Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Run for your lives! The Singularity is coming!

I’ve been reading a book by Ray Kurzweil called, The Singularity is Near. And no, the singularity does not consist entirely of Ray Kurzweil giving you a single finger. The singularity is supposed to be when the accelerating advance of human knowledge and technology reaches such a fevered pace that it skyrockets and our lives are completely transformed from what they were before. Kurzweil says this will happen around 2045. Only 38 more years. Sounds like we’d better enjoy our ignorance and technical incompetence while we can.

Now these ideas aren’t exactly new. They’ve been causing trouble for thousands of years. There have always been people who have said that if you follow their teachings (carefully prolong your life until immortality is invented) you will get to heaven (immersive virtual reality where you can do it with Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt or a combination of the two, Brad Jolie.) However, this particular nutty prophet is actually right about a few things, which puts him a little ahead of Jesus or Muhammad or Jeshammad.

Ray Kurzweil is typically portrayed as being insanely optimistic, but I actually agree with a lot of what he says. Human knowledge and technological progress is advancing at an accelerating rate. But I’m not too impressed by his prediction that we’ll all become immortal in the future. I mean look at the people around you and the ones you encounter online. Do you really want to be stuck with these people forever? You might say that it doesn’t matter, that you’ll spend all your time in virtual reality doing it with Brad Jolie, but there are people out there who aren’t going to be satisfied until you’re doing it with Jeshammad.

I don’t know if advances will come to pass as early as he says they will, but on one point at least he is much more pessimistic than I am. He says a machine won’t be able to accurately mimic human intelligence and pass a Turing test until about 2029. I think the date is much more likely to be next week sometime. Trust me on this, it only takes a minimal amount of computing power to mimic my cousin Andy:

TEST GIVER: What are you thinking about right now?
TEST GIVER: Anything else.
ANDY SIMULATION: Nah. Just beer.
TEST GIVER: Not sex?
ANDY SIMULATION: Are you a chick?
TEST GIVER: I’m a woman.
ANDY SIMULATION: Will you get all shitty if I tell the truth?
TEST GIVER: No, I won’t get all shitty if you tell the truth.
ANDY SIMULATION: Mostly beer, sometimes sex.
TEST GIVER: What would you say if I said that life was a constant conflict between what we aspire to be and our recognition of what we really are?
ANDY SIMULATION: Show us your tits.
TEST GIVER: All right then, we’ll try a different tack. You are walking in the desert. The sun is beating down on you. You come across a tortoise lying on it’s back in the sun. The tortoise can’t move. Its little legs are helplessly waving in the air. You could help this tortoise, but…
ANDY SIMULATION: Is it male or female?
TEST GIVER: It doesn’t really matter.
ANDY SIMULATION: Is it the male of its species, or the female?
TEST GIVER: It’s… it’s male.
ANDY SIMULATION: Fuck it then. I kick it.

As you can see, not a lot of computer power required there. In fact, I myself have written a computer program that is as intelligent as Einstein and I’m willing to put it through the Turing test right now. I’ll ask questions to two subjects. One of the subjects will be my computer program and the other will be the real Einstein. It’s your challenge to tell them apart.

ME: Thank you both for participating in this test. First I’d like to ask you both how you feel today?
SUBJECT 1: (Silence)
SUBJECT 2: (Silence)
ME: In your opinion, what would you say are the characteristics that truly define humanity?
SUBJECT 1: (Silence)
SUBJECT 2: (Silence) (Rotting smell.)
ME: Do you believe in Cartesian duality? That there is something about being human that cannot be captured and replicated by a machine no matter how well it is able to simulate the functioning of the human brain?
SUBJECT 1: (Silence)
SUBJECT 2: (Silence) (Fly lands on skull, crawls into eye socket.)
ME: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SUBJECT 1: (Silence)
SUBJECT 2: (Silence) (Worm emerges from rotting suit, falls on carpet.)
ME: Thank you for your time, gentlemen.

So, could you tell them apart? I bet it wasn’t as easy to as you thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I couldn’t be bothered to write about my lack of enthusiasm…

I haven’t done any work at all today. Not unless you get really imaginative with the definition of the word work. Even my dreams weren’t particularly productive this morning. They were just about how the dingier restaurants in Japan are better value for money, me discovering a good luck cat charm and a collection of novelty decoratred eggs in the gutter and my obtaining my own flat while still a high school student and deciding that I could learn more by staying at home and reading rather than attending school.

It’s funny that although I have travelled the world, battled blood sucking diseased monsters, been savagely hurled through the air and cruelly injured by mechanical monstrosities, and have sat through the entirety of Highlander 2, but my worst nightmares still involve high school. But then too this day I have still not faced anything as horrific as high school. I’m not saying that it was as bad as gutting fish for 12 hours a day, but it would have been nice to have had that option.

Not that I had any nightmares last night, but there was nothing that was obviously money making. No award winning songs, no great inventions, no locations to secret buried treasures. (Not that people ever let me dig deep enough into their living room floors before they call the police.) So basically there is no way I can claim to have done work.

It seems that for some strange reason I’m just generally reluctant to do work.

So from now on I’ve decided to only take on projects that engage my enthusiasm. If I feel like working on projects involving space travelling bonobos or nanobot chimpanzees, then gosh darn it, I’ll work on those projects! Instead of working on things I want to work on, I’ve been getting myself all twisted out of shape worring about things like artistic merit, taste, coherence, legality and making any kind of sense what so ever. Well all that’s going out the window and I pity those poor fools who get hit by the pointy triangles of coherence! The world is going to see a new me, and I’m not talking about a clone I grew in a vat! A new productive me that will cast off the shackles of convention! A me that won’t be held back or hampered by self imposed…

Is that the time? I’d better be getting to bed. I’ll finish this later. Well I would, except having to finish it later makes it seem a bit like work, and as I may have mentioned, I’m not too motivated about doing work…

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Brothel of my Dreams

I actually had a decent night’s sleep last night. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. I dreamed I went to a brothel. I was in a large waiting room with quite a few other people when a woman walked in and it was announced that my lady of the night was ready for me, even though it was the daytime. My prostitute was very sweet and I thought I was very lucky to be selected for her.

We went for a walk to the park together and sat under a tree so we could get to know each other better. I’m not sure if they do this at real brothels, but I suppose they must otherwise how would the prostitutes know if they wanted to sleep with their client or not? Well, we got on just fine, so we headed back to the brothel for sex. My prostitute got into bed and I was about to get into the bed also when everything faded out on account of how this was a PG rated dream. When I woke up in the morning I was sleeping in another room of the Brothel and I wondered if I had to pay extra for staying the night. I had been woken up by the noise, as apparently prostitutes are quite loud in the morning.

I put on my clothes but I couldn’t find my wallet or keys. I figured I must have left them somewhere in the brothel. I didn’t think they had been stolen because if you can’t trust prostitutes who can you trust?

I walked around the brothel looking for them, nodding hello to the prostitutes I passed, when I entered a small room and a prostitute entered after me and said she would have sex with me for $70. I explained that I had lost my wallet and she said that $50 was okay. Apparently this prostitute accepted I.O.U.s. Her wanting to have sex with me made me think two things. One, I must be a handsome, sexy guy if so many prostitutes want to have sex with me. And two, it was economically normal behaviour for people to attempt to avoid extraction of rents by people such as the brothel owners.

Then everything faded out again. I was actually confused about whether or not we’d had sex similar to how it can be hard to tell if people have had sex in some older movies.

Well, I couldn’t find my wallet or keys, so I had to spend another night at the brothel on account of how I couldn’t drive home. The next day I gave up and started to walk home and on the way I met my parents in a swamp I was passing through. They were both quite pleased to hear that I was on my way home from a brothel.

Actually I left out the part of my dream where I was looking for my wallet and I walked into a room with a large indoor swimming pool. There was a group of athletic men wearing swimming costumes at one end and they asked me if I would pay $200 for sex. I thought about what a lovely person my prostitute had been and said that $200 for sex was definitely worth it. Then they all started chasing after me and I had to run for my life. I didn’t mention this in case people took it the wrong way and thought I was some sort of swimmerphobe or something.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Waiting for the comments to come flooding in.

I promised that today in an attempt to boost my popularity I would give the answer the following question:


Well, when Prince William was younger he was enjoying himself much more than Charles did at that age and Charles decided he wasn’t going to stand for it and cut off his allowance. Well, some of it anyway, for a period of time. It wasn’t as if he was going to make his own son live like a normal person or anything.

Boring Dailly Trivia of my Life


Woke up,
Got out of bed,
Didn’t drag a comb across my head...

I’ve decided that what my blog needs to increase its readership above one (hi mum!) is more boring day to day trivia. That’s what a lot of other blogs have. Really boring, mindless crap. So rather than my usual insightful, intellectual pronouncements I will tell you the details of my fascinating life.

So far this morning I have woken up, turned on the computer, urinated and thrown my underpants in the wash. (Yes, that’s right. Soon I’ll be able to have all the accidents I want.)

So, what to do now? Can’t seem to really focus at the moment. I shouldn’t be tired, I only just got up… Ah! I’ve got it! I must be hungry! I’ll have breakfast! Time to go see what’s in the fridge.

Well, that was pleasant. I had a small amount of maize, a brussel sprout, navy beans, army beans, a green bean and a vegetable that I have decided to call styrofoam. Although putatively healthy, it didn’t really hit the spot, which is surprising because I have an excessively large spot. Must remember to go food shopping today.

So, what to do today, what to do? Well, I could clean up the place a bit. Broadening my definition of both rubbish bin and filing cabinet to include the concept of floor does seem to have resulted in a small amount of disorganisation. But is it really fair on the rest of the world for me to waste my huge intellect performing such a menial task? I don’t really think so. And besides, think of all the carbon I’m sequestering by not taking out the rubbish.

Let’s see, I have some DVDs I can watch and some books I can read. I could actually like, you know, leave the house and do something. Spend some of the huge quantity of money I have on doing something fun. Hmmm… Pity I can’t think of anything. I mean, why bother? Basically, when people say they are having fun they are just going places and seeing things and doing things. Well I can go places in my own house and see and do things here as well. What’s the point in leaving? I mean, it’s not as if I’m going to meet anyone who is more interesting to talk to than myself, right?

Well, if I’m not going to clean up the place and I’m not going to read or watch DVDs I guess I’d better do some work. Yes work. No, it’s okay, don’t be alarmed, I’ve actually worked before. It’s a strange compulsion I have. I actually believe that my life will be better if I actually do something with it. It’s all rather odd I know, but there you have it. Well, let's get to work.

No, wait a minute! There could be monkey jokes on the internet!

No monkey jokes. Well that was a waste of 23 minutes. But I did meet a guy who denies that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. I suggested he write a paper on it and get a noble prize for revolutionising physics, but he said it wasn’t worth the effort because it would just be suppressed by evil scientists who are using the lie that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation in the 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micron bands to conquer the world. I asked him where the monkey jokes were, but he didn’t know. Well, I guess I better get to work then. Unless of course the monkey jokes are hiding among the gorilla jokes!

No, no they weren’t. Two more minutes wasted. Okay, to work now. Um, let’s see open file. Look at file. Oooh, symbols! It’s almost as if it’s some kind of language. Yes, yes… I know what this is. It’s English. Or rather, monkey English! Or it will be once I’m done improving it! No! No! Must resist temptation. These people want American English, not monkey English. Must resist temptation to OOOK EEEK! Must gain payment and professional recognition… So hard to resist the siren lure of monkey English…

Okay, I’m better now. What am I working on again? Oh yeah, medical stuff. What to do if your head comes off etc. Well I’ll get stuck into it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Inflatable Domestic Abuse

Well, the next door neighbour is shouting at his wife again. You know, it’s just not fair. If I had a wife I wouldn’t shout at her like that, so why does he have a wife and I don’t? Maybe I'm just too humble when it comes to informing potential mates of how wonderful I am. But actually, now that I think of it, I’ve never actually seen his wife. He might not have one for all I know. He could well be shouting at an inflatable doll. Yeah, he’s probably even sadder than I am. Imagine, shouting at an inflatable doll. What a tosser.

You know, if I had an inflatable doll, I wouldn’t shout at it like that.

Slight Exaggeration?

Am I the only one who thinks the current U.S. government exaggerates the internal threat from terrorists just a teensy weensy bit? I mean they go totally berserk when they think they have discovered a single Al Qaeda cell. Imagine what would happen if they actually found an Al Qaeda organ, or heaven forbid, an entire Al Qaeda body. But no, just a cell is enough to freak them out. I guess they must be worried about that terrorist DNA, although I tend to think that more attention should be payed to the environmental factors that cause it to be expressed.

Self mutilation is what makes this blog popular.

Judging from the number of comments I've received, the most popular post I've ever written was two sentences on why Van Gough cut off his left ear. I will try to replicate the success of that post tomorrow when I will answer the question:


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sugar and Spice and Puppy Dog Tails and Apes.

In the book, Our Inner Ape, Frans de Waal discusses some interesting social differences between the sexes in apes. When human ape children were observed in the playground, boys were recorded as getting into twice as many fights as girls. However, when the children where asked at the end of the day how many fights they had been in, both the boys and the girls reported about the same number on average. It appears that disputes between girls can be far more subtle and less obvious than between boys.

I certainly noticed this when my friend gave me a book to read about the adventures of a girl in a boarding school. I found reading the thing very hard going. I was there going, “Well if being snubbed by this other girl hurts you so much, why don’t you just slay her? Or failing that, defeat her in physical combat and drive her before you while listening to the lamentations of her social cliche? Or you could just poison her. You’ve already mentioned how you were getting top marks in chemistry.”

Fortunately for the homicide rate, girls don't opt for violent solutions as often as boys. A wise man once said that violence never solves anything, but he quit saying it after the other guys punched his face in a few times.

Boys also appear to be much quicker to forgive each other after a dispute than girls. Admittedly this is often just so they can join forces and beat up some other boys, but it is a real difference. Girls seem to work much harder at avoiding disputes, but are worse at ending them once they start.

So, does this mean that as women gain more position of political power the world will be more likely to avoid most conflict but when conflict does occur it will be more intractable?

No. Countries that have women gaining positions of political power are generally sensible ones where one person’s grudge isn’t allowed to get people killed. I can’t think of a single developed country where a political leader’s personal vendetta would be allowed to substantially alter policy.

Okay, okay, I can’t think of two developed countries where a political leader’s personal vendetta would be allowed to substantially alter policy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nicotine - very, very bad!

Here's something I didn't know. It's possible for a young child to die from nicotine poisoning after eating a single cigarette butt. That's pretty toxic. In fact, a lethal dose of nicotine is 20 times smaller than a lethal dose of cocaine. This suggests that people should be more careful with cigarettes around children, but strangely enough it appears that seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple is more dangerous for children than seeing people smoke. Strange that. You'd think young children wouldn’t mind nipples at all.

Anyway, nicotine is supposed to be toxic. When insects eat tobacco plants they die from the nicotine. It's a form of chemical warfare. It's just chance that it also happens to be an addictive stimulant for mammals. Back in my grandfather's day you could buy nicotine in a tin to use as an insecticide. But they ended up banning it on account of how people had a tendency to use it to gain inheritances, get rid of annoying family members and so on. How typical of interfering bureaucrats to get in the way of innovation in family management! Gardeners also had a tendency to wake up anxious and irritable with an almost uncontrollable urge to go and kill aphids.

Oh, and apparently the majority of people with schizophrenia smoke. Not sure what's going on there. It may be an attempt to self medicate in much the same way as most people who suffer from work drink coffee.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I am not a racist.

It appears that I have managed to upset some people with my previous post. I have even been accused by some imaginary people of being a racist. It appears these pretend people were not impressed with the example I gave of a Dutchman attempting to communicate in English in my previous post. I have been told that I have made an ethnic slur against Dutch people everywhere, that I should be ashamed of myself for blackening the name of such a tolerant and kind people and that no one in the Netherlands ever speaks like that, except for filthy Brabanders.

I would like to apologize for any offence I may have inadvertently caused (without actually apologizing for the act itself). In the spirit of reconciliation I would like to quote the great actor Michael Caine, who said, "There are only two things I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch."

Hmm. Maybe quoting Michael Caine wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had. Oh well.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Book Review: Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal

This book didn’t start well for me. Near the beginning Frans disses The Selfish Gene, a book by the man of my dreams, Richard Dawkins. (In my dream Dawkins had me hide a dead lobster in my mouth so we could photocopy it as evidence of cruelty to invertebrates.) It seemed as though Frans de Waal hadn’t understood what Dwarkins was saying at all. But I’ll be charitable and put it down to misunderstanding. Frans is from the Netherlands and there is a lot of misunderstanding between the Dutch and English because the languages are so similar. Indeed, the two languages are exactly the same except for where they are different. It creates the illusion that Dutch and English speakers actually understand each other when frequently nothing could be further from the truth. I’ll give an example from my own experience of a Dutchman attempting to communicate with me:

“Yesterday I got up in the middle of the night. I made some sausage rolls. I made one, two, tree, four, five, sex. They were all the same length except some were longer than others. What? Why are laughing at me? You think I’m a stupid Dutchman, don’t you? You think I know fucking nothing. Well let me tell you, I know fuck all!”

I was very interested to read about the politics of apes, I wasn’t so interested in occasional asides into the politics of studying apes. After reading about how obsessed chimps are with status it’s almost impossible to not reflect on Frans’s apparent concern with it himself.

But it is good to read about Chimpanzee and Bonobo interaction. That is, interaction between chimps and other chimps and bonobos and other bonobos. I’m not sure exactly what happens when chimps and bonobos are put in the same enclosure and allowed to interact. Indeed I’m sure we could get a sitcom premise out of it with a talking chimp and a talking bonobo being forced to share an apartment and the hilarious hijinks that occur when their families come to visit. Not quite sure how American viewers will react to a typical bonobo orgy, but as long as we don’t show a nipple belonging to a member of the Jackson family I’m sure everything will be fine.

Interesting points in the book:

Bonobo sex acts last for about 14 seconds.
South American Capuchins have brain to body ratios equal to that of chimps and may be the most intelligent of monkeys.
Monkeys don’t comfort other monkeys, but apes comfort other apes.
If a bonobo kisses you, be prepared for tongue.

So in conclusion, a good read, but you might have to cut Frans de Waal some slack when he starts to get over concerned with status and starts acting like some sort of human.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Filthy Clicking Things

Hey,I'm allowed back onto my blog!

But I'm not proud of what I had to do to get here.

I had to click on things. Which is just disgusting. My cursor is soaking in bleach right now. I was wearing a read/write protect tab at the time, but still, clicking on things on the internet is a disgusting thing to do. Who knows where those buttons have been or whose been clicking on them and what they were doing with their cursor before they clicked them? I feel so cheap and tawdry. I should be feeling expensive and tawdry. Anyway, I just wanted you to know what I'm willing to go through for my reader out there. Hi, mum.