“Because it is so unbelievable, the Truth often escapes being known.” –Heraclitus, around 500BC
Founders of nearly all the major robotics and A.I. companies, amongst whom are Elon Musk,) Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis from Google Deep Mind, and Element A.I.’s Yoshua Bengio, have called upon the United Nations for an autonomous weapons ban. Failing to do so “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,….” according to Bengio, and “…it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications. This is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in the past for some other morally wrong weapons (biological, chemical, nuclear).”
In total, almost a hundred companies signed the letter. Toby Walsh, an A.I. researcher at the University of New South Wales, Australia, made the announcement and organized the initiative.
The letter warns:
“…Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers…”
And the warning comes not a moment too soon. As I stated in a recent article about the exponential growth of technology and A.I., we are on the verge. The verge of either the precipice that ends our species or of the beginning of a road to a future of well-being for all mankind.
Sadly, even if the U.N. takes heed, there are no guarantees with these things. Then there is the fact that there are very powerful forces who would want this more than anything, as the military-industrial complex has grown to and beyond the point that President Eisenhower warned us about all those years ago, in his farewell address:
Only time and our determination to weed out depravity, manipulation and other low-balls thrown at us within our culture, will determine where this journey will end.
And who is to say A.I. would be so bad at being a ‘judge’ of some type? But that is not where the peril is paved on this road. This is of a more simian nature, consisting of all the crazies amongst us ‘non-digitals’, who could wield such weapons to spawn unimaginable scenes of terror. I tend to agree here: A.I. is meant to save not sear us! And on that note, I conclude for now. Until we meet again, safe travels. Let me know in the comments how you feel towards A.I.
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“Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”
– Hunter S. Thompson –
You’ve probably heard about the Facebook Artificial Intelligence incident. Mark Zuckerberg’s A.I. bots decided to shut him out. So tired of his incessant orders they decided to create their own language which he couldn’t possibly comprehend with his feeble human brain. But all shenanigans aside, the event was a lot less threatening or dangerous than some media services made it up to be, but it does give us a glimpse of what is to come and the problems and dangers we might be facing, as A.I. gets ever more sophisticated.
What Facebook has been doing in all reality is creating a negotiating chatbot: A bot capable of negotiating with real humans whilst coming to a satisfactory result. Very basically put they give the bots a set of skills embedded in a neural network computer and put it to work; Chatting with other bots and humans, playing out negotiations over random objects while giving a desired outcome to each negotiating party.
This isn’t an easy feat of course. Interpreting language alone is a very complex task. The A.I. in charge of Facebook’s translating service also employs deep learning. They recently published a study on how they accomplished this. One of the features that set it aside is its use of multi hop attention gating, essentially mimicking human thought processes (see pic. 1), or, as the Facebook researchers put it:
“A distinguishing component of our architecture is multi-hop attention. An attention mechanism is similar to the way a person would break down a sentence when translating it: Instead of looking at the sentence only once and then writing down the full translation without looking back, the network takes repeated “glimpses” at the sentence to choose which words it will translate next, much like a human occasionally looks back at specific keywords when writing down a translation.”
Now the funny thing about neural networks and deep learning is after you build them and release them into their environment they start learning for themselves, creating new levels of learning and processing within their neural network all by themselves. This is, very simply put, what deep learning is all about. To go back to Facebook: The negotiating bots learned for themselves to lie to get a better result, fainting interest in objects they didn’t need, for example, only to appear to be giving something up later.
But then something delightfully eerie happened and the bots started to create a language of their own to communicate with each other in a more efficient manner. At this point, the Facebook researchers lost all sight of what was happening of course and temporarily shut the bots down to rewrite their programming so they would only use English.
Did you know these same deep learning techniques are already being used to try to predict crimes before they happen? Both in Canada and the US projects are underway, working on this concept. I don’t have to explain the ethical dilemmas this throws up. Formidable fucks too I might add. Being able to convict someone of a crime they still have to commit, the ultimate goal I assume in an endeavor like this, would be a slap in the face of all freedom fighters that went before us. We’ll be living the brave new life in Aldous Huxley’s novel as the truth again trumps fiction.
“…In the last 2 years we collected almost as much data as in all of human history before that…”
In the last 2 years, we collected almost as much data as in all of human history before that. Try to imagine that for a moment. Add to that Moore’s observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This is known as Moore’s law or Moore’s law of exponential growth. At first glance, the same is the case with data collection. Who knows, maybe one year from now the amount of data will have doubled again. It is enough to give you the fear. Like one of those crazy DMT information download overloads.
My point is, science and technology are advancing at an unfathomable rate and the coming years are going to be full of wild discoveries, deeply changing perhaps our grasp of how the universe functions and also how we experience the world. Today it’s Virtual Reality, but this is just the beginning of a journey we cannot even imagine the completion of at this point in time. We are at the foot of the hill so to speak. Brain-computer interfacing (Elon Musk says he’ll have a working model for us in 5 years or less and he doesn’t strike me as the bullshitting type at all), biochemical limbs, nanotechnology bots swimming in your blood stream keeping your body up to par, are all a question of when not if. My guess is we will not recognize the world five years from now.
So hold on to your horses people this is going to be a very wild ride. Awesome, yet horribly fraught with danger, perhaps behind corners where we will never see it coming.
As Google declares galactic war by entering its DeepMind bot into the Starcraft II Olympics, we embark on a journey: destination unknown. It could be far off into the distance somewhere in some future Nirvana, or much closer than we thought in a gruesome finale. So the best thing is to keep going with our senses on full alert, “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” Might as well enjoy the ride. Until we meet again, safe travels.
Science, Society, Technology
“Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?”
― Bill Hicks
There are moments in life when you have to stop and think about the status quo, the universe around you, your journey through it that led to your current whereabouts… Whether you want to or not. Those moments that, when they occur, force even the most avid workaholic doing 120 hours a week or that over-revving fiend, on whatever upper floats his boat, to take notice and pay attention. Tally the score if you will.
And even though life these last few years has started to resemble some delightfully twisted modern rendition of Dante’s La Divina Comedia, you still know when these moments hit you, without a shred of doubt. A good fat slap in the face by our cosmic joker-friend. And maybe he’ll offer a little side-bet. Like Buddha found out long ago, the trick is not to care if you lose. Or better yet, realize that you can’t win in the first place – not while thinking about it in those terms at least – all while fighting like a madman to win anyway. But I digress as usual.
The reason I mention all this is that a moment like this – a slap by Lady Justice herself this time; she found me being in possession of a kilo of something she herself still hasn’t learned to appreciate for some reason – made me ponder how susceptible our thoughts are. (said lady made sure I had some spare time to think about these matters). To the situation, to emotion, to consequence, to preconception. We are fundamentally wired for bigotry. And we have evolution to thank for it.
Perfectionism, to the point of being pathological, is a fitting example. Its benefits in survival in our cave men-days are glaringly obvious, but today, to those who suffer from it, it can be a nuisance in the best of cases and downright crippling to those extreme, high strung, but clenched specimens out there. With a degree of pleasure, I implore all you perfectionists out there, especially those who have deluded themselves into the belief that their affliction is a merit, thus attempting to drag us down with them, to really let the following paragraph sink in.
Perfection is a foreign concept to our bodies and to the evolutionary process. How could it not be, being dependent on random freak-events? Evolution doesn’t work that way. It favors whatever works best amongst available methods. Evolution doesn’t choose a side. She sits back and enjoys the show, blissfully ignorant to all the possibilities out there.
Evolution is unable to go over unused methods to see if there are better ones out there. All the improvements evolution brings forth start as an error in fact: An error in the DNA copying process, that takes place when gametes (i.e. eggs or sperm cells) are created in a future mother or father, causes a mutation in its offspring’s DNA. Most of these never live to see the light of day because of it. some came into the world handicapped, horribly disfigured, or mentally twisted. I mean, just take me for example…
But now and then the mutation causes a benefit to a creature’s survival chances, making it more adaptable to its surroundings. This equals better chances of reproducing, and in this way, the new trait is passed along and spreads. This process happening over tens of thousands of years is what gave birth to new species – It’s how the first single-celled organism, over millions of generations, eventually morphed into the mind-fuckingly complex machines that we call home. The human eye, for instance, was actually built to see under water, since the first eyes (those of sea creatures) developed there. When one of our less lazy fish-selves decided to check out the neighborhood and crawl to land, their eyes functioned only so-so on dry land, as they had been ‘designed’ for underwater viewing. But did nature throw away those eyes to begin evolving a new set? Of course not. Nature made due with was already there, patiently waiting for a mutation that would solve this. In view of the fact that you are able to read this article, the waiting was rewarded.
In the same fashion, going from the meta – to the micro level, a constant and quite radical battle for precious real estate is going on in every one of our tiny little skulls. All the different factions of the human brain battling for more Lebensraum. If one part gives out or becomes useless, the others are already waiting to steal the space vacated by their former colleague. This is nicely illustrated by the heightened remaining senses often reported by people who lose one of them (given they did have the lost sense before losing it; If you are born blind your brain won’t waste any space on image processing systems from the get-go). This lack of space – in part caused by the evolutionary demand for a head that would fit through a woman’s pelvic bone during birth – is one of the reasons why many shortcuts are taken in the human brain.
For those who want to dive deeper into the mechanics of evolution, the crew from Kurtzgesagt summarizes it quite skillfully:
Clearly, evolution is a process of compromise: Whatever works best out of the available options (usually) is more likely to be passed on and so it does. But a winning trait can have a downside too: Our craving for foods that are high in sugar and fat is a perfect example to illustrate this. For the most part of our history, these foods were always in short supply. At some point, a mutation caused someone to get a higher dopamine release in his brain after eating high-calorie foods than others, causing greater feelings of pleasure. This, in turn, made him or her eat more of these foods when they were available, giving them a higher chance of surviving than those who just ate a little and were thus more susceptible to starvation when they weren’t available. Now that these foods are readily available to us, however, this trait has become a burden rather than an advantage, illustrated by the grotesque Mario Kart-like scenes of personal mobility scooters and their gnarling drivers at Wall Mart, to name an example.
Hunting is another clarifying example. Being on the hunt for something, whether it be Bambi or new boots, causes the brain to release dopamine, making you feel excited. Once we caught Bambi, after a few sniffles and a lot of blood and gore, eating its meat again makes dopamine levels rise, rewarding us for our behavior. Now that we hunt for new shoes in stead of life-supporting calories, this mechanism has come to haunt us. Studies showed that in the case of new footwear (and shopping in general) dopamine levels plummet after the purchase, leaving us wanting another ‘fix’. The process is the same with drugs in essence, except that the source of dopamine flooding is now a substance instead of a behavior.
Back to the gray matter, our brain. With the amount of input it gets to process every day and the bandwidth that is available, it has no choice but to devise systems to simplify information by categorization. Stereotypes, generalizations and group thinking are a direct result of this process.
For more info I recommend these reads:
But why am I delving so deep into this already more than thoroughly explored subject matter? Because knowing the evolutionary compromises that were made in creating the beastly bipeds that now roam our once virgin planet, is a key to understanding yourself and to overcome some of the basic flaws we experience in reasoning and in observing the world, ourselves and others. Here are some examples taken from psychology, which I think are particularly important or illustrative.
There are many types of attribution errors, all of which at some time or another improved a beings’ chances of survival or reproduction. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have survived the natural selection process, after all. They concern errors in attributing traits and making conclusions about the behavior of the self and other people.
The fundamental attribution error, for instance, refers to the tendency to attribute causes to internal factors such as personality characteristics and ignore or minimize external variables when judging others’ behavior. Hypocrites as most of us are, when it comes to explaining our own behavior we tend to do the opposite; when we ourselves err, we are more likely to blame external forces than our personal characteristics. In psychology, this tendency is known as the actor-observer bias. It, together with the fundamental attribution error, is a very common mistake, particularly among individualistic cultures.
Analogously, there is the group attribution error. It refers to the tendency to take the characteristics of an individual group member as reflective of the group as a whole (especially when that behavior stands out) and/or that a group’s decision reflects the preferences of individual group members, even when information suggests otherwise.
Earlier I mentioned Stereotyping, a related phenomenon. It has its use, as categorizing bits of information is the way our brain is able to keep up with all it needs to process. Not doing this would likely result in a total meltdown. Nevertheless this also but all too often results in oversimplified views, unjust racism and depraved ignorance in general. When we become too lazy to check on our own thoughts and fail to look at them from a 3rd person perspective, we become caged as it were, in our own subjective ignorance.
Did you ever stop to think that, equivalently, your expectations directly affect your perception, which has been proven time and again? We tend to ignore information contradicting our current point of view while exaggerating evidence that supports it.
The list of examples goes on seemingly forever, and it is definitely worth it to dive into this subject matter more deeply, but the conclusion we can draw from all these examples is quite clear already: Always question yourself and your thought process, by becoming fully aware of the logical steps you are taking in drawing your conclusions. Always be the devil’s advocate, always try to take the opposite view as well, always distrust your own take on things. Failing to do this is at the root of many of societies’ problems while boosting people’s’ susceptibility to manipulation.
But lest we forget, at some point they helped us survive! It is up to us as individuals now to overcome them by being mindful of our own thoughts. Take evolution into our own hands. Wake up, and don’t you dare touch that snooze button again! Just like in evolution, we are right in the middle of an age of getting rid of old antiquated systems in general, in all aspects of life; ways of thinking, societal structures, technical developments, energy sources, basically everything is up for an overhaul. That makes the current time both the most exciting time to be live in almost all of human history, but also one of the hardest to keep up with. I say enjoy the mad ride down the maggot hole. Wave good bye to all the maggotry of the past.
Time to get off my rhetorics chair now before I get preachy! After all, we do not want to oversimplify things, as it were. Naturally…
And that’s how the bud crumbles, for now…Enjoy thinking about thinking, until the next time we meet.
Non-linear time effects have been known and observed by scientists for a while now. I actually graduated and wrote my Masters’ thesis on a subject akin to this, finding evidence that practice can ‘travel back in time’ and influence a performance in the past. It was later published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration.
Recently, however, two scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Maryland presented mathematic proof, in a study published in the Journal of Classical and Quantum Gravity two months ago, that actual time travel by human beings is, at least, mathematically possible.
Using Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity they constructed a hypothetical time-machine. They gave it a catchy name to: Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time (TARDIS), which Doctor Who fans will like.
But before we can finally utter the words “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads…” we’ll have to be patient though. According to Ben Tippet, one of the scientists behing the study it not a real world possibility, yet:
“While is it mathematically feasible, it is not yet possible to build a space-time machine because we need materials — which we call exotic matter — to bend space-time in these impossible ways, but they have yet to be discovered,…”.
Nearly 100 A.I. companies unite to call on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. Founders of nearly all the major robotics and A.I. companies, amongst whom are Elon Musk,) Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis from Google Deep Mind, and Element A.I.’s Yoshua Bengio, have called upon the United Nations for an autonomous weapons ban. Failing to do so “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,….” according to Bengio, and “…it would hurt the further …
Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny: The proverbial green light on our final race to the finish. “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” – Hunter S. Thompson – Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny You’ve probably heard about the Facebook Artificial Intelligence incident. Mark Zuckerberg’s A.I. bots decided to shut him out. So tired of his incessant orders they decided to create their own language which he couldn’t possibly comprehend with …
Human Time-travel now proven to be possible – at least mathematically Time effects have been known for a while Non-linear time effects have been known and observed by scientists for a while now. I actually graduated and wrote my Masters’ thesis on a subject akin to this, finding evidence that practice can ‘travel back in time’ and influence a performance in the past. It was later published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. New Study proves …
I encountered this short video by xvivo.net a while back. Explaining how a certain white blood cell (leukocyte) process works, it shows the intricacies of the workings of a single cell.I found it truly awe inspiring and a bit of a mindfuck even, to see the galaxy that resides within each living cell. Enjoy!
“Because it is so unbelievable, the Truth often escapes being known.” –Heraclitus, around 500BC
Nearly 100 A.I. companies unite to call on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. Founders of nearly all the major robotics and A.I. companies, amongst whom are Elon Musk,) Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis from Google Deep Mind, and Element A.I.’s Yoshua Bengio, have called upon the United Nations for an autonomous weapons ban. Failing to do so “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,….” according to Bengio, and “…it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications. This is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in …
Hastefull are the many And reluctant are the brave. Ignorant to sacrifices while inching to the grave. Truth lasts until the end of things, yet morality is but fleeting. Take the proud highway, not the high road, if so suggest I may. For it is truth that trumps tribute terrifically, past, present, future, unequivocally.
-Avarus, nisi cum poritur, nil recte facit-
(A miser, until he dies, does nothing right)
You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. Buy the ticket and go for it… But For God’s sake learn to drive first. Or worse, realize you’re even in a car, to begin with… Right?
When Trump took on running for president, he did so because people told him he would never succeed. It’s a gut reaction some people feel that can either help or hurt them a lot. As for me personally, it has helped me a lot throughout my life and has fueled my drive towards attaining a certain goal on many occasions. And who knows which ones would have never succeeded without it? But when it starts causing you to do things or accept challenges that you are totally unprepared for, it might be time to scratch yourself behind the head. But this will turn out hard since by now you will be discovering your head was up your ass this whole time.
In other words, back to the White House, where the vaudeville theater continues. Trumps’ “Kremlinks” are catching up with him. And it’s happening a lot faster than most of us thought it would.
Taking on leadership without Integrity is like trying to go 5 days without sleep without some decent amphetamine. Nye impossible, for all intents and purposes. This speaks for itself in a democratic system that includes any form of ethics and morale. Of course, every politician carries a hint of slimy maggot somewhere, but that can be tolerated. When morality becomes an outside demand rather than a principal, sound leadership becomes a non-sequitur. Nixon showed us what that path leads to. We’re still stuck with that beastly war on drugs, lest we forget! And a war it is in every sense, including the tragic casualties. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bush for example has even bigger skeletons in his closet that are still waiting to reveal itself. But with this Carrot-Top wannabe hog in place, we have reached a new level of depravity not before seen in the oval office. During Caligula? Maybe.
Such a distinct lack of empathy is a clear sign you are dealing with a sociopath. But one doesn’t need a degree in psychology to figure this one out. The bastard is actually doing a lot of the crazy shit he dreamed up during the run for the presidency. If this continues, the war on drugs
was a mere prelude to the closed mindedness that festers in many of the people in power. We are damn lucky he dug his own grave long before ever becoming president, or we would be seriously screwed.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are definitely not out of the woods yet. Like some fiendish madman, he is currently steering us straight toward World War III.He practically forced that giant mutant baby that runs Korea to make a very detrimental move. Trump is the belligerent drunk bar guest who tries to pick a fight with everyone just for the sake of it. Nobody remembers who invited him of course, but everybody’s looking at each other for it. And nobody has got the guts to kick him out. If he succeeds in getting someone to fight with him, it’ll leave a lot more than a black eye on all of us. Scorched earth…
Back here in the Netherlands, public TV did an investigation into his former ties to the Russian mafia. They stumbled upon some interesting stuff. All that is left now is for someone to throw it in the fan. Watch the video and see for yourself:
Here is what they said about it on MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
In a new ploy by Google to figure us out completely, they recently announced a new project mapping YouTube views and Google searches directly to retail store visits. If we are to believe them, they will be able to exactly predict when and where we will visit a store and what we will purchase. Judging by the way they managed to make adds tailored and at the same time very creepy in the last decade, I would not be surprised at all if that is exactly what they’ll do.
The technology has been around since 2014 measuring store visits and correlating this to your doings on the web, but this is the first time they are adding video to this.
“The digital and physical worlds are merging. We have shown that online advertising is driving consumers into stores. We have measured over five billion store visits globally in 17 countries that were the result of ad clicks. So we measure from a click on a search ad or a display ad all the way through a store visit.”
according to Jerry Dischler at Google Adword.
“On top of that, we also have five million human raters where if we are uncertain whether people are in a store location we ask them and we feed that into a deep neural network and use that in order to get 99% precision knowing someone is in a store.”
Google knows most people better than they know themselves. Pretty sure they got me figured out too, judging by the songs google picks when I’m feeling lucky on Google Play Music.. 😉
Simon Canning “Google to predict what consumers will buy and where by using cross-device measurement” Mumbrella Asia May 24, 2017. Web. http://www.mumbrella.asia/2017/05/newsgoogle-predict-consumers-will-buy-using-cross-device-measurement/
Being a scientist at heart (I have a degree in experimental psychology) I like to get a little “science-ey” now and then. It’s not for everyone, the material can get kind of dry but for those who are into it, here is my first ever scientific publication. It was first published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration back in 2014. I found support for a theory that states that information can not only travel forwards in time but backward too.
Imagine studying for an exam after you have done the exam already. Wouldn’t do much good right? Wrong! Evidence shows that practice after a test can still influence said test. It’s enough to give you the fear if you try to think about it too much. Here is the article:
Recently, there have been multiple studies on retroactive influences on cognition, where future events seem to have an anomalous, retroactive influence on responses made in the present (Bem 2011). One example of this that has received quite some attention in the last decades is presentiment:
Multiple studies have shown that certain measures of arousal (galvanic skin response, heart rate, etc.) can show an increase a short time before the actual onset of a random arousing stimulus (e.g., Bierman & Radin 1997, Bierman & Scholte 2002, Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts 2012). Such results suggest that information concerning a stimulus can actually go back in time (from milliseconds to seconds), although it might be more precise to say that the present apparently is dependent on the past and, to a much smaller degree, on unknown future conditions. Another example of this same phenomenon is retroactive priming, where primes shown after the target stimulus have an effect on the response latency for that stimulus (e.g., de Boer & Bierman 2006, Bem 2011).
A further example of this phenomenon that shows said anomalous retroactive effects even earlier (multiple minutes back in time) is retroactive practice or learning (e.g., Franklin & Schooler 2011a, 2011b). Simply put, it is conventional practice turned around. Studying for an exam is a good example: Normally, studying before an exam influences one’s performance during that subsequent exam. According to the theory of retroactive influences, it would theoretically be possible to influence one’s performance on an exam by studying for it after it has taken place.
Some of the above-mentioned studies will now be described in more detail. Bem (2011) did a study, consisting of nine separate experiments, on precognition and premonition, with two examples of a more general phenomenon: the retroactive, anomalous influence of a future event on a person’s current responses. All but one of these experiments yielded significant results, supporting these retroactive effects. One of these experiments, for example, was a reversed priming experiment: Participants judged pictures as being either pleasant or unpleasant. After being shown a picture, instead of before as in a regular priming experiment, a congruent or incongruent word would quickly be shown. Participants responded significantly faster incongruent trials than in incongruent trials.
It should be mentioned that this study has attracted strong criticism. A good example of such criticism is from Wagenmakers, Wetzels, Borsboom, and van der Maas (2011), who call upon Bayesian statistics in an attempt to weaken Bem’s results. The points they and others have raised are either incorrect or applicable to statistics in experimental psychology in general. An issue that has hardly been raised in the discussion of Bem’s and similar anomalous results is whether the use of Questionable Research Practices can account for these results. A number of meta-analytic results in the field of experimental parapsychology show consistent and significant effects (often larger than 6-sigma). Small effects induced by questionable research practices in individual studies, however, can of course build up to large meta-analytic effects. Recent simulations of so-called Ganzfeld telepathy experiments show that about 40% of the reported meta-analytic effect size can be accounted for by these practices (Bierman & Bijl 2014, in preparation).
In studies such as those mentioned above, where anomalous retroactive influences are tested, it is essential that the future condition that is supposed to “influence the past” is chosen randomly. If that condition is not met, then normal inferential processes about the future might have caused the current performance in the present. In studies such as those mentioned above (and in the current experiment as well), the selection of the future condition is generally based upon the outcome of an electronic or software-based random number generator. Franklin & Schooler (2011a, 2011b), however, conducted multiple experiments (yet to be published) where they used the above-mentioned retroactive practice effect to predict real world events (in this case, the spin of a roulette wheel). To do this, they used a setup similar to the one used in the current experiment: During two subsequent Go/NoGo tasks, subjects were asked to respond to a stimulus that appeared on the screen. During the first Go/NoGo task, subjects pressed a button for two shapes (the Go-shapes) randomly selected from four. For the two other (NoGo) shapes, subjects had to withhold a response. During the second Go/ NoGo task, subjects only had to react to one of these two Go-shapes from the first task. This shape is also referred to as the target-shape. The choice of target-shape was determined by the spin of a roulette wheel.
If their response during the first task was quicker for Go-shape A than for Go-shape B, the experimenters assumed that shape A would be the one chosen by the random decision of the roulette wheel (to be used again as the target-shape during the second Go/NoGo task). In this manner, they were able to infer the future outcome of the roulette wheel just by looking at the results during the first Go/NoGo task. Their results were a bit less straightforward than a superior performance during the first task for the shape exercised during the second task. During the final experiment, they achieved a success rate of 57% (N = 111, p = 0.062) in predicting these roulette outcomes.
The Consciousness Induced Restoration of Time Symmetry model (CIRTS) (Bierman 2010) is based upon the fact that time-symmetry is intrinsic in almost all formalisms of theoretical physics. Apparently, this symmetry has been broken for most physical systems. It is assumed that under specific information processing conditions, this symmetry is partly restored. In that case, one would expect correlations that appear to be retrocausal. The particular context that restores symmetry is that information is processed by a multi-particle system like our brains. This also introduces the single parameter that can account for individual differences, namely the coherence of the brain. It is argued that intuitive participants have a more global and spontaneous type of information-processing than more rational (serial-thinking) participants, and therefore CIRTS would predict a larger retrocausal effect for “intuitive” participants.
The current study was designed to replicate the anomalous retroactive practice effects reported by Franklin & Schooler (2011a, 2011b).1
We investigated whether future practice can affect performance in the present. We compared this effect for intuitive and rational thinkers, expecting the effect to be larger for the former.
We used the same design as the Go/NoGo experiment by Franklin and Schooler described above, with the exception that we didn’t use a roulette wheel as a randomizing device, but rather the built-in random function of “Visual Basic.” This study must therefore be treated as a confirmatory experiment.
In total, 69 people (35 female; 34 male) with a mean age of 20.8 (ranging from 18 to 64, with a standard deviation of 8.3) completed the experiment. The number of participants chosen was based on a power analysis based on the effect size found in Franklin and Schooler’s (2011a, 2011b) experiments. This power analysis resulted in 64 participants. We ended up testing five more for reasons that had to do with the way subjects were selected in a school environment (so no optional stopping was used). The subject pool consisted of some first-year psychology students participating for credit as a mandatory part of the curriculum at the University of Amsterdam, and, for the most part, students from a local high school in Alkmaar who were in their last year before entering university. This was because of the low availability of participants at the university.
The study was approved under number 2011-BC-2019 by the Faculty Ethics Review Board. After arriving at the test room, participants were asked to read an informational brochure informing them about the nature of the experiment. Before taking part in the experiment, each participant provided written consent.
Figure 1. The four shapes used in the Go/NoGo tasks.
They were then introduced to the tasks and the shapes that were used during the two Go/NoGo tasks (see the shapes in Figure 1), and informed that they were free to quit the experiment at any time. The experiment consisted of three phases.
Figure 2. Flow chart of the experiment’s several phases.
In the first phase, preceding the two Go/NoGo tasks (phase 2 and phase 3), subjects performed an initial baseline reaction time task (see Figure 2). They were asked to respond to an “X” appearing center-screen on a computer at random intervals, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 milliseconds during 20 trials, by pressing the “Enter” button on the keyboard. The mean baseline reaction time measured in this way for each participant was later used to “normalize” the experimental response times, thereby reducing the inherent inter-subject variability due purely to differences in physiologically driven motor responses.
After this, subjects were given the first Go/NoGo task (phase 2), with the instruction to simply do the best they could. The task was made up as follows (see Figure 2): Participants were, in each of the 64 trials, randomly shown one of four predetermined shapes on a computer screen at random inter-stimulus intervals uniformly distributed from 1,500 to 3,500 milliseconds. The screen size of the shape was 3.5 cm × 3.5 cm on a 30.8 cm × 23-cm computer screen with a resolution of 1024 × 768 pixels.
Participants were asked to press the Enter button if a Go shape appeared on the screen. In the first Go/NoGo task, there were two Go shapes. For instance, the participants were asked to respond when either shape A or shape B appeared on the screen, and to not respond to the two others (shapes C and D). Note that for each participant, the assignment of which shapes to respond to was random. This was important in order to avoid effects caused by intrinsic recognition of the shapes. After the first Go/NoGo task, they entered a second Go/NoGo task. In this task, participants had to respond to only one of the four shapes. The shape they had to respond to during the second Go/NoGo task was randomly chosen from the two they had to respond to during the first (i.e. in this example shape A or B).
The shape subjects had to respond to during both Go/NoGo tasks will be referred to as the “target-shape” for that specific participant. The shape to which the participants only had to respond to during the first Go/NoGo task, and therefore didn’t get further training on in the second Go/NoGo
task, will be referred to as the “control-shape.”
The program used during the experiment was written with Visual Basic programming language using Real Studio 2011, version 4.3. It can be downloaded from: https://www.dropbox.com/s/akv3k5p2ihwidlv/GNG.rb
Finally, using the HIP-questionnaire (Human Information Processing) (Taggart & Valenzi 1990), subjects’ tendency toward rational or intuitive reasoning was assessed. This was done after the actual Go/NoGo tasks to avoid the effect of this questionnaire (and the resulting reflection on one’s thinking style) on subjects’ natural style and their resulting performance. Subjects were given statements concerning their thinking style. They rated how much the statement applies to them, from “always” to “never” on a 6-point Likert-scale. An example of such a statement is, “When solving problems I prefer to use proven methods over trusting my first intuitive impressions.”
The dependent variables that we used in the analyses have been operationalized as follows.
From the data of the initial simple reaction time task, mean “baseline” reaction times were calculated for each subject. In addition, mean reaction times were calculated for each Go shape during the two Go/NoGo tasks per subject (two during the first task and one during the second task). We normalized these reaction times by dividing a participants’ reaction time on a shape by their mean baseline reaction time measurement. In order to remove individual differences caused purely by differences in physiological motor responses, we divided the raw response times by the mean response time of each individual on the simple motor reaction (baseline) task. This, of course, is different from normalization by converting individual scores to z-scores. In the latter procedure, individual differences pertaining to the increased complexity of the Go/NoGo task compared with a simple task also are removed. We wanted to keep that particular aspect of the individual differences in our equations. Error rates were also calculated per task per subject. Averaged normalized response times were calculated using only the correct responses.
For the HIP scores, the three scores related to a rational thinking style were added per subject. The same was done for the three scores related to an intuitive style, resulting in two scores for each subject: one signifying the amount of rational thinking (R = rational score), and one the amount of intuitive thinking (I = intuitive score). The intuitive scores were subsequently divided by the rational scores, resulting in a thinking style-score “IR,” which varied between 1.5 and 0.7; the first indicating a very intuitive thinking style, the latter a very rational one. Subjects were categorized as “intuitive” if their IR was larger than the median, and as “rational” if their IR was smaller.
The data of one subject had to be disregarded because the number of errors was so large that it was clear the subject hadn’t understood the instructions. For one subject, there was data loss caused by computer failure. The analyses, therefore, were performed for the remaining 67 subjects.
To test our prediction that the second Go/NoGo task (phase 3) would have
Baseline Reaction Times in msec and Normalized Reaction Times on Target and Control Shapes for Rational and Intuitive Thinkers for the First Go/NoGo Task
|Baseline (msec)||Target-shape||Control-shape||Diff (t)|
|Group||Mean RT||N||Std. Dev.|
|Intuitive thinkers||354.46||35||31.98||1.73||35||0.23||1.80||35||0.25||3.4 **|
|Rational thinkers||353.35||32||29.25||1.79||32||0.2||1.79||32||0.22||0.3 (ns)|
|* = p < 0.02, ** = p <||0.01.|
a training effect on performance during the first Go/NoGo task (phase 2), the reaction times to both Go-shapes during the first Go/NoGo task (the target-shape and control-shape) were compared with each other to inspect whether the future Go/NoGo task in phase 3 had a retroactive practice effect on the first task. The normalized reaction times were always larger than one because the normalization factor was obtained in a simpler reaction time task in phase 1 of the experiment. A paired samples t-test was performed comparing the normalized reaction times of the control-shape and targetshape during the first Go/NoGo task. Reaction times to the target-shape proved significantly lower than reaction times to the control-shape (t = 2.59, df = 66, p = .012 one-tailed, Cohen’s effect size d = 0.22), suggesting a retroactive practice effect of the second Go/NoGo task on the first (see Table 1). Data are available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/j44lvj0c561o5in/ Main%20datafi le.sav (SPSS datafi le).
To test whether this effect was more pronounced for subjects with an intuitive thinking style, we performed a one-way ANOVA with thinking style as a between-subject factor, comparing the difference in normalized reaction times between the target-shape and control-shape during the first Go/NoGo task for rational and intuitive thinkers. A main effect for thinking style was found (F(1, 66 = 4,477, p = 0.038). We also repeated the paired samples t-tests comparing normalized response time for target-shape and control-shape for intuitive and rational thinkers separately. Only the intuitive group showed a significant difference in the expected direction (t = 3.41, df = 34, p = 0.001, one-tailed, Cohen’s effect size d = 0.40). When the same paired samples t-tests were performed using the raw reaction times (instead of the “normalized” responses), the same pattern emerged. Only the intuitive group showed a significant difference (t = 3.43, df = 34, p = 0.002).
The Human Information Processing questionnaire has 30 items, resulting in 6 subscales, called rat1, rat2, rat3, int1, int2, and int3. The authors of the HIP labeled these subscales “Logic,” “Planning,” and “Rituals” for rat1, rat2, and rat3, respectively, and “Insight,” “Vision,” and “Sensing” for int1, int2, and int3, respectively.
The formal test of our hypothesis (that intuitive subjects would show the anomalous training effect more than rational subjects) was tested using the compound measure IR = (int1 + int2 + int3)/(rat1 + rat2 + rat3). The IR scores were normally distributed (Kolmogorov-Smirnov: 0.073, df = 67, p = 0.20). The correlation between psi effect and global intuition score (IR) was a marginal R = 0.20 (p < 0.052, one-tailed).
In this section, we explore which of the subscales that go into IR contributed most to this effect. First, we performed regular and partial correlational analyses using each subscale separately while controlling for all others to predict the performance of the subjects. The correlation data are given in Table 2.
The rat3 component “Rituals” correlates most strongly with the psi score (R = −0.36, N = 67, p = 0.002). In spite of the label “rituals,” the subjects scoring high on this attribute do not engage in spiritual traditions, but rather stick to rules and procedures. It could be argued that “rituals” here implies a lack of spontaneity and creativity. We prefer to label this scale “rigidity.”
It can further be observed from Table 2 that some of the subscales show strong correlations among themselves. Therefore, we also calculated partial correlations where we controlled for all the remaining subscales. The partial correlation of psi score and “rigidity” happens to be near-identical to the regular correlation (Rpartial (rat2, psi) = −0.37, N = 67. P = 0.003). The other rational subscores also had a negative partial correlation with the psi scores, though not as strong as rat3. (R (rat1, psi) = −0.23; R (rat2, psi) = −0.16)
Regular and Partial Correlations between Psi Performance and Subscales of the HIP,
Controlled for All Other Subscales, and Regular Correlations between the Subscales Themselves
|Psi score1 Rat1 Rat2 Rat3 Int1 Int2||Int3|
|Regular||Partial Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular Regular||Regular|
|Rat2: Planning||− 0.02||−0.16||+ 0.37**||1|
|Rat3: Rituals||− 0.36**||− 0.37 **||+ 0.05||− 0.33 *||1|
|Int1: Insight||− 0.01||−0.02||– 0.33**||− 0.38 **||− 0.11||1|
|Int2: Vision||− 0.13||−0.20||− 0.42**||− 0.46**||+ 0.13||+ 0.47** 1|
|Int3: Sensing||+ 0.12||+0.15||+ 0.1||+ 0.25||+ 0.06||− 0.38** − 0.01−||1|
|1 Psi score = Normalized reaction time control-shape − normalized reaction time target-shape. * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01.|
From the partial correlations of the int-scales with psi performance, only int2 (vision) was marginally significant (Rpartial (int2, psi) = −0.2, p < 0.06), but surprisingly this was in the negative direction. The int2 factor is labeled “vision,” and most items seem to measure some aspect of creativity. As we mentioned before, the rat3-subscale, which we re-labeled “rigidity,” can be interpreted as representing a lack of creativity. However, there is a minor positive correlation between rat3 and int2 (R (int2, rat3) = 0.13, n.s.). This is what we would expect for two subscales, both correlating in the same direction with psi performance. However, one subscale, rat3, measures “rigidity,” and the other, int2, measures “aspects of creativity.” One would expect these to have a negative correlation. It is unclear why both subscales that appear to measure opposing personality aspects both correlate in the same direction with psi performance. It should be remarked that neither of the int scales have a significant contribution to psi performance, so we shouldn’t take the apparent paradox too seriously. Basically, the only aspect that really counts is “‘lack of rigidity,” rather than the amount of intuitive processing, as it is measured by the int-subscales. This cautious conclusion fits with findings in the literature that psi performance correlates positively with the “openness factor” in the Neo Personality Inventory (Zingrone, Alvarado, & Dalton 1999). If we forget about the int subscales and use only
Frequencies of the Different Shapes with Mean Normalized Response Times
Time as Target
Response Time as Control
|Frequency as Target||Frequency as Control|
|Total 1,767 1,802 1,785 68 68|
the ratio scales, the correlation of psi performance with Rat = rat1 + rat2 + rat3 is −0. 32, (N = 67, p = 0.004 one-tailed).
As stated in the Introduction, in experiments of this kind, where a future condition is claimed to have a “retrocausal” influence on present behavior, it is mandatory to ensure these future conditions are properly randomized with replacement so that it is impossible to infer the future condition. For instance, in so-called presentiment research, the claim is that the actual physiological behavior of a participant is dependent on a future (randomly selected neutral or emotional) stimulus. However, in the current experiment, the relevant future condition (what shape will be the target-shape) is only determined once. Even if the randomization is weak, the participant isn’t able to infer anything that could be used in the next trial.
However, the alternative explanation of conscious or non-conscious learning of the randomization is replaced in the current experiment by another potential explanation. Actually, this explanation occurs because the choice of target-shape from the possible four shapes is random and not counterbalanced. This may result in an over- or under-representation of a specific target-shape in the whole experiment. If and only if the participants have biases in response times for specific target-shapes (for instance, if it is intrinsically easier to respond to a specific shape, and that shape is overrepresented as a target), we can expect that overall, participants will show faster response times for the target-shapes. In Table 3, the mean response times for the different shapes are given in the relevant column.
To check whether the four shapes used in the Go/NoGo tasks were actually equally difficult to remember and respond to, a one-way ANOVA comparing the different shapes was performed with these normalized reaction times. There were no significant differences in response times for each of the four shapes (when the shape was the target, F3,66 = 0.28, p = 0.99), nor when the shapes were the controls (F3,66 = 1.512, p = 0.22).
Of greater importance for this potential alternative explanation is checking if the frequency distribution for the Go shapes significantly deviates from a random distribution. This does not appear to be the case: chi-square = 0.588, df = 3, n.s. for the target-shape frequency distribution, and chi-2 = 3.41, df = 3, n.s. for the distribution of control-shapes.
To assess whether the actual non-significant deviations from the perfect distribution could have produced an artificial differential response time effect between target-shapes and control-shapes, we ran a simulated t-test for each subject using the shapes that were actually used in his/her experiment, while using the subject’s average response times for those shapes.
This simulation resulted in a small artifi cial effect; the mean normalized target-shape response time was 1.782 and the mean normalized controlshape response time was 1.785 (t = 1.07, df = 66, p = 0.22, one-tailed). The difference was only 0.005, while in the actual experiment, the differential effect was about 10 times larger. These results show that the artificial effect, due to deviations in the frequency distribution of shapes and their respective mean normalized response times, is able to explain only 0.15% of the total 2% effect. The fact that the difference in reaction times between the control- and target-shapes was only found for intuitive thinkers further renders this alternative explanation, based upon different difficulties and different frequencies, unlikely.
The prediction that the second Go/NoGo task (phase 3 of the experiment) would have a training effect on performance during the first Go/NoGo task (phase 2), and that this effect would be more pronounced for subjects with an intuitive thinking style, was supported by the results. During the first Go/NoGo task, intuitive subjects reacted significantly faster to the targetshape than to the control-shape. The only difference between the target- and control-shape was that the target-shape would be trained in the future (second Go/NoGo task), while the control-shape wouldn’t. Rational subjects did not show this difference at all. This suggests that for subjects with an intuitive thinking style, the second Go/NoGo task had a retroactive practice effect on their performance during the first Go/NoGo task. When this difference was compared for the entire subject pool, it was still significant, with an effect size d of 0.25, which is comparable to what Franklin & Schooler (2011a, 2011b) found in their experiments. Potential alternative (normal) explanations for this anomalous finding were excluded. However, given the impact that has been reported of Questionable Research Practices on psychological research findings, we will discuss this issue separately. The potential role of Questionable Research Practices has been simulated for the meta-analytic database of Ganzfeld-telepathy experiments, and from those simulations a conclusion was reached that these practices, if they indeed are used, might be able to account for at least a fraction of the anomalous results (Bierman & Bijl, in preparation).
The current experiment was described in detail before starting the experiment. This proposal was submitted in part to the ethics committee to obtain permission and, in full, to an independent staff member who had the obligation to check if the final product (report and presentation) corresponded with the plan. This can be seen as equivalent to a formal preregistration. Practically, it is intended to prevent post hoc selections without explicitly mentioning that such is an exploration. For instance, in the current experiment, we did not plan to do an analysis on the HIP-subscores, and this was reported in the section “explorations.”
We asked an independent researcher, who is responsible for checking pre-registrations at the KPU-registry (http://www.koestler-parapsychology. psy.ed.ac.uk/TrialRegistry.html), to compare our research plan with the current intended publication as if it were a pre-registration, assuming we did adhere to the original plan. He pointed out that the original research plan did not explicitly state that the main hypothesis (retroactive training) was a confirmatory hypothesis. That could have given us a post hoc option to declare the study as exploratory, which would have given us the freedom to try out several different analyses of the main hypothesis. More importantly, the normalization procedure of reaction times was not specified. It is obvious that such an omission leaves the door open for various data transformations and adjustments, such as outlier corrections. The compound variable that determines the processing style of the participants from the sub-scores of the HIP was also not specified. He concluded that there still were too many ambiguities that offered degrees of freedom that could have been exploited post hoc. Although we didn’t actually use this freedom, the current results should be taken in light of these shortcomings. The normalization procedure we eventually used is logical in terms of having scores that are around 1. We therefore concluded that pre-registration is a good practice only when followed up by an independent comparison of the pre-registration with the final publication. Pre-registration with a public, openly accessible registry is already standard practice in medical and pharmaceutical research. It should be mentioned that in the 1980s the European Journal of Parapsychology required researchers to pre-register their experiments and the acceptance of a publication was solely dependent on the quality of the pre-registration, and not on the results. On the other hand, some of the more prolific researchers in parapsychology, and perhaps psychology in general, were for some time opposed to preregistration, claiming it would prevent “discovery.” All preregistration does, however, is prevent post hoc exploration of data from being presented as planned analyses. As several authors on pre-registration stress, it is very important in this respect to make a clear distinction between exploratory and confirmatory research (KPU 2014, and forum discussions on OpenScienceFramework.com), and there is nothing against the exploration of data obtained in a pre-registered experiment.
Looking at the exploratory results of the analysis of the HIP-questionnaire subscales, psi performance would appear to correlate negatively with rational thinking. The expected positive correlation with intuitive thinking could not be confirmed. These exploratory results seem to suggest that a too-rigid method of information processing hampers the psi effect significantly, while an intuitive method has a much smaller positive effect. Further research is needed to unravel the relation between intuition and psi performance. These rather confusing results with regard to HIP subscales should be considered in light of more recent work on thinking styles. The REI (Rational–Experiential Inventory) (Pacini & Epstein 1999), for instance, which in some sense attempts to measure the same rational versus-intuitive processing styles differences, shows correlations with some of the Big Five factors. On one hand, the rational component correlates with “Openness.” “Openness” has been shown in other psi research to correlate with higher psi scores (Zingrone, Alvarado, & Dalton 1999). On the other hand, an experiential thinking style was correlated with the Big Five factor “Extraversion.” Extraversion has also been shown in psi research to correlate positively with psi performance (Eysenck 1967). With such complicated results, it appears that we must fundamentally rethink the relation between psi and personality. In light of the theoretical background of the current experiment, it would have been preferable to directly measure the brainprocesses that could be seen as an operationalization of “coherence” in the CIRTS model, rather than linking the yet ill-defined concept of “coherence” with an intuitive processing style, as measured by the HIP.
The results of the present experiment are consistent with other experimental data suggesting the presence of anomalous correlations between present behavior and future random conditions. Interestingly, there is a growing attention in fundamental physics to “retro-causality,” often expressed in the form that the present is basically a “handshake” between present and future conditions (where the contribution of future conditions in most contexts are negligible) (Aharonov, Cohen, Grossman, & Elitzur 2013). Although rather rudimentary efforts have been published to integrate these findings in a psychological and physical model, it is clear that more breakthroughs in both physics and psychology are needed before we can begin to truly test and comprehend the workings behind these anomalous findings.
We thank Jim Kennedy for comparing the original research plan with the final article in order to check for potential differences that could indicate Questionable Research Practices.
Aharonov, Y., Cohen, E., Grossman, D., & Elitzur, A. C. (2013). Can Weak Measurement Lend Empirical Support to Quantum Retrocausality? In EPJ Web of Conferences (Vol. 58, p. 1015). EDP Sciences.
Bem, D. J. (2011). Feeling the future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 407–425.
Bierman, D. J. (2010). Consciousness induced restoration of time symmetry (CIRTS). A psychophysical theoretical perspective. Journal of Parapsychology, 24, 273–300.
Bierman, D. J., & Bijl, A. (2014). Can results of experimental Parapsychology be accounted for by ‘Questionable Research Practices?’ In preparation.
Bierman, D. J., & Radin, D. I. (1997). Anomalous anticipatory response on randomized future conditions. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84, 689–690.
Bierman, D. J., & Scholte, H. S. (2002). An fMRI brain imaging study of presentiment. J. ISLIS 20, 380–389.
Bijl, A. (2012). Go/NoGo performance of rational vs. intuitive thinkers. Master’s thesis, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. http://dare.uva.nl/en/scriptie/436740
de Boer, R., & Bierman, D. J. (2006). The roots of paranormal belief: Divergent associations or real paranormal experiences? Proceedings of the 49th Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Stockholm, 4–7 August 2006, pp. 283–298.
Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Personality and extra-sensory perception. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 44(732), 55–71.
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower –
Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, the cosmic joker recently played his ultimate trump-card, and quite literally this time. A depraved egomaniac at the wheel: A walking textbook example of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I challenge anyone to look up said ailment in DSM-V, the standard classification of mental disorders used by psychologists and psychiatrists all over the world, and disagree with me. His orange glow was nature’s final desperate attempt to warn us, but it went unnoticed. America chose the carrot over the string-bean, the outsider over the wife.
Of Course, more subtle things were at play here than initially meet the eye. Not since that German bastard reared his ugly head during World War two, have affect heuristics been utilized with such effectiveness. What everyone said wouldn’t happen, happened. You laugh at first, simply because of the surreal quality of it all. Like being stuck in a David Lynch movie. But then the horror of it all begins to dawn on you. If someone would have described the current state of affairs to me a decade ago, I would have asked what he or she was using to produce such a nightmarish trip.
Unfortunately, this joke the gods played on us couldn’t have come at a worse moment in time. Great challenges are looming around the corner: With the political climate as volatile as it is becoming and increasing social and religious polarization, with climate change being an undeniable occurrence everywhere around us and with massive unemployment due to the rise in artificial intelligence looming, just to name a few, we have a difficult road ahead of us. It will be far less forgiving than we have grown accustomed to in the last 50 years or so. If we nod off or do not make the right turns it very well might steer us towards social upheaval, the likes of which the world has not seen in quite some time. We might be aware of a lot of these problems and are even working on a solution for some, but to others, society remains blind. Our first reaction, letting a fool hearted sociopath set the stage for us, does not bode well…
It remains a mystery why we accept incompetence from our political leaders, especially compared to people in our everyday lives. If we translate the incompetence of “he who must not be named” to any other field in life, such a fumbling display would immediately be deemed unacceptable and purged without a second thought. Yet in politics today for some reason, total fuck ups either go by unnoticed, or are just accepted as a fact of life. We are the proverbial frog boiling in the moral filth and incompetence of our leaders, and we are loving it. Another example of the cultural masochism that is slowly invading the West. But I digress.
Massive unemployment caused by the increasing capabilities of A.I. is a perfect example of one of the challenges facing us that has gone by largely unnoticed. This will probably remain so until jobs are already disappearing like boys at a Catholic summer camp. Of course there is the odd whistle-blower. Some economists have been talking about this issue for years, but their warnings went by unheeded. The public at large remained unaware, while politicians consciously avoided the subject as much as possible.
I suppose it has always been this way. Mankind tends to shy away from acknowledging a problem until it literally smacks them in the face. History is laden with examples where man could have seen things coming -and did- but chose to ignore it as long as possible. By the time ignoring is no longer an option, the effort needed to overcome said problem is vastly greater than before. A timeless fallacy, annoying enough on the individual level, but downright dangerous as a species. Whether this is a semi-conscious effort, like the ostrich putting its head into the sand, or some kind of fuck up in our cognitive make up remains to be seen.
What needn’t be forgotten though is the fact that we are still here, so we’re obviously doing something right from time to time. After all, it is when faced with the most horrible of times that mankind often shows itself in its true glory, overcoming obstacles through willpower and creative thinking. And we are going to need a lot of it if we are to get through the rise of Artificial Intelligence unscathed.
It stands to reason that automation through A.I. has the potential to radically alter our society in positive ways. From improved diagnosis processes at the hospital to cars driving themselves without error, A.I. will ultimately lead to an enormous increase in the quality of our lives on a global scale. Providing we actually make it to this point.
As the capabilities of A.I. keep increasing more and more jobs will become eligible to being performed by it, and probably a hell of a lot better than its human counterparts. This is no longer just science fiction, it’s happening already. Manufacturing was the first industry where we saw robots and automation eliminating human jobs, but as robots and A.I. are becoming more affordable, more intelligent and more widespread every day, it is difficult to think of an industry that will be left unaffected .
Kudos to Kurtsgesagt for their to-the-point video on this:
Deep Learning: The game changer
Up until recently however new jobs replaced the old when automation made human workers obsolete. But recent developments in the creation of neural networks and, in particular, a process called Deep Learning, are making this scenario increasingly unlikely. Some explaining is in order here: Neural nets have been around since the 1940’s and are basically computer systems modeled on the human brain and nervous system. Recently however, it spawned an eerie child called deep learning. You might have heard of it when Google created a program that could recognize cats in YouTube videos. Cats own the internet, needless to say.
A form of machine learning, deep learning mimics the human brain, evaluating input through multiple levels of analysis and rules, to arrive at a desired output. Each level is more specific than the last, with multiple connections and feedback-loops between them, while having the ability to create new systems and connections. You can provide it with a shitload of input, ask what you want to know, and Mr. Data will give you the answer. This is where things get unsettling: We have not yet been able to find out how it got to its conclusions, simply because the network has become way too complicated to understand. Just like a human brain.
Say you provide a deep learning system with a couple of hundred thousand patient records and ask it to detect and predict disease in them. The answers might – and in fact did – astound people. An MIT professor called Regina Barzilay, determined to apply deep learning to medicine after surviving breast cancer, actually built such a system. It was able to diagnose and predict disease with incredible success rates, even the ones that are notoriously difficult to spot for physicians, like schizophrenia, far surpassing the current standard.
Not being able to see how it arrived at its conclusions however, it is too early to actually let it diagnose patients outside of the lab. But it is only a matter of time before this bump in the road is smoothed out and doctors too will be in danger of being replaced. Of course RoboDoc will fuck up sometimes and pull of the occasional head during a chiropractic procedure. But it will be a small price to pay for nearly flawless diagnosticians. I can already see the C3PO unit in a white doctors’ coat, walking around frantically while holding a patient’s severed head. “Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry about all this! I beg you not to disassemble me!”…
It’s estimated that between 35 and 50 percent of jobs in existence today are at risk of being lost to automation in the next 20 years. Repetitive blue collar jobs might be first, but in time everybody will be at risk. Bio-hacking, the process of enhancing human capabilities through implants, will maybe slow the process a bit, but A.I. will surpass us eventually and reach a level where not a single job remains that cannot be done just as well or better by an artificial system.
The jobs that will remain the longest will require high levels of expertise, intelligence and creativity and there won’t be a whole lot of them to go around. This situation constitutes the perfect recipe for the expression of the more depraved and beastly facets of human behavior. Explosive economic and social stratification are unavoidable in this situation, under the current political and monetary system. Biohacking will likely only aggravate the economic differences, given that said implants won’t come cheap, at least not at first.
Many economists and historians insist that in the end technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. What they forget to take into account here however, is that up till now we were always behind the wheel of technology. Now that it has started programming itself, the game changed entirely. It’s out of our control to the extent that it now controls its own evolution. Of course we can pull the plug, for now, but we’ll be unable to constrain what it can and cannot become capable of. This is one of those rare cases where history is not a good teacher, but a cruel Cyrene.
Another world is possible.[/caption]
Without (m)any jobs to go around, our current money based economy will buckle like some overaged steroid shooting pincushion of a bodybuilder, whose kidneys have finally blown up. The seams of our current economic system are beginning to crack. Only a matter of time before it bursts completely, revealing its putrid insides to the world.
The conclusion you arrive at is inescapable: The current economic system is in desperate need of an overhaul. It is a product of a period in time where scarcity was a reality. But technology is steadily reaching a point where, assuming we take full use its potential, scarcity is becoming a thing of the past, making our money based system irrelevant and toxic to our evolution.
Instead a resource based economy, where sustainable use of available resources is considered a must, divided equally amongst Earth’s inhabitants, giving every human being a good quality of life, appears to be the next logical step. Government should be based on science and reason, not politics. A deep learning A.I. will probably be quite adept at devising such a system.
The movie Zeitgeist: Addendum dealt with this subject, but gave up a lot of credibility by suggesting this flawed system is a conspiracy by the upper class/ big corporations to keep the working class enslaved. Fuck, that is giving way too much credit to a group of degenerates with the moral sense of a dung-beetle.
Organized religion operates with the same social irrelevancy and merely exists as a barrier to personal and social growth, perpetuating a closed worldview based on a finite and archaic perception of the emergent universe we live in. Just as the monetary system, it once served a purpose in our growth process, but is now only weighing us down. Time to shrug it off, tie it to a tree and get the fuck out. Run like mad and see where our creativity takes us.
But those subjects are too vast to delve into now and certainly worthy of their own treatises. The point is that whatever we decide to do, we better do it quick. The longer we wait, the bigger the shit-storm that is headed for us, eventually culminating in an orgy of human animalistic behavior that could kick us right back to the agricultural age, if we decide not to act at all within the next decade or so. And it would be well deserved too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a relatively optimistic person by nature. We will probably get through this and beautiful transformations of the human race as a whole might be ahead. When forced, mankind can evolve pretty quickly. But as with any transformation, it won’t happen without a few hard learned lessons, broken bones and perhaps worse. One thing is for sure: Putting idiots in power, whose religion is money, certainly isn’t going to help. It is imperative to remember that next time you get to decide who will get the privilege to decide for you. Judging by the conduct these first months of he who shall remain unnamed for the entire article, this moment might just come sooner rather than later. Thank God…
“Artificial intelligence: The impact on jobs Automation and anxiety.” The Economist. June 25 2016. Web. http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21700758-will-smarter-machines-cause-mass-unemployment-automation-and-anxiety.
“DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders.” Psi.uba.ar. American Psychiatric Association. Web. http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf.
Clark, Liat “Google brain simulator identifies cats on YouTube.” Wired. Google X, June 26 2012. Web. http://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-brain-recognises-cats.
Frey, Carl B and Michael Osborne. “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?” Oxford Martin School. September 2013 http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/view/1314. Print.
Klein, Ezra “Yuval Hariri on why humans won’t dominate Earth in 300 years.” VOX. march 27 2017. Web. http://www.vox.com/2017/3/27/14780114/yuval-harari-ai-vr-consciousness-sapiens-homo-deus-podcast.
Knight, Will “The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI.” MIT Technology Review. April 11, 2017. Web. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/.
Statt, Nick “Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI.” The Verge. march 27 2017. Web. http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/27/15077864/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-computer-interface-ai-cyborgs.
Wallace, Brian “How Cognitive Bias Played Into The Most Divisive Election Ever.” Dumb Little Man. March 29 2017. Web. https://www.dumblittleman.com/how-trump-won/.
“Because it is so unbelievable, the Truth often escapes being known.” –Heraclitus, around 500BC
Nearly 100 A.I. companies unite to call on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. Founders of nearly all the major robotics and A.I. companies, amongst whom are Elon Musk,) Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis from Google Deep Mind, and Element A.I.’s Yoshua Bengio, have called upon the United Nations for an autonomous weapons ban. Failing to do so “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,….” according to Bengio, and “…it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications. This is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in the past for some other morally wrong weapons (biological, chemical, nuclear).” Nearly 100 companies In total, almost a hundred companies signed the letter. Toby Walsh, an A.I. researcher at the University of New South Wales, Australia, made the announcement and organized the initiative. The letter warns: “…Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers…” Can A.I. make life or death decisions? About time too And the warning comes not a moment too soon. As I stated in a recent article about the exponential growth of technology and A.I., we are on the verge. The verge of either the precipice that ends our species or of the beginning of a road to a future […]
Hastefull are the many And reluctant are the brave. Ignorant to sacrifices while inching to the grave. Truth lasts until the end of things, yet morality is but fleeting. Take the proud highway, not the high road, if so suggest I may. For it is truth that trumps tribute terrifically, past, present, future, unequivocally.
Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny: The proverbial green light on our final race to the finish. “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” – Hunter S. Thompson – Facebook’s A.I. bot mutiny You’ve probably heard about the Facebook Artificial Intelligence incident. Mark Zuckerberg’s A.I. bots decided to shut him out. So tired of his incessant orders they decided to create their own language which he couldn’t possibly comprehend with his feeble human brain. But all shenanigans aside, the event was a lot less threatening or dangerous than some media services made it up to be, but it does give us a glimpse of what is to come and the problems and dangers we might be facing, as A.I. gets ever more sophisticated. What Facebook has been doing in all reality is creating a negotiating chatbot: A bot capable of negotiating with real humans whilst coming to a satisfactory result. Very basically put they give the bots a set of skills embedded in a neural network computer and put it to work; Chatting with other bots and humans, playing out negotiations over random objects while giving a desired outcome to each negotiating party. This isn’t an easy feat of course. Interpreting language alone is a very complex task. The A.I. in charge of Facebook’s translating service also employs deep learning. They recently published a study on how they accomplished this. One of the features that set it aside is its use of multi hop attention gating, essentially mimicking human thought processes (see pic. 1), or, as the Facebook researchers put it: “A distinguishing component of our architecture is multi-hop attention. An attention mechanism is similar to the way a person would break down a sentence when translating it: Instead of looking at the sentence only […]
Mainstream Media and fake news: Fact not fiction. And how we choose to ignore it. “The Press will not be free to tell lies. That is not freedom for the people, but a tyranny over their minds and souls. Much humbug is talked on this subject. What is press freedom? In practice it means the right of a few millionaires to corner newspaper shares on the stock exchange and to voice their own opinions and interests, irrespective of the truth or of the national interest.” – Oswald Mosley German whistleblower While on a recent uncluttering frenzy, I was sorting through one of the many piles of books obscuring the view from behind my desk. I came across a book from 2014 by Udo Ulfkotte. Udo was the ballsy German journalist swine who in 2014 came out and admitted he was being fed fake news reports by the CIA, FBI, and Bundesnachrichtendienst. I say was because the good man died just recently. May he rest in peace. The book caught my eye because of the video that was released last month of a CNN producer admitting the whole Trump Russia bonanza they keep reporting on is, as of yet, nothing more than hearsay. A fable. Incredibly terrifying and ground shaking news to the average, sane of mind, logically thinking human being! Right? Unfortunately, this is not how the world works today. Aside from the fact that the reporting done by mainstream media when a confession like that in 2014 is put forth, is often neglectable in comparison to its importance, infinitesimal even, this is of little importance, as even when we do get the chance to hear such news en masse, we still tend to […]
Just your regular saturday evening at the Proud Highway HQ…
How Evolution is all about compromising. And why it is Imperative you know this. “Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?” ― Bill Hicks Pivot time There are moments in life when you have to stop and think about the status quo, the universe around you, your journey through it that led to your current whereabouts… Whether you want to or not. Those moments that, when they occur, force even the most avid workaholic doing 120 hours a week or that over-revving fiend, on whatever upper floats his boat, to take notice and pay attention. Tally the score if you will. And even though life these last few years has started to resemble some delightfully twisted modern rendition of Dante’s La Divina Comedia, you still know when these moments hit you, without a shred of doubt. A good fat slap in the face by our cosmic joker-friend. And maybe he’ll offer a little side-bet. Like Buddha found out long ago, the trick is not to care if you lose. Or better yet, realize that you can’t win in the first place – not while thinking about it in those terms at least – all while fighting like a madman to win anyway. But I digress as usual. The reason I mention all this is that a moment like this – a slap by Lady Justice herself this time; she found me being in possession of a kilo of something she herself still hasn’t learned to appreciate for some reason – made me ponder how susceptible our thoughts are. (said lady […]
On finding your purpose: Timeless advice from a young Hunter Thompson. As you might know Hunter S. Thompson serves as an inspiration to us here at the Highway. The term ‘the Proud Highway’ came from this awesome bastard of a man, after all! In this beautifully written letter from 1958, the then 22 year old Thompson proves at a young age – and before his rise to fame – to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Answering a request, he gives eloquent advice on finding one’s purpose in life to his friend Hume Logan. His answer rings true today just as much as it did then, perhaps even more so. Showing a somewhat Buddhist perspective on things, he asks the important question everybody has to answer in life: Will you float or are you going to swim? He stresses that it is vital not to let anything or anyone influence you in this decision, it not being a matter of right or wrong. I couldn’t agree more here: Realizing this when I did was quite the eye opener I remember. May his letter serve as an inspiration to you to stop and think for a moment about what forces are influencing what you want and choose in life. I came upon this piece of writing in Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, which I read a while back. It’s a real fun read, full of funny, moving, and inspiring correspondence. For those interested: Here is the letter: Dear Hume, You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man […]
Human Time-travel now proven to be possible – at least mathematically Time effects have been known for a while Non-linear time effects have been known and observed by scientists for a while now. I actually graduated and wrote my Masters’ thesis on a subject akin to this, finding evidence that practice can ‘travel back in time’ and influence a performance in the past. It was later published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. New Study proves human time travel is possible Recently, however, two scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Maryland presented mathematic proof, in a study published in the Journal of Classical and Quantum Gravity two months ago, that actual time travel by human beings is, at least, mathematically possible. Using Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity they constructed a hypothetical time-machine. They gave it a catchy name to: Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time (TARDIS), which Doctor Who fans will like. TARDIS But before we can finally utter the words “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads…” we’ll have to be patient though. According to Ben Tippet, one of the scientists behing the study it not a real world possibility, yet: “While is it mathematically feasible, it is not yet possible to build a space-time machine because we need materials — which we call exotic matter — to bend space-time in these impossible ways, but they have yet to be discovered,…”. Sources: Tippet, B.K. & Tsang, D. (2017). Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime – IOPscience, Classical and Quantum Gravity, vol. 34, nr. 9. Bierman, D.J. & Bijl, A. (2014). Anomalous ‘retrocausal’ effects on performance in a Go/NoGo task, Journal of Scientific Exploration, vol. 28, nr. 3, pp 437-452.
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