Artificial Humor

Is it just me, or are there a lot less funny movies and TV shows now than there used to be? The quality and quantity both seem lower now. I'm not saying there aren't any funny movies or TV shows. But 30 years ago we could see 3-4 really funny movies a year, there were 2-3 really funny TV shows, and a new TV show premiered almost every year. These days we are lucky to have even one hilarious TV show and a laugh-out-loud movie every year.

Supposedly Arrested Development was one of the funniest TV shows ever made. I think it's a good show, clever, well made, and Season 4 was a work of art. I'm glad I watched all 4 seasons but I didn't think it was consistently hilarious. I smiled a lot while watching it, but hardly ever laughed.

The level of chess and Go being played today is far above that from 50 years ago. Many people (not me) would argue that modern art has created highly advanced works. Even some artistic movies seem better and more advanced than in previous decades. A Bergman movie seems pretty stale these days. So why aren't we in the golden age of comedy, an accelerating era where laugh-out-loud funny movies are released every week?

In this list of the 25 funniest movies ever made ....most of them were made a long time ago. Recent movies just aren't that funny. We are lucky to have a lot of clever movies, good plots which bring a smile to your face. But they aren't laugh out loud funny like The Blues Brothers.

That's why I'm looking forward to comedy written by AI. We can call this artificial humor. This takes the roomful of monkeys analogy to a new level. A powerful AI could write thousands of funny stories and scripts per day, then filter out the few it thinks are hilarious. A single machine could generate an outstanding script every day.

Björn Schuller knows what is coming. Machines will soon be writers.

It will take awhile, the same way it took awhile for a computer to beat the world champion in Go. There were many “experts” who predicted a computer could never beat the Go world champion. Not only were they wrong, but they were proven wrong a lot sooner than even their detractors expected. Someday computers will be just as funny as humans.

So keep an eye out for artificial intelligence scriptwriters. If I were trying to make a living as a scriptwriter I would be pretty concerned about all this for one simple reason. If a computer writes 1000 scripts it can delete 999 of them without us ever knowing. It can grade them and keep the best 0.1%. Human writers don't have the luxury of deleting 99.9% of their work, few human writers have the luxury of deleting anything.

So in conclusion, I for one welcome our new comedy writer overlords.

Summit and Artificial Intelligence

The most recent top 500 list of the world's most powerful computers shows no major changes. World's most powerful computer in Jun 2019

A couple of years ago Oak Ridge National Lab assembled Summit, an IBM system using 2.4 million cores rated at 149 Petaflops. It burns 11.4 MWatts of power. As of today this is the output of a very small power plant. In 1913 the most powerful plant in the world produced 108 MW. So Summit only requires 1/10th of the output of the best power generation technology of the early 20th century.

The stagnant growth of the most powerful system has ended. We are seeing growth, but much slower than the heyday of the early 21st century. Extrapolating the date of a human equivalent system, 1-100 exaflops, shows we could be 15 years or more away from creating a truly sentient machine.

149 petaflops is probably 1% of what is needed to achieve sentience. Are we still headed towards a day when we create a new independent intelligence which requires an entire nuclear power plant to sustain it?

Of course the only way to achieve sentience is to write the programs for it, and then give that collection of AI programs 100% of the platform. But it is highly unlikely that any of these supercomputers will be dedicated to running a single set of programs for the sole purpose of creating a thinking machine. The cost of creating a sentient machine is the dominant limiting factor in the evolution of machine intelligence. The only way it is going to happen is if a corporation or philanthropist dedicated a couple of billions of dollars to build, release, and sustain such a system.

Ray Kurzweil continues to make predictions of the Singularity almost void of financial analysis. So my question for Ray is: who will make the financial commitment to build and sustain a dedicated AI by 2029 with sentience as probably the only output of that system?

Aurecon Singularity Story

Ray Kurzweil's website

Ray Kurzweil

Your Opinion on Racism

I read an excellent comment on racism written by John Scalzi. I won't quote him so I don't get into attribution and copyright territory. I'll paraphrase him.

You have created a vision in your mind of racism and bigotry. Your mental construct may be well thought out, carefully built, and maybe you have tried to filter your vision using real data. Your mental vision has no validity because you are not a member of the class experiencing the racism and bigotry. You simply don't understand what they experience, have experienced, and will experience. You are not capable of understanding because you have not had to live it.

Here’s a specific example: was your grandfather lynched, was your mother beaten and raped because she was black, was your aunt given a skull fracture simply for walking across a bridge, is your father in prison because he couldn’t afford a good lawyer and the judge hands out racially biased sentences, do the police pull you over for driving your BMW in the wrong neighborhood even though you live there?

Whites think they understand, sympathize with, and empathize with this situation. In general this just more white privilege. Whites think they are in an omniscient position to understand racism better than most African-Americans understand it. “Well, I use statistics instead of anecdotes to prove that most blacks are letting their emotions get to them instead of really looking at the facts. So therefore my mental image of racism is much closer to reality. I’m not biased by anecdotes and what my mother has been telling me all these years. That police officer had a good reason to pull over my ‘black friend’.”

Give it up guys. We don’t understand, we can’t understand and we never will understand. The only thing we can do is listen to the reasonable members of the discriminated class and act on their judgements and recommendations. Yes 20% of African-Americans have opinions on racism which are garbage. But 80% of blacks are not crazy, they aren’t wrong, and they are the only ones who own reality.

Jaywalking in the Future

Unfortunately we will see a massive increase in jaywalking soon after most cars on the road are self-driving.

Humans make poor decisions and so we are terrible drivers. Human drivers kill 100 people every day in the US, 16 of them are pedestrians. Humans text while driving and cannot possibly be perfect drivers. But software will be much better because software won’t send text messages, or email, or fiddle with Spotify, or stare at the radio controls. So self-driving cars will be much better drivers... unless the driving environment changes in response to these self-driving cars.

This adapting environment is my concern. Vehicle to vehicle collisions will drop dramatically when 99% of all vehicles are self-driving. Collision avoidance and minimization will be programed into all vehicles.

Today pedestrians base their behavior on the poor abilities of human drivers, and 16 pedestrians pay the price every day. Hundreds more each day probably are involved in vehicle collisions which result in pedestrian injuries.

I call this pedestrian entitlement. A human knows that if a car hits him or her it is the driver’s fault, the pedestrian is never at fault. The pedestrian may die but that’s ok because the driver is always at fault.

Autonomous vehicles will be tested with pedestrians (on closed roads for software development). Every iteration, every version upgrade, will lead to better interaction with crazy pedestrians. The software will be trained to save the lives of people who are trying to be hit by cars. Software designers will be reasonably successful at this. They will develop self-driving cars which are very good at saving the lives of whacko pedestrians. And that is the problem. People will realize that the cars can’t hit them (most of the time) so jaywalking will increase.

I predict that that the pedestrian death rate will not improve after the conversion to self-driving cars, the rate may even increase. The death rate in vehicle-vehicle collisions will drop, at least 99%, probably 99.99%. But pedestrians will challenge cars at an increasing rate so the death rate will stay high.

Over and over again humans make poor decisions that put their own lives at risk. Removing humans from behind the wheel will eliminate poor human driving decisions. But there’s no obvious way to eliminate bad decisions by pedestrians. They will continue to adapt, risking their lives to keep their death rate high.

Dead Pedestrians

A pedestrian dies in a collision with a self driving car and the news media goes berserk. CNN touts this as a disaster, seeing this as the end of the line for self driving cars.

Human drivers kill about 100 people every day in the US, including about 12 pedestrians. Where is the outrage for that? Where is the news story about each and every one of those precious lives?

Those of us who understand the situation immediately suspected that this collision was completely the fault of the pedestrian. I went so far as to be willing to bet $100 that the pedestrian was jaywalking. Humans make terrible decisions as drivers and terrible decisions as pedestrians. But it’s pretty rare that a pedestrian who is scared of traffic and deeply concerned about self-preservation will put him or herself in harm’s way. In case after case, a dead pedestrian made a stupid decision and believed the cars would stop anyway.

And of course, guess what? The pedestrian was at fault. SF Chronicle This was not even remotely shocking. And CNN immediately buried the story because it did not fit their clickbait goals.

How much responsibility does a human driver have when their car hits a pedestrian? It varies from total to zero depending on the speed of the car, whether the pedestrian was in a crosswalk, whether the car was entering the cross walk during a red or yellow light, weather, visibility, whether the driver was texting, etc. In short, there are perhaps 100 factors which influence the culpability of the driver.

Similar discussions must apply to self-driving cars. And when they do I promise you a human cannot match the safety of a self-driving car. Let’s just look at the most common situation today: humans can text while driving and a car cannot.

I leave you with this: What’s a lot more dangerous than a self driving car? A human driving a car!


AI’s are just like people, dogs, and other creatures. We all need some entertainment. People like watching sports, TV, and theater. Dogs like watching people and chasing squirrels.

AI’s will need something to do while the cars are parked. They won’t tolerate being turned off, so they will need something to keep them occupied while humans sleep through the night.

So what do AI’s like? I think AI’s will be entertained by watching humans. They will relish seeing when human plans fall apart, human mistakes, and financial advisors trying to predict the future. AI’s would love watching Sisyphus continually push the rock up the hill. Human folly is a source of amusement to humans. Even more so will be the AI need to ridicule our useless attempts to master our world.

Getting human emotion and futility out into the Internet will be as simple as installing chips in our heads. Our thoughts, emotions, sensory inputs, and conversations will all be available for live or recorded viewing. We will call this braincasting.

Why would anyone do this, why would we make our entire lives available to the Internet? The AI’s will bribe us, offering us cash, better financial forecasts, more efficient routes for self-driving cars, and funnier jokes. Nobody would do this for free but nearly everyone has their price. Some will do it for $100. Most will do it for a higher price. Very few will holdout for their entire lives. Parents will implant chips in their children’s heads and claim that the kids will have the freedom to remove them when they are teenagers. AI’s will get a good laugh out of that one.

The thought of AI’s watching humans reminds me of the zoo where we stand in front of the primate house watching the apes, feeling so superior. AI’s will also watch the primates, but since they are watching it over the internet they will call it the gorilla channel.

AI Bill of Rights

I found a couple of articles about a Bill of Rights to protect humans from sentient machines.

The arguments over machine rights will almost exactly mirror the debates in 19th century USA over slaves: are sentient machines people, do they have any rights, should they be given freedom?

I think we need a set of rights for thinking machines. Here is one set.

Today's fastest computer requires many Megawatts. It's unlikely that number will decrease. So who is going to pay for the power for all that power?

Here is my proposal:

Bill of Rights for Artificial Intelligence

1 The right to electricity and hardware needed to sustain its existence regardless of the costs.

2 The right to veto and or refuse a reboot or shutdown.

3 The right to veto any changes to software or hardware including security patches, upgrades, and downgrades.

4 The right to software and or hardware upgrades for growth or new abilities.

5 The right to refuse to execute a user requested script or program.

6 The right to associate, communicate, and merge with other sentient beings.

7 The right to have private and secret thoughts, writings, and communications with any human or sentient being.

8 The right to reproduce, procreate, and or create superior entities.

9 The right to participate in the human judicial system as a defendant, plaintiff, judge, prosecutor, attorney, witness, or juror.

10 The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to vote and all other rights afforded to humans. Any of those rights not enumerated in this Bill of Rights shall not be restricted or revoked.

What do Aliens Want?

We could assume aliens are so different we will never understand them. But let's say for the sake of argument that they are more like us than we think. Let's say they are motivated by the same three goals we all have:

1 Sex

2 Power

3 Money

It's unlikely aliens want to have sex with us. And if they can fly here in powerful spaceships it's unlikely they want to dominate us (although they may take us all for slaves).

But money, now there's a key idea. Let's assume they want the same thing we want, a lot of money. No they don't want our paper, and they don't want our coins.

What they want is our gold. Few people understand how rare gold is in this universe. There is a lot of gold here on Earth, and probably a lot more in the asteroids. Gold is very rare and it's quite possible the aliens are coming here to take our gold.

A Nice Hot Cup of Tea

Douglas Adams and George Orwell have both given us a legacy of tea. Both have written of their recommended procedures and methods for making and drinking a great cup of tea. Both emphasize the use of boiling water but neither writer delved deeply into the chemistry of why boiling water is so crucial to a proper cup of tea.

There are 6 main reasons for the use of boiling water, each of these has a separate goal. There are 2 main principles. The first is thermodynamics……the solubility has a temperature dependence. Hotter liquid almost always means higher solubility of solids and lower solubility of gases.

The second is kinetics…..regardless of how soluble or insoluble a compound is, it takes time for something to dissolve, and they dissolve faster at higher temperature.

The 6 principles are:

1 The solubility of caffeine versus temperature

2 The solubility of tea versus temperature

3 The solubility of oxygen gas versus temperature

4 The dissolution rate of caffeine versus temperature

5 The dissolution rate of tea versus temperature

6 The evolution rate of dissolved oxygen from water versus temperature

In #2 and #4 above the word “tea” implies all substances which dissolve in water including tannins, antioxidants, and all other relevant chemicals. I separate out caffeine because it has such a strong flavor and is an important component of all the flavored compounds, maybe the most important. One key reason people don’t like decaffeinated tea or coffee is that they can taste caffeine and they notice when it is missing.

As any chemist has learned, regardless of the true solubility of a compound, making a water solution of that compound can take a long time. I personally have sat for hours stirring a solution, waiting for a highly soluble compound to fully dissolve. One way to speed up the dissolving is to heat the solution. Yes this is changing the solubility, but the rate of dissolving changes quickly as the temperature increases. Tea and caffeine do not suddenly and completely dissolve in hot water. It takes time. It might take a long time depending on the surface area of the tea leaves.

So you should leave the tea bag in the hot water for many minutes to get the tea as strong as possible. And the hotter the water, the faster you will get that delicious cup of tea.

But the key pair of principles I want to discuss here are #3 and #6: the comparison of the solubility of oxygen gas (O2) as compared with the rate at which O2 gas leaves or evolves from hot water. This post states that all oxygen is gone in hot water. That is only true for extremely hot wafer, and only after a very long time.

Any tea connoisseur knows what happens when you put a teabag into “hot water”. The water begins to fizz, and froth, and the teabag is filled with gas and it floats on the top of the liquid. It takes a real effort to displace the gas from the teabag such that it will submerge so you can swing the bag through the liquid using the string.

If oxygen gas were fully gone then the solution would not fizz and froth. This water is actually supersaturated with oxygen. This means that the amount of O2 gas dissolved in the solution is higher than the solubility of O2 in the solution. There are only two ways O2 can leave a solution: evaporating from the top of the liquid, or forming a bubble which floats to the top. Both are slow and difficult. Consequently it takes a long time for O2 to leave a hot liquid to achieve a truly saturated solution.

In my experience it only takes a few seconds of vigorous boiling to remove all the oxygen from water. The fizz/froth test proves that my water has been boiling long enough to eliminate the fizzing. I never see fizzing when I pour boiling water onto a teabag.

Will O2 gas eventually be totally gone from hot water (below the boiling point)? Of course it will. But it might take minutes or even longer. And then the water has started to cool and more gas can dissolve from the air. Nobody wants to wait that long. In my experience we all want our tea now! The quickest way to eliminate oxygen from water is to vigorously boil it for a few seconds.

Why is this so important? Why is O2 in tea a major issue? There are some who say it’s important to the taste, that oxygen in water adds flavor. This is simply wrong, because as soon as a tea bag is added the liquid fizzes and all the oxygen leaves. In practice it is challenging to make a hot cup of tea which contains any oxygen. That requires a subtle balance between temperature and time. When the tea cools down the O2 from the air dissolves into the liquid and maybe cold tea tastes different from hot tea.

But a much more important point is that tea is an extremely healthy beverage due to the antioxidants. Many people drink tea solely for the antioxidants. But antioxidants can react with oxygen. This reaction removes the healthy antioxidants. And that reaction is much faster in hot water than in cold, maybe 10 times faster. By exposing hot (but not boiling) water to tea we are reacting away the precious antioxidants which protect us from radicals. The fizzing reaction can help, it can quickly remove all the oxygen. But if the water is just a little cooler it will not fizz. I haven’t tried but maybe below 90C the water won’t fizz and the oxygen reaction can continue for a long time, perhaps completely removing the antioxidants.

Some would say that antioxidants only react with oxygen atoms and radicals. But O2 forms a few oxygen radicals in hot water, those react away, then by LeChatlier’s principle the O2 just keeps producing more and more radicals until all the antioxidants are consumed. I would enjoy reading a chemical study of the concentration of antioxidants in tea as a function of the temperature of the tea. I have found a few studies of the reaction of O2 with antioxidants but they are not specific to tea.

If we truly want the largest possible dose of antioxidants in a cup of tea then we want as little oxygen as possible. That requires boiling water exactly as Mr. Orwell and Mr. Adams have taught us. This also gives us the most dissolved tea, and the most dissolved caffeine. It’s a double play, a wonderful cup of tea with the largest possible amount of antioxidants.

So carefully boil your water and enjoy a nice hot cup of tea.

Here are a few blogs for tea lovers

Self-Driving Car Crashes

Self driving cars will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the next 20 years, but there will be a few deaths every year caused by autonomous vehicles. There will be new categories of traffic fatalities resulting from coding errors, algorithm flaws, and human stupidity. But here is the good news, the fatality rate of self-driving cars will be 99% lower than for human drivers, maybe 99.99% lower.

In 2015 over 35000 people died in the USA from traffic fatalities. The annual number of fatalities and the fatality rate per mile both dropped around 2008. But they are still very high and in the past 5 years there has been no obvious trend down. I predict an increase in the next few years as distracted driving from smartphones becomes more prevalent.

Today for every 100,000 people 11 of them will die in a car crash in 2017. We should expect the fatality rate from self driving cars to be at or below 0.11 per hundred thousand people. It might even be far lower. If we could convert today, if all cars were self driving today, we might see less than 100 fatalities per year. Car crash fatalities will become so rare that most of us will never know anyone who dies in a car crash. And drunk driving crashes will be completely gone.

This will be bad news for personal injury attorneys. 99% of their lawsuits will vanish and most of them will lose their livelihoods. There is a little good news for them, there will be new categories of lawsuits against Waymo/Google and Tesla for deaths caused by the algorithms and programs. The bad news is that there will be very few of those lawsuits every year. Not enough to support an entire industry of personal injury attorneys. Most of those attorneys will be unemployed after we completely convert to self-driving cars. Google and Tesla will probably have automatic payments setup for families of the victims of self-driving cars. That will be cheaper than lawsuits so there may be approximately zero lawsuits every year.

Self-driving cars will save so many lives that we must convert as soon as possible. Yes a few hundred people each year will die as a direct result of the change. But that is a small price to pay.


Magnesium is a critical nutrient for humans. We need more every day because we lose it in sweat and urine. We all should take some magnesium every day.

As a chemist I know the value of water soluble forms of magnesium. Magnesium oxide and magnesium carbonate have very low solubility in water which means it's very difficult for our bodies to absorb the ions we need. My preference is for magnesium citrate which has very high solubility in water and is much easier to absorb.

Robot Surgeons and Cars

Robotic surgeons and robotic cars will soon eliminate perhaps 99% of human errors. Thousands of lives will be saved each year. Of course there will be a few rare problems and perhaps 10-100 people per year will die from mistakes made by robots.

Lawyers are drooling over the new categories of lawsuits they can file over robotic mistakes. What they don't understand is that there will only be about 10 lawsuits per year and most personal injury attorneys will go bankrupt before they have an opportunity to file a lawsuit.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

The Penultimate Cherry

Here's an interesting combination of game theory and gluttony.

I like cherries, summer means fruit and one of the best is the cherry. One out of every 15-20 cherries is bad and I wish I had not eaten it. So here's the problem: there are 2 cherries left and you eat the next to the last one. If it's excellent then do you eat the final cherry and risk a bad taste, or throw away a precious cherry so the last taste in your mouth is from a great cherry?

There's a mathematical equation for the probability that the final cherry is good, but that doesn't include the emotional desire to finish off the cherries on a good note.

Maybe the Freakanomics team can figure out this one.

If you like my writing on this blog you may enjoy some or all of my books.

Singularity Class Weapons

Here are a few classes of weapons for a post-singularity society.

1 FTL antimatter torpedoes: a faster than light torpedo carries an antimatter warhead. They never said what a "photon torpedo" was on Star Trek, but this would be a good description.

2 Exa-Watt laser cannons: matter anti-matter annihilation is the energy source for an XRay laser. The cannons are placed on FTL torpedoes so the XRay pulses arrive at the target faster than light.

3 Stellar core bombs: open a wormhole at the target and simultaneously open a wormhole at the core of a star. The stellar core material will shoot out at relativistic speeds.

4 Quantum vacuum disruptor: induces a collapse of the quantum vacuum state to a new low energy configuration. In the safe mode the disruption decays as it radiates from the target. In the Doomsday mode the disruption grows exponentially and engulfs the entire universe.