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Another day at the Gym
Published on May 14, 2016 By Phil Osborn In Internet
New AI breakthrough:
 
One of the hardest jobs for AI has been natural language parsing. There are many examples of ambiguity that would stump most human recipients - and yet are perfectly valid, grammatically correct, etc. We humans resolve these situations by putting them in a context and/or by seeking further clarification. This task - translating a stream of symbols such as words into a meaningful mental object in our consciousness - has been partially solved to date by heroic statistically and/or rule-based efforts such as Siri. http://www.zdnet.com/article/how-apples-siri-really-works/

Now Google has raised the bar.  http://www.kurzweilai.net/google-open-sources-natural-language-understanding-tools
 
The impact will likely include a lot better machine translations, but also a lot more practical robotics. That means fewer things for humans to do, as far as any current job model is concerned.  Instead of scripting a sequence of codes and parameters to control a robot or robotic process in some big metal factory, this moves us much closer to the day when we can tell our robot helper to "walk the dog and try to be back in time to fix dinner, after which you can give me a pedicure while I'm kicking the latest X-games VR, and then remind me about Mama's birthday party and be sure to have the UberAutoCab ready at the door at 7.  Let me know if you're not going to able to finish everything, in time to adjust our schedules." 

http://www.kurzweilai.net/a-robot-with-human-like-grace-and-precision

It will give first the .1% and then potentially just about everyone, the working equivalent of a butler, maid-servant, secretary, auto-mechanic, plumber, and maybe artist/musician/poet in residence, differing in exchangeable tools, but accessing the same core goal/value structure, based on you and your needs, desires, and $capabilities.  The success of the new Google advances will also become yet another driver of cyber-evolution.

The question is then, "what ARE your basic and derivative values and what happens as our home robot moves ever closer in capability from Siri to Semantha?  What is the point of even living, if one's life is simply a net drain, with no hope of ever doing anything significant, as we are totally eclipsed in capability by our home hardware?  Check out David Brin's "Kiln People" for a highly amusing future society in which this is becoming a real problem...
 
(If it's more cost-effective to use a factory robot than a human, then why would that distinction not apply at home?  If you haven't seen the original movie spin-off from the Japanese TV series, "Ghost in the Shell," I highly recommend it, for starters as a thinking-about object.* The premise of the movie is that somehow it is possible to extract the soul in pieces that can be reanimated in androids or robots.  Plausible enough if one believes in souls to begin with.  The purpose being to create sex-dolls that the owner or user experiences as real people that can feel pleasure, fear, pain, lust, etc.  It seems that the target market - wealthy, powerful, pedophylic sociopaths - need the feedback that he or she cannot get from a mere Siri level droid, who one knows is just executing code, but they can't afford the risk involved with kidnapping a real girl.  So, taking a page from the offshore investment people, the girls are kidnapped from whatever 3rd world source by the  usual suspects and then their souls are extracted in pieces in a remote safe house until they die as soul-less zombies.

The problem with trying to have a love or lust affair with a robot is that the true personal feedback  - the mirror of one's consciousness - can never be completely there, as to reach that level would of necessity require that the robot develop a true consciousness, at which point it would have its own motivations and legal/moral status. 
*There must be a vocabulary for mental objects somewhere.  Julian Jaynes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes) did some fascinating work in this direction, pointing to the Iliad and Odyssey for evidence of his conclusion, that mental objects serve as the building blocks of sentience.
One obvious solution to what to do with life, when a better replacement is available - which I suggested in the '60's - is to join them.  As we boomers start replacing more and more of our aging bio with synthetic replacements - cochlear implants with WiFi built in, artificial retinas with record/playback/alter/edit, the time will come when losing our last bio components will be a relief.  No more eating - or the other end, except as a dying art form (food, that is).  Music and music appreciation - including VR real-time environments keyed off the mix of the music and our emotional responses. Communal mind-melding as depicted in "Avatar." Just samples of where we could go if we don't self-destruct.  As New Men, death will come only as chance or choice, and we should be inherently capable of living LONG lives of ever-increasing intelligence and creativity.  There ARE physical limits - C, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, etc., but we are a long ways from them.
 
The trick is getting there.  Let's consider some of the possible mental perspectives.
 
I suggest that a good reference model for building a memetic object cluster about this general subject is the on-line gaming economy, where-in virtual objects in a game acquire real-money value, starting, I guess, about 20 years back, when game factories were starting up in China and elsewhere, with low pay employees working 16 hour days as players solely to acquire game objects to be marketed to the wealthy gamers who didn't want to waste their time fighting endless battles in hopes of acquiring some sword with magical powers. Just buy some virtual gold with real $ and then BUY the damned sword with the gold. This is now Big Business.
 
In the real world outside gaming, we are paying for cars that more and more incorporate on-board intelligence.  Meanwhile the Geo locators will collaborate, offering premium routing to those who can afford the premium, leaving the less privileged stuck in the long way home.
 
Eventually, something like an upgraded Glass/Rift will sweep the market, putting the user in an immersive augmented experience whose desirability will range over a broad spectrum, based mostly on what you can pay. The .1% will live in relative augmented paradises, while the typical worker around the world will struggle with limited access at home and over-access at work, as competition forces businesses to pressure their employees to stay on top of an ever-steeper technisization curve.
Don't believe any of this?
 
Today at the LA Fitness gym, about half of the exercise machines were idle and not available. Why? Because 30 or so people had forgotten about exercising and were busy smart-phoning, often for extended periods.* The gym should logically be providing an area with chairs, with a big sign, "WiFi" and charging outlets - like StarBucks. But apart from a couple chairs in the lobby, the only place to sit and text is an exercise machine - meaning everyone else is deprived of its use. I.e., LA Fitness is losing value, as the available equipment is taken off-line by the phone addicts and the membership numbers will likely suffer as the serious fitness buffs leave.
 
(Unfortunately, LA Fitness corporate does not have a reputation for listening. Just for one example, in their Costa Mesa spa, the hooks for clothes in the pool area are placed about 7 feet from the floor, making them totally inaccessible to most women and Asian men. This has not changed in about 15 years. I, or any reasonably intelligent person could save them $millions, just on such practical issues, but then it would make management look bad.)
 
*Some of the patrons who are into actual workouts have begun doing what appears to be retaliation or preemption by either camping out on their favorite machine or leaving a towell across the backrest and maybe a gym bag on the seat of a 2nd machine and then working out on a 3rd machine, all of which makes for confrontations and probably some fights if it continues. I had a little confrontation on that basis just this morning. 

One obvious solution that just occurred to me is a Queue APP, in which everyone in the gym who had a smartphone and the QUAP could autoschedule time on a sequence of exercise machines.  In an ideal world, the machines themselves would know if they were in use and also whether someone's allotted time had come.  The phone would then inform the patron that the machine had come open and the window of response.  A possible twist on this would be to allocate gym time via a counter.  If people were charged on a use basis, then you wouldn't see many people texting on a machine.

Meta, a smarter LA Fitness would do a complete VR model of the situation and test various solution paths, spotting glitches like out of reach clothes hooks.
 

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