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Thread: We live in ancient times.

  1. #1 We live in ancient times. 
    Forum Freshman tombyers's Avatar
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    I wonder if Socrates or Cicero ever thought about themselves as living in ancient times. We are living in ancient times today, of course, from our distant descendants' point of view. Who knows if they will call our era a golden age or a precursor to collapse. I think we should spend a little money on them, build a Perenno facility just in case they run into trouble. Taking measures to shorten a dark age sounds goofy if civilization never falls apart, but how sorry we could be if the nightmare does come to pass.


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    I don't think we have to be too concerned about distant descendants. If global warming continues unchecked for another 100 or so years, there may not be any descendants.


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    Quote Originally Posted by mathman
    I don't think we have to be too concerned about distant descendants. If global warming continues unchecked for another 100 or so years, there may not be any descendants.
    This opens up another interesting point. Ever since Christianity spread to Western Europe, every new generation of people has believed they were living in the "last days" before the apocalypse. Clearly most of them were wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by mathman
    I don't think we have to be too concerned about distant descendants. If global warming continues unchecked for another 100 or so years, there may not be any descendants.
    This opens up another interesting point. Ever since Christianity spread to Western Europe, every new generation of people has believed they were living in the "last days" before the apocalypse. Clearly most of them were wrong.
    Except for the most recent generation, which seems to be putting superstitions behind them.
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    I don't see any relations between the end of homo sapiens and global warming. It might end up our post-industrial world as we know it. It might trigger terrible wars, conflicts, epidemics, starvations.

    But I won't be the end of homo sapiens.

    I am a bit more concerned with the nuclear weapons. We opened a Pandora's box in 1945. Knowledge is like a virus, impossible to truly contain. It is inevitable that one day or another, some incidents will occur. But even that, I doubt it will end up human beings. With 6 billions on earth, a pretty good adaptability, I don't think catastrophe will wipe us out. It will rather be gradual evolutionnary changes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Makandal

    I am a bit more concerned with the nuclear weapons. We opened a Pandora's box in 1945. Knowledge is like a virus, impossible to truly contain. It is inevitable that one day or another, some incidents will occur. But even that, I doubt it will end up human beings. With 6 billions on earth, a pretty good adaptability, I don't think catastrophe will wipe us out. It will rather be gradual evolutionnary changes.
    That's only if you assume there will be just one nuclear war, instead of one, then two, then three, then four,..... etc....

    If change happens too fast, then you can't out evolve it. In such a situation, each evolutionary change is happening too late to be useful. You have to be able to predict the next change before it happens, and evolution can't do that.
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  8. #7 resilient species 
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    Humans have proven as resilient species. Humans will become extinct because of their own act, not for others such as natural disasters.
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    We'll see what happens when Skynet comes knocking on our front door. Until then, long live the human being.
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    There is no way that global warming will cause our extinction. The world has experienced high temperatures and high CO2 before. It will cause major changes, and the loss of some coastline, but nothing humanity cannot adapt to.

    In fact, I sometimes wonder what would happen if the reverse process was under way. Imagine that the world had an average temperature of 5 C more than present, and some process was making the world cool. My expectation is that the concern, even panic, would be far greater in that case than with the present situation.
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    With a little luck, people in the future may see out area as we see the dark ages, a barbaric time when greed and ignorance allowed millions of human beings to die form starvation, preventable diseases, and wars. When states executed members of their own societies, and some practice torture. When meaningless consumption and massive waste of human potential was seen as normal. When small groups were allowed to plunder, accumulate power and abuse it. When punishment was in order instead of understanding and addressing root causes of problems.

    With a little luck we might one day live in a world as imagined by the creator(s) of Star Trek where subsistance is not in question and money does not exist as we know it today, where people dont work for a living and do not have the sociopathic tendencies to leverage a situation to accumulate money, people acting according to their interests to improve themselves and humanity.


    Global warming is not a big problem by itself, our economic system and organization systems are much more disruptive and unproductive(wasteful), since with an alternate mode of organization we could live in peace and in comfort while polluting less, develop more relevant medicine while not wasting ressources on advertizing, plan to offset disasters and colonize the solar system.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by mathman
    I don't think we have to be too concerned about distant descendants. If global warming continues unchecked for another 100 or so years, there may not be any descendants.
    This opens up another interesting point. Ever since Christianity spread to Western Europe, every new generation of people has believed they were living in the "last days" before the apocalypse. Clearly most of them were wrong.
    No....seriously, we ARE living in end times!! We mean it this time!!

    The year 2012 2100 2500 300 is coming! (not sure how long this post will stay up for so just delete as appropriate.
    The hand of time rested on the half-hour mark, and all along that old front line of the English there came a whistling and a crying. The men of the first wave climbed up the parapets, in tumult, darkness, and the presence of death, and having done with all pleasant things, advanced across No Man's Land to begin the Battle of the Somme. - Poet John Masefield.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    There is no way that global warming will cause our extinction. The world has experienced high temperatures and high CO2 before. It will cause major changes, and the loss of some coastline, but nothing humanity cannot adapt to.
    Humans weren't around before. And it's not the direct effects anyhow, it's widespread warfare that result from climate change pressures would threaten our survival.
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    Take your pick. Trying to speculate on the ultimate fate of the human race is futile unless you have a crystal ball. So it is not very smart to ignore the legacy we leave for future descendants on some false faith in an "inevitable apocalypse" of any sort.

    For what it is worth, I like to think that we will overcome our biological restraints and undergo a transition into a technological evolution. Like a Technological singularity, in which we no longer use technology as tools, but exits within it as a medium, or combine with it.
    Hard to fathom how that would come about, or how it would work though. I guess that's why its called a singularity, that does not actually exist as an end point, but represents the limit of our current ability to comprehend/understand it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harvestein
    For what it is worth, I like to think that we will overcome our biological restraints and undergo a transition into a technological evolution. Like a Technological singularity, in which we no longer use technology as tools, but exits within it as a medium, or combine with it.
    Mystical nonsense.
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    Mystical nonsense.
    You might be getting confused with the Omega point, which is mystical nonsense. But I have had experience in dealing with you before and your normally good with short flames, but useless in any informed discussion.

    Actually, to believe that there is something magical about the function of the human brain (or any brain) that is not reproducable artificially at any point in the future is "mystical nonsense".

    And from there I dont see it as being much of a stretch to assume that there will be some level of assimilation between what is bioligical and the technology we develop. For example we allready have BCI controlled technologies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-computer_interface

    Full brain emulation is also an active area of research with projects such as the Blue Brain project.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harvestein
    Mystical nonsense.
    You might be getting confused with the Omega point
    No, I'm not getting confused. And I don't understand how are functions of the human brain relevant for this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    I don't understand
    Quote Originally Posted by Harvestein
    useless in any informed discussion
    A technological singularity is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid that it makes the future after the singularity qualitatively different and harder to predict.
    Many writers also tie the singularity to observations of exponential growth in various technologies
    Where do you see mysticism? and how is any of it nonsense? Form a coherent post with some substance or don't say anything at all. All I did was take a few ideas about the future of technology and take a wild guess on how it might affect us in the far future. None of what I said is known to be impossible.

    At risk of going off topic from the OP, there are other threads on the subject, so you could take your flames there instead.
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    Quote Originally Posted by harvestein
    Where do you see mysticism? and how is any of it nonsense?
    Exactly in what you quoted. The belief that technological progress will speed up exponentially is absurd. I don't know what else you want to hear.
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    Actually Twit

    The suggestion that technological progress will speed up exponentially has been discussed by many high powered brains.

    This is supposed to be the result of the increasingly powerful computers we are getting. As more electronic 'thinking' power is available, so increases the ability to crunch data, and thus speeds technological progress.

    Of course it may not happen. Or it may. Or those electronic brains may decide to send out 'terminators'.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    This is supposed to be the result of the increasingly powerful computers we are getting. As more electronic 'thinking' power is available, so increases the ability to crunch data, and thus speeds technological progress.
    Faster computers mean faster computation nothing else. Computers do not think.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    This is supposed to be the result of the increasingly powerful computers we are getting. As more electronic 'thinking' power is available, so increases the ability to crunch data, and thus speeds technological progress.
    Faster computers mean faster computation nothing else. Computers do not think.
    There is absolutely a line where a computer crosses from being a computing object into a "thinking" object, the word "thinking" being used loosely in this context. At the point where a computer is making decisions on a large scale, the computer will be "thinking." Currently, humans make most important decisions for computers, allowing the machine to present the human with options and then choosing from among the options. When the computer makes the decision, it will be thinking.

    Of course, there will ALWAYS be a difference between computers and humans. Computers are, and always will be, predictable. Humans are not, and never will be.
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    Computers already think and conduct many mundane task as well as some humans aren't even capable of such as adjusting the flight surfaces of inherently unstable fighter aircraft or doing a Google search for a science forum.
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    Yet when you do a Google Search the human picks from the options proffered by the computer. The computer cannot think enough to tell you which option best fits your need, or filter out spam sites.

    And yes, that sort of controlling computer does "think" in a sense (it's closer than a Google search engine) but a human is still required to coordinate all the different activities performed by the onboard computer and make decisions about the environment around the aircraft. Otherwise we would send drones on all missions in war.
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    As for computer controlled unstable aircraft ( CCV ) like F-16, F-22, F-35, F-117, B-2, Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen, you are forgetting the billions of lines of ADA code which has to be programmed by humans for the on-board computers to be able to 'think'.

    Incidentally the most advanced operational fighter in the world, the LM F-22, uses i486 processor technology from late 80s/early 90s ( not pentium, pentium 2, pentium 3, pentium 4, core duo, core 2 duo or core i5/i7 ), and are fairly old technology because developement time is so long. One slip up in the code and the aircraft go into a PIO ( Gripen and F-22 crashes, look up )or the computer resets when crossing the international date line ( F-22, look up ) and the aircraft has to limp home.

    F-22s are worth about 1/6 billion dollars apiece ( 150-200 million, but 1/6 billion sounds more impressive ) and they certainly do a poor job of 'thinking' on their own. They just calculate faster and react quicker.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by harvestein
    Where do you see mysticism? and how is any of it nonsense?
    Exactly in what you quoted. The belief that technological progress will speed up exponentially is absurd. I don't know what else you want to hear.
    Technological progress HAS been speeding up exponentially, as evidenced by history, consider progress over last 100 years in aviation vs all recorded time before, dotcomrade. Appears to be nature of technology generally, or are counterexamples available?
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    Quote Originally Posted by MigL
    which has to be programmed by humans for the on-board computers to be able to 'think'.
    I could argue the vast majority of our "programming" was done by natural selection of several hundred million years of life with nerves cells that proceeded humans.

    Computers are already quite capable of surprising humans via stochastic models and other means. I think that by the time it's obvious to most of us that computers think we'll be decades past that point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    I could argue the vast majority of our "programming" was done by natural selection of several hundred million years of life with nerves cells that proceeded humans.
    That argument appears in a book called "Information and the Nature of Reality." John Maynard Smith shows convincingly how natural and artificial information processing are examples of systems that follow a common set of underlying principles.

    Nobody in this forum or on this Earth knows whether self-aware electronic beings will come to pass. The more certain somebody is of their opinion the more skeptical I am of their reasoning. The contributor who claimed computers are predictable is wrong. It is common knowledge in IT circles that complex programs are unpredictable. Does anybody recall who produced the logical proof that running certain kinds of software is unpredictable in principle?
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    The contributor who claimed computers are predictable is wrong. It is common knowledge in IT circles that complex programs are unpredictable
    A computer always-ALWAYS-does the logical thing. That makes it predictable.
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    Depending on how it was programmed...
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeeeaaaa
    A computer always-ALWAYS-does the logical thing. That makes it predictable.
    Well, when you make a statement that is clearly and verifiably incorrect, you can either say "whoops" and feel a bit silly, or you can repeat it loudly with capital letters.

    Of thousands of possible replies based on fact rather than opinion, here are four:

    1. Crashing is not logical. I do admit that crashes are predictable in a general sort of way, but only if you run a Microsoft operating system and believe in Murphy's Law.

    2. The first two sentences from Donald Good's 1984 technical report entitled Mechanical Proofs about Computer Programs are: "One of the major problems with the current practice of software engineering is an absence of predictability. There is no sound, scientific way of predicting accurately how a software system will behave when it runs." Those darn machines had already outsmarted us a quarter century ago and I don't expect to catch up until John Conner puts things right.

    3. When you refer to "the" logical thing, you imply that every problem has one and only one logical solution. Have you considered a career in politics?

    4. Show me the human chess grandmaster that can ALWAYS predict the upcoming moves of Deep Blue or Deep Fritz or Deep [expletive deleted]. You should know when you're in it.
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    The Perreno facility is a fascinating concept. Unfortunately flesh is not resiliant, hence an inherent weakness in attempting to use it for data preservation.
    How about writing the salient points of human knowledge down on large titanium nitrate slabs. Use at least three languages per copy as in the Rosetta Stone, and place copies in several locations. Could make it big like Stonehenge too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil
    How about writing the salient points of human knowledge down on large titanium nitrate slabs.
    Not far off from the B Plan. Norsam Technologies has a nickel tablet process that is cheaper and smaller than the titanium idea. With plan A being an electronic database maintained by people, the level of risk demands a more resilient plan B. Still, one would hope that the riskier plan would succeed against the odds. We would preserve petabytes instead of mere kilobytes. We would use the knowledge to rebuild rather than rediscover it after a long, brutal dark age.
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  34. #33  
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    Build plan A out of plan B. Two plans one stone.
    Of course, any plan is a waste of time without some "copies".
    I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
    Lucky me. Lucky mud.
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    Natural selection is overrated, plus not relevant to topic, which appears to be artificial intelligence and preservation of same.

    Facility already exists to preserve strains of agriculturally significant species, without which no hope of rebuilding civilization exists.
    http://www.ars-grin.gov/ncgrp/index.htm
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince
    Natural selection is overrated, plus not relevant to topic, which appears to be artificial intelligence and preservation of same.
    Actually, it tends to be very relevant, indeed, as artificial intelligence often develops using the principles of natural selection.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm
    http://www.channon.net/alastair/
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc...10.1.1.48.5364
    http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/art-intelweb.htm
    http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~tinelli/cla...med-search.pdf
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    A computer IS predictable. Every piece of code leads to another. If it wasn't and didn't it would be very difficult ( impossible ) to write code. Think about it.

    Human minds on the other hand, may have had instinct programmed into us by evolution, but certainly not cognitive thought. If any of the geeks on this forum ( chill-out, I'm just kidding ) had ever spoken to a woman, you'd realise that their train of thought does not progress linearly. One thought does not logically follow another but tends to go off on totally unrelated tangents( Again, I'm just trying to inject some levity into this discussion, so women on this forum, I'm joking ). But the point remains, humans can go off on tangents of totally unrelated thinking and can access this faculty to 'think outside the box'. A computer cannot !
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    Yes, exactly. If you have two computers and ask them to do something, they will make the exact same decision every time. If you have two humans, it is unlikely that they will make the same decision every time.

    Tombyers-

    Yes, logical was a bad word choice...

    And a chess computer will always - ALWAYS (yes, I did it again) make the move that increases its chances of winning. That's predictable, if you think out all the possible outcomes for a couple months :wink:
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  39. #38  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeeeaaaa
    If you have two computers and ask them to do something, they will make the exact same decision every time.
    Quibble: But no two computers are alike. Because mass-produced components operate at very fine - near-failure - tolerances, you can't build identical machines anymore. For example memory card pairs are taken from the same manufacturing run, because if one same-spec card was taken from a later week its timing could be off by almost a nanosecond. Little hardware differences can and do ripple up to the user level.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by Yeeeaaaa
    If you have two computers and ask them to do something, they will make the exact same decision every time.
    Quibble: But no two computers are alike. Because mass-produced components operate at very fine - near-failure - tolerances, you can't build identical machines anymore. For example memory card pairs are taken from the same manufacturing run, because if one same-spec card was taken from a later week its timing could be off by almost a nanosecond. Little hardware differences can and do ripple up to the user level.
    If they have been programmed the same way, they will at least try to make the same decision.

    I am very shaky on my computer knowledge - how can a hardware difference influence a decision made by a computer? I have no doubt that it can, but I would appreciate a more in depth explanation just for my personal benefit :wink: very selfish of me
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    Quote Originally Posted by MigL
    A computer IS predictable. Every piece of code leads to another. If it wasn't and didn't it would be very difficult ( impossible ) to write code. Think about it.!
    That hasn't been true for decades. Most of us are very familiar with only the programs that we build to correct ramdom computational errors to try to make tham absolutely consistent; it works for things like converting your key punch to a number in a spread sheet. But large integrated systems of programs and hardware make even the most robust systems less reliable. We've all experienced this even using simple example like converting mouse click representing a squeeze of a virtual gun trigger that doesn't register on your virtual enemy.

    We also benefit from programs that deliberately introduce ramdom elements and by design NEVER get the same answer. Weather forecasting models are being run as ensembles for example that take the initial data ramdomize those tens of thousands of data points it to represent margin of instrument error and than produce multiple posible forecast. The meteorologist can than apply Monte Carlo analysis and other techniques on that set of possible forecast and derive a level of confidence and other information about the forecast.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeeeaaaa
    how can a hardware difference influence a decision made by a computer?
    The worst I've seen was shaped like a mushroom cloud: subtle inconsistency of CPU timing with certain hardware configurations, caused annoying graphical "hitching" and poor mouse response, fixed by driver patch for processor, patch requiring installation of optional OS resources, which in turn required a new permission type under Windows and so a whole new user account, whose mechanoid name appears on login screen and propagates through My Documents, etc.

    Still, if the computer's just as simple as an adding machine it will function predictably.
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    Lynx Fox - Yes, this type of computer is programmed to never get the same answer. We can predict that it will never get the same answer. That's the point.

    And clearly, the more complex the computer, the harder it is to predict its actions. However, even the most complex machines are more predictable than humans, because they don't have outside influences as humans do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeeeaaaa
    Lynx Fox - Yes, this type of computer is programmed to never get the same answer. We can predict that it will never get the same answer. That's the point.

    And clearly, the more complex the computer, the harder it is to predict its actions. However, even the most complex machines are more predictable than humans, because they don't have outside influences as humans do.
    My point is largely complex computers of any type, whether that be biological or not, include influences and internal processes that introduce apparent randomness that add variability to the outcome. Some of this is inherent in the way data is stored; for example computation of floating point operations are subject to rounding and truncation errors; I don't doubt that biological data storage is also prone to inherent inaccuracies. At some point computers, especially as part of the global networks most are now connected to, as well as human outcomes are best studied using stochastic models; a Google search will tend towards some grouping of outcomes much like a person's groupings of behaviors in response to a stimulus--neither is 100% predictable.
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    Rounding and truncation errors can be calculated and compensated for. My point is that if you donn't know the oucome of a certain code, how can you possibly construct a program ?? Computers are just a set of switches, or gates, randomness is only introduced in long term memory by cosmic rays and other radiattion. And hardening of the ICs as the military applications do, gets rid of that problem with multiple redundancies. We are nowhere near the design rules for ICs where quantum mechanical uncertainty is introduced.

    Do you do your banking by computer ?? If you actually believe what you say, maybe you shouldn't.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MigL
    Do you do your banking by computer ??
    No.

    But I've worked with computers for 30 years, including classes on assembly language which were required back than. You want to compare the simplest computers, who's outcome isn't nearly as certain as you think they are, with the astoundingly complex networks of the human brain. What you should be doing is comparing complex computer networks with a brain--what you'll find is plenty of uncertainty and groupings of similar responses if you ran multiple iterations but not the identical or even reliable solutions you seem to imply. Heck I even provided two examples.
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    But how can you write code or program if you don't 100% know the outcome of the code you are writing?
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    You expect to spend a lot of time debugging.
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    But once you're done debugging, then the computer should be 100% predictable, yes?

    I still don't really understand what can influence a computer to make it unpredictable. It's a machine. It's not a human. It always does the logical thing, since nothing besides it's programming is influencing it's decisions.
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    The machine and its software is made by many humans, no one human knowing every part. If you look into large applications you will often find statements of annoyance, ridicule, and even sabotage inserted by programmers, directed at other programmers. Often fixing one thing breaks another. Then we near deadline and decide the product's stable enough for release.
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    Well if you want to compare computing resumes..

    I first used a Burrows B6700 mainframe with Hollerith punch cards and a Wang minicomputer in the physics dept at university. In my final years I had access to an Apple II and use a TRS-80 model 1 with 16KB of memory for my undergrad thesis an the Raman spectroscopy of solid Ammonia.
    I then built a Sinclair ZX-81 and learnes Z-80 assembly language, and progressed through many CP/M machines, all self built. I disliked the early IBM pcs because the processor, the i8088 and i8086 were notoriously hard to program in assembly. I could not afford Macs so my first pre-built purchased computer was an Atari ( yes !! ) 520ST. From there I gave up on assembly code and started building PCs based on Intel processors starting with i386/486/pentium1/2/3/4 and now, I play with Macs ( I can finally afford several of them ) and AMD phenom cpus ( I'm still frugal ), also several of them. And even though I kid you about doing your banking by computer, I don't either. But unlike you I completely trust the hardware, Its the human programmed software ( prone to mistakes and crashing ) that I don't trust.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil View Post
    Build plan A out of plan B. Two plans one stone.
    Of course, any plan is a waste of time without some "copies".
    Multiple copies certainly make sense and multiple Perenno facilities too.

    The trouble with preserving knowledge in stone is that you will waste many weekends chiseling in that first gigabyte of data. Just ask any tombstone engraver how many gigabytes they have carved into rock over the years.

    Besides, I will need a place to store my master, a sentient electronic tyrant who predictably wants to rule the Earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tombyers View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by GiantEvil View Post
    Build plan A out of plan B. Two plans one stone.
    Of course, any plan is a waste of time without some "copies".
    Multiple copies certainly make sense and multiple Perenno facilities too.

    The trouble with preserving knowledge in stone is that you will waste many weekends chiseling in that first gigabyte of data. Just ask any tombstone engraver how many gigabytes they have carved into rock over the years.

    Besides, I will need a place to store my master, a sentient electronic tyrant who predictably wants to rule the Earth.
    Well, the knowledge would be stored using a full alphanumeric set, as opposed to binary code. And a laser could be used for imprinting the stone.
    As for the tyrant computer, I'm generally opposed to the use of thermonuclear weapons, but in this case I would probably make an exception.
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    I'm generally opposed to the use of thermonuclear weapons, but in this case I would probably make an exception.
    Darn, when I saw your forum username I thought you were on our side!
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    Homer did OK without stone tablets, the Illiad and Odyssey are still around after multiple millenia- not that this is proposed as an ideal approach.
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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    Of course, in any oral tradition, certain errors can be expected to creep in, as they do in written cultures. Yet Troy was real enough, indeed, several Troys.
    The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.- Thucydides
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