Artificial Intelligence.

**This is a re-write of an amazing post that I lost through wordpress being a jerk. It may or may not be as amazing as the post I lost. Just so you know.**

I’m pretty much convinced that we have given our computing devices artificial intelligence without meaning to. It’s some kind of terrific when you work on a laptop and can move around with it to work, and being able to work on my back porch on a sunny Spring day is a pleasure indeed. Sometimes I even take my laptop (a 17″ MacBook Pro, if you didn’t already know. Heh) up to my bedroom to play games or read news before I go to bed. All in all, I’m happy with the situation. Except for when the router decides to not flex it’s wireless muscles to reliably get to me and my MacBook when we’re outside. That’s some foreshadowing for you – you wouldn’t think that a router could DECIDE anything, nor does it have actual muscles, because if either of these things were true, it would be organic and sentient. One hallmark of sentience is free will and making choices based on desires, needs, etc. Anyway, you would think that if on Friday at 7pm, I had a signal on my back porch, I could expect the same on Monday at 7pm.

NOT SO!

Let’s say, for example, that it’s Tuesday morning (we all know that Tuesday is the suckiest days of the week) and you’re going to print something in your office. You assume that the printer is going to do for you what it was designed to reliably do for you, i.e. PRINT STUFF on demand. Off you go to the printer, and…not so fast, buckaroo! The printer doesn’t work for you, and immediately, you personify the printer and say something along the lines of, “Printer, what is happening in your life that you have decided to not work for me? Is it something we can talk about so that we can get you working for me again?”. Obviously, I am assuming that you have resolved any human error or PC LOAD LETTER type issues, and as such, the most plausible explanation is that some kind of artificial intelligence has been created in your device without your knowledge, or perhaps without even the designers meaning to do it. The printer doesn’t work for you, but it works for Sandy down the hall, and nothing new has happened since you used it last night. Ockham’s Razor, people!

This has all come from the fact that I don’t reliably have a wireless signal on my back porch, when nothing has changed from one day to the next, and how is it possible that the signal can go through the floor to get to me in bedroom, but not to the back porch. I don’t go through any walls to get to my back porch. My router has a personality, and yesterday, it was set on FROSTY BITCH.

So, what about the consequences of us having inadvertently created AI in our computing devices? Some people, and I forgot where I read it, but some people have started to think about such notions as what if robots really did take on human characteristics and behaviours? Oh, snap! I remembered where! The folks at How Stuff Works have thought about robots marrying here. Is “I, Robot” destined to become our manual for living with such devices? Isaac Asimov postulated Three Laws of Robotics, which the nice people at Auburn University have put here. And just in case your computer decides to be a frosty bitch and won’t load links, the Three Laws of Robotics are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Fair enough, right? Well, what exactly does “harm” mean? Does it mean physical harm or any other kind of harm, like, for example, our frosty bitch of a printer that won’t work – what if the thing you’re trying to print is essential for your big meeting and you’ll get fired if it doesn’t print RIGHT NOW? Also, when laws are made, they have to be enforced – this is, essentially, the Rule of Law. Is there some kind of Robot Police Force that is going to come to your rescue when the printer doesn’t work? Finally, who tells the device what the rules are? Do they learn from their owners or from inputs on the assembly line? I’m sure you are all off to tell your computers and printers and fax machines (fax machines?) and handhelds and ipods what the Three Laws are and they’d better pay attention OR ELSE!

Oh, video time! Remember before when I said PC LOAD LETTER? That got me thinking of this clip from Office Space. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Hey, remember the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill? Yeah, BP doesn’t want you to. But we’re smarter than them and will never forget. Anyhoo, people have been going around slamming Ex-VP Cheney, because Halliburton is the company that is, apparently, responsible for the part that didn’t work on the rig. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to go after Cheney, because he hasn’t been an officer of Halliburton for a while now, and there are plenty of other villains to go around. Also, if you want to blame Cheney, blame him for energy industry regulation problems. He’s largely the guy who directed the de-regulation of that industry in the first GW Bush administration. I know that’s is way easier to freak people out with OMGCHENEYHALLIBURTONAPOCALYPSE, but really, it’s more about regulation – which, as a liberal, I’m inclined to want to explain, but try to explain regulation to people who like 10 second sound bites to educate themselves about issues. This is why liberals suck at communications.

But I digress. The blame game has officially begun. BP is blaming Halliburton for faulty parts, and Halliburton is blaming Transocean (the guys who came up with the goofy scheme to plug the hole with, basically, duct tape and some concrete), who is, in turn, blaming BP. There’s lots of blame to go around, guys, so let’s follow this one and see who comes out of it in the end. Also, BP’s stock, being traded on my Personal Integrity Index, has been downgraded to a penny/junk stock. Sigh.

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Oil Spills. Also, Canned Gas.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff today. Serious, environmental issues.

Oh, hang on. I just need to switch into HTML mode so I can post some multi-media all up in here. Booya!

Alright. So, there’s been a big oil spill. It’s close to the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Seriously, can this State not catch a break? “Heckuva job, Brownie” is what comes to mind. /rolleyes.

Anyway, when I first read the news yesterday, the oil company, BP, tried to say it was smaller than it actually turned out to be. This surprises me. You wouldn’t think it would, because, you know, it’s an oil companies and mostly they’re big liars who tell big lies. But, it’s BP. I like BP. I met one of their VPs for BP Canada a few years ago, and he was top drawer. Also, he had a British accent. Anyway, BP is, after all, an oil company, but they’ve put a great big pile of money into alternative energy research, specifically at UC-Berkeley. So BP is collaborating with a bunch of hippies at a school upon whose example my own alma mater was designed. (Aside: the weather in suburban Toronto is WAY different from the weather at Berkeley. Baffling architecture. Anyway.) That’s nice. But then, oil spill. And BP, socially responsible corporate citizen, tried to say it wasn’t as big as it turned out to be. So now, Louisiana is in a state of emergency and having to take federal disaster money (disaster!), which is ironical because the Governor of Louisiana hates federal money and usually won’t take it even though it would help alleviate some of his State’s economic problems. But I digress.

The issue is that a deep water well pretty much exploded. We all know that oil and water do not, uh, mix. So they’re trying to burn the oil. In the water. I feel like that shouldn’t work, but apparently they’re burning 500-1000 barrels worth of crude each day. Remember the Exxon Valdez? It cost billions of dollars to clean up, and there was a huge legal settlement. And it took eons for Exxon to get their reputation anywhere near normal and you know what, I still think of that spill when I hear “Exxon”. Whenever I drive by an Exxon station in the US, I flip ’em the bird. You know, for all the birds they killed.

THIS gives me an excellent opportunity to post what I think is the most fantastic commercial on the television, an ad for Dawn dish soap and how the people who do these things use Dawn soap to clean animals caught in oil spills – Good Work, people. You deserve a medal. I love this song so much. And the commercial makes me a little misty-eyed.

The song is called “Wash Away” by a guy called Joe Purdy and you can listen to the whole song RIGHT. HERE.

I will be keeping an eye on the BP oil spill situation. I will do that on my computer, a MacBook Pro 17″. Which is now clean because yesterday I bought some CANNED GAS. That was an awesome segue, in my opinion.

I thought I would be using Canned AIR, because admittedly, I didn’t know that that Canned Gas exists, and I’ve just found out in my research that Canned Air and Canned Gas are the same thing, so my fear in Staples yesterday was unwarranted. The one thing that was a bit baffling was why the can got so cold after I used it. I was told that it was because of thermodynamics and that’s when I tuned out and started wanting to talk about oil spills and my love for Josh & Chuck on the Stuff You Should Know podcast. I can’t work without listening to these guys anymore. You should try them out and learn neato stuff. I’m going to suggest on their blogs that they talk about oil spills.

Oil and Gas all in one post. Woot.

Volcanoes.

First post. Hope you enjoy this project that is intended to remove from my head the sometimes wacky, sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes ironic, sometimes naughty, sometimes just plain weird stuff that occurs to me over the course of the day. Jump in with me, add your similarly wacky, scary, funny, ironic, naughty, weird, etc. stuff that comes to your mind. Really, I need to know I’m not alone. Heh.

So my mother is in Italy on a much-deserved vacation. She and her husband are touring Rome and Siena and Florence. They have a wine tap in the place they are staying. By “wine tap”, I mean a tap in the hallway from which flows red chianti as opposed to, say, agua. That in itself is pretty nifty, as Madre can take her in-room carafe and fill it with the juice of the gods any time she damn well pleases. Anyway, they were meant to be joined by another couple before they left Rome for a couple of weeks Under the Tuscan Sun. The thing is, the other couple, traveling from Ottawa, Canada, were waylaid by a VOLCANO.

I got to thinking, seriously? A volcano??? What. The Hell. Is Going. On. I’ve been following the drama of the volcano in Iceland (named Eyjafjallajokill, which is totally unpronounceable to anyone whose mother tongue is a Romance language) covering a good portion of the Old World with the contents of its spittoon, and preventing people from my mum’s friends to the President of the United States from traveling eastward. Apparently, this is the biggest air traffic disruption in Europe since World War II. This is really something.

Now, I love a good disaster. Especially a good disaster movie. You know, where things like this aren’t REAL. Naturally, this required some investigation, like, for example, how often does stuff like this happen? What I discovered was UN. SETTLING. We all know about the Richter scale, a ranking system from 0-10 for earthquakes that determines if the shake of the very planet we in habit (scary!) is minor – “Hm. I just felt unbalanced. Was that my general feeling that broke through my sub-conscious or was that an earthquake”/runs to check the news, or major, e.g. California fell in to the ocean.

People, they have a Richter-like scale for Volcanic Activity. It is called the Volcanic Explosivity Index, or VEI for short. I’ve worked in government and as such, you know something is scary when it a) has an acronym and b) a science-y sounding name with an “Index”. The VEI is a scale from 0-8 (I wonder why not 10?) and “provides a relative measure of the explosiveness of volcanic eruptions” (thanks, Wikipedia!) This isn’t your grade 7 science project.

!!!!!

!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!

[DEEP BREATH]

There haven’t been too many huge eruptions recently, but seriously – do we live in the Paleozoic Era or something?!! This is just. not. supposed. to happen. If a relatively minor eruption like the one in Iceland can mess with modern society like this, what happens if the BIG ONE comes? I’m just saying that they should make a disaster movie about it so we can let it seep into our consciousness while embraced by the warm glow of Hollywood and a bankable action star like, oh, say, Bruce Willis.

Anyway, my mother’s friends went to Jamaica instead. I wonder if they have volcanoes there.

Check it out:

This is what is screwing things up