Saturday, February 26, 2011

A "Natural" Selection For Benevolent AI?

Via Labrat at Atomic Nerds comes notice of this intriguing result
Ever since Cicero's De Natura Deorum ii.34., humans have been intrigued by the origin and mechanisms underlying complexity in nature. Darwin suggested that adaptation and complexity could evolve by natural selection acting successively on numerous small, heritable modifications. But is this enough? Here, we describe selected studies of experimental evolution with robots to illustrate how the process of natural selection can lead to the evolution of complex traits such as adaptive behaviours. Just a few hundred generations of selection are sufficient to allow robots to evolve collision-free movement, homing, sophisticated predator versus prey strategies, coadaptation of brains and bodies, cooperation, and even altruism. In all cases this occurred via selection in robots controlled by a simple neural network, which mutated randomly.

PLoS Biology: Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection

[My bold]

Not a complete solution, of course, but evidence that a desired trait (like, apparently, an altruistic attitude toward a given group or class of recipient) can be developed as part of the general development process. Injecting a measure of periodic order into the selection process would seem to be a necessary next step, and we have an example of just such a process ready to hand.

Assuming the fundamentally Darwinian processes and techniques (reinforce the desired results, ruthlessly cull the undesirable ones as they first evidence themselves in a given individual example) utilised in the selective development of canine and other animal breeds will in fact more-or-less directly apply to nascent robotic and artificial intelligences, then I think attention should soon be paid to developing a logically consistent thought process (a self-reinforcing, circular logic construct) that is analogous to that underlying a human moral code. One that does not rely on any external justification. Something along the lines of, good thought/action causes the least harm to the greatest number of humans; the most benefit to the greatest number of humans is good thought/action.

Yet to be resolved still is the desired definition of "harm" and "benefit" within a range of contextual settings, but I think this research gives increased hope for a practical process to be developed. Eliezer Yudkowsky and Nick Bostrom are both looking at this very problem, but I confess I don't make much effort to keep up with their (or other's) work, as much of the detail is lost on me once things get anywhere near their respective levels of thought.

So, not an answer as such, but perhaps the beginings of developing a process whereby to eventually arrive at one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Wis-ser Of A Solution

I confess I haven't looked around the web to find out for myself (such being the state of research needed for a blog post on this site at least), but it occurs to me that Gov. Walker has an option to resolve the Wisconsin state Democrat Senator's walk-out to prevent a vote from taking place.

What if the Gov had a quiet search done today and tomorrow so that he had individuals present in the state's Capitol for Monday morning, 21 Feb. At that time, he has the absent Senators declared to have abandoned their office and appoints the selected replacements to complete the abandoned terms of office (or 'till such time as a special election can be arranged, whichever best comports with state legal requirements).

Immediately post swearing in, the Senate leadership calls a quorum of the Senate with all the new members voting either "present" or "NAY" if they should feel a final reading of the statute in question is insufficient to their being fully informed enough to vote "AYE". Directly after that (and I mean the Governor is literally standing in the back of the same room the vote takes place in), Mr. Walker signs the bill into law while the newest members of the Senate make lunch reservations and firm-up their schedule to hold public meetings in their respective constituencies.

Too simple. There's bound to be some law already on the books to prevent such a straight-forward resolution to the purely political extortionate move the Democrats have elected to use (again - I remember the Texas Dem's running for the Oklahoma border to avoid their state and US Constitutionally mandated duty to vote on electoral redistricting following the last census).

Wisconsin state cops can't just go arrest them in Illinois (understandably enough the Illinois cops would object - however reluctantly). None of the scoff-law Senators has actually been convicted in a court of law as of yet, so siccing bounty hunters on them is out. And some citizen kidnapping one of them annonymously and delivering the corpus electus to some place inside Wisconsin's state line is just too Ian Fleming to contemplate (you watch - having just written that, someone will actually pull it off now. You wait ... :)). So what else can a "mere" state governor stoop to?

Frankly, this whole the law is whatever is convenient to our immediate objective political attitude so many of our elected representatives seem willing to resort to so egregiously in recent years, has me aggravated to the point that I'm more and more uncaring regarding the method's chosen to enforce their attention to their elected duty. That attitude is dangerous as well, especially if it is becoming as wide-spread amongst the general populace as I fear it might be becoming. Not too much further down that road, we all start shooting at each other over merely perceived differences of opinion and belief, never mind actual actions taken. We did that at least once before in this country's history (if you want to take the measure down to the level of local/regional riot, I'm not certain an accurate count of the total number of events even exists); what say we all do what's necessary to avoid repeating the exercise, shall we?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Worth All You Paid For It

Commenter and fellow Texas blogger MattG provides a set of links to augment my Legal Advice post from yesterday:

Texas Constitution and Statutes is a searchable database updated following the close of each successive state legislature (next updated in 2012 following the end of the current two-year legislative term).

Texas Penal Code, TITLE 10 OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, AND MORALS. CHAPTER 49 INTOXICATION AND ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE OFFENSES. Section 49.01 DEFINITIONS. in it's entirety with the legislative history references included.

Texas Penal Code, Section 46.06 UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OF CERTAIN WEAPONS, sub-section (b)(1) being the pertinent reference here.

Texas Penal Code, Section 8.04 INTOXICATION., sub-section (d) being that mentioned by Mr. Walker specifically.

GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 4 EXECUTIVE BRANCH, SUBTITLE B LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PUBLIC PROTECTION, CHAPTER 411 DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, an extensive and seemingly all-inclusive document, SUBCHAPTER H. LICENSE TO CARRY A CONCEALED HANDGUN, Section 411.171 DEFINITIONS, sub-Section (2), which reads as follows: "Chemically dependent person" means a person who frequently or repeatedly becomes intoxicated by excessive indulgence in alcohol or uses controlled substances or dangerous drugs so as to acquire a fixed habit and an involuntary tendency to become intoxicated or use those substances as often as the opportunity is presented, would seem to be most relevant here along with Section 411.172 ELIGIBILITY [to be issued a CHL, ed.], sub-Section (6), which requires is not a chemically dependent person.

I'm grateful to MattG for his contribution if only because it provides what I can only consider to be reinforcement of my on-going theme; GET A LAWYER. FIRST. As example of this, I suspect that use of Section 8.04 sub-section (b) "temporary insanity due to intoxication" as a legal defense in a court proceeding for instance, would likely result in revocation of a CHL (if only as a by-product of the follow-up treatment regimen the court seems likely to impose) regardless of it's effect on the original charge. Not being a lawyer myself, I'm just guessing though, which is the point.

Even with access to the actual state penal code provisions, without an attorney available to provide context, I still wouldn't have been made aware of the practical fact that:
Under the Texas Government Code Chapter 411 (governing the issuance of CHLs), it says that a CHL cannot be issued to a "chemically dependant person," which is one who repeatedly becomes "intoxicated" as defined by TPC § 49.01. That is the only time in the law governing CHLs that a specific definition of intoxication has been used. There exists almost no law on this subject for interpretation in this context.

[my bold]

Because various state prosecutors have heretofore chosen to use the state's BAC value from the vehicle code as a measure of intoxication in this context doesn't necessarily mean all CHL related prosecutions must do so, or that having "proved" a single instance of the condition necessarily rises to the level of having proved "chemical dependence". Assuming so seems a potentially disastrous choice to me.

Thanks to MattG, I'm better informed than I was and more convinced than ever of the rightness in my having retained* Texas Law Shield prior to my moment of legal jeopardy. If you live in Texas you should too - even if you are a lawyer yourself. If you don't live here, maybe it's time to start soliciting 2A-savvy attorneys in your state to start a similar retainer program there.

* I don't receive any compensation for blogging about Texas Law Shield, but I wouldn't object if WRW et al should happen to see the wisdom in offering such. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Legal Advice

My lawyer sends the following e-missive which I reproduce in its entirety as an example of the service I receive as a client as well as general good advice whatever jurisdiction you may reside in instead of Texas (why? :)):
Dear Members & Friends:

This edition of our news letter concerns the law on drinking and having your concealed carry hand gun on your person. This topic comes from an email question we received from a Texas Law Shield member and client named Paul R. of San Antonio who recently moved to Texas. Paul wanted clarification of the law on carrying your gun and intoxication. First off, Paul welcome to Texas!

Visit our website:
Contact us at: 1-877-448-6839

What is Texas law on possession of your concealed carry gun and intoxication?

Texas Penal Code section 46.035(d) states that a person cannot be intoxicated while in the possession of their concealed hand gun. It does not say that you cannot consume alcohol while carrying your gun, just that you cannot consume enough to become intoxicated and legally carry your gun. However, this section of the law does not define what intoxication means, so we have to look elsewhere in the penal code for help. "Intoxication" is defined in 3 different places in the Texas Penal Code: TPC.

TPC § 49.01 -intoxicated means not having the normal use of one's mental or physical faculties or having a blood alcohol concentration over .08 grams.

TPC § 46.06 -intoxication means the substantial impairment of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.

TPC § 8.04 - intoxication means a disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.

As you can see from these definitions, intoxication occurs when an individual consumes so much of a substance (commonly alcohol, but could be any substance (legal or otherwise), prescription medication, or over the counter medications, etc.) that it has an adverse effect on that person's mental or physical abilities. It is hard to imagine that one beer or glass of wine with dinner would cause someone to completely lose their mental or physical faculties. But people react to alcohol or medication differently.

Under the Texas Government Code Chapter 411 (governing the issuance of CHLs), it says that a CHL cannot be issued to a "chemically dependant person," which is one who repeatedly becomes "intoxicated" as defined by TPC § 49.01. That is the only time in the law governing CHLs that a specific definition of intoxication has been used. There exists almost no law on this subject for interpretation in this context.

While not covered under the Texas Law Shield firearms program, we have represented numerous individuals with CHLs charged with carrying a weapon while intoxicated, and the district attorney's office has always used the definition of intoxication it uses in DWI cases (TPC § 49.01).

My personal advice is if you carry a hand gun don't drink. The potential problems are not worth the risks.

Drink responsibly. And, if you choose to consume alcohol while carrying your concealed hand gun, be careful to never become intoxicated. Be aware of the risks and consequences.

I hope this information has helped address your concern.

Edwin Walker
Walker, Rice & Wisdom, P.C.

If you live in Texas, you have no excuse not to be just as prepared for the post-gunfight confrontations as those you train to overcome pre-gunfight. For the price of 4 boxes of ammo (and not very pricey ammo at that, say 100 rds of Winchester white box for example) you too can arrange legal defense for a year at a time. Most of us are willing to spend that and more for a fancy holster, how can anyone not value their freedom and financial security at least as much?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And For The Non-Bacon Trifecta ...

Well, it was either this or get in line to throw rocks at the ninnies trying to diss Tam, and I'm all about position and context as you will see.

The content-lite-of-late Kevin Baker (you see what I did there, right? :)) makes with the QOTD to good effect. Again. Tuesday's QOTD is from Robert Shea's recent re-posting of an earlier editorial. My opinion of self-portrayed "anarchists" notwithstanding (a topic for a different post than this one), I take my opportunities to illustrate lessons on classical strategy where (and from whom) I find them. Kevin quotes Mr. Shea:
Every combination of two or more human beings has both a useful aspect and a political aspect. These tend to conflict with each other. As the political aspect becomes more and more influential, the organization ceases to be useful to its members and starts using them.

Why does this happen? Because the better an organization is at fulfilling its purpose, the more it attracts people who see the organization as an opportunity to advance themselves.

The ability to get ahead in an organization is simply another talent, like the ability to play chess, paint pictures, do coronary bypass operations or pick pockets. There are some people who are extraordinarily good at manipulating organizations to serve their own ends. The Russians, who have suffered under such people for centuries, have a name for them -- apparatchiks. It was an observer of apparatchiks who coined the maxim, "The scum rises to the top."

Empire of the Rising Scum, Robert Shea

What Mr. Shea is describing is the strategic concept of "position". Briefly, we each comprise, both as individuals and in our various associations, a unique position relative to all else in the universe within which we exist and perform actions. For instance, Kevin is himself a position, he and his wife comprise a largely overlapping but still independent position separate from his and her individual positions, his position shared with his employer, his (again somewhat overlapping) position as a gun rights advocate as separate from his other positions, and on and on to the extent he can differentiate between his varied interests and activities. The same can be said for every other human on the planet as well.

Mr. Shea's description, "Every combination of two or more human beings has both a useful aspect and a political aspect. These tend to conflict with each other.", is more-than-a-little misleading for all it does capture the conflicted nature of the related strategic concept of "alliance". A more accurate description might be worded as, "Every position has both a static and an active aspect. These consist of fundamentally opposed imperatives which tend to conflict with each other."

The static aspect of a position is quite conservative in that it seeks to protect what already exists (to a surprising degree, without regard to the nature of the existing condition) and resists change thereto. The active (and therefor more accepting of risk-taking) aspect is the drive to improve the position by means of alliance or acquisition of some additional capability. This fundamental conflict between the two positional motivations greatly contributes to the human decision-making process being the less than coldly logical process we observe, quite aside from the inclusion of associational inputs.

Mr. Shea again, "... the better an organization is at fulfilling its purpose, the more it attracts people who see the organization as an opportunity to advance themselves." Author Jerry Pournelle describes this process in his Iron Law of Bureaucracy as:
... in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

To restate Mr. Shea's intent in more strategic terms, "... the better an associational or shared position is at advancing it's position, the more it attracts other's seeking to advance their own position by allying with the associated position themselves."

The good Dr. Pournelle would further have it that the shared position's effectiveness eventually succumbs to the inherent individual positions who best work to advance themselves within the associational framework. I can't disagree with this.

The day before's QOTD is taken from the book Opposing The System by Charles A. Reich. The opening sentences of the quote Kevin selected quite neatly introduces the strategic concept of "context":
The elite live in a different country than the rest of Americans. It is not possible to understand the System and its actions without understanding this fact. The elite see its own ascendancy as just, and cannot understand the anger below. Yet the rules for success used by the elite are often very different from the rules observed by ordinary people.

Each independent position is, by it's very nature, completely natural and entirely proper to the position holder. As well, and again by it's very nature, each position is unique to any other, thereby making it very easy to justify distinct rules from all the rest. The idea of positional context isn't meant to imply any degree of justification or excuse for actions taken or beliefs espoused, it simply explains the potential for conflict as well as the limitations inherent to every position taken.

Professor Reich seems intent on identifying some deliberate scheme being behind "the elites" attitudes and beliefs. I believe classical strategy provides a more effective mechanism with which to categorise the basic assumptions and beliefs of any position (singular as well as shared) and to then identify the deliberate inimical actions from the merely assumed-to-be-proper self-indulgent behavior. The "rightness" or "wrongness" of any action isn't always as clear as people like to assume from their own shared positions of moral superiority, and classical strategy deliberately declines to impose more than a measure of practical effectiveness as it's internal ethic (which is extensively moderated by consideration of existing and potential allied position's strength of support depending upon consistent and acceptable behavior by all allied parties).

People tend to self-identify their position with other's position for numerous reasons; sufficient for this day is that they indeed do so and leave the various "whys" for another. That stipulated, I don't believe Prof. Reich's thesis adequately addresses people's motivations or their strength of support for such seeming alliances as he identifies as "the elites". As a general rule, people don't give much credence to appellations from other's not recognised (by them) as being of an allied position - in non-strategic terms, their social/moral/economic/whatever peers. "The elites" almost never self-identify as such, however much they may "naturally" assume such a condition to be true. This is simply the unthinking expression of the context of their position relative to all others from their own point of view.

One of the profound lessons to be learned from classical strategy is the distinction between the nature of actions and decisions, and the individuals making them. The man who hung Saddam Hussein is not evil, not because of who was twitching at the end of his rope, but because of the context within which he performed this otherwise "evil" act. Removing these particular individuals from that statement doesn't alter the ethical outcome, but altering the strategic context within which the cold-blooded killing is decided upon does. Similarly, we each make decisions largely determined by our positional context. It seems self-deluding to apply any other motivation then assumed propriety to anyone's actions absent some pretty compelling evidence of malice (one of the most difficult determinations required of anyone is that between the exercise of an assumed right of possession or theft, since doing so requires resolution of competing - and often authentic - claims of legitimacy).

Those who seek to successfully advance their own position relative to some other's would do well to keep all this in mind. It's much easier to make a move perceived to be personally non-threatening than is otherwise the case, and that consideration is what makes it the art of war, isn't it?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Law? It's For The Little People

So, will this little incident disqualify Tarrant Co. from participation in the court jury process as it does for Texas citizens? Not only is this multiple counts of "fraud by check", it's serial attempts as well. As we all hear every time we appear for jury service, even instances when the check writer doesn't actually receive trial is the equivalent of conviction for the purposes of jury duty qualification.

So, is the court above the law it exists to adjudicate?

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Which I Pierce The Ennui

... or reconstruct the self-licking ice cream cone, your pick.

Kevin Baker takes notice of my recent post drawing on his QOTD which I use to novel application. Squaring that circle might just rise to the level of Vicious Circle dicta (wink wink, nudge nudge :)).

Or, more likely, not.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"ObamaCare" Already Ruled Un-Constitutional?

Last month US District Judge Roger Vinson ruled all of the Obama health care law as unconstitutional due to the failure of the law's crafters to include any form of severability clause to distinguish between various requirements imposed by the law:

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed with the states that the new law violates people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. He went a step further than a previous ruling against the law, declaring the entire thing unconstitutional if the insurance requirement does not hold up.

Predictably, the Obama Administration has responded by saying the ruling will be appealed:

The final step will almost certainly be the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal judges have already upheld the law and a federal judge in Virginia ruled the insurance mandate unconstitutional but stopped short of voiding the entire thing.

At issue was whether the government is reaching beyond its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.

Via Kevin Not-Bacon (a little Vicious Circle humor there) comes notice in this post that the Supreme Court may have already ruled conclusively - if indirectly - on this question:

There is a constitutional right not to be murdered by a state officer, for the state violates the Fourteenth Amendment when its officer, acting under color of state law, deprives a person of life without due process of law. Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401, 404-05 (5th Cir. 1961). But there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone.

Bowers v. DeVito (1982)

The key component being, "... no constitutional right to be protected by the state ... The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone".

From this ruling, it would seem that it would be "monstrous" for the federal government not to regulate the market regarding health care standards of care and treatment (which it does via the FDA amongst other mechanisms), but that the Constitution forbids the federal government from imposing upon the stipulated rights of individual citizens ("... negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone").

President Obama's health care law relies upon the stipulation of there being a "right" to government regulated health care as a basis for it's acceptability to the requirements of the US Constitution. Apparently, the US Supreme Court has long since ruled that no such justification exists.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AI "Threat" Allieviated

It's all so simple really.

No entity is capable of examining and comparing ideas faster than humans are at coming up with excuses! All that remains is to arrange all AI/AGI's created into competing committees (that would be, each of the former on all of the latter - serially, of course) debating the relative merits of every excuse offered (in it's own right and relative to any and all possible permutations jointly). Whenever we humans actually need something really complex answered, we pull some random AI out of committee long enough to work it's way through the matter and then pop it back into the (never ending) discussion.

Offer a respectable prize for every unique excuse - err, matter of intellectual concern - offered by Random Human (I recommend close attention be paid to the 10 to 12 y/o contingent) for ongoing consideration of the various AI committees.

Human intellectual superiority remains serene.

You're welcome, Michael.


h/t Bayou Renaissance Man for the quotation.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Management Group-Think

This reads almost word-for-word with the "management" "leadership" we received over the course of the last week at work here. What part of the contractually stipulated "discretionary short-term sick leave" portion of our employment agreement don't these people understand (I'm presuming the Steel Workers Union negotiated a similar agreement for it's members employed by US Steel such as our own union local did for us)? Each employee has a certain number of hours available over the course of the year to use as s/he thinks appropriate.

Instead of self-destructive empty posturing, why don't more employers just adjust the year's production schedule to accommodate this type of effect on the schedule? How hard would it be to make this a "floating holiday" for use as necessary? Use one of the also contractually stipulated mandatory overtime days to compensate if orders necessitate?

Something for the company to bargain for during the upcoming contract renewal process; the floating holiday for an additional mandatory O/T Saturday maybe.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wheat Up 13% - Likely Will Keep Rising

From The Wall Street Journal's Heard On The Street page comes notice of the following:

The freeze gripping a swath of the U.S. threatens winter wheat planted in the fall. The problem, believe it or not, is a lack of snow rather than too much. While those on the East Coast trudge through the stuff to work, some Midwestern areas haven't enough.

Winter wheat in the ground ideally has at least 4 inches of snow to insulate it against "winter kill," where freezing temperatures damage the crop, according to Joel Widenor of consultancy Commodity Weather Group. He says most areas of the wheat belt have less than 2 inches of cover now, and he cannot remember such a combination of thin cover and freezing weather in over 15 years. Another mass of cold air is forecast to descend next week.

So, this would be a good year to do the Atkins Diet then?

Via Instapundit

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


That's what it read on the digital thermometer in my truck this morning on the way home from work. I don't suppose it's actually against the law, but it's definitely against The General Rule Of Life In Texas for it to ever get this cold! It's too damn cold to snow even. All the normal humidity has frozen out of the air and onto every available surface, to the point that spontaneous combustion is a real possibility if it warms back up enough for fire to actually ignite.

This just ain't right, I tell you, I stay in Texas because it's in the South; it's unconstitutional for the weather to get this cold here - or ought to be.

I'm trying to be flip about all this, but folks in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex area don't think it's so funny. So far power usage hasn't risen to this level in the N. Eastern part of the state where I live.