Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays

As The Sun Stands Still
On The Deepest Winter Day
Here is Wishing A Wonderful Solstice
And a Grand Saturnalia
And A Merry Christmas 
Will Be Enjoyed By Everyone.
2013 Perihelion ------- 02 Jan 0500U   
2013 Vernal Equinox --- 20 Mar 1102U
2013 Summer Solstice -- 21 Jun 0504U
2013 Aphelion --------- 05 Jul 1500U    
2013 Autumnal Equinox - 22 Sep 2044U
2013 Winter Solstice -- 21 Dec 1711U

All The Julian Dates and Universal Times From:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bitcoins - The way I understand them.

I recently read a really good article on Bitcoin.  Here is that URL: 


When I shared the URL with some friends I got a "tl;dr" response and some questions.  Here are my responses to the questions: 

1. "... 
What gives the bitcoin a fluctuating value? ..."
Its fluctuating value is a result of the fact there is absolutely no organization that underwrites the value of Bitcoin.

I think a good analogy to Bitcoin is:  Suppose some new mineral was discovered that was not good for anything on its own but was very difficult to obtain.

Because the difficulty of obtaining it would make it rare then it could be used as money.  (For example gem diamonds.)

If the difficulty of obtaining this mineral was uncertain and at any time some breakthrough could occur that would make it very easy to get more of it or if at any time the process of obtaining it could be taken over by some arbitrary group then its value would fluctuate.

2. "... What is the underlying value? ..."


These days (perhaps excepting gold and such) there is no underlying value of any money, except the trust we have in the countries that issue that money. 

3. "... How are bitcoins purchased/traded ? ..."

You can do it yourself by setting up your own e-wallet then putting some bitcoins in it.  To put some bitcoins in your wallet you find someone to transfer some of their bitcoins to your e-wallet.

There is another way to get bitcoins yourself, you can e-mine them. The computing power necessary to e-mine bitcoins is probably beyond the grasp of normal computers.  After, and perhaps even before all the Bitcoin is mined there is a provision in the Bitcoin protocol (not currently in use) called transaction-fee so you could become a Bitcoin banker and get bitcoins that way.  How this would work has not yet been invented. 
4. "... What if you lose your bitcoin serial # ? ..."

If you really lose it and can not recover it then the bitcoin no longer exists.  

Well sort of no longer exists:  You can still see the bitcoin in something called the block-chain but it can not be accessed by you or anyone else.  NOTE: There is a cryptographic assumption here that applies to everything about Bitcoin.

5. "... Is there a benefit to using bitcoins for consumer services ? ..."

No.  However, the answer is yes if the particular service you need is only available for purchase using Bitcoin.

6. "... Any audit trail for taxation reasons? ..."

Yes:  There is a complete trail of all bitcoins.  

Not only that but a bitcoin is its transaction trail.  If you follow the transaction trail back you get to either the 'bitcoin-genesis-block' or some 'e-mine' event that created it.  

The database of all Bitcoin transactions is called the 'block-chain'.

The act of exchanging Bitcoin involves not just the bitcoins themselves but also the IP address of the 'e-wallets' of the parties who did the exchange.  So the trail is very complete. Currently there are Internet protocols that attempt to anonmize the locations of the e-wallets but they have been shown to be breakable.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

More Thoughts On AI

This post is motivated by this post ( to the TheorySerum.COM blog.

Many of the points made in the post above have been explored by stories written around the assumption that AI was successfully invented.  These are very powerful ideas because they reflect right back at ourselves.  I think it is very productive to try and create as much objectivity around these ideas as we can.

So, it is my opinion that consciousness is an emergent attribute of the mind of any motile organism.  Further this attribute, like most such things, is on a continuous scale.  

To this end it is helpful to think about the mind as an engine that takes sensory inputs, and the memory of the organism, as its input.  This engine then processes these inputs with the purpose of creating a model of the inputs.  Next the engine runs the model to make short term (and longer term) predictions that reflect how the actual environment will change and affect the organism.  Finally the engine sends out commands to the organism that maximize its chances of successfully negotiating that environment.

This model building and execution capacity of the mind is not restricted to just sending commands but also has recursive attributes that cause the model to be modified.  A good way to think about this ability to model the models is say it gives rise to another emergent attribute we call consciousness.  Since this is all on a continuous scale then some organisms are more conscious than others.  

It is important to realize that it is not the case that organisms that are not human are some how lower or inferior to humans but instead when we realize that this high degree of recursive modeling ability that gives rise to consciousness is not necessary for survival but instead is just a side effect of our 'big-brains'.

What this means for AI is that we can not expect to invent it full blown but instead it will be one of those things that starts out not looking at all like it is conscious but over time gains more and more of the attributes of what is called conscious.

For these reason I do not think the points made in the post above are very worrisome because they will be automatically resolved as the artificial organisms that exhibit AI become more and more complete (or conscious).  I think the sense of the decisions discussed above will not present themselves as deliberate choices but instead will be built-into byproducts (side effects) of how the artificial organism is constructed.