God, Tax and AI

Today, while walking to a client meeting, I was approached by a man.

Man: Are you interested in talking about God and such?

Me: No, not really. I am more interested in making money.

Man: Is it not strange that the Large Hadron Collider recreates circumstances similar to those during the Big Bang, the creation of our universe. The Hadron Collider was built by intelligent people, then, why shouldn't there be intelligence behind the Big Bang?

Me: I am interested in artificial intelligence and hope to one day build a machine with an intelligence surpassing that of humans. However, I would not want the machine to care about its creator. I would want it to solve problems.

Man: Surely a machine would have no conscience, as man, as is witnessed by his enactment of the laws of society.

Me: Who says that man has conscience, that it is not an illusion? Anyway, I think a machine could be programmed to have conscience. ...And when I look at the tax legislation in this country, I really cannot see that as an expression of conscience.

Reinforcement Learning - Tic Tac Toe

Based on Sutton and Barto's "Reinforcement Learning", I did a simple python implementation of tic tac toe.

The algorithm has no knowledge of tic tac toe, except it knows when it has won or lost. By playing against you and itself it gradually learns how to play well.

This particular implementation does not take "exploratory" steps, but it would be simple to implement.

Python code

Information Diet

Reddit, digg and slashdot, New York Times, Financial Times, Wired, Facebook - you are all quarantined for one week. You take up too much of my non-work time.

Python Particle Simulation

Here is how to do a basic particle simulation in Python using PyGame.

The movie below shows a basic 2d particle simulation emulating particles that are attracted to each other, while simultaneously avoiding getting too close to each other.

See the Python source code.

Running on a Mac with Python 2.5? Install pygame and pyobjc from http://rene.f0o.com/~rene/stuff/macosx/. OS X 10.4 versions also work in OS X 10.5.

Why Toyota Discontinued the Electric Car

Toyota discontinued sales and production of the purely electrical vehicle RAV4-EV in 2003. The Toyota website states:
"Although a significant marketing effort was undertaken for the RAV4-EV, we only sold about 300 vehicles a year" and "[...] technical issues tied to electric vehicles remain a major hurdle [...]".

There was no conspiracy against electric cars, no technology was being held back to serve oil or state interests. If any individual had knowledge of such technology, its sale would yield instant wealth.

For the electric car, it was mainly a question of battery efficiency that had to improve beyond some threshold. Surely, the higher price of oil now provides a strong incentive for technologists to develop and reintroduce the electric car again. Tesla Motors Roadster is in production, while Mitsubishi's i MiEV will hit the market later. In Denmark, it has been decided to waiver the usual 180% tax on cars, if it is an electric car.

Toyota RAV4-EV

Written later after watching Who Killed The Electric Car.

On the other hand, the individual car company benefits from engines that need spare parts. Electric car engines, it is said, need less maintenance and spare parts. If hydrogen became the future main power source for vehicles, rather than electricity, oil companies could possibly transform their existing infrastructure.

On Obama's Elitism

During the election campaign in California, Obama was quoted for a remark relating poverty, fundamentalism, guns and bitterness; a remark that was interpreted as elitist.

Here is a hilarious comment from someone bitter.

In Time magazine, April 28, 2008, "A Bitter Lesson":
"I think them remarks is the absolute truth," said Bill Williams, 60, a bearded disabled veteran from Waynesburg who attended an Obama town-hall meeting near Pittsburgh. "We like our faith and our guns. I went to church when things were bad, and I went out and I hunted for my family food, where I didn't know whatever to put the gun in my mouth or to shoot an animal. So, yeah, he was right on the money. And was I bitter, and am I bitter? Hell, yes, I am."