Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The 1/1 scale RX-78 Gundam in Japan

Japan as we know is the mecca of all things mecha and this 1/1 scale, Scratch build model ( or monument ) of the RX-78 GUNDAM in Odaiba Japan is the coolest statue I've ever seen put in a public park.

If there was ever a time to go to Japan, do it now before it's gone.

I really, really hope the journals get published.

The Unabomber's stuff is up for auction. And I desperately want them to publish his journals. Ted Kaczynski's nuttier than the spelling of his last name, but the man is also one of the most interesting psychopaths you could ever take the time to read about.

For starters, he's very complicated. Dr. Charles Epstein, one of the Unabomber's victims, characterizes Kaczynski in the article linked above as, "the essence of evil. He's evil and amoral. He has no compassion." Dr. Epstein has, to say the least, every right to feel that way about Kazcynski, however I would argue that his remarks, largely correct though they are, fail to paint the full picture of the second most famous terrorist to ever target Americans.

Let me be clear in my remarks, Ted Kaczynski is not a man to be admired or respected. His attacks were awful. His fears, perhaps not as ungrounded as they may appear at first blush, are, never the less, hardly a justification for his actions. That being said, I reserve the word 'evil' for those whose crimes are motivated by the pleasure they derive from them. I think that pleasure was absent from Kaczynski's motivations.

Kaczynski, like, I would wager, all terrorists, was motivated but that most dangerous of concepts, 'the greater good.' His manifesto is peppered with criticisms of how modern society has eroded personal freedoms and about how 'leftism' has made it impossible to act completely morally. In this respect many of his quotes are indistinguishable from those of Glen Beck (Plus, neither of them are overly partial to institutions of higher education) or even some of the more radical Teabaggers many of whom echo the unabomber's views on political correctness's impact on/relationship to morality.

(I feel it's important to note where Kaczynski departs from the American extreme right, however, isn't just in his acceptance of violence, but in what I personally feel is an only logical extension of his distaste for large government and that's his hatred of large organizations of virtually any kind but specifically manufacturing. Not being a great speller, I frequently have misspelled the Unabomber as the 'Unibomber,' thinking the 'uni' was short for university. In fact the term comes from the FBI case designation, 'Unabom' which was a contraction of 'UNiversity and Airline BOMber.')

Kaczynski's lack of compassion for others could be clearly seen in his short story, 'Ship of Fools,' which has been turned into a stop motion animation short that is worth watching. Listen to the language Kaczynski uses to describe the other groups/passengers on the ship of fools and notice also the way that he dismisses their problems as trivial compared to his own (the ones that, by and large, only he can see):

Still though, Kaczynski is not an entirely unthoughtful person, far from it. Take, for example, the strange case of Bill Geerhart who, in 1999, posed as a little boy and sent letters to various celebrities, politicians and serial killers. One of the people he wrote was Ted Kaczynski. Below is Geerhart's letter and Kaczynski's response...

This note is turning into something far longer than I intended it to be, so I will cut this short by opening up a whole new can of worms and just point out that we are, as Americans (or, perhaps, just as humans in general), rather inconsistent with our views on Terrorism. The difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is all too frequently a PR campaign. Look at how some have even defended the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller as justifiable because they believe the doctor, an abortion provider, to be himself a murderer or that his murder wasn't 'really' terrorism because what some(usually specified as Islamic)terrorist groups do is 'worse.' How do you feel about water boarding? How do you feel about what North Korea is doing to our journalists? Or about what we're doing to an Iraqi journalist? Do the ends justify the means? Is it best to fight fire with fire? Is Ted Kaczynski's greatest crime terrorism or is Ted Kaczynski's greatest crime being wrong about what is the greater good?

Personally, I think he's a terrorist. Personally, I think that's why Dr. Epstein thinks he's evil and not because Kaczynski's a neo-luddite and Epstein's a geneticist. I also think that for a man preoccupied by the notion of acting in a 'competely moral way,' Kaczynski was quick to decend into tribalism....

... and I can't wait to read the intellectual acrobatics that will be required to justify his actions in his own mind.

PS: Kaczynski fun fact, the Unabomber is a virgin.
PPS: Learning more about the Unabomber is really fascinating. Obviously he was mentally ill, but the degree to which his mental illness impacted his life... was incredible. He couldn't read people's emotions, he couldn't distinguish facial expressions... surprising? No, not exactly, but fascinating.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guys, AI is hard. Screw it, let's just culture real brains in jars.

There's a brain in that tin can.

FTA: The robots in Jeff Krichmar’s lab don’t look like much. CARL-1, his latest model, is a squat, white trash can contraption with a couple of shopping cart wheels bolted to its side, a video camera wired to the lid, and a couple of bunny ears taped on for good measure. But open up that lid and you’ll find something remarkable — the beginnings of a truly biological nervous system. CARL-1 has thousands of neurons and millions of synapses that, he says, “are just about the edge of the amount of size and complexity found in real brains.” Not surprisingly, robots built this way — using the same operating principles as our nervous system — are called neurobots.
Krichmar emphasizes that these artificial nervous systems are based upon neurobiological principles rather than computer models of how intelligence works. The first of those principles, as he describes it, is: “The brain is embodied in the body and the body is embedded in the environment — so we build brains and then we put these brains in bodies and then we let these bodies loose in an environment to see what happens,” This has become something of a foundational principle — and the great and complex challenge — of neurobotics.

By show of hands, who's comfortable with this? Anyone? Anyone?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Internet Hero

Internet Hero... I kinda love this dude.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

No Job is Safe.... not even that of Farmer

FTA: Firstly, mobile robots have now proved able to cope with complex outdoor environments; secondly, the price of production has fallen; and, finally, society should now see robot labourers as a benefit not a curse.

Speak for yourself, article! I'm less than thrilled by the idea that food will become that much more industrialized.

Monday, June 1, 2009