Optimality, technology and fragility.

This post is a bit of a mixed bag about technology and fragility, a bit about AI and tiny bit on politics. You've been warned.

Intro

Back in the communist and then early capitalist Poland, where I grew up, one could often get used soviet equipment such as optics, power tools etc. Back in the day these things were relatively cheap and had the reputation of being very sturdy and essentially unbreakable (often described as pseudo Russian "gniotsa nie łamiotsa" which essentially meant you could "bend it and it would not break"). There are multiple possible reasons why that equipment was so sturdy, one hypothesis is that soviet factories could not control very well the quality of their steel and so the designers had to put in additional margin into their designs. When the materials actually turned out to be of high quality, such over engineered parts would then be extra strong. Other explanation is that some of that equipment was ex-military and therefore designed with an extra margin. Nevertheless, these often heavy and over-engineered products were contrasted in the early 90's with modern, optimized, western made things. Western stuff was obviously better designed and optimized, lighter, but as soon … Read more...

Inside of a nebula

I'm taking a break from AI in this short post, it's time for something more general about the universe [see the last post in this category "what if we had a warp drive"].

In our daily activities we may not notice how lucky we are - we can see the sky. I mean the deep sky, even far beyond our Galaxy. And by looking at those things, we can learn that the Universe is expanding, that there are quasars, active galaxies, large scale cosmic structures, galaxy clusters, cosmic background radiation and many other marvels. We treat all that as obvious.

But imagine the Sun along with the solar system was trapped inside one of the dense nebulas, which there are countless numbers of in our Galaxy. Say we were trapped somewhere deep inside the Orion nebula.  All we would see in the night sky would be the faint pink glow of hydrogen and maybe a few blurred stars shining through the fog.

And best of all, since the nebula is many, many light years across, we could do nothing to see beyond it. Absolutely nothing. Discovering anything about the outside universe would require sending a probe light years … Read more...

What if we had a warp drive?

Here is something completely different. Nothing today about AI or deep learning.

I'm a big fan of Star Trek and generally like the utopian version of the future that Gene Roddenberry had given us. But obviously this is just a vision and a TV show, so it's full of stuff that makes people watch it. Inspired by that vision though, I've been day dreaming what it would be like if we actually had the 24'th century technology.

This will just be daydreaming exercise, so let us not bother for now on whether faster than light travel is feasible. Clearly with our current understanding of physics it does seem like a very fundamental limitation. But there is some new physics lurking, perhaps looking crazy, but quantum mechanics did look crazy in the beginning (and it still does) and yet has proven to be extremely good at describing nature.

Here are my assumptions:

  • faster than light travel is possible at a rate of say 1 light year per hour. For now let's just assume that the "warp" drive takes the ship into a thin wormhole like tube, so when the ship is in warp mode it cannot interact with matter and
Read more...