Sunday, September 30, 2012

Just a quick thought

Abbreviated slang term meaning "you only live once."

I really hate that term. Why do people who say it always think it means to do something reckless? If you only have one life to live, why the hell would you throw it away on childish impulses?

Maybe because the only people who say YOLO are stupid, pleasure-seeking man-children who couldn't find real meaning in their lives if the lord almighty Himself came down on a cloud and bitch-slapped the taste out of their stupid mouths.

Just a quick thought. Peace and love, dear readers. And if you see some misguided young man talking about his swag, remind him how stupid he looks.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just annoyed with people right now

For some reason, the Obama campaign shared this story on Facebook a little while ago. Apparently they expect it to be uplifting and inspiring. I just find it confounding and infuriating, and the comments are even worse. One guy states: "I know it's not much, but donating $5 [to the Obama campaign] made me feel really good about myself."


Maybe I'm naive, but why do people who donated a few dollars to a political campaign say they feel good about themselves? They shouldn't. Really. The only way they should feel worse is if they donated more than a few dollars.

Even if you honestly believe that Obama is the best person for the job of the Presidency right now, answer this: how does that $5 help him win the election? It's not as if your vote is multiplied by the number of dollars you sent in. All you're paying for is more brain-dead political ads to bother me while I'm eating dinner. You're buying another bottle of seltzer for the clowns in the three-ring circus we call a political system. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

Here's a sad dose of reality for you: at this point in the race, anybody who hasn't made up their mind already is not going to be swayed by political advertising. Hence, you wasted your money.

And yet, scores of people feel good about the money they've thrown away on political campaigns. If you donated $5 to Obama's political campaign, or worse yet feel somehow moved by stories about working class people giving up a pizza dinner so they can instead give to the campaign, you should be ashamed of yourself. This comes straight from that letter to Obama: $15 could have bought that nice family a fun pizza dinner, fresh fruit, or helped pay for tickets to a show they could enjoy together. Instead, that money went to paying for the incompetent political machine that pesters me incessantly with its propaganda. That political machine, by the way, is in no danger of running out of money anytime soon either.

If you want to help Obama win so badly, then inform yourself about his policies and his opponents' policies, discuss the issues with friends and family, and help get the word out. Hell, you can have local rallies for him if you really want.

But some of you can't be bothered with all that, can you? Instead you just throw a couple dollars his way so you can feel like you did something good to make a difference. Throwing money at a problem is a stereotypical lazy American way to handle things, and it's a big part of the reason the world doesn't take us seriously. Can you blame them? Actions like this make us look positively pathetic.

Of course, all this is ignoring the fact that nobody even knows about the presidential candidates in other parties beyond the big two, and I've heard virtually no one place any emphasis on voting for their own representatives at the local and state levels, or even the people who are supposed to represent them in Congress, but those are glaring issues for another time.

When our people are more committed to obtaining the new iPhone than to making an informed choice about the people who control our government, it's time to throw our hands up and let England reclaim control of their former colony. Sure, they've been having a collective panic attack over Kate Middleton being photographed topless, so they aren't the picture of common sense right now either, but it's clear now that we really can't handle running a country any better than they can.

So, that's all I'll say for tonight. I apologize for the negative tone, but I really needed to get all of that off my chest. Hopefully I'll be in a better mood after the election season is over.

Peace and love, dear readers. Oh, and if you'd like support my own campaign to become future president of the United States, send me as little as $5 to express your support, as well as your sick sense of bizarre irony.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just a word about the robot uprising

I heard guys on my favorite radio show talking about this today. Here's a video to accompany the discussion, because robots are cool:

So, here's the thing: a lot of people seem to think that because of these advances we've had in artificial intelligence, such as with things like Cleverbot, Watson, iPhone's Siri, and all the videogames that exist, somehow we are closer to reaching a day where our science fiction nightmares come true and intelligent robots start taking over the world.

I'll be perfectly up-front about this: it's not going to happen. Robots can potentially be dangerous if created by dangerous people with bad intentions, but a robot or computer cannot be self-aware and decide to make its mission in existence to wipe out the human race.

A guy who called into the radio show made the stupidest, most herculean leap in logic I've heard from anybody who claims to understand computers. (For the uninitiated, I do have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science now, so I at least have some excuse for being a boastful know-it-all about this stuff) The caller referenced a computer built back in the 90s which, after being taught the basic rules of Backgammon, was then left to run and play the game over and over until it taught itself how to be good at Backgammon. He then said that, since this was easy enough to achieve, all we needed to do for a robot to become self-aware is to teach it the concept of things, and then it can set about learning all things from the Internet, thus gaining mastery of all human knowledge.

There are two problems with that logic. First, the simpler one: Backgammon is not that complicated. A computer with decent AI can certainly learn to play a board game like that in this way, and it's not surprising. The thing is, the real world has way more rules and countless variables to keep track of. This is why the above robot video is so impressive: the mere act of walking around on four legs is a terribly intricate and difficult process for a computer to handle. It took very talented engineers a long time to carefully design programs that could direct that robot through a real environment. Now, just imagine if the robot had to not only walk around, but use tools, communicate, find paths through more difficult terrain, and even fight, all while remembering that if it turns on its human caretakers, it'll need to find its own source of power to run its engine.

Secondly, the much more damning point: computers, as they exist today, cannot learn concepts. Period. The very notion of teaching a robot the concept of things, or any concept at all, is absurd sci-fi stuff. Everything that we see computers do today that seems intelligent, whether it's Watson schooling people at trivia games, Siri answering our questions, or Cleverbot creepily flirting with us and getting vulgar for no clear reason, all of those things are accomplished through logical algorithms, dealing purely in numbers.

Watson can pull the name Agatha Christie from its database to answer a question, but it has no idea who Agatha Christie is, or even that the letters that make up that name are supposed to signify anything in the first place. It's just following its logic trees and trying to pull likely correct responses to the query; it's just a step up from Googling the question.

At least as they exist today, computers cannot understand a concept, they cannot learn much beyond what they've been programmed to learn, and they cannot have motivations of their own because they have no mind. So, as I said, if some mad scientist wants to create a diabolical killing machine robot army, they may do so, but those robots will never doing anything beyond what they were created to. I won't say that intelligent machines are impossible, but they would need to be created from something drastically different than the simple digital logic machines we use today.

So, that's that. I hope I put a few of your fears to rest. You're a lot more likely to be killed by your dish washer or your toaster than your computer, at least for the foreseeable future. So, relax and enjoy technology, because it's not plotting our downfall. It's here to serve us, just as it was made to.

Peace and love, readers.