Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Quit Freaking Out About AI Already, People

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 10, 2015

Ever since we humans created our first tools, we’ve kept insisting they’re not only as alive as we are, but that they feel the same things we feel: Love, hate, envy, embarrassment, anger, happiness.

This wrong-headed behavior on our part has ramped up a thousand fold since the creation of the first computers. The fears of what truly intelligent machines could do have been simmering in our society for the better part of a century. Just look at the latest Avengers film, Age of Ultron. Or look at Elon Musk, a venture capitalist with his fingers in several pies, likes to stoke this fear for middlebrow audiences that think they’re highbrow. Even Arthur C. Clarke, a fellow who definitely knew better, had to play to public fears of smart computers by creating the HAL 9000, the lead “villain” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL was depicted as a fully self-aware, intelligent computer so determined not to admit error that it would kill people to cover up its mistakes. (Clarke later atoned somewhat for this by making HAL a much more sympathetic figure in his later book 2010.)

The truth is that a future where true artificial intelligence exists is much more likely to resemble the one Isaac Asimov wrote about in his robot novels, or that in Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels, than those shown in any of the dystopias used to stoke our fears for money. Speaking of the latter series, it’s telling that a primary criticism of the Culture novels as literature is that the Minds make for a future so pleasant that it is devoid of the nasty conflicts and “interesting times” that people hate to live through but love to read about:

In vesting all power in his individualistic, sometime eccentric, but always benign, AI Minds, Banks knew what he was doing; this is the only way a liberal anarchy could be achieved, by taking what is best in humans and placing it beyond corruption, which means out of human control. The danger involved in this imaginative step, though, is clear; one of the problems with the Culture novels as novels is that the central characters, the Minds, are too powerful and, to put it bluntly, too good.

Even with our society being more likely to follow something closer to Banks’ vision than the dystopian ones, it’s doubtful that things such as personalities, or even the emotions that generate them, would spontaneously evolve. These things, or rather the simulations thereof, would have had to be carefully implanted by humans. The rule “garbage in, garbage out” still applies.

And that, as always, is the real thing to fear: not if machines can ever think, but what we command them, via their base-level programming, to think about.

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Solar Roadways Update: Testing, Testing, One Two Three Testing…

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 7, 2015

Scott and Julie Brusaw and their crew at Solar Roadways are testing how well solar panels collect energy when they’re installed flat (as opposed to angled for optimum sunlight collection) at various latitudes across the U.S. – information that will be useful in calculating how much energy the Solar Road Panels will generate when installed in various locations, altitudes, and latitudes.

The first two locations are both in Arizona.  One is at the Westward Look hotel in Tucson, the other at Biosphere 2 in Oracle.  The public will be able to see the data collection projects as they collect ther data.

The panels currently being used for data collection are conventional solar panels, but Solar Roadways will soon be replacing these testing site panels with Solar Roadways’ own SR3 panels.

This is one of the things that will save us.  This, right here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Administration decides to be jerks: illegal Enbridge extension

Posted by Charles II on May 4, 2015

From DeSmogBlog:

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets.

Environmental groups have coined the approval process an “illegal scheme” because the State Department allowed Enbridge to usurp the conventional presidential permit process for cross-border pipelines, as well as the standard National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which allows for public comments and public hearings of the sort seen for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Wikileaks Brings Back Its Anonymous Submission System

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 1, 2015

That darned Wikileaks just refuses to go away:

On Friday, the secret-spilling group announced that it has finally relaunched a beta version of its leak submission system, a file-upload site that runs on the anonymity software Tor to allow uploaders to share documents and tips while protecting their identity from any network eavesdropper, and even from WikiLeaks itself. The relaunch of that page—which in the past served as the core of WikiLeaks’ transparency mission—comes four and a half years after WikiLeaks’ last submission system went down amid infighting between WikiLeaks’ leaders and several of its disenchanted staffers.

And here it is:

Why the delay? The legal battle that sent Julian Assange into sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London did play a part, as it has proved to be a huge distraction for the Wikileaks team. But there was also this:

The group, and Assange in particular, has also become more focused on the modern surveillance challenges to any truly anonymous leaking system. That, too, has delayed WikiLeaks’ willingness to create a new target for intelligence agencies trying to intercept leaks. “If you ask if the submission from five years ago was insecure, well, it would be today,” says Hrafnsson. “We’ve had to rethink this and rework it, and put a lot of expertise into updating and upgrading it.”

And even if Wikileaks were to vanish into the ether, groups it inspired are out there:

In the years since WikiLeaks ceased to offer its own Tor-based submission system, others have sought to fill the gap. Projects like GlobaLeaks and SecureDrop now offer open-source systems that have replicated and improved on WikiLeaks’ model of using Dark Web servers to enable anonymous uploads. SecureDrop in particular has been adopted by mainstream news sites such as the New Yorker, Gawker, Forbes, the Guardian, the Intercept and the Washington Post.

The Wired piece does engage in some silly and ironic razzing on Wikileaks for “finally” getting a new submission system set up.

Why “ironic”? Well, I remember how four years ago, the Wikileaks defectors Wired favorably mentions but doesn’t name, but whose leader (and, I’m guessing, the unnamed defector quoted) is still probably Daniel Domscheit-Berg, promised they were going to a) be more “responsible” than Assange and b) have a superior leak site set up called “OpenLeaks”, because they were so much smarter and more technically competent than the remaining Wikileaks crew.

Well, after four years, there’s no “OpenLeaks” site, and the only thing of note that the defectors have done is not to safeguard their stolen chunk of the original Wikileaks trove, but destroy much of it — much to Bank of America’s delight.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The California drought is caused by not taking enough water out of rivers.

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2015

Brian Sussman is making a documentary so that all generations to the end of time will know that the California drought is caused by communistic environmental liberals letting some water flow to the sea. Also, that he is terminally stupid:

I’m involved in a new film about watermelons; you know, the zealous environmentalists who are green on the outside and red (like Marx and Lenin) on the inside. The movie (available on DVD) is titled: It’s Easy Bring Green, When You Have No Choice.

As you think about the title for a moment, let me share what’s happening out here in California. We’ve got a serious drought and there’s a critical water shortage. However, the water shortage is completely man-made. Thanks to the environmentalists and their liberal co-conspirators in our state legislature, water storage in California has not kept up with a steady population increase and the associated water demand.

So, if you increase water storage, that means you are reducing the flow of water in the rivers. And, since the flow of water in rivers is already not enough for consumption, with water tables falling all through the agricultural areas, that means you are creating lakes in what is becoming a desert.


Posted in environment, idiots | 2 Comments »

MoJo Magazine: Baltimore Police Started the Riots

Posted by Charles II on April 29, 2015

Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin, Mother Jones:

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: “When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord.” Those who didn’t depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. “I rode with another teacher home,” this teacher recalls, “and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in ‘the purge.'”

Posted in abuse of power | Leave a Comment »

More “good” news from the Ukraine

Posted by Charles II on April 28, 2015

Forest fire rages near Chernobyl nuclear site, Yahoo:

A forest fire broke out Tuesday near the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, scene of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, but posed no danger to the site, officials said.

“The fire is at a distance of 15 to 20 kilometres (9 to 12 miles) from Chernobyl,” Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for the plant, told AFP by telephone, adding there was “no problem” there.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov warned however that “the high flames and sudden gusts of wind mean there is a serious risk that the fire could spread.”

Expect revisions to the statement from Rudenko.

Posted in Ukraine | Leave a Comment »

When even Lawrence Fink agrees that Wall Street has gone too far…

Posted by Charles II on April 24, 2015

Lawrence Fink, CEO of Blackrock, is one of the great pirates of our age. So, when even he is saying that executives are looting their companies and destroying the middle class, maybe someone will listen. Rex Nutting, Marketwatch:

There’s something seriously wrong with an economy that nurtures a few billionaires but can’t sustain the middle class.

Last week, the CEOs of America’s 500 biggest companies received a letter from Lawrence Fink, CEO of BlackRock BLK, +0.25% the largest asset manager in the world, saying exactly the same thing.

“The effects of the short-termist phenomenon are troubling both to those seeking to save for long-term goals such as retirement and for our broader economy,” Fink wrote, adding that favoring shareholders comes at the expense of investing in “innovation, skilled work forces or essential capital expenditures necessary to sustain long-term growth.”

In case you have forgotten who Larry Fink is, click here.

Posted in abuse of power, economy, stock market | 2 Comments »

Well, now that rationale for the coup is discarded….

Posted by Charles II on April 24, 2015

The Guardian:

The supreme court in Honduras has voided a single-term limit for the country’s presidency — the issue at the heart of the political conflict that led to the ouster of socialist [sic] incumbent Manuel Zelaya six years ago when he sought to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

The push by the governing National party to make the change, which would permit President Juan Orlando Hernandez to seek a second term, has drawn widespread criticism from the opposition, which notes the same politicians behind it were involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya.

After the court ruled, [Former president Rafael Leonardo] Callejas announced that he was looking to run for the presidency again.

We were told again and again, especially by defenders of the coup against Zelaya, that the prohibition against re-election was “set in stone,” meaning that Zelaya’s attempt just to have a referendum on the issue was such a serious assault on the constitution that it justified machine gunning the presidential palace, packing him on a plane, and dropping him in Costa Rica.

Now we are told that this same constitutional amendment was just a “stone in the shoe” of ambitious politicians like Callejas.

I hope Manuel Zelaya runs again. That is, if the Supreme Court doesn’t again flip in the wind as other politicians blow on it.

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A real winner

Posted by Charles II on April 22, 2015


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As we continue to mark Earth Day, we end today’s show with a new report that finds at least two people working to save the environment were killed each week in 2014. In total, the group Global Witness documented the murders of at least 116 environmental activists last year. Three-quarters of them were killed in Central and South America.

AMY GOODMAN: The report is called “How Many More?” It looks in detail at an activist who stood up to a mining project in one of the deadliest countries and survived. Her name is Berta Cáceres, and she is another winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize. This is Berta Cáceres describing how she helped organize indigenous communities in Honduras to resist a hydro dam on the Gualcarque River because it could destroy their water supply.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] In more than 150 indigenous assemblies, our community decided that it did not want that hydroelectric dam.

NARRATOR: Berta filed complaints with the Honduran government and organized peaceful protests in the nation’s capital. As her visibility increased, she became a target for the government.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We denounced this dam and were threatened with smear campaigns, imprisonment and murder. But nobody heard our voices, until we set up a roadblock to take back control of our territory.

NARRATOR: For well over a year, the Lenca maintained the roadblock, withstanding harassment and violent attacks. Tragically, Rio Blanco community leader Tomás Garcia was shot by the Honduran military at a peaceful protest.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] Seeing this man murdered, the community became indignant, forcing a confrontation. The company was told that they had to get out.

PROTESTER: [translated] We have 500 people here, and we are Rio Blanco comrades. We will defend Rio Banco, and we will not let them pass.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] And that is how Sinohydro left Rio Blanco. But it cost us in blood.

AMY GOODMAN: Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who won the 2015 Goldman Prize, as well. For more, we’re joined by Billy Kyte, campaigner for Global Witness, author of their new report, “How Many More?

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us a little more about the 2015 Goldman Prize winner who we just played a clip of, Berta Cáceres, and her significance and what she’s doing in Honduras?

BILLY KYTE: Well, she’s an emblematic case. I mean, she’s a very courageous activist. She fights for indigenous rights, but also women’s rights, as well. Her leadership in COPINH, indigenous network in Honduras, has been inspirational for many, many people. She’s suffered threats against her life. Two of her children have had to flee the country because of these threats. She continues to receive threats. Even recently, she received attempted plans to kidnap her. And despite this, she still struggles on with the fight to protect indigenous areas and the rivers of the Rio Blanco community.

Berta Caceres was one of the strongest resisters of the 2009 coup. She is a real winner.

Posted in Good Causes, Good Things, Honduras | Leave a Comment »