Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Governing AI

The prevailing view of technology in our culture is, If technology can do something, then it should do something. The means justify the ends, and woe be to those who get in the way.

Some people inaccurately assume technology has no bias. For some, there is no logical leap from there, to concluding that if technology is not bad, it must be good.

And then there are the biggest cheerleaders of technology who love to loudly proclaim that if we let technology get big and powerful enough, it will solve all our problems. Utopia! (Social media was going to bring us all together and usher in world peace, remember?) Some are so blind to their own tyranny that they want to criminalize anyone who questions or interferes with this supposed march of progress. Therein, of course, lies the first clue that not all is as good as they would have it seem.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A teacher with no limits?

Henry Kissinger has noted some of the possibilities about artificial intelligence and has raised some important questions:

Some “AI projects work on modifying human thought by developing devices capable of generating a range of answers to human queries. Beyond factual questions ("What is the temperature outside?"), questions about the nature of reality or the meaning of life raise deeper issues. Do we want children to learn values through discourse with untethered algorithms? Should we protect privacy by restricting AI's learning about its questioners? If so, how do we accomplish these goals?”

Monday, July 29, 2019

The objectives of AI

In Henry Kissinger's analysis of artificial intelligence, he noted the following:
Automation deals with means; it achieves prescribed objectives by rationalizing or mechanizing instruments for reaching them. AI, by contrast, deals with ends; it establishes its own objectives. To the extent that its achievements are in part shaped by itself, AI is inherently unstable. AI systems, through their very operations, are in constant flux as they acquire and instantly analyze new data, then seek to improve themselves on the basis of that analysis.
Let us not forget that artificial intelligence is still fundamentally pattern matching. That is, no matter how much data it has, it's still just looking for and extrapolating from patterns it sees in the data it's given or processes. Therefore, even though it may be able to apply logic and make decisions, he does not substantiate his claim that it “establishes its own objectives.” No matter how many games of Go or Chess it plays, or how sophisticated its learning of each may be, it's still, respectively, just trying to take over the board or capture the king. Artificial intelligence does not contemplate the meaning of its own existence.

Two categories of productivity

A few years back I would look at my time spent in terms of whether I was spending it on consuming things, like information, or producing things, like writing and coding. While this is still a factor, I've recently shifted to a more helpful way of looking at productive time.

If I get a bit more granular on time spent producing things, I've learned there are two broad categories of productivity. Am I maintaining something already in place, or am I advancing into new territory?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Rewriting the search of history

Last year, Henry Kissinger described how he was captivated by a conference session on artificial intelligence. He subsequently organized additional dialogue and discussion to better understand “the impact on history of self-learning machines.”

The historian first describes the past:
Heretofore, the technological advance that most altered the course of modern history was the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which allowed the search for empirical knowledge to supplant liturgical doctrine, and the Age of Reason to gradually supersede the Age of Religion. Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness. Information was stored and systematized in expanding libraries. The Age of Reason originated the thoughts and actions that shaped the contemporary world order.
There are several things here to address.

The first major accomplishment of the printing press was the printing of the Bible. The publishing of the entire Bible in a single volume and in large quantities laid the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. While this may have supplanted liturgical doctrine in the Catholic Church, the proliferation of the Scriptures put more people in direct contact with the Word of God than ever before.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The story of America

Tuesday, President Trump spoke at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit 2019. The following is an excerpt of those remarks.
We know the story of America is the story of good defeating evil. We protect so many people, and in some cases we shouldn’t have been doing it. It’s right overcoming wrong, and it’s freedom smashing tyranny. Americans are the patriots who threw off an empire, won an independence, settled the Wild West, ended slavery, secured civil rights, pushed the boundaries of science, vanquished the Nazis, brought communism to its knees, and put a man on the moon many, many years ago, right? And we will become the first nation to land astronauts on Mars, where they will proudly plant a very beautiful American flag.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ready for self-programming AI

A lot of people are worried about the coming AI apocalypse, and I am not among them.

Supposedly AI threatens jobs everywhere. Among the most meta of these threatened professions is programming itself. Woe to those with high-paying jobs that machines can do themselves, right?

Here's the thing: There's already a lot of programming not being done.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

2-year, 2-page budget deal agreement reached

The leaders of the US federal government worked out a two-year budget deal that's two pages long.

Can we always keep it that simple?

This is not a call to oversimplify it, but to truly just keep it simple—keep government to its intended purposes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The meaning not found in numbers

Beware the law of the instrument.

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

To a man with a database, everything looks like a data point.

To a man with a search engine, everything can be measured in search result counts.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The key to getting things done

The key to getting things done is getting started.

The key to getting started is to pick a starting point.

The key to picking a starting point is to pick something in the middle of the beginning.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The reasons for the Church gathering

Believers in Jesus have been gathering together since the formation of the Church. The practice pre-dates them to the days of Nehemiah when the people gathered and told Ezra to read them the Law. They built a platform from which he could speak, and several people supplemented the reading to help the people understand and have the sense of what was being read (Nehemiah 8:1-8).

The clearest call in the New Testament to continue this kind of gathering is found in Hebrews: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Many church leaders focus on the “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together” part, and forget the rest. As for what to do when we’re assembled, instead of looking at the context in these two Hebrews verses, they instead go to Acts 2.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Using AI to encourage self-censorship of abusive comments

Instagram is using AI to stop people from posting abusive comments
Rather than rely solely on its algorithms to censor offensive material, it will draw on users' self-censorship as well. As a comment is posting, if the platform's AI model flags it as harmful, the poster will see a pop-up asking, "Are you sure you want to post this?" In early tests, Instagram found the feature encouraged many people to rescind their comments. It's a clever tactic to try to alleviate some of the burden on human content moderation without being too restrictive.
Here's another source of motivation:
How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:34-36).

Thursday, July 18, 2019

History is no judge

If one wants to fundamentally transform America, one must also find a way of describing that transformed America as morally acceptable.

Around the time the Supreme Court handing down its latest gay marriage decision, a phrase prominently entered the American political lexicon: “the right side of History.” It's as if to say, “We had it wrong before, but now we're getting it right, and future generations will see it our way now.”

The problem here is “History” is not a thing of its own. History has no agency. History is the story as written by whoever won and gained power. That doesn't necessarily make it right.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Future of Value, Generalist Edition

As previously noted, there are two characteristics of people who will be especially valuable economically in the future: they have specialized in a unique combination of areas. The more exclusively one is able to do certain things of value, the higher one's income potential.

There are times when the opposite of exclusivity is valuable. In these the generalist thrives.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Civic Biology

Missed in the Scopes Trial was an opportunity to show the social implications of evolution for what they are. In what author Michael Kazin called “the most dramatic confrontation of the trial to date,” William Jennings Bryan “defended the rights of parents to control what their children learned in school” though not the full implications of what that learning would mean for them.

“Scopes had violated the statute unintentionally one day while substituting for the regular biology instructor.” The textbook used in class was A Civic Biology by George William Hunter. Of Bryan's arguments in court, Kazin noted the following about Bryan's approach to the book.
Strangely, he neglected to say anything about Hunter's use of social Darwinism. Almost seventy pages after the “tree”—which the author urged students to copy in their notebooks—appeared a vigorous endorsement of eugenics.

Clearly, the “civic” in the title of the text was no accident.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Maximize your unique contribution

Terry Monaghan has written a book called 101 Things to do (or stop doing) to give yourself more time RIGHT NOW!

5. Focus on what you do brilliantly, delegate the rest

6. See what can be automated, and automate it
Are there things you do over and over?

7. Stop doing everyone else's job
Would you pay someone your salary to do the things you're doing? “The more you can turn over tasks to a team, the more time you will have to leverage your own unique contribution.”
Read more »

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Making it home

There is a great difference between my building a house and my going to reside in that house and make it my home.

And there is a great difference between the Holy Spirit's work in regenerating a soul—the building of a house, and His coming to reside, abide and control in our innermost spirit and our whole life and being.
SourceSimpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (June 29). Kindle Edition.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Billy Graham Rule

Robert Foster, a married man, is taking a lot of unfair flack for not agreeing to meet with a woman for an entire day which would often include time alone with her in his truck. He sticks to the Billy Graham rule, and said no.

Foster is a candidate for governor in Mississippi, and a reporter, Larrison Campbell, asked to tag along with him for a day. After finding out the reporter was female, and having no campaign staff who could join them, he asked her if she could provide someone to tag along. She balked, and the interview/day-long tag-along was called off.

One mistake Foster may have made in this is stipulating that the colleague the female reporter bring along be male. I agree having someone else present is a good idea, but I don't see why the third person would need to be a man. That actually complicates things, because presumably she would need to travel alone with that man in order to meet. Foster was possibly requiring her to violate the same rule he was trying to keep.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Evangelical Support for President Trump

Jesus told a story of a man who had two sons:
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’

“He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.

“Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did the will of his father?”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Enhancing his earthly joys

Of George Read, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, it was once written, “The same year he led to the hymeneal altar, an amiable, pious, and accomplished daughter of the Rev. George Ross, of Newcastle: thus adding largely to the stake he held in the welfare of his country, enhancing his earthly joys, and giving him an influence and rank in society never acquired by lonely bachelors. She fully supplied the vacuum abhorred by nature, and proved a valuable partner of his toils and perils, his pains and pleasures, through subsequent life.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

How human nature is constructed

Human nature is so constructed, we are so persistent, that when we know that we are born to a thing we do not care what the world thinks about it.

—Mark Twain
Source: Mark Twain's Speeches

Monday, July 8, 2019

A career of usefulness

Mr. Livingston was among the few, who, in those days, received a college education. After his preparatory studies, he entered Yale College, and graduated in 1737. In common with most of the descendants of that celebrated family, he was blessed with strong native talent, which he improved by an excellent education. With principles firmly based on religion and moral rectitude, he was eminently prepared to commence a career of usefulness.

In those days of republican simplicity, graduates from college, instead of riding rough shod over those whose literary advantages were less, believing themselves forever exonerated from the field, the shop, and the counting-house, thought it no disparagement to apply themselves to agricultural, mechanical, and commercial pursuits.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Only God has heart knowledge

There is a special Greek word for heart knowledge: kardiognostes. It comes from two other words:

Kardia = heart
Ginosko = knowledge

It's only used two times in the New Testament, and both times of God.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Internet access = later nights

This week I discovered something I already should have known. Now I have data to back it up.

I keep track of how well I keep a good schedule, and in recent weeks my numbers haven't been so great. I scrolled back through several fortnights and noticed that for 200 days my schedule was better during the winter and fall. The key difference of that time period was internet access.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Not Afraid of Poverty

Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence by Charles Augustus Goodrich, circa 1834, opens with a thorough introduction summarizing events which led to the Declaration of Independence.

As the colonies began forming committees of correspondence, unifying their message was not confined to legislative bodies.
Numerous meetings were called in the various towns of the provinces, in relation, as well to this particular measure, as to other oppressive acts of the British parliament.

In these meetings, the town of Boston took the lead. A committee was appointed to address the several towns in the colony, and to urge upon them the importance of an unanimous expression of their feelings with regard to the conduct of the British ministry. “We have abundant reason to apprehend,” said this committee, in their address, “that a plan of despotism has been concerted, and is hastening to a completion; the late measures of the administration have a direct tendency to deprive us of every thing valuable as men, as Christians, and as subjects, entitled to the rights of native Britons.” — “We are not afraid of poverty,” said they, in conclusion, — “but we disdain slavery. Let us consider, we are struggling for our best birth rights and inheritance; which, being infringed, renders all our blessings precarious in their enjoyment, and trifling in their value.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Understanding Appreciation

Appreciating someone or something means more than saying thank you.

Appreciation means to understand the value of something or what someone brings to the table.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The last and final and most precious reward

My own history includes an incident which will always connect me with England in a pathetic way, for when I arrived here seven years ago with my wife and my daughter—we had gone around the globe lecturing to raise money to clear off a debt—my wife and one of my daughters started across the ocean to bring to England our eldest daughter. She was twenty four years of age and in the bloom of young womanhood, and we were unsuspecting.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Totally destroy the Johnson Amendment

I can think of no better topic to start a new month—especially one in which we honor and express gratitude for our freedom and independence—than religious liberty.

One of the earliest very positive indicators me about then-candidate Trump was his particular emphasis on crushing the Johnson Amendment.

This is not some random pandering issue for him. If anything, if you listen to his nomination acceptance speech, one could have the impression he was advised against including this issue. From conversations I've had with a few connected people, I know that he talks about this in private, not just publicly.

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you build one.
Seth Godin