Blog Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

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Where Time Begins

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Last year I had the opportunity to give a talk and tour of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC at the invitation of Demetrios Matsakis, the director of the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Time Service department.  The Naval Observatory hosts the largest collection of precise frequency standards in the world, and uses them to, among other things, keep services like internet time and the global positioning system in your phone running correctly.

The USNO Master Clock is actually an average of many timing signals

The US Naval Observatory keeps track of time and distance in what seems like obscure ways, but these signals are used for some of the most widely trusted and life-critical systems on the planet.  The observatory uses a series of atomic clocks, ranging from hydrogen mazers to cesium fountain clocks, which are averaged into the time signals we all use in synchronizing internet servers and finding our way with the guidance of our phones.  In fact GPS would not be possible without the highly accurate time signals generated by the observatory, as time very literally equals distance when you are a satellite flying overhead at speeds that actually have to account for Einsteinian relativity.


The humble rack servers pumping out one of the most accurate and life-critical time signals in the world

The Naval Observatory is also part of the larger network in the US that includes NIST and several labs around the world that contribute to the international standards of time like Universal Coordinated Time or UTC.  These time standards are defined in collaboration: many of the world’s national labs send in how long a second lasts based on their clocks, and these seconds are then averaged to define the second for the month.  But ironically, they do this in retrospect and sometimes add leap seconds, so they only know what the ‘second’ was last month, not this month.

I am often asked when explaining the 10,000 Year Clock why we do not use an atomic clock, as they are often reported to be accurate to “one second in 30 million years”.  But this does not mean they will last 30 million years; it is just a way to explain an accuracy of 10-9 seconds in everyday terms.  These atomic clocks are extremely fragile and fussy machines that require very exact temperatures and deep understanding of atomic science in order to even read them.  They sometimes only last a few years.

Two of the Rubidium Fountain Clocks at the USNO used to create the master time signal

Demetrios was also able to tell me more about some of the long-term timing issues that affect The 10,000 Year Clock.  Because the Clock synchronizes with the sun on any sunny day, one of the effects that we have to take into account is the rate at which the Earth’s rotational rate may change from millennium to millennium.  It turns out that the earth’s rotation can be greatly affected by climate change.  If the poles freeze in an ice age, and all the water freezes closer to the poles, the earth spins faster.  If the current warming trend continues and the poles melt extensively, the mass of the water around the equator will slow the earth’s rotational rate.  All these changes affect where the sun will appear in the sky, and since our clock uses the sun to synchronize, it is an effect we have to account for.  While this was all known to us, there is a counter effect that Demetrios told me about.  It turns out that when there is less water weighing down one of the tectonic plates of the earth, it rises up higher, counteracting some of the mass altered by the shift in water.  We will be investigating this further to see if it changes our calculations.

Many thanks to Demetrios Matsakis for inviting me to the Naval Observatory, it was an honor to present to some of the most technical horologists in the world, and witness the place where the ephemerality of time is pinned down to just “one second in 30 million years”.

Stewart Brand Keynote Video from 02014 Evernote Conference

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
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On October 3rd 02014, Stewart Brand delivered the keynote address for the Evernote EC4 conference. Evernote is a service that allows people to collect information, notes, bookmarks, and create a personal searchable database with this collection.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, has been a fan of Long Now for years, which inspired him to introduce a “100-year data guarantee” for all Evernote customers, a rare promise in the rapidly changing tech industry. The company is also known for having a long-term view and intends to be a “100-year startup”.

In the video above, Libin introduces Stewart while explaining how influential he and Long Now have been on Evernote’s philosophy. Stewart proceeds to give an update on our Revive & Restore project and the de-extinction of the Wooly Mammoth.

Evernote also gave out free copies of Stewart’s book The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility to attendees of EC4.

Kevin Kelly Seminar Primer

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher Michel

On Wednesday, November 12th, Kevin Kelly, a founding Board member of Long Now, will speak on “Technium Unbound,” as part of our monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Each month the Seminar Primer gives you some background about the speaker, including links to learn even more.

Kevin Kellly 20th Century passport photo“Instead of going to university, I went to Asia. That was one of the best decisions I ever made,” says Kevin Kelly about following his instincts into the Big Here in the early 01970s.

For someone who is probably best known as a technology pundit, it may be surprising to learn that his formative years were spent traveling in areas where his 35mm camera was often the most advanced technology for miles. But Kevin’s work has always been about cultures as well as technologies.

His career as a writer, editor and publisher has coincided with a time of unprecedented technological growth. And Kevin has been associated with many ground-breaking publications and organizations in that time. In 01984 he moved to California to edit CoEvolution Quarterly, which Stewart Brand had founded as a spin-off of  the Whole Earth Catalog. The Quarterly soon was renamed as Whole Earth Review and Kevin served as its editor for the next 6 years. He also edited and published the Whole Earth Catalog for several of its later editions.

During that period Kevin also had a hand in founding The WELL, the influential early online community co-founded by Larry Brilliant and Stewart Brand, and the Hackers Conference. In the mid-90′s he again collaborated with Stewart and became a charter board member of The Long Now Foundation.

In 01992 Kevin joined Wired magazine prior to its launch and became its Executive Editor for the first 7 years of its existence. Wired won two National Magazine Awards during his tenure. He is still on staff at Wired as “Senior Maverick” and writes a few times a year for the magazine.

Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher MichelBut let’s get back to Asia in 1972. Kevin, then in his early twenties, dropped out after one year of college and set off camera-in-hand to wander throughout Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, China, Turkey, Japan, and everywhere in between. He had a drive to document aspects of these cultures that even then it was apparent were beginning to disappear. He lived on about $2,500 a year and shot 36,000 images during that time.

I traveled solo most of the time I was shooting. I had lots of time and no money. I generally spent at least 2 months in a country; some like India and Taiwan I visited many times. I would be gone for years at a stretch. I would leave the US with 500 rolls of film in my backpack.

Years later Kevin created the book Asia Grace (Taschen, 02002) featuring hundreds of these photos. For which he did the layout and design himself. Now you’ll find many of those images on Kevin’s website for Asia Grace, continuing his tendency to make the books he sells in stores available for free online. You’ll find the full text for his books Out of Control and New Rules for the New Economy on Kevin’s KK.org site.

Of the cost of buying one of his books, versus reading it page-by-page online, Kevin suggests: Think of this as a printing service, not a book.

The Asia Grace site also includes Kevin’s extensive notes about producing the book including the cameras and film he used, his travel practices, and details on the hardware and software for every step of the printing process

Temple offerings in Taiwan from Asia Grace by Kevin Kelly Balinese procession from Asia Grace by Kevin Kelly
photos by Kevin Kelly from Asia Grace

Listing the equipment and methods he used is far from an afterthought. Kevin is always looking for reliable and innovative tools, and he likes to share what he finds. In 02000 he started an email list to post tool recommendations for his friends. That grew into the Cool Tools website, a public resource that continues to thrive. Last year Kevin self-published Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities as a book; it includes info on more than a thousand recommended tools from the site, all submitted by users.

It is Kevin’s belief that all types of tools can be “cool”:

A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true.

This broad notion of the tool-ness of everything that humans use is a precursor to Kevin’s thinking about the “technium”; he believes all these tools are related systemically. Here’s how he described the technium in his 02009 blog post “What Technology Wants” (which became the title of his 02010 book):

The technium is the sphere of visible technology and intangible organizations that form what we think of as modern culture. It is the current accumulation of all that humans have created. For the last 1,000 years, this techosphere has grown about 1.5% per year. It marks the difference between our lives now, verses 10,000 years ago. Our society is as dependent on this technological system as nature itself. Yet, like all systems it has its own agenda. Like all organisms the technium also wants.

In an interview earlier this year with Edge.org, Kevin said: I look at the network of all the technology in the world, past and present, as forming a system that seems to have its own urges and tendencies. Kevin has named his KK.org technology blog The Technium which points to both the importance and ubiquity he attributes to the idea.

Kevin has become one of our most insightful thinkers about technology. A recent New York Times profile called his technology-related predictions “often both grandiose and correct.” His writing helps us understand not only the bits and bolts of tech, but how technology and humanity interweave: like his famous idea of 1000 True Fans or his ground-breaking work in self-tracking and the Quantified Self. In 02011 Kevin identified six verbs that would characterize the online future; it’s three years in, see how you think he did.

On Wednesday, November 12th, 02014 we’ll all have the chance to hear from Kevin what the technium wants next: “Technium Unbound“ his Seminar About Long-term Thinking for Long Now at the SFJAZZ Center.

Recently Kevin recounted the story of creating Asia Grace in his talk at The XOXO Festival in Portland, talking to a new generation of creative makers…

Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher Michel
photos of Kevin Kelly by Christopher Michel

Karen Marcelo at The Interval: San Francisco’s Art and Tech-Hacking History

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Announcements, Events, Long Now salon (Interval), Technology, The Interval   chat 0 Comments

Karen Marcelo with SRL's Pulse Jet
Karen Marcelo photo by Jay Bain

Karen Marcelo (dorkbot SF, Survival Research Labs)
Tuesday November 4, 02014 7:30pm
at The Interval (check-in at 6:30)
Advanced Tickets recommended

Programmer, artist, and founder of dorkbot SF, Karen Marcelo discusses the tradition of San Francisco Bay Area technologically-minded artists and hackers in the past, present and future. For decades a curious creativity has thrived in the shadows of the high tech industry’s most famous valley. More J. G. Ballard than VC Capital. Un-monetized, non-productized, often subversive and sometimes in fact quite dangerous. Karen has been creating work herself and curating a community of tech makers and re-animators from way before 3-D printers, Maker Faire, or Arduinos existed.

From San Francisco to Silicon Valley, since at least the late 01970s when Survival Research Labs was founded, the wealth of technological know-how and hand-me-down / cast-off resources in the area have led to all kinds of artistic endeavors of decidedly uncommercial sorts. Made by people with day jobs in mainstream tech firms or outsiders with an axe to grind, there’s a rusty cutting edge at the back of the tech startup garage. On Tuesday we’ll talk about it and The Interval.

Come hear about the history of loud, fiery machines and hacker artists in San Francisco and surrounding areas from someone at the center of the noise for years. Karen will talk about tech and art projects including her own work with Survival Research Labs and organizing dorkbot SF for more than a decade.

Our Interval event series tends to sell out ahead of time, so get your tickets now!  Donate to The Interval and you’ll be on our early notification list for all of our Tuesday salon talks.

 

Adam Steltzner: Beyond Mars, Earth— A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Saturday, September 27th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In October 02013 NASA engineer Adam Steltzner spoke for Long Now about landing Curiosity on Mars. In Beyond Mars, Earth, Steltzner gives an insiders view of previous Mars missions leading up to his team’s incredible feat of landing the Curiosity rover safely on the planet’s surface. More broadly he ponders why humans have the need to explore and where we may go next.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. Beyond Mars, Earth is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until September 02014. Listen to SALT audio free on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

This month our Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) ”flashbacks” highlight Space-themed talks, as we lead up to Ariel Waldman’s The Future of Human Space Flight at The Interval, September 30th, 02014.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of Beyond Mars, Earth (in full here):

“With this kind of exploration,“ Steltzner said, “we’re really asking questions about ourselves. How great is our reach? How grand are we? Exploration of this kind is not practical, but it is essential.” He quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

After the epic subjects of his talk, Steltzner’s Q&A with Stewart Brand gets quite personal. A late-comer to science and engineering, one night he looked up at the stars, asked himself a question, and that lead him to a whole new life.

Adam Steltzner is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who has worked on the the Galileo, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder missions as well as the Shuttle-Mir Program. He was the lead engineer of Curiosity rover’s “Entry, Descent, and Landing“ phase.

Adam Steltzner at Long Now

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

New Book Explores the Legacy of Paul Otlet’s Mundaneum

Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 02014 by Charlotte Hajer
link   Categories: Digital Dark Age, Technology   chat 0 Comments

image

In 02007, SALT speaker Alex Wright introduced us to Paul Otlet, the Belgian visionary who spent the first half of the twentieth century building a universal catalog of human knowledge, and who dreamed of creating a global information network that would allow anyone virtual access to this “Mundaneum.”

In June of this year, Wright released a new monograph that examines the impact of Otlet’s work and dreams within the larger history of humanity’s attempts to organize and archive its knowledge. In Cataloging The World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, Wright traces the visionary’s legacy from its idealistic mission through the Mundaneum’s destruction by the Nazis, to the birth of the internet and the data-driven world of the 21st century.

Otlet’s work on his Mundaneum went beyond a simple wish to collect and catalog knowledge: it was driven by a deeply idealistic vision of a world brought into harmony through the free exchange of information.

An ardent “internationalist,” Otlet believed in the inevitable progress of humanity towards a peaceful new future, in which the free flow of information over a distributed network would render traditional institutions – like state governments – anachronistic. Instead, he envisioned a dawning age of social progress, scientific achievement, and collective spiritual enlightenment. At the center of it all would stand the Mundaneum, a bulwark and beacon of truth for the whole world. (Wright 02014)

Otlet imagined a system of interconnected “electric telescopes” with which people could easily access the Mundaneum’s catalog of information from the comfort of their homes – a ‘world wide web’ that would bring the globe together in shared reverence for the power of knowledge. But sadly, his vision was thwarted before it could reach its full potential. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova writes,

At the peak of Otlet’s efforts to organize the world’s knowledge around a generosity of spirit, humanity’s greatest tragedy of ignorance and cruelty descended upon Europe. As the Nazis seized power, they launched a calculated campaign to thwart critical thought by banning and burning all books that didn’t agree with their ideology … and even paved the muddy streets of Eastern Europe with such books so the tanks would pass more efficiently.

Otlet’s dream of open access to knowledge obviously clashed with the Nazis’ effort to control the flow of information, and his Mundaneum was promptly shut down to make room for a gallery displaying Third Reich art. Nevertheless, Otlet’s vision survived, and in many ways inspired the birth of the internet.

While Otlet did not by any stretch of the imagination “invent” the Internet — working as he did in an age before digital computers, magnetic storage, or packet-switching networks — nonetheless his vision looks nothing short of prophetic. In Otlet’s day, microfilm may have qualified as the most advanced information storage technology, and the closest thing anyone had ever seen to a database was a drawer full of index cards. Yet despite these analog limitations, he envisioned a global network of interconnected institutions that would alter the flow of information around the world, and in the process lead to profound social, cultural, and political transformations. (Wright 02014)

Still, Wright argues, some characteristics of today’s internet fly in the face of Otlet’s ideals even as they celebrate them. The modern world wide web is predicated on an absolute individual freedom to consume and contribute information, resulting in an amorphous and decentralized network of information whose provenance can be difficult to trace. In many ways, this defies Otlet’s idealistic belief in a single repository of absolute and carefully verified truths, open access to which would lead the world to collective enlightenment. Wright wonders,

Would the Internet have turned out any differently had Paul Otlet’s vision come to fruition? Counterfactual history is a fool’s game, but it is perhaps worth considering a few possible lessons from the Mundaneum. First and foremost, Otlet acted not out of a desire to make money — something he never succeeded at doing — but out of sheer idealism. His was a quest for universal knowledge, world peace, and progress for humanity as a whole. The Mundaneum was to remain, as he said, “pure.” While many entrepreneurs vow to “change the world” in one way or another, the high-tech industry’s particular brand of utopianism almost always carries with it an underlying strain of free-market ideology: a preference for private enterprise over central planning and a distrust of large organizational structures. This faith in the power of “bottom-up” initiatives has long been a hallmark of Silicon Valley culture, and one that all but precludes the possibility of a large-scale knowledge network emanating from anywhere but the private sector.

Nevertheless, Wright sees in Otlet’s vision a useful ideal to keep striving for:

Otlet’s Mundaneum will never be. But it nonetheless offers us a kind of Platonic object, evoking the possibility of a technological future driven not by greed and vanity, but by a yearning for truth, a commitment to social change, and a belief in the possibility of spiritual liberation. Otlet’s vision for an international knowledge network—always far more expansive than a mere information retrieval tool—points toward a more purposeful vision of what the global network could yet become. And while history may judge Otlet a relic from another time, he also offers us an example of a man driven by a sense of noble purpose, who remained sure in his convictions and unbowed by failure, and whose deep insights about the structure of human knowledge allowed him to peer far into the future…

Wright summarizes Otlet’s legacy with a simple question: are we better off when we safeguard the absolute individual freedom to consume and distribute information as we see fit, or should we be making a more careful effort to curate the information we are surrounded by? It’s a question that we see emerging with growing urgency in contemporary debates about privacy, data sharing, and regulation of the internet – and our answer to it is likely to play an important role in shaping the future of our information networks.

To learn more about Cataloging the World, please take a look at Maria Popova’s thoughtful review, or visit the book’s website.

 

Future of Human Spaceflight at The Interval: September 30, 02014

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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On Tuesday September 30, 02014 Ariel Waldman (Spacehack.org)
leads us to the stars. Tickets are almost sold out!

Ariel Waldman and the Shuttle Atlantis
Ariel Waldman selfie by Ariel Waldman

Ariel Waldman: The Future of Human Spaceflight
Tuesday September 30, 02014 at 7:30pm

at The Interval (doors at 6:30)
Advanced Tickets are encouraged
Download the Pathways to Exploration report

Ariel Waldman has developed a unique career from her enthusiasm for space exploration and her passion to get more people participating in science on Earth and beyond.

Waldman founded Spacehack.org to help anyone with Internet access find space research efforts in need of crowdsourced assistance. Some like SETI@home would like to borrow cycles from your home computer when you’re not using it. Your processing power can help crunch small pieces of big data. And who knows what you might help discover.

Some Spacehack-linked projects need human eyes to evaluate out-of-this-world images like M83 which quickly gets amateurs up to speed estimating the age of star clusters and classifying them. Others projects need things like writing or coding help. Then there’s Spacelog which asks contributors to review transcripts of past NASA missions. Reading vintage dialogue between astronauts and Mission Control, then helping to share it with the world–it’s any space geek’s dream.

Spacelog Mercury 3 transcripts

Spacelog’s Mercury 3 transcripts

Spacehack helps thousands of all ages to learn about and participate in space science. While Science Hack Days, which Ariel helps facilitate around the world, enable the scientifically curious to create fun and productive collaborative projects over the course of a couple days.

Both Spacehack and Science Hack Days are inclusive, enabling both experts and those without advanced scientific education to participate. This work led to Ariel being awarded an accommodation from The White House as a Citizen Scientist.

She was also asked to join a committee of space industry insiders to contemplate the Future of Human Space Travel. The U.S. Congress asked the committee to:

[Undertake] a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program.

Their work is now complete and the final 286-page report is free to download. It’s called Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration.

At The Interval on Tuesday, September 30th, Ariel will talk about the committee, the report, and all the work she has done bringing space and science to the people of Earth.

We hope you can join us; there are only a few tickets left!

Long Now’s salon talk events happen on Tuesday nights at The Interval, our bar / cafe / museum at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Tickets just went on sale for another talk about Humanity’s relationship to the deep ocean.

Interval donors hear about our events first. There’s still time to become a charter donor. See the full list of upcoming talks here.

David Eagleman: Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization — Seminar Flashback

Posted on Friday, August 22nd, 02014 by Mikl Em
link   Categories: Long Term Thinking, Seminars, Technology   chat 0 Comments

In April 02010 author and neuroscientist David Eagleman proposed several internet-enabled ways to avoid the collapse of civilization. Eagleman is a Guggenheim Fellow known for his research on time perception and synesthesia; his books include the best-seller Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives. Long Now members can watch this video here. The audio is free for everyone on the Seminar page and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view. From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk (in full here):

Civilizations always think they’re immortal, Eagleman noted, but they nearly always perish, leaving “nothing but ruins and scattered genetics.” It takes luck and new technology to survive. We may be particularly lucky to have Internet technology to help manage the six requirements of a durable civilization

David Eagleman directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law at Baylor College of Medicine. His latest book is Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. He is also a Long Now Board member David Eagleman The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast. You can join Long Now to watch full video of this Seminar. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

After more than a decade, ESA’s Rosetta Mission arrives at Comet 67P

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 02014 by Andrew Warner
link   Categories: Rosetta, Technology   chat 0 Comments

Comet_on_3_August_2014_large

After ten years, five months, and four days of travel, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission has finally rendezvoused with the 67P comet. The Rosetta mission woke up back in May and has subsequently been maneuvering towards the comet. This is the first mission dedicated to exploring comets, a little understood but important part of our solar system:

Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive, in situ study of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.

Now that Rosetta has reached the comet, it will slowly approach the comet, mapping the terrain for landing locations and eventually locking into a close orbit:


During development of the mission the ESA invited Long Now to include one of our Rosetta Disks on the probe. And so this ESA mission is not only the most detailed comet researcher ever, it is also the first off-world archive of thousands of human languages.

The Rosetta Project is Long Now’s initiative for long-term archiving of human languages. The disk includes parallel texts (inspired by the original Rosetta Stone) and thousands of pages of information documenting languages from all over the world. The Rosetta disk that is on the probe is an early prototype, a more recent design is shown below:

The microetched Rosetta Disk shown inside the Rosetta sphere (photo by Laine Stranahan)
photo by Laine Stranahan

The Rosetta space probe had been in hibernation since 02011, having completed several flybys and slingshot maneuvers after being launched in 02004. San Francisco’s Exploratorium marked the ESA’s successful re-awakening of the probe in January and will have another event this Thursday to discuss the most recent developments.

Comets generally have very eccentric orbits, meaning they travel in very squished ellipses, rather than perfectly round circles. That eccentricity causes the comets to oscillate between the outer reaches of the solar system and relatively close passes by the Sun. Comet 67P is on its way in toward the Sun right now and that means it’s heating up. This causes ice to melt and boil and eject gas and dust from the comet’s nucleus, creating the characteristic comet tail. The Rosetta mission will orbit 67P for 17 months, through its closest approach to the Sun and then out again. This will provide an unprecedented level of detailed data as the comet goes through the significant changes caused by drastic changes in temperature.

NavCam_animation_6_August_medium

After 17 months of orbit and study from above, the plan is for Rosetta’s Philae lander to drop onto the comet itself in November. It will drill into the surface of the comet and perform experiments to learn more than ever before what composes a comet. And you can follow its progress on Twitter.

How Hard Should the Turing Test Be?

Posted on Tuesday, July 29th, 02014 by Austin Brown
link   Categories: Long Bets, Long Term Thinking, Technology   chat 0 Comments

www_princetonai_com

It seems clear that computers are becoming more intelligent, but in the face of this fact, our definition of intelligence itself seems increasingly blurry. The University of Reading recently made an announcement exemplifying this trend:

The 65 year-old iconic Turing Test was passed for the very first time by computer program Eugene Goostman during Turing Test 2014 held at the renowned Royal Society in London.

At its face, this is huge and historic news. Alan Turing’s proposal of the eponymous test threw down the field of Artificial Intelligence’s original gauntlet. For a computer program to pass for human is no small feat and the creators have done something no one has achieved until now.

Within the world of Long Now’s Long Bets, as well, $20,000 is on the line – Mitch Kapor predicted in 02002 that “By 2029 no computer – or “machine intelligence” – will have passed the Turing Test.” He argued that when it comes to human knowledge and culture,

It is such a broad canvas, in my view, that it is impossible to foresee when, or even if, a machine intelligence will be able to paint a picture which can fool a human judge.

Ray Kurzweil, who helped popularize the Turing Test in his books The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near took him up on the bet, countering that sufficient reverse-engineering of the human brain will allow for computer programs that can think like a human and that trends within the relevant research are accelerating much like the power of computers themselves.

Eugene Goostman would appear to have beat Kapor’s deadline by 15 years!

As with any wager, though, the devil is in the details, and here is where we come back to fuzzy definitions of intelligence. Eugene Goostman the computer program poses as a 13 year-old who is communicating in a language that isn’t his first. Interrogators had only had 5 minutes with which to get to know “him.” And in the end, a “passing” grade for this test was 30% – the program managed to convince 33% of judges it was human.

In a way, we have to talk about Turing tests. The Turing test passed by Eugene Goostman in not the same Turing test proposed by Kapor and Kurzweil. Indeed, Kurzweil found Eugene Goostman to be rather lacking, posting a transcript of a conversation he had with the program and pointing out some of its clearly non-human characteristics:

I chatted with the chatbot Eugene Goostman, and was not impressed. Eugene does not keep track of the conversation, repeats himself word for word, and often responds with typical chatbot non sequiturs.

His bet with Mitch Kapor stipulates that interviews will last 2 hours, which would allow for significantly more in-depth conversation and, one assumes, a much easier time in determining computer or human. Kurzweil has not conceded the bet and even explains that he expects a long period of dubious and debated claims that computers have passed Turing’s test.

Turing’s test was explicitly meant to ignore the mechanisms of thought and to focus on the experience of it, but in tweaking the rules of the test we implicitly set a bar and work towards a definition for human intelligence. The bar cleared by Eugene Goostman may not be high enough to indicate human-level intelligence to Kurzweil or many others, but there can be little doubt that higher bars will yet be cleared and each one’s demonstration of intelligence debated.