Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What if a group-mind made a music video?

I like Kevin Kelly's comment about the following, "More proof that the hive can make art, when directed." (link)

Palindromy and Time-Reversals

Anyone who watched a film run backwards is well aware of the phenomenal differences that temporal orderings make. However, as Egan explored magnificently in Permutation City, the time-reversal of one's own mind need not give rise to any introspectible differences.

Here's a palindromic film: playing it backwards would yield the same film experience.

Though not palindromic, I can't help but be reminded of the "Patience" episode of Wonder Showzen. (Warning, if you've never seen Wonder Showzen before, "Patience" may not be the best introduction.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I just finished reading Accelerando by Charles Stross today. My two word mini review is: Wow, damn. Slightly longer: I'd have to rank this up there with Sterling's Schismatrix, Stephenson's Snow Crash, Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, and Egan's Diaspora as far mind-bending idea-saturation goes. This is a depiction of a post-singularity/post-human future thoroughly informed by contemporary experience with internet and related technologies. Stross also demonstrates quite a bit of familiarity with philosophy of mind, especially Dennett's (the Dennettian notions of zimboes and Cartesian theaters get put to work). (There's quite a bit of Clark/Chalmers extended mind stuff, too.)

It will take me a while to fully digest all of Stross's ideas relevant to the Alternate Minds project, (e.g. his treatment of group minds and virtual minds) but I'm especially impressed right now with his depiction of transcendent intelligences and the threat they pose to the enhanced-but-still-human post-humans (and the development of what Stross calls "cognitive anti-bodies" and what I call "anti-minds").

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Philosophers have ceded qualia to engineers

"Philosophers have ceded qualia to engineers, and the current difficult problem in AI is getting software to experience embarrassment."

--Charles Stross, Accelerando

Monday, July 6, 2009

Memory and quantum cognition

"Scientists Model Words as Entangled Quantum States in our Minds" @physorg:

Research has shown that words are stored in our memories not as isolated entities but as part of a network of related words. This explains why seeing or hearing a word activates words related to it through prior experiences. In trying to understand these connections, scientists visualize a map of links among words called the mental lexicon that shows how words in a vocabulary are interconnected through other words.

However, it’s not clear just how this word association network works. For instance, does word association spread like a wave through a fixed network, weakening with conceptual distance, as suggested by the “Spreading Activation” model? Or does a word activate every other associated word simultaneously, as suggested in a model called “Spooky Activation at a Distance”?

Although these two explanations appear to be mutually exclusive, a recent study reveals a connection between the explanations by making one novel assumption: that words can become entangled in the human mental lexicon. In the study, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia and the University of South Florida in the US have investigated the quantum nature of word associations and presented a simplified quantum model of a mental lexicon.

Neuromancer turns 25

"Neuromancer turns 25: What it got right, what it got wrong" @macworld:

Neuromancer tells of famous hacker, McCoy Pauley, who originally taught Case how to hack and later died of heart failure during an especially dangerous assault in cyberspace. But before Pauley died (in the clinical sense), some people hooked his brain up to a computer and dumped the contents--his hacking expertise, memories, habits, idiosyncrasies, everything--out onto a ROM cassette, creating a "construct" of the former hacker. Long after the flesh-and-bone Pauley's death, Case and Molly steal the construct, which can think and talk, so that Pauley can help them complete their mission.

The conversations between Case and "the flatline" as he calls the construct, are priceless. The construct isn't quite sure whether he's alive or dead, and when he learns that he is just data on a disk he isn't very happy about the situation. Pauley eventually asks Case to erase the ROM, effectively putting his mind to rest for good.


The "ZALGO!" meme, explained and complied at the following links:

Some examples:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Natural Born Solipsists

In the Greg Egan novels, Permutation City and Diaspora, Egan uses the term "solipsists" to refer to simulated beings that inhabit exclusively virtual worlds, abandoning all interaction with the external physical world.

(In philosophy, solipsists do not believe anything external to their minds exist. In Egan-ese, the solipsists may very well believe in an external world. They just don't care much about it.)

The solipsists are typically software descendants of natural human minds. But in the "Wang Carpets" section of Diaspora, and the short story upon which it is based, Egan suggests the possibility of naturally occurring solipsists. In the story, enormous polysaccharide biocomputers (implementing Wang tiles) support the 16-dimensional virtual universe housing intelligent hyper-squids.

For a relatively concise description of Egan's "Wang's Carpets" see the opening sections of the Biocomputation chapter of Biomedia by Eugene Thacker. [Link to Google Books.]

Egan's story invites the question of whether such naturally occurring virtual minds are indeed possible. Besides just blind random luck, how would the requisite hardware substrate come into being? there may be a tendency to think of the virtual affairs thereby simulated as epiphenomenal, and thus inconsequential to any of the selection pressures that may otherwise result in the evolutionary emergence of the hardware substrate. But perhaps this assumption of the virtual as epiphenomenal is mistaken.

Group Mind Definition

From Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind (in press):

group mind, a hypothetical mind, AKA a “hive mind,” that depends on members of a group such that it is not the mind of any one of the members of the group. The individual members of the group may either be individually mindless or individually in possession of minds distinct from the group mind.

New Progress Toward Quantum Computer

From NatureNews: "Spooky computers closer to reality: Solid-state quantum processing demonstrated."

The system processed two algorithms written specially for quantum systems.

The first is Grover's search algorithm, also known as the reverse phone book search, where someone's number is known but not the name. The processor essentially reads all the numbers in the phone book at once to find the single correct answer. "At the end the qubit will be in one state, not superposed, and that's the answer," says DiCarlo.

The second, more simple, algorithm, the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm, tests whether the flip of a coin is fair or not.

DiCarlo's processor got the reverse phone book search right an impressive 80% of the time and the coin-flip algorithm right about 90% of the time.


But this technique could not read out the answer in a system with many more qubits, says quantum-computing expert Hans Mooij from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The development of the processor is good news Mooij adds. "This is a necessary step," he says. "If this can be done, the next thing can be done."

DiCarlo is cautious. "We've made a very simple quantum processor," he says. "It's by no means a quantum computer."

He is working to give the processor more qubits, and so more processing power. He thinks that scaling up to three or four quibits will be relatively straightforward, but beyond that the problem becomes a lot harder, and the coherence time needed will be very difficult to attain. Mooij agrees: "From three or four to ten they will need to make a big step again."


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...