World Peace through Blog Evangelism

Hey Matt, I think I’m becoming a WordPress Blog Evangelist.   I’m telling everybody with anything to say to get a WP blog going ASAP.   Oddly (or not?) they all want their hand held while setting it up rather than just logging on and following the excellent directions and support here (there?) at WordPress.

The good news is that while blogging in many technology sectors  is going strong now, in travel (in fact in almost all of the non-tech sectors) I think blogging has not even reached that powerful upward inflection point.

Thus my dream of creating a huge, unstructured global travel blogging network is still attainable.    In fact wouldn’t it be neat if people started getting specific travel advice from local bloggers who they’d then take out to dinner to say “thanks!”.    Friendships would blossom, tourism would bring prosperity to every corner of the globe, and we’d have world peace through blogging.     (insert violin holiday music here)

Holiday discussion follow ups

One of my favorite things about the holidays is hearing from people about things they believe/don’t believe/feel strongly about/don’t care about, etc. It’s also fun to follow up online. I think many people who “live” online don’t realize how few people properly use the internet to find even basic information. This is changing, but slowly.

I’ve really been pleased with Wikipedia lately, which I often find to be more than enough information to satisfy my curiousity about even fairly complex topics. It came in very handy on all these topics discussed over the past few days in Minnesota as we geared up for the Turkey overdose:

Splenda is almost certainly very safe while Stevia, an alternative sweetener, is largely untested. So why do some people choose the unknown over the known, taking more risk but thinking they are taking less? They be silly sweeties.

Sunburn through glass is a surprisingly complex topic. In general it seems glass offers little UV-A protection (cancer and skin damage warning) but does protect against a lot of the UV-B which causes the burning. Moral: Avoid exposure with or without glass.

Israel and Palestine Frankly, the more I study this the more confusing it becomes. I was optimistic a few years ago as two-state plans started to blossom, but now think peace of the type we enjoy here in Uncle Sam’s Land may be unattainable. I see these key problem points for at least another generation: 1) Israel: right to exist 2) Palestinians: right to return 3) Borders for Palestine and Israel.

Richard Dawkins and Atheism His style and approach seems odd to me – more combative than strategic if Dawkins’ goal is to do more than *preach* to the atheists in the choir.
I just want to know if the conscious computers that come about around 2020 are going to believe in God or not. I’ll accept their conclusion.

…. later, circa 2020 …

42 ! ?

Google’s Grim

Following up on the Lancet Study I found more examples of how Google’s Adwords mistakes / regular listings can be somewhat odd and grim. The search was “Iraq Deaths”

[Google] Sponsored Links

Iraq Deaths
Looking for Iraq Deaths?
Find exactly what you want today.

Internet for US Soldiers
Satellite Internet access available
in US bases Iraq and Afghanistan

The Flamingo Hotel, in 1946. Bugsy Seigel’s Desert Dream

The Flamingo Hotel, in 1946. Bugsy Seigel’s Desert Dream

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck.

An image of early Las Vegas – the Flamingo Hotel – from pictures on the wall at the Tropicana. I was struck by how modest and small these original hotels seem by modern standards, especially those of Las Vegas where resort palaces like the Wynn and MGM now tower above the Flamingo and Tropicana, themselves huge versions of their original humbly gangsteresque Las Vegas beginnings.

China – Lenin had it backwards

This note from the China Venture News:

… nearly 75 percent of Chinese employees would prefer to work for wholly-owned foreign companies rather than joint ventures companies and wholly-owned Chinese companies according to Manpower research.

Lenin is often quoted as suggesting that capitalists would sell to communists the rope the communists would use to hang them. Sorry Vladimir but you had it pretty much backwards. Communism in both Russia and China is in the process of evolving into a new form of capitalism, and the workers of the world are uniting with … us (aka the capitalists),  preferring the stability of US capitalism to the challenges of neo-capitalist communism.

There goes the neighborhood Mr. Lenin dude!

How Artificial is your Intelligence?

This is Jabberwacky, winner of the top Artificial Intelligence award.

More artificial intelligence bots are at this AI link, showcasing several programs that are designed to communicate as a human would communicate.

While Jabberwacky makes extensive use of user input to create it’s answers, most of those at the other link are based on A.L.I.C.E., a remarkable chatbot program that often fares well in Turing Test competitions, though no computer has yet to pass the Turing Test which suggests that a skilled judge’s inability to distinguish an artificial intelligence from a human one will be a key milestone in computing. I’d guess this is only a few years away, though computer consciousness appears a more elusive goal with most experts estimating the date of that milestone to be around 2020.

Ian notes the limitations of these ALICE bots in the comments below, and at his blog suggests a Googley alternative that would take Google query info and embed it in a conversational style to pass Turing.

Las Vegas – Bodies… The Exhibition

The Las Vegas to Minnesota to home trip had two big “educational” highlights. The first was the Tropicana’s Bodies Exhibition in Las Vegas which showcases human bodies preserved using an advanced technique of injection and plastination. A similar exhibit called “Body Worlds” is touring many major cities and I’ve since learned that Body Worlds is actually the first such exhibit, with other copycat (or CopyHuman) exhibitions like the one I saw in Vegas. Nonetheless it was a fantastic exhibit, gazing as you did into dozens of hearts, brains, and bodies of amazingly preserved human cadavers.

The circulation system, injected and illuminated in all it’s full body glory, was the most stunning of the exhibits for me. Like a giant plant the arteries and veins extended throughout the body.

However in terms of intrigue I simply can’t get the little 3 pound brain exhibit out of my head. Or maybe I should say it’s so clear that you really CAN separate the 3 pound brain from the rest of the body. It would not work for long without the bodies supportive mechanisms but it’s reasonable to assert that it’s that little 3 pound organic computing mechanism where we find so much of the stuff that makes it fun to be a human.

Coming as I had from an Internet conference and very computerized sensibilities, it struck me how this little blob held all the answers to science’s elusive and exciting goal of conscious computing, or the creation of an artificial intellect that is aware of it’s own existence.

I’m using my own conscious computing mechanism to suggest that the debate over differences between our own brain and mechanized intelligences will eventually prove to be almost irrelevant to the issue of “consciousness”.

Clearly our organic computing mechanism, the brain, brings a lot more to the table than the current crop of silicon bretheren, but equally clearly the silicon versions have surpassed us in many respects such as mathematical computation, chess, etc, etc. In fact it’s hard to think of highly structured “intellectual” activity where computers can’t outshine humans. I’d predict that this superiority will increasingly move into the realms of arts, literature, and other abstract endeavors.


Here we are in sunny St Paul, Minnesota enjoying the hospitality of our many relatives in this area.    I’m becoming something of a Flickr, blog, etc evangelist realizing how many great pictures, stories, and pieces of important family information do not get properly distributed.

There is a really interesting human challenge related to proximity – when you are physically close to people you very actively (and I think correctly) think of good ways to keep in touch and build connections.  As the physical distance increases those ideas are forgotten or re-prioritized leaving us in the normal state of not knowing enough about the people we care about the most.     Silly humans.   Evolution did not anticipate living 2000 miles from your close relatives.

Leaving Las Vegas

Pubcon has ended and probably won’t reappear in the USA until next year here in Las Vegas.   It was a nice conference and I really think Brett deserves a lot of credit for keeping this as the ‘affordable’ search conference, as well as the most technically advanced.   He told me 2100 attendees this year – almost double from last time.

Due to some flaky internet connectivity at the motel and during the conference I missed posting nearly as often as I would have liked to but I’m now at LAS Airport with superb and *free* WIFI.   I wrote about the free LAS Wifi last time I was here.   Aiports would be smart to adopt the ad supported model, especially as increasing numbers of frequent travelers use EVDO or just slow cell connectivity rather than pay 9.95 to pick up a few mails.

Ad supported free WIFI is a win win for a lot in the food chain, and I’m glad to see Google start this in Mountain View and MSN’s getting the idea for some WA locations.

Plane’s about to leave but I wanted to say thanks to Brett and Pubcon staff for a conference well done!