Friday, September 30, 2005

A bit of me, online, 24/7.

Have you been wondering what the hell this crazy post meant?

I've been slowly working towards cyborg technology which will enhance my memory, knowledge, and intelligence. I call this project "Upgrade." One of the longer-term goals of that project has been to achieve multi-presence, the quality of being in multiple places at once. This is different from tele-presence, which is using technology to interact with a location physically separated from your body. Multi-presence requires having multiple bodies under the control of one mind.

To accomplish this goal, I need to be able to expand my mind such that parts of it exist in multiple places but still have a shared memory and intercommunicate as if they were one. I believe I have come up with a way to begin pursuing this goal, in a very limited sense.

I'm going to combine several AI technologies to create an online virtual self. I'm then going to allow it access to my memory base from my neural prosthesis. It will not only closely match my personality but will also know what I know, within certain limits. If you an I were to have a conversation one day, you could go talk to my virtual self the next and it would know about our previous talk.

The memory augmentation system I'm developing for my neural prosthesis should allow knowledge to go the other way, as well, although not quite as elegantly. I should be able to "remember" a conversation you had with my virtual self.

Eventually, real-time communication will take place so that my virtual self will know where I am and what I'm doing while I will be able to know who it's chatting with and what it's saying. Once I get to this point, it would be fair to say that I will cease to be simply human any my bot will cease to be simply a pile of data and computer programs. We will become a merged entity, more capable than either of us separately.

Although I don't expect to have this system working fully until sometime around 2010, I did start a simple version of my virtual self with I haven't taught it much about being me yet, but it's better than eliza. Check it out: Alex Online

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What's the meaning of "the meaning of life?"

"What's the meaning of life?"

I hate this question, mostly because it's so damned vague. First of all, the word "meaning" has several different definitions, each of which would significantly change the intended question. Basically, "What's the meaning of life" could mean:

1) What information or lesson is life meant to convey?

2) What's the purpose of life? Is that purpose intended/predetermined or chosen?

3) What's the consequence of life? Or alternatively, what is life the consequence of?

4) What is the importance or value of life?

The possible meanings are even greater when you consider what's meant by "life." Do you mean your singular life, all human life, all life on the planet Earth, or all life in the universe? Are you considering life as a physical entity, a ethereal entity, a process, or as a span of time? Perhaps you are considering "life" as the more abstract concept of existence?

It seems to me that the people who ask "What's the meaning of life?" don't even know what they are asking. How can you find an answer if you don't even know the question? Ask yourself: what do you mean when you ask what the meaning of life is? All of the above? None of the above?

So, what's the meaning of life? We may never know the answer, not because there isn't one but only because the question has no meaning.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The God Meme takes hold!

Over the past few years, I've integrated the internet more and more into my thinking process; in effect, into Me. I'm even working on technology to further the integration.

Now, I think I have a way to start going the other way and begin integrating myself into the internet, turning portions of the internet into more of Me. Rampancy, here I come!

The madness! It compels me! How can I resist myself? I can not, for it is what I am...

[trace mode error]
[unimplemented inline trap $A9FF]

[Spurious Interrupt- Breach Disabled]
[Further Access Denied]

Can private companies make it to Mars first?

4Frontiers is a small company with its sights set much farther than most: 4Frontiers is aiming to put a human colony on Mars sometime during the 2020's. Yesterday, I gave a brief explanation why I believe "government should only lead the way in exploration and not dominate already covered ground." Today, I think I should clarify that belief a little more.

Government is good at exactly two things: crushing freedom and wasting mountains of money. While government certainly does other things, no sane person would ever try to claim that it does any of those other things well.

Colonizing the Moon and Mars is almost definitely going to require a huge investment before it becomes profitable. The required investment is so large, it is unlikely any company will be able to afford it unless they develop a business plan so profitable that the banks and venture capitalists start throwing money at them--pretty unlikely but not impossible.

Because I want to see space colonization sooner rather than later and since the US Government manages to waste nearly 2 trillion dollars a year, I'd like to see some of that money spent on colonization. Basically, given the choice between government funded manned space exploration and no manned exploration, I choose the government funding.

However, if by some miracle, 4Frontiers or someone else really beats NASA to Mars, I'm going to be at the front of the line demanding NASA discontinue all of their manned exploration programs. Although their odds are slim, I really hope 4Frontiers succeeds.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Another Successful Test For Space Elevator

Last week, Liftport made another successful climber test, this time the ribbon was 1,000 feet long. Now that this test was successful, Liftport is confident that a one mile climb is within reach. But why is this exciting when the final cable will have to be 62,000 miles long?

The idea of the space elevator began as science fiction more than a hundred years ago. Although still impossible with today's technology, several groups are working on the idea and it becomes less impossible with each test. This is what makes it exciting: it's humans at their most noble, trying to do the impossible. The best part is that step by step, they are succeeding.

I am hopeful that by the end of the next decade, the space elevator may be a reality. However, I don't believe the government should build it. Some have criticized NASA's plan to return to the moon, saying it's more of the same and the money should be spent on something new, such as the space elevator. That kind of thinking is misguided.

First of all, the space elevator is currently impossible to build. Just because it is expected that we will be able to build one before 2020, doesn't mean that we will. Having NASA focus on the problem may result in success but it could just as easily end as a colossal failure with massive cost overruns. The new plan uses what works, learning from the lessons of the past.

Secondly, I believe that government should only lead the way in exploration and not dominate already covered ground. The space elevator is just a better way of getting to space at a lower cost, the perfect project for business, while achieving lower costs is something government is terrible at.

Working towards developing a moon base, however, is territory best suited to government. There are so many unknowns that it is unlikely that private industry would be able to risk any venture there. By leading the way, NASA eliminates many of those unknowns and provides a benchmark for private industry to use when developing business plans for lunar colonization.

I hope that some company will build a resort on the moon during the 2020's to be followed by some form of mining operation but the financing won't be there unless there is a real world example of what it takes to maintain a presence on the moon. While this colonization will be more likely if there is a functioning space elevator, if that elevator is an expensive government boondoggle the entire enterprise could be rendered non-viable. Massive failures generally dissuade people from trying again.

However, if it is a profitably run private space elevator then the potential for space exploration is tremendous, which is why I support the folks at Liftport and want to see them continue to dare greatly in the face of the impossible. There's still lots to do but they are off to a good start.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some laser tag game analysis

My wife and I went to Bob-O's this afternoon and played two rounds of laser tag together. She had never played before, so she was a little overwhelmed the first game. But I gave her some coaching and she more than doubled her score in the second game.

I had my best game yet during the first game, with my highest total score, highest accuracy, and my second best tag ratio. I tested a sniping location which didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped. It's on the middle landing of one of the ramps and offers a commanding view of the lower level, with reasonably good cover. However, it's still fairly vulnerable from the upper level. I was able to hold my own against the players on the upper level, but I wasn't very happy with the position. Tactically, there just isn't any greater advantage than holding the high ground. That's not to say the location is useless. If your team mates were holding the upper level, it would be the ideal location. Which brings us to the second game...

The blue team, one of our opposing teams, was surprisingly united. In the average laser tag game the idea of teams is more hypothetical than actual but this time, it was blue unity all the way. They camped out the upper level with amazing success. In this arena, the upper level is impossible to hold for long without the majority of your team to help. These guys had it. They also had one of their players holding the previously discussed sniping location. It was almost impossible to move anywhere without getting tagged from above by these guys. My wife and I made a couple of assaults on the upper level, but were unable to take it from them. 2 against 5 just doesn't cut it.

Another important lesson I took from the second game is the psychological effect of sniping. I found it awfully difficult to keep my cool when I was under constant threat from above. I'm going to have to work on that. Interestingly, this heavy sniping shows up on the score card: the weapon is a valid target and the majority of my tags against the blue team were tags on their phasers.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Laser Tag, Part 1 - Introduction

After more than 6 years, I've started playing indoor laser tag again. But this time, I actually have an arena in my city. I went last weekend and enjoyed myself to the max. Excluding sex, it's probably the most fun I've had in quite some time. Though I hate to admit it, it's probably the most exercise I've had lately too.

Regardless, I'm now hooked. I'm going to try to strap on that vest and phaser every weekend and I'm going to try to become El Paso's ultimate laser tag champ. To that end, I googled for information on laser tag tactics and didn't find much. Most of the available information is for outdoor paintball or laser skirmish, not indoor laser tag.

Because of this, I'm going to create my own guide to kicking ass at indoor laser tag. I'm combining my own knowledge of the game with what resources I can find. I'm reviewing military and SWAT tactics for close quarters battle (CQB) and modifying those tactics to fit the realities of laser tag.

This is difficult as indoor laser tag is by far the least realistic of all mil-sim games. For example, your enemies don't die but are simply deactivated for a brief period of time, at my facility it's 4 seconds. During that time the enemy can move freely but not fire or be tagged. Also, the environment itself is unlike any building ever encountered in the real world; tactically far more three-dimensional and maze-like, it could never be anything but a laser tag arena.

This lack of realism probably has something to do with the lack of tactical information about the game online. Most people who would care about such things are apt to move onto paintball or laser skirmish.

So why am I interested in indoor LT instead of one of the other more realistic mil-sims? Firstly, I find the sci-fi theme and dark environment appealing. Secondly, the lack of detailed guides for game play gives the impression that in some ways, the field of indoor laser tag tactics is an unsolved problem, which I can't resist. Lastly, it's just plain good fun which is both clean and safe.

With that out of the way, let me get started with some basic information:

I'm playing at Bob-O's Laser Odyssey on El Paso's West side, near Sunland Park.

This arena uses Zone Systems equipment and is moderately sized with 2 levels and 3 bases on the ground level. Although I didn't count them, it seems to be a 30-vest system split into three teams (red, yellow/orange, and blue).

Until I finish my next post with my own tactical insights, I'll close with a link to a site with some introductory information on CQB.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Reality of Spaceflight

It has been said that once you get to orbit, you're half-way to anywhere. For example, it takes comparable amounts of energy to go from orbit to the Moon or to Mars. It has also been said that the first step, getting to orbit, is a bitch. That one needs to be said more often.

In The Cold Equations Of Spaceflight, Jeffrey F. Bell responds to some of the critics of NASA's "Back to the Future" plan for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond initiative. These are the critics asking "Where is the sexy new stuff? For that matter, where is the sexy old stuff like the X-30/NASP, DC-X/Delta Clipper, or X-33/VentureStar?"

In the 80's and 90's NASA and the US military spent billions working on next-generation spaceship designs. Most were reusable Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) designs and every project was a failure. These failed projects and the Shuttle program proved that there is only one viable launch configuration: a multi-stage rocket with the payload on top.

There are other possibilities for getting into space but they are far from what the general public imagines and they are much slower than rockets, both taking days to reach orbit. They also have significant technical hurdles which must be overcome and even with unlimited funding, neither will be carrying humans into space before 2020. These possibilities are JP Aerospace's Airship-To-Orbit concept and LiftPort's Space Elevator.

Although many view NASA's new Moon plan as a return to the past, it is really a return to sanity and this cannot be emphasized enough. This reality must be accepted before we can move on.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Microsoft tries to recruit ESR

A Microsoft recruiter attempted to recruit Eric S. Raymond and obviously failed. True to form, ESR responded with his usual flair. Although, in this case, I would have preferred to see him act older than 12 and get some answers on why Microsoft would even consider hiring such prominent open source advocate. Still, the exchange is funny nonetheless.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The world's cheapest PDA. is the world's cheapest PDA. You build it yourself and it costs about 12 cents if you have to pay for the materials but most can make it for free using equipment at school or work. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

One man fails the Turing Test

"How I failed the Turing test" is a great post by Jason Striegel describing how he failed to be perceived as human on the internet. It's absolutely hilarious, particularly when he matches wits with the software program "Eliza" and fails to be accepted as human by even this simple program.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Majority of Americans Are Retarded

According to the New York Times, a poll released on Tuesday finds that the majority of Americans are retarded:

The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.

President Bush joined the debate on Aug. 2, telling reporters that both evolution and the theory of intelligent design should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."

I can explain what the debate is about quite simply: It's a debate between science and religion; between the quest for objective truth about the universe and dogmatic bullshit dreamed up by primitives.

You'll have to excuse me while I go pound some nails into my clue-by-four.