Posts

AI can change scenery, can't fix suffering

A number of people I respect work on the problem of AI friendliness. The problem is how to ensure that when a highly capable artificial intelligence arises – either as a sentience, or as a tool for some humans to use – this doesn't kill us.

This is a legitimate problem, because highly capable AI will arise – it is arising right now – and humans are problematic. We create a lot of suffering for ourselves and everything that has the misfortune to meet us. To a super-intelligent AI that wants to maximize happiness, ending us might seem a merciful and desirable outcome. The AI could then replace the entire planet with a quivering mass of neurons in a stable, never-ending state of bliss. Maximum happiness!

It appears our continued existence – and also all of its accompanying strife – could be ensured if an AI is engineered to respect and defend human free will, including – no, especially! – when this leads to unfortunate outcomes.

Lots of people have hopes beyond that: that AI will rel…

"Support" incompetence at Amazon (and elsewhere)

For a while now, I've been paying Amazon an extra $29.00 per month in hope to get at least perfunctory support if ever needed. Now, I need the most basic thing - remove the SMTP sending limit and create a reverse DNS record for a new IP address - and those $29.00 are accomplishing nothing. I have filed three requests already over several days. I'm just getting canned and inappropriate responses, and it seems nowhere closer to being done. I stand a real risk of not being able to reply to customers if this is not sorted.

I've been happy with Amazon Web Services in general. 99% of the time, it works great – as long as you don't have to interact with anyone. But when you need a human to look at something, it's only happening if your request is so ordinary that it just needs to be rubber-stamped.

I had no trouble, two times in the past, having Amazon process a similar request for new instances. But now, I'm trying to move an existing email server to a new Elastic IP…

What's wrong with computing?

What's wrong is that we are:
Using a bad universal data format.Depending on a universe of tools that make this bad format seem like the best choice.The bad universal format are text files. HTML, XML, JSON, and most programming languages are based on them. The universe of tools are all manner of utilities to create, search, process, edit, compile, compare, and store versions of them.

We need that universe of tools. But we need them for a better data format.

What's wrong with plain text, then?

It is fundamentally incongruous with the data we store. Almost all data is structured: HTML, XML, JSON, TOML are all ways to store structured data in text files. Programming languages are structured with complex grammars. Where we use binary formats, almost all of them store structured data. ZIP files, DOC files, PNG files, everything is structured.

The incongruity is in the use of in-band signaling to delineate data. We can signal start and end of data in two ways:
Length-prefixed encoding.

The case for SSH over UDP

I was recently led to the following excellent, humorous article about the current state of Internet protocols – and the winding road that brought us here:

The world in which IPv6 was a good design
I agree with Avery as he identifies a future necessity: replacing TCP with an encrypted, UDP-based protocol like QUIC that will no longer identify sessions with a 4-tuple (clientIP, clientPort, serverIP, serverPort), but instead with a random session ID. This would allow clients to change their IP address, e.g. between WiFi connections, while continuing the session state. This is not currently possible with TCP, with IPv6 or not.

The Secure Shell protocol is built on top of TCP. This creates for SSH a number of problems:
Anyone can send a TCP RST in your name (faking the IP and port; it can be brute-forced), which breaks your connection. Routers that unilaterally decide your connection is "taking too long" are in a special position to do so.If there's a data transmission error (p…

Water heater does not work, but no fuses are blown and all circuit breakers seem closed?

Solution: Not all circuit breakers are closed. Check the GFCI for the garage outlets.

In case anyone else runs into the same problem...

Biden 2020

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So it begins:


If the 2016 primary is any measure, during the following year, we can expect:
favorable coverage exaggerating Biden's support and success;feature-length articles praising Biden's life, work and character;unfavorable coverage marginalizing support for Sanders and other threats;plentiful assassination articles against Sanders and other threats.By July 2020, we can expect Biden to be crowned Democratic candidate for presidency, largely no matter who else ran. Coverage like the above exists to ensure this happens.

Well, at least Biden doesn't seem to be a psychopath. Probably.

Life continues, not begins, at conception

Forced-birth activists – those who call themselves "pro-life", although they often don't support policies that would help the living – tend to claim "life begins at conception".

Life has been going on for billions of years. To an eternal observer, there isn't a clear boundary between organisms. Each cell and reshuffling of material is a continuation. A grown man is separate from another grown man, but in the process where an organism arises from another, there is a continuation of life; a reshuffling, not a creation.

In abortion, the life or death of an organism would be of no consequence if it did not have consciousness to experience it. Yet the forced-birth activists refuse to acknowledge that the capacity for awareness is necessary to speak of personhood, and insist there is some magic at the union of a sperm and an egg of which there is no evidence.