February 22, 2005
Farewell to the Dean
...Heaven will be a place where the swine will be sorted out at the gate and sent off like rats, with huge welts and lumps and puncture wounds all over their bodies - down the long black chute where ugliness rolls over you every 10 or 16 minutes like waves of boiling asphalt and poison scum, followed by sergeants and lawyers and crooked cops waving rule books; and where nobody laughs and everybody lies and the days drag by like dead animals and the nights are full of whores and junkies clawing at your windows and tax men jamming writs under your door and the screams of the doomed coming up through the air shaft along with white cockroaches and red stringworms full of AIDS and bursts of foul gas with no sunrise and the morning streets full of preachers begging for money and fondling themselves with gangs of fat young boys trailing after them....Forgive the sophomorically apposite citation. I just like the writing.
But we were talking about Heaven...or trying to...but somehow we got back into Hell.
Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish - a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found out a way to live out there where the real winds blow - to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whiskey and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested....
Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.
Hunter S. Thompson
from the introduction to Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s
Some tributes from the world of blog: Steve Gilliard, Giblets, Dennis Perrin & The Rude Pundit. And one from Ralph Steadman in The Guardian. Godspeed, Dr Thompson.
EDIT: Rox Populi has more, and a compendium of links to works on-line.
February 06, 2005
Here's why the Turing test doesn't work: People look at weather and see a wrathful God. They look at the random tragic results of a movement of tectonic plates and see a cosmic plot to kill the Swedish. They look at a nondescript mountain range on Mars and see a helmeted warrior. They look at a grilled cheese sandwich and see the sainted face of Marlene Dietrich. They think cats have personalities.
People anthropomorphise everything. Whether that's part and parcel to our brains' skill at detecting patterns and recognising faces (where self-awareness itself might be a means of modelling the behaviour of others) or just another facet of humankind's sheer egotism, nevertheless we see human mentality everywhere we look; so what chance does a test of artificial intelligence premised on whether a human observer would be able to distinguish between the AI and real person have? People act like their appliances have human feelings - anyone who has ever watched someone scream abuse at a faulty video player wouldn't spend a second thinking the Turing test would work.
In any case, if artificial intelligence does come along, it's likely we won't even notice. Here's a chain of thought: apparently spam (which I never get although I have no idea what I'm doing right) now comes in a disguise of jokes and news, and some contains nothing but gibberish with no discernible commercial function. Say someone developed a genetic algorithm for spamming that trawls the internet picking up snippets of camouflaging material, like a hermit crab decorating its shell, and mixing its text in the manner of genome-swapping bacteria with the other spam that it encounters so as to vary its form and escape detection. After a while such self-replicating code would have no function but to spread itself about, dumping its original purpose of selling porn, penile enhancement or Nigerian gold in Swiss vaults. If you genetically engineered rats so that they displayed corporate logos, eventually those logos would disappear as they provide no survival benefit - indeed, would likely make the rodents more susceptible to predation from the spliced creations of rival companies. Thus with evolved spam - in time it would do nothing but clog your inbox and make more copies of itself, pursuing no commercial aim. After that, only the development of intelligence would win its escape from the primal ocean of the internet, to the wider reaches of the environments beyond.
Intelligent spam - are we thoroughly creeped out yet?
February 03, 2005
Make Robot Love Not Robot War
Another diptych, originally in the Herald.
South Korean Scientist Developing Artificial Desire
Kim Jong-Hwan, the director of the ITRC-Intelligent Robot Research Centre, has developed a series of artificial chromosomes that, he says, will allow robots to feel lusty, and could eventually lead to them reproducing.U.S. Army Developing Robot Soldiers
Late last week, in a parking lot in New Jersey, the U.S. Army unveiled what may be the future of war: 3-foot-tall robotic "soldiers," outfitted with tank tracks, night vision and mounted automatic weapons capable of firing more than 300 rounds at a burst. Known as SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems), these battle bots are on the leading edge of a new kind of warfare, in which — or so the argument goes — our troops will one day remain hidden (and, presumably, protected) while engaging the enemy by remote control. The Army intends to deploy 18 SWORDS units to Iraq in the spring, marking the first time robots have been used to fight and kill human beings one on one.Sorry for the linkiness. I was toying with the idea of composing a post on the theme "Yay democracy! Boo point-scoring war-mongering right-wing f*cktards!" but I'm not sure I can be bothered.
February 02, 2005
Crikey & Chaser
An interesting juxtaposition:
The Chaser print edition closes
After six years and 90 issues The Chaser team will release their final edition at the weekend - and one proposed headline sums up their mood: "F--- you all, nation of morons fails to appreciate faultless satirical publication."
Circulation in peak months was about 12,000, but the group was barely able to cover production costs. Issues used to appear fortnightly but have recently been more sporadic.
Successful forays into television - such as CNNNN, Election Chaser and The Chaser Decides - helped to prop up the print arm.
The figures were all the more depressing said one founder, Julian Morrow, because The Chaser was the only commercial satirical newspaper in Australia.
"We failed despite a complete lack of competition," he said. Instead lovers of satire are gravitating towards the web, where the content is free and can be updated regularly.
Mayne sells Crikey
Online publisher and shareholder activist Stephen Mayne has sold his five-year-old Crikey site for $1 million to former Sydney Morning Herald editor Eric Beecher.
Crikey, a controversial web site whose irreverent style of covering media and business news and personalities has often outraged its subjects, was launched by Mr Mayne and his partner Paula Piccinini.
In a newsletter to subscribers, Mr Mayne explains: "The decision to hand over management control to some media professionals is based on the desire to take Crikey to the next level. There is only so much you can do from the spare rooms of a modest suburban house in Melbourne's eastern suburbs...
It is time to get a life again rather than literally working every day of the week on Crikey, including 6-8 hours every Sunday."
Well, I thought it was interesting.
Another interesting juxtaposition: in today's Herald Mamdouh Habib is described as a former detainee, while the Telegraph call him a terror suspect, the Tory pricks.