Playing god

Following up on my earlier post, Aliens, AI and Aesthetics, I find it rather surprising that the only things I’ve seen rise up in the discussion, are the trolley problem, and a few doomsday prophets. I should be expecting to see the old debates about the existence of god and the issues of playing god give rise, as we discuss the creation of artificial sentience.

Early on one morning walk to work, I was thinking about the “miserable winning conditions” I mentioned on that earlier post. This lead me back to the old classic question: Continue reading “Playing god”

Aliens, AI and Aesthetics

Here’s the optimistic posting I promised in my last posting, “Who decides what you see?” Have I understood it correctly from the involved documentaries, concerning the recently released sequel movie Blade Runner 2049, the original film in 1982 marks the beginning of dystopian science fiction movie culture, as distinction to the preceeding utopian science fiction, such as the original Star Trek series (and movies) and the original Battlestar Galactica series. We are living the era, when science fiction is dominated by dark colours and threats from outside our home planet, as well as from the technology we are building. Even Stephen Hawking is warning that the development of artificial sentience would become the end of humankind.[1] I tend to disagree.

The first season of Star Trek introduced the Prime Directive[2], which emphasised the importance of not harming the development of less developed species. Continue reading “Aliens, AI and Aesthetics”

Who decides what you see?

The Tommy Edison Experience is one of the Youtube vlogger channels I’ve subscribed to and tend to follow. Just today I saw them tweet about their latest video with a alert coloured headline: “Our channel is in trouble”.[1] Yellow text on black background, a bit like the tabloids use on their posters.

The Tommy Edison Experience had noticed that people who have requested notifications for new postings on the channel, no longer got the notifications for each video. Continue reading “Who decides what you see?”

A Beginning is a Delicate Time

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct”, said Frank Herbert as the writings of the Princess Irulan of his science fiction book Dune.[1]

Thinking zombieWhen analysing an interaction system, one of the first questions I ask is: “Where does this story begin?” I find it all too often that a digital application’s initial screen has an excessively complex menu, where one doesn’t know which option one should take to start using it. My typical example is the Microsoft Outlook calendar, where one has menu options of something like “new meeting”, “new appointment”, and “new…”. If I want to mark my vacation to the calendar, is it a meeting, or an appointment? Behind the third option, I find actually the two earlier options repeated, for all that I see there. The counter example is Google Calendar, where there is one clear button in red colour, reading: “new…”. Once I click it, the system starts asking me sensible questions that I can answer. This button is, where the story begins, and it ends with a proper marking made in the calendar. Neat and tidy! This is a significant part of “onboarding”. Continue reading “A Beginning is a Delicate Time”


Thinking zombieIt’s been at least a year since I last played Assassin’s Creed III. I haven’t finished the story, and it’s likely that I never will. It’s also been at least half a year since I last played Skyrim. The same thing with that. For the time being I am using the little time that I have for videogames, on No Man’s Sky and Cities: Skylines. One reason, why I’m unlikely to go back to the unfinished games, is that after I’m through with these two, I’ll be probably starting on something new instead. Another reason is the main issue of this blog entry: I would need to re-learn all the moves used in those games and figure out what the story was and where I was at the story. When starting to play a new game, you have this phase called onboarding, where the game is easy and simple and teaching you more and more what it is all about. Now I am in the middle of it all in these games, and I have forgotten most everything that the game taught me to do in the game. And, like any other game, these game have no back-onboarding designed in them. Continue reading “Back-onboarding”

The Descartes Thing

Thinking zombieBy reading my blog you will find that I’m quite enthusiastic by Michael Graziano’s theory of consciousness[1]. Just recently I came across this other book on consciousness[2] (also from 2013) by Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi that I’ve been now eagerly reading as well. It has given me more insight on what is known of consciousness… or awareness… or sentience…

And here lies a problem: There are several terms in the English language that seem to be used almost interchangeably for this thing that René Descartes reached for in 1637[3]. This is partially due to negligence, but I believe, most often due to people having focus on different things, where the Descartes thing is only a somewhat relevant side track.

We have, at least, consciousness, intelligence, awareness, soul, and sentience. Continue reading “The Descartes Thing”

Everything Looks Like a Nail

Thinking zombieI recently came across this article by senior research psychologist Robert Epstein, titled “The Empty Brain”[1]. It was linked on a critical Facebook posting that was upset about the article’s superficially most important point appearing to be that the brain is not a computer. Ironically, this Facebook poster had become upset about Epstein’s wording and got stuck with the verbal term, not seeing the actual thought behind the phrasings.

I started reading the article and found myself initially with the same ire as the Facebook poster had. Fortunately I have experience in looking past my first reactions. It looks like Epstein uses provocatively roughly formed language as a tool to try and shake people awake from being satisfied with how they are looking at the world through tainted glasses. His point would not be that the brain couldn’t abstractly be considered as a computer. As I understand, Epstein’s point is the same as in the old proverb: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Here I am, of course, on a bad footing, being first a computer scientist, who only has a minor subject and a keen interest in psychology and awareness. My hammer and nail is the computer, so I should be biased to see everything, including the brain as a computer. Continue reading “Everything Looks Like a Nail”