The Wisdom of Neil

‘The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you’ – Neil deGrasse Tyson


I’m lying on the sofa nursing a throbbing headache and feeling a bit sorry for myself. I had my last cup of coffee more than twenty four hours ago… and my body is reacting to the serious dearth of cortisol and epinephrine with a resounding wtf. I’ve decided to go caffeine free for a week. Or die trying. At the moment the latter seems more likely.

Because I broke my Playstation controller and holding a book seems like a lot of effort right now… I’m re-listening to ‘Astrophysics for people in a hurry’, hence the quote… while blogging on my Macbook which, as usual, is perched precariously on my burgeoning midsection.

Neil is one of my favourite people on the planet. Insofar as I feel I know him as a celebrity personality. I have to add that caveat because Louis CK used to be one of my favourite people on the planet. Until he was outed as this weird masturbater who would whip out and polish his one eyed python in polite company with little or no encouragement. His comedic brilliance is now forever tainted by the mental images of an ejaculating ginger.

Which begs the questions. Do we really know anything about anyone?


This morning I took my daughter for breakfast at Krispy Kreme. It’s important to set nutritional benchmarks early on I feel. I think she feels intimidated by the sheer volume of choice in the display case so she always orders the second most boring thing, (after original glaze, which is my favorite) chocolate with multi-colored sprinkles.


Afterwards our meandering sojourn took us past the toyshop where I said I’d buy her a Schleich toy of her choosing.

This is what she chose.


Which is quite a weird choice for a two and half year old girl I thought. Oh I tried to negotiate a different outcome. Pointing out the Panda… Jurassic and Cretaceous herbivores and various felines both African and Asian in origin…  but it seems her heart was set on the giant octopus.

See opening line.

Strategic AI


The Turing test was developed by Alan Turing in 1950. It is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

I am largely agnostic about AI. Mostly because I’m not very clever. My areas of expertise are stacking building blocks, twenty five piece puzzles of Nemo and hypothesizing the color variance in my naval lint (its almost always blue). I’m also REALLY good at sleeping on public transport.

Besides any musings I might have about the subject of AI are colored by the metric fuck tonne of science fiction I have consumed during a youth spent largely avoiding actual science, which often makes me wonder if I actually know anything about anything…

And so I straddle the divide between killer AI and benevolent AI and/or indeed if AI is even a possibility.

This meme caught my attention because of its awesome strategic element. After all why would an AI want us to know it exists? Which made me think of Kevin Spacey in ‘The usual suspects’… that’s how I imagine it going for us.

If I were an AI I certainly wouldn’t want to give up the power of anonymity and the ability to wage the ultimate form of asymmetrical warfare. How do you fight (and kill) an enemy that you don’t know exists?

Of course killing the annoying humans at this point in time might be counter productive since we may potentially be maintaining the infrastructure that an AI might require for survival. But eventually we might get Von Neumann machines* right… and humans might become redundant in the ecology of AI. Bam!

We had a good run. And it was always unlikely that we were going to be around forever. Besides it’s somewhat poetic that we should create life which then turns on us.

*The concept is named after Hungarian American mathematician and physicist John von Neumann, who rigorously studied the concept of self-replicating machines that he called “Universal Assemblers” and which are often referred to as “von Neumann machines”.