the mind is not a product of conscious complexity, summer field II wallpaper, a link assortment

Where the mindless or automation like abilities of DNA intersect with Alan Turing and computing, ‘A Perfect and Beautiful Machine’: What Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Reveals About Artificial Intelligence

It was, indeed, a strange inversion of reasoning. To this day many people cannot get their heads around the unsettling idea that a purposeless, mindless process can crank away through the eons, generating ever more subtle, efficient, and complex organisms without having the slightest whiff of understanding of what it is doing.

In order to be a perfect and beautiful computing machine, it is not requisite to know what arithmetic is.

Turing’s idea was a similar — in fact remarkably similar — strange inversion of reasoning. The Pre-Turing world was one in which computers were people, who had to understand mathematics in order to do their jobs. Turing realized that this was just not necessary: you could take the tasks they performed and squeeze out the last tiny smidgens of understanding, leaving nothing but brute, mechanical actions. In order to be a perfect and beautiful computing machine, it is not requisite to know what arithmetic is.

What Darwin and Turing had both discovered, in their different ways, was the existence of competence without comprehension. This inverted the deeply plausible assumption that comprehension is in fact the source of all advanced competence. Why, after all, do we insist on sending our children to school, and why do we frown on the old-fashioned methods of rote learning? We expect our children’s growing competence to flow from their growing comprehension.

Mr. Dennett goes on to speculate that one of the reasons some people cannot or will not grasp evolution is because they associate complexity with the kind of abstract thinking which humans are capable. DNA spinning out RNA, in turn weaving complex proteins endlessly – as long as an organism lives – without the input of conscious intelligence. Artificial intelligence thus must also come from thinking like a Homo sapien. Only life evolved without conscious input and computers frequently tackle computations that would take most people hours. Alan Turing wrote this about a computation machine that could act autonomously, but he could have also been talking about evolution and nucleic acids,

The behavior of the computer at any moment is determined by the symbols which he is observing and his “state of mind” at that moment. We may suppose that there is a bound B to the number of symbols or squares which the computer can observe at one moment. If he wishes to observe more, he must use successive observations. … The operation actually performed is determined … by the state of mind of the computer and the observed symbols. In particular, they determine the state of mind of the computer after the operation is carried out.

We know that a computer will select answers that work given some basic instruction. Genes select for things that work or answers to the environment. Will features like flowers, lungs, wings, eyes or pollen survive and be able to reproduce. Biological features that do not work tend not to survive so they are not selected for. Intelligence has its benefits, but obviously it is not required for species to survive and thrive for millions of years. In terms of evolutionary success beetles far out number humans, as do bacteria and numbers of other creatures.

summer field II wallpaper

Jazz junctions – riding New York’s A Train

From Harlem and upper Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens and the Atlantic Ocean – New York city’s A Line subway route covers over 30 miles, takes two hours to ride from end to end, and is the inspiration for one of jazz’s best known tunes.

A very good narrated slide show with music.

8e rue des saules by eugene atget. the offset issue is part of the original image.

I’m not sure what attraction is evolved in shooting oneself in the foot. It’s an easy target or perhaps sadistic tendencies. Pepco is a utility company, Pepco spends more on lobbying than taxes

Pepco spent more lobbying Congress than it paid in taxes between 2008 and 2010, a new report shows.

The electric utility paid $3.8 million to lobbyists in that period, while it paid no taxes. In fact, it made $508 million in profits from federal tax rebates — paying an effective tax rate of negative 57.6 percent, according to the report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Citizens for Tax Justice.

Pepco, named “the most hated company in America,” was one of 30 corporations listed in the report that collectively made nearly $164 billion in U.S. profits and received $67.9 billion in tax subsidies between 2008 and 2010. It was one of 29 corporations that paid an average negative federal tax rate, effectively profiting from corporate incentive programs.

In a report from 2011 30 major U.S. corporations spent more on lobbying than taxes. Those figures would also be included in a summary of the nation’s wealth. Imagine if Pepco for example used that money to fund scholarships. They could have paid for 75 students to get their undergrad degrees from Stanford  or the University of Virginia. Those 30 corporations spent a combined average of about $400,000 per day on lobbying over the course of three years.

Learning Portuguese (Aboard the Seattle-Maru in June 1917)

This photograph shows Japanese emigrants to Brazil learning Portuguese aboard the Japanese emigrant ship Seattle-Maru in 1917. The ship took about 80 days to sail from the port of Kobe, Japan, to Santos, Brazil. Japanese emigration to Brazil began in 1908, and reached its peak in 1926–35. Following the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888, the government of Brazil looked to immigrants to address a labor shortage in the increasingly important coffee industry. European immigrants, particularly Italians, filled the gap at first, but were later joined by immigrants from Japan, where rural poverty was widespread and the economy was struggling to modernize and to reabsorb soldiers returning after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5).

That story reminded me of this recent photojournalism piece in the NYT, Soccer’s Lost Boys, Stranded in Istanbul

In March 2010, more than 40 Nigerians flew to Istanbul, carrying an invitation to try out with Turkey’s professional soccer teams. Within a week of arriving, the players realized that the promises had been false, that their money had been stolen and that they had nowhere to go but the streets. They’ve been there ever since.

The story has contains the irony of many photojournalism pieces about tragedies, sad, but beautiful photographs.

@TweetsofOld – The lightning rod men, after gulling our people out of about $1000, have left for a new field of harvest. PA1896

Lena Dunham’s goodbye to Nora Ephron –  Seeing Nora Everywhere. Aspiring writers and Ephron fans should both enjoy it.