Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News Mar

Weekly QUEST Discussion Topics and News
March 8th, 2013
QUEST this week will concentrate on Capt Amerika’s recent conversations
with Christof Koch and Gerald Edelman - the reading materials include
some articles that we had previously been through - 'can machines be
conscious' and 'test for consciousness' as well as a recent new scientist
article 'the great illusion of self'. If you are interested in reading through
these documents, as well as some supplementary powerpoints that CA has
put together to lead the discussion, please contact Adam Rogers or Cathy
Griffith and we can distribute individually.
News Articles
1. Kurzweil – How to create a mind
Ray Kurzweil, 65 years old, joined Google in December after spending
nearly five decades pioneering everything from machines that can
read text aloud to the blind to a music synthesizer that sounds like
a real piano…"Law of Accelerating Returns." This states that
technological progress increases exponentially, eventually allowing
people to enhance their intelligence and live forever. He also
envisions a future in which artificial intelligence surpasses human
intelligence and spreads out across the universe, which he calls "the
singularity."… Mr. Kurzweil is now forming an engineering team at
Google's Mountain View headquarters, where he is attempting to
use software to replicate the human brain's "pattern recognition"
abilities—a topic discussed in his new book, "How to Create a
Mind." The hope is to build a system with human-level
understanding of the world and, by giving it access to Google's
mighty index of digital information, create the ultimate virtual
assistant—and more…Ethan Kurzweil, 33, is a futurist through his
attempts to invest in the next big thing. Earlier this year, he became a
partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, a Menlo Park venture-capital
firm. His Bessemer investments include online-dating site Zoosk Inc.
and CrowdFlower Inc., which helps companies quickly find workers
to perform tasks online…
WSJ: What are the top technological achievements of the past five
Ray Kurzweil: The concept of biotechnology has become real. Five
years ago, there were no examples of success. Now, if you damage
your heart in a heart attack, you can fix that with stem-cell therapies.
You can get a trachea replaced with something grown in a petri dish.
It's treating the body as software…
WSJ: Do you really believe you can design software that matches the
complexity of human interaction?
Ray: We're at the threshold where computers can understand
natural language, human language. That's equivalent to doing
anything interactive. There have been text interactions where people
didn't know they were talking to a computer. Some people might say,
"Oh, that's so limited." Watson beat the "Jeopardy!" [game show]
champions, and that's not a narrow game. It has riddles. If a
computer has access to Google scale information, it can get real
knowledge and…can enhance answers to search queries. We're not
trying to create human-level performance right away…
WSJ: What will happen technologically in the next five years?
Ray: My message is the law of accelerating returns and how
remarkably predictable the exponential growth of IT is. More and
more things become IT, like health and medicine. There will be 3-D
printing, augmented reality.
Ethan: Every step along the way will freak people out.
Ray: With nanodevices that will be implanted in our bodies to repair
us, putting technology in our bloodstream, lots of people will opt out
at first.
2. EEG for determining consciousness
Anesthesiologists have limited ways of tracking what’s happening in
the unconscious brain…Researchers have identified patterns of brain
activity that correlate to the loss and recovery of consciousness while
a patient undergoes general anesthesia. Their findings, reported
yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
online, could one day help anesthesiologists better monitor
consciousness in their patients.. Some hospitals and researchers use
electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring, which measures electrical
activity in the brain’s cortex through electrodes on the scalp, but this
data is typically simplified into a single number or index to assess a
patient’s level of consciousness. “The real thorn in the side of the
indices is they suppose the people are unconscious at the same
indices, that it applies for all people across all drugs, and that just
cannot be”… The team recorded EEG patterns in 10 healthy
volunteers while giving them increasing and then decreasing levels of
a widely used anesthetic called propofol. The participants listened to
verbal cues such as their name and auditory clicks and were told to
press a button in response to each, which the researchers used as a
sign of loss or recovery of consciousness…team found unique
patterns in the brain waves of the volunteers as they lost and then
regained consciousness. Changes in the relationship between brain
waves of different frequencies predicted the transitions into and out
of consciousness. The team also identified a pattern in the
participants’ brain waves that was associated with the deepest state
of unconsciousness. The patterns, or “signatures,” could one day be
used to monitor and control sedation and unconsciousness in
patients given propofol…real beauty of the study is the promise of
being able to differentiate between normal drug-induced and injuryinduced sleep…Clear EEG signatures for each state could help guide
anesthesiologists, although the timing of the analysis would have to
be very fast for it to be useful during procedures…“The current depth
of anesthesia monitoring happens with one to two channels of EEG
placed over the frontal brain, not because that area is the most
important as far as consciousness is concerned, but because it is an
easy place to stick to the head,”…
3. Quantum and cyber
Uninterrupted electricity protects the nation's infrastructure and its
computing and communication networks from malicious cyber
attacks and accidental failures. But In today’s world of cyber-warfare
-- phishing scams, logic bombs, Trojan horses, viruses and worms -threats to the American power grid abound…To maintain control,
data must be transmitted rapidly, securely and seamlessly between
control centers. And traditional cryptographic techniques struggle to
meet the need for speed and security…Using quantum cryptography,
Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a method to detect
and defeat an adversary intent on intercepting or attacking power
grid communications. New technologies like this system are critical to
protecting critical national infrastructure…traditional cryptology,
information is encoded and decoded with mathematics; in quantum
cryptology, physics protects data instead, using photons to transmit a
key…single photons are used to produce secure random numbers
between users. Once the photon key is transmitted, then coding and
encoding can take place. Because the random numbers are produced
securely, they act as a cryptographic key to authenticate and encrypt
the power grid data and commands…team has also invented a novel
miniaturized quantum cryptography transmitter. Called the QKarD, it
is about five times smaller than traditional devices. The Los Alamos
team is seeking funding to develop an even smaller QKarD using
integrated electro-photonics methods…
4. How does Google work
results you see are a product of complex machinations, and for the
first time, Google is giving people a behind-the-scenes look at how
search works…Google has launched a new site, "How Search Works,"
featuring a clever infographic that not only reveals the process of
search, but gives a real-time view of spam removal — a key
component that shows the pages users don't see are just as
important as those they do when it comes to good results…numbers
tell the story. Google "crawls" and tracks trillions of Web pages,
ranking each page's importance based on more than 200 algorithms
or formulas. Since its start in 1997, Google has accumulated about
100 million gigabytes of information…Google has fielded 450 billion
first-time searches and many more that are duplicates of those..
Google's methods have already eliminated a lot of the garbage on
the Web. Every day, millions of worthless pages are created, which
Google lumps together as spam. Spam sites have long tried to trick
Google into thinking they're legitimate, using methods like cloaking
(displaying different content to human users than is shown to search
engines)… Google has automated formulas to find these pages and
has a team that reviews questionable pages as well. On its new site,
you can see pages that Google has removed in the last 30 minutes or
5. Singularity
Creating a work of art is one of those activities we reserve for
humans and humans only. It's an act of self-expression; you're not
supposed to be able to do it if you don't have a self. To see creativity,
the exclusive domain of humans, usurped by a computer built by a
17-year-old is to watch a line blur that cannot be unblurred, the line
between organic intelligence and artificial intelligence…But now, 46
years later, Kurzweil believes that we're approaching a moment
when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but
more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our
bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and
irreversibly transformed. He believes that this moment is not only
inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of
human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away…Computers
are getting faster. Everybody knows that. Also, computers are getting
faster faster — that is, the rate at which they're getting faster is
increasing…So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly
fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable
of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial
intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of
emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create
consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing
piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical
decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at
cocktail parties.
If you can swallow that idea, and Kurzweil and a lot of other very
smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there's no
reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They
would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than
we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase,
because they would take over their own development from their
slower-thinking human creators. Imagine a computer scientist that
was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly
quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It
wouldn't even take breaks to play Farmville…The one thing all these
theories have in common is the transformation of our species into
something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa
2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity…
6. Drones in the US
U.S. Department of Homeland Security has customized its Predator
drones, originally built for overseas military operations, to carry out
at-home surveillance tasks that have civil libertarians worried:
identifying civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones,
government documents show…documents provide more details
about the surveillance capabilities of the department's
unmanned Predator B drones, which are primarily used to patrol the
United States' northern and southern borders but have been pressed
into service on behalf of a growing number of law enforcement
agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Texas Rangers, and
local police…Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained
a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security's requirements for its
drone fleet through the Freedom of Information Act and published it
this week. CNET unearthed an unredacted copy of the requirements
that provides additional information about the aircraft's surveillance
capabilities…Concern about domestic use of drones is growing,
with federal legislation introduced last month that would establish
legal safeguards, in addition toparallel efforts underway from state
and local lawmakers. The Federal Aviation Administrationrecently
said that it will "address privacy-related data collection" by drones…f
the Predator drones were used only to identify smugglers or illegal
immigrants crossing the Mexican and Canadian borders, or
for disaster relief, they might not be especially controversial. But
their use domestically by other government agencies has become
routine enough -- and expensive enough -- that Homeland Security's
inspector general said (PDF) last year that CBP needs to sign
agreements "for reimbursement of expenses incurred fulfilling
mission requests."…
7. Google glasses
Google potentially struck a new blow against privacy when it posted
a video preview of its new "Glass" technology -- high-tech spectacles
featuring a revolutionary digital interface that enable its wearers to
not only view the world through Google's eyes but also
automatically photograph all that they see…EU is concerned about
the way in which Google has, since last March, been pooling the
data of its individual users across its popular services like search,
Gmail, Google+ and YouTube in order to bundle them up for
advertisers…anxiety over this aggregation of our personal
information is twofold. Firstly, Google has done little, if anything, to
inform users of this unilateral change. Secondly, Google hasn't
offered users a way of opting out. Google insists its privacy policies
respect European laws and simply help enhance user experiences.
But in the eyes of the EU, those of us using products like YouTube,
Gmail or Google+ are being, to borrow a Microsoft coined neologism,
"Scroogled" by Google's new privacy policy... Google Glass opens an
entirely new front in the digital war against privacy. These spectacles,
which have been specifically designed to record everything we see,
represent a developmental leap in the history of data that is
comparable to moving from the bicycle to the automobile…Apple is
supposedly working on its hotly-anticipated wristwatch and
wearable personal data devices from companies like Nike and Fitbit
are already beginning to revolutionize the healthcare industry…
8. Nature of intelligence
Luca Giomi and pals at Harvard University in Cambridge provide a
hint that the answer could be much simpler and significantly stranger
even than that. They say complex collective behaviour emerges from
the mechanics of moving through an environment. In other words,
no special communication, social rules or group intelligence is
required….These guys make their discovery using BristleBots, simple
automatons made from a toothbrush head and a cellphone vibrator
motor. Put a few of these into a circular enclosure and they wander
around at random… increased the number of BristleBots, they began
to self-organise into things like swirling swarms. The transition from
disorder to order is triggered only when the density reaches some
threshold…significantly more to this situation than the random
motion of dumb automatons. The BristleBots are able to detect and
react to aspects of their environment in the sense that they change
direction when they bounce off the confining walls and off each
other…It is this factor–the ability to interact with the environment
and other BristleBots in the simplest manner–that leads to the selforganised behaviour…idea that the interaction between moving
objects and their environment can lead to intelligent-like behaviour is
by no means new. One interesting example is a seemingly intelligent
blob of oil that is able to navigate its way through a maze…not hard
to imagine the Bristlebots demonstrating more intelligent-like
behaviour by interacting together in more complex
environments…interesting question is whether there are any rules
that govern the kinds of collective behaviours that emerge; whether
emerging behaviour can be engineered in a reproducible way…
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