RNC day #1 wrap-up

·From Slate: An Iraqi Freedom vet meets the war protesters. “Perhaps then these protestors would have understood what it looked like to me when two volunteers tipped their casket on its end to get situated. These were not symbols. These were props.”

·The Bikes against Bush guy, whose invention is pretty nifty, was arrested and, as a guest blogger on the MSNBC blog, tells his story of “Li’l Gitmo”.

·I already posted the visual pun of the day, but they changed the URL, so there it is again.

The Religious Experience of Phillip K. Dick

the Religious Experience of Phillip K. DickThe Phillip K. Dick fan site has an R. Crumb comic called “The Religious Experience of Phillip K. Dick” reprinted from Weirdo magazine, illustrating his odd visions from 1974 (or psychotic episode, or theophany, depending on how you explain them).

I’ve read the first books of the Valis trilogy, his last books. They’re thinly disguised autobiography of this period, and am not sure what to make of it all. I think he was probably crazy, but in an extremely cogent way. There’s something about the labyrinthine quality of the books that keeps them from either being fully apprehended or forgotten quietly.

Everyday Turing tests

So, we have a package coming through UPS that can’t be dropped off if we’re not at home. But, UPS won’t not try to deliver the package, even though we know we won’t be home, and we could tell them not to bother. They won’t let you schedule an alternate pickup arrangement until they have one unsuccessful delivery attempt. While I don’t know the reason for this for certain, my hunch is that it’s simply the way their computer systems are designed. This strikes me as the height of stupidity. And it reminds me of this part of this Jaron Lanier essay from a few years ago:

In Turing’s famous thought experiment, a human judge is asked to determine which of two correspondents is human, and which is machine. If the judge cannot tell, Turing asserts that the computer should be treated as having essentially achieved the moral and intellectual status of personhood.

Turing’s mistake was that he assumed that the only explanation for a successful computer entrant would be that the computer had become elevated in some way; by becoming smarter, more human. There is another, equally valid explanation of a winning computer, however, which is that the human had become less intelligent, less human-like.

An official Turing Test is held every year, and while the substantial cash prize has not been claimed by a program as yet, it will certainly be won sometime in the coming years. My view is that this event is distracting everyone from the real Turing Tests that are already being won. Real, though miniature, Turing Tests are happening all the time, every day, whenever a person puts up with stupid computer software.

For instance, in the United States, we organize our financial lives in order to look good to the pathetically simplistic computer programs that determine our credit ratings. We borrow money when we don’t need to, for example, to feed the type of data to the programs that we know they are programmed to respond to favorably.

In doing this, we make ourselves stupid in order to make the computer software seem smart. In fact we continue to trust the credit rating software even though there has been an epidemic of personal bankruptcies during a time of very low unemployment and great prosperity.

We have caused the Turing test to be passed. There is no epistemological difference between artificial intelligence and the acceptance of badly designed computer software.