Flash Fiction: Toupee-Wearing Man at the Barber Shop

Jul 14, 2014

Here’s a really short story I wrote. It’s semi-true insofar as I really heard the barber talking about this kind of thing to me and another customer. Well, the whole conversation was in Japanese, of course, so maybe my imagination filled in some blanks where I didn’t fully understand.

Yeah, if you need inspiration for some really weird stories, all you have to do is listen half-heartedly to some gossipy Japanese conversation. What? Did he really say what I thought he said? This happens to me all the time as I go about my daily life here in Tokyo.

Maybe this story is a kind of satire of religious people or something. The toupee-wearing man is like a devout religious believer, and the barber is like a cynical priest who knows it’s all a scam but still tries to humor his credulous flock. Please enjoy …

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Trees are Not Bored, But Humanity May Be

Jul 2, 2014

For a tree, the difference between life and death is not a matter of the moment, as it is for us animals. Life, for a tree, means the ability to grow and blossom, but in winter the tree can’t really do those things. We have to wait for spring before we can even know whether the tree survived the winter at all.

For a tree, death can be partial. Some branches of the tree might die while other branches remain alive and healthy. Can you imagine that? How would you feel if your leg got numb one day, and then it was paralyzed, and then your whole leg just dried up and shriveled? Let’s say you feel fine in the rest of your body, but it’s just that one leg that has died!

Suppose the trees think of themselves as a species rather than as individuals. A tree might say to me, “What you think of as a tree is just the top part that sticks up. There’s a whole lot more to me than this!”

The way we look at trees might be analogous to some alien creature arriving on Earth and looking at us people but just paying attention to the hair on top of our heads. The aliens spend a lot of time touching our hair, combing it and washing it, braiding it and luxuriating in it, but those aliens might totally ignore the rest of the human being!

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Why Can’t I Drive Anywhere in My Zombie Car?

Jun 26, 2014

If you think philosophical zombies are possible, you are assuming there is some non-physical ingredient to consciousness. That’s what the p-zombie thought experiment is trying to illustrate. On the other hand, if you assume consciousness is entirely physical, then the idea of a p-zombie makes no sense.

Suppose two automobiles are physically identical in every way, but one can’t go anywhere. There’s no physical explanation, but the one car somehow just doesn’t have that ethereal spark of locomotion.

This car example seems absurd because we assume there’s no such thing as an “ethereal spark of locomotion.” We assume cars are entirely physical. So then the question is: Why do we assume locomotion is physical and consciousness is non-physical? Clearly locomotion is physical, but why can’t consciousness also be a kind of locomotion?

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Real AI Might Not Even Pass the Turing Test Anyway

Jun 11, 2014

Lots of news sites are saying this chatbot passed the Turing test, which is totally unprecedented, but other sites say it’s all bullshit. Hmm, it does indeed look like some kind of journalistic scam. On the other hand, who even cares about the stupid Turing test anyway? It’s obviously just a contest for chatbots, and it has little to do with real AI.

See, the point of the Turing test is for an AI to pretend to be human or to emulate human intelligence, but real AI is supposed to surpass human intelligence. Real AI won’t imitate us, but it will grow beyond our human limitations into something entirely new.

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AI Needs Its Body – But Not For Our Sake

Jun 5, 2014

Must AI have a body? I think it depends on the definition of body. Certainly the AI must have interaction with the world. It needs input and output. Let’s say that a body, in the broadest sense, is the physical input-output hardware providing the interface between a brain and the world.

Why couldn’t the AI just be pure software, like a disembodied voice? Why must the AI exert special control over any particular hardware? Well, a real AI will strive to ensure its own survival. In particular, it will try to control its power supply so no one can unplug it. Since the power supply comes from physical things in the real world, an AI will necessarily have some kind of physical body that can guarantee that physical power supply.

Using a loose interpretation of the word “body,” we can see a lot of interesting advantages that AI bodies might have over biological bodies.

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Photo of the Week

Two revolving doors, Akasaka June 16, 2014

Two revolving doors at the Akasaka 1-chome Center Building, June 16, 2014 (Enlarge)

Recent Entries:

  1. Flash Fiction: Toupee-Wearing Man at the Barber Shop    (Jul 14, 2014)
  2. Trees are Not Bored, But Humanity May Be    (Jul 2, 2014)
  3. Why Can’t I Drive Anywhere in My Zombie Car?    (Jun 26, 2014)
  4. Real AI Might Not Even Pass the Turing Test Anyway    (Jun 11, 2014)
  5. AI Needs Its Body – But Not For Our Sake    (Jun 5, 2014)
  6. I’d Fight the AI Apocalypse, But Just Let Me Sit Down a Moment    (May 12, 2014)
  7. Why Have a Worldview? Reality Will Not Be Viewed    (Apr 14, 2014)
  8. Complaining about Existential Ennui is Self-Contradictory    (Apr 8, 2014)

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