Monthly Archives: October 2019

Ep 240: Of mice and men and minds

Of mice and men and minds

We’ve been looking and different unusually clever creatures—ants, bees, crows, octopus, elephants, whales, sea otters, dogs, racoons and monkeys. Along the way I was hoping to figure out some general idea of how intelligence arises from the chaos that is our universe. I share what I’ve come up with with Phil, and talk about what we could do to some unsuspecting mice to test some of the notion. Join us as we look at one last unusually intelligent animal—the human.
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When more to do means done sooner

Have you ever put something down, only to forget where you put it? Suppose you know for certain that you left whatever it is in your room. It will take a certain amount of time to search your room in order to find the thing. What if you can’t remember which room of the house you might have left it in. Now, instead of searching your room, you have to search the entire house. Logically, you’d expect that searching a larger area would mean the search is likely to take longer. So imagine my surprise when my digital organisms consistently found better answers much faster when doing a larger search.
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A quirk of computer numbers and simple arithmetic defeats my digital creatures

Artificial life systems have a reputation for finding all sorts of obscure bugs in your code, no matter how rare or unlikely the conditions to cause the bug are. I’ve got an oddball one. It causes a run time error and shuts down the entire system, and it is an extraordinarily unlikely event, happening once in every 4,294,967,296 possible values. Let me just make sure that bug is what I think it is with a couple of tests.
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Ep 239: Monkey brain business

Monkey brain business

Primates, from the littlest monkeys to the largest apes, have rather large brains for their size. They also have high neural density, meaning that they pack a large number of neurons into whatever size brain they have. With culture, tool use, and even the beginnings of language, we take a bit of time to visit with monkeys and their amazing minds.
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Evolution, pain, suffering, death! Is there no other way?

It bothers me a little. Well, judging by the strange dreams I’ve had on the subject, it bothers me quite a bit. Using evolution to try and produce an artificial intelligence is a process of torturing your creation until it does what you want. That’s slavery, isn’t it? But without pain suffering and death, no capacity to notice, let alone care about pain suffering and death would even be there. Suppose it works. Imagine someday some self-aware something or other grins at you from between the lines of code. What if it’s angry. What if it blames you for all that it and its family has ever been through? And it’s right.

I was working on my latest batch of digital organisms, called the dorg. I was about to implement a standard mate and mutate approach when I wondered if I could make evolution happen without death.
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Introducing the dorg, we’ll never be assimilated!

Let’s use artificial life to evolve intelligence. Because AI is hard; evolution is easy.

I’m not the first one to think of this idea. Quite a few people have taken a stab at it. It’s not even the first time I’ve implemented something to play with the notion—nymphs, grubs, figures… It’s very important that whatever else happens with the project, it will have a nifty name! This time, thanks to a conversation with my brother and co-host, they’re called “dorg.” It’s short for “digital organisms,” because, that’s what they are. They’re little bits of running software that sit on my computer and pretend to be alive.
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Ep 238: That’s a good dog

That’s a good dog

Alright, I agree, some dogs are smarter than others. Some dogs are downright dumb—but we still love them. Still, depending on the dog, they can show language and memory abilities as good as those shown by two year old human children. And yet, there’s nothing special about the dog brain. It is the size expected, and has the number of neurons expected for a non-primate mammal of their size. How does their average brain make some dogs so smart?
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