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Month: June 2023

It’s bots all the way down?

It’s bots all the way down?

Have you heard of the Dead Internet Theory? In 2021, IlluminatiPirate wrote the theory in which they claimed that already, or very soon, the majority of the internet will be just bots and autogenerated content. They claimed this was done by a few illuminati type mustache twirlers bent on controlling opinions, grooming political/society’s opinions, as well as generating customers for particular products.

While the latter part of the theory is pretty implausible and tinfoil hat, ColdFusion does some interesting investigation into the claims by looking at the actual data – and shows how quickly we are actually approaching many of these Black Mirror like claims. Many of which I have written about before.

He investigates current bot usage compared to actual users. While many people rolled their eyes when Elon Musk made these claims about Twitter, we’re increasingly seeing social media companies failing during fiduciary scrutiny when they go to sell themselves. It turns out many have massive amounts of fake users. A major unicorn app was outed for having 95% bots just this week. Facebook took down 5.4 billion fake accounts in 2019 alone – more than twice the number of REAL accounts.

He follows an experiment in which a experimenter uses off the shelf tools to create a fake influencer who posts AI generated social media posts, AI generated pictures of a completely AI generated photorealistic person, and starts picking up follows – many of which were bots themselves. Caren Marjorie created an GPT4 AI version of herself that would be your girlfriend.

The Atlantic did a research project on tweets that all contained repeated text by countless accounts while similar profile pictures with huge engagement levels above their normal levels of those account types. By 2025-2030, 90-95% of the content on the internet may be generated by bots if we continue at the current rates.

Jubilee put 6 humans and 1 AI into a chat room and they had to pick out the bot just by the answers to questions given to them all to answer. It took a lot of rounds before they all guess the AI correctly.

Maybe you’d like to try the famous Turing Test yourself and see if you can spot the bot? Google has a bot that has successfully passed the Turning test, and ChatGPT was the second.

Want to see how fast AI is progressing? Did you know chatGPT 4 is able to get 90th percentile on the Bar exam, solve complex logic problems, build complex apps and games, write books, or make money by founding and running a company for you? He doesn’t even capture all the things AI has been doing.

This is worth a watch if you want to see a smattering of what AI is already doing in 2023

Big Horse Ranch

Big Horse Ranch

I ran across two beautiful horses that were bought from the folks at Big Horse Station in Sisters, OR. They raise and rescue draft and draft-cross horses.

I always loved riding big draft horses. My favorite time was a 2 hour sunset beach ride on a big Belgian named Waffle – that was also ridden by Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was up in Astoria filming Kindergarten Cop.

A tale of three cities

A tale of three cities

In 200AD, Christian apologist Tertullian wrote this famous line: “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” He was arguing an early part of doctrine: is faith compatible with reason?

The same subject-matter is discussed over and over again by the heretics and the philosophers; the same arguments are involved. Whence comes evil? Why is it permitted? What is the origin of man? And in what way does he come? …

From all these, when the apostle (St Paul) would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to the Colossians, he says, See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost. He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews (with its philosophers) become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, while it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects. What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from the porch of Solomon, who had himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart. Wisdom 1:1 Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel!

Prescription against Heretics – Tertullian – Chapter 7

Tertullian was clearly well versed and well read in all the greats of Greek philosophy. Despite loving Greek classics, I got a chuckle from Tertullian’s jabs here. I think every philosophy student has occasionally felt a bit of this towards some of the same arguments you read in classical Greek writings.

Still, Tertullian was right – but only partly so. He concludes that philosophy is far too easily led astray as St John the apostle found after his arguments with the Greeks. He tried arguing with them based on their reason, only to find them unreceptive to making the leap of faith required to believe in the resurrected Jesus – despite the fact they agreed with the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching: loving neighbor as you love yourself, helping the widow, orphan, and poor, not being a slave to the cravings of the flesh, the qualities of a virtuous life, etc. But with centuries of wrangling, we have found faith and reason are not incompatible – quite the opposite. St Thomas married philosophy and religion, religious scientists such as Fr Gregory Mendel, Georges Lemaitre, countless others were cornerstones of scientific development, and most recently the papal document Fides et Ratio all declare “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth

Tertullian was right – partly. Philosophy and pure acts of reason can lead us astray – but just as much as any human pursuit that is always limited with imperfect knowledge and imperfect motivations. Besides the fact we simply do not know everything (witness how science developed over the last 1000 years), he points out that simple opinion and philosophical reasoning can too easily lead to ‘vain deceit, after the tradition of men’. In other words, if we do our philosophy badly or in a spirit of justifying ourselves, it can very easily turn into simply reasoning for doing whatever we want instead of really connecting ourselves to a higher truth than ourselves.

Now for the 3rd city. Luke Burgis added a third vector to this equation: Silicon Valley. Reason is Athens, Faith is Jerusalem, and Silicon valley is a new vector: value and utility:

But today there is a third city affecting the other two. Silicon Valley, this third city, is not governed primarily by reason (it is practically the mark of a great entrepreneur to not be “reasonable”), nor by the things of the soul (the dominant belief seems to be a form of materialism). It is a place, rather, governed by the creation of value. And a large component of value is utility—whether something is useful, or is at least perceived as good or beneficial.

The Three-City Problem of Modern Life – Luke Burgis

I like the abstract thinking, but I don’t think it elevates Silicon Valley to a third city. If anything, Silicon Valley is a suburb of the city of reason. It’s definitely not the pure reason of classical Greek philosophy, but a suburb of reason where something’s value is measured by utility (utility that is often judged on financial gain or marketable capability) instead of virtue. In the end, this is another form of philosophy reading the world. It’s a utilitarian philosophy with roots in economic philosophy. Tertullian would likely just call it another sect of worldly philosophy and subject to the same failings if done wrong. Economic philosophy has been written about in many forms over the last century.

Tertullian’s two cities were not in actual conflict if one recognizes the failings of Athens/philosophical reasoning aren’t inherent, but rather accidental due to the limitations of the people pursuing it. Just like we still rely on science which is constantly developed as we learn new things, it’s not that we throw it out, but instead use it while understanding carefully it’s limitations.

Instead of the need for a multiplicity of cities, just like real cities we can see them having various neighborhoods and suburbs. Each suburb may have a unique collection or focus of those qualities – but still have the same underlying basis. Economic philosophy and the philosophy of what gives something value is just one of those.

Gaudium et Spes tells us that to have a better view, we must start with a balanced understanding rooted in the inherent value of the human person – the revealed reality of that person in relationship with each other, the created world, and with God.

Without this, even the most well-meaning humanitarian, philosophical, and economic efforts can go horribly wrong. We have a perfect example of exactly this happening. It was the late 1800’s/early 1900’s goal of Modernist philosophy to finally control and remove the ills of the world. To unshackle itself from the fallout of the industrial revolution while at the same time harnessing it to direct human efforts towards an ultimate, global, planned good.

It was embarked with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, Modernism’s unbridled pursuit – which had no foundations in the value of the human person let alone relationship with God – lead the brightest, most progressive minds and artists of their day to embrace horrors like eugenics to develop the most perfect societies (which lead to Nazi’s and the gas chambers), economic policies like Communism and Socialism (which resulted in 10’s of millions of deaths during political and ethnic cleansings in Russia, China, and Cambodia’s killing fields), as well as 2 World Wars. All of these things seemed like perfectly rational ways of fighting suffering and unequal distribution of wealth.

It seems counter-intuitive that such well-meaning attempts as creating a more perfect world would lead to the bloodiest, most brutal century in human history. But it did – all because we act with imperfect knowledge and lack of value of each human person as a beloved child of God. Our policies create unintended side-effects – and the 20th century showed clearly those side effects very often are an order of magnitude worse than the problem they tried to solve.

This reality was eloquently captured in one of Flannery O’Connor’s most famous quotes: “tenderness leads to the gas chambers”. Instead, one needs their whole rational and spiritual self to be based on something else – and for the person of faith – it must start and end in faith in God. Half of which comes from His teaching, the other half comes from prayer and daily personal connection to direct our steps. We pursue science, philosophy, and economic theory to understand the world, but we must admit it’s limits.

The irony is that the greatest and longest lasting change the world ever experienced came from an itinerant preacher in the middle east who was killed as a common criminal after only preaching for 3 years. Something that has never been done since – and shows the power of that truth.

The Story of Mel

The Story of Mel

Are you a programmer’s programmer? A man among men? Have people written epic poems about your coding? If not, maybe you should be as cool as ‘The Story of Mel‘.

The stories of Melvin Kaye have become part of programming folklore. Little is actually known of him beyond the fact he did lots of interesting programming with a very early Royal McBee LGP-30. He eschewed optimizing compilers and hand-crafted his code to take advantage of the most esoteric hardware quirks – such as using the LGP-30’s drum memory rotation speed to write delay loops in his code.

Maybe give one of his be-fabled stories a read. Or perhaps one of his other stories.

Frame interpolation

Frame interpolation

If you have some video that is pretty chunky, you can use this software called RIFE (Real-Time Intermediate Flow Estimation) to add interpolated frames.

Andymation uses this to smooth out some of his flip books – which gives some interesting results.

But it makes me wonder if this is the same technique/engines used by people like videographer guy jones to fix old movies like these:

Or you could go full-on for museum quality restoration like this:

Non-Euclidean rendering

Non-Euclidean rendering

M.C. Escher was famous for his wonderful mind-bending images. I loved his drawings as a kid because it created a sense of wonder, playfulness, and unlocked interesting new viewpoints and possibilities simply by violating a single physical or geometric expectation.

We’re used to the world following rules. If we leave a room, we would expect to go back into that same room if we opened the door. But in rendered scenes, none of those rules needs to be followed. We can actually make M.C. Escher like worlds a reality. But how – and more importantly – how could we use them to make an interesting gaming experience?

CodeParade walks us through many interesting effects that can be created using some simple non-Euclidian rendering and movement techniques.

As it turns out – games have been doing this for a little while. One of the first examples of slightly violating the rules of Euclidean space was the use of portals in the mega-hit game Portal (well, Narbacular Drop if you want to get technical). I say slightly because Portal actually does a very good job trying to maintain the physical properties of size, gravity, momentum, and physics of our everyday world when interacting with the portal. But, there are still problems like when you try to pass a portal into itself… or if you start messing with momentum…or if you start sandwiching the portals, etc.

Others started really twisting other rules of Euclidean space and exploring the results. Non-Euclidean spaces seemed ripe to create innovative and interesting puzzle games. I remember seeing early drops of Antichamber and being really fascinated by the simple, yet mind bending puzzles. As Digidigger explains, these tricks are accomplished with a combination of teleportation, creative use of the stencil buffers, and so forth.

Other games quickly followed like Manifold Garden that added the concept of infinite world wrap-around. Hyperbolica uses hyperbolic projection mapping. Then there were forced perspective games like Superliminal. As we quickly see, there is more than one rule to break in Euclidian space.

More recently and to greater effect – non-Euclidean tricks are being used in horror games. The experience of the world shifting around you definitely can create a very unsettling emotional response. Paintings that become doorways, rooms that change when you look away. Whole games have become based on these simple effects. Non-Euclidean techniques are here to stay. The real question is, how will we think of using them next?

Learning more:

Issues Valve ran into when making the game Portal:

How to create portals and solving the most common perspective, distance, scaling, collision detection, and physics issues you’ll encounter:

Hyperbolica devlog (13 video playlist):

Secrets behind how P.T. works. There’s also some pretty awesome exploration and disassembly by Lance McDonald.

Fun with spheres

Fun with spheres

Three interesting and mind bending mathematical experiments on spheres.

The Banach–Tarski paradox is a theorem in set-theoretic geometry which states: Given a solid ball in three-dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. Indeed, the reassembly process involves only moving the pieces around and rotating them without changing their shape. However, the pieces themselves are not “solids” in the usual sense, but infinite scatterings of points. The reconstruction can work with as few as five pieces. How it works is as fascinating as the paradox itself

The paradox of creating 2 identical spheres from 1 was also used as the key plot element in Futurama.

Turning a sphere inside out without tearing it

In differential topology, sphere eversion is the process of turning a sphere inside out in a three-dimensional space (the word eversion means “turning inside out”). Remarkably, it is possible to smoothly and continuously turn a sphere inside out in this way (allowing self-intersections of the sphere’s surface) without cutting or tearing it or creating any crease. This is surprising, both to non-mathematicians and to those who understand regular homotopy, and can be regarded as a veridical paradox; that is something that, while being true, on first glance seems false

Visualizing being inside a spherical mirror.

You’ve definitely seen infinity mirrors where one mirror is placed in front and one behind you to create the illusion of a long hallway of repeating images. But what if you were inside a round room that was coated like a mirror?

Retro Japanese vending machines

Retro Japanese vending machines

The Sagamihara Used Tire Mart and Vending Machine Corner in Kanagawa, Japan has an amazing collection of very old vending machines. The staff maintains them and even cooks the meals for them. See old mechanical hot and cold serve coffee/tea machines, hamburgers, potstickers, squeezed orange juice, candied apples, Kodak film vending machine, ice cream machines, an ultra rare hot curry machine that worked before microwave technology, popcorn machines, machines with old nixie tube displays, and some old pachinko and video game machines.

Here we go – AI reimagines Aliens as a Wes Anderson movie

Here we go – AI reimagines Aliens as a Wes Anderson movie

AI Fungi used generative AI technology to simulate what a Wes Anderson’s version of the classic sci-fi/horror flick Aliens might look like. He injects Tilda Swinton in the role of Ripley as well as some other recognizable regulars on Anderson’s movies and the Nostromo getting a colorful upgrade.

Yes, AI can do this today. Imagine in a few years from now…