Google is for Smarty Pants

A new study suggests Googling is good for your health.   Mental brainpower health that is.   Researchers measured brain activity in online searchers and noted that it was much higher when people were using search engines.

More about why YOU are smarter for hanging out online so much.  Congratulations!

Rethinking Privacy

Hey, it’s nice when you agree with the Government’s interpretation of how the future is going to shake out. 

Donald Kerr is the USA’s Dept. of Intelligence Deputy Director and noted correctly:

Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that. 
… Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,”

Wait a minute….maybe the Government is just (finally) coming around to agreeing with me as I’ve been noting for about two years now that online privacy is an oxymoron.  Hey, here’s another online privacy is a mirage post!  

We don’t (actually, cannot) know where many of our pictures and data and writing and comments and email is stored, we don’t know who misquotes us, scrapes our content, has our credit card data and medical records, reads our email, or even know if we own what we write (many reviews sites will claim they own *your* reviews). 

It’s actually *not* as big a deal as one might think.  This is the brave new world of onliners and the benefits of the information explosion easily and dramatically trump the handful of privacy pitfalls.    If this were not the case we’d have seen a *lot* more trouble by now.

CNN Reports

What is “Intelligence” ?

Some good posts are popping up over the the Singularity Institute blog, though the discussions have been taking that odd “hostile academic” tone you often find from PhD wannabes who spend way too much time learning how to reference obvious things in obscure ways.

Michael Anissimov asked over there “What is Intelligence” and offered up a definition that could apply to human as well as artificial intelligence.    

I would suggest that intelligence is overrated as part of our evolutionarily designed, self-absorbed human nature, and in fact is best studied as separate from the states of “consciousness” and “self awareness” that are harder to define.    I think computers – and even a simple calculator – have degrees of intelligence but they do not have consciousness or self awareness.    It is these last two things that make humans think we are so very special.    I’d say consciousness is neat but probably a simpler thing than we like to …. um … think about.

Over there I wrote this in response to Michael’s post:

My working hypothesis about “intelligence” is that it is best viewed and defined in ways that separate it from “consciousness”.  I’d say intelligence is best defined such that it can exist without consciousness or self-awareness.   Thus I’d refer to a computer chess program as intelligent, but not conscious or self aware. 

I would suggest that intelligence is a prerequisite for consciousness which is a prerequisite for self-awareness, but separating these three things seems to avoid some of the difficulties of explanations that get bogged down as we try to develop models of animal and non-animal intelligence.  Also, I think this will describe the development curve of AIs which are already “intelligent”, but none are yet “conscious” or “self aware”.   I think consciousness may turn out to be simply a *massive number* of  interconnections carrying on intelligent internal conversations within a system – human or AI.

A stumbling block I find very interesting is the absurd notion that human intelligence is fundamentally or qualitatively different from other animal intelligences.   Although only a few other species appear to have self-awareness, there are many other “conscious” species and millions of “intelligent” species


A good question about intelligence is “WHY is intelligence”.   The obvious answer is evolutionary adaptivity, which in turn helps explain why our brains are so good at some things and so bad at others.  e.g. Human survival was more a function of short term planning rather than long term planning, so as you’d expect we are pretty good short term planners (“Let’s eat!”  “Let’s make a baby!”  “Look out for that car!) and pretty bad long term planners (Let’s address Social Security shortfalls!, “Let’s fix Iraq!)