Quoting: Caesar’s Last Breath

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This was a book by Sam Kean I read on my iPad in December 2017. Although now more than a year ago, I made quotes back then so it’s still possible for me to create the same kind of blog post I started recently with Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

Book Cover

To quote the introduction:

It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell.

In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.

It’s too late now for my detailed opinions about the book, but I did like it a lot at the time and also gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads.

Quoting: The Singularity is Near

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I just completed reading Ray Kurzweil’s non-fiction book about AI and the future of humanity.

Book Cover

To quote Wikipedia:

Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computers, genetics, nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards he predicts intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe. The Singularity is also the point at which AI and humans would merge.

It was a great read and abound with fascinating predictions, but also felt aggressively so. Many paragraphs are spent contradicting critics and naysayers with various obvious proof and facts, some of which have barely begun being explored. There are many predictions that refer to technology yet to be conceived, yet Kurzweil manages to link to something that has already been achieved in the same area.

I won’t dispute the credibility of all these statements, but as an entertaining piece of reading material, that sometimes made for a strenuous read.

Another thing that had me regularly frowning with doubt was Kurweil’s repeatedly strong belief that the human brain will be reverse engineered, and soon. I would love this to happen as well, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be quite that easy. The human brain is extremely complex and have trillions of connections between its billions of cells.

And what about consciousness? We still don’t really know what that is about.

Nevertheless the book was still an intriguing read and full of quoteworthy stuff. I’ve thought about writing blog posts quoting what I found interesting in the books I read, and I have decided that Kurzweil’s book will finally be the one where I try this out. So, here goes.

The Creative Singularity

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I’ve watched a lot of really interesting philosophical YouTube videos about the dangers of AI lately. It’s an intriguing subject. Maybe you have already heard a lot of about the possible danger of AI reaching a level in the future where it may be smarter than humans. Imagine if it can also repair and even replicate itself. If we are not careful about the timing of this, it could get out of hand and completely wipe out humanity.

There’s this excellent analogy with ants. Ants can’t possibly understand anything we do and can’t protect themselves against us, but normally we wouldn’t want to do ants any harm either.

Until we need to build a house where an anthill is sprawling.

One of the YouTube videos I watched was Answers With Joe’s video about The Dark Side Of The Singularity. Joe makes a point that he’s actually more worried about the economic singularity than the climate changes. An economic singularity means that AI makes for so much automation that a large portion of humans on the planet will be unemployed. It could get so bad that we may have to rethink how we manage the economy in our societies, create a minimum income, or maybe even change how money works.

It’s a great video and I recommend you watch it:

I’ve had this vague idea that germinated in my mind a few months ago, and Joe’s video made me ponder it a lot more. The thing is, there’s something I’m even more worried about than Joe’s economic singularity, and that’s the creative singularity. It scares the crap out of me.

What do I mean by a creative singularity?

Ear Tragus

Quantum Reincarnation

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I have never been much of a religious man. My grand parents, parents and siblings weren’t either, so maybe it was an easy choice for us to just become atheists. There were no prayers and no regular church visits. My parents and my sister did have standard weddings, and my siblings were confirmed. It was more because of tradition than anything else. I chose not to be confirmed and it was nice not having to endure the schooling for it. When my dad died in 1997, we did get a proper burial for him – but it was actually against his wish. He always claimed it didn’t really matter.

He didn’t believe in anything after death. The big, black nothing. That’s what he always said.

Being a logically thinking individual that has always been a steadfast believer in science, I was always one of those that found all kinds of religion to be made up tales. But believers weren’t ridiculous to me. I could see how others found comfort and salvation this way, and I still do. Sometimes I even find the tales of the bible to be good stories worth telling. I absolutely love Prince of Egypt. It’s one of the greatest animated movies I’ve ever seen and I sometimes watch it again not just for the marvelous songs, but also to see Moses talk to god, gather his people and divide the waters. It’s an epic tale.

But to me, it’s still entirely made up.

The Game Masters

The Game Masters

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An increasingly popular theory about this universe lately is the one about everything being a simulation. Even Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX boss, believes this to be true. It’s a fascinating but also scary thought that seems to cater to the level of computer technology we have reached these years.

In the previous century, we thought there might be UFO’s. We didn’t always have access to a camera then and our own technological level had risen to a point where we believed it might actually be possible to have levitating saucers from other worlds. Almost no reports from the middle ages? What do they know!?

Now we have smart phones and cameras all abound. So, where are the UFO photos?

Deep down, I believe the simulation theory might become victim of the same fate. It’s an intriguing theory that makes some sense given what we learn from science at the moment, but who knows, one day we might discover or invent something more that will kill this theory in an instant.

Never mind. Guess it wasn’t that after all.

That haven’t stopped myself from playing around with this idea, however. In fact, I have spun a lot of thoughts and rules around the possibility of this all being a simulation controlled by some sort of ardent game masters. There are two aspects to this idea.