David Deutsch on Artificial Intelligence

Quantum computation physicist David Deutsch recently published an essay on why we haven't been able to develop a general-purpose artifical intelligence. I think it's well worth reading and in particular, making an effort to understand him, for which it will be helpful to read his book The Beginning of Infinity, which explains some of the key assertions he makes in the essay.

Some comments:

1. I totally agree with him that the core functionality missing so far in attempts to produce artificial general intelligence ('AGI') is "creativity, the ability to produce new explanations." (Note that Deutsch's term 'creativity' is a bit different from common usage.)

2. Deutsch concludes that "it is plausible that just a single idea stands between us and the breakthrough. But it will have to be one of the best ideas ever."

Based on my experience with roadblocks I've encountered in a wide range of disciplines, my guess is Deutsch is wrong: rather, all AGI attempts thus far lack not one, but at least two missing ingredients. I think it's possible that some of what we lack may not even be novel. But the reason for the roadblock is that adding any proper subset of what's missing makes the implementation weaker or intractable.

In this regard, I definitely sympathize with the camp that believes that all we need is more powerful hardware. It seems quite possible that this is one of the missing ingredients. But I agree with Deutsch that we're missing something else, too. Faster computation alone is not going to produce creativity.

3. Despite my agreement with Deutsch, I see a big hole in the logic we share: evolution was able to produce human intelligence -- including in particular the ability to create effective explanations -- without having any ideas at all. Just computation (very broadly defined) and time (billions of years).

How fast can we simulate this process? Do we know how to speed up the simulation, for example, by guiding evolution?

Day game

I've gotten pretty far behind reporting my games this year. Today was our team's 8th game and my 6th game (I missed two games due to quad strains and then a back strain). It was our first day game of the year, and it was our first win of the season. I got on base 4 of 5 times (two walks, two singles). Last time up I hit a high pop foul that the third baseman hardly had to move to catch.

I made a couple good defensive plays but I actually did less interesting stuff than usual.

I've now gotten on base 14 out of 20 times this season, but I still feel very rusty at the plate.

Baseball and softball

We played our baseball season opener on Friday. The league is now simply 52+, meaning that anyone born in 1960 or earlier is eligible.

I played centerfield and batted 4th in the lineup (out of 13). In the first inning, I came up to bat with two out and a man on first. I ripped a line drive to right field that didn't quite get past the outfielder. Our runner got to third, but since my physical therapists recommended that I take things easy, I didn't try for a double. Unfortunately, the next batter hit a ground ball, forcing me out at 2nd base to end the inning.

The next time I batted, the pitcher had clearly been saving up his energy to pitch to me. He threw a couple of fastballs at least 5 mph faster than anything he'd thrown for the previous few innings. I hit a sharp grounder to third on the second of them, and the third baseman threw to second for a force out. The second baseman relayed to first to try for the double play. Still following the PTs' advice, I didn't try to run hard but beat the throw easily. Players on the other team were yelling "you're too fast for this league!" ... Hopefully, they will get to see me really run later this season.

I batted a third time in the bottom of the 7th (the last inning in our league) against a new pitcher who didn't throw quite as hard. At this point, we were down 8 to 2, none out, with men on first and second. Unfortunately, I again grounded to third, and they got the force out at third for the first out. Our next batter drove one deep into centerfield. I had to hold up a bit before it was clear that their outfielders weren't going to get it. Then I tried to run hard for the first time, but I immediately had to take it easy because I could feel my legs weren't quite ready. Then after rounding third base, I had to slow down some more to avoid over-taking the runner ahead of me. But that it was it for our rally and we lost 8 to 4.

It was great to play again ... our next baseball game is tomorrow (Thursday).

On Sunday, I played a doubleheader in our 40+ softball league. In the first game, I went 0 for 3, with two weak grounders and a weak fly ball to the outfield. But we still won the game by slaughter rule. In the second game, the other team started to hit the ball well, and so did I. I hit a couple of sharp singles to start things off, and that gave me confidence to try to hit one over the right-centerfielder's head, which I did, for a triple. In my last at bat, they gave me a little gap in left center (adjusting to my last hit) and I drove the ball through it for a grand slam (inside the park) homerun, which gave us a sufficient margin to win by slaughter rule in the bottom of that inning. ... I really had to take it easy on the bases because I could feel my hamstrings complaining.

Sunday's game 2 was the first time I've felt like I could really hit a softball well since I came down with Lyme disease.

Ranking Wes Anderson (update)

moonrise kingdom

[big gap]

royal tenenbaums
bottle rocket [complete but small]
life aquatic
darjeeling express

... I'm pretty sure that I rank Darjeeling Express below Bottle Rocket by the transitive property. However, I do not remember Bottle Rocket at all ... and I may have even watched it a second time after my earlier ranking.

Return to action

On Monday I played in my first softball game in nearly a year. 40+ slo-pitch. The main positive is that I didn't get hurt. On the down side, I dropped a ball in the bottom of the 7th that might have saved the game for us. It should have been an easy catch, but I am way too slow. At the plate, I dribbled a couple of balls that somehow eluded the first baseman. Then in my last at bat I got a little bit under a ball and flew out to center field.

55+ baseball league!

My senior baseball league has decided to launch a 55+ division. They permit 4 players from 52-54, so I am eligible to play. I'm still unsure if I'll be able to handle the 45+ division, but I am sure I can play 55+.

On torn rib cartilage

Terrence just won an MMA fight while still recovering from a torn rib cartilage injury. Based on my experience, I'm extremely impressed!

I tore some rib cartilage in wrestling practice during my senior year in college. It didn't feel too bad, and I wrestled in a tournament the following day. I should have won my first match pretty easily, but my early lead slipped away. One thing I recall was that my coaches told me to stop straightening up. I had torn the cartilage more severely, and even though I wasn't conscious of it, my body was reacting. Then the worst possible thing, in terms of the long run, happened. I had a burst of energy where I escaped and took my opponent down to tie the match at the end of regulation. I made my way through the three overtime periods, still without noticing any pain, but unable to really do anything, and lost.

After I cooled down, and the adrenalin of the match wore off, I was in a lot of pain. Coughing hurt really bad. Laughing hurt just as bad. Opening doors was excruciating.

One of our assistant coaches told me he had torn cartilage wrestling during college and he could still feel it (20 or so years later). That didn't sound very good.

For several weeks, I wondered if it was impossible to heal. While I was awake, I could do my best to hold still. But every night while I slept, I would aggravate my ribs. I didn't seem to be making any progress. But gradually over the months, I did, and I was able to return to wrestling practice the next season (I spent a year after college before going to grad school).

I think it was a couple of years later that the pain was completely gone.

Some time after that, I heard that had 4-time Olympic discus champ Al Oerter had torn his rib cartilage just before his third Olympics. The doctors told him that he wouldn't do permanent damage by competing, so he proceeded to set a new world record. The pain threshold of world class athletes is totally mind-boggling!

American Pie

Yesterday when I woke up, the Don McLean song 'American Pie' was in my head. Later that day I heard that it would have been Buddy Holly's 75th birthday. Holly died about the time I was conceived.

Lyme disease, round two

Based on this report that the Lyme disease bacteria can hide as 'round bodies', spores that can emerge after antibiotic treatment ends, my doctor and I decided to re-test me for Lyme disease, even though none of my symptoms had recurred (yet). In fact, contra-indicating the Lyme disease, I've been recovering very quickly from minor injuries, unlike two years ago when they'd linger for weeks or even months.

But I did get sick again -- respiratory, probably viral -- around July 17, just before I went in for the blood draw. That sickness lasted until perhaps a week ago (hard to tell precisely, and I'm still a bit weak). During this past week, I've started to feel just a bit of joint pain in a few places that might be indicative of Lyme.

The test came back positive: PCR detected Lyme bacteria plasmid DNA in blood serum (but not in whole blood). Also, the Western blot (which looks for immune response, rather than the presence of the bacteria) showed 5 significant bands, meeting even the most demanding criteria for Lyme. (These criteria are oriented toward minimizing false positives, but as a result have a very high false negative rate. In fact, those with weakened immune systems and thus most in need of treatment are very unlikely to show much of an immune response.)

So the good news is that my body is already doing a better job to fight the bacteria than the first time around. (My doctor said that my Western blot was more typical of a new infection. We think the reason for this is that after I originally got bit, a dermatologist prescribed prednisone for the small weepy blisters that developed, which suppressed my immune system. To treat the Lyme disease, my doctor didn't just prescribe antibiotics, but also recommended supplements which strengthened my immune system and also restored my adrenal system)

This time, we're trying a treatment that's believed to kill the both the spirochetes and the round bodies: azythromycin ('Zithromax') plus metronidazole ('Flagyl'). In addition, I'm taking colloidal silver (another bactericide) and a bunch of other bactericidal herbs.