Tuesday, November 26, 2002

smiling since saturday

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

this past saturday was a very good day for me. i regret not having time to update the journal since then.

i started my day with a great exercise session. all upper body work. i'll straighten out my posture yet! then i had a nice, cool, iced chai and caught up on email for a couple hours. then a quick chinese dinner before i ran out to see powaqqatsi, the second in the qatsi trilogy.

powaqqatsi is "life in transition." the juxtaposed images of third world suffering and celebration again reminded the audience of where humanity came from and where we're going. this film moved slower than the first, and presumably *much* slower than the third - which, unfortunately, isn't in the theaters anymore. another unfortunate thing is that nora missed the screening.

but celine showed up. and nora was waiting for us outside the theater afterwards. with mike, it made four, and we high-tailed it to a diner for tea. followed by an hour or so of great conversation, where we introduced nora to transhumanism and discussed the film we'd just seen.

after that nora and i escaped off to the megastore in union square for some more talking about uploading and the future, and where we are in life. we walked around and found a few good books. just got to know each other a bit. i had a great time and i'm looking forward to seeing her again soon.

are we only animals?

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

mike seemed slightly shocked, though mildly amused that i so effortlessly spun the words "but we're only animals" out onto the table for discussion. a day or two later, i came across a few passages in blackmore's book "the meme machine" - which, ironically enough, only makes me want to put her book down so i can read the books she references. meme machine, indeed.

she references Baldwin and Dennett - the latter of which has co-written a book i've read and own called "the mind's i" - with hofstadter. i'd like to put a few passages in here, for the heck of it.
As Baldwin himself puts it - the highest phenomena of intelligence, including consciousness, the lessons of pleasure and pain, maternal instruction and imitation, culminate in the skillful performances of human volition and invention. 'All these instances are associated in the higher organisms, and all of them unite to keep the creature alive... By this means those congenital or phylogenetic variations are kept in existence, which lend themselves to intelligent, imitative, adaptive, and mechanical modification during the lifetime of the creatures which have them. Other congenital variations are not thus kept in existence.' (Baldwin, 1896)
Yeah, 1896. Animals indeed! Good passage, although it's not very forward-thinking. "The highest phenomena of intelligence... culminate in... human volition and invention." -- and what then? Is it inconceivable that human intelligence can create something more intelligent?

And then... Dennett's "Tower of Generate and Test."
  • 1st floor: Darwinian - natural selection
  • 2nd floor: Skinnerian - operant conditioning
  • 3rd floor: Popperian - creatures use hypotheses
  • 4th floor: Gregorian - intellectual positive feedback loop
So now I've got Dennett on the reading list.

But what does it all mean? It means, yes, we're animals. But based on the environment we started with and the resources we've had to compete for means we've evolved into a special kind of animal.

Thinking about environment and competing for resources has me thinking about how an AI will behave given the environment it finds itself in and the resources it'll have to compete for. But that's a topic for another day.

Monday, November 25, 2002


(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

a funny thing happened at work just a little while ago. one of our client's had their machine compromised by a host originating in brazil. heavy traffic was being pushed on port 1501, which is the "satellite data acquisition system" port.

say what?

granted, anyone with half a brain can configure a daemon to listen on a specific port, but that just shook me up. it also makes me think about the how's and when's of involving local or federal authorities when working on network abuse issues. most times, they won't care... but... satellite data acquisition? huh?

the chris salad

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

Available at your local PAX Wholesome Food store:
  • Mixed greens
  • Shredded carrots
  • Chopped cucumbers
  • Cajun chicken
  • Black olives
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Croutons
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
If you're a vegetarian, replace the chicken with egg whites. If you're a vegan, tofu. If you're in need of protein, just add both. With a Granny Smith green apple for dessert, the total comes to $8.88.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

synchronicity - it is now twelve o'clock

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

such a strange day.

long, super-hyped-on-caffeine day at work. tons of progress on the boring project i'm working through. can't wait to get it behind me. if i were to be less cynical, i could look at it as a great experience in project management. marshaling the resources of a team of technicians distributed nationwide to implement a system to save the company valuable time and money. but really it's just nasty telecom stuff that i don't care much about.

after work i picked up some new media. grosse point blank. little nicky. koyaanisqatsi and powaqqatsi. all on dvd. came home, came online. great japanese dinner. i'm trying to condition my body to the taste of seafood. it started a week or two ago with a delicious tuna filet that alex prepared. tonight was salmon teriyaki. my stomach's still not used to it. and it's not all that pleasant-tasting. but it's good for me, or so i hear.

it turns out angela, an online acquaintance of mine from a few months back, has moved to my block! the odds for that are staggering. so we met tonight. watched Y Tu Mama Tambien. all the good things people have said are true. great mexican film. the luisa character's mindset reminds me a great deal of jenellle. i miss her and will be glad to be with her shortly.

speaking of people i miss, tina's visiting errica this weekend. it's a first for me. having a friend from college meet a friend from the internet. it's always weird when remote parts of your life happen to cross when you least expect it. i remember feeling the same way when dave and carrie were chatting online. but tina and errica are apparently getting along famously, which is exciting.

and i've been hearing more and more from tina's friend/sorta-ex-boyfriend joey. conversations with him are interesting. almost a struggle for me. his recovery seems to be going very nicely, which is equally pleasing and satisfying. i'm glad that tina has someone else in her life that appreciates her for who she really is.

the irresistible force song was playing as my iPulse pinged 12 o'clock. a night of synchronicity.

the best - and most out of place - scene in Y Tu Mama Tambien was when Luisa asked Tenoche and Julio whether they ever thought of living forever. she asked it with such a passion... she was in love with the idea. and as blockheaded and immature as these boys were, they were receptive to it. who wouldn't want more time?

Thursday, November 21, 2002

why i wear headphones

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

for the first time in my life (that i can remember) a stranger offered me candy, today. he looked like he had slept on the street. a tattered glove held out a little round peppermint candy wrapped in plastic.

did he expect me to take it? was he trying to sell it to me?

just keep walking. just keep walking.

in other, less creepy news, i've continued to read Susan Blackmore's "The Meme Machine" - which I had commented on earlier. She discounts imitation in "lower" animals by adhering to a strict definition of what counts as imitation. She pits imitation against social learning, and I'm not quite sure I followed her all the way through her explanation. I'll have to re-read that part.

i'm closing in on the halfway point in the book, and she's still in the middle of proving that imitation was the catalyst for the evolution of our advanced brains. Given how much space she has left to work with, I doubt very much whether she'll succeed in swaying me.

I'm in the middle of a chapter on the evolution of language, and it's reminding me that I still need to finish my book on the world's major languages. For some reason, my interested dropped off when I got to Dutch. It's a rather dry, technical book on language, which could explain it.

At tonight's NYTA meeting, John Klos will be giving a talk on neural networks. Given my recent dinner with him, Elaine, and Mike, I'm excited to learn the math behind the process he describes. It's an especialyl relevant and well-timed talk, given that the gov't has just given IBM a contract to construct a computer with a computational capacity that's equivalent to a human brain.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

wined and dined

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

well, tonight's been an interesting one.

two of our biggest vendors were in town and wanted to take us out to dinner. a limo took us to spark's steakhouse, where we had a private room waiting for us. i had to dress up. i hate dressing up. slacks, a shirt and sweater, nice shoes. it's the least i could do, but i didn't enjoy it.

wined and dined. swapping stories about how terrible local exchange carriers are and just basically talking shop. as expected, the engineers and operations crew migrated to one end of the table and the management and sales crew migrated to the other. i think it was a healthy split.

i got to speak to the VP of Operations at one of the companies for a while, and he seemed like a really nice guy. the only vegetarian of the bunch, and from australia, too. i didn't get a chance to ply him with questions on immigration or tell him how i think australia's AI research groups are neat.

one thing i'll have to research later on, is why red wine gives me a headache and white wine doesn't. all i can come up with is the flavor and texture. red has a full-bodied feeling, while white is crisp and dry. i should learn more about wine.

in other news, i just got off the phone with tina, who is back safe and sound in the states. quite a relief. hearing about that bus explosion really freaked me out. she's going to visit errica later this week to see a tori amos show. i wonder how that'll turn out. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2002


(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

I saw Koyaanisqatsi tonight at the American Museum of the Moving Imagine, in Queens. It's a documentary from 1983 on American life. No dialog, no plot. Scored by Philip Glass.

It was very powerful, but it seemed that the filmmaker wanted to instill in the audience the notion that humanity is small, fleeting. That no matter how we may try, there are forces greater than us that are beyond our control.

It backfired. It instilled in me an optimism. How far we've come and how far we still have to go. Our future is open-ended. Our technology may cause problems, but it also has the ability to solve them.

During the scene on cars, all I could think of was clean fuels. During the production-line scene at the car factory with the works, I could only think of nanotechnology's coming effect on manufacturing.

Koyaanisqatsi means "life out of balance." Which is certainly befitting the time in which we live - but it isn't necessarily a sentence passed down on humanity.

Maybe I'm naive.

Friday, November 15, 2002

disappointment can be pleasant

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

So I've finished Drexler's "Engines of Creation"; and will be journaling up a review sometime soon.

But this morning I picked up Susan Blackmore's "The Meme Machine" which has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for the better part of two years now. Lo and behold, she cuts to the chase and by page 3 I'd discovered that I already disagree with her entire thesis! Get a load of this...
The thesis of this book is that what makes us different is our ability to imitate... Certainly, other animals do not take naturally to it."
Say what? It seems she's taken Dawkins' idea of a meme to a most illogically extreme conclusion. When a hungry chimpanzee sees one of its brethren fetching bugs out of the earth with a stick - it learns that behavior or it continues to grow hungry and will eventually starve. Predators mimic bird mating calls. Non-poisonous butterflies have evolved the bright coloring of poisonous butterflies to blend in and not get eaten. Imitation and mimicry seem to be prevalent in nature.

But still, I can't judge a book by the preface and first 3 pages. I'm looking forward to reading on, with the author trying to convince me every step of the way.

It's refreshing to read a book whose thesis I don't particularly agree with. Perhaps it'll better prepare me to handle Fukuyama's work.

Monday, November 11, 2002

odds and ends

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

I never updated the journal on last week's NYTA meeting. Guest speaker was Andrew Zolli, editor of TechTV's The Catalog of Tomorrow. Which presents dumbed-down descriptions of cutting-edge and future technologies for lay-people. The "grandma" demographic. He was a cogent and coherent speaker; intelligent. He brought to the table degrees in Computer Science, Cognitive Science, and Philosophy - precisely the areas i'm interested in pursuing.

He understood that to be an effective speaker, especially to special interest groups such as NYTA - you have to go against the grain a bit. Preaching to the choir bores everyone involved. So he talked to us about trends and statistics and presented the view that our full-speed-ahead attitudes were admirable but probably unrealistic. And in a way, he's right. His talk wasn't meant to discourage us - though some seem to have come away feeling more discouraged... I came away feeling empowered. He understood what many transhumanists don't - that we can't leave the rest of humanity behind. The way society and the (human) world works is far too complex for that.

I came away from the talk feeling reaffirmed in what I already knew to be true - that an effective transhumanist has to focus on more than just science and technology.

An interesting sidenote: hanging out in the transhumanist circles I'm seeing and hearing extropians berated more than I'm used to. Perhaps my defense of them is more emotional than logical; as that community was how I was introduced to futurism/transhumanism. It's something I'll need to explore more in-depth.

Tonight I meet Elaine for the NYC-Geek dinner. Wonder how that'll be. She says the group has been meeting for many years now. Hope all goes well.

I've decided to explore my life insurance options. If they can pay for cryonic suspension, I'd be a fool not to go for it - as I have no dependents. I told my boss that I plan to use my company's policy on me to fund being frozen after death and he had a good laugh. We'll see. Drexler's book paints too pretty a picture. :)

Also; as it's still National Novel Writing Month, I came up with a wonderful scene for a novel - if I ever write it. I'm letting my subconscious work it over for a while before I put it on paper. But I think it's pretty good. The problem is finding a plot to glue all these pretty scenes together.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

the music was better than a backrub

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

i more or less just awoke. last night was quite a night. i took dave and alex out to see bonobo, strictly kev, p-love, and amon tobin at this wonderful venue called the warsaw, in williamsburg, brooklyn.

i listed the artists in the order that they performed, although p-love was already tooling around with the turntables when we got in. he transitioned mr. scruff to the cure to towa tei to... oh, i forget, but it was rad.

bonobo came out and hooked his tibook up. hot shit. unlike his production work (the album animal magic was quite amazing) he used many ethnic beats and samples. traditional religious instruments and newer indian bollywood raga jazz. all on top of some nice and heavy beats. alex and dave shook it while timmy and i hung up in the balcony.

actually, the balcony is where i stayed for the entirety of the show. my back was still hella sore, which was quite a shame - since the music seemed good enough for me to overcome my natural disinclination to shake my funky white ass.

strictly kev, i thought, was pretty good. he just seemed to be having such fun on the stage. he definitely wasn't "at work." the video projector played this strange cartoon while he played. crazy 70's animal animation, all tits and ass and cops coming in to bust the place up. i've no clue where he found it, but it was a riot.

amon tobin didn't come on until about 12:30am, but the crowd was still really really worked up. i stood to get a better view - as i was in the dead center of the balcony. the music and the crowd just danced together. this is where i get all lit101 on yer asses: "it was an undulating mass of beats and bodies the likes of which mine eyes had never before seen." (re-read that last sentence with a hoity-toity brit accent for full effect).

but as the title of this post says, the music was much better than any backrub. the beats were so heavy that they pulverized my spastic back muscles into submission. brooklyn better recognize!

Thursday, November 07, 2002

pain and more to read

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

i threw my back out this morning walking to the subway. i have no clue how it happened, but i suppose it was bound to happen eventually. anyone who's met me - or even just knows me really well - knows that i have horrendous posture. the question is, was this due to my posture or my current sleeping arrangements? my mattress is on the floor until i get a new frame. bah.

anyway, professor bostrom plugged his new book on the WTA discussion list yesterday. it's called Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy. and i'm excited to read it. it's been added to my wish list.

i've recently heard from tina, which was delightful and unexpected. she seems to be doing very well in india. i can't wait until i get a chance to talk about it all. i just hope she's kept a journal that captures her unique view of the experience.

argh, my back hurts.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

good, bad and quiet

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

paperwork came through. i'm now senior network engineer for hq global workplaces.

also; from simon, an old explodingdog.com comic.

and i'm listening to vincent gallo's album. especially "her smell theme." beautiful.

interesting ignorance, life and death

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

Just a couple of selections from Drexler's "Engines of Creation":
In recent decades, the very quality of our remaining ignorance has changed. Once, biologists looked at the process of life and asked "How can this be?" But today they understand the general principles of life and when they study a specific living process they commonly ask, "Of the many ways this could be, which has nature chosen?"
Physicians once declared patients dead when the heart stopped; they now declare patients dead when they despair of restoring brain activity. Advances in cardiac medicine changed the definition once; advances in brain medicine will change it again.
Interesting, no?

I started the day off with a thought experiment from Changesurfer's James Hughes, who wrote to the WTA discussion list about a panel he's on to supervise a show on the next 1000 years. His specific topic was the human body, and what it'd be like after 1000 years. Of course, everyone was quick to point out the futility of guesswork - but to think about it, the question should be whether humans even have bodies that far into the future...

If you're really interested, parse through the WTA thread on the yahoo board to find my reply.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

funny how that works

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)
"just because i'm a brilliant genius, doesn't mean i'm not a complete retard."

Sunday, November 03, 2002

technology woes

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)


coinciding with the installation of linksys wireless card drivers and the wap11 control software, my iMac could no longer set up a samba share to my thinkpad. linksys didn't want to pay microsoft's API license on wireless cards and built their own stack, which completely fucked things up. argh. they've been removed and it's still not working.

i wish there were a soulseek client for osx. best p2p software there is at the moment, IMHO. i've recently downloaded rolling stones, velvet underground, modest mouse (live stuff, too), and sigur ros (life stuff too, too :) -- and it looks like i'll need to set up ftp services on the iMac in order to get the files transferred to my firewire drive, as this linksys thing has completely fucked everything up. argh.

oh, right. on top of everything, the well's pop server has been down all day. just as i had caught up on email, i lose a day of productivity. bastards.

but grand theft auto: vice city has chainsaws. so it's all better :) quite a sweet game.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

biomimicry is a dirty word

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

"Evolution isn't a perfecting principle; it works on the principle of 'just good enough.' If you really want to design something for a task, you have to look at the diversity of organisms out there and then get inspired by principles."

- Robert J. Full.

a day of woe, corrections

(originally posted at bigbadgeek.com)

first with the correction. university of arizona, tucson, says staci. that's where she's at. that's where the killings were. scary.

today dave was laid off at work. some major re-organization is happening. my job seems secure. my new title will apparently be "senior network engineer." i'll be talking to dave and alex tomorrow regarding financial and housing arrangements, to make sure everything is alright for the next few months.

mind you, alex is a great cook. we've actually *made* dinner the past few nights and it's been fantastic. of course, by "we" i mean "her"... but i suppose that goes without saying. but i said it anyway. argh, i dunno. i'm kinda loopy right now.

i'm still in shock about the changes at work. it seems inevitable that my job will be re-homed to Dalals. i've never been, and the stigma surrounding all things texas is just too much to bear. if it ever came up, i'd let them fly me there to look around and evaluate.

so dave's playing the copy of grand theft auto: vice city i picked up for him. it's such a sweet game, we all agree. i'm still struggling through old email. the transhumantech list doesn't have the high volume of the extropian list, but the quality of each post is pretty impressive. of course, they're all pointers to resources elsewhere, but i probably wouldn't find most of this stuff on my own.

tonight i've been reading about quantum information systems, wearable device interfaces, and virtual governments. that last one i'm only partially done with. i wonder if they'll get into the economic models of current MMORPG's.

ah well. signing off on this strange and interesting day.