* Posts by LionelB

310 posts • joined 9 Jul 2009

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AI caramba, those neural networks are power-hungry: Counting the environmental cost of artificial intelligence

LionelB

Re: The arthropod alternative

Indeed; see my previous post.

LionelB

They don't even do statistical analysis. If they did, they would be able to put confidence limits on their classifications at least.

Not necessarily so; sometimes it is just too damn hard to calculate confidence intervals analytically, and/or too computationally-intensive to use surrogate data methods (e.g., bootstrapping). This does not imply that the ML method itself is not statistical.

I also suspect (though I'm not sure) that some ML techniques may indeed allow calculation of confidence intervals.

Agreed that power consumption is a serious issue.

LionelB

Re: A language processing model might be able to understand

If you can tell me what "understand" actually means.

Anyway, I'll be voting with C - Pascal is decent as a teaching language, but not so useful in the wild.

LionelB

Re: The arthropod alternative

Cf. Orgel's Second Rule: "evolution is cleverer than you are".

(I believe some wag added a third rule, which is that "Leslie Orgel is cleverer than you are".)

LionelB

Re: Human alternative

And how much energy do you think training the human brain requires? (You might want to factor in not just lifetime learning, but also the entire history of human evolution.)

LionelB

Re: Human alternative

Of course for a level playing field, you'd want to factor in the energy consumption of the entire history of human evolution.

LionelB

Well, octopuses can't do that. Crows can't do that. Chimps can't do that. I can't even do that sometimes. Some pretty good chess-playing software, on the other hand--which no-one would describe as "true AI"--can (in principle) do that.

It's a remarkably poor criterion for "intelligence".

LionelB

AI?

Whatever you think "artificial intelligence" actually means.

If you think it means "artificial human-like intelligence", then clearly no, we do not have it. But does it mean that? Should it mean that? Do you think humans have a unique claim to intelligence? How about insect-like intelligence? Octopus-like intelligence? Machine-like intelligence?

(And what if humans are, after all, basically "statistical analysis machines"? That's not a frivolous question: recent thinking on human cognition and intelligence is leaning in that direction; cf. the Bayesian brain hypothesis.)

FWIW, I suspect that the future of AI is not likely to be human-like, but something rather alien, that we will nonetheless recognise as intelligence.

In the mean time, why don't we just stick with "machine learning" - we all know what that means in practice.

Dowden out, Dorries in: Is UK data protection in safe hands?

LionelB

Re: Is UK data protection in safe hands?

Ho hum. For the last four decades we've been hearing about (a) the imminent demise of the EU, and (b) the imminent EU army. Often by the same people. At the same time.

Go figure.

Boffins say Martian colonists could pee in buckets, give blood if they want shelter

LionelB

Pissing money up the wall, mate

Shoo-in for an Ignobel, mind.

Linus Torvalds admits to 'self-inflicted damage' with -Werror as Linux 5.15 rc1 debuts

LionelB

Re: New category?

There's a good case for hyper-politically-correct. Or, if you lean that way, HyperPoliticallyCorrect.

Banned: The 1,170 words you can't use with GitHub Copilot

LionelB
Joke

They ought to vet punctuation too

For example, a colon can completely change the meaning of a sentence:

"She ate her friend's sandwich."

"She ate her friend's colon."

NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption

LionelB

Re: Most common ways to breach cryptography

Shouldn't we add stupidity, carelessness and violence to those?

LionelB
Trollface

Nah - you just need enough lava lamps. Or one very hot one.

Adding AI to everything won't make sense until we can use it for anything

LionelB

Re: We have AI

You assume implicitly that we are not Statistical Analysis Machines. Since we can't even tell how we arrive at conclusions (and I mean "conclusions" in the broadest sense), that assumption looks shaky.

Are we, then, intelligent because we're too stupid to understand ourselves?

LionelB

Re: 25 years in IT has made me increasingly cynical about AI ...

Yes... but the problem is that biology doesn't actually leave that many clues as to how it evolved "real" intelligence (not to mention the vast time spans it had at its disposal to do so). Evolution is, notoriously, an unholy kluge of hacks built upon hacks built upon hacks. No doubt crucial constructive and organisational paradigms emerge in the course of this process (indeed neural networks might be regarded as a necessary but not sufficient one), but we are light-years away from understanding to any depth what those paradigms might be, and how we might exploit them in silico.

So yes, major breakthroughs would seem to be required. Which is easy but unhelpful to say.

LionelB

Re: But do we even want them to think?

A bit melodramatic, no? Where I live we're more concerned about gull-like intelligence - as in "Oh, those chips look tasty", or "That garbage would look so much better strewn over the pavement".

LionelB

Re: 25 years in IT has made me increasingly cynical about AI ...

I'm not sure self-driving vehicles is a good example for human-like AI because, well, humans are not necessarily particularly good at driving vehicles. Human intelligence did not, after all, evolve to deal gracefully with piloting large hunks of metal at biologically unfeasible speeds on tracks jammed with other hunks of metal travelling at biologically unfeasible speeds. Those ambiguous situations are, furthermore, largely born out of fallible human attempts to second-guess other fallible humans. Nor are our processing speeds and reaction times spectacular compared to the technological potential. (Or maybe that's just my driving...)

It seems to me plausible that a dedicated non-human-like intelligence ought to be able to manage the driving scenario much better than a human-like AI - or indeed humans. Are we there yet (sic)? No, but it doesn't feel that far off.

As another poster noted, perhaps we should simply get used to the idea that the future of "real" AI is not going to mean human-like AI. And why should it? We already have humans for that.

LibreOffice 7.2 brings improved but still imperfect Microsoft Office compatibility

LionelB

Re: LaTeX..a complete waste of time..

Missed the point entirely. For technical document production, LaTeX simply produces better-typeset copy.

This is especially true of mathematics. As a research scientist, mathematician and statistician, I get to read and review an awful lot of papers, and can generally tell at a glance whether they have been produced by LaTeX or a word processor. I have yet to come across a word processor that does not generate hideous mathematics (not to mention the ghastly-to-the-point-of-unusable UIs). This is not simply a fanboi whinge - I need to read a lot of maths, and bad maths typesetting actually makes my work harder and more stressful.

Sure, the LaTeX learning curve is steep - it's not a word processor, and I wouldn't recommend anyone use it as such - but for technical documents the end product is of infinitely higher quality and readability

Linux 5.14 had plenty of commits, work has gone smoothly – and it should debut next week

LionelB

To make it just work better?

John McAfee dead: Antivirus tycoon killed himself in prison after court OK'd extradition, says lawyer

LionelB

Re: I'll miss him

John McAfee has finally been uninstalled. RIP.

Free Software Foundation urged to free itself of Richard Stallman by hundreds of developers and techies

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

"Please explain, because I can't see it, how "voluntary" is not related to "consent" ?"

Perhaps you misunderstood me. I understand that "voluntary" in RMS's post to mean "with the child's consent". I don't see how else it could be construed.

"Perhaps pedophilia is not the correct word ..."

It's the word used by RMS.

" - but it's clear that he is talking about cases where the (in law) underage person is able to consent to the activity."

My entire point has been to question the very idea that a child (see below) is even in principle capable of meaningful consent.

The valid discussion to be had -- as I have acknowledged multiple times -- is what constitutes an acceptable age of consent (where "acceptable" might possibly be considered with reference to a given society or jurisdiction).

But the RMS post I highlighted does not qualify what he intends by "children" -- age of consent is not mentioned, and there is no hint that he presents his comment as part of a discussion about age of consent. If that were the case, why would he not have said so explicitly? To back up this statement, his later retraction does not mention age of consent either.

For the record, this is RMS's retraction is as follows: "Many years ago I posted that I could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it. Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why." https://stallman.org/archives/2019-sep-dec.html#14_September_2019_(Sex_between_an_adult_and_a_child_is_wrong)

Note that "if the child accepted it". He still appears oblivious that "accepted" in the context of sexual activity between a child and an adult might be, let's say, a somewhat problematic notion.

My own thoughts about why I consider "consent" with reference to "children" (scare-quotes because both those terms are moot) to be problematic are, I'd have thought, pretty uncontroversial:

1) Consent can only be meaningful on a "level playing-field". An adult-child interaction is not a level playing-field in terms of power, authority and expectation.

2) Consent must be (as you say) informed: this presupposes an understanding of physical, social and emotional consequences - which children, depending on age, culture, education, etc., are likely to lack.

By all means, let's have a grown-up conversation about age of consent - pun intended - though not here, please! But can we also be clear-eyed about what RMS actually wrote; his words are all we have to go on.

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

https://stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Sure there is a conversation to be had about age of consent (which I alluded to in an earlier post - perhaps you missed it). RMS may have had something to say about that too.

However... the specific RMS comment I most take issue with is (2006): "I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing." [my emphasis] The context of that post was the formation of a Dutch political party to campaign for the legalisation of paedophilia.

This is quite clearly not part of a conversation about age of consent. Note that "voluntary", and see my previous post about the issue of children and "consent" to sexual activity.

On his later retraction, my stance is clear: good that he retracted, but retraction does not annul his original pronouncements, expunge them from history, or exempt him from criticism for making those pronouncements in the first place.

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

"So let's clarify your position, shall we? He expressed an idea you don't like on his personal blog. He changed his mind about the opinion, posted that on his blog, too, and... he should have his life's work taken away from him?"

Yes, I don't like the repugnant idea(s) he expressed on his blog, and yes I recognise that he changed his mind (but also recognise that this does not excuse or expunge his original remarks from history). My highly-touted (by you) freedom of speech is exercised in expressing this opinion.

But nowhere have I suggested or recommended that "his life's work [should be] taken away from him" (whatever that actually means). That is an invention born of your stereotyping. I have said that I would personally not wish to work with him, and that I perfectly understand why others might not wish to work with him either.

His life's work has a life of its own, and will stand. And so it should; I not only respect, but applaud it - I am, in fact, a fan of his life's work.

In an earlier post I raised the example of one R. A. Fisher, the father of modern statistics. His academic work was wonderful and world-changing (in a good way). As a working scientist, mathematician and statistician I literally use his work virtually every day. He was also, however, an appallingly racist human being, who enthusiastically espoused his ideas on eugenics. He had the ear of the great and good of the early-mid 20th century, and his obnoxious ideas are implicated in the misery of millions.

Of course I would not have wished to work with Fisher (apart from anything else, he would have considered me racially inferior). Many, many others of his time felt the same towards him. But his (academic) "life's work" stands - so it should, and I respect and applaud it.

Yes, I am judgemental and inflexible on the issue of child-abuse. I offer no apology for that.

Are there conversations to be had about age of consent? Yes (I alluded to that in a previous post). But Stallman's pronouncements on child sex were clearly not part of a conversation about that issue.

Since you consistently refuse to engage with what I actually say, in favour of ranting at some stereotype, I don't see much point in continuing this non-discussion.

As we used to say back in the day... <plonk>

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Yes; people may change their attitudes. In RMS's case that can only be a good thing.

But others may legitimately question the character of one who expressed deplorable attitudes in the first place. I don't hesitate to hold myself to that too. No doubt we have all said and done things in the past that we are not proud of; if so we have to acknowledge those words and deeds, and take criticism on the chin.

This is particularly the case for RMS, as his original pronouncements were so ... depraved, is the word that comes to mind. Yes, so he "repented". Good. But that does not annul his original pronouncements, or expunge them from history.

People are allowed to deplore other people's comments and attitudes, past and present. That's freedom of speech too.

---

Me: "So... this is a guy who actually needed educating that perhaps the notion of "consensual sex with children" might be a little iffy. One wonders how those conversations went... Ugh"

You "Haha. You say I stereotype you."

RMS himself described his "repentance" as the result of conversations with others. I described that as "education", which I think is fair. Where does "stereotyping" enter into this? Genuinely mystified.

LionelB

Re: Yesterday's trailblazer is tomorrow's bigoted embarassment

Okay, hands up. I can see how I may have stereotyped myself as a person who deplores child-abuse and misogyny.

"I didn't reduce you to a stereotype... All I did was put you in a bucket with a bunch of other people"

Oxymoron much?

"Like you shouldn't harm others."

Exactly. Nailed it.

Let's see how this plays out with paedophilia. Can we agree that sexual activity without mutual consent constitutes harm to the non-consenting party? I hope we can.

RMS spoke (before later retracting) of consensual sex with children.

Let me repeat that: consensual sex with children.

So here is the question: can a child possibly ever be said to consent to sex? There are, as I see it, two issues: (i) consent requires some sort of level playing field, and the absence of pressure or coercion; (ii) consent requires an understanding of what you are consenting to, including the likely consequences (to yourself and others) of consent.

On point (i): Do you think that the playing field between children and adults is level - say in terms of power and authority (including - or perhaps especially - within a family dynamic)? Do you think that the effective pressures to consent are likely to be comparable between a child and an adult?

On point (ii): Do you think that a child (and of course this will be age- and culture-dependent) is likely to have a sufficiently mature sense of the physical, emotional and social implications of sex, and of the physical, emotional and social consequences, to understand the full import of what they are consenting to?

Clearly RMS had, to put it politely, "difficulties" with these questions. Why?

LionelB

Re: Is there anything more pathetic than the self appointed offence takers?

"I think you are trying to advance the proposition that men as a group are dangerous to women because your post was in support of the comment that "Women are dying at the hands of men"."

An interesting misapprehension (extrapolation?). My point was, if anything, that (a) men are in general more dangerous than women, and I would add (though I did not in fact make this explicit) more specifically (b) that men are more dangerous to women than women are to men.

You'll find that domestic abuse and sexual crime figures both bear out that last point.

Did I say or imply that most men are dangerous, or most men are dangerous to women, or no women are dangerous, or that no women are dangerous to men? No, none of the above.

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

No, I had not seen that statement - thanks for posting it.

So... this is a guy who actually needed educating that perhaps the notion of "consensual sex with children" might be a little iffy. One wonders how those conversations went... Ugh.

LionelB

Re: Yesterday's trailblazer is tomorrow's bigoted embarassment

"The way people like this ..."

Thank you for reducing me to a stereotype (of your own choosing).

"... speak as if there was one correct set of morals backed up by science, "

Who mentioned science?

"... when the reality of the situation is that these are merely current popular opinions (well, mostly)."

Out of interest, what did you have in mind with that "well mostly"?

"However I'm forced to disagree with the later statement where this poster tries to say that mutilating a girl is worse than mutilating a boy."

I made it clear that I believe both are deplorable. I also said that the consequences for male and female of are not equivalent in terms of consequent quality of life. Are you disputing that, and if so, on what grounds?

I'm going to ignore the rest of your ad-hominem rant.

LionelB

Re: Who can spot the hypocrisy?

"Have you not been reading this thread? Are you hard of thinking?"

I retracted and apologised to you for an unwarranted ad-hominem attack. Perhaps you'd consider reciprocating.

Either way, I prefer not to engage further with you in these comments.

LionelB

Re: Is there anything more pathetic than the self appointed offence takers?

Out of interest, what do you actually think my argument was, what are the lies and/or statistics I'm supposed to have presented, and what manipulation do you perceive me to have made?

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Humourless, jake?

(or perhaps you just missed the troll-under-the-bridge reference - the hint was in the icon.)

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

"So what you are saying is that what other people think is more important than what the author actually intended?"

I say: "Black is white". But don't you dare interpret that to mean that I think black is white. My intention was to make it quite clear that I believe black is black.

Are we through the looking glass yet?

I was not aware of his retraction. Could you post a link to it?

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Oh, come off it. I read what he said, and concluded that any reasonable person would interpret it as him condoning child abuse. It's really hard to find an alternative interpretation.

I raised the possibility that he might not have thought that he was condoning child abuse. If that is the case, he is either delusional and/or incapable of expressing himself articulately (the latter seems highly unlikely - he is articulate). It's like saying "Pigs can fly", and then coming over all aggrieved when people interpret that to mean that you think pigs can fly.

I am finding this defence of RMS's deeply unpleasant pronouncements inexplicable and distasteful.

LionelB

Re: Who can spot the hypocrisy?

Oh, okay. So you are prepared to compromise inclusiveness by excluding people you don't like. What was your original point again?

LionelB

"... possession of child pornography could be illegal is in my view indefensible. Some people might raise their eyebrows at that last one, ..."

The thing is, that child pornography exists at the scale it does mostly because some extremely vicious people make a lot of money out of it. They make a lot of money out of it because there is clearly a demand. That demand is manifest by the sickos in possession of those "documents". And meeting that demand requires the abuse of children.

"The possession of documents should never be a crime in a free society."

I'm certainly sympathetic towards that ideal - but I'm prepared to make an exception if that possession links directly to grievous harm (in this case to children).

LionelB

Re: Is there anything more pathetic than the self appointed offence takers?

Pedantry. You know perfectly well what I was saying.

LionelB
Trollface

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

I think build a bridge over him may be more appropriate.

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

To clarify: I read what he said, and to me it most certainly amounts to condoning child-abuse. He may not have thought that that was what he was saying, but I strongly suspect most people would interpret it that way.

Whichever way you slice it, his comment was wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

LionelB

No, it's a question of empathy with your fellow human beings (and animals).

Would I have included homosexuality if I were writing 60 years ago? Well I could just about write then, so difficult to say. If you make that 50 years ago, I can answer with a resounding NO (yes, I'm that old).

LionelB

Re: Yesterday's trailblazer is tomorrow's bigoted embarassment

I don't actually think any genital mutilation is okay. But do please check the differences in consequent sexual health (not to mention pleasure) issues between the male and female versions. (Believe me, I should know...) If you think they are comparable you are very, very wrong.

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Yep.

LionelB

"One guy's views don't sit well the views of a few others - wow, isn't that a surprise?"

Because most people are fine with paedophilia, misogyny and bestiality, right?

LionelB

Re: Yesterday's trailblazer is tomorrow's bigoted embarassment

Normal and accepted != okay

Example: female genital mutilation is still "normal and accepted" in some parts of the world today. It is NOT okay.

LionelB

Re: Let this be a warning to all decent people

I'm not prepared to split hairs over the degree to which paedophilia and child pornography constitute child-abuse.

Nobody is disputing RMS's misogyny.

I'm happy to decry the sins of anyone, Obama included.

LionelB

Re: Let this be a warning to all decent people

"Yet, for some reason, a few minor flaws in his character are being magnified to what end?"

A few minor flaws in his character? Misogyny, supports child-abuse and bestiality? Crikey, what does a major character flaw look like?

Bottom line: great achievements or not, I'd hate to have to work with a dickhead like that. Unsurprisingly, many concur.

LionelB

Re: Is there anything more pathetic than the self appointed offence takers?

A fuller picture:

Men dying at the hands of men - lots

Women dying at the hands of men - lots

Men dying at the hands of women - few

Women dying at the hands of women - few

See the pattern?

LionelB

Re: Oh how the woke wimper

Well, at the very least that might discourage other idiot teenagers from harassing people by making racist tweets - thereby making the world a slightly better place.

LionelB

Re: Yesterday's trailblazer is tomorrow's bigoted embarassment

I don't know... were, say, racism, homophobia, misogyny or paedophilia ever okay?

This seems to be nothing more than an insidious and tendentious excuse for appalling attitudes: "Yes, I was a twat, but so was everyone else at the time". Erm, no, they weren't. Misogyny and paedophilia were NOT okay in RMS's youth, or ... ever.

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