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Friday, 21 July 2017

Focus vs Distraction

I'm easily distracted, either by external curiosity (eg, sensory input from eyes, ears or other) or internal curiosity (eg, questions arising in my mind). Yet, I am always able to regain my focus. In yesterday's blog, I mentioned that our era of information overload causes many distractions. How will Humanoid sapiens handle limitless Knowledge / Information?

In 2011, 2002 Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman wrote the book "Thinking, Fast and Slow". This book claims that focus and distraction are two separate brain systems. Wiki: "The central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical." (2011 NYT book review).

The above results in an amendment of my 2016 classification of the 4 areas of human intelligence, being Knowledge, Beliefs, Instinct & Intuition, and Imagination.

The current challenges of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are in the field of external curiosity (intuition / instinct) (eg, Futurism, MITScience)

Artificial beliefs, rooted in internal curiosity, should follow the Three Laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov else AI might become dangerous to humans (my 2016 blog).

Imagination, also rooted in internal curiosity, is the only area of human intelligence that AI may never reach. Hence, the category "unknown unknowns". This is also the main reason why Humanoid sapiens needs human intelligence. Artificial intelligence may never be enough. Humanoid sapiens will thus become a part of Evolution, enhanced by Technology. 

At a first glance, distractions may seem irrelevant and superfluous. As from childhood, distractions are however an integral part of learning (eg, discovering, playing). It's sheer impossible to retain a 100% focus at all times. Our mind needs relaxation and stress relief. To some extent, fast and slow thinking are like front-end and back-end computing

The limitless amount of Knowledge available to Humanoid sapiens probably requires a horizontal split between slow thinking and fast thinking - or front-end and back-end computing. This is in line with my earlier suggestion about distributed computing in part 4 of Humanoid sapiens.

Considering the above and with the knowledge of hindsight, the word "versus" in the title of this blog is probably misleading. Without distractions, we would probably also lose focus (eg, burnout, fatigue). Distractions (eg, hocus pocus) are necessary to keep focus. Finding a balance between both is the real challenge for all of us.

Hocus Pocus (1971) by Focus - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


PS: hat tip to this blog

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Humanoid sapiens (5)

Part 4 of this blog series concluded that Humanoid sapiens is part of Evolution which created Life. All species started from 1 cell (eg, Nat Geo, Wired). Multi-cell organisms are much more complex and required building techniques like compartmentalization, redundancy and specialisation. Also see my 4 May 2017 blog Why is Life digital?

Some 40-50 thousand years ago, the human brain got a major overhaul for reasons still unknown. The resulting behavioral modern homo sapiens was very different from the anatomically modern humans which species had existed for 2-3 million years. The future Humanoid sapiens may take any shape or form but will retain the human mind although enhanced by technology.

Human intelligence developed as follows (also see my blogs of 2015 and 2016):
1. Knowledge or Information - category: known knowns - all life forms - stage: Needs
2. Intuition or Instinct - category: unknown knowns - animals and humans - stage: Wants
3. Beliefs - category: known unknowns - only humans - stage: Beliefs
4. Imagination - category: unknown unknowns - humans/humanoids - new stage: Limitless.

Humanoid sapiens, the descendant of Homo sapiens, will be the first species to enter the new and 4th Limitless or Unlimited stage. It will be the first species that can deal with unlimited volumes of Information. All previous life forms and species, including Homo sapiens, were limited in processing and storage of Information or Knowledge.

The past few days, I have been wondering if - and how - Faith and Religion would affect Humanoid sapiens. A 2017 scientific study concludes that religion is an evolved instinct. Also see my 23 May 2017 blog: Religion and human instinct. This conclusion is consistent with the observation that certain animals do perform rituals that suggest proto-religious beliefs (eg, chimps, dolphins, elephants).

Homo sapiens created religious beliefs based on these evolved animal and human instincts. This development matches my ranking above. Our beliefs often limit us from understanding other people. Imagination will however "free your mind, and the rest will follow" (lyrics, video, Wiki).

Hence, I expect that Faith will finally take over from Religion. This is in line with Mahatma Gandhi's conclusion that "God has no religion". Essentially, Amos 5:21 (see Book of Amos from the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible) claims the same. Similar quotes are in the Quran (eg, 22:36–76:136). Religions are already anticipating on this development: see 2017 video.

The Limitless stage does pose some interesting questions: how do you keep focus with unlimited information? How do you prevent information from becoming an existential distraction? To a large extent, we have already approached an era of information overload. How will Humanoid sapiens survive in the new and 4th Limitless stage? To be continued.

No Limit (1993) by 2 Unlimited - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

No no limits, we'll reach for the sky!


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Humanoid sapiens (4)

The 10th and last episode of The Mind of the Universe was about the connection between Nature and Technology and its impact on humans. This connection may bring Humanoid sapiens, the future descendant of Homo sapiens. Their only resemblance might be our human mind.

The human timeline is not very impressive given the age of the Universe (13.8 billion years ago), Milky Way (13.2 bya), Earth (4.5 bya), earliest life forms (3.8 bya), earliest of humans (2-3 million years ago), and now the behaviourally modern humans (40-50 thousand years ago). Behavioral modernity is about the behavioral and cognitive development of the human mind.

The next likely development of the human mind is a combination of Nature and Technology. Compared to computers, our human mind is (i) quite slow in processing information, and (ii) lacks information storage capacity. Our human mind is, however, unique in creativity - or imagination. Technology could enhance the human mind (e.g., augmented reality in Google Glass).

The main challenge for Humanoid sapiens is however not in information (known knowns) but in the 3 other elements of human intelligence: beliefs (known unknowns), intuition (unknown knowns), and imagination (unknown unknowns). Humanoid sapiens can probably not survive without beliefs, intuition and - especially - imagination.

The 2015 Sci-Fi movie CHAPPiE (IMDb) offers a view on how Humanoid sapiens could emerge. One of the scientists is working a program for downloading the human brain onto a computer. One of the key technology obstacles is the immense volume of the human mind and the speed of the download. The upload to a non-organic network takes however little time.

The movie shows that a Humanoid sapiens may assume any “exterior” or form. Hence, our future descendants may not resemble us at all. Humanoid sapiens may use distributed computing in a vast network of intelligence. Knowledge would not get lost unlike the impact of organic death in human beings, which wipes out all existing knowledge.

Humanoid sapiens might be considered immortal from a current Homo sapiens perspective. Its human legacy belief systems would probably make it conquer and rule the Universe. Humanoid sapiens will become the grasshopper of the Universe until it will be stopped by a more advanced species. Given the 10 billion year age difference, other species might be far ahead.

In my view, the above developments are unavoidable and unintentional and are part of Evolution. Evolution, as we now know it, seems to end with the development of Humanoid sapiens. Afterwards, it’s about technological improvements and no longer about genetic mutations to create new and improved species. Evolution and Technology merge into Creation.

Something is still bugging me. Mass extinctions and natural disasters (e.g., Great Flood) thus far prevented the development of a supreme species on Earth. Humanoid sapiens leaving Earth to conquer the Universe would be a major exception. What's the purpose of Humanoid sapiens??

Across the Universe (2002) by Rufus Wainwright - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

That special UK-US relationship

The Special Relationship is a term introduced by Winston Churchill in a 1946 speech for describing “the political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations" between the UK and the US. It’s remarkable that this special relationship works both up and down. Both countries are in political chaos and losing Power in the international community. Why?

Their 2-party political system worked well for many decades. The chaos that we now see is the result of a decline that started in the 1980s. Those years are characterized by the 1987 movie Wall Street (IMDb) and Gordon Gekko's phrase: "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Those years also created 2 classes of citizens in a 2-party system: winners and losers.

Since the early 1980's, the Anglo-American model of winners & losers has drifted away from the continental European Rhineland model, based on consensus decision-making. A growing divergence in economic growth was its result. However, a “winner takes all” model only favours one of its 2 classes of citizens after each election (e.g., tax breaks vs healthcare). Hence, the UK and US societies become increasingly divided following perceived nepotism.

The laws of Nature dictate that pressure will equalize: Avogadro, Boyle, Dalton, Pascal, Raoult. In this context, the political deadlock in UK and USA is an equalization of Power - or pressure. Any force has a unique mix of durability (Time) and intensity (Space) as total Energy is limited. In this view, the Anglo-American model focused on intensity and Rhineland on durability.

The current chaos in UK & US politics could imply that its model has run out of Energy. Only change would end its chaos. Such change includes (i) a 1-party system, or (ii) a multi-party system after a split from 2 in 4. Trump’s USA seems eager to explore a 1-party system. Its alternative might realign the Anglo-American and Rhineland model.

The equalization of pressure - and Power - is likely to affect its underlying elements. This thought would explain the mediocrity of political candidates. Only outsiders stand a chance of creating Change – or Chaos (e.g., Obama, Trump).

Having 1 opponent in life simplifies one's (outward) view on (complex) reality. It creates an inward "selfish" focus and difficulty coping with change. Having multiple opponents, requires an outward focus and a willingness to accept change in order to survive.

Hence, it’s too easy blaming Russia for the chaos in the UK and USA despite its meddling in Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election. The inherent weaknesses of a 2-party political system allow for such external vulnerabilities. Russia "successfully" exploited them.

The current chaos in the UK-US might also relate to today's political challenges, which require a view on durability rather than intensity: climate change, economic (mass) migration, global ageing demographics, global population growth, Technological Revolution 1800-2100, urbanization.

You’re a Special Part of Me (1973) by Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye - lyricsvideo, Wiki


Monday, 17 July 2017

Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves (6) - the Brexit oxymoron

The outcome of the UK's snap election has created a unique situation. Nobody will challenge Mrs May's role as UK PM for the next 2 years. Brexit has become a radioactive toxic file with severe contamination risk. Brexit can only ruin one's political career until April 2019.

The UK PM is actually quite lucky as both main parties do not know what they want. The only thing that UK Labour wants, is to succeed the Conservatives. Afterwards the same chaos will re-emerge as Labour is also deeply divided over Brexit. Hence, no one will dare to backstab Mrs May during the 2017-2019 Brexit negotiations. Mrs May has bought herself 2 more years.

It's quite possible that Mrs May will become the proverbial Phoenix from her own political ashes. Initially, I was quite convinced that Mrs May has a stroke of Machiavellian genius. Her subsequent actions made me doubt my assessment. However, even her apparent clumsiness might be part of her Machiavellian moves. It's often better when people underestimate you.

It's hard to conceive in Continental Europe that hardly any Brit has an idea what Brexit means, apart from Mrs May's rather useless 2016 slogan "Brexit means Brexit". If you don't know where you are going to, then chaos is the likely end result.

The key oxymoron of Brexit is whether the British exit from the European Union is a choice for Nationalism or Internationalism (a.k.a. globalization). Considering pre-Brexit slogans, it was about Nationalism and taking back control from the EU. Theresa May however claims that post Brexit "Britain will lead a new era of free trade" and that Britain is committed to free trade and globalization (eg, NYT). Brexit cannot be both. Hence, the oxymoron.

This key oxymoron explains the British negotiation stance towards the EU: they want a divorce but do not want to leave the house or pay for the joint bills. This 2nd oxymoron explains the often used British proverb that "you can't have your cake and eat it".

Despite an initial and repeated refusal to pay a divorce settlement bill to the EU, "the UK quietly recognised financial obligations to the EU in a written statement to parliament on Thursday" (Guardian): "The Government recognises that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal—and that these need to be resolved."

The current UK acknowledgements on (i) EU citizens living in the UK and (ii) the EU divorce settlement bill are necessary to secure the 3rd agenda item: a future trade agreement between the EU and the UK. In true Machiavellian spirit, the end will justify the means.

The end result may become a major case of window-dressing: the UK will pay (much) more money to the EU (eg, losing UK rebate), and similarly claim independence to its citizens and voters. Everybody happy, at least for now. 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (1991) from Monty Python's Life of Brian

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Time to think

Since 8 July, I've had some time to think because my back pains returned following several weeks of stress. Sitting in a chair and getting up both equalled torture. The prospect of pain took away my pleasure in writing. Actually, I lost my inspiration too. Nothing really mattered anymore (lyrics, video). When you have plenty of time, there is no escape from thinking.

Time to think is not something which most of us look forward to. While thinking comes naturally to me, it’s still pretty threatening when there’s nothing else to do. In my mind I’ve been revisiting my past, present and future. It didn’t cheer me up. Time to think never really does. It reminds us of doubtful decisions, missed opportunities, and lots of uncertainties going forward.

I suppose the above is the reason why we avoid taking time to think. Our busy lives – mine not included - allow for little time to think. Our mindset is often on the following day(s) and perhaps next week. Anything beyond seems irrelevant “today”. Being in control requires having certainties. A short-term outlook enables that sense of control.

Until a week ago, I was just living in the Now. Once you let someone enter into your life, there’s also the prospect of a joint Future. My mind may have been belittling that Future but my body certainly did not. The recent events of 8 and 12 June and its uncanny parallel with 8 June 2016 hurt my confidence, hope and trust. My body saw its usual way out in stressful times.

My girlfriend’s imminent medical examination will probably reveal nothing as we know almost nothing about that part of the human body. I’m not looking forward to her new examination and neither is she. I’ll support her decision anyway as it will be the right one - whatever she decides. She has been living on borrowed time for decades. I’m confident there’s a good reason for that.

Obviously, I was and still am afraid of losing her, and I’m not the only one. It explains my current stress levels to a large extent. Things in life are, however, often more complicated than one single event explaining all. My life’s plate of spaghetti still has several threads left to sort out and digest. Rushing decisions is not part of my approach.

I wasn’t the only one who had ample time to think. That mutual thinking brought us closer together. We are discussing future plans and that has lifted my moods – and hers. These discussions are conditional, hypothetical and even premature but nevertheless they still feel good.

Time to think is more dangerous when you’re thinking alone. It’s easy to amplify future risks and uncertainties. It’s tempting to minimise opportunities and appreciate what you have now. When there’s time to think together than creativity and enthusiasm bring out a more balanced line of thought. In business, this process would be called “brainstorming”.

Time to think together requires certain characteristics: communication, respect, togetherness, trust, vulnerability. These 5 belong to the 7 elements of a unique relationship (see my 2016 blog). I must admit that it feels so good!

Feels So Good (1977) by Chuck Mangione - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Monday, 10 July 2017

The human Truman Show

You may remember the 1998 movie The Truman Show (IMDb), in which Jim Carrey lives in a village observed by cameras and unknowingly features in a reality TV show. Some scientists argue that humans may also live in a virtual reality, like The Matrix (IMDb).

Perhaps, you may already have wondered whether you are just a pawn in a game by the Gods. I must admit that this thought has indeed crossed my mind once in a while. Sometimes events occur in our life that are just too difficult to grasp. Such events might be similar to humans playing (evil) games with ants (eg, New ScientistNPRVolkskrant).

A human body consists of some 37.2 trillion individual cells (link). Nevertheless, it feels as if we are one. Every 7-10 years, the cells in our body are replaced by new cells. Yet, we never feel a different person. Perhaps our most remarkable body part is our brain. René Descartes once stated: “I think, therefore I am”. Explaining this concept of “thinking” is however far from easy.

I have argued before that our human mind (brain) doesn't feel the limitations of our human body. The human mind might even be trapped in our ageing body. Our solution is creating humanoid sapiens, our future descendant (see my blogs). This might qualify as an escape attempt, similar to Neo’s escape attempts from The Matrix.

Another way of looking at the above is that our human body is a mere "vessel" for our mind. This thought occurred to me after reading the movie plot of Meet Dave (IMDb).

My most provoking thought is that our mind is a mere “cell” in the Mind of the Universe. Concepts like consciousness, (self-) awareness, and thinking would suddenly require new definitions. A human body would enable that "cell" in the Mind of the Universe to perform “machine" learning. Human intelligence might then be a derivative of "artificial" intelligence rather than vice versa.

The above is in line with a concept called panpsychism. Wiki: “In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind. [] The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.”

Wiki: “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have [] phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes.”

In my view, the answer is about (machine) learning. Our mind has received a sublime "vessel" for picking up information and digesting it. Without that vessel, no new information could be processed. An expanding Universe might equal expanding information - or learning.

The only thing that separates humans from being learning machines is our Soul (zaqiqu in Sumerian). According to ancient Sumerian beliefs, humans "woke up" following a divine "breath of life" - or breeze. This concept still applies in subsequent religious beliefs like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Soul is the divine gift that makes humans unique.

Summer (Sumer) breeze (1972) by Seals & Crofts - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2