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Artificial Intelligence

SETI Could Find Super-Intelligent Robots, Warns Astronomer Royal

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British cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees believes that machines powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) will inherit the Earth – and the stars. He is also persuaded that advanced aliens could be inconceivably different from life as we know it, as different from us as we are from a bacterium.

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Rees, also known as Lord Rees of Ludlow, Astronomer Royal since 1995, is a top scientist who often publishes clear and simple opinion pieces on the big issues and questions of our times. Writing in The Financial Times, he explains that our civilization is likely to evolve into a post-biological civilization of thinking machines way smarter than us.

“Humans and all they have thought might be a transient precursor to the deeper cogitations of another culture,” says Rees. “One dominated by machines, extending deep into the future and spreading far beyond earth.”

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Interplanetary and interstellar space will be the preferred arena for the grand constructions of robotic fabricators, including the non-biological brains that might one day develop insights as far beyond our imaginings as string theory is for a monkey.

If life is widespread, worlds orbiting stars older than the sun could have had a head-start. If so, Rees explains, alien civilizations that originated in those worlds are likely long ago to have transitioned beyond the organic stage.

The “Earth 2.0” announced yesterday by NASA – Kepler 452b – orbits a star 1.5 billion years older than the sun. Therefore, according to Rees, an alien civilization out there is probably a machine civilization.

Signals Could Come From Super-Intelligent Computers

Martin Rees at the Breakthrough Initiatives announcementRees (in the picture) participated in the event at The Royal Society in London where Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the lavishly funded Breakthrough Initiatives for SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

“We should surely acclaim the Breakthrough Initiative’s major investment,” says Rees in The Guardian. “This will secure time on the world’s best radio telescopes and develop instruments to scan the sky in a far more comprehensive and sustained fashion than ever before.”

But advanced intelligences out there could be very different from from us. “Seemingly artificial signals could come from super-intelligent (though not necessarily conscious) computers, created by a race of alien beings that had already died,” warns Rees.

Real aliens could be very different from the anthropomorphized aliens of naive science fiction. They could be much more similar, for example, to the incomprehensible aliens described by Stanisław Lem in “The Invincible” and “Solaris” – beings whose consciousness is so different from ours that no understanding is possible. In Lem’s “His Master’s Voice,” SETI scientists receive a message that, despite promising initial attempts to decipher it, eventually eludes understanding.

Even if intelligence were widespread in the cosmos, we may only ever recognize a small and atypical fraction of it. “The only type of intelligence we could detect would be the (perhaps small) subset that used a technology attuned to our own parochial concepts,” says Rees.

Some ‘brains’ may package reality in a fashion that we can’t conceive.

Images from Breakthrough Initiatives and Wikimedia Commons.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Bob

    July 24, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand a word you said….

  2. Jim Brown

    July 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    You were not supposed to understand it.
    This is a perfect example of government propaganda.
    You are supposed to be AFRAID !!!!
    Only ignorant brainwashed fools,
    (like 98℅ of our population)
    think in terms of force, domination and war.
    The military/Industrial Complex needs newer,
    bigger, and more dangerous enemies to fight.
    Most likely, the next “False-Flag” event will be
    a staged “Alien Invasion” .
    (if you don’t know what that means,
    Google the gulf of Tonkin incident, or just
    realize that 9/11 was an inside job to
    justify taking over another country)

    Jim

  3. Optimist911

    July 25, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Why wouldn’t these signals be omnipresent and ubiquitous? It seems rather strange that they’d appear only when humans are good and ready to receive them.

    • Cassandra Morrison

      July 27, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Who says they aren’t both? But when a tree falls in the forest does it crush a field mouse if no one is listening?

      • Optimist911

        July 28, 2015 at 3:04 am

        But we are listening — and ignoring suspect cases like the “Wow!” signal, it’s all been noise.

        • Cassandra Morrison

          July 29, 2015 at 8:09 am

          Noise to OUR ears, yes, no doubt, But how clear would a radio signal be after travelling hundreds or thousands of light years through space? With all the natural phenomena that produce radio “noise” what would you expect to hear BUT noise? Radio signals fade, they are subject to cosmic rays, solar storms (star storms) Electromagnetic waves….
          If you said SETI was a huge waste of money because no radio signal from another sun-like star with earth-type planets could be expected to arrive here with an intelligible signal I’d agree with you. Because we could have been receiving them all along it’s just that the degradation of the signal has robbed it of all intelligible content.

          • Optimist911

            July 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

            That’s where error-correction algorithms come in. Even we primitive humans have solved that problem more or less satisfactorily.

  4. Cassandra Morrison

    July 27, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Very good, your Lordship.

    I love the part about the Super Computers. Rather chilling if, of course, one happens to be afraid of computers. Being disabled and not having an easy time getting out and about I have a different approach to computers. Mine is most loyal guide, philosopher, and friend.

    But another of your points interests me. You state that
    “Some ‘brains’ may package reality in a fashion that we can’t conceive.”
    You are referring to these Artificial Intelligences but they will certainly package reality in a way that resembles their creators just as any AI developed by our computer science will be related to how our own minds package reality because that is how our computers are constructed.
    You say that we won’t be able to “conceive” the way in which these ‘brains’ function. But that’s obviously nonsense. It is true if one is referring to the way the left brain processes information that we might have problems comprehending these ‘brains’ but the right brain can gestalt a whole new way of “packaging reality” without really trying and THIS will be the key to “grokking” what these alien ‘brains’ are driving at.
    Sorry to Stanislaw Lem but he didn’t really understand how UNLIMITED Human Consciousness can potentially be.

    • Optimist911

      July 29, 2015 at 2:14 am

      Unless you’re religious or spiritual, human consciousness is quite far from unlimited. Indeed, the human brain has “only” around 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections among them — certainly large figures, but not at universal scale, even if multiplied by the total number of humans who ever lived. It’s simply a matter of size: Each new order of magnitude enables novel emergent properties, such as those separating us from slugs. We’re not even all that much bigger than slugs — imagine a being whose “brain” is, say, planet- or even galaxy-sized. To such an entity, we won’t even be slugs, but more like viruses or prions.

      • Cassandra Morrison

        July 29, 2015 at 8:30 am

        Size has nothing to do with it…you’d know that if you knew anything about microchips in your own computer. Look at the first microprocessor that Intel ever produced http://cpu-zone.com/4004/Intel%20C4004%20G.JPG It handled 4 bits. Here is the current 64 bit processor http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Intel-Core-2-Duo-2-13GHz-1066-Socket-Skt-LGA775-CPU-Processor-2MB-Cache32-64-bit-/00/s/MTI4MFgxMjgw/$(KGrHqJHJCIE-pUw2Uf8BPt9t(b7,Q~~60_35.JPG
        Much smaller…but a whole lot greater computing power.
        Fred Hoyle’s book THE BLACK CLOUD is all about this “brain size” thing, And Rupert Sheldrake is always entertaining when he gets on the subject of intelligence in planets and solar systems and galaxies and so on.
        But I still say humans could GET what even a brain that size is laying down because of our ability to connect a whole stream of dots into a coherent system without having to go through the steps one by one. It’s pretty much what Quantum Physics and Quantum Psychology and Gestalt Theory are all about.

        • Optimist911

          July 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

          Obviously, I am assuming optimally and uniformly efficient designs that leverage the full computational power of the universal substrate. This would exclude crude early microprocessor architectures.

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Artificial Intelligence

Bitcoin Giant Bitmain Enters the High Stakes AI Race

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Artificial Intelligence

The Sophon, named for a fictional proton-sized supercomputer, could be the tool to train neural networks in data centers worldwide. It is the latest project being developed by Bitmain Technologies Ltd., the bitcoin mining giant that has carved out a dominant position in bitcoin mining.

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Such chips, called application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), could unleash a new wave of distributed computing, according to Michael Bedford Taylor, a University of Washington professor who studies bitcoin mining and chips.

Sophon is due to debut before the end of the year.

Bitmain Has The Know-How

Bitmain has the background to play a role in the expanding artificial intelligence industry. The company designs the silicon that goes in bitcoin mining equipment, assembles the machines and sells them worldwide, in addition to its own bitcoin mining operation and the ones that it manages for other mining pools.

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Bitmain’s founders are not averse to playing a spoiler role.

Jihan Wu, the co-founder of Bitmain, supports the New York Agreement that seeks to double the bitcoin block size under the SegWit2X proposal, a move that some in the bitcoin community view as an attempt to give the miners control over bitcoin.

Some also believe Wu was behind the recent bitcoin split known as bitcoin cash, which at least one of Bitmain’s miners supported, a contention that Wu has denied. Wu points out that he was among the supporters of Bitcoin Unlimited, an earlier bitcoin scaling proposal that did not get activated.

Why Wu Supports Forks

Wu nonetheless said splits should be allowed. He said a fork is inevitable since people in the bitcoin community do not agree on how to best scale bitcoin.

Wu met Micree Zhan, Bitcoin’s co-founder, when Zhan was running DivaIP in 2010, a company that made a device that allowed a user to stream a TV show on a computer screen.

In 2011, Wu needed a chip designer to build a mining operation and approached Zhan. Zhan first designed an ASIC to run SHA-256, the cryptographic calculation used in bitcoin, at maximum efficiency. It took him six months to finish the job. His first rig, Antminer S1, was ready in November 2013.

Bitmain felt the sting of the 2014 Mt. Gox meltdown. But by 2015, bitcoin’s price bottomed out and later recovered. In the meantime, Bitmain introduced its Antminer S5.

Bitmain now employs 600 people in Beijing.

Also read: Bitmain clarifies its ‘bitcoin cash’ fork position

Ready To Take On Google

Bitmain has since developed a deep learning chip with improved efficiency. Users will be able to build their own models on the ASICs, enabling neural networks to deliver results at a faster pace. Google’s DeepMind unit used this technique to train its AlphaGo artificial intelligence.

Bitmain plans to sell the chips to any company looking to train its own neural nets, including firms like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Bitmain could build its own data centers with thousands of deep learning rigs, renting out the computation power to clients the way it does with bitcoin mines.

Professor Taylor said companies like Bitmain that have excelled in bitcoin mining could take on the Googles and Nvidias since they have developed the skills to survive in an ultra-competitive and highly commoditized industry, and have the system level design expertise and the ability to reduce data center costs.

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Dutch Police Use Augmented Reality to Investigate Crime Scenes

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Dutch police are undertaking an experiment to see if augmented reality can help officers at a crime scene, according to the New Scientist.

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Using an AI system video from the body cameras worn on the officers at the scene will relay back to experts who can guide the officers by making virtual notes which the officers will be able to see via a smartphone or head-mounted device.

Dragos Datcu, principal researcher at augmented reality (AR) company Twnkls in Rotterdam, the Netherlands said:

We now have good enough software and hardware to use augmented reality at crime scenes.

What’s great about the new AI system is the fact that experts can get involved with what the crime scene investigators are doing regardless of where they are located.

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So by viewing the footage that is sent from a camera on the police vest, a chemical specialist in one location can view it while a forensic scientist in another location can too. The system is similar to the popular Pokémon Go smartphone game that has grabbed the attention of millions of people around the world.

Not Suitable for Making an Arrest

However, while the technology may prove beneficial in providing an extra pair of eyes for investigating crime scenes, when it comes to making an actual arrest the technology is not suitable for that just yet.

According to Nick Koeman, innovation adviser from the National Police of the Netherlands, the officers undertaking the AI system trial found the extra information distracting.

Of course, some may simply say that ensuring a complete team is at the scene of a crime would be more beneficial for an investigation; however, that is not always possible due to budget cuts and time constraints.

As such the use of an AI system that can cut down on the number of people involved at a crime scene without sacrificing on the required thoroughness could potentially provide the answer that many police departments are searching for.

Not only that, but by reducing the number of people at a scene it cuts the potential possibility of contaminating evidence. The use of AI gives people the chance to assess the evidence and discover additional clues without being at the crime scene.

AI could also help in court cases by helping to recreate a scene for a jury, but as Michael Buerger, professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio states, legal challenges are likely to raise when augmented reality (AR) is used in the courts.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Apple Patent Reveals Siri-Assisted iMessage P2P Payments Platform

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Apple has filed a patent application for a “virtual assistant in a communication session.” On first glance, application 14/713,410 might scare developers of chat bots and the like, but Apple is specific in the scope of their claims – Siri, their virtual assistant platform, will be able to directly communicate with either user in an iMessage conversation and then be able to act on the instructions given. The other participant of the conversation will not see messages intended to Siri, nor messages sent from Siri to the user activating her. This is somewhat different from current implementations of chat bots and virtual assistants in chat programs, in that the classical chat bot for, say, IRC, would be accessible by most of the users of the chatroom.

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Siri Sharing Location Information Between iMessage Participants

Source: USPTO

Siri will also be able to privately give information requested of the other party, even if the other party has not provided it. In the above image, Siri lets the user know that everyone will arrive within five minutes, clearly flexing the GPS data available to her from the other user’s iPhone. One would assume a massive update to the iMessage user agreement will be necessary, and the privacy implications of voluntarily allowing an AI to be involved in every conversation are clear. However, as shown, the default is for the user to give permission for their location information to be shared. If Siri is ever compromised, so too could every conversation on the famously secure iMessage protocol.

Siri Scheduling Meetings Between Participants

Source: USPTO

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However, Siri is not involved in conversations until she is summoned. She is added as another participant when the user summons her or, presumably, adds her manually. As seen in the image above, she can schedule meetings in addition to her other functionalities. However, perhaps most interesting, and most appetizing for malicious hackers, is the prospect shown in the below image. Users who have their financial details linked to their Apple account (which is to say, most or all users) are able to send money via iMessage at the stroke of a message.

Siri Faciliating P2P Payments in iMessage

Source: USPTO

As you can see, Siri suggests giving the funds via cash, likely due to the small amount. According to the patent application, Siri first figures out what options are available to both party, and then presents options. Both users appear to use Bank of America and Paypal, but Siri recommends cash. Both the illustrations and their descriptions in the application make it unclear which option the user selects, although the logo to the left of the success message indicates that cash was, indeed, used. Also shown are some security features in the actual sending of funds, including a thumb print scan and password. One would assume that Apple Pay will play a role in all this, and speculation has abounded that the new platform is meant to rival the Venmo system.

About a year ago, reports were in circulation that Apple and banks were discussing the implementation of such a system, and indeed this patent was first filed over a year ago. Presumably it will see ratification within the next year or two, supposing that other major AI developers like Microsoft choose not to contest it on some of its broader implications.

Microsoft and Google would surely oppose paying patent licensing fees to Apple in order to instantiate their own AI peer-to-peer payment systems, and for the most part, the patent application seems to indicate that Apple would then have sole dominion over that field. Therefore, with numerous dogs in the fight including Cortana, the future of this patent and/or the platform itself (failure to acquire a patent would not prohibit Apple from creating the platform, necessarily) is still very much up in the air. More is sure to surface in the coming months, and Hacked will keep you posted.

Images from Shutterstock and USPTO.

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