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Should I Switch To An iPhone Or A Palm Pre?

File:Ammersee 29.01.2006.jpg

Should I buy an iPhone or a new Palm Pre phone?

When leaving home I take with me, as a general matter, my very basic cell phone, a few pens, a small notebook in my back pocket and something to read.

If I go to lunch by myself on a day off from work, or when at lunch at work, I use the time to read my book or magazine and mark down anything I wish to recall in my notebook. I use my cell phone to call and check in my wife.

I don’t reject technology. I make calls on my cell. I use a Flip Camera to make videos for this blog. And, as you might guess, I use a computer to write this blog. I don’t have a laptop. I write the blog from my personal computer at home.

I gave some though to if I should switch my phone to one of these new-fangled phones. I came to the view that it would not work for me. As represented by the picture above, I’m fragmented enough.       

I don’t need to check the internet when away from home. I don’t need a phone full of applications to further distract my attentions. I don’t have time enough to read the books and magazines I already own.

Fragmentation in contrast to a more cohesive whole is not a good thing. Look at the fragmented ice in the picture. How could one walk across that ice to get from one place to another? You’d just fall into that cold water and freeze and drown.  

It’s not just the fragments in the picture that are telling—It’s the setting sun as well. If our time is so divided, how can we get something of substance accomplished before it is dark?

I might get a rebate from the so-called service provider—my cell phone company is Sprint and they provide lousy service for the most part— when I buy one of these phones, but how will I get a rebate on the hours of my life?

Excessive fragmentation is bad in our lives. It is also bad for the rain forest.

New Scientist Magazine reports that Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforst is being destroyed in large chunks that are leaving only small fragments left for trees, flowers and animals to survive.

From the article—

THE ongoing degradation of the Amazon rainforest has obscured the plight of its smaller sibling: the Atlantic forest in Brazil, which is a biodiversity hotspot. Once covering about 1.5 million square kilometres, the rainforest has been reduced to about one-tenth of its original area in the past 500 years, a new study has shown….of the remaining forest, about 80 per cent is split into fragments of less than 0.5 square kilometres. The average distance between these fragments is 1.4 kilometres, making it difficult for animals to move from one part of the forest to another.

Here are some facts about the Atlantic Forest.

Below is a painting by a Johann Moritz Rugendas of the cutting down of trees in the Atlantic Forest. This painting was completed sometime between 1820 and 1825. You see that the darker skinned people are working and the lighter skinned people are either sitting down or up on a horse.

File:Rugendas - Defrichement d une Foret.jpg

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Self-Aware Net?—That’s Terrifying

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A recent issue of New Scientist magazine asks if the world wide web could ever become self-aware.

( Above–A robo-dog. Who will be master? People or machines?) 

(New Scientist has interesting content every week. While I do not subscribe, I buy the magazine on the newsstand about twice a month. Free content on the web is never free. Someone has to pay for it or it will go away.)   

Two experts of the subject say it is possible that the world wide web could become self-aware. One of these mad scientists even says that this is something we should work to encourage.

From the article— 

“In engineering terms, it is easy to see qualitative similarities between the human brain and the internet’s complex network of nodes, as they both hold, process, recall and transmit information. “The internet behaves a fair bit like a mind,” says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute,  Not that it will necessarily have the same kind of consciousness as humans: it is unlikely to be wondering who it is, for instance…. To Francis Heylighen, who studies consciousness and artificial intelligence at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, consciousness is merely a system of mechanisms for making information processing more efficient by adding a level of control over which of the brain’s processes get the most resources. “Adding consciousness is more a matter of fine-tuning and increasing control… than a jump to a wholly different level,” Heylighen says…. How might this manifest itself? Heylighen speculates that it might turn the internet into a self-aware network that constantly strives to become better at what it does, reorganising itself and filling gaps in its own knowledge and abilities. If it is not already semiconscious, we could do various things to help wake it up, such as requiring the net to monitor its own knowledge gaps and do something about them. It shouldn’t be something to fear, says Goertzel: “The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful internet mind develops.”

Here is the link for Ben Goertzel. 

Here is the link for Francis Heylighen.

These people are out of their minds. If they want their toasters and clock radios killing them while they sleep I can’t do anything about that.  I can just tell you it is not the future I want.

Now I know I’m someone who has trouble with technology more advanced than a wind-up toy, but the idea that we might have an aware internet watching us and knowing us is crazy. I don’t have to know how to operate the cable remote to figure out that I don’t want a self-aware net following me around. 

( If the internet is already self-aware, I hope it realizes I’m being forced to write this by parasites in my brain and that I’m deeply sorry if I’ve offended the internet in any way.)

You can say the web will develop only a limited capacity for awareness or action, but how can you be sure?

A rival intelligence on Earth?

That will go really well.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Massive Fossil Find–Should Ice Age Creatures Be Brought Back From The Dead?

A big find of ice age fossils has been discovered in Los Angeles. These fossils are near the La Brea Tar Pit.

( Above–Los Angeles!)

(Here is information on the concept of an Ice Age. Here is information on the La Brea Tar Pits.

(Above–Bubbly La Brea Tar Pit. )

From the Los Angeles Times story on the fossil find

“Workers excavating an underground garage on the site of an old May Co. parking structure in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park got more than just a couple hundred new parking spaces. They found the largest known cache of fossils from the last ice age, an assemblage that has flabbergasted paleontologists.”

Below is a LA Times photo of the fossil dig–

Fossils at Rancho La Brea

Can these Ice Age beasts be brought back to life with DNA? If they could be brought back to life, maybe they could be taught tricks and be shown off at some type of Ice Age World theme park.

According the magazine New Scientist the following things will be needed to bring an extinct ice age beast back to life—

* Well-preserved DNA.

* Several billion DNA building blocks.

* A suitable surrogate species

* Some seriously advanced technology.

(Here is the full New Scientist article on this subject. This magazine is available on many newsstands and for online subscription. Nothing is free in the end.)

From the New Scientist article, here are the steps that need to be taken to bring back an extinct animal—

1. Extract the DNA from your extinct species, sequence the fragments and assemble to obtain a complete genome.

 2. Now take your DNA building blocks and recreate the DNA of your extinct beast, in the correct number of chromosomes. 

3. Package the chromosomes up into an artificial nucleus and pop it in an egg collected from your suitable surrogate species. This should then develop into an embryo, which will be a clone of a long-dead animal.

4. Grow a baby animal from the embryo. For mammals, implant the embryo in the womb of a compatible surrogate mother. For a reptile or bird, incubate embryo using yet-to-be-developed techniques. For an amphibian or fish where fertilisation takes place outside the body, just sit back and watch.

Beasts that could possibly be brought back include the Woolly Rhinceros  , Sabre-Toothed Tiger, Short-Faced Bear and Irish Elk.

It is not certain to me that these creatures should be brought back to existence even if possible.

First, there is the prospect that they could come back as some sort of vampire creatures if raised from the dead.

It’s possible these creatures would harbor an “Ice Age Pox” that would wipe out half our population.

Also, these revived beasts would be seen as nothing but freaks. Theme parks and zoos would bid for them and they would become no more than modern day Shamus.

I say let these creatures rest.

(Below–Irish Elk skeleton.)

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments