Will Machines Ever Become Human?

What does “human” mean? Humans are conscious and intelligent — although it’s curiously easy to imagine one attribute without the other. An intelligent but unconscious being is a “zombie” in science fiction — and to philosophers and technologists too. We can also imagine a conscious non-intelligence. It would experience its environment as a flow of unidentified, meaningless sensations engendering no mental activity beyond mere passive awareness.

Some day, digital computers will almost certainly be intelligent. But they will never be conscious. One day we are likely to face a world full of real zombies and the moral and philosophical problems they pose. I’ll return to these hard questions.

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The possibility of intelligent computers has obsessed mankind since Alan Turing first raised it formally in 1950. Turing was vague about consciousness, which he thought unnecessary to machine intelligence. Many others have been vague since. But artificial consciousness is surely as fascinating as artificial intelligence.

Digital computers won’t ever be conscious; they are made of the wrong stuff (as the philosopher John Searle first argued in 1980). A scientist, Searle noted, naturally assumes that consciousness results from the chemical and physical structure of humans and animals — as photosynthesis results from the chemistry of plants. (We assume that animals have a sort of intelligence, a sort of consciousness, to the extent they seem human-like.) You can’t program your laptop to transform carbon dioxide into sugar; computers are made of the wrong stuff for photosynthesis — and for consciousness too.

No serious thinker argues that computers today are conscious. Suppose you tell one computer and one man to imagine a rose and then describe it. You might get two similar descriptions, and be unable to tell which is which. But behind these similar statements, a crucial difference. The man can see and sense an imaginary rose in his mind. The computer can put on a good performance, can describe an imaginary rose in detail — but can’t actually see or sense anything. It has no internal mental world; no consciousness; only a blank.

[Read the full text here, at BQO]

Bur some thinkers reject the wrong-stuff argument and believe that, once computers and software grow powerful and sophisticated enough, they will be conscious as well as intelligent.

They point to a similarity between neurons, the brain’s basic component, and transistors, the basic component of computers. Both neurons and transistors transform incoming electrical signals to outgoing signals. Now a single neuron by itself is not conscious, not intelligent. But gather lots together in just the right way and you get the brain of a conscious and intelligent human. A single transistor seems likewise unpromising. But gather lots together, hook them up right and you will get consciousness, just as you do with neurons.

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But this argument makes no sense. One type of unconscious thing (neurons) can create consciousness in the right kind of ensemble. Why should the same hold for other unconscious things? In every other known case, it does not hold. No ensemble of soda cans or grapefruit rinds is likely to yield consciousness. Yes but transistors, according to this argument, resemble neurons in just the right way; therefore they will act like neurons in creating consciousness. But this “exactly right resemblance” is just an assertion, to be taken on trust. Neurons resemble heart cells more closely than they do transistors, but hearts are not conscious. Read the rest of this entry »


BLUNT FORCE: Medical Report Reveals Putin Spokesman Mikhail Lesin’s Head Bashed In

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‘It was just a little tap on the head, nothing serious’. 

A former spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin who co-founded the Kremlin-backed news outlet RT died in a Washington hotel room of blunt force trauma to the head in November, according the office of D.C.’s medical examiner.

The Thursday revelation runs counter to previous reports that Mikhail Lesin‘s November death was due to a heart attack, reigniting accusations that foul play may have been involved.

[Also see – Palace Intrigue: Putin’s Aide Mikhail Lesin Found Dead]

A joint statement from the Washington Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Metropolitan Police Department claimed that Lesin, 59, also suffered “blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities,” which contributed to his death. Read the rest of this entry »


Google Expands Self-Driving Car Testing to Washington State

WASHINGTON (Reuters) David Shepardson reports: Alphabet Inc said Wednesday its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Washington later this month, the third city where it is testing autonomous vehicles.

 “We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”

— Washington Governor Jay Inslee

The company’s Google unit has conducted autonomous vehicle testing for six years in Mountain View, California, where it is based, and it expanded testing to Austin, Texas last summer.

Google said in a statement that one reason for the new site in the northwest United States is to gain experience in “different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.”

Kirkland has significant seasonal rain that allows for wet weather testing, along with hills that will allow testing of sensors at different angles and elevations.

Google began a few weeks ago driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland to create a detailed map of the streets. Read the rest of this entry »


America’s Least Favorite Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Just Got Arrested by the Feds

AIDS activists and others are asked to leave the lobby during a protest highlighting pharmaceutical drug pricing. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File

Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old hedge fund and pharmaceutical industry guru who alienated large swaths of America by dramatically jacking up the price of a life-saving drug this September, was arrested by the FBI at his home in Manhattan early Thursday morning, as Bloomberg reports.

Shkreli first rose to national prominence when he raised the price of Daraprim, a drug that treats toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 to $750 overnight. The move drew condemnations from across the political spectrum, as well as the scrutiny of Congress, but after briefly suggesting he would walk back the price hike, Shkreli decided to go ahead with it. He even teased plans to acquire the rights to—and significantly raise the price of—another infectious disease treatment earlier this month. Read the rest of this entry »


Democratic Debate: Nothing at Stake

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The candidates began their closing statements with more than 10 minutes to go until the scheduled 11 p.m. conclusion, with Bernie Sanders finishing his at 9:52 p.m. local time…

Source: POLITICO


‘As Difficult as it Might Be to Accept, There Are Problems That Can’t Be Fixed By Washington’

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The More You Politicize Guns, The Weaker Your Case Becomes.

 writes: After the horrific mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, President Obama made an impassioned case that gun violence is “something we should politicize”—and why should this be any different:

“This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”

Everything in that statement is wrong.  What happened in Oregon is tragic, and the nation should comfort families and look for reasonable and practical ways to stem violence, but there is only one murderer. Now, if government somehow bolstered, endorsed, or “allowed” the actions of Chris Harper-Mercer—as they might, say, the death of 10,000-plus viable babies each year or the civilian deaths that occur during an American drone action—a person could plausibly argue that we are collectively answerable as a nation.

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“For the liberal, every societal problem has a state-issued remedy waiting to be administered over the objections of a reactionary Republican. But just because you have a tremendous amount of emotion and frustration built up around a certain cause doesn’t make your favored legislation any more practical, effective or realistic.”

Then again, when the president asserts Americans are collectively answerable, what he really suggests—according to his own broader argument—is that conservatives who’ve blocked his gun-control legislation are wholly responsible. The problem with that contention, outside of the obvious fact that Republicans never condone the use of guns for illegal violence (in fact, these rampages hurt their cause more than anything) is that Democrats haven’t offered a single bill or idea (short of confiscation) that would impede any of the mass shootings, or overall gun violence. This is not a political choice, because it’s likely there is no available political answer.

[Read the full text here, at The Federalist]

For the liberal, every societal problem has a state-issued remedy waiting to be administered over the objections of a reactionary Republican. But just because you have a tremendous amount of emotion and frustration built up around a certain cause doesn’t make your favored legislation any more practical, effective or realistic. It doesn’t change the fact that owning a gun is a civil right, that the preponderance of owners are not criminals, or that there are 300 million guns out there.

And if it’s a political argument you’re offering—and when hasn’t it been?—you’ll need more than the vacuousness of the “this is bad and so we have to do something.” That’s because anti-gun types are never able to answer a simple question: what law would you pass that could stop these shootings?

Read the rest of this entry »


Now You Can Make Diamonds in a Microwave

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Lab-Grown Diamonds Made In A Microwave Are Now A Thing. 

 reports: Diamonds really are forever, now that we can manufacture them.

“The man-made diamonds are starting to be sold by retailers such as Wal-Mart , although they still make up just a small fraction of total diamond sales.”

There’s a growing market for man-made jewels grown in science labs, Bloomberg reports. The diamonds are made by placing a carbon seed in a microwave chamber and superheating the substance into a plasma ball, which crystallizes into the much-desired jewels. Experts can only tell the difference between the manufactured diamonds and traditionally mined ones using a machine…(read more)

Source: Fortune


Richard Johnson: Courtroom Drawings from the Tsarnaev Death Penalty Debate

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Richard Johnson is a field artist, visual journalist and senior graphics editor at The Washington Post. Read more about his very unique perspective as a courtroom artist in the Bostom Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev death penalty debate here.

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Fine work by Richard Johnson. Visit Illustration Age, the best source for editorial illustration and graphic design.

[ILLUSTRATION AGE]


The New Bookkeeper Is a Robot

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Vipal Monga writes: Five years ago, 80 clerks and salespeople at Pilot Travel Centers LLC spent a combined 3,200 hours a week tracking and paying for orders for thousands of goods, ranging from candy bars to diesel fuel.

“Today, a computer ‘robot’—basically software—automates these tasks…software sends out payments and records every transaction. As a result, the company needs just 10 clerks working a weekly total of 400 hours to pay suppliers.”

They typed the orders into an accounts-payable database, and printed out thousands of checks to pay suppliers. After slipping them into envelopes and adding postage, they put the checks in the mail.

Illustration by Randall Enos

Illustration by Randall Enos

“Automation is threatening to replace swaths of white-collar workers, much as mechanical robots have displaced blue-collar workers on assembly lines.”

“It was just awful,” said David Clothier, treasurer of the Knoxville, Tenn., company, which operates more than 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops nationwide. “There were humans everywhere.”

Today, a computer “robot”—basically software—automates these tasks. Suppliers send their invoices to Pilot Travel electronically. Its software sends out payments and records every transaction. As a result, the company needs just 10 clerks working a weekly total of 400 hours to pay suppliers.

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Robots are taking over corporate finance departments, performing work that often required whole teams of people. Big companies such as Pilot Travel, New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and GameStop Corp., of Grapevine, Texas, are among those using software to automate many corporate bookkeeping and accounting tasks.

Businesses use these programs to save time and staffing costs. Since 2004, the median number of full-time employees in the finance department at big companies has declined 40% to about 71 people for every $1 billion of revenue, down from 119, according to Hackett Group, a consulting firm. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] THE PANTSUIT REPORT UPDATE: Hillary Supporters Starting to Squirm

Game Change and Double Down co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann held a focus group with loyal Clinton supporters in New Hampshire. The results? Like Janeane Garofalo in a nylon pantsuit, moist and squirmy.

Hot Air‘s Noah Rothman writes:

…On Wednesday, it was discovered that the substandard security protocols applied to Clinton’s personal email system were so poor that it was vulnerable to “spoofing.” Meaning that a foreign intelligence service could easily PANTSUIT-REPORThave hijacked her email system and impersonated Clinton in electronic communications with her aides or associates inside the American diplomatic community.

Clinton will one day have to answer for all these charges. When she does, she will have to explain in granular detail why she behaved as callously as she has. If the press doesn’t force her into it, a Republican on a debate stage in October of 2016 will. And while the Beltway looks at the polls and shrugs, Clinton’s grassroots supporters are apparently far more disturbed by her behavior and its implications.

Recently, Game Change and Double Down co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, in partnership with the polling firm Purple Strategies, traveled to New Hampshire where they held a focus group with loyal Clinton supporters. Read the rest of this entry »


Left-Wing Realpolitik Has No Interest in the World Beyond America’s Borders

Barack Obama, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel

Obama’s Brutal Foreign Policy

The Democratic left’s worldview was defined forever by the Vietnam War. LBJ’s budget got caught between guns for Vietnam and butter for the Great Society. Barack Obama is refusing to be trapped by this dilemma. The Obama legacy will be about butter…

Daniel Henningerrenocol_DanHenninger writes: Conventional explanations for Barack Obama’s foreign policy need an update. Mr. Obama’s famous indecision or antipathy to America’s traditional postwar role in the world all have had their moment. They inform an understanding of this president’s worldview—up to a point.

We have reached that point. They are not enough.

In just the past few weeks, the following events have happened. They are a blur of chaos and brutality.

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Islamic State videotaped its beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and Egypt’s bombed Islamic State camps in retaliation. An ISIS sympathizer sprayed bullets into a free-speech meeting in Copenhagen. A 4,000-man army post in Yemen was overrun by fighters from al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Russian-supported rebels in Ukraine commenced an artillery barrage on Kiev’s forces inside the city of Debaltseve after the grand cease-fire brokered by Germany and France.

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Jordan’s King Abdullah asked the U.S. to send aircraft parts and munitions after ISIS immolated a caged Jordanian pilot. Nigeria’s homicidal Islamic jihadist group, Boko Haram, extended its assaults into Niger and Chad. Both Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi separately called on the United Nations, of all things, to organize a coalition to clean up Libya. A Jewish cemetery in France was smashed to pieces.

The reaction of the U.S. government to all this?

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The White House this week assembled a “summit” on “countering violent extremism,” where on Wednesday Mr. Obama restated the difference between Islam and the perversion of Islam.

Ukraine’s embattled army, encircled in the strategic railway city of Debaltseve by rebels using Russian artillery and tanks, desperately needed defensive military equipment from the U.S. They didn’t get it. On Tuesday Vladimir Putin said they should surrender. On Wednesday, hours before Mr. Obama spoke to the extremism summit, they gave up.

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“Before I go through the elements of this strategy, I want to note how our approach may differ from what others may recommend. We believe in the importance of economic growth, but we insist upon investing in the foundations of American power: education and health care; clean energy and basic research.”

— National Security Adviser Susan Rice

Islamic State’s videotaped barbarism expands, but the U.S. commitment against them in Iraq and Syria will not move beyond limited airstrikes.

Nigeria, like Libya and Iraq, is a nation of vast oil revenue for whoever controls it. Nigeria’s chance of getting support from the Obama administration before it falls into chaos is zero, no matter how many girls Boko Haram kidnaps.

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“Leftist realpolitik—melting guns so it can churn more butter—may survive a pullout from the world in normal times. But it’s not going to hold for the next two years, not at this pace, not with Islam’s jihadists using social media to make all of us party to the de-civilizing of the world.”

It is a mistake to think that Mr. Obama’s passivity or indecision are sufficient explanation. What is on offer here is the American left’s version of realpolitik. The decision by the Obama White House not to deploy American resources is thought-out, brutal and unapologetic.

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“Eventually Barack Obama will be forced to act, or his presidency will erode politically, taking many Democrats with him.”

President Obama in his Feb. 6 national-security statement explained what he is doing—or not doing. He was precise and clear:

“We have to make hard choices among many competing priorities and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.”

Short version: He’s not spending real money on any of this. Get over it. Read the rest of this entry »


TV Stations Silenced, Schools Shut After Thai Army Coup

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Thai soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint near the pro-government ”Red shirts” camp site on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 22, 2014. Photographer: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

For BloombergChris Blake and Anuchit Nguyen report: Schools were shut and international television channels were off air as stations broadcast military logos and periodic army statements, a day after Thailand’s military seized control following a six-month political stalemate that has sapped economic growth.

Traffic was light in Bangkok after the army ordered schools and universities closed until May 25. Army Chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who announced the coup on national television yesterday, imposed a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. and banned political protests. Read the rest of this entry »


Apple’s multi-billion dollar secret workshops producing innovative gadgets you’ll never see

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Bloomberg claims to have some info on how Apple plans to spend some of the $10.5B it has set aside for capital expenditure over the next year, saying that the investments will span everything from lasers to robots.

Apple is spending more on the machines that do the behind-the-scenes work of mass producing iPhones, iPads and other gadgets. That includes equipment to polish the new iPhone 5c’s colorful plastic, laser and milling machines to carve the MacBook’s aluminum body, and testing gear for the iPhone and iPad camera lens …

A fair chunk of the cash – up from $7B last year – will of course be spent on initial work on the company’s spaceship campus, but Bloomberg’s sources say that Apple takes a very hands-on approach to its manufacturing process.

Read the rest of this entry »


SPIKED: Bloomberg News Said to Withhold Articles That Might Anger China

Xi Jinping 习近平

Xi Jinping 习近平 

The New York Times has spoken with unnamed employees of  News in Hong Kong who say that editors chose not to run a story on ties between a wealthy businessman and China’s top leaders:

The investigative report they had been working on for the better part of a year, which detailed the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders, would not be published.

In the call late last month, [editor in chief Matthew] Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the  by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.

“He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.

Read the rest of this entry »


FAIL: Obesity up 25 percent in NYC, Bloomberg’s Nannytown Misadventure Exposed as Failure

Mayor Bloomberg discusses sugary drinks at a 2012 press conference.

Mayor Bloomberg discusses sugary drinks at a 2012 press conference.

Reduce the obesity rate in New York City? Fat chance!

More New Yorkers than ever are living large, despite Nanny Bloomberg’s war on sugary drinks and fast foods, statistics obtained by The Post reveal.

The city’s obesity rate among adults has skyrocketed 25 percent since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, city Health Department figures show.

That year, nearly one in five New Yorkers was considered obese. Now almost one in four is. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Cabinet Fails Disclosure Test: 19 in 20 Ignores Law

On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama ordered federal officials to “usher in a new era of open government” and “act promptly” to make information public.

As Obama nears the end of his term, his administration hasn’t met those goals, failing to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, according to an analysis of open-government requests filed by Bloomberg News.

Nineteen of 20 cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the law requiring the disclosure of public information: The cost of travel by top officials. In all, just eight of the 57 federal agencies met Bloomberg’s request for those documents within the 20-day window required by the Act…

“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk”‘

…The Bloomberg survey was designed in part to gauge the timeliness of responses, which Attorney General Eric Holder called “an essential component of transparency” in a March 2009 memo. About half of the 57 agencies eventually disclosed the out-of-town travel expenses generated by their top official by Sept. 14, most of them well past the legal deadline…

More >> via >>  Bloomberg

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