December 31, 2009

You made me realise

We are on a sinking ship, but the only materials we have to build a ship that will float come from the ship itself.
The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, p161

December 30, 2009

Fuck everything

by leonard eisenberg, via evogeneo

A post a while back called sex in time, about speciation that ended with the line
...if all the 'species' ever extant where brought back to life there could be one unbroken chain of fucking going right back to the first creatures that invented sex...
Hence the nice picture above, click to enlage, then imagine the scene.

brooks too broad for leaping

I met a guy a a few months ago who had lived for three or four years in a famous Asian city. He worked in nightlife, and told me that he had slept with three or four hundred women in that time. It didn't surprise me, as he'd been quite open about paying for sex , and so a number two or three times that would have been reasonable too. But I must getting old, or sensible, or between mid-life crises, because there was no sense of shame, regret or envy that at sex partners he had me beat by an order of magnitude. It was an odd feeling, feeling nothing.

harland miller

More from Procopius, this time on Theodora, future wife of Justinian, emperor of Rome:
She used to tease her lovers by keeping them waiting, and by constantly playing about with novel methods of intercourse she could always bring the lascivious to her feet; so far from waiting to be invited by anyone she encountered, she herself by cracking dirty jokes and wiggling her hips suggestively would invite all who came her way, especially if they were still in their teens. Never was anyone so completely given up to unlimited self-indulgence. Often she would go to a bring-your-own-food dinner-party with ten young men or more, all at the peak of their physical powers and with fornication as their chief object in life, and would lie with all her fellow-diners in turn the whole night long: when she had reduced them all to a state of exhaustion she would go to their menials, as many as thirty on occasion, and copulate with every one of them; but not even so could she satisfy her lust.

One night she went into the house of a distinguished citizen during the drinking, and, it is said, before the eyes of all the guests she stood up on the end of the couch near their feet, pulled up her dress in the most disgusting manner as she stood there, and brazenly displayed her lasciviousness. And though she brought three openings into service, she often found fault with Nature, grumbling because Nature had not made the openings in her nipples wider than is normal, so that she could devise another variety of intercourse in that region.
Procopius, The Secret History, p82 [although I Googled, copy / pasted from here]
And on the same theme, Seutonius on Caligula [From The Lives of the Twelve Caesars - full text]:
He had not the slightest regard for chastity, either his own or others', and was accused of homosexual relations, both active and passive, with Marcus Lepidus, also Mnester the comedian, and various foreign hostages; moreover, a young man of a consular family, Valerius Catullus, revealed publicly that he had buggered the Emperor, and quite worn himself out in the process. Besides incest with his sisters, and a notorious passion for the prostitute Pyrallis, he made advances to almost every woman of rank in Rome; after inviting a selection of them to dinner with their husbands he would slowly and carefully examine each in turn while they passed his couch, as a purchaser might assess the value of a slave, and even stretch out his hand and lift up the chin of any woman who kept her eyes modestly cast down. Then, whenever he felt so inclined, he would send for whoever pleased him best and leave the banquet in her company. A little later he would return, showing obvious signs of what he had been about, and openly discuss his bed-fellow in detail, dwelling on her good and bad physical points and commenting on her sexual performance.

He was not conscious that he had once been a man

In the grip of this terror he went upstairs to his bedroom and sat down on the bed alone. There was no one honourable thought in his head; he was not conscious that he had once been a man. The sweat ran down his face unceasingly; his head swam; his whole body trembled in an agony of despair, tormented as he was by slavish fears and craven anxieties utterly unworthy of a man.
Procopius, The Secret History, p58
I haven't felt like that in a long time, but it'd be foolish to think that it'll never happen again.

The other day I was in Kanding / Kenting [see picture], beshroomed and a little drunk. I was with some friends and it was after 1am and the place was dead, which is an odd experience in Taiwan.

We walked to a beach and in the pavement someone spotted a jagged hole that went deep. One wrong step you'd be lucky if you just broke your leg, with a smashed jaw or slashed throat more likely.

On the way back we were all distracted, and nobody looked out for the hole. We noticed this soon after, and one of us could easily have fallen in. Absolute terror.

In bed I kept getting flash visions of terrible injuries, as if in all the multiverses nearby my life had taken a bloody and significant turn for the worse.

Sometimes it seems like after the bad joke of my youth the universe is conspiring on my behalf.

Procopius has a great story about an ultra-slut that I'll shoehorn into my next post, which ought to be about sex.

December 19, 2009

Emergent humanoid robotics

hanson einstein face [see below]

There are no doubt many patent hurdles and other impracticalities to hinder the following ideas. I just play with things and then move on, which is why I'm a dilettante proofreader rather than something more focused, but also why I'm [probably] happier this way.

Three different robot stories. The first is from Hanson Robotics, seen below in this recent TED clip. They try and make robots with human faces. It looks like animatronic / Disney stuff, but there seems to be more going on, or almost going on. The model shown in the video [Einstein, not the doll face in the frozen shot] can mirror what people are doing - you smile, it smiles. There seems to be a pretty fine level of control of the motorized musculature underneath the realistic looking skin, and although it obviously needs more work, the future has a lot of time.

What caught my attention was this mirroring, which is based on being able to read faces, and so these machines should be able to read microexpressions and basically be loaded up with all of Paul Ekman's work.

The next video won't embed, but it's from an article at BotJunkie called Robots Learn to Look Shifty. Basically the robot, under certain conditions, can use eye movements to give cues that human subjects respond to but don't consciously pick up. The two projects are separate, but they could be easily be joined together.

And the third video, below, shows how motion capture can be used to create a more natural moving humanoid robot, with this one particularly good at swiveling its hips.

The point is that robotics seems to be full of seemingly isolated projects that aim to do one small thing very well, and usually one thing that on its own is cool but not that useful. But one day all of this technology could be integrated into one machine, which would obviously be connected to the Internet so that it could run many apps and access all data. Out of all of these projects something bigger will emerge.

I had a post about emergent AI a while ago, based on the idea that there's no center of consciousness in the brain, but that we emerge from the interaction of many simple processes [Minsky's society of the mind], so that the full complexity of their interactions undertakes a phase transition to another order of simplicity in consciousness, which can only hold a few bits of data at a time and is essentially creating useful half-truths out of a torrent of data that has been entirely reconstructed in the brain. The astonishing hypothesis is just how things are.

What's true of robotics is true in the field of AI - a lot of researchers working on small things that one day may come together and then something else occurs. But it struck me the other day that computers do not need an unconscious and perhaps therefore not a consciousness. In the small space required for cunning we don't act entirely on instinct, but we also need to filter all the data down to the essentials. A computer wouldn't need to do this - bandwidth isn't a problem, it can hold a lot of information in its working memory and access it all in practically an instant. So the nature of consciousness, if it emerged, would have to be different. I quoted Hofstader a little while ago, and I'll do it in full again, as it serves my purpose here:
When and only when such a loop arises in the brain or in any other substrate, is a person - a unique new "I" - brought into being. Moreover, the more self-referentially rich such a loop is, the more conscious is the self to which it gives rise. Yes, shocking though this might sound, consciousness is not an on/off phenomenon, but admits of degrees, grades, shades. To put it more bluntly, there are bigger souls and smaller souls.
Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach, P-6
The point being would such loops arising on a large, distributed computer connected to sensors, RFID tags and so on have access to a bigger soul? I don't see why not, and then that would be available everywhere, in all machines plugged into the mind.

Blade Runner - Voight-Kampff Test

December 13, 2009

Sense of achievement

Went to an open-air show that started in the afternoon and ended up a very long day, but out of it mostly unscathed.

A friend's band was playing. He's the guitarist and singer. The last show they had he kicked in a speaker and knocked over the drum kit [video, 01:50]. He was wandering around before the show with a bottle of beer. His drummer had written 'don't drunk' on his arm. No one has ever written instructions on my body.

He got drunk and put on a great show.

December 07, 2009

OMG (of limited interest)

Illustration from Listen, Little Man [full text]

This week is the one year anniversary of me quitting my job and going full time freelance. The year has gone very fast, in a blizzard of work and extremely late nights, with all kinds of systems tried and abandoned, essentially a series of mid-life crises that start in a quest for fun, seem to end with the joke being pushed too far, and then start up all over again. Somehow the center holds, I move between the poles of discipline and dissipation, and things do not fall apart.

At some point I'll buckle down and write a post about it, just to get my thoughts together, but right now I'm grateful that I've got no boss, the $ comes in every day and it looks like I'll get away with it for longer.