Tuesday, July 22, 2014


"Voor alles wat we op deze plek melden uit Oekraïense en Russische hoek geldt een disclaimer: de ramp is sinds donderdagavond ook direct een propaganda-oorlog geworden. Wat de regeringen in Kiev en Moskou en de separatisten in Oost-Oekraïne zeggen, is gekleurd en vaak moeilijk te verifiëren."

Aldus de NRC.
"deze plek" is het live blog waar alle, ik herhaal alle nieuwsfeiten en al het andere dat door de redactie van NRC wetenswaardig gevonden wordt, met ons gedeeld worden, ongeacht wie dat dan ook gemeld heeft.
Het wordt maar liefst zes (6!) keer herhaald, steeds bij een bericht uit die hoek.

NRC heeft kennelijk niet in de gaten dat ze zichzelf hiermee expliciet in de propagandaoorlog mengt: wat de regeringen van USA en Maleisië, de Europese Commissie en de bewindvoerders van Malaysia Airlines te melden hebben is uiteraard niet gekleurd. Dat Nederlandse regeringsleiders, onze Koning voorop, uitsluitend en alleen de waarheid spreken, zodat verificatie volkomen overbodig is, staat natuurlijk als een paal boven water!

Ik herhaal hier daarom nog maar eens wat ik al elders gemeld heb:

"It is becoming plain that the atrocity visited on the Malaysian jetliner is a direct result of arming morons." (one of the - American - pundits)

Well, it is American intelligence that told us about an airliner blown out of the sky.

As ... ahem ... American intelligence has told us also "everything you need to know" about MH 370.
That other Malaysian airliner.
It appeared to be all humbug. We still do not know just a tiny little bit of what really happened.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robot's odds *)

So, what about Robot, dreaming in New York, like an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, of the status of his great-grandchildren?
What about his evolutionary chances?

I got a phone call from Hauser. I'd sent him an e-mail, telling that I was interested in the faculty of language, either broad or narrow. Hauser invited me to his place. So, I made the trip to Cambridge.

» Okay, you wanted to talk. Talk.
» Sir, can you tell me about FLB and FLN.
He nodded to me.
» Go on.
» I asked you a question.
» Just talk. I'll listen.
» Talk about what.
» Don't bother. If you want to talk nonsense, feel free. Next week I'll answer your question.
» Okay ...
And I talked and talked ...

Next week I went back.
He showed me a scheme.

Completely incomprehensible!

» You say, this is what I'm doing?
» Yes.

It appeared that what we call chatting or a serious meeting isn't talking or discussing.
- we do grammatical computations
- our phonological converter tunes the results for our sensory-motor
- our semantic driver tunes the result for our conceptual-intentional layer
in order to be sure that the message we want to deliver is delivered by our mouth!

Did you know that?

I do not bother. It's our way of thinking since we were kids.
For the Greeks we were just water earth fire.
After Galileo and Keppler we consisted of solar systems and galaxies.
When we invented the watch the human body was like a watch.

We invent God: humankind is his image.
We build systems: we believe we are systems.
That's our fate.

Have you ever eaten spaghetti à la Leonardo? Can you imagine, having a plate in front of you, prepared by me?
Suppose you come along my place, just to say: nice post Leonardo!
And I invite you to have dinner with me.
But you are in a hurry.
No problem, I say, just a quick and dirty (think of the dirty rice of Autogrill, but not that dirty - I don't like chicken livers or giblets)
There it is: a tangled ball of spaghetti with egg and bacon, tomatoes and herbs.
And you do: hmmmmmm

(thanks for the compliment).

And I say: Nice system ay?
Nice system???

I understand your confusion.
But there exists something like spaghetti code.
Programs which flow looks like a bowl of spaghetti.
As we now and then made quick and dirty programs - temporary provisions in systems because there's not enough time or money.
(By the way: forget about temporary.)

So, where does that leave Robot, eating from the pizza tree.

Jan is still fervently supporting the idea of evolution.

Some husbands are looking forward to it, a nice robot in the kitchen ... leaving the wife with mixed feelings.

Ah, systems and subsystems.
But there are two problems with our metaphor.
Our systems are discrete and far from perfect.
Natural systems lack discreteness and are perfect ...
... sorry, no objection, my phonological converter is still tuning up for the grammatical computations of Greenpeace and the climate movement.

Of course, Hauser and Co are talking concepts. But, reading their article you can hear them thinking: well-ordered systems, and logical, reusable components.
But what kind of law tells us that nature provides us with well thought-out modular systems. Nature has also a lack of time. What if there's an impact of a meteorite, or something like the first industrial revolution in England? Nature has not always time for structured programming.

And one thing for sure. Quick and dirty and spaghetti code suffer a flaw in common: you can't use these techniques for a component in a body of functions, procedures and programs.

The problem is: seeing ourselves as systems makes also the reverse true. Because we have evolution behind our shoulders, we believe that these systems we are building have an evolutionary future waiting for them.

Those who hate elections hope that the theory proves right, which means you will be rid of presidential and other hopefuls.

But, can Jan, the writer, be sure that no robot will beat him in what a scholar perhaps likes to call the function of word-processing but what I like to see as a brilliant manipulation of characters words text form.

Once again: what about Robot's aspirations?

I know three arguments for the absence of evolution in robots - sorry Jan, I am what we call in Italy un testardo.
- it's robust programming, certainly no quick and dirty style; so you can trust the processor feels comfortable in his envelope
- we pamper them: our robot has nothing to complain about his "natural" environment - there's no incentive for changes
- if there's something to improve we take initiative, way before the robots can even think about it

» Sorry Robot, the first scenario was the best for you. Leave at once New York and return to that police barricade. Don't do what they ask you to do. Let them fire that anti-aircraft missile. It means an honour to you and it will be their shame. Jan and I will create a new robot. I'll call him Robot II.

*) this is a sequel to my post Robot

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Almost all thinking is a matter of pattern matching and comparison
and that should be possible with all its variations in robots
within a reasonable length of time.
Perhaps a couple of decades.
Jan Sand

» So, Mary, what's dinner tonight?
» Your turn my dear, today.
» Oh nooooh ... I'm so awfully busy.
» John, it's always the same with you ... today it just doesn't work. Surprise me.
» What about a pizza of Vittorio's?
» Vittorio's? That was New York. We are back home now darling ... Hmmm, but you are right, it was delicious.
» Why don't we have a Vittorio's here in LA?
» Maybe you can cook us a pizza like the one at Vittorio's place. Give it a try.
» I can order one.
» Yeah, and ask Vittorio to deliver it here, at dinner time. Are you crazy?
» I can tell Robot to get us that pizza.
» That will be an expensive one.
» True. But also a great test. He can take your car.
» Oh no, not my car. Your car.
» What am I supposed to do without a car.
» Ahem ... in the meantime you can do the cleanup ... and till Robot has returned from his errand you do the cooking! I'm off for work now. Bye honey.

The logic of Mary is unbeatable. So I gave Robot instructions to get us that pizza, and found myself fiddling around the house, and in the kitchen preparing dinner as long as Robot was on his way.

I had that discussion with Jan. Off stage.
On the evolution of robots.
Jan believes in robots.
I don't.
Because Jan is about twenty years my senior, I guess, he thinks I'm stubborn and precocious.
He's absolutely right. I was, I am and I will be self-willed. Even in afterlife: I will pass over the entrances to the premises of Satan and Jehovah and I shall start my own business.

What are we talking about?

A robot is two things.
One is the envelope, the appearance of the thing.
Second is the "free will" to do what it has to do: the processor.
I do not know who took care of my processor, but the robots are very dependent of the way they are programmed by us.

It's not necessary to think of human shaped robots: I think the mouse with the plug was one of the first robots. It was a mouse who was programmed to move to a socket when his voltmeter told him he needed a recharge, and then back to his place in the middle of the room.
First the coordinates of the socket were given. Later he was allowed to move freely through the room and he had to look on his own for the socket. Then he was put in a room with more sockets and some obstacles.
That has off course nothing to do with evolution. It's developmental progress.

One day the mouse found himself exactly in the middle between two sockets. That made him a real ass of Buridan: because both ways were identical in every aspect, the mouse couldn't decide - he found himself in an infinite loop.

Yes, there's talk about evolutional software - a program which "corrects itself" when erring. The only thing these programs do, is the thing they are told to do - solving only those errors which are anticipated by the programmer.

Now, Jan and I built that laboratory in Silicon Valley. We created some robots, different envelopes and different programs. They had one function in common: recreation. The robots were programmed to recreate themselves.
Not by sex, please. We mankind know almost nothing good about sex. Porn and raping, yes, that's what we are good at. How could we tell a robot to have sex?

No, we provided them with the raw materials
And, we made it possible to get variations in the programs. Part of the recreation program was that the other subsystems could be changed slightly, by replacing an arithmetic instruction by a jump, or by changing the addresses of a comparison. All at random.
The number of changes at random.
The instructions to replace at random.
The new instructions and modi operandi at random.
The program and data addresses at random.

The result was of course unpredictable.

You know the experiment with the typing apes?
Once some apes were trained to handle a typewriter and to deliver sheets of text. An ape who came up with a kind of a Vonnegut story, or with something of the quality of Ray Bradbury would be rewarded with an extra banana.
It took a lot of paper.
There was no need of extra banana's.

But Jan and I squatted there, at a safe distance of our lab, waiting for things to come.
And there he was, our robot. A chance out of a trillion.
And he was human like!
The one we sold to John and Mary.

Robot has done his duty. He has travelled the long way from LA to New York, has bought the pizza, put it in the freezer in the back of the car and is now driving back. Off course, there's no need for a break, after all he's a robot. Just now and then filling the car with gasoline.

Then, in some way he draws attention from two cops in a patrol car.
They order him to stop and ask for his license.
He hasn't of course.
But he has a certificate of proficiency ... which is of no value to the cops.
They ask the registration certificate of the car.
It appears that Robot is driving a car of some John.
Then one of the cops wises up to the freezer, and they find the pizza.
They find out that it's paid with a credit card of the same John, as is the petrol to drive all the way long from LA to New York and back.

The man's story is: my boss in LA ordered me to buy a pizza in New York.

One of the cops comes up with the handcuffs.
Now it's Robot's turn to get angry. Because a pistol is of no use the two policeman find themselves in two ticks back in their car. Robot ruins the locks of the doors and turns the car upside down.
He knows how to deal with the scum of the earth.

It doesn't take a long time before he finds himself confronted with a police barricade.
He halts his car and waits.
They ask him to come out of his car - no reaction.
They shoot at him - Robot decides to starts the engine and to leave this horrible place.
Then they use an anti-aircraft missile.

That was Robot.

Here we enter territory of Chomsky, I mean Chomsky the linguist, and others, like Hauser and Fitch: communication between two creatures, supposedly of a human kind, and the function of language.
In a co-authored venture they identify 4 (sub)systems for the function of language. Three are FLB = the broad sense. One is FLN: the Function of Language in the Narrow sense and they write:

We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN may have evolved for reasons other than language.

To conclude, after 10 pages, filled with ten thousand of words, that ...
... this represents a tentative, testable hypothesis in need of further empirical investigation ...
... believing ...
... that a comparative approach is most likely to lead to new insights about both shared and derived features, thereby generating new hypotheses concerning the evolutionary forces.

And we are only talking a subsystem of language, which is in itself something of the narrower sense, being a little tiny subsystem of that complex and big whole that we call a specimen of human mankind.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

A different scenario for the outcome of the quest of Robot for a pizza is thinkable.
I think Jan would prefer the next one.

Robot has done his duty. He has travelled the long way from LA to New York, has bought the pizza, put it in the freezer in the back of the car and is now driving back. Off course, there's no need for a break, after all he's a robot. Just now and then filling the car with petrol.

One of these moments he sees a man who's served a pizza in the bar of the service station.
He thinks: I have a pizza in the back of my car. Must be the real thing, because I had to travel that long.

Now the usual place for Robot to get his food is the socket. But he sees that that man enjoys that pizza. And he wants to be a real man.

So, he goes to the back of his car, opens the refrigerator and takes the pizza out. Because of the heat of the day it doesn't take much time to thaw out the pizza.
It smells good.
It tastes good.

And Robot decides to go back to New York.
It's hard working, in the sweat of thy face, but every day there's a delicious pizza on his table - as a reward ...

... which marked the beginning of the era of the fallen robots.