Darpa’s Physical Intelligence (PI) Initiative, and Its Ridiculousness

I was doing some research and ran across this story again — Darpa’s loony “Physical Intelligence” initiative. The way that Wired passes along this story with a straight face shows us that the magazine, or at least this blog, the popular Danger Room, is not very reliable or qualified when it comes to science or philosophy. One may recall that I criticized the grant solicitation initiative back when it first hit the news.

There are two absolutely ridiculous elements to the initiative. First is that the text of the solicitation implies that it needs to be concretely demonstrated that intelligence is physical, or that there is any doubt over whether intelligence is or is not physical. Second is this quote:

A central tenet is that intelligence spontaneously evolves as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems.

No, it doesn’t. Only a computer scientist that has never studied a single piece of the brain would ever even say this. Intelligence is a very precise thing that evolved due to selection pressures over hundreds of …

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Michael Vassar on The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe Podcast

There is a podcast featuring Singularity Institute President Michael Vassar talking to The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, a podcast produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). It was recorded on September 23rd, a week and a half before the Summit. Skip to 26:00 to get past the news items. Here’s a funny tidbit of Michael talking about some of the poor thinking seen when people discuss how to make AI friendly:

We have a lot of silliness, such as worst moral of the story ever… Lilo and Stitch. “If you’re just nice enough to the fundamentally evil creature, it will have to love you.

That’s at 31:50. So yeah, check it out. My and Michael’s philosophy are quite similar, so you can learn more about how I think by listening to the podcast as well.

Check out 41:00, where Michael explains the whole reason for having a Singularity Summit and Singularity Institute.

At 49:30: “So how do we keep it from deciding that it wants to make ice …

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Molecular Rotor in Motion

This is an animation of a rotor from Drexler and Merkle’s neon pump, animated using Blender. From Machine Phase, a molecular modeling blog.

As Vladimir Nesov points out in the comments, all videos like this should be taken with a grain of salt — they’re sped up to many times what the actual speed would be. This rotor, if it were really moving at that speed, would overheat due to friction in a fraction of a second. This video doesn’t even try to show thermal vibration, but if it did, the vibrations would be much faster than could be portrayed with the frame rate.

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PhysOrg Stuff

There are many press releases on PhysOrg in the last few days related to the subject matter of this blog.

Oscar Pistorius’ artificial limbs give him clear, major advantage for sprint running ‘Rationalizer’ bracelet tells traders when they’re stressed The indefinite self-renewal of specialized cells without the need for stem cell intermediates Are sterile mosquitoes the answer to malaria elimination?

You should subscribe to PhysOrg with an RSS feed reader if you haven’t yet.

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Lunar Subterrane Uncovered

The first “skylight”, as in big hole in the ground like the amazing ones on Mars, has been found on the Moon by Japan’s Kayuga spacecraft. They are thought to be the collapsed ceilings of lava tubes. There has not been volcanic activity on the Moon for about 2.5 billion years, but it is volcanic activity that created the maria (“seas”) on the Moon, and at one point the entire Moon was a glowing ball of magma.

“Lunar underground”, lunar subterrane, what could possibly be cooler than that? Not much.

A certain Dresden Codak comes to mind.

The new Lunar X-Prize: “Navigate a robotic probe to that hole on the Moon and bring us back pictures!”

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Stephen Pinker Responds to Malcolm Gladwell

Here is the exchange of letters. Pinker’s response:

What Malcolm Gladwell calls a “lonely ice floe” is what psychologists call “the mainstream.” In a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence, 52 signatories wrote, “I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes.” Similar conclusions were affirmed in a unanimous blue-ribbon report by the American Psychological Association, and in recent studies (some focusing on outliers) by Dean Simonton, David Lubinski and others.

Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. They noted, among other things, that Berri and Simmons weakened their “weak correlation” (Gladwell described it in the New Yorker essay reprinted in “What the Dog Saw” as “no connection”) by omitting the lower-drafted quarterbacks who, unsurprisingly, turned out not to merit many plays. In any case, the relevance to teacher selection (the focus of …

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