Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Yes Men and Echo Chambers

So here we are, 11 March, 2018 8:42 am (feels like 7:42 am). Flat Earthers are on the rise and drinking coffee will extend your life. With regard to the Flat Earther’s, Neil Degrasse Tyson blames free speech and a failed educational system [1] . With regard to coffee, apparently, even if you smoke, you get the beneficial effects of a lower mortality rate by drinking coffee daily [2]. Don’t mind if I do...

OK, in these two ideas we have a perfect example of the twisted life we lead inside current social media spheres. The flat earth belief is widely ridiculed but nevertheless promulgated, specifically, perhaps, because of its worthiness to be ridiculed. Yet some still really do believe and the number grows. And the other tidbit concerning coffee is music to our ears. Specifically, since so many of us drink coffee and eschew the criticism of caffeine addiction brazenly because it’s one of the very few indulgences that is politically acceptable to both the left and right. And now it may be good for us. It’s less clear that we have the same views politically on a failed educational system, but certainly, criticizing education is less a third rail in polite society then is gun control for example. Of course it’s not the parents fault...it’s not the parents who have failed (read with deep sarcasm). So it must be the dumbing down of society and our long fall from Biblical principles that has eroded our moral base and directly precipitated the necessity to arm teachers inside our failed public schools. After all, guns don’t kill people...let’s say it together everyone...people do. Thus the 2nd Amendment remains good and inviolate. 

So is Neil Degrasse Tyson actually suggesting that the 1st Amendment is bad? I like Tyson and I don’t like Flat Earthers (FYI I don’t know any Flat Earthers). I definitely believe something is wrong with our educational system (and our parents). But I disagree with Tyson as I don’t think it’s our educational system that is producing Flat Earthers. And I have a lot of trouble believing it’s our 1st Amendment that is producing them either. I don’t see many 1st Amendment speeches about the right to believe in a flat earth. I do see a lot of speeches about other weird things...thus I have concluded that weirdo’s really do exist. But haven’t they always, even without Twitter? Just ask someone from 13th Century about the Cathars and who the weirdos were at that time. And they didn’t have a 1st Amendment to hind behind or the excuse of a failed public education system to complain about. Yet they existed--past tense “existed” because the Catholic Church was both ruthless and successful in their extermination. About all that remains as household knowledge of the Cathars is the famous line from the siege of B├ęziers, “Kill them all, God knows his own” [3]. And of course they did...kill them all. Every single weirdo. But the question remains, where did these weirdos come from? Those that would be different. Those that dared to think outside the normalcy of society. They must be the product of something...perhaps a flipped gene, or better yet, a left over gene from the Neanderthal. Part of the DNA we all share if you happen to believe that it was ever possible for a homosapien Capulet and a Neanderthal Montague to successfully copulated.

So where do weirdos come from? I write this blog freely acknowledging that there will be a cult of weird that I am insulting. I fully anticipate a backlash of hurt feelings from both the clans “Weir” and “Doe” asking me to cease my assault on their 1st Amendment protections and right to exist in society. Should they appear to protest I apologize in advance and expressly state that I do not mean “you” specifically, and will say snowflake under my breath. This is nothing new and weird has been around for a long time. Long before the Flat Earthers, long before the Cathars, and long before the Neanderthal. Unfortunately the Neanderthal boyfriend was just a little too weird for the homosapien father who couldn’t stand idly by and watch it happen. Thus, in an act of fatherly rage (and ownership of both a .45 and a shovel) dad put the hairy boyfriend with elongated forehead to the stone. Alas his protection of the family tree was a little too late to avert the preservation of the Neanderthal gene and so here we are with a little Neanderthal in all of us. Weird isn’t new. We, as homosapiens, are a pretty weird lot since the beginning. We’ve managed to survive and move to the top of the food chain, a place we don’t actually belong if you’ve ever spent some time with a lion, a tiger, or bear in the wild. Oh my, it’s weird that we are even here. Isn’t it an abomination to the natural order of things? Thankfully, the natural order has a way of adjusting for things out of balance. Just look around. Call it God. Call it the Anthropic Principle (either weak or strong), or call it evolution. Balance is maintained. Yet imbalance is still necessary. In chemistry the equivalence point is when the ratio of acid to base is 1:1. Rarely do you find this ratio. Most of the time things are reacting with one another. So too are humans reacting to other humans. Some violently. Some less so. We react more violently to the weird...or is it the different. Maybe we are just a bunch of acidic chemicals with an approximated street value of $4.50 [4] reacting the the base chemicals around us?

So what really brings me to my rant today? It’s two movies straight out of Hollywood and popular culture. The first, “Wonder Women”. The second, “The Shape of Water”. Wonder Women brought in close to $400M at the box office last year. The Shape of Water won the Academy Award for Best Picture although with significantly less revenue. Wonder Women didn’t get a single nomination but was widely acclaimed. The movie was packed with the same story we’ve been told for decades, Diana is the daughter of the Queen of the Amazons, etc. Her first telling in 1941 by DC Comics [6] long before Gal Gadot was cast in the role. The fish story, however, was a bit different, and seemingly new to many people. But not really. Guillermo del Toro was just retelling the story of a lonely creature that has also been around for a long time, since 1954 [5]. This lonely creature, of course, is “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, and was one of my favorites as a kid back in the 1970’s. All of the monster films back then had a similar theme. The monster always falls in love with the beautiful woman. King Kong, Dracula, etc. Yet whereas Wonder Woman struck a cord of mass appeal, del Toro’s new creature drew aversion is some circles, even though, like Wonder Woman, the creature was portrayed as a deity. And this brings up the familiar theme of hypocrisy. Why are we such hypocrites? It’s ok for Chris Pine to bed a goddess, Princess of the Amazon, but it’s not OK for Sally Hawkins to make her own choice. Even though, at the end (spoiler alert) Hawkins is revealed to have a bit more fish DNA in her then was previously known. That aversion, more than anything else, is what divides us as a nation. Things that are different, things that are weird to us, even though hypocritical to our principles, is what divides us. It is what has always divided us.

We are all hypocrites. Admitting that we are hypocrites is the step one. That’s actually a pretty easy step to take because no further action is necessary. But should we want to take action, what is the next step? Those of us familiar with any “12 Step” program know that Step 2 is to believe a higher power could straighten things out. Well, in this case, our aversion to things different is deeply seated in our DNA. Aversion is an instinct. It keeps us safe from harm. Things more like ourselves are less likely to kill us...even though...history tells us the exact opposite is true. Most murder is committed by someone we know. Not the stranger. Even the school shooter, most of the time, is someone known by or connected to the victim. Is arming more people we know with guns the solution? The right says yes. The left says no. The right is comfortable with guns. The left is not comfortable with guns. Having a gun is normal. Not having a gun is normal. We are at a standoff.

What needs to happen if for both sides to walk a mile in each other’s shoes. Easier said than done. Here on social media some attempt to post things hoping the other side will see their perspective and change their mind. Some conversation ensues. A few thoughtful people try to keep the peace. Ultimately we retreat to a safe corner where a friend with our beliefs will give us a comforting pat on the back. Keep up the good fight and all that...

You should surround yourself with perspective. Not yes men and echo chambers. You should surround yourself with things that make you uncomfortable. Not so that you can eventually feel comfortable but so that you can understand what’s really going on when someone says they believe in a certain way. If someone is doing something repeatedly they are doing it because 1) they like it 2) they have always done it that way 3) they don’t know another way to do it. I am reminded of the story of the young person who left their small town for the first time and went to the big city. They saw a very familiar looking sign in front of a restaurant and explained, “Oh wow! They have a McDonald’s here, just like us!”. Now many of us would laugh, I would laugh, and the young person would probably not know why. To them that sign reminded them of their hometown, their parents, their friends, their first cheese burger, or their first McBreakfast (Pancakes and sausage, Bricktown New Jersey, circa 1975). They would have no way of knowing, or ever seeing the 69 million daily customers or 37,000 other McDonalds signs in front of all the other restaurants in over 100 other countries [7].

That said, an expanded worldview is not enough. You have to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. Which means to start you have to get out our your own small mind and at a minimum leave the echo chamber. It’s an echo chamber of lies. This goes equally for both sides, it’s a echo chamber of lies. And yes men make it worse. Just because Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity don’t look like you fools you into thinking you’re not looking in the mirror. You are. Just because Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher doesn’t look like you fools you into thinking you’re not looking in the mirror. You are. It’s the same lie, just reflected back to you off the walls of ignorance. 

And now the danger, and of course here is where I leave the winding road of independent thought and show a little of my bias and reflection of an echo chamber. You can tell me it’s not true. You can tell me I’m listening to my own reflections on this issue. But I ask you to consider it at least a little bit two things from another persons perspective.

1) In my echo chamber of a mind the National Rifle Association is out of balance. It has become isolated and it’s own source of truth...which of course is self perpetuating. And once truth becomes rooted in it’s own echo chamber, with no input from the surrounding environment, it may deviate from the truth. It’s easy to tell from the external observer, who’s standing in the surrounding environment, why what they say is no longer true. For those standing in the echo chamber, it’s impossible for them to see anything but truth. What’s important here is to simply recognize that the echo chamber exists...to at least question if what you are hearing is an echo and maybe just look for another perspective.

2) In my echo chamber of a mind President Trump is becoming more and more isolated and is now almost completely surrounded with Yes Men? He is now deep within his own echo chamber. Some supporters, very few, have broken ranks. Again, I’m not asking that you believe me, I’m just asking that you consider the possibility that an echo chamber exists and the recognize the dangers of perpetuating echos above truth.

Shared perspective is what we need. Because weird is necessary.  Different is necessary.  Different perspectives could unify us because they help us survive when the world is changing around us.  When the water is rising it's the weirdo who knows how to live in the mountains that will lead the way. But reading a paper doesn’t actually allow you to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. You need to go live in the mountains. Neither does watching the news or going to the movies. You have to actually do the walking.  You have to go meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  And that’s extremely difficult to do inside social media...I suggest, at a minimum, take a mile walk outside of the echo chamber...and when you do, please do not carry an electric cattle prod...


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Expected Value of Gun Used in School Shooting

Here is something completely unexpected.  I set out to determine if my proposed buy back of an AR-15 from a friend was too much money.  Was I paying too much for the weapon?  It appears that at least a few of my friends were laughing at the notion, and further, if someone took me up on the offer, they would be laughing at me all the way to the bank.  My original thought was that they are probably right.  I didn't do much research to come up with the $750 as I was more or less taking what appeared to be a fair market value for a rifle that was legal, operational, and in fairly good condition.

By estimating the value based on probabilities I learned something more important than the concept of fire power...or more specifically that we should restrict the amount of lethal fire power that any single person could tote into the public square.    What I've learned is that beyond fire power there is a draw to these weapons that transcends most descriptions of simple inanimate objects.  The draw to these weapons is the potential for each weapon to cause damage.  It's the opposite of the value of tools.  Go into the Home Depot and you can rate tools on their ability to build something.  To create something useful out of nothing.  Yes, a circular saw is an inanimate object, but in the hands of a home owner becomes a tool that enables some pretty sophisticated carpentry.  So reversing again back to fire arms, the damage potential that any single gun will possess is directly  related to it's ability to inflict damage. Can I kill a wild boar with a single shot at range?  Can I stop an intruder at close range before they can harm my family?  Each of these things carry value that is hard to quantify.  The wild boar could be calculate based on damage to agriculture and the amount of time and money spending to eradicate the pest.  The value of home defense is almost impossible to place a number value on.

But I was doing different math.  I was trying to determine the probability that any single gun, of the 300 Million plus currently in circulation in the United States, would be used in a school shooting.  And from that, assess the Expected Value of that weapon.  Until I did the math I couldn't put a number on it.  Of course these numbers really don't mean a lot in a practical sense, but they do show something more tangible, dollars, numbers we can all relate to in a way to get some insight on value.

The number that emerged was $2,161 in Expected Value.  I define this value as the expected dollar value that is associated with any single weapon used in a school killing to take a single life.  This should then be the dollar value we, as a society, should be willing to pay to take that weapon off the street.  What is immediately clear is that I underestimated the dollar value of a weapon  potential use in a school shooting.  What is the exact number?  That's unimportant.  What's fascinating is that it's clear that the destructive value of these weapons will always far exceed their "street" value.  This is an intangible that's almost impossible to grapple with.  But if you've ever held a fire arm in your hands and have been unable to grasp it's draw....not unlike holding a precision tool (but not being a carpenter and knowing with to do with it) or a musical instrument (but not being a musician and knowing what to do with it) we all know we are holding something that should be taken care of, something of danger that should be respected, and something of value.  I now have another number, beyond energy in Joules, to talk about this subject.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A New Perspective

I  read this article today. 


It is  well written and mostly true. I have a philosophical difference regarding what's necessary to ward off tyranny. But what's more important I'm disgusted with the notion of an American killing another American should the law of the land require some level of disarmament that doesn't jibe with someone else's philosophy. AR-15s already don't jibe with my philosophy but I'm not starting a blood bath over it. There is an inconsistency in thought here...I can only point it out. I can't make it understood... so here is a new perspective...

Since I've been accused of focusing on the inanimate object of a gun and not on the real issue of violence that is rooted in evil and the moral decay in our society. Which I believe is true in many ways, by the way.

The perspective is this...what is the reason some of us seem to be focused on the inanimate object? Do our gun toting brothers and sisters truly believe our motives are hidden and that, deep deep down inside, we really wish for this Country to be disarmed so that we can overthrow our American way of life? I said this before. Tonight I head out to the movies to take in a viewing of the Black Panther and I happen to be seated next to you. If before you sit down, your jacket swings open to reveal your conceal carry, perhaps a spiffy Glock or possibly a Colt 911, or even better a Ruger Super Black Hawk , I might complement you. I might even feel more secure tonight seated next to you given the sad events of the times. But, if you sit next to me, cradling an AK-47, I wouldn't feel the same way. It's not because the AK-47 is scary. All guns are scary...they better be...they are purpose built that way. It's because the AK-47 doesn't have a place in civilized society.

It's not a weapon of self-protection...and you certainly are not hunting coyotes in the theater. It's not wrong to be philosophically opposed to these guns. You have a right to be philosophically in favor of these guns so to do we to be opposed to them. That's not faulty logic nor is it a conspiracy. Nor am I willing to kill you to take your gun yet the opposite doesn't seem to be true...that you are not willing to kill me should I choose to disarm you. Let me state that again. You are ready to kill me because of my beliefs. I have no desire to kill you because of your beliefs. Let's get back to moral decay. Or at least try to decide who has the moral high ground in that argument... But I digress.

As I work diligently on a compromise, specifically if you are following my blogs, to have a conversation about maximum lethal fire power, not disarmament. That doesn't mean I am against mental health screenings and fixing moral decay. It just means I see something in disproportion to what is necessary in a civil and free society. I disagree with your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and would like to one day see my interpretation win. It doesn't have to win.

Those of us who believe tighter gun control might take a bite out of the carnage we see more and more everyday would just like to give it a try. Would you be comfortable sitting next to someone in a theater who was holding a bottle of acid, something odd but perfectly legal? Or would you be comfortable sitting in a theater next to someone who was sweating, feverish, coughing and clearly carrying the Ebola virus? Our beliefs are just as valid as your beliefs. It's not a conspiracy...that's just some misplaced paranoia. We are not fixated on an inanimate object. We are fixated on a free and safe society where we can enjoy a movie, a concert, an academic lecture,and our American way of life without having to wonder, ever, if this will be our last time. What kind of life is that?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My Unwelcome Battle with Our Robot Overlords

“Shall we play a game?”  Most of us remember that line from “War Games” back in 1983 [1].  Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy racing against time to discover how they can avert the countdown to “Global Thermonuclear War” that they had created by hacking into WOPR, a lonely computer that only wanted to play a game.  A computer that just happened to be in autonomous control of our nuclear command and control system.  Fast forward 35 years and some experts in the field, our very own Iron Man, i.e. Tony Stark, played in the real world by Elon Musk believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) poses an existential threat to humanity in the not too distant future [2].  AI has become ubiquitous.  It exists everywhere.  It has enabled his empire and those who wish to cash in on AI such as Google, NetFlix, and Amazon, to continue to do so.  It will enable many more empires moving forward. Yet we are only in the second generation of AI.  So let me explain AI for a moment. 

The first generation of AI, that which enabled WOPR, didn’t exist back in 1983.  It was only science fiction. That said, WOPR AI was not only fictional then, it remains so. 1st generation AI was driven by logic algorithms, vast nested series of “IF, THEN ELSE” statements stacked up with data so that they could be automated to answer questions faster than a human could respond. The larger the expert system and the faster the processor, the more options that could be considered. A doctor, for instance, culling through a library of symptoms looking for a cure, could be outpaced by the computer.  These were called expert systems.  What was missing was intuition.  A series of logic gates, no matter how vast, will still lack human intuition.  No matter how fast or how much data was thrown into 1st generation expert systems, intuition couldn’t be programmed.  Oh they tried...entire fields of mathematics were developed.  Fuzzy Logic [3], for instance.  How do you program a computer with the nuances of the human mind?  Is the brain analog or at its core has it been reduced to digital?  The debate continues.  The push was for more memory, more code, faster speeds.  On the digital side, all of that was most certainly achieved.  The power of technology we hold in our hands every day, as Arthur Clarke has told us, is sufficiently advanced as to be no less distinguishable from magic [4].  Less so on the analog side.  Physical things make more intuitive sense.  Automobile brakes for example.  The real magic of disk brakes is the ability to turn kinetic energy into heat.  You don’t need to know about the first law of thermodynamics [5] to mechanically intuit that when you step on the brake and squeeze the disks, the wheels will slow down.  The control system is the driver, with his foot on the brake, and the drivers ability to sense the environment.  The magic is in the energy conversion in the physical system...nobody really cares about that...but I digress.  

So first a little analog feedback control theory from the physical domain. Before computers became ubiquitous (and I’ll get to digital systems in a moment) we still had achieved major advancement in technology through analog control theory. In fact most industry of the 20th Century grew up in the midst of industrial control theory.  But then, much like the computer, industry came home.  The rheostat became the ubiquitous development that brought control theory into the living room.  Think about dimming light bulbs and the dial on your toaster.  That is the pivotal device that allows for control of the voltage performing the task at hand, setting the mood or browning your toast.  Good control theory requires feedback.  In the case of the mood lighting, the feed-back is provided vie a human setting the temperature of the lights.   If you can think back to a time when lights couldn't be dimmed, you set the lights on or off.  There was no middle ground.  Same thing with sliced bread.  You could eat it burned or not quite toasted.  The trouble was, it was up to the human, to have a well defined feel for the temperature control.  In order to get it right, some math is required.  If you automate the feedback loop to the toaster, and sensed the temperature of the toast, and fed that back to the temperature rheostat, it is possible to achieve perfect toast, every time.  In control theory it’s called either proportional control where the reduction in temperature is automated to linear.  Or integral control where some some math occurs. Principally calculus is used to integrate the feedback from a sensor into the signal to reduce the temperature over time from max power, down to zero, resulting in perfect toast.  Toasters, still don’t work that way...although they could.  A timer is typically what we use in the kitchen.  A timer is what is referred to as a bang-bang controller.  It lets you know if the temperature control should be on or off.  It’s actually not feed-back at all, it’s called an open loop system and requires a human to make a few estimates on time, and then simply set the time for the required burn on your bread.  If the human is in the middle, sensing the system, however, you can call it a feedback loop.  

The cars we love to drive are chock full of devices that allow the driver to be the feedback loop for the system.  Steering, speed, and braking are the primary ones.  Automation came first in the case of intermittent wipers, then cruise control...to name the big ones, but heated seats, the climate control system, even automation of the volume on your radio, joined the fun.  Driving a car is one huge feedback control loop through the drivers physiology all controlled by your brain to the controls of the car.  All drivers have terrific ability to integrate time and distance in their minds automatically...without taking a single class in calculus.  As you pull up to a stop light, for instance, you don’t slam on the breaks.  You bring the car to a stop estimating the distance to the car in front of you by applying pressure to the break culminating to a slow roll just before the car ceases motion with perfect separation to the car in front of you, and without thinking about it.  If you think about it you will probably jerk the car to as stop. But we do all this math instinctively.  For a car to do this on it’s own is truly a modern miracle of AI and the adoption of digital processors to take over the math.  And now I’m talking about 2nd generation AI.  1st generation AI, that which culled through a database using an expert system, didn’t quite get us there for automotive applications with the possible exception of some early map driven navigation decision aids.  Most automotive control stayed analogue until digital processors became affordable.

Thus, committed to a digital processor, the expert system, which would not work in a car, was  no longer applicable.  A new type of AI was necessary and born.  The type of learning algorithms, those that can be trained by data, became the second generation AI.  This type of learning AI is what is currently setting technology on fire.  It is what Netflix is using to offer you what you would like to watch, what Amazon is using to tell you what you would like to buy, what Google is using to tell you what you are searching for, and of course it is what Elon Musk is using in his Tesla’s to bring us as close to a driver-less car as we have ever been.  2nd generation AI is based on deep neural networks lashed with search algorithms and optimizes.  They aren't actual neural networks such as what's in our brain.  And to argue that they work like our human brain is a sham.  Indeed they are networks, a dense series of branches or paths through a logic tree.  The difference between neural network logic and expert system logic, is that the values on each branch of the decision tree can change slightly over time.  By not locking in the value, the belief is that some of the nuance in human intuition can be achieved by training those values on more data and then optimizing.  An expert system is trained by evaluating the response of several experts.  A neural network is trained by continuously evaluating the responses from all the data (thousands or tens of thousands of responses) available and sensing the outcome in terms of success or no success.  In this manner, most systems, that use this type of AI to drive their feedback loop, can achieve operational success that rivals human operation, and in many cases, can outperform a human operator.   Sadly, and this is where my battle with AI begins, the technology is still a long way off.

Enter NEST into my family.  As an avid early adopter (I’m not an innovator) I already have a Google NEST Thermostat installed everywhere in my life.  The main living area of my house, the upstairs zone, and now I have one down at our beach house. Some of you might think that using a NEST makes me an innovator.  Nope, innovators were the nerds programming their Raspberry Pi to control the temperature of their house ten years ago. I am  just an early adopter.   The true beauty of having a NEST is that you can set the temperature of your house from your phone.  And I do that, more often than not, to annoy my wife. Or to keep my daughter from turning her room upstairs into a sauna.  The beach house is obvious.  I can monitor and set the temperature from 212 miles away courtesy of the internet.  NEST makes the claim that it can save you money on your electric bill.  NEST will monitor your heating and cooling habits, learn from your habits, and then by sensing the environment and the other zones in the house, will be able to optimize control of the temperature settings, to provide the most efficient energy plan.

2nd generation AI is what enables NEST to take control of your thermostat and in theory, your happiness at home, both day to day, and when you have to pay the bill.  Here’s the trouble.  Give me a light switch and I’ll turn the lights on or off.  Give me a rheostat, and I’ll set the mood of the lights in the room.  I’m the feedback loop...just like in a car.  My brain is the sensor that is integrating how I feel with how many photons I need to see reflecting off the book I'm reading in front of me.  The sensor that does this for me is my brain.  It’s integrating light in the room, with the temperature of my skin, and the number of calories I just ingested.  It also adds the fogginess of my brain in the early morning with the amount of light coming in through the window and whether I’m barefooted, wearing socks, or wearing my pullover fleece from Old Navy.  Here’s another factor.  My daughter is never wearing socks and always dressed in a single layer (note sauna temperature referenced for upstairs zone).  And my wife always looks like she’s dressed for an Arctic expedition.  NEST doesn’t know any of this, yet sets to work, with a happy neural network, a lot of technology, and a lot of math, trying to predict the temperature of my house while trying it’s best to keep me happy. That's all bullshit.  I was happiest with NEST and all the AI I allowed into my home for about a week.  During the training phase of the thermostat, NEST responded readily to my commands.  I set it for 68 when I went to bed, it records that, check.  I set it to 72 in the morning when I wake up, it records that, check.  I leave the house for work, it senses I’m not at home, check.  Then of course there are weekends when everything changes.  NEST knows the day of the week, so it tracks that it’s the weekend, check.  NEST is programming my own personal neural network.  Sounds awesome.  But NEST is also watching the habits of my wife and daughter.  Wait, they didn't go to work.  They woke up a few hours later.  Oh, turn the thermostat back up at 10 am.  Nobody ever went to work...oh, they left to go shopping. Turn the thermostat down at 1 pm.  You get the picture. Remember back in school when you took computer programming and they told you, garbage in, garbage out?  Well...it appears that if you program a neural network with garbage you now have a garbage neural network.  

At this point, NEST is in control of my life.  Now that this artificial intelligence is in charge of my life it’s tough to take control again.  Try to change the setting manually and NEST will tell you to wait two hours.  The number of times I give downstairs NEST the middle finger has been growing steadily since adoption. I’ve grown accustomed to just trying to screw with Her.  I call her, a “Her”, because with the disembodied voice of Alexa taking over as our personal assistants, I now imagine all personal assistants  talk like Alexa.  I crank the thermostat up to 80 degrees. I crank it down to 50 degrees trying to get her to respond.  Fuck you NEST, I want some heat in this house, a polar vortex is coming.  Well...now the question is, after all this abuse, will my NEST become self aware and kill me in my sleep.  No matter how many times I scream at her, she never seems to get upset.  When I first brought the NEST Smoke Detector into my life I figured having a Google enabled smoke detector made great sense, the safety of my family after all, is paramount.  And Google knows best.  How many more times will she allow me to tell her to fuck-off before she tells me to go to Hell and fails to alert the family when carbon monoxide levels have become lethal? Presumably because when the polar vortex rolled in, and I was unable to change her setting sufficiently to warm the house I bought in the wrong type of space heater ... those which we are constantly warned about.  

When will NEST become self aware and kill the your family? The answer.  Never.  Not self-aware, anyhow.  Not with 2nd Generation AI.  I can fight with her...but she’s not SkyNet [6].  She’s not WOPR.  She is far from being self aware.  We are still in charge if they will let us.  If we depend on 2nd generation AI, it’s true, we can die.  Sadly, we’ve seen what happens when an early adopter, set their Tesla into Autopilot mode while cruising into the sun.  The AI didn’t see the tractor trailer making a left and stretching across the highway. Joshua Brown becomes the first early adopter of self driving cars to die [7].  The scenario that led to this fatality was caused by what is called a novel experience.  It is the first time the AI encountered those particular circumstance with all of its sensors and algorithms.  It didn’t have a response.  It did nothing.  There are countless novel experiences that the database of automated driving systems must encounter in order to be trained for basic skills.  There are an infinite number of novel experiences that are still to come.  Fortunately for us mortals we are not training self driving algorithms...we are training our NEST at home to keep us warm.  The "experts" are training the self driving cars. Those neural networks are being developed by engineers...and presumably engineers who also happen to be good drivers.  I want my self driving AI to be developed by German automotive engineers...not by engineers at Google, for instance.  And although many of their algorithms started from a common set of algorithms and databases, each developer has modified their version to get a leg up on the competition.  My money's still on the Germans.  Just sayin...

Back to the battle. To me, the last thing we want to do, while implementing 2nd generation AI is to get into a pissing contest with it.  Safe enough, when you are standing cold, wet, and naked in your hallway yelling at your NEST and telling her to get a life, using only hope as a strategy to get the heat back on. We shouldn’t be battling AI in our cars.  Have you ever tried to get your phone to sync with your car while you are driving?  The safety features do not allow you to do this while the car is in motion.  So you do it through the hands free feature, every time you come to a stop light.  Just to be safe.  I’ve never been so close to death, while attempting to do this in a rental-car, while on the unfamiliar highways in Dallas, trying to listen to WAZE give me directional commands at the same time. Just for the record, Audi allows you to fuck with everything while driving.  They know that scenario and they have smartly hedged in favor of the humans with a brain.  They seem to have a drivers experience and are out in front.

Thus, 2nd generation AI isn’t so much an existential threat to humanity by way of SkyNet as it is to simply the adoption of new technology.  The first people who drove cars died.  The speed, lack of understanding of control, and the loss of control, the lack of seat belts, etc.  It’s the technology that will kill us first...before we figure it out.  It’s not that the technology will become self-aware and end us. Isaac Asimov 1st Law of robotics [8] which prohibit a robot from harming a human, or through inaction, allow a human to be harmed, is hopelessly mixed up.  Arguably a robot just allowed the death of Joshua Brown, through inaction.  These two rules in this one law cannot be combined...it must be split into those two very different parts, and dealt with accordingly. Inaction is very different from action.  But was it inaction, or simply garbage that allowed the accident? The robot had nothing to do with it.  The real law here belongs to Clarke not Asimov.  What appears to be magic, like the self-driving car, or the robotic thermostat, is an illusion of intelligence brought about by the 2nd generation AI.  This is the AI that we must ourselves combat because it is all an illusion.  The magic  is hidden from us, thus we cannot fight it.  I cannot fight with the algorithm in my NEST because the math is hidden inside a black box.  I lose every day.  With 1st generation AI, I could at least override, and input my wishes manually if I so desired.  Self driving cars must continue to be this way for sometime to come.  Step on the brake or turn on the blinker and the vehicle will yield to the driver.    And perhaps this is my single biggest complaint with about my NEST...and thus my rant.  There is no manual override... except to pull the plug...the Germans have already figured this out...

As for 3rd generation AI and the coming apocalypse? Ask anyone in technology right now...there is no 3rd generation AI. The self replicating automatons of Norbert Wiener [9] are not yet a thing.  We haven’t invented them yet.  That said, 2nd generation AI might be all we need to put humans out of work.  Is that the apocalypse?  Or will humans just have to get better at using AI as their assistant and thus become more productive as humans?  What we’ve just learned from the poor dude at the keyboard who sent the " Missiles are flying" message to our brothers and sisters in Hawaii recently.  This week he has spoken up and has said he thought he was doing the right thing.  He didn’t hear the “Exercise, Exercise, Exercise” message, he only heard the part of the drill that said “This is not a drill” and he pushed the button [10].  That wasn’t the most significant problem.  As the autonomous system took over, primarily to send out several million text messages and emails, the most significant problem was that they has no way to retract the message.  It took them 38 minutes to figure out how to pull the plug.  That is the essence of the current battle with AI.  It is not time to welcome our new robot overlords.  It is time to make sure garbage in can be controlled with an off switch.  “Hey Google, put a fucking reset switch on my NEST, will you?”  As for cars, if you sense you are an early adopter, fuck Tesla, go buy an Audi...


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Acceptable Lethal Power -- Part Deux

It's sad and well overdue that I am now presenting my analysis on maximum lethal power.  I talked about it in a blog I posted a few years ago.  I called it Acceptable Lethal Power.  But I never presented my math on the subject.  The math is easy.  What's not easy is taking on the 2nd Amendment. But that's not my objective.  I believe in the 2nd Amendment.  It shouldn't go anywhere. My goal is to start a dialogue which generally just asks the question, how much lethal power should we allow citizens to carry into the public square.  And that discussion should lead to tangible ways to view what could end with a reasonable understanding of what should and should not be allowed. Personally I think the numbers speak for themselves.  But first the math...

Energy kills. We already draw the line at what is too much energy.  We don't let citizens have hand grenades, machine guns, or MK 82 general purpose bombs.  It's easy to make that distinction...but I think it's also apparent that we should move the line and here is my rationale.

We should draw the line at the energy sufficient for there to be somewhere between 4 and 5 victims of a murderous rampage.  How can I allow one murderous rampage and disallow another one?  Because we cannot stop all murderous rampages.  In particularly we cannot stop any member of a family from killing the other members of their family.  Unless we all sleep with an on duty officer in our homes at night we can't prevent it.  Whether it be with a gun, a knife, a fire, or other act of negligent stupidity, a family will die and it will be tragic.  If we say the average family is 4 or 5 you've just done the victim math.  The second way you can draw the line at the energy level to kill 4 or 5 in a murderous rage is to examine the most lethal energy we all possess.  And that is the automobile.  It is within our power to drive our car into a crowd on any given day.  Sadly we've been seeing this method of terrorism increase.  But what's clear is that this is not that effective a method of obtaining mass causalities.  A car if driven into a crowd, even at high speed, will lose energy very quickly.  The first few contacts will be fatal.  But beyond that the energy will decrease.  There will still be a number of injuries but beyond 4 or 5 few will be lethal.

So now that I've established the selection criteria I will do the math and show you the result. Here is a table the compares the lethal energy of a number of fire arms common in the US today.  Drawing the line at 4 or 5 casualties it's simple to pull off where I believe we set the standard.  Many of you will disagree.  The question then is over to you.

If you are having trouble understanding where the line is in practical terms, that is if you buy into my argument regarding maximum lethal energy,  it should be clear that assault rifles are out, unless you restrict them to single shot rifles.  And high capacity clips or magazines are also out.  You can still have hunting rifles, handguns, revolvers, and shotguns.  Do we really need AR-15's and AK-47's?  And it appears shotguns with large magazines as well as the highest power hunting rifle should also have magazine restriction.  It's important to note, our latest US shooter did everything right. He accomplished his goal whatever twisted and demented objective he was after. All the fire power and  concealed carry in the world couldn't get to him at his vantage point before he unleashed his murderous rampage.  In my opinion restricting his lethal power would have changed the outcome significantly.  Pleas note the last row of the spreadsheet shows the lethal energy in the single shot musket loaded with black power and minie ball.  It doesn't have the lethal energy to kill in a single shot. This is an important fact should anyone ever want to argue 2nd Amendment rights based on energy alone.

Look at the energy numbers in the table.  Please note the caliber of the AR-15 and the 22 rifle are the same.  The energy in the AR-15 is 10 times that of the .22.  Speed kills just like when driving a car.  It's not the individual behind the gun (or wheel) that causes the fatalities.  It's the energy that does the killing.

For those of you into math here are the actually energy calculations for a single round fired from each weapon.  Weight of each round and muzzle velocity taking from the comprehensive details of Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Free speech protected. Terrorism not protected.

Last week I posted some of my feelings regarding the events in Charlottesville and lost a friend.  I did some things that were my fault, perhaps, because my post was not clear. I mixed in the recent ramblings of the Googler, who’s sexist manifesto pointed out a blind spot in the conservative understanding of corporate diversity in the same sentences as I discussed the existence of racism in my home state.  That was a mistake although there appears to be a link regarding blind spots to be investigated at some later time.  That said, I do not believe my former friend to be a racist. I believe, however, that a huge blind spot exists in his ability to separate rational thinking about free speech protected under the 1st Amendment and from his emotional attachment to our liberties.  We must surmise then that he, like many other Americans, are simply confused by their upbringing, their ignorance, their blind spots, and the current turmoil in our political climate.   After a week of thinking it through I would now like to clear up a few things. Not for him but perhaps for some other friends who might  still be confused.  I fully anticipate losing a few more friends when I am done. I hope not...but perhaps our only hope is to change the future by getting correct thinking out there to our millennials before it’s too late. It’s 2017.  The events of 1861, 1941, and 1961 have advanced our ability to live in society significantly yet we have clearly regressed as the events this past year of illustrated.

To start, there certainly are limits to our Constitutional protections.  Thus, we should not be out there dying for our Country to protect the things that are not protected.  There always have been limits. This primarily comes about because we must live in a society with other people.  You can choose to live in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, outside of society, you are free to do so. Dance naked outside, fire your gun into the air, worship a tree. There are many remote areas of the world where you can disappear into the wilderness, live off the land, fend for yourself, live on a pond, live in a cabin, live in a tent, live in a cave, and write your manifesto.  We’ve seen examples of that kind of liberty many times.  Here are two examples of note.

The first example is Henry David Thoreau. His book “Walden” has inspired Libertarians and civil disobedience for decades.  There is nothing wrong with a little civil disobedience. I can argue that civil disobedience is perhaps the greatest protection of our freedom. Ironically civil disobedience isn’t even protected by our constitution.  You could certainly be arrested.  Your protection comes in the form of a justice system that will not lock you in jail and throw away the key without due process.  That justice system must be preserved because is the corner stone of our civil liberties.  Not just because the Supreme Court (not the Bill of Rights), determines what liberties are protected by the Constitution, but more importantly what behavior in not protected by the Constitution. At its core, a non-violent protest is civil disobedience when certain laws our broken.  When that occurs, people are carted off to jail. Civil disobedience is against the law.  However, in our Country, those law breakers will not be beaten, tortured, or killed. They will appear before a judge to have their behavior judged. Those who engage in such behavior are putting their trust in the hands of our system.  They trust that our law enforcement will behave in a controlled and civilized manner.  If you can’t trust the system to protect you, a non-violent act of civil disobedience ceases to be an option.  Some of the greatest men in history were advocates of the non-violent protest and threw all of their trust in their own systems to resist in a peaceful fashion…Gandhi, Mandela, and of course MLK. As a note, if you believe Hitler and what he stood for are somehow equivalent to what these men stood for and thus entitles you to speak in our society, you are not a friend of mine.  Recently, the ACLU, has been rethinking their very own position on this particular topic.

The second example is Theodore John Kaczynski, and he, of course, was a terrorist.  He is a terrorist of a special class.  He is just like the cockroaches within ISIS who we are currently in the process of exterminating.  As the Uni-Bomber he was a domestic terrorist.  Both classes of terrorist are threats to our country and our way of life.  ISIS is a foreign terrorist organization which has targeted our way of life externally…to be clear, although they are radical Islamic terrorists, they do not represent Islam.  Kaczynski is a terrorist who targeted our way of life from the inside.  Unfortunately, there are many other domestic terrorist organizations (DTOs) within our Country.  The KKK is perhaps the easiest example and best known DTO that I can point to.  They are the poster child for a DTO.  But there are others…so let me pick on the far left for a moment.  The Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, is a DTO. Their activities are dangerous because they have chosen to add violence to their repertoire of political protest.  In fact, Craig Rosebraugh, the former spokesperson for the ELF wrote a book, or manifesto, entitled “The Logic of Political Violence”.  These days he seems to have chilled out and while he continues to be an activist for extreme causes, he has backed away from violence.  His book remains a manifesto of interest for radical groups justifying their cause. He should be in jail.

So, unless you are Thoreau or Kaczynski, you have decided to live within the bounds of society. That means you ascribe to the precepts of governance.  That means government.  That means laws.  The two are one and the same. Government and society cannot be separated.  That means we must exhibit decent societal, not necessarily moral, behavior.  That means you can be a slob in your appearance, bulging, smelly and unwashed, unshaven, with a shirt that is borderline obscene, or with pants drooping down to your knees, and in some cases, wearing a holster with a fire arm in the open, into the public square. You cannot walk around in the same public square with your junk hanging out.  You can live homeless, without a job, live in your parent’s basement, live on welfare, or basically be a freeloader all your life.  You can’t rob banks, defraud senior citizens of their savings, or set fire to things.  You can set fire to the American Flag.  And of course, you can cheat on your wife, watch porn on the internet, or go to strip clubs.  You can’t rape or sexually molest anyone. There is no difference between the rules that bind society and the rules that are set up by our government for us to live in peace.  Oh, by the way, in the United States, our founding fathers set up this little thing called the separation of Church and State, which means, morality cannot be dictated by the state.  Laws so we can leave in peace, are dictated by the state.  You don’t have to like your neighbor, you don’t have to believe what you neighbor believes, you do have to tolerate their behavior if they abide by the rules.  You do not have to tolerate their behavior if they break the rules.

Everybody, I hope, already knows most of this.  Nobody tolerates a murderer or a rapist. If that’s the case why would anyone tolerate a terrorist?  To be clear, the KKK is a terrorist organization.  To allow the KKK to march in our streets is exactly equivalent to allowing ISIS to march in our streets…even if ISIS vows to do so in a peaceful fashion. Just because I know it’s coming I will say for the record we also do not tolerate the ELF or ALF marching in our streets.  To tolerate such activity is to sympathize with their cause. To compare terrorist organizations with protest groups is to sympathize with the terrorism. Whereas we do need to tolerate a skinhead buying a Twix Bar at the 7/11 we do not tolerate the KKK marching with torches on the street.  Whereas we do need to tolerate PETA protesting at the local puppy mill distribution center, we do not need to tolerate the Animal Liberation Front bombing a rendering plant.  Whereas we do need to tolerate the protesting of Planned Parenthood with a picket line, we do not tolerate the Army of God bombing an abortion clinic.

The KKK, simply from their violent history of murder and hate, have come to symbolize terror.  From their white hooded robes, to their torches, the nooses used for lynching their very presence meets the definition of terrorism.  They threaten violence regardless of whether or not they commit violence on any given day.   “It’s ain’t armed robbery if the gun isn’t loaded”. To quote from the movie Raising Arizona. How many American’s believe this line?  I hope no one…but the steady stream of support for allowing KKK protests under some misguided delusion that their speech is protected makes me wonder.

The best example of this aside from the protests in Charlottesville, sadly occurred back in June when a noose was found left at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.  This was seen by some as protected speech.  It is not protected speech.  It was a threat of violence.  Just because the noose didn’t explode didn’t mean it’s not an act of domestic terrorism.  Just because the gun isn’t loaded doesn’t mean it’s not armed robbery.  If one tourist is dissuaded from visiting the museum out of fear it is a terrorist act that compelled them not to go. 

The Swastika was usurped by the Third Reich and became a symbol of the holocaust.  It evokes terror in the hearts of populations worldwide.  In a similar fashion, inside the United States, the Confederate Flag has been usurped by white supremacy groups as a symbol of terror.  If you believe the confederate flag is a symbol of southern pride, hospitality, large front porches, sweet tea, lazy Sundays, or the Crimson Tide, it is not. It has been stripped of any previous nostalgic southern pride.

Southerners should have tried to take it back from the KKK and other white supremacy groups long ago.  It was not important enough to do so thus they have lost it forever as a symbol of the south. It’s important to point out here that even if you still feel nostalgia for the Confederate flag and do not feel terror, it is because you are not the the one being terrorized.  A class of our American brothers and sisters are being terrorized.  If you cannot understand that fact and do not want to protect your fellow American brothers and sisters from this terror you are not an American that I can respect.  If you waive the Swastika or the Confederate flag out of some misguided belief in free speech, you have become, even if by proxy, a domestic terrorist.  You might as well be waiving the Black Standard (The flag of ISIS). You are not a friend of mine.

If you believe marching with torches (even ridicules bamboo Tiki torches purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond) is a valid expression of protest, you are wrong.  In the context of a white supremacy protest you are siding with the KKK and have formed the symbolic equivalent of a lynch mob.  You are not protesting. You are now a domestic terrorist. You are not a friend of mine.

If you believe that the KKK has the moral equivalent of a group such as the Black Lives Matter movement and make such a comparison to downplay the behavior of the KKK you are sympathizing with a terrorist group. BLM is not a hate group brought together by an ideology of hate.  BLM is movement of non-violent protest borne out of necessity to address a social injustice. Should BLM turn to violent protest they could be considered criminals but certainly not terrorists.  They are not enemies of the state as are the DTO I've described trying to achieve political influence through terror. Should BLM eventually advocate for violence for some other reason yet to be understood, such as the Black Panthers did in the 60's, they would be considered a DTO.  This is why at least one high ranking US Official is now under fire and must back away from these sympathies with what happened in Charlottesville.  If you express sympathies toward a terrorist group you are not a friend of mine. 

I don’t think I can make it any clearer.  Free speech protected.  Terrorism not protected.