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Turing Test…..Passed

Monday, June 9th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I am not an Ai aficionado but this would seem to be a pretty significant milestone:

Turing Test: Computer Program Convinces Judges it’s Human

Judges in England were fooled into thinking the computer program they were conversing with was a human on Saturday — making the it the first to pass the 65-year-old Turing Test.

“Eugene Goostman” is not a 13-year-old boy, but 33 percent of the people who partook in five minute keyboard conversations with the computer program at the Royal Society in London thought it was, according to The University of Reading, which organized the test.

The Turing Test is based on “the father of modern computer science” Alan Turing’s question, “Can Machines Think?”

If a computer is mistaken for a human by more than 30 percent of judges, it passes the test, but no computer has accomplished the feat — until now.

“Eugene” was created in Saint Petersburg, Russia, by software development engineer Vladimir Veselov and software engineer Eugene Demchenko, according to the University of Reading. The computer program was tested along with four others during Saturday night’s event, but was the only one to thoroughly imitate a person.

“Our whole team is very excited with this result,” Veselov said. “Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as ‘conversation logic.’”

Computers that are as smart — or smarter — than humans raise concerns of dire economic consequences and diabolical robotic plots fit for science fiction movies.

But Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading says a computer that can think and act like a person will be an asset to battling cyber-crime. “Online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true … when in fact it is not,” he said.

Warwick pointed out that this weekend’s test is also controversial because some claim it has been passed before, but the test did not pre-specify the topics of conversations and was independently verified. “We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing‘s test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” Warwick said. 

How fast will this evolve, I wonder?

Many readers are no doubt familiar with the “Turing Police” in Willam Gibson’s classic  Neuromancer.  While Ai will bring many tech advantages, at some point, at least for cybersecurity and CI purposes, there will need to be some kind of analog to reduce and punish the misuse or abuse of Ai with something short of a Butlerian Jihad.

  

UPDATE!:

Not so fast….

….Okay, almost everything about the story is bogus. Let’s dig in:

It’s not a “supercomputer,” it’s a chatbot. It’s a script made to mimic human conversation. There is no intelligence, artificial or not involved. It’s just a chatbot.
Plenty of other chatbots have similarly claimed to have “passed” the Turing test in the past (often with higher ratings). Here’s a story from three years ago about another bot, Cleverbot, “passing” the Turing Test by convincing 59% of judges it was human (much higher than the 33% Eugene Goostman) claims.

It “beat” the Turing test here by “gaming” the rules — by telling people the computer was a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine in order to mentally explain away odd responses.

The “rules” of the Turing test always seem to change. Hell, Turing’s original test was quite different anyway.

As Chris Dixon points out, you don’t get to run a single test with judges that you picked and declare you accomplished something. That’s just not how it’s done. If someone claimed to have created nuclear fusion or cured cancer, you’d wait for some peer review and repeat tests under other circumstances before buying it, right?

The whole concept of the Turing Test itself is kind of a joke. While it’s fun to think about, creating a chatbot that can fool humans is not really the same thing as creating artificial intelligence. Many in the AI world look on the Turing Test as a needless distraction.

Oh, and the biggest red flag of all. The event was organized by Kevin Warwick at Reading University. If you’ve spent any time at all in the tech world, you should automatically have red flags raised around that name. Warwick is somewhat infamous for his ridiculous claims to the press, which gullible reporters repeat without question. He’s been doing it for decades. All the way back in 2000, we were writing about all the ridiculous press he got for claiming to be the world’s first “cyborg” for implanting a chip in his arm. There was even a — since taken down — Kevin Warwick Watch website that mocked and categorized all of his media appearances in which gullible reporters simply repeated all of his nutty claims. Warwick had gone quiet for a while, but back in 2010, we wrote about how his lab was getting bogus press for claiming to have “the first human infected with a computer virus.” The Register has rightly referred to Warwick as both “Captain Cyborg” and a “media strumpet” and has long been chronicling his escapades in exaggerating bogus stories about the intersection of humans and computers for many, many years.

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Of a flag and the blood of martyrs

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- how, where and why the name, the map, and the flag merge into reality -- Gregory Bateson to the rescue ]
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I am indebted for this screengrab to Phillip Smyth, whose recent Singing Hizballah’s Tune in Manama: Why Are Bahrain’s Militants Using the Music of Iran’s Proxies? post in his Hizballah Cavalcade at Aaron Zelin‘s Jihadology included the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq martyr video for those killed fighting in Syria, with its allusion to the martyrdom of Hussein at Karbala — deep breath — from which this grab is taken.

**

Let me back up: what I want to discuss here is the significance of flags, with the blooded Shahada flag providing an instance.

We have two brain hemispheres: one of them, according to Gregory Bateson, knows the difference between a sign and what it points to, one doesn’t — and we live in a world that’s made up of these two perceptions, one layered over the other, the other shining through on occasion.

Here’s Bateson — if you don’t know him, one of the presiding geniuses of the twentieth century thought:

The distinction between the name and the thing named or the map and the territory is perhaps really made only by the dominant hemisphere of the brain. The symbolic and affective hemisphere, normally on the right-hand side, is probably unable to distinguish name from thing named. It is certainly not concerned with this sort of distinction. It therefore happens that certain nonrational types of behavior are necessarily present in human life. We do, in fact, have two hemispheres; and we cannot get away from that fact. Each hemisphere does, in fact, operate somewhat differently from the other, and we cannot get away from the tangles that that difference proposes.

For example, with the dominant hemisphere, we can regard such a thing as a flag as a sort of name of the country or organization that it represents. But the right hemisphere does not draw this distinction and regards the flag as sacramentally identical with what it represents. So “Old Glory” is the United States. If somebody steps on it, the response may be rage. And this rage will not be diminished by an explanation of map-territory relations. (After all, the man who tramples the flag is equally identifying it with that for which it stands.) There is always and necessarily be a large number of situations in which the response is not guided by the logical distinction between the name and the thing named.

I’d like to reemphasize a couple of phrases:

  • certain nonrational types of behavior are necessarily present in human life
  • the right hemisphere … regards the flag as sacramentally identical with what it represents
  • **

    That quote comes from a while back, of course, and we have a great deal more detailed knowledge now than we did when Bateson first wrote it — but I checked with a neuropsychologist colleague, and he gave me the okay to quote it as an admittedly broad strokes version of a more complex truth, and thus subject to various qualifications.

    And while it may seem like a strange suggestion to some who might otherwise think of the flag as “just a flag, a piece of colored fabric” — it makes perfect sense of the diplomatic protocol surrounding the Saudi flag which I noted in a previous post:

    The script in the centre of the flag is the Islamic creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah”. The flag is therefore considered sacred and special protocol rules apply: the flag does not dip in salute, nor is it ever flown at half-mast. Note that the creed always reads properly from right to left, with the sword hilt to the right, so the reverse of the flag is not a mirror image of the obverse. When making the flag, the creed must be reproduced precisely, including the accent marks. The use of the flag on any commercial item (especially clothing) is not recommended as it might be considered inappropriate, or even insulting.

    The Saudi flag is the scripture is the Word of God, in the same (lower case “s” sacramental) way in which the consecrated bread is the body of Christ is the Real Presence in the Catholic eucharist, and in each case, to desecrate the symbol is to desecrate that to which (from the point of one hemisphere) it refers and which (from the perspective of the other) it makes present.

    Thus Bateson might say, with Saint Augustine and the Catechism, that in each of these cases, the outward and visible sign embodies an inward and spiritual reality.

    And which in turn may explain why Bateson, setting an exam for the young psychiatrists he was training in a mental hospital in Palo Alto, asked them as his first question for brief descriptions of “sacrament” and “entropy” — figuring them to be two of the “core notions of 2,500 years of thought about religion and science”.

    To some readers, all this will be so obvious as to need no explanation, to others it may still seem utterly opaque. My hope is to give you a sense that beneath the rational surface of our lives, there lurks another mode of thinking — and that one of its aspects is to treat “signs” as though they *are* whatever they represent.

    **

    Relevant quotes from Gregory Bateson:

    Once I drew up a sort of catechism and offered it to the class as a sampling of the questions which I hoped they would be able to discuss after completing the course. The questions ranged from “What is a sacrament?” to “What is entropy?” and “What is play?”

    As a didactic maneuver, my cathechism was a failure: it silenced the class…

    – Gregory Bateson, Steps to an ecology of mind

    Even grown-up persons with children of their own cannot give a reasonable account of concepts such as entropy, sacrament, syntax, number, quantity, pattern, linear relation, name, class, relevance, energy, redundancy, force, probability, parts, whole, information, tautology, homology, mass (either Newtonian or Christian), explanation, description, rule of dimensions, logical type, metaphor, topology, and so on. What are butterflies? What are starfish? What are beauty and ugliness?

    — Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

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    Second American Revolution II: the symbolic side of things

    Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- always on the watch for the symbolic ]
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    First, let’s admit that the cattle-rancher archetype has immense popular appeal. Here’s the header from the Bundy Ranch website:

    That’s pretty hard to beat, no?

    **

    As ever, I’m concerned to keep track of the symbolic side of things, the emotional tugs, the flags, rituals, and stratagems which gather morale to a cause — in this case, the standoff at the Bundy Ranch.

    Again in this photo we see cowboys, and this time one of them is carrying the American flag held high…

    What other flags were in evidence?

    I’m pretty sure I can see the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps flags here, along with the US flag —

    **

    There’s another flag, just above the Corps flag in the photo above, that I couldn’t identify — a flag which was also captured in this Guardian shot –

    I didn’t recognize it, but our blog-friend and frequent commentator Grurray did… And here’s where things get really interesting, and I learn what I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t decided to look into this matter of the flags at the Bundy Ranch showdown.

    It’s a Latter-day Saints banner known as the Title of Liberty, and it dervives from a passage in the Book of Mormon, Alma 46 verses 12-13 and 36-37, wherein Captain Moroni

    rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it — In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children — and he fastened it upon the end of a pole … and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren …

    and…

    it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites. And they began to have peace again in the land…

    Here it is, raised for an event in Washington DC:

    And here it is, catalogued for sale as a 3′ x 5′ flag:

    **

    Finally, there’s the Gadsden flag:

    — flown here at the Bundy Ranch protest alonside the US flag:

    **

    That’s it for flags, for me, at least for now… It has been an interesting ride.

    I mentioned stratagems, though. Here’s one that strikes me as less than chivalrous — but which, if push had come to shoot, would have made quite a media splash. The stratagem? Simple — put women in the front line…

    Sheriff Richard Mack explains his idea:

    Mack goes into further detail in an interview with Ben Swann. You can read excerpts here, or view the entire interview on YouTube here — the relevant passage begibs around the 4.39 mark.

    I am not by any stretch a lawyer — but isn’t that veering pretty close to the old “human shield” idea we so despised in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    **

    Thanks again to Grurray — with sharp eyes & knowledge to match!

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    The Bosching of John Hagee and the reddening of the moon

    Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- in mental preparation for tonight's lunar eclipse, together with some quick eschatology, plenty of blood, and an Incan jaguar ]
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    The upper panel, above, shows a detail of Hieronymus Bosch‘s Ghent representation of Christ carrying the Cross to his crucifixion, the focus here being on three of Bosch’s contemporaries depicted as citizens of Christ’s Jerusalem, mocking Christ as he moves through the crowd…

    … while the lower panel has substituted for one of them the face of John Hagee, televangelist, senior pastor of the Cornerstone megahurch in San Antonio, TX, and (eventually disowned) endorser of Sen. John McCain‘s 2008 presidential bid.

    **

    Hagee is in the news at the moment as a major promoter of the “Four Blood Moons” end times theory, according to which tonight will witness the first of four total lunar eclipses announcing — like four dots the style-books suggest when an ellipsis follows a period — the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord referred to in Joel 2.31:

    Hre is Hagee, interviewed on this subject:

    **

    There are numerous biblical references to Joel 2.31:

    The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

    I shall not list all of them, but have selected those which most closely address the topic at hand.

    Luke 21:25 picks up the theme:

    And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

    And in Acts 2:20, the same author specifies these signs:

    The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

    Unsurprisingly, the Revelation of John, 6:12 locates the blood moon in the sequence of Seven Seals that David Koresh was so concerned with…

    And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

    And lest there be any doubt, Joel himself in the same chapter at 2:11 makes it clear that the Great and Terrible Day will in fact be both Great and Terrible…

    And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

    **

    It is something of a relief, then, to turn to NASA, where “signs in the skies” are considered more as opportunities for star-gazing than as precursors of Doom.

    These things happen, NASA might say — tongue in cheek, perhaps — once in a blue moon

    **

    NASA’s eclipse website draws its data from Goddard astrophysicist Fred Espenak, whose “Mr Eclipse” website offers the following diagram of tonight’s eclipse and blood moon…

    Espenak takes a long, long view of the “four blood moons” phenomenon:

    April’s eclipse is the first to two total lunar eclipses in 2014. The second eclipse is on October 08 and it too is visible from the USA. In this case, the western USA sees the entire eclipse while the eastern USA misses the end of the eclipse because the Moon sets while the eclipse is still in progress.

    These two eclipses of [2014] are the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses (each separated by six months) – a series known as a tetrad. The third and fourth eclipses of the tetrad occur on April 04, 2015 and Sept. 28, 2015 .

    During the 5000-year period from 2000 BCE through 3000 CE, there are 3479 total lunar eclipses. Approximately 16.3% (568) of all total eclipses belong to one of the 142 tetrads occurring over this period. The mechanism causing tetrads involves the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit in conjunction with the timing of eclipse seasons. During the present millennium, the first eclipse of every tetrad occurs during the period February to July. In later millennia, the first eclipse date gradually falls later in the year because of precession.

    Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that the frequency of tetrads is variable over time. He noticed that tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred during the next 300 years. For example, there are no tetrads from 1582 to 1908, but 17 tetrads occur during the following 2 and 1/2 centuries from 1909 to 2156. The ~565-year period of the tetrad “seasons” is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. Consequently, the tetrad period is gradually decreasing (Meeus, 2004). In the distant future when Earth’s eccentricity is 0 (about 470,000 years from now), tetrads will no longer be possible.

    Far from seeing them as signs of Doom, Espenak views them as inherently lovely:

    Although total eclipses of the Moon are of limited scientific value, they are remarkably beautiful events

    Nota bene: If Hagee is prophecy’s Espernak, Espenak is science’s Hagee.

    **

    Tibetans, like those from many other cultures, take eclipses seriously, though they seem to see them more as opportunities than as prophecies of doom. A dear friend pointed me to this invitation to practice from the Tibetan meditation master, Chojje Rinpoche:

    On a lunar eclipse, please accomplish practice because whatever you do at this time, good or bad, multiplies many, many times over. It is therefore a great opportunity for you to accumulate merit which is really needed for the betterment of our lives and for our enlightenment. So, whenever an opportunity like this comes, we should not waste it but rather focus on practice, charity and all good works.

    According to National Geographic, on the other hand, the blood red moon seen during a total lunar eclipse was attributed by the Inca to a jaguar attacking and eating the moon:

    The big cat’s assault explained the rusty or blood-red color that the moon often turned during a total lunar eclipse.

    **

    Okay, enough. There’s positive contempt dripping on Pastor Hagee from whoever placed him in that photoshopped version of Bosch’s painting:

    Gary DeMar is President of American Vision, where this headline and a more recent attack on Hagee — Why John Hagee is certainly wrong about “blood moons” — can be found. DeMar, following Rousas John Rushdoony, hopes for the eventual imposition of “Biblical Law” in America, and like Rushdoony holds a post-millennialist view of the end times. Wikipedia gives this brief explanation:

    Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

    You can see, then, why post-millennialists hold the pre-millennialist enthusiasms and “soon coming” expectations of the likes of Harold Camping and John Hagee in low esteem…

    **

    Let’s return to the Bosch painting itself. Arguably missing both from the detail (upper panel, above) and its use by American Vision (upper panel, below) is the face of Christ — which in fact appears twice in Bosch’s original painting…

    … once just above and to the left of the three who mock Christ, and once more imprinted on the veil with which Veronica — according to a legend enshrined in the sixth of the Stations of the Cross — wiped Christ’s face, lower left. In the mind and heart of Bosch, too — amid all the brute human throng he sees so clearly — that one face leaves its unforgettable imprint…

    **

    I leave you with Albrecht Durer‘s images of the Veronica:

    and of the Madonna and the Moon

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    The religions: which is it to be – sibling rivalry or family feeling?

    Monday, April 7th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- two images from recent Religion Dispatches posts neatly pose the question ]
    .

    Sources:

  • Jeremy Stolow, Will Quebec Ban Religious Symbols in Public?
  • M Sophia Newman, Are Attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh Religiously Motivated?
  • **

    Québec officially doesn’t seem to like what it terms “conspicuous religious symbols” — including the pictured “large” crucifix, hijab, and dastar (upper panel above, top row, left to right) and niqab and kippa (bottom row, left to right).

    I suppose that’s one way to achieve uniformity — maybe peacocks should be asked to tone down their feathers until they’re more in line with pigeons, too — but it’s instructive to note that most of the folk in the Bangladeshi march for religious harmony (lower panel, above) would be banned from wearing their identifying symbols if they tried to hold a similar parade in Montréal, Québec.

    Lac Zut, alors!

    **

    In the tiny middle panel of my DoubleQuotes graphic, where you’ll usually find a pair of spectacles or binoculars, the Swayambunath Buddha, just outside Kathmandu, Nepal, looks on, bemused — having seen so much, so very much, of human nature.

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