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Speculations on the impending era of artificial intelligence

Robot_AI

The relationship between man and machine has been a very fruitful one for our species mainly because it has empowered us to transcend many of our limitations. I remember coming across a Scientific American study a while ago that nicely illustrated how well humans have been empowered by our technology. The study measured the efficiency of locomotion for various animal species on the planet. In that study, the condor was found to be most efficient… using the least amount of energy to travel one kilometer. Comparatively, we humans came in with a rather abysmal showing somewhere way down the list… not exactly the most flattering result for the supposed crown of creation. However, when some brilliant person at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for humans on bicycles, we blew the condor away, climbing to the very top of the “efficiency of locomotion” charts. Thinking deeper, we start to realize that in an analogous way, our technology has served as a metaphorical bicycle for our limited physical and mental abilities. For example, the advent of the internal combustion engine and the automobile has reduced what would have been a multiple month long journey 100 years ago to one of just mere hours as I type this. Also, the next time you open up a spreadsheet on your computer to do some quick calculations at work, think about how much longer that would have taken if you had to use a slide rule or an abacus. It is likely that the same task would have required a ton more effort and probably taken 10 to 100 times longer if you had to do it in say the 1930’s when computers didn’t exist. These kinds of miraculous time savings have allowed us to be more productive while simultaneously conserving more mental cycles to devote to things at the higher echelons of mental function. Continue reading Speculations on the impending era of artificial intelligence

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Why is the daytime sky blue?

Oak tree on a green meadow covered by a rainbow
Oak tree on a green meadow covered by a rainbow
Most of us know for a fact that the daytime sky is usually blue on a sunny day but few of us stop to ask why. We know the sun isn’t blue so why does the sky turn that color when the sun rises? Why isn’t the daytime sky orange, or yellow? Well, if we were to venture a collective guess, we could reason that the “blueness” of the daytime sky is probably due to the risen sun. This guess makes sense because when the sun completely sets, the sky turns black except for maybe the moon and little specks of light, which are actually other stars from distant solar systems.

According to our current level of scientific understanding, we humans perceive the daytime sky as blue in color for two primary reasons. The first reason is because of the way our atmosphere interacts with light from the sun. The second reason is because of the way the human eye detects color. Let’s look at these two points from a deeper perspective to see if we can really grok why the daytime sky is so often colored blue. Continue reading Why is the daytime sky blue?

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9 tips to guitar mastery

Man dancing and playing guitar.Many of us have been to at least one concert where an amazing guitarist dazzled us. How can his hands move so fast? How can she play so beautifully without even looking at the instrument? How did he know that melody would harmonize so well with the rest of the band? We ask these questions completely awestruck… struggling to understand how a very normal looking human being can be so proficient at something that seems so alien as their fingers fly all over the guitar fretboard at warp speed. After taking in such a musical spectacle, many of us become inspired to learn how to play the guitar. We may even go as far as to order a guitar and perhaps a few books to begin our journey to guitar virtuoso. We happily receive the guitar and the books when they finally arrive at our doorsteps, filled with excitement at the prospect of eventually mastering the guitar. After a month or two of practice, reality sets in… you realize that you suck at it. You realize that making the guitar sound as melodically beautiful as that amazing lady on stage did a couple of months ago isn’t as easy as it looks. As if all that wasn’t enough, your fingers hurt like crazy and might even bleed because you haven’t yet built up the calluses to endure the constant stress that playing places on the tips of your fingers. Some of us give up because we figure we just don’t have the magical talent that good guitarists must have. What is going on here? Where does the truth lie? Are people who can play the guitar just born with supernatural abilities, or are their otherworldly skills developed through relentless and tenacious application to their craft? Can “regular” folks ever improve on their guitar playing, or are each of us permanently confined to musical mediocrity for the rest of our lives? Well ladies and gentlemen, if I may, let me invite you to follow me on this literary journey in search of the truth. Continue reading 9 tips to guitar mastery