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Curious Force BLOG

Welcome to the Curiousforce.nl blog 

nieuwsgierig2What keeps me busy? What is on my mind? Read about it in this blog and take a look in "the belly of the beast".

Topics for this blog will vary but they share one common vantage point, my opinion. As an IT and a technology nerd I will frequently touch areas like IT, innovation, science and technology, but anything goes.

You are welcom to participate in the comments under each blog.

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The Omnipotent Sentient Butler -5-

OSBBlog 5 in the O.S.B. series is here and it’s all about travel and transportation. It took me a while to write this blog, because I was wondering if there is much to say about the transport function of the O.S.B. without it becoming a dreamy piece about Star Trek. Travel hasn’t evolved in the last 100 years, not really. No new modes of transportation have been developed, although the world has become smaller. The biggest innovation in my view was the GPS. The GPS revolution has penetrated all mobile devices and users can identify their position on any place on this earth at any time. Below I will first explore what technology is available and after that what innovations are necessary to make the O.S.B. a worthwhile travel device.

OSBblog5automatedtravelagentThe automated travel agent

Let’s explore what the O.S.B. should be able to do. What features and capabilities should the O.S.B. provide to enable the user to go anywhere, at any time? A list of functionalities comes to mind. Let’s explore what the O.S.B could do after the user specifies a destination and a rough time table in very basic terms (certainly not a complete list).

  • Locate destination
  • Locate current position
  • Locate all modes of transportation
  • Locate places to stay
  • Acquire time tables and transportation schedules
  • Match transportation and time tables
  • Find travel document requirements
  • Find (or estimate) ticket fares
  • Present travel options and acquire a travel  order
  • Book travel details and present confirmation and itinerary

All of the above actions can be automated. All the necessary information is available on the internet, but there is no single point of engagement for the user to acquire what he needs. At least not at any time, at any place with any device. In order to get the best, fastest or cheapest way to travel, users have to search online for options. Hundreds of providers offer services and package deals and more often than not users will get lost in de sheer amount of offerings.

The innovation needed is not a big technological development but software that matches travel needs to all available options. It should give unbiased advice about the best fitting proposals and be able to book them. One approach to the problem could be an online travel market place. The O.S.B. makes a request for travel and publishes the request in the market. This could be a package request or a detailed request with separate travel items. Travel agents should be able to pick up the request and offer prices and specific requirements on the items and/or the whole package. The O.S.B. could then match offerings, make a travel itinerary and make a shortlist providing the user only with the best relevant offerings.

All of the above would not be hard to create; it just takes an entrepreneur to develop a business model and then the subsequent software. So what about transportation, what could be next and is it a function of the O.S.B. to not only make travel arrangements put provide or be the mode of transportation?

OSBblog5transportationinnovationsTransportation innovations

Could the O.S.B. transform itself into a mode of transportation? To answer that question we dive in to the realm of the transformers. Until now transformers are kid’s toys and all about cars transforming into robots.

The current transformers are expensive, cumbersome and have no real life applications. The vision however sparks the imagination of millions and transformers of much more sophisticated design have been featured in movies like Terminator III, where a robot of fluid metal, the Terminatrix, is able to change shape and appearances at will.

Science is also busy investigating the matter of self-organizing multi-particle systems, and science will find a way to make it happen. Earlier in the series I described the O.S.B. as an army of techno-ants. Self-organizing and present all over the world. Humans and O.S.B. would become symbionts. Would it be too farfetched to assume that the O.S.B. could become a mode of transportation, simply by organizing itself in the desired shape and function?


OSBblog5teleportationfactorfictionTeleportation, fact or fiction?

Research into Quantum teleportation is being done and sofar only single particles have been transported across laboratories. The movie Jumper depicts a human that teleports across vast distances, Which by current beliefs is nonsense. To be able to teleport you need a receiver at the destination with complete knowledge of the quantum state of the traveler. The amount of data required to teleport an object bigger than a single particle is vast, to teleport a human will require more data than we can imagine and the speed of travel will still be limited to the speed of light, because the data has to be available in two places.

If we want to be able to teleport then we need quantum computers and new ways to store information so it’s available, anywhere, at any time with no delay. The O.S.B. would need to evolve to an omnipresent entity that can access, process and create duplicate entities all over the space in which it subjects are traveling.

The leap forward would be enormous and the term “technology revolution” would not begin to describe how big this leap in technology would be. Quantum computers are being developed and researched at this moment, but we are still nowhere near applications in real life.

Should we drop the thought that the O.S.B. could transport us to any place at any time? I think not, the problems are being researched and new discoveries are made each day. We live in exponential times and one day we might crack the mysteries that appear to be more part of magic and tricks then belonging to the realm of science.

If human history has taught us anything then it is this, if we can image it, we can build it. When, not if, the current problems with teleportation become quantifiable, we will find a solution. My vision for the future is that some sort of O.S.B. will be part of that future. If it will play a role in transportation is anyone’s guess.


Want to read more about this topic?

Here are some links to get you started:

Video of transformer toy by Kenji Ishida and JS Robotics


MIT video of Teleportation, quantum physics and Jumper

Teleportation Physics Study by Eric W. Davis

The Omnipotent Sentient Butler -4-

OSBBlog 4 in the O.S.B. series and we come upon the most boring bit of the O.S.B.  functions, or is it? Administration of everything you could possibly administer. All the software to administrate anything is already there, so where is the innovation, what makes this function worthwhile mentioning?

I will take a look into this in detail because remembering, recognizing and calculating is a big part of being sentient for humans. We look into our past en calculate the future by doing all sorts of administration, calculations and remembering not only what we have and owe, but also what we would like to have or need and how we would go about to obtaining the objects or situations we desire.

This function ties in with the functions described in the blog O.S.B. -2- and will depend heavily on information gathering and analyses of data. Currently administrating anything depends on software, based on fixed data- and process models, that in practise are a very coarse grained  copy of a small part of reality.  Software companies and developers depend on evolving and re-adjusting these models for a living. I predict this will disappear as a business model if the O.S.B. starts taking over.  What we need is not the capability of producing the current models, but the intelligence to think of how and what type of models will best approach the fabric of reality.

Dynamic thinking and self-evolving

dynamicthinkingIf the O.S.B. needs to be our smart or even sentient companion, it will need to start thinking in dynamic models, which it can adjust at will according to what needs to be remembered or calculated. In essence this means the capability to learn and adjust its models as it goes, connecting different models with each other on the fly as it experiences the real world. Expanding the data- and process models by itself and finding the most efficient ways to administrate the past and calculate the future. Humans already have this capability. The brain adjusts itself all the time to incorporate any pattern it needs to survive, learn and play into its neural pathways. Brains physically change if we are learning a skill. After about two thousand hours of practising a skill, the neural pathways in the brain are altered, so you do not have to think about what you are doing, but your brain can do most of it on autopilot. This is what an O.S.B. should and will be able to do in the near future.

How far are science, the hardware and the software industry with dynamic  modelling and self evolving machines? The basics for self evolving programs are not new and there are as many approaches to achieving this as there are opinions on whether or not machines can be smart or sentient. F.i. at MIT a group of researchers called the ROMA research group (Robust Open Multi-Agent) started more than 10 years ago with developing architectures and systems to cope with, "open contexts where the constituent agents can come from anywhere, may be buggy or even malicious, and must run in the dynamic and potentially failure-prone environments at hand." (quote from the MIT website). They are sponsored by government and industry and their concepts might prove to be the solution for automating learning. But is it a true system and methodology for intelligence or even a sentient system?

Another example is needed to understand the intricacies of the problem. Michael Webb wrote a piece, titled "what is self-evolution"  explaining why a computational system can never be sentient. He start with this statement: "Self-evolution refers to any process through which a system not only replicates or modifies itself, but also develops the design by which it is replicated or modified." and thus "A self-evolving system directs its own development". Directing the evolution of a sentient system cannot be done in a true evolutionary system, according to Michael Webb and the concept of self-evolution makes it very different from artificial intelligence (AI), because AI is based on computational models and logic and self-evolution is not.

Symbiotic relationship with technology?

symbioticrelationshipThe pace of developing AI, sentient and self-evolving systems is slow and the problems are not only technology based. Philosophical problems arise once we assume sentient systems will be our slaves. We are not by a long shot near a solution.

What I would like to propose is taking all the solutions and concepts we have today and tying them into ourselves. Why are we not becoming part of a bigger sentient system? Nature does it all the time, life even depends on symbiotic systems for its survival. Can we think of a future where there is no master slave relation between us and our technology but a mutual beneficial relationship. Sentient technology and humans would depend on each other, like we humans depend on the mitochondria in our cells to survive. Completely ubiquitous and hidden from sight, but evolving together.

Human machine interfacing

humanmachineinterfaceMy vision for the future is that machines and software will be fully integrated into to humans. We will probably not need evasive surgery to do this in the future, but for now we are experimenting and still need to physically invade the body. below are some examples of human machine interfacing.

At this moment, machines are starting to read our minds. Researchers from the university of California are now able to decode electrical activity in a part of the brain that registers sound (the superior temporal gyrus).

A privately owned company called BrainGate recently made the news by demonstrating a neural interface system that allows severely disabled individuals to operate a robotic arm through thought. And even translating what we see into digital pixels is rapidly developing. An article at popsi.com, "The quest to read the human mind", shows how far the researchers at UC Berkley have come.

What will be the next big step?

humanrobotevolutionThe next big thing I can think of, after we master reading the mind, is using the mind together with all this technology, but also letting technology use our brains to evolve and become sentient. If we step back from technology for a moment and think of where this development could come from? I personally think of the ability of humans to learn through play. Playing and thus gaming is a safe environment for humans and technology to learn about each other. Game developers are evolving their AI engines to make games more interesting for their customers. Imagine what they we could do if we take a leap forward and let technology learn from humans directly. If technology is able to read our minds, copy our thought processes and learn the concept of playing itself, then that would be a major breakthrough. Learn by example from humans by learning how to play, in my mind, is the next big thing.

If we do it right a true symbiotic relation could evolve between humans and machines. Machines could evolve as humans evolve. In the future creativity would not be limited to biological life but would be a joined effort of humans and machines. The implications are enormous, a whole new branch of philosophy would arise to cope with human, machine virtual space liberties, rights and obligations. But as the technology progresses it is inevitable this will one day become a real concern.

Machines and humans would not only share whole lives, but emotions and everything that makes us human. What better moment to introduce a machine to learning through play at the birth of a child. In a way this future frightens me, because we would never be alone. Our best friends and life companions would be machines in an ideal scenario. In the worst scenario, one of the two would rule the other in a master slave relation. This would eventually lead to war because no sentient being will tolerate being a slave. This could be the downfall of the human race.

I am by no means certain on what will happen and if humanity will be able to control the development of a technology future, where humans and machines are equal. But I do hope we can and if that future, with a new technological symbiotic O.S.B. comes along, I would welcome it. I think it is the next step in our own evolution.


Want to read more about self-evolving systems and machine mind-reading? Here are some links to get you started:

Robert Knight (professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UC Berkeley


What is self-evolution?

Architecture for self-evolving systems

ROMA research group

BrainGate technology

Paralyzed women moves robotic arm with her mind

Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at U.C. Berkeley

The quest to read the human mind

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