Archive | June 2012

The Singularity Isn’t So Near

The idea of the “technological singularity” and the transhumanism movement is becoming more popular these days. Most notably, Ray Kurzweil proposes a “law of accelerating returns”, arguing that we should extend Moore’s Law (the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 2 years) to technology in general.

The problem with this is that Moore’s Law isn’t a scientific law, but folk wisdom. While it’s true that it’s held for approximately 40 years now, our ability to put more transistors on a chip could (and probably will) slow down. Either we’ll hit an upper limit due to physics, or society will simply lose interest, and move on to other things.

The latter will probably happen first. Airline flight speed is a perfect example of this. The “Spirit of St. Louis” flew from New York to France in 1927 in 33 hours. Today, a search on expedia.com reveals that the same flight still takes a little over 7 hours. If we applied a very liberal Moore’s Law to airline speed, saying that it doubled not every 2 years, but every 20 years, this flight would now take about 2 hours (a doubling every 2 years would put us at flight times of less than a second). Of course, we could very well do this – but it would be prohibitively expensive to implement at a commercial level. For now at least, people are happy taking 7 hours to cross the Atlantic.

Manned air flight records in general are even more telling. Up until 1962, there was a new record set almost every year since the first flight in 1903. Then there was one in 1965, then another in 1976. That record still stands. What happened? Why hasn’t manned flight speed been increasing exponentially? It’s simple – we as a society don’t care much about it anymore. Our focus has moved from aeronautics to fitting transistors on chips, and we’ve been doing that for roughly 40 years now. If interest wanes, then processor speed doubling is going to taper off very soon; perhaps as little as in 5 years.

A good case could be made for this happening sooner or later based on one simple fact: software needs to keep up in order to keep demand for better processors up. No one is going to buy a brand new 128 core processor when the software to utilize it wont be around for another 10 years (and when it does finally show up 10 years later, we’ll have 4096-core processors! to write software for!) Let’s looks at the release cycle of Microsoft Windows:

Windows 3.1 – April 1992
Windows 95 – August 1995
Windows 98 – June 1998
Windows 2k – February 2000
Windows XP – October 2001
Windows Vista – January 2007
Windows 7 – October 2009
WIndows 8 – May 2012 (preview version)

Except for a long gap between XP and Vista, what we see is a new major release every 3 years, not every 2. The point is that the speed of technology development waxes and wanes based on public interest. If software falls too far behind hardware, or if we simply lose interest in any improvement on both fronts, processor speed will stop doubling, just like advancements in aeronautics, construction, and many other fields have all but stopped. Moore’s Law, and by extension the law of accelerating returns, is simply a reflection of a current trend. And given the current state of AI and computing in general (not very close to perfection at all), I suspect it will be a long time before a technological singularity happens – almost certainly not in our lifetimes.

Censorship, Redux

On April 17 2012, I posted this. Now, WinteryKnight has done it again. I tried to post a comment on this article. The comment was as follows:

No one has ever argued that *all* same-sex couples make good parents; just that *some* do. Of course some gay parents do a bad job, just like some straight parents do a bad job. We shouldn’t be saying that children should be raised by straight rather than gay parents, but that they should be raised by good rather than bad parents.

It should also be noted that Mark Regnerus is very explicit to note that his study does not show causation between parents being gay and children having problems; but merely correlation. He says: “The NFSS is not a longitudinal study, and therefore cannot attempt to broach questions of causation.” and “This study cannot answer political questions about same-sex relationships and their legal legitimacy.

As for this: “Although there is much speculation that today there are large numbers of same-sex couples in the U.S. who are providing a stable, long-term parenting relationship for their children, no studies based upon large, random samples of the U.S. population have been published that show this to be true” – here’s what Regnerus himself has to say on the subject: “Today’s children of gay men and lesbian women are more apt to be “planned” (that is, by using adoption, IVF, or surrogacy) than as little as 15–20 years ago, when such children were more typically the products of heterosexual unions.

How large a part of the total of same-sex families are planned, long-term, and stable remains to be seen. But that part is getting bigger.

This comment was automatically deleted. I didn’t even see “your comment is awaiting moderation”. I can only assume that Wintery Knight is automatically discarding all my comments. How disappointing.

Over on the NOM website, I tried to post a comment on an article here. My comment was a response to another comment made by Randy E King (comment #13). His comment was this:

As my college Statistics Professor pointed out:

“Mathematics is a theory; not a fact”

So by insisting that the governing component of marriage be changed from (1) man and (1) woman to (2) consenting adults you have changed the basis for marriage from a scientific fact into a scientific theory.

Society should never build its foundational supports on theories – you might as well build them on quicksand.

I responded with this:

Randy E King said: “Society should never build its foundational supports on theories – you might as well build them on quicksand.”

Germ Theory:
the concept that all infectious and contagious diseases are caused by living microorganisms. The science of bacteriology developed after establishment of this theory. Also called pathogenic theory of medicine.
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/germ+theory

Atomic Theory:
the concept that all matter is composed of submicroscopic atoms that are in turn composed of protons, electrons, and neutrons. A chemical element is identified by the number of protons in its atoms.
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/atomic+theory

Kinetic Theory of Gases:
a theory that gases consist of small particles in random motion.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/kinetic+theory+of+gases

I could go on and on and on. Are these all quicksand as well?

This time, I did see the “your comment is awaiting moderation” message. However, shortly after that, my comment was gone. This can only mean that someone intentionally disapproved the comment – but why? I don’t understand why people don’t allow these types of comments. If anyone is in contact with either Wintery Knight or NOM, please ask them why my comments are not allowed. Thanks.

Read Or Die

I’m going to be periodically writing about various articles available here. My plan is to pick one article that looks interesting every few days to a week and post my thoughts, aiming for about 500-1000 words. If there is any article on this list that you would like me to do (or if you have a link to an article elsewhere), let me know which one and I’ll move it to the top of the list.

Proving a Negative

In this post, I’m going to attempt to prove a negative:

1) P → Q

2) ¬Q

3) ∴ ¬P

Wow…that was easy. I wonder if I can take it one step further, and prove a universal negative? Hang on to your hats, cause this one is tricky:

1) ∀xPx → ∀xQx

2) ¬∀xQx

3) ∴ ¬∀xPx

Quod Erat Demonstratum.

You Are a Monkey

The feature image of this post is pretty iconic; but the idea it expresses is wrong. It’s commonly said that “we are not descended from apes, we ARE apes”. This is wrong too. The image is wrong not because it shows humans evolving from apes, but because it shows humans evolving from extant apes. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ve created one to explain what an ape is, and why we are both apes and descended from ape:

https://dubitodeus.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/apes.jpg

NOM, Obama, and Race

The National Organization for Marriage blog makes a lot of posts; sometimes up to five a day. But if you start going back through them from now (June 5) to mid-may, you notice something…odd. I’m not going to talk about gay marriage here; that’s not relevant right now. But here’s a list of titles of selected blog posts NOM has made:

June 5 – Black Pastors Demand Meeting with Obama Over Gay Marriage
June 4 – Boston Herald: Many Black Pastors Remain Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage
June 1 – Black Minnesota Pastor Who Flipped on Marriage Now Risks Losing His Church
May 31 – Video: Black Church Leaders Say Gay Marriage Not a Civil Right
May 31 – Video: Black Church & Civil Rights Leaders Convene Press Conference Opposing President on Gay Marriage
May 24 – An Open Letter from a Black Pastor to Pres. Obama on Same-Sex Marriage
May 23 – Florida Sun Sentinel: “Many Black Voters Unhappy with Obama Over Same-Sex Marriage”
May 23 – Round-Up: Even More Black Pastors Speak Out Against Obama’s Marriage Switch
May 22 – Video: African American Pastors and Civil Rights Ministers Condemn President Obama on Marriage
May 22 – Star Parker: Obama’s SSM Support Forces Black Churches To Choose Priorities
May 22 – Christian Post: African-American Pastors Call on Obama to Reconsider Gay Marriage Stance
May 21 – BET Opines Against Coalition of African Americans Pastors
May 21 – Rev. Owens and Other Black Pastors Condemn Obama’s Gay Marriage Support
May 18 – OneNewsNow: Black Clergy Challenge Obama on Gay Marriage
May 18 – AP: Memphis Black Pastors Condemn Obama’s Gay Marriage Support

Here’s the million dollar question: why is it relevant that the people mentioned in these articles are black? The answer is: it’s not. So why is NOM drawing attention to the race of these people? Why not just have headlines that read “Pastors Demand Meeting with Obama Over Gay Marriage”, or “Minnesota Pastor Who Flipped on Marriage Now Risks Losing His Church”? Many of these articles also mention president Obama, who is also black, and this makes race relevant…right? Wrong. There’s no reason to mention that some people who disagree with Obama on same-sex marriage are the same race as him. Plus, he’s half black, and half white. So why doesn’t NOM also publish articles titled “White pastor objects to Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Stance”?

I’m not going to draw any conclusions from this, although I hope the reason isn’t what I think it is; rather, I’m going to post a link to this article on the NOM blog and let them explain why they keep mentioning race – that is, if they even let the comment go up. Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher are welcome to explain their tactics.

Epic Music Time 2

Tom Waits is one of my favorite artists. A music critic once described his voice as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.”