Are we living in a computer simulation?

Perhaps what we see isn’t what we get. Instead, life is just computer code and humans are information.

So does a simulated life mean that we can live forever? Says theoretical physicist James Gates: “If the simulation hypothesis is valid, then we open the door to eternal life and resurrection and things that formally have been discussed in the realm of religion. As long as I have a computer that’s not damaged, I can always re-run the program.”

We are conscious automata

If our lives are predetermined and robotic, surely there’s a way to confuse the puppeteer? MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark offers some sage advice:

“If you’re not sure at the end of the night whether you’re simulated or not, my advice to you is to go out there and live really interesting lives and do unexpected things, so the simulators don’t get bored and shut you down.”

To bear with uncertainty is to be certain that there remains chaos undulating in the computer code of cosmos.

Tech is ‘the cigarette of this century’

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Photo by Ludovic Toinel

Technology undermines human willpower by stealing our attention and supercharging information distribution. We are stuck in a gif loop of variable rewards while bombarded with trivial “breaking” news.

We can’t escape the ‘hypnotic effect’ of digital stimuli because it’s got us hooked. We are stuck in destabilizing habits that resist self-regulation. Like lemmings, we keep coming back for more. Writes Nir Eyal:

“Ubiquitous access to the web, transferring greater amounts of personal data at faster speeds than ever before, has created a more potentially addictive world. According to famed Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham, we haven’t had time to develop societal “antibodies to addictive new things.” Graham places responsibility on the user: “Unless we want to be canaries in the coal mine of each new addiction— the people whose sad example becomes a lesson to future generations— we’ll have to figure out for ourselves what to avoid and how.”


Profiting from all distraction are companies that offer free services in exchange for advertising. Facebook, Google, et al. have turned their users’ eyeballs into lab experiments for clicks where humans get lost in a zoo of status updates and amplification. We show zero restraint to our technology vices, what professor Ian Bogost calls the ‘cigarette of this century.’

How do humans push back against addictive technology?

Computers intend to make our lives better, what Steve Jobs called, “bicycles for the mind.” What he didn’t foresee is the rapidity of change. Even radio and tv took time to evolve. What we’re experiencing now in the internet-era is hyper-speed beyond human comprehension.

Guiding a neophyte mathematician to name the biggest number 🔢

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People are afraid of big numbers because they have no spatial understanding; the largest numbers are beyond comprehension, as the multitude of chess moves or the unfathomable number of sand grains in the desert. Infinity appears impossible to count!

University of Texas computer science professor Scott Aaronson believes the answer to naming the world’s biggest number lies within the deepest paradigm, some of which is solvable by exponentials, language, and sheer imagination:

“When thinking about 3, 4, or 7, we’re guided by our spatial intuition, honed over millions of years of perceiving 3 gazelles, 4 mates, 7 members of a hostile clan. But when thinking about BB(1000), we have only language, that evolutionary neophyte, to rely upon. The usual neural pathways for representing numbers lead to dead ends. And this, perhaps, is why people are afraid of big numbers.”

Read Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

Remembering Steve Jobs: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ 📱

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Steve Jobs died six years ago today. He was 56 years old. His uniqueness, unconventional leadership, and big-picture thinking will never be forgotten.

Jobs made tech fashionable. He made sure to remind us that we are the creators.

Below are some of my favorite Jobs’ quotes.

“Make something wonderful, and put it out there.”

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

A brain without a body

Artificial intelligence is like a brain without a body. Instead of billions of neurons, computers contain bits and bytes of varying voltage levels so it can do stuff like provide directions or beat humans at chess.

Deep Blue beat Kasparov not by matching his insight and intuition but by overwhelming him with blind calculation. Thanks to years of exponential gains in processing speed, combined with steady improvements in the efficiency of search algorithms, the computer was able to comb through enough possible moves in a short enough time to outduel the champion.

Machines have faster processors. Even the most effective Ritalin in the world would leave a person at a loss. Yet, AI is a factory of nothingness without human programming. It is ‘competent without comprehension,’ although the human mind often falls guilty to automatic pilot.

The future superhuman will no doubt combine the two to make a cyborg.  We’re a brain chip away from the computer-powered brain, scampering closer to a new culture of memes galore.

 

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Knowing it all exists

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The internet reintroduces lost objects. Everything from rare reggae recordings to out of print books finds its way online to be consumed for the first time.

Only physical objects like pieces of art retain their scarcity, and therefore their value. But digitization means one copy makes infinite shelf life.

Sharing bytes of knowledge amplifies the value of the original asset. What’s mine is your’s, even if your copy is just a jpeg.

Living in digital format ensures permanency and shareability. Mass production begets mass consumption, all without a factory and a warehouse.

Pre-digital Pace

Photo via Riley McCullough

The brain’s wiring is remarkable, but it’ll never — without some form of unnatural augmentation — catch up with the algorithmic filtering of digital machines.

We can only move as fast as the pre-digital brain space allows. The adaptation to robot falls short without Google as a second brain to supplement it.

In our faster pace of thinking, we risk constructing a chaos of self, consuming everything and remembering nothing.

Wikipedia vs. the Small Screen

Only 20 percent of the readership of the English-language Wikipedia comes via mobile devices, a figure substantially lower than the percentage of mobile traffic for other media sites, many of which approach 50 percent. And the shift to mobile editing has lagged even more.

The concern in the Wikipedia movement and among people who study it is that smartphones and tablets are designed for “consumer behavior” rather than “creative behavior.” In other words, mobile users are much more likely to read a Wikipedia article than improve it.

It’s more difficult to edit on a smaller screen but not impossible. That’s what apps are for. That’s what blank screens are for, to inspire creativity.

I’ve been doing more and more on my Smartphone and I expect it to be just as optimal as a desktop. But do they?

For a Better Memory, Hit ‘Delete’

Even with a second brain, we’re overloaded. At the end of the day, creativity > less memory.  

#Newsolutions

The Science Behind Fonts (And How They Make You Feel)

Fonts impact the reading experience, especially on computers:

“The researchers concluded that well-designed reading environments don’t necessarily help you understand what you’re reading better, but they do make you feel good, causing you to feel inspired and more likely to take action.”

While it feels good to read line after line it feels best to read strong writing.

“Write well first. Design well second.”