Showing posts from June, 2008

This makes me angry..

In an article on a promising new approach to curing cancer, based on a chance observation of a mouse that was immune to cancer, there's a quote: "if Cui had been trained as an immunologist, he would have thrown out the mouse right then".

It's as if Flemming had seen fungus killing the staph bacteria in his petri dishes, and been upset that it ruined his experiment. I think that anyone who has lost someone to cancer would be angered by the thought that the *default* prevailing attitude among cancer researchers toward cancer research - which we've poured billions into over at least two generations of the "search for the cure" while many millions of lives were lost - is one that would dismiss *any* sign of a cure for cancer.

Haven't scientists been carefully studying heavy smokers who don't get lung cancer? Patients who get cancer and then "miraculously" go into remission after declining medical treatment? Why should this come as a su…

Safer Molecular Manufacturing Through Nanoblocks

(Copied here for 'safe-keeping', from the CRN Taskforce on Nanotechnology)

Those responsible for the safety of a nation — leaders and military and police forces — might be hard pressed to deal with a world in which any weapon or dangerous device could be manufactured in large quantities at the press of a button, at the same time that economic and social norms are being overthrown by rapid change.

We can expect that — by default — authorities will want molecular manufacturing (MM) to be tightly restricted — kept out of private hands, and limited to the few nations that initially have it. That approach might provide some added security — or it might simply create such incredible pent-up demand that any barriers and restrictions are quickly overcome by black markets, intellectual property piracy, rogue-nation programs to duplicate MM, etc.

This essay attempts to chart a middle path for the early years of MM availability — one that allows most of the benefits of MM to be widely av…

AI versus AN, Implications for Singularity

This post really should be titled "AI versus AI", because it will contrast Artificial Intelligence and what I'll call Artificial Instincts. But that'd get confusing, so I'll let AN stand for the latter.

The field of Artificial Intelligence has bifurcated - originally it was simply about how to make machines think like people do - how to make a conscious, articulate, logical mind. We made some great early progress - theorem proving, chess playing via heuristics, higher level language code compilation, expert systems. But eventually it was recognized that if we have to code every bit of the intelligence in an AI, that may simply be too hard.

There are a few on-going attempts in that direction (CYC for example, with it's huge database of rules), and perhaps that will work out. But mostly AI researchers gave up on that approach, and shifted to a "bottom up" approach -what I'll call Artificial Instincts - in which researchers attempt to build &q…

Mobile Google Interface

Speech recognition listens to everything being said near you. You have some means to easily display the transcript and highlight anything. Speech recognition wouldn't even have to get better - Google could search phonetically.

So if someone makes reference to something you don't understand, just zip back to it, select it, and google it. Or ask a question out loud - then select and google. Or pre-select, state your question, and release the selection - no need to go back and visually select.

If you see something in a different language, simply say the language you think it is, and try to pronouce it. "French quincaillerie". Select and google.

99 $T - trillion, (not billion) $99e12 - budget deficit over the next 70 years or so, for health care and Social Security spending. It that's not a sign that government "insurance" programs are broken, what is? I'll focus on health care here, but much the same is true of social security.

Merely increasing spending - cutting elsewhere (typically military spending) - won't fix this. Demand for health care is quite elastic, and if "someone else" is willing to pay more, consumption will simply expand. The same goes for cutting health care costs, by the way - if it's cheaper, people will consume more. (Some go so far as to claim there'll be "economies of scale" - that health care will get cheaper in volume, or that bureaucrats wielding the clout of millions of consumers will be able to force lower pricing on providers. At best they'll displace costs from one area to another, while introducing huge inefficiencies.)

No, the only real soluti…
Teachable moment - that short window of time in which someone wonders about something and, if presented with the answer, will readily and painlessly absorb it and retain it.

Teachable Moments(tm): Software, physical or virtual device, mounted in, as part of, or associated with something one has with one pretty much all the time. I.e., most likely one's cellphone.

Google was a first approximation - good for finding answers about anything, but not as easily or specifically as needed. TM needs next level - take in a full context of what the person is doing, where they are, what they've been asking previously, apply some AI, parse a natural language, spoken or tersely typed question, verify that you have the right question, correct that if necessary (but minimize that), then provide the specific answer AND volunteer a little more context AND provide links to related context - hopefully the answer should always be "almost satisfying" - in the sense that it provides the…