Thursday, October 12 2000
Some have asked for pictures of the creepy post grass described in yesterday's entry, so I'll see what I can do this weekend.
At noon a group of us went to Toi, a Thai restaurant on Wilshire in Santa Monica. It was funky-looking place with all sorts of odd decorations on the inside. But all the customers (except most of us) were beautiful people. On the drive over (and occasionally throughout our meal) we tried to name bands that were "white" - whatever that means. It all began with a discussion of The Hooters, the Philadelphia-area band that rose to fame in the early 80s by touring high school auditoriums. Their big song was "All You Zombies," though they wrote songs for other musicians, for example the "Time After Time" that Cindi Lauper made famous. Linda, being from Malvern, knew all about the Hooters. Now they were a "white band." Other white bands that came up included:
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Huey Lewis and the News
The last white musician, the white musician to end all white musicians, was none other than Lenny Kravitz.
I've been reading a long, fascinating article which makes a case for computers never becoming our masters. According to the author, software will always be plagued by the sort of problems familiar to anyone who has ever upgraded to the latest version of Microsoft Word: bloatware and decreasing software performance over generations of release. The fact that, even in the face of Moore's Law (which predicts that hardware performance will continue to improve exponentially) software keeps growing increasingly sluggish and unpredictable demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the ability of humans to develop sentient devices. The author claims (without much supporting evidence) that there are negatives that scale even more rapidly than Moore's law and that these snatch away all the gains from the hardware advances. (The way he puts things, you'd think computer science was achieving more in the 70s than it is now.) Given the obvious failure of humans to make sentient machines, most "cybernetic totalists" claim that Darwinian forces will eventually grab the baton and run the last mile of necessary technical advancement to Turing-Test-passing sentience. But, as the author of this article makes clear, biological evolution is an extremely slow process and isn't likely to progress any faster in a computational environment. We're left, according to the article, with a world in which computers can never be anything but tools. It's a thought-provoking manifesto, but I'm not completely satisfied. I wish the auther had considered the synergistic power available to sentient humans acting in concert with computers scaling under the effects of Moore's Law. I for one still believe it's possible to reach a "sentient computational criticality" if there is a proper interplay of both sorts Darwinian intelligence (our own, biological, and some sort of computational evolution still awaiting breakthrough).
Breakthrough. That's what every reasonably intelligent person wants out of life. To break through, to tap the wall and have it suddenly give way to reveal an entirely new room of understanding. Science is a room-by-room battle whose goal is to seize whatever it is human existence is supposed to be about. Major breakthroughs are rare, even with the whole world of humanity working in parallel. Sometimes you have to have faith that others will break through where you never will. And then every now and then someone realizes he will never break through. Sometimes the breakthrough is the realization that here is a wall that can never be cracked, scaled or otherwise penetrated, not by you, not by anyone else.
Today I found myself wondering about the limitations of the human mind, which, I'm assuming, are greater than the limitations of physics. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that some things can never be known because of the laws of Physics. There are probably another pinciples, yet to be discovered, that tell us what other things can never be known because of the laws of Chemistry, Biology, or Sociology (as they apply to the human brain).
Then there are things that I personally can never know because of the peculiarities of what it means to be me. Many of these things are known by other people, but they can never be known by me.
I'm gradually coming to realize an important (and fairly obvious) thing about the future and my role in it. I am a single human in the matrix of humanity. It's unlikely that I will ever do anything that sticks out of the pack or otherwise changes mankind in a crucial way. I'm not floating above it all with a profound insight. I'm part of it all, and there are others who stick out of the matrix farther than me. Though throughout my subconscious I still irrationally make the assumption that I am somehow special, that I have things figured out that no one else gets, it doesn't make any sense to think this way. It's doubtful I'm ever going to lead anyone out of any wilderness. I'm just as fucked up and foolish as the rest. Really, folks, I might as well try to get rich instead. Is this some sort of well-understood crisis I'm going through?
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