Triangle Mesh Dreams

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27th, 2010 by Samuel Kenyon

I took a nap yesterday after being desperately overtired. I immediately started dreaming of some landscapes and/or objects which appeared in polygon format, like triangle meshes on a computer. At the time I thought how odd that was but that’s all I can remember. This experience is the opposite of my normal dreaming, in that I remember the beginning instead of the end of the dream(s).

triangle mesh with wireframes (Credit: d_effekt, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

triangle meshes (Credit: toxi, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

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Kurzweil’s Phenomenological Consciousness

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16th, 2010 by Samuel Kenyon

Ray Kurzweil’s presentation at the 2010 H+ Summit [1] was largely a mix and mash of his talks from the past 5 years. I had hoped he would give some insight into his upcoming book on how to reverse engineer the mind, but on the subject of the mind he just repeated old stuff from his 5-year-old book. (And his mention of “new” theories of consciousness like Penrose’s quantum consciousness theories were not even new in 2005, let alone 2010.)

As far as consciousness, he reiterated chapter 7 (“Ich bin ein Singularitarian”) from The Singularity is Near [2]. According to chapter 7: “There exists no objective test that can conclusively determine its [consciousness] presence.”

Kurzweil states we are stuck at one level (neurological) of measuring correlates objectively, and “we cannot penetrate to the core of subjective experience through objective measurement.”

It seems that Kurzweil is in a phenomenological path, not for the whole mind, but at least for consciousness. According to Paul Churchland’s introductory book, Matter and Consciousness [3], “Many suppose that, through scientific research, the mind can make conceptual progress: toward the goal of reconceiving the material world, and the mind, in conceptual terms that do correspond at last to the true nature of things-in-themselves. This is the hope of scientific realism…”

Whereas for Phenomenology: “its various advocates are all agree that a true understanding of the nature of mind can be achieved only by methods that are radically different from those that guide science generally…They are keenly aware, as are almost all philosophers since the work of Kant, that the world-of-our-experience is in large measure a constructed world…Standard scientific activity, on their view, is just a continuation of certain of these ‘constructive’ activities of the mind.” [3]

The phenomenologist path, while important, doesn’t seem like a very fruitful set of commitments for making progress. Especially since one of their hopeful methods, which is to use the “special access” the mind might have to itself in order comprehend the truth, is not special knowledge at all if all knowledge is conceptual construction.

Given his influence, I pose the question, should Kurzweil be taking this phenomenologist stance? Why doesn’t he encourage scientific research into consciousness (and how to recognize it)? If he’s a patternist, why can’t he imagine definitions of patterns for consciousness and imaging engineering pattern recognizers for that?


[1] R. Kurzweil, “The Power of Hierarchical Thinking”. Presentation at H+ Summit @ Harvard, 2010. (Ben Scarlato’s liveblog, (video:

[2] R. Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near. Viking, 2005.

[3] P.M. Churchland, Matter and Consciousness. MIT Press, 1988.

Cat Usability Testing (Wolfram’s Predictions)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12th, 2010 by Samuel Kenyon

Stephen Wolfram’s long-winded talk at the 2010 H+ Summit was about predicting the future.

The material was mostly standard Wolfram stuff but with some focus on future technology. NKS points of view on AI were of course also present. The most interesting theme for me was about human purpose.

Here are a few points I extracted:

Humans can’t predict the future because of computational irreducibility, except for “pockets” or reducibility. I’m not entirely clear as to what defines those pockets. This notion apparently has the premise that human society is a sufficiently complex system so that humans have to run the program to see what happens.

On potential major thread of future technology could be to migrate engineering solutions from iterative to search-based. In the most extremely abstract cases, an engineer could start from scratch and do an automatic search through trillions of programs in a computational space in order to find the one which exhibits the desired behavior. Knowledge of how it works internally is not necessary. I am wondering as I write this, however, how you could be sure that an internally-mysterious computational entity would not at some point exhibit undesirable behavior.

On the premise that we do more search-based engineering in the future, we will no longer limited to mere adjustments and recombinations of existing technology. We could create almost anything immediately, at least in computational spaces. If that becomes the case, then the limiting factors will then be human purposes.

If you could make any program in the world relatively quickly, why would you make something alien? We are limited to what we can use and interact with. Of course, I would point out that those usage limitations will change as human minds and bodies change, but limitations of some kind are still there.

An analogy to cats is where we get the phrase “cat usability testing.” I’m not sure if Wolfram saw this video, but he probably did since he mentioned apps cats will like on iPads.

Pirate Evolution

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11th, 2010 by Samuel Kenyon

There is only one sign in my cubicle at work–it states: “Adapt or perish.” It appears that many industries refuse to do that.

This seems like news from 5 or 10 years ago, and yet it’s happening now: LimeWire being shut down [injunction proposal] and/or forced to pay one billion dollars in legal fines. Many have pointed out the financial scale might be greater than BP’s fines for dumping vast wads of oil into the ocean.

We’ve already left the <>Noughties, and yet the old fashioned record companies and their policedog RIAA still lumber on, trying to suck money out of the new breed (new 15 years ago, that is) of music distribution systems, and still trying to maintain the mainstream. I guess iTunes didn’t satisfy the industry.

I am part of the newer culture that wants to share information and art and choose where our money goes. I haven’t bought a song or album since about 1997. What I pay for are live shows, and occasionally a T-shirt sold by the artist. I also go to DJ’d events, and in turn those DJs often buy vinyls or CDs.

This is relevant to transhumanism because part of human enhancement is the system of humans, i.e. society, not just the individual instances of human. We long ago entered the world of copying bits willy-nilly so as to experience high-variation and high-quantity music. There’s no turning back after that.

“If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve” may be a mere bon mot, but it seems quite true in this case. Cultural informational evolution is just as important as phylogeny.

Speaking of pirates, I will be splicing the mainbrace tonight at a pirate-themed goth-industrial party in Central Square. I’m sure the swashbuckling (ok, dancing) will render me in great form for the H+ summit tomorrow morning. Of course, since I’m an anti-rush-hour night owl, this 0800 start is going to be painful no matter what.