Category Archives: Tech

Some Unpremeditated Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence

Will any android ever achieve the grace and fluidity of the human organism–not just in physicality but in the electro-chemo-mechanical functions known as thought and emotion? Certainly they can approximate or mimic the human organism–but can they ever achieve the almost water-like nature of a human? Hmm, maybe that is the key to perfect AI: liquid crystality, if I can coin a word.

I once perused a book called The Society of Mind by cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky. There he talked about how all of the simple functions–push and pull, move and stop, and so on–work in concert to behave in unpredictable and creative ways. Perhaps the key to AI is determining the simplest functional substances that can work together.


A corollary to the “society” concept of the individual mind is that of the group. A giant anthill was once pumped full of cement, allowed to dry, and then excavated. The scientists discovered a complex “metropolis” of highways and bi-ways, ventilation and waste management systems, incubation rooms, and so on–all seemingly designed by a single architect. No one ant knew what was going on on the macrocosm, but by God the thing worked as a whole, and each ant did his mighty little part.

That is how human civilization works, as well. Of course. What else but compartmentalization and an invisible “hive mind” can account for the fact that we all know as individuals what the collective should do, but the collective doesn’t seem to give a damn what our puny individual thoughts are. No matter how influential an individual, the whole will move in ways much more similar to a flock of birds or a weather system: unpredictable, fluid.

There it is again: fluidity. So an organism of artificial intelligence must be fluid, no? How can we create an artificial human that thinks, feels, and moves with such grace as that normally afforded to humans–or to animals–or to the way a forest grows up and self-regulates and achieves homeostasis?


Perhaps it is time to re-engineer the very concept of intelligence. Why not a stone have intelligence? Why not a mote of dust? Our galaxy is in itself seemingly “of some design”–the way it spirals, pirouettes–like a ballerina, or a dolphin at Sea World. Why not every level of existence be afforded some “intelligence”? Not only will this go a long way towards improving our understanding and respect and empathy for the world around us, but it could help to redefine the quest for a perfect AI.

Maybe we should redefine what it means to be intelligent before we try to create a robotic being that, for all intents and purposes, is a human being in a very real way. Instead of trying to create an artificial homo sapiens sapiens, why not create an artificially intelligent substance or fluid? Maybe it has already been done. Maybe we are surrounded by artificial intelligence already. Orville and Wilbur Wright created an airplane that captures air currents and manipulates air pressures in such a way as to create lift. The human arms cannot do that–and yet the seemingly unconscious airplane wing is impressive and awe-inspiring just the same.

Back to ants: I saw an article in Popular Science recently about real-world “zombies”–or beings whose brains have been compromised by some outside force. There is a fungus that attaches itself to an ant’s cranium, injects it with chemical “commands”, rides the ant to an ideal location for the fungus to reproduce, and then boom: the fungus bursts out of the poor ant’s skull having been incubated therein, in just the right place for its spores to take flight and find more ants to use for procreation.

Pretty gruesome stuff, but besides that, what can we learn from that? What can we learn about the cooperative nature of “intelligence”? Certainly a fungus is not intelligent like a human. But that does not mean it is “lower” than a human (unless we are talking about actual spatial relationships, in which case, sure, yes, it is physically lower towards the ground.) Instead, the fungus is intelligent like a fungus.

We must meet intelligence on its own terms, not on the arbitrary narcissistic terms we set out for ourselves. Yes, it is natural to see the world in terms of what we can most immediately relate to–our own human incarnations, in this case–but why not expand the very definition of the self? Why not say, “Yes, that stone is me, that ant is me, that fungus is me, that galaxy is me.” Of course, we don’t have to mean this in every literal sense, but perhaps if we simply imagine it to be true for a moment, we can empathize with beings that can help us to increase our understanding of Things.


Fluidity. Self. Cooperation. Unconscious organization giving rise to consciousness. Emergent properties. All of these concepts and more must be applied to artificial intelligence–not just mechanics, electrodes, and software. Why limit ourselves? Perhaps the great breakthrough in artificial intelligence will come not from a tinkerer, not from a scientist, but from a jack of all trades–or a society of jacks of all trades.

How to Spy on the NSA

Wanna know which of your favorite websites are monitored by the National Security Agency? Ryan Singel and Kevin Poulsen at Wired explain how:

If you’re a Windows user, fire up an MS-DOS command prompt. Now type tracert followed by the domain name of the website, e-mail host, VoIP switch, or whatever destination you’re interested in. Watch as the program spits out your route, line by line.

C:\> tracert

1 2 ms 2 ms 2 ms
7 11 ms 14 ms 10 ms []
8 13 12 19 ms []
9 18 ms 16 ms 16 ms
10 88 ms 92 ms 91 ms []
11 88 ms 90 ms 88 ms []
12 89 ms 97 ms 89 ms []
13 89 ms 88 ms 88 ms []
14 102 ms 93 ms 112 ms
15 94 ms 94 ms 93 ms
16 * * *
17 * * *
18 * *

In the above example, my traffic is jumping from Level 3 Communications to AT&T’s network in San Francisco, presumably over the OC-48 circuit that AT&T tapped on February 20th, 2003, according to the Klein docs.

The magic string you’re looking for is If it’s present immediately above or below a entry, then — by Klein’s allegations — your packets are being copied into room 641A, and from there, illegally, to the NSA.

Of course, if Marcus is correct and AT&T has installed these secret rooms all around the country, then any entry in your route is a bad sign.

If you don’t know how to fire up the MS-Dos command prompt, here’s how: go to Start, select All Programs, select Accessories, and then select Command Prompt. You are now ready to turn the telescope back around on the NSA and their paid cohorts at AT&T. I checked out a few websites myself., a 9/11 truth seeking organization, was routed through AT&T via Washington, D.C., New York, Illinois, and Indiana. How do I know which states it was routed through? Check out the last two letters of the bold script in each of the following four lines. That’s the state. The preceding letters represent a city name., the host for the In Plane Site documentary, was routed through AT&T as well. This documentary is highly controversial even among 9/11 truth seekers because, among other criticisms, it purports that the planes were switched with military lookalikes armed with missiles. Yeah. Far out, man. If these In Plane Site guys are just plain old crazy, then why should the NSA spy on them? It’s a valid question, and one that must be answered., a site that has nothing to do with the attacks but is actually a professional website aimed at EMTs, 911 phone operators, ambulance drivers, et cetera, somehow got targeted by AT&T’s keyword filters., of course, is also spied upon by the NSA.

It is worth noting AT&T updated their privacy policy on June 16th, 2006, by removing portions that might get them in further legal trouble for spying on Internet users. The Washington Post reports on that here.

In my route tracing experiment, I also ran across another interesting revelation. and were routed through a Content Delivery Network called Akamai Technologies. According to the Akamai Technologies entry at

Akamai’s customers include Yahoo!, AOL Radio, Symantec,, Google, Microsoft, FedEx, BBC News website, Xerox, iVillage, Apple Computer, Music Television (MTV), the United States Geological Survey, the White House, Reuters,, and XM Radio.

Arabic news network Al-Jazeera was a customer until April 2003, when Akamai abruptly cancelled the relationship shortly after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There is speculation that the move may have been influenced by the network’s controversial coverage of the Iraq war and Akamai’s own history, as Akamai co-founder Daniel Lewin was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11 during the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.