ultimately just works inward, to tweak the controlling information in the animal’s genome.

[perhaps] … “The web is actually a computer, as it were,” he [Vollrath] said. “It processes information and simplifies it.” In this view, webs evolved over time like an extension of the spider’s body and sensory system — not so much its mind. Vollrath’s lab will soon embark on a project to test just how webs help the spiders solve problems from the extended phenotype perspective, he said.

While Japyassú, Cheng and others continue to look for extensions of cognition outward into the world, critics say the only really strong case is the one with the most metaphysical baggage: us. “It is conceivable for cognition to be a property of a system with integrated nonbiological components,” Cross and Jackson write. “That seems to be where Homo sapiens is headed.”’

Intelligence without Brains (long read)

There is not a single AI system or robot out there today that is even remotely as smart and successful as your average Joe Bacteria.

To summarise what I have described above:

  • bacteria can self-replicate in several ways and survive in and adapt to the most hostile environments,
  • when needed, they can modify their own genetic machinery and code (this is equivalent to an AI system modifying its own source-code while it is running it),
  • they constantly and successfully fight off and kill many and often much more powerful enemies,
  • they can build decoys to distract and fool enemies,
  • they can move around and navigate autonomously and find and digest other cells (and hence win energy),
  • they can build their own attack or defensive weapons (viruses, CRISPR),
  • they can change and control their own protein folding process,
  • they can influence and manipulate their enemies,
  • they can communicate with their kind and other species and the environment in many different ways and on many different levels and act upon the communication,
  • they are social and can build (temporary) alliances and colonies of any size whenever needed.

To build an AI machine or robot with all these powerful skills and features will probably take all of mankind many more decades and will cost many billions of $$ !

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