Podcast - This Is Only a Test

Episode 413 – Tantric Science – 8/24/17

The gang talks about how they watched the recent solar eclipse, Disney’s rumored Netflix competitor, The Defenders miniseries, and VR Mario Kart. Plus, more Elon shower thoughts and the scientific answer to a horse-related oddity!

Comments (16)

16 thoughts on “Episode 413 – Tantric Science – 8/24/17

  1. Off the topic of the thread, but I see you’ll be at DragonCon next week! That’s you, Kishore, and not you, Tested… if you take my meaning.

    Hope to run into you to say hello!

  2. The flag is not reversed, it’s correctly displayed when worn on the right shoulder, with the canton [the part with the stars] always facing forward. Usually this is because something else is displayed on the left shoulder. In the Army this is a unit patch (or combat patch). In this case, I’m guessing they have the SpaceX logo on the opposing shoulder.

  3. Elon is definitely on to something. but so is Jeremy. until there is actually a massive loss of life from these things, people are going to build them. Only after the WWII did the Atomic Scientists come together to from associations and work towards banning nuclear weapons. Only after some time did people like Sakharov renounce their work and try to turn the world away from it’s own mass suicide. It is hard to argue with people over an abstraction, but with time and with evidence, people can be convinced.

    Elon might be in an inner conflict, because he has to engage with the military industrial complex for his Space-X company to survive. And ironically, it is not killer robots that we have seen actually contribute to mass death… it is rather mass surveillance. It is little discussed but the book IBM and the Holocaust pioneered the ideas in english language media – that information processing technology itself is a fundamental ingredient of twentieth century atrocities. He focused on the holocaust, arguing that in places where the Nazi proto database and information tracking system was implemented poorly, or sabotaged (Renee Carmille), many more Jewish people survived. In historic times, genocide was not as effective or possible because tyrants could not keep track of everyone so easily – it was the technology of mass surveillance and mass registration itself that enable modern horror. If you dig a little deeper you will see that it goes beyond the Nazis, dictatorships rely on mass surveillance and mass cataloging of humans for all of their worst atrocities, from the Gulag to the Laogai. In theory since we have already seen these things happen, these are the technologies we should be making treaties to ban and suppress the use of. But Elon is helping to put surveillance satellites into Orbit because otherwise Space-X could not survive financially.

    But for automatic killing machines – we already have primitive versions of them, and we already have some laws, for example the boobytrap law. It is illegal in many areas and many circumstances to have “spring guns”, guns that automatically shoot based on some remote tripwire mechanics. It used to be one of the things that human rights activists criticized the German Democratic Republic for having on the Wall between east and west germany. But there are also modern movements to ban Mines, especially landmines – something that the United States has been extrarodinarily resistant to implement. Landmines indiscriminately kill people, including children, all the time, and we struggle to make laws against them.

    So in a world where the most powerful nations have a tendency for violence, and cant even ban dumb AI like landmines, it is inevitable that someone will create killer AI. And how powerful will it be? AI can already beat us at Checkers, and Chess, and Go, and video games that simulate battle…. one of the things all of these games have in common is that they are simulations of War. Many games are simply abstractions of warfare, and the line between warfare and games was sometimes very blurred in the past of human history. From Olympics to football. But in the near future, what is to stop a machine from winning at that “game” of combat? The argument other whether it is true AI or machine learning becomes irrelevant – the machine defeated you at Go, some day it will defeat you in soccer, boxing, football, and then warfare. The ultimate game.

    So these weapons will be something on the power level of nuclear weapons, able to destroy entire cities full of civilians in a very short amount of time. And countries will develop them for the reasons Jeremy said, they all think each other is doing it, and there is no outcry from the public, and no laws against it, so they will do it. There are a few voices in the wilderness like Musk trying to stop it before it happens, but that is like people in the 1930s trying to ban nuclear bombs before anybody knows what one is. Only after a whole city is wiped out will the international community come to some agreement banning it.

    Norm suggested something like Aasimov’s laws. But wasn’t the entire point of Aasimovs book that such laws were pointless? IIRC, I Robot was a collection of short stories that were basically though experiments in how something as common sense and simple as those three laws could go completely haywire and have unintended consequences. We already have the ‘internet of ****’, now we would have the equivalent with military robots of ****.

    But there is another type of power than military power… “soft power”. The power of a countries attractiveness, economically and culturally, that allows it to persuade others to interact with it in a positive manner and form alliances. Robot death armies have no soft power. Nor would they help the countries that wield them to gain it. There is a risk of becoming a ‘pariah state’, looked down on by the eyes of the mass of humanity.

  4. I really don’t have a problem with having a wealth of content available, assuming it is enjoyable. Become too restrictive and you risk not pleasing enough people. If more and more content creators attempt to spin off and create their own services, then perhaps the viewers will accept binge watching as a viable alternative to keeping current. As those $8-10 subscriptions add up people may transition from a handful of services to just 1 or 2 and simply rotate every month. As someone who prefers watching this way anyway, I wouldn’t have a problem with it as long as each has a suitable library of content to backup their new shows.

  5. The flag isn’t too complicated guys. If a person is holding a flagpole and running into battle, the stars are in front and the stripes behind as they run.

  6. I’m watching defenders now and while I do agree with some of the things you’ve said I’m really enjoying it. I hope they do second seasons of all their New York shows including the Defenders. Your review of it was very negative and thats fine I just want to say that some people are enjoying it.

    With that in mind I’m not much of a Marval Comics guy so I don’t know what the comics were like and how they compare to the show. Its good to see all the charecters in the same room.

  7. I was a little disappointed with the Defenders also. To be honest I’m disappointed in pretty much all the super hero shows. What gets me is how the hero always says “I know what I need to do”. They invariably do that thing and it’s a total failure. Honestly, more villains should really be winning. Most heroes seem too unintelligent to win.

    I’d like to see Scheme A from villain C work, only to be defeated by villain Y out of the blue who acts as the begrudging hero simply out of greed/jealousy. Shouldn’t there be more competition between vilains? Surely if Red Skull took over the world, Dr. Doom wouldn’t want to be subordinate to him.

  8. I have to admit, I was having difficulty figuring out Elon Musk’s angle on this whole “AI will destroy humanity” push. Since he clearly has a vested interest in AI development (Tesla autopilot . . .etc.), why would he be trying to draw such over-hyped, paranoid attention to this idea. Then it dawned on me. He’s doing a long play to set himself up as the “watchdog” for “bad” AI. His going to the UN is what made me see the obvious. He’s trying to claim the high ground early, and I will not be surprised when he winds up heading up a Federal or even UN task force to police and regulate AI to ensure it is “safe” for humanity. Naturally, he will receive funding for this effort, because government subsidies are his bread and butter, but long term it will give him a HUGE edge over any competitors in this field. Musk doesn’t like you creeping into his territory, suddenly there are questions about the “safety” of your AI algorithms . . . etc.

    Pretty shrewd maneuver. Low risk to him, but potentially a very nice pay off.

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