Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How small we are

We humans like to think our of ourselves as special. Some of us even like to think we are made in the image and likeness of God.

There was a time when humans thought the Sun revolved around the Earth. Now, most of us know better

But still, how many humans continue to think all of creation is just about them. They view creation as but a stage to act out a morality play to decided who gets to go to Heaven and who is condemned to Hell. It’s all about us, so they say.

I wonder how they view the latest scientific information on the size of the Universe. How do they react to the estimate that there are 50 billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way? How do they react to the estimate that of those 50 billion planets in our galaxy, as many as 500 million might be able to support life?

But it doesn’t stop there. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is but one galaxy in a Universe containing as many as 100 billion galaxies and maybe even more! Would they accept these scientific estimates and rejoice at the power and glory of the God they claim to believe in or would they reject them out of fear that God’s interest in creating goes far beyond them and their pride filled self importance?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson is stupid

The IBM computer Watson is much in the news because it won on Jeopardy. Now all the talk is about how smart and intelligent it is. Actually, folks, Watson is stupid. It has no intelligence whatsoever. It is very good at computing but this is because it is a computer, not a brain.
What's the difference?
Well, to start with, I am sure you know some people you would call intelligent but would never call smart.
See, you just thought of someone who fits the bill.
Do you remember the Star Trek episode - THE RETURN OF THE ACORNS - where Kirk defeats a superior computer by finding a bug in its program that had gone unnoticed for hundreds of years. As with all superior computers, as soon as its program enters an infinite loop, it immediately starts smoking and shooting off sparks until it explodes.
But on a more basic level of intelligence, is there any computer smart enough to escape a burning building on its own?
The same can be said of smart phones which aren't even as intelligent as Watson.
So let's cut the nonsense and stop calling cell phones and computers as something that is smart. They are dumber than a worm that at least has enough sense to go above ground when rain threatens to drown it in its hole.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Technological singularity

This week Time magazine focuses on Singularity, a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict. Many of the most recognized writers on the singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil, define the concept in terms of the technological creation of superintelligence, and allege that a post-singularity world would be unpredictable to humans due to an inability of human beings to imagine the intentions or capabilities of superintelligent entities. Some writers use "the singularity" in a broader way to refer to any radical changes in our society brought about by new technologies such as molecular nanotechnology,although Vinge and other prominent writers specifically state that without superintelligence, such changes would not qualify as a true singularity. Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies (with Moore's Law being the most prominent example), using such observations as a basis for predicting that the singularity is likely to happen sometime around 2045.
What I found disturbing about the article was the glorification of intelligence without one word about the value of emotions.
We humans are quite proud of our intelligence and point to it as what makes us better than other animals. While I don't have a problem with our intelligence, I strongly believe our emotions are what truly make us human.
It is our ability to love and hate, hope and fear that shape and define us. If all we were was intelligent, we would be no more than a machine - a smart phone or a super smart computer.
Yet these people who are pushing for their singularity dream seem to have a goal where humans would stop being human and become more like powerful computers with human bodies to move them around. Not once in the article is sex mentioned. I guess sex is just too damned human and results in irrational behavior. While this is true, sex is often the foundation for love and compassion, and who among us would trade off sex and love for more intelligence.
Just remember, while money cannot buy love, neither can intelligence buy love. Money can't buy happiness and neither can intelligence. Both are tools. Neither should be elevated to the position of a god because both are false gods.
If this push to achieve singularity continues, we may need to push back to preserve our humanity.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Indian Givers in the Adirondacks

The phrase "Indian Giver" is often thought to be a slur upon Native Americans but if you give any thought to it based upon history, the phrase should be seen as a slur upon the US Government and its treatment of Indians - broken promises, broken treaties when ever it is conveinient to screw the Indians.

A similar situation is taking place here in the Adirondacks.

A few years back, local governments (towns) approved a plan by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to purchase over 160,000 acres of forest land from a paper company known as Finch Pryun. The towns needed to approve the deal because TNC wanted to resell a portion of the land as an easement to the state and sell the balance outright in fee to the state to make it part of the Forever Wild Forest Preserve. This was required because in the Adirondacks under current law, no one can sell their land to the state unless the local municipalities approve. Part of the deal on the easement lands was that those lands would be kept in timber production and the easement would allow free public access, including snowmobile trails that would connect the towns and provide much needed winter revenue to the towns.

It was largely because of the new and expanded snowmobile trail system that the towns agreed to sign off and approve the deal.

Fast forward to the end of last month when a group known as the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board passed a resolution oppossing the fee purchase portion of the deal by the state from TNC just AFTER the state purchased the conservation easement to provide the snowmobile trails already in use and other expanded recreational opportunities to the public. Their argument is that lumbering jobs will be lost on the lands slated to become part of the Forest Preserve and the state, so the resolutions says, cannot afford to spend about $60,000,000 to purchase the land.

While it might be argued that the state might not currently have money to spend on land purchases in the Adirondack Park during difficlut economic times, the loss of logging jobs is highly questionable. But these arguments are beside the point because the main and never ending argument of the Review Board and many in local government is that the state shouldn't purchase any more land to be included the the Forest Preserve. In addition, if they could find away to do it, they would have the state start to sell off the Forest Preserve to second home developers and log all of the forerests in the Adirondacks until there is nothing left to log. They won't say this openly but this is what they wish would happen.

Forget about the wishes, dreams and other assorted fantasies of some in local governments and the special interest groups who lobby them, the fact of the matter is that the local governments did sign on to the deal and now after they got the snowmobile trails they wanted so desperately, are perfectly willing to renage on the deal - just like the Federal Government has done in the past and continues to do when it comes to Native Americans

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Naked writer vs.those who wear the hijab

Obviously, since there are both male and female writers, I am not talking about clothing. Contrary to the popular view, I don't believe clothing makes the man or the woman.
No, what I'm talking about here is the exposure of the self. Some, maybe most people, would rather not show their true self. When their true self is exposed, they often blush.
Adam and Eve weren't trying to hide their bodies from God. They were trying to hide what they had done. We continue to do the same. But for artists, including writers, it is difficult to hide the true self or at the least, a part of their true self.
Sooner or later, every writer needs to admit that every character they write about is someone who shares some of their traits. No matter how much the writer might try to hide, they expose a portion of their self.
As to physical self? Why worry if someone sees you naked. You were born naked and the undertaker has a pretty good look at you after you can no longer blush.