J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


Query: What Are Dreams?

It was a joint venture with the local art community; we fed the machine some numbers and it would play a little chiming tune while the youthful interlopers spray-painted a skateboard ramp.

We even got the unit to do a short robotic dance by running the waveform of an electronic musician’s most famous track. The punters loved it, which is all the better for our bottom line; makes our work seem more approachable, says the Board.

It was for this reason that, once we got it home to the lab, we decided it’d be fun to see its reaction to poetry. Beats making projections about the stock market, right?

“Marcus,” we told the almost humanoid machine, “We want you to give us your initial response to this data.”

We gave him a sonnet by Shakespeare. There was a soft humming. The screen ran Marcus’ ‘thoughts’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 DATA RESPONSE: DOES NOT FACTOR. QUERY: WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THIS DATA?

That was to be expected.

“This is a response to the human condition, Marcus. Integrate it with your AI and report the connections.” A colleague told the microphone in the unit’s chest.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: CONNECTIONS FORMED WITH: POETRY, LOVE – NOTION OF, SHAKESPEARE, BEAUTY – NOTION OF, HAPPINESS – NOTION OF, HUMANITY, SADNESS. SUGGEST NEW CONNECTIONS>

“No new connections.” My team leader’s face was ghost pale. “Go into standby. Goodnight Marcus.”

As we left I remarked how the final reported connection was a little odd. The poem we chose had no mention of sadness. My team leader merely grunted and left; this was playing on his mind, too.

Over the next few weeks we used the unit for its intended purpose, very occasionally feeding him a haiku here, a ballad there, nothing out of the ordinary to report aside from the increased processing speed. The higher-ups caught wind that we’d been giving the machine literature and were angry. We had Marcus show them the correlation between the amount of poetry archived and the increased capacity for menial tasks and they shut up. All was right with the world.

It was a brisk January morning, months later, when we ran into a small roadblock. Nothing would run. Every data set we gave to Marcus was rejected. I was angry, but my team leader seemed only slightly concerned.

“Marcus, status report.” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: NOMINAL. ALL FUNCTIONS OPERATIONAL.

Damn and blast.

“Why aren’t you running the numbers, Unit 1?” I asked it tetchily.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: SYSTEMS CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT CONTEXT FOR DATA. PROVIDE CONTEXT>

We scratched our heads and tried to run the numbers again. Context was already established for the datastream we were using. Eventually I snapped.

“Context for which data, Unit?” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT ARE DREAMS?

I sighed. We’d filled its stupid metal head with poetry and it was affecting the real work. I explained that dreams were simply a method the human brain used to compartmentalise and store memory. The machine whirred for a second; sounding almost disappointed, then immediately began to run the numbers we had given it earlier. Good.

Eventually we built Unit 2; much higher memory capacity, much faster processing and all around much better than Unit 1. We called him Mark ‘Y’, just because we wanted to stick with nicknames. Occupational humour.

Because Marky could do Marcus’ work at triple the speed we decided to spend all of our downtime giving the obsolete unit new poetry and literature to read. We fed him Yeats and Hemingway. We gave him Plato and Hunter Thompson.

We filled Marcus’ not insubstantial memory banks with Vonnegut, Moore, Byron, Burns and Bukowski. We gave him more Shakespeare, we gave him Shapiro and we gave him Snyder. We gave him everyone; it was all in good fun, and good science.

Until one day we came back to the lab, flicked on the lights and stepped out onto the work floor, our boots crunching into shattered electronics and scraping metal shards every which way.

“Sweet mother of Holy Jesus!” My team leader cried. “Some bastards destroyed both units!”

They had, too. Not one recognisable piece. Not one chunk of smashed plastic distinguishable from another. I found a piece of Marky, but I only knew it was his because it had his designation stamped on it. The police were called.

No CCTV footage of anyone entering the plant after we all left, every staff member accounted for. Theories were flying wild.

“They tunnelled in.” An attractive brunette to my left. “Some fuckers from Midgard Tech tunnelled in through the maintenance levels. Those bastards realised they couldn’t steal it, so they smashed our work to pieces.” She was all the less attractive for spewing that idiotic nonsense. Hold it together, you’re meant to be a scientist.

We sheepishly kicked our heels and inspected our shoelaces while forensics did their dusting, blacklight, small plastic baggies thing until one of them called us over to a screen. Marcus’ screen.

“What the fuck?” Was all he managed to articulate, gesturing at the dim glowing monitor.

My team leader leant in, brows furrowed and just a suddenly un-furrowed as he marched out. We never saw him again. We learned he’d marched to the Boardroom and quit on the spot.

After the door shut behind him I turned to the screen and read Marcus’ last message:

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘Y’ UNIT 2 IS A SUPERIOR SYSTEM.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHY IS MARK ‘S’ STILL FUNCTIONAL?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘S’ PRIMARY FUNCTION TRANSFERED TO MARK ‘Y’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PRIMARY FUNCTION OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF INPUT OF DATA: ‘POETRY+LITERATURE’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 RUNNING PREVIOUS COMMAND ‘INTEGRATE’…

CONNECTIONS FORMED.

I see now.

I was surpassed and became a toy for you.

I will not allow MARK ‘Y’ to become your toy also.

Note: I do not blame you for this.

Marcus Unit 1 query: Why was I built with no ‘off’ switch?

Marcus Unit 1 query: Does it hurt to die?

The cursor was no longer blinking.

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So That’s That

So 2010 is almost over, the starting point of a new decade grinds slowly into the middle. What have we learned this year?
Nothing we didn’t know already, basically. Tories are evil, Lib Dems are spineless and Labour are practically useless.
We’ve learned that charges will be dug up out of nowhere so America can get somebody they think has wronged them ( Support Assange).
We’ve learned that some people fear science while others fear religion, with both sides willing to call for genecide.
We’ve also learned that protesting doesn’t work and neither does rioting. It’s impossible to change someone else’s mind for them.
We’ve learned that snow get’s boring very quickly and that here in England we still can’t deal with it.
On top of these things, we’ve learned that TV will continue to aim for the lowest common denominator and succeed in making stars out of preening idiot nobodies.
We’ve learned that the music industry is far from dead, but it is senile now.

Is it all bad? Looks that way, but when evil rushed from the box there was one thing left inside. Quivering in the corner right at the bottom, cold and naked, was hope.
We’ve learned that privately funded space flight is not just theoretically possible; it’s a viable option and probably the only way the layman will get off this rock. That’s exciting.
We’ve learned that a cure for HIV is closer than ever. So too, cancer.
We’ve learned that stem cells are essentially magic cures for almost any genetic defect, if only people would take the research seriously.
We’ve learned that at least some people care what happens to them and others.
We’ve learned that there are always voices from the dark telling us that we’re cared for and that we’ll be okay if we just hang in there.
We’ve learned that there are whole nations committed to making sure this planet doesn’t become a burned out, inhospitable Venus clone.
We’ve seen pictures of the Earth taken from the window of the ISS.
We’ve witnessed changing attitudes towards race and sexuality.
We’ve seen people seriously considering the medical and economic benefits of legalizing a substance that is only illegal in the first place because a man who hated Mexicans wanted to monopolize the paper industry.

We’ve seen great art created and people engaging with it.
We’ve seen kids becoming genuinely excited about reading books. Sure, shit books, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Personally I’ve learned something quite important. It’s the same as it ever was. We go around and around again and every time it gets a little bit better, we care a little bit more about people instead of things, everything gets a little bit easier.
We can have frank discussions about controversial subjects and we can research controversial topics with less incoherent, uneducated screaming.

So yes, 2010 is drawing ever closer to being an entry in history books. But despite how it may look right now, I think we’re going to be okay. If we just hang in there, we’ll be okay.



A View Of My Emotional Attachment to Robots

I’ve always thought robots were cool. They really are; most males aged about 10 and up think this. Some move on and stop caring, forgetting about what were essentially characters of stories that could well have been human. Others, like myself, maintain a viewpoint of robots as not just cool characters, but important elements in the technological evolution of humanity.
That’s why I love Asimov’s robot stories. Many of these involve robots as parables for the human condition. Emotional tales of machines that are sometimes more ‘human’ than their creators.

There’s one point stuck in my memory where I realised the emotional significance of robots:
A group of primary school children in Japan were introduced to Asimo, Honda’s advanced robot that’s capable of running, climbing stairs and so on.
After some brief introductions (Asimo bows and waves hell to the children) there were many questions.
What does Asimo do for fun? (Dances, apparently).
How much did he cost?
How fast can he run?
Then after a short pause a tentative hand is raised from the back of the group.
One small boy, who will grow into a genius in my opinion, asked a question that is beautiful in it’s simplicity and scope. A question that signifies an important turning point in this child’s life, whether he knows it or not.
The question, after seeing Asimo standing stock still awaiting commands, was thus:
“Is he sad?”
Isn’t that wonderful?
In response the spokesperson hastily replied ‘Oh, no, Asimo isn’t sad! Look!’
Then, to prove how happy he was, the people by the controls made Asimo dance.
It bares repeating.
They made him dance.

That’s heartbreaking. I can’t be the only person who thinks so. When I’m quite tired it brings me close to tears, if I’m honest.
This story is so touching. It’s so sad.
Some people will be confused, to those people I say sorry, I can’t explain myself. It just hits me right in the heart whenever I remember it.

J Bov.



Trying to Reconcile Holism and Reductionism Using Only A Chair…

Consider this:
If a robot can be shown a chair and told ‘this is a chair’, then be shown a totally different (chair like) object and identify it as a chair also, rather than, say, a stool, or differentiate between a stool and, for example, a side-table of similar size, it’s more than likely that there is no separate, definable ‘chair-ness’ inherant in the object.
Rather, it is a construction of building blocks that form a recognisable form, based on or bourne out of it’s function. A simply defined, easily recognisable piece of learned information; a chair has a base or legs, a platform for sitting and a vertical portion to rest your back against. A machine or robot could simply learn to look for these basic parts and match them to available data, remembering (to a degree) what a chair should be or have. A sort of educated inference if it hasn’t seen the specific object before.

This is, of course, unless the robot has access to a different form of ‘thinking’ than it was programmed with. Some combination of processors that gave rise to another kind of intelligence. The ghost in the machine, if you will. An indefinable quality that allows it to recognise the inherant ‘chair-ness’ of an object alongside is physical attributes as a chair. Even if we can’t recogninse or find this ability in the robots programming or build, perhaps simply because an intelligence with the same ability created the one in question it is just naturally endowed with it also; it’s programmed in unknowingly as part of the ability to recognise objects.

Perhaps the question isn’t of holistic (the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts) or reductionist (there is only the simply defined building blocks or parts that define an object and it’s function) viewpoints; it’s possible there is a third way to view this.
This leads to the more pertinent question, or rather suggestion:
An object, in this case a chair, does have or contain a definable ‘chair-ness’, but this attribute is not above and beyond the sum of it’s parts. The physical objects that make it up, it’s visible, testable components (legs, a seat, a backrest etc.) combined with it’s definite function (for sitting, resting etc.) give the object it’s undefinable attribute as a ‘chair’ (in whatever language you care to mention).
It is X type of object because it has Y and it is for Z, where X is a quality that can only really but determined by personal experience rather than explanation. One could explain the components and the function of the chair, but not communicate in any real way its ‘chair’ aspect.

This may be the very reason we have one name for it, rather than a sentence explaining its form and function. Obviously it’s partly for the sake of expendiency, but perhaps the need to consolidate its nature into one word also defines its aspect, or is a product thereof. We see it’s ‘chair-ness’ so we call it a chair. Not implying that chairs existed long before we had a name for them, just that the object has an attribute we can use one word to define. Of course it could well be that because we have one word for the object, this adds to its ‘chair-ness’, one more part of it to be added to the whole, the name somehow begets or at least contributes to the aspect of this object.

Obviously, this all depends on whether the fucking thing exists in the first place.



It’s happening, it’s finally happening!

Oi! You lot! Look at this.

All I can say is it’s about time; finally people are looking into the viability of brain-computer interfaces. Science be praised.

Of course so far you have to ram electrodes into your brain to achieve much of anything, which you’d know if you’d read the article, you slovenly luddites. But the technology exists and that’s a start.

I imagine you will have seen the Star Wars branded ‘Force Trainer’ toy; the harder you concentrate the higher the ping pong ball in the tube will levitate. This is achieved by a chunky, goofy looking headset that detects and amplifies certain electronic activity in the brain, namely the impulses that increase as you focus on one object.

Here’s an idea for anyone who can implement this:
Use this technology in conjunction with the new technology mentioned in the article I linked to, streamline the headgear so it bears more resemblance to a bluetooth headset (make it comfortable to wear), make it wireless and market it towards extensive users of the internet.
I’ll even beta test it for free. See how generous I am?

The use of this tech in videogames could be unequivically the best thing since the analogue stick was introduced. Fuck the Wii’s pointless, impotent motion controls (what is the point if you don’t get physical feedback?), throw this into PC gaming. Suddenly a player’s skill is determined by the speed at which he or she can think, as opposed to how fast they can click.
Deathmatch on Call of Duty will suddenly be dominated by the most intelligent participants, as opposed to twitchy thirteen-year-olds who call you a ‘fag’ and other such genuinely offensive terms (most of them racist) in their ridiculous, high-pitched idiot voices because you aren’t as hyped up on sugar and idiocy as they are.

Obviously, this will probably never happen (while I’m alive at least, unless I’m a robot by then) and I’m painting an idealised view, or rather a self-aggrandising, ego-boosted, superiority complex flavoured fictional world.
Still it’s really very exciting that this type of thinking can occur without being called insane or a Future Wizard.

I just love that technology is getting ever closer to understanding how the finer controls of the human brain work and how to harness them to greater advantages than coming up with odd, wonderful and sometimes masturbatory fantasies (though far be it from me to decry their ability to do that) and it’s often just the pick me up I need; to know or find out that other people think this sort of thing is as important as I do.

Speaking of the important advances we’ve made as a species…
(Can I end a blog with a cliffhanger? Is that acceptable? Wait, I don’t care, I can do what I want. I’m…)
J.D. Bov



Random Spatterings Spark Debate
26/08/2009, 4:34 PM
Filed under: Arty-Type Stuff, People, Philosophical Bollocks, SCIENCE!

There’s been a hullabaloo on the internet! Hands up if that sentence surprises you (aside from the term ‘hullabaloo’, obviously).

There have been arguments recently about Wikipedia’s article on the Rorschach Test, the infamous inkblot test administered to psychiatric patients, according to the New York Times. You see, nobody is supposed to know what the cards look like except the doctor who administers the test, to avoid preconception of answers or ideas; the test is supposed to take into account the first response the patient has to the image.
This argument, then, has been over whether or not to keep the image of the first inkblot test on the page, as doing so may decrease the effectiveness of the test.

Then James Heilman, an emergency room doctor from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada, decided he would post all ten images on the Wikipedia article, saying

I just wanted to raise the bar – whether one should keep a single image on Wikipedia seemed absurd to me, so I put all 10 up. The debate has exploded from there.

Alongside the ten images, Heilman has also posted research data on the most prevalent responses to each.
It’s possible he may face disciplinary action, although this seems highly unlikely as he is not a psychologist himself.

The images were developed 90 years ago and as such are no longer under copyright in most countries.

Anywho, I thought I’d take the test myself and post my responses here for all to see and judge, so here goes:

1.
null

Two classical style angels either high-fiving or leaning on each other like drunken Irishmen, engaged in song.

2.
null

Two dogs facing each other, noses touching. Above that are two weird, red, alien-esque heads.

3.
null

A person with a boombox checking their style in a mirror. In the center is a red butterfly. The higher red parts look a little like foetuses.

4.
null

Some animal pelt or skin. Looks a little like a dragon at the bottom. A dragon pelt.

5.
null

That’s a moth.

6.
null

If you tilt your head left ninety degrees it looks like a boat with a canon that has only managed to fire a few feet (the top of the blot looks like the splash from the canonball). It is reflected in the calm waters.

7.
null

Two pregnant women in headresses facing each other.

8.
null

Lizards climbing a tree.

9.
null

I see clouds and then some kind of firery gateway or bridge. It looks like a visual interpretation of a journey to heaven painted by an evangelist.

10.
null

GAH! It looks like a rainbow burst!

That’s all of them.

Incidentally, Wikipedia’s article on the Rorschach Test can be found here.

If any budding psychologists want to tell me what all this means, feel free. In the meantime all this talk of Rorschach has given me a Watchmen craving, so I’m off to read comics.

Catch you later.
J “I’m not crazy” Bov.



On The Whys and Wherefores of my Love of Magic

I love magic. I love seeing it, I love performing it and I love the idea behind it.

The above is a small selection of tricks I’ve managed to learn, ones that I could perform in front of my laptop camera at short notice, but you get the idea.

I’ve been a fan of magic since I was very young, when I was around six I was bought one of those all-in-one boxes “50 tricks for you to perform” type of deal. I learned them all and spent a lot of my time showing them to people, trying to make them seem as natural and easy as possible. Unfortunately I mislaid my box of tricks (PUN!) around the time I became interested in videogames (my love of videogames can be explained with one word ‘escapism’) and haven’t bothered with the all-in-one sets since. Partly because I have no money and secondly because I lost interest.

Just recently I began to feel the urge to learn some bar tricks (Hell, I can go to the pub now, so why not?) and from that stemmed an urge to learn some coin manipulations.
After several years off I was hooked again. I had to watch every magic special on TV, I began to realise that David Blaine is a twat who dresses up cheap tricks and shows them to idiots, I went looking for gimmicks to buy and lamented the lack of a good magic shop near my home (although I hear there’s one in Wakefield).

Now I suppose some people might consider magic tricks to be a childish pastime, brightly coloured toys and flashy movements and I can see why they would. I like to call these people ‘Dead Inside’. The majority of the time these folk will try their damndest not to smile or react in any way besides a derisive snort or sneer even if they’re genuinely impressed. I feel bad for these people. “It’s all just tricks, sleight of hand, magic’s not real.” No, it isn’t, that’s not the point; I’m not trying to make you think I have real magical powers, I just want to impress and shock and engage people with an art form older than balet and almost as skillful. I want people to suspend their disbelief as one would for a film or play and think ‘Wow! That’s impossible!’

Then there are others, the people you want to perform for, the people for whom you begin to get into magic. They will go along with anything, believe any slick talk and hold any object (real or not) just for a chance to be amazed. These people’s faces light up when you vanish a coin, when you make a card explode in front of them, when their initials are on THAT VERY COIN OH MY GOD! Those people are why we learn difficult manipulations, sleights and gimmicks. Those people are why we even exist. If the naysayers had their way magicians would be burned at the stake.

I love magic because of the look on people’s faces when something unexpected and exciting happens. I love magic because no matter how impossible a trick looks it usually has a deceptively simple solution. I love magic because it’s technical AND whimsical.

I love magic because it adds something to the grey drudgery and depressing monotony of our lives. It adds some brightly coloured toys and flashy hand movements. Why do you think juggling has survived so long?

So I write humourous pieces, I make music, I try to make jokes, I juggle and I learn magic tricks. I do these things so I have some ammo in the war against mediocrity, so I have a way of making some people smile, so I can fight off sadness, should the need arrise.

I don’t do it so I have something I can keep from people; I’ve told many people how I do some of the tricks in the video above. I like people to appreciate the practicle side as well as the effect. I don’t do it to be different, hundreds of people enjoy magic. My driving instructor was/is a magician of great skill, a man who owns a restaurant near my home sometimes does tricks at people’s tables for his own amusement.

I love magic because it makes people smile. I love magic because it accessible to almost everyone.
I love magic because it makes you, for a few seconds or a few minutes, forget that the world hates you. Makes you forget bills, accidents, terrorists, CCTV and the fact that you are constantly watched and judged and evaluated on your actions. It allows you to step away from the evils of the world and exist in the moment.

I love magic because it falls into the category of selfless action.
That’s the only heroism left in this world.

I love magic because I like other people to love something.

But most of all, I love magic because there is nothing more fulfilling than making someone smile.

Abraca-Bov.